Keep An Eye On…

RANDALL DELGADO – RHP – ATLANTA BRAVES

Signed out of Panama in 2006, Delgado made his state-side debut in the short-season Pioneer League last year.


Perhaps the most impressive thing about Delgado was that the Braves
skipped him over the GCL. That says a lot, because the Braves are
generally very conservative with their young arms,” said Matt Eddy
, an associate editor at Baseball America.

The aggressive move paid off.

Delgado, then 18, made 14 starts and threw 69 innings. He struck out 81, which ranked second in the league, though his 30 walks also were the second-most. On the plus side, 20 of those walks came in a six start stretch in July. He walked just ten in his other eight starts. Showing strong groundball tendencies, he allowed just 5 homers.

It may have been the tip of the iceberg.

Delgado has a loose,
live arm, a clean delivery and a projectable pitcher’s frame. If his
secondary stuff comes on, he could really dominate,” said Eddy.

Delgado currently sits outside the top 10 on most Braves prospect lists. That will change in a year. 

Blue Jays Top 5 For 2009

1. Travis Snider – OF (above)

Travis Snider wasted no time getting to the major leagues. He was the 14th overall pick in the 2006 draft, but is one of only 11 players from that first round to have already reached the majors. Snider checks in at just 5’11, but there’s a lot of power in his frame. He clubbed 23 homers and 31 doubles spanning three minor league levels last year. In 73 major league at bats, he had eight extra-base-hits — six doubles and two homers. Nobody doubts that Snider will hit — and hit for power — but he could stand to cut down on the strikeouts. He struck out out 154 times in less than 500 AB last season. Snider is likely to open the year back in AAA, but should be Toronto’s long term LF/DH and should be up for good sometime this year.

2. J.P Arencibia – C

Arencibia was on the radar for a long time prior to getting drafted 21st overall in 2007. He’s lived up to his billing as an offensive-oriented catcher, smashing 36 doubles and 27 homers between High-A and AA. What Arencibia lacks is patience — he drew only 18 walks in 510 at bats last year. Still, that kind of power is hard to find out of a catcher and Arencibia should sniff the majors sometime this year with the idea of becoming Toronto’s full-time catcher in 2010.

3. Brett Cecil – LHP

One of the best things the Blue Jays have done in recent years was turn Cecil into a starter. The 38th overall pick in 2007 was a reliever at Maryland, but the results as a starter have been strong: 9.9 K/9, 7.3 H/9, 2.8 BB/9, and strong groundball tendencies in 42 career games, including 41 starts. Cecil held his own in a late-season stint in AAA and that’s where he’ll return to open 2009. But it won’t be long until he’s a fixture in the middle of Toronto’s rotation.

4. David Cooper – 1B

After missing out on Canadian prep star Brett Lawrie, the Blue Jays took Cooper, and it’s hard to argue with Cooper’s professional debut. Between the short-season NYPL, Low-A Lansing, and High-A Dunedin, Cooper hit .333 with 29 doubles, 5 homers and a tight 30/46 BB/K in 273 AB. He should start the year in AA and could finish it in Toronto. He doesn’t figure to have the power you’d like for a first baseman, but he figures to hit for a high average, get on base, and rack up doubles. Think of Lyle Overbay’s best years, but slightly better.

5. Justin Jackson – SS

A supplemental first rounder in 2007, this toolsy shortstop supposed to be known for
his defense, but he committed 26 errors last year, one behind the team
lead. His hitting needs a lot of work, too. In 454 AB, he struggled for hit for average (.238) and had problems making
contact (154 strikeouts). Despite the strikeouts, he showed decent
patience by drawing 62 walks, most on the team. He didn’t hit for much power, going deep just seven times, but he was second on the team with 26 doubles. He did show speed — Jackson was 17 for 25 in stolen base attempts and he legged out six triples. Jackson has a lot of potential, and at 19, has plenty of time to
fulfill it. He’s very raw and should be back in Lansing next year. He
didn’t do anything to show he’s ready for the next level.

Rays 2009 Top 5 Prospects


1. David Price – LHP (above)

Price is the best pitching prospect in baseball. The first overall pick in the 2007 drafted rocketed up through the minors and pitched some big innings in the postseason. He’s armed with a low to mid 90′s fastball and a wicked slider. He also has a change but has been able to dominate with just the fastball/slider mix. He has the potential to be one of the best starters in the game and the Rays traded 14-game-winner Edwin Jackson to clear a spot for Price in the big league rotation. His upside rivals or exceeds that of any current Tampa pitcher.

