Shae Simmons – GCL Braves/Danville Braves
2012 stats: 2-2, 3 saves, 1.46 ERA, 24.2 IP, 16 H, 16 BB, 36 K in 16 appearances with 1 start over 2 levels. UTR/TPS .053
22nd round pick in 2012 by the Braves who projects as a reliever with a solid three pitch mix. Fastball peaks out at 96 mph. Needs to calm down his delivery to harness control of his pitches. Full season should be in store at Lo-A Rome.
Dane Stone – GCL Marlins/Hi-A Jupiter
2012 stats: 1-0, 2.03 ERA, 31.0 IP, 21 H, 6 BB, 47 K in 19 appearances over 2 levels. UTR/TPS .061
So you’re a hometown product who’s name is in the record books at St Thomas University at Miami Gardens (Fla) for single-season and career saves. But it took a old college teammate working for the Marlins retail division to get you noticed, which led to Stone being drafted in the 25th round in 2012. Thirty plus days later, Stone was getting a taste of Hi-A ball in Jupiter. This 6’7” 220 lb. right-hander fits right into the UTR feature. The 21 year-old’s tall stature doesn’t effect his delivery which is smooth and with some deception in throwing a Lo-90’s fastball and a nasty curve. Expect his season to start in Lo-A Greensboro before landing at Jupiter again and maybe a hint of Double-A Jacksonville this time around.
NEW YORK METS
Estarlin Morel – Lo-A Savannah
2012 stats: 1-1, 2 saves, 2.55 ERA, 35.1 IP, 31 H, 14 BB, 40 K in 26 appearances UTR/TPS.071
Another Dominican Republic signee in 2009 that found baseball could be a career when he discovered that he had the natural ability to throw a fastball. It turns out that the fastball will play a very small part in carving out his path through the minors. Morel throws an outstanding circle changeup, which he has adapted by using different grips. The only downfall for the 23 year old is that he relies too much on the pitch. He toiled through arm discomfort throughout Spring Training last year and right into the season with Lo-A Savannah. He never missed a beat (22 strikeouts in 20 innings) by using the pitch instead of throwing heat. The discomfort eventually landed him on the DL for a month, which inhibited his chance of getting back to Hi-A St. Lucie, where he spent all of 2011. He should start the season in Hi-A and get back on track to possibly see Double-A Binghamton.
Keive Rojas – GCL Phillies/Hi-A Clearwater
2012 stats: 4-1, 1.62 ERA, 33.1 IP, 22 H, 7 BB, 44 K in 18 appearances UTR/TPS .063
A recently turned 19-year-old Venezuelan who had a decent 2011 debut in the VSL, and was expected to repeat the league in 2012. Instead, the 6’0” righty dominated the Gulf Coast League over 17 appearances with a 1.67 ERA and 0.897 WHIP. He struck out 42 hitters over 32.1 innings for the GCL Phillies and even got to enjoy an uncharacteristic jump to Hi-A. He pitched one inning of relief for Clearwater and struck out two of the three batters he faced. Rojas pitch information is incomplete, but one report stated his breaking ball is “amazing”. Rojas should continue to dazzle at Lo-A Lakewood at some point in 2013.
Michael Boyden – GCL Nationals/Short-Season Auburn
2012 stats: 3-0, 1 save, 1.07 ERA, 33.2 IP, 24 H, 17 BB, 34 K in 19 appearances UTR/TPS .074
The Nationals went right down the Beltway to select a local product in Boyden. Drafted in 31st round last year out of the University of Maryland, Boyden may be one of the lowest Nationals selections to sign, but he does know how to pitch. His demise may have been with his command issues, but with proper instruction, those can be worked out. He has a very repeatable delivery along with his four pitches, a low 90’s fastball that can touch 95, curveball, slider, and changeup. He should be spelling relief for Blake Schwartz at Lo-A Hagerstown.
Andrew McKirahan – Lo-A Peoria
2012 stats: 0-0, 2 saves, 1.80 ERA, 10.0 IP, 6 H, 4 BB, 11 K in 9 appearances UTR/TPS .072
A signee out the perennial powerhouse University of Texas in 2011 (21st Rd), McKirahan projects as a situational lefty. The sample size from last season was small, as the 6’ 2” 195 lb reliever was shutdown with a strained elbow. Regardless of the setback, the recently turned 23-year-old has the projection to move quickly through the system. All indications are that McKirahan will be ready to for the 2013 season and should repeat Lo-A with the new Kane County affiliate.
