Prospect ranking season is here. Top 10 lists will be arriving shortly and in preparation for that, we present an intro series looking at some of the players who deserve mentioning but probably will not be appearing on their teams’ Top 10 lists. The series is back for a second year.
The Graduate: Daniel Bard, RHP
Although Bard did not hit the magical 50 innings-pitched mark to graduate as a rookie, he did spend enough time on the Major League roster to eliminate his rookie eligibility for 2010. The right-hander burst onto the MLB scene in ’09 but then stumbled later in the year. Overall, though, he had an excellent season by allowing just 41 hits in 49.1 innings of work. He also posted a strikeout rate of 11.49 K/9. Bard struggled a bit with his command – a chronic issue – with a 4.01 BB/9. For perhaps the first time, Boston fans have considered life after closer Jonathan Papelbon. The 24-year-old Bard posted a modest 0.8 WAR out of the ‘pen.
The Riser: Dustin Richardson, RHP
Richardson, miscast as a starter, moved to the bullpen in ’09 and found great success. The left-handed pitcher allowed just 42 hits in 63.1 innings of work and posted a strikeout rate of 11.37 K/9. He also made seven appearances in triple-A and made his MLB debut… which is pretty impressive considering how bad his numbers looked in ’08. Out of the ‘pen, Richardson shows an 89-94 fastball and a good slider. He needs to improve his control after posting a walk rate of 5.68 BB/9 and he’s an extreme fly-ball pitcher. In his career, he typically fares well against both right-handed and left-handed batters, but he posted a 15.92 K/9 rate against the same-side hitters in ’09. If he can continue to get right-handed batters out, Richardson has the stuff to work as a setup man.
The Tumbler: Michael Almanzar, 3B
Given a huge contract to sign as an international free agent prior to the ’08 season, Almanzar’s offensive numbers have been pretty poor. Luckily for the organization, he’s still just 18 years old. The third baseman hit .207/.261/.293 in 188 at-bats after beginning the year in low-A ball. He was then demoted to short-season ball where he hit .230/.288/.302 in 222 at-bats. The youngster needs a better approach at the plate, with low walk rates and high strikeout rates. He also posted an ISO under .100 on the year. Almanzar has been hurt by low BABIPs in his career, outside of his 23-game stretch in rookie ball in ’08, and he might need a little more focus at the plate with the bases empty (.208 average).
The ’10 Sleeper: Derrik Gibson, SS
A personal favorite of mine, Gibson had a nice first full season in pro ball in ’09. After a solid debut in ’08, the shortstop followed that up in short-season ball with a line of .290/.395/.380 in 255 at-bats. He doesn’t have a lot of power right now (.090 ISO) but he should grow into gap power. Right now, his value lies in his speed, and he stole 28 bases in 33 attempts. Gibson does a nice job of getting on base (13.3 BB%), which is nice to see in such a young player. The 19-year-old infielder also showed a promising strikeout rate at 16.5 K%.
Bonus: Nick Hagadone, LHP
In the ’08 series, Hagadone – who was coming off Tommy John surgery – was highlighted as the sleeper pick for ’09. He was having an encouraging return for Boston, although he was being used cautiously as he worked his way back from the injury. The 23-year-old pitcher made 10 starts in low-A but pitched just 25 innings. He was then traded to Cleveland in a deal for veteran catcher Victor Martinez. Hagadone made seven more starts for his new organization, but again was used sparingly and pitched just 20 innings. Overall, he showed a good fastball but he struggled with his command, which was something that also plagued him pre-surgery. The left-hander walked 24 batters in 45 innings on the year.