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Top 100 Prospects: AL Pitchers
published December 30, 2004
by David Luciani

In the first two parts of this four part series, we looked at the top 100 hitting prospects in each league based on minor league performance in 2004 and we now move on to the pitchers in part three of four.  Please do check back to part one of the series for some important notes about how these lists come together and just as, if not more importantly, what we mean when we define a prospect for purposes of this series, especially in terms of how much they need to have played in the minors in 2004 to be considered.  Teams listed are the organization which the player was in at the conclusion of the 2004 season.  Also crucial to understand is why a certain player that you may consider to be a top prospect might not make the list or be as high as you expected and part one of the series gave you some links to essays with my own detailed responses to such questions or concerns.

TOP 100 AL PITCHING PROSPECTS

1. SCOTT BAKER, MINNESOTA: The former Oklahoma State University pitcher is already blessed with exceptional control.  Minnesota's second round pick in the 2003 draft, I know I've rated him higher than virtually every other publication, as I have sometimes done with other number one rated picks in previous years.  He struggled after moving up to Triple-A Rochester in 2004, which actually helps him go a bit unnoticed, and he's probably going to start the season at that level but prior to that, he was eating up Double-A hitters, allowing just 44 hits in 70.1 innings while walking 13 and striking out 72, this all over 10 games started.  Some other publications have said that he doesn't have "dominant" stuff and I suspect this is because his strikeout numbers have "only" been around one per inning, which is actually below your typical top so-called top prospect.  In fact, Baker's velocity, which still isn't in his prime, has peaked in the mid to high nineties on occasion and what impresses me about him is how well he mixes up his pitches.  He already has a big league slider and curve and he throws every pitch for strikes and changes speeds as well as any pitcher I've seen in the minors in the past couple of years.  Definitely underrated, Baker's a rare sleeper that takes my number one prospect spot in the American League this year.

2. JAIRO GARCIA, OAKLAND:  It seems that every year, Oakland always has several of the top prospects and this year is no exception.  A reliever who throws in the mid 90s with questionable but constantly and quickly improving control, Garcia will rarely allow a home run, is going to be a big-time strikeout pitcher and projects as a long-term top closer in the game by the time he hits his prime.

3. ISMAEL RAMIREZ, TORONTO: Added to the 40-man roster this winter, don't be surprised to see Ramirez move quickly up the Jays ladder and secure a spot in the rotation by the end of 2006 or 2007. While I'm projecting him as a top pitching prospect in terms of results, I don't believe he'll be a big strikeout guy, even though he does throw hard, peaking in the mid nineties on rare occasions.  More likely, he projects as a control specialist who will keep the ball down and he has an unusual pitching motion that mimics a pause (it really doesn't last more than a split second) in his delivery.  He's going to have a good big league career.  No doubt, he's the least known of the top three.

4. JOE BLANTON, OAKLAND:  What's particularly interesting about him is that he's going to get a shot this spring to actually win a spot on the big league roster.  His 2004 Triple-A season, at first glance, doesn't look super at 11-8 and a 4.19 ERA in 176.1 innings but he's got a good, downward moving fastball and exceptional breaking stuff.  Even with his good movement, he occasionally leaves the ball up a bit too much but I don't expect it to be a significant problem in the long run and his control will offset that once he makes better decisions.

