Monday, March 08, 2010
2010 Top Prospects Part 10: Right-Handed Starters
Pt. 1: Catchers
Pt. 2: First Baseman
Pt. 3: Second Baseman
Pt. 4: Shortstops
Pt. 5: Third Baseman
Pt. 6: Corner Outfielders
Pt. 7: Center Fielders
Pt. 8: Relievers
Pt. 9: Left-Handed Starting Pitchers
1. Stephen Strasburg - Nationals (1)
If you could build the perfect pitcher in a lab, the result would very closely resemble Strasburg. Physically he is ideal; tall enough to get excellent leverage on his pitches but not so tall that his coordination suffers. He has a lightning quick arm and is an excellent athlete for a pitcher. He also has outstanding makeup. After not even being drafted in high school he committed himself to getting in better shape and working on his craft. The end result is that he is now the best pitching prospect in recent memory. In the past few years the only examples of pitchers that can even be compared to Strasburg when they were prospects are Felix Hernandez, Mark Prior and Josh Beckett, but Strasburg has a higher ceiling than any of them.
From a stuff standpoint, Strasburg is the total package as well. His four-seam fastball sits from 94-99 MPH with several sources having clocked him over 100 MPH, and the pitch also has plenty of life. His power curveball is thrown at the speed of a slider, but with more movement. It generally shows two-plane movement and college players found it completely unhittable. He also has an excellent changeup with screwball action. He tops it all off with above average command for a pitcher his age that could easily get even better with time. Although he could pitch in the majors right now, Washington will probably start him in the minors to delay his free agency clock a bit. He could post numbers similar to Mark Prior's 2002 season, when his career began under similar circumstances.
There has been a bunch of debate over whether Strasburg or Jason Heyward should be considered the top prospect in baseball. Even though picking a hitter generally makes more sense because they have a higher rate of delivering on their promise, I have chosen Strasburg. This is because he is one of a kind, the best pitching prospect I have ever seen with the highest ceiling. Heyward is an outstanding prospect, but I do not think he is better than Matt Wieters was last year, or Evan Longoria the year before that. To put it simply, we have seen players with Heyward's ability before, Justin Upton springs to mind as a recent example. We have never seen a Stephen Strasburg before. I think both will be stars, barring injury, but Strasburg could definitely become the best pitcher in baseball and I'm not certain that Heyward could become the best hitter in baseball. Time will tell, but for now I would take Strasburg by the slightest of margins.
2. Neftali Feliz - Rangers (10)
Although he pitched out of the bullpen in 2009 and was dominant, Feliz is still more likely to end up a starting pitcher. He was acquired in the trade that sent Mark Teixeira to Atlanta and had not even played in a full season league at the time of the transaction. The Rangers were intrigued by his raw arm strength and saw a kid with huge potential if he could learn the finer points of the game. Feliz jumped to elite prospect status during 2008 when he blew away low-A and pitched well in AA as a 20-year-old. He was still raw but had a special arm and spent most of 2009 ironing out his rough edges.
As a starter his fastball sits in the mid-90s with excellent arm-side run. It is easily his best pitch and one of the best fastballs in the minor leagues because of its life and how well Feliz commands it. The changeup has become his most reliable secondary offering. Even though he often throws it just under 90 miles-per-hour, it has had enough separation from his fastball and gets plenty of swings and misses. He also throws a power curveball that has been erratic thus far. If he is ever able to develop that pitch he could be a number one starter. Texas still believes he is capable of handling a rotation spot, and rightly slow, but last season's performance proved that if nothing else, Feliz would be a dominant closer.
3. Jeremy Hellickson - Rays (11)
Hellickson was yet another shrewd draft pick by the Rays, as they found him in the 5th round and have been rewarded with one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Always considered a command pitcher, Hellickson stuff has slowly improved and he now looks like a potential number two starter, and is so polished he is one of the most sure things to develop into a quality major-leaguer among all pitchers. He split 2009 between AA and AAA, dominating both levels with high strikeout totals and few walks. He is very close to ready for the bigs but the Rays appear to have a full rotation and it may take an injury for him to get a chance.
Hellickson's fastball is one of the least impressive among top prospects, generally sitting in the low-90s with minimal movement, but he commands it better than most current major-leaguers. He also throws an average curveball and plus changeup with good tumble. His plus command extends to his secondary pitches as well, and although none will wow you individually, Hellickson mixes them very well and can make batters look foolish. He is a better version of Twins pitcher Kevin Slowey and should be in the show soon.
