Thursday, December 31, 2009

TEAM #21 – Baltimore Orioles

Matusz should be an impact rookie in 2010

One of the systems that is sure to generate a lot of criticism is the #21 Baltimore Orioles, as most of the ‘experts’ have this system rated much higher. The difference for us comes in three main areas: 1) not believing in Josh Bell nearly as much as others; 2) the significant questions that we still have about the pitchers that you will find at #3 - #6 on this list; and 3) the lack of depth to the system, as we barely made it to fifty prospects earning a grade of ‘C’ or better. Don’t get us wrong, there is a significant gap between the Orioles and the Brewers, but when we compared the overall talent in the Orioles system vs. each of the next five teams that you will see coming up, we simply couldn’t justify placing them any higher—and we looked hard at this. This isn’t any indictment on the Baltimore management, as outside of the Hobgood pick this past June, their drafts have been solid, but after graduating players like Wieters, Tillman, Reimold, Hernandez, Bergesen and Berken in 2009, it is only natural to see a fall-off while they regroup. The good news is that there is still plenty of players that have a chance to make an impact in 2010, and there is a significant nucleus of young players already in Baltimore that should return this team to competitiveness in just a couple of seasons.

Grade A

1) Brian Matusz, LHP (2009 Performance Scores – Dominance 75; Stamina 74; HRrate 48; Control 65)

We had Matusz as the clear best pitcher available in the 2008 draft, and he has done nothing to dispel that line of thought since then, as he posted Top 5 Performance scores in both the Carolina (CAR) and Eastern (ESL) Leagues in 2009. An extremely polished pitcher, Matusz features a low-90s fastball, a plus slider, and above average pitches in both his curve and change. Most importantly, Matusz is ‘all pitcher’, commanding his entire repertoire and demonstrating tremendous pitching knowledge. We were duly impressed with his 8 start performance in Baltimore at the end of the season, and have to look hard to find any negatives. If we have to come up with one, it is that he likely lacks the ‘pure stuff’ that is usually associated with a staff ace, but we seriously don’t expect that to be a drawback to his becoming the ace in Baltimore. 2010 should find him opening up the season in the Oriole rotation, in what should be a potential Rookie of the Year campaign.

Grade A -

2) Josh Bell, 3B (2009 – Power 79; First Base Rate 50; Discipline 41; Speed 33)
I urge those of you who are regular readers of this series to read the profiles of the recently completed Brewer players…specifically those of Mat Gamel and Jonathan Lucroy before reading any further. Not that there are any playing similarities between the players, but more so how one-half of a season can create a meme that just continues to grow, and before long a player becomes larger than life, and certainly more than his play has justified. This isn’t a knock on Bell, because he has been on the radar screen for a few seasons already, and he certainly showed up in 2009 in better physical shape than he has at any point thus far in his professional career. However…at Diamond Futures, we consider an entire body of work—certainly more than Bell’s 114 At Bats at Bowie. To try to add some perspective, while Bell did post the 7th Best Performance score in his brief ESL appearance, his Southern League score ranked #16, and his work in the AZFL didn’t make the Top 20. Further illustrating our point, in 2008, he was #29 in the California League and #21 in the MWL in 2007. Bell is a legitimate prospect, but unfortunately he isn’t worthy of the post-season hype that he has been getting. All told, there were fifteen AA hitters that posted more impressive seasons than Bell in 2009. While that may make him a Top 100 prospect, it doesn’t make him a Top 50 prospect, and certainly not the Top 25 that has appeared in some places, that has been the off-season chatter. While the Orioles envision Bell as their third baseman of the future, there are still some questions as to whether he ends up there—or maybe he is better suited for an OF corner. Bell continues to switch-hit, which is adding to his perceived value, but he hits more than .100 points lower from the right side of the plate. While Bell has plus power potential, he struck out nearly 20% of the time last season, and has only average contact skills. We like Bell, hence the #2 spot on this list, but we see him as a work in progress, with a history that demonstrates he can have ‘focus’ issues. If 2010 becomes an improvement upon his 2009 body of work, we will be ‘convinced’, but for now we approach Bell with a healthy dose of skepticism.

3) Zach Britton, LHP (2009 – Dominance 60; Stamina 72; HRrate 49; Control 43)

While there are those that will favor Arrieta in this spot, we give the nod to the 2009 Carolina League Pitcher of the year, as he faced the league nearly 9 months younger—and with at least equal success, than Arrieta had done in 2008. Also working in Britton’s favor is the fact that he is a southpaw. Britton, like Arrieta, struggles with his command at times, but he has a more complete repertoire that makes him a better bet to reach his ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. With a ton of young arms ahead of him in the system, expect the Orioles to take their time with Britton. He should spend the overwhelming majority of time in 2010 in the ESL. With continued progress, Britton is looking a shot at the Oriole rotation, sometime in late 2011.

4) Jake Arrieta, RHP (2009 – Dominance 70; Stamina 68; HRrate 48; Control 48)

Coming off of a 2008 season where he posted the #10 Performance Score in the CAR, Arrieta used his imposing figure (6’4”, 225lbs) to dominate ESL hitters before running into a bit more difficulty in AAA. He uses a low-mid -90s fastball with late movement to give hitters fits, and nicely compliments that with an above average slider. While Arrieta has a workable change, and an occasional curve, he garners his most success with just two-pitches. It is this reason, along with occasional control issues, that make people wonder if his longer-term destination isn’t the bullpen. For now, the Orioles are sold on him as a solid mid-rotation starter, who will enter Spring competing for a rotation spot.

Grade B+

5) Brandon Erbe, RHP (2009 – Dominance 59; Stamina 68; HRrate 48; Control 33)

Pitching in his 5th professional season, it is sometimes difficult to remember that Erbe is still three days younger than Zach Britton. It has been an up and down career, as exceptional performances like 2008, have been over shadowed by inconsistencies and injuries. 2009 wasn’t a lot different, as Erbe missed nearly two months with a shoulder problem. While Erbe offers a decent repertoire, including a low-90s, late moving, fastball, it has been his struggles with command that have defined his career. Despite continued struggles in 2009, he did manage to post the #11 Performance score in the ESL. Right now Erbe’s biggest hurdle appears to be the numbers game, as six young pitchers appear to be ahead of him in the system. This leads us to believe that his ticket will either be in the bullpen or with another organization. Look for him to secure a rotation spot in AAA in 2010, and he could find his way to Baltimore by season’s end.

6) Matt Hobgood, RHP (2009 – Dominance 25; Stamina 41; HRrate 50; Control 55)

We don’t like to criticize the Orioles’ drafts, because they have been excellent over the last few years, but we can’t help ourselves with the selection of Hobgood at #5 overall. At 6’4”, 245lbs, Hobgood is massive, drawing comparisons to players that have been drafted similarly high like Wade Townsend and Matt White. While he has a fastball that already sits in the low-90s, we were not tremendously impressed with either his ‘pitchability’ or his ‘projectability’ and had him rated only #31 entering last June’s draft. Equally unimpressive was his brief APY debut. While there is no question that Hobgood has the potential to be a middle of the rotation workhorse, we feel that he is only about 50/50 to ever see the Major Leagues. There were far better options at the #5 spot, but that’s not Hobgood’s fault.

7) Brandon Snyder, 1B (2009 – Power 66; First Base Rate 56; Discipline 37; Speed 37)

In a conversation the other day the topic of Josh Bell came up, and what is his upside if he doesn’t stick at 3B…our reply—Brandon Snyder. Whether that is praise for Snyder or criticism of Bell depends on your perspective. Nonetheless, Snyder has steadily re-established himself as a legitimate hitting prospect whose only real downside, although a significant one, is where on the diamond he will play. Still just 22yo (actually 10 days younger than Bell), Snyder demonstrated above average power and at least average contact skills between stops in the ESL and INT. 2010 should find Snyder back in Norfolk, with an eye on Baltimore at some point during the season. Given his lack of position, and lack of significant power for 1B or DH, it is our feeling that he ends up as a below average starter, or an above average platoon type player.

Grade B

8) Mychal Givens, SS -

Givens is that prototypical athletically gifted, extreme toolsy, type of prospect that immediately sounds warning signals for us. In all actuality, the Orioles must have been thankful that the Phillies didn’t have a pick until #74, because he is the typical type of player that they waste first and second round picks on. That said, Given’s athleticism is undeniable, and with a 97MPH fastball, he has one of the strongest arms in the system. While we felt he was a safer pick on the mound, it isn’t a real surprise that the Orioles will try him at SS. Givens’ upside is enormous, but this remains a classic ‘boom or bust’ type prospect.

9) Brandon Waring, 1B (2009 – Power 79; First Base Rate 35; Discipline 35; Speed 46)

We have felt that Waring has been one of the more underrated prospects, ever since he was drafted in the 7th round by the Reds in 2007. Entering that June’s draft, Waring had just completed his junior season where he posted one of the 5 best Performance scores among draft eligible players. After signing, he had a superb PIO debut in 2007, but struggled mightily in the MWL in 2008. His 2009 was a far better result, as he posted an .878 OPS in the CAR. A fastball/mistake hitter, Waring still struggles mightily with off-speed pitches—chasing them out of the zone. While he has plus raw power, he will have to improve upon his 24% strikeout rate if he is to have success at upper levels. The positive for Waring is that he is one of the few players currently in the system with true ‘first base’ power. 2010 will find him back at AA, looking to make those improvements.

10) Xavier Avery, CF (2009 – Power 32; First Base Rate 57; Discipline 49; Speed 77)

The Orioles second round pick in 2008 now has a .655 OPS in two professional seasons, but is sneaking in here still at #10. This is due to his upside—not anything he has shown on the field. Avery is an electrifying, highly-athletic player, that is still extremely raw—two years into his professional career. He played the entire 2009 season as a 19yo in full season A. While Avery comes with considerable upside, his weaknesses are apparent. Avery will never hit for power, has poor plate discipline, and while he covers a lot of ground in the OF, he often takes poor routes and has only an average arm, which may lead to him eventually be considered only in LF. If that is the case, his odds become even longer. While we would like to see the Orioles return him to Delmarva to start the 2010 season, look for him to jump to Hi-A, where he is likely to continue his offensive struggles.

