Spring Training has started, and many of the next ten prospects are receiving their first invites to work out with the major league team. The list continues with 41-50 as we close in on some of the more elite prospects.
41. Eric Hurley (SP-Tex) – Hurley jumped past the DVD boys this season as the Rangers top pitching prospect (it arguably helped that John Danks was traded to the White Sox). After a mediocre performance in Single-A ball, Hurley thrived in Double-A, sporting a 1.95 ERA in 6 starts. Hurley has two plus pitches already with his strong curveball and mid-90s fastball. His change-up is a work in progress but he still has some time to develop it. Look for the Rangers to keep him in the minors all season (he will probably pitch in both Double-A and Triple-A), and then give him a chance to win a rotation spot in 2008.
42. Matt Albers (SP-Hou) – Although he spent the bulk of the season in Double-A where he earned Texas League pitcher-of-the-year honors, Albers also pitched in Triple-A and the majors last season. Mostly a fastball/slider pitcher, he mixes in a change-up, and does suffer from control issues. He will probably start the season in Triple-A but should see some time in the majors again this season.
43. Adam Jones (OF-Sea) – A hard throwing pitcher in high school, Jones was drafted by the Mariners in 2003 (thirty-seventh overall) as a shortstop. He has since moved to the outfield and could be a five-tool player. He has great speed but mediocre power, often drawing comparisons to Michael Cameron. He could make the Mariners out of spring training, but with Ichiro, Raul Ibanez and Jose Guillen already cementing spots in the outfield, he will probably begin the year in Triple-A.
44. Jacoby Ellsbury (OF-Bos) – Many Red Sox fans cringed when they watched Johnny Damon sign with the Yankees before the 2006 season. The Red Sox brass knew what they had with Ellsbury, who could be outperforming Damon as early as 2008. With that said, Ellsbury projects to be a Johnny Damon-type leadoff hitter and centerfielder. Coco Crisp is the starting centerfielder this season for the Red Sox, but constant trade rumors around Crisp have resulted in speculation that Ellsbury could have the job by year end.
45. Ian Stewart (3B-Col) – While Stewart was somewhat lost in the shuffle of young, stellar third basemen, he nearly duplicated his 2005 Single-A ball performance with his 2006 campaign in Double-A. He experienced a slight drop-off in power last season, and is currently blocked by Garret Atkins at the major league level. He has a strong throwing arm and average speed. Probably not ready for the majors yet, Stewart will definitely start out in either Double-A or Triple-A regardless of how successful he is this spring.
46. John Danks (SP-ChA) The centerpiece for the White Sox in the Brandon McCarthy trade, Danks has been the most successful of the now disbanded DVD boys (the group of former Rangers pitching prospects: John Danks, Edinson Volquez and Thomas Diamond). He has a low 90s fastball, and a decent curveball and changeup. Many believe that he could pitch in the majors this season, and he may get a chance to nail down the fifth spot in the Rangers rotation.
47. Troy Patton (SP-Hou) Despite a freak ankle sprain this week, the Astros hope that Patton and Matt Albers can eventually take over for Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens. A twenty-one-year-old left-hander, Patton throws a low 90s fastball, a hard curveball, and a change-up. He has decent command of all three pitches and should be a back-of-the-rotation starter. Likely to start the season in Triple-A, Patton should make the majors by 2008.
48. Brandon Erbe (SP-Bal) Erbe pitched all of 2006 at only 18 years old. He excelled in the Sally League striking out 133 in 115 innings while the Orioles limited him to five innings per start, which often hurts the ERA of young pitchers. Erbe, however, still managed a 3.22 ERA. He does have some control issues, but his command is still advanced for pitchers his age. The Orioles will proceed cautiously with Erbe. Consequently, he will likely begin the season with their high Class A team.
49. Chuck Lofgren (SP-Cle) The Indians decision to use Lofgren as a pitcher puzzled some teams that saw him as a valuable bat. He has done nothing to disappoint, finishing last season in high Triple-A ball with a 17-5 record and a 2.32 ERA. He throws in the low 90s, but his change-up is his best pitch. He compliments his fastball and change-up with a curve and a slider. He will be 21 next season, and like most pitchers his age, he needs to work on his control. The Indians will likely start him out in Double-A next season with an eye towards late 2008 for a major league debut.
50. Elvis Andrus (SS-Atl) Andrus played the full season in low Single-A, mostly as a 17-year-old, hitting .265/.334/.362. He is an above-average defensive shortstop, but needs to work on his plate discipline and base stealing ability. Fortunately, he is one of the youngest prospects in baseball and has plenty of time to develop. The Braves have Edgar Renteria at shortstop for the next two seasons, but given Andrus’ age it is difficult to project when he will make his debut.
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