|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Jose Reyes, ss, Binghamton (Mets)|
|2. *Brandon Phillips, ss, Harrisburg (Expos)|
|3. *Victor Martinez, c, Akron (Indians)|
|4. *Justin Morneau, 1b, New Britain (Twins)|
|5. *Cliff Lee, lhp, Harrisburg/Akron (Expos/Indians)|
|6. *Aaron Heilman, rhp, Binghamton (Mets)|
|7. *Adrian Gonzalez, 1b, Portland (Marlins)|
|8. *Kevin Youkilis, 3b, Trenton (Red Sox)|
|9. *Erik Bedard, lhp, Bowie (Orioles)|
|10. *Freddy Sanchez, ss/2b, Trenton (Red Sox)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Clay Buchholz, rhp, Portland Sea Dogs (Boston)|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 23 Drafted: Red Sox ’05 (1)|
made just three starts above low Class A prior to this season, but the Red Sox
pushed their athletic righthander aggressively and he rewarded them with a
dominant turn in the EL and quick rise to the majors. He allowed more than two
runs in just two of his 15 starts.|
He was a model of consistency, throwing quality strikes with a lively 90-95 mph fastball, a curveball one scout rated a 70 on the 20-80 scale, and a plus changeup that several managers claimed was his best pitch. From time to time he even mixed in a hard slider. The total package prompted one American League scout to give Buchholz a 60 for Overall Future Potential—in other words, a multi-time all-star.
"He just makes hitters look silly. You see a lot of off-balance swings," Erie manager Matt Walbeck said. "His stuff makes your jaw drop, and he also has presence and poise."
|2.||Andrew McCutchen, of, Altoona Curve (Pirates)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170 Age: 20 Drafted: Pirates ’05 (1)|
|McCutchen also spent
most of 2006 in low Class A, ranking as the South Atlantic League's top
prospect, but he got a 20-game taste of the EL late last season and hit .308.
The Pirates sent him back to Altoona
after he had a strong spring training, but McCutchen struggled with the cold
weather and level of play, hitting .189 without a homer in April. However, he
fought through his struggles, batted .306 after the all-star break and hit .313
in 17 games following a promotion to Triple-A.|
His speed and defense never slumped. A well above-average runner, he stole 17 bases in 18 tries and was the EL's top defender in center field with plus range and a strong throwing arm. McCutchen's bat speed, hitting ability and raw power came to the fore when he stopped pressing, regained his confidence and trusted his hands at the plate.
"He settled in when he wasn't over-aggressive, wasn't intimated when behind in the count and wasn’t just whaling at the first straight pitch he saw when he was ahead," a National League scout said. "Early on, he lost some confidence. He looked more professional by the time he went up."
|3.||Fernando Martinez, of, Binghamton Mets|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 18 Signed: Mets ’05|
strong reactions in both directions from scouts and some wonder why they've
pushed the 18-year-old so quickly after signing him for $1.4 million in 2005.
His detractors question everything from his spread-out stance to the load in
his swing to his defense, which may be best suited for left field. His
proponents see tremendous upside in his bat and think he'll smooth out the
rough edges in his game.|
Martinez flashed premium bat speed and power prior to getting hurt. He'll need to improve against breaking pitches and lefthanders, but scouts stressed that he would have just graduated high school had he been from the U.S. instead of from the Dominican Republic.
"He did a lot of things wrong when I saw him. His defense was extremely rough," the AL scout said. "But you watch batting practice and the guy is hitting balls out to center field easily. You know the guy can do anything he wants offensively."
|4.||Asdrubal Cabrera, ss, Akron Aeros (Indians)|
|B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170 Age: 21 Signed: Indians ’02|
|Cabrera had never
played in Double-A prior to this year, though he played in Triple-A throughout
2006, when the Indians acquired him from the Mariners in a midseason deal for
Eduardo Perez. In 2007, the Indians opted for a conservative approach so he
could work on his defense at shortstop. His bat came to life in the process,
and he finished the season as the Tribe's big league second baseman, relegating
Josh Barfield to the bench.|
Cabrera improved his plate discipline and became much more consistent offensively, thriving after lowering his elbow in his stance. The tweak quickened his hands and unleashed solid gap-to-gap power.
