|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Veron Wells, of, Dunedin (Blue Jays)|
|2. *Drew Henson, 3b, Tampa (Yankees)|
*Michael Cuddyer, 3b, Fort Myers (Twins)|
|4. *Wilfredo Rodriguez, lhp, Kissimmee (Astros)|
|5. *Cesar Izturis, ss, Dunedin (Blue Jays)|
|6. *Jared Sandberg, 3b, St. Petersburg (Devil Rays)|
|7. *Jason Grabowski, 3b, Charlotte (Rangers)|
|8. *Matt LeCroy, c, Fort Myers (Twins)|
|9. Matt White, rhp, St. Petersburg (Devil Rays)|
|10.*Jason Romano, 2b, Charlotte (Rangers)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Homer Bailey, rhp, Sarasota (Reds)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 205 Age: 20
Drafted: Reds '04
|In a league dominated by pitching, Bailey seemed to have it all: a dominating fastball he can command right now, and a hard-breaking curveball that gives hitters something else to worry about. Coming into the season, he still was considered a talented but erratic fireballer. By sharpening his command of his fastball, he took a big step forward to becoming a potential future ace.|
"That's a guy you look at it and it's a no-brainer," Palm Beach manager Pop Warner said. "You have the body, the free and easy delivery, the good hammer curve, electric stuff. And he's young and going to get better."
Bailey's fastball sits at 94-95 mph and touches 97-98. It has good life, showing a little extra hop as it nears the plate. He showed improved command and hit his spots consistently. His curveball is a hard-breaking 12-to-6 pitch that could give him a second out pitch. On the rare occasions where he got into trouble, though, it was because he hung his curve. His changeup has potential as well, but it is clearly a third pitch and he didn't use it much because he didn't need it to get FSL hitters out.
|2.||Yovanni Gallardo, rhp, Brevard County (Brewers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 215 Age: 20
Drafted: Brewers '04
|Gallardo showed what can happen when a prospect with quality stuff also knows how to pitch. He went a combined 11-5, 1.86 between the FSL and Double-A, leading the minors with 188 strikeouts in 155 innings.|
Gallardo's stuff is special enough. He throws a 92-93 mph fastball that peaks at 95 with armside run and sink, and he also features a plus slider and a useable changeup. What sets him apart from most pitchers is his ability to stay one step ahead of hitters. He reads swings well and knows how to add and subtract velocity to keep batters' timing off.
Perhaps most important, he seems to be at his best every time he takes the mound.
"Just his ability to get going and keep going stood out." Jupiter manager Tim Cossins said. "He never feels for anything. He's always on. He had his best stuff every night, really good stuff with command."
Gallardo's command was impeccable. While his fastball is clearly his best pitch, he was also able to throw his slider and change at any point in the count. His changeup could be an out pitch itself, as it has cutting action and was much improved from 2005.
|3.||Scott Elbert, lhp, Vero Beach (Dodgers)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 190 Age: 21
Drafted: Dodgers '01
|Elbert punched a quick ticket out of high Class A by dominating the FSL in June and early July, allowing three earned runs in his final 30 innings before his promotion. He was the most impressive lefthander in the league, showing a strong arm and a nasty, heavy fastball.|
Elbert pounded the zone with a 91-93 mph fastball that showed good sink. He also threw a hard curveball that seemed closer to a slurve. He did a good job of maintaining consistent arm speed with his changeup, though he might need to alter his grip because he throws it too hard.
Elbert's command is still a work in progress. He struggles to repeat his delivery, which leads to too many walks. It hasn't hurt him too much yet, as he has an aggressive approach and the stuff to get out of jams. If he doesn't improve his ability to locate, his bulldog mentality would serve him well as a power lefty arm out of the bullpen.
|4.||Ryan Braun, 3b, Brevard County (Brewers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 200 Age: 22
Drafted: Brewers '05 (1)|
|Braun was the one FSL hitter who left scouts and managers with little to question. He showed present power, and with a smooth swing, he also should hit for average.|
At third base, he projects as an average defender with solid range and a slightly above-average arm, though his hands and reactions could use some work. On the basepaths, he's an above-average runner.
