The Milwaukee Brewers have reportedly come to terms with free agent left-handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny on a two-year, $6 Million contract, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The deal will go through once Gorzelanny passes a physical examination set for Friday.
Tom (@Haudricourt) December 20, 2012
Gorzelanny, 30, spent the last two years with the Washington Nationals. In 2012, he made 45 relief appearances with the club. Logging exactly 68.1 innings in that role, he posted a 2.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP, struck out 57 and walked 28, and held opponents to a .240/.318/.390 slash line.
Stuff-wise, the veteran southpaw employs a three-pitch mix that includes a sinker (89-92 MPH), four-seam fastball (90-92 MPH) and changeup (84-86 MPH), though he also tries to work in a slider (81-83 MPH), curveball (79-82 MPH) and cutter (87-89 MPH).
His best pitch is his slider, which opponents garnered just a .125 batting average and .188 slugging percentage against last season. The pitch is a true swing-and-miss offering, amassing a swing-and-miss rate of 43 percent. It was noticeably effective against left-handers, collecting a swing-and-miss rate of 46 percent.
Here’s a batter’s-eye-view of his arsenal.
Stay here for the latest developments.
If one thing has become clear this off-season, it’s that the Milwaukee Brewers aren’t willing to take a chance on risky free-agent talent.
Missing out on outfielder Josh Hamilton and right-handed starter Ryan Dempster (both inked free-agent contracts Thursday), general manager Doug Melvin seems to be sticking to his guns this winter.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all is lost.
Still needing to find replacements for departing relievers such as Francisco Rodriguez, Jose Veras, Manny Parra and Kameron Loe, Melvin could be looking to find big-name bullpen help for next season. One such name that has been brought up in discussion is 34-year-old right-hander Mike Adams.
Fittingly enough, recent reports indicate that Adams may in the next few days decide where he will play in 2013, and beyond.
ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported Thursday that the Brewers are linked to the veteran right-hander.
Clubs pursuing Mike Adams say he could sign in next couple of days. Among teams linked to him: Nats, Jays, Phillies, Rangers, Cubs, Brewers—
Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) December 13, 2012
Last season, Adams posted a 3.27 ERA (3.52 FIP, 3.95 xFIP), 1.39 WHIP, .327 BABIP and 7.8% HR/FB% over 52.1 innings as a member of the Texas Rangers’ bullpen, which was a far cry from his outstanding 2011 campaign where he hoarded a 1.47 ERA and walk rate of 5.1 percent.
Adams broke onto the big-league scene with Milwaukee in 2004 as a 25-year-old and stayed with the club through the 2006 season.
Corey Hart wants to remain in Milwaukee for the entirety of his career — that much is certain.
“I’m comfortable here, my family is comfortable here. We don’t want to go anywhere else,” Hart told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel late last August. “I wanted to make sure they knew I wanted to stay. I’d like to play my whole career in Milwaukee.”
But do the Brewers want Hart? The answer to that question is becoming more certain with each passing day.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Brewers are discussing a new deal with their 30-year-old first baseman. Still under contract through the end of the 2013 season, Hart is reportedly pursuing a three-year contract extension with the club. If the Brewers had it their way, they’d most likely opt for a two-year deal while increasing the $10 Million salary he is set to earn next season.
Transitioning from right field to first base, Hart committed just four errors in 103 games at first-base and a 8.45 range factor in 103 games.
Hart is the longest tenured player on Milwaukee’s roster heading into the 2013. He hit .270/.334/.507 with 30 home runs and a .358 wOBA, 125 wRC+ and 2.9 WAR, according to FanGraphs.
Despite tossing eight complete innings of two-hit baseball with 11 strikeouts against the Cincinnati Reds Wednesday afternoon at Miller Park, it doesn’t seem as though Zack Greinke and Brewers GM Doug Melvin are making any headway in their quest of a long-term contract extension.
According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, there have “been no recent contract negotiations involving Greinke” and the Brewers at this juncture of the season. From Heyman’s Twitter page early Wednesday morning:
Wednesday was easily Greinke’s best outing of the season, setting season-bests with 11 punchouts, two hits allowed, eight innings, no walks while moreover conceding no runs. His dominance of Reds hitters yesterday now gives Milwaukee’s 28-year-old free-agent-to-be a 3.35 ERA (2.17 FIP), 1.14 WHIP with a whopping 46 strikeouts to just 10 walks so far this season. Outside of his second outing of the season against the Chicago Cubs — where he conceded eight runs on nine hits over 3.2 innings — Greinke has pitched lights-out thus far into his 2012 campaign.
