But wait, there's always more. When we put together the Handbook, there's always a lot of shuffling going on behind the scenes. We change our minds and write up a new prospect for the end of the list, or a trade causes changes to both clubs involved. The result is that there are scouting reports that don't make it into the book.
This year, there were 41 players who were written up but didn't make the Handbook cut. We like to call them members of "The 31st Team", and we've been presenting their reports online for the last six years.
These aren't the best players who didn't make Top 30s, but rather a random mix of prospects. However, some of them will go on to bigger and better things. The 2007 edition included a record 54 players, and 10 played in the majors last season, led by Brendan Harris, who hit .286 with 12 homers as Tampa Bay's regular shortstop. The other big leaguers were Santiago Casilla, Troy Cate, Jon Knott, Nyjer Morgan, Donnie Murphy, Eric Reed, Chris Roberson, Brian Stokes and Eric Stults.
Past alumni include Nate Robertson, Jamie Shields and Carlos Villanueva, as well as Pirates first base/outfield prospect Steve Pearce, who ranked among the top five in the minors last year in RBIs (113), extra-base hits (75), total bases (303), slugging (.602) and OPS (1.016).
Braves second baseman Martin Prado and Reds lefthander Phillippe Valiquette return after appearing on the 2007 version of the 31st Team. You can view past editions by clicking on the links below:
• 2007 31st Team
• 2006 31st Team
• 2005 31st Team
• 2004 31st Team
• 2003 31st Team
Robert Andino, ss, Marlins
Born: April 25, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HS—Miami, 2002 (2nd round). Signed by: John Martin.
The Marlins don't seem to know what to do with Andino, who remains blocked in the middle infield at the big league level. Even a utility role seems beyond his reach as long as Alfredo Amezaga is on hand. To his credit, Andino showed a solid attitude and played all 142 games in Triple-A last year. He has made significant improvement at the plate, striding toward the pitcher and staying inside the ball more consistently. The result was career bests in triples (leading the Pacific Coast League with 13), homers (13), extra-base hits (51) and slugging percentage (.428) in 2007. He has some bat speed, though he also set a career high with 129 strikeouts and his plate discipline still can get better. He struggles as a basestealer and is an average runner at best. Though he finally surrendered his long-standing title as the Florida system's best defensive infielder to first-round pick Matt Dominguez, Andino's cannon arm remains the strongest among Marlins infield prospects. He has soft hands, quick feet and smooth actions at shortstop. He can make all the flashy plays but his PCL-high 34 errors are a reminder that he needs to tighten things up on the routine chances, especially with his throws. Andino must continue to remain patient in hopes that a big league role opens up for him.
Burke Badenhop, rhp, Marlins
Born: Feb. 8, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Bowling Green State, 2005 (19th round). Signed by: Tom Osowski (Tigers).
In two years, Badenhop went from a 19th-round draft pick to part of the package the Marlins received when they shipped Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers. After leading the low Class A Midwest League with 14 victories in 2006, his first full season, Badenhop ranked fourth in the high Class A Florida State League with a 3.13 ERA last year before finishing up with two complete games in three Double-A starts. Badenhop has a big frame and throws from a three-quarters arm slot. His 90-91 sinker isn't overpowering but is sharp enough to get a lot of groundouts. His changeup grades as average, because of his ability to turn it over and get good sinking action. He throws a sweeping slider that has more width than depth, and it's tricky enough to make some righthanded hitters bail out. He also throws a four-seam fastball on occasion. Badenhop's ceiling appears to be as a long reliever or spot starter in the big leagues, but the Tigers were encouraged enough by his 2007 season that they sent him to the Arizona Fall League. He pitched as a reliever in the AFL, and he might be able to work at 92-93 mph if he came out of the bullpen regularly. He should return to Double-A to start 2008.
Freddy Ballestas, rhp, Phillies
Born: Oct. 4, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 2004. Signed by: Sal Agostinelli.
A product of the Phillies' Venezuelan academy, Ballestas has spent his first three pro seasons in his home country, posting the best numbers of his career in 2007. After working on his mechanics to have better overall balance over the rubber last offseason, he was the top pitcher in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League. He led the VSL in ERA (1.26) and strikeouts (98 in 100 innings) while ranking second in wins (9-3). Ballestas' top pitch is a 90-93 mph fastball that touches 94 and has plus late life. He improved the command of his heater last year, missing more bats as a result. He also has a slurvy breaking ball and good feel for a changeup. Though he wasn't viewed as much more than a middle reliever when he signed, Ballestas could become more than that if he can hone his secondary pitches. Philadelphia will bring him to the United States in 2008 and he could land an assignment to low Class A if he performs well in spring training.
Charles Benoit, lhp, Pirates
Born: Sept. 24, 1984. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 223. Drafted: Oklahoma State, 2006 (10th round). Signed by: Mike Leuzinger.
Benoit went to three different colleges following a standout high school career in suburban Dallas/Fort Worth. He began at Oklahoma, transferred to Grayson County (Texas) CC, then landed at Oklahoma State before the Pirates drafted him in the 10th round. He had control problems in his pro debut, particularly with his changeup, so Pittsburgh decided to move him to the bullpen last year in spring training. He threw strikes more consistently and was one of the few bright spots on the low Class A Hickory pitching staff. A big-breaking curveball is Benoit's best pitch, and it often ties lefthanders into knots. He also has a 90-mph fastball, giving him a good two-pitch mix to use in short relief. Benoit showed a resilient arm in his new role, then followed up with a fine stint in Hawaii Winter Baseball. He will likely begin 2008 in high Class A but could open the season in Double-A if he has a strong spring.