11) Caleb Joseph, C (2009 – Power 65; First Base Rate 41; Discipline 67; Speed 39)

Joseph, a 7th round pick by the Orioles in 2008, is another Baltimore prospect that is favored more by the conventional media than by us. While he does possess relatively average skills, for a catcher, across the board, and he has an advanced feel for handling pitchers, there are no skills that grade out very highly. When Matt Wieters is ahead of you in the organization, and you don’t have the offensive game that will play at another position, that doesn’t make for a very bright long-term outlook. Look for Joseph to begin 2010 in AA, and hoping for a deal elsewhere that might lead to Major League playing time some time in 2011.

Grade B-

12) Kam Mickolio, RP (2009 – Dominance 79; Stamina 25; HRrate 48; Control 46)

Mickolio is a pure power pitcher with a fastball that reaches the upper 90s, and sits in the mid-90s. At 6’9”, he cuts an imposing figure that can be intimidating for a hitter to see all that heat coming from a downhill plane. At 26yo, Mickolio has little additional upside, and with only a marginal change and slider to compliment his heat, he is purely bullpen material. The certainty quotient here is extremely high—justifying this ranking, but there isn’t much upside, with the possible ceiling being a Major League closer, but for now,at least, just a set-up guy. While he still needs work commanding his fastball, it appears that Mickolio’s Minor League days are behind him.

13) L.J. Hoes, 2B (2009 – Power 34; First Base Rate 56; Discipline 66; Speed 76)
Selected by the Orioles in the third round in 2008, Hoes had a solid GCL debut last season, convincing the Orioles to send him to full-season A-ball in 2009 as a 19yo. The decision was regrettable, as Hoes struggled mightily. The problem with this is that offense was thought to be his strength. Hoes doesn’t have the defensive ability to play SS, so 2B is his make/break position, as there is almost no power here. That said, we are intrigued, as Hoes shows good contact skills and an advanced plate discipline. There isn’t significant upside here, but if the Orioles are willing to return him to Delmarva in 2010, we have a hunch that his offensive performance will be significantly improved, as there is too much to like in his approach at the plate for him to be this bad. While he will never be a star, he could be a solid top of the order contributor.

14) Troy Patton, LHP (2009 – Dominance 40; Stamina 69; HRrate 48; Control 63)

Patton’s was one of the true ‘feel-good’/comeback stories of the first half last season, before a jump to AAA, and recurring shoulder problems, tempered our enthusiasm. The key Oriole return in the Tejada deal, Patton missed the entire 2008 season, after the trade. His 2009 ESL performance gave hope that he would regain his form, but after a June promotion to Norfolk, he posted a 6.45 ERA and opposing hitters knocked him around to the tune of .337. He once again developed shoulder soreness and the Orioles shut him down for the year in early August.

15) Michael Ohlman, C

Players #13 thru #18 in this organization are virtually interchangeable, which made this a tough organization to order. Ohlman comes down right in the middle of that pack. A prep catcher, Ohlman signed too late to show anything significant, but the Orioles liked what they saw in instructionals. This is a player with raw power as his calling card, and his real value will be determined by his ability to stay behind the plate. While he has the power, and likely the athleticisim, to play a corner, his other skills just aren’t that eye-opening for him to become a significant player anywhere else. One of the keys that he will need to correct though is the tendency to chase breaking balls out of the zone. His upside is that of an above average Major League backstop, but there is a long ways between reaching it and where he is now.

16) Luis Lebron, RP (2009 – Dominance 76; Stamina 29; HRrate 49; Control 47)

This is a pure ‘stuff’ pitcher that used a low-mid 90s fastball and a plus slider to whif nearly 1.5 batters per IP over 60 innings in 2009. His Winter League performance has been nearly equally as impressive. The downside is that Lebron walked nearly 5 batters per 9IP, and he doesn’t score highly in ‘pitchability’. Lebron will turn 25yo before the season begins in 2010, so we aren’t talking about a player with tremendous upside. That said, there is every reason to believe that he can be a significant back-of-the bull pen contributor—perhaps as early as the second half of this season.

17) Tyler Townsend, 1B (2009 – Power 76; First Base Rate 20; Discipline 25; Speed 35)

Townsend is an intriguing one-tool player, with that one-tool being tremendous raw power. Selected by the Orioles in the 3rd round after a monster season at Florida International, Townsend struggled badly in his NYP debut. That said, there is reason to believe that he could have enough athleticism to play in the OF, and enough power to make the Orioles give him plenty of chances. The odds are that he ends up peaking as LH platoon 1B/LF/DH type player, but there is enough of interest here to keep an eye on. Expect Townsend to begin 2010 in full-season A-ball.

18) Ryan Berry, RHP -

There are mixed opinions on Berry, who the Orioles drafted in the 9th round last June and signed him for what was essentially 3rd round money. On the downside is the fact that he is an injury-riddled pitcher, from a college with a history of overusing pitchers (Rice), whose best pitch is a knuckle-curve. He also isn’t very big, and doesn’t have a lot of projection left in him. The positives are that, when healthy, he posted some of the best production in college ball in 2008, and finished the year, despite various injuries, with a Top 25 Performance score. Berry pitches off of his aforementioned curve, complimenting it with a fastball that sits right around 90MPH. He’ll also occasionally show both a slider and a change, but both of these offerings are below average at this point. Berry signed too late to make his debut in 2009, so look for him to begin his pro career in full-season A-ball. While there isn’t tremendous upside here, there is enough to potentially become a mid-rotation starter. For now the health question marks are significant.

Grade C+ Prospects –

19) Cameron Coffey, RHP; 20) Justin Turner, 2B; 21) Vito Fravizio, RHP; 22) Ronnie Welty, RF; 23) Jesse Beal, RHP; 24) Bobby Bundy, RHP; 25) Pedro Florimon, MI; 26) Billy Rowell, OF; 27) Pedro Beato, RHP; 28) Tyler Henson, 3B; 29) Tyler Kelly, 3B.

Grade C Prospects –

Ryan Admas; Matt Angle; David Baker; Jake Cowan; Justin Dalles; Eddie Gamboa; Randy Henry; Ryne Hughes; Brett Jacobsen; Tyler Kolodny; Kevin Landry; Jarrett Martin; Cole McMurry; Greg Miclat; Scott Moore; Luis Noel; Garabez Rosa; Ashur Tolliver; Robert Widlansky; Aaron Worsch; Richard Zagone.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Happy Holiday Season To All

We just wanted to take a brief moment to Thank of all you that have shared parts of your busy daily schedule by reading us this past year. The growth has exceeded our expectations and 2010 promises to bring even more content and new features. So please accept our warmest wishes to all of you and your families this holiday season.


-The Diamond Futures Staff -

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

TEAM #22 – Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers have cleared the way for Escobar to open 2010 as the starting SS

The Brewers come in at #22, with an organization that is short on top tier talent, but is extremely deep. The organization’s biggest weakness, lies in its lack of quality pitching prospects. This has evolved from a record of draft futility that is unequalled by any other Major League organization. Over the ten year period between 1998-2007, the Brewers have selected 55 pitchers in the first ten rounds of the draft. Of that group, only two of them--Ben Sheets and Yovani Gallardo have produced at least 1 Major League season with a positive Wins Above Replacement Value. While the Major League Average for pitchers over the decade has been about 12%, the Brewers have hit on a whopping 3.6%. Over the same time, the Mets, Braves and Giants have succeeded with 15% of their picks. The Dodgers, Athletics and Angels hit on 17%. Even the historically draft inept Pirates, Nationals and Astros have gotten it right more than 10% of the time. But with names like J.M. Gold, Nick Neugebauer, Mark Rogers, Mike Jones and Jeremy Jeffress dotting the record books, the Brewers have hit the mark on less than 4% of their selections. Now given that the Mariners thought enough of Jack Zduriencik to hire him as GM—despite his being responsible for a fair share of the futility, and that Doug Melvin and Reid Nichols have been in place since 2002 and are still employed, I’m still not sure whether it is a scouting issue or a player development issue, but the reason that I bring this up is to urge caution in assessing Jake Odorizzi, Evan Frederickson, Seth Lintz, Eric Arnett and Kyle Heckathorn—the latest Brewer high draft pick pitchers. On the offensive side of the things, things are slightly better. There is not a lot of high-ceiling offense, but there is a group of solid offensive players that score fairly well on the certainty side of things. All things considered, things appear to be on an upswing. I am encouraged by the drafts in the Bruce Seid era. There are players ready to make an impact as early as this year. While I am not as high on the Brewers at the Major League level, but there is some reason for hope on the way.

Grade A

1) Alcides Escobar, SS (2009 Performance Scores – Power 33; First Base Rate 59; Discipline 65; Speed 80)

Few players have been as ballyhooed as Escobar, but have had as many questions about the bat as we have here. While there are ‘defense first’ players, Escobar had long been considered a ‘defense-only’ type player. In six Minor League seasons, Escobar has never posted an .800 OPS, and had a career .650 OPS, prior to his ‘breakout’ 2008 season. That said, he will begin the 2010 season as likely one of the top three SS gloves in the Majors—he is that good. One must remember though, Ozzie Smith put together a hall of fame career with only one season of plus .750 OPS in twenty professional seasons. I am not saying that Escobar is equivalent to Smith, only pointing out that as the SS position, defense matters, and Escobar has exceptional lateral range, soft hands and a solid arm. We are high on Escobar, expecting him to have a lengthy MLB career that consists of many .290/.345/.400 type of seasons with 20-25 SBs.

Grade A-

2) Brett Lawrie, 2B (2009 Performance – Power 74; First Base Rate 58; Discipline 63; Speed 61)

Lawrie rocketed up the charts just before the 2008 draft when he put on a power show when his Canadian National Junior team visited the Dominican Republic. There have been little questions about his bat since then, and 2009 was no exception. He shows plus power, above average contact skills, with above average plate discipline. If the Brewers can find a defensive home for him, his bat should play quite well at the next level. Unfortunately, while the Brewers would like to envision him as a Jeff Kent type of second-basemen, our feeling is that he ends up as an OF corner. That bat will still play there, but his value takes a slight hit. His 2010 assignment will be interesting, after he skipped Hi-A in 2009. We are expecting to see him return to AA, with a shot at seeing Milwaukee before the end of the 2011 season—remember…he doesn’t turn 20yo until January.