According to FoxSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal, the Milwaukee Brewers and catcher Jonathan Lucroy have agreed to a five-year, $11 Million contract extension. An official announcement regarding the deal is said to take place on Tuesday, March 27, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Per Rosenthal’s twitter page that first reported the story Monday afternoon:
Last season, the 25-year-old Lucroy batted .265 with 12 home runs , 59 RBI and 45 runs scored in 136 games in his first full season as Milwaukee’s starting catcher. He was a brick wall behind the plate, garnering a .993 fielding percentage and 8.96 range factor while allowing just one passed ball despite being dealt a league-high 62 wild pitches from Brewers pitchers.
The Brewers have been searching for any type of solidarity from behind home plate for an extremely long time and if these reports prove true, it will prove to be a huge commitment for a club looking to ink as many of it’s current players as possible after Prince Fielder signed on with the Detroit Tigers last January.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a minor league pitching prospect without his fair share of strengths and weaknesses. The fact is, every young pitcher is able to excel some area of his game and struggles at another end.
That same philosophy can be applied to the pitching prospects that reside in the Milwaukee Brewers’ pitching-heavy minor league affiliates. Each top prospect has certain strengths and weaknesses that are able to either facilitate or handicap his respective game. How each young pitcher is able to balance the two will go a long way in determining his future at the major league level.
What is the single greatest strength and weakness of each top 10 Milwaukee Brewers pitching prospect?
After four pedestrian seasons in Milwaukee’s system, Santo Manzanillo broke onto the scene in 2011 and staked his claim as a real late-inning fire-baller. His fastball has been clocked in the mid-90s for a while now but he found that he’s capable of running his fastball up to triple-digits. Manzanillo utilized his potency on the mound last season throughout his 2011 campaign. In 61.2 innings between high-A and double-A ball, the Dominican native struck out 62 batters and conceded just 44 hits. If he can stay within himself and maintain his superb velocity in the season’s to come, a big-league promotion could be on the way in the near future.
Like many young, blossoming closers that have come before him, Manzanillo has shown struggles with walks and that was never more evident than after being promoted to double-A ball midway through last season. While he did post an impressive 2.21 ERA in 20 appearances at the double-A level, he garnered a 5.3 BB/9 and 1.58 SO/BB ratio. If he has any intention of breaking through to the Pacific Coast league by the end of this season, he’ll need to redeem himself after a disappointing stint in double-A Huntsville.
Strength: Limiting walks
At 6’6″, 225 pounds, you’d expect Kyle Heckathorn to be a real workhorse on the mound with tremendous velocity and above-average command. Surprisingly, the latter best defines Heckathorn’s game. He’s been able to limit his walks at an impressive clip thus far in his pro career. Between low-A and high-A ball in 2010, the Kennesaw State product walked just 33 batters over 124 innings for a 2.4 BB/9 IP ratio and walk percentage of just 6.2. Those gaudy numbers largely contributed to him being named Milwaukee’s top minor league pitcher of 2010.
Weakness: Strikeout abilities
Heckathorn has the frame, velocity and solid secondary pitches necessary to become a real strikeout-predicated pitcher at the minor league level. Though for whatever reason, he simply struggles to get swings-and-misses, and consequently his strikeout numbers are less-than-impressive. In his breakout season of 2010, Heckathorn punched out just 90 batters and followed that up with a 89-strikeout season in 2011.
Strength: Eating innings
Amaury Rivas is your typical minor-league pitcher. He won’t blow you away with any pitch and he doesn’t particularly excel in one specific area of his game.
However, he does know the importance of working both sides of the plate and eating as many innings as possible. Since 2008, Rivas has averaged 136.1 innings, 108 strikeouts and 56 walks per season. In triple-A ball last season, the Dominican native amassed a career-high 150.2 innings that ranked as the 14th-most innings by any pitcher in the Pacific Coast League.
Rivas has fallen victim to hits throughout his professional career, but last season was easily the most disheartening. He allowed nine hits per nine innings pitched and saw his WHIP escalate from 1.30 in 2010 to a concerning 1.54 in 2011.
