-- Oklahoma City RedHawks --
Class: Triple A (AAA)League: Pacific Coast League (16 teams)2011 Record: 68-75 (.476)Home Record: 36-36Road Record: 32-39Team ERA: 4.63 (5th best overall)Team WHIP: 1.52 (6th best overall)Team AVG: .260 (16th best overall)Team OPS: .723 (16th best overall)
Projected Opening Day Starters:
SP - Paul ClemensC - Chris Snyder1B - Kody Hinze2B - Brandon Wikoff3B - Chris JohnsonSS - Miguel ArrendellLF - Jacob GoebbertCF - Luis DurangoRF - Brandon Barnes
Overview: I think OKC has a chance to be a .500 team the more I look at it, especially considering who the Astros do and don't take with them out of Spring Training. A 1-2 punch of Lyles and Clemens is a real possibility, and with Oberholtzer and Cosart perhaps not far behind, not to mention solid depth guys like Livan Hernandez, Zach Duke, Andy Van Hekken and Segio Perez in the mix, they should be able to pitch fairly well this year. The bullpen will likely be much more unstable, due to the general weakness at that position throughout the system, and the lineup could see constant shifting. Shortstop, second base and third base could be especially fluid. Much as it pains me to say it, Castro will be the rightful MLB starting backstop and I doubt they just tendered Quintero a contract to try to send him down or cut him, so I'm guessing Snyder will start the year in AAA. In short, much like last year, the pitching should be serviceable, but there will likely be a staggering lack of power from the lineup (only PCL team to hit less than 100 total homers in 2011) and runs should be hard to come by.
-- Corpus Christi Hooks --
Class: Double A (AA)League: Texas League (8 teams)2011 Record: 50-90 (.357)Home Record: 31-39Road Record: 19-51Team ERA: 5.01 (7th best overall)Team WHIP: 1.46 (6th best overall)Team AVG: .258 (6th best overall)Team OPS: .708 (8th best overall)
Projected Opening Day Starters
SP - Jarred CosartC - Chris Wallace1B - Jonathan Singleton2B - Ben Orloff3B - David FloresSS - Jonathan VillarLF - Adam BaileyCF - Austin WatesRF - Jonathan Gaston
Overview: 2011 was rough for the fans down in Corpus; the terribleness of the pitching was only outdone by the almost non-existent offense; only three players (J.D. Martinez, James Van Ostrand and and Jacob Goebbert) played at least 50 games with the Hooks while posting an .800 OPS or better. With Jonathan Villar and Jimmy Paredes alone combining for 43 errors during their games, they probably could have led the league in ERA and still finished under .500. Fortunately the trades near the deadline improved the picture; Cosart and Oberholtzer are likely to be the 1-2 punch in the rotation to start the season. Add in Jake Buchanan and Ross Seaton, and Corpus could have a pretty solid rotation until people start getting promoted. There's also much more potential in the lineup, with Singleton, Villar, and Wallace likely to get significant playing time in AA, and I like Wates (at his age and with his solid season in Lancaster) to start in AA this year as well. Overall, it should be a better year for the Hooks if things go well, but considering how horrific 2011 was, that may not be saying much.
-- Lancaster JetHawks --
Class: A-Advanced (A+)League: California League (10 teams)2011 Record: 55-85 (.393)Home Record: 30-40Road Record: 25-45Team ERA: 5.96 (9th best overall)Team WHIP: 1.57 (8th best overall)Team AVG: .280 (T-3rd best overall)Team OPS: .772 (6th best overall)
SP - Kyle HallockC - Michael Kvasnicka1B - Telvin Nash2B - Jose Thompson3B - Jonathan MeyerSS - Jiovanni MierLF - Daniel AdamsonCF - Jay AustinRF - Emilio King
Overview: plenty of potential in the lineup again this year; if Kvasnicka and Mier were to break out along with Nash continuing to develop, the ball could be flying out multiple times each night. I like Kvasnicka's chances to post some nice numbers in the desert, and hopefully Austin can finally find some sustainable success this year. Hallock is an aggressive pick by me, but I think he's old and advanced enough to where Lexington probably won't do him much good, and the rotation looks like it could be fairly full there anyway. Along with Donovan, Robertson and Cisnero, they could have a solid rotation to start the year in Lancaster (relatively, anyway) as well. It's hard to imagine they won't improve at least a bit this year, but most of the guys who figure to play in Lancaster this year have some serious question marks surrounding them, so it's no sure thing that they'll be good in 2012.
-- Lexington Legends --
Class: Single A (A-)League: South Atlantic League (14 teams)2011 Record: 59-79 (.428)Home Record: 34-35Road Record: 25-44Team ERA: 4.63 (12th best overall)Team WHIP: 1.41 (11th best overall)Team AVG: .255 (10th best overall)Team OPS: .717 (7th best overall)
SP - Michael FoltynewiczC - Ben Heath1B - Chase Davidson2B - Delino DeShields3B - Matthew DuffySS - Alex ToddLF - Jordan ScottCF - George SpringerRF - Domingo Santana
Overview: 2011 was rough in Lexington, thanks in large part to the pitching under-performing so much. But things could certainly turn around in 2012, as the drafts continue to produce talent worth watching in the lower levels of the system. The Lexington outfield has a chance to be fantastic out of the gate, and hopefully it will be because Springer probably won't be staying for very long. With a rotation likely headed by Foltynewicz, Tropeano and Bushue, we could see some great pitching as well, though Nitro likely won't be in Lexington past the All-Star break if all it going well for them. I feel pretty good about the bullpen depth at this level as well. In short, they should improve as long as numerous key prospects don't start faltering all at the same time.
A quick note on the grades and profiles; information was compiled from statistical analysis as well as scouting reports, along with my own opinions and experience. For the tool grades, more emphasis was placed on past performance than future upside (a guy who scouts say has good raw power but hasn't shown it yet will have a lower rating than you might expect, etc.) "Ceiling" is a best-case scenario, and "Floor" is a worst-case. "Projection" is meant to be a rough idea of how likely they are to pan out, but not necessarily to reach their maximum potential. Also note that players who were more recently drafted and therefor have less pro experience/data may have those Projections shift more dramatically from year to year. Same thing with younger-aged players.
----- Top 20 Position Players -----
1. Jonathan Singleton - LH-1B:
Power: * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * * * *Baserunning: * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * *
Singleton is arguably the best prospect the Astros received in the Pence trade, and some have him pegged as the top man in the system now that Lyles no longer qualifies. Even if he did though, Singleton would probably still outrank him. Singleton has hit for solid average so far, despite rising whiff rates as he moves through the levels of the Minors, though his whiff rates haven't been terrible outside of his time at Lancaster, and when you consider how many walks he draws and his age against the age of other players in those leagues, it's clear he has a very good idea of what he's doing at the plate. If one true disappointment could be mentioned, it's that he has not yet flashed the raw power that scouts agree he has. Scouts say he lets the ball travel deep into the zone and doesn't lunge at pitches, and so his line drives will likely start turning into homers at some point. He's easily the best bat in the system and will still be just 20 years old all season long. Throw in average-at-worst defense at 1B so far, and you have a special prospect. I wouldn't be shocked to see him start the year in A+ Lancaster, but some articles and reports insist he's AA bound on Opening Day. If all goes well, he could be ready for MLB action, at some point in 2013, though at his age, the front office will feel no pressure to get him up that early.
Ceiling: elite slugging lefty first baseman, hits for good average, draws walks, 30+ HR per season. Think Prince Fielder, but a bit better defender and baserunner as well. Perennial All-Star candidate.Floor: power never develops, has problems with whiffs and becomes a decent-but-unspectacular OPS first-baseman.Projection: 70%
2. George Springer - RH-OF:
Power: * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * * *
Springer, the 11th overall selection from last year's draft, is a four-tool player, lacking only a plus arm. His biggest issues are a lack of arm strength and some questionable hitting mechanics. Some scouts wonder if he'll be able to make enough contact to sustain a good average, but if he does, he'll hit and he'll hit for power. He has the range to play anywhere in the outfield, though his range in center isn't tremendous and he could need to move if he adds some bulk in the minors. With his mediocre arm, that would likely relegate him to left field. He should be an above-average defender there, and since he has the potential to be a real slugger, his bat should be more than enough to make him an above-average leftfielder if that does indeed become nessicary. He's also been a competent basestealer, boasting strong total steal numbers as well as good success percentages. At this point, it's hard to say too much about him because we only have eight games worth of data after he signed right at the deadline. The tools are all present and he has more polish than similarly-endowed prep prospects, so if he does well he could rise through the system quickly. Expect him to start in Lexington, and don't be surprised if he's bumped to Lancaster before season's end.