Grade B+

3) Mat Gamel, LF/3B (2009 Performance – Power 68; First Base Rate 59; Discipline 21; Speed 35)

Gamel is an excellent example of what happens in the mainstream media with prospects. Entering the 2008 season, we had Gamel higher than most anyone (#146 overall, 4th in the Brewers system behind LaPorta, Salome, and Escobar). In a loaded Huntsville lineup, with LaPorta as protection, Gamel went out and put together a remarkable first half of 2008, and entered last season at #26 by John Sickles, #34 at Baseball America, #58 at Baseball Prospects and #86 by Keith Law. As we compared his 2007 season vs. his respective league, and his 2008 season vs. his respective league, allowing for age, his overall 2008 season was actually no better than his 2007 season—perhaps a tad worse, therefore by Diamond Futures methods, Gamel once again fell outside of the Top 100, coming in at #141. There is a reason that we have developed a metric based approach to prospect evaluation…through repeated research, like Kahneman and Tversky’s 1979 study on Prospect Theory, it has been shown that human bias in cognitive evaluation method’s leads to irrational decision-alternative choices. Essentially, you can’t do this right, if you allow subjectivity. In Gamel’s case, he still has the same defensive negatives that have always been a part of his profile package, he still has strike zone management issues that have always been a part of the package, yet subjective evaluators were swayed enough, by one-half of a season, to overlook these concerns. Don’t get us wrong…Gamel still has above average power and contact skills. The bat is solid enough to perhaps be a league average LF, but more likely Gamel develops into a part time player who is likely to see 300-400 ABs per year at the Big League level with an average Major League club. There is a high degree of certainty that he reaches that level, but that still doesn’t make him a Top 100 prospect.

Grade B

4) Caleb Gindl, OF (2009 Performance – Power 76; First Base Rate 71; Discipline 45; Speed 76)

Unfortunately for Gindl, he suffers from what we like to call the ‘Jaff Decker syndrome’. That is that he just hits and hits but doesn’t look like a Major League hitter. At 5’9”, 185lbs, he doesn’t make the scouts drool, and he has a physical profile that hasn’t produced a lot of historical success. A 5th round pick in 2007, he won the Pioneer League (PIO) batting title in his debut. As a 19yo, in the SAL, in 2008, he finished with the #7 Performance Score. This past season he finished behind only Jesus Montero and Mike Stanton in the FSL—ahead of players like Dominic Brown and Starlin Castro. This is a player that played most of the 2009 season as a 20yo in the FSL and posted a .822 OPS with 17HRs. If he were just a couple of inches taller, people would be speaking of him as a Top 50 prospect. Other than his lack of size, his only negative is a strike out rate that still hovers north of 20%. But this is caused by a tremendously aggressive approach at the plate that is somewhat mitigated by a 13% walk rate. While he isn’t a solid enough defender to play CF—and will therefore be regulated to an OF corner, Gindl has a Nate McLouth or Brian Giles type upside. Look for Gindl to spend the entire 2010 season in AA. He won’t be afforded many second chances, but he has a chance to make an appearance in Milwaukee sometime in 2011.

5) Jonathan Lucroy, C (2009 Performance – Power 61; First Base Rate 69; Discipline 65; Speed 34)

I truly hate doing profiles for players like Lucroy. Most everything that I am going to say from here is going to come off as negative—when the reality is that we feel that Lucroy is a solid prospect. The problem is that when most of the rest of the prospect evaluators get their ‘heads out in front of their skis’ on a player, we end up sounding like we are ‘raining on someone’s parade’. When we have seen lists that have Lucroy rated as high as the #3 catching prospect in the Minor’s…people have gotten a little ahead of themselves. Lucroy possesses above average power, contact and plate discipline skills for a catcher. He also possesses a relatively strong-arm. He has the potential upside of a slightly above average offensive catcher, who might be adequate enough defensively for an everyday job. However…defensively, he still doesn’t call a very good game, and struggles with the receiving skills. Offensively he played in AA, as a 23yo, in 2009; posted a nearly .800 OPS, and walked more than he struck out. If you want a comp, check out the Rays’ John Jaso in his 2007 season. The one where he was a 23yo in AA, walked more than he struck out, and posted an .893 OPS. There is no doubt that his certainty factor is aided by the Lucroy clearly becoming the front office’s ‘Catcher of the Future’. We, however, don’t find much more to like than we do with Salome, and really expect him to top out as a part-time catcher in the Major Leagues.

6) Angel Salome, C (2009 Performance – Power 43; First Base Rate 55; Discipline 50; Speed 31)

With only Jason Kendall in front of him, and a Brewer team that was out of contention for most of the second half of the 2009 season, Salome had the golden opportunity to follow-up his 2008 performance and play his way onto the big league club. Unfortunately Salome battled back issues from the start of the season and had only posted a .640 OPS through the first two months of the season. When you only stand 5’7” and are nearly as wide around, and have one of the Minor’s most unorthodox swings, you aren’t going to see many second chances, and Salome has been clearly passed, by Lucroy, in the minds of the Brewers’ front office. Salome went on to post an .810 OPS from June on, but was limited to only 165 ABs during that time. 2010 becomes a pivotal year. While only 23yo, Salome will have to first prove healthy, then he will have to show improvements in his game calling skills, or the Brewer Fans will never get to see that unusual swing or cannon-like arm.

7) Eric Arnett, RHP (2009 – Dominance 56; Stamina 32; HRrate 49; Control 23)

We saw Arnett pitch a handful of times at Indiana. He seemed to get stronger as the college season wore on, and looked like a true workhorse by the end of the Big 10 season, posting the #9 Performance score among draft eligible collegiate pitchers. Arnett is big (6’5”, 225lbs), and possesses a fastball that sits in the low-90s and hits the mid-90s. If he improves his secondary offerings, his upside is that of a mid-rotation innings eater. His floor is rather high, as his downside looks to be that of a solid middle reliever. While he struggled with his control in his PIO debut, that hadn’t been a significant problem during his junior year. Look for Arnett to make his debut in Lo-A to start 2010, but the Brewers could fast track him in the bullpen to get him to Milwaukee sooner.

8) Zach Braddock, RP (2009 – Dominance 80; Stamina 30; HRrate 48; Control 75)

In 4 professional seasons, mostly as a starter, Braddock has accumulated 198 innings. That sums up the biggest problem with Braddock, who had Tommy John surgery even before he was drafted—he just can’t stay healthy. In 2009, the Brewers placed Braddock in the bullpen on a full-time basis, and he responded with a dominating performance—when he wasn’t on one of his two lengthy DL stints. We love his pure ‘stuff’, that centers around a fastball that sits in the low to mid 90s, and can get as high as 96 or 97 MPH. If he can get his health issues together, this is a guy with Major league closer stuff. Unfortunately, the injury history makes him a huge question mark.

9) Kyle Heckathorn, RHP (2009 – Dominance 31; Stamina 54; HRrate 46; Control 72)

While Heckathorn posted the #7 Performance score by a draft eligible collegiate pitcher, 2009 has to be considered a disappointment for him, as he started the season as Kennesaw State’s ace and was clearly outpitched by the Blue Jays’ Chad Jenkins. Nonetheless, the Brewers got a relative steal when he was still there at the 47th pick. We had Heckathorn at #37 in our pre-draft ratings, seeing a big (6’6”, 235lb) mid-rotation innings eater as his upside. Heckathorn has as good of raw stuff as any college pitcher not named Strasburg, as his fastball sits in the mid-90s and he possesses a slider that has plus pitch potential. That being said, his other secondary offerings are lacking, and at this point Heckathorn is far more thrower than pitcher. We weren’t impressed by his PIO debut, as a pitcher with his stuff should miss more bats. While his ceiling is higher, we fear that the lack of quality secondary offerings will limit him to a bullpen role. Like Arnett above, he could be fast tracked as a bullpen arm, but we expect the Brewers to be more patient with Heckathorn.

10) Jake Odorizzi, RHP (2009 – Dominance 52; Stamina 57; HRrate 48; Control 71)

Easily the best prep player drafted from Illinois in 2008, Odorizzi hasn’t been able to replicate his senior season since becoming a pro. A truly gifted athlete, Odorizzi has all of the ‘stuff’, mechanics, and mindset, to become a front of the rotation starter. While only 19yo, he struck out nearly a batter per inning in the PIO, in 2009, while showing plus command of three pitches. Expect 2010 to be a pivotal year for Odorizzi, as he takes on full-season ball for the first time. We feel there is significant projectability left here, and would not be surprised to see a breakout season.

11) Wily Peralta, RHP (2009 – Dominance 69; Stamina 58; HRrate 49; Control 40)

Peralta missed the 2007 due to Tommy John surgery, and only pitched 34 innings in 2008, so it had to come as a welcome relief to the Brewers to see Peralta’s breakout performance in 2009, after they had signed him to a $450,000 bonus as a 16yo in 2005. Peralta features a mid-90s fastball and a very projectable frame. He used that to fan more than a batter per inning in the SAL—as a 20yo. Peralta’s has the raw ‘stuff’ to match nearly anyone in the organization, and his upside is only going to be limited by his development of his secondary offerings. He fights control issues at times, and will have to become more pitcher than thrower. 2010 should find Peralta in Hi-A. He has one of the higher upsides in the organization, but currently remains a classic ‘boom or bust’ type player.

Grade B-

12) Logan Schafer, OF (2009 Performance – Power 56; First Base Rate 65; Discipline 76; Speed 62)

While the Brewers have been touting Lorenzo Cain as their future CF, our eyes have been focused more on Logan Schaffer, their 3rd round choice in 2008. Schafer possesses plus defense ability, above average speed and contact skills, and can hold his own in Power. Most important to us in 2009, was his reducing his strikeout rate from 21% in his debut season to 10.7%. While Schafer doesn’t have a tremendously high ceiling, he already plays Major League caliber defense and looks likely to have a floor of nothing less than a 4th OF type. Look for him to spend most of his 23yo season in AA, with an outside shot at a September call-up to Milwaukee.

13) Kentrail Davis, CF -

Davis is one of those toolsy, speed-type players that the scouting community loves far more than we do. He is slight, plays only adequate OF defense, and currently gets by on his Speed as his only plus tool. He struggled as a Sophomore-eligible at Tennessee last year and strikes out way too often for our liking. Although the Brewers spent the #39 pick on him, we had Davis as a 3rd/4th round talent. If he can stay in CF, he has a Julio Borbon-like upside. We doubt his defense will be adequate enough, making his power in adequate for a corner, and that makes him likely to be a 4th OF type.

