Sunday, December 21, 2008

In Retrospect: 2008 Top 20 Pitching Prospects (#10-20)

Here are my picks for the number 10 through 20 pitching prospects entering 2008, along with my comments from the time I posted the list, as well as my thoughts on each pitcher now that the 2008 season has come and gone.

10. Jacob McGee --

Pre-2008: McGee keeps getting better and better, and I think he could have a long and productive career, but right now he's got David Price, Jason Shields, Scott Kazmir, Matt Garza, and Wade Davis to contend with, just to name a few. McGee should have similar success to Yovani Gallardo (if Gallardo pitched in the AL East), but he needs to work on keeping the ball low, as well as developing secondary pitches.

Post-2008: With a season cut short by Tommy John surgery, there's not much to say about McGee.  Hopefully he'll be back and good to go by spring 2010.

11. Michael Bowden --

Pre-2008: Bowden was cruising through the minors up until mid-summer last year, but he has a good track record and a great work ethic, so I think he'll bounce back this year and be poised for a 2009 call-up in Boston. He's still very young, and his style is a little unorthodox, but you can't argue with the results.

Post-2008: The results were there, and Bowden actually got a short and sweet 5 innings with the Red Sox.  I still like Bowden in the top 15.  Not dominant, but good stuff, with solid potential.

12. Gio Gonzalez --

Pre-2008: After bouncing around between the White Sox and the Phillies, the Athletics traded for Gonzalez this off-season with the hopes that he'd bring some good mojo to go along with his nasty curveball. He has almost identical stats to Jacob McGee, but Gonzalez is just a bit older, thus the lower ranking. He should do pretty well out in Oakland, and put up some solid numbers very soon.

Post-2008: Well, Gonzalez kind of crashed and burned in 2008.  His K% dropped at AAA and with the A's, his BB% also went up, and his GB% went down at each level.  All together, it culminated in a September 8th outing against Detroit during which Gonzalez gave up 9 runs in 1.2 innings, including 3 home runs, a triple, and 2 walks.  While I believe the talent is still there, it isn't certain if Gonzalez will have the confidence to rebound in 2009.

13. Clayton Kershaw --

Pre-2008: Everybody wants to put Kershaw in with the top 10 prospects in all of baseball, but I don't think he's even a top 10 pitching prospect at the moment. He's got good stuff, and he misses a lot of bats, but most of it isn't on purpose. His control is all over the place at times, he doesn't have the ability to keep the ball down when he wants to, and major league hitters will catch up to him pretty quickly. He'll be about as good as Chad Billingsley, which is pretty good, but he's no King Felix, or even Matt Cain for that matter.

Post-2008: I'll be the first to admit that I was too hard on Kershaw.  He probably should have been in the top 10, and maybe even in the top 5.  I think the Dodgers rushed him a bit, but he'll be fine.  

14. Justin Masterson --

Pre-2008: Masterson has done pretty well for himself thus far in his career, but he seems destined to be a 2-pitch bullpen specialist. He has good control, but his real strength is in keeping the ball on the ground, and if he develops a solid third pitch, he could be a pretty good starter down the road.

Post-2008:  Masterson did a great job coming out of the bullpen for the Red Sox, but I think they really want to put him in the rotation and keep him there for good, and it looks like he won't be forced to spend his career coming out of th pen.  Then again, things could always change.

15. Homer Bailey -- 

Pre-2008: I've already done a big write-up on Bailey, but I think he was way over-hyped, and will be a Carlos Zambrano type in a few years. Not great, but pretty good.

Post-2008: Not much to talk about here.  Hopefully, none of you "invested" in Homer Bailey rookie cards.

16. Wade Davis -- 

Pre-2008: I think Davis will be a pretty good starter or a great bullpen guy for years to come, but he won't be better than his teammate Jacob McGee. Lots of ability, but a low ceiling will limit Davis' success.

Post-2008: Once again, Davis had a solid year, and should have a chance at getting a spot on the major league roster this spring.  With Kazmir, Shields, Garza, and Price ahead of him, he'll be a #5 starter at best in 2009, or perhaps a consistent part of the bullpen.

17. Franklin Morales -- 

Pre-2008: The key to Morales' success is his high GB%. Playing for Colorado, Morales will live and die by his ability to keep the ball down, and I think he's very capable of doing so. Like all Rockies pitchers he'll get hammered occasionally, but he's a great addition to a very good, young team.

Post-2008: Morales had a very tough 2008 season.  His K% and GB% both dropped like rocks, and his BB% sat around 15% for the year.  I expect to see better results in 2009, but nothing spectacular.

18. Brooks Brown -- 

: I would like to see Brown have more success at higher levels before officially jumping on his bandwagon, but he's another great ground ball pitcher that will make substantial contributions to a young and talented team. He's Mike Pelfrey, only better and playing in Arizona.

Post-2008: While Brown wasn't horrible in '08, he wasn't great either.  Still not sold on him and would not include him in the top 20 on this list.

19. Johnny Cueto -- 

Pre-2008: Cueto has had some great early success this year, and I even added him to my fantasy baseball team, but I have some serious reservations about how long he'll last before major league hitters catch up to him. He has good stuff, good control, but can leave the ball up sometimes and that could be a substantial issue in Cincinnati. He'll put it all together in a few years and make a great #2 or even a #1 at times, but don't be fooled by his early numbers.

Post-2008: My thoughts on Cueto haven't changed much.  Above average ceiling, but not an immediate ace like some thought he would be in April.  

20. Jair Jurrjens -- 

Pre-2008: I think the Braves got a great young pitcher in Jurrjens, and the immediate impact of Yunel Escobar helps ease the pain of seeing Edgar Renteria head to Detroit. Jurrjens is capable of winning 10+ games this year, and 15+ in a couple of years, and he's in a perfect position to learn from Tom Glavine, who exhibited a very similar skill-set and comparable numbers early in his career.

Post-2008: Jurrjens had a solid year, but had some trouble at times getting hitters out.  We'll see some good progression from him over the years, but don't expect too much.  

So there it is.  A look back at the 2008 top 20 pitching prospects here at The Prospect Corner.  I nailed a few, missed a few, and I guess that's just how it goes.  The 2009 list looks a whole lot different, so be on the lookout.

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