5. THOMAS MASTNY, TORONTO: No doubt this will be the most contentious pick of the top ten and while his career projection does justify his appearance here, I'm the least confident about him as of any in the top ten.  I've read twice in the past two weeks that he doesn't throw hard and projects, therefore, as a future middle reliever type.  Even the Blue Jays were convinced that he wasn't a future star that in the past two weeks, he was shipped off to the Cleveland Indians in the John McDonald deal.  I see Mastny differently than most and unlike all the other pitchers in the top ten here, he's the only one who doesn't have the kind of stuff that scouts notice but he gets results.  I compare him to Chad Bradford even though he's a different type of pitcher.  Like Bradford, Mastny will consistently put up good numbers and continues to do it as he rises through the minors even though everyone says he shouldn't be a good pitcher.  Scouts say he doesn't have anything more than a 90 MPH, at best, fastball and he doesn't really have anything else to go with it.  I see him as a guy who could end up as a starting pitcher, not a reliever, and be good at it over the long run.  Statistically, he projects better than just about anyone would expect.  He had the 4th best ERA in all of the minor leagues in 2004 (a 2.17 ERA over 149 innings at Single-A Charleston-WV), walked 41 and struck out 143.  He's older than some of the others, turning twenty-four in 2005, but I believe he's one of the most underrated pitchers around and it's obvious that Toronto didn't think as highly as I do as they traded him for John McDonald.  Only time will tell.  For readers who are uncomfortable with so-called "riskier" picks, by all means skip by his name here.  I say he's going to be a good one, despite a lack of overpowering stuff.  Because he's older and doesn't throw as hard, I'm certain he's not in this class but Dontrelle Willis made the top ten here a few years ago for the same statistical reasons I'm putting Mastny on the list this year.  Trust me when I say he's considered a non-prospect by everyone else so you can take him in the final round of your minor league fantasy draft if you feel a need to take a risk.

6. BRAD HALSEY, NEW YORK YANKEES:  As I review these notes, Halsey's name keeps coming up in the rumored deal with Arizona that would net the Yankees Randy Johnson.  That he's left-handed virtually assures him that if he pitches half way decently, he'll find a long-term spot in the majors and he's got a surprisingly improving splitter to go with a good fastball and a pretty good slider.  I haven't seen enough of his change-up to know whether it's ready but I expect him to settle in to a big league rotation within the next two years and to have immediate, but not instantly stellar success.

7. CHIEN-MING WANG, NEW YORK YANKEES: I see him as being ready now but he's been plagued by injuries throughout his short career, between blister problems, shoulder problems and other various ailments.  He throws hard, already has a big league quality split-finger pitch that complements his fastball and his slider is quite tough to pick up.  The only thing working against him other than injury concerns is that as good as his whole package appears to look, his minor league stats have rarely been consistent with his so-called high promise.  I see him as being better than anything he's shown in the minors and I expect that will be the case when he eventually makes it to the major league rotation.

8. WIL LEDEZMA, DETROIT:  I hope he ends up as a starter and his development may have been slowed just a bit as he had to be rushed to the majors to satisfy the 2003 Rule 5 pick rules, meaning Detroit had to keep him on the roster or return him to Boston.  Regardless, he's now good enough to stick around and is a big time sleeper because he's already got good enough control and never seems to tire in a game, even though Detroit's been careful with him.

9. TRAVIS BOWYER, MINNESOTA: Somehow he's developed a lightning fastball that he didn't have when he first started his professional career and I've heard at least one report of him hitting triple digits on the "fast" gun.   He's going to be someone's closer within four years, though I suspect his control problems may keep him from becoming Eric Gagne.

10. BEAU KEMP, MINNESOTA: Kemp's stock fell for a little while in 2004, enough so that he was even dropped from Minnesota's 40-man roster in mid-summer.  This is the same guy who posted a 0.66 ERA in 59 games at the Single-A level in 2002 and who's never had a year with an ERA of 4.00 or higher but he had been charged with assault during a fight a year earlier and the organization was rumored to have soured on him.  He's still going to be a good pitcher as long as he gains still-lacking control.

The best of the rest...

11. BRANDON LEAGUE, TORONTO

12. KAMERON LOE, TEXAS:  Loe made it to the majors briefly last year.  You'd think at 6'8" and 220, he would throw hard but he doesn't but his fastball has an amazing sinking movement to it that's hard to describe, which is probably why hitters have such trouble with it.  His slider is good but not great and he needs to continue working on his off-speed pitches if he's to graduate.  He has very good control, even better than his minor league stats reveal and my biggest concern about him is that though I expect him to move up to the majors to stay within three years, if he ends up pitching half of his games in a tough Texas ballpark, that makes him one to consider skipping.