Strength: Strikeout abilities
Cody Scarpetta success as a minor league pitcher has without question come from his strikeout abilities. In 2009, the youngster punched out over nine batter per nine innings pitched and logged an impressive 10 K/9 IP ratio in advanced-A ball in 2010. His low-90s fastball has been a dull pitch for him but he’s gone to his outstanding curveball in the clutch. Scarpetta’s breaking pitch has been his signature offering since he broke onto the scene in 2008 and has in turn allowed him to strike out plenty of batters.
While Scarpetta has real upside with his strikeout capabilities, his control has remained unsettled throughout his four professional seasons. The 23 year old’s command is still a work in progress and that will likely halt his promotion timetable. As he’s progressed through the system, his walk ratios have increased dramatically. After a stellar 2008 rookie campaign where he managed a 3.63 K/BB ratio, he collected an abhorrent 1.61 K/BB last season in double-A ball.
6. Jorge Lopez
Strength: Growth potential
The Brewers took Jorge Lopez at 70th overall in last June’s draft and by no means was it an inadvertent selection. The 6’4″, 165-pound high-school right-hander was rated as Puerto Rico’s top talent of the 2011 draft and boasts a solid mid-90s fastball and tight-curveball combination. What’s most scary about Lopez’s game, though, is that he still has a ways to go in reaching his full potential. He’s extremely athletic and if he can add a few more pounds on, he could develop into a real workhorse at the next level.
Weakness: Extremely raw
While Lopez’s growth potential is considerable, scouts have acknowledged that he’ll need to hone his pitches and grow into his body in the coming years. A multi-sport athlete in his younger years, Lopez will be a project at the minor-league level for likely the first two years of his professional career as he get acclimated with the pace and feel to the minors. Once that’s accomplished, the sky could very well be the limit.
Milwaukee’s second-round pick from the 2010 pitcher-friendly draft, Jimmy Nelson has easily the most projectable big-league frame of any pitcher in the Brewers’ system. Weighing in at a healthy 6’6″, 245 pounds, the Alabama product exemplifies the value of having a durable, power-packed physique. Nelson’s big-boned frame has enabled him to touch the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball with consistency. He also has arguably the best slider in Milwaukee’s system to boot.
There’s a lot to like about Nelson’s game but there’s also a lot to dislike about it. He leaves the ball over the plate frequently and that in turn has generated some truly unsightly numbers. In 25 starts last season at the low-A level, Nelson tossed 146 total innings over 25 starts and conceded exactly 146 hits. Couple that with 65 walks and 13 wild pitches, and there’s definitely some cause for concern with respect to his command.
Strength: Off-speed pitch
Many would say that Tyler Thornburg’s success as a minor-league pitcher has been a product of his velocity, but I would argue that it’s his off-speed material that has transformed him into a top-caliber pitching prospect. The former third-round pick out of Charleston Southern can run his fastball up to the mid-90s and has an average curveball to complement it. His changeup, though, is easily his best pitch and projects to be a real weapon at the big league level. It has great fade and draws a lot of swings-and-misses.
While it’s true that Thornburg’s game has a lot to offer, his meager frame presents a number of problems. His 5’11”, 185-pound frame hasn’t allowed him to go deep into games and that could be a chief reason why he’s destined for a bullpen role rather than a spot in a starting rotation. Last season, Thornburg made 24 starts (12 in low-A ball and 12 in advanced-A ball), yielding 136.2 total innings for an average of under six innings per start. His clear lack of stamina is a real concern moving forward.
Milwaukee’s second first-round pick from the most recent draft, 21-year-old former Georgia Tech ace Jed Bradley pitches well beyond his years. He isn’t overly phenomenal at any one specific area and contrary to popular belief, that actually works (and will work) to his benefit as he progresses through the system.
He has the ideal 6’4″, 225-pound build necessary to be a 200-inning starter at the big league level and his three-pitch approach comprised of a low-90s fastball, solid change-up and plus-slider impressed scouts during his college days, where he rarely made costly mistakes.
Weakness: Subtle Mechanics
Many believe Bradley’s smooth 3/4 delivery may be his biggest strength — I couldn’t agree more. He throws with relative ease and is able to hide the ball with great effectiveness, which adds a considerable amount of deception to his pitches.
That said, Bradley maintains his own fair share of weaknesses that will need to be addressed as he progresses through the system. Most of his deficiencies are hardly noticeable and shouldn’t take too much time to correct.
