MLB Spring Training 2011: The 10 Most Exciting Prospects in the NL East's Camps
The NL East teams include the Atlanta Braves, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Washington Nationals.
All of these teams have had their fair share of prospects come through the systems, become big time prospects, and then become stars at the major league level. The division was led in 2010 by guys like Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg, and Mike Stanton.
This year's group has a little less fire power in it, but that doesn't mean that there isn't any talent on it's way.
ESPN's Keith Law ranked the entire Major League farm systems. He ranked the Atlanta Braves as the third best organization, the Phillies fifth, the Nationals 19th, the Mets 26th, and the depleted Marlins 29th.
It looks very top heavy, because it is. The Braves and Phillies both boast five players in Law's Top 100 prospects for 2011.
We will not take a closer look at the top 10 guys that will be in his major league clubs camps this spring. So this means that he must be in the camp to be in this list, which hurts some players like Wilmer Flores, Matt Harvey, Johnathan Singleton, and Jason Cosart.
I also decided to show that I would represent each organization by making sure at least one of their prospects make the list, even though he may not necessarily deserve to be ahead of some others.
I checked every team's active roster and non-roster invitees so I could see who was expected to be there. If something id wrong, feel free to let me know.
10. Fernando Martinez, OF, New York Mets
Martinez's Appearances on ESPN Top 100 Lists
#10 Overall Prospect in 2008
#16 Overall Prospect in 2009
#73 Overall Prospect in 2010
Martinez was once a highly-regarded prospect that possessed all five tools, and only injuries could hold him back from stardom. Unfortunately, that has happened.
A group of various injuries has made the 22-year-old an average runner and a prospect that is going to have to rely completely on his bat if he wants to ever make an impact.
Martinez makes this list because of the lack of other Mets prospects that will in camp this spring. Though looking at this guy makes this interesting for me.
He's just 22 and already he's started to be written off, but that doesn't mean he still doesn't have the talent to produce at the major league level.
There have been rumors of a possible trade of Carlos Beltran and his enormous contract. If this happens, Martinez may have the break he has needed to show what he can do for the team.
This may be the most important year for Martinez as a professional ball player. If he gets hurt again or continues to his struggles at the major league level, the downturn in his career may finally end his chances of living to up to his hype.
9. Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Minor's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects Lists
#61 Overall Prospect in 2011
Minor is far from the flashiest guy on this list as far as athletic ability, but some of stats say otherwise.
Minor, the Braves' likely fifth starter when Opening Day comes around, averaged 9.5 strikeouts per nine innings in his nine games for the Braves in 2010. This includes a stellar 12 strikeout performance in six innings against the Chicago Cubs.
Minor boasts a solid fastball, changeup, and curveball combination that can be lethal if he's feeling all three pitches on a particular night.
Minor is one of the safest bets as far as the prospects go, and many scouts believe that if he starts the season as the fifth pitcher then he should be able to help the team and shouldn't have to be demoted over the course of the season.
Minor should be a Braves' rotation piece for years to come.
8. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Vizcaino's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospect Lists
#43 Overall Prospect in 2010
#47 Overall Prospect in 2011
If he is completely healthy from partially tearing a ligament in his elbow, Vizcaino will remain one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball.
His two calling cards are his 96 MPH fastball and an above average curveball, both pitches that he has excellent control over, as shown by not walking a batter in his last 40 innings pitched in 2010.
There are some believe that Vizcaino will move to the bullpen, and this is a possibility. A back-end of the bullpen with Vizcaino, Jonny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel could be in the future for the Braves. He still is listed as starting pitcher and as number two starter-type potential and stuff, if not quite ace material.
If there is one thing he can improve on it would be using his lower half more to create his velocity, which would really take some of the strain off his elbow.
Vizcaino seems to be heading for stardom and this spring will be a good look at what he might deliver against major league competition.
7. Wilson Ramos, C, Washington Nationals
Ramos' Appearances in ESPN's Top 100 Prospects Lists
#42 Overall Prospect in 2010
#95 Overall Prospect in 2011
Ramos may not be the starter on Opening Day and he may not be the top catcher prospect in his own organization, but that doesn't mean he doesn't have a bright future.
The 23 year old catcher hit .278 with a homer in 78 at bats for the Nationals and Twins last year, and had a career .285 average in the minors.
Ramos doesn't project as a power guy in any sense of the word, but has a good arm behind the plate and should hit for a good average.
I project that he will receive a good amount of playing time this year as Ivan Rodriquez's career continues to dwindle, and Ramos will be the better offensive catcher in 2011.
6. Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Kimbrel has made zero apperances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects List
Even though Kimbrel has never appeared on the ESPN list or Baseball America's doesn't mean he is not an exciting prospect to watch.
He struck out 40 batters in 20.2 innings in 2010 and impressed in the postseason for the Braves. This performance to go along with a very good fastball and slider combination makes him the favorite to be the closer in Atlanta in 2011.
