March 2011

OMG: San Diego Padres

The Padres’ Top 10 Prospects is now live, so that means it’s time to look at One More Guy (OMG) from San Diego’s system. The expectation might be Jedd Gyorko, the highest 2010 draftee to sign with the club, who hit .302/.372/.444 in his summer debut. He might be No. 11 on the list. But I’ll go a little more off the radar today with a bit of a personal favorite…

Brad Brach, RHP: There are few, if any, expectations on a guy taken in the 42nd round of abrach.jpg Draft (2008) out of Monmouth in New Jersey. To say that Brach has exceeded what little there may have been would be a huge understatement.

In his first full season, 2009, he was named the Class A Reliever of the Year after saving 33 games and helping Fort Wayne win the Midwest League title. He moved up to the hitting-friendly California League and saved 41 more while posting a 2.47 ERA and a .207 batting average against. That’s 74 saves over two years, more than any other Minor League reliever in the same time span and No. 6 among all professional closers, as I wrote in this story on Brach while he was raising his profile in the Arizona Fall League.

In his pro career, Brach has struck out 11.2 per nine innings while walking just 1.6 per nine. His WHIP is 0.884. He may not have the pure stuff that says future closer, but it’s looking more and more likely that he might have a big league career as a very useful reliever. Even if he has to continue to prove himself station-to-station — something he’s prepared to do — Brach has already gone far beyond what anyone could have expected.

OMG: Texas Rangers

The Texas Rangers’ Top 10 prospects is now up and available for your perusal. Six of the 10 are pitchers. Here’s one more for your OMG (One More Guy):

Ramirez, Neil 1 (Westerholt).JPGNeil Ramirez, RHP: Taken out of the Virginia  high school ranks in the sandwich round of the 2007 Draft, Ramirez hasn’t made the fastest ascent up the Rangers’ ladder. Coming out of that Draft, Ramirez was the quintessential projectable prep right-hander with a strong arm, surprisingly good fastball command and less than the greatest feel for his other pitches. He played short-season ball in 2008, but didn’t hit full-season ball in 2009 until June because of an elbow issue. He threw just 66 1/3 innings that year as a result and it was clear that command (41 BB) was an issue. So he went back to Class A Hickory in 2010 and showed some improvement, striking out 142 in 140 1/3 IP while walking just 35, though he did give up 150 hits.

The Ramirez in camp now is not the Ramirez who first joined the Rangers. He went out to Surprise, Ariz., in November to start working towards the 2011 season and it’s clear that projectability is now coming to fruition. Now 21, Ramirez worked hard to add to his 6-foot-3 frame. He got to throw an inning in a big league game recently and was up to 95-98 mph in his inning of work. Ironically, Blake Beavan threw in that game as well, but for the Mariners. Beavan, Michael Main and Ramirez were the prized high school right-handers the Rangers took in the first round of the 2007 Draft. Beavan went to Seattle in the Cliff Lee deal and Main became a San Francisco Giant in the Benjie Molina trade.

So it’s just Ramirez now. He and his three-pitch mix will move to Myrtle Beach to start the year and that’s a very good place for pitchers to thrive. But he may not be there long, with a promotion to Frisco in his sights if things keep going this well.

OMG: Kansas City Royals

With six players in the Top 50 and a few others who’d be in most Top 100s, it would be understandable if there weren’t many more Royals prospects to talk about after their Top 10 (now up and running on mlb.com).

But there are. Plenty. There are a number of directions you could go in with this OMG (One More Guy), but I’ll stay on the mound with a guy who’s new to the organization…

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP: We all know about his history, so we don’t have to go there again.jeffress.jpg From all reports, he’s straightened himself out and the Royals did a ton of background work to make sure his makeup wouldn’t be a problem once he joined the Royals. Once they determined they were OK with where he was in his life, they were thrilled to have him come to them as part of that Zack Greinke deal.

Pitching-wise, there’s a lot to like about Jeffress, especially since he’s now a full-time reliever. He’s always had the plus fastball, but that’s even better now that he’s only pitching in short stints. He was hitting triple-digits during his stint in the Arizona Fall League. He’s got an outstanding power breaking ball to go along with it and that’s really all he needs to get big-league hitters out. His stuff is that electric.

His command is still an issue, though. As well as he threw in the AFL, he walked 12 in 11 2/3 innings. That lack of control (along with a lack of a changeup) was a reason many felt he wasn’t destined to be a starter. If he can harness his stuff — and early reports this spring were that he’s refined his command — he’s got future closer written all over him. Starting this year, he could help form a dynamic 1-2 punch at the back end of the Royals bullpen, handing the ball off to All-Star Joakim Soria.

OMG: Colorado Rockies

With the Colorado Rockies preview now up for everyone to see, it’s time to take a look at One More Guy from their system.

Casey Weathers, RHP: Remember him? The 2007 first-round pick out of Vanderbilt was Weathers.jpgsupposed to be a quick riser, one of those college closers who could get to the big leagues in a hurry. He had a solid 2008 season in Double-A, making the Texas League All-Star team and going to the Futures Game, but then missed all of 2009 following Tommy John surgery.

He came back in 2010 and the velocity was still definitely there. He struck out 46 in 30 1/3 innings and hitters managed just a .185 average against him. Command hadn’t come back as quickly — he walked 22 — but that’s often the case with TJ returnees. The 2011 season could be a big one for the 25-year-old. If he starts throwing strikes, he could help the Rockies bullpen out sooner rather than later.

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