Around the MinorsSeptember 10, 2008
Rating the Prospects: The NL Central
By Marc Hulet

Prospect rating season is just about upon us with the Minor League Baseball season now over. Over the next few weeks, with your help, I am going to narrow down some of the better prospects in each team's system with the final goal of identifying the Top 15 prospects in each organization's stable. Feel free to recommend players I have overlooked or simply missed. There are three divisions remaining: the NL Central (which I'll look at today), the AL West and the NL East.

After that, the next few weeks will be devoted to ranking those prospects that people helped choose in the comments section of the articles. Things to consider when choosing the prospects are 1) tools, 2) statistics, 3) history, and 4) level of competition/age. The players also must still be rookie eligible, which means pitchers cannot have exceed 50 big league innings and hitters cannot have exceeded 130 at-bats at the MLB level.

Feel free to also comment on who you think is the best prospect in the division, as well as which team has the best minor league system. The players listed below are in no particular order and these are just working/brainstorming lists.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs
The Pitchers: Jeff Samardzija (Majors, right-hander), Jose Ceda (Double-A, right-hander), Don Veal (Double-A, left-hander), Chris Huseby (Rookie, right-hander), Larry Suarez (Rookie, right-hander), James Russell (Double-A, left-hander), Alex Maestri (Double-A, right-hander), Andrew Cashner (2008 first round pick, right-hander), Mitch Atkins (Triple-A, right-hander), Marco Carrillo (Double-A, right-hander), Dae-Eun Rhee (A-ball, right-hander), Hung-Wen Chen, (High-A, right-hander)

The Hitters: Josh Vitters (Short season, third baseman), Tyler Colvin (Double-A, outfielder), Tony Thomas (High-A, second baseman), Welington Castillo (Triple-A, catcher), Ryan Flaherty (Short season, shortstop), Steve Clevenger (High-A, catcher), James Adduci (High-A, outfielder)

Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Cubs have a number of raw, young pitchers coming into the picture, but not a ton of depth in the upper minors. Mitch Atkins has been a nice surprise but his potential does not quite match up with his 2008 numbers. Tyler Colvin has been a bit of a disappointment after his lack of patience caught up with him at Double-A, as many thought it would.


Cincinnati Reds
The Pitchers: Josh Roenicke (Triple-A, right-hander), Matt Maloney (Triple-A, left-hander), Kyle Lotzkar (A-ball, right-hander), Pedro Viola (Double-A, left-hander), Sean Watson (Double-A, right-hander), Carlos Fisher (Triple-A, right-hander), Travis Wood (Double-A, left-hander), Daniel Herrera (Triple-A, left-hander), Ben Jukich (Triple-A, left-hander), Daryl Thompson (Triple-A, right-hander), Sam Leclure (Double-A, right-hander), Dallas Buck (High-A, right-hander), Scott Carroll (High-A, right-hander), Zach Stewart (High-A, right-hander), Alexander Smit (High-A, left-hander), Enerio Del Rosario (A-ball, right-hander)

The Hitters: Drew Stubbs (Triple-A, outfielder), Devin Mesoraco (A-ball, catcher), Todd Frazier (High-A, shortstop), Juan Francisco (High-A, third baseman), Chris Valaika (Double-A, shortstop), Justin Turner (Double-A, second baseman), Neftali Soto (A-ball, third baseman), Craig Tatum (Triple-A, catcher), Zack Cozart (A-ball, shortstop), Paul Janish (Triple-A, shortstop), Adam Rosales (Triple-A, infielder), Brandon Waring (A-ball, third baseman), Daniel Dorn (Double-A, outfielder), Yonder Alonso (2008 first round pick, first baseman), Shaun Cumberland (Triple-A, outfielder), Chris Heisey (Double-A, outfielder), Wilkin Castillo (Majors, catcher)

Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Reds organization has a lot of depth, even with the graduation of Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, etc. Right-hander Scott Carroll, though, was just nabbed for allegedly using illegal substances so he will sit out the first 50 games of next season. The organization is stacked with infield talent, with a wave of players being ready in mid to late 2009, including Chris Valaika, Justin Turner, Juan Francisco, Todd Frazier, and even 2008 first round pick Yonder Alonso.


Houston Astros
The Pitchers: Bud Norris (Double-A, right-hander), Felipe Paulino (Triple-A, right-hander), Brad James (Double-A, right-hander), Sergio Perez (Double-A, right-hander), Samuel Gervacio (Triple-A, right-hander), Polin Trinidad (Double-A, left-hander), Jordan Lyles (Short season, right-hander), Ross Seaton (Short season, right-hander), Leandro Cespedes (A-ball, right-hander)

The Hitters: Eli Iorg (Double-A, outfielder), Josh Flores (High-A, outfielder), Mitch Einertson (Double-A, outfielder), Colin DeLome (High-A, outfielder), Chris Johnson (Triple-A, third baseman), Max Sapp (A-ball, catcher), Jordan Parraz (High-A, outfielder), Brian Bogusevic (Double-A, outfielder), Kolby Clemens (High-A, catcher), Wladimir Sutil (Double-A, infielder), Jason Castro (Short season, catcher)

Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? Well, one of the game's worst systems still is not much better after a full calendar year. With that said, a few players have resurrected their careers, including Brian Bogusevic - who has switched from pitching to playing the outfield with excellent results - and Kolby Clemens - who is now catching and showing some improvements with the bat.