14) Cody Scarpetta, RHP (2009 – Dominance 66; Stamina 61; HRrate 49; Control 31)

Scarpetta is another of those big-bodied (6’3”, 240lbs) RHPs that you have already seen a few times on this list. Definitely a ‘power’ pitcher, Scarpetta fanned more than a batter per inning in the MWL as a 20yo. As he moves up the ladder, Scarpetta will have to improve upon his control, that has led to a 4.4 BB/9IP ratio in two pro seasons. Look for him to start 2010 in Hi-A, and spend at least half of the season there. He appears to have the upside of a mid-rotation innings eater, and perhaps a greater likelihood of staying in the rotation than either Arnett or Heckathorn.

15) Chris Dennis, LF (2009 Performance – Power 79; First Base Rate 65; Discipline 30; Speed 39)

Signed out of Canada by the Brewers in the 13th round of the 2007 draft, Dennis has been regarded as a ‘bat-only’ type of player with prodigious power potential. He posted the #12 Performance score in the AZL in his debut season, and followed that up with a #12 Performance score in the PIO in 2008. Dennis got off to a blistering start to the 2009 season, dominating MWL pitching to the tune of a .947 OPS, before an ankle injury basically ended his season. Hopefully healthy, we would not be surprised if the Brewers’ started him in the FSL in 2010. Dennis will have to continue to mash the ball, as he profiles only as a LF/1B type. Only 21yo, we like his upside potential, but clearly realize that he won’t be afforded many slips.

16) Evan Anundsen, RHP (2009 – Dominance 60; Stamina 72; HRrate 50; Control 58)

While 2009 saw Anundsen take a huge step toward becoming more pitcher than thrower, it also provided some disappointments, as his already fringy fastball took a step backwards, leaving him without much projectability on his high 80s offering. Still his peripherals are strong and that led to his posting the #6 Performance score in the FSL in 2009. Anundsen remains a low-ceiling type player, who should spend 2010 in AA. If all the pieces fall into place, he could become a back of the rotation starter in 2011 or 2012.

17) Jeremy Jeffress, RHP (2009 – Dominance 73; Stamina 62; HRrate 49; Control 20)

We could write a book on the trials and tribulations of Jeffress, as we have been warning of his downside risks since the Brewers made him the 16th overall pick in the 2006 draft. The proverbial ‘billion dollar airport with a ten cent control tower’, Jeffress has the raw ‘stuff’ to match most anyone in baseball. But due to his unwillingness to become anything other than thrower, and his battles with substance abuse, Jeffress now is one strike away from an end to his baseball career. There is upside here that can’t be discounted, but the certainty factor is extremely low. He should return sometime mid-2010, and to call the season pivotal would be understating it.

Grade C+ Prospects –

18) Taylor Green, 3B/2B; 19) Eric Farris, 2B; 20) Lorenzo Cain, OF; 21) Nick Bucci, RHP; 22) Efrain Nieves, LHP; 23) Josh Prince, SS; 24) Mark Rogers, RHP; 25) Max Walla, LF; 26) Jose Pena, OF; 27) D’Vontrey Richardson, OF; 28) Cameron Garfield, C; 29) Zeleous Wheeler, 3B; 30) Brooks Hall, RHP; 31) Hernan Iribarren, 2B; 32) Chuck Lofgren, LHP; 33) Del Howell, LHP; 34) Amaury Rivas, RHP.

Grade C Prospects –

Omar Aguilar; John Axford; Brent Brewer; Josh Butler; Chris Cody; Khris Davis; Tim Dillard; Cutter Dykstra; Evan Frederickson; Scooter Gennett; Erik Komatsu; Maverick Lasker; Seth Lintz; Roque Mercedes; Dan Merklinger; Sergio Miranda; Alex Periard; Tyler Roberts; Rob Wooten.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions

Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions

We’ve been getting a lot of similar questions, so I thought I’d use the mailbag to try to clear them up. Essentially, they boil down into three categories…

The first of which is “Why wasn’t Player X on the list?”
We actually like this question--a lot. Mainly because we aren’t infallible. While the overwhelming majority of the time the answer is because we don’t think much of Player X’s prospect potential because of any number of factors (the most frequent one being age vs. level of competition), we do occasionally miss a player because of a minor trade that we just didn’t catch, or because of limited playing time. When we put together these lists, we seriously start with over 5500 names that we go through. Most of these come from 2009 Minor League rosters. But we narrow our search by playing time criteria, and occasionally—especially with relief pitchers, we overlook a player that has minimal playing time at each of a number of different levels. While these won’t usually be significant relief pitcher prospects, occasionally we miss a ‘C+’/’C’ level reliever. So if you feel like we have missed somebody—LET US KNOW…we just may have.

The second most frequently received question usually goes something like “Source XYZ has Player A in the Top 10…How come he is only #30 on your list?”

We call this the Collin Cowgill question. Let me preface this by saying that we have been doing prospect lists for over 10 years. In that time we have had our share of misses, and our share of hits. I will match our record up against any source in the industry, and have stories like Albert Pujols and Pablo Sandoval to prove it (Players that we identified as ‘elite’ level prospects nearly a year ahead of anyone else). We have a methodology that we use—and stick to. It essentially boils down to this…1) We have done the historical analysis and have determined the statistical criteria that highly correlates with Major League success. These aren’t your typical ‘handbook’ stats…in some cases, they are measures that we have derived after extensive regression analysis on one of the most complete Minor League databases in anyone’s possession. From a purely statistical standpoint we know these work—and most importantly to what degree. 2) Once we have a given player’s statistical profile, we compare that to our historical database and research a given player’s odds of future success. These aren’t ABSOLUTE values—these are PROBALISTIC. But once we tell you that a player has a low-ceiling, or a high-floor, these aren’t ‘subjective’ terms for us. They are ‘objective’ measurements of that player’s chance for Major League success. Whereas many ‘sources’ are giving you their ‘opinion’ of a specific player, we are given you our ‘analysis’ of the historical results of many similar players. While often times our analysis may come off as ‘subjective’ biases (i.e. our disdain for most Minor League Relief Pitchers), what this really is, is our expounding upon what the historical data has demonstrated to us.

Sometimes, the results produced by our approach seem ‘unconventional’. We can’t help that, and make no apologies for it. When we state that we have significant concerns about the strikeout rates of J.P Arrencibia or Tyler Flowers, it has nothing to do with whether or not we ‘like’ Arrencibia or Flowers—it has everything to do with the historical records of players similar to Arrencibia and Flowers. If you are looking for an approach that relies on large degrees of ‘subjectivity’, whether or not a particular player’s coach had good things to say about them, whether or not the player gets favorable media coverage because he is a good interview, whether or not they look good in a uniform, etc…this isn’t likely the place for you. We are small, and don’t have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest. All totaled, we may see only 150-200 games live each season, meaning that we are seeing, likely no more than 10% to 20% of the players that we are reviewing—even a single time. We can’t rely on ‘subjectivity’ and therefore have developed a methodology that doesn’t really allow for it. But we can promise that if you stay around long enough, you will find some of the most accurate ‘prospecting’ in the business.

The third most frequent question that we are getting is “Why is Team XYZ rated so low?”

If you think your team is rated too low…take solace in the fact that you are seeing your team’s prospect list earlier than others :). Just a little bit about our team rankings. Every player that we grade is scored on two scales: ‘Certainty’ and ‘Ceiling’. Through this we are able to assign a numerical grade to every player that we look at. Roughly 2,000 of these players are given a grade that identifies them as a potential prospect. We further examine each of the 2,000 for ‘special’ circumstances that wouldn’t normally show up in our analysis. From this list, roughly 1,800 make the cut. We then sort these players by team, and essentially ‘sum’ the expected career values for these players. This Team Total value is used to determine our Organizational rating—once again, subjectivity is removed from the process. While we would be the first to admit, that this system rewards organizational depth more than most (A grade ‘A’ player is worth roughly 4-5 grade ‘C’ players), in the end it is still a statistical calculation as to how much Major League Career Value exists within the given organization. So while once again, we may not produce results that agree with the ‘experts’, we feel very comfortable in living with our results.

Keep the questions coming, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

TEAM #23 – Cincinnati Reds

The promise of Alonso is causing the Reds to look for options for Joey Votto

Next up in our series are the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds are one of the organizations that are likely to generate much controversy, as there are players here that we like significantly more than the mainstream media does, and also some players that are other ‘experts’ favorites that we don’t think nearly as highly of. While we really like the Top 3 players here, the list of high ceiling players still isn’t very deep. The other weakness of the organization is a dearth of high upside arms. On a brighter note, the Reds have one of the stronger organizations of players that could contribute in 2010.

Grade A

1) Yonder Alonso, 1B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 76; First Base Rate 64; Discipline 66; Speed 33)

We got to see Alonso a half dozen times during his junior year at Miami, and quickly became enamored with his advanced hitting approach, as he posted the 3rd best Performance score of the 2008 season (Behind only Gordon Beckham and Buster Posey). 2009 was a difficult year due to a broken hamate bone, but he still managed to post the #8 and #9 Performance scores in the FSL and SOL respectively. Alonso has plus plate discipline skills, with potentially plus contact and power skills as well. The downside for Alonso, besides relatively base-clogging speed, is that he still is showing reduced power effects from the broken hamate (only 2 HRs so far in 130 AZFL/PRWL ABs). It often takes as much as 18 months to fully recover from this injury. Expect to see Alonso spend most of 2010 in AAA. We don’t expect him to make his Major League debut before late summer. With Alonso pretty much limited to first base, his performance this season will dictate what the Reds do with Joey Votto.

Grade A -

2) Mike Leake, RHP -

Leake is one of those guys where the tools guys and the performance guys differ widely. First off, Leake is smallish at just a tad over 6’0”. Then you add to that a fastball that tops out at 93MPH, and sits right at 89-90MPH, and the tools guys start getting squeamish. We’d prefer to take a glass half-full approach to Leake, as he put together, without question, the second best collegiate pitching season in 2009—to some guy named Strasburg. He signed late, and didn’t make his professional debut until the AZFL, but that didn’t slow him any, as he posted a Top 5 Performance score in Arizona. What we like about Leake is that he has a repertoire of 4 above average pitches, all of which with he shows excellent command. Add to that a ‘bull-dog’ type mentality, and, for us, he evokes memories of another smallish, hi-80s, excellent control, ‘mad-dog’ of a decade or so earlier. We won’t hang that burden on him right now, but we do expect him to become a solid #2/#3 starter that should move through the Reds system very rapidly—perhaps even reaching Cincinnati by mid-year.

