The ROI 100 - The Pitchers
The ROI (Return On Investment) 100 is a different sort of prospect list. Most lists attempt to measure the likely futures and ceilings of the next generation of stars in raw baseball terms. The ROI 100, on the other hand, focuses solely on fantasy league economic upside, and attempts to measure the profit a player might return both in the short-term (the 2012 season) and long-term (over the length of a typical roto contract). As such, fantasy priorities such as stolen bases and saves, not to mention the simple opportunity for playing time, are given more weight than on some more traditional prospect lists, and if I don't think a player has a chance of providing value during that period, he isn't on the list at all regardless of his standing as a 'real' prospect. The over-riding principle here is a basic inflationary rule: a dollar earned in 2012 is worth more than a dollar earned down the road.
Part one listed the top 50 hitters; part two covers the top 50 pitching prospects. A full top 100 ranking, as well as AL-only and NL-only lists, will follow.
Disclaimer: Past performance does not guarantee future results. Prospect values and investment returns will fluctuate. This article is not intended to provide specific individual advice including, without reservation, investment, financial, legal, accounting, or rotisserie.
1. Matt Moore, TB: I gave serious thought to putting Darvish at the top of this list but a few things kept Moore in the number one spot, namely the fact that he'll likely have a slightly lower price tag and that Darvish will be dealing with both an unwelcoming home environment (both in terms of how the stadium plays, and how he holds up under the Texas summer heat) and an adjustment to North America. Moore has the AL East to contend with, of course, but that's not enough to put him behind the Japanese import. Moore's deep, impressive arsenal and skill set need no introduction at this point, but in case you haven't looked at his actual numbers recently he posted a 210:46 K:BB between Double-A and Triple-A last season in 155 innings. As a 21-year-old. Ridiculous.
2. Yu Darvish, Tex: The latest Japanese pitching hero could end up being the best of the bunch, which to be fair isn't that high a bar to clear. He doesn't have Daisuke Matsuzaka's control issues, though, and like Moore he's got a nasty array of pitches that he for the most part can put where he wants to. If he were a North American prospect he'd have everything you want in a power pitcher, including easy mechanics and an athletic build, and he arrives in a Rangers uniform in what should be the prime of his career. The adjustment to life in North America isn't an easy one, and the Texas heat could wear him down as the season goes on, but if any Japanese starting pitcher is going to live up to the hype it'll be Darvish. I'm not betting against him.
3. Danny Hultzen, Sea: The drop-off from the top two is steep, but that doesn't mean Hultzen is a bum. He's a very polished college lefty with a killer mid-90s fastball/changeup combo that he combines with a vicious but erratic slider and impressive command. There could be an adjustment period to the pros but then again, there might not be (he breezed through his Arizona Fall League stint like it was no big thang), and the Mariners didn't rule out the possibility of having him break camp in the big league rotation, although he'll begin his pro career in Double-A. It seems to be a question of when, not if, he pitches in Seattle this season, and having Safeco as a safety net for any rookie mistakes he might make gives his fantasy owners that little extra piece of mind.
4. Julio Teheran, Atl: Teheran was 20 years old when he made his big league debut last season and while he got smacked around a bit he didn't look completely out of place, which is in itself a fantastic achievement. His raw stuff is big league ready (evil fastball that touches 97 mph, wicked changeup, and a work-in-progress curve that merely rates as annoying right now but could eventually become sinister) but his inexperience and command issues could hold him back for a bit. The Braves have a good recent track record with their young pitchers though (Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy being the prime examples), and if they think he's ready he probably is.
5. Trevor Bauer, Ari: His college teammate Gerrit Cole lights up the radar gun like a Christmas tree and went higher in the draft, but Bauer is the guy I'd be hitching my wagon to. His low-90s fastball has great movement and he can pump it up to 96 when he needs to, and his arsenal of breaking pitches is just unfair. Take your pick: he's got a plus curve, a changeup that flashes plus, a very good slider and a splitter he can mix in when he's feeling spiteful. More than all that though, what sets Bauer apart is the mental aspect of his game. His work ethic and composure are off the charts, and his understanding of how to pitch is shocking for a player who just stepped off an NCAA mound. Pitching in Arizona will do him no favors and his control could be sharper, but it may not be long before he's the unquestioned ace of the Diamondbacks rotation.
