Andry Ubiera – GCL Braves
2012 stats: 2-2, 4.04 ERA, 49.0 IP, 54 H, 17 BB, 48 K in 9 starts and 3 relief appearances. UTR/TPS .093
The Braves should soon be raving over this 19 year-old who is a product of their academy in the Dominican Republic. The 6’0” right-hander had a respectable 2011 pitching in the DSL by finishing 4-1 with a 2.66 ERA. Ubiera came stateside in 2012 and saw an uptick in his ERA against the more advanced hitters of the Gulf Coast League, but for the most part, his stats remained static. His .356 BABIP was one of the highest amongst GCL pitchers and should signal that a regression is in the cards for the upcoming season. If Ubiera can maintain his K/9 rate (8.8) and couple that with an improvement of his groundball rate (36%), an unquestionable breakout season will occur. Ubiera has the stuff with a low 90’s fastball that can touch the 94-95 range and plus potential curveball. As with most young pitchers, the change-up is the last pitch to come-along in the repertoire and Ubiera’s breaking ball also needs some work. I would expect him to stay back in extended spring camp for a spell and then get a taste of Lo-A ball at Rome. If he falters there, a repeat season in the GCL should get him back on track. Ubiera, who turns 20 in late May, is very projectable, so keep an eye on him.
Blake Logan – Short-Season Jamestown
2012 stats: 1-2, 1.74 ERA, 31.0 IP, 31 H, 7 BB, 29 K in 9 starts and 1 relief appearances. UTR/TPS .088
This 2012 draft pick (13rd rd.) out of East Oklahoma State just oozes future innings eater. His 6’1” 245 lb stocky frame went 11-2 with a 1.55 ERA and 124 strikeouts over 93 innings during his sophomore year, earning him All-American honors. He was being courted by several Division I schools and decided to spend his last two years with the Wichita State Shockers. Those plans changed when the Marlins called Logan at the 407th pick and met his demands that included a $125,000 over slot bonus. The 21 year-old once threw 142 pitches, allowing 3 hits, and struck out an unbelievable 22 batters over 10 innings in an American Legion Wood Bat Invitational game in July 2011. His pro career began with the short-season Jamestown Jammers and was held to a strict pitch count, after a busy collegiate season. In his 9 appearances, the right-hander only allowed 6 earned runs and one home run over 31 innings. Logan keeps the ball down in the zone and can throw three pitches for strikes, low 90’s fastball, slider, and a change-up. His coach at East Oklahoma State once mentioned that Logan’s pitches have a natural movement. So much so, that “he can’t even toss a ball in the air and have it straight”. Logan will begin 2013 seeing batters in the SAL with Lo-A Greensboro.
NEW YORK METS
Rainy Lara – Short-Season Brooklyn
2012 stats: 8-3, 2.91 ERA, 68.0 IP, 53 H, 12 BB, 77 K in 12 starts UTR/TPS .079
This international signee out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 has been cast under the shadows of his Brooklyn rotation mates, Luis Mateo and Hansel Robles, both ranked in the top 12 with Baseball America. But Lara has been quietly keeping pace with these top prospects by putting up decent stats and peripherals and outshined their TPS scores by over 15 points. The recently turned 22 year old returned to the rotation in 2012 after serving as a reliever for the GCL Mets in 2011, picking up 6 saves over 16 appearances. In three seasons, the 6’4’ 180lb righty has posted a sub-1.00 WHIP and a 2.42 ERA over 156.1 innings. He is a tall presence on the mound which creates leverage for his low 90’s fastball, which should increase his velocity as he fills out his frame. He does have the ability to become a frontline starter with his variety of offerings and flashes of pinpoint command. Its more likely that Lara’s plus-plus changeup will be the pitch that keeps him on pace with Mateo and Robles. There is a concern of his funky arm action. Though it creates deception, it tends to tire Lara as his pitch count grows. Lara will probably never crack the BA top 15 and will need to work hard to keep pace as he joins his staff-mates in Lo-A Savannah.
Kevin Brady – Short-Season Williamsport
2012 stats: 2-3, 1.90 ERA, 42.2 IP, 41 H, 7 BB, 54 K in 12 appearances with 10 starts. UTR/TPS .077
A kid like Brady is one that makes choosing a breakout fairly easy. A polished pitcher out of Clemson slipped into the 10th round in 2012 due to injury concerns. Those concerns became a moot point as the Phillies got a steal in the 22 year-old right-hander who should move quickly through the system. Another concern with Brady was the issue with his control while at Clemson, that had him projecting as relief pitcher. Control didn’t seem to be an issue as he posted 54 strikeouts and 7 walks over 42.2 innings between the GCL and New York-Penn League. With an ideal frame of 6’4” 200lbs, Brady came out of college with three above average pitches with his off-speed stuff increasingly getting better. He throws a mid-90’s fastball, a slider that came about when he scrapped his hanging curveball. He continues work on his curve and has improved its rating as a plus offering. Brady should leave Spring Training headed for Lo-A Lakewood, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended at Hi-A Clearwater to get a sense of how his polish fares against advanced hitting.
