PEDRO MARTINEZ isworking out, doing his thing, having rejected more than one early-season,lowball bid to lure him back to the big leagues for less than the $5 million heseeks. "Pedro's very patient," says his longtime agent, Fern Cuza,"and he's waiting for the right situation."
Martinez, 37, isonly one of several talented players not on an Opening Day active roster whomay yet make an impact this season. There are the usual marquee names on themend, such as the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez (who is said by a friend to be "atick ahead" of his May 15 target date), the Red Sox' John Smoltz (estimatedreturn: June 1), Joe Mauer, Troy Glaus, Trevor Hoffman and the Angels' pitchingtrio of John Lackey, Ervin Santana and Kelvim Escobar (all of whom could beback by mid-May). But in addition to Martinez—who could steady a shaky Indiansrotation, which had an 11.62 ERA through Sunday, or bolster an already-thinDodgers' staff that just lost opening-night starter Hiroki Kuroda to the DL—andanother veteran free agent or two (pitcher Paul Byrd, for example), moremajor-league-ready prospects than ever are biding their time in the minors forreasons of caution or contract. The following youngsters are prepared toprovide midseason, if not earlier, aid:
1. David Price,Rays LHP.
Tampa, which scarcely ever makes a false move anymore, wants Price to refinehis command and a recently added changeup in the minors. But they're alsodelaying his arbitration clock and free agency. Scouts, however, say Price isready now to assume the fifth starter's role in a good rotation. "Hiscommand isn't perfect," says one scout, "but he has such great stuffthat he can pitch around it."
2. Matt Wieters,Orioles C.
"He can do it all," says one scout of the strong-armed, switch-hittingslugger. "Worst-case scenario," says another, "he'll have JorgePosada's career, and that's pretty good." Like Price, Wieters is in theminors to forestall arbitration and, later, free agency. Unlike with Price,there's no rush to bring him up, given that the Orioles don't see themselves ascontenders in '09.
3. Tommy Hanson,Braves RHP.
He looked like a world-beater in the Arizona Fall League last year, but after acouple of imperfect spring outings, the Braves played it safe and sent him downto Triple A. With his mid-90s fastball, excellent slider and above-averagecurveball, Hanson is the best homegrown arm the Braves have developed sinceSteve Avery, maybe even Tom Glavine. With Glavine experiencing left shoulderdiscomfort in a recent tuneup start in the minors, Hanson could be up soonerthan expected.
4. StephenStrasburg, San Diego State RHP.
The reports, citing 102-mph radar readings, are otherworldly. The big question,with his expected six-year, $50 million price tag, is how fast will he sign.Your move, Nats.
5. Derek Holland,Neftali Feliz, Rangers LHP and RHP.
Nobody has better prospects than Texas's, particularly when it comes to powerarms in the high minors. Scouts can't decide which one they like better, butthey do agree that with the imminent rise of the 22-year-old Holland (240strikeouts in 217 2/3 innings in the minors) and the 20-year-old Feliz (250whiffs in 198 2/3 innings), the Rangers' eternal pitching drought is about tocome to an end.
6. Mike Wilson,Mariners OF.
The 25-year-old hit a club-record eight homers this spring before being sentdown to Triple A. With a shortage of offense in the Mariners' lineup, he couldprovide a dose of power.
7. Clay Buchholz,Red Sox RHP.
He made Boston's rotation with a 9.34 ERA last spring, missed it with a 2.52ERA this spring. Still only 24, he has the potential to be an ace despite adisastrous 2008 in which he went 2--9 with a 6.75 ERA. Only Boston's deepcollection of arms—they have eight above-average starters on the 40-manroster—is holding him back.
8. Phil Hughes,Yankees RHP.
Like Buchholz, he will start the year at Triple A but has pitched his way backonto the radar after a wasted 2008 season.
9. AndrewMcCutchen, Pirates OF.
Another future star sent down to delay arbitration, McCutchen is ready now totake over for Gold Glover Nate McLouth in center but will more likely begin hiscareer as a corner outfielder. In a game against the Phillies this spring, hewent 5 for 5 with four extra-base hits, all against big leaguers, the last adouble off closer Brad Lidge.
10. FernandoMartinez, Nick Evans, Mets OFs.
Once New York realizes that Gary Sheffield is ill-suited to the National Leagueand ready for retirement, these two prospects could really push Ryan Church inrightfield.
ONLY AT SI.COM
Get Jon Heyman's Daily Scoop.
EDUARDO MUNOZ/REUTERS (MARTINEZ)
ARMS RACE Martinez (left), who auditioned for a job at the WBC, Holland (bottom) and Hanson are all ready to go.
CHRISTIAN PETERSON/GETTY IMAGES (HOLLAND)
[See caption above]
RICHARD DREW/AP (HANSON)
[See caption above]