Ceiling: legit slugging outfielder with 25-30 HR power, maybe even a tad more. Throw in 20+ SB and he'll only need to keep up respectable AVG and OBP numbers to be a great player. Maybe a Johnny Damon, but more pop. Perinnial All-Star candidate.Floor: never figures out swing mechanics enough to stick as a starter, becomes a toolsy backup with power, speed and the ability to play all outfield positions servicably.Projection: 65%
3. Domingo Santana - RH-OF:
Power: * * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * * * *Defensive Range: * * * * *
With tools and upside as good as anyone in the system, Santana was a super-pleasent surprise when named as the PTBNL in the Pence deal. In fact, if he were to reach his ceiling, he fully has the potential to be better than Cosart and Singleton. He's raw though, but he won't be turning 20 until early August, so there's plenty of time for him. His walk rate was solid his first few years in the minors, but took a hit last year. More importantly however, was his whiff rate; after being in the 30-37% range his whole career, he suddenly seemed to maybe figure something out, whiffing in just 19.7% of his 76 PAs after the trade. While not a massive sample size, it is a decent one, and that's a huge, huge difference. He's shown the ability to hit for average if he can keep the whiffs in check, and while he showed some solid power before, he flashed the kind of massive power that scouts have always claimed is in his bat. In short, he seemed to take a sizeable step forward last year after being dealt. He's still young and raw though, so expect him to start in Lexington again, but with his tools, he could rise quickly if he starts to put it all together.
Ceiling: hits for average and power, plays plus defense in RF with a good arm. 30 HR - 10 SB guy each year, perinnial All-Star consideration.Floor: may never hit enough to be a starter, toolsy backup with pop, plus defender in the corners and servicable in CF.Projection: 45%
4. Jonathan Villar - SH-SS:
Power: * *Batting: * *Discipline: * *Baserunning: * * * * * *Defensive Arm: * * * * *Defensive Range: * * * * * *
There were some positive signs from Villar in 2011, but overall his season was a disapointing one. He continued to whiff a large amount of the time, and couldn't manage anything close to a respectable average. His walk rate was excellent in Lancaster though, giving an indication that he might be poised to take a step forward soon. As well, his whiff rate didn't increase after jumping to AA at age 20, and he even showed some good pop at that level as well. Baby steps perhaps, but certainly better than nothing. The report on him remains the same; All-Star raw talent, but largely lacking polish. He needs to cut down on whiffs, keep working walks and tighten up on defense, as reports still speak of his lack of concentration and focus leading to silly errors and the like. The tools and ability are all present, but the question remains; will he manage to put it all together? If so, he can be a 10-15 HR, 35-45 SB guy with plus plus defense at SS in the Majors. But he still looks a long way off from that.
Ceiling: All-Star shortstop who steals a ton of bases and hits for good, if unspectacular, power, while playing excellent defense. Think Jose Reyes.Floor: can't stop whiffing and never pans out at the plate. Solid toolsy defensive backup and pinch-runner.Projection: 40%
5. Ariel Ovando - LH-OF:
Power: * * * *Batting: * * *Discipline: * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * * * *Defensive Range: * * * *
Quite possibly the most-hyped international signing in franchise history, Ovando broke the bank when he signed with us and no one questions the investment. This kid has dreamy tools; tons of left-handed power, excellent bat speed, a big, athletic body and a canon for an arm. Please keep in mind that the tool rankings reflect his very raw state right now much more than his potential. He got in 184 PAs in Rookie Ball near the end of the year, but battled a few minor injuries and wasn't very effective, posting just a .235/.283/.365 line. Still, at just 18 years old at the time, it wasn't surprising to see a kid from south of the border struggle in pro ball. He'll be 19 all season long and there will be no feeling of need to rush him at all from the front office. Darryl Strawberry has been brought up numerous times as a possible comparison, and that's encouraging. If he starts hitting soon, he could rise through the ranks quickly.
Ceiling: 30 HR, 30 SB threat who can be a legit #3 hitter, perrinial All-Star type player with GG defense in RF.Floor: There's always a good chance that young, raw guys from South America will simply never figure it out and flop. Still, with his tools, it's hard to see him not being at least a toolsy backup OF.Projection: 40%
6. Telvin Nash - LH-1B:
Power: * * * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * *Baserunning: * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * *
Those grades may seem a bit generous to those who are familiar with Nash and his numbers, but I think he deserves it. Honestly, Nash has just one problem that's holding him back from being a superstar prospect; if not for whiffing so much, his average would be around .300 consistently and, combined with the walks and homers, he might be as well regarded, if not better-regarded, than Jonathan Singleton. He struck out 32.6% of the time in Lexington last year, and was in the 28% range during the 2009 and 2010 seasons as well, so it's certainly an issue. Luckily his walk rate has been excellent as well, so it's not for a lack of understanding the strikezone. His power is tremendous, the best in the system, and he should have no trouble being a consistent 30 HR hitter in the Majors if he develops, with additional power coming in the way of doubles. He's a big guy, and scouts say while he's not a terrible baserunner right now, he'll never be more than average, and as he ages he'll likely get worse, so he'll have to hit to earn his paycheck. He's going to be 21 all season long, and despite missing a lot of last season due to injuries, he'll likely start the year at Lancaster, but the front office will be in no hurry to rush him.
Ceiling: All-Star slugging 1B, 30 HR, 100 RBI a year for a long while.Floor: if he just can't figure out how to keep from striking out, he'll be no better than Jack Cust, and may not even achieve that.Projection: 45%
7. Delino DeShields - RH-2B:
Power: * *Batting: * *Discipline: * * *Baserunning: * * * * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * * * * *
DeShields is similar to Villar in a lot of ways; excellent speed and tools, solid pop for a middle infielder, but lacking in polish. In his first full pro season, 3D posted a solid 9.6% walk rate and popped 9 bombs while stealing 30 bags. His 21.8% whiff rate wasn't great, but it showed he wasn't totally lost at the plate either. Thanks in part to a low (.274) BAbip, his line didn't look like much, but it wasn't all the fault of luck; he does still need some serious work, and isn't anywhere close to MLB-ready. Reports on his defense were also similar; plenty of raw athletic ability to play the position, but he ultimately hasn't translated it to success there yet. He'll be 19 all season long, so there's still plenty of time for him to develop in A ball if he needs it. Hopefully this season he can keep up the solid walk rate, cut down on whiffs a bit more and take a big step forward.
Ceiling: All-Star caliber second sacker, steals 40 bases a year, has a solid .360+ OBP, good leadoff hitter, 7-10 HR a season as well. Basically Michael Bourn with some pop.Floor: if he can't figure out hitting, he's a toolsy backup, potentially both at 2B and the OF.Projection: 35%
8. Austin Wates - LH-OF:
Power: * * *Batting: * * * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * * * *
An early-round pick in 2010, Wates got off to a fast start to his career after the draft, but there were a few bumps in the road during his first full season in 2011. He started off in Lancaster, skipping past a full season at Lexington, and did find some success in some areas, hitting .300 while swiping 26 bases and scoring 85 runs in 592 PAs. Since he hit .316 last year in Lexington, we can safely say he has good contact skills and should have a chance to hit for average at higher levels. What's more he whiffed just 14.5% of the time this past season, so he looks like he has a really good idea of what he's doing at the plate. The one area of concern was power; he managed just six homers in nearly 600 PAs while playing in Lancaster, and managed just a .112 ISO. By comparison, Michael Bourn's ISO is usually in the .090-.095 range, but that's in the Majors. If that's all the pop in Wates' bat, he'll have to hit .300 each year, get his walk rate back up and play great defense to be a starter in CF. So far reports of his defense have been good, though not as good as Bourn or a similar player. I think he still has a chance to hit for a bit more power, but not doing so in Lancaster is a worry. I'm thinking because of this he might start off in Lancaster again, but I'm guessing we'll see him get some time in AA before the year is out, assuming he doesn't suddenly fall apart unexpectedly.
