Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Top 20 IMPACT ROOKIES
Good Morning everyone! Well, we're still waiting for the Indians to acquire an outfielder so that they can send Coco Crisp to the Red Sox for Andy Marte and Guillermo Mota. Of course, Mota has to pass the Indians' physical as well. There are two rumors that I'm hearing. First, the Indians are likely to trade lefty Arthur Rhodes to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for OF Jason Michaels who would take over in LF for the Tribe. The other option would be for the Indians to sign Jeff DaVanon, a free agent. Anyway, let's get to Part 2 of our look at the possible impact rookies for 2006.
After looking at the Top 20 Impact Rookie Hitters yesterday, I will turn to the Impact Rookie Pitchers today. As I said yesterday, it is really difficult to measure 'impact' and then 'impact in 2006.' What does that mean? Which prospects are far enough along that they could contribute to the big club in 2006? Which prospects are not blocked at the big league level and have a position in which to make an impact. How do you compare relievers to starters? Well, I came up with my Top 20. I know that there are some choices that may be questionable. There were a couple of good pitching prospects that aren't on this list. There are maybe a couple that you wonder why I would put on this list. Well, let's get to it and see who ranked where. As always, if you have any questions, please e-mail me or leave Comments down below.
Again, there were a few players that just missed eligibility for this list because they played too much in 2005. Starters like the White Sox Brandon McCarthy and the Astros Ezequiel Astacio. Closers like Baltimore's Chris Ray and Tampa Bay's Chad Orvella pitched too many innings. All four of these were certain Top 20s, if not Top 10, if only they were eligible.
SethSpeaks Top 20 2006 Impact Rookies - Pitchers
#20 – Joel Zumaya – RHP - Detroit Tigers – 21
Zumaya was the Tigers 11th round pick in 2002 out of his California high school. The youngster with the upper-90s fastball is still a thrower, but he made big strides in 2005. He spent most of the year at AA, but moved up to AAA for his final eight starts. On the year he went a combined 9-5 with a 2.74 ERA. In 151.1 innings, he struck out 199 hitters. That is a lot of strikeouts. The problem with Zumaya at this very early/young stage of his career is control. On the year, he walked 76 hitters. He will certainly start 2006 back at AAA with Toledo. The Tigers have a rotation with Jeremy Bonderman, Mike Maroth, Kenny Rogers, possibly Justin Verlander, and then question marks. If he gets off to a solid start, I think that he could be called up by mid season, and if so, he could have a very strong impact on the Tigers.
#19 – Jeremy Sowers – LHP - Cleveland Indians – 22
Sowers was drafted 20th overall by the Cincinnati Reds in 2001, but decided to attend Vanderbilt University instead. The huge risk paid off when he had a very strong three years in college and the Indians took him with the 6th overall pick in 2004. He signed late, so he made his professional debut in 2005. He made 13 starts at Class A Kinston and went 8-3 with a 2.78 ERA. He struck out 75 and walked 19 in 71.1 innings. He moved up to AA Akron where he made another 13 starts. In 82.1 innings, he went 5-1 with an ERA of 2.08. He walked nine and struck out 70. He got a win in his lone AAA start, striking out four in 5.1 innings. The Indians should be very competitive in the American League again. Their current rotation sets up with CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson. Should Sowers throw well at Buffalo to start the season, a midseason call up to the Indians is very possible, especially if there is an injury. If he comes up, he could stay.
#18 – Chuck James – LHP – Atlanta Braves - 24
James was the Braves 20th round draft pick in 2002 out of Chattahoochee Valley CC. I wonder if it gets, uhh, really hot there? He has been great since his pro debut. Then in 2004, at Class A Rome, he went 10-5 with a 2.25 ERA. In 132 innings, he struck out 156 while walking 48. 2005 was a remarkable season for James. He started the year making seven starts at High-A Myrtle Beach. He moved up to AA Mississippi where he made 16 starts. He moved up to AAA Richmond and made six starts. Following their season, he came up to the Braves and pitched in two games 5.2 IP, 1.59 ERA) out of the bullpen in September. His complete 2005 minor league numbers are this; 13-7 with a 2.12 ERA and in 161 innings, he struck out 193 and walked just 36. I don't know where James fits in with the Braves, but I can guess a couple of things. First, he will likely spend the majority of the season at Richmond. I also believe that he is ready to help the Braves. And most importantly, the Braves have great success finding players from their system to help impact their major league team.
