Top fantasy baseball prospects for 2009, Part 2
We started things off with prospects Nos. 1-50. Now it's time for the second half of our preseason Top 100 fantasy prospects list:
Call this one a hunch. I probably have him too high on this list because he might spend most, if not all, of the 2009 season in the minors, but rest assured Beckham is on the fast track to the second base job on the South Side, and as I alluded to in Part 1, I'm not sold on the options that are in front of him. Beckham was the White Sox's first-round pick in June 2008, and has just 14 pro games under his belt, not counting the AFL. Pitchers were busting him inside in Arizona, and he was not handling those pitches well, due at least in part to the transition from aluminum bats to wood bats (handling balls on the inner half of the plate is different between the two bats). However, in a positive sign for his future development, he made the adjustment fairly quickly, keeping his hands inside the ball much better and stinging the ball all over the place. The aptitude to make quick adjustments is obviously a large part of being a good hitter, and while Beckham isn't going to be a star, he can be a solid regular who contributes across the board.
End of camp update: Beckham turned heads in camp, and though he will go back to playing shortstop in the minors, it's very easy to see a scenario where he takes over the second base job on the South Side by the second half of the season.
52. Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox
A.J. Pierzynski is one of the more durable catchers in baseball, and the White Sox won't let Flowers sit on the bench and be a backup when he could be playing everyday at Triple-A. However, if something were to happen to Pierzynski, or the White Sox have problems filling their backup role, that plan could change. Flowers is not a free-swinger; he shows good patience waiting for pitches he can drive, coupling that skill with solid pitch recognition. He's going to hit for power, but he could also put up a good batting average and on-base percentage as well. The question is going to be whether he can actually stay behind the plate. He has an average throwing arm, and that coupled with his lack of agility behind the plate might ultimately get him moved to another position, even though he has soft hands and receives the ball well. That said, his bat is big-league ready, and if he winds up making his debut this year, he could be an immediate fantasy factor.
End of camp update: Rather than backing up Pierzynski, the team decided they would rather have Flowers playing every day, especially as his defense was a bit shaky during camp. If something happens to Pierzynski, you'll see Flowers this season.
53. Trevor Cahill, SP, A's
Although the back of the Athletics' rotation is unsettled, the team likely won't rush their best pitching prospect. Like his organization mate, Brett Anderson, Cahill doesn't have a lot of experience above Class A. However, Cahill's strikeout ability and knack for getting groundballs in bunches have him on the fast track, so it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could make his debut in the second half of the season. He profiles as a future mainstay at the top of the rotation. He's basically a two-pitch pitcher, but those two pitches are plus pitches. His fastball is 88-92 mph and will touch 93, but it's a really heavy (sinking) pitch. His upper-70s knuckle curve is one of the better hammers in the minor leagues. Even when it goes in the dirt, its break is such that it's often a swing-and-miss offering. And finally, his delivery is clean, giving him excellent command potential.
End of camp update: Cahill showed off his nasty stuff during spring training, to the point that he will start the second game of the season and solidify a rotation spot in the early going. The future may be now, and Cahill and his teammate Brett Anderson would both shoot up this list based on the recent developments.
54. Kevin Pucetas, SP, Giants
Given Randy Johnson's durability issues in recent years, Noah Lowry's health issues and Jonathan Sanchez's inconsistency, there might be an opening or two in the back of the Giants' rotation at some point in 2009. If the team prefers not to rush prime prospects Tim Alderson and Madison Bumgarner, Pucetas could be an option for them. He rarely appears on any top-prospect lists, partially because he came out of Division II Limestone College and thus doesn't have that big-college pedigree, and partially because he doesn't blow people away. But the 23-year-old right-handed starter posted a 3.02 ERA in the California League last season, a year after posting a 1.86 mark in low Class A and turning some scouts' heads at the AFL. Pucetas' bread-and-butter pitch is a plus changeup that he can change speeds with, ranging 73-80 mph. Its tumble is deadly when he's ahead in the count. His fastball works between 90-92 mph, and he also mixes in a 72-75 mph curveball that profiles as an average pitch at times, and a show-me slider that got better in the offseason after working with John Smoltz. He's aggressive, works quickly and can throw consistent strikes with all of his offerings, and at any point in the count. The question surrounding Pucetas, and really any changeup artist, is how well the rest of his stuff is going to do at the upper levels of the minors. But I wouldn't be mentioning him if I didn't think it had a chance to play well.
End of camp update: Pucetas will start at Triple-A and wait for an opening in the back of the Giants' rotation.
