After looking at the American League breakout candidates yesterday, we move on to the National League where pitching it the heavy theme.
It’s hard to call a top fifteen pick in the draft just a year ago a true breakout candidate, but I am highlighting Arizona’s Archie Bradley anyway. This kid has absolutely blown the doors off since signing last fall and I didn’t hesitate to ranking him number one overall in my Diamondbacks Top 15. He could make the “Taijuan Walker Leap” this year and be considered among not only the best pitching prospects in the Arizona system, but also in the game.
Also in the Arizona system, left-hander Pat Corbin has a chance to close the gap between he and the “big three” at the top of the system’s rankings. Corbin has really nice stuff from the left side and he showed a tick more velocity in spring training, giving him a true chance to turn his size and stuff into results this year.
The developmental path has been slower for Corbin than fellow lefty Tyler Skaggs, who also came over from Los Angeles in the Dan Haren trade. That said, Corbin has made progress each of the last two years and appears to be taking another step this year. While he doesn’t have the number two ceiling of Skaggs or right-hander Trevor Bauer, he could be a really nice number three starter with plus stuff.
I have not been shy with my praise for Atlanta catcher Christian Bethancourt, nor will I suddenly begin to be shy. Bethancourt jumped to Double-A Mississippi this year and while that assignment will be an extreme test for his raw offensive game, that doesn’t mean he can’t still breakout.
With power and insane defensive tools, Bethancourt can put on a show at any moment, in any game. At the Double-A level, when you stand out with more than one tool, people sit up and take notice, and I believe fans nationwide will be hearing a lot more about Bethancourt and his timetable to Atlanta by year’s end.
The Dodgers pushed shortstop Jake Lemmerman way too fast last year, jumping him from rookie ball in 2010 to High-A in 2011 and then subsequently shoving him up to Double-A at the end of the year. He floundered in 22 games with Double-A Chattanooga, but the shine shouldn’t be completely removed from his prospect star.
Lemmerman is good with the glove, makes decent contact and has the juice to pick up some doubles and 8-12 home runs a year. He’s returning to Double-A this year as a 23-year old and while he likely won’t post eye-popping numbers or suddenly start showing up as a top shortstop prospect, he should be on the Dodgers’ big league radar heading into next year.
Philadelphia right-hander Trevor May gets all the attention for his raw stuff and Julio Rodriguez posts the incredible numbers, but Jon Pettibone may end up being the best big-league starter of the bunch.
After a 2.96 ERA as a 20-year old in High-A last year, Pettibone is trying his hand against advanced hitters in the Eastern League this year. He offers solid-average to plus stuff across the board and an exceptional feel for pitching; almost mixing and matching some of the better attributes of May and Rodriguez.
Pettibone’s ceiling maxes out as a number three starter, but he could get to the big leagues at a young age and I believe the 2012 season will be his coming out party as a viable big league starter on a championship club.
While I touted Archie Bradley as being capable of making the “Taijuan Walker Leap” earlier in this piece, St. Louis righty Tyrell Jenkins is another player that could make a huge leap as a prospect. Like Walker, Jenkins is an astounding athlete that you can dream on forever.
The Cardinals have kept the training wheels on for the last two years but those are coming off with his full-season debut with Quad Cities. At the end of last year, Johnson City pitching coach Doug White noted that Jenkins “has everything you want in a starting pitcher, he just needs to do it every night.” With improved consistency, Jenkins could back up my faith in him after I ranked him very aggressively (53rd) in the 2012 Top 150 list.
Rounding out the quick look at the National League breakout candidates, I’m going to tackle one more pitcher with electrifying stuff and in dire need of consistency. San Diego right-hander Adys Portillo has been on the prospect radar since signing as a 16-year old in 2008, largely because of his present stuff and projectable frame.
He took “being on the radar” to another level with a strong fall instructional league performance and then stepped things up again by showing improved control of a mid- to upper-90s fastball this spring. He heads back to Low-A Fort Wayne for a second season there, but if his first two starts (10.2 IP, 2 H, 5 BB, 9 K, 0.84 ERA) are any indication, he could be moving to the California League quickly and could be among the Padres elite prospects at this time next year.
With the brief look at potential breakout candidates in the rear view mirror, tomorrow’s piece will take a bit of a different look at the minor leagues, identifying players that may be in the midst of a “make or break” season for their prospect status.