Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:46 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2008 11:56 am
 

Top 15 Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee lost a couple top prospects from last season. Manny Parra graduated to the majors. While former top prospect Matt LaPorta, along with OF prospect Michael Brantley (who I had at number 7 before being named the “player to be named later”) were traded to the Indians as part of the C.C. Sabathia trade. Still, Milwaukee retains one of the better farm systems in baseball. Minor League notations in descending order
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh

*A+ signifies high A ball

*A- signifies low A ball
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season
*a signifies short-season A ball
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Stats I like to use:

OPS = On-Base % + Slugging %

K:BB = how many times a batter strikes out compared to how often he walks (strikeouts/walks)

Milwaukee Brewers Top 15 Prospects

1. Mat Gamel 3B Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Gamel replaces LaPorta at the top of the Brewers’ list. Gamel is a tremendous hitter, as he hit .325, with a .392 OBP in 2008. He also hit 20 home runs, while collecting 99 RBIs. Despite his high OBP Gamel finished the season with a K:BB ratio of 2:1. Gamel’s bat is ready for the big leagues next year, but the Brewers will have to decide where he fits on defense. Despite being a good athlete, with a strong arm, and good range at third base, he is a terrible fielder – 119 errors in three years, or something like that. The next best place for him, because of his range, and arm may be left field, but Ryan Braun was already moved there from third, and I believe the Brewers would be reluctant to move him back to third. Gamel does have the bat to play first, but Prince Fielder is there barring a trade. I would suggest right field, but Corey Hart is there; none of the trio of Hart, Gamel Braun are center fielders, so the three of them should not play the outfield together; which leaves the open spot at third base. I would keep Gamel in AAA next season, at third, and hope he can learn the position. If Gamel cannot stick at third the Brewers will be left with some decisions to make. Obviously Braun is staying, and because Gamel is the youngest, and therefore cheapest I think he makes the eventually cut as well, which means either Fielder, or Hart get traded before the start of the 2010 season, and I have my bets on Fielder since he will be most expensive in the future, and there is no guarantee Gamel can play right – although I think he would be great there in time.

2. Alcides Escobar SS Age: 22 MLL: AA

Admittedly Escobar, Salome, and Jeffress should be 2a, 2b, and 2c, they are all outstanding prospects in their own right, and any of them can slide in the 2-4 slots, it is just a matter of preference. Anyway, about Escobar… Finally! A shortstop who not only will field the position in the major leagues, but excel at it. Escobar is one of the best fielders in the entire minor leagues. He also hits for a high average, but a poor on base percentage, his K:BB ratio is 5:2. Escobar also has great speed, and base-running ability, stealing 32 bases last season. I think he is a Jason Bartlett type player at the big league level - plays the same way that is - but, Escobar is a little better at every facet of the game.  

3. Angel Salome C Age: 22 MLL: AA

Salome shook off the 50 game suspension for performance enhancers a couple years ago by putting up another great offensive season in 2008. Salome hit .360, with a .415 OBP. Salome also managed a K:BB of under 2:1, and hit 13 homeruns. Salome is below-average defensively, but should be able to stay behind the plate in the big leagues. He will start 2009 in AAA, but should end the season starting for the Brewers.

4. Jeremy Jeffress RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+

If I were basing my opinion on potential alone Jeffress would top the list. He throws his fastball in the mid-high 90s, and occasionally hits 100 mph. He also throws a sharp curveball. However, Jeffress has some control issues, which seem to be the least of his problems. Jeffress has been suspended for off the field problems – the guy really just has to grow up, and quit smoking pot. Jeffress is still young so, I believe he will end up as a #2 pitcher, or possible ace, but I am going to keep him at “2c” until I see some improvement – his 4.31 ERA was not reassuring, his 115 Ks in 94 innings was.

5. Jonathan Lucroy C Age: 22 MLL: A

Despite being the second catcher on this list, Lucroy is one of the better catching prospects in the minors. Lucroy hit well in 2008, hitting for an average of .301, while getting on base 37.7 percent of the time. He also has an adequate K:BB ratio (84:58), and does hit for some power, 20 HRs in 2008. Lucroy is average defensively, maybe even above-average, and has a nice arm to throw out potential base-stealers. Where he ends up in the future depends a lot on what happens to Salome, but at worst the Brewers have some excellent trade bait. He will play at AA next season.

6. Brett Lawrie C Age: 18 MLL: NA

Lawrie could play C, 3B, or in a corner outfield in the future, but for the time being the Brewers are going to try, and keep him at catcher. Lawrie’s best tool is his power, which scouts before the 2008 draft called raw plus, plus power. “Raw” is bolded because it is the most important word, it is likely Lawrie will never live up to that evaluation, but he could have plus power in the majors. Lawrie is also athletic, with a strong arm, so although, he is new to catching, he has the ability to become a very good fielder at the position, someday. Lawrie will skyrocket to the top of the list, if he can prove he can field the position, and hit for plus power, he has a very high ceiling as a catching prospect.

7. Jake Odorizzi RHSP Age: 18 MLL: R

Odorizzi has four average to above-average pitches, which is impressive for a high schooler. All of which he commands, except his 4-seam fastball, which he throws in the low 90s. His changeup is also behind the other pitches. His 2-seamer gets good movement to both sides of the plate, his curveball grades out as plus, and his slider gets late break. Odorizzi was mostly successful in his 21 innings in 2008, striking out 19, and acquiring an ERA of 3.48.

8. Cole Gillespie OF Age: 24 MLL: AA

Gillespie is a terrific hitter, with all of the tools available there. He can hit for contact, he can hit for power, and he draws loads of walks – in 2008 he has an OBP of .386 despite a BA of only .281. Gillespie is also a good base runner, stealing 14 bases last season. Gillespie, however, lacks range in the outfield, and has a below-average arm, which limits him to left field. His bat is good, but it may not be good enough to start in left field everyday (especially with players like Matt Gamel, and Ryan Braun), so he may profile best as an above-average fourth outfielder.

9. Taylor Green 3B/2B Age: 22 MLL: A+

Green has a K:BB ratio of 1:1, which is excellent, but has only average power, and is average at

best defensively. I think he profiles as a good second basemen, but will not make the big leagues

as a starting third basemen.

10. Caleb Gindl OF Age: 20 MLL: A-

Average power, average speed, average arm, average range in the outfield, get the picture? Gindl’s tools are just average, but he plays to his hardest on every play. However, Gindl’s ability to get on base is well above average - .388 OBP – despite the fact he strikes out way to much – 144 times in 2008 – but, he is still young. Gindl could start in a corner outfield spot, or could be an effective fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter in the future.

11. Lorenzo Cain OF Age: 22 MLL: AA/A

I am not as high on Cain as others. True, he has good speed, and is a good fielder that could play center or right field. Cain does not have much power, and does not hit for a high average, or on-base percentage. He also strikes out a little more than you would like, but still not nearly as much as Gindl. He falls into the same category as Gindl, and Gillespie he could start at right, or center, or he could make a good fourth outfielder. The Brewers at the very least have options in the outfield in the near future.

12. Brent Brewer SS Age: 21 MLL: A

Brewer is a terrific athlete with great range, and a good arm, but he has the Matt Gamel syndrome, and manages to rack up errors despite all the physical gifting – a move to center has been considered, but it just may be that Brewer is raw at all facets of the game, and just needs more time. Brewer showed no power last year, and very, very little hitting ability, he did however, steal 34 bases. Red flags surround Brewer, but he may just need time to refine his tools, he certainly has the name to be a Brewer… get it!

13. Cutter Dykstra OF/2B Age: 19 MLL: R

Dykstra played shortstop in high school, but is going to play either second, or in the outfield in the majors – assuming he makes it there. Dykstra has some power, and has the ability to hit for average (although he hit .271 in limited 2008 playing time after being drafted in June). Cutter has plus speed, which leads to considerable range, as well as helping him on the base paths. His range would allow him to cover center, but only if his average to below-average arm does not hinder him. Dykstra also has an advanced batter’s eye. Overall he is a solid prospect, and is probably better than his #13 ranking, the players ahead of him, are just older, Cutter could easily see a big rise next season, after a full season of pro ball.

