Injury stalled prospect breakouts?

February 11, 2010

Few things can have as devastating an effect on a prospect's perceived value as an injury. We're here to make sure you don't miss out on a few injury sleepers. The players below have the potential to jump atop the prospect ranks. 

Kellen Kulbacki --  Going into the 2007 draft, it was well known that Kulbacki's bat would carry him professionally. And in the words of Jonathan Mayo, "it should carry him quite far." Unfortunately, he has yet to make it through a full season without injuries. In 2008, he dealt with injuries to his hamstring and shoulder, and he ultimately required surgery to repair his torn labrum. In 2009, his hamstring and shoulder hampered him again, as he had a tough time recovering from his surgery and he "tore his hamstring off the bone." These injuries seriously diminished his power hitting ability last season, when he posted an isolated power of just .053. But he has previously hit for isolated rates of .190 and .250 in short-season (261 PA) and High-A (362) respectively, so the power is definitely there. If he can stay healthy in 2010, Kulbacki may become one of the minors' top patient, power hitting threats. 

Ivan De Jesus -- After his impressive 2008 season, many expected De Jesus to put himself in a position to win a big-league job by 2010. And why not? He walked almost as much as he struck out as a 21-year-old in Double-A and was fresh off his best power month over (he hit 5 home runs in August of 2008). Unfortunately for De Jesus, his entire 2009 season was derailed before it really started. He broke his leg on a play at the plate during Spring Training, which ultimately sidelined him for the entire 2009 season. We considered him the top prospect in the Dodgers' system entering last year. And his great patience and contact ability will likely still be there next season when he takes the field again in 2010. Though his 2009 was disappointing, De Jesus' injury isn't likely to affect his production going forward. He isn't going to be a monster power hitter, but he could turn into a valuable big-league regular.

Luke Bailey -- The 19th ranked player on our 2009 Draft Board, Bailey slipped all the way to the fourth round after having Tommy John surgery in May of 2009. Scouting reports had him pegged as a guy who could hit for power and field the catcher's position well. Bailey is a bit different from the other prospects here, as he more than likely won't make his professional debut until midway through the 2010 season, if not later. Additionally, the playing time he does log may not give us an accurate look at his true skill set, due to the typical 12-18 month recovery from Tommy John. We may not see the real Luke Bailey until 2011, but he should be worth the wait. 

Chris Nelson -- Selected with the ninth pick in the 2004 draft, Nelson is a guy whose talent has never been in question. But he hasn't been able to translate his game to the upper minors. One year removed from an impressive season in the California League, he broke his hamate bone (left wrist) in 2008. His wrist struggles continued in 2009 when he tore a ligament in his right wrist while sliding into second base in early May. This injury ultimately required surgery and kept him out for the remainder of the season. Before he went down last year, he had shown promising power, providing hope that he could continue to improve his game against advanced competition. With a healthy 2010 season, Nelson could produce re-establish himself on the prospect scene. He's still just 24 years old and has the potential to become an elite middle infield prospect. 


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