4. Wade Davis - Rays (12)
Although he already pitched well in the majors and has better stuff than Hellickson, Davis rates just below his Rays teammate. Davis has been a consistent pitcher since signing, always posting excellent numbers and high innings totals. However, he has never quite dominated the minors to the level that would be expected considering his stuff. He posted a 3.48 ERA in AAA last year, very good for a 23-year-old, but he allowed 14 home runs and his strikeout to walk ratio was a little low for an elite prospect. Still, his track record and brief stint in the majors all point to a player beginning a very solid major league career.
Davis' best pitch is his fastball, which ranges from 91-96 MPH and can sit in the mid-90s when he is on. It has a bit of sinking action on it but is not a true groundball inducing pitch. His curveball is also a plus pitch with vicious downward break. He is primarily a two-pitch pitcher but will occasionally mix in a below average slider and changeup. Without a reliable third pitch, Davis profiles as more of a mid-rotation work horse than a front of the rotation starter. However there are plenty of players out there that would gladly take two pitches that are already plus, and if he is able to develop a third, he could be even better.
5. Kyle Drabek - Blue Jays (25)
When Drabek was selected in the first round of 2006 he was considered one of the highest ceiling pitchers in the draft, but there were also serious concerns about his makeup. Many felt he did not take the game seriously enough and was doomed to underachieve. In 2007 he required Tommy John surgery and it may have actually been the best thing for him. Those within the Phillies organization (where he was playing at the time) said the rehabilitation helped him improve his discipline and work ethic. When Drabek returned in 2009 he quickly established himself as Philadelphia's best pitching prospect and was the key piece of the Roy Halladay trade.
There was a lot of hyperbole surrounding Drabek while trade negotiations were going on between Philadelphia and Toronto, but he does have front of the rotation potential. In his first full year back, his stuff had returned to its pre-surgery level. He has a low-90s fastball with good life, but his best pitch is a 12-6 curveball that he uses to get most of his strikeouts. Drabek's changeup lags behind his other offerings and his development of it will ultimately determine how effective he is in the majors. He commands all his pitches well, partially because he is an excellent athlete. That athleticism also helps him in the field where he is impressive with the glove. He could see the majors in 2010 but is more likely to establish himself in Toronto at some point in 2011.
6. Jenrry Mejia - Mets (35)
Mejia is by far the most raw prospect thus far on the list and rates here mostly because of his excellent arm strength and potential. Coming into 2009 he had never pitched an inning in full season ball, but he blitzed through high-A and held his own in AA as a 19-year-old. The year ended on a bit of a down note when he struggled with more advanced hitters in the Arizona Fall League, although scouts still came away impressed by his stuff. He has been moved very aggressively by an organization that loves to challenge its prospects and probably needs to return to AA in 2010. Another full season in the minors would definitely help Mejia, but the Mets may not be able to resist using him out of the bullpen in a manner similar to the way the Rangers used Neftali Feliz last year.
Even though Mejia's fastball has been routinely clocked in the mid-90s, it is the movement that scouts find most impressive. He has the ability to both cut and sink it, generating plenty of grounders. It is rare to see a pitcher capable of plus velocity and that type of life on a fastball; the combination makes his heater one of the most impressive in the minors. His changeup currently stands as his second best pitch, but he does throw it a bit too hard sometimes, leading to insufficient separation in velocity from his fastball. His slider is currently well below-average and he needs to work on it if he wants to remain a starting pitcher. His command also needs to improve for all of his pitches, but he will play the whole season at 20-years-old, so time is on his side.
7. Kyle Gibson - Twins (41)
Gibson slipped to the 22nd overall pick in the 2009 draft because teams were scared off by some forearm discomfort he suffered from late in the season. Before the injury he seemed like a lock to be a top 10 selection and many believed he was the second best college arm behind Strasburg. The pain faded quickly for Gibson and the Twins believed he was healthy enough to sign, giving him a 1.8 million dollar bonus. He was dominant in his junior year at Missouri and should be able to start his professional career in high-A, although Minnesota tends to be conservative with their prospects and may start him off lower than that.
Gibson had one of the best sinking fastballs in college, sitting in the low-90s and getting a ton of grounders. He also throws a four-seamer with a bit more velocity that can get strikeouts when it is up in the zone. His slider is already a plus pitch, sitting in the mid-80s with excellent two plane break. His changeup also has potential but currently is well behind everything else. It is rare to see a college pitcher with such an advanced sinker and that may help him get to the majors quickly.
8. Casey Kelly - Red Sox (54)
Kelly was drafted at the end of 2008's first round and desperately wanted to be a shortstop. The Red Sox humored him and let him try while also giving him time on the mound, but as time progressed it became clear the Kelly's future was as a pitcher. He split the season between two levels of A-Ball last year and was superb, showing a far more advanced feel for pitching and a refinement rarely seen from a prep pitcher, particularly a two-way player. Now that he has taken to pitching full time, he should move through the minors very quickly.