55. Wade Davis, SP, Rays
With all the hype surrounding stud prospect David Price, people forget that Davis is a pretty good pitching prospect in his own right, and if the Rays need to reach down and grab another starter at some point this season, Davis will be one of the first names considered. He can dial it up to the mid-90s and features two above-average breaking balls. The Rays have enough pitching depth that they don't have to rush Davis, but his development might give the Rays the flexibility to trade Andy Sonnanstine at some point, opening the door for Davis in the second half.
End of camp update: Davis was dominant at times in camp, showing off his great stuff. He's just caught in a numbers game at the moment, and will start the year at Triple-A Durham and wait for an opportunity.
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If he were on any other team, I wouldn't be including West here, but the Marlins have shown no hesitation in promoting pitching prospects in the past, and even though West has thrown just 100 innings of high-Class A ball over the past two years, he could be part of their rotation as soon as this year. West is a former 2005 first-rounder who posted a 2.41 ERA in 20 starts in the Florida State League this season after missing all of 2007 because of a torn labrum. He was touching 94 mph by year's end and getting a good angle on his pitches from his 6-foot-8 frame. His curve is a solid-average pitch, and his changeup has shown good sink and fade, though he loses the feel for it at times. If he shows he can consistently command his secondary stuff -- and I think the 22-year-old can do that -- he's a future middle-of-the-rotation starter. He's a sleeper pitcher to monitor.
End of camp update: West is showing he can throw strikes again, and could have some impact in the Marlins' rotation in the second half.
57. Brett Wallace, 3B, Cardinals
Wallace ranks this low only because I think he won't get a lot of playing time in the big leagues this season, save for maybe a September call-up. With other options like David Freese in the fold, the Cardinals have no want or need to rush Wallace while Troy Glaus misses the first month of the season. Make no mistake about it, though, Wallace is going to rake in the big leagues, and he should be the starting third baseman once Glaus' contract is up at the end of this season. Wallace had a stellar pro debut after being drafted by the Cardinals in the first round last June, hitting .327 in 41 games at high Class A before being promoted to Double-A for 13 games, where he hit .367. The questions surrounding him before the draft were about his "bad body," a thick lower half that many thought would render the 6-foot-1, 245-pounder unable to man third base at the big-league level. On the other hand, there were few questions about his bat. He has excellent pitch recognition and strike zone judgment, and can hit with authority to all fields. He should hit for both average and power at the big-league level thanks to his ability to get his bat on the ball and the natural lift in his stroke. He's slightly below average defensively, but his bat should be enough to compensate for it. He has soft hands, an average arm, and can make the routine plays on balls hit at him. He can make plays on the run, but his range from left to right is extremely limited, and is a liability. Given the total package, it should be acceptable enough. And have I mentioned he can hit? Don't look for Wallace right away, but if Glaus has injury problems later in the season, Wallace could become a factor.
End of camp update: It would surprise me if Wallace was not the Opening Day third baseman in 2010, but his impact this season is directly related to how well David Freese performs. He sent a message last week with a three-homer outburst in a minor league game, and is likely to continue to rake in the minors while waiting for his chance.
58. Jeff Niemann, SP, Rays
Niemann is out of options, so he's going to stick on some franchise's (not necessarily the Rays') big-league club this year, perhaps in a bullpen role if he doesn't beat out the Rays' fifth-starter spot from David Price at the beginning of the season. I actually think working out of the 'pen is probably the best role for him going forward anyway. He throws hard, but it's dead straight, and he needs to improve the command of his secondary stuff. Still, if he winds up starting, for the Rays or someone else, he could be worth a flier.
End of camp update: Still the subject of trade rumors as we enter Opening Day, Niemann likely will be a starter for some team if it's not the Rays. If it's the Padres (as rumored) his potential value takes a bump up.
59. Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles
Matusz has pitched as a pro only at the AFL, but he profiled as a pitcher who could move quickly through the lower levels of the minors. Again, it's probably premature to put him on a 2009 list, but stranger things have happened. He has two plus breaking pitches: his knockout curveball in the 75-79 mph range, and a mid-80s slider with good, late tilt. The lefty is also works consistently at 91-92 mph, touching 93 and mixing in a solid mid-80s circle change to any batter who is sitting on a breaking ball. Orioles GM Andy MacPhail has already said they will make sure they promote Matusz, the fourth overall pick last June, on developmental needs and not team-based ones, but those plans could change quickly.
End of camp update: Matusz will start the year in the low minors, but could move quickly given how polished his stuff is. It's unlikely at this point that he sees the bigs this year, but his performance could change that.
60. Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres
A Rule 5 pick from Colorado, Cabrera will compete for the Padres' shortstop job, and his speed makes him worth watching. The 22-year-old stole 78 bags in the Sally League last season, and is also a plus defender with a strong arm. He doesn't hit for much authority, but the switch hitter's glove could allow him to stick, allowing his legs to be a potential asset in fantasy play. The Rockies didn't want to lose him, but their 40-man roster was full, and Cabrera also could stick with the Pads in a backup role, making him a cheap speed play in NL formats.
