WTNYDecember 08, 2004
By Bryan Smith

Speaking for myself, I all too often fall into the trap of forgetting about players when they spend an entire, or the majority, of the season on the DL. But I?ve kept some notes, and with the help of the guru (Mr. Will Carroll), today will be spent on a few players that you might have lost interest in, and try to put their placement in both rankings and within their organization into perspective.

The fact that Cole Hamels and Greg Miller were difficult to rank last year only makes it harder to do so now. Miller?s arm was reported hurt during Spring Training last season, long after many prospect reports had come out declaring him a legitimate top ten prospect. This was due to a fantastic 2003 season, where Miller had turned on the gas halfway through the season in the FSL, ending the season spectacularly in with four great starts.

He had been considered a stretch when Logan White took the hometown southpaw with the 31st overall choice in the 2002 draft, capitalizing that few teams saw the improvements Miller made shortly before being drafted. With size, power, and four pitches, Miller?s domination went from his first days in the Pioneer League up to his injury. While I did have Edwin Jackson a bit higher in my rankings last season, Miller was my second rated pitcher in February.

Hamels was the more obvious selection in 2002, he had long been heralded pitching in San Diego. Despite not having the power and size of Miller, Hamels had many ways to make up for it on scouting reports. Will has told me how highly he thinks of Hamels pitching mechanics, calling them the best in the minor leagues. His change up was said by Delmon Young to be the nastiest pitch that he had seen, which is extremely high praise.

No matter how you slice them, Hamels and Miller made up two of the top three left-handed prospects last season (throw Kazmir in the middle). According to Will, Miller?s ?shoulder wasn't bad when they went in, but he's still young and having shoulder problems.? Obviously Miller is going to take a beating in my rankings for losing a season, but he?ll be a 20-year-old in AA with good stuff next year. As for Cole, ?[he] appears to be fragile. He'll need a season plus of healthy pitching in the minors to regain elite status.? So in the end, this tells us that Miller should still be over Cole, but by a narrow margin.

A pitcher that will end up a little farther down the ranking list, but still a personal favorite of mine is Angel Guzman. What does that tell you? That being a personal favorite in my book takes little else than playing for Iowa, West Tenn, Daytona or?Peoria. I never bought into the Baseball America, ?Guzman could advance like Prior? lingo, but his talents are obvious. While doing rehab work in the FSL this year, Guzman showed he is a great prospect, posting a 40/0 K/BB.

Will points out to me that Guzman has a ?frayed labrum, not torn.? It may or may not increase the likelihood of later tearing the labrum I?m told, oftentimes depending on the player. Guzman will begin the year in a fairly stacked AAA rotation (an organizational depth chart is on my to-do list), and according to Carroll, ?push [Rusch] by midseason.? But don?t tell Dusty Cubs fans, we do want to keep Guzman rather than trade him to the Braves for say, Andy Pratt.

There are two offensive players I want to talk about, both currently sporting injuries to their shoulders. Val Majewski became noticed this season when posting good numbers in the Eastern League, later earning a trip up to Baltimore for September. Unfortunately, his visit did no go as planned, as Majewski would tear his labrum. Will told me that this is the same injury that Richie Sexson had last year, but that apparently Val is healthy. Carroll also says that this is what happened to J.J. Hardy, player #2, two years ago, and Hardy did not play baseball this season.

I?ve often referred to Hardy as being greatly overrated, serving up the Royce Clayton comparison last year. I got knocked for this comp, and while I hate injuries to prove me right, the chance Hardy does not become the All-Star that some predicted has risen greatly in the last year. He was beginning to prove me wrong, showing increased power in Indianapolis, before his shoulder injury reoccurred. The Brewers will send him back to AAA next season, in hopes that he joins Milwaukee some time around the same time as Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder. While I understand the love that Hardy gets, mark my words, he will not be a .275 hitter in the Bigs.

As for Majewski, his injury has left me quite confused as to where I should slot him. If the truth is that he?s really healthy, and he continues on his previously good-looking path, he?s a legitimate top 50 prospect. If the shoulder further decreases his power, already not that good, he brings nothing to the table that Larry Bigbie does not. And as Will told me, ?he?s an O, so who knows?? Apparently, Baltimore isn?t too direct in disclosing about injuries.

In the end, Val will have a place on my top 75 prospect list. I have to try and balance the two choices, knowing I could look stupid either way. But his ceiling was always a bit limited, so I?m not too worried. Expect the Orioles to send Majewski to AAA after some good ol? extended spring training, where he proves whether his worth justifies Bigbie?s exit.

Of the 5, my ranking will be Miller, Hamels, Guzman, Majewski and Hardy. The first two and second two are pretty close together, while Hardy will be left off the top 75 entirely. If you have any questions on these five or any other injured minor leaguer, drop a comment.


Great articles.
How about Matt Whitney? Is he doing anything this winter? Does anybody know if his injury will force a position change (to 1B) or has affected his power?


Just started reading your column a couple of weeks ago. Where have you been all my life?

What about Adam Loewen? High ceiling, torn labrum. Can you elaborate on the long term effects of a torn labrum? How do you see Loewen's future?

No injury comment to make, I just came to point out that Robinson Cano is hitting .327/.383/.510.

The frayed shoulder of Guzman's is particularly troublesome to someone like myself who went through the same process. I had a SLAP repair done, which is the same thing that Mike Jones of the Brewers just had done that will put him out for the 05 season. It is a tough thing to come back from because they basically go in and tighten the shoulder area because the labrum is inpinged by something and begins to pull apart. I had a 75% separation in my labrum when I underwent surgery late June 2002 and it wasn't until Thanksgiving that I could comfortably throw a football. Throwing baseballs still give me some discomfort. Anytime I hear labrum injury with a pitcher, they get shoved pretty far down my list. I like the odds of someone coming back from elbow surgery much more than labrum surgery.

It's funny, I was trying to find updates on both Hamels' and Miller's health the other day... while this article didn't exactly ease any doubts, it was still very welcome. Nice job.

I haven't been reading for that long so I guess I missed out, but what's your beef with Hardy? I don't see him as a top 4 SS, but reports of his fielding have been very good, he's shown good plate discipline at two high minors stops and he's still young. I realize the recurrent shoulder issues are a concern, but I see him contributing to a winning ball club in the future, similar to what Orlando Cabrera or Carlos Guillen (pre-2004) produce.

Whitney still looks to be someone with a high ceiling at third base, but might have to repeat a year in Lake County next season, with some time at third base to gauge where his leg injury is at.

As for Loewen, last I heard his labrum was only 'partially torn', and rather than surgery, the Orioles decided on rehabilitation, and believe he'll be ready to go next season. Because of my worries about this, Loewen will likely be left off my top 75, also because he has not proven the ability to dominate. Baltimore's new minor league regime better start taking better care of their pitchers than the last one. For every Matt Riley there are five Rich Stahls.

Fabian...stop bragging :). I'm not sold that Cano is a better prospect than Chris Burke. Still trying to contemplate my decision on that front.

Jason, great story, and I think it speaks to just how bad that type of injury is. I thought of including Jones in this article, but he's just so far away from being a real prospect at this point, he didn't warrant inclusion.