WTNY 75: 30-16 (Part 5 of 6)
30. Ian Kinsler- SS- Texas Rangers- 23
The Jeremy Reed Inauspicious Breakout of the Year award goes to?Mr. Ian Kinsler. Sorry, but the former 17th round pick was not my choice of who would top .400 with significant time at a minor league level. After playing in only 20 games at Arizona State University in 2002, ?He made up his mind,? Missouri coach Tim Jamieson told me. ?He was looking for the opportunity to play at a high level conference.?
In the Big 12, his career was defined by ?intangibles more than his numbers.? Despite a stress fracture in his foot, Kinsler put together a solid season at MU, hitting .335/.416/.536 in just short of 200 at-bats. ?If not for the injury, I think his numbers would have looked better,? Jamieson forecasted. Kudos to Grady Fuson and the rest of his scouting team, as after a .762 OPS in the Northwest League in his pro debut, Kinsler adjusted perfectly to full-season ball.
Thanks to his ability to get the ?barrel on the bat all the time,? Kinsler hit .402 in 59 Midwest League games. After former first-round pick Drew Meyer was demoted to the California League, the Rangers opted to allow Kinsler to skip a level and move to the Texas League. Jamieson said of Ian?s body, ?he had a frame that allowed him to put on weight, and has added about 15 pounds since leaving college.? New muscle, along with ?quick hands and a short stroke,? give Ian the ability to turn on any fastball and hit it for power.
?The thing that sets him apart is his discipline and knowledge of the strike zone.? Described as ?confident? and ?very dedicated,? Kinsler?s mistake-free play saw continued success in AA, with a .299/.401/.465 line. His play is already forcing John Hart to consider various Alfonso Soriano options, including a trade or a move to the outfield. ?Ian had everything, he just needed some refining.? Consider it done.
29. Scott Olsen- SP- Florida Marlins- 21
I have a lot of conflicting views in trying to evaluate Olsen properly. First, this is a pitcher that on the stat sheet shows a 2.97 ERA, but upon further evaluation, had an RA of 3.77. He was one of the luckiest pitchers in the minors last year, but at the same time, also one of the most dominant. Olsen would lead the Florida State League with 158 strikeouts, though he undoubtedly has some control issues that seemed to pop up from time to time.
But first and foremost, the report on Olsen is that he has the ability to control a game. Five times this year did Olsen strike out double-digit batters, once in back-to-back games in June. And while I have a problem with the fact that he allowed zero earned runs in just six of his 25 starts, four of them came in his last five starts. In fact, in those last five, he allowed one run in 30.2 innings, allowing 21 hits, 6 walks and one home run while striking out 42 batters. There is no question that without this finish, Olsen would be farther down this list. His end just gave us a look at his ceiling.
But with Olsen, there is also the basement floor. Five times during the season his walk total matched or was higher than his strikeouts, and thrice he walked five batters in one game. Furthermore, in ten starts, his hit total was higher than his innings pitched. I have less confidence that Olsen will reach his ceiling than any other player in the top 50, it?s just the height of his ceiling that has led to his placement.
28. Dan Meyer- SP- Oakland Athletics- 23
In a great interview over at Perfect Game (hat tip, Brad Dowdy), Atlanta Braves? scouting director Roy Clark cites Dan Meyer as a player they loved out of college. They chose the soft-throwing southpaw out of James Madison in the sandwich round following his junior year, a season in which he posted solid if not spectacular statistics. Since then, and you better credit the Braves developmental staff, Dan?s numbers have actually improved in the minor leagues. Never has his ERA been above 3.00, and once has it been below 2.70, in five stops. Most of the time the ERA is in that range, though each time his peripherals have varied a bit. After seeing a bull pen appearance of his in September, I really have started to believe that he?s a rich man?s Mark Redman, throwing high-80s fastballs in the same, effortless style. But Meyer has four pitches that he will use at any time, has great control, and is smart enough on the mound to pile up strikeouts. He and Joe Blanton are both going to be solid, middle-of-the-rotation starters, simply giving the team 300+ solid innings on the Harden-Zito days off.
