The Arizona Fall League will be getting underway shortly and the annual event will feature some of the top upper-level prospects in the game, including a plethora of sleepers and names you need to know. The Minnesota Twins organization has some of the best minor league pitching depth in the game and the club is sending four pitchers to play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs: Rob Delaney, Tim Lahey, Anthony Slama, and Jeff Manship.
Delaney was signed as a non-drafted free agent out of St. John’s University in 2006. The right-hander was rather hittable in college but has found minor league baseball to be pretty easy the past two seasons. In 2007, he began the year in A-ball and posted a 0.77 ERA in 46.2 games with 26 hits allowed (4.82 H/9), to go along with six walks (1.16 BB/9) and 56 strikeouts (10.80 K/9). He then posted a 1.54 ERA in 23.1 High-A innings. In 2008, Delaney started the year back in High-A before finishing in Double-A. His season stats included a 1.23 ERA in 66 innings with 44 hits allowed, along with 11 walks and 72 strikeouts. Right-handers hit just .113 against him at Double-A. Delaney’s best pitches are a low-90s fastball and a plus slider.
Tim Lahey was almost a Chicago Cub after being taken by the organization in the December 2007 Rule 5 draft. Lahey is the rawest of the four Twins pitchers in the AFL, as he was originally a catcher in pro ball before a conversion to the mound after his first pro season in 2004. Pitching at Triple-A in 2008, Lahey posted a 5.43 ERA in 63 innings and allowed 69 hits and 23 walks. He also struck out 53 batters and induced almost 1.5 ground ball outs per fly ball out. Left-handed batters hit .378 against him. Like Delaney, Lahey features a fastball and slider, but his heater has more sink when it’s on.
Anthony Slama was a 39th round draft pick out of the University of San Diego in 2006 and has come a long way in a short time. The right-hander features an 88-92 mph fastball, slider and plus change-up, which makes minor league hitters look foolish. After a debut season that saw him beat up on hitters in the low minors, Slama made High-A ball hitter look bad in 2008. He posted a 1.01 ERA in 71 innings with 43 hits and 24 walks allowed. He also whiffed 110 batters and induced more than 1.5 ground balls for every fly ball. Right-handers hit just .154 against him.
Jeff Manship is the most well-known of the four pitchers on the prospect landscape. He was a star pitcher at the University of Notre Dame and that got him drafted in the 14th round of the 2006 draft. Manship dominated the low minors and did not seem to have any difficulty with hitters until reaching Double-A midway through the 2008 season. In 76.2 innings, he allowed 90 hits and 24 walks with 62 strikeouts. Right-handers hit .311 against him at Double-A. Manship features a diverse repertoire with two fastballs (he works around 88-91 mph), a curveball, slider and change-up. Of the four pitchers headed to the AFL, he is the most likely to be a big league starter, although he projects as more of an innings-eating fourth starter.
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