Prospects to watch: National League

Prospects to watch: National League

With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring Training on Thursday, here's a look at prospects to keep an eye on from each National League organization.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Jarrod Parker: The right-hander was the team's first-round pick in 2007 and he pitched last season at Class A South Bend in the Midwest League, where he was 12-5 with a 3.44 ERA in 24 starts.

Daniel Schlereth: The left-hander was the D-backs' first pick in last year's Draft and he appeared in 10 games last year between rookie Missoula and South Bend. He could be a fast mover through the organization.

Gerardo Parra: The outfielder is one of the club's top position player prospects. He started last year at Class A Visalia, where he hit .301 and was promoted to Double-A Mobile.

Cesar Valdez: The right-hander was 13-8 with a 3.14 ERA between Visalia and Mobile. He was named to the California League All-Star team and was named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Atlanta Braves
Tommy Hanson: Recognized as one of the game's top pitching prospects, Hanson will likely be in Atlanta's rotation at some point this season. Armed with four quality pitches that he spots with great consistency, the hard-throwing 22-year-old right-hander may need just another month or two of seasoning at the Minor League level. But some believe he could prove productive if he begins this season in the Majors.

Jordan Schafer: Before being handed a 50-game suspension last year, Schafer seemed to be a lock to begin this season as Atlanta's starting center fielder. While his career path has been detoured, the talented 22-year-old outfielder has seemingly learned from his mistakes by committing himself to an offseason conditioning program that has visibly increased his upper-body strength.

Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija: It's hard to call Samardzija a "prospect" because he was unfazed in his callup last season. Guess playing big-time college football helps prepare pitchers for the Major Leagues. The right-hander was 4-1 at Triple-A Iowa before he was promoted July 25, and compiled a 2.28 ERA in 26 games with the Cubs. He did not give up a run over 14 1/3 innings in 13 games in August. He would prefer to start but needs to show he has better command of his pitches.

Mitch Atkins: The right-hander won 17 games last season, including an 8-1 mark in 10 starts for Iowa. A seventh-round pick in 2004, Atkins will get a good look this spring in hopes of being the first guy called up if the team needs a starter.

Tyler Colvin: Colvin most likely won't be ready until late 2009, but the outfielder is coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. That's not that common for an outfielder. He led Double-A Tennessee in hits (138) and RBIs (80), and drove in three or more runs seven times. He needs another season in the Minors, but the Cubs have high hopes for Colvin, the No. 1 pick in 2006.

Cincinnati Reds
Yonder Alonso: The organization's top-rated prospect and 2008 first-round Draft pick will have his first Spring Training in a big league camp. Alonso, a first baseman, has a reputation for strong power, and it should be interesting to see how he fares among Major League competition.

Drew Stubbs: An outfielder who was the Reds' 2006 first-rounder, Stubbs burned through three levels last season to reach Triple-A and is showing signs of putting it all together. The Reds have continually worked with Stubbs to not expand his strike zone too much. The 24-year-old could be up during this season should there be an outfield issue at the big league level.

Chris Valaika: The shortstop was the organization's 2008 Minor League Player of the Year winner and has hit at every level he's played. The 23-year-old batted a combined .317 with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs last season at high Class A and Double-A. He has a chance of reaching the Majors before 2009 is over.

Todd Frazier: Another shortstop that can hit, Frazier batted .291 with 19 home runs, 74 RBIs and a .368 on-base percentage at both levels of Class A last season. The 22-year-old could be a contender for the 2010 roster if he continues to progress.

Florida Marlins
Logan Morrison: A left-handed-hitting first baseman, Morrison will also see some time in left field. After he dominated the Arizona Fall League, Morrison's stock has risen. He batted .332 at Class A Jupiter last year. While it is rare for prospects to jump from Class A directly to the big leagues, Morrison may be a realistic candidate. Conventional wisdom, however, says he will open in Double-A, but he is moving fast.

Chris Coghlan: A first-round pick, the left-handed hitter could be Florida's second baseman of the future, should the team decide after this year to not retain Uggla. In Spring Training, Coghlan, who batted .298 at Double-A last year, will also get a look at third base. He's regarded as a pure hitter, but not a big power threat.

