Prospect Pulse: Sept. 6

Which players may break into the top 10s this offseason




The close of the 2006 minor league season was a perfect time to take a look at the 2007 Prospect Handbook and which players put themselves into a position to jump into their organizations' top 10 lists.

For the purposes of this list, we did not include 2006 draftees. The list also does not include players who weren't among the top 30 prospects in this year's book. So sorry, Indians outfielder Brian Barton, Diamondbacks utilityman Mark Reynolds, Orioles righthander James Hoey and Angels outfielder Terry Evans. Though each one of those players likely performed their way into next year's Handbook, they aren't eligible for this list.

DIAMONDBACKS: Brian Barden, 3b, Triple-A Tucson.

Primarily a third baseman, Barden was a huge reason the Sidewinders finished the season with the Pacific Coast League's second-best record, playing every position on the infield for Tucson over the course of the year. Never a true power hitter, Barden posted a career-high in walks (43), hit .297/.360/.475 and drove in nearly 100 runs.

BRAVES: Van Pope, 3b, high Class A Myrtle Beach.

Pope displayed the best arm and was voted the best defensive third baseman in the circuit by league managers this season. And while the 22-year-old always had above-average raw power, he actually hit for a higher average at home (.274) than he did on the road (.253), though the majority of his extra-base hits came away from pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach.

ORIOLES: Radhames Liz, rhp, high Class A Frederick/Double-A Bowie.

Liz started his first full season off with a bang, whiffing 13 over five innings against Salem in his first outing as part of a combined no-hitter. While he showed signs of wear after being promoted to Double-A, the 22-year-old still struck out 149 in 133 innings, thanks to 97 mph heat and a devastating breaking ball.

RED SOX: Michael Bowden, rhp, low Class A Greenville/high Class A Wilmington.

A supplemental first-round pick in 2005, Bowden consistently showed a sinking 92-94 mph fastball in the South Atlantic League. Combined with his plus curveball, Bowden used two plus pitches to register 118 strikeouts in 108 innings for the Drive. Bowden was promoted before his 20th birthday to help Wilmington in its quest for a fifth Carolina League title, and first as a Red Sox affiliate.

CUBS: Sean Gallagher, rhp, high Class A Daytona/Double-A West Tenn.

Gallagher dominated the Florida State League, posting 91 strikeouts in 86 innings and carrying an ERA of 2.71. But the 20-year-old was even better after he was promoted to Double-A, showing good command of three average-to-above pitches, and finishing 4-0, 2.30 with the Diamond Jaxx.

WHITE SOX: Charlie Haeger, rhp, Triple-A Charlotte.

Even though he struggled in two callups to the big leagues, Haeger was an anchor for the Knights' pitching staff in 2006, leading the International League in wins with 14. The 23-year-old knuckleballer was effective in mixing in his cut fastball, only allowing nine home runs in 170 innings in the IL.

REDS: Paul Janish, ss, low Class A Dayton/high Class A Sarasota/Double-A Chattanooga.

Janish skipped three levels this year after missing half of last season due to Tommy John surgery. He showed above-average arm strength at shortstop and should be able to remain at the premium position. And as far as his bat is concerned, the 23-year-old hit .304/.371/.460 with 14 home runs in 448 at-bats this season.

INDIANS: Chuck Lofgren, lhp, high Class A Kinston.

Take your pick--third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff made history in his major league debut with a grand slam in his first at-bat, and 2005 first-round supplemental pick Johnny Drennen jumped to high Class A in his first full season. But Lofgren, who barely missed the top 10 in 2006, tied for the minor league-lead in wins (17) and carried a 2.32 ERA in 140 innings as a 20-year-old.

ROCKIES: Joe Koshansky, 1b, Double-A Tulsa.

After hitting 38 homers last season, Koshansky skipped high Class A entirely and slugged another 31 this season and drove in over 100 runs for a second-consecutive year in Double-A. Koshansky showed more than just power. Now a more complete hitter with better pitch recognition, the 24-year-old batted .284/.371/.526 overall.

TIGERS: Jair Jurrjens, rhp, high Class A Lakeland/Double-A Erie.

Coming off his first full season last year, Jurrjens built on his 12-6, 3.41 2005 numbers in a big way. Pounding the zone with a low 90s fastball, curveball and changeup, Jurrjens went 9-3, 2.69 and held opposing hitters to a .237 average this season.

MARLINS: Jose Garcia, rhp, high Class A Jupiter/Double-A Carolina.

