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Disappointing 2011 Prospects: NL Central

Milwaukee Brewers
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Mark Rogers, RHP

An all-out run at the National League Central division worked out well for the big league club in 2011 but it wreaked havoc on the organization’s minor league system. The Top 10 list was weak to begin with but it was further decimated by trades for pitchers Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum. Rogers became the No. 1 prospect in the system at the beginning of the season by default. His ’11 season was disrupted by injuries, a trend that has become far too commonplace. He was diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and had surgery on both his wrists. To make matters worse, Rogers also incured a 25-game suspension for testing positive for an illegal substance (His second such suspension). The former No. 1 prospect battled back from multiple surgeries to become the feel good story of 2010 but it appears headed for a serious re-write.

St. Louis Cardinals
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Seth Blair, RHP

A supplemental first round pick of the Cardinals in 2010, Blair has been a top prospect since his prep days. He’s always struggled with his control and command but they both took big steps back during his first pro season. Blair posted a 5.71 FIP (5.29 ERA) and watched his walk rate balloon to 6.83 BB/9 in 81.2 innings of work. When he’s commanding his fastball, he can induce his fair share of ground-ball outs and rack up the strikeouts. He’ll continue to gain experience out of the starting rotation but his future likely lies in the bullpen.

Cincinnati Reds
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Drew Cicsco, RHP

When you go out on a limb with a prospect’s ranking, it’s always great to see his season end before it starts. That’s exactly what happened with Cisco, who blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. The good news is that he should be back pitching in minor league games by mid-season. The down side is that he’ll probably open the year in short-season ball and his timetable has been pushed back significantly. Although Cisco has a modest ceiling (third starter), he has great bloodlines, which will hopefully help him realize his potential.

Pittsburgh Pirates
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Stetson Allie, RHP

Allie and organization-mate Jameson Taillon were considered by many to be the Top 2 prep arms available in the 2010 draft and signability concerns with the former allowed him to slip to the top of the second round. Not nearly as advanced as Taillon, Allie displayed horrible control issues with a 10.04 BB/9 but he still managed to whiff a boatload of hitters (9.69 K/9). There are those who saw him as a future reliever even during his prep days but he has a lot of work to do to find the plate on a consistent basis. If he can adjust, Allie has the raw ingredients to be a high-leverage reliever.

Houston Astros
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Delino DeShields Jr., 2B

A former first round draft pick like his father, DeShields Jr. also struggled earlier in his pro career like his dad. The speedy Astros prospect was over-matched during his first full pro season in A-ball. As expected, he didn’t hit for much power (.102 ISO) but he also didn’t post much in terms of average (.222). If we’re looking for positives, he posted a respectable walk rate (9.6 BB%), especially for someone that needs to get on base to use his best tool – his wheels. Despite his raw speed, DeShields needs to work on his base running and reading of the pitchers because was was nabbed 11 times in 41 tries. Defensively, he moved from center field to second base and made 23 errors.

Chicago Cubs
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Josh Vitters, 3B; Hayden Simpson, RHP

I can’t decide who disappointed me more in 2011 so I’m going to touch on both Vitters and Simpson – two former No. 1 draft picks. Vitters continues to tease prospect watchers with flashes of potential with the bat. He has a nice swing but his approach leaves a lot to be desired and he has yet to connect two and two together to make four when it comes to the underlying cause for his offensive struggles (the lack of patience and his inability to work the count to gain favorable pitches to hit). Yes, his overall offensive numbers look better in ’11 but not significantly so and his glove work at third base suggests a move to first base could be in the cards, which will put even more pressure on his bat.

The organization went out on a very thin, brittle limb when it took Simpson with the 16th-overall pick of the 2010 draft. Considered by most as a huge over-draft, the right-hander never really recovered from a nasty case of mononucleosis that caused him to lose about 20 pounds (and he wasn’t a big guy to begin with). His fastball reportedly sat in the low-to-mid 80s during while pitching this past season. A college draftee, Simpson will turn 23 towards the end of May in 2012 so time is not on his side. He didn’t get out of low-A ball in ’11 and might have to return there next season.