Thursday, January 29, 2009

11. Aaron Thompson

11. Aaron Thompson - LHP - 6'3 - 195lbs
(last year: 3)

Aaron Thompson was taken with the 22nd overall pick in the 2005 draft by the Marlins. He was awarded with a $1.225mil bonus. Most believed he would be a tough sign because he had committed to Texas A&M early on, but things changed once the Aggies fired their coaching staff, and Aaron then signed with the Fish. After struggling in his first couple of professional outings, he came back strong in his Jamestown campaign with a 3.10era in just over 20 innings. The 6'3 left-hander spent the 2006 season at low-A Greensboro and showed much promise in what is considered a hitter friendly league. Thompson went 8-8 with a 3.63era and a 1.30whip in 134 innings of work. The longball was a bit of a problem as he gave up 12, but he did strikeout 114 compared to just 35 walks. 2007 was a minor breakout for him. Aaron battled with shoulder tendonitis early on but still went 4-6 with a 3.37era and a 1.36whip in 115 innings of work in high-A Jupiter. He gave up just 2 homeruns, while walking 35 and striking out 84. What was most impressive from his 2007 performance was his consistency from month to month. Besides June where he had a 4.05era, his era in every other month was 3.67 or better.

Thompson took a major step backwards in 2008 while in Carolina. He dealt with injuries much of the year and when he was healthy he showed little command. His strikeouts plummeted and he gave up well over a hit per inning. Like many finesse left-handers, Thompson has garnered plenty of comparisons to Tom Glavine. Thompson’s fastball sits at 89-91mph and his three secondary pitches, changeup, curveball and slider, are all solid. His curveball has the most potential out of those pitches. All four of his pitches have the potential to be (or are already) plus pitches. Aaron has shown good poise, savvy and competitiveness on the mound. He also showed a much improved pick-off move at first base, and was good at holding runners. He has a projectile frame, and should add strength and muscle in the near future. With this added strength, his pitches should have improved velocity as well.

Most would say that Thompson is near his ceiling as a #3 or 4 starter. I believe with the improvement of all four of his pitches, his ceiling is much closer to being a #2 than in being a #4. He's about as developed as much as a 21 year old can be and he will spend much, if not all of the 2009 season in Triple A New Orleans. This is an important season for Aaron has he needs to rebound of a terrible 2008. If he can turn things around, he could have a shot at a starting rotation spot in 2010. If he continues to struggle, he could end up in the bullpen sooner than later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

12. Scott Cousins

12. Scott Cousins - Rightfield - 6'2 - 190lbs - Throws: Left - Bats: Left
(last year: 10)

The Marlins drafted Scott Cousins five picks after Torre Langley in the 3rd round of the 2006 draft. A two-way player from the University of San Francisco, the Marlins were drawn to him as a sophomore when he hit .309/.398/.457 for the Dons. His two-way talents and efforts in leading San Francisco into the West Coast Conference championship series had scouts and cross-checkers flocking to see him. He has drawn quite a few comparisons in his overall game to former Marlins centerfielder Mark Kotsay. Scott actually fell in the draft after missing five starts due to elbow tendinitis. The Marlins felt lucky to get him so late.

With the Grasshoppers in 2007, Cousins got off to a horrible start hitting .246 in April and then .250 in May. Things finally clicked as the temperatures rose. He hit .338, .315, and .330 to end the season. Not only was he getting hits, but he was showing much better plate discipline and his power showed up as well. It was then that a scout gave this quote on Scott: “this guy has easy loft power . . . this is Chipper Jones, this is Daryl Strawberry kind of easy-swing loft power. You get some guys that just power balls out with a hack swing, but this guy is loose.”

Scott spent most of 2008 in Jupiter where he showed good power in a very good pitcher’s park and league. He would miss nearly two months after crashing into a wall trying to make a catch over his shoulder and smashing up his knee. Cousins spent time in the AFL where he hit .297/.385/.624 in 101 at bats with the Solar Sox.

Scott has an outstanding work ethic and is a no nonsense batter at the plate. He has fantastic speed(6.8-60 yard dash), to go with good and range and great instincts. Most believe he will be a fine centerfielder but with his improving strength, there are some who suggest he will become a prototype right fielder. Scott will more than likely open up the season in the New Orleans outfield, although he was invited to big league camp for the first time. He should be one of the first cuts, with 2010 being his first chance to fight for a starting spot in the Marlins outfield.