End of camp update: Cabrera has stuck with the Padres as their utility infielder, thus making him a reserve-list consideration in NL play.
61. Chris Johnson, 3B, Astros
When Geoff Blum is a team's incumbent third baseman, and Aaron Boone is the backup, you as a prospect have a shot to start. I wasn't all that impressed with Johnson at the Arizona Fall League. His swing is kind of long, and his power hasn't developed as many thought it would, though he has battled wrist problems. He hit .324 with 12 homers on 330 at-bats at Double-A last year before struggling in 30 late-season games at Triple-A. Given the lack of depth in the Astros' farm system (which, frankly, is an understatement), Johnson might get some at-bats in the big leagues at some point, with the help of his solid defensive skills, and he has some power potential.
End of camp update: The Astros acquired Jeff Keppinger to platoon with Blum at third, especially after Johnson wasn't all that impressive in camp. However, he could still see big league time this season.
This 27-year-old ripped Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .335 average and .601 slugging percentage last year, winning the Easten League Triple Crown, and he held his own in a late-season stint in the big leagues. The Orioles' winter moves of adding Felix Pie, Ty Wigginton and Ryan Freel hurt his chances for at-bats this year, but Montanez could break camp in a backup role, and shouldn't be dismissed if Pie flops and he gets some at-bats.
End of camp update: Montanez had a good spring, hitting .340, and likely will likely be the first outfielder called up when the need arises.
63. Aaron Cunningham, OF, A's
The A's outfield is loaded with options, so Cunningham might get caught in a numbers game. But that wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, as he could use a little more development time to allow his power to come along and learn to handle the strike zone a little better. There's potential for a modest power/speed combination out of this 22-year-old, though some scouts think he's a 'tweener, fourth-outfielder type.
End of camp update: There were too many outfielders for too few spots in Oakland's camp, but given Travis Buck's health history, we could see Cunningham again soon.
64. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels
Trumbo mashed 32 homers last season, most of them at high Class A, and with Kendry Morales and Robb Quinlan being the only names ahead of him on the depth chart, it's not out of the realm of possibility the 23-year-old could see some big-league time this season. That said, he's not great defensively, he's a free-swinger who likely will struggle to make contact at the big-league level, and his ceiling appears to be as an all-or-nothing power bat off the bench or platoon player on the wrong side of the split.
End of camp update: Morales' strong camp means Trumbo is even further away from big league time since camp started.
65. Mike Carp, 1B, Mariners
Needing some kind of future prospect at first base, the M's traded for Carp this offseason, and signed Russell Branyan and Chris Shelton to give him more development time. However, those two players are thoroughly unexciting, so the future could become the present at some point in 2009, if the team doesn't decide to move Jose Lopez over to first base. Carp understands the strike zone, could put up a good OBP and has 20-homer power if he gets a chance to play regularly. He'll likely start the year at Triple-A.
End of camp update: Carp is behind Branyan, Shelton, and Mike Sweeney in the pecking order. That might change in the second half of the year if Carp hits well at Triple-A.
66. Austin Jackson, OF, Yankees
Jackson is third and possibly fourth on the depth chart for the Yankees' center field job right now, and realistically he isn't on the radar screen until 2010. However, stranger things have happened, so I'm including him here given that the players in front of him (Brett Gardner and Melky Cabrera) still need to establish themselves. I think Jackson has been one of the more overhyped prospects, but he could develop into a decent power/speed combo player.
End of camp update: Jackson had a good spring, hitting .333 with three homers, and manager Joe Girardi said he had a chance to play in the big leagues this season. Most likely that means a September callup unless both Gardner and Cabrera both fall flat on their face.
67. Jason Jaramillo and Robinzon Diaz, C, Pirates
Let's just say one of these two players will be backing up Ryan Doumit in Pittsburgh, and given Doumit's lengthy injury history, that backup job could be a starting role at some point. Diaz doesn't hit for power and doesn't walk, but he does make contact like his life depended on it and could post a decent batting average, if nothing else. Jaramillo has a tiny bit more pop but less ability to make contact. Neither is very exciting, but either player could be better than some of the other NL catching options if forced to start.
End of camp update: Jaramillo won the backup job, and considering Doumit's career-high in games played is 116, he could see quite a bit of time.
68. Carlos Rosa and Daniel Cortes, SP, Royals
Another combination pick here. Rosa and Cortes are both prospects who are expected to form part of the Royals' rotation depth this season. The 24-year-old Rosa has a live arm, throws strikes and has a breaking ball that flashes plus at times, but he needs to refine his command. Cortes can dial it up to 96 mph with ease and has good, hard depth on his curveball, but he also needs to make big strides with his command. He's still very much a work in progress, but he's young with a live arm and has already had some success at the Double-A level. Their raw ability is worth paying attention to should starting spots open for the Royals.