Aaron Breit, rhp, Padres
Born: April 19, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Garden City (Kan.) CC, D/F 2005 (12th round). Signed by: Lane Decker.
The Padres drafted Breit in the 46th round out of high school in 2004 and in the 12th round out of Garden City (Kan.) CC in 2005, before finally signing him as a draft-and-follow for $150,000 prior to the 2006 draft. Breit finished eighth in the short-season Northwest League with a 3.08 ERA in his pro debut, but found the going much more difficult in low Class A last year and lost confidence as poor outings piled up. His monthly ERA never dipped below 6.29 until August, when he spent some time in the bullpen before going 0-1, 2.37 in his final four starts. Breit flashes three good pitches, but his inability to locate them effectively in the strike zone hurts him. He throws a 91-93 mph fastball on a good downward plane, and he has a curveball with the potential to be a plus pitch. He also uses a slider, and his breaking balls have a tendency to blend together, so San Diego wants him to focus on one or the other. His touch with his changeup comes and goes, but it's a pitch he'll need to throw more going forward. Removing a head snap from his delivery would help him improve his control and command. Though he had a bad year, Breit still could develop into a back-end starter. He may need a refresher course in the Midwest League before he's ready for high Class A.
Ezequiel Carrera, of, Mets
Born: June 11, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 2005. Signed by: Eddy Toledo.
Carrera has moved slower than most of the Mets' Latin prospects that the organization hopes to develop into big league regulars, but he started to make believers in 2007. He batted .341 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and emerged as the best center fielder at the lower levels of the New York system. Carrera profiles as a fourth outfielder because of his lack of power but he could have the small-ball skills to become a regular. He has a short, contact-oriented swing with no real load to speak of, so he's unlikely to ever hit for much pop. But he's willing to draw walks, has improved as a bunter and is a plus runner, though he's not a burner. He looks like a traditional No. 2 hitter. Defensively, he's accomplished in center field, with above-average range and an accurate if below-average arm. Carrera is likely to jump on the fast track and start 2008 in high Class A.
Simon Castro, rhp, Padres
Born: April 9, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 203. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006. Signed by: Randy Smith/Felix Francisco.
After the 2006 trades of Jose Ceda, Evan Meek and Joel Santo—and after losing Joakim Soria in the major league Rule 5 draft that December—Castro has perhaps the best raw power arm in the Padres system. He made his U.S. debut in 2007, striking out 55 in 51 innings in the Rookie-level Arizona League, but also walking 30, plunking nine and uncorking 12 wild pitches. San Diego worked with him in instructional league to get him more under control without sacrificing his aggressiveness. Castro is long, loose and highly projectable, and his fastball explodes out his hand at 92-93 mph and touches 96. He gets good extension on his heater and the pitch shows good armside run and sink. Castro's changeup is his second-best offering at this stage, but it's average at best. He hasn't yet developed feel for a breaking ball, but his slider has the potential to become a solid pitch in time. When he struggles, Castro flies open in his delivery, his arm drags and he loses his arm slot. The Padres believe that Castro will take off once he stays on top of his pitches consistently. He probably isn't ready for full-season ball, so he could open 2008 in extended spring training before heading to short-season Eugene.
Jose Ceballos, c, Marlins
Born: Dec. 27, 1989. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Signed: Venezuela, 2006. Signed by: Carlos Acosta.
One of the foremost sleepers in the Marlins system, Ceballos made a huge impression in his first pro season despite batting just .149 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. Compared physically to a little thicker Jorge Posada, he shows tremendous instincts behind the plate, even at a tender age. Ceballo's arm is just average and he threw out just 25 percent of basestealers, but he has improved his release and should fare better with experience. What he does better than almost any other catcher in the system is block balls in the dirt. Blessed with naturally soft hands and smooth actions, he was the first choice of every Marlins pitcher who passed through Jupiter on a rehab assignment. At the plate, Ceballos tends to muscle up too much and not trust his natural power. Once he gets some rhythm to his swing, Florida believes he'll hit. Catching coordinator Tim Cossins sent Ceballos home with a set of English DVDs in hopes of improving the catcher's communication skills, which are already decent. His makeup and work ethic are off the charts, and he shows a strong grasp of game situations and how to guide pitchers when they get off track. He'll be only 18 this season, so he could repeat the GCL.
Joel Collins, c, Blue Jays
Born: April 24, 2986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Drafted: South Alabama, 2007 (10th round). Signed by: Matt Briggs.
Born in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Collins hails from the same South Alabama program that produced former Toronto No. 1 prospect Adam Lind. Because first-round pick J.P. Arencibia got the everyday catching gig with short-season Auburn, Collins made his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last summer after signing for $55,000 as a 10th-rounder. He posted a .614 slugging percentage that would have ranked second in the GCL if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Along with offering raw power, Collins receives well and has an average arm. He threw out eight of 17 basestealers (47 percent) in the GCL. He's a poor runner and doesn't project to hit for much average, though. Because his makeup is outstanding but his athleticism a bit lacking, he could make it as a defense-oriented backup. Assuming Arencibia heads to high Class A, Collins could spend 2008 at low Class A Lansing, though he may have to share time with Matt Lane or Jonathan Jaspe.
