07/06/05 11:36 AM ET
Futures: World pitchers can all bring it
By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
The collection of hard-throwing hurlers from around the world is impressive as it is diverse. Some come from Canada, some come from Latin America, but all can bring it. So, without further adieu, here's a closer look at the men who'll take the mound for the World.
Fausto Carmona, P, Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A, Cleveland)
Carmona replaced Fernando Cabrera on the Futures roster when Cabrera was called up to Cleveland this week. Carmona is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA in two starts for the Bisons, striking out 10 in 14 innings. He was 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA in 14 games at Double-A Akron. Last year he was 2-0 with a 2.77 ERA for Buffalo in the International League playoffs.
The 21-year-old right-hander was signed by Cleveland as a free agent in 2000. He has a 35-23 mark throughout his stretch in the Minor Leagues with his greatest success coming at Lake County in the South Atlantic League in 2003. He went 17-4 that year with a 2.06 ERA in 24 starts. Carmona is more of a groundball pitcher than a strikeout artist, relying on his sinker more than his fastball.
Francisco Liriano, P, Rochester Red Wings (Triple-A, Minnesota)
This is Liriano's fifth season in the Minor Leagues after signing as a teenage free agent with the Giants in 2000. He's made a slow and steady climb through the ranks, starting this year at Double-A New Britain before a recent promotion to Rochester, where he has gone 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA through four starts, striking out 32 in 26 innings. He was 3-6 through 14 games with the Rock Cats but he had a 3.78 ERA and fanned 94.
Liriano has had a history of shoulder problems but hasn't been affected over the last 18 months. Like Cabrera, he can bring it in the mid-90s and also has good off-speed stuff which he mixes in effectively at any point in the count.
Adam Loewen, P, Frederick Keys (Class A, Baltimore)
The big southpaw is the highest-drafted Canadian ever, having gone fourth overall in the 2002 draft. Still, his lofty draft status and big signing bonus haven't been to able keep him from being slowed by injuries at times, which have clearly limited his development.
Still, he has been solid in the Carolina League this season despite a 2-6 record and a 2.63 ERA through 17 starts. He's shown flashes of brilliance and is still looking for the measure of consistency that caused him to be chosen so high in the first place.
He still walks far too many (59 in 85 2/3 innings), and it's that wildness, more than anything else, that has held him back.
"When he gets out there in a groove, he's very impressive," Frederick pitching coach and former Orioles great Scott McGregor said. "He's a good competitor. He's just frustrated with himself. He's not as consistent as he wants to be, and right now you see all the potential. Once he figures things out, he's going to move through the system quickly.
"He's still trying to learn, himself. You have to know your motion and what your flaws are and be able to correct them in the heat of battle. And he has to be able to keep himself in the zone at all times. His attitude is pretty good, but he gets upset with himself when he comes out of a game in the fourth inning with a pitch count of 100."
Scott Mathieson, P, Clearwater Threshers [Class A, Philadelphia)
Mathieson has been bothered by a cranky elbow at times this season but has been effective when he has been on the mound, going 1-2 with a 3.39 ERA through 13 starts. He has shown an ability to be a good power pitcher but struggles a bit in terms of location with his breaking stuff. A 17th-round pick in 2002, the big Canadian has snaked his way through the Philadelphia system, showing some serious potential last season at Lakewood when he won eight games.
"What I've seen from him is power and good stuff across the board," one National League scout said.
Anibal Sanchez, P, Portland Sea Dogs (Double-A, Boston)
Boston's pitching future is very bright, and Sanchez is one of the reasons why. He was 6-1 with a 2.40 ERA through 14 starts for Single-A Wilmington, showing no signs of struggling in the Carolina League, so he earned a promotion to Double-A Portland of the Eastern League. His rising fastball checks in around 95 and he's got a changeup that has batters buckling.
"I'd like to reach the big leagues this September when they expand the rosters," Sanchez told MiLB.com in May. "I'd like to move up and know that I can throw at Double-A. But this is a good level for me because I get to practice everything. Right now, all the players here are like me. They don't have big-league experience. I need to learn more and make adjustments."
He apparently did so, taking Jon Papelbon's place after he was promoted to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Merkin Valdez, P, Norwich Navigators (Double-A, San Francisco)
Valdez has an electric arm and can be dominating despite the fact he was only 4-3 through 14 Eastern League starts. His 2.55 ERA is more indicative of what he's about. His 67 strikeouts through 77 2/3 innings are also a better indication of what he's capable. Valdez was also named to the EL's Northern Division All-Star team.
"We got him in a trade with the Braves [for Russ Ortiz] a couple of years ago, and he's getting stronger with each year," San Francisco's farm director Jack Hiatt said. "He throws 97-98 mph with a good slider. He's having a very good year in Norwich. He's had one appearance in the bigs and he'll have another one down the road.
"It's better for his career right now for him to start. He can work on all of his pitches, and we can monitor them. But he'll do whatever we need him to. Where his future lies, that will be up to the Major League staff, where they think he'll do the best job."
Edison Volquez, P, Frisco RoughRiders (Double-A, Texas)
Volquez is 1-2 with a 2.81 ERA through five games after earning a promotion from Class A Bakersfield, where he was leading the California League with 77 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings. He was 5-4 with a 4.19 ERA there.
He's an interesting study simply because he was one of the many players who had to disclose his real age with all the visa problems that have become commonplace. Volquez, who used to go by Julio Reyes, is nearly a year and a half older than originally believed to be. But, since he throws in the mid-90s, any problems he may have had in the past are easy to overlook.
Juan Morillo, P, Modesto Nuts (Class A, Colorado)
This hard-throwing right-hander appears on some levels to be a project simply because his numbers aren't all that overwhelming. He's 3-4 with a 3.81 ERA in nine starts for the Nuts and was 4-8 with a 4.42 ERA in two Minor League seasons prior to this year, both of which came in low-A ball.
The number, however, that seems to matter is 100. While he consistently throws in the high 90s, he's been clocked at 100 mph, and that's what Colorado finds most intriguing and with good reason. He's been working on his command and learning how to pitch as opposed to just getting in there and revving up his cannon arm. If he can figure out how to blend in some off-speed stuff a little better, his rise could come a little quicker.
Fernando Nieve, P, Round Rock Express (Triple-A, Houston)
The young right-hander has made steady progress in climbing Houston's organizational ladder, making strides at each level, including this season.
He began the year at Double-A Corpus Christi and was promoted to Round Rock after going 4-3 with a 2.65 ERA, fanning 96 and walking only 29. His start with the Express has been somewhat shaky - he's 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in three games -- but the club is expecting him to adapt quickly over the second half.
His fastball ranges in the mid-90s, though it has pushed past 96 mph on more than one occasion. His off-speed offerings are also sharp but aren't nearly as effective as his fastball. He's still working on developing a changeup.
Yusmeiro Petit, P, Binghamton Mets (Double-A, New York Mets)
The young Venezuelan isn't the hardest thrower -- he has to work to reach 90 on the gun -- yet he continues to get outs and continues to be one of the most sought-after prospects in New York's system. He came into the season with a 16-10 career mark and a 2.23 ERA in 40 games. He even had 200 strikeouts last season at three levels, dominating at every stop.
Petit is 2-2 with a 3.02 ERA in 13 starts this season and was on a strict pitch count for much of April and May after pitching in Winter Ball. The club gave him some time off earlier this season to be with his girlfriend in Venezuela when the couple's child was born. The time off will probably help in the long run. And while there is talk that he'll move up to Triple-A Norfolk this season, it likely won't happen until the logjam of starters in New York thins out some.
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.