6. Shelby Miller, StL: Miller is behind the other pitchers ahead of him on the ROI only because his timetable has him reaching the majors slightly after them. He's got ace written all over him: mid-90s fastball, hammer curve, and a developing changeup that's already flashing plus. He had no trouble with Double-A as a 20-year-old last season, and while the Cardinals would probably like to see a little more maturity out of him his work ethic isn't in question. With Chris Carpenter maybe able to see the end of the road from where he is, the top of the rotation torch will be passed to Miller in short order.
7. Addison Reed, ChW: Reed did something very few pitchers have probably ever done in baseball history. After being drafted in the third round in 2010, he rocketed his way through the entire White Sox system, making a stop at every rung on the minor league ladder from Rookie ball to Triple-A... and posting a K/9 ratio of better than 11.0 at every stop (his "worst" ratio was an 11.8 K/9 in 21.1 Triple-A innings). Even when he got to the majors last September he still struck out 12 batters while walking only one in 7.1 innings. With Sergio Santos now in Toronto the Sox have an opening at closer, and while perennial candidate Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain are expected to get the first looks, it's hard not to read the Santos deal as anything other than the club making room for Reed at the back of their bullpen. If anyone's going to be this year's Craig Kimbrel, it's going to be this guy.
8. Jacob Turner, Det: The Tigers are so predictable. After fast-tracking Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello to the majors, they swore up and down that they were going to be patient with Turner. Apparently "patient" meant "we'll wait a whole four months before promoting him to the bigs". He was all of 20 years old and got killed, but that was to be expected. Now a grizzled 21, he was kept out of the Tigers Opening Day rotation only by a bit of shoulder soreness in the spring. He doesn't have premium raw stuff, but he's got excellent control and command of a low-90s sinker that he can push to 95 when he needs to, and his curve and changeup figure to be quality offerings down the road. Like Porcello the strikeouts may not be there right away, but if he takes 30+ turns in the rotation that Detroit offense could get him plenty of wins.
9. Matt Harvey, NYM: Harvey was a first round pick in 2010 who transitioned to the pros from college very smoothly, putting up K/9, BB/9 and HR/9 rates at Double-A comparable to what he rang up at UNC. He's got the requisite nasty mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, and a curve and changeup that both still require some work but should end up as solid offerings. His control is good although his command could be a little sharper, but those are things that should round into shape with more pro innings under his belt. He may not have a regular rotation spot until 2013, but with two legitimate out pitches his strikeout potential is very juicy.
10. Tyler Skaggs, Ari: Skaggs became a projectability poster boy last season, emerging as a minor league strikeout king with a fastball that can touch 94 and a criminally unfair hammer curve. His changeup still needs some polish but figures to be at least average, and the really scary part is that he may find another couple of mph yet as he continues to develop and smooth out the rough edges. He's poised on the mound, and the only thing stopping him from being the Diamondbacks' future ace is that they drafted Trevor Bauer to fill that role. Skaggs may have to settle for being one of the best young #2 starters in the NL instead.
11. Drew Pomeranz, Col: Pomeranz profiles very similarly to Skaggs. Both are hard-throwing lefties with curves that can make grown men cry, and changeups that should be at least average. Pomeranz throws a little harder right now and is a bit closer to having a regular major league gig, but his control and command aren't quite as good. Don't be worried by the time he lost last season, or his velocity drop upon his return - he came back early from an appendectomy, so it's no surprise his stuff wasn't quite up to snuff.
12. Jarrod Parker, Oak: Parker made a mostly successful return from Tommy John surgery last season, and was one of the A's big offseason prizes in the latest chapter in their ongoing fire sale. His velocity made its expected return, and he can mix a four-seamer that touches 97 mph with a sinking low 90s two-seamer and a work-in-progress changeup to baffle hitters with three gears when everything is in synch. He was tentative with his slider when he first got back on the mound, but seemed to trust his ability to throw it again as the season progressed, which is a good thing as it's a potentially plus offering as well. He was a strikeout-an-inning pitcher in the minors before his injury, and given the depth and quality of his arsenal there's no reason to think he can't get back to that level again someday.