Blake Schwartz – GCL Nationals/Lo-A Hagerstown
2012 stats: 1-3, 3.64 ERA, 54.1 IP, 63 H, 12 BB, 53 K in 12 starts over 2 levels UTR/TPS .097
Back when I started following minor league pitchers in 2007, one of my favorites was Jordan Zimmerman, for his mound presence and control. Though he was a 2nd round choice that year and projected to succeed. The Nationals may have selected another favorite of mine in Blake Schwartz. Like Zimmerman, Schwartz is the product of a small college (Oklahoma City University) and is a pitcher that displays poise on the mound along with command and control. But unlike the current big league hurler, Schwartz was taken deep in the 2012 draft in the 17th round. A transfer to OCU, Schwartz amasses a 35-9 record and 3.34 ERA over his four collegiate years. His pro career began in the GCL where he got hit around, but showed that control with 12 K’s and only 1 walk over 16 innings. The 6’ 3” 200 lb right-hander was then promoted to Lo-A Hagerstown and showed improvement. Even though he threw almost 100 innings during the college season, Schwartz was strong during each of his late season outings. The 23 year old throws a low 90’s fastball and 11 to 5 curve from a ¾ arm slot. He has excellent make-up and strives to learn and improve with each start. Expect Blake to repeat in Hagerstown but jump into the rotation at Hi-A Potomac when the opportunity arises.
Michael Jensen – Lo-A Peoria
2012 stats: 11-5, 3.47 ERA, 140 IP, 117 H, 40 BB, 115 K in 26 starts. UTR/TPS .108
Michael Jensen was the first breakout on my rankings to post a TPS score over .100, which basically means that he vetted out as a second tier type pitcher, in the UTR sense. The starters ahead of him were all ranked within the Baseball America’s Top 30, with the exception to Frank Del Valle (.095), a UTR from June 2012. Jensen was one of those low picks (26th Rd in 2011) who are drafted as a “lets see what you got” flier and has surprised the Cub organization during his first full season at Lo-A Peoria. Jensen made his pro debut in 2011 by only throwing 4.2 innings over two levels of rookie ball, but then became a workhorse in 2012. The Hartnell College (CA.) product is a pitch-to-contact type pitcher that will induce the groundball over racking up the strikeouts. The 6’1” 185 lbs righty keeps the ball down using a solid fastball that is in the low 90’s but does top out at 94 mph. His best pitch is a nasty 12 to 6 curveball that rates as a plus offering. He also has a decent changeup, but uses it sparingly with the accomplishments of his fastball and curve combo. He displays decent control with a 2.88 K/BB ratio and keeps the ball in the yard with only 6 HR’s over 140 innings. Jensen should begin 2013 with the Hi-A Daytona Cubs.
Sal Romano – Pioneer League Billings
2012 stats: 5-6, 5.32 ERA, 64.1 IP, 74 H, 23 BB, 52 K in 15 starts. UTR/TPS .121
Out of the teams in the National League, the Reds seem to be the hardest to tag a breakout pitcher. They would make a perfect case study and do I admit they were the catalyst of creating a formula to attempt to crack the code. After ranking their pitchers, I came up with a list that had so much disparity that I was still at an impasse. So I took some time and sifted through the middle of the pack, looking for a pitcher in the low minors who might make an impact, ala Tony Cingrani last season. The perfect choice is a proto-typical under the radar candidate, Sal Romano. A 23rd round pick in 2011 from Connecticut, Romano hails from the same high school as fellow Red Rob Dibble and Carl Pavano, the latter he draws comparison by some scouts. His numbers with the Billings Mustangs were unflattering, but as a kid out of high school, I would regard them as decent. His 3.00 FIP along with only surrendering one home run in 64.1 innings stood out to me the most. Romano has a very projectable frame for a 19-year-old at 6’5” 220lbs. The righty can fire his fastball up into the mid 90’s with an average curveball and a progressing changeup. Command and control should be tops on his instructional schedule for the upcoming season. As the Reds don’t have a short-season affiliate, Romano should see a full season in 2013 with the Lo-A Daytona Dragons.
