The World Series is behind us and the winter league meetings are at least a month away, but a few prospects will determine the success (or failure) of their major league clubs and a few of these guys are worth watching closely as the season progresses...
1. Sidney Gardner - 3B - Cincinnati Redlegs Revenge - Gardner was signed to a VERY large major league contract as a free agent after failing to come to terms with the team that drafted him in the amateur draft. Gardner has all the tools to be a superstar hitter, even if he has been labeled as a white-collar prima-donna looking to be a multi - millionaire. Expect Gardner to see significant playing time amidst a Cincinnati lineupthat is ready to claim a spot amongst the elite of their division.
2. Fernando Rodriguez - LF - Trenton Fire - Described as one of the best hitters to come out of the Dominican Republic, Rodriguez hit 51 homers as a 21 yr old in Trenton's AAA team. Rodriguez maywind up spending an extra year developing his power and ability to hit left-handers, but it will be more because of Trenton's World Series team's depth at the Major League level than because of lack of talent in Rodriguez' part.
3. Carlos Rosado - SP - Columbus Flatlanders - Rosado made 6 inconsistent starts down the stretch for the Flatlanders after going 13-6 for Columbus' AAA team. Rosado is highly talented, although he needs to develop his pitching repertoire and he may improve on his already excellent control and finesse. Rosado could make the difference in the Flatlanders' return to the postseason.
4. Chris Tobin - 1B - Columbus Flatlanders - Tobin is a professional power hitter that could carry a team offensively. Although his defensive skills would make him an ideal DH in the American League, Columbus hopes that his bat can make up for his glove. Tobin hit 56 HRs in AAA, earning an appearance in the AAA All-Star Team and being selected as league MVP.
5. Adam Phillips - SP - Colorado Colorado Crush - Adam Phillips can pitch. His knee-buckling curveball is flat-out unhittable, and while his curveball is major-league quality, developing an entourage of pitches to maximize its effectiveness has been the goal of his time in the minors. The 6-2 southpaw has the makings of being a durable major league starter: a control and finesse pitcher relying on wits and mixing pitches. He went 15-5 in AAA in season 11. Concerns about the effectiveness of control and finesse pitchers with a weak fastball in Colorado may result in Phillips spending more time in the minors or being traded to a pitching-friendly franchise. After 3 full seasons in AAA, Phillips development could use a promotion or a change of atmosphere.
6. George Crandall - SP -New Britain Bombers - The 20 year old prospect was Jmags' top ranking prospect in the Season 11 Prospect rankings. With only 2 minor league seasons and 242 innings under his belt, Crandall can use some time to mature and develop some stamina in the minors. Although he could be effective at the ML level, Crandall has the makings of a superstar if he reaches his full potential. Crandall has been playing Winter League baseball in the Dominican Republic for the Tigres del Licey and has dominated while focusing on his top two pitches.
7. Tomas Gonzalez - SP - Helena Handbaskets - The 19 yr old Gonzalez made 7 quality starts at the ML level after a late season promotion. He spent significant time in the Disabled List due to elbow tendinitis, and limiting him to roughly 100 innings between AAA and the ML level. While Gonzalez is considered a top prospect with pitching ace credentials if he matures as a pitcher, it is expected that Gonzalez will undergo "on the job training" at the Major League level as a top of the rotation stater with the Handbaskets.
8. Cozy Ponson - SP - El Paso Fighting Tacos - a former first round pick, Ponson had been an ace in the making after a quick ascent through the minors, until injuries derailed his development. Ponson probably will see 1-2 more seasons of seasoning and development in the minors, but if El Paso trades him to a non-contending team, he could be developing while mowing down hitters at the ML level.
9. Vic Cordero - SP - Portland Rain - Cordero struggled after a late season call-up to the majors and had some tough breaks as a starter for Portland's AAA team. If he gets over these struggles, Cordero will likely play a major role in Portland's pitching corps. Cordero lacks stamina to go deep into games that he starts, but Portland is hoping that will change after an offseason assignment to the winter leagues in his home country of Venezuela. With two dominant pitches, the key to his success will be the ability to mix and match his pitches.