|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Boof Bonser, rhp, Hagerstown (Giants)|
|2. *Jose Reyes, ss, Capital City (Mets)|
|3. *Adam Wainwright, rhp, Macon (Braves)|
|4. Corwin Malone, lhp, Kannapolis (White Sox)|
|5. *Kelly Johnson, ss, Macon (Braves)|
|6. Corey Smith, 3b, Columbus (Indians)|
|7. Seung Song, rhp, Augusta (Red Sox)|
|8. Anthony Pluta, rhp, Lexington (Astros)|
|9. *Tony Blanco, 3b, Augusta (Red Sox)|
|10. *Ben Kozlowski, lhp, Macon (Braves)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Andrew McCutchen, of, Hickory (Pirates)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 170 Age: 19
Drafted: Pirates '05
|There are few 19-year-olds who make it look as easy as McCutchen, and even fewer who do as many things well.|
"He did everything," Lake County manager Lee May Jr. said. "He can cover a lot of ground, steal a base and hit for power. He is a complete ballplayer."
Though he's just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds and has a very quiet swing, McCutchen is able to generate bat speed and power with his lightning-quick hands. He can drive the ball to all fields and projects as a .300 hitter with above-average pop and speed.
McCutchen has well above-average range and looks like a future Gold Glove winner in center field. He glides in the outfield and tracks balls with ease. His fringe-average arm is his only obvious weakness.
|2.||Jose Tabata, of, Charleston (Yankees)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 160 Age: 18 Signed: Yankees FA '05|
|Though a thumb injury cost him most of the second half, Tabata's offensive prowess was quite evident. He models his game after Manny Ramirez, and that's the name scouts and managers bring up most when discussing Tabata's potential.|
He has an extremely advanced hitting approach with a swing geared to drive the ball to right-center field. He possesses a sound two-strike plan and his strikeout-walk ratio improved every month. Though he hit just five home runs, scouts see 30-homer potential.
With arm strength and speed that are both a tick above average, Tabata profiles perfectly in right field. He sometimes has problems coming in to field grounders and his routes on fly balls need improvement. There are some mild concerns about his body language on the field, but it has yet to affect his performance.
|3.||Fernando Martinez, of, Hagerstown (Mets)|
|B-T: L-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 185 Age: 17 Signed: Mets FA '05|
|If the next decade shapes up like the 2006 SAL season, Martinez and Tabata will spark debate New York arguments reminiscent of Mays vs. Mantle in the 1950s. As with Tabata, the only thing that slowed Martinez were injuries, as a bone bruise in his hand and a sprained knee limited him to 189 at-bats.|
Martinez keeps the bat in the hitting zone for a long time and stays inside the ball while driving it from gap to gap. His approach is advanced for his age, but he doesn't command the strike zone as well as he should and can be a free swinger. Scouts see power potential, though he presently has more of a line-drive swing.
With a plus arm and speed, Martinez should be able to stay in center field. His overall performance was all the more impressive considering that he was making his pro debut after signing last summer for $1.4 million--the biggest bonus on the international market in 2005. Both Tabata and Andrus made their U.S. debuts in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League a year ago.
|4.||Elvis Andrus, ss, Rome (Braves)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 185 Age: 18 Signed: Braves FA '05|
|Andrus' future involves more projection than that of Tabata or Martinez. He's not as physically developed, so his offensive ceiling remains hazy, but his defense and feel for the game are beyond reproach.|
He has an above-average arm, plus range, soft hands and good instincts. Andrus suffers concentration lapses on balls hit right at him and is better on balls he has to move for. "He was taking hits away from our guys," Savannah manager Bobby Williams said, "but it was fun to watch."
Like Tabata, Andrus has a swing geared to hit the ball to right-center and can use the entire field. His swing doesn't stay in the zone very long and he chases high pitches too often. He doesn't have present power, but he does drive the ball in batting practice.
Andrus' grasp of English is impressive for someone who has been in the United States for less then two years. He plays with a joy and energy that's infectious.
|5.||Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Lakewood (Phillies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 180 Age: 19 Signed: Phillies FA '03|
|Carrasco was a huge disappointment in the SAL a year ago, going 1-7, 7.04 in 13 starts. His second tour of the league was a different story, as he discovered a breaking ball to go with his electric fastball and advanced changeup to earn a spot in the Futures Game and lead Lakewood to a championship.|
Carrasco sits at 90-92 mph and touches 94 with his fastball. He'll also use a two-seamer when he wants to take a little bit off and add some tailing action. He has remarkable feel for his changeup that has sink and depth, and he maintains his fastball arm action when throwing it.
