October 12, 2010 at 8:00 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Atlanta Braves
Kicking off the 2011 prospect coverage with the first year in review piece, this one feature’s last year’s top 31-40 prospects.
Number 40: Paul Clemens – RHP (22) 6’4″ 170 LB. 2009 Rank: 31.
The 2008 7th rounder did a lot to improve his control in 2010, pitching 94 and 2/3 innings between Class A Rome and Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach. His walk rate fell from an atrocious 5.2 BB/9 in 2009 to a reasonable 3.4 BB/9 in 2010. He also increased his strikeout rate from 6.8 K/9 in 2009 to 7.7 K/9 in 2010 and was slightly more stingy with the long ball, surrendering only 6 on the year. His ERA responded favorably–he cut over two and a half runs off of it–but that overstates his improvements. He allowed 17 “unearned” runs and his peripherals indicate only a modest fundamental improvement. He’ll need to show more next year to put himself back on the prospect map. At 22 years old, his performance in the Carolina League does not warrant a whole lot of consideration for the 2011 top-40 list.
Number 39: Travis Jones – 2B (23) 5’9″ 190 LB. 2009 Rank: 18.
A 7th round draft pick in 2007, Travis Jones had another disappointing season, hitting only .225/.322/.365 over 259 PA’s in the Carolina League and Southern League. The fact that a twenty-four year old was demoted to the Carolina League should tell you all you need to know about his prospect status. Still, with an increase in isolated power, (.106 in 2009, .140 in 2010), I wouldn’t be surprised if Jones made a little bit of noise next year. He won’t be ranked in the top-40 list, but he’s someone to keep an eye on as a potential utility player. He’s a guy you expect nothing from, and if he ever makes it to the big leagues you’re pleasantly surprised.
Number 38: David Francis – RHP (22) 6’1″ 200 LB. 2009 Rank: 21.
The 2008 12th-rounder took a big step backwards in 2010, repeating the levels he pitched at in 2009 with poorer rate statistics and fewer innings. His walk rate rose from 3.7 BB/9 to 4.2 BB/9 and his strikeout rate fell from 8.1 K/9 to 6.6 K/9. About the only positive thing he did was keep the ball in the park–allowing only one homer on the year–but his drop in ERA is an illusion, he performed much, much worse. This is probably the last you’ll hear about Francis in this space.
Number 37: Yeliar Castro – RHP (22) 6’3″ 180 LB. 2009 Rank: Unranked.
Castro was wild but effective in 59 and 1/3 innings for the Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach Pelicans before he was promoted to Class AA Mississippi and completely imploded in 16 and 1/3 innings. At Myrtle Beach he allowed 30 runs with 60 strikeouts, 36 walks, and didn’t surrender a single homer. In Mississippi he allowed 16 runs with 13 strikeouts, 18 walks, and 3 homers. I didn’t see him pitch this year and I’ll have to speak with more people that did before I decide on where to put him, but right now I don’t think he’ll move much either way on the top-40 list.
Number 36: Angelo Paulino – RHP (23) 6’4″ 190 LB. 2009 Rank: Unranked.
When I made the 2010 list I went back and forth on Yeliar Castro and Angelo Paulino, eventually settling on Paulino as the better arm. Paulino had the better year, but I’m not sure he’s the better prospect anymore. Notably, his strikeout rate dipped from 11.0 K/9 in his tour of the Sally League in 2009 to 7.9 K/9 in 74 and 1/3 innings at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach in 2010. Fortunately his walk rate improved from 3.8 BB/9 in 2009 to 3.4 BB/9 in 2010 and he allowed only two homers, allowing him to be fairly effective, but understand this: Myrtle Beach has a very pitcher-friendly ballpark. He’ll need to re-gain his strikeout ability next year in AA to re-gain his prospect consideration. Relief prospects that don’t strike out a ton of batters just aren’t really worth following.
Number 35: Scott Diamond – LHP (23) 6’3″ 190 LB. 2009 Rank: 20.
Diamond continues to climb the organizational ladder without doing a whole lot to impress. He logged 158 and 2/3 innings between Class AA Mississippi and Class AAA Gwinnett, posting a 7.0 K/9, a 3.1 BB/9, and a 0.3 HR/9. It should be noted that his strikeout rate at Mississippi (7.9 K/9) over 102 and 1/3 innings was much better than his strikeout rate at Gwinnett (5.3 K/9) over 56 and 1/3 innings. He’ll return to Gwinnett in 2011, and if the organization needs another lefty specialist in their MLB bullpen or a spot-starter with Brandon Beachy unavailable, he’ll get a look, but don’t expect him to be anything more than that–a lefty specialist or spot-starter in a pinch.
Number 34: Gerardo Rodriguez – 1B (22) 6’1″ 195 LB. 2009 Rank: Unranked.
Rodriguez continued to display impressive pop (.196 ISO, .447 SLG% at Myrtle Beach–a difficult place to hit–over 356 PA’s) and nothing else (.253 batting average with 110 strikeouts in 320 AB’s (34.4% K/AB), 26 walks, .312 on-base average, 5 stolen bases, zero defensive value). He was also suspended for 50 games for failing a drug test, reportedly amphetamines. Nothing to see here at this point, move along.
Number 33: Cory Gearrin – RHP (24) 6’3″ 200 LB. 2009 Rank: 29.
Gearrin had a very successful year, posting a 3.36 ERA, a 1.295 WHIP, and a 66-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 80 and 1/3 innings at Class AAA Gwinnett. He allowed only six home runs and as a guy that keeps the ball on the ground most of the time he doesn’t need to post awesome K/BB ratios to be effective. He’ll get an invitation to spring training in 2011 and would make plenty of MLB bullpens if he’s pitching as well as he did this year, but the Braves might not have room for him. If they decide to part ways with Peter Moylan and are looking for a cost-effective, in-house replacement, their games are similar and Gearrin would be the best candidate.
Number 32: Thomas Palica – LHP (22) 6’3″ 215 LB. 2009 Rank: 38.
Palica had an encouraging season in 2010, bumping his strikeout rate after a mid-season promotion to AA. Across two levels he finished the year with a 10.7 K/9, a 3.8 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 59 and 2/3 innings. Control continues to be an issue, and he walked 16 in his 32 inning stint in the upper-minors, but the 45 strikeouts do something to offset the wildness. He’ll need to get his command under control if he wants to pitch at the next level, but he remains an interesting relief prospect to keep an eye on.
Number 31: Tyrelle Harris – RHP (23) 6’4″ 235 LB. 2009 Rank: Unranked.
A relief prospect who started they year as Rome’s closer and made it all the way to AA by August, but he was then shipped to Chicago’s system as part of the trade that brought Derrek Lee to Atlanta.