A savvy baserunner with average speed, he's an instinctive and flashy defender with a plus arm. Cabrera improved his footwork on balls to the hole, and by taking extra grounders he learned to anticipate balls off the bat better, rarely getting caught in between by bad hops. There's no reason he couldn't play shortstop at the big league level.
|5.||Ian Kennedy, rhp, Trenton Thunder (Yankees)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Yankees ’06 (1)|
|Kennedy won just five
games at Southern California as a junior in 2006, but he joined Pacific-10
Conference rivals Tim Lincecum (Washington) and Brandon Morrow (California) by
going from college to the big leagues in one year. In contrast to those two
flamethrowers, Kennedy relies on command of a four-pitch mix to succeed, and he
dominated three minor league levels on the way up.|
In the EL, Kennedy showed solid command of a plus changeup and three average pitches: an 88-91 mph fastball, a slow curveball and a slider. He did a much better job finishing hitters off than he did as a college junior, when his fastball flattened out and his changeup regressed.
"His stuff was not overwhelming, but he pitches and he's poised," said an AL scout, who projected Kennedy as a future No. 3 or 4 starter. His feel and mound presence may allow him to become more than that, and he allowed just four earned runs in his first three starts with the Yankees.
|6.||Jair Jurrjens, rhp, Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 160 Age: 21 Signed: Tigers ’03|
second in the league with a 3.20 ERA, Jurrjens proved more ready to help the
Tigers in the majors than 2006 first-round pick Andrew Miller. Jurrjens pitches
off his two- and four-seam fastballs and his four-seamer ranges from 92-95
Athletic with a fluid delivery, Jurrjens was at his best when he attacked hitters with two-seamers and his improved slider. His changeup at times is a plus pitch with sink and good deception, but his slider has surpassed it as his best secondary offering. Erie's smallish ballpark at times made him pay for pitching up in the strike zone, but he commanded the zone much better at the end of his EL stint, with 24 strikeouts and one walk in 23 innings over his last three starts.
"He's pitching at 92-94, then he's got that hard sinker and breaking ball, and it's all for strikes, and good strikes too," Bowie manager Bien Figueroa said. "He's not afraid of anybody. I was glad when he left, to tell you the truth."
|7.||Alan Horne, rhp, Trenton Thunder (Yankees)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 195 Age: 24 Drafted: Yankees ’05 (11)|
|For the first time in
his winding career, Horne pitched like the first-round pick he was back in
2001, when the Indians failed to sign him out of high school. After having
Tommy John surgery at Mississippi and helping
lead Florida to the 2005 College World Series,
he put it all together as Trenton's
most consistent starter. He stayed healthy and made every turn in the rotation,
key reasons why he led the league in ERA (3.11) and strikeouts (165 in 153
One AL scout who saw Horne several times saw four plus pitches: a 94-95 mph fastball, sliders and curveballs thrown with power and depth, and a surprising changeup that helped him shut down lefthanders. The biggest caveat with Horne is a long arm action that has helped lead to injury breakdowns in the past as well as lapses in control.
|8.||Jed Lowrie, ss, Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox|
|B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180 Age: 23 Drafted: Red Sox ’05 (1)|
last year by an ankle injury, Lowrie rebounded with a huge 2007 season, both at
the plate and in the field. He dug himself out of a 9-for-53 (.170) start with
the league's best plate discipline and an excellent two-strike
Lowrie got himself into hitters' counts and lashed line drives from gap to gap, en route to 47 doubles between Double-A and Triple-A, the fourth-best total in the minor leagues. A switch-hitter, he's more aggressive and has more pop from the right side and projects to hit 10-15 home runs annually.
Lowrie hit at Stanford and was expected to hit as a pro, but his defense had been a question. The consensus now is that he can be an average big league shortstop with slightly above-average range and good hands. His quick release helps his average arm play up.
|9.||Neil Walker, 3b, Altoona Curve (Pirates)|
|B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Pirates ’04 (1)|
|Walker began spring
training at catcher, but soon afterward made his long-anticipated move from
behind the plate. Playing close to his suburban Pittsburgh home, he settled in
at third base and had a renaissance season with the bat, posting career highs
in most categories.|
A switch-hitter, Walker has plus power potential and makes consistent contact. His athleticism helped him make the transition to the hot corner, where he became more aggressive as the season went on and showed good range to his left to go with a plus arm.