Kelly features the standard repertoire of fastball, curve and changeup. All three pitches currently rate as average but play up because he can command all of them exceptionally well. His fastball generaly parks just above 90 MPH and his changeup at 80 MPH. There is a lot of deception in the changeup; it has routinely gotten hitters out on their front foot and should continue to do so as he moves up the ladder. His curve features true 12-6 movement and is currently his best strikeout pitch. Because Kelly does not have a single dominant pitch he may settle in as a mid-rotation starter, but it is hard to project someone who is so advanced despite spending so little time working on pitching.
10. Jacob Turner - Tigers (54)
Turner, the 9th overall pick in last year's draft was probably one of the least surprising picks of the whole day. The Tigers love power pitching and Turner had the best arm of any prep player in the draft. Although he is often compared to Rick Porcello, Turner is not quite as advanced and should not be able to rocket through the minors so quickly. He does have ace potential because he generates his velocity with a fairly smooth and repeatable motion.
Turner's best pitch is obviously his fastball, which can touch the upper-90s. It has excellent life whether he throws it down or up in the zone and should get strikeouts at any level. He throws a curve in the high-70s that gets a little soft and loopy at times but flashes plus potential. Even though he has not needed it, Turner has thrown a changeup in the past and it has a chance to develop into an average pitch. In a draft loaded with power prep pitchers, Turner stood out for his velocity and ceiling. He should make his professional debut at low-A.
11. Andrew Cashner - Cubs (61)
Cashner was a reliever at TCU before being drafted in 2008's first round. Chicago has been trying to turn him into a starting pitcher and so far the experiment is going fairly well. Some scouts still believe his long-term future is in the pen, but Chicago does not want to try him there for fear of stunting his growth, like they did with Jeff Samardzija. Although Cashner's strikeout numbers have not been impressive thus far, he has a power pitcher's arsenal and gets plenty of ground balls, so he should continue to have success against more advanced hitters.
Cashner's fastball as a starter is a mid-90s pitch with riding action. When he was a reliever it would routinely hit the upper-90s, furthering some people's belief he should be in the pen. His slider has a big break and should get more strikeouts than it does, but his command of it is erratic. His changeup is currently below average and may not get much better than that, and it is the key to his development. Even though his slider is a plus pitch, it is not as effective against left-handed hitters and he needs a more reliable weapon against them than his current changeup. He should begin 2010 back in AA but could pitch in the majors right now if they wanted to use him in relief.
12. Jordan Lyles - Astros (62)
Lyles was a bit of a surprise selection in the 2008's supplemental first round and most teams did not feel that he deserved consideration so early. However, Houston has had success the last couple of years now with first round picks that were undervalued by most clubs. Lyles went to full season ball in 2009 and dominated the South Atlantic League at 18-years-old. He doesn't have lights out stuff, but has a full repertoire and advanced command that should continue to allow him to breeze through the minors.
Lyles' fastball peaks in the low-90s but it has excellent arm-side run and gets to hitters faster than they expect because he hides the ball well. His best pitch right now is a plus changeup that he does a great job subtracting velocity from. He throws both a curve and slider, neither of which are consistent at this point and both project as average pitches at best. Lyles is still young and at 6'4" it would not be a surprise to see his velocity go up a couple more miles an hour, but even if it doesn't he should be a solid mid-rotation starter.
13. Jake Arrieta - Orioles (63)
The Orioles have done an excellent job developing several young pitchers, and while Arrieta may not have the upside of Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, he should be a fixture in their rotation for many years in the near future. He struggled in his draft year at TCU and seemed like a prime candidate to return for his senior season when the Orioles waited until the 5th round to select him. However, they gave him a bonus over 1 million dollars because they believed his rough season was an aberration. He has spent the last two years proving them right by moving swiftly through the minors and ended 2009 with a solid performance at AAA.
Arrieta has a fastball that can touch the mid-90s with running life, although he generally sits from 91-93. His slider is an above average pitch, but it gets more weak contact than strikeouts at this point because his command of it waivers. He also has a below average changeup and a get-me-over curve that he seldom throws. He has not walked many batters thus far, but Arrieta needs to learn to throw higher quality strikes. He has always been a bit homer prone because he leaves the ball up in the zone. He is close to major league ready and should make his debut at some point this year.
14. Arodys Vizcaino - Braves (64)
Although he is far away from the majors, Vizcaino may end up being the prize of the trade that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. He spent all of last season in the New York Penn League at the age of 18 and was one of the best pitchers in the circuit. He was also the best pitcher in the Yankees organization before being traded because he had one of the highest ceilings in an organization that values stars. He has not pitched in full season ball yet and is very raw but most scouts see Vizcaino as a potential ace.