"He pretty much does everything," Fort Myers manager Kevin Boles said. "He has a chance to be a special player. He does it all."
Braun's power numbers were lowered because the wind blows in at Brevard County's Space Coast Stadium, where he slugged .383 (compared to .500 on the road). But he showed opposite-field pop and the ability to stay in on breaking balls. He showed an advanced approach, looking to drive balls the other way but ready to pounce if anyone made a mistake on the inner half.
|5.||Donald Veal, lhp, Daytona (Cubs)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-4 Wt: 215 Age: 21
Drafted: Cubs '05 (2)|
|Veal has evoked so many Dontrelle Willis comparisons that it's necessary to issue a disclaimer: Veal is not Dontrelle Willis. His delivery, while tough on hitters, doesn't have the same deception that Willis' pinwheeling motion has.|
But the results have been similar. After a midseason callup, Veal was even better than he was in the low Class A Midwest League, limiting FSL batters to a .170 average.
He does have a high leg kick that helps him conceal the ball until late in his delivery. Combine that with his 92-93 mph fastball, and hitters were overmatched even though he pitched almost exclusively with his heater. He would bust batters inside with a four-seamer, then pick up strikeouts by painting the outside corner with a two-seamer.
Veal has good athleticism and a mature frame that seems perfectly suited to eat innings, but he'll have to improve his curveball and changeup. While his fastball command is solid, he struggles to locate his curve with any precision.
|6.||Colby Rasmus, of, Palm Beach (Cardinals)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 175 Age: 20
Drafted: Cardinals '05 (1)|
|Rasmus wasn't as dynamic in the FSL as he was in the Midwest League, but his tools stood out in both of his stops. His game is a combination of athleticism and baseball savvy, and while his future is as a position player, he was also a star pitcher who threw 91 mph in high school. He flashes average to plus tools across the board, and his heady approach belies the fact that he was 19 when he was promoted to Palm Beach.|
Rasmus employs a smooth swing that will allow him to be an above-average hitter for average and power. He struggled in the FSL because he got pull-happy, but he adjusted late in the season and started to take outside pitches to the opposite field.
Though Rasmus still needs to improve his jumps to exploit his plus speed, he already is an effective basestealers. He offers plus range and arm strength in center field, but sometimes he gets in too much of a hurry to unload the ball and loses accuracy.
|7.||Mark Rogers, rhp, Brevard County (Brewers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205 Age: 20
Drafted: Brewers '04
|Mr. Rogers is a man of extremes. He could wind up as the best guy on this list, or the worst. He could be a future No. 1 starter, but the fifth overall pick from the 2004 draft (chosen two spots ahead of Bailey) carries a higher risk of flaming out than any other top prospect in the league.|
Rogers led all minor leaguers by averaging 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings. His arm compares with anyone's in the minors. But where Bailey sat hitters down with his mid-90s fastball, Rogers has trouble commanding his. He walked 6.7 batters per nine innings, one of the worst figures in the minors.
Rogers' biggest problem is finding a consistent release point. When he locates his fastball, it's a plus-plus pitch that has late life. His hard, 12-to-6 curveball is a second potentially devastating pitch, but his command of it is well-below-average. His changeup is usable because hitters have to watch out for his other two offerings, but it's a long way from polished.
Despite his overwhelming stuff, Rogers was hittable in the FSL because he fell behind hitters too often. He missed the last two months of the season with a shoulder injury that wasn't believed to be serious.
|8.||Mike Carp, 1b, St. Lucie (Mets)|
|B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 205 Age: 20
Drafted: Mets '04 (9)|
|Nobody on this top 10 boosted his stock in 2006 as much as Carp did. Unheralded after batting .256 in his first two pro seasons, he emerged as the most dangerous hitter on the league champion St. Lucie squad.|
Carp showed an advanced approach for a young hitter, with excellent pitch recognition and the ability to work counts. Once he got ahead in the count, he showed the ability to drive the ball. Unlike most young power hitters, Carp looked first to use the opposite field rather than try to pull everything.
