Over the next nine days I will profile the nine players that I encourage you to pay attention to during the '09 season. These players were not included on BBTiA's Top 25 Prospects list, and they all played in the Arizona Rookie League and above during the '08 season. I excluded all players that were not stateside in '08, but I will focus on the Dominican Summer League prospects before the minor league season begins.
The prospects that will be profiled might not be the biggest names, or have the highest ceilings, but they are the players that I think have a chance to take big steps forward during the '09 season. Who is on your list?
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, Grullon has been trying to live up to the lofty hype of his international class since his first stateside pitch in '07. The 6' 5" rail-thin lefty has the projection to stand with the likes of Wilmer Font, Carlos Pimentel and Wilfredo Boscan, but so far his performance on the field hasn't lived up to expectations.
Grullon has only logged 44.2 innings in the past two seasons, but somehow managed to walk 33 batters while giving up 42 hits (career WHIP of 1.70). The good news about Grullon is that he has yet to give up a professional home run and he keeps the ball on the ground. Of course, suggesting that he merely keeps the ball on the ground is a very rudimentary way of describing what Grullon did in '08: his ground-to-fly ball ratio was an incredible 4.25-to-1.
Grullon's quick arm action produces a very deceptive fastball that usually sits in the low-90s. The pitch can have anywhere from boring movement to cutting movement (which is probably a result of his mechanical inconsistencies). That's the rub with Grullon. He is able to generate exceptional movement on his fastball, but at this point his ability to command the pitch is below average. In addition to his four-seamer, Grullon also has the makings of a solid slider, a curve, and a change-up.
Pitching mostly out of the bullpen in '08, Grullon was able to hold opposing hitters to a .216 batting average while striking out 27 in 23.2 innings of work. Despite his obvious command issues, Grullon is still a player that could shoot up prospect lists next season. His future role will probably remain in the bullpen, but if his command improves, and his darting fastball continues to induce weak contact, Grullon could be an absolute monster in late-inning relief.
Look for Grullon to move up to short-season Spokane in '09 with a chance to reach Low-A Hickory pitching out of the bullpen. The promotion schedule will depend on his ability to improve his command and his secondary offerings while maintaining his ability to miss bats. His mechanics are rarely fluid, and could lead to injury if he doesn't find some consistency in '09, but he is still quite young (he will pitch the entire '09 season at 19 years of age), and I like his chances of taking a step forward.