Top 5 risers under 25 by organization - NL West

December 16, 2008

All Divisions: AL East / AL Central / AL West / NL East / NL Central / NL West

Now that the regular season in both the major and minor leagues is complete, we have a full grasp on which young players increased their stock. Here, I take a look at the players under 25 who I believe increased their value the most. These are not rankings in regards to talent or depth, but rather in whose value rose the most around baseball. Added weight was given to players in the majors or near major-league ready. Also, 2008 draftees are not eligible for these lists.


Los Angeles Dodgers top 5 risers under 25
No.   Player   Pos.   Comments   Age   Lvl   PP   SS
1   Clayton Kershaw   LHP   As a 20-year-old rookie, was spectacular: 4.06 FIP, 21.3 K%, over 107.2 IP with a .330 BABIP   20.3   MLB   6   X
2   Chad Billingsley   RHP   Becoming an Ace: Increased K's (23.4%) decreased BB and FIP (9.3%, 3.33) over 200.2 IP   24.1   MLB   N/A   X
3   Ivan De Jesus Jr.   SS   Shortstop with many abilities: contact (14.5 K%), discipline (13.6 BB%), and emerging power   21.4   AA   NR    
4   Andrew Lambo   LF   2007 4th rounder followed great '07 with solid '08, reaching AA and posting a .295/.351/.482   20.1   AA   NR    
5   Blake DeWitt   3B   Bat was above average in AAA, solid for Dodgers all season long: Hit 9 HR as a rookie in '08   23.1   MLB   NR    
* Age refers to the players age on October 1st, 2008                
** Lvl refers to the highest level that the player has played at                
*** PP refers to the ranking that Project Prospect gave the player going into the 2008 season                
**** SS stands for "Sully Select", which is a prospect that Brett Sullivan expects to continue a steep rise in 2009                


Sully Select: Clayton Kershaw has had high expectations surrounding him since he was drafted 7th overall in 2006. Only two years later, and this left-hander is now a mainstay of a playoff team’s rotation. Kershaw should continue to improve year-after-year as he blossoms into one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Sully Select: Chad Billingsley, who like Kershaw was a Dodgers 1st round pick (24th overall in 2003), is proving that the Dodgers know what they are doing when selecting high-school pitchers. Billingsley’s tremendous 2008 season stabilized him as the ace of the team, and another threat to be one of the best starting pitchers going forward.

2009 Outlook: The Dodgers had a very good 2008 season, but disappointed in the postseason. The likely losses of Manny Ramirez, Rafael Furcal, and Derek Lowe will have an impact, but the maturation of their young pitchers as well as Matt Kemp, James Loney, Russell Martin and a slew of other talented position players should allow them to continue to battle for divisional supremacy in 2009.

Arizona Diamondbacks top 5 risers under 25
No.   Player   Pos.   Comments   Age   Lvl   PP   SS
1   Justin Upton   RF   Future superstar displayed power (.213 isoP) and patience (12.9 BB%) as a rookie in 2008   21.1   MLB   N/A   X
2   Max Scherzer   RHP   Injuries aside, Scherzer looked dominant in 2008: 27.8 K%, 3.31 FIP, needs to stay healthy   24.1   MLB   148    
3   Jarrod Parker   RHP   Full-season debut went as smoothly as anticipated: 6.6 BB%, 23.3 K%, 3.22 FIP in 117.2 IP   19.8   A   37    
4   Cesar Valdez   RHP   Very strong over 160.1 IP between A+ and AA in '08 : 5.9 BB%, 21.1 K%, 55 GB%, 3.20 FIP   23.5   AA   NR    
5   Barry Enright   RHP   Solid in first full-season: 5.0 BB%, 20.3 K% (4.1 K/BB), 4.11 FIP over 164.1 IP with .337 BABIP   22.5   A+   NR    

Sully Select: Justin Upton’s 2008 campaign may have been disappointing to some, but for a player his age to even be in the major leagues is an accomplishment in itself. Add in the fact that he produced an .816 OPS and smacked 15 home-runs, and what the future holds for Upton should be everything we expect – an elite right-fielder and perennial all-star.

2009 Outlook: The Diamondbacks were an inconsistent team in 2008 – starting the season as the fresh and exciting team of the year, but mixing those flashes of brilliance in with spells of horrible discipline at the plate and erratic pitching. Assuming all the youngsters take the next step forward, Arizona could be a legitimate contender in 2009, but it still may be too soon for these Baby-Backs to make a lot of noise.


            Colorodo Rockies top 5 risers under 25                
No.   Player   Pos.   Comments   Age   Lvl   PP   SS
1   Dexter Fowler   CF   Talk about a breakout: After leaving CAL league, raised OPS by .177 (.939), great discipline   22.5   MLB   112   X
2   Jhoulys Chacin   RHP   Elite combo of command (5.9 BB%), Ks (22.5%) and GBs (64%) over 177.2 IP in A and A+   20.7   A+   NR   X
3   Ian Stewart   3B   Was a beast in AAA (.405 wOBA in 298 PA), sizzled in MLB at first but fizzled in September   23.4   MLB   120    
4   Ubaldo Jimenez   RHP   Walks still an issue (11.9%), K's steadily increasing (19.8%), gets grounders (55%), 3.80 FIP   24.6   MLB   N/A    
5   Wilin Rosario   C   Repeated rookie-ball in '08, increased OPS by staggering .309 to .898, with 12 HR in 259 AB   19.6   R   NR    


Sully Select: Dexter Fowler has been a name that has intrigued many of us for the last few years. He displayed mediocre results in 2006 and 2007 -- enough to build hope but increase doubt as well. After talking with Fowler at the 2008 Futures Game, he showed me that in addition to his abilities, he also has a great head on his shoulders. In 2008, Fowler clearly put it all together, combining elite discipline with the athletic ability to play CF, as well as exponentially increasing power.