The picture above shows one of Bradley’s flaws. In the picture on the right, Bradley’s hips aren’t able to fully open like the picture on the left. When this happens, he tends to leave the ball up and away, and in turn weakens his control and leads to more walks. This isn’t an overwhelming concern and should be fixed quickly, but it nonetheless remains his most significant deficiency.
The University of Texas’ junior ace from last season, Taylor Jungmann does everything exceptionally well and it was grueling task just narrowing down his game into one overarching strength.
Aside from his plus-fastball, curveball and changeup, it’s obvious that Jungmann’s greatest strength is his ability to go deep into games. Last season, he compiled 141 innings over 18 starts for the Longhorns, averaging out to nearly eight innings of work per each start. His impressive stamina should bode well in his first pro season and into the prospective future.
Weakness: Honing his pitches
Truth be told, there’s really no definitive knock to Jungmann’s game. His 2011 season at Texas was near impeccable and he showed to be above-average in nearly every facet imaginable.
Right now, though, Jungmann’s temporary weakness may be to hone his pitches as he gets set to skip both rookie and low-A ball to head straight to high-A ball. His impressive fastball-curve-changeup combination was superb at the collegiate level but it will need some time to get settled in professional ball.
Strength: Strikeout abilities
As the Brewers’ top pitching prospect, 22-year-old Wily Peralta does many things well. He can turn up the heat and touch the mid-90s with his fastball that has nice tailing action and also induces a lot of swing-and-misses with his plus-slider and solid changeup.
As a consequence to his credible three-pitch repertoire, Peralta’s unequivocal strength thus far is his ability to strike batters out. In 26 starts last season, the Dominican native punched out a combined 157 batters in 150.2 total innings and garnered a strikeout percentage of 32.8 in his brief stay in the Pacific Coast League.
If there’s been one area of concern for Peralta up to this point it’s been his command, thought it showed massive signs of improvements last season. Between high-A and double-A ball in 2010, Peralta walked essentially four batters per nine innings pitched, enough for an underwhelming 1.63 SO/BB ratio. He came back and posted a much-improved 2.66 SO/BB ratio last season between double-A and triple-A ball.
One of the chief reasons the NL Central has garnered a reputation for being one of Major League Baseball’s most competitive, talent-oriented divisions is in large part to player development in the minors.
Each team in the division has, to some extent, predicated their success through the MLB Draft and an overwhelming percentage of each club’s rosters have come from home-grown talent. This year looks to be no different than from past seasons.
With spring training almost here, many teams’ top prospects will look to leave a lasting impression on their respective organizations. But which players should be placed in the “upper-echelon” category of prospects? Let’s break down the top 20 prospects in the NL Central for 2012.
20. Oscar Taveras
Oscar Taveras has three professional seasons to his credit and has impressed scouts in every step of his development. The 19-year-old Dominican Republic native is a budding start with legitimate five-tool capabilities. In 2010, Taveras batted .303 with eight home runs, 45 RBI and a .526 slugging percentage between two rookie levels. His performance warranted a promotion to start 2011, and he wouldn’t disappoint.
The left-handed-hitting outfielder batted an amazing .386 with eight home runs, 62 RBI and posted a remarkable 1.028 OPS in the Midwest League. The scary part about Taveras’ game is that he’s still growing into his body, which could push him through the Cardinals’ system if he continues his dominance through the upper minors.
Signed by the Philadelphia Phillies as a non-draft pick free agent in 2008, Jonathan Villar made his way to the Astros’ system in 2010 and has quickly become one of the preeminent base-stealing prospects in the entire minors.
In 2010, the Dominican native nabbed a combined 45 stolen bases between low and high-A ball, batting .260 with five home runs, 55 RBI and 79 runs scored in the meantime. Last season, he logged 34 stolen bases and amassed 14 home runs, 52 RBI and scored 78 times. Villar has exceptional fluidity and range at shortstop and projects to be a perennial Gold Glove winner for years to come. The only knock to his game at this point is his inconsistencies at the plate. Once he shores that up, he’ll look to be Houston’s shortstop of the future.
18. Tyler Thornburg
The Brewers are top-heavy in pitching talent on the farm and Tyler Thornburg is one of the preeminent talents featured. He’s been one of the most impressive youngsters in the entire minors over the past two seasons.
