Wednesday, January 23, 2006
Top 20 IMPACT ROOKIES
Last week I took a look at my choices for the 20 rookie hitters who would make the biggest impact in 2008. Today, we will be looking at the 20 pitchers that you might want to remember for your 2008 fantasy baseball teams, or just because you're a fan of the game. Again, this is my list and my opinion and certainly all debatable, so please discuss in the Comments below or send me an e-mail. There were several pitchers who missed out on this list because they pitched more than 50 innings. There were also several more than were considered for the list. I will touch on a couple of those as well.
I think this is a very interesting list. There are a couple of pitchers who are very close to "Sure Things" at the top of the list. But after that, there are a lot of question marks. Too many walks. Not enough strikeouts. Is there a role for the player in 2008 on his team? Who is his competition? But lists are for starting arguments, so please feel free to argue. We can always look back at this list at the end of the season and see how we did! But please notice just how excited #1 and #2 are about their rankings!!
SethSpeaks Top 20 2008 Impact Rookies - pitchers
#20 – Brian Duensing – LHP - Minnesota Twins – 24
I thought about using Nick Blackburn here because I think he will be considered for a 5th spot in the rotation and should maybe be the Twins long reliever. However, I think that a little respect needs to be given to Brian Duensing. He is another Tommy John survivor, but he has hit surgery several years ago and based on 1.) the Twins taking him in the 3rd round in 2005, 2.) his speedy ascent through the Twins farm system, and 3.) another look at his 2007 season, I think that Duensing has put himself into the conversation for guys that could fill spots in the Twins young rotation. He began last season at AA where he made nine starts. He went 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA in 50.2 innings. He gave up 47 hits, walked seven and struck out 38. He moved up to AAA Rochester where he went 11-5 with a 3.24 ERA in 116.2 innings over 19 starts. He walked 30 and struck out 86. I personally prefer that the Twins keep Glen Perkins in the bullpen (in place of Dennys Reyes), and that Duensing is given a shot as a starter. He will begin the season back at Rochester, but don't be surprised if he is called up in midseason.
#19 – Yorman Bazardo – RHP - Detroit Tigers – 23
Bazardo is not a guy that projects too highly in prospect realms. A fringe player maybe who could move up and down from AAA to the big leagues and from the bullpen to some spot starts. The Tigers rotation is pretty well set with Justin Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson. However, every winning team needs a sixth starter. The Tigers traded away Andrew Miller, so Bazardo will likely compete with the likes of Jordan Tata and Virgil Vasquez for that role. Of that group, I think that Bazardo has the largest upside and he did well in 11 appearances with the team in 2007. He went 2-1 with a 2.28 ERA in 23.2 innings. He gave up 19 hits, walked five and struck out 15.
#18 – Billy Buckner – RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks - 24
Twins fans saw Buckner make a couple of starts against them last year when he was with the Royals. He was shipped this offseason to Arizona in exchange for 2B Alberto Callaspo. Last year, he made four starts at AA before being promoted to AAA. There, he pitched in 27 games and made 15 starts. He went 9-7 with a 3.78 ERA in 104.2 innings. HE gave up just 108 hits. He walked 26 and struck out 83. He came up to the Royals at the end of the year and made seven appearances (5 starts). He went 1-2 with a 5.29 ERA... and yes, the Win came against the Twins. Buckner projects as a #4 starter probably, and with the D-Backs being a contender, I would expect him to pitch in long relief and as a spot starter. That said, there will be a competition for the team's fifth starter and Buckner has as good a chance as anyone to get it.
#17 – Philip Humber – RHP – New York Mets - 25
Humber had Tommy John surgery in 2005 and has done well since his comeback in 2006. He spent all of 2007 at AAA New Orleans. There he went 11-9 with a 4.27 ERA in 25 starts. In 139 innings, he gave up 129 hits, walked 44 and struck out 120. That earned him a three game stint with the Mets, including his first big league start right during the thick of the pennant race. Humber does probably project as a #3 pitcher at best, but don't forget just how highly touted he was before his surgery. He is now in his second full season after surgery, so I would not be surprised if he shows more improvement and helps out the Mets in their 5th starter role.
