I know we're in the midst of the madness of the Winter Meetings, but I've only got two more posts left and I might as well get them out before the semester ends. After all, I need something I can do instead of studying for finals, like my Irish "History" exam tomorrow. Thankfully, the Irish academic system is such that we are given ten questions and only need to respond, in essay form, to three of them. In addition, we were given one of the questions, and it has absolutely nothing to do with history. I could certainly get used to this.
Today's post finally gets us into the top-10, and I suppose that now is as good of a time as any to let the 'Pit know that this is the last time you'll have to wait so absurdly long to get this far. I say this because I've decided that next year I'm only going to be making a top-30 list. It's not that there aren't other prospects in the system worth paying attention to, but the odds are that we'll really only get 4 or 5 major league players from our current farm system, and listing guys that far down the list, I've discovered, is a bit of an exercise in pointlessness.
There really isn't much to debate for the list of prospects #36-40, because there's about a 99% chance that none of them have a long and fruitful major-league career. Additional reflections on this year's list will probably be headed your way next week, but for now, let's get five more prospects, including someone no longer in the system, out of the way.
6 - LHP Wade Miley - 11/13/1986 - 23 years old - Highest Level: Double-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #22
2010 Stats - Hi-A: 14 games (14 GS), 80 1/3 IP, 3.25 ERA, 3.49 FIP, 50:37 K:BB, 1 HR, 60.7% GB-Rate / AA: 13 games (13 GS), 72 2/3 IP, 1.98 ERA, 3.52 FIP, 63:28 K:BB, 5 HR, 56.7% GB-Rate.
Miley had fallen pretty far down the D-backs’ prospect hierarchy with uninspiring performances after being taken in the Sandwich Round of ‘08, but has vaulted right back into the thick of the D-backs’ plans with a stellar 2010 year. His strikeout rates don’t dazzle, but he misses enough bats to compensate for his walks, and keeps the ball on the ground at an absurd rate, which limits home runs.
Miley projects to comfortably slot in the back-end of a big-league rotation, with potential for a mid-rotation ceiling and a legitimate chance of a mid-season debut in 2011. A perfect-world comparison for Miley is Mark Buehrle, though a lot would have to go right for that to occur. Of course, there is also the chance that midnight strikes, and Miley turns back into the pumpkin he appeared he might be back in 2009.
So why am I on-board the Wade Miley Bandwagon? For one, a recent Nick Piecoro blog post said that he heard Miley recently hit 96 MPH on the radar gun with his fastball, and subsequent reports have had Miley regularly in the mid-90’s. Not only is this blazing velocity for a left-handed starter, but it is also much more velocity than the Rodrigo Lopez-level velocity (sits 89-91) I once thought he possessed. That is the sort of velocity spike that completely changes a prospect’s ceiling and overall outlook.
Aside from this potentially-plus fastball, Miley has wielded a plus slider since the day he was drafted, giving him the out pitch that big-league starters need to have middle-of-the-rotation potential. A lefty with two potentially plus-pitches and absurd ground-ball rates? Yeah, I’ll take one of those, please.
7 - LHP Patrick Corbin - 7/19/1989 - 21 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: N/A
2010 Stats - Low-A (Angels): 9 games (9 GS), 58 1/3 IP, 3.86 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 42:10 K:BB, 2 HR, 47.3% GB-Rate / Hi-A (Angels): 11 games (11 GS), 60 1/3 IP, 3.88 ERA, 3.48 FIP, 64:18 K:BB, 7 HR, 49.7% GB-Rate / Hi-A (D-backs): 8 games (8 GS), 26 IP, 1.38 ERA, 2.43 FIP, 30:9 K:BB, 1 HR, 47.7% GB-Rate.
Another piece acquired in the Dan Haren trade, Corbin was lights-out after joining the D-backs. However, he has only had to go through lineups one to one-and-a-half times, since the team was limiting his outings to three innings. So he may not be quite as brilliant as his 2.39 FIP for Visalia shows. Even if you want to take those numbers with a mountain of salt, though, it’s hard to argue with the 3.37 FIP he put up in 60 innings at the Angels’ Hi-A affiliate.
He works with three average to above-average pitches, though most of what I’ve heard and read is that nothing is really "plus." Don’t tell that to D-backs Pitching Coordinator Jeff Pico, though – according to a Scout.com post, Pico believes that Corbin’s change-up rates as plus. This may be why the D-backs valued him so highly when they were shopping Haren, as they’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on the pitch in their minor-league system.
Aside from his change-up, Corbin uses a fastball and a breaking ball that is somewhere between a curveball and a slider. So far, his overall results have followed a "greater than the sum of its parts" trend. The potential lack of a plus pitch likely limits him to a #4 slot in the rotation, but he’s a strong candidate to get there, and profiles as a fairly quick-rising prospect.
Formerly 8 - RHP Scottie Allen - 7/3/1991 - 19 years old - Highest Level: Low-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: NR
2010 Stats - Low-A: 16 games (16 GS), 78 IP, 4.73 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 79:22 K:BB, 5 HR, 39.1% GB-Rate.
