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Mid-Season Prospect Rankings: Pitching

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on July 6, 2006

When we began the season, Prospect Insider went 50 Deep into the farm system to rank the best the organization has to offer.

That was more than three months ago and, as is inevitable, things have changed. Some of the system’s best talent has done well for their status, others… not so much.

There are a few new prospects, thanks to the draft, and a few fringe talents that are making a move.

Cha Seung Baek and Francisco Cruceta both began the year as second and third level options. Now they are each probably better bets to put forth decent innings in the show than Joel Pineiro.

We start off with those on the mound where the M’s still lack depth and impact starters. But Brandon Morrow in action and a few surprise arms in the lower levels have brighten things up a little bit.

Cha Seung Baek and Francisco Cruceta both began the year as second and third level options. Now they are both probably better bets to put forth decent innings in the show than Joel Pineiro.

Note: The Venezuelan and Dominican Summer League players were not considered.

Left-handed Starters
1 Ryan Feierabend 6-3 200 20 Potential No. 3 starter with improving stuff. ETA – 2008.
2 Travis Blackley 6-2 205 23 Might be ready next spring. Command has been solid.
3 Bobby Livingston 6-3 200 23 Needs more from fastball to sustain MLB success.
4 Justin Thomas 6-3 220 22 Consistent change necessary to be effective – usually has it.
5 Robert Rohrbaugh 6-2 200 22 Getting a lot of outs in AA with command, good mix and brains.
6 Shawn Nottingham 6-1 190 21 Plus breaking ball away from being No.1 on this list.

Others:Others: Julio Santiago (20), Jose Escalona (20), Steve Uhlmansiek (23), Tony Butler (18), Paul Fagan (21).

Right-handed Starters
1 Brandon Morrow 6-3 195 21 One pro inning, already No. 1 – no pressure. Inland bound.
2 Francisco Cruceta 6-2 200 24 Best stuff of any starter in organization not named Felix.
3 Cha Seung Baek 6-3 220 25 The resurrection project is a success. Best he’s ever pitched.
4 Yorman Bazardo 6-2 215 22 Adding a split may be the difference between relief and starting.
5 Chris Tillman 6-5 190 18 Expected to make debut this month. Must keep curve down.

Others:Others: Clint Nageotte (25), Michael Schilling (22), Doug Fister (22).

1 Mark Lowe 6-3 190 23 Has a starter’s arsenal and is the best bet for MLB success
2 Emiliano Fruto 6-1 235 22 Could start in future but needs better control to stay in bigs .
3 Stephen Kahn 6-3 220 22 Must locate fastball and stay away from hitter’s counts.
4 Craig James 6-1 200 23 Gone 25.2 innings and 15 outings without allowing a run.
5 Eric O’Flaherty 6-2 195 21 Could return to rotation but can get lefties out in relief.

Others:Others: Renee Cortez – R – (23), Cesar Jimenez – L – (21), Edgar Guaramato – R – (21).


44 Responses to “Mid-Season Prospect Rankings: Pitching”

  1. There are going to be a lot of questions to why this and why that, so let me start answering them before they come rolling in.

    Robert Rohrbaugh is moving up fast and probably has as much helium as any starter after Feierabend, but he’s still a lefty with a fastball that tops out at 87-88 and he hasn’t but two average offspeed pitches.

    Yorman Bazardo’s change and breaking ball both need improvement or he could slide into the bullpen at some point in 2007. Such a move may allow him to regain some of the velocity he had when he was ranked No. 3 in a pretty deep Marlins system. He’s sitting 89-92 right now but touched 97-98 with Florida at times.

    Thanks to my own excitement over Ryan Feierabend, he’s now the most asked about pitcher in the system, followed closely by Francisco Cruceta and now Brandon Morrow.

    The busiest question centers around what he throws. Feierabend goes 87-90 with his fastball, touches 91-92 and is gaining velocity every year. He may top out in the 90-93 range, His second pitch is a change, and it may be his best pitch. With continued development and even more consistent arm action, it may end up a plus offering.

    He also throws a curve ball, which was the biggest difference between his 2004 and 2005 seasons. It’s currently an average pitch but he’s got 2-3 years to work on it.

    Cruceta and Morrow aren’t that different as far as pitch arsenals go. Cruceta sits 90-93 with good movement and a nasty splitter. Morrow was usually 93-96 in college and sat in the low 90s in his first inning as a pro on Wednesday. He also uses a splitter as his out pitch.

    Morrow throws a slider, but it may behoove the righthander to work on a true curve ball due to his natural arm slot and delivery. There are no such plans yet as he starts his M’s career.

