As I struggle to come up with interesting introductions to these pieces, the series nears completion. The names are more familiar, the talent level has risen, and the chances of Major League success have soared.
21. Clayton Kershaw (SP-LA) It took absolutely no time for Kershaw to showcase his immense talent. Easily the top high school pitcher in the 2006 draft, Kershaw blew away the Gulf Coast League in his 10 appearances. A 1.95 ERA coupled with a 10.8 K/BB ratio left Dodgers fans salivating over what might become of this 18-year-old phenom. He has excellent command of his mid-90s fastball and a mid-70s curveball. He has also been working on a circle change with moderate success. Still several years away, the sky is the limit for Kershaw who should outperform fellow Dodgers pitchers like Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton, and Scott Elbert.
22. Reid Brignac (SS-TB) Brignac helped ease the concerns amidst the Devil Rays organization about what to do with B.J. Upton. Although Brignac is not a top flight defensive shortstop, he is more sure handed than Upton. Brignac really emerged in 2006, showing plate discipline and power that have the Devil Rays expecting big things from him. He may crack the starting lineup at some point in 2007, and may take it over for good in 2008.
23. Carlos Gonzalez (OF-Ari) Often overlooked in what has been an incredibly deep farm system, Gonzalez could be just as good as his Arizona outfield counterparts: Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, and Justin Upton. In time however, the log jam may force a trade, and it is entirely possible that Gonzalez could be the one that’s dealt. Although he struggled in his brief call up to Double-A, he’ll probably return there this season with an eye towards a 2008 late season call up. Gonzalez needs to improve his plate discipline, but he has big time power that’s as good as almost anyone in the minor leagues. Additionally, his above average speed rounds him out to be a five tool player.
24. Nick Adenhart (SP-Ana) Many teams were leery of Adenhart’s health, pushing him to the 14th round of the 2004 draft. He seems to have fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, while doing a decent job of combating the control issues that often face pitchers after the surgery. He has decent command of his mid-90s fastball, low-80s change-up, and mid-70s curveball, although he can get somewhat erratic with the curveball. He will probably start in High-A this season and could advance quickly as he continues to regain command of his pitches. With all that said, Adenhart probably will not reach the Major Leagues until late 2008 – early 2009.
25. Fernando Martinez (OF-NYN) Signed out of the Domincan Republic in 2005, Martinez will play the entire 2007 season at only 18 years of age. He is incredibly well polished for a hitter of his age, already showing signs of plate discipline not usually seen amongst young Dominican players. He should develop more power as he matures, and has above average speed but probably will not be much of a base stealer. It is unlikely that he remains a centerfielder, but his bat should carry him to the major leagues regardless of his position. Likely to begin the season in High-A, Martinez could be in the major leagues by 2009.
26. Luke Hochevar (SP-KC) Hochevar’s infamous holdout from the 2005 draft saw him reap the benefits of his patience as the Royals made him the number one overall pick in 2006. He has a low-90s fastball, but it is his curveball that many believe to be his best pitch. A change-up and slider round out his arsenal, but both pitches need improvement. He can get erratic with his control at times, but in his limited playing time in Low-A last season, he only walked two batters in fifteen innings. It is unlikely that Hochevar makes the major league club out of Spring Training, but many believe he will be there by season’s end.
27. Ryan Braun (3B-Mil) Third base has the deepest field of prospects, and near the top of the mountain is Ryan Braun of the Brewers. A power hitter with decent plate discipline, Braun should hit for a reasonable average and swipe a few bases as well. In the field, he has a strong arm but not much of a glove. If his defensive problems continue, he may see a switch to the outfield. In the meantime, he is the early favorite to be Milwaukee’s opening day third baseman, rounding out one of the best young infields in baseball.
28. Andrew McCutchen (OF-Pit) This ranking may be a little bit low for a talent like McCutchen, as he could very easily be a top 10 prospect at this time next season (some similar lists already have him there). He spent the bulk of the season in Low-A, where he exhibited a decent average, average plate discipline, and above average power. He will probably begin the season in Double-A with an eye on manning centerfield in Pittsburgh in 2008.
29. Scott Elbert (SP-LA) The second Dodgers left-handed pitcher in this group, Elbert is much closer to the major leagues than Kershaw, however his ceiling is not as high. He features a low-90s fastball and a hard biting curveball, but often has control issues. His strikeouts help to offset his high walk totals, but he will need to command the strike zone better if he wants to succeed at the major league level. Grady Little may put him in the Dodgers’ bullpen to start the season, but I think he would be better suited with at least half a season of Triple-A starts before the majors.
30. Bill Rowell (3B-Bal) Taken in the first round of the 2006 draft, Bill Rowell burst onto the professional scene showcasing an incredible batting average, on base percentage, and above average power. Some scouts will tell you that even at 6’5”, Rowell is not done growing, which could help increase his power potential. The cocky high school player has been quoted as saying that he modeled his game after Barry Bonds. Many believe that Rowell can become a better player than Nick Markakis, but we probably will not see Rowell in the Major Leagues before 2009.
In case you missed any of the earlier installments of prospects lists, here they are:
Tim Grassey is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Tim in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of HangingWScottCooper.
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