As the stars of today pack their things for spring training, we continue to look at the stars of tomorrow. Prospects 61-70 includes the son of a former Cy Young winner, a Native American, and the Red Sox closer in waiting.
61. Kevin Slowey (SP-Min) The twenty-two-year-old Slowey saw success at two levels for the Twins last season. In Single-A, Slowey dominated the competition with 99 strikeouts and only 9 walks in 89 innings. He earned his promotion to Double-A where he struck out 52 and walked 13 in 59 innings. Slowey was at his best in the Single-A All Star Game; he struck out the side on only 9 pitches. Building off of a low 90s fastball, Slowey’s change-up and curveball balance out his repertoire. Coming up in the Twins system, the most obvious big league comparison is Brad Radke.
62. Travis Buck (OF-Oak) Buck has been slow to develop the power that scouts envisioned he’d produce with his 6′2″, 205 lb frame. At only 23 years of age, he’s still young enough to evolve into a decent power hitter. He uses the whole field, has a decent batting eye, and is an above average base runner. It’s unlikely that Buck will make the Athletics out of spring training, but he should be up at some point in 2007.
63. Phil Humber (SP-NYN) Gone are the days where Tommy John surgery destroys young pitchers. Humber seems to have fully recovered from the surgery as his fastball has returned to the low 90s level. He still has a good feel for his change-up and curveball, but like most pitchers after Tommy John, Humber is trying to regain his control. He will probably begin the season in Triple-A, but the Mets may be forced to rush him to the majors due to a lack of starting pitching.
64. Joba Chamberlain (SP-NYA) A Native American out of Nebraska, Chamberlain has battled weight issues his entire life. This has led to his Nebraska nickname “Joba the Hut”. On the field, Chamberlain features a mid 90s fastball, a slider, and a change-up, but it’s his curveball that may be his best pitch. Injury concerns may hurt his ranking, as in the past year he has had both knee surgery and elbow tendonitis. However, if healthy, Chamberlain should start the season in high Single-A ball, and advance quickly.
65. Justin Huber (1B-KC) After a failed cup of coffee in 2005, Huber spent the bulk of 2006 in Triple-A. Originally in the Mets system as a catcher, the Royals acquired Huber in the three-team deal that sent Kris Benson to the Mets. Currently Huber is blocked by the combination of Ryan Shealy and Mike Sweeney, and will likely stay in Triple-A in 2007. He has above average plate discipline, but may need to hit with more power to stick as a major league first baseman.
66. Kyle Drabek (SP-Phi) Son of former big leaguer Doug Drabek, Kyle Drabek’s biggest critics question his work ethic and his behavior away from the field. His issues off the field include a public drunkenness charge which is especially noteworthy as Drabek is only 19. On the field, he has not handled failure particularly well, but the Phillies saw enough in his biting curveball and mid 90s fastball to overlook the other issues. A loose cannon like Drabek is always a candidate to move up or down lists like this rather drastically. He could emerge as a top prospect this year, or drop off the list completely.
67. Sean Rodriguez (2B/SS-Ana) With fellow Angels shortstop prospect Brandon Wood drawing so much attention, Sean Rodriguez’s ascent to Triple-A went somewhat unnoticed. Although he spent the bulk of the year in Single-A, he made it all the way to Triple-A last season (albeit for only two hitless at bats). Like Wood, Rodriguez probably won’t stick at shortstop long term, but should stay in the middle infield. He should be a decent power prospect with above average plate discipline. I liken him to Marcus Giles as far as his ceiling is concerned.
68. Jeff Clement (C-Sea) Going into 2006, many considered Clement the best catching prospect in baseball. However, he may not have been as prepared for pro ball as the Mariners envisioned. Starting out in Double-A, Clement posted a very respectable .288 BA, .386 OBP, and .525 SLG, but was not as successful in Triple-A. The lack of success can be attributed to knee and elbow injuries as well as an overall lack of experience. Hopefully, the Mariners won’t continue to rush him, and he will blossom as the prospect they envisioned.
69. Donald Veal (SP-ChN) Veal absolutely dominated both low and high Single-A ball this past season. He posted a 2.69 ERA in 14 starts in low-A, and bettered that in high-A with a 1.67 ERA. He complements his low 90s fastball with a curveball and a change-up. He has had his share of control issues, but should still rise through the Cubs system very rapidly. He may see a cup of coffee this season, but probably won’t be in the majors until 2008.
70. Craig Hansen (RP-Bos) Apparently Boston believed the hype that was Craig Hansen, and rushed him to the Major Leagues. Part of that was out of necessity, but Hansen was clearly not ready to be a major league reliever. His delivery was inconsistent all year, causing him to lose the sharp bite on his devastating slider. When Hansen is on, his high 90s fastball is often trumped by his low 90s slider. He will need to regain command of his slider if he is to truly be the Red Sox closer of the future.
In case you missed the prior installments in this series, here are some quick links to them:
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