Though he didn't impress in his Futures Game outing for the World team, Garcia still has good stuff that starts with a 95 mph fastball. His secondary pitches were inconsistent in Double-A, and there were several makeup questions, but Garcia wound up 12-10, 2.88 in 166 innings and was called up to Florida in September.

ASTROS: Chad Reineke, rhp, high Class A Salem/Double-A Corpus Christi.

The 13th-round pick in 2004 out of Miami (Ohio) opened a lot of eyes in the Carolina League with his 93-94 mph fastball and wipeout slider, and the combination prompted the Astros to fast-track him as a bullpen arm after promoting him to Double-A. Reineke's strikeout ratio improved after the jump, after he didn't have to bother himself with perfecting a changeup.

ROYALS: Billy Buckner, rhp, high Class A High Desert/Double-A Wichita.

Walks remain a concern--Buckner handed out 86 free passes in 166 innings this season, but there are also a lot of things to like about the 2004 second-round pick out of South Carolina. While he sits in the 90-92 mph range with his fastball, it's Buckner's knuckle-curve that keeps hitters off-balance. He's part of an interesting Wichita postseason rotation that also features righties Zack Greinke and Luke Hochevar and lefthander Tyler Lumsden.

ANGELS: Jose Arrendondo, rhp, high Class A Rancho Cucamonga/Double-A Arkansas.

In just his second season on the mound, this converted shortstop flashed the best fastball at the Carolina-California League all-star game, topping out at 97 mph several times. Arredondo struggles within game situations and is still very raw with his secondary pitches, but he still has great stuff and finished this season with 163 strikeouts in 151 innings.

DODGERS: Josh Bell, 3b, Rookie-level Ogden.

The Dodgers graduated plenty of talent to L.A. this year, but more is yet to come. Bell will play the entire 2007 season as a 20-year-old, likely starting out in the low Class A South Atlantic League after hitting .305/.363/.547 with 12 homers in 243 at-bats at Rookie-level Ogden. A switch-hitter with plus raw power, Bell is part of the next wave of Dodgers prospects.

BREWERS: Will Inman, rhp, low Class A West Virginia.

The flip-side of fellow South Atlantic League righthander Josh Outman (Phillies), Inman was as consistently dominant as it got in the SAL this year--leading the circuit with a 1.72 ERA. Inman only has lost twice as a professional since signing as a third-round pick last year. His fastball topped out at 95 mph this year, sitting in the 93-94 range, and he showed good command of his slurvy breaking ball and emerging changeup.

TWINS: Kevin Slowey, rhp, high Class A Fort Myers/Double-A New Britain.

Attacking hitters with supreme command and control, Slowey arguably masters the location of his pitches better than any other pitchers in the minors. With 8-5, 1.88 numbers split between two levels, the 22-year-old amassed a 151-22 strikeout-walk ratio in 149 innings. He finished his year off by pitching five strong innings against Cuba in the Olympic qualifying tournament.

METS: Mike Carp, 1b, high Class A St. Lucie.

Carp followed up his first full season last year with .287/.379/.450 numbers in the Florida State League, finishing the season with 17 home runs (ninth-best in the league) and helping St. Lucie to a postseason berth. An average defensive first baseman, the 2004 ninth-rounder needs to cut down on those 107 strikeouts in 491 at-bats.

YANKEES: Brett Gardner, of, high Class A Tampa/Double-A Trenton.

After hitting .323 with an on-base percentage of .433 in the Florida State League, the 2005 third-rounder jumped to Double-A, where he batted leadoff and stole 30 bases in 37 attempts for the Thunder. An 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, Gardner won't ever hit for much power and the 23-year-old went homerless in 2006, but his .395 on-base percentage for the year and 58 steals in 70 tries mark him as a future leadoff pest.

ATHLETICS: Jason Windsor, rhp, Double-A Midland/Triple-A Sacramento.

In just his second full season professionally, Windsor wound up tying Chuck Lofgren for the minor league lead in wins with 17. A command and control specialist, Windsor's best pitch is his plus-plus changeup, which he'll throw in any count and was a huge reason he struck out 123 batters in 118 Triple-A innings.

PHILLIES: Carlos Carrasco, rhp, low Class A Lakewood.

Still just 19 years old, the Dominican native emerged as one of the top arms in the Phillies system in 2006. Carrasco's fastball sits anywhere from 90-93 mph, but it was the improvement in command and confidence in his changeup and curveball that led to his recent rise. At Lakewood this season, Carrasco finished 12-6, 2.26 in 159 innings, leading the Blue Claws into the playoffs for the first time.