He tends to fall in love with his curveball, and while it's improved it still needs more work. It has inconsistent break and more advanced hitters may not chase it out of the strike zone. He has clean mechanics and repeats them well, but he rushes his delivery and would be better off slowing it down.
|6.||Chris Volstad, rhp, Greensboro (Marlins)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt: 190 Age: 19
Drafted: Marlins '05
|It's rare for a 19-year-old to have present command of three pitches, but Volstad does. The first high school pitcher drafted in 2005 lived up to expectations, overcoming a rocky May (1-4, 5.94) to allow two earned runs or less in 13 of his final 15 starts.|
At 6-foot-7, Volstad pitches on an excellent downhill plane. He pounds the lower half of the zone with a low-90s sinker that was responsible for his fine 2.3 ground/fly ratio. He typically throws his curveball at 80-82 mph, with the ability to add or subtract velocity from it.
Because of his height, maintaining his mechanics will always be a challenge. The knock on Volstad this season was that he didn't miss enough bats, but his feel for pitching and knack for inducing grounders should get him to the majors quickly.
|7.||Will Inman, rhp, West Virginia (Brewers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 200 Age: 19
Drafted: Brewers '05
|If this list were based purely on dominance, Inman would be the No. 1 pitching prospect. He led the league with a 1.71 ERA and didn't give up a run in 15 of his 23 outings.|
Though his fastball has ordinary velocity at 89-90 mph, Inman commands it to all four quadrants of the zone and is willing to attack hitters with it in any count. He complements the fastball with a two-plane slurve, though there are concerns it might have been the cause of the sore shoulder that shut him down for a month. He's working on making it a more conventional 2-to-7 curveball.
Inman began to throw a changeup for the first time this season and made progress, but he'll need more confidence in the pitch. While his 6-foot, 200-pound frame doesn't offer much projection in terms of velocity, his strong lower half should give him plenty of durability.
"He is special. He has a level that very few have," Greensboro pitching coach Steve Foster said. "You talk about emotional, he is the ultimate competitor. He gave up a triple to lead off the inning and then struck out the side with the guy standing on third. Not many guys can do that."
|8.||Sean West, lhp, Greensboro (Marlins)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-8 Wt: 200 Age: 20
Drafted: Marlins '05
|West is the classic example of a guy who you love when he's on your team, but can't stand playing against. A fierce competitor with a nasty streak, the 6-foot-8 West became notorious in the SAL for his loud mouth and fist-pumping.|
West pitched all season at 90-94 mph with his tailing fastball but needs to command it better. He also developed a slurvy 74-78 mph breaking ball, though his changeup still requires a lot of refinement. With his size and three-quarters arm slot, he's particularly tough on lefthanders, who hit just .215 against him with 25 strikeouts in 79 at-bats.
Though they can often be his best friend, West's emotions also can get the best of him and be his downfall. He needs to learn how to channel his passion, especially when things don't go his way.
|9.||Brandon Erbe, rhp, Delmarva (Orioles)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 180 Age: 18
Drafted: Orioles '05
|The Orioles were very cautious with Erbe, and understandably so. The 6-foot-4 righthander sits at 94 mph with his fastball, can touch 98 and doesn't turn 19 until Christmas.|
Erbe didn't exceed five innings in any of his 28 starts and averaged little more than four innings per outing. But when he was on the mound, he used his heat to strike out 10.38 batters per nine innings, fourth-best among starters in full-season leagues. His No. 2 pitch is an equally devastating slider that ranges from 82-86 mph and was arguably the best in the league when it was on.
Erbe has a violent delivery with a very long landing. He also throws across his body, causing his slider to flatten out at times. He uses his changeup only rarely, but if he doesn't master it he has enough weapons to make him a dominant big league closer.
|10.||Dexter Fowler, of, Asheville (Rockies)|
|B-T: B-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 187 Age: 20
Drafted: Rockies '04
|Fowler announced his presence in the SAL when he homered from both sides of the plate on Opening Day, and his upside rivals that of anyone in the league. He's still raw, but he continues to draw comparisons to all-around talents such as Andre Dawson and Andruw Jones.|
A natural righthanded hitter, Fowler began switch-hitting in 2005. He batted .296 from both sides of the plate this year and showed more power lefthanded. He needs work from both sides, however, as his swing has a tendency to get long and he has a little bit of an uppercut as a lefty. He also gets too aggressive and is susceptible to offspeed pitches.