    He’ll likely hit Inland Empire after the ML all-star break.

    I received a text at 2:18 AM (just now) asking me what pitches Justin Thomas uses.

    He’s a fastball, slider, change-up guy. His change is a pretty decent pitch and he sits 89-92 with the fastball, with the potential to catch 93 and 94 sometimes. He’s inconsistent with his command, however, and that will be the key to his future, as is with most young pitchers.

    Thomas’ stuff is better than Rohrbaughs, which is why he’s rated higher. At best, Rohrbaugh is a No. 5 starter, but he’s probably a middle reliever above AA, in a similar manner in which the team views Thomas Oldham, who went unranked due to injury and the fact that he’s being misuses, but that’s out of necessity.

    Thomas has a chance to be a No. 4 starter and possesses a good enough 1-2 punch that he can succeed in the later innings in relief.

    Craig James is absolutely dealing with his fastball-slider combo and his 25.2 consecutive scoreless innings spells TACOMA by August. When Morrow is promoted to Inland, Nottingham or Lockwood will likely head to San Antonio, pushing a man to Tacoma, who can use the healthy arm after Cortez and Nageotte were added to the DL over the past week.

    James may be that guy, especially since pushing Kahn or Lowe again may not be wise.

    Ryan Rowland-Smith was not ranked due to questions about his role and because he’s been injured for most of the year and has no 2006 track record in which to use. But he did just return to the rotation where he could regain his status.

  2. DIQ said

    Nice job JAC.

    Really interesting to see the younger guys move up the ladder in rankings and up the system as well.

    Cruceta needs to be in the rotation after the all-star break.

    Paging Bill Bavasi..

  3. Just for information purposes, As I do each position, you won’t see rankings for 1B, 3B, 2B or SS… instead I will classify middle infielders, corner infielders and do the same in the outfield.

    So, in all, LHS, RHP, RP, C, CI, MI, COF and CF will have their own… and then an overall list of Arms and Bats will have their own.

  4. Jerry said

    That is good information Jason.


    I have a few questions:

    -What do you think about Baek? Is this for real? Or are his stats misleading? I remember reading that his stuff has gone south compared to how he threw back when he was a pretty good prospect (2004ish). Is his stuff back? Do you think his success is sustainable, and could he handle a promotion?

    -How about Steve Uhlmansiek? He is dealing in Everett right now. Obviously, as a guy with college experience, it would be nice to see him do this at higher levels. But so far, the TJ recovery seems like it is going well. How good can this guy be? I would imagine that he is a good bet to shoot through the system next year, assuming that his arm recovers like most TJ survivors. I was just wondering about your take on his upside and potential.

    -I had a general question about the rookie league. I have been periodically checking in on how players are doing in the M’s team in AZ. Are stats from that league pretty much worthless? There are some interesting players there, but I get the impression that it is mainly there to help players get healthy, get warmed up after layoffs, and to help players work on specific things. Thus, should we put any weight into stats from that context? And have you heard anything about any of the players down there? In particular, guys like Wellington Dotel and Carlos Peguero seem like interesting prospects, but both have pretty scary K rates at that level. Do we just have to wait until 2007 to get a handle on how good these guys are?

    -Finally, why haven’t the M’s been making any headlines with signings lately? It pisses me off seeing teams signing late-round picks to big money contracts, and watching big-market clubs suck up all the international talent this year. This year is supposed to be a bumper crop of international players, and the M’s haven’t done anything that I have heard about. Are they stepping back from the international market? It would be nice to see them contintue to draft well AND keep bring in international talent. But they haven’t made any moves for the elite international players this year. It is sorta disappointing. I know that they have spent a lot of money on infrastructure (DSL and VSL teams, int scouts, etc), but they did well with getting big-name international players in the past (Choo, Felix, etc). Do you have any insider insights into what is up?

  5. ivan said

    I might be the only one beating this drum but that has never stopped me. Not this year, but next, I think they should make Putz a starter now that he has that splitter and has shown a little bit more ability to change speeds.

    Putz was a starter all through the organization up till and including AAA ball. Correct me if this is wrong, but they made him a reliever only because he hadn’t yet added a third pitch.

    He is big and strong and as far as I know he has never had any ongoing injury problems.

    Putz is 29 already and at his physical peak. Prople toy with the idea of making Soriano a starter. IMO Putz is a better bet.

  6. marc w. said

    One quibble, Jason: check Cha Seung’s birthdate. He’s not 22. MiLB has his bday listed as 5/29/80, which is correct, I’m pretty sure.

