1. Carlos Carrasco – The second youngest pitcher in Triple-A last season, Carrasco pitched superbly during his brief (163 TBF) stint in the International League (28.2% K, 8.0% BB). He didn't have nearly as much success earlier in the year in Double-A (22.5% K, 9.3% BB, 485 TBF). Carrasco works with a low-90s fastball that has good movement -- can touch the mid-90s -- a mid-80s changeup, a mid-70s curveball, and another breaking ball that comes in about five miles per hour slower than his curve. He has the ability to strike out a high percentage of opposing batters, and with improved command, he could wind up a top-of-the-rotation starter. He'll need to make fewer mistakes in the strike zone in order to become that kind of pitcher -- also works too quickly during high-stress inning. But his youth and excellent 2008 finish are very promising signs.
2. Dominic Brown – At first glance, Brown’s 2008 stat line doesn’t look like anything special. However, the 6-foot-5 center fielder has displayed very few weaknesses as well as number of strengths. The athletic Brown has shown contact ability, patience and speed to go along with improving power. Brown’s walk percentage (12.4%), strikeout rate (14.0%) and power (.126 isoP) were all improvements over his 2007 campaign (8.5%, 15.5%, .105). A former high school football standout, his signability was in question prior to the 2006 Draft, which led to his fall into the 20th round -- he was a much better amateur than that. A youngster with the skill set that Brown provides could break out any given season, and 2009 could be that year.
3. Michael Taylor – Statistically speaking, Taylor was a complete monster in 2008. Between Low and High-A, the 6-foot-6, 250-pounder showed big power (.211 IsoP) while making a solid amount of contact (16.1%). The problem with Taylor’s 2008 season was that he was a 23-year-old in the low minors. Still, his age wasn’t unheard of for a prospect at the level, and with the type of season he had, the production could be real. And if it is real, Philadelphia could have another masher joining their lineup in the near future.
4. Jason Donald – Donald has produced steadily over the last three seasons. A shortstop by trade, he has a nice combination of power and discipline (11.4% BB and .190 IsoP in '08). Our biggest holdup with him is contact rate. Donald struck out in 20.8% of his 2007 and 2008 plate appearances. A 3rd round draft pick out of the University of Arizona in 2006, the 24-year-old is a very good bet to reach the big leagues. We think his odds of being a utility man for the bulk of his MLB career are much higher than every-day player.
5. J.A. Happ – Happ has proven about all he can in the minor leagues. He’s had dominant seasons at every level, and followed a poor stint in Triple-A in 2007 with a fantastic stint in 2008 as a 25-year-old. In the majors, it’s hard to project Happ as anything more than a No. 4 starter, but he has a good chance of being a useful major league starter. Happ opened the 2009 season in the Philadelphia bullpen. If his 2008 season is any indication (27.4 K%, 8.7 BB%), he should be able to record a hand full of strikeouts in the big leagues, and perhaps even become a serviceable starter.
HM -- Zach Collier, Kyle Drabek, and Jason Knapp.
Brett Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.