Milwaukee Brewers
The Pitchers: Jeremy Jeffress (Double-A, right-hander), Mark Rogers (High-A, right-hander), R.J. Seidel (A-ball, right-hander), Cody Scarpetta (Rookie, right-hander), Alexandre Periard (Double-A, right-hander), Jake Odorizzi (Rookie, right-hander), Seth Lintz (Rookie, right-hander), Evan Frederickson (A-ball, left-hander), Amaury Rivas (High-A, right-hander), Evan Anundsen (A-ball, right-hander), Efrain Nieves (Rookie, left-hander)

The Hitters: Alcides Escobar (Majors, shortstop), Mat Gamel (Majors, third baseman), Cole Gillespie (Double-A, outfielder), Brent Brewer (High-A, shortstop), Angel Salome (Majors, catcher), Lorenzo Cain (Double-A, outfielder), Caleb Gindl (A-ball, outfielder), Jonathan Lucroy (High-A, catcher), Taylor Green (High-A, third baseman), Lee Haydel (A-ball, outfielder), Michael Brantley (Double-A, outfielder), Hernan Iribarren (Triple-A, outfielder), Brett Lawrie (2008 first round pick, catcher), Cutter Dykstra (Rookie, outfielder), Eric Farris (A-ball, second baseman), Eric Fryer (A-ball, outfielder), Shawn Zarraga (Rookie, catcher)

Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The pitching is a little thin on the farm for the Brewers and there are some intriguing hitters, although not a ton of superstars-in-the-making. Mat Gamel and Angel Salome could be special players, but Alcides Escobar is probably a solid regular. There is not much power amongst the outfield prospects so they'll have to stick in center field or they'll end up as platoon players or fourth outfielders. Brett Lawrie has a chance to be something specially if he can stick behind the dish.


St. Louis Cardinals
The Pitchers: Jamie Garcia (Triple-A, left-hander), Adam Ottavino (Double-A, right-hander), Clay Mortenson (Triple-A, right-hander), Mitch Boggs (Triple-A, right-hander), Tyler Herron (High-A, right-hander), Jess Todd (Triple-A, right-hander), Kenny Maiques (A-ball, right-hander), P.J. Walters (Triple-A, right-hander), Jose Martinez, Brad Furnish (Double-A, left-hander), Lance Lynn (A-ball, right-hander), Scott Gorgen (Short season, right-hander), Luis Perdomo (Double-A, right-hander), Fernando Salas (Double-A, right-hander), Nick Addition (A-ball, left-hander), Richard Castillo (A-ball, right-hander), Arquimedes Nieto (Short season, right-hander)

The Hitters: Brett Wallace (Double-A, third baseman), Colby Rasmus (Triple-A, outfielder), Bryan Anderson (Triple-A, catcher), Peter Kozma (High-A, shortstop), Jon Jay (Triple-A, outfielder), Allen Craig (Double-A, third baseman), Tyler Greene (Triple-A, shortstop), Mark Hamilton (Double-A, first baseman), Shane Robinson (Triple-A, outfielder), Shane Peterson (Short season, outfielder), Daryl Jones (Double-A, outfielder), Jose Martinez (Double-A, second baseman), Jon Edwards (Short season, outfielder)

Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? The Cardinals organization has some much-needed depth, which has been missing in recent years. There are a number of good pitching prospects and I have always been a fan of Jess Todd. Brett Wallace, Colby Rasmus and Bryan Anderson should all impact the Major League team next season. Shane Robinson and Jon Jay are similar players who could be valuable fourth or fifth outfielders, although the big league team is not hurting from a lack of outfield depth.


Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pitchers: Brad Lincoln (High-A, right-hander), Daniel Moskos (High-A, left-hander), Duke Welker (A-ball, right-hander), Mike Felix (A-ball, left-hander), Daniel McCutchen (Triple-A, right-hander), Bryan Morris (A-ball, right-hander), Anthony Watson (High-A, left-hander), Nelson Pereira (Rookie, left-hander)

The Hitters: Robinzon Diaz (Majors, catcher), Andrew McCutchen (Triple-A, outfielder), Neil Walker (Triple-A, third baseman), Steve Pearce (Majors, outfielder), Shelby Ford (Double-A, second baseman), Jamie Romak (Double-A, first baseman), Brian Bixler (Majors, infielder), Brad Corley (Double-A, outfielder), Brian Friday (High-A, shortstop), Jim Negrych (Double-A, third baseman), Pedro Alvarez (2008 first round pick, third baseman), Jody Mercer (A-ball, shortstop), Robbie Grossman (Rookie, outfielder), Jose Tabata (Double-A, outfielder), Jarek Cunningham (Rookie, third baseman)

Comments: OK, so who did I overlook? Some late season trades have helped the system a bit, although a number of the young players received are already in the Majors (Andy LaRoche, Brandon Moss). There are no pitching prospects that scream "No. 1 starter!" but there are a couple guys who could settle into the middle of the Pirates rotation, including recently-acquired Bryan Morris. Robinzon Diaz was a nice under-the-radar pick-up from Toronto. Andrew McCutchen should have a big impact on Pittsburgh next season.


Up Next: The AL West

Comments

For the Brewers, it's Caleb Gindl (no "r") and Jon (as in Jonathan) Lucroy (no intercaps).

Players missing who could feasibly be in the top 15 are LHP Zach Braddock (A+), RH relievers Omar Aguilar and Luis Pena (AA and AAA, respectively), and lefty OF Erik Komatsu (promoted to A for the Sally League playoffs).

Braddock is a lefty with pretty good stuff and fantastic strikeout numbers. He struggled with walks this year after not having done so in the past, and he has injury issues. Aguilar tops out near 100 with his fastball, but has an inconsistent slider. Pena has a similarly hot heater and a splitter that he throws in the low-90s, but his fastball is straight and he got hit HARD at Nashville. Walks are also a problem for him. Check out the video from his appearance in the AAA All-Star game for his season in a nutshell. Komatsu is a short outfielder with a quick bat from Fullerton who overwhelmed the Pioneer League. He played some CF at Helena, but I don't know how credible he is there.

For the Reds, the main guys that you missed out on were Juan Duran and Yorman Rodriguez. Both are 16 year old kids that signed for 2+ million this year. Duran played and struggled with some injuries most of the year and Rodriguez has yet to play after signing in early August. On the mound I would toss in guys like Pedro Viola (the numbers look ugly at first glance, but check the BABIP he had this year and he has outstanding stuff (mid 90's fastball and a devastating slider), Jeremy Horst (88-91 MPH fastball, plus change up) and Philippe Valiquette. I wouldn't put either of those pitchers in the top 15 just yet, but could listen to an argument for Viola and Horst. Both are better prospects than some of the guys listed for the Reds though.

Will the Shark still be considered a prospect(based on days on major league roster)? What's the max?

For the Cardinals, you overlooked Francisco Samuel, the closer for the Palm Beach Cardinals, their High A affiliate. Sure, his control is not the best, but he struck out 85 in 56.1 innings as a 21 year old. He throws in the mid to high nineties and has a biting high eighties slider. He's only 150 lbs, so he could add even more velocity as he fills out.

On the hitting side you missed David Freese, who came over from the Pads in the Jim Edmonds trade. He is old for a prospect (25) but was a five year college senior. He's done nothing but hit since turning pro. Blocked by Chase Headley, he spent a full season in A ball last year, but this year he skipped double A. For AAA Memphis hit for a .911 OPS with 26 homers. He had 15 FRAA according to BP's minor league stats, making him by far the best 3B in the PCL.

francisco samuel

First of all, I admire anyone who tries to do this for all the farm systems. I'd never even try it.

As far as the Cubs go, Chris Huseby had a disastrous season and I don't think you can really consider him a top prospect anymore. I hear a lot about Suarez's ability and he's only 18 years old, but he's had injury problems already and barely pitched in rookie ball this year.

Veal's a huge disappointment too, but at least he's a disappointment in AA. He may be headed for the bullpen.

I think Jay Jackson has to be considered a top Cubs pitching prospect. He really turned some heads with his season. He's probably the #4 pitching prospect in the organization after Samardzija, Cashner and Ceda.

The Cubs don't have a lot of good position player prospects right now, but Brandon Guyer and Jovan Rosa in Peoria probably deserve a look. I wasn't real happy with Thomas' season, but he keeps showing flashes of brilliance, like in the FSL Playoffs. Real streaky hitter. Right now, too many downs and not enough ups.

I want to suggest Phil Disher a first year 1B for the Houston Astros, who played at short season A. He batted .303, .381 OBP, 13HRs and 54 RBIs. Also Jack Shuck, another 2008 draft pick at short season A (Tri-Valley). He's an outfielder who batted .300, with a .385 OBP, and scored 51 runs. I think Thomas Manzella should be discussed as well, AAA SS, defensive mastermind.

How about Amaury Marti? Dose still have chance to join the big league next season with Cardinals?

this was sweet