Ceiling: if he hits for power, he could be a 8-10 HR, 25-35 SB guy in the Majors and a good defender in CF or a great defender in the corners. Maybe Crawford with a tick less power and speed at best.Floor: toolsy backup who can play all three OF positions well, run the bases well and give you some solid OBP as a pinch-hitter.Projection: 55%
9. Chris Wallace - RH-C:
Power: * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * * *Defensive Range: * * * *
Taken in the 16th round of the 2010 draft, Wallace signed quickly and began to hit even more quickly, posting a .910 OPS in rookie ball during his pro debut. He started up the 2011 season by destorying the South Atlantic league, and was promoted to AA after fewer than 550 PAs in the lower levels. He began to whiff way too much after the promotion, but the walk rate remaind solid and he continued to hit for some power, especially considering he's a catcher. His defense has generally drawn good, if unspectacular, reviews and he has legitimate power in his bat. Comparisons to J.D. Martinez are premature, but he looks like he has a chance to be another diamond in the rough for us, and with Heath having such a terrible season, Wallace is arguably the best catching prospect in the system right now. Since he'll be turning 24 right around opening day, he'll likely start off in AA again, and he could be poised for a breakout that would get him some more widespread attention if he can cut down on the whiffs and put a strong season together.
Ceiling: Good offensive catcher, hits for decent average, 20 HR power per season. Maybe think Brian McCann, but not as disciplined probably. All-Star consideration in prime years.Floor: average defensive backup catcher with some pop, or he may just flame out if he can't control whiffs.Projection: 40%
10. Jiovanni Mier - RH-SS:
Power: * *Batting: * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * * *Defensive Range: * * * *Defensive Arm: * * * *
Mier has the tools, but he certainly hasn't put it together yet, and he's finally at the point where he's in danger of getting a bit old for his level (he'll be 22 in August). There's still time, and his walk rate has remained excellent throughout his career, and while his whiff rate needs some improvement, it hasn't been horrible either. He even showed a little bit of pop at Lexington last year (5 HR in 257 PAs), but it basically disappeared after his promotion to Lancaster. Reports of his defense and baserunning remain the same; above-average, if unspectacular, and great "intangibles," so all that's left is showing he can hit more like his 2009 debut than his last two seasons. Villar has passed him up on the SS depth chart at this point, but he's not exactly tearing it up either, so Mier still has an opportunity to turn heads if he puts it together. If not, he'll slip even further towards the "bust" pile.
Ceiling: double-digit HR power, excellent OPB and solid defense at SS; a perennial All-Star candidate.Floor: can't hit and doesn't get the power stroke back, could potentially still find some value as a defensive backup at SS and 2B, but that's it.Projection: 30%
11. Jay Austin - LH-OF:
Power: * *Batting: * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * * * *
Austin's 2011 season was mostly a dissapointment. It started out so promising; he was drawing walks, whiffing a reasonable amount, stealing bases, playing defense, but things started to fall apart after about a month or so and he was soon demoted back to low-A Lexington. He struggled even worse there, and set himself squarely back into the group of dissapointing draft picks. He still has tools and upside, but he's 21 now and will be 22 before the season ends, so he needs to find his way to AA by the start of the 2013 season or he's going to start getting passed up by other prospects. One good sign is his strong .311/.385/.444 showing he put on in the Arizona Fall League against the best prospect competition available. And even after his demotion to Lexington, the walk rate stayed solid and he didn't turn into a total whiff machine, so there's still hope. He needs a major bounce-back year though.
Ceiling: still has the kind of 8-10 HR, 50 SB potential that made the Astros draft him, though it seems farther away each year.Floor: could still be a toolsy backup, think LH Jason Bourgeois.Projection: 35%
12. Michael Kvasnicka - SH-C:
Power: * *Batting: * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * * * *Defensive Range: * * * *
Kvasnicka (it's pronounced "Qu-ahz-nick-a", in case you were wondering) being moved back to cather was certainly a surprise, not to mention a massive hit to the already-terrible depth at 3B in the organization, but it certainly helps his stock considerably. He spend all of 2011 in A- Lexington, and after getting off to a strong start, he had a rough last couple of months to his season and ended up posting a disappointing .260/.328/.368 line. The walk rate was decent and he whiffed less than 20% of the time, but he didn't hit for the kind of power you'd want from a good offensive third baseman. All that is somewhat moot now; he's gone from a mediocre-hitting 3B prospect with suspect power to a decent hitting C prospect with decent pop. If he can hit for a respectable average and draw some walks, he'll likely be solid enough to start for a low-end team, assuming his defense is good. He's is getting older; he'll be 23 until next December, so it's quite possible he'll start out in Lancaster and hopefully that park will help jumpstart his bat.
Ceiling: if he figures out how to hit consistently, he could be an excellent .280/.350/.450 guy with solid hand and a good arm. Perinneal All-Star candidate.Floor: now that he's moving back to catcher, it's hard imagining him not having enough of a bat to at least be a servicable backup catcher in the Majors.Projection: 40%
13. Ben Heath - RH-C:
Power: * * * * *Batting: * * *Discipline: * * *Baserunning: * *Defensive Arm: * * * *Defensive Range: * * *
Heath was one of our more-hyped prospects going into 2011, and for good reason. He tore up A Ball during 2010 and was promoted all the way up to AA Corpus before the year ended, and posted an 1.121 OPS in 14 PAs there. He hit for power, drew some walks and the whiff rate, while not great, wasn't terribly alarming either. However, he struggled out of the gate, and hit just a decent .262/.333/.441 in 162 PAs in Lancaster to start the season, a place where we were looking for Ruthian numbers, and was then demoted to A- Lexington, where his walk rate nearly halved and he couldn't even manage a .700 OPS. Whiffing roughy a quarter of the time won't help him hit for any average, and he really didn't show the kind of power he has in his bat. He's basically average-at-best as a catcher defensively, and he's a poor baserunner with almost no speed, so he will simply have to hit and hit for power to make anyone take notice. He still have plenty of upside, but he's 23 years old, so he needs to be in AA and hitting well to start 2013 or it will be time to worry.
Ceiling: Gary Carter comes to mind. He could still become a 30 HR guy who draws walks and hits for decent average. His arm is good enough to hold a running game down as well.Floor: J.R. Towles comes to mind as well. In fact, it's kind of similar the way they rushed them the first year after being drafted. Heath has more power though, so there's some more upside. But he could bomb and not even be good enough to be a backup.Projection: 45%
14. Jordan Scott - LH-OF:
Power: *Batting: * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * *
Scott was our 14th round pick in 2010, so no one was expecting a whole lot, but he's been a nice surprise so far, and has even done enough to earn some mention in Baseball Prospectus' Top Astros Prospect piece recently. He has a very good bat, though he's still young and raw. He should hit for average and be an above-average, if unspectacular, baserunner, but he has little to no power, so he'll have to stick in CF and be a legitimate defender if he wants to get more consideration than J.B. Shuck has been. His defense actually plays up pretty well at the corners, but he simply doesn't have the bat for LF or RF. His walk rate hasn't been huge either, but he hasn't whiffed much so far and shown a pretty good idea of what he's doing at the plate, so a little more time and polish invested could lead to a decent return. It would be silly to peg him as anything more than a defensive backup at the MLB level at this point, but you never know. He'll need to hit for average consistently, keep those whiffs down and, most importantly, stick in CF if he wants to have a chance of developing into a starter in the future. He'll be just 20 all season long though, so there's plenty of time.