In his rookie campaign in 2010, Thornburg tossed 23.1 innings of solid ball, posting a 1.97 ERA and 14.7 K/9 IP ratio in the meantime. His eye-opening performance elevated him through low-A and high-A ball in 2011 where he garnered a combined 2.57 ERA and struck out 160 batters in just 136.2 innings of work. Thornburg’s stock is soaring at the moment and if he’s able to prolong his success through next season, there’s a legitimate chance he could break through to the majors late in 2013. The only question at this juncture is whether or not his 5’11”, 185-pound frame will hold up as the competition elevates.
17. Jed Bradley
Jed Bradley was high on many teams’ draft boards last June and, needless to say, the Brewers were ecstatic that the exemplary left-hander fell to them at 15th overall.
In his junior season at Georgia Tech, Bradley went 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA, striking out 106 batters in just 98 innings. He also held batters to a feeble .239 BA and, believe it or not, conceded just one home run to the opposition all season. The 21-year-old southpaw has three credible pitches at his disposal and uses each to his liking. He touched 94 MPH with his fastball, 83-84 MPH with his changeup at the Arizona Fall League last fall and also worked on polishing his low-80s slider. He’s got a fluid throwing motion that needs little-to-no refinement.
16. Trey McNutt
Trey McNutt wasn’t considered a top-tier prospect coming out of Shelton State Community College in 2009, but after a few years in the minors, he’s quietly developed into one of the Cubs’ top young pitching talents.
After a solid rookie year in 2009, McNutt made his way through three levels of the minors in 2010. Between low-A, high-A and double-A ball, the 6’4″, 220-pound righty went a combined 10-1 with a 2.48 ERA, striking out 132 in just 116.1 innings of work. He spent his entire 2011 campaign in double-A and struggled mightily, going 5-6 with a rather unsightly 4.55 ERA. Despite his mishaps last season, there’s no questioning what he brings to the table. He can run his fastball up to 95 with great command and also has an interesting curveball/slider combination. Word on the street says the Cubs will want him in the majors in the very near future.
Taylor Jungmann torched the competition in his final season at Texas, and when the Brewers took him at 15th overall at last summer’s draft, it’s safe to say they found their future No. 2 starter. Last season, Texas’ ace went 13-3 with a 1.60 ERA and struck out 126 batters in 141 innings. He also held opponents to a remarkable .165 BA and garnered a sumptuous 0.86 WHIP. He can run his fastball up to the mid-90s with solid command and his curveball is also a plus-pitch.
In a Brewers farm system largely devoid of top-tier pitching, Jungmann will have the opportunity to absolutely sprint through the system. He’s expected to start his inaugural season in high-A ball and work his way up from there, though it’s clear Milwaukee intends on pushing him up to the majors by 2013.
14. George Springer
George Springer was one of the most highly-touted prospects featured in last summer’s draft and it’s easy to see why. He is a complete ballplayer in every sense and has legitimate five-tool makeup.
In his last season at Connecticut, Houston’s first-round pickup posted a .343 BA and slugged his way to 12 home runs, 77 RBI and 23 doubles. He also managed a .450 on-base percentage and .608 slugging percentage while also logging 31 stolen bases. Given his baseball prowess and time spent in college ball, Springer won’t need much time in the minors for the Astros to promote him to the majors. Simply put, he’s one of the most refined young players to come out of last June’s draft and will look to become a superstar-caliber talent for years to come.
13. Javier Baez
The Cubs took a gamble on 18-year-old shortstop Javier Baez at last June’s draft, but their investment will go a long way toward shoring up their infield for the prospective future.
Still relatively unknown by Chicago fans, Baez has enough athletic ability to play second and third-base at the major league level, though is still extremely raw for his age and will need at least two seasons in the minors to refine his game. However, there’s no denying his defensive aptitude and overall upside. In his rookie campaign last season, Baez had just 18 total plate appearances but the Cubs quickly promoted him to low-A ball. He’s expected to start his 2012 campaign at low-A Boise and work his way up from there.
Jarred Cosart was one of the Phillies’ top pitching prospects before being dealt to Houston via trade last summer. He now looks to break through to the majors for the Astros in the very near future.