#17 – Jason Hirsh – RHP - Houston Astros – 23
Hirsh was the Astros 2nd round pick in 2003 out of California Lutheran University. The 6-8, 250 pound righty signed quickly and pitched in eight games in the rookie league. He spent 2004 at Hi-A Salem where he went 11-7 with a 4.01. It was a disappointing year all around for him. In 130.1 innings, he struck out just 96 hitters while walking 57. Not good! However, he reclaimed his prospect status last year at AA Corpus Christi. He went 13-8 with a 2.87 ERA. In 172.1 innings, he struck out 165 and walked just 42. He will likely start this season at AAA, but he may also compete with Ezequiel Astacio for the 5th spot in the Astros rotation.
People can call the Marlins trading this offseason a salary dump, and it was. However, they did really well to get themselves stocked with a lot of very good, young, talented prospects. Sanchez came to the Marlins with Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett. Sanchez would likely have been the Red Sox top pitching prospect and is probably the Marlins #1 prospect. In rookie ball in 2004, Sanchez went 3-4 with a very small 1.77 ERA. He struck out 101 hitters in 76.1 innings. 2005 was another very good for Sanchez. He started the year at Hi-A Wilmington where he went 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA. He struck out 95 with 78.1 innings. That warranted his call up to AA Portland. He went just 3-5, but had a very good 3.45 ERA. In 57.1 innings, he struck out 63 and walked just 16. If the Marlins are smart, they will probably start him at AA and take their time with him. However, he could start at AAA as well. Either way, he is young, but very close to being ready.
#15 – Craig Hansen – RH RP – Boston Red Sox - 22
Hansen was the Red Sox first round pick in 2005 out of St. Johns University. He was the team's closer and recorded 14 saves in his 31 appearances. By the end of the year, he even got into four games with Boston. We really don't know much about Hansen yet. He certainly has an ability to get a strikeout as he has averaged at least a K an inning. There was talk about him being the Red Sox closer in the playoffs until Mike Timlin really came through. The Sox have added depth to their bullpen this offseason to go with Timlin. Also, they are hoping the Keith Foulke will be able to return to health. Hansen appears to have a very good shot to be in the Sox bullpen all season. What his role will be is a question mark, but could change throughout the year.
#14 – Shinji Mori – RH RP - Tampa Bay Devil Rays – 31
Mori is an interesting case study. He was a very good relief pitcher in Japan from 2000 to 2003 posting ERAs between 1.80 and 2.30 in three of the four years. However, his last two seasons, he has had ERAs over 4.30. So, how will he do in the Major Leagues? Well, last year, in just 49 innings, he was able to strike out 60 hitters. However, he must be hittable as he gave up 50 hits and 38 walks in just 49 innings in 2004. That's a WHIP approaching 2.00. He did cut the walks in half in 2005 though. I think that Mori will be a middle reliever for the Devil Rays all season. He may compete with Chad Orvella and others for the closers job, but I can't imagine that he will do that well. His hope is that he have a deceptive delivery that may fool big league hitters for a little while.
#13 – Yusmeiro Petit – RHP - Florida Marlins – 20
Petit's name has seemingly been mentioned for a long time it seems, but he is still just 20 years old. He has moved up at least once each of his three minor league years so far. He came to the Marlins as part of the deal for Carlos Delgado. He started 2005 at AA Binghamton and went 9-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 21 starts. In 117.2 innings, he struck out 130 while walking just 18. That is a WHIP of just 0.92. He lost all three of his AAA starts and had a 9.30 ERA. However, even in that, he struck out 14 in 14.2 innings. There are a couple of primary concerns when it comes to Petit. First, he did give up too many home runs in 2005. Second, he does not throw very hard on a radar gun. However, he can be very deceptive and make it appear as though he is throwing harder. Finally, Petit is listed at 6-0 and 230 pounds. The latter may be on the conservative side. Like Bartolo Colon, some worry about his conditioning and how he'll hold up, but Colon has done pretty well. Petit should compete for a spot in the Marlins rotation, but for his development, a half year at AAA would probably be beneficial.