Fowler's plus-plus speed serves him well in center field and on the basepaths, though he's still honing his basestealing instincts after getting caught 23 times in 66 tries. His arm is fringe average but fine for center.
|11.||Deolis Guerra, rhp, Hagerstown (Mets)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 200 Age: 17 Signed: Mets FA '05|
|The SAL's youngest player, Guerra never allowed more than two earned runs in any of his 17 outings. The Mets did keep him on tight pitch counts, but his 2.20 ERA still would have ranked third in the league if he had enough innings to qualify. He excelled at age 17 mainly on the strength of his changeup, showing an advanced feel for the pitch.|
"He has plus arm action on it, which is rare for a guy that young," a NL scout said. "It was fairly straight, but had a little late fade and parachuted at the end."
Guerra already is 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, and he exhibits precocious command of his 86-90 mph fastball. He should add velocity as he continues to mature, which will make his changeup more effective.
His curveball needs a lot of work, as it has poor rotation and depth. His delivery is repeatable, but it's deliberate and he would be better served by increasing his pace.
|12.||John Drennen, of, Lake County (Indians)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190 Age: 20
Drafted: Indians '05 (1s)|
|Drennen achieved more fame than any SAL player in 2006 when he homered off Roger Clemens in a tuneup start. But he's more than just the answer to a trivia question.|
A supplemental first-round pick in 2005, Drennen showed an extremely polished approach for someone who played most of the season at age 19. His smooth line-drive stroke allows him to square balls up to all fields, and he makes excellent adjustments from at-bat to at-bat.
"I liked him from the moment we saw him in the first game in April," Lexington manager Jack Lind said. "He stood out."
Though he currently plays center field, Drennen doesn't have the range to stay there. Because his arm is just average, his future likely will be in left field. There are some questions as to whether he has enough power to profile there, but he should have at least average pop in time.
|13.||Clay Buchholz, rhp, Greenville (Red Sox)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 190 Age: 22
Drafted: Red Sox '05
|Solely an infielder when he began his college career and a two-way star in his draft year, Buchholz has flourished on the mound as a pro and keeps getting better. Promoted from Greenville to high Class A at the end of the year, he hit 97 mph four times while striking out 10 over six innings in a Carolina League playoff start.|
Buchholz didn't throw that hard in the SAL, but he did feature a 90-93 mph fastball and a well above-average curveball with sharp downward bite. It was the best breaking ball in the league, though he varies the break on his curve from 12-to-6 to 2-to-7 at times and some believed he'd be better off staying with one look. He also has a changeup that should be at least average.
Buchholz has an athletic 6-foot-3 frame that allows him to repeat his delivery, but it sometimes gets a little long, which causes his fastball to sail on him. Because of his limited experience on the mound, he offers a little more projection than the typical 22-year-old pitcher.
|14.||Lorenzo Cain, of, West Virginia (Brewers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 165 Age: 20
Drafted: Brewers '04 (17)|
|The MVP of the Rookie-level Arizona League in 2005, Cain led the SAL in hits (162) and finished third in the batting race (.307). He has a good contact approach that he uses to pepper line drives from gap to gap. In quieting down the load to his swing, he has discovered a solid rhythm and has learned to trust his extremely quick hands.|
Cain still has trouble with changeups and can be pitched hard and inside. He has plus speed and probably could handle center field, where his bat would profile better, but the presence of speedster Darren Ford in West Virginia kept Cain in right. He could use work on charging ground balls.
|15.||Michael Bowden, rhp, Greenville (Red Sox)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 215 Age: 20
Drafted: Red Sox '05 (1s)|
|Bowden combined with Buchholz to form one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. Both were supplemental first-rounders in 2005, and because Bowden is two years younger, some prefer him as a prospect. |
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder is more physically developed than most 19-year-olds (his age throughout the season) and he shows a lot of moxie on the mound. He throws his fastball on a good downhill plane, sitting at 90-91 mph and reaching 94. His 12-to-6 curveball might be his best pitch and rivals Buchholz'.