14. Erik Komatsu OF Age: 21 MLL: R

Do you know what I like? Guys who hit .321/.394 (BA/OBP), while slugging 11 homeruns in 277 ABs, and keeping his K:BB ratio under 2:1 – it also helps when he steals 8 bases in that many ABs. I am interested to see what he does over the course of a full season in A ball, and so should you.

15. Bobby Bramhall LHSP Age: 23 MLL: A+

Bramhall is a left-handed pitcher who had a great 2008 season. In 111 innings he struck out 106, while posting a 2.51 ERA and limited opposing batters to an average of .222. We will all get a better read on him next season in AA.

Strengths: The Brewers have one of the most talented farm systems of any organization. Their position players are particularly impressive. They have a lot of depth in the outfield, and at catcher – their biggest need at the major league level. They also possess one of the few players with the potential to become an ace one day. They had a great 2008 draft taking a player with tremendous upside in Lawrie, and an advanced high school pitcher in Odorizzi. Cutter Dykstra could also start in the majors.

Weaknesses: Ummm… pitching depth. I mentioned three, 3, yes, only three pitching prospects among their top 15, and the two listed in the top ten are three or more years away from being effective in the major leagues. Otherwise their top 15 are phenomenal.

Next Up: I finally look to finish off the NL Central with the Pirates, and Cardinals
Posted on: November 5, 2008 5:15 pm
Edited on: November 6, 2008 9:28 am
 

Top 15 Prospects: Houston Astros

Ok readers (Astros fans, and non-Astros fans); prepare yourselves for a very optimistic look at the Astros’ top prospects. For the last several years Houston has maintained one of the worst farm systems in all of baseball, a few years before that (2000, 2001) Houston had one of the best farm systems in baseball. The farm went bad, by bad drafting, failure to sign picks, and trading away prospects. However, last offseason Houston replaced their GM with Ed Wade the man behind the Phillies recent success (he drafted Cole Hamels, Chase Utley, etc, and snagged Shane Victorino in the Rule V draft), they also made Bobby Heck their Scouting Director (he’s the mastermind behind the Brewers farm system, coincidently next on my schedule). So, a lot of changes were made to change the philosophy behind building the farm system. Player changes were also made, as Houston traded three of their top prospects for Miguel Tejada, and another prospect for Jose Valverde. In fact only three prospects included in Baseball Americas top 10 list last season are on mine this season, and one of them falls outside of the top 10. Gone are players like Troy Patton, Matt Albers, and Juan Gutierrez, but the Astros put Heck, and Wade came through in their first season in office giving Houston a great 2008 draft, and five of those recent draftees are on this list. Good things are happening for the Astros, and should continue with Wade, and Heck leading the organization.

Minor League notations in descending order
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh

*A+ signifies high A ball

*A- signifies low A ball
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season
*a signifies short-season A ball
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

*Also winter league stats have been combined with 2008 season stats for players with the “w” next to MLL

Houston Astros Top 15 Prospects

1. Jason Castro C Age: 21 MLL: a/w

Castro is the first of five 2008 draft selections among Houston’s top 15 prospects. At first Castro was viewed as a big reach for the Astros (who took him with the 10<sup>th</sup> pick), but Castro has played great the last several months, and has been especially good in the Hawaii fall league. Jason Castro is a good overall catcher, he can hit, has great plate discipline, and can/could hit for some solid power in the future. He also prides himself with his defensive ability behind the plate, and range, his arm to second base is not great, but certainly adequate, Castro also has some speed. In 2008 Castro has been hitting well posting numbers of .300/.404/.430/.833 (batting average, on base %, slugging %, and OPS which stands for on base % + slugging &). Castro has not been showing his power, but his plate patience striking out 46 times, while walking 32 times. Castro will develop into an above-average catcher, both offensively, and defensively.

2. Brian Bogusevic OF Age: 24 MLL: AA/A+/w

Bogusevic was taken as a RHSP with Houston’s first round pick back in 2004, but after 3 ½ mediocre minor league seasons the Astros decided to take him off the mound, and throw him into the outfield. Bogusevic excelled posting an amazing clip of .347/.431/.508/.939 (BA/OBP/SLG%/OPS), mostly at AA Corpus Christi. Bogusevic should become a solid starter in the outfield, either as an above-average center fielder offensively, with average defense or, as a solid right fielder offensively, with superb defense, and a great arm – comparable in a way to Hunter Pence, but Pence has more power potential, and Bogusevic has better plate discipline. He will likely start 2009 in AAA, but should compete with Michael Bourn for the center field job in spring training. If Bourn struggles, though, do not expect the Astros to hesitate to insert him into the lineup.

3. Jordan Lyles RHSP Age: 18 MLL: a/R

Lyles was taken in the first supplemental round of 2008 (so, Houston’s second pick), and like Castro experts balked at Houston’s selection. Also like Castro, Lyles proved those experts wrong by excelling last season, especially in the rookie league before moving to short A season for a couple of games. Lyles has advanced command for his age, as he commands all three of his pitches already. Lyles’ throws his fastball up to 90 right now, but should see his velocity increase, possibly to 94, as he refines his mechanics. Lyles has the potential to be a #2, or 3 starter one day, but that will not be for a long time. If Lyles starts next season in full season low A, do not expect him to put up great numbers, he is still way too raw for that league. I expect him to be apart of extended spring training, and then pitch the second half of the season in short season A, before finishing the last month in low A.

4. Drew Sutton 2B Age: 25 MLL: AA/w

Nobody in Houston’s system has flown up my radar like Sutton has the last month in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). In 564 (a full major league season) at-bats this season in AA, and the AFL Sutton has put up numbers of .328/.421/.553/.974 – which are some of the best numbers put up by anyone in the minors. Sutton has also hit 24 homers, while stealing 23 bases, and although he has struck out 104 times, he has also walked an impressive 91 times. Now Sutton is not without his questions, he was 25, and still in AA, but the AFL has pretty stout competition, as it consists of the very best prospects of every organization, and I feel as though his 2008 numbers should be considered very seriously. Sutton will start 2008 in AAA Round Rock because he is blocked at second by Kaz Matsui, but should be the first prospect called up in case of an injury, he can play second, third, shortstop (although I would prefer others at short), and will likely see some time in both corners of the outfield.

5. Felipe Paulino RHSP/RHRP Age: 25 MLL: AAA

Were Paulino not injured for all of 2008 he would not be on this list, because he would have spent the whole season with the Astros. However, he pinched a nerve in spring training, and did not make it back to the major league team before the season ended. There is a lot to like about Paulino, he throws his fastball up to 100 mph, and also possesses a curveball. Unfortunately Paulino still cannot consistently command his pitches, and he is also prone to injury. The Astros still want to see him make it as a starter because he has a really high ceiling there, and their greatest weakness is in the rotation. I think they should just cut their losses, and throw him into the bullpen. Valverde will be a free agent next season, and would be extremely expensive to resign for 4 or 5 years, so if they make Paulino their future closer now he will be ready when Valverde leaves – and the Astros can collect on the two first round picks they would collect from Valverde, see how I am filling holes left, and right, someone make me the GM.

6. Bud Norris RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA

Bud Norris is a very good pitcher, he throws his fastball between 94, and 91, he also throws a plus curveball, and he also has great poise on the mound. In 2008 Norris threw in 80 innings in an injury shortened season at AA. While healthy he struck out 84 batters, while posting a 4.05 ERA. Some fear he is a reliever in the majors because of his weak change up, but I still think he can be anywhere from a #3-#5 starter.

7. Chris Johnson 3B Age: 24 MLL: AAA/AA/w

Johnson is another position player currently playing in the AFL. In 2008 he hit for numbers of .304/.340/.463/.803. All of which are solid, except his OBP of .340. Johnson struck out 100 times, while walking only 27 times a K:BB rate of nearly 4:1. Johnson also does not hit for the kind of power you would like to see from a third basemen, hitting only 14 HRs last season. I can see Johnson as a more athletic version of Ty Wigginton in the majors, but probably with lower power numbers, so you take your pick of the two of them. He [Johnson] could use another year in AAA to get used to near major league hitting before taking the dive into the majors, and I would rather see Geoff Blum, or Sutton coming up to replace an infield injury next season.

