David Price (LHP)—Devil Rays—Any conversation about pitching prospects must begin with David Price. The big lefty has been touted since being taken No. 1 overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2007 draft.
Last year he quickly rose through the ranks of Tampa's farm system helping both AAA Durham and the big league club make playoff runs. The fact that Price was the guy the Rays trusted to get the final outs in the ALCS speaks volumes about the man.
He can dominate both sides of the plate with his fastball as well as his slider. Both are considered "out" pitches and are even more devastating because he can throw both at a variety of speeds.
I would be shocked if he doesn't make the rotation out of spring training, but even if he didn't, I'd still recommend keeping his on a fantasy roster. Just like last year, Price is too good to keep down for long.
He will rack up strikeouts his first time through the AL and should have plenty of wins when all is said and done for what will be a good Tampa Bay team.
Jordan Zimmerman (RHP)—Nationals—Zimmerman's stock has risen higher than a bonus check for AIG executives. This guy is absolutely dominating the Grapefruit League this spring and is leaving the Nationals with little choice other than to pencil him in to start every fifth day for them.
It is difficult for me to understand just how Zimmerman has become so damn good so quickly. A couple of years ago he was a player without a position who had the dreaded label of 'good athlete' but had to take a path and spend a few years making his way.
Two years later, he is a franchise-type starter with four above-average pitches. The problem for me is that none of his pitches are truly dominating with the possible exception of his hard curve ball.
While he doesn't have the pedigree of David Price, Zimmerman is more likely to make an impact in the early going in 2009. His longevity we will have to watch unfold but for now there isn't a better starting pitching prospect in baseball than Jordan Zimmerman.
Tommy Hanson (RHP)—Braves—Hanson is making his push for a rotation spot by dominating the Arizona Fall League and continuing that trend right into spring training. This coming off a year in which he reacted to his promotion to AA by promptly throwing a 15-strikeout no-hitter.
This kid is the real deal. He has a natural bite to his fastball which isn't overpowering but falls in to right-handers and away from lefties. His curveball is filthy with a 12-6 break on it and he is way ahead in mastering a changeup that makes his fastball better than it actually is.
It is unknown if the Braves will take Hanson north when camp breaks. My feeling is that he will begin in AAA and have to toil down there a bit before getting the call. The Braves added some pitching this offseason and will save a year of arbitration if they keep Hanson down for a month.
If you got the balls, take Hanson late or pick him up early in the season and wait for the eventual call up which will happen this year.
Anthony Reyes (RHP)—Indians—I put Reyes here to make a point. The Breakout Prospect series I have been doing for Fantasy Baseball Search is not all about minor league or even young talent. It is about players who will come out of nowhere to produce good fantasy baseball numbers.
I don't care about age or eligibility and neither should you. What we are all looking for is production so before you write me to point out that Anthony Reyes isn't a "prospect" any more, believe me kimosabe...I know.
It is safe to say that Anthony Reyes is not on any fantasy site's HOT list or even been named a possible sleeper by anyone in the industry. This is why you read Fantasy Baseball Search.
Reyes busted out with the Cardinals. But before he did he showed flashes of brilliance most notably Game One of the 2006 World Series. He has great stuff and a funky motion that will confuse hitters.
The Indians are emphasizing that Reyes throw more two seam fastballs this year which is a great idea. The pitch has fallen out of favor with pitching coach Dave Duncan who forced Reyes to ditch it in favor of the four seam fastball.
The subtle drop in velocity however gets hitters ahead of the pitch and forces many lazy pop outs or ground ball double plays. With a spot in the rotation guaranteed, newfound confidence and minus a Stalin like manager/pitching coach, I foresee a big year for Anthony Reyes.
Gio Gonzalez (LHP)—Athletics—It's all about the strikeouts, baby. Gonzalez is small but deceptive lefty with a knack for pitching away from contact. His curveball is one of the best in the minor leagues.
He is downright scary to left hand hitters with an almost sidearm delivery. The problem for Gio has been finding the strikezone. He gets into lapses with his delivery, most often his landing spot which causes him to be high out of the zone.
The A's have a history of correcting such mistakes and if they can do so with Gonzalez may have a future ace or good No. 2 starter on their hands. If given a full season of starts, Gonzalez could rack up close to 200 K's in 2009.
Those are a few of the guys I have on my radar as we near the 2009 season. What are your thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Post your comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org