Eduard Reyes – Pioneer League Billings
2012 stats: 3-4, 1.91 ERA, 75.1 IP, 63 H, 21 BB, 84 K in 15 appearances with 12 starts UTR/TPS .075
Reyes signed in February 2010 as an undrafted free agent at the age of 19, an advanced age for international signees. The Brewers were following Reyes at their academy in the Dominican Republic. They assigned him to the Dominican Summer League where he had a successful debut by posting a 2.50 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 39.2 innings. At the end of the DSL season, Reyes was suspended 50 games for using performance-enhancing drugs, which ate into his DSL season in 2011. He did appear in 4 games that season and then repeated the DSL to the start the 2012 season, where he again posted very good peripherals. Success followed his debut stateside later in 2012 in the AZL, as Reyes finished in the top ten of the Brewers minor league system in ERA and WHIP. Pitch information for 6’0” 175lbs right-hander is incomplete, except for a low 90’s fastball. If Reyes remains consistent, he might be heading on the fast track starting with the Lo-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
Dovydas Neverauskas – GCL Pirates / Short-Season State College
2012 stats: 1-1, 3.89 ERA, 39.1 IP, 39 H, 20 BB, 33 K in 11 appearances with 10 starts UTR/TPS .106
The Pirates recently used outside the box thinking in finding and signing a pitcher out of India. To sign a pitcher out of Lithuania, well…that’s out of this world. Kudos to the Pirates International Scout Tom Randolph for a find what could only be described as revolutionary. As a 16 year-old, the 6’3” 175lbs right-hander was throwing near 90, which is rare for a pitcher that young. He reached into the mid-90’s while pitching in the Gulf Coast League back in 2011. As he began to add mass to his frame, the now 20 year-old’s velocity became sporadic during his repeat in the GCL last season. Expect the arm to catch-up to the body this season as he returns to the new short-season affiliate Jamestown. Neverauskas is still getting acclimated to the Americas’ style of baseball and is a long way off from making any sort of signal on the radar. If he can garner the command of his pitches and add to his repertoire, Neverauskas could become very projectable.
Fidencio Flores – GCL Cardinals
2012 stats: 3-1, 1.56 ERA, 40.1 IP, 27 H, 10 BB, 40 K in 12 appearances with 6 starts UTR/TPS .071
Flores’ will control his destiny on where he breakouts in 2013. The 21-year-old was the first of my selections that was a borderline choice of either being a starter or reliever. At barely six foot tall and only 160 lbs., his size will probably have him working from the bullpen. What the right-hander accomplished in 2012 should have the Cardinals organization focusing that they may have themselves a future swingman, ala Kyle McClellan. Flores signed out of Nicaragua in late 2010 and made his debut in the DSL, where he made 14 appearances and logged respectable numbers. In 2012 he began in the rotation with the GCL Cardinals and only gave up two earned run over 18 innings of work. He was then placed in the bullpen and got some work in long relief. Besides having a bad outing on his first appearance out of the pen, Flores continued to impress with striking out 15 batters and walking four. It was back to the rotation to finish out the season as the GCL Cards made the playoffs for the first time in six years. Flores was given the ball for the opening game and was the hard-luck 1-0 loser, giving up the lone run in 5 innings. He can work both sides of the plate with a low 90’s fastball, a decent breaking ball, and a work in progress change-up. Flores should return to the GCL and based on the results there, he’ll be off to Johnson City (Appy) or maybe the new affiliate at Lo-A Peoria.
Cody Wheeler – Short-Season Yakima
2012 stats: 3-0, 1.87 ERA, 43.1 IP, 36 H, 14 BB, 41 K in 14 appearances with 11 starts UTR/TPS .085
Wheeler is a polished pitcher who was drafted out of Coastal Carolina University in the 5th round back in 2010. The 5’ 11” 160 lb. left-hander went 30-2 during his three years at Coastal, a school that’s been a consistent presence in the NCAA Regional’s over the last 6-8 years. After pitching 100+ innings in college, Wheeler only made 3 appearances (3 IP) during his pro debut with short-season Yakima. 2011 brought a lot promise and discussion that Wheeler might be assigned to Lo-A South Bend to start the season. Things seemed to be on track during Spring Training, but took a downturn when Wheeler went down with a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament, which of course lent to Tommy John surgery and the loss of the 2011 season. He came back last season and put up decent numbers in 14 appearances (43.1 IP, 36 H, 14 BB, 41 K) with a 3-0 record and 1.87 ERA at Yakima. Wheeler’s small frame has displayed good strength and solid mechanics with an above-average 90’s fastball. He also showed decent command of his curveball and change-up, which both rate average. The 23-year-old is behind in his progress, but has the make-up to move quickly through the system. He will be on the staff at Lo-A South Bend this season.