John Raynor: Fleet footed, Raynor is a terrific defensive outfielder who is on the verge of being ready for the big leagues. He [hit .312 at Double-A last year. The jury is out as to whether Raynor is an everyday player or a reserve. He has excellent speed and is a strong hitter, but lacks substantial power.

Scott Cousins: He's part of an impressive group of young outfielders who are getting a look in Spring Training. He enjoyed a strong Arizona Fall League, and after being a standout at Class A last year, he was promoted to Double-A.

Michael Stanton: The 19-year-old outfielder is regarded as one of baseball's best overall prospects. He belted 39 homers and drove in 97 runs to go along with a .293 batting average at low Class A Greensboro last year. Rising fast and regarded as a future star, Stanton is basically hands-off in any potential trade talks.

Matt Dominguez: Like Stanton, Dominguez is one of the best prospects in the game. The 19-year-old third baseman has drawn comparisons to the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman and the Red Sox's Mike Lowell. He is a couple of years away from breaking into the big leagues, but he will get a taste of Major League life in Spring Training.

Sean West: He's part of the team's impressive 2005 Draft class. The 6-foot-8 left-hander likely could use a solid season at Double-A, but don't be surprised if he gets called up around midseason. The imposing southpaw has terrific talent and projects to seriously compete for a rotation spot in 2010.

Aaron Thompson: Also part of the 2005 Draft, Thompson is knocking at the door to making his Major League debut. At Double-A last year, he made 16 starts. He collected additional work at the Arizona Fall League and projects as a starter, but could be a lefty relief choice.

Kyle Skipworth: The club's No. 1 pick last year, Skipworth is the catcher of the future. A left-handed hitter, he will gain valuable experience being around the big league team in Spring Training, but he is regarded as a few years away from being ready.

Houston Astros
Bud Norris: Norris is generating the most buzz in the front office, and he's one of a handful of prospects who will be with the Astros in Major League camp this year. The righty has an above average fastball and an above average breaking ball. He'll work out of the bullpen and while it's unlikely he'll make the team out of Spring Training, it's likely he'll get a call up this season, assuming he stays healthy.

Sergio Perez: Perez will be stretched out to be a starter, which makes him quite intriguing, considering the Astros' rotation could use some help. Like Norris, Perez's odds to make the team out of Spring Training are slim, but keep your eye on this young righty.

Chris Johnson: His long odds to make the team in '09 became even longer when Boone signed on, so Johnson will instead be a third baseman waiting in the wings. He's got some work to do defensively, but the Astros like his bat.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Ivan DeJesus Jr: No doubt he's got the bloodlines as the son of a Major Leaguer and seems very comfortable with his profession. In the past year his offense has caught up with solid defense and he's already demonstrated leadership ability. If Furcal isn't healthy, DeJesus could bypass Chin-lung Hu as the replacement.

Scott Elbert: The curious divorce from Joe Beimel will be easier to take if Elbert emerges as a reliable second lefty in the bullpen. A former first-round pick, he's overcome shoulder problems to reach the Majors and occasionally looked unhittable, but also raw.

A.J. Ellis: Seems to get overlooked, but it's hard to fault anything he's done, particularly that .321 batting average last year before a September callup. The Dodgers, however, seem loaded with backup catchers in Ausmus and Danny Ardoin.

Andrew Lambo: He has first-round talent and was recently ranked as the top prospect in the system by Baseball America. He has a sweet left-handed stroke and isn't a liability in a corner outfield position.

Lucas May: He was supposed to be the next Martin, right down to a position conversion. But he flopped as a hitter last year and now must have a bounce-back season.

James McDonald: Nobody in the front office would be surprised if he evolved into a closer or an ace starter. In addition to his physical ability, he seems to have the makeup to succeed. The fact that his fastball picked up about four miles per hour when used in relief has prompted the club to consider him first in the bullpen this year, especially with the closer role uncertain.

Xavier Paul: He's rebounded from health problems with three seasons of steady progress. Now a center fielder, he's a line-drive hitter with a power-throwing arm and above-average running speed.

Travis Schlichting: Once a shortstop in the Tampa Bay system, later released by the Angels, the Dodgers found him pitching in independent ball and he had a breakthrough with his delivery last year at Double-A, then continued it in the Arizona Fall League. He hasn't pitched much professionally, but he's intriguing.

