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Touch’em All | Eastern League Top MLB Prospects – Pitchers

Welcome to another edition of Touch’em All! We are going through the minor leagues with one goal in mind: Give you the fan, or fantasy player, the info and analysis that you need. This time, we are reviewing some of the top performances in the Eastern League. Players were selected for this list with age appropriate-ness to level, draft position, performance, and physical tools in mind. So let’s get started!!

Brad Peacock, RHP Nationals

Washington NationalsBrad Peacock RHP WAS (23) – Drafted in the 41st round of the 2006 draft, Washington has to be pleased with a 2011 performance that shoots Peacock up their top prospect list. The right-hander come out of nowhere with a 2.01 ERA and struck out 129 batters in 98.6 innings while maintaining a 6.1% walk rate. There are some questions as to whether he can reproduce these numbers at higher levels because he did so with a painfully low .274 BABIP and in spite of decreasing groundball totals, although his 2.10 FIP shows that ERA to be real. Peacock made it all the way to the show this year and pitched pretty well, giving up one earned run in 12 innings pitched. So it’s clear this kid has a good arm whether he’ll stick in the middle of a rotation or get moved to the bullpen will be determined by his performance and the presence and development of the numerous blue chip prospects in the Nationals stable. Note: From the bullpen, he’s been able to punch his fastball up from 92-94 into 96 mph range.

Detroit TigersJacob Turner RHP DET (20) – The Tigers spent a 1st round pick on Turner in 2010, grabbing him fresh out of high school. And in just two years of professional ball, Turner has zoomed through four minor league levels and tasted the big leagues. He started the season in Double-A Erie and did not disappoint with his 3.48 ERA in 113.2 innings, collecting 90 strikeouts and keeping the walk rate to a meager 6.8%. There is absolutely no problem here with his numbers. At 20 years old, showing this kind of performance against competition 3 or 4 years his senior is tremendous. The common fear here is that once again Detroit higher ups are rushing a talent to the big leagues as they have, most recently, with Jeremy Bonderman and Rick Porcello. Having seen him pitch in person, I can tell you that this kid’s make-up is off the charts. An exciting power arsenal with very good secondaries. He is big, strong, and unflappable, but there is something to be said about letting a player dominate before moving him. Right now, there are those who believe Turner is slated for the 5th spot in the 2012 rotation. For development’s sake, I pray he is given the opportunity to blow away Triple-A batters until at least mid-season.

San Francisco GiantsEric Surkamp LHP SF (24) – Taken in the 6th round of the 2008 draft out of North Carolina State, Surkamp has recorded impressive strikeout totals at every minor league stop. Double-A Richmond is no different. The lefty posted a terrific 28.8% K rate (2nd in the Eastern League only to Brad Peacock). He also limited the free passes to a mere 7.7% and scored a nice 2.02 ERA, supported with a equally impressive 2.59 FIP. But with only a high 80s fastball and decent secondary pitches, Surkamp is an extreme finesse arm. Control is his calling card and after a six start stint with the Giants, this year, where he got knocked around some, showing less of the k’s or control, San Fran will probably send him back to Triple-A to start 2012.

Dellin Betances, RHP Yankees (Photo by Mike Ashmore)

Dellin Betances RHP NYY (23) -A large frame and big projection made this New York-born pitching project an 8th round pick in 2006 for the Yanks. What did he grow into? A mammoth 6-8 260lb frame and the mid-90s arsenal. His season at Double-A Trenton only added to the excitement. Dellin kept a nice 3.42 ERA and struck out hitters at a 25% clip. The previous year, in Advanced-A Tampa, walks really weren’t a problem, scoring a 6.8% walk rate after fully healed from Tommy John surgery in 2009. But this year, that stat rose to 12% and the short stints in Scranton and then with the Yankees were even worse. His big body has been the culprit for these lapses in command and control, but his stuff is so good that, at times, he can be effectively wild. All this needs to be refined a bit before the big leagues come calling for good. For more in depth analysis of this Top 100 talent, check out Betances Prospect Instinct article from 2010.

