WTNYMarch 05, 2004
Break Out! Version 3
By Bryan Smith

In the last couple of days, I’ve detailed my thoughts on potential breakout hitters and pitchers. Since I’m becoming a fan of prospect hunting more everyday, I will spend today on potential breakout prospects. Also, I’ll likely be unable to post anything Monday morning due to technical issues, so look for a short bullet-point piece midday on Monday.

Predicting what prospects will do, especially those not yet in the spotlight is extremely difficult, and if one of these thirty players becomes a star, I did a good job. Here is my one breakout choice from the first 15 teams in my new Baseball America Prospect Handbook:

ARIZONA: Jared Doyle (LHP): Granted, successful college pitchers have no place in the Midwest League. Joe Blanton tore through the league as a University of Kentucky graduate, but Doyle, an ex-James Madison pitcher did well too. Doyle’s strikeout numbers were a bit down, but he sounds like he’s a very hot and cold player with three above average pitches. Doyle is pretty small, but still generates low-90s heat. The Diamondbacks should challenge Doyle by sending him to the Texas League.

ATLANTA: Jake Stevens (LHP): In the third round of last June’s draft, the Braves made a typical choice. A left-handed Southern starter with a good body and good stuff. Like Dan Meyer and Marty McBride before him, Stevens already possesses two good pitches, and a third is on the way. The Braves do great work with needy young starters, and I expect the same from Stevens this year.

BALTIMORE: Lorenzo Scott (OF): Not many prospects have plate discipline like Scott in their first few months of professional baseball, as the outfielder’s OBP topped .440 in short-season baseball. Lorenzo didn’t play a lot of baseball at Ball State University, but seems to be making up for that quickly. He didn’t hit a home run in his first tour, just shy of 120AB, but he did have twelve extra-base hits. There is reason to keep an eye on Scott, as the next Jeremy Reed could come from anywhere.

BOSTON: Abe Alvarez (LHP): For some reason, I trust Dirtbags. Long Beach State has a fine baseball pedigree, producing talent ranging from Jason Giambi to Jered Weaver. Lost in the Weaver hype last year was Abe Alvarez, the southpaw that Theo spent his first ever second-round pick on. Alvarez lacks the ‘stuff’ that scouts love, but he always gets the job done. The New York-Pennsylvania league was a joke, as Alvarez didn’t allow a run in nineteen innings. The team will likely push Alvarez, who could end up in AA this season.

CHICAGO: Bobby Brownlie (RHP): Already somewhat of a prospect, I am under the belief that Brownlie is ready to explode. Had it not been for arm fatigueness, Brownlie was a lock for a top five pick, instead dropping more than twenty choices to the Chicago Cubs. Brownlie has one of the better curveballs in the minor leagues, and also changes speeds pretty well. He’s an injury concern, but the Cubs gave him the last month of the season off, he’d been playing for eight months straight. Brownlie could catapult threw Cubs’ rankings this year, don’t be surprised if he ends up #1 next year.

WHITE SOX: Antoin Gray (2B): Rickie Weeks got all the attention at Southern, but his infield mate Gray also competed for the national batting average title. Gray was stuck in the hot corner while at Southern, although the White Sox believe he is better suited for second base. It’s very possible that Gray gets some big power and becomes this year’s version of Josh Barfield, appearing on every prospect list available a year from now.

CINCINNATI: Rainer Feliz (RHP): It might be early to call Feliz a prospect, but I’m always wary of a 6-5 right-hander coming from the Dominican Republic. Not surprisingly, Feliz could use some more weight, although his velocity is already in the low-90s. Feliz will be in the Midwest League this year, and could very well have a Merkin Valdez-like breakout. He really only needs to throw two pitches, a fastball and a filthy slider. Like Valdez, Felix should be a borderline top fifty prospect in a year’s time.

CLEVELAND: Jason Cooper (OF): Not many people noticed it, but ex-Stanford outfielder Jason Cooper was sensational for Cleveland last year. His batting average about .300, and OBP above .380, and a sensational .542 slugging percentage. More than sixty extra-base hits. Cooper has big-time power, and at this point, projects to be the Indians left fielder of the future. Cooper will be in AA next year, where hopefully more people will recognize his power, and maybe he’ll get mentioned in prospect deabtes.

COLORADO: Jeff Francis (LHP): I talked about Francis when I put him in my top 50, and I’ll talk about him again. He is a prospect right now, but underrated by many. I’m under the belief that Francis will be a top ten pitching prospect in baseball next year, he offered the whole package in high-A last year. Francis was 10-1, 1.06 in his last thirteen starts, and is a dominating force on the mound. His future isn’t that bright due to Coors Field, but I expect Francis to be larger than Chin-Hui Tsao at this time next year.

DETROIT: Kenny Baugh (RHP): Once again, I could just be overrating Baugh based on his college...heavily renowned Rice University. Baugh was the ace there in his time, leading the nation in PAP, which ultimately led to arm problems. His ability to throw a good fastball will seperate him from being good and being bad, but Baugh could be huge for the Tigers as early as this season.

FLORIDA: Jeff Allison (RHP): Yes, he’s in the Baseball America top 100. But have you seen this kid’s minor league numbers? Yikes. Allison was sensational last year, making only one pitfall, hiring Scott Boras. Kid’s don’t realize that signing with Boras lowers their draft stock, which then decreases their value Allison would have been a top five choice had it not been Boras, but hey, $252 million is an intimidating number. Not often will I call high schoolers to become stars, but Allison, like Kerry Wood before him, is a special exception.

HOUSTON: Fernando Nieve (RHP): I hate praising Houston, but not many teams have been better at recognizing the small market for small pitchers. Nieve is not tall, but instead has sensational movement on his fastball. His peripheral numbers were much better than his ERA last season, and Nieve could break out big in high Class A this year.

KANSAS CITY: Brian Bass (RHP): I have fallen victim to Dayn Perry’s research, as I devalue the strikeout category in my mind much more than it used to be. If his research proves true than Bass could be a good starter, as a low H/9, HR/9 and a good groundball ratio were some of Bass’ attributes last season. He will be 22 this season, so it’s important to really define himself with a good AA season. If he has a good year than Allain Baird will have no choice but to hand the right-hander a spot alongside Greinke in 2005.

LOS ANGELES: Delwyn Young (2B): Screw Victor Diaz, has anyone seen Young’s 2003 statistics? Sixty extra-base hits including fifteen home runs, and an OBP above .380. Young struggles at defense, but the Dodgers are hoping that he’ll stick at the position, where he could become one of baseball’s better 2B prospects. Young has good contact skills, walks a little bit, and has big-time power. I’m excited how Vero Beach goes for Young, he could be a DePodesta favorite by next winter.

That’s all for today, as usual, leave any comments you can...


why do you hate praising Houston?

I'm a Cubs fan...that's my job.