The smell of freshly cut grass is in the air, and there are young players out there busting their tails to get to the big show. What could be better? In the second installment of this ten part series on the top prospects, we continue with those players ranked 81-90, and work our way down to find out who the number one minor league player overall is. Let’s see who’s on deck in this piece.
81. Gio Gonzalez (SP-CHA) Originally drafted by the White Sox in the 2004 draft, Gonzalez was traded along with outfielder Aaron Rowand after the 2005 season. He was reacquired this off-season along with Phillies reliever Gavin Floyd, in exchange for Freddy Garcia. Finishing last year in Double-A, Gonzalez struck out 166 in only 154 2/3 innings. He struggled with his control at times, walking 81 last season. His best pitch is a low 80s curveball that he complements with a mid 90s fastball as well as a change-up. His ceiling is probably a #2 or #3 starter, but he probably won’t crack the White Sox rotation before 2009.
82. Jeff Samardzija (SP-CHN) Many of you know the story. Notre Dame wide receiver, offered $7.25 million as a fifth round draft pick in 2006, as long as he didn’t play football. Samardzija has committed to the Cubs, playing seven games in Single-A ball last season. His fastball sits in the low 90s, but he has been clocked as high as 99, as well as a slider. He will probably start the season in Single-A, but the Cubs could move him up quickly to keep him interested in baseball.
83. Blake DeWitt (2B-LA) DeWitt may not be athletic enough to stick at second base long term, as scouts feel he is not athletic enough to be a middle infielder in the major leagues. Although small (he’s listed at 5’11”), DeWitt does have some pop, and could hit 10-15 homers this season in Double-A. He probably won’t be much more than a utility player at the big league level.
84. Ubaldo Jimenez (SP-Col) Your typical hard thrower, Jimenez offsets his high 90s heater with a change-up, curveball, and slider. He saw limited action in the major leagues this season, while spending most of the year in Double-A and Triple-A. Jimenez’s mechanics can get erratic at times, which have scouts worried about his arm long-term. The answer may be to move Jimenez to the bullpen, where his power fastball could dominate hitters in short stints. Jimenez will probably start the season in Triple-A, but could make the big league club with a strong spring.
85. Erick Aybar (SS-Ana) Aybar made his major league debut last year, and was involved in several trade rumors involving the likes of Miguel Tejada, Carlos Lee, and Manny Ramirez. He is a plus defender, and the Angels used him primarily as a defensive replacement at the big league level. His speed is another above average asset, and it helps make up for his free swinging approach at the plate. Although the Angels already have a top shortstop prospect in Brandon Wood, Aybar is more likely to stick at that position with Wood moving to third base.
86. Daric Barton (1B-Oak) A typical Oakland guy, Barton should make it to the majors on the strength of his batting eye. Unfortunately, he has not developed the power that Oakland envisioned when they acquired him from the Cardinals in the Mark Mulder deal. Barton will only be 21 on opening day, and although he could see some time in the majors this season, he is more likely to spend the entire season in Triple-A. He could take over for Mike Piazza as the Athletics full time DH in 2008.
87. Eric Campbell (3B-Atl) Falling in line with many Atlanta prospects, Campbell lacks plate discipline, but he makes solid enough contact to be a big power prospect in years to come. He’s slow afoot, but that’s not stopping an internal debate within the organization to move him to second base. He will probably begin the season in High-A ball, and probably won’t see time in the majors until 2009 at the earliest.
88. Akinori Iwamura (3B-TB) Many people were surprised when the Devil Rays won the bidding for Iwamura with their $4.55 million posting fee. They already have B.J. Upton and Evan Longoria ahead of Iwamura on the depth charts, but Iwamura may give the Devil Rays an inroad into the Japanese market, which is a big plus due to the potential influx of quality pitching that is anticipated over the next few seasons. Iwamura has average plate discipline, and although he was a home run hitter in Japan, he projects to be more of a gap hitter in the states. The Rays may try out both Iwamura and Evan Longoria at second base, but expect Iwamura to be the opening day third baseman this season.
89. Cesar Carrillo (SP-SD) Carrillo battled injuries in 2006, limiting him to only ten starts. He throws in the low-to-mid 90s, with a hard curveball, and a change-up that he’s still developing. He needs to be able to stay healthy, and would probably do well with a full season in Triple-A. However, if he can get past his arm troubles, he may jump to the majors this season.
90. Cyle Hankerd (OF-Ari) Hankerd has done nothing but hit since the Diamondbacks took him in the third round in 2006. Over two levels last season, Hankerd hit .381 with a .436 OBP and .584 SLG. The Diamondbacks have a strong core of young outfielders in the system already with Chris Young, Carlos Quentin, Carlos Gonzalez, and Justin Upton, so it remains to be seen whether they have a long-term spot for Hankerd. There is already talk about his defense not being strong enough to keep him in the outfield for the future, but the Diamondbacks also have a young first baseman in Conor Jackson. Although he may be blocked, if he keeps hitting, Arizona will have a nice problem on their hands.
In case you missed the first installment of this series, you can find it right here: 91-100, and we’ll see you next time!
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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