Adam Cowart, rhp, Giants
Born: Aug. 14. 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Kansas State, 2006 (35th round). Signed by: Todd Thomas.
With his wide stance, sidearm release and total lack of any discernable stride, Cowart effectively quick-pitches every time he throws. That makes him a nightmare to hitters who haven't seen him before, and it made him the perfect secret weapon when the Giants promoted him for the high Class A California League playoffs. He tossed three scoreless innings in relief of Henry Sosa to earn the victory in San Jose's title-clincher. Cowart throws exclusively from the stretch and has dominated lower-level lineups on deception alone. He made San Francisco pay attention in 2006, when he began his pro career with a streak of 25 2/3 scoreless innings at short-season Salem-Keizer. Cowart's fastball arrives in the low 80s but he spots it very well down in the strike zone. He also throws a changeup and slider, neither of which stands out much. Lefthanders give him some trouble and he could be exposed at higher levels, but he hasn't gotten hit hard yet and the Giants will give him every opportunity to pitch his way into their future plans. Cowart's most likely big league role would be as a reliever in the Chad Bradford mold. He's headed to high Class A.
Tim Dillard, rhp, Brewers
Born: July 19, 1983. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Itawamba (Miss.) CC, D/F 2002 (34th round). Signed by: Doug Reynolds.
Once considered a future candidate for the Milwaukee rotation, Dillard was so inconsistent in 2007 that he was moved to the bullpen in Triple-A at midseason. His future in the big leagues now appears to be as a middle reliever. The son of former big league infielder Steve Dillard, Tim isn't overpowering, usually sitting at 88-92 mph with his fastball. He relies on a sinker that bores in on righthanders and a slider that he tries to keep in on lefties. His slider and changeup remain inconsistent, forcing him to rely heavily on his sinker, which has good downhill plane. Dillard is a smart pitcher and hard worker, so the Brewers expect him to get to the majors, probably as a reliever used to go once through the lineup. They sent him to the Arizona Fall League to continue to hone his pitchers and become accustomed to coming out of the bullpen. He'll return to Triple-A at the start of 2008.
Brad Emaus, 3b, Blue Jays
Born: March 28, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Tulane, 2007 (11th round). Signed by: Matt Briggs.
Emaus figured to go in the first five rounds of the 2007 draft after earning all-star honors in the Cape Cod League in 2006. But an ankle injury contributed to a disappointing junior season in which he hit just .329 with five homers, and he dropped to the 11th round, where he signed for $100,000. He got healthy with short-season Auburn, and though he hit just .228 in his pro debut, he started to tap into his raw power with three homers in the Doubledays' successful playoff run. He missed much of instructional league when he went home for school. Emaus reminds the Blue Jays of Ty Wigginton, a grinder type who has good plate discipline, a sound, compact swing and no real position. He lacks the quickness for second base and the home run power for third base. With solid range and a strong arm, Emaus fits best at the hot corner or on an outfield corner. He's a below-average runner. Though it may take him time to develop because he lacks a standout tool, Emaus could surface as a major league reserve. He'll play in Class A during his first full pro season.
Michael Fisher, ss, Braves
Born: March 22, 1985. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2007 (6th round). Signed by: Al Goetz.
After a solid junior season at Georgia Tech, Fisher went in the sixth round of the 2007 draft and advanced quickly after signing for $125,000. He finished his first pro summer with a month in high Class A. A switch-hitter, he sprays line drives to all fields and is capable of driving the ball to the right-center field gap from the left side. His overall power isn't impressive, but he does have plus speed. He has work to do as a basestealer after getting caught in all five of his pro attempts. After playing shortstop during his pro debut, Fisher likely will move to second base in the near future. His fringe-average range and arm strength at shortstop will necessitate the shift, though some scouts believe he could be a serviceable utility player. The Braves like the high-energy attitude Fisher brings to the ballpark every day. He's expected to return to Myrtle Beach to open the 2008 season.
Cory Gearrin, rhp, Braves
Born: April 14, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Mercer, 2007 (4th round). Signed by: Al Goetz.
The sidewinding Gearrin went from a virtual unknown in two years at Young Harris (Ga.) JC to a star in the Cape Cod League in 2006. He continued to shine last spring upon transferring to Mercer, posting back-to-back saves against Miami and allowing no runs until March 20. The Braves drafted him in the fourth round last June and signed him for $186,750. The former high school middle infielder mixes an 88-91 mph fastball with a Frisbee slider in the upper 70s that starts behind righthanders before slicing horizontally across the plate. His fastball possesses late movement and excellent deception, and his overall feel for pitching is impressive considering his relative lack of experience on the mound. Gearrin continues to work on repeating his unorthodox delivery. A projected setup man with possible closer ability, he should begin 2008 in low Class A and could move quickly.
Kris Harvey, of, Marlins
Born: Jan. 5, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Clemson, 2005 (2nd round). Signed by: Joel Matthews.