Vizcaino's best pitch is a power curveball with sharp, downward break. It is already a plus pitch and if he is able to continue its development it may end up being one of the best in the majors some day. His fastball is nothing to scoff at either, and it can touch the mid-90s on occasion. He has started to learn a changeup but it is barely a useable pitch at this point and needs a lot of work. Vizcaino is mostly a thrower now and even though he has two extremely potent weapons, he will need to become a complete player as he moves up the ladder. If he starts 2010 in low-A (which is likely) he will probably run into few batters capable of handling his stuff.
15. Junichi Tazawa - Red Sox (76)
Tazawa created a stir when he was the first Japanese player to bypass the Japanese professional leagues entirely and sign with an American club as an amateur. The Red Sox signed him to a 3.3 million dollar, 3 year deal and felt he was the equivalent of a late first-round talent. He proved to be more polished than even a typical college draft pick, beginning last season in AA and making it all the way up to Boston. Hitters in the minors were baffled by his varied repertoire but his lack of a single plus pitch hurt him when he got to the majors. Although he struggled, Tazawa still has the arsenal to be a mid-rotation starter and should not be discouraged because very few hit the ground running in their first taste of the big leagues.
Tazawa may not have a single plus pitch, but he has plus command of all four of his pitches, three of which rate as at least average. Tazawa's fastball may be a bit straight and averages roughly 90 MPH, but he does an excellent job of spotting it anywhere he wants and can often freeze batters when he paints corners with it. Like most Japanese pitchers he also throws a splitter that acts as a changeup and a short hard slider that are not big strikeout pitches, but induce weak contact. His curveball, which he started throwing instead of the slider late in the year, is his weakest offering. It is little more than a mid-70s get me over pitch and he would probably be better off going back to the slider more often. He has to hit his spots to have success and considering Boston's depth at starting pitcher, he may gain experience as a long man in the Red Sox pen this year.
16. Chris Withrow - Dodgers (77)
Withrow was taken in the first round of 2007, but the Dodgers were unable to figure exactly what kind of player they had until last year. Some nagging injuries that resulted in wildness derailed his first full professional season, but he rebounded in a big way last season. His stats were were not particularly impressive, but he did survive high-A and AA as a raw 20-year-old. He is still a bit of a project, but the Dodgers seem to have him on the fast track. He will probably return to AA for the start of 2010.
Withrow is a stereotypical power pitcher drafted from a Texas high school. He throws hard, often being clocked in the upper-90s, but typically sitting a bit lower than that, and has a big power curveball. Most scouts say his mechanics are sound but he has struggled to command both pitches thus far. He will occasionally go through stretches where he drastically misses his spots, particularly while working from the stretch. He has started to work on a changeup, but it is well below average right now. Withrow will have to learn to harness his power repertoire if he wants to fulfill his potential as a starter.
17. Aaron Crow - Royals (80)
Many scouts believed that Aaron Crow was the top pitcher available in the 2008 draft when he was selected 10th overall by Washington. However the two sides were unable to reach a contract agreement and as a result, Crow went back into the 2009 draft. Even though the track record of pitchers who fail to sign out of college and have to report the Independent League ball to boost their stock is poor, Kansas City couldn't resist his potential and took him 12th overall last year. He has yet to pitch an inning for the Royals, other than a couple of starts in the Arizona Fall League, but was considered an advanced prospect and could open 2010 as high as AA.
Crow is a two-pitch pitcher at this point in his career. His fastball typically sits in the low-90s but has been clocked at 95 on occasion. He gets good sink and arm-side run on it and that makes it more difficult for hitters to lift and drive. His slider is a swing-and-miss pitch in the mid-80s. Its overall break is only average but he throws it very hard and the movement is exceptionally sharp. He has tried to develop a changeup but with little progress thus far. His fastball and slider are Major League ready but he will need to figure out a third pitch to have success in a rotation.
18. Shelby Miller - Cardinals (83)
2009 was the year of high-school pitchers and Miller boasted one of the most well rounded resumes of the group. He is an excellent athlete and very strong for a prep player, leading most scouts to conclude that he should be a durable workhorse down the road. The positives do not end there because his stuff can match up with nearly anybody in his draft class, and he the confident attitude to match. Miller will likely begin 2010 in low-A but could force a promotion quickly if players at that level are unable to cope with his ability.
Miller's another Texas pitcher who lives off the fastball. He can run it up into the mid-90s on a good day and gets impressive leverage on it from a high arm-slot. His curveball is a true power strikeout pitch with a great deal of downward bite. The combo has had some scouts comparing him to Josh Beckett at that age, but with a little less velocity. His changeup is more advanced than most prep pitchers but still has a long way to go. Miller has the stuff and build to profile as an ace but will need a couple years in the minors to reach his potential.