13. Randall Delgado, Atl: His control isn't where you'd like it, but otherwise Delgado has an enviable arsenal with a fastball that can reach 97 mph and a good curve and changeup, although neither offspeed pitch is plus. He's not quite as good a prospect as Teheran, but Arodys Vizcaino's Tommy John surgery removes any doubt that Delgado owns the two spot among Atlanta's legion of young arms.
14. Manny Banuelos, NYY: His control slipped in 2011, but Banuelos is still knocking on the door of the Yankees' rotation and the win bonanza that would entail. He's another fastball/curve/changeup lefty, and while none of the three pitches are exceptional all three should be very good. He needs a little more polish, but the Yanks in recent seasons haven't been afraid to promote their kids when the time comes, and the time is coming very soon for Banuelos
15. Brad Peacock, Oak: Peacock went from being a good prospect who underperformed his scouting report to a very good prospect with numbers to match in 2011, finding an extra gear with his fastball and refining his changeup enough to be a useful third pitch. Now in the Oakland system, he's got a solid chance to win a big league job sometime this season, if not right out of camp, and should quickly join Parker at the top of the list of guys Oakland trades away for more prospects if they can't get a new stadium already.
16. Wily Peralta, Mil: Peralta opened a lot of eyes with five outstanding starts at Triple-A at the end of last season, and he's put himself firmly in position for a spot in the Brewers rotation sooner rather than later. His fastball sits comfortably in the 92-94 mph range, although he can squeeze another couple of mph out of it when he needs to, and his slider and changeup are both solid offerings as well. He likely won't be an ace, but could be a solid mid-rotation guy in a strong organization.
17. Martin Perez, Tex: Perez has as much talent as any left-handed prospect out there, but things aren't coming together for him quite as quickly as the Rangers hoped (or that you'd expect based on how aggressively they've promoted him). When everything's working for him he's got a plus fastball that he can jack up to 95 mph, a plus changeup and a potentially plus curve. The problem is, no one seems to know until the ball leaves him hand whether everything's working for him or not. Start to start, inning to inning his ability to harness all those plus offerings wavers, and whether that's due to his physical maturity, mental toughness or something else entirely is anybody's guess right now. He's got as high a ceiling as just about any of the pitchers ahead of him, but also a lot more risk until he starts smoothing out the variance in his performance.
18. Dellin Betances, NYY: Stuff-wise, Betances has everything you'd want in a power pitching prospect, with a heavy fastball that can touch 96 mph, a hard hammer curve and a changeup that's more than adequate for the purpose. His mechanics are still a work in progress though (to be charitable) and that leads to him losing effectiveness at times, as well as a worrisome injury history. He's likely to be a boom or bust prospect who either figures things out enough to crack the Yankees rotation and put up some big win, big K seasons, or one who breaks down and never comes close to reaching his potential. There's also a non-zero chance he moves to the bullpen to try and keep him healthy and becomes Mo Rivera's heir apparent, a role that could also have a tremendous fantasy payoff.
19. James Paxton, Sea: Paxton had a lot of lost time to make up for after draft shenanigans in 2009 prevented him from returning to college the following season, but he's done that and more. His fastball still pops 97 mph on occasion and his curveball is pure evil genius, but he's worked his changeup to nearly passable levels and his mechanics (and subsequently his control and command) are improved. He still has a lot of work to do in that department though, which puts him behind Hultzen on the Mariners' depth chart, but it wouldn't take much more improvement for him to become a rotation mainstay in Seattle.
20. Jake Odorizzi, KC: The big prize in the Zack Greinke deal, Odorizzi has developed into a player seemingly on the verge of the majors. He won't be an ace, but his low-90s fastball now creeps up to 96 and he's got a plus curve and workable slider and changeup to complement it. His control is solid but his command within the zone is a work in progress, as he leaves too many hittable pitches up in the zone. He's the kind of pitcher who will likely get a rude awakening in his major league debut, but he's got the work ethic to correct his mistakes after he makes them, and he could come into his own just as the Royals' offense does.
21. Robbie Erlin, SD: No, that K:BB is not a typo. Erlin posted a ridiculous 154:16 ratio in the minors last season, and while his changeup is a true plus-plus pitch it's his command and control that are his biggest weapons. His fastball is decent enough and his curve is solid, and he profiles as more than just a finesse lefty. The biggest worry with Erlin as a Rangers prospect was his propensity to serve up homers, but the trade to the Padres magically provided a cure for that issue the moment he takes the mound at Petco. He won't get enough strikeouts to be a top fantasy pitcher, but he could be an ERA and WHIP monster.
