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: Ricky Romero, LHP
A former top draft pick, Romero finally realized his potential in ’09 after making mechanical adjustments during spring training. The southpaw, who just recently turned 25 years old, gave up a lot of hits (192 in 178.0 innings), but he posted a strikeout rate of 7.13 K/9 and did a nice job of inducing ground balls with a rate of 54%. Romero was not as sharp in the second half of the year, but he also battled some nagging injuries.
The Riser: Tim Collins, LHP
Collins was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of high school because he stands just 5’6” or so. The left-hander can still get his heater into the low 90s, though, and he couples that with a nice curveball. In high-A ball in ’09, the 20-year-old hurler allowed 47 hits in 64.2 innings of work. He struggles a bit with his control (3.90 BB/9), but he posted a strikeout rate of 13.78 K/9 and his rate has never dipped below 10.50 in three seasons. Because of his diminutive size, Collins is likely limited to the bullpen. At worst he should be a Major League loogy, as he posted a 0.95 WHIP against left-handed hitters in ’09.
The Tumbler: Kevin Ahrens, 3B
The Jays’ top pick out of high school in ’07, Ahrens has struggled with his bat throughout his pro career. In ’09, he hit just .215/.282/.302 in 377 at-bats in high-A ball. His .088 ISO will definitely not cut it at third base. His batting line was hindered by his .259 BABIP. Ahrens, a switch-hitter, batted just .212/.287/.283 against right-handers. On the plus side, the prospect is just 20 years old, so time is on his side. Ahrens will most definitely repeat high-A ball in 2010.
The ’10 Sleeper: Carlos Pina, LHP
Pina, a left-handed pitcher, generates a lot of ground balls (69.0%) and he can hit the low-90s with his fastball. The 19-year-old hurler made his North American debut in ’09 and allowed just 46 hits in 51.2 innings of work. He showed good control too, with a walk rate of 2.79 BB/9. The ground-ball pitcher posted a strikeout rate of 6.10 K/9, and that should rise as he improves his command of his entire repertoire, which includes a slider and change-up. Pina’s 1.57 ERA was misleading, as his FIP was 3.39.
Bonus: Brad Emaus, 2B
Highlighted as a sleeper entering ’09, Emaus slipped a bit despite hitting very well in last fall’s Hawaii Winter Baseball league. The second baseman struggled in double-A and posted a line of .253/.336/.376 with an ISO of .123 in 505 at-bats. The 23-year-old infielder did have a reasonable walk rate at 10.5% and his strikeout rate was nice at 13.7%. His overall numbers were definitely affected by a batting average of just .122 in June. Emaus should improve upon his .277 BABIP in 2010, although he could open the season back in double-A.