Friday, March 27, 2009

Top 10 Australian prospects playing in the United States

From my world of baseball, come the top-10 Australian prospects playing in the states. Australians playing in the majors has a long history, as Jack Quinn, back in the 1880's, was the first Aussie, and first non-European foreigner to play in the states. There was a big lull for 80 years, but the Aussies are firmly entrenched in the bigs, and are among the baseball playing nations in the world. Even if the average citizen there doesn't realize it yet. I still say they got jobbed in the pool bracket. But that's just my opinion.

1. Luke Hughes 3B, Twins - He put himself on the prospect map with a solid .319 season in AA. When promoted to AAA the average stayed at a respectable .283. He was also able to combine for 18 homeruns. Injuries have prevented him from showcasing his talent. The power should increase as he adjusts better to pitches and improves his patience at the plate to wait for his pitch rather than the pitchers pitch. While he played third base most of last year he may have to move to left field. He needs a lot of work to make it as a third baseman, with hands too hard for the position. But if he can enhance his power he can make it as a left fielder.

2. Drew Naylor RHP, Phillies - He made the Phillies 40 man roster this year. At 6′4″ he has good size for a pitcher, with a fastball that sits in the high 80s but can travel in the low 90s. His curveball is a solid second pitch. He needs to improve his changeup if he wants a third pitch to make it as a starter. Because he is not overpowering he also has to show command of his pitches so as not to deposit too many pitches up in the bleachers. Drew had a lot more success in Low A (2.99) than High A (4.85) but he progressed enough that he should find himself in AA in 2009, just an injury away from making the Phillies rotation.

3. Shane Lindsay RHP, Rockies - Lindsay has been saddled with injuries the last couple years, including a torn labrum. The Rockies were forced to put him on the 40-man roster this year when he lit up the Arizona League with a high 90s fastball. That was shades of 2005, when he was 6-1, 1.85 in 13 starts with Tri City to win the pitcher of the year award. Shane has a knuckle curve and inconsistent changeup as his other pitchers and needs to improve on them to make his fastball more effective. He also needs to stay out of bars as he had a tendency to do, finding himself in a barroom brawl that resulted in a broken hand that forced him to miss a good portion of the 2008 season.

4. Matt Kennelly C, Brewers - He’s not going to get a lot of playing time as long as Brian McCann is a fixture at catcher but he’s only twenty so if he plays well some team will want him. He teamed with brother Tim Kennelly to help Perth win the Claxton Shield this year, though his bat didn’t really wake up until the playoffs (.148 during the qualifying rounds, .333 in the playoffs). He’s got offensive potential and tossed out 57% of the baserunners who tried to steal against him. His defense is there and his offense needs to catch up and when it does he will be ready for the major leagues.

5. Mitch Dening OF, Red Sox - He has not hit below .300 in his first two minor league seasons in the United States, with his slugging percentage improving from .375 to .471 from 2007 to 2008. As he learns to pull the ball he will hit for more homeruns. There is nothing great about his defense, but he is not lacking there as well. He probably doesn’t have the range to play centerfield on a consistent basis, but his arm is good enough for right field. He will have to hit for more power to be a good fit for that position.

6. Brad Harmon Utl, Phillies - He’s got a tough job ahead of him with Jimmie Rollins at shortstop and Chase Utley at second. He does not have the power bat to fit for third. Both Pedro Feliz and Chase Utley may not be healthy enough to start the season so Brad will compete with Jason Donald to start at either of those positions. He does not have the consistentcy to play short. His best position appears to be second base, but he will not unseat Chase Utley at that position. Brad will have to hope for a trade or be satisfied with a utility position.

7. Rich Thompson RHP, Angels - Rich made his major league debut in 2007 and in seven games finished with an ERA of 10.80. He got another opportunity in 2008 and in two appearances finished at 22.50. That leaves a career mark at 13.50. He’ll have to improve on that if he wants another major league opportunity. His fastball hits 94 but at 25 this year his best bet is for a long relief job or as an emergency starter. He doesn’t have the overpwoering stuff to fit at the front end of a rotation or survive as a key cog in the bullpen.

8. Brendan Wise RHP, Tigers - Brendan was the closer for Perth in the Claxton Shield and led all relievers in saves. He was critical to their championship run. Brendan is not your typical closer, relying more on his command than an overpowering fastball to get hitters out. He was used exclusivly out of the pen last year, appearing in 48 games and finishing with a combined ERA of 3.74 in 48 games. He still needs to find a pitch that gets lefthanded hitters out consistently.

9. Brad Tippett RHP, Twins - He is a John Stephens clone, with a fastball that sits comfortably in the mid 80s and rarely reaches into the 90s. His best pitch is a change up and though he is a righthanded pitcher in 2007 lefthanded hitters went 0 for 36 against him with 19 strikeouts. He wasn’t quite as successful against lefthanded bats this year but 8-3, 2.55 in 14 starts got him a promotion to Low A.

10. Travis Blackley LHP, Diamondbacks - He recently signed with the Diamondbacks as a free agent after a successful stint in the Mexican League, finishing 2-3 with a 4.24 ERA in 12 appearances and ten starts. He traveled to Australia to participate in the Claxton Shield where he combined with his brother Adam to lead the Victoria Aces to a second place finish. His most impressive season was in 2003, when he won 17 games and finished with an ERA of 2.61 with 144 strikeouts. That success got him a month in the major leagues in 2004, but in six starts he finished 1-3, 10.04, getting returned to the minor leagues where he ended his year with arm soreness. Travis had to have shoulder sugery in 2005 and he has been battling his way back up again.

The Phillie's seem to have the leg up on Oz, and pitching seems to be the strength. But lots of good players. Some of these names will be familiar, as they are not really prospects anymore, but are in the bigs.

They have Kennelly, the catcher, listed with the Brewers, but he is actually a Braves farmhand.

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