As we inch closer to the top-ranked minor leaguer, some more recognizable names start appearing. In selections 71-80 we see names like Humberto Sanchez, Dustin Pedroia and Kei Igawa.
71. Brandon Morrow (SP-Sea) A 2006 first round pick out of California, Morrow may wind up in the bullpen where his mid to high 90s fastball and mid to high 80s slider may be best suited in the closer’s role. He complements those two pitches with a splitter, but may be better suited by developing a change-up instead. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Morrow is the fact that he’s a diabetic. He wears an insulin pump while not on the mound. It is believed that this will not effect him on the mound, but it still may cause the Mariners to be cautious with him.
72. Brad Lincoln (SP-Pit) Another 2006 first round pick, Lincoln was drafted as a starting pitcher but is pretty competent with a bat in his hands as well. The Pirates believe he could anchor their rotation for years to come. He has good control over four different pitches: a low 90s four-seam fastball, a high 80s two-seam fastball, a hard curveball, and a change-up. Some scouts believe that his hard curveball will prove to be his best pitch. He could be a top 10 prospect going into 2008.
73. Franklin Morales (SP-Col) A hard-throwing lefty, Morales complements his mid 90s fastball with a plus curveball. He also began developing a change-up, which should help him stay out of the bullpen. His biggest weakness is his control, but he has such high strikeout rates that he may be able to survive. In 154 innings for the Modesto Nuts (Single-A) last season, Morales walked 89 and struck out 179. I see his ceiling as a left-handed Carlos Zambrano.
74. Eric Patterson (2B-ChN) Despite the failures of his brother Corey, Eric Patterson is still very much a part of the Cubs’ future. Near the top of baseball’s weak class of second base prospects, Patterson will forever be compared to his brother. His ceiling was never as high as Corey’s, but Eric has a better work ethic and may come closer to his full potential. After spending most of the season in Double-A, Patterson thrived in a brief stint in Triple-A. He will likely return to Triple-A to start the season, but with success could be called up to the big club by the end of the season.
75. Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C-Atl) Saltalamacchia struggled through a wrist injury in 2006, which resulted in a .230 batting average, .353 on base percentage and a .380 slugging percentage in Double-A. The Braves already have Brian McCann as their everyday catcher in the major leagues, so Saltalamacchia may be forced to switch positions. Despite his failures last season, he still showcased excellent plate discipline, and if he has a strong 2007 campaign he should be considered as one of the top prospects in baseball.
76. Humberto Sanchez (SP-NYA) The hard-throwing righty is conservatively listed at 6’6”, 230 lbs. He was the centerpiece prospect in the deal that saw Gary Sheffield move to Detroit. The Tigers also discussed trading him to Washington last season for Alfonso Soriano. Control is Sanchez’s biggest issue, but when he’s around the strike zone he has four plus pitches: a mid 90s fastball that’s complemented by a slider, curveball, and change-up. Although it is possible that Sanchez makes the Yankees opening day roster, it is more likely that he starts the season in the Triple-A rotation with new teammate Philip Hughes.
77. Jimmy Barthmaier (SP-Hou) Barthmaier has trouble controlling his curveball and change-up, but when his curveball is on, it is ranked one of the best in the Carolina League. He sits in the low 90s with his two-seam fastball, but can dial it up to 97 with his four-seamer. At 23, Barthmaier has been a little slow to develop, but the Astros look for him to rise quickly this season. He may reach the majors sometime during the 2008 season.
78. Kei Igawa (SP-NYA) Not a traditional prospect, the Yankees bid $26,000,194 for the right to negotiate with Igawa this past off-season, and they signed him to a five year, twenty million dollar contract. A control artist, Igawa’s fastball sits in the low 90s. He complements this fastball with a change-up and a slider. Igawa projects to be a number three or four starter in the majors, and should be in the Yankees rotation on opening day.
79. Dustin Pedroia (2B-Bos) Dustin Pedroia has exceeded expectations wherever he has played. Listed at 5’8”, 180 lbs, Pedroia is the prototypical “scrappy” ballplayer, getting the most out of his limited skills. Constant comparisons to David Eckstein may not be far off. Pedroia should be the opening day second baseman for the Red Sox in 2007.
80. Lars Anderson (1B-Bos) One of the best high school bats in the 2006 draft, Anderson was projected as a first or second round talent, but fell to the eighteenth round due to signability concerns. The Red Sox will willing to pay him $825,000 to sign, but he did not play at all last season. He could emerge as one of the better power prospects in the minors with a full season of pro ball.
In case you missed the prior installments in this series, here are some quick links to them:
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