Celing: if he can stick in CF, he could be about as good a hitter as Bourn, maybe slightly better, but only an average defender and nowhere near as good a baserunner. Still could be a solid starter there, but not an All-Star most likely.Floor: if he can't stick in CF, he's probably toast and a career AAA player unless he turns into a great PH, but even then he'll have trouble sticking.Projection: 35%
15. Kody Hinze - RH-1B:
Power: * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * *
Hinze is an interesting prospect. He was a late signing and so he's a bit behind his peers age-wise, but not to the point where there's not some legitimate upside. Still, since he'll be 25 just before August this season, he doesn't have time to fool around, and needs to continue hitting at each level. He had a strong campaign in 2011, destroying A+ Lancaster (but of course, we know that has to be taken with a grain of salt) before posting solid numbers at AA. He even had a good showing in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .268/.362/.463 with 4 HR in just 94 PAs. So far, he's shown 25 HR power, an ability to draw a lot of walks, and slowly but surely, he's cut down on his whiff rate a bit too. It's enough to draw some attention to himself, but not quite enough to get ecstatic about him either. His consistently-high BAbip numbers over the years is a good indication that he really is a strong average hitter, and if he can cut down on the whiffs just a bit more, he could really take off at the plate. And with our impending move to the AL, there will be two spots (1B and DH) for him to potentially fill and try to prove the doubters wrong.
Ceiling: 20-25 HR, 90+ walks, .280-.300 hitter. Second-teir slugging 1B. Maybe a Sean Casey with a bit less average and a bit more power. All-Star consideration in career year.Floor: whiffs too much to maintain respectable-enough rates for a MLB 1B or DH. Limited value with us in AL due to less need for pinch-hitters and inability to play multiple positions.Projection: 40%
16. Chase Davidson - LH-1B:
Power: * * * * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * * *Defensive Range: * * * *
I started his little profile, rethought it, deleted it, rewrote it, did more Googling and thinking, and rewrote it again. To be honest, I'm conflicted. On the one hand, this guy has the tools you want; massive raw power, good bat speed, a willingness to walk, and even some good ability on the bases. If you exrapolate his numbers out for a 162-game pace, we're talking about 44 HR, 124 R, 166 RBI and 30 SB. I mean, that's no joke. A 40-30 level bat from a first baseman? There's only one in franchise history that comes to mind, of course. So the tools are there. But there are problems and question marks as well. Statistically-speaking, the biggest red flag is the 27.1% whiff rate. When you have a college bat whiffing nearly 30% of the time against Rookie Ball competition, it's always a concern. He needs to get that down in a big way, because the .430 BAbip simply won't stick. More than anything, though, you have to ask why he was drafted so low; this was a guy who was drafted in the 3rd round just a few years ago, but fell all the way to the 43rd round this time around? Why? What did all those scouts see that scared them away? What kind of problems could be large enough to make teams pass on a guy who has 40-30 potential? It's a huge, looming question mark, and it has me skeptical. He's a name to watch, certainly, and one of the reasons I'm excited about the Lexington offense this year, but expectations must be tempered at this point.
Ceiling: the numbers speak for themselves. He's not likely to actually be a 40-30 guy, but there's no reason to think he couldn't be a 30-20 guy if he develops, with plus defense at 1B. Perrenial All-Star candidate.Floor: as high as the ceiling is, the floor is just as low. He could simply be a whiff machine and never figure it out enough to even reach the Majors, or even AA.Projection: 35%
17. Jacob Goebbert - LH-OF:
Power: * * *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * *
Jake is another one of those guys that does a little of everything, while not really excelling at much. He won't get anyone excited, but there's definite potential here. Discipline at the plate is his best asset, as he's always been able to limit his strikeouts to very reasonable levels while maintaining a solid, if unspectacular, walk rate as well. He has some pop, but it's fringy for the most part, and he's more of a doubles hitter. Still, it has, so far, been enough to keep pitchers honest when facing him, and so he's hit for average as well. He started the year in Lancaster before being promoted to AA where he spent most of his time, putting up a strong .305/.368/.456 slash line in 304 PAs. He even got a call-up to AAA near the end of the season and posted a solid line in 117 PAs there before heading off to the AFL. He didn't look great there, but he didn't fall apart either, despite it being his fourth level of competition in the same year. In the end, he's definitely a long-shot to be more than a backup, but he hasn't done anything wrong yet and he's left-handed, so you never know. With our entire outfield being filled this year with prospects and guys with huge question marks, he just needs to hit well in AAA and you have to imagine he'll get a look at some point, and he could definitely be in the mix for a lot more playing time in 2013 once Lee is gone.
Ceiling: low-end starting corner outfielder. Decent average, 8-15 HR a year and a fistfull of doubles. Lack of better power and his average defensive skills hold him backFloor: if he can't hit he doesn't have the athletic tools to fall back on as a bench playerProjection: 35%
18. Jonathan Meyer - SH-3B:
Power: * *Batting: * *Discipline: * * *Baserunning: * *Defensive Arm: * * * * *Defensive Range: * * *
There were a few positives from Meyer last season, but make no mistake; his being in the Top 20 is a reflection on the lack of depth in the system (especially at 3B) more so than his own worthiness. He was just 20 last season and played all of it in Lancaster, so he's certainly not too old for where he is, but the numbers were, simply put, uninspiring. He's still a solid defender at 3B thanks to his great arm, but aside from that and a nice walk rate (10.7%), he really hasn't shown too much. The 14 HR were nice, but considering that he was in Lancaster and it was the year before he managed just 2 bombs in a full 507 PAs, I'm not buying it yet. Still, the fact remains that he improved in most offensive categories and he's still young, so there's at least still a chance he could become something. Just don't hold your breath.
Ceiling: average starting MLB 3B. Decent average hitter, solid discipline at the plate and good defense, but not the kind of power you'd like from the positionFloor: could still bomb completelyProjection: 25%
19. Ben Orloff - RH-2B
Power: *Batting: * * * *Discipline: * * * * *Baserunning: * * * *Defensive Arm: * * *Defensive Range: * * * *
Orloff has a sort of a J.B. Shuck quality to him. He's shown the ability to hit for some average, and while his walk rate hasn't always been excellent, one thing he's done very well is keep from striking out. He's punched out just 56 times during his 776 career minor league PAs, for an excellent 7.2%. To top it off, he's a middle infielder who's a solid defender at 2B and servicable at SS as well. Add in the ability to steal 15-25 bases a year, and you have a solid set of tools to work with. I guess you could think of a Jeff Keppinger that can run the bases, something like that. Unfortunately, he has even less power than Kepp does, with just 2 HR in his career so far, and he's rather old (he'll be turning 25 shortly after the season starts) for his level, so there's certainly a big risk that he could struggle once he makes it to AA. Even if he doesn't, he'll likely never be more than a backup at the MLB level due to the lack of power, unless he really lights things on fire with the stick and walks a good 10% of the time or better to maintain a high, valuable OBP. Now that Altuve has been promoted to the MLB level and DeShields will almost certainly need to spend much, if not all of, the year in Lexington again after a rough first full season, Orloff should be able to breeze through Lancaster and up to AA this season if he keeps hitting. And, frankly, he'll need to do just that to stay on the radar.
Ceiling: if he really takes off as a hitter, he could be a second-tier starting 2B, with a good average and OBP and double-digit steal ability.Floor: with his age for his level, there's no guaruntee he won't simply wash out at AA or AAA.Projection: 30%
20. Adam Bailey - LH-OF:
Power: * * * *Batting: * * *Discipline: * *Baserunning: * * *Defensive Arm: * * * *Defensive Range: * * *
Here's another guy to go into the Shuck, Goebbert group of outfielders who have some upside, but probably not enough to be more than bench players. While Goebbert and Shuck have both impressed with hustle, heart and a good approach at the plate, Bailey's main draw so far has been pop. He ripped 16 bombs in Lexington to start the season, in just 337 PAs. That's about a 32-33 HR pace for a full season. His power dropped off a bit when he was promoted to Lancaster (words I never thought I would say), but he got it back after a promotion up to AA Corpus near the end of the season, hitting three bombs and posting a .495 SLG in 23 games with the Hooks. During it all, he maintained his average as well, mostly by limiting strikeouts to very reasonable levels. The downside was the near absence of a walk rate; 5.6% in Lexington, 3.7% in Lancaster and all the way down to 2.1% in Corpus. You know you don't walk when you OBP is only .010 higher than your average. Scouting information on him is extremely slim, so much so in fact that all I found was a single scouting video of him from college. I have to say that I like his swing and I can see where the pop is coming from, as he seems to use his legs well, keeping his weight back before driving forward, and the stroke is smooth while he keeps his eye on the ball the whole way through. He looks like about an average runner, and is therefore probably around average in terms of range in the OF, so CF is probably out of the question. In short, he's a lefty with some pop. Let's see what happens in a full year in AA.
