A healthy Matt Bush on the mound is a terrific prospect. With a fastball that site in the mid-90s and a back breaking curveball, Bush has elite stuff that had him on the fast track after failed attempts as a shortstop. He has toned things down and has matured well. Both traits should serve him well in his recovery. His stuff is good enough that it earned him a 40-man roster spot. He has a solid delivery and the ball comes easy out of his arm. Bush does not need to overthrow to be effective, as he will still hit 95 mph. Bush would have landed in the top 10 if he was healthy.
The left-hander knew he would be able to pitch this spring and underwent surgery after a breakout season. He has a terrific changeup that gets hitters swinging over the top of the ball and a fastball that sits 88-90 mph. Viloria is also a very confident pitcher and has room to project in terms of velocity. His grasp of the English language is terrific and that puts him ahead of the game. His endurance is still a question mark but another quality year would have put him in the 13-17 range.
Schmidt has pitched just a handful of innings since being selected in the first-round of the 2007 MLB Draft. He is back pitching in the Dominican Instructional League after getting a few turns stateside in Peoria's instructs. When healthy, the left-hander has a fastball that hangs in the low-90s with a solid assortment of off-speed pitches – including a plus changeup. He had some control problems in college but should iron out those issues as a professional. He would have fit nicely in the 19-21 range.
The right-hander battled confidence issues in 2007 and missed all of 2008 due to injury. Prior to going on the shelf, he had a bounce-back Instructional League and learned a lot about himself and the game. Hussey has an average fastball that has shown plus ability at times, but he has forsaken velocity for accuracy. Hussey's best pitch is his curveball – a plus offering – but he seldom used it in 2007. If he can put together the right pitch sequences and work ahead in the count, Hussey is one to watch. Slotting him in the 33-35 range would have been easy.
Startup is a true competitor that attacks the zone and is not afraid to work inside. His slider improved tremendously over the past two years with much sharper break to become a true plus pitch. He has an unconventional delivery with a high leg kick that confounds hitters and his fastball gets on hitters before they are ready. Startup works a curveball into righties but will need to improve the command of the pitch for it to be effective. Startup may not have even qualified as a rookie, as San Diego likely would be his home. Putting him in the 38-40 range would have been easy.
Voted Most Improved Player at the Padres 2008 Instructional League, Payne showed the traits that got him selected high in the 2007 MLB Draft. He missed a large chunk of the season due to leg ailments and has not been able to get into a rhythm. A patient hitter with a line drive stroke, Payne will rack up the on-base percentage while adding some thievery skills on the base paths. If he swings the stick like he did at instructs, Payne will place nicely in the 47-49 area on the prospect rankings.
A bulldog on the hill, the diminutive lefty has terrific mound presence and makeup to go with an advanced feel for pitch sequencing. He was having a terrific season until a left elbow strain ended his campaign. Not afraid to pitch inside, Harrington doesn't have overpowering stuff but makes up for it with his moxie and killer instinct. His changeup has become a plus pitch after not throwing the pitch in his first season. Harrington slotted in the 53-55 range would have been ideal.
With the Dominican Summer League academy opening late, some prospects were playing catch up and Perez may have tried too hard to get into mid-season form – suffering an injury and missing the season. When healthy, he sits in the low-90s and can touch 94 mph. He has a solid curveball and is working on the changeup. Perez has a closer's mentality and could become a household name in 2009.
Elbow problems forced Jamison to the sidelines, despite a solid start to the year. Jamison features an almost sidearm angle with his throwing motion and has a solid slider that he uses as an out-pitch. With solid control of a fastball that is more movement than velocity, he can be a tough pitcher to face, especially for right-handed hitters. He does need a pitch that will consistently get left-handers out.
Rotator cuff surgery ended his 2008 season before it began and the right-hander is on the mend. He has not hit the projections since being drafted and his velocity has hovered in the mid-80s. Strengthening his arm has been a mandate and Mead should benefit from it. Without a blazing fastball, he has less room for error and pitches up in the zone will be crushed. If he can add a few ticks, he gains margin and may become more effective.
Pitching in just two games this season, Hudgins has continually seen setbacks. Elbow injuries have become the norm and there is no telling what road he will have to travel. He was on the path to the big leagues before injuries derailed his progress and now it will be a dogfight to get close. A diligent worker, Hudgins has the pedigree to make the comeback. Finding his arsenal will be tricky. When healthy, he has a plus changeup and a high-80s fastball that will touch 90-92 mph.
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