Drafted fresh out of high school in the 38th round of the 2008 draft, Cosart has three years of pro experience to his credit and has showed signs of being a workhorse at the big-league level. In 2010, he went 7-3 with a 3.79 ERA and struck out 77 in 71.1 innings at low-A ball. Last year he scooted his way up to double-A ball, where he struggled in his seven starts, posting an ERA of 4.71 and an underwhelming 1.69 K/BB ratio. The Astros have a bevy of top pitching prospects in their system and Cosart may have the highest ceiling of all. His fastball can touch the mid-’90s and his hammer-action curveball is easily the best in Houston’s system. Look for him to start 2012 in double-A and break through to triple-A by season’s end.
11. Wily Peralta
Signing as a non-draft pick in 2005 at 16 years old, Wily Peralta has spent five solid seasons in the Brewers’ system and is almost ready to contribute at the major-league level.
In 2010, the bulky right-hander and Dominican Republic native went the distance by going 8-6 with a 3.79 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 147.1 innings of work. However, he struggled with command issues and conceded 64 walks, leading to an abhorrent 1.41 WHIP. He bounced back in 2011 by going a combined 11-7 with a 3.17 ERA in 150.2 innings, striking out 157 and walking just 59. Peralta can touch the low to mid-’90s with his fastball and has a plus-slider and changeup that will serve him well at the next level. He’s clearly Milwaukee’s top prospect heading into this season and has a shot at breaking camp with the big-league team out of the bullpen to start his 2012 campaign.
10. Jonathan Singleton
Another prospect sent to Houston from the Phillies’ system, Jonathan Singleton is widely considered to be the Astros’ top youngster heading into this season.
The 6’2″, 215-pound first baseman is athletic as they come and uses his prowess to his advantage in the batter’s box. In 2010, Singleton batted .290 with 14 home runs and 77 RBI in 104 games in low-A ball and followed that up last year by batting .298 with 13 home runs and 67 RBI in high-A ball. Singleton is also a capable defender, as well. He carries a career .989 fielding percentage and 8.73 range factor, and his wing span makes him an ideal target at first base. At just 20 years old, Singleton is already a seasoned minor league talent and shouldn’t need any more than two seasons down on the farm before he’s ready to contribute for the Astros at Minute Maid Park.
The Pirates have a number of extremely talented arms in their system, but not a whole lot of positional stars to speak of. Starling Marte is probably one of Pittsburgh’s best positional prospects.
A 23-year-old center-fielder with a considerable amount of defensive range, Marte is an above-average athlete who may be on his way to the big leagues by the end of 2012. Last season in double-A, the Dominican native posted a .332 BA with 12 home runs, 50 RBI, 91 runs scored and logged 24 stolen bases. Adding more power to his swing would make him a legitimate five-tool prospect. Marte is currently on Pittsburgh’s 40-man roster to start spring training. If he impresses, there’s a chance he will get called up mid-season after some time in triple-A to refine his game a bit more.
8. Anthony Rizzo
Few prospects on this list are as MLB-ready as 23-year-old Anthony Rizzo. With four scintillating pro seasons under his belt, he’s as ready as he’ll ever be to contribute at the big-league level.
At the triple-A level last season, Rizzo was nothing short of sensational, batting .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI. He managed a .404 on-base percentage and registered a remarkable .652 slugging percentage in the meantime. The Chicago Cubs and new President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein loved what they saw in Rizzo and traded for him in early January. In their endeavors to go young, rebuild and start from scratch, Rizzo figures to be the Cubs’ first-baseman of the future. It remains to be seen if he’ll start his 2012 campaign in the minors or if he’ll break camp with the big league team.
7. Billy Hamilton
Base-stealing is an art form that few players, much less minor-leaguers, have been able to perfect. However, Billy Hamilton seems to have it down pat.
A second-round draft pick from the 2009 draft, Hamilton has provided more than enough reasons to believe he’s the Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop of the future. Last season at low-A ball, the 21-year-old notched 103 stolen bases in 135 games. He batted .278 with three home runs, 50 RBI and 99 runs scored as a switch hitter, additionally. Scouts everywhere agree that Hamilton has legitimate lead-off material at the big-league level, but that he’ll need to shore up and develop his power slightly more. He’s average in the field and may have to find his way to second base or possibly even the outfield in the future. Baseball America ranks Hamilton as the Reds’ No. 2 overall prospect heading into this season.
6. Brett Jackson
In a Chicago Cubs’ farm system without any sensational positional prospects, 21-year-old outfielder Brett Jackson really stands out as a future star in the making.