#16 – Manny Parra – LHP - Milwaukee Brewers – 25
The Brewers starting rotation is probably pretty well set; Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, Chris Capuano, Jeff Suppan and Carlos Villanueva. However, every team needs a 6th starter for injury or struggles, and that pitcher for the Brewers is likely Parra. Parra was the team's 26th round pick in 2001 and signed the following year as a draft-and-follow. He began the 2007 season at AA where he went 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA in 13 starts. In 80.2 innings, he gave up 70 hits, walked 26 and struck out 81. He moved up to AAA and made four starts, going 3-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He came up to the Brewers and pitched in nine games, including two starts. He was 0-1 with a .3.76 ERA. In 26.1 innings, he gave up 25 hits, walked 12 and struck out 26 before an injury ended his season. Through his minor league career, he has averaged a strikeout per inning and just 2.5 walks per nine innings. He will be a good pitcher and sometime in 2008, he will play a key role if the Brewers are successful.
#15 – Adam Miller – RHP – Cleveland Indians - 23
There was talk midway through the 2007 season that Cleveland was thinking of calling up Miller and putting him in their bullpen. I think keeping him at AAA was probably for the best. In 2006 at AA, he went 15-6 with a 2.75 ERA in 25 starts. In 143.2 innings, he gave up just 128 hits, walked 43 and struck out 157, but then he had arm problems and had surgery. He did pitch then in 2007 and he pitched at AAA. There, he pitched in 19 games and made 11 starts. He went 5-4 with a 4.82 ERA. In 65.1 innings, he gave up 68 hits, walked 21 and struck out 68. Those are not great numbers and not the numbers of a guy you expect to be ready in 2008. However, it was his first year back after his arm problems, he was up a level and there was a lot of pressure on him to perform. Having this past offseason should help make him strong, and if he's back to his former self, that includes a near-triple digit fastball which could help the Cleveland rotation or bullpen.
#14 – James Hoey – RHP - Baltimore Orioles – 25
It is about opportunity as much as anything else, and I don't expect that O's closer Chris Ray will be ready anytime near the start of the season. James Hoey will likely be a factor in the O's closer competition this spring. He went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 14 saves in 18.2 innings at AA to start the season. He struck out 28 and walked just four. In 20 appearances at AAA, he went 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA and 2 saves. He struck out 41 and walked ten in 27 innings. He came up to Baltimore and pitched 24.2 innings in 23 games. He gave up 25 hits, walked 18 and struckout 18. I again point out that it is very uncharacteristic for Hoey to struggle that much with his control. He will need to improve, but Hoey has a chance to be the O's closer sometime in 2008!
#13 – Jeff Niemann – RHP - Tampa Bay Rays – 24
I am shocked that I only included one Rays pitcher on this list. However, with Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza as the top three starters and Andy Sonnanstine likely at #4, there is really only one open rotation spot. Niemann is likely the most ready for the incredible Rays young arms. The 6-9, 260 pound righty was the team's #1 pick in 2004, the 4th overall pick out of Rice. He started his career slowly and fought arm issues. In 2006, he made just 14 starts, but that is when he turned back into a realistic prospect. He went 5-5 with a 2.68 ERA. In 77.1 innings, he gave up 56 hits, walked 29 and struck out 84. He spent all of the 2007 season at AAA where he made 25 starts. He went 12-6 with a 3.98 ERA in 131 innings. He gave up 144 hits, walked 46 and struck out 123. Clearly he will have to improve on those numbers as he moves up and pitches against the lineups in the AL East. If he doesn't, Wade Townsend, Jake McGee, Wade Davis, David Price and several other Rays pitching prospects would be more than happy to fill his role.
#12 – Bryan Bullington – RHP - Pittsburgh Pirates – 27
The former #1 overall pick in 2002 out of Ball State, Bryan Bullington really struggled early in his career and then after putting together a 9-5 record and a 3.38 ERA in AAA in 2005, he missed all of 2006 with Tommy John surgery. He came back in 2007 and had a very respectable 11-9 record with a 4.00 ERA. In 150.2 innings, he gave up 146 hits, walked 59 and struck out just 89. Bullington will certainly never be the Ace type of pitcher that the PIrates hoped he would out of college, but he could be a #4 pitcher on a team that is rebuilding and will likely count on him to eat innings.