The son of former all-star Bryan Harvey, the first closer in Marlins history, Kris hit 97 mph on the mound at Clemson but has been strictly a hitter in the pros. He signed for $575,000 after finishing second in NCAA Division I with 25 homers in 2005. His easy raw power hasn't translated into a big statistical year yet, and his production has declined in each of his pro seasons, but Florida remains hopeful. He has plus bat speed, loose wrists and the ability to drive the ball to all fields. After struggling mightily in the first half of 2007 in high Class A, Harvey spent more than a week working with hitting coordinator John Mallee. They closed up his stance, a la Edgar Renteria, and moved him closer to the plate. The result was a strong second half that included 11 of his 12 homers and had him showing much better plate discipline. Harvey has strong makeup and a plus throwing arm but he still needs to add strength to his wiry frame. His speed and athleticism are solid. He has spent some time at third base in the past but will remain in right field this year in Double-A.
D'Marcus Ingram, of, Cardinals
Born: March 30, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 170. Signed: Pensacola (Fla.) JC, D/F 2006 (25th round). Signed by: Steve Gossett.
A high school football star and a quality athlete, Ingram was just the type of player the now-eliminated draft-and-follow process was perfect for. The Cardinals drafted him in the 25th round in 2006, evaluated him at Pensacola (Fla.) JC last spring and then signed him. He had a strong pro debut, then batted .343 in instructional league. He draws comparisons to Kirby Puckett for his size. Ingram shows gap power in batting practice and has above-average bat speed, but he was more of a singles hitter in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He used his plus speed to steal 17 bases in 22 games and walked more (19) than he struck out (15). He impresses scouts with a hard-charging approach—no batting gloves and tire-spinning hustle. Ingram should be able to stay in center field and even has an above-average arm, which is unusual at that position. There will be a leadoff spot waiting for him at one of the Cardinals' short-season clubs this summer.
Cesar Jimenez, lhp, Mariners
Born: Nov. 12, 1984. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 2001. Signed by: Emilio Carrasquel.
Jimenez has bounced back and forth from starting to relieving in six years in the Mariners system. He operated out of the rotation for most of 2006 and seemed to turn a corner, but he wore down, just as he had as a starter in the past. He spent three weeks on the Triple-A Tacoma disabled list in August 2006 with a sore elbow, and he worked in just 26 innings for the Rainiers last year as he again missed time with elbow problems. Jimenez' best pitch is his changeup, making him effective against righthanders. His fringe-average fastball has some cutting action and sits at 88-89 mph. He can touch 92 mph when he comes out of the bullpen. His ultimate role likely will be as a reliever because he holds up better and retains the arm speed on his fastball. He does a better job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in relief, too, and he'll return to that role in Triple-A this year.
Daryl Jones, of, Cardinals
Born: June 25, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Spring, Texas, 2005 (3rd round). Signed by: Joe Almaraz.
The Cardinals expected a slow development process for Jones, and that's certainly proving to be the case. He has all the physical tools that scouts love to dream on, but he has yet to produce much on the diamond. Jones was a star wide receiver and sprinter in high school, but he left those sports behind (including scholarship offers to play NCAA Division I football) to sign with the St. Louis for $450,000 as a third-round pick in 2005. Jones gets overaggressive at the plate, and pitchers can easily get him off balance and chasing bad pitches. He has power potential, though he needs to focus on getting on base before trying to drive the ball. He has the speed to be a huge basestealing threat, but only if he can get to first base. Jones covers ground in center field and has improved his instincts in the field. His arm is fringe average but good enough for center. The Cardinals expected him to be a late bloomer, and they hope Jones will take a big step forward this season in high Class A.
Justin Jones, lhp, Nationals
Born: Sept. 25, 1984. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS—Virginia Beach, Va., 2002 (2nd round). Signed by: Billy Swoope (Cubs).
Jones was a rising star in 2003, ranking as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect, and the Twins acquired him in the four-team Nomar Garciaparra trade in 2004. But arm injuries kept Jones from ever throwing more than 84 innings in a season, and the Nationals plucked him in the Triple-A league phase of the Rule 5 draft at the 2006 Winter Meetings. Finally in 2007, he shouldered a 121-inning workload over three minor league stops and put himself back on the prospect map. Washington added him to its 40-man roster in November, though his luck took a turn for the worse soon afterward. Jones blew out a knee playing basketball and the Nationals released him in December. They quickly re-signed him to a minor league deal, though he'll miss the entire 2008 season. Last season, Jones worked comfortably at 89-92 mph and touched 93-94 with a fastball that has late life. He flashes an average changeup with good deception and a slider with decent spin but not a lot of depth. Washington attributed much of Jones' progress to an improvement in his work ethic from past seasons. He needs to become more consistent with his secondary pitches, and he needs to improve against righthanders. With his frame, arm strength and potentially good offspeed stuff, Jones still can become a solid starter in the big leagues if he can recover from his knee injury.
Josh Kroeger, of, Cubs
Born: Aug. 31, 1982. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—San Diego, 2000 (4th round). Signed by: James Keller (Diamondbacks).
Kroeger hit .331 with 19 homers in the upper minors in 2004, but failed a trial with the Diamondbacks that year and dropped to .231 with nine homers at Triple-A in the Phillies system by 2006. Cubs scout Hector Ortega liked what he saw of him in the Venezuelan Winter League, so Chicago signed Kroeger as a six-year minor league free agent. He opened 2007 in Double-A because the Cubs didn't have an opening in Triple-A, then forced the issue by hitting .382 at Tennessee. He has a smooth swing, though just average bat speed and raw power. He got his bat going again last year by trying not to do too much at the plate, getting comfortable taking what pitchers gave him and exhibiting by far the best plate discipline of his career. A good athlete who turned down a football scholarship to play wide receiver at NCAA Division II Truman State (Mo.), Kroeger has average speed and can play all three outfield positions, though he's best suited for a corner. He has enough arm strength to play regularly in right field. His resurgence came despite a nagging bone spur in his left hand, which he had removed via surgery in September. He should be 100 percent for spring training. He re-signed with the Cubs as a minor league free agent, though their offseason signing of Kosuke Fukudome means its unlikely that Kroeger will get much of an opportunity with the big league club.