Matthew “M0” Wiley – Pioneer League Billings
2012 stats: 3-2, 9 saves, 2.45 ERA, 18.1 IP, 13 H, 6 BB, 26 K in 17 appearances UTR/TPS .057
Selected in the 28th round of the 2012 draft, Wiley was given the closer job for the Billings Mustangs and completely dominated. The University of Houston grad did not allow an earned run in his first 13 appearances. A broken jaw sidelined him during most of his senior season at Houston, so fatigue may have contributed to a collapse in his last 4 appearances when he gave up 5 ER over 5.2 innings. Wiley ended the season with 9 saves, which ranked second in the Pioneer League. The 23-year-old has a swing and miss heater that ranges in the mid-90’s. Wiley could possibly head straight for Hi-A Bakersfield, but probably will spend his first full season at Lo-A Daytona and serve as their closer.
Alan Williams – Lo-A Wisconsin / Hi-A Brevard County
2012 stats: 4-4, 3 saves, 2.59 ERA, 41.2 IP, 42 H, 19 BB, 43 K in 29 appearances UTR/TPS .082
If this power pitcher makes it to Milwaukee, it will have come from a very unique path. Williams was drafted twice by the Marlins in 2008 (41st rd) and 2009 (49th), but did not sign. He faded away and then resurfaced during the spring of 2011 in the Independent Leagues with the Washington (PA.) Wild Things. A Brewers scout kept track with Williams and was able to sign him. The recently turned 23-year-old was able to work his way to Lo-A Wisconsin, that’s when I noticed his potential in naming him a UTR reliever back in June 2011. He spent a majority of 2012 with Hi-A Brevard County, after revisiting Lo-A ball for a brief spell. The 6’3” 195 lbs lefty throws low 90’s heat and a good curveball that are both capable of missing bats. The Louisiana native will need to cut down his walk rate (4.1) from last season. If he does, he could quickly find himself in Miller Park, as the Brewers are desperate for left-handed pitching.
Emmanuel De Leon – Lo-A West Virginia/S-S State College/Hi-A Bradenton
2012 stats: 2-7, 6 saves, 4.74 ERA, 57 IP, 60 H, 35 BB, 66 K in 37 appearances UTR/TPS .083
De Leon has been with the organization for 5 years, but only received sporadic work during the first three years in the DSL and GCL. The 22-year-old signed in 2007 and didn’t see the mound until 2008 and then only got to see 9 innings of work. He repeated the DSL in 2009 and saw a modest increase of 48.2 IP. De Leon came stateside (GCL) in 2010 and was once again limited to only 7 innings. Over that time, the 6’1” 175lb right-hander suffered with control issues, but that improved in 2011 at short-season State College, where serve as the closer. De Leon has the arm to project, which throws in the mid-90’s, but the lack of work given to the young Dominican has impeded his progress. With the way the Pirates have handled De Leon’s move through the system, its tough to predict where he will start 2013. It will be either Lo-A West Virginia or Hi-A Bradenton, where he made both stops in 2012.
Dixon Llorens – Rookie Johnson City / Lo-A Quad Cities
2012 stats: 2-1, 4 saves, 2.25 ERA, 36 IP, 19 H, 11 BB, 62 K in 19 appearances UTR/TPS .046
I’m going to predict this…when Michael Wacha is closing out games in St. Louis, Mariano “Dixon” Llorens will be his set-up guy. Now I know that Wacha is way ahead of Llorens, but the 19 year-old is coming on fast. He became the youngest pitcher in the Midwest League after plowing over the hitters in the Appy League. Before being promoted, he struck out 28 batters over 15.1 innings and a .098 batting average and was mentioned as a UTR Reliever in late July. The 25th round selection in 2012 out of Miami-Dade JC kept coming against the MWL hitters with 34 more K’s over 20.1 innings. So to sum all that up, the 5’ 10” 170lb right-hander completed the 2012 season with a 15.5 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 rates, by using two pitches, a low 90’s fastball and a slider. Though Llorens whiffed almost half the batters he faced, he will need to improve his groundball rate (27%) as the hitters become more advanced. I expect Llorens to return back to the MWL at Lo-A Peoria.
