Posted: Wednesday January 17, 2007 1:47PM; Updated: Monday January 22, 2007 12:29PM
By Bryan Smith, Special to SI.com
69. Gio Gonzalez, 21, LH SP, Chicago White Sox 2006 Stats (AA): 4.66 ERA, 140H/154.2IP, 166K/81BB
Say what you will about Kenny Williams' moves this offseason, but give him this: In regards to Gonzalez, the White Sox GM definitely sold high and bought low. Gonzalez' big 2005 season was enough to become a key component of the trade that brought Jim Thome to the South Side from Philly. Following a rocky inaugural season in AA, the White Sox were able to re-acquire Gio by sending Freddy Garcia to the Phillies. Gonzalez's struggles were the results of too many walks and home runs, particularly late in the season, so expect the White Sox to be preaching low-zone fastball control this spring.
Bad luck contributed to Dustin Pedroia's poor showing at the plate with the Red Sox in 2006.
Many Red Sox fans have already thrown in the towel on Pedroia, finding little to like in his .561-OPS, 31-game stint in the majors last season. However, Pedroia's BABIP (batting average on balls in play) was an unlucky .188 with the Red Sox despite his hitting line drives at an above-average rate. Pedroia's luck promises to change, as his biggest strength is a consistent ability to put the ball in play; in AAA he struck out in just 6.4 percent of his at-bats. Pedroia's final 70 games in Triple-A -- .332 AVG/.461 SLG -- are indicative of the considerable potential in his bat.
67. Daric Barton, 21, 1b, Oakland Athletics 2006 Stats (AAA): .259/.389/.395, 1 SB in 147 AB
Even before an elbow injury shattered most of Barton's first season in AAA, the first baseman had people doubting his power potential. The last remaining piece of the Mark Mulder trade, Barton's pure and patient offensive approach have been praised each step of the ladder. However, there was an assumption he could develop power in the future. A mediocre defender at the defensive spectrum's lowest position, Barton will need that power to harness his long-predicted major-league career.
66. Mike Bowden, 20, SP, Boston Red Sox 2006 Stats (A-/A+): 3.75 ERA, 100H/112.2IP, 121K/32BB
Bowden's statistics, impressive as they are for a teen-ager in A-ball, fall short of reflecting how dominant the right-hander was last season. Expecting endurance for players of Bowden's maturity is asking a lot, so it's hard to blame Bowden for three bad starts that dilute his overall statistics. If not for poor starts on April 15, July 9 and Aug. 26, Bowden's season ERA drops to 2.71. Bowden also allowed 22 hits, five walks and three home runs in these starts, so you can imagine his dominance during the other 88 percent of his season.
65. Ryan Sweeney, 22, OF, Chicago White Sox 2006 Stats (AAA): .296/.350/.452, 7 SB in 449 AB
Ozzie Guillen and the scouting community project power from Sweeney's sweet left-handed swing. On the other hand, the statheads doubt the Iowan's potential after consecutive seasons of isolated power below .100 in 2004 and '05. Sweeney slugged .476 in the final three months of 2006, and that has given the White Sox hope that he will develop a power stroke. Sweeney projects to be an average defensive center fielder with a .300/.350/.430 batting line.
In 2005, it was widely assumed that Iannetta's strong showing in the California League (.276/.381/.490) was a product of environment more than talent. However, Iannetta's encore performance in 2006 has put that argument to rest, as the catcher has now had five consecutive seasons (three at the University of North Carolina) with an OPS above .800. A patient hitter who waits for his pitch and then centers the ball, Iannetta combines his offense with average defensive skills and is worth mentioning as a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2007.
No other player in the minor leagues is as defined by one stat as Slowey: 11. In 14 starts in the Florida State League, Slowey struck out 99 batters in 89.1 innings, while walking just nine. His strikeout-to-walk ratio, over half of a season, was an amazing 11. Slowey's control is the best in the minor leagues, and the right-hander has enough velocity to keep hitters on their toes. Already with the backbone needed for a big league career (a plus fastball), Slowey is a few secondary improvements from profiling as more than a back-end starter.
62. Phil Humber, 24, SP, New York Mets 2006 Stats (A+/AA): 2.83 ERA, 56H/76.1IP, 79K/20BB
The Mets took a lot of criticism for drafting Humber third in the 2004 draft, ahead of his Rice teammates Jeff Niemann and Wade Townsend. The Mets drew more complaints when Humber needed Tommy John surgery halfway through his first pro season in 2005. Returning in 2006, Humber showed the impressive three-pitch arsenal that defined him at Rice, and tore through two levels of the Mets system. If Humber can prove he has endurance, it won't take long before the Mets cure some of their rotation problems by calling him up.
Carrasco was the beacon of consistency in 2006: His ERA was never above 2.75 in any month. Only once all season did he allow more than three earned runs in a start. Scroll through Carrasco's splits and in none will you find high opponents' batting averages. The right-hander did benefit from a spacious home park -- he had a 1.38 ERA and allowed just one home run there -- but he was nearly as dominant around the league. No fluke here. With three pitches nearly in tow, a return to his first-half's control numbers (34 percent better than the second half) will put him in first class.
Bryan Smith, co-founder of Baseball Analysts, is a freelance writer with work appearing at the Hardball Times, BaseballProspectus.com and Baseball America. Feel free to e-mail Bryan here.