Carp was average defensively at first base, though he had a flair for making highlight plays. A former third baseman, Carp has more than enough arm for first base but sometimes has problems with accuracy. He's a below-average runner but not a baseclogger.
|9.||Blake DeWitt, 2b/3b, Vero Beach (Dodgers)|
|B-T: L-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 175 Age: 21
Drafted: Dodgers '04 (1)|
|The Dodgers still aren't sure where they want to play DeWitt. With Andy LaRoche ahead of him in the system, DeWitt moved to second base in the FSL before returning him to third base after an August promotion to Double-A. At any position, he's notable for his potential at the plate.|
DeWitt's strengths are his athleticism and his sweet lefty stroke. He keeps the bat in the zone for a long time, scattering line drives to all fields and displaying plus power. He can get too aggressive at the plate, which makes his swing longer and loopier.
DeWitt is understandably raw at second base, though his athleticism and baseball instincts helped him adjust quickly. He turns the double play pretty well and showed steady improvement as the season went along, but he must get better at charging ground balls. He has plenty of arm strength for second base and enough for the hot corner.
|10.||Kevin Slowey, rhp, Fort Myers (Twins)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 190 Age: 22
Drafted: Twins '05 (2)|
|When scouts talk about high Class A players, it's not uncommon for them to grade a player's raw tools, such as speed or fastball, at 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. It's rare for them to give a pitcher present 70 command, however. Slowey is the exception to the rule. |
He has the ability to pinpoint his pitches in the strike zone, and his location compares with many major leaguers. He was the FSL's most dominant pitcher during his three months in Fort Myers, compiling a 1.01 ERA and 99-9 K-BB ratio.
"He was Picasso," Clearwater manager Greg Legg said. "He threw the ball exactly where he wanted every pitch, painting the corners."
Slowey's stuff won't overwhelm hitters, as he uses an 89-90 mph fastball with late movement, a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup. Only his fastball grades out as a pure plus pitch, and that's because of its life. But his feel for pitching makes all of his pitches play up significantly, and he had no trouble adjusting to Double-A following his promotion.
|11.||Sean Gallagher, rhp, Daytona (Cubs)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 210 Age: 20
Drafted: Cubs '04
|An offseason in the weight room paid off for Gallagher, who showed up with extra velocity this season. His 90-92 mph heater, paired with above-average fastball command, has helped raise his stock as a prospect.|
Though Gallagher didn't allow an earned run in his first six starts in 2005, when he led the low Class A Midwest League with 14 wins, there were worries that his stuff was too fringy. But with the boost to his fastball, he became a more complete pitcher. His curveball is still his best pitch--it's a sharp, late breaker with good depth--and he shows more confidence in his improved changeup.
If there's still a concern with Gallagher, it's that what you see is what you get. There's not much projection to his 6-foot-2, 225-pound frame, but that was the case a year ago as well. He has displayed a knack for getting inside the head of hitters and enough command to work all four corners of the plate.
|12.||Terry Evans, of, Palm Beach (Cardinals)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200 Age: 24
Drafted: Cardinals D/F '01 (47)|
|Coming into 2006, Terry Evans had hit .239/.303/.394 in 1,420 minor league at-bats. He looked more like a guy fighting to make a team out of spring training than a prospect.|
But Palm Beach manager Pop Warner had been waiting to see if Evans would ever figure things out.
"With him, the ability was always there. The talent was always there. The tools were always there," Warner said. "We always said with him, if he ever got it, he'd be a force to be reckoned with. He obviously got it this year."