27. Ryan Howard- 1B- Philadelphia Phillies- 24
Yes, friends, more comps here. In the fifth round of the 1998 draft, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays selected a big, left-handed hitter with a power bat and bad defense, from one of the nation?s top programs: Miami. Three years later, in the same round, the Phillies took a similar player from another solid program, though a bit less heralded: Southwest Missouri State. The Devil Ray would post three slugging percentages above .530 before making the Majors, while the Phillie took until AA to reach those numbers, and he got well above .600. I?m not saying the comp is perfect, but I believe that Howard will become some version of Aubrey Huff, probably with a little more power, more strikeouts and a bit of a worse average. Still, Howard is probably the best prospect that is openly on the trading block, and should be pursued by any young team with an open hole at first base. I really wouldn?t frown on the Devil Rays and Phillies trying to work out a deal involving Rocco Baldelli and Howard, though I have been criticized for calling for Baldelli?s trade in the past.
26. John Danks- SP- Texas Rangers- 20
Since being drafted, Danks has always been called the ?poor man?s Scott Kazmir,? which given my experience watching him, seemed a bit unfair. After seeing 33 pitches from him in the Futures Game, I came away under whelmed, saying he was ?throwing between 89-92, and showcasing a curveball he left up quite often.? This is both less than both was reported prior to the game, and a lot less than Kazmir?s repertoire. Still, I think Danks will develop a third pitch better than Kazmir did, and I find him to be a better rotation candidate than his fellow Texan. His Midwest League numbers were unsurprisingly dominant, but he significantly worsened in Stockton. I think the key to Danks? success will be learning that change, keeping his BB/9 below 3.0, and getting out of the California League. He has the chance to put up Matt Cain-type California League numbers to start the year, but I expect just modest numbers before the Rangers get him out of there.
25. Daric Barton- 1B- Oakland Athletics- 19
This, he, is the reason that the context of numbers is more important than what they actually say. On the surface, we see Daric Barton as a player that hit .313/.455/.511 last season, never having an average below .300 all season. His numbers, according to Peter Gammons, were Pujols-esque. But what I hope to show you over the course of this report, is that Barton?s numbers raise a lot more questions than you would think given that BB/K (69/44).
After missing the first month and a half with a broken hand, Daric played just 90 games during the 2004 season. During a 46-game stretch in the middle of his season, encompassing about half of his at-bats for the year, Barton was not a prospect. But the other half, he was the minors? best hitter. But as I said, we could not possibly have seen this, since .301 was his lowest average of the season. His first 22 games, in which he hit .422, was enough to earn him fame in Prospectdom. Don?t get me wrong, he wasn?t chopped liver in the rest, for in the final 22 games, he hit .342. Combined in those two stretches is a .384 average, a .635 slugging, and 42 walks.
But the problem was in the other half, the middle one, when his accomplishments were none too spectacular. In those 46 games, Daric Barton was reduced to a .240 average, with a .383 slugging. His ISO was reduced more than 40%, and his walks significantly declined to just twenty-seven. This is quite problematic for the A?s, since an argument could be made that Daric was the centerpiece of the Mark Mulder deal. Should this be the player Barton becomes, the .240 kind, Billy Beane?s logic seems far more flawed.
It would be rather unoriginal for me to tell you that Barton may not be able to stay behind the plate. But, this information opens the door for many comparisons, for instance Scott Hatteberg has been thrown around. The one I like, on the optimistic side, is Carlos Delgado. A catcher in his youth, Delgado moved to first base because his glove made sense there and his bat could justify it. His low-A numbers included hitting .286, with 36 2B+HR, and 75 walks in 441 AB. Not too off from Barton, who was actually better in all three categories per plate appearance.
The Midwest League is not a friendly place for hitters, which makes Barton?s numbers that much more impressive. California is a far greater hitter?s haven, speaking highly for the future of Daric. But Barton?s consistency needs loads of improvement, and he must decide which half-season most truly resembles his talents. Ken Rosenthal recently reported that the A?s will not take any chances and move Barton to first base this season, and now it?s Barton?s job to prove his offense can justify the switch, like Delgado did.