End of camp update: Cortes still showed command issues in camp, and Rosa will be used exclusively in the bullpen at Triple-A for now, so neither project to have any '09 impact at the moment.
69. Will Inman, SP, Padres
Inman's funky delivery has compensated somewhat for his lack of raw stuff, but after stellar Class A numbers, he has run into issues at Double-A the past two seasons. The 22-year-old still has been able to strike out a batter per inning, including 140 in 135 1/3 innings last year, but his control numbers have headed in the wrong direction when forced to work more and more on the fringes of the plate (he walked almost five batters per nine innings last season). In a system that is shallow on starting pitching, Inman stands out, and he might get a chance to contribute this season. But he also might not have what it takes to be a consistent big-league starter.
End of camp update: Inman is not an immediate consideration for one of the Padres' open rotation spots, as the team wants to proceed slowly with him. He could be a consideration by the All-Star break.
70. Jhoulys Chacin, SP, Rockies
The 20-year-old right-hander destroyed two levels of Class A ball last season, and though he's likely another year or two away from the majors, the Rockies will push pitchers aggressively if it's warranted, so he could make his big-league debut in the second half. Chacin can throw his sinker for strikes consistently, and his changeup is a potential out pitch. At the very least, keeper-league owners need to make sure he is on their radar screen.
End of camp update: Chacin will start the year at Double-A, but the Colorado rotation is a mess, and anything can happen.
71. Angel Salome, C, Brewers
Jason Kendall is getting up there in years, and Mike Rivera is an unexciting backup. Salome's bat, meanwhile, will play in the big leagues, enough that it could compensate for his shaky defense, and he could get at-bats for the Brewers at some point this season. He hit .360 with a .974 OPS in 98 games at Double-A last year, and though he doesn't look pretty at the plate and does a lot of things that scouts hate, he makes it work. Catching prospects with his kind of offensive ability always deserve the attention of fantasy owners.
End of camp update: Salome starts the year at Triple-A and awaits a chance despite showing off his skills with the bat this March. He could be the starter on Opening Day next year, and get his feet wet this year if something happens to either Kendall or Rivera.
72. Kevin Mulvey/Philip Humber, SP, Twins
These two right-handers are expected to start the season as the Twins' fill-in starters, ready to come up from Triple-A if needed. Mulvey might be the best short-term option of the two because he can throw strikes and keep the ball in the park, thus limiting the damage when he makes mistakes, but Humber will look to build on a strong finish to last season that saw him finally look more like a third overall draft pick. Humber's velocity still hasn't come all the way back after Tommy John surgery in 2005, but there have been signs his command and control are coming around, and he could have use in AL leagues.
End of camp update: Humber won a job as the long man while Scott Baker starts the season on the disabled list, and Mulvey will begin the year back at Triple-A.
73. Wade LeBlanc, SP, Padres
LeBlanc struck out more than a batter per inning at Triple-A last season to earn himself a late-season look and an inside track for a rotation job in '09. That's why he's on this list. But his command is likely going to be shaky at the big-league level in the short term, and he has had issues with the long ball in the minors, which likely will be exacerbated in the big leagues. Also, he's a changeup artist, which he needs to be because his fastball is a little slow (85-88 mph range) and straight for comfort. There's not a lot of upside here to take a chance on, and the downside could be painful. I know some other scouts like him, so I suppose there's the possibility he could surprise me, but he's here only because he might get a shot this season.
End of camp update: LeBlanc struggled mightily this spring, taking him out of contention for a starting spot. Still, the Padres rotation is likely to be in flux all season long.
74. Scott Richmond, SP, Blue Jays
This 29-year-old acquitted himself decently in five late-season starts for the Blue Jays, performing well enough that he could find himself in the rotation again at some point this season, given that the Jays are hurting for starters. (Ricky Romero also might be in the mix, but he didn't make the list because I see him as more of a reliever at the big-league level.) Richmond, a fastball/slider pitcher, might have some value in deep AL-only play.
End of camp update: Richmond won the fifth starter spot and might have some AL-only value, though his division will do him no favors. Coincidentally, Romero also won a starting role with a late push after looking bad early in camp.
75. Josh Outman, SP, A's
Outman will compete for a spot at the back end of the A's rotation during the spring, but his relatively pedestrian stuff and lack of an out pitch might make him just a tad too hittable to be a consistently successful starter in the big leagues. As a lefty who relies on deception, his margin for error is razor-thin. But again, because of his potential role, he's mentioned here.
End of camp update: Outman pitched well enough to beat out Sean Gallagher for a starting spot, though that may have been more to light a fire under Gallagher than anything else. Outman will have trouble hanging on to the role all season.