Ceiling: hard to see him as a starter at all with that horrific walk rate. Probably a lefty pinch-hitter with some pop if he can succeed in that roleFloor: like Goebbert, could wash out if he doesn't hit because he doesn't have defensive tools to fall back onProjection: 30%
----- Top 20 Pitching Prospects -----
1. Jarred Cosart - RH-SP:
Command: * * * *Stuff: * * * * *
Fastball: * * * * * *Curveball: * * * *Changeup: * * *
One of the two main pieces in the Hunter Pence trade, Cosart has the stuff of a #1 prospect in the system, but hasn't had the easiest ascent through the Minor League levels. When he's healthy and on his game, scouts rave about his mid-to-upper-90's heat and wipeout curveball, and he's shown pretty good command of his electric stuff as well, walking a reasonable 3.22 batters per nine innings in his first stint in AA last year. Given that combination of stuff and command, it's hard to imagine him not having some role in the Bigs at some point, assuming he can stay healthy. And therein lies the worry; Cosart has battled multiple injuries in his young career, and while some scouts say his mechanics are balanced on the whole, others worry about his arm. He split time between the mound and the outfield in high school, and was just 21 when he made his first appearance in AA last year, so some patience should be shown in regard to his 4.71 ERA. The biggest statistical worry was the drop in punchouts though; he whiffed just 5.45 batters per nine innings in AA, unacceptable for a pitcher with even average stuff, much less a kid with a thunderbolt for an arm. Again, one has to wonder if the injuries are already taking their long-term toll. Regardless, his stuff is excellent, and if he stays healthy, continues to polish his change as a solid third pitch and improves with further coaching and experience, he has true ace potential.
Ceiling: #1 ace of a rotation who can dominate on any night, perrinial All-Star consideration.Floor: Injuries hamper him and he's forced into the pen. Still has elite closer potential at that point.Projection: 65%
2. Michael Foltynewicz - RH-SP:
Command: * * * *Stuff: * * * *
Fastball: * * * *Slurve: * *Changeup: * * *
Folty got off to a bit of a rough start last year, but ended up turning things around and looking solid, if unspectacular. The 4.16 FIP and 3.43 BB/9 were both somewhat-encouraging signs, though he didn't miss nearly enough bats (5.91 K/9) to get anyone excited. While it's not unusual for cold-weather prep pitchers to get out of the gate slowly in their pro careers, Folty's stuff has been just about average at best, and reports of his velocity fluctuating all last season are legitimate concerns. Still, he's going to be 20 all season long and has plenty of time to get things ironed out, and that's what you really have to say about him; just sit back and let him get more innings and more time with the coaches. The book is out on him for now. If he lives up to the scouting reports and upside though, you're looking at a mid-90's fastball with great natural movement that he can get plenty of grounders with. The Slurve/Curve/Slider needs serious work and was never consistent for him (the fact that no one knows what to call it is some indication of that) if he wants to miss bats and really compete. Control has been solid so far, and that's certainly a positive sign, so right now we just need to look for some more consistency with his velocity and continued polish on the off-speed pitches.
Ceiling: Verlander's name was brought up during the draft, but that was before Verlander really went off. And he has better stuff anyway. 94-96 MPH fastball with good movement and two good off-season pitches; he has ace potential.Floor: The control has been good enough so far that I think he has closer potential with just the fastball and change if he can't figure out the breaking ball. Assuming he gets his velocity back up, of course. Still, hard to imagine him not having at least some small role in the MLB bullpen down the road at worst.Projection: 45%
3. Paul Clemens - RH-SP:
Fastball: * * * *Slurve: * * *Changeup: * *
Clemens is arguably the best piece that the Astros recieved in the Michael Bourn trade, and I'm personally pretty high on him. He has a sort of typical power-pitcher's frame, though he doesn't tend to light up the gun like you would expect. Still, he has a good fastball; I debated giving him a fifth star for it, but ultimately the results haven't quite been there. Still, scouts say it sits comfortably in the 92-94 ranges and can touch 96 at times. That's the four-seam fastball. He also throws a two-seam fastball that, when working properly, has drawn very favorable reviews from scouts. Because of this, he tends to get a good amount of ground balls while limiting flyballs and homers quite well. His command is also above-average, of the fastball at least; scouts say he is aggressive, pounds the zone with heaters and changes elevation very well, even after giving up the occasional long ball. The whiff rates have been solid, but unspectacular, due to his main weakness; an average breaking ball and a possibly-worse changeup. They're both still works in progress, but reports say he could do very well if he polishes them further, and that his change has a chance to be nasty. He'll likely start in AAA and could potentially see some MLB action at some point in 2012, but don't be surprised if his off-speed stuff isn't quite ready yet and they wait until Spring Training 2013 to give him a good, hard look.
Ceiling: solid, agggressive #2 starter who eats innnigs and posts above-average ERAs and K numbers. All-Star consideration in career years.Floor: solid late-inning reliever, potentially decent closer, gets ground balls but not dominant enough to be an elite fireman.Projection: 70%
4. Brett Oberholtzer - LH-SP:
Command: * * * * *Stuff: * * *
Fastball: * * *Slider: * * *Curveball: * * *Changeup: * * *
The rankings above pretty well spell it out for you; average. Oberholtzer has good command, and until being promoted to AA he missed a respectable number of bats, but there's not a ton more than that you can say about him. He's a pitchability guy, who will have to have pinpoint command to survive in a Major League rotation. Therein lies the concern, as his walk rate spiked to 2.96 after his AA promotion. Granted that's far from a bad number in and of itself, but combined with the dip in whiffs (6.56), Oberholtzer suddenly looked less appealing. Despite that, his FIP (3.36) remained strong, and the whiffs came way back up (9.22 per 9) in his 27.1 post-trade innings, so there's hope. It almost certainly won't last though, as there's little hope for him suddenly developing a few extra MPH on his fastball or finding a new filthy breaking ball. As it is, he's a 89-92 MPH lefty, much like Wandy, but unlike him, he lacks the devastating off-speed pitch, as his curve, slider and changes are just average (he apparently throws an occasional cutter too). Because of this, it's hard to imagine him as more than a back-end guy in our rotation.
Ceiling: a #3 starter, maybe, but probably a #4 is more reasonable. Durable, eats a lot of innings, provides quality starts and a league-average ERA.Floor: middle-relief, or a swing-man. Doesn't really have the splits to make you think of him as a lefty-killing reliever.Projection: 70%
5. Adrian Houser - RH-SP:
Command: * *Stuff: * * *
Fastball: * * *Curveball: * *Changeup: *
The second-round pick from last season, Houser is definitely raw, but he's young, athletic and projectable as well, a typical Bobby Heck pick. His fastball sits in the low 90's usually, but he can dial it up to 95 or 96 at times, and that combined with his age and some mechanical issues make you think he might be able to pump that up a bit; maybe have it sit 92-93 and touch the 96-97 area once he grows a bit more and tightens things up. His curve is inconsistent at this point, but good and hard with both vertical and horizontal break when he's on. His changeup needs serious work, though that's not uncommon for prep pitchers who only need two pitches to dominate other high school kids. Scouts say he needs to use his legs more and work on repeating his mechanics more consistently, but he's lanky and throws downhill, and since he's athletic he should be able to make those adjustments. Aside from that, improving the breaking pitches is the other main area he needs to work on. He posted a decent 3.98 FIP in the GCL, but after his promotion he had a nice little run at Greeneville, posting a 2.30 FIP and 10.07 K/9 in 22.1 innings there. Given his age and problems, he's almost certain to start in Lexington and will likely spend the entire season there. Lots of upside now, but just as much chance for him to wash out. After a full year in A- Ball, we should have a better idea of what we're dealing with.