3) Juan Francisco, 3B/LF (2009– Power 77; First Base Rate 42; Discipline 36; Speed 42)

One of the more controversial players in the prospect world, the question on Francisco invariably comes down to will he make enough contact to succeed at the Major League level. For us that is a two part question. The first part focuses on his strikeout rate, which was a career 24% in 4 Minor League seasons entering the year. In 529 ABs over two levels in 2009, both higher than any he had seen prior to this year, he cut his strikeout rate to 20.8%. That is significant improvement and bodes well. The other measure that we use is something we call First Base Rate (FBR), which essentially is calculation that we use that measures the rate a player ends up on first base. Entering the season, Francisco had a career FBR of .209. This season, again at higher levels, the number jumped to .223. Neither of these numbers are good, but they are moving in the right direction and he has continued to sustain the improvements this Winter in the DWL. While we don’t ever see Francisco becoming a high OBP guy, he should post adequate Average and OBP numbers while posting some huge power numbers. Minor League History has shown that to be a recipe for Major League success. Francisco’s other negative is his defense, as it is doubtful that he sticks as a third baseman, forcing either a move to first (where a logjam already exists), or LF. Francisco will be offered an opportunity to compete for a roster spot this Spring. Given that the Reds are set at first and third, he is likely ticketed to AAA. Sometime during the season, we are expecting the Reds will have to find a way to get his bat into the lineup.

Grade B+

4) Todd Frazier, LF/3B (2009– Power 73; First Base Rate 40; Discipline 67; Speed 42)

We must admit a bias here, as we have never been as high on Frazier as much of the baseball world seems to be. A great example of this is in the head-to-head comparison of Frazier and Francisco. Both players had about 560 PAs in 2009, in a relatively equal mix between Carolina and Louisville. Comparing their wPOW scores (the highest correlating statistical factor to Major League success), Francisco crushed Frazier, .634 - .493. For FBR, Frazier edged Francisco .254 to .223. Francisco posted a better Speed score (6.3 to 3.7) and Frazier posted a slightly better Plate discipline score .154 to .217. All in all, they posted relatively equal, if not slightly in Francisco’s favor, seasons in 2009, BUT…Francisco is nearly 1 ½ years younger. Now when you throw in remaining upside projection, again skewed heavily toward Francisco, and that they are likely competing defensively for the same positions (edge to Frazier), I don’t see how anyone comes down on Frazier’s side of this discussion. Only if one assumes that Frazier will end up at 2B (we aren’t believers), can an argument be made in Frazier’s favor. We see Frazier as a low-ceiling/high-floor type, that may end up (ceiling) as an average Major Leaguer, but is more likely to be a slightly below average regular or utility player.

Grade B

5) Chris Heisey, CF (2009– Power 74; First Base Rate 51; Discipline 66; Speed 73)

During the course of the 2009 season, Heisey went from an ‘interesting’ story to legitimate prospect, as he posted the 5th and 19th best Performance Scores in the SOL and INT respectively. None of his skills are exciting, yet he has a well-rounded package. A classic Low-Ceiling/High-Floor type, we aren’t without our concerns. Chief among them is our belief that he can’t be an everyday CF in the Big Leagues, and we don’t see enough power for him to play a corner. All in all, Heisey has the ceiling of a Major League average OF, but we foresee him more along the lines of a 4th OF at the next level.

6) Travis Wood, LHP (2009 – Dominance 57; Stamina 74; HRrate 50; Control 59)

One of our favorite stories from the 2009 season, Wood’s career was at a precipice after the 2008 season. He spent the following off-season adding a cut fastball and a two-seam fastball, giving him five pitches that he felt he could throw for strikes. He cut his walks from 5.0 per 9IP in 2008, to 2.8 per 9IP this year. This all resulted in Wood posting a 1.77 ERA, 1.038 ERA, with a 135:53 K:BB ratio, between stints in the SOL and INT. While Wood doesn’t have a ceiling above that of a mid-rotation starter, he looks like a good bet to post a reasonable Big League career, likely as a #4 left-handed starter. Expect Wood to compete for a rotation spot this Spring, eventually nailing one down by season’s end.

7) Neftali Soto, 3B (2009– Power 55; First Base Rate 35; Discipline 61; Speed 31)

Soto was a disappointment for us, as we had him as a Top 100 prospect entering this season. The positive is that he was able to post essentially League average numbers in the FSL, despite being only 20yo. There is plus power potential here, and above average contact/plate discipline skills. Soto will need to take a more patient approach at the plate in 2010, to right the ship. Despite a less-than spectacular showing in Hi-A, look for Soto to move to AA this season. He is still one of the higher ceiling players in the organization.

8) Yorman Rodriguez, OF (2009– Power 37; First Base Rate 45; Discipline 29; Speed 58)

Rodriguez clearly put separation between himself and the Reds’ other high profile 2008 Latin American signing, Juan Duran, during 2009. Although he, himself, struggled on the field, we have to keep in perspective that he is just 17yo. Rodriguez is pure projection at this point of his career, a gifted athlete, with plus speed and plus defensive abilities. Given his 6’3”, 175lb, frame, there is every reason to believe that power will eventually develop. The main question is whether or not his plate discipline skills will develop, as he currently posting a 30% strikeout rate. Look for the Reds to keep Rodriguez in extended Spring training before returning him to the Pioneer (PIO) League in 2010. He still is many years away.

9) Zack Cozart, SS (2009– Power 56; First Base Rate 58; Discipline 55; Speed 71)

After watching the Reds faithful tout Chris Valaika as the SS of the future for two years, they watched in horror as the position was manned by offensively inept players like Alex Gonzalez, Paul Janish and Drew Sutton in 2009. Valaika took himself out of the mix with his own dismal showing in the International League (INT). The pendulum now swings to Cozart. A second round pick in 2007, Cozart had been considered a defense first SS prospect prior to his bat showing signs of life during 2009, posting a Top 30 Performance score in the Southern League (SOL). Cozart now profiles as a Major League average offensive SS, with a plus glove. The Reds need a SS desperately, but Cozart is unlikely ready, offensively, at the start of the season. If they don’t acquire someone else though look for Cozart to be manning the position sometime during the 2010 season.

Grade B –

10) Brad Boxberger, RHP –

Admittedly, we felt that the Reds taking Boxberger with a supplemental first round pick was a bit of an overdraft. For us, there are significant questions regarding whether Boxberger is a starter or reliever at the Big League level. While he has a fastball that sits in the low-90s, he can dial it up into the mid-90s in short spurts. His slider could become a plus pitch, and he isn’t afraid to use his curve or change—neither of which are ever likely to be anything more than average. And perhaps the biggest negative is his frequent battles with control. For a college pitcher, he isn’t as refined as we would like to see at this stage of his career. That said, his ‘raw’ stuff is as good as anyone in the system, and as a relief pitcher, he would get to Cincy quickly. Look for him to start 2010 in Hi-A, and for the Reds to leave him as a starter—at least for now.

11) Matt Maloney, LHP (2009 – Dominance 62; Stamina 75; HRrate 48; Control 75)

A 3rd round pick in 2005, Matt Maloney continued to put up impressive numbers in 2009, despite not having premium raw ‘stuff’. Maloney, like Travis Wood, gets by by mixing speeds extremely well, varying as many as five pitches, and using plus control. It has proven to be an effective mix that should have Maloney competing for a back-of-the-rotation spot in 2010. We see Maloney as very similar to Wood, possessing a relatively high-floor, but with a little less ceiling.

12) Miguel Rojas, SS (2009– Power 31; First Base Rate 62; Discipline 78; Speed 57)

Rojas is one of those players that we are higher on than most. A legitimate plus defender at a premium position, he possesses above average contact skills and plus plate discipline—both of which are indicators that he will continue to show offensive improvement as he moves up the ladder. As it is, Rojas posted a Top 20 Performance score in the MWL in 2009—despite being just 20yo. The downside is that Rojas has almost no power, and at 5’9”, 175lbs, he isn’t likely to develop any, anytime soon. Rojas has the ceiling as a below average offensive everyday SS, with above average defensive skills. He will still have to demonstrate more offense to reach it, but the Reds are likely to be patient with him, keeping him in Hi-A for all of 2010.

13) Billy Hamilton, SS (2009– Power 31; First Base Rate 29; Discipline 36; Speed 79)

We’ve reached the part of the Reds’ prospect list where the players have more questions than answers. Extremely athletic, Hamilton is a slight, 6’1”, player with plus-plus speed and a solid arm, who may be best suited for CF in the long run. Currently however, the focus is on his bat, as he is extremely raw offensively, showing minimal power, less contact skills, and below average plate discipline. In a 166 AB ARZ debut, Hamilton posted a .531 OPS. The Reds will be very patient with Hamilton, likely keeping him in extended Spring training to start 2010, before sending him to the Pioneer League (PIO). While the jury is still out, as Hamilton has a vast ceiling, we will need to see much more.

14) Matt Klinker, RHP (2009 – Dominance 73; Stamina 71; HRrate 46; Control 51)

Klinker showed strong performance across three different levels in 2009, finishing in AAA with a 2.48 ERA over 5 starts. Klinker pitches off of a low-90s fastball, to set-up what could become an above average curve. His change still needs work, so there is still questions as to whether he is long-term a bullpen or a rotation candidate. Expect Klinker to return to AAA to start 2010, and he will need to tighten up his control. If he refines his offerings, he could end up in the back-of-the-rotation. Perhaps more likely is a middle relief role that could begin as early as mid-2010.

15) Devin Mesoraco, C (2009– Power 70; First Base Rate 34; Discipline 42; Speed 30)

Mesoraco continues to fight the label as one of the biggest draft mistakes of the last three years. The Reds spent the #15 overall pick on a player that was virtually all tools. Three seasons later, the tools have still not translated into production, and with each passing year there becomes significantly more questions regarding his body type and work ethic. It is hard to find much to like about his 2009 season except that he nearly held his own in Hi-A as a 21yo. We still haven’t given up on Mesoraco, but 2010 will be a pivotal season for him. Look for him to spend much of it at AA.

