Top Prospects, part 3: The fringe pitchers

2010 Top Prospects 4 Position Players
1 The Injured 5 Pitchers 1
2 Fringe Position Players 5.5 Pitchers 2
3 Fringe Pitchers 6 Santana & Recap


Identifying fringe pitching prospects is a more difficult job than identifying fringe position players, mainly because I think just about any high-performing minor league bullpen guy could be considered fringe. Nevertheless, here is my attempt at identifying guys who, like the previous list, could be or have been interesting, but don't quite meet my standards for being a legit prospect right now. (ages are as of 7/1/09, levels represent the highest level they have seen more than a coffee cup of action)

Paolo Espino (22.5, high-A) - Espino was originally part of the Lake County 2007 cohort that included Kelvin De La Cruz and Jeanmar Gomez.  After a few injury issues and some shuffling in and out of the rotation the past two years, Espino emerged with a pretty solid season in the Kinston rotation in 2009.  Espino showed a strong K-rate, above average control, and stayed healthy the whole season.  A little old given his injury history, he might be a sleeper candidate if he performs well in the Akron rotation next season.

P Espino IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2007 108.1 3.84 3.66 6.9 25.7 45.8 22 4.77
2008 66.2 3.77 5.54 7.7 22.8 47.4 9 0.99
2009 134.2 3.68 3.01 6.5 21.2 40.6 27 4.17

Josh Tomlin (24.7, AA) - Tomlin is a favorite of mine.  After working mostly out of the bullpen in 2007 and 2008, Tomlin took his control skills into the Akron rotation this season.  His excellent control remained true to form, and even though he lost some of his swing and miss abilities with the move to the rotation, he still maintained an excellent K:BB ratio of 4.7.  His problem is HRs...having allowed 21 this year.  Probably no more than a depth starter/bullpen swingman at the most, but if he figures out how to keep the ball in the park...who knows.

J Tomlin IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2007 131.1 3.97 3.36 5.6 19.7 44.9 24 2.86
2008 109.2 2.88 3.04 4.0 26.4 42.0 45 3.84
2009 145.0 3.51 4.16 4.5 20.8 36.4 13 4.06

Bryan Price (22.0, high-A) - Part of the Victor Martinez package from the Red Sox, Price doesn't have any obvious red flags.  He gets a good number of Ks, has pretty good control, was durable in 2009, and gives up a few more HRs than you might like, but not an atrociously high number.  What keeps him from being an interesting prospect at the moment is simply that the sum of the parts isn't quite enough.  Another candidate to begin the season in Akron's rotation, a strong performance could easily make him a guy to watch.

B Price IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2008 40.0 3.14 3.82 5.6 23.9 52.4 20 2.43
2009 132.2 3.76 4.75 7.2 22.3 43.0 21 4.01

Yohan Pino (25.5, AAA)

Pino's relatively advanced age is a product of concerns over how his stuff would hold up against more advanced hitters and a subsequent slow advancement cycle.  That said, against AAA hitters, Pino did quite well in 2009.  He showed outstanding control, more than adequate strikeout numbers, and excellent (perhaps lucky) homerun numbers given his strong flyball tendencies.  Pino's numbers bear a strong resemblance to Scott Lewis, minus the multiple arm surgeries.  It might be a negative indicator that no team felt like giving him a shot in the rule 5 draft, but I'm glad they didn't.

Y Pino IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2006 94.0 2.85 1.91 5.3 26.3 44.9 56 3.85
2007 115.0 3.55 3.13 5.5 22.1 38.9 40 3.58
2008 109.0 4.41 4.54 7.9 16.1 35.7 -22 -0.16
2009 127.0 3.44 2.83 5.6 23.7 36.2 55 3.82

Eric Berger (23.2, AA) - I admit it, I actually like all of the guys on this list.  Berger is a 2008 draftee who has performed well enough to make it to Akron by the end of his second season.  Berger has had a few control issues, but generally has made up for it by keeping the ball in the park.  As with most of these guys, the question is about how his stuff will hold up against higher level hitters.  He seems likely to start in Akron, but could certainly be in the Columbus rotation for a substantial part of 2010 if he does well.

E Berger IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2008 38.1 3.11 2.11 7.0 28.7 51.0 22 2.63
2009 144.0 3.88 2.50 10.0 21.9 41.7 39 3.74

Clayton Cook (18.9, rookie) - Cook is different than any of the other guys on the list because he is so young and so low in the system.  A 2008 high school draftee, Cook has shown enough in his first two seasons of short-season ball to be interesting, but can't really be considered a legit prospect till he shows his stuff in a full season league, something he'll have the opportunity to do this year in Lake County.

C Cook IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2008 25.0 2.95 2.52 7.8 25.4 53.8 11 5.42
2009 67.2 3.55 2.79 9.4 23.0 43.0 27 3.46

Santo Frias (21.6, high-A) - Ok, Frias probably doesn't deserve to be here.  He is probably better grouped among a huge group of interchangeable relievers in the Tribe's sytem.  But I have liked Frias ever since he debuted alongside Kelvin De La Cruz, Jeanmar Gomez and Paolo Espino with that 2007 Lake County squad. Plus, he throws hard, with a solid-mid 90s fastball.  Now further removed from arm problems that bothered him in late 2007 and 2008, I think he is a sleeper as a strong relief prospect in 2010.  That said, right now he is just another arm.

S Frias IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2007 56.1 5.00 2.24 5.8 24.6 30.4 26 2.20
2008 23.1 5.72 6.94 10.7 17.9 36.7 -14 -4.56
2009 61.2 3.94 4.38 11.8 25.5 40.0 26 -0.76

Connor Graham (23.5, AA) - Added to the list.  As I say in the comments, he walks too many guys.  If he can improve his control he could be a nice starter.  If he can't I see him probably going to the bullpen.  I'll be interested to see where the Indians place him in 2010.

C Graham IP aFIP ERA BB% K% GB% Net ProS
2007 19.0 3.96 2.37 7.1 21.4 49.3 5 -0.13
2008 147.1 4.27 2.26 13.5 22.4 54.6 25 3.19
2009 118.2 4.14 3.72 12.6 24.0 51.6 36 2.55

Again, we could throw in countless bullpen arms here.  Some of the names you could consider; Marty Popham, Ryan Edell, Brian Grening, CC Lee, Frank Herrmann, Steven Wright, Kyle Landis and Neil Wagner.

Next up: the interesting positional prospects

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