Welcome to the October 16, 2010 edition of This Week in Prospects! The column has now been permanently moved to Saturdays, for those of you who expected it on Thursday.
Anyway, this week, we’re doing yet another installment of my postseason Top 100 Prospect List, so take a break from the hectic playoffs for a second and read about the future! We’ll look at two Royals lefthanders, a host of other pitchers, and two potential middle-of-the-order bats.
#60.) Alex Colome, RHP, Rays (High-A)—Colome turned in a good year in Low-A at age 21, whiffing over a batter per inning, and flashed his strikeout ability even more by whiffing eight batters in a 4-inning High-A cameo. Like his uncle Jesus, Colome runs his fastball up in the mid-90’s; unlike Jesus, he has an idea of where the ball is going even at this early stage of his career. His hard curve gives him a second plus pitch, and with more experience and polish, Colome could be a devastating starting pitcher.
#59.) Liam Hendriks, RHP, Twins (High-A)—The antithesis of Colome, Hendriks is an extreme control artist who walked just 12 batters in 108 2/3 innings across two levels this year. He managed to whiff 105, so he’s not just a throw-strikes-and-hope-for-the-best type a la Doug Fister. Not surprisingly, that sort of command led to sub-2.00 ERAs at both Low-A and High-A at age 21 for Hendriks. He’s the sort of pitcher who throws a ton of different pitches to keep hitters guessing rather than leaning on one knockout offering, a la Jered Weaver. With his polish, Hendriks is less likely to bust than just about any A-ball prospect out there, although he probably has less upside than most of the players on this list.
#58.) Chris Archer, RHP, Cubs (AA)—Archer is similar to Colome: a power fastball/curveball pitcher that lacks polish. He slots in ahead of Colome because he’s proven himself at Double-A (1.81 ERA there this year), while Colome has not, and Archer is just three months older. Long a pitcher who struggled to throw strikes, Archer got it together long enough to dominate High-A (82/26 K/BB in 72 innings) before watching his walks shoot back up to five per nine in Double-A. He has front-of-the-rotation stuff, but Archer hasn’t posted a BB/9 below 5.00 in full-season ball anytime except for that one High-A stretch, so Cubs fans can’t anoint him the future ace just yet. His control is improving, though, and it’s certainly encouraging to see Archer succeed in spite of the walks.
#57.) Jerry Sands, OF, Dodgers (AA)—As a slugger out of a small college, Sands has always been doubted by pretty much everyone, including me, but he kept slugging in Double-A this year (.270/.360/.529), so it’s time to believe in his bat. He’s struggled badly with strikeouts in the past, but he struck out just 62 times in 68 Double-A games this year, and that came after skipping High-A entirely. Sands, 22, also offers good outfield defense and surprising athleticism, as he went 18-for-20 in steals. He’s passed Kyle Russell as the slugging Dodgers prospect to watch.
#56.) Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals (AA)—Montgomery set himself up for a much higher ranking by opening the season with a 33/4 K/BB performance in 24 2/3 High-A innings at age 20. But he came crashing down to earth in Double-A, seeing his FIP jump from 1.01 to 3.97 and missing a couple of months due to injury. His walk rate nearly tripled and his strikeout rate was almost cut in half, so that’s definitely cause for concern. Still, Montgomery is just 21, and being a solid Double-A starter that young isn’t the worst thing in the world, after all. A lefty with the potential for a plus-across-the-board fastball-curve-change repertoire, he may fit best as a #2 starter long term, but he could take the Jon Lester path and be an ace.
#55.) Chris Dwyer, LHP, Royals (AA)—Dwyer’s a year older than Montgomery, but he slots just ahead of his Northwest Arkansas teammate because he kept his strikeouts up in Double-A, although it was just four starts. Dwyer’s a bit less polished than Montgomery despite his 1988 birthday, but he may actually have slightly better stuff across the board. Sort of a Gio Gonzalez-type pitcher who can completely neutralize a lineup for stretches but also completely fall apart with his command at times, he has ace potential if he harnesses his stuff, but at 22, his lack of polish may relegate Dwyer to a mid-rotation role.
#54.) Simon Castro, RHP, Padres (AAA)—Like Colome, Castro has ace-quality stuff, featuring a moving 91-95 mph heater and one of the best sliders you’ll see. Also like Colome, his 2010 performance was a bit underwhelming, at least by top prospect standards, which is why he misses the top 50. At 22, he wasn’t especially young for a top prospect in Double-A, and he whiffed just 7.43 batters per nine there before getting touched up in a late-season Triple-A look. There’s little doubt Castro will be an effective major leaguer, but in order to be a true ace the strikeouts are going to need to come back next year.
#53.) Joel Carreno, RHP, Blue Jays (High-A)—Carreno, on the other hand, lands here due mostly to his stats. You can’t just ignore a guy who whiffs 11.31 batters per nine in High-A, even if he’s 23. 173/30 K/BB ratios don’t come around often at any level, and Carreno has more “stuff” than, say, Hendriks, dialing his fastball up into the 92-93 range and throwing a power slider to go with it. Double-A will be a big test for Carreno next year, as he could move into the top tier of pitching prospects if his success continues, but a Castro-esque dropoff would be fairly catastrophic, as he turns 24 in March.
#52.) Zach Britton, LHP, Orioles (AAA)—Britton tends to get put higher than this on most lists, from what I can see, but I’m not really sure why. It makes sense for players like Aaron Hicks and Dustin Ackley, but Britton? He’s a lefty with above-average stuff, but a 124/51 K/BB in 153 1/3 frames isn’t exactly wow-inducing for a 22-year-old who split the year between Double- and Triple-A. Britton gets bonus points from me for being a “safer” prospect than most on this list—he’s succeeded at every level, after all—but he looks more like a nice #2 than Jon Lester 2.0.
#51.) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Phillies (Low-A)—One of the best pure teenage hitters around, Singleton just turned 19 last month, but he’s already got a fantastic year of full-season ball under his belt, as he hit .288/.377/.492 in Low-A this season. A hot target of teams at the trade deadline, Singleton showed impressive plate discipline with a 74/64 K/BB in 104 games. His power is still developing, but a good bit (25 2B, 14 HR) is already there. Singleton even stole nine bases and plays solid defense at first. Since he plays an easy defensive position and hasn’t showed game-breaking power yet, he just misses the top 50 for now, but Singleton could vault much higher next year. At the plate, he has Bobby Abreu-esque potential.