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Prospect Central 2012 - Week 1

Lou Blasi

Drew Smyly - Tigers - SP

The Tigers will start the season with Drew Smyly as their 5th starter, even if he will start the season in the minors to get a start in while the 5th slot comes around. He's currently penciled in for his debut August 12th against the Rays. It's a big leap for a 22 year old with just 8 appearances and 7 starts above A ball under his belt.

Drafted in the second round out of the University of Arkansas, the 6-3/190 left-hander came to the Tiger's system as a polish prospect with four mature offerings, solid control, and an advanced ability to game plan. His mechanics are clean despite a frame that he hasn't quite grown into yet. He repeats his delivery well and his release point is high and maximizes his size.

Drew's velocity tops at about 93-94 when he needs it, but he works mostly within 2 or 3 mph of 90. What makes that velocity play up however is his strong command and willingness to work both sides of the plate. He identifies and hits his spots well. Drew backs his fastball with a curve, slider and change. All are pretty good, and his curve shows some plus potential when it's not blurring the line between itself and his slider. His change already has good depth and arm movement, and he can show variation of velocity and movement on his fastball and curve to make it seem as if he has more than four pitches.

His K rate at AA last year was encouraging, even in a short sample because his ability to punch out batters determines his MLB ceiling. If he can fan 7 or more consistently at the MLB level he could eventually present as a solid-to-good #3. If not, he still looks like an innings-eating, fairly safe low #3, or good #4. As he physically matures and beefs up, and he is coached up, Drew could add a foot or more to his fastball which could help. Maximizing his off speed stuff will help there too.

It's hard to know what to expect this year, as Drew is young and he will certainly have some learning curve moments. It would be risky to give him a key role in your rotation, but on a match up basis he may be able to contribute. Long-term, right now, he looks like he could be a #3 if all goes well. With some gains in his stuff and/or velocity that ceiling could rise a little, but I don't think by much

Long Term Fantasy Grade - C+

11 A+ 80.1 2.58 1.15 8.6 2.4 0.1 .238 .317 67.3
11 AA 45.2 1.18 1.03 10.5 3.0 0.2 .198 .287 81.6

Tyler Pastornicky - Short Stop - Braves

The Braves have opened 2012 with Tyler Pastornicky as their shortstop. The 22-year-old came to the Braves in the 2010 Yunel Escobar trade. He's not going to wow anyone offensively, and he's probably going to be a better baseball player than a fantasy asset but he does a some things well including playing a solid defense.

After arriving a AA, Tyler did a great job limiting his strikeouts and making contact. Those contact skills did not translate into zone control however as his walk rate fell below borderline levels for a hitter of his type. While he found some gaps last year (15 doubles and 5 triples in 459 ABs between AA and AAA) his AA ISO of .115 and his AA OBP of .345 were less than overwhelming.

It's tempting to compare him to Ryan Roberts but there simply isn't much in his ML batting history to hang your hat on in terms of offensive growth potential, especially in terms of power. Even at 21, Tyler appears to be what he is. At 5-11/170, his power is limited, but his contact skills will make him nearly level in the AVG category, and there's a little growth to be had there, and in OBP, if he starts walking more, which is possible while hitting in the 8th slot for the Braves.

However that slot in the order, if he stays there (he could develop in a #2 hitter with his solid contact skills), will work against his main fantasy asset, SBs. With enough ABs he could challenge 20 SBs in the majors which puts him on the fantasy radar, but he has to prove he can stay in the lineup and steal at that level in the majors. He could just as easily post 4 HRs and 15 SBs as he could 10 and 20 (maybe easier)

With regular ABs he can play a role as an MI in deep mixed leagues if you need the SBs, or off the bench. But it's less than clear if he can hold on to the job throughout the year. If you need the SBs he has some value while he plays, but he's not much help otherwise.

Long Term Fantasy Grade - C-

09 A 413 .269 .077 1 51 8.5 10.9 .303
09 A+ 63 .270 .048 0 6 4.5 10.6 .304
10 A+ 287 .258 .118 6 24 11.8 14.8 .292
10 AA 133 .256 .113 2 11 10.0 13.8 .288
11 AA 355 .299 .115 6 20 6.1 8.6 .315
11 AAA 104 .365 .048 1 7 6.8 9.4 .398

Addison Reed - Relief Pitcher - White Sox

There's plenty to talk about in the White Sox bullpen as we go along this year, but I figured I would start with my personal favorite, Addison Reed.

Robin to Stephen Strasburg's Batman at San Diego State, Addison cut his teeth closing games in college before Strasburg was drafted, and moved to the rotation after Strasburg moved up to the pro ranks.

As a reliever, Addison sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, but that pitch is secondary to his plus slider. He also mixes in a usable change that has some ceiling.

Addison's strong slider should produce more GBs than it does but perhaps that will come with time. For now the issue for hitters isn't keeping his pitches off the ground, as much as it is hitting them. Addison posted a 16.1 SwStr% in the small sample of 7.1 IP last year with the White Sox, a 17.4% at AAA, and a string of double-digit-plus K%s trailing all the way back to San Diego State suggests that this will continue to be a strength.

In addition to missing bats, and getting hitters to chase (35.9% Chase rate in the majors last year) Reed is absolutely stingy with a walk posting mainly sub-2/9 BB rates in the minors.