19. Ethan Martin - Dodgers (91)
Martin was the top prep pitcher available in the 2008 draft and flew a bit under the radar last year while still managing to show a lot of positive signs. He has big stuff and can rack up hefty strikeout totals but still needs to work on his command, as he walked 61 batters in 100 innings. Control should not be a long term problem for Martin who is an excellent athlete and has fairly clean mechanics. At this point he just needs to stay on the field and continue to build up experience and refinement.
Martin's fastball will sit in the mid-90s on his good days but is often better when he takes a few miles-per-hour off to enhance its natural movement. His curveball also has plus pitch potential and it features two plane break. His changeup is well below average and he has struggled to both command it and throw it with a consistent arm speed. Martin will lose control of all his pitches occasionally, particularly while working out of the stretch and that is the biggest hurdle in his development right now.
20. Tim Melville - Royals (92)
Melville was in the running to be selected in the top 15 of the 2008 draft before he struggled during his senior year in high school and slid to the fourth round. The Royals took a chance on him and agreed to sign him to a well above-slot bonus. Melville is tall with long arms that helps him generate plus velocity and leverage on all of his pitches. His size does work against him from time to time, resulting in his mechanics unraveling a bit, but that problem should subside with more experience. Kansas City handled him carefully last season but will probably send him to high-A this year and take the training wheels off.
Melville's best pitch is a 12-to-6 curve that gets bunches of strikeouts when he is able to control it. His fastball ranges from 91-95 MPH with some natural sink. That movement, combined with Melville's height result in an excellent groundball to flyball ratio that should only improve over time. He throws a changeup with average potential, but is able to use his curve against both right and left-handed batters, making the changeup a less important pitch to him than more prospects.
21. Hector Rondon - Indians (95)
Rondon has gone largely unnoticed since signing out of Venezuela in 2004, but he has steadily pitched his way up the ladder and turned himself into an excellent prospect. He split 2009 between AA and AAA and was very effective at both levels, living off his deceptively quick fastball and plus command. He has been one of the most consistent performers in the minor leagues over the last three seasons, appearing in exactly 27 games each year and pitching between 136 and 147 innings. His ceiling is lower than most pitchers on this list but his combination of durability, command and stuff should give him a long career in the majors.
Rondon throws his fastball far more than any other pitch and it sits in the low-90s with plus late life. He does tend to pitch up in the zone too often which might make him homer-prone in the majors, but it has not hurt him so far. His best secondary pitch is a straight changeup that he will throw to both left and right-handed batters to induce weak contact or get a strikeout. His breaking ball is a below average slider without a great deal of break or velocity. Rondon gets most of his strikeouts in the minors with his fastball, but he will struggle to do that in the majors and may have to adjust the way he pitches before he is able to stick with Cleveland.
22. Alexander Colome - Rays (97)
The Rays tend to be one of the most patient organization in how they handle their pitchers, and that philosophy has paid off in a big way with Colome. He has pitched in a short-season league each of the last three seasons and finally broke out last year with a dominant performance, posting a 1.66 ERA in the New York Penn League. The Rays essentially have two waves of young pitching in their system and although Colome is behind Matt Moore right now, he has the most potential of anyone in the second wave all of whom are currently in the low-minors. He should get his first taste of full season ball this year.
Colome was signed because of his raw arm strength and it remains his greatest asset. He can hit the mid-90s consistently with his fastball but the pitch is a bit on the straight side. He also throws a plus power curveball and a changeup that is so hard it almost looks like a splitter. Like most raw prospects, Colome has a long way to go with the finer points of the game. He is a good athlete but struggles with command and repeating his delivery. He is also poor at other nuances of the game such as holding runners and fielding. Colome will need time to develop but has ace potential if it all comes together.
23. Jason Knapp - Indians (98)
Knapp was a fairly anonymous 2008 second round pick out of New Jersey until he started lightning up radar guns last season. He generated a lot of buzz in the South Atlantic League, pitching for the Phillies organization, and the Indians took notice. They insisted that he be included in the deal that sent Cliff Lee to the National League, even though he was on the disabled list at the time. Knapp had minor shoulder surgery after the season and although it is not a major concern, some scouts worry that his violent, max-effort, delivery will lead to more injuries down the road.
There was a lot of exaggeration around Knapp's velocity at the time of the trade, and the truth is that he can touch 98 miles-per-hour but averages 91-95 over the course of a game. At 6'5, with a strong build and violent motion, he is an intimidating presence on the mound and that may make his fastball seem a bit quicker than it actually is. He also throws an outstanding curveball with sharp downward movement that is responsible for most of his strikeouts. His changeup is a below average pitch now, but has some potential. He struggles with command like most young pitchers and has a higher greater injury risk than a typical pitching prospect, but Knapp's powerfull stuff gives him ace upside.