16) Josh Fellhauer, OF (2009– Power 72; First Base Rate 41; Discipline 73; Speed 49)

We had Fellhauer as a 4th round prospect heading into the June draft, and the Reds found him still on the Board in the 7th round. However, his debut even surprised us, as he posted 236 MWL ABs and the 13th best Performance score in the process. Still, this isn’t a high-ceiling type of player, as he profiles more as the classic ‘over-achieving’ 4th OF type. He will have to fight this label for a while, but he is the gritty type, that possesses excellent plate discipline that very well could overcome it. He will begin 2010 in Hi-A and could move rapidly.

Grade C+ Prospects –

17) Chris Valaika, MI; 19) Markeson Gregorius, SS; 20) Sean Henry, OF; 21) J.C. Sulbran; 22) Logan Ondrusek, RP; 23) Danny Dorn, LF; 24) Sam LeCure, RHP; 25) Juan Duran, LF; 26) Donnie Joseph, LHP; 27) Matt Fairel. LHP; 28) Ezequiel Infante, LHP; 29) Juan Silva, OF; 30) Mark Fleury, C; 31) Daniel Tuttle, RHP; 32) Josh Ravin, RHP; 33) Junior Arias, SS; 34) Humberto Valor, SS.

Grade C Prospects –

Tucker Barnhart; Alex Buchholz; Oscar Castro; Kevin Coddington; Enerio Del Rosario; Jeremy Horst; Harold Johnson; JR Morillo; Alexis Oliveras; Brian Pearl; Henry Rodriguez; Carlos Sanchez; Dave Sappelt; Mark Serrano; Alexander Smit; Jordan Smith; Dave Stewart; Daryl Thompson; Phillippe-Alexandre Valiquette; Pedro Viola.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Updated – Toronto Blue Jays

Brett Wallace moves to the top of the list and possibly into the opening day lineup

When a team deals the face of the franchise for prospects, it is an important development, signaling a completely new direction. While we had initially led off our prospect series with the Jays—as baseball’s weakest Minor League system, the influx of ‘bounty’ received in the Halladay deal calls for an update to our earlier installment. Assuming the deal is consummated as it is being reported, the Blue Jays have added three prospects that will automatically jump to the top of their list. While we have updated our list to include the new additions, the more important question is how far do the Blue Jays climb after this deal. We have just completed assessing the day’s moves, and if we look at the world as it currently stands, the Blue Jays would be in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks, coming in at #24.

Grade A

1) Brett Wallace, 3B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 64; First Base Rate 61; Discipline34; Speed 31)

Assuming the reported Wallace for Taylor deal goes through, Wallace becomes the Jays #1 prospect by a slight margin over Drabek. If the Jays end up with Taylor, Drabek would become #1 and Taylor #2. That being said, Wallace was one of the best pure hitters available in the 2008 draft. He had a tremendous 2008 debut, but stalled a bit in 2009. Despite the disappointing 2009, we still believe strongly in his bat. The problem is the glove. We expect that the Jays will keep Wallace at 3B for now, bringing him to Toronto as the everyday starter at some point during the 2010 season. However, third base is not his long-term future and expect him to eventually end up at 1B or DH. We will still need to be convinced that he will hit with enough power to become anything more than average at that position. Nonetheless, this is a very high-floor type player, with a pretty good ceiling.

2) Kyle Drabek, RHP (2009 Performance Scores - Dominance 68; Stamina 76; HRrate 48; Control 60)

While we like Drabek, we probably aren’t as high on him as others are. 2009 was a huge breakout for the former first round pick, vaulting him into the overall Top 50. Rating the Top Performance score in the FSL and posting the #10 score in the ESL. Drabek pitches off of a low-90s fastball that he throws with plus command. Additionally both his Curve and Change show plus potential. This repertoire should allow him to eventually become a solid #2 starter. Another high-floor player, Drabek should see Toronto some time in the second half of 2010.

Grade B+

3) Travis d’Arnaud, C (2009 – Power 72; FBR 35; Discipline 73; Speed 51)

While d’Arnaud will likely have to wait behind Arencibia for a couple of years, he immediately becomes the best backstop prospect in the system. With above average defensive skills, although far from a finished product, it was his bat, in 2009, that made the greatest leap forward, as he posted the #5 Performance score in the SAL. His power rates a plus, and he combines that with plus Plate Discipline. The main downside to his current game is that he needs to make better contact, as the 20yo posted only a .255 Average and .319 OBP. Look for d’Arnaud to begin 2010 in Hi-A, with his first legitimate shot at a Big League roster coming in late 2011.

4) Chad Jenkins, RHP –
The de facto choice for the top spot prior to the Halladay trade, Jenkins does have significant upside and a high-floor. In fact, his 2009 College Performance score was the 3rd best (behind Strasburg and Leake) in the 2009 draft class and we had him rated as the 17th best player available in the draft. Jenkins entered the 2009 College season as Kyle Heckathorn’s sidekick for Kennesaw State, but clearly outpitched him all season long, eventually garnering Atlantic Sun Pitcher of the Year honors. The Jays selected him with the 20th pick of the draft, and signed him just before the deadline to a $1.4MM deal, the Jays’ only signing among their first four picks. Jenkins has the body of mid-rotation innings eater. His fastball sits in the low90s, and can be dialed up a few notches when called for. Jenkins also posses good feel for his plus slider and average change. While his control improved during his junior season, Jenkins has had a tendency, in the past, to over throw his fastball and get a bit wild at times. We expect the Jays to start him in the FSL, and he could become one of the workhorses of the rotation by mid-2011.

Grade B

5) Zach Stewart, RHP (2009 Performance Scores - Dominance 53; Stamina 72; HRrate 49; Control 70)

One thing that has been constant for the enigmatic Stewart is change. He pitched for three schools in three years in college, and now has pitched for five clubs in two minor league seasons. Acquired in what had to be Ricciardi’s best move of 2009—the Scott Rolen deal, Stewart put together a breakout season in 2009, posting a 1.89 ERA, a 1.305 WHIP, with a 93:32 K:BB ratio at four different stops. Both in college and thus far in the Minors, Stewart has bounced between both rotation and bullpen. His slider is likely his best pitch, but he doesn’t appear to have the same effectiveness with it in the rotation as he does in the bullpen. The problem is that he also doesn’t seem to have the quality dominant out pitch to succeed in a late inning role. While the Jays are likely to keep him in the rotation at AAA next season, and he does have the upside of a middle to back of the rotation starter, we fear his eventual role in the Majors will be in middle relief.

6) J.P. Arencibia, C (2009 – Power 70; FBR 21; Discipline 33; Speed 31)

Let’s be clear, we aren’t huge Arencibia fans, but it appears a virtual certainty that Arencibia will begin seeing full-time ABs behind the plate in Toronto at some point in 2010. Arencibia’s power is for real, and his backstop defense is adequate for the position. His problem is his plate approach that has him frequently starting with an 0-1 count, as pitchers have picked up on his propensity to swing at any first pitch near the zone. This has seen his strikeout rate go from 17.8% to 20.4% to 23.2% as he has moved up each level in the Minors. This has been a problem even at Tennessee. We promise that he won’t have Major League success unless this changes. We aren’t saying that he can’t be successful, just that he won’t be unless he makes significant changes. Nonetheless, Arencibia has one thing going for him that many prospects never get—opportunity. 2010 will be a critical year to see what he can do with it.

7) Moises Sierra, RF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 50; First Base Rate 61; Discipline67; Speed 67)

Sierra/Chavez, Chavez/Sierra, flip a coin as to who comes in next. Chavez has more power, Sierra makes more contact with slightly better speed. In either case, they are two of the higer-upside prospects in the system. We lean toward Sierra, mainly because he is only four months older and has been playing at higher levels and our concerns about Chavez’s plate discipline. Sierra possesses high ceiling offensive skills, he posted above league average numbers as a 20yo in Hi-A, and absolutely first rate defensive skills, as he has one of the Minor League’s best arms. With new management in place for the Jays, look for them to do less pushing, than they have in the past, of their high-ceiling prospects. For that reason expect Sierra to spend the entire 2010 season in AA, and don’t expect to see him in Toronto before the second-half of 2011.

8) Johermyn Chavez, RF (2009 – Power 76; FBR 48; Discipline 37; Speed 52)

The possessor of an Andre Dawson-esque physique, Chavez had the breakout year in 2009 that the Jays had been predicting since the signed him out of Venezuela as a 16yo in 2005. After hitting a total of 13 HRs over his first three seasons, His 21 HRs in 2009 were second in the MWL, and he did that as a 20yo. While Chavez lacks the range to be a CF, his range and arm fit nicely in RF. A classic ‘boom or bust’ prospect, we are rather bullish on Chavez at this point. He will need to refine his ‘free-swing’ approach (25% strikeout rate), if he is to experience success as he move up the ladder. After spending the last two seasons in Lansing, look for Chavez to spend a full-season in the FSL in 2010.

9) Henderson Alvarez, RHP (2009 – Dominance 39; Stamina 74; HRrate 50; Control 75)

Alvarez posted an eye-opening, ‘breakout’, display as a 19yo in the MWL, with a 3.47 ERA, a 1.126 WHIP, and an amazing 92:19 K:BB ratio. He uses an arsenal that has the potential for three plus pitches, highlighted by what many considered the best Change in the MWL. The other positive is that there is significant late-life to most of his offerings. The downside is that despite quality ‘stuff’, opposing batters still batted .251 against him, and he only fanned 6.7 batters per 9IP—not the type of numbers you expect to see from players that will be successful at higher levels. Alvarez should spend the 2010 season in the FSL, where if he is able to improve upon his ability to ‘miss’ bats, he could very well jump to the top of this list next season.

10) John Tolisano, 2B (2009 – Power 68; FBR 43; Discipline 58; Speed 42)

I am not sure how many times a player that appears to have an upside of a Tony Graffanino type player ends up ranked in an organizational Top 10, but that appears to be the case with Tolisano. That’s not a knock on Tolisano, nor Graffanino, as Graffanino put together a very nice 13 year career where he averaged about 250 ABs a season with a .730 OPS. We can envision a scrappy, utility, type player that doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, nor anything terribly wrong. After spending the entire season as a 20yo in the FSL, one would expect (especially under the old regime) to see Tolisano in AA in 2010. We’d like to see what happens offensively, if he gets another 200 ABs at Hi-A first.