Marcus Lemon, ss, Rangers
Born: June 3, 1988. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 173. Drafted: HS—Eustis, Fla., 2006 (4th round). Signed by: Guy DeMutis.
Lemon always has played above his modest tools, not surprising given his bloodlines—his father was former all-star Chet Lemon. After the Rangers bought him out of a college commitment to Texas with a $1 million bonus, Lemon had a strong pro debut and followed it up by starting 2007 as an 18-year-old in low Class A, where he held his own against older competition. Lemon stands out most for his baseball savvy, work ethic, confidence and determination. He lists among his baseball goals breaking Cal Ripken's consecutive-games record and Pete Rose's hits mark. Lemon is a tough out thanks to his ability to work counts and make consistent contact, though some scouts wonder if he has enough strength to hit in the big leagues. He has occasional gap power but never will be a home run hitter. Defensively, Lemon puts himself in position to make plays at shortstop and has a fringe-average arm and fringe-average range. He's also a fringy runner who needs to get a better feel for when to steal bases after getting caught 14 times in 26 tries last season. Texas will leave Lemon at shortstop in high Class A this year, but he'll likely need to learn to play second base and center field because he profiles best as a gritty utilityman.
Serguey Linares, rhp, Pirates
Born: Feb. 1, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Signed: Cuba, 2007. Signed by: Rene Gayo/Louie Eljaua.
A Cuban defector, Linares originally signed with the Red Sox for $460,000, but they voided the contract when he failed a physical because of a slightly torn rotator cuff caused by a bone fragment in his shoulder. The Pirates signed him for $125,000 last February, but he was late getting to spring training because of visa problems in Venezuela, where he now resides, and immediately was sent to minor league camp. Pittsburgh felt Linares was worth the risk because his fastball had been clocked as high as 98 mph during his days in Cuba, though his 5.59 career ERA there was far less impressive. He rarely showed a great heater in his American debut, as his fastball usually sat at 86-88 mph. He occasionally ran it up to 93 mph when he got into tight spots. The fastball is still Linares' calling card at this point, as his curveball and changeup are rudimentary and need plenty of work. With substandard stuff, he's often reluctant to challenge hitters and issues too many walks. Spring training will determine where Linares begins this season. Ideally, he would move up to Double-A. But if he doesn't show increased velocity and better command of his secondary pitches in spring training, he'll return to high Class A.
Ching-Lung Lo, rhp, Rockies
Born: Aug. 20, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 190. Signed: Taiwan, 2001. Signed by: Kent Blasingame.
When Lo signed for $1.4 million as a 16-year-old, he showed a mid-90s fastball. Though he never has had arm problems, he now operates with a fringe-average 88-90 mph heater. In 2006, the Rockies decided to let him go back to the Asian style of pitching, even though that means he leans on his back leg and doesn't throw on the downhill plan they prefer. That delivery doesn't allow him to use his legs and puts some strain on his arm, but more conventional U.S. mechanics weren't working. Lo seemed to make some modest progress after revering to his old style, but he regressed in 2007. Colorado also has allowed him to scrap his changeup and resume using a splitter. He throws a slider but it's still a below-average pitch. He doesn't have a plus pitch and doesn't throw enough strikes, so Lo has an uphill climb to the major leagues. He may repeat Double-A this year.
Matt Meyer, lhp, Indians
Born: Jan. 17, 1985. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Boston College, 2006 (15th round). Signed by: Brent Urcheck.
Without a reliable third pitch, Meyer struggled in his limited experience as a starter for Boston College, so the Indians immediately stuck him in the bullpen after signing him. He had a terrific pro debut in 2006 that carried over to the beginning of last season, but he struggled once he got to high Class A. A strong, physical southpaw, Meyer throws 89-92 mph fastballs from a sidearm slot. He also has a slider with good late life. Fastball command was his biggest bugaboo in high Class A, as he rushed his delivery too much and threw off his mechanics. He has a slight head jerk, which hampers his control but also helps to create deception. Meyer has trouble with righthanders and is best suited for left-on-left matchups. He likely will return to Kinston in 2008 and could serve as the club's closer.
Derek Miller, lhp, Brewers
Born: Nov. 8, 1981. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Vermont, 2004 (47th round). Signed by: Tony Blengino.
Miller is a big-body lefty sometimes compared to David Wells in physique and style, though he's not as big as Wells. Signed as a fifth-year senior out of Vermont, Miller is 26 and has pitched just 11 games above Class A. Neverthless, the Brewers believe he'll find a niche in the major leagues because he has four pitches that are all around average. Miller works with an 88-90 mph fastball, a curveball, slider and changeup. He throws strikes and has a knack for setting up hitters, keeping them off balance. Miller's stuff seemed to play up a little after his promotion to Double-A last July, an encouraging sign. He's a lefty with a feel for pitching, and Milwaukee will move him to Triple-A in 2008.
