I figured a post like this (and one looking at guys I’m worried about) would be a good topic as the season gets close. I’m not really sure if “breakout” is the word I’m looking for, but basically I’m putting together a list of 6 players (3 position players, 3 pitchers) who I feel will take steps forward in 2010. Either this means they are rebounding from a poor season, or they are going to surpass expectations this season. I won’t include guys on my Top 30 list, since I obviously feel highly about those guys anyway and I’ve discussed many of them at great length. I’m going to use this piece as a way to talk about a few guys that I maybe haven’t given as much time to. So check below and we’ll get started.
Let’s start with the position players.
Aaron Altherr, OF – I didn’t rank A² in my top 30, but he didn’t miss by much. He logged only 92 PA in his debut, and the surface numbers weren’t anything great, but I see a lot to like here. At 6’5/190, he already has a solid frame and should add more power/muscle over the next few years. He just turned 19 in January, so while he’s probably done growing vertically, I can definitely see him adding strength, enough so that he might develop at least average power, maybe even more. He also stole 6 bases in 7 attempts last year, so he has a little speed. He made a name for himself with his basketball skills in high school, which would lead you to believe he possesses excellent athleticism, and that should help him be at least an average or above defensive OF. Like most guys who played multiple sports in high school, he has a long way to go. He will likely head to Williamsport in 2010, a very pitcher friendly league, but I like his chances of putting on an impressive display and opening some eyes. He’s a guy I can easily see cracking my top 30 next year.
Ryan Bollinger, 1B – Bollinger, an obscure 47th round pick out of North Dakota, was a surprise signing, and I think he’s actually a nice sleeper at a position where we’ve really struggled. At 6’6/185, like Altherr, he has plenty of room to fill out physically and add muscle, and he’s actually a month younger than Altherr. His 3 slash line from 2009 doesn’t look great; .174/.240/.217 but it was only 25 AB’s. Growing up in a non-hotbed for baseball, he’s going to be behind some of the other guys developmentally, but hopefully he fills out physically and develops the power needed for the position.
D’Arby Myers, OF – Ahhh, D’Arby Myers. Remember when I was crazy high on him after his nice debut in 2006? It seems like ages ago. It’s hard to believe that he just turned 21 in December, and to me, that means he still has time. He spent 2009 at Lakewood, repeating the level, but at an appropriate age of 20. His numbers don’t look great; .270/.309/.381, but the .111 ISO was his best effort since his brief 2006 debut, and he stole 16 bases in 20 tries. In a system loaded with premium athletes and tools-laden prospects, its easy for Myers to get lost in the shuffle, but he’s the fastest player in the organization, and the tool set is still intriguing. There’s no doubt that he needs to produce in a big way in 2010, to put everything together, but if he does, he’ll prove to be quite a useful prospect going forward.
Now the pitchers
Nick Hernandez, LHP – I touched on Hernandez a bit in my top 30 writeup, and I’ll just kind of go over it again. He was an underachiever in college, never quite living up to expectations, which allowed him to slide to the Phillies in the 12th round. He was apparently ready to get his career going, and I was somewhat surprised he signed, as he had eligibility left and has the talent to be a top 6 rounds pick. But maybe that was the Phillies gain. As you can see, his delivery is very simple, which should allow him to repeat it consistently, which will help his command and control. His bread and butter is his changeup, and sometimes it seems fastball/changeup guys and metal bats simply don’t agree. His college numbers were ugly; 220 IP – 253 H – 73 BB – 177 K. But I like what I see. In his pro debut, he went 80 IP – 72 H – 20 BB – 67 K and allowed only 2 HR. His GB rate of 44% is passable, and his .306 BABIP indicates he wasn’t hugely lucky or anything like that. Of the 85 lefties he faced, he allowed only 1 extra base hit, a double, which is also promising. He turned 21 in late July, so he’ll be that age for the first half of 2010, and as a college guy, he could probably handle the jump to Clearwater. The more I think about it, the more I know who Hernandez reminds me of…….Jeff Francis. Watch videos of both and let me know if I’m onto something here.
Jon Pettibone, RHP – I left Pettibone off my top 30, but he was right on the edge. The Phillies made a significant investment in him, taking him in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft with an unprotected pick, and they eventually signed him for an above slot deal at the deadline. So far, he’s posted uneven results and hasn’t really taken off like some of the other arms in the system. His 2009 line is something of a mirage, as he posted a 5.35 ERA in 35.1 IP, but posted good peripherals, striking out more than a batter per inning with a somewhat manageable 4.1 BB/9 rate, and more importantly, 0 HR allowed. His DICE (component ERA, removing “luck” on balls in play) was 1.92, compared to his 5.35 ERA. His .349 BABIP is likely to normalize next season, especially at pitcher friendly Lakewood. He also managed a 49.6% GB rate in 2009, and was even better against lefties (53%), both of which bode well for future success. One of the youngest guys in the 2008 draft, he just turned 19 in July, meaning he will be young for his level at Lakewood. He’s thrown just 36 IP combined the last 2 years, so the Phillies will need to begin to ramp up his workload in 2010. I wouldn’t be shocked if he was kept in extended spring training and put on the “Trevor May Program”, showing up at Lakewood in late May and logging about 80 or 90 innings. If the Phillies are more aggressive, he could try and go the distance and end up in the 120 IP range, but that might be pushing things a bit. At 6’5/200, he has an ideal middle of the rotation starter frame, and hopefully durability that goes with it. 2010 should give us a great idea of what we have here.
Heitor Correa, RHP – I struggled to come up with a guy I really liked here, but I went back to a favorite from a few years ago in Correa. After missing all of 2008 through suspension, he came back in 2009 and was decent at Lakewood. Decent may be a stretch, as he didn’t miss a ton of bats (6.45/9) and didn’t show pinpoint control (3.63 BB/9), but the one stat that jumped out at me was the 55% GB rate. He managed to stay healthy and log 124 IP in 2009 after a lost season, which is promising. His main peripherals weren’t great, but he didn’t turn 20 until late August, so he’s still young enough to really be on the radar. He’s never posted big K numbers, but was always young for his level in 2006 and 2007, now that he’s moving up the ladder, he has to start missing bats. The groundballs are definitely a nice feature though, and hopefully something he can maintain. 2010 is a big year for him, like a number of guys on this list, as he needs to reward the organization for sticking with him and not dumping him after his off the field transgressions.