22. Jeurys Familia, NYM: High-90s sinking fastballs with natural life are a thing of beauty, and they make Familia a top prospect despite the fact that he has a worrying injury history, control issues and secondary pitches that remain rough. His slider shows potential though, and his future role depends entirely on whether it and his changeup can become at least adequate. If so, he could become a very intriguing starting pitcher. If not, the bullpen and a possible closing role beckon.
23. Nestor Molina, ChW: A converted third baseman, Molina broke out big-time in the Jays' system last year and became arguably the White Sox' best pitching prospect as soon as he joined the club in the Sergio Santos deal. For a pitcher with limited innings under his belt, Molina's control and command are unreal, especially with his low-90s fastball. His splitter is also a dangerous weapon, and if he can sharpen his slider and/or changeup to the point of at least being consistently adequate he could have a very bright future as a starter. Even if those pitches don't come around though, his ability to spot his fastball where and when he wants will serve him well in the majors.
24. Sonny Gray, Oak: Owner of the best curveball in the 2011 draft, Gray fell a bit (and right into the A's laps at the #18 pick) due to concerns about his stature and ability to hold up as a starter. He's not a one-trick pony on the mound though, as his fastball can also hit 96 mph when he cranks it up, although it's probably a better pitch in the low 90s due to the movement he loses when he overthrows it. He needs to polish up his changeup, a pitch he basically never had to use in college, but he's got the makeup to thrive once he's got some pro experience under his belt. He's behind Parker and Peacock on the depth chart right now and could be anywhere from six months to a year behind their timetables, but it's not out of the question that he eventually becomes a better pitch than either of them.
25. Jarred Cosart, Hou: Cosart might be one of the most frustrating prospects in baseball. His upside is off the charts: he has a mid-90s fastball that he can crank up to just shy of triple digits with apparent ease, and a curve and changeup that both flash plus or even plus-plus if you catch him on the right night. Ah, but therein lies the rub. Those right nights have been few and far between, and his mechanics and focus on the mound are far from being major league ready. He's got the swagger to close if need be, but given his potential that will likely be a last resort for the Astros. There's no way to predict a timetable here; it could all click tomorrow and he could be Houston's ace by August, or he could put up three more inconsistent minor league seasons before finally carving out a regular big league gig.
26. Neil Ramirez, Tex: If it hadn't been for some mildly worrying midseason shoulder soreness, Ramirez might have ranked a bit higher on the list. He came into his own last season, improving his control enough to make his mid-90s fastball, plus curve and developing changeup all play up to their capabilities. His command still needs work, as does his endurance and general fitness level (which likely played into his shoulder trouble) but assuming there's no long-term damage to the joint and that he starts taking his job as a pro a bit more seriously, he'll be knocking on the door of the Rangers' rotation sometime this summer. At what point they actually have room for him is another question entirely, of course, but a trade probably wouldn't be the worst thing for his fantasy prospects.
27. Joe Wieland, SD: Wieland has a similar profile to Robbie Erlin, but as a righty who relies on command more than raw stuff he's a bit less impressive. He's got a solid four-pitch arsenal (low 90s fastball, curve, slider, changeup) but none of the pitches are true plus, and his K/9 rate sagged noticeably at Double-A last year. Expect him to wind up as an inning-chewing back-of-the-rotation guy, but pitching in San Diego gives that kind of starter some nice fantasy potential provided the offense can get him some wins.
28. Drew Hutchison, Tor: Hutchison emerged as a real prospect last season, mixing a low 90s fastball, superior changeup and rapidly improving slider to great effect thanks to big league-caliber command. His ratios didn't suffer at all as he marched up the ladder, even in a late-season audition at Double-A, and it wouldn't be out of the question to see him in a Jays uniform by the end of the season if he continues producing at his 2011 level. He's got a slight build though and there are some stamina concerns, and the organization may shut him down for the year rather than overextending him. The AL East is a buzzsaw of a division too, so don't expect immediate returns if he does get the early call. Hutchison's future looks bright though.