Between high-A and double-A ball in 2010, the California product batted a combined .297 with 12 home runs, 66 RBI, 103 runs scored and also notched 30 stolen bases. Last season between double and triple-A, Jackson batted .274 with 20 home runs, 58 RBI, 84 runs scored with 21 stolen bases. Jackson has impressed scouts with his five-tool makeup. He’s got a strong arm, can play defense in the outfield, can run, can hit for average and has flashed instances of being able to hit for power at the next level. If he can continue to rake at his impressive pace, there’s no question he’ll break onto the major-league scene early on this season.
Signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as a non-draft pick free agent in 2010, 20-year-old right-hander Carlos Martinez has all the ingredients necessary to become a future ace at the major league level.
In the Dominican Summer League in 2010, Martinez made 12 starts, going 3-2 with a exceptional 0.76 ERA. He also struck out 78 batters, held the opposition to a .144 BA and logged a 0.71 WHIP. Last year between low-A and high-A ball, he went a combined 6-5 and saw his ERA rise to 3.93. However, his strikeout abilities continued, amassing 93 punch-outs in 84.2 innings of work. Skeptics will point to Martinez’s size (6′, 165 pounds) as cause for concern, but so far he’s been a sensation on the mound. Baseball America ranks him as the Cardinals’ No. 2 overall prospect heading into this season.
4. Devin Mesoraco
It’s often difficult to find a catcher prospect who has a solid glove and can also hit for power, but Devin Mesoraco is one youngster who fulfills both requirements.
A former first-round pick from the 2007 draft, Mesoraco has only recently burst onto the scene as a top minor-league prospect. After three underwhelming seasons, his bat exploded in 2010, batting a combined .302 with 26 home runs and 75 RBI between high-A, double-A and triple-A ball. He spent his entire 2011 campaign in the International League and batted .289 with 15 home runs and 71 RBI. The Reds have a pressing need at catcher this season, and barring some unforeseen regression in spring training, Mesoraco will look to take over the starting role in Cincinnati on opening day.
3. Gerrit Cole
When the Pirates took Gerrit Cole No. 1 overall at last June’s draft, it’s safe to say they corralled one of the most seasoned young arms in all of college baseball who has a tremendously high MLB ceiling.
In his final season at UCLA, the budding star went 6-8 and posted a 3.31 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and held batters to a .242 BA. He also punched out 119 batters in 115 innings and snagged a 1.89 BB/9 IP ratio. His prototypical 6’4″, 220-pound frame enabled him to consistently run his fastball up to the high 90s and his plus-average slider looks to be his strikeout pitch. After making his pro debut in the Arizona Fall League where he went 2-0 with an even 3.00 ERA, striking out 16 in 15 total innings, Cole should start his 2012 campaign in high-A ball. Word on the street says he won’t need much time in the minors and could break through to Pittsburgh’s rotation possibly as soon as 2013.
Undoubtedly the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top overall prospect heading into this season, it’s easy to forget Jameson Taillon is only 20 years old with one pro season under his belt. His physique and makeup suggest he could already be a major-league talent.
Taken second overall (after Bryce Harper) in the 2010 draft, Taillon’s 6’6″, 225-pound shell has had scouts raving since his high-school days. Consequently, the lanky right-hander can run his fastball up to 99 MPH and also has a plus fastball and slider. Couple that with solid command, and Taillon is a can’t-miss prospect on the mound. In his first pro season, Taillon made 23 starts in low-A ball and went 2-3, garnering a 3.98 ERA, 97 strikeouts and a 1.19 WHIP in 92.2 innings. He’s expected to move through the system quickly despite the fact he was drafted straight out of high school, and will challenge Gerrit Cole to be Pittsburgh’s ace of the future.
1. Shelby Miller
The St. Louis Cardinals struck gold when they took high school phenom Shelby Miller 19th overall at the 2009 draft and may very well have found their future No. 2 starter in the process.
Weighing in at a prototypical 6’3″, 195 pounds, Miller has all the physical tools to become a successful top-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues. The 21-year-old was clocked throwing in the upper 90s prior to the draft and that will only get better with time. He also features a plus-average 12-6 curveball that complements his velocity well. Miller’s physique and makeup endowed him with unquestioned strikeout abilities. In 2010, he punched out 140 in just 104.1 innings and last season sat down 170 in 139.2 for a career K/9 IP ratio of 11.4. If he can further that success into spring training, he will have the chance at starting his 2012 campaign out of St. Louis’ bullpen.