#11 – Jonathan Meloan – RHP - Los Angeles Dodgers – 23
I normally won't include a lot of relievers as impact players, but many times their roles are as important to a team's success as anyone. Jonathan Meloan has the kind of stuff that could dominate opposing hitters. Built like Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton, Meloan also throws very hard. His minor league numbers are really good as well. He began the 2007 season in AA. He went 5-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 19 saves in 35 games. In 45.1 innings, he gave up just 24 hits, walked 18 and struck out an incredible 70 hitters. He moved up to AAA where he pitched in 14 games. He went 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA. In 21.1 innings, he gave up just 12 hits, walked nine and struckout 21. He came up to the Dodgers and pitched in five games. He gave up nine earned runs in 7.1 innings. He gave up eight hits, walked eight more and struck out seven. I don't think that Meloan would be the first hard throwing reliever to struggle with his control and still dominate games. Clearly, he will have to find a way to hone that control, but if he can do that, he teams with Broxton to form as dominant a set up core as their is in baseball.
#10 – Garrett Olson – LHP - Baltimore Orioles – 24
The Orioles are in rebuilding mode and I think that Garrett Olson is and should be a big part of that. Their 1st round pick in 2005 out of Cal Poly, Olsro moved quickly through the system. He began 2007 at AA where he made 22 starts. He went 9-7 with a 3.16 ERA in 128 innings. He gave up just 95 hits, walked 39 and struck out 120. All very good numbers. He made a few spot starts for the O's during the season as well with mixed results. He went 1-3 with a 7.79 ERA in 32.1 innings over seven starts. He gave up 42 hits, walked 28 and struck out 28. I point this out because the big league walks are not characteristic for Olson based on his minor league numbers. I fully expect that once he settles in, the walks will not be a problem, and with that control, he will be a very solid lefty for the O's for years to come!
#9 – Edwar Ramirez – RHP - New York Yankees – 26
Who woulda thought there would be rookie impact player lists that would include this many Yankees. Ramirez is really quite the incredible story. He was originally signed by the Angels in 2001. They released him before the 2004 season began. Ramirez then played in independent leagues in 2005 and to start the 2006 season. Then the Yankees called on him and signed him. His 2007 numbers were almost unbelievable, but I have to show them. He started the season at AA where he went 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA in nine games and 16.2 innings. He gave up just six hits, walked eight and struck out 33! He moved up t AAA where he pitched 40 innings in 25 games. He was 1-0 with a 0.90 ERA. He gave up just 20 hits, walked 14 and struckout 69 batters. The Yankees called him up and he pitched 21 innings in 21 games. He went 1-1 with an 8.14 ERA. He gave up 24 hits, walked 14 and struck out 31. Since he has been in the Yankees system, he has struck out no fewer than 13.5 batters per nine innings. Yes, to stick around for the long haul, he will need to work on bringing down the walks. He is a changeup pitcher, so a good comparable would be Trevor Hoffman. I think that the Yankees could be happy if he has that type of career!
#8 – Hiroki Kuroda – RHP – Los Angeles Dodgers - 32
I would like to thank Hiroki Kuroda! It is a good feeling to be writing an article on impact rookies and one of the pitchers mentioned is actually older than me! Kuroda will turn 33 in February, a good four months before I do! Kuroda got a nice contract to be the Dodgers #3 or #4 starter the next four years. He has spent the past 11 seasons pitching for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. His career ERA there was 3.69. However, his K-Rate there was right around seven per nine innings. So much is made about the pitchers that come over from Japan with big contracts. A couple of things to note. Kuroda is not as good as Daisuke Matsuzaka. So don't expect him to be great. As much as it pains me to say, Kuroda is already on the down side of his career, so don't expect great improvement over whatever he does in 2008. I think he will be solid, but certainly not spectacular. I would project 10-12 wins and an ERA probably closer to five than four.
#7 – Homer Bailey – RHP - Cincinnati Reds – 21
Again, if this was a prospect ranking, I would still have Bailey ranked higher on the list. However, it is about 2008 impact and although Bailey's ceiling is high, he certainly still has plenty to work through. He began the 2007 season at AAA where he made 12 starts on the season. He went 6-3 with a 3.07 ERA. In 67.1 innings, he gave up 49 hits, walked 32 and struck out 59. He received a few call ups to the Reds and together he went 4-2 with a 5.76 ERA in nine starts. In his 45.1 innings, he gave up 43 hits, walked 28 and struck out 28 batters. I can't make too much out of any of this though, and I think too many really have. We have to remember that he was promoted and demoted several times, never really getting time to just get comfortable. However, the walk rate at each level is alarming because it is not something that just occurred. If there is one thing Bailey needs to work on it is lowering his walks. If he is able to do that, he will be a special pitcher!