8. Mitch Einertson OF Age: 22 MLL: AA

The award for prospect I am irrationally really high on goes to… this guy. In an ideal world there is nothing not to like about Einertson he has tremendous power potential, some speed, a great arm to use from right field, and has shown flashes of being a solid overall hitter in the past. Unfortunately in reality Einertson is a yo-yo offensive force, who hit 24 homers in half a season in the Appalachian rookie league back in 2004, and hit .305 with 11 homers last season, but also goes through bad slumps, and mediocre seasons like in 2008 when he hit .262/.313/.427/.739. Now I refuse to give up on Einertson, he is only 22, and will likely start 2009 back in AA, where I expect him to start hitting where he left off, finishing the season 13 for 29 in his final ten games.

9. Ross Seaton RHSP Age: 19 MLL: R

Seaton slipped deep into the third round on draft day because of signability issues, but Houston scooped up the Texas native, and signed him due to a mutual interest in making Seaton an Astro. Seaton has great stuff throwing a 94 mph fastball, which he gets good sink on when throwing his 2-seamer. Seaton also throws a good slider (up to 85 mph), and a change up which should become an average pitch. Seaton was also a good hitter in high school, but should stay on the mound with Houston, as he already has three good pitches. Seaton could be a #2, or 3 starter in the future, but it is far too early to know much for sure.

10. Jay Austin OF Age: 18 MLL: R

Some will have Austin much higher than this, but I do not feel comfortable putting him higher than some of the others listed before I see him perform well in pro ball. Austin is a very toolsy 2008 second round draft pick, but failed to do much of anything well in the rookie league after being drafted. Right now it is way too early to say what Austin could become, but he has the potential to hit for average, and power, he will likely be a plus fielder, with plus or better speed, and a plus arm.

11. Brad James RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AA

James has all the makings of a starter in the major leagues. He throws a heavy sinking fastball that ranges 92-94 mph, he also throws a breaking ball, and changeup, all of which he throws for strikes. However, James took a step back in 2008 pitching in only 93 innings, before finishing the season injured. In those 93 innings James struck out 45 batters, while posting an ERA of 4.45, and a WHIP of 1.53. James should become an effective back-end of the rotation starter in the future, but it is going to take him a little longer to get there now.

12. Phil Disher 1B Age: 23 MLL: a

Disher was taken in the 15<sup>th</sup> round of the 2008 draft. In short season A ball he hit .304/.381/.536/.916 while hitting 15 home runs. Disher did strike out 77 times in only 280 at bats. Disher is on this list based on those numbers alone, but it is too early to say what he could do in the majors, he’s someone to keep a watch on, and could end 2009 in AA.

13. Samuel Gervacio RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Gervacio is not a future closer, but should become a solid middle reliever, and possibly a setup man. In 2008 he pitched 73 and a third innings while striking out 90 batters.

14. Polin Trinidad LHSP Age: 24 MLL: AA/A+

Trinidad had the best season of any Astros minor league pitcher. He pitched 169 innings in 2008 while striking out 109 batters. In that time he recorded a 3.14 ERA, and 1.10 WHIP. I am still unconvinced Trinidad can become an effective big league starter, if he does start it will be as a fourth or fifth starter at best, but most likely he’s a left handed reliever in the future.

15. Jordan Parraz OF Age: 24 MLL: A+/w

Parraz has a lot of tools; he can hit/for power, has speed, can field, and has an arm. However, he is now 24, and the highest level he has played at is high A. In 2008 Parraz hit .281/.388/.396/.784. He hit 9 home runs, while striking out 93 times, and walking seventy times, Parraz also stole twenty three bases. Parraz could become a major league starter, but I think his future is as a multi-faceted fourth outfielder.

Strengths: Houston has a lot of good position players in their farm system. Castro, Sutton, and Bogusevic should all become starters for Houston. The 2008 draft was a big step in the right direction for Houston, as they drafted a number of younger players with high ceilings in Lyles, Seaton, and Austin.

Weaknesses: Houston does not have anyone to put into their rotation right now, something that they desperately need. They also lack a sure future all-star, except for maybe Jason Castro. Another problem is, Houston lacks any names beyond these fifteen, there is no depth to their farm system, a problem only remedied by time, and several good drafts… put one tally down for Houston.

Next Up: the Milwaukee Brewers

Category: MLB
Posted on: November 3, 2008 3:40 pm
 

Top 15 Prospects: Cincinnati Reds

Minor League notations in descending order<o:p></o:p>
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh<o:p></o:p>
*A+ signifies high A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A- signifies low A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season<o:p></o:p>
*a signifies short-season A ball<o:p></o:p>
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Cincinnati Reds Top 15 Prospects

1. Yonder Alonso 1B Age: 21 MLL: A+

Alonso may have been the best hitting prospect in the 2008 draft. Alonso will hit for a good average, and has exceptional plate patience. He also possesses plus power, and is average defensively at first. Due to Alonso’s advanced hitting ability, he should move through the system quickly – I am tempted to use an Albert Pujols comp. but, without the defensive ability.

2. Drew Stubbs OF Age: 24 MLL: AAA/AA/A+

Stubbs has a lot tools. He is great defensively, has a plus arm, and also has well above-average base running ability, 33 SBs in 2008. Stubbs’ strikeout to walk ratio is nearly 2:1, still Stubbs hits a high OBP of .371 – high for his .277 BA. Stubbs’ raw power has yet to be shown in his home run totals, but he could hit 20 or so in the future. Stubbs’ potential: a Jim Edmonds type that will remain a mainstay in Cincinnati’s outfield for a long time.

2a. Homer Bailey RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA

Ok, a bit unprecedented, but Homer Bailey slides in at number 2a because I am not sure whether or not to call him a prospect. He has yet to pitch 50 innings in the major leagues, but for some reason I get this feeling in the back of my mind he does not qualify because of service time. So, instead of redoing the whole list I threw him in behind Stubbs. Homer Bailey throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s, and has thrown up to 97 in the past. He also throws a curveball, and a changeup, to go with his 4, and 2 seam fastballs. Bailey has yet to have any success at the major league level, but should still become a front line starter one day – he is only 22.

3. Chris Valaika SS Age: 23 MLL: AA/A+

Cincinnati’s 2008 minor league MVP, Valaika does a lot of things well, but not one of his tools sticks out. Valaika hit .317 in 2008, with a relatively low OBP of .363. His strikeout to walk ratio is almost 3:1, with 102 SOs, to 35 walks. Valaika has solid power, hitting 18 homers in 2008, but his defense at short will force him to move to third base, or the outfield. Valaika has a lower ceiling, but should be starting for the Reds, though at what position is still in question, by 2010.

4. Todd Frazier SS Age: 22 MLL: A

He and Valaika are two pees in the same pod, they hit for a similar OBP, hit just about the same number HRs, and both will not play shortstop I the majors. Frazier has a strikeout to walk ratio of 2:1, (112 SOs), and has a higher power potential than Valaika. Down the road I see Frazier as a slightly above-average third basemen with solid power, and OBP.

5. Darryl Thompson RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Thompson is a control type pitcher, but throws pretty good stuff, with his low 90s fastball. He also throws solid secondary stuff in his curveball, and changeup. Thompson pitched great in 2008 throwing 126 innings for an ERA of only 2.70, while striking out 99 batters. He is obviously not going to overpower many batters in the majors, but will make for an above-average back of the rotation guy, and could even be as good as an average number three starter.

6. Matt Maloney LHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA

Maloney is the top lefty in the system. He was acquired midseason of 2007 in an exchange involver Kyle Lohse. Maloney put up great numbers in a full season of AAA, in 2008. Pitching 146 innings, and striking out 141 batters, winning 12 games. He is not a future ace, but is major league ready, and could be inserted at the back of the Reds rotation to start 2009.

7. Juan Fransisco 3B Age: 21 MLL: A

One of the most interesting prospects the Reds have. Fransisco hit 23 homers in high A in 2008 - the most of any Reds player, Fransisco also hit 25 homers in 2007. Like many minor league power hitters Fransisco has very little plate disciple, he finished 2008 with an inexcusable strikeout to walk ratio of 6:1 (123:19). Still his 123 SOs in 2008, was an improvement on his 161 in 2007, and should continue to improve in this area in the future. Fransisco also possesses a strong arm, and can man third in the major leagues.