#12 – Hayden Penn – RHP - Baltimore Orioles – 21
Penn was the O's fifth round draft pick in 2002 out of his California high school. He started the 2005 season with AA Bowie. There, he made 19 starts (20 games) and went 7-6 with a 3.83 ERA. In 110.1 innings pitched, he struck out 120 hitters and walked just 37. He made eight starts with the Orioles. In 38.1 innings, he went 3-2 with a 6.34 ERA. He struck out 18 and walked 21 hitters! Those aren't good numbers. However, throughout his brief minor league career, he has always displayed very good control. Even with the addition of Kris Benson, there is a good chance that Hayden Penn will compete for the Orioles fifth starter in 2006. If he wins that role and sticks in the rotation, he will certainly have an impact on the Orioles and the whole AL East. However, it would be best if he could spend another year in the minor leagues, at AAA.
#11 – Travis Bowyer – RH RP - Florida Marlins – 24
Another pitcher the Marlins got this offseason who may have a shot at a spot on the team's opening day roster. The Twins received Luis Castillo in December for Bowyer and Scott Tyler. Bowyer has been great the last two seasons in the Twins minor league system. It took the 1999 20th round pick a while to get in the groove though. In 2005, he recorded 23 saves and went 4-2 with a 2.78 ERA for Rochester. He even impressed me in his brief time with the Twins in September. Bowyer throws 96-98 mph with his fastball, but it is well known that he needs to develop a second and even a third pitch to be successful in the big leagues. I think that Bowyer will be given every chance to be the Marlins closer on Opening Day, and if so, he could have an impact on the few chances that the Marlins have for some wins in 2006!
#10 – Justin Verlander – RHP - Detroit Tigers – 22
Verlander was the Tigers first round pick, second overall, in 2004 out of Old Dominion. He made his professional debut in 2005 at Lakeland in the Florida State League. There, he went 9-2 with a 1.67 ERA. In 86 innings, he walked 19 and struck out 104 hitters. He moved up to AA Erie and was even better. In seven starts there, he went 2-0 with a 0.28 ERA. He walked seven and struck out 32 in 32.2 innings. Such a performance earned him two starts with the Tigers (one against the Twins). He went 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA. In 11.1 innings, he walked five and struck out seven. He was then shut down for the rest of the year because of some shoulder pain. He should be just fine heading into the 2006 season and has a shot at a spot in the Tigers starting rotation. (Twins fans - On July 23rd, he gave up five runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings. Scott Baker recorded his first win as he went seven innings and gave up just two runs on five hits and a walk. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau each had a double against Verlander, and Morneau connected for his 12th homer.)
#9 – Dustin McGowan – RHP - Toronto Blue Jays – 23
2003 was a great year for McGowan. He had pitched well in the Florida State League and moved up and did well in AA as well. He went into the 2004 season as the organization's top prospect. However, just six starts into the season, McGowan underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the year. He made his comeback in 2005 and did well. Between AA and AAA, he made 12 starts and struck out 53 hitters in 56 innings. He was called up to the Blue Jays and made seven starts and six appearances from the bullpen. He went 0-1 with a 6.35 ERA. You would think that the team's first round pick in 2000 would be given a shot at a spot in the team's rotation in 2006, but probably not. With Roy Halladay, AJ Burnett, Gustavo Chacin, Ted Lilly and Josh Towers comprising the rotation, McGowan will likely remain in the bullpen in 2006. However, injuries have affected most of those starters, so he could float between the bullpen and the rotation.
#8 – Rich Hill – LHP – Chicago Cubs - 25
Hill was the Cubs 4th round pick in 2002, after his senior season at the University of Michigan. He had already been drafted twice previously. The Cubs were very patient with Hill, moving him up one level each year until 2005. He actually made one start at Class A in 2005. He made 10 starts at AA West Tennessee and went 4-3 with a 3.28 ERA. In 57.2 innings there, he struck out 90 hitters and walked just 21. He moved up to AAA Iowa and made 10 more starts (one relief appearance). He was 6-1 with a 3.60 ERA. In 65 innings, he struck out 92 and walked just 14 hitters. He was called up to the Cubs a couple of times and started in four of his ten appearances. In 23.2 innings, he struck out 21 hitters, but he also walked 17 hitters. That was really the first time that he showed any wildness, so I would probably attribute it to nerves. I expect Hill to be the Cubs #5 starter throughout the season.
#7 – Paul Maholm – LHP - Pittsburgh Pirates – 23
The Minnesota Twins drafted Maholm in the 17th round of the 2000 draft. However, he decided to spend three years at Mississippi State. He was then drafted in the first round (8th overall) by the Pirates in 2003. 2005 was a very good year for Maholm. He started the year at AA Altoona where he went 6-2 with a 3.20 ERA. He struck out 75 in 81.1 innings. He moved up to AAA Indianapolis for six starts. He went 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA. He moved up to the Pirates and was great. He went 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his six big league starts. He isn't a big strikeout guy, and he certainly needs to walk fewer hitters. But the Pirates sound very comfortable in putting Maholm in their starting rotation right away.