Ceiling: solid #2 starter, above-average heat, solid command, can miss bats and limit walks. All-Star consideration in best seasons.Floor: good bullpen arm if he can't work out the kinks, or he could wash out completely.Projection: 45%
6. Nicholas Tropeano - RH-SP:
Command: * * * *Stuff: * *
Fastball: *Slider: * * *Changeup: * * * * * *
One of my personal favorites from last year's draft. I guess I like to root for the little guy and the underdog. Anytime you get a college pitcher who throws an 86-90 MPH fastball, people are going to doubt, to scoff, to mock. But as guys like Maddux will tell you, you don't need to bring the heat to get batters out. You do need some great off-speed stuff though, and Nitro has that in an outstanding changeup, one which some scouts say was the best in all of college baseball last season. At his age and experience level, there's little hope of him suddenly going throw a growth spurt and finding another 3-5 MPH, so he'll have to rely on that change and locate those fastballs very well to have a shot. He has reportedly tinkered with a sinker as well, so perhaps getting more movement on the fastball and inducing more grounders would be the way to go for him. Scouts say he does have the makeup though; a kid who knows how to pitch and not just throw, who's aggressive and smart, who works corners and changes speeds and elevations well. He got off to a strong start, posting a 2.32 FIP with 10.63 K/9 and 3.54 BB/9 in 53.1 innings, but many pitchers as mature as him tend to post good numbers in the rookie leagues. He's much in the mold of Dallas Keuchel; there's not a whole lot left for him to learn or improve upon in terms of velocity, mechanics and pitch repertoire, so it will just be a question of if he can learn to pitch well enough with his stuff in higher leagues to survive. If so, he could rise quickly as Keuchel has. If not, he could flame out just as quickly and be no more than a faint memory in a few years.
Ceiling: solid mid-rotation guy, eats innings, competes well against LH and RH batters due to excellent changeup. Maddux would be too generous a comparison really. Maybe a Tim Hudson or something. All-Star consideration in a career year.Floor: middle relief. Fastball would play up a bit coming out of the pen, especially with such a nasty change. Could get LH and RH out with it. Hoffman comes to mind for RH relievers will killer changes, but that's pretty generous too.Projection: 55%
7. Tanner Bushue - RH-SP:
Command: * * * *Stuff: * * *
Fastball: * * *Curveball: * * *Changeup: * *
You have to feel for this kid a little. He was actually showing some signs of improvement this season (how about a 1.98 BB/9?) but dealt with injuries, mainly to his back, for most of the season and never was able to get on a good roll. Luckily he's still quite young (just 21 in late June), so it's not time to hit the panic button yet, but he does need to have a nice bounce-back year and stay healthy to keep from sliding off the radar; he's already in danger of that with two more draft classes of pitchers in the system now. He has just an average fastball, but his curve has flashed plus, so continuing to refine it and the change will be key to his success moving forward. He still has #2 starter potential, but it's time for him to show something and start moving through the system.
Ceiling: solid #2 type, not quite an aceFloor: injuries or just plain washing out could keep him from even reaching the MajorsProjection: 35%
8. Jack Armstrong - RH-SP:
Command: * *Stuff: * * * *
Fastball: * * * *Curveball: * *Changeup: * * * *
I've heard mixed reports on Armstrong, and combined with the fact that he didn't play any pro ball after signing late, I'm going to be stingy on the grades until I hear otherwise. He has a 92-93 MPH fastball consistently, and can regularly hit 94-95 as a starter and flashed up to 98 MPH with it on occasion, so velocity is definitely a strong suit. He's also said to have a good, effect changeup to go along with it, allowing him to compete against both RH and LH hitting. That's about all we can say for sure at this point. His curve needs work and reports I've seen say his command has some serious issues as well, and that he needs major work with his mechanics pitching out of the stretch, so there are certainly question marks. Given his size and the fact that his curve is as mediocre as it is, it's not hard to see him move into the bullpen, where he has top-flight closer potential, but I doubt they'll do that soon unless it's clearly necessary.
Ceiling: he needs a lot of polish but he has #2-#3 starter upside, workhorse with good stuff who can miss batsFloor: even at worst he should be a good power bullpen arm, if not a closer. Command issues would be the only thing to worry about completely sinking himProjection: 35%
9. Kyle Hallock - LH-SP:
Fastball: * *Slider: * * *Changeup: * * *
Last year's 10th round selection is in the same mold as Oberholtzer and Keuchel; a southpaw with average-at-best heat, solid secondary stuff, and excellent command of all of it. Actually, he's a year older than Oberholtzer, so he'll have to rise quickly through the system to avoid being quickly forgotten. His debut at Tri-City was encouraging though; 2.68 FIP, 2.48 BB/9 and, most importantly, a 8.90 K/9. That's going to be the sticking point for him like for all other pitchability guys; can he still manage to miss enough bats to keep opposing hitters honest? His left-right splits (tiny sample size alert) give at least some hope that he could end up as a LOOGY if the rotation doesn't work out for him. But with less than 65 pro innings to his name so far, it's all speculation at this point. An interesting thing will be his starting point this season; part of me wants the organization to start him off in Lancaster. He's going to be 24 before the end of the season, so there's no time for him to hang around in A- Lexington. If he does work out though, he could rise quickly. He's another in a fistful of starters we've been accumulating recently; not a huge ceiling, but very polished and with minimal risk of totally bombing.
Ceiling: #3 starter at best most likely, innings eater with good command who gives you quality startsFloor: I'd like to say LOOGY at worst, but honestly it's too early to be even reasonably sure he won't end up as a career AAA filler guy. We'll know more after 2012 with a year of pro data to work withProjection: 45%
10. Dallas Keuchel - LH-SP:
Command: * * * * * *Stuff: * *
Fastball: * *Curveball: * * *Changeup: * * *
I've heard various reports of either a curve or a slider, but I'm going with curve for now until I get something more solid. Anyway, Keuchel's season was another good step forward. Some may remember that I cautioned all to look at the 3.01 FIP instead of the 4.70 ERA from his short 2010 stint in AA. Keuchel made good on that prediction by posting a 3.17 ERA (3.65 FIP) with yet another sub-2.00 BB/9 rate in 127.2 IP in AA during his 2011 season. He got hammered in his 36.0 inning stint in AAA near the end of the season, posting a high (for him, anyway) 3.00 BB/9 and an abysmal 3.75 K/9. Encouragingly though, he bounced back and posted some great numbers in the Arizona Fall League, with a 3.59 FIP and an astounding 0.32 BB/9 rate. His whiff rate was back up as well, just a hair under seven per nine innings. Though I have no access to in-depth splits, reports remain strong on him; he makes the most of the stuff he does has an induces huge numbers of ground balls. If he can keep that up, he should at least be worthy of a look in the MLB rotation someday soon, and could have good value out of the pen if that doesn't work out.
Ceiling: really, it's hard to even believe in him being a #3 starter, but you never know. #4 is more realistic as a ceilingFloor: swing-man, mop up work. Doesn't really dominate lefties enough to think of him as a LOOGYProjection: 60%
11. Jake Buchanan - RH-SP:
Fastball: * *Curveball: * * * *Changeup: * * * *
Here's a right-handed Keuchel. Like Dallas, this guy has incredible command but only so-so stuff. His sinker rarely hits 90 MPH, but he gets ground balls with it at a massive rate, which is one of the reasons he did so well (3.51 FIP) in Lancaster this season. He even got in a start at AA near the end of the year, a seven-inning, one run gem. A nice follow-up to his 3.30 FIP debut in Tri-City in 2010 indeed. It's hard to get too excited about him just yet, especially since his whiff rate has been so mediocre, but with his sinker, his command, and his curve and change both being described as "above-average" in the reports I've read, he's certainly a name to watch. If he can put together a good, full season in AA this year like Keuchel did last year, then we'll know we have something. He's going to be 22 all season long and has risen pretty quickly for someone his age, so we'll see.
