Before ever appearing in a professional game, high school phenom Justin Upton, the brother of Devil Rays' top prospect B.J. Upton, set two records. When he was selected with the first overall pick in the 2005 draft, Justin and his brother B.J., who was selected with the second overall pick in the 2002 draft, combined to become the highest drafted sibling duo in the history of the draft. After holding out for seven months, Upton signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who awarded him with a $6.1 million bonus, the largest signing bonus in the history of the draft, thus giving Upton his second draft record.
One would be hard-pressed to find a more advanced high school hitter than Justin Upton. Upton has a lightning-quick bat, exciting power potential, and outstanding plate patience.
He's a quick and smooth shortstop. Clocked at 94 mph off of the pitcher's mound, it's clear that Upton has a very strong arm. But, like his brother, it's accuracy that he has a problem with.
Upton ran a 6.23-second 60-yard dash last year. For those who can't make sense out of that number: It's the equivalent of going from home plate to first base, or from any base to any other subsequent base, for that matter, at an astounding 3.115 seconds. Obviously, Upton can fly.
With Stephen Drew, another blue-chip prospect, in the same organization and at the same position as him, and with his tremendous speed and arm, Upton projects best as a center fielder. Likening him to the pre-Cincinnati Reds Ken Griffey, Jr., many scouts and experts have said that the Arizona Diamondbacks could stick Justin Upton in the majors on Opening Day and he will hold his own. The more likely scenario, however, has the 18 year old 5-tooler in the majors no earlier than late 2006 or early 2007. Regardless of when he makes it the majors, Upton has seemingly no ceiling. He has all the makings of one of baseball's next elite players.
Miller was drafted out of high school in the 1st round of the 2003 Draft.Â After a very lackluster 2005 season, in 2006 Miller reaffirmed his status as the Indians #1 prospect.Â Miller finished the 2005 season with a 2-4 record and 4.86 ERA in 15 starts at Mahoning Valley and Kinston, and struggled to regain his confidence all year after a strained elbow ligament shelved him for the first few months of the season.Â But, in 2006 Miller returned 100% healthy in mind and body, and ended the season with a 15-6 record and 2.75 ERA as well as tallying up 161 strikeouts in 158.1 IP.Â In addition, Miller’s 15 wins set an Akron franchise record, passing Paul Byrd's 1992 franchise record of 14 wins in a season.Â His 161 strikeouts e also crushed the single-season team record of 149, which was set by Travis Driskill in 1996.Â Miller was named the Pitcher of the Year in the Eastern League, and won the Indians Bob Feller Award as the organization’s top pitcher in the minors.
The Good:Â The confidence is flowing once again with this kid, and the difference has been his fastball command and the confidence in his secondary pitches (slider and changeup).Â Early on in 2006, Miller was on a strict 85 pitch count in order to keep him healthy and fresh, but the pitch count actually helped force Miller to learn how to be more efficient as a pitcher.Â According to the Indians, two things Miller did in 2006 showed that he is progressing rapidly as a pitcher: 1.) he used all three of his pitches effectively, and 2.) his maturity as a pitcher began to show as he depended more on location with those three pitches rather than just sheer velocity.Â In other words, Miller no longer is just firing the ball in there, he is pitching.
The Indians were also impressed with the aggressiveness Miller displayed in attacking every hitter.Â While his velocity is down a little, he still was able to consistently touch 96 MPH in the 7th inning.Â One can only wonder if this “attack” mentality and the adjustments he made in becoming a pitcher were a direct result of his meeting with Roger Clemens last spring.Â Clemens came to Winter Haven during the spring last year and sat down with Miller to personally talk about his routine and provided some invaluable insight on pitching.Â The sit down apparently worked, and it energized Miller.Â
While he started the season slow, the second half of the season he was dominating.Â In a stretch of seven starts from early July to early August, Miller was 6-0 with a ridiculous 0.40 ERA (2 ER in 45.2 IP), and only allowed 29 hits while piling up 52 strikeouts.Â Miller was unbelievable the final two months of the season as he posted a 0.29 ERA in July and a 1.59 ERA in August.Â The reason for Miller’s resurgence is the development of his changeup, which is making his 95-97 MPH fastball and hard-biting 87 MPH slider practically un-hittable.
The Bad: Not much.Â Miller did struggle early last season because of inconsistent location of his fastball and his secondary pitches still being a work in progress. Also, he was unable to harness his emotions and adrenaline on a consistent basis in order to allow better command of his fastball and secondary pitches when behind in the count.Â But, by the end of the season these problems were gone and Miller’s game jumped to another level.Â His changeup is still a work in progress, but his slider currently grades out as an above average major league pitch.Â
The Outlook:Â For the Indians ever to become a serious post-season threat, they will need to find a right-handed front of the rotation starter to pair with lefty ace CC Sabathia.Â The likelihood of that happening via free agency is pretty much a pipedream, so such a pitcher will have to come from the farm system.Â The 21-year old Texan fire-baller might be the guy, and he is on the major league doorstep. With the changes to Rule 5 Draft eligibility, Miller no longer needs to be put on the 40-man roster for the 2007 season.Â With this change, unless the Indians have a desperate need for a starter, Miller likely pitches most of 2007 at Buffalo and could be in line for a rotation spot in Cleveland to start the 2008 season.Â He could essentially slide in and replace Jake Westbrook if he is not re-signed (or traded), or even Paul Byrd if his team option is not picked up.