76. Corey Wimberly, 2B, A's
If Wimberly grabs a bench role for the A's, he could be a good source of cheap speed. If nothing else, he's a far more viable fantasy option than Eric Patterson or Cliff Pennington. The 25-year-old Wimberly is a minor-league speed merchant who stole 59 bases while repeating Double-A last season, with almost as many walks as strikeouts but no power. There's definitely steals upside in a Rajai Davis fashion if he gets some playing time because of injuries, and he can play at second base, shortstop, third base or the outfield in a pinch (though he's not great defensively anywhere).
77. Josh Fields, RP, Mariners
The Mariners finally signed their first-round pick from last season, and college relievers have been known to rocket through the minor leagues in recent seasons. Given the state of the Mariners' closing situation at the moment, with names like Mark Lowe and Tyler Walker in the mix, Fields at least needs to be on your radar screen.
78. Reid Brignac, SS, Rays
Brignac has been a disappointing prospect thus far; he has proved to be a free-swinger without the compensating power. With Ben Zobrist backing up Jason Bartlett, the Rays don't need to rush him. Instead, they'll likely let him continue to develop at Triple-A. But an injury could put him in the mix, and the shortstop pool is relatively weak compared to recent seasons.
End of camp update: Brignac would need a good start and something to happen to Bartlett to see some playing time this year, but he did show he's healthy again after a broken wrist last year.
79. Landon Powell, C, A's
Powell will attempt to beat out Rob Bowen for the backup catcher slot behind Kurt Suzuki, which doesn't look like it will produce a bunch of at-bats. Powell has had surgery twice to repair torn ACLs, which is never a good sign for a catcher with past weight problems. When he has been able to play, though, he has shown the on-base ability that we've come to expect from A's prospects (career .362 OBP in the minors), and there's also some modest power potential here. Health and weight issues are always a concern with Powell, though.
End of camp update: Powell did beat out Bowen for the backup job, and his value will be directly tied to Suzuki's ability to maintain a heavy workload in his second season.
80. Wes Hodges, 3B, Indians
Mark DeRosa will hold down the third base job for the Indians, giving Hodges more time to develop both offensively and defensively at Triple-A. If something were to happen to DeRosa or another infielder (which could require DeRosa to shuffle positions), Hodges could see some playing time later this season. He profiles as a player who can put up a decent batting average with homer numbers in the teens, somewhat like former Indians third baseman Casey Blake, so the upside isn't that exciting unless he starts hitting the ball with more authority.
End of camp update: No change, as Hodges is expected to spend a good portion of the year in the minors unless an injuries force the Tribe's hand.
81. J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays
Arencibia can't take a walk, but he can hit for a decent average and has very good power potential. The Jays are set for now at catcher with Rod Barajas and Michael Barrett, so they don't need to push Arencibia, who has had just half a season above Class A ball. But an injury to a catcher could open the door later in the year.
End of camp update: No change, as Arencibia will still be waiting in the wings as the club sees how Barrett pans out. The club also has Raul Chavez available if they don't want to push Arencibia too quickly.
82. Matt Antonelli, 2B, Padres
Nothing went right for the once-highly regarded second base prospect last season, as he hit just .215 in 128 games at Triple-A and then .193 in a late-season call-up. The one positive was that he was still able to maintain some decent plate discipline. He's still going to compete for the Padres' second base job during the spring, but his ceiling isn't that great because of his modest raw power and lack of a quick first step on the basepaths. He'll bounce back a bit, but he's never going to be a huge fantasy asset. He's listed here only so you know what to expect if he wins a starting job.
End of camp update: Antonelli had an encouraging spring, but is still behind David Eckstein and Edgar Gonzalez on the depth chart for now. That could change if he starts to show last year's horrible season was just a one-year blip.
83. Cesar Carrillo, SP , Padres
With the Padres lacking starting pitching depth, this former first-round draft pick might get a chance in the big leagues this season, just a year and a half after Tommy John surgery. His fastball was touching 92 mph by the end of the Arizona Fall League, and the bite was back on his curveball. His command and control are still playing catch-up, so there likely will be some bumps in the road if he gets some time in the majors this season.
End of camp update: Carrillo's command and ability to carry his velocity deeper into games still needs work, so he's not an immediate contender for big league duty. Check back in the second half.
84. Lance Broadway, Clayton Richard and Jeff Marquez, SP, White Sox
Truth be told, I'm not really a fan of any of these guys. Aaron Poreda is the favorite to win the Sox's fifth-starter job, and he has the most upside of any of the candidates by far. But should the Sox go a different direction Marquez is the one I like the most out of these three. His stats weren't that great last year, partially due to injury, but his sinker could belong in the big leagues, and Chicago liked it enough to trade for him, thinking he was a similar pitcher to one they let go (Jon Garland). Still, that's not a lot of upside, especially because he lacks an out pitch. Given that Bartolo Colon is penciled in as the No. 4 starter, one or all of these guys could see some starts this season, but fantasy owners likely will want to steer clear.
