If you’ve checked in on This Week in Prospects the last seven weeks, you probably know by now that I’ve been counting down my Top 100 MLB Prospects this fall. This time around, we’re looking at prospects 50-41, including a couple of Mariner hitters, a couple of pitchers who are bigger than many NBA power forwards, and the first of many impressive Braves pitchers.
#50.) Andrew Brackman, RHP, Yankees—One of the harder-to-rank prospects on the list, this 6’11” behemoth has a wicked fastball/curve combo, but he’s old for a prospect and failed to strike out a batter per inning in either High-A or Double-A. Still, Brackman’s control improved dramatically from 2009’s disaster, showing that his ace potential is still there. 25 in two months, he’ll need to move fast, but with his size and stuff, Brackman could be a frontline major league starter. His statistics and lack of a consistent third pitch give enough pause that he doesn’t get higher than this.
#49.) Lucas Duda, 1B/OF, Mets—Just a C-grade batting prospect entering 2010, Duda hit his way to the Big Apple, pounding out a .286/.411/.503 line in Double-A and then topping that with a marvelous .314/.389/.610 in Triple-A. After some early struggles with the Mets, Duda rebounded and finished with a respectable .417 slugging percentage in 29 big league games. He’s a complete hitter with both contact and power skills, and he’s learned to play an acceptable corner outfield, which is huge for him with Ike Davis looking to be the Mets 1B of the present and future. Duda could be a .300 hitter with 25 homers.
#48.) Nick Franklin, SS, Mariners (Low-A)—Franklin entered 2010 with a reputation as a steady shortstop defender with little hitting skill, which made his 23-homer output in a Low-A pitcher’s league as a teenager so shocking. His .281/.351/.485 line isn’t the best, but it really stands out given his age and position—consider that top prospect Aaron Hicks had a lower average and slugging at the same level even though he was born a year and a half after Franklin (which explains why Franklin is 19 spots ahead of Hicks on my list). The breakout came so out-of-nowhere that some skepticism is warranted, particularly since Franklin isn’t a particularly adept contact hitter. Still, he could be a power-hitting shortstop with plus defense, and those two skills alone add up to good MLB value (see Gonzalez, Alex).
#47.) Greg Halman, OF, Mariners—I’ve pretty much given up trying to figure out Greg Halman. The guy whiffed in 40% of his plate appearances in Double-A in 2009 and still hit 25 homers; he then came back in 2010 and cut his strikeout rate all of 0.1%, yet somehow managed to slug .545 in AAA. Obviously, he’s got rare power, and Halman’s a plus defender and runner as well, so he’s not just a one-dimensional slugger. He did improve his plate discipline in 2010, so at least he’s working walks now, but the ridiculous whiff numbers need to come down at some point. It didn’t work in a brief big league cameo, but Halman’s just 23, so he has time to tighten up his strike zone. If he can, there’s 50-HR potential here, which, combined with the good speed and defense, makes him a valuable player even if he’s hitting .240.
#46.) Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays—For all his athleticism, at some point Jennings needs to be held accountable for his numbers, and at 24, that time is now. His batting line dropped from .325/.419/.491 to .278/.362/.393 as Jennings repeated Triple-A, and he only cranked three homers all year. He’s still got incredible skills across the board, but Jennings’ stock has certainly fallen a bit from last year (when he graced by top ten). Jennings remains an athletic marvel with surprising polish at the plate, though, so he’s a lock to at least be a .275/.350/.400 hitter with plus defense and baserunning, and likely will do better than that.
#45.) Kyle Gibson, RHP, Twins (AAA)—From the moment Gibson stepped on a professional mound, he dominated, straight out of college, working his way to Triple-A in his first professional season. The righthander has a deadly slider that he sets up with a nice fastball-changeup combination, and pounds the zone with all three pitches. He doesn’t have elite strikeout numbers, but keeps the ball in the park and limits free passes. Gibson isn’t likely to become a perennial All-Star, but he could be the AL’s answer to Matt Cain.
#44.) Matt Lollis, RHP, Padres (Low-A)—Like Brackman, Lollis is an absolute behemoth with a top-of-the-line fastball-curveball combination. The difference between the two is that Lollis will start 2011 at the same level Brackman began 2010 at—High-A—despite being just 20 (Brackman was 24 to open this year). For a guy who’s usually listed between 6’7” and 6’9” and 250-280 lbs. Lollis has good mechanics and command, allowing him to shut down the Midwest League as a teenager. He’s still got lots to prove, but if everything breaks right, he could be an ace.
#43.) Chun-Hsiu Chen, C, Indians (High-A)—Like Lollis, Chen isn’t the most hyped prospect out there, but his talent and results are beyond reproach. The catcher hit .312/.368/.512 in Low-A and then .320/.442/.517 in High-A Kinston, arguably the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball. He also threw out 35% and 39% of runners at each level, respectively. Chen looks to be a true two-way stud behind the plate. Obviously, with Carlos Santana entrenched in Cleveland, he could wind up blocked, but having two stud catchers isn’t exactly a problem you don’t want to have.
#42.) Trey McNutt, RHP, Cubs (AA)—A late-round pick in the ’09 draft, McNutt buzzed all the way up to Double-A just 13 months after being drafted, and right after his 21st birthday. He left behind a ton of confused A-ball hitters in his wake, whiffing well over ten batters per nine at both Cubs A-ball levels. With a big, projectable frame and knockout fastball/curveball combo, he’s got the stuff to match the stats, and could be a decent #1 or excellent #2 starter.
#41.) Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Braves (High-A)—Vizcaino’s season was marred by an elbow injury that cost him half the year, but before getting hurt, he tore up Low-A at age 19 with a ridiculous 68/9 K/BB and just one homer allowed in fourteen starts. Vizcaino’s relative lack of size and his arm troubles aren’t encouraging, but his power fastball/curve combination certainly is: this is a guy who was dealt for Javier Vazquez, straight-up, after Vazquez’s ridiculous 2009 season, after all. Vizcaino is a potential ace if he can stay healthy, but the Braves don’t even need him to be, with several better pitching prospects. Atlanta could have an extremely formidable rotation for years to come, and Vizcaino could also be prime trade bait at some point; he may certainly front a rotation for teams with less pitching depth than Atlanta.