Some Potential Breakout/Sleeper Players, NL EAST
Blake Brewer, RHP, Florida Marlins
Brewer was drafted in the 11th round last year, out of high school in Tyrone, Georgia. The younger brother of Milwaukee shortstop prospect Brent Brewer, Blake (like his brother) is an excellent athlete, though he uses his strong arm on the mound instead of the infield. Projectable at 6-5, 180, he works at 87-90 now but will (hopefully) pick up velocity as he matures. He posted a 2.16 ERA with a 32/13 K/BB in 25 innings in rookie ball, allowing 15 hits. Brewer needs polish in all phases, but is projectable enough to be worthy of note.
Sergio Escalona, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
Escalona is from Venezuela, signed as a free agent in 2004. He made slow progress through the lower levels of the system, not breaking through until 2008 when he posted a 3.43 ERA with a 60/18 K/BB in 45 innings for Lakewood in the Sally League, then a 2.22 ERA with a 29/14 K/BB in 24 innings for Double-A Reading. Escalona has a 90 MPH sinking fastball and an impressive, if erratic, curveball. His K/IP marks are sharp and he made some progress with his control last year, giving hope that he might be able to contribute in the bullpen in 2009.
J.J. Hoover, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Hoover was picked in the 10th round last year from Calhoun Community College in Alabama, but could have gone several rounds higher. He pitched great in the Cape Cod League and eventually signed with Atlanta for $400,000. He's thrown just five pro innings thus far in the Appy League, allowing no runs on four hits, walking one, and fanning six. Hoover has a 90+ fastball, and his slider, curveball, and changeup are all promising. I think he can move quickly.
Marcus Jones, OF, Washington Nationals
Jones went to North Carolina State, but went to high school in Bethesda, Maryland, making him a local guy for the Nationals. Drafted in the 11th round last year, he is quite toolsy and did OK in college but has some issues with contact. He hit .333/.403/.433 in the New York-Penn League, but with a weakish 5/17 BB/K mark in 60 at-bats. He is well-regarded defensively and has good tools, but is still working on the consistency of his swing and his plate discipline. He is an under-the-radar guy with some upside, but also needs refinement.
Elvin Ramirez, RHP, New York Mets
A Dominican signed by the Mets in 2004, Ramirez posted a 3.67 ERA with a 62/36 K/BB in 81 innings last year in the Sally League, not overly impressive. But he gets tons of grounders with his 90-94 MPH sinking fastball, flashes a good curveball and changeup, and has made progress with his command. He's had durability problems and command remains an issue, but he should be watched for signs of further development.