24. Zach McAllister - Yankees (99)
McAllister was a rare low-profile draft pick by the Yankees, selected in the third round of 2006. For an organization that tends to favor boom-or-bust prospects, McAllister has proven to be a pleasant surprise. He is a finesse pitcher who prefers weak contact to strikeouts, although he can get a batter chasing when he needs to. Some people have compared him to a better version of Ramiro Mendoza because he lives off his sinker. McAllister has thus far handled every challenge and pitched very well at AA last season. He should move up to AAA this year and by mid-season could be an option for New York to plug into the rotation if one of their starters goes down with an injury.
McAllister's slider is considered his best pitch by most. It has a short break but he throws it with good velocity and even though hitters do not flail wildly at it, it does keep them off balance. His sinking fastball typically parks around 90 MPH with movement down and to his arm-side from a 3/4 release point. He also mixes in an occasional curve and changeup, neither of which are average pitches, to pick up easy strikes early in the count. He has the profile of a an innings-eater but may struggle to get a chance with the Yankees who rarely give young pitchers without plus stuff an opportunity.
25. Tanner Scheppers - Rangers
Scheppers had one of the best arms in the 2008 draft but concerns over his shoulder dropped him to 48th overall, and then Pittsburgh did not meet his asking price, putting him back in the 2009 draft. Texas selected him 44th overall and believed he was healthy enough to sign. He has one of the best two-pitch mixes in the minors, a fastball that can reach the upper-90s and a low-80s power curve, but his durability questions and lack of a third pitch have many believing he will end up in the bullpen.
26. Julio Teheran - Braves
Teheran was one of the most coveted international free-agent pitchers in recent memory when he signed with Atlanta in 2007, but he has struggled to stay healthy thus far. His ceiling rivals almost anyone on this list and he could be one full season away from rocketing into the top 50 overall prospects. His stuff is phenomenal but he needs to stay on the field in order to develop into a complete pitcher.
27. Carlos Carrasco - Indians
Carrasco has frustrated scouts since he has signed. He will often flash three plus pitches but many have questioned his toughness and approach to the game. It is true that his results have never matched his stuff, but it is also easy to forget that he has not even turned 23 and already has roughly 300 decent innings in AAA. 2010 will be an important year as he will try and silence the many critics that surround him.
28. Simon Castro - Padres
Castro is a rare high-ceiling prospect in the Padres organization. He boasts plus velocity and a big hard slider but minimal refinement at this point. He pitched all of last year in low-A as a 21-year-old and hitters were rarely able to handle his devastating two pitch mix. Castro, like most raw prospects needs to clean up his delivery and command as he moves up the ladder, but he has the arm of a front of the rotation pitcher.
29. Jarrod Parker - Diamondbacks
Parker was easily one of the top 10 right-handed pitching prospects in baseball before he got hurt near the end of last season. It now seems likely he will miss all of 2010 recovering from Tommy-John surgery. Before the injury Parker had one of the best sliders in the minors leagues and a plus fastball. He also had impressive command and poise for such a young pitcher. How much of that he is able to regain after rehab in the key to Parker's development.
30. Brad Lincoln - Pirates
A former 4th overall pick, Lincoln missed all of 2007 because of arm surgery and that had some skeptics saying he should give hitting a try (Lincoln was an excellent hitter in college); he silenced those critics with a solid 2009 campaign. Although his stuff was not all the way back, he showed enough to project as a mid-rotation starter, possibly as soon as this year.
31. Zach Wheeler - Giants
The sixth overall pick in last year's draft, Wheeler does not boast as much velocity as Jacob Turner or Shelby Miller, but he has more advanced secondary pitches and is a bit more polished. He has yet to throw a pitch for San Francisco, but some within the club believe he has a higher ceiling than any pitching prospect in the system, including Madison Bumgarner.
32. Matt Hobgood - Orioles
Most had Hobgood rated below the other upper-tier prep pitchers in the 2009 draft, but he ended up being the first off the board when Baltimore selected him 5th overall. He is a power pitcher with a strong build but lacks the upside some of his fellow draftees possess. Even though he is a very good prospect, it was probably his willingness to sign a below-slot deal that got him drafted so high.
33. Dan Hudson - White Sox
2009 was Hudson's first full year in the minors and he flew all the way to AAA by the end of the season. He throws three average pitches but put up big statistics because his command was so advanced. He has a low ceiling and is unlikely to ever be more than a #3 starter, but you cannot ignore how dominant he was at times in the minors last season.