Ceiling: #3 starter at very best, but that's an absolute best-case outcome. #4-#5 is much more realisticFloor: swing-man, some mop up work and some spot starts. Brian Moehler anyone?Projection: 40%
12. Christopher Lee - LH-SP:
Command: *Stuff: * * *
Fastball: * * *Slider: * * *
We picked this kid up in the fourth round last year, and he's definitely more of a project than most college guys are. Granted he's a junior college kid, and he'll be 19 all season long, but he's definitely rough. For starters, as far as I can tell, he's a two-pitch pitcher right now. Given the fact that our system seems to impress the value of a changeup on our prospects heavily, and the fact that essentially every LH starter ever has had at least an average changeup, I'm sure that will change. For now, he's got decent velocity on the heater, which ranged from 88-92 and can touch 94. That's good news, as he's a big kid with some room to grow, and his mechanics need some tweaking and cleaning up, meaning we could potentially see another 1-3 MPH improvement over the next couple of years. His slider is also quite good when he's on, but it's been inconsistent and fringy at times as well. The rookie ball debut had a nice whiff rate (8.69 K/9) going for it, but he walked way, way too many batters in his 13 starts. It's possible they could keep him back in extended ST, the GCL and then the short-season leagues next year even. In short, again, a project; he could end up being a nice #3 starter type, but he could flop massively as well (Brad Dydalewicz anyone?).
Ceiling: mid-or-back-end rotation guy, solid lefty fastball, has the body to be an innings eater if he cleans up the delivery and stays healthyFloor: flames out due to command issues and possibly health issuesProjection: 30%
13. Vincent Velasquez - RH-SP:
Command: * * * *Stuff: * * *
Fastball: * * * Curveball: * * *Changeup: * * *
I'm still high on this kid, but having such a serious injury problem so soon into his pro career (not to mention he was mostly a position player in high school, so just have to wonder just how much of a workload he can really handle) is a serious concern for me. I haven't seen anything extremely telling in his delivery, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now. When he is healthy, though, he looks really solid. His fastball was 90-93 already when he was pitching pro ball for the first time just after turning 18, and he looks like he could continue to fill out his frame some. With a changeup that looks like it should end up as a plus pitch, we could be looking at a 91-95 MPH heater, a plus change and solid curve. FYI, that's Jordan Lyles with some extra gas. It's extremely early to be making any kind of comparison like that as a solid prediction, because, again, we're talking about 29.1 IP total in his career, but the 1.53 BB/9 was great and he missed some bats too. For a guy who only started pitching full-time around six or eight months before he was drafted, those are some impressive numbers to go with the good stuff. Note that the ratings, again, reflect performance rather than upside for the most part, so if he's healthy and develops more like we're hoping this season, expect those ratings to get a nice boost next year.
Ceiling: good #3 starter, possibly even a #2, but everything would have to go right and his curve needs to develop more; having a RH starter with a change as his best pitch is kind of like having a plus defensive first basemanFloor: injuries could hold him back, but given his stuff and talent, he has a chance to at least carve out a bullpen role if he can show some success in AAProjection: 35%
14. Ross Seaton - RH-SP:
Fastball: * * *Slider: * *Changeup: * *
It's been a rough couple of seasons for the hometown kid. I feel I should start by saying I think Seaton has been rushed considerably, and he's had a heavy workload as well; he's not turning 23 until late this September, but he's thrown 438 innings during the last three seasons. I wouldn't say that that's so many that I'm extremely concerned, but you also have to keep in mind that they've been stressful innings, and he's had to use a lot of pitches to try to survive. That said, the fact that he's still 22 is a good thing; we're talking about a kid who has been to a new level of the minors each season without looking back, last year making his AA debut only shortly after he was legally able to drink. To top it off, his command has been very, very strong so far, staying right near his A-ball numbers with a 2.73 BB/9 in AA. His stuff is average still; while he can occasionally hit 93-94, like Lyles, he usually sits 88-91 and has to rely on movement and guile. Unlike Lyles, his breaking ball doesn't have a lot of bite and his change is far from spectacular. The front office was, no doubt, hoping he'd fill in a little and get another tick or two of velocity, along with polishing the breaking balls. So far, it looks like that hasn't happened. However, at the end of the day, he's 22, he's been pitching against slightly-older competition, his command is very good and his FIP was a good deal better than his ERA (4.59 to 5.23, respectively) last season. So there's still some upside, but he's either going to have to miss more bats or induce more fly balls if he wants to make the Majors some day, much less survive there.
Ceiling: I'd be remiss to call him anything more than a #4-#5 starter at very best at this pointFloor: needs either more ground balls or more whiffs, otherwise he'll likely wash out as a career AAA guyProjection: 30%
15. Josh Zeid - RH-RP:
Command: * * *Stuff: * * * *
Fastball: * * * *Slider: * * * * *Changeup: * *
A 10th round pick that the Phillies sent over in the Pence trade, Zeid has had an up-and-down career thus far despite stuff that you would assume would help him rise quickly. His fastball sits 93-94 as a reliever and he can hit 97-98 at times with it as well, and his slider was considered one of the best in the Phillies' organization before the trade. Those two factors have lead to strong strikeout rates so far, but not quite as strong as you would think either. The command is similar; not bad, but not great either. In short, he's put up only average numbers so far, and he's usually been slightly old for his level to boot (he turned 25 in late March.) The potential is there though, and he did show a flash of it in in Corpus last year after the trade, posting a solid 3.38 BB/9 with a nice 8.44 K/9 despite some BAbip and LOB% misfortune in the small sample size. Middling numbers on the whole though will likely have him start at AA once again, but due to his stuff and age (not to mention our MLB bullpen being less-than-stacked) he should be able to rise to AAA quickly if he figures out how to put it all together.
Ceiling: He could be a second-tier closer or a good 7th or 8th inning holds guyFloor: he could simply bomb and fizzle out at this pointProjection: 50%
16. Juan Abreu - RH-RP:
Command: *Stuff: * * * * *
Fastball: * * * * *Slurve: * * * *Changeup: * *
Abreu is all velocity and no control. His minor league walk rates have been mostly pathetic, but the strikeout rates have been incredible. The hope is that he can do what he did in his little 6.2 IP Major League cup of coffee last year (16.20 K/9, 4.05 BB/9) long-term. Obviously, that whiff rate isn't likely (or maybe even possible) to be sustained, but he clearly has the stuff to a a double-digit K/9 guy in the Majors. His fastball is consistently in the 94-96 range, and he routinely hits 97-98 on the gun as well, and while a little inconsistent, his slurve is more-often-than-not more than enough to get swings and misses. Like Bud Norris, his stuff is good enough to be competitive if he can just keep the walk rate to a reasonable level; the four-per-nine would work just fine with that many punchouts. The problem is that, in the minors, his walk rate has always been higher than that, usually significantly so, and at 26 years old, it's getting less and less likely that he's suddenly going to figure out how to hit the catcher's mitt more often. If he does though, he could close for us at some point.
Ceiling: second-tier closerFloor: command never improves and he bombs completelyProjection: 35%
17. Jason Stoffel - RH-RP:
Fastball: * * * *Slider: * * * *Changeup: *
Stoffel was one of two pitchers we received from San Francisco in exchange for Jeff Keppinger. His stuff is pretty solid, with a 91-93 MPH fastball that he can toss up to 95-96 when he needs a little extra, and a hard, power slider that he uses to rack up strikeouts. That's definitely been the good part of his career so far, with whiff rates of 10 per nine innings a common occurrence. Unfortunatley, he hasn't mastered controlling his fastball and slider combo just yet, walking 4.55 batters per nine before the trade, 5.06 per nine afterwards, and an almost unspeakable 10.31 per nine in his 2011 AFL campaign. So that's the knock on him; command. If he can tighten that up, especially locating his heater down the zone more consistently, he could really take off and become a valuable late-inning reliever. He'll be 23 all season, so there's still some time, but he needs to take a step forward this year and make a push to get some MLB innings very soon.