David Newmann, lhp, Rays
Born: June 24, 1985. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 2005. Drafted: Texas A&M, 2007 (4th round). Signed by: Pat Murphy.
The Rays spent two of their first four picks in the 2007 draft on pitchers who had Tommy John surgery in the past, Mississippi righthander Will Kline in the second round and Newmann in the fourth. Newman pitched San Jacinto (Texas) JC to the 2004 Juco World Series, then missed the next two seasons. He returned to the mound last spring with Texas A&M and went 9-1, 3.32. Newmann throws four pitches, including an 88-92 mph fastball with heavy sinking action along with a four-seamer that touches 94. He also possesses an above-average curveball and a decent changeup. His command can be erratic at times and his delivery is a bit herky-jerky, though it does create deception. He's only an average athlete, but he makes up for any shortcomings with his competitiveness and solid feel for pitching. Newmann waited until the Aug. 15 signing deadline before signing for $250,000, so he has yet to make his pro debut. He'll probably break in at low Class A this year.
Paulo Orlando, of, White Sox
Born: Nov. 1, 1985. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 184. Signed: Brazil, 2005. Signed by: Orlando Santana.
When the White Sox signed a pair of Brazilians in 2005, Anderson Gomes was the one who created the early stir. But Orlando, a sprinter who was fast enough to compete for the national track team, has outplayed Gomes in his two seasons in pro ball. He's still raw, especially as a hitter, but he's a skilled enough center fielder that Chicago projects him as a regular in Double-A this season. Orlando didn't play a lot of baseball as a teenager, so Sox officials believe he's more like a college freshman than a typical 22-year-old. His best tool is his speed, a legit 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, which he still is learning to use as a basestealer. He is as quick as any player in the minors scoring from first base or motoring to third on a triple. Orlando has solid instincts in center and enough arm for the position. He's built like a sprinter, however, and doesn't project to hit for much power. The key to advancing beyond Double-A is whether he improves his plate discipline and bat control. He cut his strikeouts significantly in 2007, but he rarely walks and needs to improve his bunting. Orlando made progress last season, though Double-A pitchers will provide a stern test.
Adrian Ortiz, of, Royals
Born: Jan. 14, 1987. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 172. Drafted: Pepperdine, 2007 (5th round). Signed by: John Ramey.
A fifth-round pick by the Cubs in 2004, Ortiz was the highest-drafted high school player that year who opted for college baseball. Though he was one of the fastest runners in the college game, he did little to improve his pro stock in three years at Pepperdine and went in the fifth round again last June. Signed for $149,400, Ortiz arrived in pro ball with an Ichiro-style approach. Because he would run out of the box as he tried to put the bat on the ball, he had trouble handling pitches on the outer half. He worked with Rookie-level Idaho Falls batting coach Patrick Anderson on remaining more still in the box and made significant progress by the end of the season. Ortiz has little power or patience, but he's threat to beat out anything on the ground with his exceptional speed. Clocked at 3.6 second going from home to first base on bunts, he's still learning how to use that speed as a basestealer. Caught seven times in 24 pro attempts, he must get better jumps and leads rather than just relying on his quickness. Ortiz' speed does translate well in center field, where he has above-average range and takes good routes on balls. His arm is playable in center. He'll compete for a spot in high Class A in spring training but likely will start the season in low Class A.
Dylan Owen, rhp, Mets
Born: July 12, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Francis Marion (S.C.), 2007 (20th round). Signed by: Marlin McPhail.
Owen dominated hitters during his college career at Francis Marion (S.C.), earning NCAA Division II 2007 pitcher-of-the-year honors after going 10-1, 1.04 and setting the Peach Belt Conference career strikeout record with 334 in three seasons. His success carried over into his pro debut, as he took advantage of short-season Brooklyn's pitcher-friendly Keyspan Park like few pitchers have. Signed for $50,000 in the 20th round, Owen claimed two-thirds of the New York-Penn League's pitching triple crown, leading in wins (nine) and ERA (1.49). He has a shorter and wider body than scouts would like but also solid-average stuff and an advanced feel pitching. He spots his 86-90 mph fastball to all four quadrants of the strike zone, and while he has below-average velocity, he can get to 91-92 when needed, even late in games. He has above-average fastball command, and he can vary his breaking balls depending on the situation, using shorter sliders for groundballs and bigger curves for strikeouts. Owen doesn't have much projection or a true plus pitch, so he's unlikely to become an elite prospect. But he's likely to get pushed aggressively to see if he can get advanced hitters out, and he could jump to high Class A in 2008.
Nelson Pereira, lhp, Pirates
Born: Feb. 12, 1989. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Signed: El Salvador, 2006. Signed by: Rene Gayo.
The Pirates were excited by the talent on their Rookie-level teams in the Dominican and Venezuela summer leagues last season, as both made the playoffs. Pereira, hoping to become the first player from El Salvador to reach the major leagues, was their most intriguing prospect, going 10-1, 2.33 in the VSL in his second pro season. Pereira has an advanced feel for pitching despite his youth, and he wins high marks for his mound presence. He has an above-average curveball and a good changeup that should eventually turn into a plus pitch as he gains experience. His fastball is only adequate at this stage, but he figures to pick up velocity as his body fills out, and he might eventually get the heater up to 90 mph. He's not big, so durability could become an issue, but he looks like a prototypical crafty lefthander. Pereira is ready for his first taste of U.S. baseball and likely will spend 2008 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Luis Perez, lhp, Blue Jays
Born: Jan. 20, 1985. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003. Signed by: Hilario Soriano.
