[Part I of a four-part series]
Those who say that baseball is really a year-round sport at this point are right, but I'm going to use this post as the official line of demarcation from the 2009 season to the 2010 campaign -- at least as far as the minor leagues go. And, I figured, what better way to look forward than to give the prospect equivalent of the State of the Union address? So over the next week or so, I'm going to release my personal Top 30 list for the 2010 season. The list will come in four segments, beginning with today's piece on some "name" prospects who may be conspicuous by their absence from the forthcoming Top 30.
I should say a couple of things before I dive into this. First off, if you haven't had the opportunity yet, please check out the revamped "The Minors" section on The Good Phight. It gives a primer of how I tend to analyze prospects, including a rundown of some of the more important statistical categories I look at. Second, you may notice a bit of shuffling since my last Prospect Roundup. This is a fluid process, and while ranking players is an interesting discussion tool, I'm far less hung up on "Should this guy go #17 or #18?" than I am on accurately representing a player's realistic ceiling, floor, areas for improvement, etc.
So... I think that's it in the way of introduction. Without further ado, then, check after the jump for some interesting names that missed the cut for the 2010 Top 30, along with their predicted minor league club for next year.
Joe Savery, LHP, Lehigh Valley
The organization's 1st round pick back in 2007, Savery has simply failed to regain the raw stuff (and the command) that made him such a highly touted prospect before his labrum surgery. His numbers between Reading and Lehigh Valley last year (5.7 K/9, 4.6 BB/9, 4.72 FIP) were pedestrian; at this point, if he's got a future in the majors, he looks like a low-leverage bullpen guy at best. Perhaps it's time for him to pick up the bat again? This was a guy who hit .356/.451/.528 in a 3-year career at Rice, so he'd have some intriguing career paths as a LOOGY/pinch hitter.
Anthony Hewitt, OF-R, Lakewood
...and the organization's 1st round pick in 2008. Kind of hurts when you put it that way, huh? Hewitt is far from a lost cause, as he showed off a bit of power (.172 ISO) and cut the strikeouts down (33.0%) at Williamsport last year. But he swings at everything (3.7% BB), got moved off third base after posting an .827 fielding percentage there, and will start next year in Lakewood as a 21-year old. It could all come together still, but nobody's holding their breath.
Andrew Carpenter, RHP, Lehigh Valley
Carpenter had a nice bounceback year in 2009, posting a 4.08 FIP in 24 starts for Lehigh Valley. But his stuff is really fringy, and throwing 89 mph fastballs over the heart of the plate in the majors is just another way of asking for a one-way ticket back to Triple-A. Carpenter looks like a Quad-A guy to me, and while I'd be happy to be proven wrong, his best case scenario looks like "long reliever," which simply isn't enough to get him into the Top 30.
Steve Susdorf, OF-L, Reading
I like Susdorf, and I think he's got a shot to make the majors as a bench bat, but as a polished 23-year old college guy, I'm wary about him until I see some production in Double-A -- he hit a combined .358/.418/.502 between Lakewood and Clearwater, but only .221/.318/.351 in Reading. Susdorf doesn't have much in the way of secondary skills -- just 7.4% BB, a .143 ISO, and a fringy glove in left field -- so his bat will need to carry him moving forward.
Quintin Berry, OF-L, Lehigh Valley
Sort of a poor man's Michael Bourn, Berry combines good speed (48 stolen bases in 62 attempts in 2009, 6.6 speed score) with some patience (10.5% BB), but has too much swing-and-miss (22.9% K) for his slap-hitting style (.070 ISO). Guys with solid walk rates but no power tend to get exploited by pitchers at higher levels, and at 25 years old, Berry is no spring chicken. He could have some useful years in the majors as a 5th outfielder, but that's probably the best case scenario at this point.
David Herndon, RHP, Lehigh Valley
The organization's Rule 5 selection this year, I'm putting Herndon down for Lehigh Valley because I don't think he'll break camp with the Phillies; in that scenario, he'd have to be offered back to the Angels, or the Phils could work out a deal to keep him around. Herndon does have an interesting skill set, as he's a sinkerballer (58.5% GB in 2009) who's stingy with the free pass (1.9 BB/9). But he's strictly a reliever at this point, and doesn't miss enough bats (4.8 K/9) to be anything more than a guy with a chance to become Clay Condrey.
Austin Hyatt, RHP, Clearwater
It hurts to leave Hyatt off, because he was a name I was always excited to see in the Williamsport box scores last summer, and for good reason -- he was utterly dominant (13.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9, 0.17 HR/9, 1.12 FIP in 54.1 IP). Reports that his fastball was up to 94 are encouraging for a guy whose reputation was as a pitchability senior, but caution is necessary in evaluating a 23-year old who made hay by befuddling younger hitters. Some success at Clearwater and Reading would most certainly get him into the Top 30.
Sergio Escalona, LHP, Lehigh Valley
I don't know what it is about Escalona, but I'm just not wowed by him. He's a solid enough relief prospect, and as a southpaw he'll continue to get chances, but his numbers from Triple-A and the majors were just so-so, and it's not like he throws really hard or has a truly plus secondary offering that would make him really intriguing. My standard for pure relief prospects is pretty high -- only 4 of them made the Top 30 -- so Sergio winds up here.
Kyrell Hudson, OF-R, Williamsport
I had Hudson in one iteration of the Top 30, but when I thought about it some more, I realized that I'm not entirely comfortable ranking a kid whose hit tool is a serious question mark. Tools are great to have, but I'd like to hear scouting reports that say something -- anything -- good about his ability to square balls up or demonstrate some modicum of pitch recognition before I pull the trigger on him as a Top 30 prospect. It's a personal preference, but I'll gladly hitch my wagon to guys with skills, or guys with tools and some basic skills, before guys with tools galore and no present skills to speak of.
Mike Cisco, RHP, Reading
I just realized there's quite a bit of pitchability in this list. Cisco is another tough luck omission from the Top 30, as he's pitched well since the Phillies selected him in the 36th round of the 2008 draft, even meriting a look in the Arizona Fall League last year. But while his command has stayed solid as he's climbed the ladder, the strikeouts have begun to dry up (from 10.2 K/9 in Williamsport to 4.6 K/9 in Reading). Reports have his stuff being a little short, even for a command/control guy, so he winds up outside the Top 30 -- but like any pitchability guy, ne has a shot to prove doubters wrong by sustaining success at the upper levels.
In addition to the above omissions, prospect hounds may note the absence of some 2009 draftees like Steven Inch, Ryan Sasaki, Aaron Altherr, Nick Hernandez, Adam Buschini, and Jeremy Barnes, in addition to 2008 draftee Julio Rodriguez. When it comes right down to it, it's a numbers crunch, and it should be obvious that the list of guys who merit attention is longer than just 30.
We'll check back in with Part II, featuring prospects #30 through 21, on Monday. In the meantime, here's a poll to try to get some discussion going...