34. Alex White - Indians
Before the 2009 season, White was one of the few pitchers that some scouts believed could rival Stephen Strasburg. However, he struggled with consistency through the season and slid to 15th overall as a result. Some see White as a power reliever, but the Indians believe he can start and he will make his professional debut in a rotation this year.
35. Wilmer Font - Rangers
Font is a huge presence on the mound with the fastball to match. He can run his heater into the upper-90s but is one of the most raw pitchers in the minor leagues. All of his secondary pitches are works-in-progress right now and he is also a below average athlete. This results in poor mechanics and inconsistent results. He has a long way to go as a pitcher and Rangers will probably move him up the ladder very slowly.
36. Michael Pineda - Mariners
Elbow pain short-circuited what was shaping up to be a breakout season for Pineda last year. The big right-hander looks like a power pitcher on the mound, but his fastball velocity is only slightly above average and it is his secondary pitches that stand out. Pineda can throw a cutter, slider and changeup for strikes. If he stays healthy he should be an excellent starter down the road.
37. Tyson Ross - Athletics
Ross has been a difficult player to rate since he pitched in college because he stands 6'6 and has an impressive mix of pitches, but his performance rarely live up to the expectations. The biggest reason is inconsistent command. Ross has the build and stuff to be an excellent pitcher but will need to start producing soon or he may be doomed to never live up to his potential.
38. Mike Leake - Reds
Leake was one of the best athletes among the college pitching class of 2009, and also the most Major League ready, other than Strasburg. He is capable of throwing nearly every pitch in the book wherever he wants to, at any time. The reason he rates lower on this list that some might expect from a player given that praise, is because he does not have a single pitch with plus velocity or movement. Leake gets his outs with savvy and precision. Players of that type have to be so perfect to succeed in the majors that he lacks much of a ceiling and as a result rates well behind many players.
39. Nick Barnese - Rays
Barnese made his long-awaited full season ball debut last season and showed an impressive mix of three pitches that all have a chance to be above average. His fastball is probably the weakest at this point but it sits in the low-90s with life and he commands it well. Barnese lacks the upside of fellow Rays Matt more and Alexander Colome but is easily the most polished of the trio right now.
40. Daniel Cortes - Mariners
How the Mariners were able to extract a player of value from the Royals in exchange for Yuniesky Betancourt is beyond me, but that was all it took to acquire Cortes. Cortes has shown a plus fastball and breaking ball in the past but a poor work ethic and control problems have seriously hurt his stock. Seattle will hope he rights the ship this year, or else he faces a move to the bullpen.
41. Jay Jackson - Cubs
Jackson features a repertoire of four average pitches that he commands well. He uses an unorthodox delivery that actually hurts his deception, but it has not hindered his control thus far. He has already reached AA after being drafted in 2008 and has an outside shot of making it to Chicago this year.
42. Fautino De Los Santos - Athletics
De Los Santos was coming off of a big breakout season with the White Sox when he was sent to Oakland in the Nick Swisher trade. He has barely been on the mound since then as a variety of injuries derailed his progress. Before the injuries, he could hit the mid-90s with his fastball and had two distinct plus breaking balls. 2010 will be about getting innings under his belt and seeing if his stuff is able to bounce back.
43. Michael Ynoa - Athletics
Ynoa received the largest bonus ever given to a Latin American free-agent in 2008 but is yet to take the mound for Oakland. The 6'7 Ynoa has already displayed plus stuff in workouts and has the projection to get even better. Elbow problems have not allowed him to put his talent on display, and even though he has one of the highest ceiling in the minors, Ynoa will have to show he is capable of staying healthy in order to move up this list.
44. Jhoulys Chacin - Rockies
Chacin was barely on the prospect radar before a breakout 2008 season. He went from low-A to the majors in under two years, pitching out of Colorado's bullpen late in the season last year. He is a groundball pitcher with a mid-rotation ceiling, but the Rockies have liked what he has shown thus far. He should open 2010 back at AAA but will be one of the first players called up if a spot opens up in the rotation this year.
45. Danny Gutierrez - Rangers
Gutierrez has an excellent fastball and curve, but has had numerous off the field problems, and that has obviously led to questions about his maturity and makeup. Texas was willing to give him a chance, acquiring him from Kansas City last year. He has big stuff but his personality and some nagging injuries have hurt his stock.
46. Guillermo Moscoso - Rangers
Moscoso, has a low ceiling, living mostly off deception and the movement of his pitches rather than velocity. He has shown the ability to induce grounders and pitched successfully out of Texas' bullpen last season. He has the repertoire to profile as a starter but his stuff plays up in the pen and Texas may choose to keep him there in 2010.
