Myworld’s Top Bullpen Prospects

These are pitchers that will not be starters in the major leagues.  Usually, they lack a third pitch or durability concerns put them in the bullpen.  Most of the pitchers here have already been dedicated to the bullpen with their minor league work.  Our last two position pieces will be top lefthanded starters and top righthanded starters.

1. Addison Reed RHP (White Sox) United States - Some have already annoited him the closer for the White Sox in 2012.  He was the third round pick in 2010 but myworld would have drafted him higher based on what we saw of him at San Diego State.  He was the closer for Stephen Strasburg when he was a sophmore and saved 20 games with a 0.65 ERA.  The next year he replaced Strasburg as the number one starter for the Aztecs going 8-2, 2.50.  He has the nice fastball that hits the high 90s with a hard slider that gets lots of swings and misses.  The White Sox have moved him up the ladder quickly, giving him a September callup where he struck out 12 in seven innings.  What is cause for concern is the .313 opposition average.  That should be an anomaly since in his rise up the minor league ladder the opposition has never hit him at greater than a .200 clip.

2. Arodys Vizcaino RHP (Atlanta Braves) Dominican Republic - He has the stuff to be a starter with a mid-90s fastball, curveball and change.  The Braves seem to have a surplus of starting pitching so they have worked Vizcaino out of the bullpen when he was promoted to the major leagues.  He had some elbow issues in 2010 that limited his starts so the Braves could have concerns with his durability.  He struggled against major league hitters (4.67 ERA) because his command was not as sharp as when he pitched in the minor leagues.  He walked 9 hitters in 17 innings, a rate that is twice as high as what he did in the minors.  The Braves already have Craig Kimbrel as their closer so the best Vizcaino can hope for is a setup job.  Depending on how the starting pitching shakes out Vizcaino could find himself back in the starting rotation.

3.Eduardo Sanchez RHP (Cardinals) Venezuela - He gets bonus points for already having success in the major leagues (1.80).  It took the Cardinals until close to mid-season to find Eduardo as their closer, but they lost him just as quickly to shoulder problems that made him unavailable for the playoffs.  Jason Motte took over the closer role once Sanchez was unavaialbe and it will be hard to take the role back.  Eduardo throws in the mid 90s, hitting all corners of the plate.  It will be interesting what kind of impact the shoulder soreness has on the velocity and command of his fastball.  While his major league numbers are impressive, his minor league numbers are a little more pedestrian.  Hitters will make adjustments and it will be interesting to see how he responds to those adjustments.  He made three appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League, but had a little bit of rust, walking three hitters in three innings.

4. Rafael Dolis RHP (Cubs) Dominican Republic - Rafael has a fastball that hits three digits.  He also has a nice slider that drops to the plate traveling in the mid-80s.  What makes him a bit troubling on the mound is his lack of command.  He also has some pretty poor strikeouts per nine innings pitched.  You would not expect a pitcher with triple digits in the fastball to only strikeout seven hitters per nine innings pitched.  His low strikeouts to nine innings pitched average dropped even further when he was moved to the bullpen in 2011 to six whiffs per nine innings pitched.  The Cubs are in a rebuilding process so Rafael has an opportunity to win their closer job if he can improve his command.

5. Philippe Aumont RHP (Phillies) Canada - The Mariners drafted him in the first round of the 2007 draft.  After injuries to his arm drew concerns about his durability the Mariners moved him to the bullpen.  He was included in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to the Mariners.  The Phillies moved him back to the rotation where his 7.43 ERA at Reading appeared indicative of the success he would have as a starter.  He was moved back to the bullpen for the 2011 season where he seemed to thrive.  His fastball travels in the high 90s and he mixes in a good curveball.  One of his biggest challenges to being a closer is his inability to throw the ball over the plate, whether in relief or in the starting rotation.  He has averaged more than a walk per two innings pitched.

