mlb 06/02/08 12:25 PM ET Lisa Winston is a reporter for]]> In the bigs

I'm sorry, did someone ask if the just-turned-21-years-old Jay Bruce was ready for the big leagues?

Actually, a lot of people were asking that. At least until he got called up on May 27. But he pretty much answered that question in his first game. And in his second. Oh, and in his third and fourth and fifth. And, um, sixth.

Just two days after Los Angeles Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw wowed the masses with his big league debut, another member of the elite prospect kiddie corps came up when the Cincinnati Reds finally called up Bruce from Triple-A Louisville.

I say "finally" because the 2005 first-rounder, who also topped the Top 50 prospect list coming into 2008, was in the mix for the Reds center-field job through much of Spring Training before finally being sent back to the Minors for more seasoning in favor of veteran Corey Patterson.

But when Patterson struggled to a .200 average, skipper Dusty Baker and company decided that the kid who was leading the International League with a .364 average might not be such a bad option after all. The actual paper move saw veteran Scott Hatteberg designated for assignment, but Patterson himself was optioned to Louisville a few days later as well, signaling officially that the Bruce era had begun.

Bruce's big league debut was as impressive as that of Kershaw. Facing Pittsburgh in a 9-6 win May 27, he went 3-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored, walking twice to reach base in all five of his plate appearances and even stealing a base for good measure. He drew a walk off Pirates starter Ian Snell in his first plate appearance and then singled off the left-field wall in the third. He became the first Reds player to collect three hits in his big league debut since 1992, when another young first-round pick, Willie Greene, achieved the feat.

No less a luminary than Baker himself called it "as good of a debut I've ever seen."

But it turns out he hadn't seen anything yet.

In his second game, Bruce doubled, drew two walks and stole a base. In game No. 3, he shockingly went hitless in three at-bats, but he made up for it in his fourth game by going 4-for-5 with two runs scored. In his fifth game, May 31, he blasted his first big league homer, a walk-off job, going 3-for-5 with three runs scored. And he got June off to a good start by going 2-for-3 with a homer and two runs scored.

For those of you keeping score at home, that's a .591 average in his first six games, with a 1.000 slugging percentage and a .690 on-base average.

Yeah, he's ready.

And Bruce wasn't the only top prospect to make his big league debut in the last few days. As part of a nine-player flurry that nearly rivaled their farm system upgrade in the offseason, the Oakland Athletics brought up outfield phenom Carlos Gonzalez from Triple-A Sacramento May 30 to help pick up the slack for the injured Ryan Sweeney. Gonzalez, you may recall, was one of the six top prospects Oakland got from Arizona in the deal for ace Dan Haren. Now fans are getting the chance to see what all the fuss was about, and so far, so good.

In his May 30 debut, Gonzalez started in center field -- he played right field until this year -- and went 2-for-3 with an RBI. After three games, he's hitting .364 with four doubles.

A phone call away

Now that we're in the age of cell phones, guys don't actually have to sit by their phones per se. But here are a pair of corner sluggers at Triple-A who have to at least be checking their cells every few minutes to make sure they didn't miss any calls.

For Diamondbacks prospect Jamie D'Antona, a call from the big club would mark his first foray into the Majors. And few players in the Minors right have done more in the first two months of the season to deserve that opportunity.

D'Antona was on the bubble to make the 40-man roster in the offseason after hitting .308 with 13 homers and 86 RBIs at Triple-A Tucson last year, but he landed on the unprotected side of that bubble. You can be sure there are plenty of talent evaluators on other teams right now who wish they'd taken a Rule 5 chance on him.

D'Antona, who has strung together a 10-game hitting streak, is batting a whopping .402 with 20 doubles, seven homers and 35 RBIs. Most of his playing time has come at third base, though he's spent time at first and behind the plate, as well. In fact, his five-hit game on May 2 came while he was serving as the team's catcher.

D'Antona is hardly a non-prospect who suddenly learned to hit. At 26, he's not even an older journeyman. He was a second-round pick in 2003 out of Wake Forest and a Southern League All-Star in 2006. But his lack of pure power likely limited his appeal, especially in an organization loaded with talent at the corner-infield positions.

Also waiting for a call is Colorado first-base heir apparent Joe Koshansky. But frankly, being the heir apparent to Todd Helton is ... well, fill in your favorite analogy for hopelessness.

However the injury bug has been running rampant in the Mile High City. And the seeming frustration of his plight hasn't kept the power-hitting Koshansky from reminding folks he's around, as he became just the fourth player in Colorado Sky Sox history to hit for the cycle on May 24.

A sixth-round pick out of Virginia in 2004, where he helped comprise a formidable infield with Ryan Zimmerman and Mark Reynolds, Koshansky is hitting .305 with 12 homers and 50 RBIs for the SkySox, along with 20 doubles and a .599 slugging percentage. He's driven in 15 runs in his last 10 games.

Koshansky hit just .083 in his big league debut in 2007, but we're talking about a 12-at-bat sampling here. That came after he batted .295 with 21 homers and 99 RBIs for Colorado Springs during the regular season.

Prior to that, he'd shown his pure power with 38 homers and 115 RBIs at Class A Asheville in 2005 and 31 homers and 109 RBIs at Double-A Tulsa the next season, shutting up skeptics who attributed his '05 stats to the short porch in Asheville.

A year away

As was mentioned above, the A's upgraded their farm system in a big way this past offseason, primarily taking the trade route by dealing away a few established big league stars to pick up tons of good prospects.

But the most bang for the buck in the first two months of this season has come from a player they signed via the six-year Minor League free agent route: Double-A Midland RockHounds infielder Jesus Guzman.

Guzman, 24, tore up the Advanced A California League with Seattle's High Desert Mavericks in 2007, hitting .301 with 25 homers and 112 RBIs. But after batting .283 during his seven seasons in the Mariners system, he moved over to the Oakland system and through the first two months was hitting .346 and leading the Minors in RBIs with 53 RBIs.

The Venezuelan prospect -- and yes, I'm calling him a prospect even if he's in his eighth professional season -- has seen time at second and third base for the RockHounds. He's also played shortstop and in the outfield in his pro career.

There can be no argument that Ivan DeJesus Jr. is a bona fide prospect. The Dodgers' 2005 second-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico just turned 21 in May, but has been anointed the Double-A Jacksonville Suns' team leader by manager John Shoemaker.

Just a toddler when his dad retired from a 15-year big league career, DeJesus' only experience watching his father was through old videos. But the bloodlines are obvious, as opposing coaches have raved about the youngster's talent.

In his Double-A debut, he's batting .303 (.324 against right-handers) with a pair of homers and 22 RBIs. Although he's behind current big leaguer Chin Lung Hu on the organization's shortstop depth chart, DeJesus is one to watch.

As a side note, although most people refer to him as "ee-VON," which would seem to be the obvious pronunciation for a Latin-born player, DeJesus pronounces it "EYE-van" as in "the Great."

Down the road

Last week, we gave California League outfielder love to High Desert's Gregory Halman. This week, we shift to one of his South Division rivals, Rancho Cucamonga center fielder Peter Bourjos (because who doesn't love the opportunity to say "Rancho Cucamonga?"). The son of former Major Leaguer and current superscout Chris Bourjos led the Cal League in batting for the month of May, hitting at a .361 pace to raise his overall average to .335

In addition, the 21-year-old continued to show his best tool -- speed -- with 31 steals (in 33 opportunities), good for second overall in the Minors. That left the 2006 10th-round pick just one behind his career total coming into '08.

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