Milwaukee Brewers
Mat Gamel: He dropped off during the second half of 2008 but still posted solid Minor League offensive numbers: a .329 average, 19 home runs and 96 RBIs in 127 games at Double-A Huntsville. He shared the organization's Minor League Player of the Year Award with Alcides Escobar. Gamel still needs to improve defensively, and he didn't win any fans in the front office when he was slow to reveal an elbow injury last September.

Alcides Escobar: The slick-fielding, free-swinging shortstop has passed Gamel on many prospect lists. He only turned 22 in December and is coming off a season in which he hit .328 with eight homers, 76 RBIs and 34 stolen bases in 131 games at Huntsville. An injury to Hardy might mean an instant promotion for Escobar.

Chase Wright: Acquired in an early February trade with the Yankees, Wright provides some depth at Triple-A Nashville. Wright spent all of 2008 in the Minors, going 10-3 with a 2.72 ERA for three of New York's affiliates. His season included two early-season appearances at rookie-level Tampa after he developed a tired arm, but he called that a minor setback and said that it didn't affect the rest of his season.

New York Mets
Jon Niese: A left-handed pitcher with a huge curve, Niese made three September starts last season, pitching eight shutout innings in one game and a total of six innings -- 11 runs scored -- in the other two. Ideally, the Mets would afford him more time in Triple-A. He had a 5-1 in seven Triple-A starts before promoted to the big league.

Dan Murphy: Though he no longer is a rookie -- his at-bats total last season was one above the rookie maximum -- Murphy hardly is a proven commodity. But he made positive first impressions last summer. He is a remarkably patient hitter with some extra-base pop.

Nick Evans: Because the Mets are likely to be a predominantly left-handed-hitting team, Evans has an enhanced chance to win a place on the Opening Day roster. A right-handed hitter, Evans could serve as the understudy for Delgado at first base.

Philadelphia Phillies
Lou Marson: Baseball America ranks Marson the organization's third-best prospect for good reason. He hit .314 last season for Double-A Reading and was the starting catcher for Team USA in the All-Star Futures Game. The Phillies showed him how highly they think of him when they called him up to the big leagues in September. He is expected to open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but is considered the franchise's catcher of the future.

Jason Donald: The fourth-best prospect in the system, according to Baseball America. He has shown versatility with his ability to play second base, third base and shortstop, and that could serve him well this spring. Donald will be competing with Giles and others for a bench spot.

Carlos Carrasco: The dark horse to compete for the fifth starter's job. He pitched well last season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and recently during winter ball in Venezuela. The Phillies love his talent, and he has a ton of potential. But unless he completely blows away Happ, Kendrick and Park, he seems likely to open the season in the Minors to gain a little more experience.

Anthony Hewitt: The team's first-round Draft pick last year, Hewitt hit just .197 for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies. He will be in camp to gain some experience and maybe pick up a few things about becoming a successful big league player.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Pedro Alvarez: All eyes will be on Alvarez now that members of the Pirates' management team have made it public that they are disappointed with the shape Alvarez arrived in this fall. After dragging out Draft signing negotiations until late September, Alvarez, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 Draft, did not keep up on his conditioning program. Still, the third baseman is the organization's top prospect and will be getting his first taste of Major League camp.

Andrew McCutchen: McCutchen has been invited to big league camp every spring since being drafted in 2005, and this should be the year that the highly touted outfield prospect makes his Major League debut. It's still a long shot that McCutchen makes the team out of Spring Training. But if he breaks out with a stellar camp, he will certainly make management think twice before sending him back to Triple-A.

Neil Walker: Though fans would like Walker to be given a chance to compete with Andy LaRoche for the Pirates' starting third-base job, management still believes Walker needs time in the Minors. Still, he is beginning his third season as a third baseman and has made huge strides defensively.

Dan McCutchen: McCutchen was one of the eight players acquired in the two Trade Deadline deals last July and immediately became one of the more promising pitchers in the upper levels of the Pirates' Minor League system. He will be given the chance to compete for a starting rotation spot in Pittsburgh, though a start in Triple-A seems more likely.