Friday, January 23, 2009

13. Brad Hand

13. Brad Hand - LHP - 6'2 - 185lbs
(last year: NR)

The Marlins drafted left-handed pitcher Brad Hand in the 2nd round of the 2008 draft out of Chaska High School in Minnesota. Hand was the biggest high school prospect sensation among scouts since Joe Mauer and the Marlins felt fortunate to be able to sign him for $760,000.

Hand had an impressive debut split between the Gulf Coast league and Jamestown. In the two spots, he went a combined 3-2 with a 2.64era in 47.2 innings of work. He struck out 46 while walking 21 and holding opposing hitters to a .211 average.

He throws a fastball anywhere from 88-92mph with late life, while his curveball and changeup have plus potential. Brad is pretty athletic for a pitcher, having played both football and hockey in high school. He can also swing the bat a bit as he played first base on the days when he wasn’t pitching. His mechanics are a bit off has his delivery is quite violent and could lead to arm injuries in the future. The Marlins aren’t too concerned at this point as they begin to smooth out his routine.

Because of his youth, Hand might spend the first few months of the year in extended spring training before moving up to Greensboro midway through the year. Then again, the Marlins haven’t held players back in the past so he could open up 2009 in Greensboro if they feel like pushing him.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

14. Jake Smolinski

14. Jake Smolinski - Shortstop - 5'11 - 185lbs - Throws: Right - Bats: Right
(last year: NR)

Jake Smolinski was drafted by the Nationals in the 2nd round of the 2007 amateur draft. With a commitment to Clemson where he would try to play both quarterback on the football team, and shortstop on the baseball team, it took the Nats offering $452,500 to get Jake to sign.

He had an impressive debut as an 18 year old in the Gulf Coast League, hitting .305/.387/.410 in 105 at bats. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after he fouled a ball of his foot and suffered a small break. Smolinski split time in 2008 between the GCL, Vermont and Hagerstown, having most of his success in Vermont. Again his season was cut short as he suffered a knee injury late in the season and would be out six to eight months.

He lacks the range to play shortstop in pro ball, so Washington put him in left field. Early Marlins rumors suggest they may give him a longer look at shortstop before making his final destination left field. His setup and stance are quiet and balanced. He rarely chases pitches out of the strike zone, and punishes strikes when ahead in the count. Smolinski has good power to the gaps and figures to hit for some home run power as he matures. He’s an average runner, but because he is smart, he could steal 10 bases a year. Because of his latest knee injury, Smolinski won’t be back until late May. He should spend the entire season in Greensboro after a short stint in extended Spring Training in preparation for full season ball.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

15. Eulogio de la Cruz

15. Eulogio de la Cruz -RHP - 5'11 - 175lbs
(last year: 11)

The Detroit Tigers signed Eulogio de la Cruz as an undrafted free agent back in 2001. A smaller guy, he was rated as having the best fast ball in the Tigers system (this included Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander). He throws in the high 90s and has hit 100mph on numerous occasions. He has a fantastic curveball in the classic “knee-buckler” mode. But for all of his awesome stuff, his strikeout rate at Erie was around league average (7.5/9). Cruz, like most power pitchers, lives and dies by his control. When he’s remotely close to the plate, Eulogio can be unhittable. Because of his control problems, scouts and front offices alike were not sure if he would be better suited as a starter or in the pen . For his minor league career, he is walking 4 batters per 9 innings. Like Renyel Pinto, Cruz can get out hitter by being “effectively wild”, he just needs to remain around the plate.

Acquired in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis blockbuster from a season ago, Eulogio (or Frankie as his teammates call him) has as much talent as any pitcher in the Marlins organization. If he can cut the walks a bit, his overall numbers should improve as well. He was straight filthy in Erie (2007) holding both righties and lefties batting averages under .227. Upon promotion to AAA Toledo, lefties hit just .243 on him but it was righties that were knocking him all around the ballpark. While he wasn't giving up many extra base hits, right handed hitters still hit .329 off him and got on a base at a .407 clip.

The 2008 season was a mixed bag for de la Cruz. He started off terribly in Albuquerque, giving up 21 runs in 21 innings in April. He bounced back in May and June before showing signs of tiredness in July. He finished strong in August and then finished the season up in the big leagues.

Because of the question marks surrounding him as a starter or a reliever, and his control issues, he was left out of the top 10. You can't teach that kind of velocity and if he can keep those walks down he can be a productive pitcher. Even if the Marlins consider him to be a relief prospect instead, he still has a high ceiling as a closer or knockout setup man. Either way, with de la Cruz out of options, he will open up the season in the Marlins bullpen and could step in to start a game or two if the opportunity presents itself.