Kimbrel is always good for a bit of drama though, as he did walk 15 batters in those 20.2 innings. His development is one to watch for out of those in camp for the Braves.
If he can cut down on walks, he looks to be one of the top closers for the next decade, and even if he doesn't, he should still find himself at the top of the list.
5. Matt Dominguez, 3B, Florida Marlins
Dominguez's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects List
#62 Overall Prospect in 2010
#55 Overall Prospect in 2011
Keith Law describes Dominguez as,"the best-fielding third base prospect I've seen since I saw Ryan Zimmerman in college, and as good as Zimmerman is, Dominguez might be better than the Nationals' franchise player was at the same age."
That's very high praise, considering Zimmerman is a Gold Glove calibre defender.
If the rankings were based solely off of a player's defensive work, Dominguez would probably rank first and would be a lock for the top five.
Unfortunately, you have to hit as well as field your position, and this is where Dominguez struggles.
He's a guy that crushes fastballs but has yet to adjust to offspeed stuff, which has cut off some of his natural power.
Some improvements at the plate could make him a 20 homer guy at the major league level. When you add that to what he brings with the glove, then you have a guy that should make plenty of All-Star games.
4. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freeman's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects List
#65 Overall Prospect in 2009
#67 Overall Prospect in 2010
#43 Overall Prospect in 2011
Freeman has been on the top list for three years now, and that will very likely change this year. Freeman is one of the few prospects who has been practically guaranteed a starting spot as an everyday player.
Freeman isn't your prototypical first baseman as he is more likely going to be a high average, solid power player rather than the other way around.
He struggled in his September call-up last year, but did hit a moon shot off of Roy Halladay to raise some hopes over his power potential going forward.
Freeman should be at least a league average hitter to go along with solid defense.
In other words, Freeman isn't the flashiest guy nor is he the guy with the highest ceiling. He is what he is, a baseball player.
3. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Teheran's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects Lists
#63 Overall Prospect in 2010
#6 Overall Prospect in 2011
Teheran is the top prospect for the Atlanta Braves and therefore holds the highest spot for them on this list. He is a non-roster invitee that is likely a year away from making a big impact for the them, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him get in some starts or appearances in 2011.
Teheran features a plus fastball, a plus changeup and an improving curveball. Law thinks he may eventually ditch the curve for a slider, but for now his three pitch repertoire is plenty to dominate the minor leagues.
Teheran looks like he will progress into the Braves' ace, or perhaps the best number two starter in baseball if Tommy Hanson continues his rise to ace status for the club.
Being one of the best, and it can be argued the best, pitching prospect in baseball puts a lot of pressure on a 20 year old, but Teheran has worked hard this offseason in rookie workouts for the Braves and doesn't seem like he is going to let anything get in his way from being the best pitcher that he can be.
2. Dominic Brown, RF, Philadelphia Phillies
Brown's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects Lists
#84 Overall Prospect in 2009
#14 Overall Prospect in 2010
#3 Overall Prospect in 2011
If Brown was coming up in another division, I would be very excited to see him play every day. Unfortunately, he is likely to play right field this year for the Phillies, and they are very excited about what he brings to the table.
Brown reminds me a lot of Jason Heyward except that he's an inch taller and not as thick, but he possesses all five tools and is an early favorite for the Rookie of the Year award if he can be the Opening Day starter.
Brown projects to be a .300 hitter with 30 homers and should be a 20-30 steal guy when he reaches his full potential.
He is the Phillies' only prospect on this list, but this is not at all a knock on the Phillies farm system. Blame Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels for keeping a trifecta of great pitching prospects away from camp. Those three are also followed by Johnathan Singleton, who is one of the top first base prospects in baseball though he is likely to play a little outfield this year.
1. Bryce Harper, RF, Washington Nationals
Harper's Appearances on ESPN's Top 100 Prospects Lists
#2 Overall Prospect in 2011
If the 18 year old "Lebron James of baseball" is good enough to be the second best prospect and a top three guy at minimum, then he's good enough to me.
When you look at five tool player, you are looking at Harper. He has as much raw power as anybody in the game at 18, and yes, you read that right. Law lists him as having 80 power prior to being drafted last year.
Harper moves from catcher to right field to prolong his career and quicken his pace to the big leagues. Behind the plate he was an elite athlete with an absolute cannon to second base that should transition smoothly to the outfield.
Harper has good speed and should hit for a very high average whenever he reaches the big leagues for good, which he expects to be late this year.
There is a question of how many at bats he will get and how long he will stay in the National's camp (they have said if he is not giving him enough at bats then they will send him to the minor league camp), but he will undoubtedly be one of the more talked about players for this spring.
I can almost guarantee at least once a week we will see how he is doing at the minor league level on ESPN, if not I'll be sure to keep my own tabs on him.
The scary thing scouts say though, is that he has exceeded expectations at every level.