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: Rick Porcello, RHP
The 20-year-old right-hander had an outstanding season based on his age and professional experience. He allowed a few too many hits and gave up his fair share of homers, but that’s nitpicking, really. Porcello showed good composure on the mound and produced a 54.2% ground-ball rate. His fastball averaged out at just 90.9 mph and he posted a strikeout rate of a mere 4.69 K/9, but Porcello has the ability to get strikeouts when he needs them. (Ask the Twins.) The sky is the limit for this kid who posted a 1.9 WAR before reaching the legal drinking age in the US.
The Riser: Luke Putkonen, RHP
Putkonen, a third round draft pick out of the University of North Carolina in ’07, had a solid season in double-A this past season. The right-hander allowed 148 hits in 149.1 innings of work, while showing solid control with a walk rate of 2.83 BB/9. He also posted a strikeout rate of 6.93 K/9. Impressively, Putkonen allowed just three homers all year (0.18 HR/9) while pitching in low-A. Although his fastball sits around 90 mph, the 23-year-old gets excellent sink on it and he allowed a ground-ball rate of 57%. He also has a slider, curveball and change-up. Why he spent the entire year in low-A ball at his age is beyond me. Putkonen could settle in as a back-of-the-rotation starter or as a solid reliever.
The Tumbler: Cale Iorg, SS
The Tigers gave Iorg a lot of money to sign for over-slot as a sixth round draft pick in 2007. The club has yet to see much of a return on its investment. The infielder reached double-A in ’09 but he hit just .222/.274/.336 in 491 at-bats. Iorg struck out 30.3% of the time, which is way, way too high for anyone… and especially a hitter with an ISO of .114. He shows some speed on the bases, but he was caught seven times in 20 attempts. Defensively, he makes his share of errors, but Iorg has solid range at shortstop.
The ’10 Sleeper: Melvin Mercedes, RHP
It’s no secret that the Tigers organization likes hard-throwing relievers and Mercedes is just one more in a long line. The right-hander made his North American debut in ’09 in rookie ball, and he flashed an 89-94 mph fastball and an intriguing slider. In 24.2 innings, the 19-year-old allowed just 19 hits and did not give up a homer. His ground-ball rate of 68.9% was awesome, but it was also a small sample size. On the downside, his control needs work as he posted a walk rate of 5.11 BB/9.
Bonus: Brandon Hamilton, RHP
Hamilton was highlighted as a possible breakout candidate during the ’08 minor league review of the system. Unfortunately, the right-hander had a rough year in low-A ball. The 7.09 ERA in 99.0 innings jumps out right away, but he was hurt by bad luck and poor defense; his FIP was 5.15. Hamilton needs to throw more strikes after posting a walk rate of 5.55 BB/9. He showcased an 88-92 mph fastball, a good curveball and a change-up. Hamilton was a supplemental first round draft pick out of an Alabama high school in ’07.