PIRATES: Brent Lillibridge, ss, low Class A Hickory/high Class A Lynchburg.

After entering the season behind shortstop Brian Bixler on the organizational depth chart, Lillibridge showed well-rounded while producing at two levels. He hit .305/.419./.480 in 475 overall at-bats this season, stealing 53 bases in 66 attempts for good measure. The 23-year-old has above-average speed and while he strikes out a lot, his plate discipline improved remarkably from his debut at short-season Williamsport last season (87 walks this year, 14 walks last year).

CARDINALS: Nick Stavinoha, of, Double-A Springfield.

The Angels were reportedly after Stavinoha in the Jeff Weaver deal in early July, but settled for Evans. Meanwhile, Stavinoha followed up his strong debut in the Midwest League with another positive showing in Double-A. While he didn't have a set position in the system, Stavinoha settled into right field and hit .297/.340/.460 in Springfield.

PADRES: Colt Morton, c, high Class A Lake Elsinore/Double-A Mobile.

Morton hasn't progressed in textbook fashion since being a 2003 third-round pick, and he wasn't hitting much at all this season in the California League, batting .227/.374/.398 for the Storm. But after an unexpected callup to Mobile, Morton worked hard with hitting coach Arnie Beyler to improve his overall approach and finished the season with .266/.329/.468 numbers.

GIANTS: Brian Horwitz, of, high Class A San Jose/Double-A Connecticut.

While Horwitz got a brief taste of Triple-A this season, the bulk of his year was spent on either coast. The 23-year-old nondrafted free agent raked at a .324/.414/.425 clip for San Jose, then hit .289/.366/.353 for the Defenders. Instincts might be his greatest skill, and Horwitz again showed brilliant plate discipline in 2006, with a 60-63 strikeout-walk ratio.

MARINERS: Yung-Chi Chen, 2b, high Class A Inland Empire/Double-A San Antonio.

Chen came off his appearance with Taiwan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic showing consistency at the plate at both levels, and he's an average defender at second base or shortstop. Chen only played at second this season during both stops, and wound up hitting .324/.380/.468 in 438 at-bats.

DEVIL RAYS: Jacob McGee, lhp, low Class A Southwest Michigan.

McGee might not have had the record (7-9, 3.05) he wanted, but he showed the ability to dominate with 163 strikeouts in 130 innings, particularly impressive in that it was his first full season. McGee throws from a three-quarters arm slot and features a fastball that tops out at 96 mph, plus slider and plus changeup.

RANGERS: Anthony Webster, of, Double-A Frisco/Triple-A Oklahoma.

A Tennessee high school football star, Webster's baseball skills finally started to translate in 2006--after five years as a pro. While he took a step back in terms of power, the 23-year-old finally moved past Class A for the first time and hit .288/.339/.421 overall.

BLUE JAYS: Chi-Hung Cheng, lhp, low Class A Lansing.

Still just 21, Cheng repeated low Class A for a second straight year, and helped lead Lansing to the Midwest League playoffs. Cheng's best pitch is his plus curveball, but needs better command of his full arsenal at the upper levels. While he struck out 154 in 143 innings, he still handed out 68 walks.

NATIONALS: Devin Ivany, c, high Class A Potomac.

Noted more for his bat than his glove in college, Ivany has reversed course as a pro. While his offensive numbers were a near repeat of last year's season at low Class A Savannah, Ivany handled three of the organization's top arms this season in Clint Everts, Collin Balester and Mike Hinckley.

And to top off his breakthrough year, Ivany beat-boxed in accompaniment to first baseman Steve Mortimer's rendition of the national anthem during a road game at Kinston. Chalk that up as a positive intangible.

QUICK HITS

• It's been a rough year for Pirates catcher Neil Walker, who missed the first month and a half of the season recovering from wrist surgery, then missed nearly all of August due to a viral infection. And even though he returned for the playoffs at Double-A Altoona, the infection took its toll on Walker, who lost 15 pounds as a result. "We tested him for mononucleosis, but it wasn't that--it just basically had to run its course," farm director Brian Graham said. "He's had to battle through a lot this year, but he's done OK. He's done a nice job with all the other things he's had to deal with."

• Even though he was eligible to return to Triple-A Durham after serving a 30-game suspension Devil Rays outfielder Elijah Dukes, did not wind up playing after July 26. Durham officials publicly said they did not want Dukes to return, and though there was talk of sending him to Double-A Montgomery for the Southern League playoffs, that scenario never materialized. But Dukes won't be sitting around this offseason, as the Rays will send the oft-troubled outfielder to the Dominican to play winter ball in November.