Evans completed one of the most amazing turnarounds in the minors with a very loud season that saw him get promoted to Double-A and traded to the Angels for Jeff Weaver. He's now quite clearly a prospect, as he has tools to go with his impressive .309/.377/.565 season with 33 homers and 37 steals (including his Double-A totals).
In past years, Evans was an easy mark for a slider off of the plate or a high fastball out of the zone. This year, he learned to lay off those pitches, recognize ones he could drive and work himself into hitter's counts. After being pull-happy in the past, he showed power to all fields and the ability to hit for average, but beyond that didn't really tinker with his swing. He still strikes out too much, but his added power production makes that easier to live with.
Despite being 6-foot-4 and 211 pounds, Evans is an above-average runner. He profiles best as a right fielder with a plus arm, though he also played an acceptable center field for Palm Beach.
|13.||Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Jupiter (Marlins)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 210 Age: 20
Drafted: Mets '04 (3)|
|Just like they have scattered throughout their system, the Marlins had some nice arms in Jupiter, with Scott Nestor, Jose Garcia and Harvey Garcia all earning mentions from FSL managers. None impressed more than Gaby Hernandez, who continued to show a strong feel for pitching, a prototypical pitchers' frame and impressive stuff after the Mets included him in the Carlos Delgado trade last offseason.|
The biggest difference for Hernandez, who struggled in a 10-game stint in the FSL last year, was his improved slow curveball, which now grades out as average. He also has a 92-93 mph fastball with good movement and an average changeup that has a chance to be a plus pitch.
Hernandez threw all three of his pitches at any point in the count and he could get all three over for strikes. But while he has good control, his command is still a work in progress, as he struggles to hit his spots.
|14.||Johnny Cueto, rhp, Sarasota (Reds)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 174 Age: 20 Signed: Reds '04|
|When Cueto walked to the mound, he looked like the kind of tiny righthander who survives on guile and a feel for pitching. But when the ball came out of his hand, the 5-foot-11, 174-pounder quickly dispelled any concerns about his stuff.|
Cueto's velocity picked up as the season went along, and during an extremely impressive finish to the season he pitched at anywhere from 93-97 mph, sitting at 95 at times with an effortless delivery and a quick arm. During his final five starts, he allowed only one run and 17 hits, striking out 27 and walking five. In addition to his fastball, Cueto has a tight slider that drops as it approaches the plate.
"All of his pitches have late life," Boles said. "His stuff plays in the zone. Guys don't get quality swings on him."
Despite his impressive stuff, there's some thought that Cueto could end up in the bullpen because of his small frame. However he did sustain his stuff throughout the season and was more impressive in the FSL than he had been in low Class A.
|15.||Jaime Garcia, lhp, Palm Beach (Cardinals)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200 Age: 20
Drafted: Cardinals '05 (22)|
|Garcia reached high Class A before he turned 20 and pitched in the Futures Game this year--not bad at all for a former 22nd-round pick making his pro debut. He impressed FSL observers with his live arm and steady improvement.|
He throws a 91-92 mph fastball and touches 94 with a free and easy delivery. He also has the makings of a plus curveball, though it's inconsistent. His changeup also could develop into a plus pitch, as it he throws it with good arm speed and it has some sink.
Garcia's problem is that he can fall in love with one pitch and overuse it. When he arrived in the FSL, he tried to blow hitters away with his fastball. Later, he started throwing too many curveballs.
|16.||Jair Jurrjens, rhp, Lakeland (Tigers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 160 Age: 20 Signed: Tigers '03|
|Managers saw parallels between Jurrjens and Cueto, as both are hard-throwing righthanders with small frames. Most thought that Cueto's stuff was just a touch better, but Jurrjens also impressed with a 93-94 fastball with good life. He also has a hard, slurvy curveball and an average changeup.|
Jurrjens frame is a little more solid than Cueto, but there still are concerns that he may be more suited to being a reliever than soaking up 200 innings annually as a starter. He does have the savvy and makeup to handle starting if his arm holds up. He showed the ability to hit his spots with his fastball, pitching to all four quadrants of the strike zone.
