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Mound musings: Who's on the horizon?


Mound musings: Who's on the horizon?
Several of baseball's preseason top pitching prospects have already made their way to major league rotations, pitchers such as Johnny Cueto, Clayton Kershaw, Homer Bailey and Chris Volstad, among others.

Others like Neftali Feliz, Madison Bumgarner and Rick Porcello are at least a couple years away from prime time. So, is there anyone down on the farm who is projected to join the major league club in time to help your fantasy team this year?

One obvious name jumps to mind, and while several on this list are at the Double-A level and may be no more than a September call-up, injuries happen and you need to know these names.

1. David Price, Tampa Bay - Easily topping this list, Price has fantasy owners in need of pitching salivating at his potential call-up this year. Sure, he has a mere 11 professional starts under his belt since being the No. 1 overall pick in last year's amateur draft, but the soon-to-be 23-year-old lefty is as polished as they come. Price is big, strong and throws in the mid-90s, and he mixes in a devastating slider and plus change. Price is 8-0 with a 1.92 ERA and 62:17 K:BB in 65 2/3 innings between High-A and Double-A and could see the majors sometime next month, especially if Edwin Jackson or Andy Sonnanstine struggle.

2. Gio Gonzalez, Oakland - It's yet to be announced, but Gonzalez is the leading candidate to replace the departed Joe Blanton in Oakland's rotation. Some command issues pushed Gonzalez's Triple-A ERA to a rather-high 4.34, but over his last four starts, he's been spectacular - 4-0, 0.95 ERA, 34 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. He's 22, left-handed, throws hard and has an impressive prospect pedigree. Gonzalez led the Double-A Southern League with 185 strikeouts last year as a 21-year-old, and his 117 this year tie him for the lead in Pacific Coast League.

3. Trevor Cahill, Oakland - This one is probably a bit of a stretch, but there's no pitching prospect in the game who's climbed the rankings more than Cahill this year. Despite being just 20, Cahill was lights out in the hitter-friendly Cal league, posting a 2.78 ERA and 103:31 K:BB in just 87 1/3 innings. Promoted to Double-A at midseason, Cahill has a 2.67 ERA there in five outings while holding older batters to a .176 average. He's probably a September call-up at best at this point, but stranger things have happened. For keeper leaguers, the list of minor league pitchers ranked above Cahill is very short.

4. Tommy Hanson, Atlanta - The Braves always seem to develop pitching, and Hanson is the latest to rocket up the prospect charts. He didn't totally come out of nowhere, being named to the Sally League All-Star team and leading the Braves' minor league organization with 154 strikeouts last year, but Hanson has impressed at the upper levels this year. Promoted to Double-A at age 21 after a 0.90 ERA in seven High-A starts, his unspectacular 4.08 ERA is deceiving. He's held Double-A hitters to a .219 average while striking out nearly a hitter an inning (63 in 64 innings), and he's mixed in a 14-strikeout no-hitter as well. Hanson's lack of upper-level experience probably makes him more of a 2009 big leaguer, but the Braves have been aggressive with their prospects in past years, so continue to monitor Hanson's progress.

5. Carlos Carrasco, Philadelphia - Carrasco isn't quite in that upper tier of pitching prospects, but he's closer and by far the best the Phillies have to offer. Command issues have led to a handful of ugly outings and a 4.02 ERA, but 95 strikeouts in 103 innings are indicative of No. 2-starter stuff, and at age 21, he's still maturing. Carrasco now has more than 170 Double-A innings on his resume, and the team previously hinted at a call-up, so he'll likely need just an injury and/or a couple excellent starts for the Phillies to consider promoting him. The Phillies added Blanton and Brett Myers to the rotation recently, but Kyle Kendrick is by no means an entrenched, proven starter.

6. Justin Masterson, Boston - The Red Sox returned him to the minors to work out of the bullpen, and after three appearances, he headed to Boston to replace the injured


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: July 23, 2008

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