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Top 5 Impact Pitching Prospects for 2009

March 6, 2009

My part in Four-Seam Fantasy is to keep readers abreast of the youth in baseball. While Corey brings you fantasy pitching news and information relevant to all of MLB, I’ll be focusing on the young guns. Specifically, top pitching prospects and young major league pitchers.

Here, I have my look at the top impact pitching prospects of 2009. Fantasy baseball is all about what you can get out of players, and unless you’re in a serious keeper league, there’s really no need to go grab players who won’t see field time in 2009. These players are the top prospects, not necessarily the best overall prospects, geared to make an impact THIS season.

1. DAVID PRICE– Tampa Bay Rays, LHP

Photo by James Borchuck, Times

Photo by James Borchuck, Times

The obvious choice here at the top of our list, especially considering what we saw last postseason. Price’s stuff is electric to say the least. He profiles as a future number 1 starter and with makeup and pitching repertoire that have amazed virtually every scout who’s seen him. His Fastball sits in the mid 90’s consistently and his slider is excellent, bringing many to evoke comparisons to a left-handed John Smoltz. His changeup has excellent fade and is getting better. Price’s ability to add or subtract velocity when needed is well beyond his age, and he uses the whole strike zone well. Many see Price as the 5th starter in a vaunted Tampa Bay rotation, however it may not be as simple as pure talent; as the Rays have pitchers Jason Hammel and Jeff Niemann who are now out of options and may be called up in Price’s place so as not to lose them. I fully expect him to be the 5th starter very soon, if not at the outset of the season. Even if he doesn’t end up there, the next logical place for him is in the Tampa Bay bullpen, not the AAA starting rotation, so fantasy owners should feel some security. He wont be the unhittable stud he was last year, as I expect many more innings and for hitters to make subsequent adjustments, but thats certainly not a bad thing; . He’ll have an ERA below 4.00 and if allowed to start, should deliver you 160+ innings. There’s certainly number 1 potential in Price with his fantastic arsenal and great character. Two words folks: BUY NOW.

2. RICK PORCELLO– Detroit Tigers, RHP

Photo from Examiner.com

Photo from Examiner.com

The top prospect in the Tigers organization is moving fast; drafted in 2007 as the most highly regarded prep pitcher, he led the Florida State League (High A) in ERA posting a 2.66. All signs point to Porcello eventually becoming a frontline starter in the majors as he was a good student, committing to North Carolina before signing with Detroit, and has an impressive array of pitches. His best pitch is a toss-up between his fastballs; he throws a 4-seamer with great velocity, and a very impressive 2-seamer that comes in on righties. When bringing about professional comparisons, many see him in a Roy Halladay mode, high praise, but seemingly deserved as his pitching style is reminiscent of Doc Halladay; as he keeps balls low in the strike zone, inducing many ground balls while striking many hitters out. He also throws a good 12-6 curveball and a changeup that he has shown advanced confidence in. His makeup has received high praise as well, as he is a great competitor with a tireless work effort. He’ll start the season at AA but I sincerely believe he’ll be in detroit at some point this season, as even Jim Leyland has stated, “he’s not far away.”  He’ll show up to work in the back end of the rotation at some point this year, and when he does, expect good things in the way of a good number of K’s and few HR’s allowed.

3. TOMMY HANSON– Atlanta Braves, RHP

Tommy Hanson

Photo From Examiner.com

The 6’6″ drink of water was the main reason the Braves ended up not acquiring Jake Peavy, as GM Frank Wren refused to trade the Top Prospect in a very good Atlanta farm system. The consensus around baseball is that Hanson will most certainly be a number 1 starter in the near future, with the capabilities to be one of the best of his generation. Hanson had a breakout season last year and dominated both single-A Myrtle Beach and double-A Mississippi, the latter saw him hurl a no hitter . He led all the minors with a .175 opponent batting average and absolutely stunned Major League personnel in the Arizona Fall League, as he Led the offensively-oriented league by winning the pitching triple crown. Hanson’s greatest strength is the fact that he is able to throw 4 quality pitches. His 12-6 curveball is a real hammer, and his fastball sits in the low 90’s, exploding when it reaches the plate. He also throws a tremendous slider that he added only midway though last season, and he has changeup that many feel is ML average at worst. Had the Braves not done some major retooling of the rotation this year, Hanson most certainly would’ve topped this list, However with the additions of Derek Lowe, Javier Vasquez, Kenshin Kawakami, and the late signing of Tom Glavine to go with the only set starter at the beginning of the season, Jair Jurjjens, He’s on the outside looking in. I see him starting off in AAA, but if he pitches the way he’s capable, as he did last season and in the AFL, he’ll force his way into the Atlanta rotation. If he gets to the majors, he should stick, so keep an eye out.

4. DEREK HOLLAND– Texas Rangers, LHP

Photo from the ridersbaseball.com

Photo from ridersbaseball.com

Teammate Neftali Feliz certainly has the higher ceiling of the two, but it looks as though Holland will have a slightly better chance to make an impact this season. Holland was relatively unheard of entering his first full season of pro ball after being drafted in 2006, with a less than menacing fastball, and average secondary pitches. However, the must’ve been something in the water in his minor league stops, as his velocity skyrocketed to sit in the mid 90’s, while touching 98 mph. His delivery creates deception as well as life on his fastball, and has shown very good command with it. He throws a slightly less impressive changeup that he will throw in any count and a slider that needs some work.  Saying that Feliz has a higher overall ceiling is nothing to slight Holland, as many feel a spot as a frontline starter is his eventual destination. He should have a very good shot at the back end of a miserable Rangers rotation that looks to feature questionable pitchers Matt Harrison, Jason Jennings, and Brandon McCarthy. When they both get there, Feliz and Holland should make quite a duo for the Rangers.

5. NICK ADENHART– Los Angeles Angels, RHP

Photo from Mark Avery (AP)

Photo from Mark Avery (AP)

He got a cup of coffee in 2008, and it wasn’t pretty. However scouts and managers alike are positive that he’s a better pitcher than he showed last year. Adenhart got knocked around last year, both at AAA, and in the Majors, but has shown in the past that his performance last year was most likely an aberration. He’s only 23, and will be given every opportunity to succeed by the Angels. Right now, he profiles as a middle of the rotation starter, as he displays some quality stuff. He has fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and compliments it with solid, hard curveball with a shallow plane and a good changeup. He’s a very good athlete, and has proven to be very durable; posting more than 150 innings in each of his last 3 minor league seasons. His command is where most of his issues stem, and it seemed at times to completely disappear in 2008. His mental approach is seemingly the reason for this, as he also displayed the tendency to nibble far too much and he fell behind in counts often. He needs to sharpen his mental approach and be more aggressive if he wants to succeed. I see him doing so and subsequently, see him seriously contending for the 5th spot in the Angels rotation. His current competition is Dustin Moseley, who has proven unable to stick given the opportunity before.

-Byron

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