Minnesota TwinsDeolis Guerra RHP MIN (22) – For years now, Guerra has been trying to outrun the “bust” label being thrown at him by many baseball people. As a 17-year-old in the Mets organization, Guerra’s mid 90s fastball and advanced change-up prompted the powers-that-be to move him aggressively through their minor league system. He was an 18-year-old at Advanced-A St. Lucie. Soon after, he was traded to Minnesota in the deal that sent Johann Santana to the Mets. But then, his fastball velocity mysteriously dropped from 95 mph down to the high 80s. This season, Deolis has spent his third season in New Britain (still young for the level) and the Twins moved him to the bullpen where he’s worked his velocity into the 91-93 range. In 95 innings, he’s struck out 95 batters, posting the best K rate of his career at 22.9%. His walk rate sits at a terrific 6.8%. The ugliness of his 5.59 ERA is put into perspective by his 3.94 FIP and was even better as a RP. Another season like this one and Guerra could salvage his prospect status. Look for Minnesota to start him out at Rochester to start 2012.

New York MetsColin McHugh RHP NYM (24) – After just 35 innings pitched in Advanced-A St Lucie with a dreadful 6.31 ERA, McHugh never thought that his spot start at Binghamton would turn out to be a near full season stay. From his first start there against Erie, he kept pitching well enough to stay. And along with his stellar 2.89 ERA, he was striking out hitters at a 25.4% clip while only walking a nice 8.1%. However, these kind of numbers aren’t new for the right-hander. McHugh has shown this kind of success at each level, but reproducing them against the increase in talent of the Eastern League is eye-opening. Now, Colin doesn’t blow guys away. He’s managed to do this with a 90-92 mph fastball, a good swing’n’miss slider, an improving cutter, and an OK curveball. With plus command of four pitches and some deception in his delivery, he’s able to keep hitters from squaring him up. New York could choose to challenge him some more in Triple-A in 2012. From there, with success, he could be in line for a major league call-up.

Manny Banuelos LHP NYY (20) –  An international signee out of Mexico by the Yankees in 2008, Banuelos has overcome his 5′ 11″ 155lb pitcher’s body to become No. 14 on our 2011 Top 100 Prospects List.  But take a look at our Prospect Instinct:  Manny Banuelos to get a more indepth profile complete with pitching mechanics breakdown. Good stuff.

Boston Red SoxChris Balcom-Miller RHP BOS (22) – Miller started his second season in the Red Sox system at High-A where he dominated for 34.2 innings before getting bumped up to Double-A. On first glance, it looks like Balcom-Miller struggled. But taking a deeper look you can see that there may have been some bad luck afoot. After holing opponents to close to a .200 AVG against for his career that number jumped to .308 with a .387 BABIP. His 4.81 ERA should have been a much more palatable 3.50 according to his FIP. His K rate remaind solid at 20% and his walk rate was 8.5%. Look for a 2012 bounceback at Double-A. He’s a sleeper we’ve touted for 3 years now.

Honorable Mention

Kelvin de la Cruz, LHP Indians – 2nd year back from TJ. K rate is there at 25.3% but the command is not. Walk rate of 15.2%. Could jump next season if command comes around. Probable reliever long term though at this point.

Check back soon as we profile many more Top MLB Prospects and also get our baseball geek on and take a look at some of the later draft picks from the 2011 draft that we think could be big names on the prospect radars in the near future. While you’re here, take a look at our on going series Touch’em All | Appalachian League and be a step ahead of the game. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at mailbag@baseballinstinct.com.


I live in Wyoming, Michigan. I have a wife and 3 kids. Been part of the Baseball Tonight league since 2004. An aspiring writer, I enjoy writing short stories, mostly horror/suspense. Anyone can check out my stuff at www.writing.com/authors/daver.

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