Future Finds: 5 Under-The-Radar Pitching Prospects

Ryan FayContributor IApril 22, 2008

One of the best times of the year for fans who follow prospects comes during the winter, when Baseball America rolls out their list of the top 100 prospects in baseball. The lists are not an exact science, and no matter how hard someone tries, the highly volatile nature of prospects means you can never be exactly right.

Now that the minor league season is underway, it's time to check in with some prospects who might thrust themselves into the discussion of the better ones in the minors. This time, we'll look at five under-the-radar pitching prospects who, in the next couple years, could catapult themselves into Baseball America's list of the top 100 prospects in the game. The only qualifications are that they haven't already appeared on a Baseball America top 100 list or among Baseball America's list of the top 10 prospects in their respective organization.

Jhoulys Chacin, 1/7/88, 6'1/168, Bats R, Throws R, Organization: Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have had considerable success with Latin America players in recent years. Pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales were highly regarded pitching prospects who played integral roles in Colorado's surprise run to the World Series in 2007. Could Chacin be next?

Currently pitching for Asheville in the South Atlantic League, Chacin, who was signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004, is off to a flying start. He has a 1.40 ERA after four starts that span 25.2 innings. He's only allowed 14 hits while walking nine and striking out 22. He's picking off where he left off last year, when he had an impressive 16 start stint in the Pioneer League. There, he threw 92 innings, allowing 85 hits and 26 hits. He fanned 77 and had a 3.13 ERA.

"He has an overpowering fastball and a good change and had excellent command of both pitches," Asheville manager Joe Mikulik told milb.com earlier this month. "He threw 91 pitches and his 89th touched 94 mph. Pretty impressive."

Mikulik added: ""He's very coachable and mature beyond his age," Mikulik said. "It's a pleasure to watch him pitch. He's got a great future."

A future that might have him among the top 100 prospects in baseball sooner rather than later.

Kelvin De La Cruz, 1/8/88, 6'5/187, Bats L, Throws L, Organization: Cleveland Indians

With C.C Sabathia likely leaving for greener pastures come winter, the Indians need to continue to develop young (and affordable) pitching in hopes of finding future building blocks for their rotation.

De La Cruz, who was born in La Vega, Dominican Republic, could be one of them.

It's easy to get excited about this lefty. At 6'5, he has the height that could make him an intimidating presence down the line – especially if he fills out his 187 pound frame. Like Chacin, De La Cruz has four starts in the young season, also while throwing in the South Atlantic League. He's racked up 19.2 innings, allowing 18 hits, 9 walks and striking out 18. He was solid in the NY Penn League last season, giving up just 41 hits in 54 innings while striking out 53. Control has been an issue - he walked 34 in those 54 innings last year and has 9 in 19 innings this year. Given the fact he's only 20, there's plenty of time to iron his control out.

"Kelvin De La Cruz has really looked good and thrown the ball well. A 19-year old 6'5" left-handed pitcher who throws 93 MPH is really fun to watch," Indians farm director Ross Atkins recently told theclevelandfan.com.

To see a clip of De La Cruz in action, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_9Av-y3TmA

Jairo Heredia, 10/8/1989, 6'1/190, Bats R, Throws R, Organization: NY Yankees

The Yankees have found themselves blessed with a tremendous crop of young pitchers, most notably Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy. Someday, Heredia could find himself mentioned in the same breath.

Heredia, signed as a non-drafted free agent two summers ago, is pitching for Charleston in the South Atlantic League. What makes Heredia impressive is that he's currently the youngest pitcher in the league, competing against players up to several years older than he is. That has proved to be no challenge to date, as the native of the Dominican Republic has struck out 22 batters in only 20.2 innings while amassing a 3.48 ERA. He's allowing less than a hit per inning (19) and has handed out seven free passes. He's surrendered 4 homers on the year – too many for only 20 innings – but this may be a fluke as he only allowed 4 in 46.1 innings last year in the Gulf Coast League.

Trevor Reckling, 5/22/1989, 6'2/205, Bats L, Throws L, Organization: LA Angels

Trevor Reckling wasn't a big name entering the 2007 MLB Draft and ended up falling into the Angels' lap in the eighth round. So far, the New Jersey product been as good as some first round picks. In his pro debut last summer in the Arizona League, the 18 year old walked 7 men in 36 innings while striking out 55. He allowed 33 hits and it all resulted in a 2.75 ERA. After a rough debut in the Midwest League this year, he's settled back down in his subsequent two starts, allowing two runs in 10 innings along with 6 hits, 5 walks and 9 whiffs.

Reckling's fastball resides in the upper 80s, but it can touch the low 90's and could add velocity as he matures. His specialty, however, is a terrific curveball that could be his ticket the majors.

Eddie Bane, the director of scouting for the Angels, had this to say about Reckling last fall in an interview at theangelswin.com: "Trevor Reckling is a HS lefty that we got because of the hard work of Greg Mohrhardt and Mike Silvestri. That being said, I would have been extremely unhappy if we did not sign this young man. He has a legit Zito type curve and he is striking out everybody in Arizona. We are happy with Trevor."

Dae-Eun Rhee, 3/23/1989, 6'2/190, Bats L, Throws R, Organization: Chicago Cubs

This Korean native hopes to end the Cubs' poor luck with his fellow countrymen. The Cubs had previously invested heavily into the likes of first baseman Hee-Seop Choi and pitcher Jae-Kuk Ryu. Neither have amounted to anything, but Rhee is off to a good start.

Rhee, signed last July, is playing for Peoria in the Midwest League where he's the youngest pitcher on his team. He's started 3 games, totaling 16 innings while allowing 8 hits and a quartet of walks. He's also struck out 15. According to Baseball America, Rhee "opened eyes" during his stint in the instructional leagues last summer. He already throws 90-94 and has an exceptional change-up that "dives like a splitter."

Pitchers often are ruined by injuries, but this may not be an issue for Rhee, who Baseball America notes has a "balanced delivery that bodes well for his future health."After dealing with chronically injured pitchers like Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, that's music to the Cubs' ears.