29. Zack Wheeler, NYM: Wheeler's got a classic power pitcher profile with a fastball that touches 98 mph and a true 12-to-6 power curve, but the package still needs some polish before he'll be major-league ready. He improved his control last season but command is another issue, and his changeup is still a work in progress. He showed signs in 2011 of getting it on the mound though, learning how to take a bit off his fastball to give it more movement and he's never had a problem keeping the ball in the park. If it all comes together he'll be a true four category fantasy ace, but don't expect him to provide any returns until at least 2013.
30. Trevor May, Phi: May is the best pitcher the Phillies have left in their pipeline, combining three quality offerings (low 90s fastball with good movement, big slow curve and a solid changeup) with rapidly improving command that give him the look of a dependable mid-rotation starter, or even a bit better if he can maintain his K/9 rate as he moves up. He faded down the stretch last season though, and his endurance and mechanics both need work before he'll be ready for the majors. The Phillies' organization is both a blessing and a curse for a pitching prospect, as he should get great support when he does break into the rotation but the club will be in no rush to bring him up. A 2013 seems about right if May continues developing at his current pace.
31. Deck McGuire, Tor: McGuire barely batted an eye as he transitioned from college to the pros, maintaining strong K:BB and K/9 ratios even in Double-A and showing all the calm, confidence and command that made him stand out on the mound at Georgia Tech. His low 90s fastball isn't special, but his slider is plus and his changeup nearly so, and he also doesn't embarrass himself with his curve. The only real worry in his profile is his tendency to serve up homers, which isn't the best flaw to have if you're planning on facing the Yankees and Red Sox on a frequent basis, but he should be able to minimize the damage and eventually become an adept inning-crunching mid-rotation stalwart.
32. Gerrit Cole, Pit: Cole flat out should not be this low on the list. His fastball hits triple digits. His slider has so much movement in the zone it almost seems to teleport. Even his changeup has flashed plus on occasion. He's a college-trained pitcher, shouldn't need too much minor league seasoning... so why is he buried in the 30s instead of up in the top 5 with his UCLA teammate Bauer? Because for whatever reason (and there are a few theories) that top-shelf, elite arsenal simply doesn't produce top-shelf, elite results. Some scouts point to an arm angle and delivery that don't offer enough deception, but how much deception do you need when you're throwing raw stuff that good? My personal belief is that he's never really buckled down and focused before, on the mound or off it. He's too talented to have faced any real difficulty as a pitcher, but that talent has also allowed him to, well, 'coast' is too strong a word, but he's gotten as far as he has without really having to work too hard at it. Simply put, I like Bauer a lot more because Bauer is much further ahead of him in the mental aspects of pitching. At some point the light bulb will hopefully go off for Cole and he'll become one of the absolute best in the game, but if and when that happens is impossible to predict, and until then the fact that AJ Burnett joined the Pirates organization about the same time he did is not what I'd call a good omen. As a fantasy asset Cole makes me nervous, and I believe his stock price is too high at the moment.
33. Casey Kelly, SD: Speaking of pitchers whose results don't match their arsenals, in 2011 Kelly continued to post K/9 rates not at all in line with a guy who featured both a plus fastball (a nasty low-90s sinker with lots of action) and a curve that very nearly counts as plus as well. His changeup is also solid, but the numbers (both is statistical terms and on radar guns) remain inconsistent and he simply hasn't pitched like a top pitching prospect yet. He was rushed by the Red Sox though, and if the Padres treat him a little more gently and let him get more experience and more innings before moving him up to the big league rotation there's a reasonable chance he'll finally start to harness his full potential.
34. Kelvin Herrera, KC: Let the Closer of the Future Parade begin. Herrera earned a spot on the list in his own right, featuring an overpowering high-90s fastball and excellent changeup, but Joakim Soria's breakdown suddenly throws the Royals' closer picture wide open. Greg Holland and Jonathan Broxton might get first cracks, and Aaron Crow could also be in the mix if the club gives up on the idea of him starting, but Herrera has classic closer stuff and he could push his way into the saves mix with a quick start to the season.