Justin Thompson – Pioneer Missoula
2012 stats: 2-2, 8 saves, 1.69 ERA, 32 IP, 23 H, 10 BB, 47 K in 25 appearances UTR/TPS .054
Justin Thompson has one those story lines that clearly made him the pitcher that I’m pulling for this season. Thompson was a catcher turned pitcher at the University of Virginia and compiled decent stats during his four years, but didn’t garner any attention by scouts. He signs as a non-drafted free agent last year and was assigned to Rookie League Missoula’s bullpen as their closer. The 6’1” 200 lb right-hander assembled an almost identical stat line from his previous three years in U. of V. bullpen. His pitch information is incomplete, but whatever he’s throwing its working to the tune of a 5:1 K:BB ratio. I would expect D-Backs to keep Thompson in extended spring training until the season begins with the short-season Hillsboro Hops.
Ryan Arrowood – Short-Season Tri-City
2012 stats: 4-3, 2.26 ERA, 51.2 IP, 38 H, 14 BB, 55 K in 20 appearances with 5 starts UTR/TPS .076
A successful starter in college (Appalachian St), Arrowood is being groomed in the bullpen as a pro. Selected in the 28th round in 2012, the 6’3” 190 lb right-hander had a record-setting 28 wins with ASU and was one of two undefeated (11-0) pitchers in the NCAA last season. Being a relief pitcher puts one into pressure situations and Arrowood proved that he handle anything that comes his way. He won a 1-0 decision over #7 LSU and no-hit Oklahoma for 6.1 innings in a NCAA Regional, ASU’s first CWS appearance in 26 years. As a reliever, the 22-year-old could be deadly with a four-pitch mix, upper 80’s fastball, slider, change-up, and a slider that he uses as his out pitch. The North Carolina native will be heading closer to home in 2013 with Lo-A Asheville.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Jharel Cotton – Pioneer League Ogden
2012 stats: 1-0, 1.20 ERA, 15.0 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 20 K in 5 appearances with 1 starts UTR/TPS .061
You heard the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try-try again. Well…that saying is what got the Dodgers to sign the 6’1” right-hander out of East Carolina in the 20th round in the June draft. It took the Dodgers two tries to sign the 21-year-old from St. Thomas in the Virgin Island, as he wanted to stay in school and work on his game. He used the Summer Leagues in the States, Miami-Dade JC, where he was on the same staff with fellow Breakout pick Dixon Llorens (StL), and then later transferred to East Carolina to hone his skills. He throws a fastball in the high 90’s, curveball, and a changeup that he can vary the speeds from the mid 70’s to mid 80’s. Cotton will probably continue to start at Lo-A Great Lakes this season to rack up some innings. I believe his stuff, especially his changeup, will project better from the bullpen in the future.
Christopher Nunn – AZL Padres/Short-Season Eugene
2012 stats: 3-0, 0.57 ERA, 31.1 IP, 18 H, 19 BB, 45 K in 24 appearances UTR/TPS .051
If the Padres can amass their homegrown bullpen talent along with their young starters coming through the system, it would put the Giants and Dodgers on notice in the NL West. Nunn could be joining Brach, Mikolas, and Quackenbush to form a shutdown relief staff. Just look at the stat line the 22 year-old draft pick (24th rd) from Lipscomb University in 2012 put together over 2 levels last season. The 0.57 ERA and 3 earned runs over 31.1 innings was just a coming out party for the left-hander and this year will be the breakout.. The 6’5” 200lb left-hander didn’t allow a run in his first 18 appearances with the short-season Emeralds, which eventually made mention last July as the UTR Relief Pitcher of the Week. Nunn has a solid arm and uses an unorthodox delivery that leads to deception. Expect Nunn to see a full season at Lo-A Fort Wayne in 2013.
Mason McVay – Short-Season Salem-Keizer
2012 stats: 1-0, 1 save 1.19 ERA, 30.1 IP, 23 H, 13 BB, 43 K in 18 appearances UTR/TPS .053
McVay was moved from the rotation to the bullpen while at Florida International that proved successful and the Giants drafted the big guy (6’7”) in the 26th round in 2012. McVay was throwing some serious heat in college with a 95-96 mph fastball, but then suffered an elbow injury requiring TJ surgery. His velocity dipped into the high 80’s after the surgery but had a productive pro debut at short-season Salem-Keizer. The 22 year-old has a solid curveball that has the potential to be a plus pitch. There have been some control issues with McVay, which he should be able to square away by cleaning up his mechanics. Once that has been addressed, his velocity should increase and combined with a deceptive delivery should give McVay a high ceiling. He should remain in extended spring training and then move to either repeat short-season or folded into the bullpen ay Lo-A Augusta.