Signed for $300,000 out of Venezuela in 2003, Carrasco had a successful debut the following year in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. The Phillies take full blame for rushing him in 2005, pushing him to low Class A Lakewood at age 18 in a move that backfired when he posted a 7.04 ERA. He turned in a corner in instructional league after the season, setting the stage for a return to Lakewood in 2006, when he blossomed into a legitimate frontline starter prospect. He ranked third in the system in wins and ERA and represented the organization in the Futures Game. He was a major part of Lakewood's South Atlantic League title run, though the Phillies were disappointed with the way Carrasco handled himself when he struggled. Since making strides in grasping English this season, Carrasco has taken to instruction more easily.
Strengths: Carrasco has two plus pitches in his arsenal, starting with a consistent 90-92 mph fastball. His fastball has outstanding late life and finish, and he commands it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He can dial it up to 93-94 when he needs to, and he could add more velocity as he matures physically. He complements his heater with one of the best changeups in the system. His changeup features excellent late fade and depth, and he'll throw it in any count. The biggest improvement Carrasco made in 2006 was with his curveball. He commanded his 71-77 mph curve better than he ever had, showing good tilt and late bite. He repeats his delivery and fields his position well. Though he didn't have an at-bat with the BlueClaws, Philadelphia raves about the pride Carrasco takes in the offensive side of the game. He's a good bunter and shows aptitude in understanding game situations from a hitter's perspective.
Weaknesses: Carrasco has a simple, compact delivery, but he can rush it at times, leading to erratic command. He arguably commands his changeup better than any of his pitches, but slows down his arm action slightly when he throws it, tipping off hitters. While his curveball is his third-best pitch, he falls in love with it at times. He needs to improve its consistency and also throw it for strikes more often, because better hitters will be less likely to chase it off the plate. Carrasco needs to have a better overall rhythm on the mound. He'll speed up when things are going his way, and slow down to a snail's pace when he's scuffling.
The Future: The Phillies already tried to jump Carrasco once, and they won't make the same mistake again. Though he's shown much more maturity, there's really no reason to rush him. While other arms from Lakewood's championship staff might leap past him, Carrasco will start 2007 in high Class A Clearwater and won't see Double-A Reading before midseason, putting him on pace to arrive in Philadelphia at some point in 2009.
One of the best athletes in the system, Crowe was hitting .329 in high Class A before going down with an oblique injury. After he got healthy, he went to Double-A Akron and tried to move from the outfield to second base, where he played some in high school and college. The conversion didn't take, and the Indians gave up on it after instructional league.
Strengths: A switch-hitter with quick, strong hands, Crowe hits with gap power to all fields. An above-average runner, Crowe takes advantage of his speed by taking walks and stealing bases efficiently. He shows enough range and arm strength to stay in center field, though he won't push Grady Sizemore to a corner.
Weaknesses: A better hitter from the left side, Crowe needs to work on keeping his hands inside the ball when hitting righthanded. His power is probably average at best. While he's an above-average defender, he lacks first-step quickness at times and could get better jumps. He needs to stay healthier after also missing time in Double-A with ankle problems.
The Future: Crowe profiles best as the 2005 version of Coco Crisp—a speedy, high-on-base left fielder who hits 10-15 homers annually. He'll start 2007 at Triple-A and could quickly get the call to Cleveland.
Elvis Augusto Andrus was signed by Braves' scouts Rolando Petit and Julian Perez on January 26, 2005. It could turn out to be the most important signing since the Braves found a young kid out of Curacao in 1993. Elvis made an immediate impact in spring training of 2005 at the age of sixteen. He wowed everyone, the coaches and fellow players, and the Braves knew they had a future star. He's dynamic in the field at shortstop, with great range and a strong arm. Offensively, his bat is in great control for a kid that is seventeen. The Braves believe his power will develop over the next several years. Comparisons have ranged from Miguel Tejada to Derek Jeter.
Matt Antonelli hit .286 with 54 hits in 189 at bats for the Eugene Emeralds. In 55 games he collected 12 doubles, one triple, 22 RBI's and 38 runs scored. He also drew 46 walks, whiffed 31 times and was 9-of-10 in stolen base attempts. Antonelli placed second in the Northwest League with a .426 on base percentage.
Antonelli was promoted to the Fort Wayne Wizards on August 28 and went 2-for-16 over five games with two walks and six K's.
Antonelli was taken by the San Diego Padres in the first round of the 2006 MLB Draft, 17th overall. He received a signing bonus worth $1.575 million plus money to complete his education.
A native of Massachusetts, he hit .333 for the Demon Deacons in 2006, knocking 11 home runs and 18 doubles in 219 at-bats.
The 21-year-old was originally selected by the Dodgers in 2003, but opted to go to college. A true athlete, Antonelli was the Massachusetts Player of the Year in both football and hockey, and was a runner-up for baseball in his senior year at St. John's Prep.
Big power pitcher; has ranked first, then second in his league SOs in his full seasons and capped strong finish with a no-hitter in his final start
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