35. Carlos Martinez, StL: Martinez's full-season debut went very well, as he rode his crooked high-90s fastball all the way to High-A. His need to improve his control and work on his secondary pitches got exposed at that point, but his curve already flashes plus (although at this point, not often enough) and his changeup shows potential. The Cardinals want him starting, but the lack of refinement on his offspeed stuff and his skinny whippet frame may point to a future in relief rather than in the rotation, especially a year or two from now if the Cards once again find themselves in a playoff race and need some quick reinforcements for their bullpen.
36. Mike Montgomery, KC: Montgomery looked like the best pitching prospect on the planet in the early part of 2010, but since then the shine on his star has dimmed considerably. The raw stuff was still there (mid-90s fastball, plus curve, near-plus changeup) last year but whether the problems are mechanical, physical or mental he had major trouble with his control and command, and with maintaining his stuff from game to game and even inning to inning. There were some encouraging signs in the final months of 2011, and if the pieces come back together he could rocket his way into the Royals' rotation in a hurry, but he's got some things to prove before he'll still climbing back up prospect rankings.
37. Brad Boxberger, SD: Boxberger's first full season as a reliever went very well, well enough that he was one of the prospects the Padres plucked from the Reds in the Mat Latos deal. His mid-90s fastball moves like Jagger and he mostly uses a very good slider as his offspeed pitch, although he'll still mix in an occasional curve or changeup for effect. His control and command need refinement, but landing in San Diego gives him a clear run at a big league closing gig, as Huston Street isn't expected to be in town for long. His main competition for the job will likely come from former Cub Andrew Cashner and the winner might come down to whichever of them can stay healthy, and the advantage there would seem to be Boxberger's.
38. Andrew Oliver, Det: Oliver lost the plot a bit in 2011, failing to improve his control or his secondary pitches and even regressing in some areas. He still features a low-90s fastball that can touch 96 and when everything's in synch he looks like a major league starter, but times when everything was in synch were few and far between last year. The Tigers still have a formidable offense and a defense that really needs pitchers to miss bats, so if Oliver can show some forward momentum in his career again there will be a big league rotation spot waiting for him. He could also end up as one of those lefties who never puts it together though.
39. Hisashi Iwakuma, Sea: Iwakuma was expected to come over and join the Mariners' rotation, pitching in a very forgiving stadium and for one of the few organizations that's had consistent success with Japanese imports. Something happened on the way to a solid MLB debut though, and after a lackluster spring he'll begin the year in the bullpen instead. It may just be a case of needing an adjustment period, but he dealt with shoulder issues last season and was having trouble hitting 90 mph with his fastball in the Cactus League so there are real concerns. As an extreme groundball pitcher he doesn't need plus velocity to survive though, and the non-King Felix portion of Seattle's rotation looks like what you'd find left at a yard sale at three pm on a Sunday, so it won't take much improvement on Iwakuma's part to move out of long relief and into a more fantasy-friendly role.
40. Alex Colome, TB: Colome is tantalizing close to the majors, but at the same time remains a significant distance away. His fastball is at least plus, featuring great movement and touching 98 mph, and while he'll also show a plus curve, usable changeup and decent slider he's not yet able to harness that arsenal with any consistency. The Rays are a patient club, and they won't rush Colome until they think he's ready (and maybe not even then). If his breaking pitches don't ripen the bullpen and a shot at closing is also a possibility, but that decision is still at least a few months away.
41. Chad Bettis, Col: Bettis worked mostly out of the bullpen in college but was converted to full-time starting by the Rockies, and while the results have been excellent so far his relieving background still shows. Even in the rotation Bettis can still crank his fastball up to 98 mph, although it loses movement when he does, and his slider is a plus offering as well. He mixes in a curve and changeup, but neither offspeed pitch is anything close to being ready at this point. If the change, especially, clicks he could make rapid progress through the system and be in the Rockies' rotation by 2013, but if not his eventual role might be back in the bullpen. The upside is certainly there, but his uncertain role and the prospect of pitching at altitude keep him from a higher placement.
42. Allen Webster, LAD: Webster's got some very nice tools in his belt, featuring a mid-90s sinker and wipeout changeup as well as clean, repeatable mechanics that give him a string foundation for excellent control and command down the road. As yet though he doesn't throw anything too crooked, as his curve and slider are both rough works in progress, and that lack of a reliable breaking ball caught up to him at Double-A last season. The Dodgers will need to be patient with him, but assuming he does add a solid third pitch to his arsenal he should be a nice rotation building block behind Clayton Kershaw.