"He was very consistent offensively from both sides of the plate," the NL scout said, noting Walker's near-identical numbers (.846 OPS hitting righthanded, .814 lefthanded). "Playing in the Arizona Fall League last year really expedited the process of him learning to wait for his pitch and not chase out of the zone, and it lets him use his power. He kept his wits about him with all the pressure of switching positions and playing in front of friends and family, and is a very mature kid."
|10.||Collin Balester, rhp, Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Nationals ’04 (4)|
|Harrisburg was the
league's worst team at 55-86, featuring several older players and little
positive energy. But Balester stuck out as a young prospect on the rise,
impressing observers with his athleticism and
Balester profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter. His fastball has late life and grades out as above-average due to his control and ability to touch 93-94 mph, though he pitches at 89-91. His curveball is inconsistent but can be an average big league pitch once he tightens it up. He also shows a feel for an average changeup, though at times he slows his arm speed when throwing it.
|11.||Jordan Brown, 1b/of, Akron Aeros (Indians)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 205 Age: 23 Drafted: Indians '05 (4)|
|Brown outshined higher-profile Akron teammate Trevor
Crowe, who was also his teammate at Arizona. He won the EL batting title (.333)
and led in hits (161) while showing gap power and offensive savvy.
While Brown played some left field, he fits better defensively at first base. He shows good hands there and picks balls out of the dirt well, though he needs work on his range, reactions and game situations. He doesn't fit the classic first-base profile, but his plate discipline and hitting ability will get him to the major leagues.
"He's an everyday player for me, maybe first division, maybe second division, but he can really play and can really hit," one of the AL scouts said. "His swing reminds me some of Sean Casey. It's one of the better swings in the league. He's kind of a poor man's Lance Berkman, not that kind of power but that kind of feel for the barrel of the bat."
|12.||Radhames Liz, rhp, Bowie Baysox (Orioles)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 24 Signed: Orioles '03|
|Managers and scouts
in the EL didn't quite know what to make of Liz once they saw him pitch on TV
after his big league promotion. That Liz struggled to throw strikes and didn't
trust anything but his fastball. The EL version was the hardest thrower among
the league's starters other than Joba Chamberlain, no-hit Harrisburg in June
and ranked seventh in the minors with 10.6 strikeouts per nine
Like Orioles enigma Daniel Cabrera, Liz throws a plus-plus fastball (sitting 94-96 mph at times with good life), and his changeup, slider and curveball all have flashed the potential to be average pitches. Like Cabrera, his control wavers as he opens his front shoulder in his delivery, causing his arm to drag and leading to inconsistent release points. Forget about command--he won't ever have it.
"We worked with him on trying to keep a better tempo," Figueroa said. "He needs to get the ball and go after guys, trust his stuff. He has so much velocity and life on his fastball, he just needs to trust it and throw it for more strikes."
|13.||Justin Masterson, rhp, Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 250 Age: 22 Drafted: Red Sox '06 (2)|
|Masterson found the
EL to be a pitcher's paradise after escaping from high Class A Lancaster, home
of the minors' best hitter's park. He got off to a tremendous start in Portland
before tiring late, as his sinker and slider flattened out a
At his best, Masterson was a groundball machine (he got 3.5 groundouts for every flyout) and missed bats as well. He drives downhill in his delivery and has natural sink on his low-90s fastball, which can touch 94. It's heady territory for someone who was pitching at the NAIA level two years ago.
Many scouts have likened Masterson to Mike Timlin since seeing him in the Cape Cod League in 2005. If Masterson's changeup doesn't become more consistent soon, the Red Sox may not be able to resist the lure of putting a hard-throwing sinkerballer with good control in the bullpen.
|14.||Kyle Kendrick, rhp, Reading Phillies|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 23 Drafted: Phillies '03 (7)|
|Kendrick never had
pitched above Class A prior to 2007, but he entered the postseason as the Phillies'
Game Two starter, and his 3.87 ERA ranked second among their starters. He got
started down that path in the EL, as he harnessed his command and stopped
trying to pitch up in the strike zone with his fastball and down with his
The athletic Kendrick repeats his delivery, pumps his two-seam sinker to the bottom of the zone and spots his harder, low-90s four-seamer down and away. He also has a hard slider that's more of a groundball pitch than a strikeout offering. His changeup plays up because he locates it well.
"He realized strikeouts are over-rated," Reading manager P.J. Forbes said. "He's pitching at the knees and when he misses, he misses down. He made hitters hit his pitch, because his command was that good. To give up just three home runs, playing in our ballpark, that's all about executing your pitches, and he did."
|15.||Chuck Lofgren, lhp, Akron Aeros (Indians)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 215 Age: 21 Drafted: Indians '04 (4)$|
|The highlight of
Lofgren's season was going home to San Francisco for the Futures Game--he's
from famed Serra High in nearby San Mateo--but the regular season held some
struggles for him. His athletic ability, competitiveness and aptitude still
make him one of the minors' more intriguing lefties, but he has work to
Lofgren pitches off his average-to-plus fastball, running it up to 93-94 mph at times. His curveball, slider and changeup all flash above-average potential as well. He started throwing his changeup two years ago and it's now his best secondary pitch, allowing him to be more effective against righthanders (.739 OPS against) than lefties (.815 OPS).