Sully Select: Jhoulys Chacin is exactly the type of pitcher that my Dominance Factor statistic hopes to find. When I first ran a bunch of players through this statistic, Chacin emerged from a player I’d hardly heard of into a Dominance Factor legend. With outstanding ability to induce groundballs, record strikeouts, and limit his walks, Chacin looks like a great bet to continue his dominance all the way to the front of the Rockies rotation.

2009 Outlook: With the departure of Matt Holliday, the Rockies will have to shake up their style of play. The Rockies have plenty of young talent, and although many have shown flashes of stardom, the majority have been inconsistent. The addition of Carlos Gonzalez adds another high-upside yet inconsistent player, and like the Diamondbacks, the future of the Rockies relies on the progression of these youngsters.


            San Francisco Giants top 5 risers under 25                
No.   Player   Pos.   Comments   Age   Lvl   PP   SS
1   Tim Lincecum   RHP   2008 NL Cy Young Winner was breathtakingly dominant: 28.6 K%, 182 H, 265 K in 227.0 IP   24.2   MLB   N/A   X
2   Madison Bumgarner   LHP   Want to see dominant? Bumgarner's first taste of pro-ball yielded 29.4 K%, invisible 2.14 FIP   19.1   A   71   X
3   Pablo Sandoval   C   Out of nowhere, Sandoval hit everywhere in '08: 1.009 OPS in A+, .913 in AA, .847 in MLB   22.1   MLB   NR    
4   Tim Alderson   RHP   Arguably as impressive as Bumgarner considering league: 21.3 K%, 3.23 FIP in CAL league   19.9   A+   88    
5   Emmanuel Burriss   SS   Bat remains a big question, but shortstop posted a semi-solid .679 OPS in 274 PA as rookie   23.7   MLB   NR    


Sully Select: Tim Lincecum is a freak of nature. At 5-foot-11, 168 pounds, Lincecum twists and untwists his body to repeatedly unleash 95 mile per hour fastballs, hard curveballs that promptly dive away from bats, and devastatingly deceptive changeups. At 24 years old and with a Cy Young already under his belt, Lincecum has the ability to be one of the best pitchers of the 2010-2019 decade.

Sully Select: Madison Bumgarner may be the exact opposite of Tim Lincecum. Bumgarner throws left-handed, bats right-handed (Lincecum is the reverse), and stands a menacing 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. One thing they do have in common is the stuff to make opposing hitters look foolish, as evidenced by the 19-year-old Bumgarner’s incredible debut in which he won a slew of awards including the Minor League’s most spectacular pitcher.

2009 Outlook: The Giants offense was so dreadful in 2008 that Matt Cain, who posted a 3.74 ERA, carried an 8-14 record. Assuming the Giants can add a little offensive firepower to go with Lincecum, Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez, there may be a ray of hope for 2009. It is more likely that the Giants will remain a mediocre team until Bumgarner, Alderson, Buster Posey and others reach the majors to make an impact.


            San Diego Padres top 5 risers under 25                
No.   Player   Pos.   Comments   Age   Lvl   PP   SS
1   Kellen Kulbacki   RF   Midwest league and injuries ate him alive (.250 wOBA), unleashed fury in CAL (.430 wOBA)   22.8   A+   NR    
2   Cedric Hunter   CF   Elite contact ability (7.3 K%), emerging power (.124 isoP), questionable discipline (6.6 BB%)   20.5   A+   132    
3   Kyle Blanks   1B   Big and talented (9.1 BB%, 16.1 K%), but the power (.185 isoP) not really there for his size   22.0   AA   NR    
4   Chase Headley   LF   Stock has flatlined, but kept head above water in MLB (.757 OPS). 2009 will be very important   24.3   MLB   59    
5   Steve Garrison   LHP   Made improvements in the K department (from 16.7% in '07 to 19.9% in '08), underrated lefty   22.0   AA   NR    


Kellen Kulbacki had a tail of two seasons in 2008. The 40th overall pick in 2007 followed his debut with a roller-coaster of a year in 2008. After injuries and the Midwest league swallowed him up to begin the season, Kulbacki finally got healthy and comfortable in the California league, where he was one of the league’s most productive hitters. In 2009 Kulbacki should be a fast riser, and has a shot of making his Major League debut in September.

2009 Outlook: The Padres, which as recently as 2006 won the NL West, are nearing a low-point for their franchise. With Jake Peavy possibly on the outs, and General Manager Kevin Towers making a mess of things to boot, the Padres are likely in for a rough 2009.

Brett Sullivan can be reached at