Prospects Make Difference In Playoffs

While the Arizona Fall League and Hawaii Winter Baseball are brimming with prospects, there are other prospects who will appear in the 2009 Prospect Handbook playing key roles in the major league postseason.

James McDonald, rhp, Dodgers: I saw McDonald pitch twice this season for Double-A Jacksonville—I never saw him throwing 94 mph, nor did any other evaluators who saw him in the Southern League. In Double-A, McDonald’s fastball sat at 88-91 mph, touching 92 at times. On Friday against the Phillies, he worked out of the bullpen, sitting at 90-93 mph and touching 94.

While the fastball velocity plays up a tick or two in the bullpen, his three-pitch mix makes him best-suited for the starting rotation, as his fastball might be only his third-best pitch. He throws a fastball, a curveball and a changeup, although his curveball acts as two different pitches that he can add and subtract from, as it ranged from 71-76 mph against the Phillies. His curveball looked good on Friday, as did his changeup, which can be devastating when it’s on.

David Price, lhp, Rays: Price worked at 95-96 mph out of the bullpen against the Red Sox on Saturday (or Sunday morning, whatever the official time was) with an 88-89 mph slider. If he keeps throwing that hard, his pure velocity is already among the best in the game.

As a starter in the minors, however, Price has sat around 93-94 mph, and he showed against the Red Sox that his command still needs work, though that should come once he has more than three to four months facing hitters above A-ball. It was telling that the Rays went to Price instead of Edwin Jackson—a lefty-lefty matchup certainly had some influence—but Rays manager Joe Maddon also opted to use Dan Wheeler for 3 1/3 innings rather than hand the ball to Jackson. With Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, James Shields and Andy Sonnanstine, and with Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann knocking on the door, those pieces won’t all fit into a five-man rotation. Players who have Jackson’s plus-plus velocity and hard slider seem to always have trade value regardless of their track record, and Maddon leaving Jackson in the bullpen wasn’t a sign of confidence in the hard-throwing righthander.

Fernando Perez, of, Rays: He probably will never be a steady everyday outfielder, though a good season or two as a regular is certainly possible. Perez’s best tool—his plus-plus speed—was on display against the Red Sox in Game 2 of the ALCS as he scored the game-winning run from third base on a sacrifice fly.

Perez’s skill set makes him an important asset for the Rays. He’ll make the league minimum salary, play above-average defense in the late innings, pinch-run and steal a key base in a high-leverage situation when the break-even point for a stolen base goes down. Though he switch hits, he’s been much better batting from the right side the last three years, so he can also provide the Rays with a quality bat against lefthanders.