24. Nick Swisher- OF- Oakland Athletics- 24
With some players, you hear how broken thumbs greatly hurt their numbers, but not from this guy. Swisher found out that he played the whole season with a broken left thumb and torn tendon, both of which have been repaired this offseason. To hit 29 home runs with this type of injury is a remarkable feat, and just leaves us guessing on how many more he could hit. Oakland management is probably hoping that what the surgery improves most is Swisher?s contact skills, since he hit just .269 and struck out about 25% of the time. Neither of the numbers are fantastic by any means, and if he could get to .280 and 20%, then Swisher will be a star in right, and probably a finalist for the Rookie of the Year. The notion of giving the right field job to Charles Thomas or someone else is ludicrous, Swisher has the potential to be the team?s second or third best hitter?in 2005.
23. Greg Miller- SP- Los Angeles Dodgers- 20
Even with a year missed, given what level he should begin at next season (AA), Miller is an extremely young prospect. Also, if Logan White is right that Miller has regained most of his stuff from his fantastic 2003 season, there should be no stopping him. I know this might fall on deaf ears to Dodger fans who have heard so much hype and seen so little results from Edwin Jackson, but trust me, these guys can make a difference. It might take Miller a little while to do so, recovering from the injury usually has a grace period, and the presence of Jackson, Chad Billingsley, Joel Hanrahan and Jonathan Broxton will allow the Dodgers to take him extremely slow. If I were a gambling man, I would bet on an ERA in the low 3.00s, a K/9 a bit below the nine mark, but a solid H/9. The logjam of pitchers in this organization will create some interesting decisions for Paul DePodesta, as most of them don?t fit his prototype pitcher anyway. My guess is that Billingsley and Jackson will make it before anyone else in this organization, with Miller a likely candidate to be traded given his 2004 season.
22. Yusmeiro Petit- SP- New York Mets- 20
Petit is another that, even if we didn't see the degree of his breakout, we should have better recognized him before the season. Now, I don't follow short-season ball much (a flaw of mine you could say), but an 8.5 K/BB in 74 innings of work split between the Appy and New York-Penn Leagues should have caught my eye. For 2004, Petit's control worsened a bit (who's wouldn't?) to just under 5.0, which is still better than most of the players on this list. He struck out 200 batters in less than 140 innings, though he was striking out batters less and less at each of his three levels. Still, Yusmeiro did not allow a home run in either the FSL or Eastern League (56 innings), and was great this winter. While his stuff doesn't match up to others behind him, he's better than Brandon McCarthy (a similar pitcher), and one of the top thirty prospects in baseball.
21. Gavin Floyd- SP- Philadelphia Phillies- 22
The fact that at full health, the Philadelphia Phillies will not have room for Gavin Floyd in their rotation is a joke. It is a waste of resources to be spending money on the likes of Cory Lidles and such, when Floyd is so ready for a spot. Now I know that Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla will likely allow Floyd to get a lot of starts this year, but when he?s not in Philadelphia, I just will be furious with this franchise. The best idea now is to package Wolf and Ryan Howard together, land another marquee player, and let Floyd be a starter. Throwing curveballs at his own pace should help, as the Phillies employed the unique philosophy of setting limits on how many times he threw the fantastic pitch in the minors. This allowed for the further development of his fastball and third pitch, and also his confidence to throw either in any count. Floyd should be another Rookie of the Year contender next year, if given the opportunity, and should make that 2001 draft?s top-five rock solid.
20. Jose Capellan- SP- Milwaukee Brewers- 24
In a lot of the comments on players during my rankings, I've given awards, so I'll continue by naming Jose Capellan my most talked about player of 2004. This is a notable award, because it was Jose's huge rise through the Brave system that made him so noticed by prospect evaluators. He was also helped by pitching on a day that I turned on TBS, and being traded to the Brewers this winter, both of which I dealt with on this site. More than any prospect in baseball, I feel like I have a handle on Capellan's skill set. He's a thick player that uses big thighs to throw a mid-to-upper 90s fastball extremely consistently. In the process, Capellan has fallen in love with the pitch, making his curveball inconsistent and his change unseen by anyone outside of coaches. His ceiling is Bartolo Colon, a comparison that I've made before, but he's a lot more likely to make it as a reliever. His heavy fastball does not induce many home runs, which should make him star in the closer role in Milwaukee, and good press can only be a good thing for the Brew Crew.