Perez was the Blue Jays' Dominican Summer League player of the year in 2006, when he struck out 107 in 85 innings. After it took him three years to graduate from the DSL, Perez performed well in the short-season New York-Penn League last year, going 3-3, 3.70 with 71 strikeouts in 75 innings. With a chance for three above-average pitches, Perez has legitimate potential to be a starter. He pitches at 90-93 mph with outstanding late sink and tail, shows a good feel for a changeup and can spin a plus curveball at times. He goes right after batters from a low three-quarters arm slot, which suggests the potential for a slider as well. Perez struggles to repeat his delivery, which costs him command and control. He gets in trouble when he gets offline to the plate and when he tries to overpower batters instead of letting his natural movement work for him. Perez has made progress, but he'll be 23 when he reaches full-season ball for the first time in 2008.
Heath Phillips, lhp, Yankees
Born: March 24, 1982. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Lake City (Fla.) CC, 2000 (10th round). Signed by: Larry Grefer/Doug Laumann (White Sox).
Few prospects present as much of a contradiction to the eyes as Phillips. He's a big, strong lefthander who looks like a power pitcher when he stands on the mound. But he releases the ball like a late-career version of Jamie Moyer. Though he won 13 games in each of the last two seasons at Triple-A—he led the International League in victories last season—the White Sox never gave him much of a big league look. They designated him for assignment after acquiring Carlos Quentin in December. Phillips knows how to pitch and works at a quick pace. He complements his 86-88 mph fastball with a cutter and a plus curveball, but he has to hit his spots to succeed as none of his offerings overpower hitters. He shuts down the running game with one of the better pickoff moves in the game. The Yankees signed him to a minor league deal in January, and they figure to keep him in Triple-A as an insurance policy.
Jarrod Plummer, rhp, Royals
Born: Jan. 27, 1984. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—South Garland, Texas, 2002 (26th round). Signed by: Mike Leuzinger (Dodgers).
Acquired from the Dodgers in March 2006 for shortstop Wilson Valdez, Plummer has pitched well in his two seasons in the Royals system. Though he did get some action as Double-A Wichita's closer, he often worked multiple innings in relief and projects as a setup man. Plummer hardly lights up the radar gun with his 88-90 mph fastball, but it plays up because of his unorthodox delivery. His delivery is long in back, but his whiplike arm action confuses hitters without compromising his ability to throw strikes. He's still searching for consistency with his splitter and slider. He tries to be too fine with his slider, which flattens it out. Plummer earned a brief promotion to Triple-A at the end of 2007 and will return there to begin this season.
Martin Prado, 2b/3b, Braves
Born: Oct. 27, 1983. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Signed: Venezuela, 2001. Signed by: Rolando Petit/Julian Perez.
Prado is a classic example of a player who's better than his individual tools would suggest. He's an excellent contact hitter who finished second in the Triple-A International League batting race last year at .316, raising his career minor league average to .302. He has very good command of the strike zone and is considered to be the best two-strike hitters in the organization. While the Braves have given him 101 big league at-bats over the last two seasons, Prado doesn't have another tool that helps his cause in becoming a regular in the majors. His approach leads to very little power and his ability to make contact even cuts down on his walks. While he has slightly above-average speed, it doesn't translate into stolen bases. Defensively, neither his range nor his arm is overwhelming. He's as sure-handed as any infielder in the system and committed just six errors last year year. Prado does a solid job of turning double plays and is capable of playing second base, third base and shortstop. Though he lacks flash, Prado has impressed Atlanta manager Bobby Cox and will get a chance to help the Braves in a reserve role this year.
Josh Ravin, rhp, Reds
Born: Jan. 21, 1988. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2006 (5th round). Signed by: Rex de la Nuez.
It's hard to find a Reds prospect who took a bigger step back in 2007 than Ravin. A Chatsworth (Calif.) High teammate of 2007 first-rounders Mike Moustakas (Royals) and Matt Dominguez (Marlins), Ravin entered last season as a polished high school draftee who paired three solid pitches with a clean delivery. He pitched against top-level competition throughout his high school career, which makes his 2007 collapse all the more surprising. The stuff is still there, but he had extreme control problems that led to an 8.55 ERA and 89 baserunners in 40 innings. Ravin seemed to get frustrated when he didn't break camp with low Class A Dayton, then became prone to overthrowing when he returned for his second swing through the Rookie-level Pioneer League. He touched 99 mph with his fastball and flashed an above-average curveball, but he left his pitches up in the strike zone or missed the plate altogether. His delivery doesn't seem to be the problem. He has a free and easy motion, though he sometimes gets sloppy and fails to repeat it. His changeup remains below average. Cincinnati hopes Ravin can put his game back together in low Class A this season.
Kyle Reynolds, 3b/1b, Cubs
Born: Sept. 1, 1983. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Baylor, 2005 (6th round). Signed by: Steve Riha.