#6 – Anthony Reyes – RHP - St. Louis Cardinals – 24
Reyes was the Cardinals' 15th round pick in 2003 out of USC. His rise through the Cardinals system has been remarkable. In 2004, he went 9-2 at two stops including 6-2 with a 2.91 ERA at AA. He started 2005 at AAA Memphis and went 7-6 with a 3.64 ERA. In 128.2 innings, he struck out 136 hitters while walking just 34. He was called up and pitched in four games (1 start) for the Cardinals. He was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA. In 13.1 innings, he struck out 12 and walked four. Now, the only thing holding Reyes back is a spot in the Cardinals' rotation. With Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder, Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis and Sidney Ponson penciled in as the starter, I would think Reyes would be back at Memphis basically waiting for an opportunity.
#5 – Francisco Liriano – LHP - Minnesota Twins – 22
Liriano was signed by the Giants out of The Dominican Republic in 2000. He came to the Twins late in 2003 with Boof Bonser and Joe Nathan for AJ Pierzynski in one of the Twins greatest trades of all time. Last year, he started the year at New Britain and went 3-5 with a 3.64 ERA. In 76.2 innings, he struck out 92 and walked 26 hitters. He moved up to Rochester and the stuff of legends happened. There, he went 9-2 with a 1.78 ERA. In 91 innings, he struck out 112 and walked just 24. He definitely deserved his major league call up. He went 1-2 with a 5.70 ERA for the Twins. Not impressive numbers, but if you watched him pitch, it is easy to see why he is so good. In 23.2 innings, he struck out 33 hitters! He walked just seven. With a 96-97 mph fastball to go with a slider at 88-91, he has two big league pitches. However, like Johan Santana, he also has a great changeup! Now, I probably have Liriano ranked too low here. If this was a list of just the Top Prospects, looking to the future, Liriano is probably the top pitcher. But again, this is a list looking at 2006 impact. I am just not sure what Liriano will do with the Twins in 2006. The team continues to say that they will keep Liriano starting in Rochester if he does not leave training camp in the Twins rotation. I think that is best for his future. However, because he is also the top lefty in the system not names Santana, he would be excellent if the Twins chose to use him as a one inning guy out of the bullpen for this year. In that role, he could be dominant in 2006 and be well up this chart. However, if he spends a lot of time in Rochester, it is hard for him to impact the Twins.
#4 – Jonathon Papelbon – RHP - Boston Red Sox – 25
Papelbon was a big impact player for the Red Sox last year down the stretch. He became a trusted pitcher out of the bullpen. He was the team's 4th round pick in 2003 out of Mississippi State. In 2004, he made 24 starts at Class A Sarasota, he went 12-7 with a 2.64 ERA. In 129.2 innings, he struck out 153 hitters and walked just 43. Papelbon started 2005 at AA Portland. He made 14 starts and went 5-2 with a 2.48 ERA. In 87 innings, he struck out 83. He moved up to AAA Pawtucket and 1-2 with a 2.93 ERA making four starts and three relief appearances. He moved up to the Red Sox and made three starts but made his biggest impact in the bullpen. Overall, he went 3-1 with a 2.65 ERA. In 34 innings, he walked too many (17) and struck out 34 hitters. What will 2006 bring for Papelbon? He is considered untouchable, but it is unfortunate that he is being wasted in the bullpen. However, that is probably where he will spend most of the season. (Twins Note - On July 31, Papelbon made his first big league start against the Twins. He got a no-decision by giving up 3 runs (2 earned) in 5.1 innings. He walked five and struck out seven. He gave up homers to Justin Morneau (14th) and Jacque Jones (15th).)
#3 – Scott Olsen – LHP - Florida Marlins – 22
Olsen was the Marlins 6th round pick in 2002 out of his Illinois high school. Olsen had sub-3.00 ERAs in 2003 and 2004 at Low A Greensboro and Hi-A Jupiter, respectively. He also struck out more than a batter an inning at each stop. He started 2005 at AA Carolina. He went 6-4 with a 3.92 ERA. In 80.1 innings, he walked 27 and struck out 94. He was called up to Florida and made four starts (plus one relief appearance). He was 1-1 with a 3.98 ERA. In 20.1 innings, he struck out 21 hitters and walked 10. He was then shut down for the rest of the year. Like Petit and Sanchez, Olsen would probably be best served to spend some time at AAA, but if he is healthy, he has a very good chance of being in the Marlins rotation.