2. Tim Beckham – SS
The first overall pick in last year’s draft, Beckham is a classic five-tool player. He struggled in his pro debut, hitting just .246/.309/.350 in 146 at bats, but it’s far from panic time. The native of Griffin, Georgia should get his first taste of full-season ball this year, and he’ll be looking prove why he was the first pick in the country. Beckham is a long ways off — a realistic arrival time may be the end of Barack Obama’s current term.
3. Wade Davis – RHP
A third rounder from 2004, Davis is knocking on Tampa’s door. A big (6’5/220) righty with a heater that can get into the mid 90′s, Davis has some of the best stuff in the system. He’s rarely had trouble putting away minor league hitters, as evidenced by allowing under a hit an inning while striking out a batter an inning throughout his career. If he has one weakness, it’s a tendency to walk a few too many. He walked nearly a batter ever other inning during his nine start AAA stint to close out 2008. He’ll be ready for the majors sometime this year, but the rotation figures to be full for quite some time. His future could be at the back of the Tampa bullpen.
4. Jeremy Hellickson – RHP 
Smallish righty has excelled in the minors, posting a 1.8 BB/9 and a 9.1 K/9 over 347 career innings. Hellickson doesn’t have the greatest raw stuff, but it’s far from slop, and he has an advanced feel for pitching. He topped out at AA last season, and while he had an impressive 15/79 BB/K in 75.1 AA innings, he gave up an alarming 15 homers, something some analysts attribute to throwing too many strikes. Look for him to return to AA to start the year, but down the road, he profiles as a strike-throwing #3 starter.
5. Matt Moore – LHP
Moore could be the next blue chip pitching prospect for the Rays. Just 19, he carved up the rookie-level Appalachian League last year, surrendering just 30 hits in 54 innings while posting a 19/77 BB/K. It’s not smoke and mirrors as his fastball can get well into the 90′s and his curve is another plus pitch. If he can translate that kind of success to full-season ball, he’ll be a lot better known a year from now. He’s looking like an eighth round steal.

Yankees Top 5 Prospects For 2009

A rundown of the top five prospects in the New York Yankees organization.

A look at the swing of Austin Jackson, the #3 prospect in the organization.

1. DELLIN BETANCES, RHP – At 6’8/245, he’s an imposing figure,
even more so if you have to face his mid 90′s fastball and hammer curve.
Made big strides in the second half last season. Had a 40/64 BB/K in 55
first half innings, but a 19/71 mark in 60.1 second half innings. That
he drastically cut down on the walks while keeping a strong K/IP is
very encouraging. Needs to stay healthy, has had elbow and shoulder
injuries. Very high ceiling, a potential ace if the stars align. Look for him in High-A.

2. JESUS MONTERO, C/1B – 19 year old is a hulking presence
at 6’4/225 and could get even bigger. Not likely to last behind the
plate, more likely to end up up as a 1B/DH. Followed up a strong first
half with a much better second half: AVG/OBP/SLG went from
.309/.344/.453 to .344/.407/.534. Improving eye at the plate: walked
every 19.8 AB before the break and every 10.7 after. Potential impact
bat, should open 2009 in High-A.

3. AUSTIN JACKSON, OF – Athletic OF is likely the future CF in
the Bronx, possibly as early as 2010. Didn’t really stand out in any
way last season. Currently is more of a gap-to-gap threat than a true
home run threat. Loses considerable value if he can’t stay in CF, lacks
the power you’d like out of a corner OF. Yankee hype machine might make
him look like more than he really is. Not star material, but should
have a solid but unspectacular career in the majors. Could start 2009 in AAA.

4. ZACH MCALLISTER, RHP – A 3rd rounder in 2006 and one
of the best strike-throwers in the system. Walked just 21 in 151
innings last year. Gets a decent number of strikeouts, though his K/9
has dropped from 9.5 in the NYPL to 6.3 in High-A. He’s a future 4th
starter in the majors. Ready for AA.

5. MARK MELANCON, RHP – Tommy John survivor, close to being big
league ready. Sports a mid 90′s fastball and one of the best curves in
the system. Pitched in three levels last year: High-A, AA, and AAA. Was
more dominant at each stop, H/9 dropped and K/9 rose. Short term future
is a set-up man. Long term, he might be Rivera’s successor in the
closers role.