End of camp update: Richard won a swingman role with the White Sox, and will serve as a long man/spot starter. Marquez could be back up to fill a role in the bullpen early in the year.
85. John Raynor, OF, Marlins
Raynor has a chance to win a job as a fourth outfielder in Florida despite having to cut short a promising AFL campaign because of a broken hand. Raynor hit .312 with a .402 OBP and .489 slugging percentage at Double-A in 2009, a year after he put up .333-.429-.519 numbers in high Class A. However, he just turned 25, so he was old for those levels. He's not going to be an impact player, but he could have enough value to be a consideration in deep NL leagues if he gets some playing time.
End of camp update: Raynor lost out to Brett Carroll for a spot on the bench, but he'll make his debut at some point this season.
86. Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles
Reimold has power potential and could be a solid fourth outfielder in the big leagues, if not a viable platoon player. However, the O's outfield and DH slots are crowded, including fellow minor leaguer Luis Montanez, so Reimold will need to catch a couple of breaks to get playing time. But he can hit in the big leagues if given an opportunity in the second half.
End of camp update: Reimold had a solid spring, batting .321 with four homers, and will start at Triple-A and hope for an opportunity.
87. Jake Arrieta, SP, Orioles
Arrieta profiles as a potential No. 3 or 4 starter, and given the uncertainty at the back of the Orioles' rotation, it's not inconceivable he could make his big-league debut later this season. He's not the prospect system mates Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz are, especially since he still needs to refine both his control and command, but if he starts off well at Double-A, he could be put on the fast track to the majors.
End of camp update: Despite huge needs in the rotation at the big league level, the O's are determined not to rush any of their top starting prospects, but performance could dictate otherwise as the season progresses.
88. Ryan Hanigan, C, Reds
Hanigan will be the backup catcher for the Reds, and is known more for his plus defense. However, Ramon Hernandez hasn't always been the picture of health, so Hanigan could wind up seeing more at-bats than expected. He has no power or speed, but he might be able to help deep NL-only league owners in batting average.
End of camp update: As expected, Hanigan is the Reds' No. 2 catcher.
One could make a strong case that instead of trading for Mike Jacobs, the Royals would have been better off with a platoon of Ka'aihue and Ryan Shealy. The big Hawaiian slugged 37 homers between Double-A and Triple-A last season, while drawing 104 walks and striking out just 67 times. Those stats are important to keep in mind if it looks like he's going to get some playing time. He'll start the year at Triple-A but could get some at-bats in the big leagues this season if he has an encore performance.
End of camp update: Ka'aihue needs an injury to Jacobs or Billy Butler to see big league time this season.
90. Kyle Blanks, 1B, Padres
Blanks is a big power hitter who can't play anywhere else but first base, so he is stuck behind Adrian Gonzalez on the depth chart. But he hit .325 and slugged .514 at Double-A last season after posting similar numbers at high Class A the year before, and he has a better understanding of the strike zone than a lot of minor-league power hitters do. He likely will start the season at Triple-A, and I mention him here because you definitely want to keep him in mind should something happen to Gonzalez.
End of camp update: Blanks has had an impressive camp, and reportedly will start doing some work in left field at Triple-A to try to get his bat in the lineup down the road. I may have been wrong about saying he can't play anywhere by first, because he's more athletic for his size than I initially gave him credit for. It might be passable enough to work in left given his offensive potential, though he's never going to be average there.
91. Julio Borbon, OF, Rangers
Borbon is probably a year away, and the signing of Andruw Jones likely closes the book on Borbon making the big leagues this season, at least until September. Prior to Jones' signing, the team lacked a true center fielder, which would have worked in Borbon's favor. A supplemental first-round pick last season, Borbon split the season between high Class A and Double-A and hit .321 with 53 steals. He was a true 80 runner at the University of Tennessee before breaking his ankle, but his speed has bounced back nicely. He's so good at making contact that he really doesn't worry too much about having patience at the plate, which means his OBP is always going to be an issue (29 walks in 546 at-bats this season). But there's a lot to like about the rest of the package. He has great range in center field, plus makeup, and an excellent work ethic. He hasn't hit for a ton of pop yet, but there is still a bit more projection in him, and he should eventually have some pull power. He squares balls up consistently, and his speed tool deserves attention if he gets some big-league time this season.
End of camp update: A lot of things would have to break right for Borbon to see significant big league time this season. There are just too many options at the Rangers' disposal at the moment, so they don't have to rush Borbon.