Dan Winkler – Lo-A Asheville
2012 stats: 11-10, 4.46 ERA, 145.1 IP, 152 H, 47 BB, 136 K in 25 starts UTR/TPS .100
There are questions whether Winkler has the durability to remain in a starting rotation. The 20th round pick in 2011 from Central Florida University had decisions in 22 of his 25 starts with Lo-A Asheville, throwing 145.1 innings. He pitched deep into games and showed late season stamina in his last start by whiffing 12 batters over 7 innings in a SAL playoff game. His stats with the Tourist were not the type that one would project a breakout year, but the 6’ 3” 200 lb. right-hander’s TPS ranked with the likes of Tyler Matzek, Jayson Aquino, and Edwar Cabrera. It’s apparent that Winkler suffered from control issues by surrendering 16 home runs and 22 HBP’s last season. The 23-year-old is a strikeout/groundball combo type pitcher that has a quick arm and a solid average fastball in the 91-94 range. His go-to pitch is a swing and miss slider that rates as a plus offering. Command could be his achilles as well as his below average change-up. I believe Winkler may have been tooling with his repertoire within different counts on the hitters. The Rockies will move Winkler into the rotation at Hi-A Modesto. This next step could be a watershed moment in Winkler’s career, proving that he can succeed within the hitter friendly confines of the California League.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Andres Santiago – Hi-A Rancho Cucamonga/AA Chattanooga
2012 stats: 6-5, 3.69 ERA, 112.1 IP, 90 H, 40 BB, 122 K in 22 appearances with 18 starts UTR/TPS .079
Santiago not only hasn’t been making any mentions among bloggers or writers of the minor leagues, he’s actually been under the radar within the Dodgers organization. Drafted back in 2007 as a 17 year old out of Puerto Rico, the right-hander has spent 4 of his 6 pro seasons in the rookie leagues. With two years in the GCL and another 2 years in the Arizona League, Santiago quietly jumped to Hi-A in 2011 and threw 121.2 innings. He had only thrown 93.1 innings combined at the rookie levels. The 6’2” Santiago posted an ERA of 5.03, but the 3.79 FIP displayed that the then 21-year-old held his own against the hitting dominated California League. He repeated Hi-A last season and posted much better numbers (3.96 ERA & 1.12 WHIP), which earned him a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga. Over this time in the upper levels, Santiago has increased and/or held a steady K/9 rate. He was a close second in my TPS rankings to last season UTR Breakout pick Matt Magill (.076), who went onto become the #9 ranked prospect in the Dodgers organization. Santiago has a workman like mentality and comes at hitters with a low 90’s fastball, a slider that is wicked to right-handed batters, and a change-up that has become his out pitch. If Santiago can repeat his consistency again this season at Double-A and then AAA, he could find himself getting mentioned in the Prospect Handbook next season.
Frank Garces – Lo-A Fort Wayne
2012 stats: 9-6, 2.81 ERA, 121.2 IP, 102 H, 55 BB, 112 K in 25 starts UTR/TPS .089
What is it about pitchers in the Padres system that you just seem to gravitate toward them? Brad Brach caught my eye in 2010 as I selected him as the Padres candidate in our inaugural Pre-season Breakout list. Then came Kevin Quackenbush last season’s BO pick and who is still my favorite. I did pretty well on those picks, so lets give naming a starter for the Friars a shot this time. At the beginning of last season it was evident that Frank Garces would be the selection for 2013, as he started very well at Lo-A Fort Wayne. In the end, his name appeared 15 times on my daily sheets, but didn’t crack a weekly mention on the UTR feature. The free agent signee in 2009 was the 2011 DSL strikeout leader with 115 K’s in 71.2 innings. The small statured (5’11” 155lb) lefty made the jump from the DSL to Lo-A Fort Wayne and pitched like a polished pitcher straight from college. You could say that last season was the breakout year, but I say look out in 2013, as Garces has free reign to let it go after having a 5 inning limit imposed on him in 2012. The 23 year-old throws an above average fastball with good movement and a curveball that held Midwest League hitters to a .233 BA and a spot on the MWL All-Star roster. Garces will have the task of keeping hitters in the California League in check to start the season at Hi-A Lake Elsinore.
Lorenzo Mendoza – Short-Season Salem-Keizer
2012 stats: 0-4, 4.96 ERA, 49 IP, 64 H, 9 BB, 45 K in 14 appearances with 10 starts UTR/TPS .109
Not much information can be found on this young right-hander who signed with the Giants as a free agent in 2009. The fact that he will be 21 years old throughout this season and quite possibly see some time in the Lo-A Augusta rotation makes him an intriguing pick. The 5’10” 190 lb Lorenzo made his debut in the DSL as a 17 year-old and went 8-0 with a 2.51 ERA over 61 innings of work. Lorenzo has steadily increased both his K/9 rate and K/BB ratio in each of his 4 seasons. A strong season may be possible based on the 3.42 FIP and .396 BABIP that Lorenzo posted last season. The young Dominican displays control and should show consistency by becoming more of a groundball type rather than a strikeout pitcher. Lorenzo could hang back in extended spring training before heading to Lo-A Augusta.