40. Matt Harvey, P, New York Mets
40. Chris Archer, P, Tampa Bay Rays
Vitals: DOB 9/26/1988, 6’3″ 200lbs. Drafted by the Indians in the 5th round of the 2006 draft and signed to a $160,000 bonus.)
I would have had Harvey here, if not for the last month. He’s now at 47 innings pitched in the major leauges, and will not enter 2013 as a prospect. Archer will though, and like a pitcher much much higher on this list he’s done some things over the last month-plus that have jumped him in my eyes and the eyes of others. I have no problem calling Chris Archer one of the best prospects in baseball.
We should start with Archer’s slider. It’s deceptive, it looks like a fastball, then it explodes. The tilt on the pitch is significant. It’s the best slider of any player on this list by a good margin. And Archer brings plus-plus velocity, dialing it up to 97.
Those are things we could have said about Chris Archer at the beginning of the year. And those two offerings, with the lack of much else, made Archer look like a likely late-innings closer. Now he looks like a number three starter with number two upside. That plus-plus velocity would often fade during games. Last night, against the Texas Rangers, Archer hit 97 in the seventh inning, at around 100 pitches, en route to striking out the side. He’s holding the velocity now, which he wasn’t in Montgomery and Durham. His changeup is a pitch that he’s showing better feel for than he did previously. And that slider.
Archer has said that he’s had a big boost in confidence since his first short trip to MLB this summer. It showed in Durham. Command had been an issue, with too many walks, and over the past couple months at AAA Archer did not walk more than 2 batters in any start. He’s sporting a 25/4 K/BB rate in three MLB starts. Suddenly, the promise Archer showed in the low minors has all fallen into place and Archer looks like the kind of pitcher who is a bright spot in the future of the Rays rotation who could make ample trade bait of Jeremy Hellickson. Or Alex Cobb. Or James Shields.
39. Taylor Guerrieri, P, Tampa Bay Rays
Vitals: DOB 12/1/1992, 6’3″ 195lbs. Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays with the 24th overall pick in 2011 and signed for a $1.6 million bonus. Finished 2012 at short-season Hudson Valley of the NY Penn League.
There are two big factors keeping Guerrieri under the radar.
1. Guerrieri was one of the best high school pitchers in the 2011 draft, and could have gone as high as Arche Bradley. Guerrieri slid in that draft, to 24th, due to makeup issues that arose when he switched high schools for his senior year.
2. Guerrieri plays in the Rays organization, and they take their players, especially the pitchers, slow through the development stage. Unlike the other three high-end 2011 draft pick pitchers out of high school–Bradley, Jose Fernandez and Dylan Bundy–Guerrieri didn’t start 2012 with a full-season assignment. He stayed back in instructs until late June, then was assigned to short-season Hudson Valley.
In short-season ball, Guerrieri pitched 52 innings, with a 45/5 K/BB ratio and a 0.87 ERA. He allowed zero home runs.
I tried to see Guerrieri pitch during a trip to New York this summer, but fell short when the day I anticipated he would start in Staten Island turned out to be a miss. But, from everything I’ve read elsewhere about Guerrieri, I find a tremendous amount to like. Here are some quotes.
“Profiles as a top of the rotation arm.”–JD Sussman, Bullpen Banter (link now gone)
“His baseball movements are loose and athletic, with plenty of swagger. He exudes an air of confidence, as if the pitching mound and home plate are his. At no point did the young right-hander cross the line between confident and cocky, which was great to see considering previous questions about his makeup.”–Mike Newman, Fangraphs
“…clean arm action…delivers easy gas. His fastball sits at 93-96 mph with good life and has been clocked up to 98…11-to-5 curveball, is also a power pitch in the low 80s. He also throws a cutter and changeup that show promise despite being rarely used in high school.”–Baseball America (subscription required for the report)
“…his fastball, while off from his high school days in terms of velocity, has sat at 90-95 with sink and, more importantly, tremendous control. His power curveball is already plus, and while his changeup lags behind, that’s common for a pitcher with his experience, and there’s plenty of right now talent to be very excited about.”–Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus (subscription required)
From the video I’ve seen of Guerrieri, he appears to have good posture, an easy repeatable delivery and a very live arm. I’m hoping for my own sake that Guerrieri will start the year at low-A Bowling Green, so I can catch him in a couple Midwest League games, which I think is a likely landing spot for him to start 2013.
38. Albert Almora, OF, Chicago Cubs
Vitals: DOB 4/16/1994, 6’1″ 170lbs. Drafted by the Cubs with the 6th overall pick in the 2012 draft and signed for a $3.9 million bonus.
It doesn’t take a lot to get me out to Elfstrom Stadium, the 2013 home of the
Kansas City Royals Chicago Cubs. Just under an hour from my front door in Chicago, it’s the easiest place for me to see premium minor league talent in it’s infancy. Almora is the Midwest League probable I’m most excited about for 2013.
Entering the draft, everyone knew Almora was the Cubs’ guy. If they had the first pick, they’d have taken Almora, was the buzz. And in a year with a few athletic, toolsy high-end players of roughly the same talent level, only one truly advanced college hitter, and a few good arms with no clear-cut must-have pitcher, Almora would not have been a bad 1-1 pick.
Almora is above-average in all five tools. The talent and athleticism is there in spades. Beyond that, he has that label that gets thrown on LaRussa Guys–”grinder”–to go along with the tool shed.
Entering the draft, Almora’s defense in center field was considered already MLB-ready. He has a loose swing,stays inside pitches, and hits a high percentage of line drives. He’s not a burner, but his speed is a 55 and will more than hold as his body matures.
Almora has a strong chance to pass Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez as the future face of the Cubs.