From Aramis Ramirez in the majors down to Jovan Rosa in the Rookie-level Arizona League, the Cubs believe they have their best third-base depth in years. Reynolds contributes to that mix after breaking out with 21 homers in 2007, increasing his production after a late-July promotion to Double-A. The son of former all-star shortstop Craig Reynolds, Kyle has played all four infield positions in pro ball but lacks the quickness to stay in the middle infield on a regular basis. Because of his slender frame, there had been questions as to whether he'd have enough power to play every day on an infield corner, but he took a step toward answering those last year. Reynolds still wasn't able to add any strength, but he did a better job of maintaining his weight throughout the season. He hangs in well against lefthanders, though his lack of patience may cost him against more advanced pitchers. Reynolds played mostly first base in his draft year of 2005 at Baylor, but he's fully capable of playing third base. He has average speed and range and enough arm to make the long throws across the diamond. He'll need to prove that his power surge was no fluke, but Reynolds' strong finish may allow him to begin 2008 in Triple-A.
Jamie Richmond, rhp, Athletics
Born: March 23, 1986. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Texarkana (Texas) CC, D/F 2004 (31st round). Signed by: Lonnie Goldberg (Braves).
When the Braves looked for another option as a center-field replacement for Andruw Jones, they sent Richmond and 2005 first-round pick Joey Devine to the Athletics for Mark Kotsay in January. The Rookie-level Appalachian League's pitcher of the year in 2006, Richmond made a solid move to low Class A last season. The Canadian righthander continued to show the ability to throw three pitches for strikes. Richmond does a good job of keeping his 89-91 mph fastball with solid movement down in the zone. He uses both sides of the plate with his fastball, curveball and changeup, and he has a good feel for mixing his pitches. At the same time, he's not overpowering, doesn't have a true out pitch and struggles with lefthanders, who hit .293 against him. Though his control is excellent, he can get wild in the strike zone and become very hittable. Projected as a middle reliever, he'll move up to high Class A with his new organization.
Billy Sadler, rhp, Giants
Born: Sept. 21, 1981. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Louisiana State, 2003 (6th round). Signed by: Tom Korenek.
The Giants considered Sadler a prime candidate for their bullpen last year, but he didn't pitch a single inning in the majors. He struggled with his command in spring training and wasn't consistent enough to earn a late-season promotion. He had a 5.95 and averaged 6.75 walks per nine innings in Triple-A, relapsing after he made major strides with his mound presence and location in 2006. He did strike out 77 batters in 55 innings, as his fastball and curveball remained overpowering when he can throw them for strikes. Sadler's two-seam fastball sits in the low 90s and has a natural cutting action that ties up righthanders. His snapdragon curve leads to plenty of swings and misses when he gets in favorable counts to use it. If Sadler can put everything together, he could reunite in San Francisco with former Louisiana State teammate Brian Wilson, the leading candidate to be the Giants' closer this year.
Sharlon Schoop, ss/2b, Giants
Born: April 15, 1987. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Signed: Curacao, 2004. Signed by: Rick Ragazzo.
Schoop is coming off a so-so year and his timing couldn't have been worse, considering the sudden competition among middle infielders in the Giants system. Schoop doesn't have Brian Bocock's playmaking abilities, Emmanuel Burriss' speed or Nick Noonan's advanced bat control, but he remains a young and intriguing prospect with a nice balance of tools. Schoop began as a shortstop, has nice hands and is considered above average defensively. But his range and arm strength don't grade out as high as others in the system, so he'll probably get most of his opportunities at second base in the future. The Giants believe in Schoop's power but he didn't show it last season, posting a .301 slugging percentage in 41 games in low Class A before a demotion to short-season Salem-Keizer. His hitting mechanics began to unravel toward the end of the year as he began dipping his shoulder. If he stays upright, he could have 20-homer potential. Schoop will have to fight for playing time with Noonan and Charlie Culberson this season, as the 2007 supplemental first-round picks figure to be the starting double-play combination in low Class A. Schoop may have to be a utilityman in 2008.
Philippe Valiquette, lhp, Reds
Born: Feb. 14, 1987. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HS—Montreal, 2004 (7th round). Signed by: Jason Baker.
In 2006, Valiquette was sitting at home in Canada trying to figure out if he even wanted to continue playing baseball. He left low Class A Dayton at midseason for a funeral and decided he didn't want to return. But after some time away from the game, Valiquette returned in time for extended spring training in 2007 and spent the last three months of the season at Rookie-level Billings and Dayton. His fastball didn't suffer from the layoff, as he still sat at 92-93 mph and touched 97. But in three years as a pro, he still hasn't developed a useable offspeed pitch. Because he hasn't shown much feel for spinning a breaking ball or honing a changeup, Valiquette's future now appears in the bullpen. He has a deceptive delivery that makes it tough for lefthanders to pick up his pitches, which means he could succeed against them even without a second average pitch. Valiquette held lefties to a .180 average and a .220 slugging percentage in 2007, striking out 13 and walking four in 50 at-bats. He could make a fourth trip to Dayton in 2008.
Fabian Williamson, lhp, Mariners
Born: Oct. 20, 1988. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HS—Sun Valley, Calif., 2006 (22nd round). Signed by: Phil Pote/Greg Whitworth.
Williamson signed too late in 2006 to make his pro debut, but he made a positive first impression last year. He spent the bulk of his time in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he got better as the year progressed. He can pitch backward—his curveball and changeup are both solid average—but he has supreme trust in an 85-90 mph fastball that he locates well against righthanders. The natural deception in his delivery makes the pitch even more effective. Williamson's fastball command is advanced for a young pitcher, especially one taken in the 22nd round. He'll move up to low Class A in 2008.