#2 – Joey Devine – RH RP - Atlanta Braves – 22
The Braves had all kinds of problems in their bullpen in 2005. For the first time, they took a relief pitcher with their first round pick. Joey Devine was taken by Atlanta with the 27th overall pick out of North Carolina State. In his three seasons as the closer at NCSU, he recorded 36 saves. In 150.1 innings, he walked just 44 and struck out 199 hitters. After signing, he flew up to Braves system. He started a Hi-A Myrtle Beach where he didn't give up a run in four games. He then threw in 18 games at AA Mississippi where he was 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA. He pitched in one game at AAA and was finally called up to the Braves twice in September. Now, he had some struggles with the Braves. In his debut, he allowed a game-losing grand slam to Xavier Nady. He gave up a grand slam to Jeromy Burnitz in his next game as well. Of course, everyone remembers that he gave up the Chris Burke homer in the 17th inning that sent the Astros to the NLCS and the Braves home. What people forget is that he struck out three of the previous four batters he faced. I think Devine showed a lot of class with the media following that game, and if that is in any way a true representation of himself, he will have the persona to be a very good closer. Will it be for the Braves in 2006? I think he'll be the team's closer all year long.
#1 – Matt Cain – RHP - San Francisco Giants – 21
Cain was drafted by the Giants in the first round (25th overall) in 2005 out of his Tennessee high school. In 2004, he combined to go 13-5 with a 2.67 ERA. In 158.2 innings, he struck out 161 hitters. At just age 20, Cain started 2005 at AAA Frisco. There, he went 10-5 with a 4.39 ERA. In 145.2 innings, he struck out 178 hitters. He did still walk 73 batters as well, something he will need to improve. He received The Call late in the season and made seven starts for the Giants. He went 46.1 innings and struck out 30 and walked 19. Those are not good peripherals, but Cain has the 'stuff' needed to make it big. He should start the season in the Giants rotation along with Jason Schmidt, Matt Morris Noah Lowry and Brad Hennessey.
In no particular order, here are other 2006 rookies who could have an impact on their teams this year. Remember, the Rookie of the Year frequently goes to someone out of the blue, so it could very easily be someone not even on this list.
Dan Meyer - LHP - Oakland A's - Meyer was high on my list a year ago when he put up amazing numbers in the Braves system, like Chuck James did in 2005. However, he struggled in his first year in the A's system.
Adam Loewen- LHP - Baltimore Orioles - Control problems were improved and he could move quickly starting this year.
Abe Alvarez - LHP - Boston Red Sox - quality bullpen possibility, but had a tough 2005 season.
Willie Eyre - RHP - Minnesota Twins - has a good chance to make the Twins roster as a long-man out of the pen.
Jon Lester - LHP - Boston Red Sox - along with Papelbon, the other untouchable in the Sox system. Take a look at his numbers at AA last year, and see why he's thought of so highly. Red Sox will have other options, so I predict big things for Lester... in 2007!
Jonathon Broxton - RHP - Los Angeles Dodgers - Triple-digit gas, but with a healthy Eric Gagne and the arrival of Danys Baez, how much opportunity will Broxton get in 2006?
John Danks - LHP - Texas Rangers - The Rangers could have had Josh Beckett had they been willing to deal Danks. Had a quality year at AA.
Thomas Diamond - RHP - Texas Rangers - See John Danks.
Cole Hamels - LHP - Philadelphia Phillies - Likely would have made big league debut in 2005 if not for getting in a preseason fight that made him miss part of the season. He will be incredible though!
Jered Weaver - RHP - LA Angels of Anaheim - How quickly will the Angels move him up? Also, will they sign his brother Jeff?
That is it! The SethSpeaks Top 20 Impact Rookie Pitchers for the 2006 season. Do you have any thoughts, let me know. E-mail me.
Roger started a fun discussion at Twinkie Town on what surprises we are hoping for in Spring Training.
Kelly Thesier answers more Twins question in her weekly mailbag. Also, be sure to check out Kelly's articles this week as she travels with Joe Mauer, Carlos Silva, Tony Oliva and Dick Bremer on the South Leg of the Twins Winter Caravan.
And on that note, I will call it a day. 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.
Back to Archives Home