San Diego Padres
Ivan Nova: The Padres selected Nova in the Rule 5 Draft from the Yankees and think he can compete for a job in the bullpen. Nova pitched in Class A in 2008 but has a 95 mph fastball and could eventually project as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Everth Cabrera: A speedy shortstop who the Padres picked from Colorado in the Rule 5 Draft, Cabrera could stick on the 25-man roster because he's fast (73 steals in 2008) and he plays a position where the Padres don't have much depth. He is also regarded as a plus defender.

Josh Geer: Geer was impressive in his five-start stint last September, going 2-1 with a 2.67 ERA. Geer developed some fraying in his elbow but did not need surgery. From all signs, it looks like he'll be good to go for Spring Training and could seize a spot in the rotation if he fares well.

Kyle Blanks: Blanks isn't on the 40-man roster, only because he doesn't have to be protected yet. But he's as highly regarded a prospect as the Padres have. The first baseman has had consecutive seasons of more than 20 home runs and 100 RBIs and figures to get a lot of playing time this spring with Adrian Gonzalez (Team Mexico) playing in the World Baseball Classic.

San Francisco Giants
Buster Posey: He'll indeed be watched carefully. The Giants made Posey the fifth overall selection in last June's First-Year Player Draft, hoping he can become a cornerstone of the franchise for years to come. The 22-year-old catcher probably will go to Minor League camp in early March, but the Giants will be looking for signs that he could be ready for big league action as soon as next year because Molina becomes eligible for free agency after this season.

Kevin Pucetas: The right-hander is a long-shot candidate for the No. 5 starting spot, though his chances for that role looked better before Johnson was acquired and Lowry regained his health. Pucetas followed a strong regular season last year (10-2, 3.02 ERA at high Class A San Jose) with a solid effort for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League (4-1, 4.33, with a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio). Pucetas, 24, owns a 32-7 mark with a 2.35 ERA in three Minor League seasons, but has not pitched above Class A.

Luis Perdomo: The 24-year-old right-hander, selected in last December's Rule 5 Draft, finished 7-3 with a 2.36 ERA and 20 saves for three Minor League teams last season: Cleveland's Class A Kinston affiliate and Double-A Akron club and St. Louis' Springfield outpost. He struck out 82 and walked 30 in 72 1/3 innings while limiting opponents to a .190 batting average.

St. Louis Cardinals
Colby Rasmus: Even after a down year, Rasmus is still The Future. And this year he'll have a very real shot at making the team. The perfect scenario for the Cardinals would be for Schumaker to make the transition to second base smoothly and seamlessly, opening up an outfield spot for Rasmus. His ETA is 2009, even if it's not Opening Day, and he's a complete package: power, on-base ability, speed, defense.

Brett Wallace: Drafted in the first round in 2008, Wallace raked at every level -- all the way up to Double-A and the Arizona Fall League. He's a long shot to win the third-base job while Glaus is out, but if anybody can do it, Wallace can. He's a special hitter.

Francisco Samuel: He's still a ways off, but Samuel may have the most exciting arm in the Cardinals' Minor Leagues. He throws very hard and had scouts drooling in the Florida State League. Samuel's control isn't there yet, but he's a name to remember. And long-shot pitchers have certainly made the Cardinals out of Spring Training before.

Washington Nationals
Jordan Zimmermann: There is a good reason the Nationals are projecting him to be part of their rotation. Zimmermann, Washington's second-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, went a combined 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 25 games for Double-A Harrisburg and Class A Potomac in 2008. He led the entire organization in ERA and strikeouts (134), and finished tied for first in wins.

The 22-year-old earned midseason Eastern League All-Star honors, his second All-Star selection in as many years as a professional. He went 7-2 with a 3.21 ERA in 20 starts for Harrisburg. Prior to his May 4 promotion to Double-A, Zimmermann dominated the Carolina League, going 3-1 with one save and a 1.65 ERA in five appearances with Potomac.

Chris Marrero: Washington wants him to report to Spring Training early after missing half of the '08 season because of a broken right fibula. The Nationals also want to see how Marrero handles Major League pitching and how he performs defensively at first base.

Defense has been Marrero's biggest bugaboo. He started out as a third baseman, but he's blocked there because of Ryan Zimmerman. Marrero then switched to left field, but he didn't have enough range for the spot, so he was moved to first base, where he's expected to be for years to come.