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September 17, 2009
Great Leaps Forward, NL
Arizona Diamondbacks: A 15th-round pick in 2007, right-hander Josh Collmenter continued to prove he can miss bats at High-A, striking out 152 over 145
Atlanta Braves: After struggling with some minor shoulder problems last year, southpaw Jose Ortegano got better as the season rolled on, finishing with a 2.83 ERA in eight Double-A starts to end the year. Venezuelan, left-handed, and possessing a plus change, his Myrtle Beach teammates jokingly called him "Santana Dos."
Chicago Cubs: Outfielder Kyler Burke always had intriguing size and athleticism, and those qualities began to translate into performance on the field with a .303/.405/.505 line at Low-A Peoria that also involved his chipping in 15 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and 78 walks. If some of his 43 doubles turn into home runs, look out.
Cincinnati Reds: A second-round pick in 2005 who had all but fallen off the radar after a pair of mediocre seasons (at best), Travis Wood is a short, stocky lefty whose best pitch is a changeup, but he was one of the best pitchers in the minors this year, compiling a 1.77 ERA in 27 starts between Double- and Triple-A.
Colorado Rockies: There was some mystery as to how Christian Friedrich slipped to the 25th overall pick in last year's draft, and now teams are wondering why they passed on him, as he's now one of the top left-handed prospects in the game. With a 2.41 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 119
Florida Marlins: A ninth-round pick last year, lefty reliever Dan Jennings moved up to Double-A in his full-season debut without allowing a run over the final month of the season. A classic sinker/slider pitcher, Jennings doesn't blow hitters away, but he gave up just one home run in 45 appearances with a ground-ball ratio of two to one.
Houston Astros: A supplemental first-round pick last year, right-hander Jordan Lyles ran out of gas a bit at the end of the year, but still finished with a 3.24 ERA at Low-A Lexington with a whopping 167 strikeouts in 144
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers have always been enamored with outfielder Trayvon Robinson's tools, and he finally repaid that faith with a big year, finishing the year at Double-A with an overall line of .300/.373/.493 that included 17 home runs and 47 stolen bases.Runner-up: Shortstop Dee Gordon was even better than expected in his full-season debut, earning Midwest League co-MVP honors while scoring 96 runs in 131 games while batting .301 with 12 triples and 73 stolen bases. The scary part is that all of his scouting reports emphasize just how raw he still is.
Milwaukee Brewers: A third-round pick in 2008, Logan Schafer became one of the better outfield prospects in the system with a .313/.369/.446 line at High-A Brevard County while showcasing gap power, a good feel for contact and outstanding defense.
New York Mets: Catcher Josh Thole proved that last year's .300 batting average in the Florida State League was no fluke by improving to .328/.395/.422 at Double-A this season. Employing a patient approach while spraying line drives all over the field, he's being given a long look this September to see if he can become the favorite for the everyday job in the big leagues in 2010.
Philadelphia Phillies: Held back in extended spring training to begin the year, 2008 fourth-round pick Trevor May finished the year as one of the top pitching prospects in the system, allowing just three earned runs over 25 innings in his last five starts and finishing the year with a 2.56 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 77
Pittsburgh Pirates: A 2006 draft-and-follow who had done little until this year, southpaw Rudy Owens had a 2.10 ERA in 25 starts between Low- and High-A this year while walking just 17 batters in 124 innings. With a thick build, outstanding command of both an average to plus-velocity fastball and an outstanding changeup, the scouting reports matched the results.
St. Louis Cardinals: While his defense forced a move to the outfield to keep him from competing for the open third-base job, Allen Craig made a statement for 2010 with his bat at Triple-A Memphis, batting .322/.374/.547 while leading the organization with 26 home runs. In 51 games after the All-Star break, he hit a remarkable .405/.449/.764 with 18 bombs in 195 at-bats.
San Diego Padres: On a squad stacked with big prospects from the 2008 draft that ended up with the best team record in the minors, little-known right-hander Simon Castro might have ended up the best prospect of them all. A 6-foot-5, 21-year-old Dominican with plus-plus velocity and sharp command, Castro whiffed 157 over 140
San Francisco Giants: Outfielder Thomas Neal improved his approach at the plate while also quieting his swing, leading to a breakout year at High-A San Jose with a .337/.431/.579 batting line. Scouts are definitely intrigued by his ability to hit for average with plus power.
Washington Nationals: All but off of everyone's radar, shortstop Ian Desmond reclaimed his prospect status by batting .330/.401/.477 between Double- and Triple-A to earn his first big-league callup, where he's gone 10-for-17 in four games. It's easy to forget that he'll still be just 24 years old next year, and he'll likely win an everyday job in the middle infield.