8. Kyle Lotzkar RHSP Age: 19 MLL: A-

Lotzkar has a higher ceiling than Thompson, and Maloney, but is still a long way away, and it would be foolish to assume he will reach it, just yet. Lotzkar has big mid 90s fastball, but still need time to learn to command it and his secondary stuff. In 2008 he pitched only 38 innings, but struck out 50 batters in that time, while finishing the season with a 3.58 ERA, and limiting opposing hitters to a .215 BA.

9. Neftali Soto SS/3B Age: 19 MLL: A-

Soto played well in low A this season – despite his young age. He hit .340, with a .362 OBP, while hitting 11 homeruns in 285 ABs in that league. Soto’s 4:1 strikeout to walk ratio is not much to worry about because of his age, and the fact that he should not have been playing at low A this season, but was promoted due to an injured player. Like Valiaka, and Frazier, Soto is not expected to stick at shortstop, and actually made the move to third while he was in low A Dayton. With Frazier likely to become the mainstay at third at some point it makes me wonder where they are all going to play, and… where is the shortstop of the future?

10. Devin Mesoraco C Age: 20 MLL: A-

A great defensive catcher, Mesoraco is not putting up the kinds of offensive numbers that were hoped when he was taken with the 15<sup>th</sup> pick in 2007. Still, Mesoraco is a potential 5-tool player, and is only 20 so, I will give him another season before I shake him from the top 10.

11. Josh Roenicke RHP Age: 26 MLL: AAA/AA

Roenicke is now a sure thing, as a solid setup man, maybe even a closer someday – I will admit, I have him ranked a bit low, but was reluctant to move Mesoraco out of the top 10. Roenicke finished the season in Cincinnati, but before winding up there he pitched 61 innings in AAA, and AA striking out 71 batters. He throws a mid 90s fastball, and throws a cutter in the 80s.

12. Zach Stewart RHRP Age: MLL: A

The Red’s third round pick in 2008. Stewart was a closer in college possessing a plus fastball, and slider. He was successful for the Reds in his first taste of pro ball striking out 23 batters in over 16 innings of high A ball. Stewart should move swiftly through the system, and could be a successful closer someday in the future, at worst he is a solid setup man.

13. Chris Heisey OF Age: 24 MLL: AA/A+

Heisey is solid across the board, and possesses plus speed. In 2008 he hit .291, .375 OBP, with 9HRs, and 32 SBs split between double A, and high A ball. Most impressive was his only 84 SOs, and 60 BBs to go with it. Heisey will be a good major leaguer, but not a start, and he may not even start most of his career, but will make a great sub in the OF, and bat on the bench.

14. Alex Buchholz 2B Age: 21 MLL: A

Another 2008 draftee, Buchholz had only 134 ABs in 2008, but made them useful, and thus earns a spot on the list. He hit .396, with a .471 OBP, striking out 25 times, but walking 16 times. He is a guy to look out for going into his first full pro season.

15. Evan Hildenbrandt RHSP Age: 19 MLL: A-

Evan played great in 2008 despite being younger than the rest of his league. In 2008 he threw in 66 innings, and struck out 63, acquiring an ERA of 2.98, and holding opponents to a BA of .231, he is my young pitcher to watch next season for the Reds.

Strengths: Other than the class of 2008, this included Edison Volquez, Johnny Cueto, and Jay Bruce. The Reds are balanced with a couple good starters, a couple good relievers, some good outfielders, and some good infiedlers. That variety extends to expected ETAs. Cincinnati has some ready prospects in Josh Roenicke, and Matt Maloney, but also some high upside younger players in Kyle Lotzkar, and Neftali Soto.

Weaknesses: Not many weaknesses to speak of. The Reds are not as deep as some of the teams I have analyzed, but they are not that far off. The only real problem I see is their lack of sure thing shortstop, and catcher in the future. Every team should be good up the middle, but the Reds will not be if Mesoraco does not improve on offense, and if one of their “shortstops” does not stick – and do not come to me with name Paul Janish till he starts hitting. Which is why the Reds should have taken Gordon Beckham instead of Alonso, but that was a debate for last June, not for today.

Next Up: The Houston Astros, YAY! Also, because I made you all wait a couple days to continue the top prospects series, I will eventually put up some Denver Nuggets/Detroit Pistons trade analysis, and look for my SU basketball preview

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 28, 2008 3:51 pm
 

NBA PREDICTIONS [scroll down for Top Prospects]

[The Top Prospects blog is a short scroll down, I just through this quick predictions list in for fun]

I am not a big NBA enthusiast, but I do enjoy watching from time to time - if I am doing something else, like writing these blogs, I like to have NBA games on the TV just to glance at. I do not really have a favorite team, although I root for the Magic - I have always been an (an because of the way Hedo - - "E-dough" is pernounced) Hedo Turkoglu fan - the Grizzlies, the Kings now with Donte Greene, and the Lakers among the current superpowers.

NBA Champion: Las Angeles Lakers

The Team They Beat: Orlando Magic

16 Playoff Teams and Their Seeds:
East
1. Orlando Magic
2. Boston Celtics
3. Cleveland Cavaliers
4. Philadelphia 76ers
5. Detroit Pistons
6. Washington Wizards
7. Miami Heat - your read that right. A whole year of Dwayne Wade, and Beasley
8. Milwaukee Bucks - Michael Redd now joined by Richard Jeffferson, and a compelling season by Luke Ridnour
West
1. LA Lakers
2. New Orleans Hornets
3. Phoenix Suns
4. Houston Rockets
5. Denver Nuggets
6. San Antonio Spurs
7. Portland Trailblazers
8. Dallas Mavericks

Ten Bold[ed] Predictions

Kobe Bryant repeats as MVP

The Houston Rockets once again lose their opening playoff series

How about both the Heat, and Bucks making the playoffs?

Speaking of the Heat, Michael Beasley wins ROY, topping Derrick Rose, and Greg Oden

Hakim Warrick leads Syracuse alum in Rebounds, Etan Thomas leads in blocks, Donte Greene in turnovers

The Knicks finish the season with the worst record in the NBA

Yao Ming is voted to start in the All-Star game despite mediocre numbers

J.J. Reddick ill double his ppg this season from last (8.2 ppg this season)

The true motivations of the Thunder/Sonics move from Seattle to Oklahoma City are revealed. It turns out they were just sick of playing second fiddle to Gonzaga in the state of Washington

Donte Greene averages the second most points on the Kings lineup after Kevin Martin

50 % of these predictions do not come true

Category: NBA
Tags: Predictions
 
Posted on: October 28, 2008 3:03 pm
 

Top 15 Prospects: Chicago Cubs

Sorry about the short hiatus, I went to see Coldplay on Sunday, and needed to catchup up on other stuff on Monday. Anyways, I continue my 'Top 15 Prospects' series, starting the NL Central today with the Chicago Cubs. As always, please keep in mind I am not perfect, and you will not agree with me all the time - Especially you strong-minded Cubs fans. Feel free to point out any errors I make, or any discrepancies between my list, and your opinions.

Minor League notations in descending order<o:p></o:p>
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh<o:p></o:p>
*A+ signifies high A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A- signifies low A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season<o:p></o:p>
*a signifies short-season A ball<o:p></o:p>
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Chicago Cubs Top 15 Prospects

1. Josh Vitters 3B Age: 19 MLL: A-

With the graduation of Geovany Soto, and the departure of several other prospects: Sean Gallagher, Eric Patterson, and Josh Donaldson, I believe the Cubs system is becoming pretty bare. Vitters tops the list despite some big holes in his game right now. Vitters has not shown much power yet – especially since he was praised with 25 HR power when he was drafted - and walks far too little to be effective in the middle of the order. His strikeout rate is acceptable for his age, but does need some improvement. He does however, hit for a good average, and has the tools to become an adequate at third base, although a move to left field is possible.

2. Jose Ceda RHRP Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+

Ceda is a big closer, with a big fastball, which he throws in the mid-to-high 90s. He also throws a plus slider. Ceda has problems with command, and walks a lot of batters. Still, Ceda has plenty of time to work on his mechanics, and should be viewed as a future closer.