19. Michael Aubrey- 1B- Cleveland Indians- 23
One of the most overused comparisons used with prospects is that of the good fielding, good contact, lack of great power first basemen: you'll see Mark Grace or Sean Casey or J.T. Snow or Will Clark. But few players have ever been as close to that mold as Michael Aubrey, who I will compare to Sean Casey. Like Aubrey, Casey grew up in the Cleveland system, and played in the Carolina League (in Kinston) at 21 years of age. In 344 at-bats there, Casey hit .331 with a .544 slugging, 36 walks and 47 strikeouts. In 218 at-bats, Aubrey was .339/.550, with 27 walks and 26 strikeouts. Now Michael went on to struggle in the Eastern League, compared to Casey who had injuries cut that season short. But in the next season, Casey hit .386/.598 in the Eastern League, so let high expectations for Aubrey begin. It won't be long before Travis Hafner and Aubrey, along with Grady Sizemore, Franklin Gutierrez, and Victor Martinez help re-establish greatness in this organization.
18. Hanley Ramirez- SS- Boston Red Sox- 21
Everyone I read says that Hanley Ramirez will hit for power one day, and I don?t deny that fact at all. The more and more removed from the shoulder injury, the more and more power Hanley started to hit. Six of his eight FSL doubles were in his last fifteen games there, and his Eastern League performance was solid. What was interesting about his power in the Eastern League was that it was confined to an 11 game stretch in the middle in which he hit seven extra-base hits, and in his last six games, with six extra-base hits. In the other 15 games, all you have to show is one double. Hanley has consistency with his average, strikeout numbers (about 16-17%), walks, he just now needs the power to be consistent. He?ll always be more gap power than anything else, but 15-25 home runs a year is definitely not out of the picture. Now the Red Sox must decide whether they want that at second base, or want the fruits of what trading Hanley would provide.
17. Rickie Weeks- 2B- Milwaukee Brewers- 22
Blame Rickie Weeks for me not ranking drafted players this year. A bit of an overstatement, but my wrongful placement of Weeks (fourth) on last season's list showed that you can never be too sure of a player until you see enough reps. It wasn't that I was wrong a year ago about Week's talent, there's an abundance, just more wrong about his ETA. To expect a player from Southern University, no matter how dominant the player was, to rise to the Majors within a year of being drafted is a lot. Weeks showed his flaws in the Southern League this year, striking out at levels that we never would have dreamed, and overall not showing the contact skills that made him a Golden Spikes winner. Still, there's a lot of hope for Weeks still. While not being hit by 28 pitches will take down his OBP a bit this year, I think it's safe to say he'll hit for a higher average this time around. And once some of those 35 doubles start going over the fence, watch out, Junior Spivey will be gone in a hurry.
16. Jeremy Hermida- OF- Florida Marlins- 21
I?ll blame it on consistency for Hermida never really getting it going this year, keeping his average high but not showing the power we thought. So 2005 will sort of be his put up or shut up year, the season in which his agent is telling him to ?Show me the power.? Jeremy has a little bit of everything in his repertoire, though his power has yet to really shine, and both his base running and selectivity were down a bit this year.
Hermida was hurt on and off all year, especially in May and June, two months in which he combined for just 90 at-bats. He played a bit more consistently from July on, though not everyday by any means, in which he hit .289 and slugged just .428 in 180 at-bats. You have to begin to wonder at this point whether or not leadoff will be Hermida?s calling card, which given his bit of power, is a spot he could be quite dangerous. Still, the Marlins would love to see Hermida blossom into everything they thought he could be with the eleventh overall pick, which is a five-tool player in the middle of their order.
One important aspect to being a leadoff hitter is a good OBP, and while Hermida walks enough to be solid, his walk totals decreased this year. I actually noticed an interesting trend that I thought worth passing along: in the 29 games this year in which Jeremy did not collect a hit, he walked 23 times. But in his other 62 games, he walked just 19 times. So that?s saying that about 55% of Hermida?s walks for the season came in 32% of his games.
Jeremy will move up to AA next year, which as I said, is his time to begin showcasing his power. I would be remiss not to note that Miguel Cabrera posted extremely similar ISOs as Hermida has in his minor league run, and as we know, really took off as a Carolina Mudcat. Now I?m not comparing the two offensively, but I?m saying this should be Hermida?s breakout season. If he can get the base running back to 2003 dorm, the Marlins will have the five-tool talent they once thought they had.