As we reach the halfway point in our prospect countdown, the list continues with a large crop of pitching from the American League East, as well as two young catchers who already have major league jobs. Some potential superstar bats within the National League Central round out the list.
51. Clay Buchholz (SP-Bos) Buchholz had a breakout year in 2006, doing wonders to put aside questions regarding his experience. While typically throwing in the low-90’s, Buchholz hit as high as 97 mph when he received the call up to high-A Wilmington. His repertoire also includes a solid curveball and a change-up. Perhaps the best thing about Buchholz: his arm has not sustained much wear and tear, as he is still relatively new to pitching. The Red Sox won’t rush Buchholz, but if he keeps pitching like he has been, he could be called up to Boston in late 2008 or early 2009.
52. Chris Iannetta (C-Col) Iannetta had a monster season in 2006, proving that he and Miguel Montero are among the top catching prospects in baseball. Averaging more than a walk for every ten plate appearances, Iannetta could possibly make it to the majors based on his plate discipline alone. However, the Rockies feel that he has great hands to go along with his powerful bat, and should be a fixture behind the plate for years to come. Expect Iannetta to start the season as the Rockies everyday catcher.
53. Wade Davis (SP-TB) Like Buchholz, Davis does not have much wear and tear on his arm, as he first toed the slab as a sophomore in college. Even with his limited time on the mound, Davis has developed a mid-90’s fastball, complementing his curveball, slider, and change-up. He has a tendency to get wild at times, but he helps himself out by giving up few long balls. Last season in Single-A Davis struck out 165 batters in 146 innings, but like most of Tampa’s pitching prospects, he is a few years away from contributing at the big-league level. I really like Davis, both he and Clay Buchholz could easily be top 25 prospects next season.
54. Miguel Montero (C-Ari) Montero and Chris Iannetta both emerged this year as two of the best young catchers in baseball, leaving the likes of Jeff Clement and Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the dust. He has improved his defense dramatically, to the point where the Diamondbacks no longer worry about having him switch positions. He showed decent power and discipline in Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors last season, and should enter 2007 as the Diamondbacks everyday catcher.
55. Jacob McGee (SP-TB) McGee, only twenty years old, formed a nice lefty/righty two-punch combination with Wade Davis for the 2006 Columbus Catfish rotation (a rotation that also included Matt Walker, a Devil Rays pitcher that fell just short of my top 100). McGee throws three pitches: change-up, curveball, and a fastball in the low to mid-90’s; striking out 171 batters in 134 innings with those pitches in 2006. However, like Wade Davis, he has also struggled with control issues. He is still several years away from the majors, but could eventually be part of a strong Devil Rays rotation for years to come.
56. Joey Votto (1B-Cin) Votto emerged this season in Double-A, cranking 46 doubles and 22 homers while swiping 24 bases; showing power and speed that were absent in 2005. Originally drafted as a catcher, Votto is still learning first base, and will probably spend the bulk of the season in Triple-A working out his defensive inadequacies. The Reds have the aging veterans Scott Hatteberg and Jeff Conine ahead of Votto on the depth chart, so it’s quite possible that Votto hits his way into the Reds lineup by the end of the season.
57. Colby Rasmus (OF-StL) Colby, age 20, is the older of the two Rasmus brothers (his brother Cory was drafted this season to pitch in the Braves organization). Colby is still several years away from the big leagues, but many scouts already view him as a potential superstar. Currently the Cardinals are waiting for the rest of his tools to develop and catch up with his speed. He showcased decent plate discipline in Single-A last season, and has the power to be a future 30/30 guy in the majors. The Cardinals have two years left on Jim Edmonds’ contract, but it is very likely that they have Rasmus penciled in as their 2009 starting center fielder.
58. Michael Bowden (SP-Bos) Another 2005 Red Sox draft pick, Bowden had a solid 2006 campaign for the Red Sox low-A affiliate Greeneville Drive. Bowden doesn’t blow batters away, relying instead on the command of his excellent curveball and low-90’s fastball to get outs. He complements these two pitches with a change-up that he has been developing slowly. The Red Sox most likely won’t rush the 20-year-old Bowden, as they view him as an innings-eater in the long run. Like Buchholz, he should see time in the majors by 2009.
59. Dellin Betances (SP-NYA) The Yankees were lucky to get Betances in the 8th round in 2006, as most people saw him as a first-round talent. He fell in the draft for several reasons: a scholarship to Vanderbilt, signability, and an erratic senior year of high school. However, his 1.16 ERA in the Gulfcoast League did wonders to ease concerns about his high school performance. At 6’8”, Betances is an imposing figure on the mound, and as he continues to fill out, he may add more velocity to his low-90’s fastball. He also wields an above average curveball, and while his change-up is below average, it could develop with more experience. The Yankees have done a tremendous job of rebuilding their minor leagues, and assuming Philip Hughes graduates to the majors this season, Betances could be the top pitching prospect in a deep Yankees farm system.
60. Felix Pie (OF-ChN) If Alfonso Soriano can succeed in centerfield, it will allow the Cubs to give Pie some more time in Triple-A rather than rushing him. The Cubs are looking to avoid the same mistakes they made with Corey Patterson, and Pie profiles the same way Patterson did as a prospect. He has the speed and the ability to be a 5-tool player, and will almost certainly be called up at some point this season.
In case you missed the prior installments in this series, here are some quick links to them:
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.
Questions or comments for Tim? Post them in the Cafe Forums!
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!