92. Lou Palmisano, C, Astros
If you play in a league that requires you to play two catchers, Palmisano might be a viable play if he sticks. He missed most of last season with a torn meniscus but can swing the stick a little bit. Astros assistant GM Bobby Heck knows Palmisano from his days with the Brewers, so they picked him up in the Rule 5 draft. He'll have an opportunity to win part of the catching job, especially with Toby Hall on the shelf after shoulder surgery. Palmisano knows the strike zone, can hit for a batting average that won't kill you and has modest pop. Given the depth of the catching pool, that might be useful in deep leagues if he gets some at-bats. Even if he is sent back to Milwaukee, there's a chance he could earn a backup role there.
End of camp update: Palmisano will stay with the Astros and back up J.R. Towles at Triple-A. No value this season.
93. Vin Mazzaro, SP, A's
Mazzaro doesn't have the upside of some of the other pitchers in the A's system, such as Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, but he might be a bit closer to the big leagues than those guys. Mazzaro will compete for the fifth-starter spot this season. The sinkerballer posted a 1.90 ERA and 1.11 WHIP at Double-A last season, before getting knocked around in six late-season appearances at Triple-A. He throws strikes and surrendered just six homers last season. He profiles as a future fourth or fifth starter, and could see some big-league time this season, given that the A's rotation might be in flux for much of the year. There are a lot of A's pitchers on this list, and it's because their projected staff has either been injury-prone or is still inexperienced.
End of camp update: Mazzaro had a chance to win a rotation job, but didn't pitch well when the opportunity was there for the taking, and was passed by Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill. He's still going to have to show sharper command to get by with his stuff consistently at the big league level.
94. Troy Patton, SP, Orioles
Patton will be among a number of pitchers expected to compete for a job at the back end of the Orioles' rotation just a year after missing the entire 2008 season recovering from labrum surgery. Though I think he's probably better suited for the bullpen in the big leagues, and needs to show that his stuff has bounced back, the O's have him on their radar screen for this year. The danger is that he could get passed over in short order by the number of quality prospects coming up behind him, so he needs to produce quickly.
End of camp update: Patton will open the year at Double-A, as he still needs to show his shoulder is back to full strength.
95. Mitch Talbot, SP , Rays
Talbot is presumably in the running for the fifth starter's job if the team wants to open with David Price in the bullpen, although the fact Talbot has options left will work against him, He has always been a deep sleeper for me, but I expect Talbot to spend most of the season in the rotation at Triple-A Durham unless injuries hit, in which case I'd take a flier on him in deep AL play.
End of camp update: Talbot will start at Triple-A, but as far as getting to the big leagues, the numbers are working against him at the moment with Price and Wade Davis also waiting their turn.
96. John Jaso, C, Rays
Currently third on the Rays' catching depth chart behind Dioner Navarro and Shawn Riggans, Jaso knows the strike zone and could put up a batting average that is above replacement level for the catching position if given an opportunity. In deep AL-only leagues where you are required to have two catchers, he has value.
End of camp update: Jaso will be the starter at Triple-A, as Navarro and Riggans handle the duties in the majors.
97. James Simmons, SP, A's
Whaddya know, another A's hurler. Simmons has only one full season of pro ball under his belt, but it was at Double-A, where he acquitted himself well. He has plus control and the potential for plus command down the road. He throws both two-seam and four-seam fastballs that vary from 87 to 92 mph with tailing action on the four-seamer, a changeup that could be a plus pitch down the road and an 80-83 mph slider with two-plane break that has shown flashes of being a true strikeout offering. In a system loaded with quality pitching prospects, Simmons could be a sleeper, and he might be an option at some point this year if the team doesn't want to push some of its more heralded arms.
End of camp update: Despite the A's looking for starting candidates, Simmons never really got a look this spring, and will further his development at Triple-A for the time being.
98. Logan Morrison, 1B, Marlins
Gaby Sanchez needs to produce, because Morrison could accelerate quickly through the minors after pounding the ball in the Arizona Fall League. In 2007, he hit 26 homers at low Class A in his first full season as a pro. He followed that up with a .332 average, .402 OBP and .494 slugging percentage in the high-Class A Florida State League in 2008. Morrison has been showing raw power with his inside-out stroke, and also the ability to make consistent contact and go with the pitch. He does have a small hitch in his trigger and a tiny wrap in his swing, but the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder doesn't overswing and is handling balls on the inner half much better. Morrison is likely on the fast track to a future as Florida's starting first baseman, with the potential to hit 30 homers in the big leagues and post a solid batting average.
End of camp update: He'll start the year at Double-A, but manager Fredi Gonzalez said he wouldn't necessarily finish it there, intimating that if there was a need, he could be summoned right to the big leagues. He's worth stashing away on the reserve list in deep NL leagues.