#6 – Ian Kennedy – RHP - New York Yankees – 23
There have been several pitchers the last couple of seasons that have jumped from Hi-A ball to the big leagues in the same season. Kennedy is one of them. But not all can handle it well. Kennedy's poise is what impressed me, and most scouts, most about him. He began the year by going 6-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 11 starts at Hi A. He moved up to AA Trenton where he went 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA in nine starts. He then got six starts at AAA Scranton/Wilkes Barre and went 1-1 with a 2.08 ERA. All told, her walked 50 and struck out 163 in 146.1 innings. He earned a call up to the Yankees and made three starts. He went 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings. He did walk nine and struck out 15. I think that he will likely compete with Mike Mussina for the Yankees 5th starter job. Mussina will likely win it because he's a veteran, but Kennedy will force his way back to the Yankees and he will do well.
#5 – Franklin Morales – RHP - Colorado Rockies – 21
The Rockies were a magical team for the last month of the season and right up until the World Series, and Franklin Morales and Ubaldo Jiminez were a big part of it. Morales was the team's #2 starter throughout the playoffs, and he is still just 21 years old. (OK, he turns 22 on Friday, but still...) Morales became a prospect in 2006 when, at Hi-A, he went 10-9 with a 3.68 ERA. In 154 innings, he gave up just 126 hits. He walked 89, but he struck out 179. He began the 2007 campaign at AA where he made 17 starts. He went 3-4 with a 3.48 ERA in 95.2 innings. He gave up 77 hits, walked 45 and struck out 77. In three games at AAA, he went 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA. In 17 innings, he gave up 20 hits, walked 13 and struck out 16. The Rockies called him up and he went 3-2 with a 3.43 ERA. In 39.1 innings, he gave up 34 hits, walked 14 and struck out 26. The numbers say, he strikes out a lot of hitters, but he walks too many hitters. What watching him through the playoffs told me was that he is a guy that throws very hard, who has an excellent curveball and his changeup can be devastating. Like any young pitcher, he needs to be more consistent with all three pitches, and he needs to find a way to throw less pitches. But that pitch mix and his wiry frame are just so reminiscent of a young Pedro Martinez.
#4 – Johnny Cueto – RHP - Cincinnati Reds – 21
This is another controversial selection or ranking since many would probably rank Homer Bailey ahead of Cueto in both long-term and 2008 impact rankings. I really like Cueto and he took major strides in 2007 and just got better with each promotion. He began the year at High-A where he went 4-5 with a 3.33 ERA in 14 starts. In 78.1 innings, he gave up 72 hits, walked 21 and struck out 72. He moved up to AA where in ten starts, he went 6-3 with a 3.10 ERA. In 61 innings, he gave up 52 hits, walked 11 and struck out 77 hitters. He earned a late-season promotion to AAA where he made four more starts. He went 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA. IN 22 innings, he gave up 22 hits, but he walked just two hitters while striking out 21. He has a career K-Rate of 9.26 per nine innings. He has shown good control, walking just over two per nine innings. Not bad for a guy signed out of the Dominican Republic just three years ago. The Reds and Wayne Krivsky are constantly making moves, but any deal that would involve Cueto or would take away Cueto's shot at pitching for the Reds would not be good if the team wants to compete in 2008 and beyond.
#3 – Radhames Liz – RHP - Baltimore Orioles – 24
This could be controversial because of one of Liz's most noticeable traits. He walks a lot of hitters. However, he has No-Hitter stuff! Of course, Baltimore fans will probalby say that one Daniel Cabrera is enough! Liz is a guy I picked up in a keeper fantasy league two or three years ago. Last year, he made 25 AA starts and went 11-4 with a 3.22 ERA. In 137 innings, he gave up just 101 hits, but he walked 70. He also struck out 161 hitters! He did get a September call up to the Orioles where he went 0-2 with a 6.93 ERA in nine games including four starts. In 24.2 innings, he gave up 25 hits and 23 walks, and he struck out 24. He will experience ups and downs, but with the O's rebuilding situation, I think Liz will get a chance.
