Carrying on with question #2 today: Who among the upper levels of the minors do you see having a breakout season in 2010?
Cork Gaines: We are not sure what he changed, but we loved the numbers posted by Aneury Rodriguez in the second-half last year after what was a very disappointing first-half. He had an FIP close to 6.00 in April and May. In the final two months of the season, his FIP was below 4.00. What was interesting, was that his strikeouts per 9 innings went down from more than 8.0 per 9 innings the first two months to just above 6.0 the final two months. But in easing off the strikeouts, his walk rate fell at an ever greater rate and thus his strikeout-to-walk rate went from about 1.6 early in the season to 2.6 in the final months. So whatever it was that he changed, it worked, and should carry over in triple-A this season.
Tommy Rancel: I really like Alex Torres in 2010. At the time of the Kazmir trade, I didn't know much about him, but getting to learn more about him this offseason, I really like his potential. Of course in this system, he's more of a back of the rotation prospect, but that's more of a barometer of the talent the Rays have than a knock on Torres.
FreeZorilla: Safe answer: Jake McGee. He's looked really solid this Spring and should be fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery. Its easy to forget how high his ceiling was. If he can command his secondary offerings, watch out. If not he can still be a dominant back-end reliever. Some off-the-radar names I really like are David Newmann and Aneury Rodriguez. Aneury came on really strong during the second half while Newmann gets unfairly knocked for his age. Injuries hindered the start to his pro career, but in his first season the lefty induced north of 55% grounders with a K/BB of nearly 3. He was lights out in 59.2 innings in August and September.
Ricky: Matt Gorgen. Future late-inning reliever.
Jason Collette: Matt Sweeney will make the Florida State League All Star team and really make Angels fans wonder what the hell they were thinking trading Rodriguez, Torres, and Sweeney for Kazmir.
Jake Larsen: My "breakout" prospect in the upper levels is Kyeong Kang. It was a toss-up between Kang and Matt Moore, who I already think had a "breakout" season and will only improve from there. Kang's body is starting to fill out to what he's going to look like long-term and his swing make me think that he's going surprise a lot of folks in what is usually a very pitcher-friendly FSL. I wouldn't be surprised if he hits 15 or more HRs for Port Charlotte and gets a promotion to Montgomery later in the year.
Doug Milhoan: In the past couple of years I've gone from doubter to fanboy with Alex Cobb, so I might as well continue the love here. He's flown under a lot of people's radar due to all of the great pitching coming through the organization lately: Niemann, Price, Davis, Hellickson, Moore, McGee, Lobstein, etc. I don't think he will 'breakout' in 2010 in terms of putting up much better numbers (he had good season in 2009), but in terms of people finally noticing him with the increased exposure at AA Montgomery.
His stuff isn't electric, but is effective: plus curveball is his best pitch, low 90's fastball, average changeup with good sink. The thing I like best about him is that he's gotten better every year, even as he advances to face tougher competition. His ERA has decreased each of the past four seasons, down to 3.03 at Charlotte in 2009. Cobb strikes out enough batters (7.7 per 9), doesn't give up walks (2.2 per 9), and while he is hittable, he doesn't allow many homeruns (6 in 124.2 innings). His frame (6'1", 180 lbs.) isn't ideal for a starter, which limits his upside, but he still projects to be a middle- to back-of-the-rotation starter. In most organizations, a 22 year-old heading into AA with no injury history (other than some blisters last year) and that type of projection would be getting a lot more attention.
Kevin Gengler: Alex Cobb had a very under-rated 2009 season, and I think people will notice when he has a similar year in 2010. He doesn't have the ceiling of an ace(or even a #2 pitcher), so he gets lost in the shuffle with all the big arms in the system. He shows good control, keeps the ball in the park, and his strikeouts per 9 innings jumped from 6.3 to 7.7 in 2009. It may not get much higher, but a 3.5- or 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in Montgomery would put him on the map for sure.