He minimizes contact, gets hitters to chase, punches out hitters, and limits his walks ... everything you want in a reliever. And he showed last year that his stuff plays against MLB hitters although of course we'll have to wait until hitters develop their book on him before we know for sure.

Matt Thornton may start the year as the White Sox primary closer, because managers, especially rookie managers, almost always go with experience in that role, and to be sure there are a couple of other young relievers in the system who could emerge as contenders for the job. Ventura will probably feel his way through the start of the season working match ups, but Reed looks for all the world like a future MLB closer. Possibly as early as next year.

Long Term Fantasy Grade - A-

YR Lvl    IP   ERA  WHIP    K9  BB9  HR9   OBA BABIP  LOB%
10 R 30.0 1.80 0.77 13.2 1.8 0.3 .159 .258 76.3
11 A+ 28.1 1.59 0.88 12.4 1.3 0.3 .194 .294 74.2
11 AA 20.2 0.87 0.77 14.4 2.6 0.0 .143 .270 88.2
11 AAA 21.1 1.27 0.52 11.8 1.3 0.8 .114 .150 97.6
11 MLB 7.1 3.68 1.50 14.7 1.2 1.2 .313 .474 83.3

Devin Mesoraco - Catcher - Reds

Are you a good-news-first type of person, or a bad-news-first type of person?

The good news is that Devin Mesoraco is a true offensive catching prospect who projects to stay in the position and have a career at the position.

The even better news is that he's capable defensively, enough so that his defense will not be a hindrance to his early career curve.

The bad news is that he plays for Dusty Baker, and Dusty's predilection to favor veterans will indeed be a hindrance, the only question is, how much of a hindrance?

Devin has strong zone skills and plenty of power for the position. He can be beaten inside, a hole which MLB pitchers are going to force him to close, but he makes contact, and takes walks, and he will hit for neutral average while supplying 15-20 HRs on an annual basis, maybe more, depending of course on how much playing time Dusty gives him.

The Reds management did their part to clear his path, trading Yasmani Grandal, another good prospect, and letting Ramon Hernandez move on as a free agent but they left Ryan Hanigan as a temptation for Dusty and that will cost Devin some PT in 2012.

Mesoraco is a no-brainer in keeper leagues that allow you to port young players from year to year easily. Eventually he will be among the most productive hitters at the position. His 2012 prospects are less clear until you can tell me how many ABs he is going to get.

Long Term Fantasy Grade - A

09 A+ 312 .228 .154 8 0 9.8 21.3 .273
10 R 66 .242 .212 2 0 1.5 22.1 .280
10 A+ 158 .335 .278 10 2 10.5 16.0 .358
10 AA 187 .294 .299 13 1 8.5 17.5 .300
10 AAA 52 .231 .231 3 0 10.3 24.1 .257
11 AAA 436 .289 .195 15 1 10.4 16.6 .325
11 MLB 50 .180 .180 2 0 5.7 18.9 .184

Yonder Alonso - First Base - Padres

The Padres will throw Yonder Alonso into the deep end of the MLB pool this month and see what happens. The 24 year old didn't exactly set Arizona on fire in camp but in the stark reality of first base in 2012, especially in the National League, his regular ABs demand attention.

Yonder had a terrific 88 ABs with the Reds last year with a .330/.398/.545 slash line (.387 BHIP) and a .216 ISO carved by 5 HRs. He continued his MLB contact issues (24.4% K rate in 117 MLB ABs so far) but walked 10.2% of the time. His ML zone numbers indicate his control of the strike zone is stronger than that however, and he should tame that K rate as he acclimates. Last year in .358 AAA ABs, in his second tour of the level, he fanned just 14.7% of the time and walked 11.2%.

Yonder will hit in the majors, that much is clear, with some pop. But with the move to first base in San Diego, the question becomes whether he can produce in the non-average columns at a competitive level for the position. I am saying probably not, at least this year. That is unless of course 15 HRs and 80-90 RBI does it for you in your very deep NL-only league. In most instances that's not going to get you very far in a 1B slot. You may get more this year, but if you do it's icing.

The general consensus is however that Alonso has potentially plus power from foul line to foul line. Enough people say it that you have to pay attention, but at this point I have to see it. If he were still 22 and entering AAA I might me more inclined to just go along, but at 24 with two tours of AAA behind him I think I need him to show me. Additionally he will now be a left-handed hitter who plays half of his schedule at Petco and the bulk of his schedule in the NL West, which only confirms the wisdom of a wait-and-see approach.

Overall, long term, I'd like Alonso better as an OF in a neutral ballpark (if he can maintain/attain an OF qualification in your league this year that adds considerably to his value), and I think that as a 1B at Petco his value takes a significant hit.

Long Term Fantasy Grade - B-

09 A+ 175 .303 .194 7 0 11.9 14.9 .329
09 AA 105 .295 .162 2 1 11.6 12.4 .322
10 AA 101 .267 .139 3 4 15.7 13.2 .293
10 AAA 406 .296 .175 12 9 8.3 17.1 .339
10 MLB 29 .207 .069 0 0 0.0 34.5 .316
11 AAA 358 .296 .190 12 6 11.2 14.7 .324
11 MLB 88 .330 .216 5 0 10.2 21.4 .387

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