3. Tyler Colvin OF Age: 23 MLL: AA

Colvin took a pretty big step back in 2008, hitting just .256BA/.312OBP/.736OPS. He has not improved his plate patience – K:BB rate of 2:1 – and although he has hit with some power – 14 HRs in 2008 – he has yet to show he can hit 20 or more, like was once touted. Colvin has a good arm, and above average speed, but does not have incredible range in center, and may have to move to a corner where his value would diminish significantly.

4. Jeff Samardzija RHSP/RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Samardzija has played better, and better at each level, topping out in the major leagues this season, as a reliever – although next season he will probably start in AAA to continue working as a starter. He throws four pitches, and right now throws a plus slider, his other two secondary pitches (Split-finger fastball, and changeup) are still behind his slider, and fastball, which he throws in the mid 90s. If he ends up as a starter Samardzija should be a solid #3, or he could be a good reliever at the back end of the bullpen.

5. Andrew Cashner RHRP Age: 22 MLL: A

His last year of college Cashner threw his [plus] fastball up to 98 mph – a huge increase from his 92 mph the year before. He also possesses a possible plus slider, but has problems controlling both it, and his fastball at times. Cashner should become a great late innings reliever, and possibly a future closer if he tightens up his command.

6. Donald Veal LHSP Age: 24 MLL: AA

Another thing I do not like about Cubs prospects is that many of their top prospects took steps back in 2008, Donald Veal among them. Veal’s season was not all bad, but not reassuring for a team lacking starting pitchers in their farm. In 2008 Veal pitched 145 innings to the tune of a 4.52 ERA, and 123 Ks. Veal throws his fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, and also throws a heavy breaking curveball, and average changeup. He has problems with his command. Veal still remains relatively high on my list, because of his mid-top of the rotation potential.

7. Ryan Flaherty SS Age: 22 MLL: A-

Flaherty had a good 2008 season, in about half a season of at-bats. Flaherty hit .297, with a .369 OBP, and .880 OPS. He also hit 8 HRs in 219 at-bats, and stole 4 bases. Flaherty ended up with a K-to-BB ratio of 2:1 – but, you will see, that is actually ahead of the curve for the hitters on this list. Right now Flaherty is the Cubs’ shortstop of the future, but may have to shift to third base, because of his size.

8. Kevin Hart RHRP Age: 26 MLL: AAA/AA

It is at this point where you interrupt me and say, “Hmm, another right handed pitching prospect. I suppose he is a reliever too.” Yes, Hart is yet another reliever, and maybe you can start to see why I am not high on Cubs prospects as a whole, they do not have many projectable starting pitchers. But, back to Hart, Hart came out of nowhere in 2007 – developing a cut-fastball contributed to his success. In 2008 Hart pitched 60 and two thirds innings, striking out 66 batters, and holding opponents to a .188 BA.

9. James Adduci OF Age: 23 MLL: A+

Adduci is the first outperforming OFer to make it into the top ten (Bryan Peterson, Mike Taylor, Leonard Davis, insert name here). He hit .290BA/.380OBP/.745OPS in 2008, while stealing 26 bases. He also has a solid 96:63 K to BB ratio.

10. Wellington Castillo C Age: 21 MLL: AAA/AA/A

Castillo has some hitting skills. He hit for a BA of .287, and OBP of .337, in 2008, while only striking out 74 times. On the flip side, however, Castillo also only walked 18 times - a K:BB ratio of nearly 4-to-1! Castillo best tools are behind the plate, he is well above average defensively, and has a plus arm.

11. Ty Wright OF Age: 23 MLL: A+

Wright was taken in the 7<sup>th</sup> round of the 2007 draft. He has played his way onto this list – much like Adduci. In 2008 Wright hit .300/.370/.781, while hitting 8 homeruns. Wright struck out less than Adduci, 74, but also did not incur has many walks either, 41. Keep an eye on both Wright and Adduci moving forward.

12. Jake Fox 1B Age: 26 MLL: AAA/AA

Could Jake Fox be the future replacement for Derek Lee at first? Ok, so, no. He is 26, and does not play great defense. Fox may never be an everyday player, but he could be one of the best slugging bench players in baseball next year. In 2008 Fox hit a respectable .364 OBP, and hit 31 HRs, his 104 strikeouts will not impress many people, but they also will not hinder him in the major leagues, especially since his playing time will be limited.

13. Tony Thomas 2B Age: 22 MLL: A+

Thomas is another Cubs prospect stepping back in 2008. Thomas hit only .266 in 2008, with a .320 OBP, worse yet, he managed a K:BB ratio of over 3-to-1. Thomas has some power, but not enough to make him a more intriguing prospect; he is also below average defensively. Thomas could end up like Dan Uggla, with less power, or he could amount to nothing if he does not improve on his plate patience, and hitting ability.

14. Jovan Rosa 1B Age: 21 MLL: A-

Rosa hit for an average of .293 in 2008, to go with a .353 OBP, he hit 7 HRs, but also ended up with a K:BB ratio of 3-to-1.

15. Mitch Atkins RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Atkins has a relatively low ceiling, he could be a fifth starter, but he would not make the Cubs’ rotation, which makes him a solid middle reliever, which every team needs. Atkins put up solid numbers in 2008 winning 17 games, pitching 164 innings, and accumulating a 4.00 ERA. Atkins only struck out 132 batters in that time, but did limit opposing batters to a .248 BA. Atkins’ best pitch is a high 80s-low 90s sinker, and despite this pitch he allowed batters to hit 25 homeruns off of him last season, his secondary pitches are all slightly below average.

Strengths: Relievers, relievers, and relievers. One of the best bullpens in baseball already will only get better Kevin Hart is ready now, and Ceda, and Cashner should not be far behind him. If Samardzija can become a valid starting pitching prospect they will have two top starters in their farm as well. The Cubs also have a pair of high ceiling hitters in Vitters, and Colvin that should continue to improve, and make this list a lot more impressive.

Weaknesses: Overall depth is a big problem. There are also no guaranteed stars on this team (like a Jason Hewyard, or Carlos Carrasco) guys like Vitters, Colvin, and Veal are still mostly projection, rather than execution. The Cubs also only have three legitimate hitting prospects, the aforementioned Vitters, and Colvin, and Ryan Flaherty. After them it is slim picking, especially if Adduci, and Wright fall back off the map.

On Deck: The Reds

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 24, 2008 4:41 pm
 

NL East Wrap Up

Team Top Prospects Ranking:<o:p></o:p>

Briefly this is the formula I used to create the team rankings: I used a point system where the best prospect at each ranking would get the most points, and then the next best would get the next most points, and so on for each ranking i.e. Brett DeVall of the Braves is the best #15 prospect so he gets 5 points for the Braves. Ruben Tejada is the second best #15 so he gives the Mets 4 points, and so on. I did this for all of those ranked 15, 14, 13, 12, and 11. I also did the same for players ranked between 10, and 6, but instead of giving out points of 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1, I doubled the points so, the top prospect ranked #9 (Logan Morrison) scored 10, and the worst (Charlie Morton) received 2 points for his team. Finally, I ranked the top 5s; now tripling the points so, the #1 prospect (Jason Heyward) received 15 points. The team with the most total points gets the top ranking, the points accumulated are also given, and the maximum amount of points was 150. Get it? In the event of a tie - hint, hint - I totaled the points for the top 5 prospect, and the team with more of those points was ranked higher. I feel as though this system of ranking includes the elements of top talent, and depth well, and gives a better view of each of the teams’ prospects as a whole.

5. New York Mets -- 74 <o:p></o:p>

The Mets rank last because they lack depth all the way to #15, and they lack great talent from 1-5. The Mets have the best prospects at two different ranks between 6, and 10 (Nick Evans at 6, and Mike Carp at 8), but they had the least amount of points from players ranked in the top 5, including have the worst prospect ranked 1<sup>st</sup> by a team (F.Martinez #8 prospect overall – see below), and ranked 3<sup>rd</sup> by a team (Jon Niese who fell just outside of the top 15, he is #17 on my supplemental list). The good thing about Mets prospects is that they may not be as talented, but they are the most near major league ready group.

