Top 10 Left-handed Pitching Prospects

 

Left handed pitchers are almost an enigma in baseball. Every team wants them but few can figure out how to develop them. Even if they are not very good they will probably have a job in some teams' bullpen. Most lefties are considered soft tossers or control artists and the ones that can "bring it" are considered gems. In the minors there are few of these power lefties and the ones that do exist top this list.

 

 

1. Scott Kazmir -- Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
21 Majors 5.67 33 33 21 41 1.63 4
AA 1.59 51 30 11 24 0.96 0
A-high 3.42 50 49 22 51 1.42 3

 

Scott is easily the best left-handed pitching prospect in the minors.  Drafted out of high school by the Mets in the first round in 2002, Kazmir was traded to Tampa Bay last season.  There he made is big league debut and had a memorable win against Pedro Martinez. 

 

Kazmir brings a combination of a nasty slider and fastball that can reach 97 mph.  He is also developing his changeup into a good pitch.  His pure stuff rates as arguably the best in the minors among south paws.

 

The lone knock on Scott is his size.  Standing at only 6' and weighing 170 pounds, many in baseball wonder if he is an injury waiting to happen.  This concern also is what many believe led to the Mets trading him to the Rays for a marginal pitcher, Victor Zambrano.   If he stays healthy and continues progress with his changeup, he could be as good as anyone in the Majors.

 

2. Jeff Francis -- Colorado Rockies

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
24 Majors 5.15 37 42 13 32 1.48 8
AAA 2.85 41 35 7 49 1.02 3
AA 1.98 113.2 73 22 147 0.84 9

 

A new hope?  Jeff is a good bet to be the best pitcher ever developed by the Rockies.  The real question for Jeff is, how good can he be in Colorado?  Based on what he did in the minors, Francis could be a model of how to be a successful pitcher at Coors.

 

What Jeff did best is throw strikes.  Using great accuracy on his fastball and mixing in his changeup and slider, he was able to succeed in AAA Colorado Springs.  Jeff does not posses an overpowering fastball, usually 88-90 mph, and might be labeled as a finesse pitcher.  

 

If he can show the control he had in the minors and keep the ball down, Francis could have a very successful career in Colorado and defy the notion that pitcher can't succeed there.   

 

 

3. Dan Meyer -- Oakland A's

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
23 Majors 0.00 2 2 1 1 1.50 0
AAA 2.79 61.1 62 25 60 1.42 6
AA 2.22 65 50 12 86 0.95 1

 

In the first of Billy Beane's big off season moves, the A's acquired Dan as the center piece of the Tim Hudson trade. Drafted out of college in the first round of the 2002 draft, Dan made his big league debut last season and was expected to start the 2005 season in the A's rotation. A disappointing spring, however, left him in Triple-A to start the season.

 

Meyer brings a fastball, slider mix to the mound where he consistently hits 91-93 on the guns. He has made steady progress through the minors with about a half season at every level. He has succeeded at every stop and has kept his walk and strikeout rates consistent.

 

With high expectations going into this season, we will be able to see how he handle pressure. He also is bound to have some rough stretches in the majors, something he didn't see in the minors. How he handles this will be a big sign of what his future holds. If he is able to handle the mental side of the game, his stuff will carry him to a fine career.

 

4. Mike Hinckley -- Washington Nationals

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
22 AA 2.87 94 83 23 80 1.13 5
A-high 2.61 62 47 18 51 1.05 6

 

The Nationals haven't had much going for them recently but things are beginning to change. They have a new home and a new name. They are also starting to develop a few prospects since trading off most of what they had a few seasons ago. Hinckley is the best of that new lot.

 

Hinckley's repertoire consists of a low 90s fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. He has shown good command of his fastball and is progressing on this curve and changeup.  At 6'3, Hinckley has to room to fill out which could lead to a little extra on his fastball.

 

Mike will likely never develop into an ace, but he does have the ability to be a very good pitcher. He has yet to pitch above Double-A ball and will have to show that he can succeed at higher levels.

 

 

5. Zach Duke -- Pittsburgh Pirates

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
21 AA 1.58 51.1 41 10 36 1.00 2
A-high 1.39 97 73 10 106 0.96 3

 

Pittsburgh has had problems lately with its top pitching prospects, mostly due to injuries. Duke is hoping to avoid that fate and become mainstay in the Pirates' rotation.

 

Another lefty without an overpowering fastball, Duke's big pitch is his sweeping curveball. He already has terrific control of it and isn't afraid to throw it at any point in the count.  Duke is also said to have very good mound presence and never seems gets rattled. 