#2 – Joba Chamberlain – RHP - New York Yankees – 22
This was a tough one for me. I have plenty of questions about whether he will hold up as a starter. But it is impossible to ignore the utter domination he showed as a starter coupled with the domination of big league hitters out of the bullpen. In 2007, he began the season at High Class A Tampa where he went 4-0 with a 2.03 ERA. IN 40 innings, he walked 11 and struck out 51. He was even better at AA Trenton where he was 4-2 with a 3.35 ERA. In 40.1 innings, he walked 15 and struck out 66. Then he moved up to AAA where he started once before getting two relief appearances. Get this... in eight innings, he walked one and struck out 18! He was then moved into the Yankees bullpen and we learned of The Joba Rules! That was just smart though. In 19 games and 24 innings with the Pinstripes, he went 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA. He gave up just 12 hits, walked six and struck out 34. Not bad for a guy who signed late in 2006 out of Nebraska and was making his pro debut. Chamberlain will be in the Yankees rotation. I expect Joba to strike out more than Phil Hughes, but Hughes to have better other numbers, but Chamberlain could dominate as well.
#1 – Clay Buchholz – RHP - Boston Red Sox – 22
If you're 23 and threw a no-hitter in just your second big league start, there's a good chance you're going to be somewhere near the top of this list. Add in the fact that he was a supplemental 1st round pick in 2005 who struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings in three of his four minor league stops in the last two years (over 10 in the other). Low HR rates. Low walk rates. This guy is as good as it gets. I have had people who have seen him pitch tell me that he is better than Phil Hughes and as good as any pitching prospect they have seen. Oh, but Rochester beat him in 2007! Now add in that he will be in the starting rotation of the best team in baseball, the defending World Champions and the best organization in the game, and he is a great prospect for 2007 and for many years to come!
Here are the names of a few guys who missed rookie limitation for innings pitched (50) and will not be rookies in 2008. I'm not including Tim Lincecum, Yovani Gallardo and the like who actually pitched significantly more than the 50 innings.
Kevin Slowey - RHP - Minnesota Twins -
Phil Hughes - RHP - New York Yankees
Dallas Braden - LHP- Oakland A's
Jo Jo Reyes - LHP - Atlanta Braves
Andrew Miller- LHP - Florida Marlins
Ubaldo Jiminez - LHP - Colorado Rockies
Other would-be rookies were also considered but did not make the Top 20. Of course, the Rookie of the Year or other top rookies are not always the obvious ones. Here are a couple more guys who are worth monitoring.
David Price, Wade Townsend, Jake McGee, Wade Davis - SP - Tampa Bay Rays - These guys are all potential aces.
Aaron Laffey - LHP - Cleveland Indians - So hittable and guys like Sowers and Lee will likely be given a shot too.
Luke Hochevar - RHP - Kansas City Royals - He has gotten bigger (in a good way) over the offseason, but he needs some time.
Troy Patton - RHP - Baltimore Orioles - O's have several other starter possibilities on this list, and Matt Albers too that he would have to overcome.
Ross Detwiler - LHP - Washington Nationals - the 6th overall pick in 2007 from Southwest Missouri State, he pitched a game with the Nats already. Needs more time!
Pat Misch - RHP- San Francisco Giants - probably more of a middle reliever type anyway.
Masahide Kobayashi - LHP - Cleveland Indians - More strength in the Cleveland bullpen.
Tyler Clippard - RHP - Washington Nationals - Acquired this offseason from the Yankees, Clippard had no shot there. Should get a shot with the Nats.
Gio Gonzalez - LHP - Oakland A's - After repeating AA, should spend a year at AAA!
Max Scherzer - RHP - Arizona Diamondbacks - Just needs more time in minors. After dominating low levels, just average at AA.
Greg Miller - LHP - Los Angeles Dodgers - He is a strikeout machine! And a walk machine!
That is it! The SethSpeaks Top 20 Impact Rookie Pitchers for the 2008 season. Do you have any thoughts, let me know. E-mail me.
That's it for today. I certainly hope that you have found some things that were worth reading and found the Prospect countdown enjoyable. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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