Feb 032012

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Now that we’ve gone over the Phillies organization’s top 30 prospects, it’s time to see how they stack up against the rest of the division. The Phillies have had a stranglehold on the NL East for the past five seasons, but the gap may be shrinking. While the Mets are rebuilding, the other three rivals are making strides. Miami is throwing money around moving into their new stadium, and Atlanta and Washington have built from within and are looking to build around their young cores. Who ranks first?

1. Washington – Even after the big Gio Gonzalez trade that saw Washington trade away two major league pitchers, a near-major league ready catcher and a younger pitcher with great potential, the Nationals still have some pieces to build around. Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendon are a great duo that could hit in the middle of the order, and their recent big spending in the draft has given them depth in the lower levels. This is an organization that is very close to competing for the playoffs and being a serious handful.

2. Atlanta – From the majors down to the upper minors, the Braves have a lot of pitching depth. Most of their rotation is already set with veterans Tim Hudson, Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, and Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor just graduated from prospect status during 2011. Their prospect trio of Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino and Randall Delgado are all pretty much major league ready, but the Braves don’t have much room for all of these pitchers. Those are great players to have, but they need offense badly, and they have no potential middle of the order bats.

3. New York – A last place finish is all but guaranteed for the Mets in 2012, and their farm system still needs a lot of work too. They’re led by Zack Wheeler and Matt Harvey, two pitchers with great stuff, although Wheeler needs to find a way to harness it. Brandon Nimmo is their top position player prospect, and he’s not even close to being ready. They offer a couple near major league ready relievers and a few quintessential Mets prospects that have great tools but haven’t put it together yet. They need to develop more bats, but it could take a while.

4. Philadelphia – It’s close between the Phillies and Mets, and I’d give the edge to the Mets for now because Wheeler and Harvey are both better than Trevor May. Once again, they’re essentially barren in the upper levels now that Dom Brown has lost prospect status, and fans are looking to the lower levels for players to break out. Until that happens, they can’t be ranked too highly, but there is potential here.

5. Miami – Their M.O. has been to develop some talent, have some success and then trade those players away when the costs start going up. Lately, they’ve struggled on the player development side, and they haven’t really come close to making the playoffs. With the new stadium, they’ve changed approaches and made big free agent splashes. That’s good for them because they have very little in the upper minors and only a few lottery tickets in the levels below.

The Prospect Rankings

1. Bryce Harper, RF, Washington – This choice wasn’t particularly difficult. I think it would be a bit premature to have him in the Opening Day lineup, but he will debut sometime in 2012. For the first time in his life, Harper struggled in AA before a hamstring injury shortened his season, but he bounced back to have a strong Arizona Fall League campaign. He could become the preeminent slugger of his time. Harper should start 2012 in AAA.

2. Julio Teheran, RHSP, Atlanta – Because of injuries, Teheran was rushed to the majors in 2011 and wasn’t effective at all. He’s not the best pitching prospect in baseball anymore because of the strides Matt Moore made, but he’s still one of a handful of minor league pitchers that could become an ace. He combines very good stuff with great command and a mature approach beyond his years. He’ll have a shot to earn a spot with the Braves in spring training. Teheran should start 2012 in AAA.

3. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington – He was still taken 6th overall, but Rendon has the potential to be the steal of the 2011 draft. A couple injuries and a weak supporting cast at Rice hampered his junior season, and the teams picking ahead of Washington chose to go in a different direction. He could have been the first overall pick, and he should be a safe bet to be a very good major leaguer, as far as prospects go. He can play great defense at third, but if the Nationals experiment with him at second base, it probably won’t work out. Rendon could start 2012 in high-A, but it’s possible that they’re even more aggressive with him.

4. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta – Vizcaino is a pitcher that the Yankees let get away. He was the big catch in the Javier Vazquez trade even though he hadn’t pitched in a full season league at the time of the trade. He threw in the mid 90’s as a reliever with the Braves and has a great curveball, and he could pitch in a major league rotation if he can shake injury concerns and continue to develop his changeup. If not, he can stick with his great fastball and curveball combo in the late innings. Vizcaino should start 2012 in AAA to have a chance to pitch in the rotation.

5. Randall Delgado, RHSP, Atlanta – Like Teheran, Delgado reached the majors sooner than the Braves probably hoped because of injuries. He managed to hold his own in seven starts in the majors. His curveball may be his best pitch, but he hardly threw it in his stint in the big leagues. His fastball velocity is similar to Teheran’s, but he doesn’t command it as well yet. Delgado should start 2012 in AAA, but he may have the inside track over Minor to make the Braves rotation.

6. Zack Wheeler, RHSP, New York – The Braves and Phillies were not willing to part with their best prospects to rent Carlos Beltran, but the Giants decided to gamble and trade the former top 10 pick. He’s had command issues in his young career, but in his brief time in the Mets organization in 2011, he threw a lot of strikes. His mid 90’s fastball helps him generate groundballs, and his curveball gets him a lot of strikeouts. His changeup and command could develop to be average, and that’s a nice package if he can continue to improve his durability. Wheeler should start 2012 in AA.

7. Matt Harvey, RHSP, New York – Harvey was one of the most heralded pitchers in the country when he arrived at North Carolina, but in his first two seasons he couldn’t throw strikes. He improved enough in his junior year to get picked in the top 10, but it’s still possible his command limits him to a late inning relief role. He had 156 strikeouts in just 135.2 innings across two levels last year, and in 2012 he’ll try to improve his changeup to complement his lively fastball and hard slider. Harvey could start 2012 in AAA even though he was uneven to finish the season in AA.

8. Christian Yelich, LF, Miami – It’s been said that if the Marlinsdidn’t pick Yelich four picks ahead of the Phillies, they would’ve taken him instead of Jesse Biddle. After one year as a professional, it’s easy to see why. After struggling a bit in the first couple weeks of the season, Yelich slowly became one of the South Atlantic League’s best hitters. At 6’4 and 189 pounds, he has a smooth swing and a lot of power projection. He stole 32 bases while only being caught five times, and it’s still possible that he does this as a center fielder. Yelich should start 2012 in high-A.

9. Trevor May, RHSP, Philadelphia – I don’t think May is too far behind the Mets duo a couple spaces up, and some may have them in a different order. Wheeler has better stuff, and Harvey has the benefit of having experience at a higher level. All of them share command problems, and May may have an edge on Harvey in terms of likelihood of remaining in the rotation. May should start 2012 in AA.

10. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Atlanta – If Galvis had a little more size and better tools, he would be Simmons. He’s a smooth fielder with a great arm whose fastball touched 98 MPH as an amateur. He’s a good contact hitter but won’t have more than gap power. He doesn’t walk much, but he also has low strikeout totals. If he improves his baserunning, he’ll be able to take better advantage of his speed. Simmons should start 2012 in AA.

Click here for Part 2: 16-25

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Scott Grauer writes for PSC and Bus Leagues Baseball – check him out!  Scott also regularly updated the PSC 2011 Minor League Thread with player stats, game results, and more, and will be doing the same for the PSC 2012 Minor League Thread as well…