|17.||Jose Mijares, lhp, Fort Myers (Twins)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 5-10 Wt: 220 Age: 21 Signed: Twins '02|
|There's a lot not to like about Jose Mijares. Start with his 3.57 ERA as a reliever, which doesn't stand out. Take a look at his 5-foot-10, 220-pound body, which screams Rich Garces. Scouts have questioned his makeup and mound demeanor as well.|
But when he rears back and throws, it's hard to not get excited.
When he was locked in, Mijares featured a 94-95 mph fastball and a filthy 77-78 mph slider that both ranked among the best in the league. He only showed that plus stuff in limited stretches, however. At other times, his velocity would dip to the low 90s and his command would fall apart.
Part of the problem is that Mijares hasn't worked hard enough to stay in shape, which hampers his ability to repeat his delivery. He also has a below-average changeup that hasn't improved much because he rarely uses it when working out of the bullpen. He's a long ways from the majors, but the wait could be worth it.
|18.||Alexi Casilla, 2b/ss, Fort Myers (Twins)|
|B-T: B-R Ht: 5-9 Wt: 160 Age: 22 Signed: Angels '03|
|In a league dominated by pitching, Casilla was one of the few middle infielders who stood out. Acquired from the Angels in the offseason for J.C. Romero, Casilla started the season in Fort Myers and finished it in Minnesota.|
At the plate, Casilla takes advantage of his plus-plus speed by employing a running, slashing swing.
He profiles as a leadoff hitter. He controls the strike zone and makes pitchers work, and once he reaches base, he's always a threat to steal. He has a knack for getting good jumps and reading pitchers. His weakness at the plate is his utter lack of power.
Casilla played both second base and shortstop with the Miracle, and he's more polished at short right now. He has above-average range and arm strength. He's still figuring out his footwork and double-play pivot at second base.
"He's very intelligent," Boles said. "You tell him to do something one time, he puts it into the game that night. He makes adjustments very quickly."
|19.||Ryan Patterson, of, Dunedin (Blue Jays)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 205 Age: 23
Drafted: Blue Jays '05 (4)|
|Patterson never has wowed scouts, even when he was winning the Cape Cod League batting title or hitting 50 homers during his college career at Louisiana State. But he continues to hit, and he impressed FSL managers with his heady approach at the plate. He led the league with a .520 slugging percentage after topping the short-season New York-Penn League with a .595 mark in his pro debut a year ago.|
Patterson has quick hands and power to all fields. He hits breaking balls well, but there's some concern that he still has too much of an aluminum-bat swing, with his weight too far forward at contact, leaving him vulnerable to being busted inside.
Though he has average speed and an average arm, Patterson was able to handle center field with few problems. He still profiles better on a corner, however.
|20.||Greg Golson, of, Clearwater (Phillies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190 Age: 20
Drafted: Phillies '04 (1)|
|A guy who hit .224 in a return trip to low Class A doesn't seem like a prime candidate for the FSL Top 20. But Golson improved after a promotion to Clearwater and his ceiling remains high, even if he remains raw. "He's got all the tools," Legg said.|
Golson is a standout center fielder with plus range and arm strength, though his routes to the ball could use improvement. He's a plus-plus runner who's still learning how to pick his spots to steal. And he shows above-average power potential at the plate.
Golson's only problem is a big one. He has yet to show the ability to make consistent contact, as evidenced by his .233 batting average and 160 strikeouts between two Class A stops this year. He doesn't recognize pitches well and he pulls off the ball too much.
But he also has quick hands and a quick bat, which lead some to believe he'll figure it out.
"He's young," Warner said. "He'll chase here and there, but if you make a mistake, it's a different sound coming off of his bat."