99. Dayan Viciedo, 3B, White Sox
Right now, the latest Cuban import for the White Sox is listed third on the depth chart at the hot corner, behind Josh Fields and Wilson Betemit, and we shouldn't expect anything close to the same impact that Alexei Ramirez had last year. In Ramirez's case, it was clear early on he was eventually going to beat out Juan Uribe, and it's not the same situation here. In addition, Viciedo is eight years younger than Ramirez, so expect him to get more minor league seasoning. It would surprise me if he saw big-league time this year, but if injuries or ineffectiveness become problems for Fields, then the youngster's power bat might be on the radar screen.
End of camp update: Viciedo was sent down to play every day rather than sit on a big league bench, and while he showed big-time power in camp, his defense left much to be desired, and he could wind up as strictly a DH. He should still be on the radar screen more for 2010 rather than this year, but that will depend on how Fields does.
100. Mitch Boggs, SP, Cardinals
Boggs will be counted on as part of the team's starting pitching depth this season, even though he struggled in a short big-league debut last year, and he could see some starts if injuries hit. There is some intriguing raw stuff here. He can dial it up to 94-95 mph with a four-seam fastball that has riding life, and he can also work in the low 90s with a two-seamer that has good sink to get batters to pound it into the ground. He has a big slider at 80-84 mph that some scouts think is a hard curveball because it has very little side-to-side movement (it breaks down in the zone). It's definitely intended to be a slider, as he grips and throws it like one. He had the command issue that many young hurlers have in their first exposure to the big leagues, and needs to repeat his delivery better, but he just turned 25 and has had success at Triple-A.
End of camp update: Boggs will be one of the first pitchers considered when the Cards need to reach down to Triple-A for some rotation help.
And one more, just to be different. Everyone else does 100, so I'll do 101:
101. Josh Geer, SP, Padres
Geer needs to show that his elbow is healthy, but he'll see starts in San Diego this year if he is. He had a frayed ligament in his elbow at the end of last season, and it was thought he might need Tommy John surgery. Actually, that's still a possibility if things don't go well health-wise this spring, so he's not out of the woods just yet. He's probably a bit too hittable and too wild to be a fantasy factor, but Petco Park's pitcher-friendly dimensions will help him if he has a job, and there could be small value in deep NL play, especially for home starts.
End of camp update: Geer had a legitimate shot to win a rotation job, but his elbow is still a concern. He was hit hard this spring, and he topped out in the mid-80s. He'll try to get healthy in the minors.
End of camp addition: I received a lot of, um, feedback for not including Lars Anderson on this list. The simple reason is that it's a list for 2009, and I just don't see Anderson getting big league time outside of a cup of coffee in September this year. It's not an indication of how I view him as a prospect, although I do think some people are overestimating how close his bat is to being big league ready. Overall, he's in my Top 10 prospects, but in 2009 I see him spending most of the year in the minors. The Red Sox don't want to rush him if they don't have to, and any injury to Mike Lowell or Kevin Youkilis that is not a season-ending one would likely be covered by some combination of Jed Lowrie, Chris Carter and Mark Kotsay (when he returns from his own injury.) Could I be wrong? Certainly, but again, a season-ending injury to one of the cornermen is the only scenario I see. That said, should I have included him on the back end of the list? Probably, especially given the limited upside of some of the players who did make the cut, but let's not dream on Anderson too much in the short term, given that he has just 41 games of Double-A ball. 2010 is more likely.
Also noteworthy: Ricky Romero won the fourth starter job in the Jays' rotation, but he is likely to struggle with both command and control. If (when) Romero struggles, fellow prospect Brad Mills could get a call, and Mills could have value in deep AL leagues with his good secondary stuff and ability to throw strikes. Walter Silva, a 32-year-old signed out of the Mexican League partially on the recommendation of Adrian Gonzalez, has won a rotation slot with San Diego, at least temporarily, and is worth at least being on your radar screen in deep NL play, given his home park. Astros outfielder Brian Bogusevic, a converted pitcher in the Rick Ankiel mold, could be a factor for Houston later this season if Michael Bourn falters again. Minor league journeyman Chris Jakubauskas has been one of the best pitchers in Mariners camp. He could see some time as a starter later this season, and might be worth monitoring in deep AL leagues. Dodgers prospect Josh Lindblom has been impressive enough in camp that he could be a rotation candidate later this year. Shairon Martis, 22, has won a job in the Nationals' rotation. His low-90s fastball has some movement, and his change is a potential out pitch, but lack of a consistent breaking ball means he's going to have his struggles. He could be an endgame consideration in NL leagues.
Jason Grey is a graduate of the MLB Scouting Bureau's Scout Development Program and has won two Tout Wars titles, one LABR title and numerous other national "experts" competitions.
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