 

Like most of the pitchers on this list, Duke doesn't project to be a #1 starter in the Majors.  His lack of a true power pitch could get him into trouble if he doesn't maintain his control. Duke is almost ready for a spot in the Pirates' rotation and just needs some seasoning at higher levels.  

 

6. Scott Olsen -- Florida Marlins

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
21 A-high 2.97 136.1 127 53 158 1.32 8

 

After lefty Dontrelle Willis made his debut in 2003, Olsen was left as the best left handed pitching prospect in the system. He hasn't disappointed as he has dominated everywhere he's pitched.

 

When Olsen signed out of high school in 2002 he was throwing in the high 80's but now he is throwing in the low 90's and has been clocked as high as 96. That fastball has been his best weapon so far but his slider and changeup are getting better.

 

Attitude might be the biggest weakness for the southpaw. He has a very aggressive nature and there have been times when he lost control of his emotions while on the mound. Olsen has good stuff that is getting better has he develops physically. If he can maintain the development curve he will be the next pitcher to shine for the Marlins.

 

 

7. John Danks -- Texas Rangers

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
19 A-high 5.24 55 62 26 48 1.60 5
A-low 2.17 49.2 38 14 64 1.06 4

 

Starved for pitching for many years, the Rangers have some new hope. After failed attempts to buy pitching, Texas has begun to build a pitching staff through the draft. Danks is a big part of that plan after being drafted 9th overall in 2003 out of high school.

 

Right now, John's hammer curveball is his best offering and his fastball is usually in the high 80's. He was forced to use his changeup more often last season and it is becoming a better pitch. At 6'2, John has some room to grow and could add velocity as he gets stronger.

 

Though he struggled in high A ball, he was just 19 and still maintained a solid strikeout rate. If he does add velocity to his fastball, it will enhance all his other pitches and allow him to be an ace for the Rangers.

 

8. Cole Hamels -- Philadelphia Phillies

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
22 A-high 1.13 16 10 4 24 0.88 0

 

Injuries and attitude.  That has been the tale so far for the Philadelphia left hander. He has all the skills to be a top flight pitcher. He posses a terrific changeup, a low 90's fastball, and a developing curve. The rest though is another matter.

 

Cole has had injury problems since high school and missed most of last season with a triceps injury. Then, it what is being described as an altercation, he broke his left hand this winter that could sideline him for several months.

 

Like many pitchers with good stuff, injuries or attitude problems prevent them from reaching their potential. Cole seems like he might be plagued by a little of both. If the injuries haven't degraded any of his stuff and he can stay away from injuries he could help the Phillies soon.

9. Greg Miller -- Los Angeles Dodgers

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
20 None

 

Greg is another injury case. He was touted as one of the best pitching prospects in the game and the top lefty entering the 2004 season when the injury bell rang. It started as a small shoulder injury but ended up keeping him out all of 2004 and likely half of 2005.

 

When healthy, Miller possessed a fastball that regularly hit 95, a plus slider and curve, and a developing changeup.  He had excellent command of all his pitches which allowed him to throw anything anytime.

 

The injury has left big question marks. Will he regain his velocity? Will he regain his control? Will the shoulder problems continue to haunt him? He is still young and could come back and still be an elite pitcher, the light has just been dimmed a bit for now.

 

 

10. Jake Stevens -- Atlanta Braves

Age 2004 level ERA IP H BB SO WHIP HR
20 A-low 2.27 135 100 39 140 1.03 7

 

One could call Atlanta a pitcher factory.  They seem to be loaded with top pitching prospects every year.  This year it is Jake's turn to be at the top of the south paw category.  

 

Jake dominated low A ball last season, establishing himself as one of the top prospects in the game. He has added velocity to his fastball and now is able to touch 94 on occasion, though he is usually at 89-91.  He also is developing a power curveball and a changeup.  Jake stands at 6'3 and still could add more velocity as he fills out.  If he does he power stuff will become even more effective. 

 

 

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order):

 

Travis Blackley, Seattle Mariners

Matt Chico, Arizona Diamondbacks

Gio Gonzalez, Chicago White Sox

Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins

Adam Loewen, Baltimore Orioles

Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates

Renyel Pinto, Chicago Cubs

David Purcey, Toronto Blue Jays

Andy Sisco, Kansas City Royals

Jeremy Sowers, Cleveland Indians

Taylor Tankersley, Florida Marlins

 

 

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