After not appearing in the top-40 list last year (hey now, he was drafted in the 11th round in ‘09...), Allen made a huge impression on me in 2010 before being sent to New York for Juan Miranda. This kid is just ten days older than Tyler Skaggs, and has struck out 79 batters in 78 innings of work this year, with a .349 BABIP spoiling an impressive 2.79 FIP. His fastball velocity is creeping up into the low-90's, though there are questions of how much projectability he has left in spite of his rail-thin frame.
Statistically, my only real concern with Allen at this point was his lackluster ground-ball rate, listed above. His HR/FB was 4.9%* in 2010, so that will likely see an upswing through natural regression and that sparkling FIP will obviously take a pretty serious hit. Considering that he’ll spend his age 19/20 season at Hi-A and has already demonstrated a proclivity for missing bats in full-season baseball, I probably wouldn't have been so quick to give up on Allen. Think of it this way: Allen could finish the 2013 season stuck at Hi-A, and still be three months younger than Charles Brewer was at the end of his 2010 season at Hi-A.
That's not to say that Allen is without questions. Aside from the unsure amount of projectability, Allen works from a funky 3/4 arm slot that may not be conducive to retiring left-handed hitters. In my opinion, Allen's above-average change-up helped to readily counteract this, but facing lefties multiples times per game could be a risky proposition with Allen. Then, of course, there is the concern of Allen's durability. He only threw 78 official professional innings this year, with the rest of his workload coming in Extended Spring Training. With his light frame, unusual arm angle, and minimal workload so far in his career, it's a legitimate question to wonder how he'll handle the increasing workloads that will come up as Allen works his way towards becoming a major-league starter.
In the end, though, I certainly wouldn't have made the Allen-for-Miranda trade.
9 - RHP Chase Anderson - 11/30/1987 - 22 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #38
2010 Stats - Low-A: 7 games (7 GS), 38 1/3 IP, 2.82 ERA, 2.63 FIP, 31:9 K:BB, 1 HR, 42.5% GB-Rate / Hi-A: 19 games (4 GS), 70 IP, 3.60 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 83:16 K:BB, 7 HR, 37.3% GB-Rate.
While Charles Brewer was the one dominating Hi-A as a starter at the end of the year, it was Anderson who was the first to get to Visalia. After utterly destroying the Midwest League, he didn’t miss a beat, subjecting the Cal League to the devastation of his disgusting plus change-up. How good is Anderson’s change-up? D-backs Director of Player Development Mike Berger said that the pitch rated as a 70 on the 20-80 scale on a D-backs/Marlins television broadcast earlier in the year. Exaggeration or not, it’s definitely an out-pitch.
Despite working as a reliever for the University of Oklahoma, Anderson compliments his fastball/change-up combo with an average curveball, giving him the repertoire of a starter. Just ask Ian Kennedy, a decent comp for Anderson, how successful a pitcher can be in the rotation with a plus change-up and average offerings to go with it. From what I've gathered, the biggest concern is whether or not Anderson can set up his change-up properly with only a mediocre fastball. However, if his lack of velocity means that he cannot crack it as a starter in the majors, Anderson could return to his familiar role in the 'pen and make a good fastball/change-up reliever with a touch more velocity in short stints.
The results all year for Anderson were ludicrous, with FIP’s below 3 at both South Bend and Visalia, despite HR/FB regression haunting Anderson at the end of the season. For the Rawhide, Anderson essentially did not allow hitters to take advantage of the short walls and hitter-friendliness of the Cal League by not letting them make contact, with an absurd K-Rate of over 10 per 9 innings.
10 - RHP Charles Brewer - 4/7/1988 - 22 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #39
2010 Stats - Low-A: 13 games (13 GS), 69 IP, 1.83 ERA, 2.37 FIP, 78:20 K:BB, 3 HR, 43.7% GB-Rate / Hi-A: 14 games (14 GS), 81 2/3 IP, 2.98 ERA, 2.71 FIP, 75:15 K:BB, 5 HR, 49.2% GB-Rate.
Brewer absolutely destroyed the Midwest League to begin this season. Though, honestly, he was supposed to dominate Low-A. He was a 22-year-old from a big college program abusing kids from smaller colleges and high schools - that performance would have landed him in the top-25 on this list, but it would not have had him just inside of the top-10.
It was his work after being promoted to Hi-A Visalia, a more age-appropriate level for Brewer, that vaulted him up the ranks. Despite pitching in a hitter-friendly league, Brewer posted a 2.91 FIP and continued to carve through hitters to the tune of a 63:15 K:BB ratio. While he didn’t strike out quite as many batters per inning at Hi-A as Chase Anderson did, Brewer is a more ground-ball-oriented pitcher than Anderson is, which helped him avoid falling victim to the short walls of the Cal League.
* Certain stats from minorleaguesplits.com, including all minor-league GB-Rate figures for pitchers, and some BABIP figures.
** Major-league GB-Rate figures from fangraphs.com.
*** FIP calculation is ( ( (3*BB) – (2*K) + (13*HR) ) / IP ) + 3.2