    Jimenez as a reliever already? I suppose I’ve got to agree that’s where he’ll end up – as this decade’s John Halama – but at least he’s starting and doing well now.

    Of the Bazardo/Blackley/Feierabend/Rohrbaugh group, who sees Tacoma first? Blackley, because he’s been there, or Bazardo because if I’m the GM, I really want to challenge him to understand what you’ve got. He’s been in AA a while now. Your thoughts?

  7. Andren said

    Thanks for a great writeup Jason. As far as comparing what we have to other organizations do you have a site to recommend? I’d like to see where some of our talent slots in against the other clubs.

  8. Edman said

    Hopefully, I’ll have something to report on the pitching at Everett, soon. Gone to three games, and wouldn’t you know it, Schilling has started all three. Actually hope to see someone else start.

    I can say that pitching is at the forefront of the team. Probably the best depth I’ve seen at Everett, at least so far. I wouldn’t say they have any real stand-outs, other than Steve U., and has he ever put up the numbers. Kudos to Bob for taking a chance on a rotator cuff injury. It’s really low risk, anymore. But, still teams are scared to death of any hint of injury in the draft.

    The position players are pretty thin on the infield. Moore is a better catcher than I thought he’d be, and he’s got lots of power. Halman and Hu are the big offensive weapons. Both could turn out to be pretty special. Joe White has the make-up of your classic firstbaseman, but he hasn’t hit yet. And, Dickey is pure athlete, but the big question is can he turn from a multi-sport guy, to a full time baseball player. As we’ve seen with Wilson, it takes a while to mold your body to full-time baseball.

    I think you’ll look back in four years and be impressed with how many good pitching prospects came from the 2006 Aquasox.

  9. WAB said

    Guardado traded to Cinci for Travis Chick.


  10. WAB said

    And who do you guys think gets the call–either to replace Eddie in the ‘pen or on the 25 man?

    Bavasi mentioned Jimenez and Mark Lowe as possible call-ups in the Times.


  11. Willmore said

    Jason, where does Chick rank in there ?

    And I love the move, by the way.

    As far as a callup, I’d go with Snelling to DH or with Baek/Cruceta to start over Pineiro.

  12. KB said

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see the M’s do the following: Call up Jimenez and Snelling, DFA Petagine, move Everett to the bench and “platoon” the Aussie and Perez.

  13. WAB said

    I don’t know about moving Everett to the bench…he’d probably assault Hargrove, this time.

    Wait…you may have something there. Kill two birds with one stone! Brilliant!!

  14. KB said

    I was thinking that nobody would trade for Crazy Carl and that Bavasi would keep Everett over Petagine, rather than DFA him and eat the contract.

    Then again, we just traded Guardado for an actual prospect, so I guess anything can happen.

  15. StandinPat said


    Any info on Chick?

  16. Andren said

    Everett might have made his trade stock dive with last nights tirade.

  17. StandinPat said

    What stock?

  18. Beanball said

    Um, the same stock Eddie had šŸ™‚

  19. Willmore said

    Eddie is a lefty reliever with track record of success.

    Everett is a switch hitter who can’t switch hit .. or hit, period, with a track record of being an asshole.

    Stock ? What Stock ?

  20. C. Cheetah said

    Great Post. Gives us lots of hope for future.
    Looking at the list a bit differently though, could you let us know those on the list that can become free agents next year…like Nageotte, Foppert, Baek, or others.

  21. Beanball said

    I was going along the lines of they are both overpaid, washed up vets w/o a future. Amazing they got a warm body for Eddie, i would have taken a couple used bats……Nice job Bavasi

  22. JasonAChurchill said

    –What do you think about Baek?–

    He’s as good right now as hehas ever been. Decent K rates, solid control and his curve ball is better than it has ever been and that’s the key.

    –Rookie Leagues–

    Yeah, sort of, stats are kind of useless in that league. Basically I just check the raw talents and if a 17 or 18 yearold can tear it up, it means a little something.

    It’s tough to hit and pitch down there with the weather being so draining but hitters have an advantage overall, which is why a lot of college pitchers split time between Peoria and Everett.

    It’s much, much worse in the DSL and VSL than the rookie leagues, however, because their competition level is even lower so it’s tough to get any idea at all.

    –International talent–

    This is a suck-ass class… again. The Yankees grossly overpaid for Montero and none of those so-called “top” guys are really truly first round draft pick types like everyone keeps saying.

    The M’s have plenty of talent in the VSL and DSL without signing anyone significant this month.

    For all the clubs that claim high school cacthers are too tough to judge, why would Montero at 16 be any different?

