Robert Carson: Carson enters his fourth year on the farm in a position to assert himself as a leading left-handed starter in the organization. Carson had a very solid 2009 season in Savannah and will be off to St. Lucie as a 21-year-old. Yes, Carson's strikeout-to-walk splits and K/9 IP ratio slipped during the second half of the season, but he gutted out tough stretches with good pitching because of command and strong pitchability. The Florida State League will be a strong barometer for Carson.
Kyle Allen: Allen is a ahead of the curve for his age and level as he heads off to St. Lucie as a 20-year-old with plenty of promise. A strong fastball/changeup combination gives him a good base to work from. The development of his slider is what will elevate Allen from this category and confirm Allen as a top pitching prospect in the organization. A strong start in St. Lucie and a possible shot at Binghamton will make Allen a sleeper no more.
Eric Beaulac: Beaulac's ceiling is a bit more limited due to an underdeveloped changeup which may ultimately move him to the bullpen as soon as the second half of 2010. However, Beaulac's fastball/slider combination should play well in a relief role, especially if he can get a tick or two of added, consistent velocity on his 89-91 MPH fastball.
Brant Rustich: Rustich possesses some of the best stuff in the entire organization, but a history of arm troubles has left many question marks hovering over Rustich. When healthy, he has the chance to become a very fast riser. A mid-90s fastball and power slider can make Rustich a plus reliever out of the bullpen, but it's a matter of his arm coming back to full strength before he can reach such status.
Eric Niesen: Niesen received beneficial time in camp with an invitation to the big league side. That experience should pay off for Niesen who continues to work on keeping things simple and not over-thinking his approach. Niesen's low-90s fastball and tightly spinning slider can help him land a spot in the big league bullpen. Finding greater consistency at the higher levels will determine if Niesen can get there.
Scott Moviel: Moviel worked back into form in the second half of the season following a setback from meniscus surgery. The growth of his slider and consistency of his mechanics will be important steps for Moviel to increase the depth and consistency of his repertoire at higher levels. His changeup is still fringy at times, but the movement of his fastball and slider give him enough to keep hitters honest.
Eduardo Aldama: Aldama is a young, slight right-hander with a good pop on his 90-92 MPH fastball and a rapidly improving changeup to back it up. Aldama, 20, should be off to Savannah where he will have a chance to log innings and improve a solid but inconsistent curveball. He is young and fairly unpolished, but a strong 2010 season in the South Atlantic League will raise his stock.
Ryan Coultas: Coultas is certainly older than the rest of the pitching prospects in this series and he is fighting his way back from a labrum injury. But Coultas could quickly make his mark if he comes back healthy and effective. Coultas' fastball sits 91-93 MPH and he features one of the best changeups in the system. Throw in an increasingly reliable breaking ball and Coultas could enter the discussion as a future bullpen option.
Scott Shaw: Shaw does not have an overpowering fastball, one that ranges anywhere from 88-91 MPH, but when he pitches confidently with it he becomes a much deeper and effective pitcher. It is no accident that Shaw's splits last season relied heavily on his use and trust of his fastball. Shaw possesses two very effective breaking pitches and a consistent changeup with plenty of movement, but the fastball will be the x-factor in his future success.
Armando Rodriguez: Rodriguez is this publication's pick to click in 2010. Scouts and coaches have championed Rodriguez's arm strength, his 93-95 MPH fastball and slider that could quickly a true power pitch. Rodriguez was impressive in Kingsport and followed up with an eye-opening Instructional League season. Rodriguez is a definitive sleeper in 2010 and should open more eyes with a move to full-season ball.
Closest To The Big Leagues
Tobi Stoner: Stoner received opportunities to pitch in big league camp during Spring Training, and though the stat sheets showed mix results, Stoner's performance was important for one reason: confidence. Stoner's pitching further improved his strong stock within the organization and raised belief that he can handle a work load as a starter or reliever if/when the situation presents itself.
Jon Niese: Niese remains a significant part of the formula for the starting rotation early in 2010. Reports coming out of camp last month indicated that Niese may not be ready for Opening Day, but coaches have long trusted Niese's quick rehabbing abilities. Those may get him in the rotation in April if not the first turn through the rotation. Either way, Niese will be in the starting five at some point early this season.
Dillon Gee: Gee returns from a labrum injury and leg injuries that set back his rehab late last summer. Gee will return to Triple-A and restart the hot pace he was in 2008 before his shoulder injury shut him down early in 2009. Gee's command and plus changeup could get him a look in 2010 if the situation presents itself.
Jenrry Mejia: Plenty of superlatives have been thrown around regarding Mejia this spring, including comparing his stuff to that of Mariano Rivera. Now, in the interest of keeping expectations in check, Mejia is a supremely talented player with a live arm that appears ready to break through at the big league in 2010. The question is when.
That will be determined by who has final say. The big league staff's campaign to have Mejia open on the 25-man could out-influence word from the system coaches who believe he needs some more seasoning. Either way, Mejia is a impact, big league arm in the very near future.
Brad Holt: Holt is battling his way back from bumps in the road during the 2009 season. Mechanics and consistency with his secondary pitches are the two focal points that will have a significant say in his success this season. Holt's path to the big leagues has certainly been extended beyond Mejia's, but Holt possesses a live arm, high velocity and the stuff to pitch in a big league rotation. Now he needs to put his tools together.
Jeurys Familia: Familia is still a bit of a raw commodity, but the 20-year-old right-hander is coming on strong. Familia establishes his game with his low to mid-90s fastball with plenty of movement and a sharp, late-breaking slider in the mid-80s. He still has work to do with the changeup, but the speed in which he developed his slider creates confidence that his changeup should come along in plenty of time.
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