Friday, February 4, 2011

BD Hot Stove: NL Central Prospects | Baseball Digest

The Cardinals Shelby Miller coming soon to a ball park near you.

BD Hot Stove: NL Central Prospects | Baseball Digest

It’s the second to last Friday before pitchers and catchers report. Yes, the Hot Stove may be cooling off, but we’re just getting warmed up here at Baseball Digest. Spring training is a time for rejuvenations, the sound of ball popping into mitt and glove, the crack of the bat, the warmth of the Florida or Arizona sun, and the chance to get a glimpse of the talent pool in each organizations. So starting today the Hot Stove takes a look at the top prospect in each organization, beginning with the NL Central. These are some of the kids that will be getting eye balled during the coming month and a half.

NL Central Prospects

Reds: Obviously, Aroldis Chapman is the top man, but he’ll be on the 25 man roster heading North for opening day. The next most popular prospect is catcher Devin Mesoraco (Baseball America rates Billy Hamilton as the #2 guy behind Chapman). Mesoraco was the 15th overall pick in the 2007 draft and was selected from Punxsotawney High School. (No word on if he saw his shadow on draft day.) Listed as 6’1″, 220 lbs, Mesoraco split 99 games in 2010 between High ‘A’ and Double-A ball before a 14 game look at Triple-A Louisville. The 22-yr old should spend the entire season in Triple-A this season after he hit26 home runs last year and put up a combined .302/.377/.587 split.

Mesoraco also showed some good discipline at the plate, drawing 43 walks while striking out just 80 times in 451 plate appearances. As for defense, this from baseball analyst John Sickels, “Defensively, he remains vulnerable to passed balls and excessive errors, but he’s thrown out 40% of runners trying to steal on him, and there seems to be a general consensus that his other defensive issues will get better in time.” Sickels actually did a 180 degree flip on Mesoraco, thinking he was a complete bust prior to the 2010 season. It should be noted that Mesoraco’s development was also slowed by Tommy John surgery in high school.

Cubs: Outfielder Brett Jackson and pitcher Trey McNutt (great name) are the top choices among those in the know. For today, we’re going to focus on Jackson, the 31st overall pick in the 2009 draft. The University of California-Berkley junior was ranked by Baseball America as the second best athlete in his draft class. After posting a .908 OPS in rookie and ‘A’ ball, Jackson showed some of the offensive skills in 2010 that turned scouts on to him. Playing at Dayton (‘A+’) and Tennessee (‘AA’), Jackson showed power (12 HR), speed (30 SB, 14 2B, 12 3B), and the ability to set the table (73 BB, .395 OPS). He will need to cut down considerably on his strikeouts (126) though.

Ranked as the #43 prospect in all of baseball by, Jackson should start the season in Double-A, but will make his way to Triple-A Iowa rather quickly.

Cardinals: Without question, Shelby Miller is the top ranked prospect in the St. Louis organization. The hard throwing right-hander was selected 19th overall in the 2009 draft out of Brownwood (TX) High School. He blew away hitters for Quad Cities of the Midwest League (‘A’) last season, striking out 140 over matched batters in 104 1/3 innings. His strikeout to walk ratio was better than 4:1 and he allowed less than a hit an inning.

Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus describes Miller’s delivery as “ and easy.Classic, almost textbook 3/4 delivery with nothing exaggerated in leg kick, landing, or follow through. Hands remain exceptionally quiet during windup with a quick load of right hand into position and lightning release. Landing is soft, in-line, and well balanced.” Miller’s fastball is generally in the low to mid-90s and is expected to be more consistently in the higher range. He mixes in a low 80′s curve and a low to mid-80′s changeup. Just 19 and ranked 20th among all prospects by, Miller is expected to start the season at High-A Palm Beach.

Pirates: Bryce Harper- that’s the player that stood in the way of Jameson Taillon being the first, rather than second, overall pick in this past year’s amateur draft. The 6’7″, 230 lb right-hander has a fastball that topped out at 99 mph in high school, with an excellent curveball and slider. He also has a good change up, but didn’t need to throw it often against high school competition. He has also gotten high marks for his composure on the mound.

Taillon didn’t sign until mid-Augst so he did not pitch at the professional level last season. He’s ticketed for rookie ball this season.

Astros: Another right-handed pitcher is the top prospect for Houston; Jordan Lyles was the 38 overall pick of the 2008, 1st round draft out Hartsville (SC) High School. The 6’4″ pitcher spent most of the last season at Double-A Corpus Christi, posting a 7-9, 3.12 mark with 46 walks and 137 strikeouts in 127 innings pitched. Lyles also saw 31 innings at Triple-A Round Rock, but had much less success (5.40 ERA, 2:1 K to BB ratio). Lyles is not a power pitcher and must be accurate with his upper 80′s to low 90′s two seam fastball to be successful.

This could be a make or break season for Lyles, who should be in Round Rock when the minor league season opens. Once again, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein: “Lyles has little margin for error, and his inability to blow away hitters led to some struggles following a late-season promotion to Triple-A. Despite his length and a frame that should fill out, he’s not very projectable; it seems like his current velocity already requires effort, leaving many to feel he’s close to his ceiling.”

Brewers: With 2nd baseman Brett Lawrie dealt to Toronto, right-hander Mark Rogers became Milwaukee’s top rated prospect. It was no easy feat for the former #5 pick in the 2004 draft; Rogers missed all of 2007 and 2008 after undergoing shoulder surgery. But he topped 20 starts each of the last two seasons and threw a career high 116 innings in 2010. His command is still a question (72 walks), but he did strikeout nearly a batter an inning and gave up less hits than innings pitched in his 25 starts (All but one were at Double-A Hunstville). For his hard work, Rogers was rewarded with a four game stint with the major league club in September. In 10 innings pitched (two starts), Rogers allowed just two hits, two earned runs, walked three, and struck out 11.

No one questions Rogers’ stuff, but he must get his command under control at Triple-A Nashville this season if he is to eventually make the step up to the majors a permament one.

Rumors, News, and Transactions

Andy Pettitte held his retirement press conference this morning in New York, though he never mentioned the word retirement specifically and said you can never say never. That being said, he also said he was happy with his decision and his head and heart were just not up to the grind of another major league season.

Fox’s Ken Rosenthal heard the Yankees were “kicking around” the idea of acquiring Scott Kazmir from the Angels. The Yankees front office probably came to their senses a short time later.

Jim Edmonds has decided to return for another year after the results of a physical convinced him to return to the Cardinals. For now he’s on a minor league contract until room can be freed up on the 40 man roster.

The Michael Young trade rumors are alive and well again. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Texas has once again begun to explore dealing the 3rd baseman. With the signing of free agent hot corner man Adrian Beltre and the acquisition of Mike Napoli to DH, Young could be dealt to shore up the team’s pitching staff.

The Tigers have signed outfielder Timo Perez to a minor league deal. Perez has not been in the majors since 2007.

Juan Cruz will try to come back from shoulder surgery with the Rays organization after inking a minor league deal.

The Dodgers have signed left-handed journeyman Ron Mahay to a minor league deal, while the Orioles added outfielder Randy Winn with a minor league contract.

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