    The Yankees just have cash to waste, and they probably just did that with Montero. Not that he won’t ever be a big leaguer, but he’s not worth that kind of money right now. They just couldn’t handle being beaten out by the Tigers or Red Sox.

  23. JasonAChurchill said

    Re: Uhlmansiek

    I have yet to see him, and when I do I’ll certainly cross what I see with a few scouts’ thoughts and post it here.

    He’s interesting.

  24. JasonAChurchill said

    re: Baek’s BDAY… he is 25… that’s just a typo on my part.

    Re: Putz

    He’d certainly lose velo if he started, and he maynot be able to sustain his stuff for more than 3-4 innings — that was his problem before when he started.

    He’s much better off in the pen.

    Re: Chick

    Check the P-I over the next few days on Chick.

  25. KB said

    Re: Uhlmansiek

    I caught him last Friday night and, although we were blinded by the sun a bit, he was missing some bats and looked extremely poised out there. I didn’t see a whole of good swings.

    I fully expect him to be promoted at least to Wisconsin in the near future. He’s a bit old for short-season ball.

  26. C. Cheetah said

    I remember several people being high on Anthony Varvaro earlier this spring..Is Varvaro also hurt or just too raw or did I miss a trade?

  27. jp17 said

    Heard that Lowe was called up to Tacoma…is that because Tacoma needed arms with Nagoette going on the DL…or because of the possibility of an arm heading up to Tacoma?

    Any ideas if the M’s promote in-house or look for help outside by trading Everett/Pineiro?

  28. KB said

    My theory is they don’t want to interrupt Jimenez’s recent starting turnaround, yet they still want the livest arm they can call up. Lowe’s got more bullpen promise than the other options.

  29. StandinPat said

    What makes more sense, is too darn simple for the M’s to pull off. Joel to the Pen, where he may be able to gain some velocity, and Cruceta in the rotation. Cruceta > Piniero in the rotation, Pineiro > rushing another minor league arm up for mop up duty.

  30. Tacoma did need an arm, they had just 11 pitchers and they normally keep 12.

    They also needed room in AA for Chick…

  31. Re: Varvaro

    He’s in rookie ball. He’s tossed two scoreless, hitless innings so far.

    He had TJ surgery last summer. The M’s knew this when he was drafted and that was the reason he slipped so far.

  32. KB,

    That’s a good thought. Like Rorhbaugh last year, Fister and Uhlmansiek are too good for the NWL, but Uhlie might have physical restrictions that keep him from sliding up a level this year.

    Fister and Schilling are two of the top 10 arms in the league.

  33. dnc said

    “Fister and Schilling are two of the top 10 arms in the league”

    Would I be off in assuming Ulmansiek should be in that list as well? Or is he the top arm?

  34. I think once he’s able to go 7 strong each time out, his best stuff will come out.

    When it does, yeah, he’d be up there with the top few.

  35. Walrus said

    Nice work on the Chick article in the PI….sounds though that yoiu see him as more of a reliever than starter though, if I read you right. But a power arm is a power arm…right? Nice job Bavasi.

  36. Thanks again…

    I haven’t seen Chick at all yet, so the opinion was based solely off the two scouts I spoke to about him today.

    Both scouted within organizations that he pitched for and saw him quite a bit.

  37. I heard the M’s are discussing a trade with the Red Sox, that would send Pineiro to Boston for ???. Any truth to it, and in your opinion what would the M’s be asking in return?

    This may be just some of the weird rumors that pop up in Boston coffee-shops but I wanted to bring it up.

  38. Bilbo said

    and the rag that is the NY Post claims NY wants Pineiro for Chacon. Maybe we can get BOS and NY into a bidding war! šŸ˜‰

  39. TyranT said

    Jason, what’s the news with Foppert? I haven’t heard anything lately about him and honestly haven’t done as much research as I’d have liked to. Thanks in advance

  40. Willmore said

    He’s injured.

  41. Cool. Cruceta tonight. I’m on my way up. If you happen to escape the confines of the press box, look for a dude in a Hawaiian shirt with a Nikon camera and a youngster with an old-school Trident multicolor hat in tow.

    I could try e-mailing you, if I had your address. I can read this blog on my phone, but stupid Palm OS browsers won’t let me post anything.

  42. Ah, sorry Paul… I left before the game started.

  43. Heh. Can’t say I blame ya. It was definitely crowded tonight, and we left right before the 8th. Picked a bad night to get there late in the first place šŸ˜¦

  44. Friday’s are the worst… it’s crowded with people who don’t care about the game and are just there to see the fireworks afterwards.

    I always thought dollar beer night would be worse, but it’s not even close.

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