11) Kevin Ahrens, 3B (2009 – Power 41; FBR 41; Discipline 56; Speed 34)
The obvious question is how a player with over 1000 Minor League ABs, and a .648 OPS is rated this highly? The easy answer is to play in the relatively weak 2009 Blue Jay organization. The more difficult answer is to believe that no player has suffered more at the hands of J.P. Ricciardi and Dick Scott, than has Ahrens. After the Jays made Travis Snider the 14th pick in 2006, they moved him through the system at an unbelievable rate, having the 20yo Snider playing at 4 different levels in 2008—finishing in the Major Leagues. Because of the success of Snider, this became their approach to high school player development—accelerate, accelerate, accelerate! When they made Ahrens the 16th pick in 2007, they had him start the 2008 season in the MWL as an 18yo, and despite no real performance success there, he opened up the 2009 season in the FSL as a 19yo. The negatives on Ahrens are that he is a below average runner, and his bat speed may never be more than average. But the positives remain that he was regarded as the best prep hitter in the State of Texas coming into the 2007 draft—with proven wood bat success, solid defensive skills, and a swing that is void of any real mechanical flaws. Despite being considerably younger than the league, his Park Neutral Performance scores last season, were only just below League average. There is still every reason to believe that Ahrens is a better hitter than he has demonstrated thus far, and for that reason we are willing to give him one more season to right the ship. Fortunately, with the change in management, it looks like it will come in a repeat of the FSL in 2010.

12) Tim Collins, RP (2009 – Dominance 80; Stamina 28; HRrate 49; Control 38)

Sometimes ‘diminutive’ just doesn’t do the case justice. Such it is with the 5’7, 155lb Collins. If we just considered performance, Collins would be considered one of the best left-handed relief prospects in the minors, after posting a 2.91 ERA, a 1.216 WHIP and a 116:35 K:BB rate in 2009. But alas, blowing away FSL hitters just isn’t the same as experiencing success against Major League hitters, and Collins already showed that making ‘Level’ jumps won’t be easy after a late season move to AA. Make no mistake, only 20yo, Collins has had tremendous success in two Minor League seasons, fanning more than 13 batters per 9IP. But Collins fastball isn’t overpowering, he has bouts of control issues, and his curve is his only other pitch. When you add to that the tendency to get his K’s ‘up’, conventional wisdom dictates that he is likely to have problems as he progresses. It will be interesting to see how a return trip to the ESL in 2010 goes. If he continues to experience similar success at that level, we will likely have a different type of write-up next year—but we’re not betting on that happening.

13) Tyler Pastornicky, SS (2009 – Power 27; FBR 67; Discipline 76; Speed 80)

A 5th round pick in 2008, Pastornicky entered 2009 as a solid defensive middle infielder, with blazing speed. Like Ahrens above, he was pushed, playing full-season ball as a 19yo in the MWL, and even making a brief appearance in the FSL—despite no real performance success. The difference between the two is that while Ahrens was supposed to be a cornerstone player, Pastornicky has never been expected to be much more than a utility infield type. Look for Pastornicky and Ahrens to form the left side of the infield in the FSL in 2010.

Grade B -

14) Jake Marisnick, RF –
When the Jays landed Marisnick in the 3rd round, we felt it was their best pick of the 2009 draft. We had him as one of the 60 best players available, and certainly expected him to go a full round earlier. Marisnick may have been the best prep athlete, not named Tate, in the draft, as he possesses blazing speed, a powerful arm, an overall outstanding athletic skills. The downside is that his swing will need work, and he actually hit better as a H.S. junior than he did last year. Nontheless, in a system devoid of high-ceiling players, you have to take notice of Marisnick.

15) Brad Mills, LHP (2009 – Dominance 59; Stamina 74; HRrate 48; Control 43)

Drafted by the Jays in the 4th round of 2007, Mills blew thru 3 levels in his first full season, and reached Toronto for a brief time this past season. While his results have been promising, his ‘raw stuff’ is less than inspiring. Mills relies more on deception than power, and it remains to be seen how well his fringe-average fastball that he often leaves ‘up’, a fringy change, and an average curve will play against Big League hitters. While he scores high on the ‘certainty’ factor, he has to be classified as a ‘low-ceiling’, ‘crafty’ lefty who isn’t likely to be much more than back of the rotation fodder.

16) David Cooper, 1B (2009 – Power 34; FBR 67; Discipline 55; Speed 51)

We had Cooper as a late first round pick, prior to the 2008 draft, so we weren’t terribly surprised when the Jays took him at #17. He actually performed better than we expected in his 2008 debut, but fell back into line with his 2009 performance. Cooper is a contact hitting 1Bmen, with line drive power to all fields and good strike zone management skills. Unfortunately his defense is poor—even for 1B, and we don’t expect him to hit for enough power to make a successful go at it in the Big Leagues. With a ceiling as a low-power DH, or platoon first baseman, it isn’t a good combination—despite the rather high ‘certainty’ quotient.

17) Gustavo Pierre, SS (2009 – Power 73; FBR 23; Discipline 42; Speed 58)

After signing for $700,000, the second highest amount ever given to an International signee by the Blue Jays, as a 16yo out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Pierre underwent Tommy John surgery and didn’t make his debut until this summer in the GCL, where he held his own. The Jays like his overall power potential and athleticism. While he likely has the glove and arm to play SS, the conventional wisdom is that he will likely outgrow the position, precipitating a move to the OF—as there are questions about his arm strength for 3B. There is a lot to like in the package, but it is all projection at this point. He won’t turn 18yo until the end of the year, so it is expected that the Jays will keep him in extended Spring Training before sending him to the NYP at mid-year.

18) Eric Thames, LF (2009 – Power 65; FBR 63; Discipline 54; Speed 34)
While we have only a minimal track record to back it up, the feeling here is that if Thames could stay healthy, he’d put up some of the best offensive numbers in the system. His 2008 College Performance score ranked 5th in the NCAA among draft eligible hitters. In his 2009 professional debut, he would have likely led the FSL in OPS had he had enough PAs to qualify. The downside is that he possesses only gap power and limited defensive skills. Perhaps the biggest negative is that he missed the last month of his 2008 college season with a hip-flexor injury and didn’t make his debut until this year where he then missed six weeks in the middle of this season. When healthy he has a nearly flawless swing, good contact skills, and excellent strike zone management skills. Unfortunately, with a lack of true power, he will have trouble sticking with a Big League club as a LF/1B/DH type. It would be of little surprise to us to see Thames post big offensive numbers in the ESL in 2010.

Grade C+ Prospects –
19) Carlos Perez, C; 20) Josh Roenicke, RP; 21)Ryan Schimpf, 2B; 22) Michael McDade, 1B; 23) Sean Ochinko, C; 24) Justin Jackson, MI; 25) Brad Emaus, 2B; 26) Jarrett Hoffpauir, 2B; 27) Brian Dopirak, 1B; 28) Darin Mastroianni, CF; 29) Fabiro Castro, RP; 30) Deivy Estrada, RHP; 31) Daniel Farquhar, RP; 32) Balbino Fuenmayor, 3B/1B; 33) K.C. Hobson, 1B.

Grade C Prospects –

John Anderson, Dustin Antolin, Robert Bell, Joel Carreno, Eric Eiland, Ryan Goins, Yan Gomes, Reidier Gonzalez, Charles Huggins, Drew Hutchinson, A.J. Jimenez, Andrew Liebel, Trystan Magnuson, Santiago Nesi, Luis Perez, Bobby Ray, Egan Smith, Daniel Webb, Kenny Wilson.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the players performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

TEAM #24 – Arizona Diamondbacks

With Parker out for all of 2010, all eyes will be on Borchering

The Arizona Diamondbacks are next up in our prospect series. The Diamondbacks had one of the Top Two drafts this past June, and they needed it, as you will find no one in our prospect series that has as many 2009 draftees listed among their Top Prospects ( 7 in the Top 10) as the Diamondbacks. This is an organization that has very little talent ready to contribute at the Big League level in 2009, has their Top Prospect out injured for the entire season, and between recent deals with the Tigers and Cubs has even further thinned out their ranks. The good news though is that, when he is healthy, they have one of the best pitching prospects in the Minors, and they grabbed a very solid groups of bats in this past June’s draft. Providing that these prospects develop as expected, the Diamondbacks have an excellent opportunity to jump quite a few places in next year’s rankings.

Grade A

1) Jarrod Parker, RHP (2009 – Dominance 69; Stamina 65; HRrate 49; Control 57)

At one point, mid-summer, last season, we felt Parker had ascended to the position of best pitching prospect in the Minor Leagues. That’s right, ahead of Bumgarner, ahead of Feliz, ahead of Matusz—ahead of all of them that were playing in late June, early July. By late July things seemed to start falling apart, as he began losing velocity and struggling with control. The Diamondbacks shut him down until Fall Instructionals, hoping to avoid the surgery that finally became necessary in late October. Parker is expected to miss the entire 2010 season. He won’t likely have regained his control (something that has always presented its challenges) until late 2011. While Parker still possesses some of the highest ‘upside’ of any hurler in the Minors, his ‘certainty’ quotient has been lowered considerably. Expect a return in 2011, where Parker will still be but 22yo, and hope that he comes all the way back, as he could be a ‘special’ arm at the front of the Diamondbacks’ rotation.

2) Bobby Borchering, 3B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 65; First Base Rate 22; Discipline 28; Speed 29)

Forget all of the Chipper Jones comps that have been bandied about. Borchering isn’t as nimble as Jones, and has more power potential. We rated Borchering as the #5 player available in last June’s draft, and had him clearly as the best prep position player. He has tremendous bat speed and attacks the plate while maintaining reasonable plate discipline. His power potential will play at any spot on the Diamond. The downside, while Borchering actually led his Missoula team in the Pioneer League (PIO) playoffs, he had struggled a fair amount with contact rate and patience during his PIO debut. His lack of speed is a negative, and while we believe he will play at least a few years at third base, with a solid arm, in the Majors, he is likely to eventually end up at first base. Borchering should begin 2010 in the MWL, a league not known for its hitter-friendliness, so don’t be surprised if Borchering again struggles early on. But make no mistake, this is the best prep hitter in the 2009 draft class, and he clearly has ‘all-star’ potential.

