Leo: 2012 International League – Young Guns
As we start to look ahead to the season, let’s take a look at some of the top pitching prospects that we may see at Huntington Park this year. These pitchers are not listed in any particular order, but all are considered the “best of the best” in their respective organizations. All of these pitchers seem to be headed to Triple-A this season.
Drew Smyly (LHP) (22 years old) – Detroit Tigers
Smyly signed in 2010 after the Tigers scooped him up in the 2nd round out of Arkansas. The former Razorbacks pitcher will battle with fellow youngsters Jacob Turner and Andy Oliver for the final spot in the Tigers rotation, with Turner looking like the favorite. Smyly combined 21 starts between High-A and Double-A and thoroughly dominated with a 2.07 ERA. His fastball, curve, slider, change-up repertoire already makes him a formidable opponent for hitters in the upper levels if the minors, despite having logged only one professional season. Mud Hens fans will enjoy watching Smyly and Oliver pitch at the top of the rotation, especially competing in the same division with the Clippers excellent young arms like Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez, Scott Barnes, etc.
It’s worth noting that the Louisville Bats will be sans RHP Brad Boxberger, who would have been Cincinnati’s top pitching prospect, but he was traded in the deal that sent Mat Latos to the Reds for Yonder Alonso, Edinson Volquez, and Yasmani Grandal. That leaves the Reds without any upper level pitching prospects.
Kyle McPherson (RHP) (24 years old) – Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
McPherson is the Pirates 14th round draft pick from 2007 and should be ready to get his feet wet in the International League after posting a 3.02 ERA in Double-A last season. He features a mid-90s fastball with a curve and change-up that he used to garner the Buccos Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award last season while leading the organization in strikeouts. McPherson should benefit from pitching at Victory Field, the largest ballpark in the league.
Matt Harvey (RHP) (22 years old) – Buffalo Bisons (Mets)
Harvey is on the fast track to the majors after the Mets selected him with the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft. His first professional season was split between High-A and Double-A, where he combined for a 13-5 record with a 3.32 ERA. Harvey struck out 10.3 batters per nine innings and added a change-up to his arsenal of fastball, slider, and curve. He will be in the Bisons rotation, trying to improve his command and develop the change-up.
Jhan Marinez (RHP) (23 years old) – Charlotte Knights (White Sox)
Marinez has an interesting story to tell. He made his Major League debut on July 16, 2009 with the Marlins and pitched in four games that season. Since then, he hasn’t pitched above Double-A. Marinez was traded in the off-season to the White Sox as compensation for Ozzie Guillen becoming the manager in Miami because Guillen had one year remaining on his Chicago contract. Last season, Marinez pitched 56 games in relief for Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League (3.57 ERA, 74K, 42BB, 58IP). He throws a 96mph fastball and a deceiving slider and will be a “go-to guy” in the Charlotte bullpen.
Chris Archer (RHP) (23 years old) – Durham Bulls (Rays)
A former Cleveland Indians farm hand, Archer has risen to the top of the Rays always impressive minor league system. He went from the Indians to the Cubs before the 2009 season, dealt for Mark DeRosa. He became Chicago’s #1 ranked prospect before being traded to the Rays for Matt Garza last winter. He can touch 97mph with his fastball and compliments it with a dynamite slider. He also throws a change-up, which is a work in progress. Archer made two regular season starts with Durham last year, his Triple-A debut, and lost his only playoff game against the Clippers in Game #2 of the IL first round (5.2IP, 5ER, 7H, 3BB, 11K). If Matt Moore makes the major league club’s rotation, Archer will be the ace.
Julio Teheran (RHP) (21 years old) – Gwinnett Braves (Braves)
The Braves think Teheran, the reigning “International League Pitcher of the Year” could be their ace of the future. He features a 97mph heater, a remarkable change-up, and solid breaking pitches (slider and curveball). Atlanta’s player development staff has worked to temper his deliver, making it less violent and therefore reducing his risk of injury. That will be a point of emphasis again in 2012 as Teheran will probably start in Triple-A, waiting for his name to be called in Hot-lanta. He did pitch in five games (three starts) with the Braves at the end of last season.
Randall Delgado (RHP) (22 years old) – Gwinnett Braves (Braves)
Delgado will be attempting to capitalize off his outstanding September in the majors when he competes for a rotation spot with Atlanta. He made a couple of emergency starts last year and parlayed that into an extended stay (1-1 with a 2.83 ERA in seven starts). Delgado throws a 94mph fastball, curveball, and change-up. He only made four Triple-A starts after pitching in 21 Double-A games to start last season. The quantity of arms in Atlanta may keep in Gwinnett a little longer. The Braves have a boatload of pitching between MLB and Triple-A, so there’s a log jam that could give the G-Braves the best staff in the International League for the second straight season.
Phillippe Aumont (RHP) (23 years old) – Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Phillies)
Aumont pitched in 18 games for Lehigh Valley last year, the 6’7” French-Canadian reliever’s first taste of the International League. He was the Seattle Mariners first round pick (11th overall) in the 2007 draft, but was sent to Philly in the December 2009 Cliff Lee trade. He throws a 96mph sinker, solid curve, and has a change-up that doesn’t get much use. He was placed on the Phillies 40-man roster this winter and will get plenty of work from IronPigs skipper Ryne Sandberg. Meanwhile, two of the Phillies top pitching prospects, Trevor May and Jonathan Pettibone, will likely start in Double-A.
Alex Wilson (RHP) (25 years old) – Pawtucket Red Sox (Red Sox)
Wilson turned things around in his sophomore season of Double-A ball and now seems poised for a spot in Boston soon. He was 4-5 with a 6.66 ERA in 16 starts with Double-A Portland in 2010, but returned last year and went 9-4 with a 3.05 ERA in 21 outings. He also made four starts with Pawtucket. Wilson’s fastball is considered the best in Boston’s minor league chain, reaching 97-98mph. He also throws a great slider and decent change-up. He’ll probably be in Pawtucket’s rotation come April, but could wind up as a two-pitch reliever in the majors.
Liam Hendriks (RHP) (23 years old) – Rochester Red Wings (Twins)
The Australian born Hendricks was the Twins 2011 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and got his first taste of both Triple-A and the majors. Since signing in 2007, he’s overcome knee injuries and an emergency appendectomy to pitch a career-best 163 innings last year. Hendricks throws a low 90s fastball that he complements with a curve, slider, and change-up. With names like Pavano, Liriano, Baker, Blackburn, Duensing, and Marquis ahead of him on the depth chart, Hendricks looks to be on target for Rochester’s rotation.
Manny Banuelos (LHP) (20 years old) – Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)
Banuelos was an international signing in 208 by the Bronx Bombers and he’s just about ready to make his Big Apple debut. The Mexican-born southpaw made seven starts for the SWB Yankees last season after carrying a 3.59 ERA in 20 Double-A appearances. He can touch 95mph with his fastball and has great break on his curve. The addition of a change-up gives Banuelos everything he needs to make the next step. He’ll get the ball every fifth day for Dave Miley club until New York calls, probably sometime soon.
Dellin Betances (RHP) (23 years old) – Scranton Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)
Betances pitched in two games, making one start for New York last season. He’s a 2006 Yankees draft pick (8th round) that has struggled with command during his six-year career, but his ability to reach the upper 90s with a heater has made Betances lethal. The key will be controlling his curveball and fine tuning the change-up. He pitched 136 innings last season and should get that again with SWB in 2012 if he’s healthy.
Did I miss anyone? Let me know at email@example.com
That’s all for now, but stay tuned… I’ll take a look at some of the top position players around the league later this week!