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Red Sox Top 5 Prospects for 2009

A rundown of the top five prospects in the Boston Red Sox organization.
 

A single off the bat of #1 Red Sox prospect Lars Anderson

1. LARS ANDERSON, 1B – A premier first base prospect, an 18th round gem in 2006. Will hit for both average and power — .304 lifetime hitter and his SLG% has increased at each stop. Knows how to draw a walk — 157 in 252 career games. Boston’s 1B of the future and that future could begin in 2010. It may not be such a bad thing that Boston didn’t drop $180 million on Mark Teixiera.

2. MICHAEL BOWDEN, RHP - Near major league ready SP, will eventually settle in as a #3 starter. Fly-baller has strong minor league track record: 7.9 H/9, 2.4 BB/9, 8/6 K/9 over 405 minor league innings. Opportunity could be an issue in Boston and is a prime piece of trade bait. Will begin ’09 in AAA, but is capable of filling in should a need arise.

3. DANIEL BARD, RHP - Former 1st rd’er overcame severe bouts of wildness and dominated two levels last year: .158 BAA, 107 K in 77.2 IP. Calling card is a mid-to-high 90′s heater. Needs to maintain the gains he made with his control. On most other teams, he could be a future closer. Likely to be assigned to AAA.

4. JOSH REDDICK, OF – Toolsy outfielder with lots of offensive potential, has slugged .530 or better in first two minor league seasons. Could stand to tone down aggressive nature at the plate and draw more walks. Struggled after midseason promotion to AA, should return there for 2009. Cannon for an arm in the OF. Potentially one of Boston’s future corner OF’ers.

5. STOLMY PIMENTEL, RHP - Signed out of the D.R in 2006, a potential breakthrough candidate for 2009. More than held his own against older competition in the college-heavy NY-Penn League: 63 IP, 51 H, 17 BB, 61 K. At least three years away from the majors.

Next up: New York Yankees Top 5

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Orioles Top 5 Prospects for 2009

A rundown of the top five prospects in the Baltimore Orioles organization.

Orioles #1 prospect Matt Wieters hits a double.

1. MATT WIETERS, C – Fifth overall pick in 2007 is the best prospect in baseball. Scary good in ’08: .355/.454/.600 in 437 AB, 82 BB/76 K. Strong 2009 ROY candidate — won’t be in the minors much longer, if at all. Could eventually post Mike Piazza-esque offensive numbers behind the plate.

2. CHRIS TILLMAN, RHP – Righty was stolen in the Erik Bedard trade. Could surface in the majors sometime this year. Potential #2 type, has struck out more than a batter an inning at each minor league stop. Upside a tick higher than Matusz, but perhaps not as certain to reach it. Could open at AAA.

3. BRIAN MATUSZ, LHP – Best pitcher in the 2008 draft, taken fourth overall. Very polished, has an array of quality offerings, likely to move quick, a possible 2010 option. Needs to use use his low 90′s fastball more often than he did in college. Profiles as a #2/3 starter. Likely to begin the year in High-A.

4. JAKE ARRIETA, RHP – Overpowering fastball used en route to .199 BAA and 9.6 K/9. The heater is arguably the best in the system, but the development of his other pitches will determine how good he becomes. Workhorse frame at 6’4/225. Ready for AA.

5. BRANDON ERBE, RHP – Rebounded in a big way after a disastrous 2007, 120 H/50 BB/151 K in 150.2 IP. Future might be in bullpen, still young at 21. Should join Arrieta in AA.

NEXT UP: Red Sox Top 5.

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Keep An Eye On…

JOSE MARTINEZ, OF, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

Jose Martinez was signed out of Venezuela in 2006 and is one of the most intriguing prospects in the organization.

Martinez
played in the low Class-A South Atlantic League last season. His year
was cut short after 39 games due to a season-ending knee injury.

He
had a .306/.359/.382 line in 144 at bats, but prior to getting knocked
out for the season in mid-May, his bat was beginning to come alive in a big way.

He
hit .380 (19-50) over his final 50 AB and that stretch included both of
the homers he hit and four of his six doubles.

After having a 6/20
BB/K ratio in his first 94 AB, he had tightened that up to 6/6 over his
last 50.

Who knows how Martinez’ season would have ultimately
unfolded, but had he remained healthy, it seems like he could have
busted out.