43. Eric Surkamp, SF: Surkamp is a classic finesse lefty, with a fastball that barely inches over 90 mph but and ability to do almost anything he wants with it, as well as a very good slow curve and changeup. He struggles in his first exposure to the majors, which seemed to be due to a lack of confidence in his ability rather than a lack of major league-quality stuff, and he'll start the year at Triple-A waiting for another call. He doesn't have massive upside and won't ever be a big strikeout guy, but as a change-of-pace starter alongside Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner he could have some decent value if he gets the chance.
44. Heath Hembree, SF: Hembree is another future closer, combining a mid-90s fastball with good life and a nasty slider, and while his control leaves something to be desired he's struck out 100 batters in 64.1 innings so far in his minor league career. With Brian Wilson showing signs of breaking down, Hembree could get the nod to replace him sooner than you might think.
45. Nick Hagadone, Cle: As a lefty Hagadone has a tougher path to closing, but in terms of pure stuff he's got the goods to succeed in the role. His fastball reaches 97 mph and while his slider isn't as consistent as you'd like it's still a genuine plus pitch when it's working. Six walks in 11 big league innings aside he has made great progress with his control, and he looks like a great bet to supply lots of late-inning K's for the Indians over the next few seasons. Ask Matt Thornton and Mike Gonzalez whether that's good enough to lock down a closer job, though.
46. Tom Milone, Oak: Yes, scouts still hate his stuff, labeling it "fringy" and "limited". Yes, he still gets the ball by minor league hitters with ever-increasing regularity despite a fastball that averaged under 88 mph last year. Yes, he looked just fine in a late audition with Washington and yes, the A's have little to lose by seeing if his smoke and mirrors act can be effective in the big leagues ever after clubs get second and third looks at him. His biggest strength is impeccable control and command, aided by a deceptive delivery, and while none of his four pitches are plus if he were left-handed no one would bat an eye at his arsenal. Don't be overly shocked if he spits in the eyes of scouts and carves out a decent little career for himself.
47. Alexander Torres, TB: Torres probably has a higher upside than his teammate Colome. His fastball has wicked life in the low-90s and he can push it to 95 mph when required, and he adds in a plus curve and changeup as well. The problem is he doesn't always know where those pitches are going. His mechanics are a bit of a mess, which gives him great difficulty in simply repeating his motion with any consistency, and his small stature and max effort delivery have some folks worried about future injury issues, and/or an eventual move to the bullpen. He's a high-reward, high-risk pick.
48. Chad James, Mia: James has evolved into a potential mid-rotation solid citizen rather than a future ace. His fastball has eroded to the low 90s and he now uses a good but not great slider as a breaking ball instead of the curve that looked so good in college, but his changeup is also a solid offering and he controls all three pitches. There's upside here if he can find his lost velocity or the feel for his curve again, but even the current version of James looks to be a pitcher who can have some success in the majors. Peg him for a 2013 ETA if he can pass the Double-A test this season.
49. Garrett Richards, LAA: The Angels have very little in the pipeline when it comes to pitching, but Richards is close enough to the majors to be interesting. He's got a very nice heavy fastball that can touch 97 mph and has made great strides with his slider and changeup. His command can also be very good, but he fell apart and back into bad habits in a major league trial last season, and the way his K/9 rate plummeted at Double-A isn't encouraging either. He's got a shot at breaking camp in the rotation though, and so long as he doesn't fall flat on his face again the possibility of having the Angels' offense supporting him gives him some decent fantasy upside, even if he turns out to be nothing more than a mid-rotation innings sponge.
50. John Lamb, KC: Lamb is recovering from Tommy John surgery after breaking down last June, and a strong comeback would put him on the fast-track to the majors. Heading into 2011 he featured a lively fastball that hit 95 mph, a lethal changeup and a solid curveball as a breaking pitch, as well as very good control and command. How much and how quickly all those assets return will be something the Royals watch with bated breath, as most of their prized pitching prospects from the last couple of years seem to have fallen by the wayside on their journey to Kansas City. If you can get him cheaply though, Lamb's upside makes him an entirely reasonable investment even without knowing yet whether he'll make it all the way back.