Lofgren didn't attack Double-A hitters like he needed to, getting into trouble by nibbling when he got ahead or by struggling to throw his secondary pitches for strikes early in counts. One scout said Lofgren needs to learn pitchability and expects his athletic ability to help him do that with another year in the minors.
|16.||Jeff Larish, 1b, Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Age: 24 Drafted: Tigers '05 (5)|
|EL managers came to
have the same feelings about Larish that scouts have had since his college days
at Arizona State. Once considered a potentially elite hitter, he has adopted an
approach and sells out for home runs. It makes his profile more that of a
second-division regular than as a championship-caliber
"He's abandoned using the whole field and has very little two-strike approach," one scout said. "He was just trying to jerk balls, but he showed pretty big power, and it's from the left side."
His upright stance turns off some, because it precludes him from covering the outer third of the plate and produces serious holes in his swing. The things he can do make Larish a prospect.
He's patient, ranking second in the league and sixth in the minors with 87 walks, and he waits out pitchers until he gets a pitch he can drive. His strength and leveraged swing produce well above-average power, as he led the EL with 28 homers and 101 RBIs. He's also an accomplished defender around the bag at first base.
|17.||Brian Barton, of, Akron Aeros (Indians)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 187 Age: 25 Signed: NDFA Indians '05|
|Barton was unable to
follow up on his breakout 2006 season, which included hitting .351 in 151
at-bats with Akron. His encore was solid, just less
Barton still has premium tools, such as plus speed and range in the outfield. His arm also has improved. The Indians have worked to alter his throwing mechanics, and his arm has improved a full grade to average while maintaining good accuracy.
Barton's offensive approach has produced minor league results, but some scouts still question his swing, which is far from pure. One scout said he stayed inside the ball too much, precluding pull power. His .402 on-base percentage between Double-A and Triple-A this year was attributable in part to getting his by 30 pitches (the second-highest total in the minors), but that skill may not translate to the big league level.
|18.||Brian Duensing, lhp, New Britain Rock Cats (Twins)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 195 Age: 24 Drafted: Twins '05 (3)|
|The strength of the
Twins system remains pitching, and Duensing was part of a talented New Britain
rotation that included several other arms who could have made the Top 20. Rock
Cats teammate Anthony Swarzak has better pure stuff, but Duensing's makeup and
polish prompted more plaudits from league observers.|
A three-pitch lefthander, Duensing has above-average control and projects to have plus command as he gets further away from the Tommy John surgery he had while in college at Nebraska. He pitches off an 87-91 mph fastball that he cuts and sinks. He also has tremendous confidence in his plus changeup, and he uses his average slider to neutralize lefthanders.
Duensing needs to finish his delivery more consistently to keep his stuff down. He doesn't have much margin for error and gets punished when he leaves his stuff up.
|19.||Mike Costanzo, 3b, Reading Phillies|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215 Age: 23 Drafted: Phillies '05 (2)|
second to Larish with 27 homers despite a horrific start. For the second
straight year, he finished with a flourish, hitting .358 with eight home runs
in the final month. He earned comparisons to Russell Branyan for his prodigious
lefthanded power and erratic play at third base, where he committed 34
Costanzo evokes Branyan also for his strikeouts (157 in 508 at-bats), and his grooved swing will continue to produce holes that pitchers at advanced levels can exploit. He has the athletic ability to adjust and the raw power to hit homers even without squaring up the ball, but he must show the ability to make more adjustments and lay off pitches he can't hit.
Defensively, Costanzo has the tools to play third, most notably a plus arm. But he has yet to make the adjustments that would make him an average defender. He lacks consistent footwork, and scouts question his agility and infield actions.
|20.||Nolan Reimold, of, Bowie Baysox (Orioles)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 207 Age: 23 Drafted: Orioles '05 (2)|
|Reimold missed the
better part of the season with an oblique strain, costing him valuable
development time. When healthy, however, he showed more complete tools and
athletic ability than fellow sluggers Larish and Costanzo.
Like that duo, Reimold has to show he can make consistent contact, and his lesser feel for hitting makes him further from reaching his ceiling. While he has played primarily center and right field in the minors, his tools fit best in left, especially his fringe-average arm. He runs well for his size, but his future will come down to how he hits.
"He got better hitting breaking balls this year, better at laying off," Figueroa said. "He made a little more contact. He still chases a lot, but when he gets it, man, it goes. He would have been in the big leagues this year if he'd stayed healthy."