47. Tim Alderson - Pirates
Alderson rated much higher on this last year, but his velocity and stuff dropped off significantly over the course of 2009. He still has outstanding command but his straight fastball rarely touched 90 late in the season and his curve was missing its former bite. He will try and prove that was just an aberration and return to the ranks of the top pitching prospects this year.
48. J. C. Ramirez - Phillies
Ramirez was part of the meager haul Philadelphia acquired for Cliff Lee from Seattle. He is a high ceiling pitcher with a lot of stuff but little idea of where it is going. His fastball can get into the upper-90s and has natural sink but he struggles to command it and all of his secondary pitches are inconsistent. He is a project but has the highest ceiling of anyone the Phillies acquired in the trade.
49. Wynn Pelzer - Padres
Pelzer is a power pitcher with a big fastball and little refinement. He is more raw than you would expect from a player who will turn 24 in June and may end up in the bullpen if he is unable to bring it all together. Pelzer should get his first taste of advanced hitters in AA this year and it will be an excellent test to gauge exactly how much potential he has.
50. Chad Jenkins - Blue Jays
Jenkins profiles as a dependable mid-rotation work horse and Baseball America aptly compared him to Joe Blanton. He has the standard three-pitch repertoire and all of his offerings should develop into major league average pitches. Toronto failed to sign a couple of its 2009 draft picks, including those with a higher ceiling than Jenkins, so now he will have to carry the torch for that draft class in Toronto.
51. Lance Lynn - Cardinals
Lynn was a bit of a surprise in his first full season last year. He posted an ERA under 3.00 at three different levels, ending the year in AAA. He works off a sinker that has average velocity but good movement and mixes in three other pitches to keep hitters off balance. He probably will never get many strikeouts but should be at least a back of the rotation innings-eater with the upside of a mid-rotation starter.
52. Randall Delgado - Braves
Delgado pitched all of last season as a 19-year-old in full season ball and struck out over 10 batters per nine innings. He has a chance for three plus pitches, but is very raw at this point. He should move up the ladder one level this season and coule leapfrog a lot of names on this list with a big year.
53. Chris Carpenter - Cubs
Carpenter has flashed three above average pitches at times but has struggled with consistency and nagging injuries throughout his career. He is already 24-years-old and only has 32 innings above A-ball to his credit, so he will need step on the gas or get passed over by other prospects.
54. Trevor May - Phillies
May closed 2009 on one of the best runs of any prospect, giving a glimpse of the impressive upside he possesses. May features a heavy fastball, big-breaking curve and a changeup with potential. The imposing May has the highest ceiling of any Phillies pitching prospect but is yet to make it through a full season in the minors.
55. Jeurys Familia - Mets
Familia is mostly projection at this point, but he has a plus arm and plenty of upside. He is actually born only one day apart from fellow Mets prospect Jenrry Mejia but is well behind him both in terms of ceiling and progress. Familia's fastball has plus velocity but it lacks the movement of Mejia's and that makes the development of his secondary pitches more important. He would probably benefit from a full season in high-A but considering the Mets propensity for pushing prospects, he may be advanced more aggressively than that, regardless of how he performs.
56. Andrew Brackman - Yankees
Allow me to digress for a moment. Perhaps the hardest thing about evaluating pitching prospects (and all prospects really) is weighing the value of potential with the likelihood a player has of reaching that potential. I tend to prefer higher ceiling players but know that you cannot look at upside alone. Nobody can succeed without some degree of refinement. Look at Randy Johnson's development path as an example. He always had an extremely high ceiling but struggled to harness his stuff for many years and was a below average pitcher until he did. There have been many players that had Johnson's ceiling and fell short. One can never assume that somebody will develop to the level of their maximum potential, but the possibility that it will happen is indeniable.
That brings us to the 6'10 Brackman. He has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the minors, but also has so far to go. Already 24-years-old, Brackman spent all of last season scuffling in low-A ball, hardly the profile of an ace pitcher. However, he still shows flashes of the mid-90s velocity and huge breaking curve that enticed the Yankees to sign him for a well over slot deal, even when they knew he would require Tommy John surgery shortly thereafter. I would say he has less than a 10% chance of ever developing into a front of the rotation starter at this point, but there is still a chance. As a result he will be put in the last slot of players I have chosen to rate this year. Ask 20 different experts what they think will become of Brackman and you may get 20 different answers. That is what makes studying these types of players so interesting. There is no science to it, it is merely my best guess as to who I would rather have. Do I believe Brackman will be a star? At this point, no. But if he was in my organization would I trade him away? I doubt it. I will be watching Brackman closely this year and hope that he can help provide a more clear picture of what type of player he will be.