13. ANTONIO PEREZ, TAMPA BAY

14. CHAD ORVELLA, TAMPA BAY

15. CESAR JIMENEZ, SEATTLE

16. JUSTIN STURGE, BOSTON

17. FELIX HERNANDEZ, SEATTLE

18. JAMIE VERMILYEA, TORONTO

19. VON STERTZBACH, ANAHEIM

20. JON PAPELBON, BOSTON

21. MATT DESALVO, NEW YORK YANKEES

22. DAVID PAHUCKI, BOSTON

23. DENNY BAUTISTA, KANSAS CITY

24. SCOTT KAZMIR, TAMPA BAY

25. DUSTY HUGHES, KANSAS CITY

26. ARNALDO MUNOZ, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

27. BRANDON MCCARTHY, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

28. CARLOS HINES, TAMPA BAY

29. ADAM MILLER, CLEVELAND

30. ELVIS AVENDANO, OAKLAND

31. MICHEL SIMARD, ANAHEIM

32. JACOBO SEQUEA, BALTIMORE

33. SCOTT RICE, BALTIMORE

34. JON LESTER, BOSTON

35. BRIAN BULGER, TAMPA BAY

36. SEAN HENN, NEW YORK YANKEES

37. SEAN TRACEY, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

38. FABIO CASTRO, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

39. BOB ZIMMERMAN, ANAHEIM

40. JOHN MAINE, BALTIMORE

41. DARWIN SOTO, SEATTLE

42. ZACHARY DIXON, BALTIMORE

43. JUSTIN JAMES, TORONTO

44. JASON MILLER, MINNESOTA

45. JEFF COLEMAN, OAKLAND

46. DAVIS ROMERO, TORONTO

47. DENNIS ULACIA, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

48. MATT WILHITE, ANAHEIM

49. GUSTAVO CHACIN, TORONTO

50. OMAR BELTRE, TEXAS

51. JASON HAMMEL, TAMPA BAY

52. TRAVIS FOLEY, CLEVELAND

53. ADAM HARBEN, MINNESOTA

54. BRAD KNOX, OAKLAND

55. DANNY ZELL, DETROIT

56. BRIAN HENDERSON, TAMPA BAY

57. CODY SMITH, TEXAS

58. ABE ALVAREZ, BOSTON

59. FERNANDO CABRERA, CLEVELAND

60. DWAYNE POLLOK, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

61. TONY PEGUERO, TAMPA BAY

62. DAVID MAZUREK, TEXAS

63. RYAN BRUAN, KANSAS CITY

64. FAUSTO CARMONA, CLEVELAND

65. CRAIG FRYDENDALL, TEXAS

66. OSCAR ALVAREZ, CLEVELAND

67. PAT NESHEK, MINNESOTA

68. HEATH PHILLIPS, CHICAGO WHITE SOX

69. ERIK THOMPSON, TEXAS

70. MATT LYNCH, OAKLAND

71. FREDY DEZA, BALTIMORE

72. MILTON TAVAREZ, BOSTON

73. JASON CROMER, TAMPA BAY

74. RAMON RAMIREZ, NEW YORK YANKEES

75. GARY HOGAN, TEXAS

76. JOSE VAQUEDANO, BOSTON

77. BUBBIE BUZACHERO, TORONTO

78. ABEL MORENO, ANAHEIM

79. BRIGMER LEON, OAKLAND

80. FRANCISCO CRUCETA, CLEVELAND

81. SCOTT TYLER, MINNESOTA

82. BOBBY LIVINGSTON, SEATTLE

83. JEREMY KING, NEW YORK YANKEES

84. JOSE VARGAS, CLEVELAND

85. BRIAN SANTO, DETROIT

86. DAN FYVIE, OAKLAND

87. CESAR HERRERA, TEXAS

88. CHRIS STEINBORN, DETROIT

89. JANNIO GUTIERREZ, MINNESOTA

90. BRIAN REED, TORONTO

91. JAKE WOODS, ANAHEIM

92. MATT DAVIS, CLEVELAND

93. CHRISTOPHER CORDERO, TEXAS

94. LEVALE SPEIGNER, MINNESOTA

95. BRANDON HARMSEN, NEW YORK YANKEES

96. PRESTON LARRISON, DETROIT

97. SHAUN MARCUM, TORONTO

98. TRAVIS BLACKLEY, SEATTLE

99. JULIO DEPAULA, MINNESOTA

100. TANNER WATSON, SEATTLE

 

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