4. Washington Nationals – 76<o:p></o:p>

This farm system has absolutely no depth. Their prospects ranked at numbers: 10, 12, 14, and 15 all ranked as the worst prospects. Where they exceeded the Mets, however, was at the top, with their 3<sup>rd</sup> ranked prospect (Chris Marrero 10<sup>th</sup> in the NL East) ranking as the best prospect there. Wherever the Nationals’ top pitchers were ranked they scored well, while their position players, as a whole, scored poorly. So, do not expect the Nationals to become the Rays anytime soon.

3. Philadelphia Phillies – 93<o:p></o:p>

The Phillies lose out on the tie breaker to the Braves. The Phillies only had the best prospect at one ranking, and it was only worth 5 points since the prospect was ranked at number 12 (Anthony Gose). However, the Phillies also only had the worst prospect at a ranking once. They have adequate depth throughout the list, but after Carrasco do not have as much talent at the top as some of the other teams, namely…

2. Atlanta Braves – 93<o:p></o:p>

The Braves’ prospects rank second by virtue of the tie breaker. Heyward takes the top spot, as the division’s top overall prospect. One thing I noticed was that the Braves scored remarkably well with their prospects ranked from 1-5, and 10-15, but four of their prospects ranked 6-10, ranked as the worst prospects, at their respective ranking (they were: Brandon Jones, Gorkys Hernandez, Brent Lillibridge, and Charlie Morton).

1. Florida Marlins – 120<o:p></o:p>

As you can tell from the point totals the Marlins, by far, have the best group of prospects in the division. None of their prospects ranked last, while four of them were scored as the top prospect at their rank (Mike Stanton for 2s, Ryan Tucker for 4s – a weak class of fours I will add, Kyle Skipworth for 5s, and Logan Morrison for 9s – perhaps showing he was ranked far too low there).

Top 15 Prospects of the NL East:<o:p></o:p>

1. Jason Heyward OF ATL<o:p></o:p>

2. Cameron Maybin OF FLA<o:p></o:p>

3. Carlos Carrasco RHSP PHI<o:p></o:p>

4. Mike Stanton OF FLA<o:p></o:p>

5. Jordan Schafer OF ATL<o:p></o:p>

6. Ross Detwiler LHSP WAS<o:p></o:p>

7. Jordan Zimmerman RHSP WAS<o:p></o:p>

8. Fernando Martinez OF NYM<o:p></o:p>

9. Ike Davis OF/1B NYM<o:p></o:p>

10. Chris Marrero 1B WAS<o:p></o:p>

11. Matt Dominguez 3B FLA<o:p></o:p>

12. Tommy Hanson RHSP ATL<o:p></o:p>

13. Lou Marson C PHI<o:p></o:p>

14. Ryan Tucker RHRP FLA<o:p></o:p>

15. Kyle Skipworth C FLA<o:p></o:p>

The NL East as a whole has an abundance of outfielders, and some good pitching talent, while having very few top infielders – as shown by having only one non 1B infielder ranking in the top 15. With that, I conclude the NL East, if you missed any of the teams, go back read ‘em up, and get ready for the NL Central.

Next Up: The aforementioned NL Central, starting with those pesky, forever losing Chicago Cubs

Category: MLB
Posted on: October 22, 2008 3:55 pm
 

Top Prospects: Washington Nationals

<o:p> </o:p>

I have created this segment because I love watching young players grow through the system, and contribute at the big league level. Baseball’s minor leagues are the #1 source for most team’s additions. I get the impression that most baseball fans do not have a great understanding of who their team’s next great star is, so, I am here to clue them in.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p> The impact of a great farm system, and great prospects, is currently taking center stage in the baseball universe. The Rays have overcome incredible odds to go from last place, last year, to the World Series. How did they do it? By building up a great farm system, and graduating those players to the major leagues.<o:p></o:p>

<o:p></o:p> Over the next couple of months I am going to go team-by-team dissecting the organizations farm system, and pulling out each of their top 15 prospects; starting with the NL East and the Atlanta Braves. Once Baseball America starts to release their top 10 lists I will come back to each team and compare and contrast their list to mine. Come to see an assessment on your favorite team’s future, stay because you are just as interested in prospects as I am. If you ever feel as though I have left someone off, or you disagree with my placement of a prospect, or anything else of that nature, please comment, get your opinion out here, and I’ll consider your thoughts.<o:p></o:p>

**As a disclaimer I just wanted to say a few things. First, I rank players based on their potential talent first and foremost, other factors include: age, what level they play at, their 2008 statistics, team needs, and my own gut feeling. The reason I decided on a top 15 list, despite the fact that many team’s good-decent prospects I can count on one hand, was because some team’s do go 15 or more prospects deep, and I wanted to get to include them as well – the Braves are a great example of this, they go 15-19 prospects deep, and it was tough enough for me to narrow it down to 15, let alone 10. Throughout the offseason trades are bound to happen. I currently have every team’s top 15 lists, but they may be forced to change due to trades. I will try my best to make the appropriate adjustments, and even update lists I’ve already posted as prospects come to and from teams. Also, other than Michael Inoa, I have no 2008 internationally signed players; I also do not feel as though they will be missed. Finally, I would like to say that I am not a professional, I do possess a good amount of information, but I will make mistakes, few, but they will be there. There are also some prospects I may not go into full detail about, but I will hit the mot important players, in my opinion of every organization. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this series, and consistently come here to read it. Good Luck to Everybody’s Favorite Team’s Offseason… go Rays.

Minor League notations in descending order<o:p></o:p>
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh<o:p></o:p>
*A+ signifies high A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A- signifies low A ball<o:p></o:p>
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season<o:p></o:p>
*a signifies short-season A ball<o:p></o:p>
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Washington Nationals Top 15 Prospects<o:p></o:p>

1. Ross Detwiler LHSP Age: 22 MLL: A+<o:p></o:p>

Detwiler had mixed results in his first full pro season, after reaching the majors last September a couple short months since being drafted. In 124 innings he struck out 114 batters while raising his ERA to 4.86. He is doing much better in fall league. Detwiler throws two fastballs (4, and 2 seamers) in the low 90s, as well as a great curveball, and above average changeup. Detwiler is the likely ace of this future staff, and will likely play for, and stay with the major league team at some point this season, possibly by opening day. <o:p></o:p>

2. Jordan Zimmerman RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AA/A+<o:p></o:p>

You can not have a better year, than the 2008 Zimmerman put up. He pitched in 134 innings in AA, and high A Zimmerman posted an ERA of 2.89 while striking out 134 batters, and limiting the opposition to a batting average of .215. Zimmerman throws heavy sinking fastball between 91 and 94 mph, which grades as a plus pitch. He also throws a hard slider, a good changeup, and a developing curveball. I think Zimmerman could be as good as Detwiler, giving them a nasty 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation for years to come.<o:p></o:p>

3. Chris Marrero 1B Age: 20 MLL: A+<o:p></o:p>

Marrero starts the list of top Nationals prospects with poor 2008 seasons. Marrero’s was mostly caused by injury, but still only amassed a .250 BA and .325 OBP when he was healthy. Marrero has plus-plus power to all fields, but is limited defensively to first base, slightly devaluing himself. When he was an outfielder, he was unanimously the #1 prospect for the Nationals.<o:p></o:p>

4. Michael Burgess OF Age: 20 MLL: A<o:p></o:p>

Now here is a young prospect. Burgess has considerable power, blasting 24 in 2008, but also striking out 162 times (more times than the 39 HR hitting Mike Stanton). Burgess also only hit for a BA of .246, and OBP of .333. Not impressive. Burgess’ other plus tool is his arm strength, he can throw a low 90s fastball from the mound, and should allow him to become a power hitting RF someday in the future, likely well into the future because of that horrendous K rate. <o:p></o:p>

5. Jack McGeary LHSP Age: 19 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

McGeary slides ahead of Smoker because of a slightly better 2008 campaign. McGeary did not begin playing in 2008 till he finished classes at Stanford (a clause written into his contract); pitching 63 2/3 innings with an ERA of 4.10, while striking out 69. He has the potential to become a solid middle of the rotation starter. McGeary’s strength is his command, and throws a low 90s fastball, and low 80s curveball. <o:p></o:p>

6. Destin Hood OF Age: 18 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

Hood is all tools, all projection, and no results. Which is why it is tough for me to even put him here at 6, maybe it is a little of my 2008 draft bias. But, I do think Hood has the potential to be a good offensive outfielder with considerable range, unfortunately he has a pretty weak arm. Due to this weak arm I am going to mention him as my Johnny Damon comparison, he has great raw power, and raw speed; he just has to play, and learn baseball fundamentals, and instincts. He struggled in his 86 ABs in 2008.<o:p></o:p>