6. Nick Hagadone LHP (Indians) United States - The Red Sox made Nick a number one supplemental pick in the 2007 draft.  After Tommy John surgery the Red Sox included him, Justin Masterson and Bryan Price in a trade for Victor Martinez.  Nick has worked himself slowly up the Indians ladder.  He was moved to the bullpen for the 2011 season.  For a lefthander his velocity is impressive in the high 90s, with a slider he can mix in that will get him a lot of swings and misses.  At 26 years of age he has nothing further to prove in the minor leagues.  He made his major league debut in the 2011 season, getting nine appearances for a 4.09 ERA.  Like most young pitchers that get promoted, he nibbled, walking six batters in his 11 innings of major league work.

7. Matt Bush RHP (Rays) United States - If that name sounds familiar Matt was a first round pick by the Padres as a shortstop in 2005.  There were some maturity issues and the Padres sold him to the Rays in 2009 after the Padres moved him to the mound and he missed all of 2008 because of Tommy John surgery.  One of his strengths as a shortstop was his strong arm.  He couldn’t hit a lick as a shortstop, so the Rays kept him in the bullpen and watched his fastball consistently hit the mid-90s.  He also has a nice curveball that when mixed with his fastball resulted in a 13.8 whiffs per nine innings.  He will probably start the season in AAA, but a good minor league season will see him promoted to the Rays in 2012.

8. Dan Klein RHP (Orioles) United States - Myworld thought the Orioles did a good job of getting Klein for a third round pick in 2010.  We liked him when we saw him pitch a few games for UCLA in the College World Series.  He doesn’t have the velocity in his fastball that the others on this list have, but he throws his changeup so well that the fastball looks like it has more velocity.  He would be higher on this list if he didn’t have shoulder surgery that ended his 2011 season early.  It was his second shoulder surgery in three years.  He will probably miss most of the 2012 season as well and at 24 next year he needs to rise quickly.  Prior to the surgery it appeared that he was doing that with his promotion to Bowie.  He has a career 0.93 ERA in the minor leagues before his surgery, with the opposition hitting him at only a .174 clip.  He also consistently struck out more than a batter per inning pitched with excellent command.

9. Cole Kimball RHP (Nationals) United States - The Nationals tried to sneak him through waivers due to a 40 man roster numbers game, but the Blue Jays snagged him.  The Blue Jays had to put him on waivers and the Nationals reclaimed him.  Cole throws a mid-90s fastball, mixing in a splitter and curve.  He made his major league debut in 2011 with a 1.93 ERA.  With those kind of numbers you have to wonder why the Nationals would even put him through waivers.  For one, he had to have roator cuff surgery, one of the most difficult surgeries to come back from.  A second reason is his lack of command and coming back from shoulder surgery will make improving that command even more difficult.  He walked as many hitters as he struck out with the Nationals (11) in 14 innings of work, but that wildness resulted in a .174 opposition average.  Hitters can’t get comfortable at the plate against him.

10. Brad Boxberger RHP (Padres) United States - His value increased substanially when he was traded to the Padres.  Relief pitchers seem to have tremendous success in San Diego, and why not, when they are pitching their games in the Grand Canyon of a ball park.  Like Dan Klein, Brad lacks the velocity of the other pitchers on this list, sitting more in the low 90s but occasionally hitting the mid-90s.  He also throws a slider.  With the Reds he always struck out more than 10 hitters per nine innings.  He had some early success in the Arizona Fall League, but the hitters appeared to adjust against him, or he just got tired, but his ERA rose quickly after his fast start.  He could find himself in the Padres closer role, but more than likely he will settle in a set-up role.

Sleeper Pick

Jhan Marinez RHP (White Sox) Dominican Republic - We thought the Marlins gave up two pretty good prospects for the rights to have Ozzie as their manager.  If they had waited long enough they probably could have had Ozzie for nothing after the White Sox fired him.  Jhan throws in the mid 90s with a real good swing and miss slider because it looks like his fastball.  He averaged 15.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in High A in 2010.  Last year his whiffs per nine innings pitched stood at 11.5 in AA.  The big issue with Jhan is his lack of command, 42 walks in just 58 innings, a number that has been consistent throughout his career.  At 6′1″ it is not like he has a lot of frame to complicate his delivery.

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