Instead, the knee cost him nearly a year of development
time, but he’s set to go for 2009 and is still just 20 years old. He won’t turn 21 until late July.

Martinez remains mostly projection, but he has a high ceiling.

“Martinez has true star potential,” according to a pre-2008 writeup by Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein.

“Tall,
skinny, and long-limbed, one scout compared Martinez physically to a
right-handed Darryl Strawberry. He has good strength and is capable of
moon shots when he gets his arms fully extended.”

Martinez should open 2009 back in the South Atlantic League. He’ll look
to pick up where he left off and stay healthy in the process.

If that can be accomplished, he’ll end the year as at least a consensus top five prospect in the organization.

Keep An Eye On…

WILL SMITH, LHP, LOS ANGELES
ANGELS

No, not THAT Will Smith.

This Will Smith was
a seventh round pick in last June’s draft and he proceeded to carve up
hitters in the short-season Pioneer League.

The 19-year-old
pitched in 16 games (14 starts) and threw 73 innings. He surrendered
73 hits, but had an eye-popping 6/76 BB/K ratio, including a 1/28
mark in the month of August alone.

Such control is rarely seen
in a pitcher of that age, but what might have really
helped Smith is increased velocity on his fastball.

According
to Allan Simpson’s pre-draft
write-up
, “his fastball was only in the 84-88 mph range last
fall, but it blossomed to 88-91 mph, touching 92 this spring.”

There
may be even more in the tank, Simpson added.

“With a big,
powerful, durable, projectable frame, Smith should get even better
down the line and could eventually throw in the 92-94 mph range with
natural development and maturity.

Smith
will likely open the year with Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League and
it will be interesting to see if Smith can translate his success to
full-season ball.

If he can, he will be featured prominently in
the discussion for the top Angels prospect going into 2010.

Keep An Eye On…

JENRRY MEJIA, RHP, NEW YORK METS

The New York Mets have poured considerable resources into Latin America in
recent years, and Jenrry Mejia could prove to be the best pitcher
they’ve found.

Mejia, an undersized righty signed out of the Dominican Republic, had a good stateside debut last year.

The 19-year-old began the summer with the GCL Mets, but was quickly bumped to the New York-Penn League, a league that is often stocked with recent college draftees.

Between the two stops, he started 14 games and threw 71.2 innings. He allowed just 51 hits, good for a .199 opponents batting average.

He walked 26 and struck out 67, but more impressive was his exceptional 2.76 groundout-to-airout ratio (GO/AO).

Why is the GO/AO ratio important?

“Statistically speaking, a grounder is less likely to sneak its way through the infield than a flyball landing for a hit. Groundballs are not only less likely to be hits, they can easily turn into doubleplays or stop runners from advancing,” wrote Mike Claus in a 2006 article posted on the Colorado Springs Sky Sox website.

Mejia’s calling card is a fastball that resides in the mid-to-upper 90′s. It’s arguably the best fastball in the organization — Brad Holt’s heater may be the only one that’s comparable.

Other than the fastball, Mejia remains rather undeveloped, but that can be expected for most pitchers his age.

The Mets have been known to be aggressive with prospects and Mejia could begin the season with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Low-A South Atlantic League.

He’s a long way from being ready for the majors, but he’s one of the most exciting prospects in the Mets organization.

Keep An Eye On…

RASHUN DIXON, OF, OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Dixon was a two-sport star in high school. Besides
baseball, he was also a standout wide receiver and had committed to
play football for Mississippi State.

Major league teams didn’t think
they could pry him away, so Dixon tumbled in last year’s draft.

Oakland took a chance in the tenth round and it paid off. Dixon,
18, passed on football and signed for $600,000 — the equivalent of
mid-to-late second round money.

He had an encouraging debut in
the Arizona League. In 179 at bats, he hit .263, but showed off an
intriguing mix of power and speed with five stolen bases, eight homers
and 10 triples.

The eight homers were second best in the league while
the 10 triples tied for tops in the circuit.

On the downside, Dixon struggled with plate discipline. He took 18 walks, but he struck out a league-leading 68 times.

Since
he devoted half of his time to football, it’s reasonable to expect him to be a bit behind other high school draftees from a developmental standpoint.

Dixon does not figure to move quickly
and I could see him being held back until the short-season leagues
begin in June. If the Athletics are patient with him, the long-term rewards could
be well worth it.

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