The Southern League’s Finest
Desmond Jennings has come of age and catapulted himself toward the top of many prospect boards due to his dynamic offensive prowess. A Dexter Fowler clone in many respects, Jennings was the MVP of the Southern League during his time with Montgomery. His breakout 2009 has made him the hottest leadoff-hitting blue-chipper in all of baseball.
Mike Stanton has more development in front of him, but it’s safe to say that he has the best raw power in the minor leagues. Stanton strikes out too much, but a lot of power hitters do. It’s his plate discipline that needs to be cleaned first and foremost. Everything else should fall in line, including those advantageous 2-0 and 3-1 counts. Stanton has superstar power, and that’s what makes him a hot property.
Travis Wood blew through the Southern League in his nineteen starts for Carolina. In some ways Wood came out of nowhere in 2009, but he has always had solid talent. His control and confidence improved by leaps and bounds this year, leaving him right in line to join Cincinnati’s rotation sooner rather than later.
Jarrod Parker had a good news/bad news season in which his powerful right arm was the talk of the town in more ways than one. Looking around the minor leagues, it is awfully hard to top Parker’s pure velocity and balanced repertoire, but an elbow strain that he suffered late in the season gives one reason for pause. He has ace-like ability, but the warning flag is in full effect.
The Toast of the Texas League
Chris Carter backed up his eye-opening 2008 campaign with a monstrous, MVP follow-up season. Despite graduating to stiffer competition, his strikeouts went down, his walks went up, and, much to the chagrin of opposing pitchers, his power was every bit as devastating as advertised. His ascent is eerily similar to that of Texas’ promising young slugger, Chris Davis. Oakland may have a permanent middle-of-the-order centerpiece on its hands.
Hank Conger can be a handful when healthy. He has all of the necessary catching tools to succeed at the major league level, including an offensive skill set rounded out by strong contact skills, a good amount of plate patience and a dash of power. He is a difficult guy to get out, no matter what level he’s playing at. And when it comes right down to it, that is sometimes all you can ask of your catcher.
Jhoulys Chacin cemented his place in Colorado’s future rotational plans with his impressive 2009 performance, which followed up a mammoth 2008 campaign. Chacin has all the makings of a well-rounded, average major league starter, but the potential is still there for a truly special career to emerge. It is hard to envision that type of career at this point, but I have a hard time doubting Chacin’s always-improving control and mound presence.
Kasey Kiker, with his short stature, doesn’t intimidate anyone when he takes the mound. His low-90s fastball isn’t making anyone’s knees shake either, but, at times, Kiker brings fearlessness and masterful control to the ballpark. If he can pitch with more consistency, his average three-pitch mix could spell middle-of-the-rotation for the young Kiker.