7. Josh Smoker LHSP Age: 20 MLL: A-/R<o:p></o:p>

A third talented left hander, destined to be a part of the Nationals rotation at some point? Wow, wow. Smoker had a rough 2008 pitching in only 44 and a third innings in the low levels of the minors. He struggled, causing a 5.48 ERA, and striking out only 37 batters. So, I pushed Smoker back behind the Nationals top position players to #7. I expect him to exceed this spot, though. Smoker clocks his fastball in the low 90s, and uses his splitter as an out pitch. He has also been known to throw a curve, slider, and changeup, an impressive arsenal of pitches. <o:p></o:p>

8. Shairon Martis RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AAA/AA<o:p></o:p>

Martis has three average pitches, none of which stand out, but he should be solid at the back end of the rotation. That being said, Martis had a good 2008 season, playing at the highest levels of the minor leagues. In 116 innings Martis managed a 3.64 ERA, while striking out batters. Overwhelming, not at all, but solid numbers for a 20 year old, Martis should be ready to stay with the major league club by the end of next season, at the latest. <o:p></o:p>

9. Colton Willems RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

The Nationals continue to bring Willems along slowly, having him stay in low A all season, while putting up good numbers. Willems pitched over 100 innings (109IP) for the first time in his pro career, and maintained a solid 3.70 ERA over the course of the season, he managed only 60 Ks, though. I am interested to see what Willems does at a higher level before I rank him any higher, but if he continues his success next season in high A, or double A, he will jump into the top echelon of Nationals pitchers. Willems throws his fastball up to 95 mph, and also throws a promising curveball, and changeup.<o:p></o:p>

10. Justin Maxwell OF Age: 25 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Maxwell showed a ton of promise in 2007, but cooled down with only 146 ABs, in the minors, in 2008. In that short period Maxwell put up only a .233 BA, but did walk three more times than he struck out (28Ks:31BBs). He also hit 7 HRs, and stole 13 bags in that span.<o:p></o:p>

11. Ian Desmond SS Age: 23 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Desmond is a plus defender with a good arm at shortstop. There was a time when Desmond was thought of as a solid complement to [Ryan] Zimmerman on the left side of the infield, offensive inconsistencies however, have held him back. Desmond once again failed to live up to expectations, this time in AA, posting a .321 OBP, and .256 BA. He managed to hit 12 HRs, and steal 15 bases, but also put up a K/BB ratio of 2.6:1 (80Ks:31BBs). Although it is possible for Desmond to play well again next season, as he likely repeats AA, I do not see him becoming consistent enough to play shortstop everyday in Washington.<o:p></o:p>

12. Jake Smolinski OF/2B Age: 19 MLL A-/a<o:p></o:p>

Why is Smolinski not in the top 10? Well, admittedly I do not know that much about him, and he is still pretty early in his development. He also had a disappointing season with a BA of .271, OBP of .345, in 291 at bats. His strikeout, and walk ratios were not terrible, but I did not find anything that stood out. <o:p></o:p>

13. Leonard Davis OF Age: 25 MLL: AAA/AA/A<o:p></o:p>

Davis is of the Bryan Peterson, and Mike Taylor tradition; outfielders who were under the radar, but play themselves onto this list. Davis stretched himself across three levels of the minor leagues. Putting up impressive numbers all together, finishing 2008 with a .308 BA, and hitting 25 HRs. Holding Davis back a little is his terrible walk rate. Last season he struck out 100 times, while walking on only 34 occasions (2.94:1 K/BB). There is not much time for improvement, seeing how Davis is 25; his walk rate is the only thing holding him back as a productive big league hitter. <o:p></o:p>

14. Adam Carr RHRP Age: 24 MLL: AA/A+<o:p></o:p>

Carr had a phenomenal 2007 pitching an ERA of 1.78 in over 60 innings, all as a reliever. This season he took a step back posting a 6.60 ERA in the same 60 innings; he did however, throw 58 Ks, and acquire 16 saves. Carr has the potential to be a solid reliever in 2009 for the Nationals, but needs to show consistency in his outings. <o:p></o:p>

15. William Atwood LHSP Age: 21 MLL: a<o:p></o:p>

Atwood has played himself onto the last spot on this list. In 52 1/3 innings this season, in short season A, he accumulated a 2.41 ERA, with a .205 OBA (opposing batting average), while striking out 60 batters.<o:p></o:p>

Strengths: Pitching. Talent wise, and depth wise, the Nationals have one of the best group of arms in their farm system. Especially impressive is the prospect of having three great left handers in their rotation in a few years. I also have to wonder what this group would be like had Aaron Crow – the top pitching prospect in the 2008 draft, in my opinion – signed.<o:p></o:p>
Future Rotation:<o:p></o:p>
1. Detwiler<o:p></o:p>
2. Zimmerman<o:p></o:p>
3. Smoker<o:p></o:p>
4. McGeary<o:p></o:p>
5. Willems/Collin Balester<o:p></o:p>

Weaknesses: Bats. Talent, depth, the Nationals really need to develop a couple more impact bats. Right now they only have three solid position players in Marrero, Burgess, and Hood; Ian Desmond could surprise me, and become a successful shortstop, but if the Nationals want to follow in the Rays footsteps they are going to have to bring along 3-5 more bats. <o:p></o:p>


Next Up: the NL East Wrap up, followed by the start of the NL Central – order of operation: Cubs, Reds, Astros, Brewers, Pirates, and Cardinals<o:p></o:p>

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Posted on: October 21, 2008 3:07 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2008 10:24 pm
 

Top 15 Prospects: Philadelphia Phillies

I’ve created this segment because I love watching young players grow through the system, and contribute at the big league level. Baseball’s minor leagues are the #1 source for most team’s additions. I get the impression that most baseball fans do not have a great understanding of you their team’s next great star is, so, I’m here to clue in.

The impact a great farm system, and great prospects, is currently taking center stage in the baseball universe. The Rays have overcome incredible odds to go from last place, last year, to the cusp of the World Series. How did they do it? The catalysts name is Evan Longoria. The top prospect in Tampa Bay’s farm to start 2008, became the leader of this Rays team, and has come up with big hits all year. Behind Longoria are players like B.J. Upton, Carl Crawford, James Shields, and of course Scott Kazmir, all guys among the Rays best prospects few years ago.

Over the next couple of months I’m going to go team-by-team dissecting the organizations farm system, and pulling out each of their top 15 prospects; starting with the NL East and the Atlanta Braves. Once Baseball America starts to release their top 10 lists I will come back to each team and compare and contrast their list to mine. Come to see an assessment on your favorite team’s future, stay because you are just as interested in prospects as I am. If you ever feel as though I have left someone off, or you disagree with my placement of a prospect, or anything else of that nature, please comment, get your opinion out here, and I’ll consider your thoughts.

**As a disclaimer I just wanted to say a few things. First, I rank players based on their potential talent first and foremost, other factors include: age, what level they play at, their 2008 statistics, team needs, and my own gut feeling. The reason I decided on a top 15 list, despite the fact that many team’s good-decent prospects I can count on one hand, was because some team’s do go 15 or more prospects deep, and I wanted to get to include them as well – the Braves are a great example of this, they go 15-19 prospects deep, and it was tough enough for me to narrow it down to 15, let alone 10. Throughout the offseason trades are bound to happen. I currently have every team’s top 15 lists, but they may be forced to change due to trades. I will try my best to make the appropriate adjustments, and even update lists I’ve already posted as prospects come to and from teams. Also, other than Michael Inoa, I have no 2008 internationally signed players; I also do not feel as though they will be missed. Finally, I would like to say that I am not a professional, I do possess a good amount of information, but I will make mistakes, few, but they will be there. There are also some prospects I may not go into full detail about, but I will hit the mot important players, in my opinion of every organization. Otherwise I hope you enjoy this series, and consistently come here to read it. Good Luck to Everybody’s Favorite Team’s Offseason… go Rays.