Grade A -

3) Brandon Allen, 1B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 77; First Base Rate 62; Discipline 55; Speed 48)

Despite a standout 2009, we just can’t shake that feeling that Allen is the latest in a long line of White Sox top prospects that Kenny Williams has dealt before they have been ‘exposed’. Diamondback fans are all too familiar with the story line, having to look no further than Chris Young to find an example. Don’t get us wrong, Allen’s power is for real. His PCL performance rated #2 in that League last season. The bat has enough ceiling to be a Major League average first baseman, and he already has over 100 MLB ABs—as a 23yo. But we have our concerns…starting with the 35% strikeout rate he posted once he reached Arizona. When you add to that a relatively unimpressive performance the first half of the season, prior to the trade to the Diamondbacks, a glove that will certainly limit him to 1B or DH, and a rather abysmal showing in the AZFL, and one begins to wonder what the ‘certainty’ factor is. After his AZFL performance, and with Connor Jackson apparently healthy again, Allen could very well find himself back in AAA to open the 2010 season. We will have to see more before we are sold.

Grade B+

4) AJ Pollock, OF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 43; First Base Rate 48; Discipline 74; Speed 60)

Pollock was considered one of the more polished college hitters available in the 2009 draft. He has tremendous athleticism, plus plate discipline, and solid contact skills. Defensively he shows the skills that should allow him to stay in CF. However, we aren’t as sold on his ‘upside’, as are others. Pollock had a 2009 collegiate season that rated in the Top 30 among draft eligible players. We had him rated #24, entering draft day. As one of the more advanced players, the Diamondbacks assigned him to the MWL, where he got in 255, less than impressive, ABs. The Diamondbacks envision Pollock as a League average top of the order CF. We see that as his ceiling, and fear he may be closer to a 4th OF type, when all is settled. Our expectation is that he will move up to Hi-A to start 2010. He will have to show us more.

5) Matt Davidson, 3B/1B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 40; First Base Rate 39; Discipline 36; Speed 27)

One of the more difficult players to get a read on, Davidson finished his senior season on a tear, and many considered him neck-and-neck with Borchering, as the best prep power hitter. Entering the draft, we had him rated #18 and really feel the Diamondbacks got a bargain, when he was there for the taking at #35. In fact, the Diamondbacks actually had him debut at a higher level than Borchering. That said, he struggled in the NWL, posting a .631 OPS, a 26% strikeout rate, and hitting only 2 HRs in nearly 300 PAs. When comparing him to Borchering, Borchering has faster hands through the strike zone and has a slightly better chance to stick at 3B for longer. Davidson tends to try to ‘muscle’ the ball at times and will need more refinement to his hitting approach. The good thing for the Diamondbacks is that they will have them both in the system. Get used to the Borchering/Davidson comparisons, as they will likely spend 2010 in South Bend, splitting time at third base, and fighting each other for ABs. We are high on Davidson’s ceiling…but less enthusiastic about his ‘certainty’.

Grade B

6) Marc Krauss, LF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 72; First Base Rate 59; Discipline 65; Speed 29)

We felt that Krauss, an Ohio University product, was one of the more underrated players in the 2009 draft. He posted the 5th best Performance score among draft-eligible hitters, and we had him rated as the 35th best player in the draft. Again, we felt he was a bargain for the Diamondbacks in the 2nd round. Krauss debuted in full season A-ball, and posted the 25th best Performance score in his brief stint there before ending his season early with an ankle injury. Krauss is a LF/1B type that is going to go as far as his considerable bat takes him. The injury should not have too serious long-term effects, as Krauss was never the speediest player to begin with. We like his bat—a lot, however his ceiling is limited by his lack of premium defensive position. While we could see him as the starting LF in the Diamondback OF, as early as 2011, we also have little difficulty envisioning him as a 4th OF/platoon type that struggles to find premium ABs. He should start 2010 in Hi-A and move rapidly.

7) Ryan Wheeler, 1B (2009 Performance Scores – Power 70; First Base Rate 78; Discipline 76; Speed 52)

Seven players into the list, and Wheeler is already the 5th player selected in the most recent June’s draft. Wheeler is another quality collegiate bat that had posted a Top 50 Performance score among draft eligible position players in 2009. That was actually a disappointment when compared to the 3rd best Performance score he posted in the NWL in his debut. Wheeler has the complete hitting package, with plus power and contact skills, and advanced plate discipline. Even his speed is relatively average for a first baseman. If he had more defensive versatility, he would rate significantly higher. That said, he should provide adequate defense and a solid target at 1B. There isn’t a lot of negatives here, and the only reason he rates this far down the list, is that there are players with considerable upsides already ahead of him. We actually like Wheeler better than Brandon Allen, but given his pro experience consists of only short-season ball and a handful of MWL playoff ABs, he doesn’t yet score as high on the certainty scale to rank as high. Expect Wheeler to join Davidson and Borchering in South Bend, to open 2010, but move rather quickly.

8) Bryan Augenstein, RHP (2009 – Dominance 60; Stamina 64; HRrate 50; Control 75)

Augenstein, a 7th round pick in the 2007 draft, is the prototypical low-ceiling, high-floor, college right-hander that usually doesn’t excite many on lists like this. On pure stuff, Augenstein falls considerably short, as he features a hi-80s fastball with only fringy secondary offerings. But that hasn’t stopped Augenstein from getting much more out of it, as he posted the 18th and 25th best Peformance scores in the MWL and CAL in 2008, before posting the #8 score in the SOL and the 10th best score in the PCL in 2009. While we find it difficult to rate Augenstein higher—considering his lack of ‘stuff’, we also find it difficult to ignore what he has done. It may very well end up that Augenstein is little more than a solid middle reliever at the next level, but it looks likely that Augenstein will see plenty of opportunity at a big league career, and still could fill-out a rotation. He should compete for a roster spot in Arizona this spring.

9) Chris Owings, SS (2009 Performance Scores – Power 46; First Base Rate 40; Discipline 50; Speed 50)

A supplemental first round pick, Owings is one of the few players that we feel was a Diamondback ‘overdraft’. While a solid offensive player, that rates solid skills across the board, Owings lacks any plus skills. Additionally, he isn’t the most patient of hitters. He still posted the #7 Performance score in his PIO debut. Defensively, he has the potential to play SS at the next level, but looks to us to be more of a second baseman or an utility IF type. As you can tell, the Diamondbacks are higher on Owings than we are. It isn’t that we don’t like him, we just aren’t excited by his ceiling. Expect to see him with a number of players on this list, in South Bend, in 2010.

Grade B -

10) Mike Belfiore, LHP (2009 – Dominance 59; Stamina 61; HRrate 71; Control 68)

Another Diamondback supplemental first round pick in 2009, Belfiore becomes the 7th 2009 draft pick in the Top 10. Belfiore possesses a Lo-90s fastball, that he keeps down—limiting HRs and flyballs. His secondary offerings show potential, but remain ‘developing’ after pitching in relief in college. His PIO debut went very well, as Belfiore posted the #5 Performance score. Our concern is that Belfiore doesn’t have enough depth in his repertoire to succeed in a Big League rotation, and doesn’t possess enough pure ‘stuff’ to pitch at the back of a bull pen. Caught in the middle, that leaves him looking like a likely middle relief candidate and that doesn’

11) Rossmel Perez, C (2009 Performance Scores – Power 28; First Base Rate 67; Discipline 79; Speed 34)

Perez was considered primarily a defensive backstop heading into the 2009 season, but despite playing most of the season as a 19yo in the MWL, he showed some life in the underlying skills that are important predictors of future success, with a .343 OBP and nearly as many walks as strikeouts. He finished with the #21 Performance score in the MWL. This is a plus defender at catcher, and with flashes of some offensive talent, he now finds himself clearly on the prospect radar screen. He should spend 2010 in the CAL, and that may provide the catalyst for a breakout offensive year.

12) Josh Collmenter, RHP (2009 – Dominance 66; Stamina 70; HRrate 49; Control 48)

The strength of Collmenter’s 2009 season gets somewhat obscured by pitching in the CAL, but, despite being a tad old for the League, Collmenter finished with a Top 25 Performance score. He dominated younger hitters, fanning more than a batter per inning pitched. Collmenter has a large frame, that could lead to being a back-of-the-rotation innings eater. He will however have to show continued improvement in AA in 2010.

13) Wade Miley, LHP (2009 – Dominance 40; Stamina 74; HRrate 48; Control 66)

Any way you look at it, 2009 has to be considered a disappointment for Miley, a supplemental first round pick in the 2008 draft. Most concerning to us was his inability to miss bats, as a 22yo pitching in the MWL. He only fanned 7 batters per 9IP, and he allowed opposing hitters to bat .288 against him. Miley’s ‘stuff’ is merely adequate to begin with, but he should have dominated more in a pitcher’s league. Expect 2010 to be a challenge for Miley, as he likely is facing the prospect of starting in the CAL. If he doesn’t demonstrate considerably more, he will plummet down this list.

Grade C+ Prospects –

14) Victor Capellan, RHP; 16) Kevin Eichorn, RHP; 17) Kevin Mulvey, RHP; 18) Bryan Shaw, RHP; 19) Raywilly Gomez, 3B; 20) David Nick, SS; 21) Patrick McAnaney,LHP; 22) Reynaldo Navarro, SS; 23) Eric Smith, RHP; 24) Evan Frey, CF; 25) Barry Enright, RHP; 26) Trevor Harden, RHP; 27) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B; 28) Ender Inciarte, LF; 29) Sean Coughlin, 1B; 30) Alfredo Marte, LF; 31) Mark Hallberg, 2B; 32) Gerson Montilla, 2B; 33) Collin Cowgill, OF; 34) Keon Broxton, OF.

Grade C Prospects –
Tony Barnette; Pedro Ciriaco; Ryan Cook; Josh Ellis; Jacob Elmore; Cole Gillespie; Matt Helm; John Hester; Orlando Mercado; Roque Mercedes; Raul Navarro; Jordan Norberto; Miguel Pena; Andrea Pizziconi; Wes Roemer; Patrick Schuster; James Skelton; Daniel Stange; Bobby Stone; Daniel Taylor; Matt Tora; Cesar Valdez.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.