Revisiting the Top 60: 36-40

With the minor league season completed, RC is busy putting together this year's Top 60 prospect list, which should be released in mid-December. First, however, it is useful to take a look back at last year's Top 60 prospects. Who took a step forward? Who took a step back? Who should have been ranked higher? Today we take a look at prospects 36-40 on last year's list

40. Blake Johnson, RHP

2009 Club: NW Arkansas Naturals

Stats (combined)
G: 24
IP: 122.0
ERA: 4.57
W: 8
L: 8
SV: 0
SO: 61
BB: 41
H: 148
HR: 11
AVG: .305

In 2007, Blake Johnson emerged as one of the Royals' most intriguing right-handed pitching prospects. Unfortunately, for the second straight year, the 24-year old struggled in the Texas League, going 8-8 with a 4.57 ERA. Johnson was again entirely too hittable, as opposing batters roughed him up to the tune of a .305 batting average. Even more discouraging, his other peripherals also dropped, as he issued more walks while striking out fewer hitters.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Blessed with an athletic 6-foot-5 frame and a solid three pitch repertoire, Johnson certainly has the tools to be successful. Unfortunately, the success he had in A-ball is getting further away in the rearview mirror, and he's running out of time as a prospect. As it stands, Johnson is not likely to be on this year's Top 60.

39. Paulo Orlando, OF

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks

AB: 356
BA: .261
OBP: .303
SLG: .351
HR: 2
2B: 20
3B: 3
BB: 15
SO: 80
SB: 20
CS: 5

We were intrigued by Orlando's power/speed combination when the Royals acquired him for Horacio Ramirez in 2008. The young outfielder slammed 12 home runs in the Carolina League between Winston-Salem and Wilmington last year, along with 14 triples and 29 stolen bases. Unfortunately, only the speed showed up in 2009, as Orlando hit just two home runs and three triples on the season while repeating the level. He also drew just 15 walks on the season, against 80 strikeouts, and his batting average remained flat at .261.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
A native of Brazil, Orlando is still a very raw player, but we hoped to see more progress in 2009. As it stands, Orlando is now 24-years old, and the chances of a breakthrough are rapidly diminishing. He still has outstanding athleticism, but he is unlikely to appear on this year's Top 60.

38. Giancarlo De La Cruz, RHP

2009 Club: DSL Royals

G: 9
IP: 34.1
ERA: 3.41
W: 1
L: 2
SV: 1
SO: 38
BB: 11
H: 32
HR: 0
AVG: .246

Hmmm. "Giancarlo De La Cruz" in 2008 was a 19-year-old pitcher who showed a lot of promise after being named the Royals Dominican Summer League Pitcher of the Year in 2007. He struggled a bit with the Burlington Royals last year, but he showed flashes of becoming a good pitcher, and we were particularly impressed by his changeup. Unfortunately, De La Cruz didn't show up in the American minor leagues in 2009, and his old player page now links to that of 23-year-old Dominican pitcher on the restricted list named Aristides Santos. We haven't heard the story, so we have no further comment, but neither De La Cruz nor Santos will appear on this year's Top 60.

37. Mario Santiago, RHP

2009 Club: Wilmington Blue Rocks

G: 25
IP: 136.0
ERA: 4.30
W: 6
L: 13
SV: 0
SO: 97
BB: 34
H: 159
HR: 8
AVG: .298

After Santiago pitched a full season for Wilmington in 2008, going 8-8 with a 3.43 ERA, we were a bit surprised to see him return to the Blue Rocks in 2009. Unfortunately, the 24-year-old right-hander seemed to regress while repeating High-A, and he finished the season with a 6-13 record and a 4.30 ERA. Most troubling, Carolina League hitters batted .298 against him on the season, an average that would have tied teammate Clint Robinson for the league's batting title. Santiago did increase his strikeouts while maintaining a low walk rate, and he held right handed batters to a .259 batting average after the same group hit .307 against him last season.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
We were hopeful that Santiago would develop some useful secondary stuff to complement his big league fastball and frame, but the results in 2009 were mixed. Because of his size and his fastball, he remains an interesting prospect, but 2010 figures to be a true "make it or break it" season for him. Santiago may remain near the back end of this year's top 60, but he's definitely on the bubble.

36. Brent Fisher, LHP

2009 Club: Burlington Bees, AZL Royals

Stats (not including rehab assignment)
G: 4
IP: 16.0
ERA: 6.19
W: 0
L: 2
SV: 0
SO: 11
BB: 8
H: 24
HR: 1
AVG: .343

The word, which we have not yet independently verified, is that Fisher retired. Armed with a deceptive fastball and an excellent curveball, Fisher was once one of the top southpaws in the organization. Unfortunately, he was plagued by injuries for the last three seasons.

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