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2010 Top Prospects: Pitching Overview

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This is the final part of our 2010 pitching prospect over.  (Part 1: A prequel, Part 2: down and out, Part 3: Top performers, Part 4: Interesting pitchers)

To start off a consideration of where the Indians pitching prospects stand, consider the following hypothetical 2011 starting pitching depth chart.  This is a deep list.

Lake County
De La Cruz
Barnes Mahalic

DL: H. Rondon, A. Perez

The Indians have a large number of "interesting" pitchers in the system.  I'm not even going to make a bullpen depth chart because the list is too long and most likely too volatile.  And while this list emphasizes the quantity of pitching depth heading into 2011, there is a fair bit of quality here as well.  White, Knapp and Pomeranz are all pretty universally regarded as potential "high ceiling" guys, not necessarily number 1 starters, but top half of the rotation guys.  Guys like De La Cruz, Gardner, Soto and perhaps others (e.g. Rondon and Perez) still have the potential of earning that label.  Meanwhile there is a large group of guys who don't profile as high-end guys, but do profile as legit major league starters.  Think Jake Westbrook as the high end value projection for those kinds of guys.

I think the Indians currently have the right approach to acquiring pitching prospects.  If you look at most of the top starters in the majors, the vast majority of them were regarded as top prospects.  But if you look deeper into major league pitchers, there are a lot of guys who were more lowly regarded or were simply under-the-radar prospects who developed into quality major league pitchers.  If you look at pitching from the opposite perspective, looking at the development of minor league pitchers, the big theme is attrition.  Pitchers get injured and fail to develop with a greater regularity than hitters.  There are no sure things.  The Indians combination of quality and quantity seems like the appropriate middle path.  The team is not dependent on a handful of real prospects (the loss of Rondon and Perez hurts this year, but it doesn't kill the entire system), and there is a significant possibility for "surprise" players to emerge (though they won't be surprises to us).

And of course the current crop of bullpen guys would appear to be staggeringly deep.  And not just deep, but again reflective of both quantity and quality.  It is not just guys like Josh Judy, who have a combination of good numbers with underlying "stuff" that is not highly regarded.  Hagadone throws 99 mph.  Stowell isn't far behind.  Bryson has a strong fastball and a nasty slider.  These are guys who not only get out minor leaguers, but have the stuff to inspire confidence they can get out major leaguers the same way.

Consider what the Indians pitching looked like 5 years ago.  Granted, in 2005, the Indians had a major league starting rotation that had 5 starters make 30+ starts.  Millwood and Elarton were temporary guys, but 3 of the 5 spots were fairly locked down by guys in their mid-20s; Westbrook, Sabathia and Lee.  That is huge.  The Indians don't have that yet, but they will start 2011 with Carmona, Masterson, Talbot and Carrasco...who are not without hope.  But consider what was beneath that 2005 crop of starters.  Buffalo featured a shiny new Jeremy Sowers, who put up a deceptively fantastic season, and Fausto Carmona.  Those were the only legit starting pitching prospects on that team.  Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Davis, Billy Traber and Brian Tallet had already shown their cracks...and with the exception of Guthrie, wouldn't rank highly against our current crop of pitchers.  The best starter in Akron was an already brittle JD Martin.  Behind him were uninspiring performers like Bear Bay, Jake Dittler and Dan Denham.  These guys had some success, but again, their underlying performance data wouldn't really stand up against the current crop.  At Kinston you'd have found Adam Miller, just 20, and probably the only pitcher in the system who would have been rated by scouts as having top of the rotation caliber stuff.  The quantity and quality simply aren't comparable. 

So how does it all fit...who are our top pitching prospects.  For some perspective, here are some of the rankings of our top pitchers from a year ago.

Baseball America
Kevin Goldstein (BP)
Keith Law (ESPN)
Jon Sickels
N Hagadone (3)
A White (3)
H Rondon (3)
N Hagadone (3)
J Knapp (4)
J Knapp (4)
N Hagadone (5)
A White (4)
H Rondon (7)
N Hagadone (5)
A White (7)
H Rondon (5)
C Carrasco (8)
H Rondon (6)
TJ House (10)
C Carrasco (7)
A White (9)

J Knapp (9)

TJ House (10)


From a year ago, I think those who rated Carrasco highly should feel validated.  His September in Cleveland and second half in Columbus were very encouraging.  The big dropper from these lists will be Hagadone, because of his control and his move to the bullpen.  White has likely maintained his status for those who rated him highly and raised his status for those who viewed him less highly.  Knapp was already injured when these rankings came out, so it is hard to see how his brief end of the year performance, where he utterly blew away the competition(40% K-rate), can hurt him.  Rondon's injury will hurt him, but his "development" isn't really in question at this point, just how successful his stuff will be at the majors.  House didn't take off, but he is still hanging around.  Pomeranz will likely top all these lists this year.  I think Barnes, Soto and Gardner stand a fair chance of showing up.  I don't like ordinal rankings, but if you wanted to make me put together an actual ranking, excluding 2010 draftees, it would probably fall into these slots:

Top Tier:

A. White, J. Knapp

Second Tier:

H. Rondon, J. Gardner, G. Soto, S. Barnes, M. Packer

Third Tier:

N. Hagadone, K. De La Cruz, C. Kluber, A. Adams, B. Stowell, R. Bryson, Z. McAllister, TJ House, A. Perez

Fourth Tier:

P. Espino, TJ McFarland, B. Brach, C. Cook, B. Price, Z. Putnam, J. Judy, C. Burns

Finally, it's also worth looking at where players actually fall out in terms of several metrics, including our own progress score and net..

Name PS Name Net Name K% Name BB% Name GB% Name IP
White 7.81 Packer +69 Guilmet 39.5 Dew 3.2 Gardner 69.0 Kluber 160.0
Soto 7.64 Kluber +59 Stowell 37.4 Packer 4.2 Graham 64.0 White 150.2
Gardner 7.24 Sturdevant +58 Bryson 36.7 Flores 4.3 Packer 61.0 McAllister 149.2
Packer 6.88 Burns +56 Burns 36.5 Nakamura 4.7 McFarland 60.0 Gardner 147.1
Burns 6.84 Guilmet +54 Sturdevant 35.1 Guilmet 5.0 Burns 58.0 Pino 145.2
Pestano 6.34 Pestano +51 Pestano 31.8 Putnam 5.1 Turek 58.0 Espino 143.0
Kluber 5.80 Gardner +49 Flores 31.3 Popham 5.6 Mahalic 57.0 Barnes 138.0
McFarland 5.49 Stowell +48 Grening 27.2 Brach 5.9 Soto 57.0 House 135.2
Flores 5.20 Bryson +42 Judy 27.1 Burns 6.3 Smith 56.0 Packer 132.2
McAllister 5.18 Soto +42 Langwell 26.2 Jimenez 6.4 White 55.5 McFarland 130.2