Bowden has yet to master a third pitch, but he pounds the zone with his fastball and curve and carries his velocity deep into games. Since his high school days, there have been questions about his unorthodox mechanics--his arm action is long in back but short coming forward, and he has some recoil. Because of his delivery and lack of a changeup, there's some sentiment that he could wind up in the bullpen.
|16.||Ryan Tucker, rhp, Greensboro (Marlins)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 190 Age: 19
Drafted: Marlins '05 (1s)|
|Though he has a career 5.03 ERA and posted the worst numbers of the four 2005 first-rounders in Greensboro's rotation, Tucker may have the most upside of that group.|
He effortlessly sits at 94-96 mph with his fastball and touches 97, but his secondary stuff needs to get a lot better. There's some thought that he should be learn a cut fastball, which could evolve into an improved slider. While his changeup has some potential and depth, it's still not a reliable weapon and the Marlins had him focusing mostly on his fastball and slider during the season.
Tucker's arm strength is rare. As with Erbe, he could become a dominant reliever if he can't develop a full starter's repertoire.
|17.||Eric Campbell, 3b, Rome (Braves)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 195 Age: 21
Drafted: Braves '04 (2)|
|Like Cain, Campbell built on a 2005 MVP award in Rookie ball (the Appalachian League in his case) with a strong 2006 campaign. A student of the game who kept a notebook on the pitchers in the league, he applied that knowledge by leading the league with 22 homer.|
Campbell is an aggressive hitter who swings early in the count and rarely misses when pitchers make mistakes. He has ample pull power, but his open stance often leads to him flying open on the front side of his swing, making it hard to drive pitches to the opposite field.
Though his speed is average at best, Campbell has good instincts and is an excellent baserunner with a knack for stealing bases when the opportunity arises. He's solid at third base but has a slow first step to his right.
|18.||Aaron Thompson, lhp, Greensboro (Marlins)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 195 Age: 19
Drafted: Marlins '05 (1)|
|The fourth Greensboro starter on this list, Thompson ranks just behind Volstad in terms of polish but his stuff has the least upside among the group.|
Like Volstad, Thompson has above-average command of three pitches. His fastball sits consistently at 88 mph with natural tailing action, and he'll occasionally crack 90. His 80-81 mph slider is his best secondary offering. He also has a change with a late downward break that he uses as an out pitch against righthanders, and he'll flash a slow curveball to set up his slider.
Because of his lack of velocity, command will continue to be paramount for Thompson. His fastball was clocked as high as 92 mph in high school, so there's also the chance he could get back to that point.
|19.||Matt Maloney, lhp, Lakewood (Phillies)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-4 Wt: 220 Age: 22
Drafted: Phillies '05 (3)|
|Until Will Inman qualified for the ERA title in his last start of the season, Matt Maloney was in line to capture the SAL pitching triple crown. He settled for leading the league in victories (16), innings (169) and strikeouts (180) while winning the league's pitch-of-the-year award. |
He's a classic soft-tossing lefty who relies on command and guile. His fastball sits at 85-87 mph and he compliments it with a slider, changeup and curveball. He locates all of his pitches well and his fastball the best, making it his go-to offering.
With his advanced feel, he should move fast, but his lack of velocity will give him far less room for error as he advances. The 6-foot-4 Maloney has a tendency to stay upright in the finish to his delivery, causing him to leave the ball up in the zone, which could be a problem at higher levels.
|20.||Josh Outman, lhp, Lakewood (Phillies)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 180 Age: 21
Drafted: Phillies '05 (10)|
|Outman doesn't have the feel for pitching that his teammate Maloney does, but he throws significantly harder. He also put together one of the most dominant months any minor league pitcher had this year when he went 5-0, 0.28 in August. He won 13 of his final 15 decisions.|
A wiry 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds, Outman often catches hitters off guard with his 90-94 mph fastball. His 80-84 mph slider also has the potential to be a plus pitch. He throws a curveball as well, but the consensus is that he'd be better off scrapping it and sticking solely with his slider.
The key to Outman's future will be his changeup, which is still fringy. If it doesn't improve, his fastball-slider combo alone should make him an effective reliever.