Minor League notations in descending order

*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh

*A+ signifies high A ball

*A- signifies low A ball

*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season

*a signifies short-season A ball

*R signifies rookie league

*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Philadelphia Phillies Top 15 Prospects

1. Carlos Carrasco RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AAA/AA<o:p></o:p>

It seems as though Carrasco has been towards the top of this list for ages, but somehow he is still only 21, and already pitching in AAA, oh the beauty of international signees. Carrasco excelled this past season advancing to the highest level of the farm while pitching to an ERA of 3.69 over 151 innings, and striking out 155 batters. Carrasco looks like he will make the jump to the big leagues sometime next season, and will immediately jump in as the Phillies’ number two starter. Carrasco has three major league ready pitches including a plus-plus changeup, and his lively fastball.

2. Lou Marson C Age: 22 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Marson’s my favorite prospect in the Phillies system. For awhile he was known best for his defensive capabilities, but is now making a name for himself as a hitter. In 2008 he hit for a .314 BA, and .433 OBP, to go with his .849 OPS, pretty impressive numbers for a defensive catcher. Marson is not a power threat, but makes up for it due to his plate patience, walking 68 times in 2008, and striking out only 70 times. Marson is the Phillies catcher of the –near- future, and will help the team with excellent defense, and his ability to be a difficult out.

3. Kyle Drabek RHSP Age: 21 MLL: a/R<o:p></o:p>

Could Kyle Drabek finally be healthy? Drabek has the best stuff in the Phillies’ system, he throws a 97 mph fastball, and one of the best curveballs south of the major leagues. He finally recovered from Tommy John surgery, and pitched 32 innings in Rookie, and short-season A leagues in 2008. There he threw up a 2.23 ERA, and held opposing hitters to a .156 BA. If Drabek can stay healthy he should continue to put up stellar numbers, he has ace potential, were he to ever reach it.

4. Zach Collier OF Age: 18 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

Collier was the first player taken by the Phillies in the 2008 draft. He has good power, and should develop more, he also posses great speed, and good base running instincts. Collier is a good fielder with about an average arm; the Phillies may try him in center as he moves through the farm, but will likely play at a corner when he eventually makes it to the big leagues. Collier had mixed success in the rookie league during his pro debut, but it would be hard to make any impressions of him before he played a full season.

5. Joe Savery LHSP Age: 23 MLL: A+<o:p></o:p>

Savery throws an above average fastball in the low 90s with good movement. He also throws a changeup, and curveball, both which gage at average. Savery had some success at high A in 2008, throwing 150 innings for an ERA of 4.13, while managing to win 9 games, and striking out 122 batters. I do not currently have a ceiling for Savery, possibly a #3, but I do not think he rises any higher.

6. J.A. Happ LHSP Age: 26 MLL: AAA<o:p></o:p>

I know he is now 26, pitched at the major league level, and could start 2009 in the MLB rotation, but he still qualifies as a rookie, and that makes him a prospect on this list. Happ was amazing last season pitching to an ERA of 3.60 in AAA over the course of 135 innings in AAA, where he struck out 151 batters in that span. Happ throws an average fastball with a velocity range of 88-91 mph, but his out pitch is his solid changeup. As previously mentioned Happ could/should be apart of the rotation in 2008, and could be a solid #3 starter

7. Dominick Brown OF-RF Age: 21 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

Brown, or Golson; Golson, or Brown? Hmm… I am going with Brown. He is younger, and has more polish, in my book you can not go wrong with that kind of logic. Brown hit for a BA of .291 in 2008, while posting a .382 OBP, and .798 OPS. Not great numbers, but certainly solid. Especially when you factor in his 72:64 K:BB ratio. Brown hit only 9 HRs, but has the potential to hit more. He also stole 22 bases. Brown will likely find himself in AA next season, and could be with the major league club in late 2010.

8. Greg Golson OF Age: 23 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Golson is one of the most pure talents in this system. The problem: poor pitch recognition. What does poor pitch recognition cause: lots of strikeouts, few walks, and most importantly, wasted talent. Golson hit for a solid average in 2008, .282, but erected a mere .333 OBP, while striking out 130 times, worse still he managed only a .767 OPS. What is good is Golson still managing to hit 13 HRs, and stealing 23 bases; he also has a strong arm, and is a sound fielder. Golson needs to show a big improvement in his plate patience, or he will never become a starter in Philadelphia, he will start next season in either AAA, or back in AA.

9. Anthony Hewitt SS Age: 19 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

The second 2008 draftee, it was widely believed that Hewitt had has much upside as anyone in the draft. Hewitt has some offensive tools, and should develop solid power. He has above average speed, and is a good base runner. Hewitt has a strong arm, but profiles more as an outfielder, most likely center. He struggled in his first taste of pro baseball, hitting for a poor .197 BA, and striking out a whopping 55 times in 117 at bats.

10. Jason Donald SS Age: 24 MLL: AA<o:p></o:p>

Donald at number ten shows off the depth the Phillies have in their farm system. Donald is a good fielder with a plus arm, but is likely to third – sooner, rather than later. Donald struggled offensively in 2006, but rebounded in 2007, and kept pace in 2008. He hit a BA of .307, and got on base 39.1 % of the time, while posting a .889 OPS. His next stop will be AAA next season where he will try to prove to the Phillies that he is more than a utility bench player, and deserve a shot at the everyday 3B spot.

11. Travis D’Arnaud C Age: 19 MLL: A-<o:p></o:p>

D’Arnaud is a great fielding catcher, with plus receiving skills, and a terrific arm. He also has some offensive ability, as he hit for a .831 OPS in 239 ABs in low A this season.

12. Anthony Gose OF Age: 18 MLL: R<o:p></o:p>

The third player on this list taken in the 2008 draft, Gose is a high upside high school player. He was also garnering consideration as a pitcher, but the Phillies will make him an outfielder. Right now it is tough to guess what Gose will become as a hitter. He has some power potential, but tends to lose his ability to make contact when he ‘swings for the fences’. He could become a solid line-drive hitter with a high average, or hitter with solid power, but holes in his swing, or he could become nothing at all. Gose is a tremendous fielder, with a great arm, and excellent speed.

13. Mike Taylor OF Age: 23 MLL: A+<o:p></o:p>

Taylor played himself onto this list in 2008. He hit for a .346 BA, .412 OBP, and a .968 OPS. He hit 19 HRs, while stealing 15 bags. He was a bit old for high A, but I will keep an eye on him as he moves on to AA next season.

14. Drew Naylor RHSP Age: 22 MLL: A<o:p></o:p>

Naylor did well during the 2008 campaign, boasting a 3.86 ERA in 165 innings, and striking out 156 batters. He also allowed 16 HRs, or .87HRs/9IP, if my math is right, and it should be. Naylor throws a low 90s sinking fastball to go with a good curveball, and solid changeup.

15. Drew Carpenter RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA<o:p></o:p>

Carpenter has average stuff, featuring a fastball that ranges between 88, and 92 mph. He also throws an average slider, curveball, and spliter – as well as a below average changeup, but he will not need to throw it in the majors because of his spliter. Carpenter also possesses good command of his pitches. Carpenter was shaky in AA, and AAA this season compiling a 4.59 ERA in 153 innings, and striking out only 106. Next season he will have likely repeat AAA, but he should be solid at the back end of the Phillies rotation one day.

Strengths: Other than the already young stars of the Phillies (Utley, Howard, Hamels, Rollins)? They feature a number of pitchers capable of starting in the majors one day. A rotation of: 1. Cole Hamels 2. Carrasco 3. Happ 4. Savery 5. Kyle Kendrick/Carpenter/Naylor would be pretty impressive – especially since I did not even include a possible Drabek appearance. The 2008 draft gave the Phillies three 5-tool prospects, outfielders, to bolster their already toolsy group of position players. They also have a great catcher ready to take over the pitching staff for the major league team; every organization could use one of those.

Weakness: They do not have many. Those pitchers who fail to make the rotation can be moved to the bullpen, and assuming Lidge stays in Philadelphia for awhile they do not need a future closer. They do lack infielders in the system, but that should not hold the major league team back, since they are loaded with stars there. While Utley, Howard, and Rollins dominate the NL, the Phillies can draft some college infielders to fill in at higher levels of the minor leagues.

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Next Up: the Washington Nationals, and the NL East Wrap up

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com