Ceiling: low-end closer at best, but above-average setup man is more realisticFloor: if he can't figure out how to command his stuff, he could wash out completelyProjection: 40%
18. Mickey Storey - RH-RP:
Command: * * *Stuff: * *
Fastball: * *Curveball: * * * *Changeup: * * *Cutter: * *
Storey was a 31st round pick who we acquired from the A's last season. No one knows what we gave up for him, and scouting info on him is pretty thin, so I've had to read between the lines a bit. The few reports I've seen have his fastball only in the 87-90 MPH range mostly, and the fact that he dropped all the way to the 31st round out of college tends to back that up in my eyes. However, a quick look at his numbers show that he definitely knows how to work with what he has, as he basically annihilated the lower minor league levels (how about a 13.31 K/9 and a 2.23 FIP in the California League?) and though his whiff rates have dropped since hitting the AA and AAA levels, they've generally remained solid, usually in the 8.00-9.50 per nine range. He's always had solid command as well, though it went from great to just average after hitting AA and AAA. Scouts say that, so far, his curve is his best pitch, and Storey himself has said himself that he's comfortable with it and he's worked heavily on improving his changeup as well, so he's been able to compete fairly well against both left and right-handed hitters. Aside from a rough 13 inning AAA stint in 2010, his FIP has always been under 4.00, everywhere from Rookie ball all the way up to AAA last year as well, so there's some upside there. In short, he could be a solid bullpen guy, but he's going to turn 26 during spring training, so he needs to show something fast.
Ceiling: setup man, think Brandon Lyon or somethingFloor: can't survive with his poor fastball and washes outProjection: 35%
19. Jose Cisnero - RH-SP:
Fastball: * * * *Slider: * * * *
Information on Cisnero is sketchy, but the stats tell the tale; massive strikeout numbers to go with massive walk numbers. He whiffed 11.09 batters per nine innings, but walked 5.47 per nine as well this year at Lancaster, and while he wasn't extremely hittable (especially considering the venue), he wasn't Nolan Ryan either. At his age and level, there's still some considerable upside, especially given his stuff (likely 91-93 on the fastball with movement; can't say I believe it's better than that, otherwise more scouts would be paying attention to him) and the raw punchouts, but he'll have to reign in the walks at least a little. It's possible his fastball is good enough with so much movement that he has trouble hitting corners, but it's mostly speculation at this point, because no reliable eyewitness reports are available right now. Hopefully he can take another step this year and turn heads. A 4.14 FIP in Lancaster and those strikeouts make him a sleeper in my book.
Ceiling: I'm not sold that he'll remain in the rotation especially after a AA promotion; if he had that much upside, you have to assume we'd have heard more about him. Could be a great late-inning reliever though.Floor: never finds consistent command and bombs.Projection: 25%
20. Ruben Alaniz - RH-SP:
Fastball: * * *
Who? an undrafted free agent high schooler with a 4.59 ERA in Lexington last year? Swear I haven't lost my mind. Well, maybe I have, but not on this thing. Alaniz had an injury and half of his high school team's games were canceled because of an outbreak of swine flu in his district, so he fell off scouts' radars and went undrafted. I kid you not, I couldn't make this up. The Astros then talked him out of going to a junior college and raising his value by giving him a hefty $160,000 signing bonus. That's top five round money, in case you don't realize. Clearly they like him. All I can find on him aside from numbers is that his fastball ranges anywhere from 89-95 MPH and the hope is that he can sit 91-93 consistently while being able to touch 94-96 when he needs it if he fills out. He'll be 21 come mid-June, so he's not too old yet, and he has shown some command (1.56 BB/9 in 2010 and 2.96 BB/9 in 2011), so there's something there. His FIPs have also been a half-run or more better than his ERAs to this point. He played mostly SS in high school, and even played QB for the football team and got some scout attention in that sport, so we can safely say he's a good, young athlete with a strong arm. Definitely a long-shot, but he's got as much upside as anyone else at this point of running through the system and, well, a Top 19 list would have been just silly.
Ceiling: he's starting now but he's not likely a starter in the future. solid bullpen arm at best right now until I get more info or see a great performanceFloor: could bomb easilyProjection: 15%
-- 15 Others To Watch --
Jonas Dufek - RH-SP:
Pros: command, polishCons: mediocre stuff, limited upside, age
Another polished pitchability guy. Average fastball, solid slider and a (reportedly) fringy change. Senior out of Creighton who got off to solid pro start (3.67 FIP, 2.82 BB/9) in Tri-City after being taken in the 9th round. Back-end starter at best, but more likely a bullpen guy. Still, taken in the top 10 rounds, it's too early to write him off as filler. Could start 2012 in Lancaster; could get more attention with good showing there.
Dayan Diaz - RH-RP:
Pros: stuffCons: command, age (already 23)
A decently-young NDFA from Columbia, Diaz put up some great numbers (12.6 K/9 and a 2.50 FIP) for Tri-City last year. Also walked 5.4 per nine unfortunately. Sleeper to break out as a good relief prospect if he can harness his stuff some more.
Luis Cruz - LH-SP:
Pros: age, commandCons: size
5'9" and 170 lbs, he's not going to show up on many radars without great results. 2.31 BB/9 in 190 Lexington innings, and his whiff rate bumped up to 9.10 in 2011 before a promotion to Lancaster, where he got murdered in four starts. 21 all season and a lefty, so there's upside, but aside from 2010, hasn't put it all together for a good stretch yet.
Daniel Adamson - RH-OF:
Pros: average, decent walk-drawerCons: age, mediocre pop
Not enough power for corner OF, needs to stay in CF to have value. Looked bad in 18 games after Lancaster promotion too, already 24 year old. Could be a serviceable backup or pinch-hitter, but not much else.
Roberto Pena - SH-C:
Pros: defense, ageCons: everything else
Backup catcher of the future. Glove work and throwing are get rave reviews, but he hasn't even sniffed a .260 average in the lowest levels of the minors. It's Ausmus-like, except Ausmus was at least doing it in the Majors.
Carlos Quevedo - RH-SP:
Pros: commandCons: stuff
Probably the greatest control in our whole system, the guy has walked a grand total of 36 batters in his 291 inning pro career. That's a 1.11 BB/9 as a career number. His stuff is mediocre though, and though decent, his 6.56 K/9 from last year doesn't project to hold up in AA. Probably better suited as a middle reliever/long man.
Alex Sogard - LH-SP/RP:
Pros: commandCons: age
A bit too old for his level, so his numbers don't project as well going forward. 9.66 K/9, 2.16 BB/9 and 3.38 FIP were all nice though, and about a third of his appearances were starts, so I don't know what role they have in mind for him moving forward.
Murillo Gouvea - RH-RP:
Pros: misses batsCons: age, slow advance
With his whiff rates and non-terrible walk rates, you have to wonder why he was still in A-ball during his fourth pro season. Sleeper out of the pen, but don't hold your breath either.
Grant Hogue - RH-OF:
Pros: defense, patience, baserunningCons: power, average, age
Would be more valuable if he were a walk machine or had a little pop. Two professional homers in 1,103 PAs, not good at all. Many of them came in Lancaster too. Hits for only decent average. Probably a defensive backup and pinch-runner at best, but he'll be 26 in June and hasn't seen AA yet.
Jose Thompson - RH-2B:
Pros: pop, defenseCons: patience, age
Solid defensive 2B, did hit 10 HR in 286 PAs at Lancaster, but it's Lancaster. Looked horrible in 55 AA PAs. Barely walks and turned into a whiff machine after promotion. Could develop value as a bench player.
Bobby Doran - RH-SP:
Pros: groundballsCons: missing bats
Looked good in Rookie ball after being drafted, but got hammered in Lancaster. While the .376 BAbip was a key factor, so too were the poor 4.32 BB/9 and 5.54 K/9. Still a high-round pick with upside, but needs to have a better season. Not time to panic yet. Might profile better as a reliever.
Kyle Greenwalt - RH-SP:
Pros: commandCons: missing bats
Another college pitchability guy. Doesn't walk batters, and that held true in AA debut stint, but whiff rates are poor and don't figure to improve. Probably not good enough to ever start in MLB, may move to pen full-time this year and could be in AAA soon if that works out.
Luis Durango - SH-OF:
Pros: walks, few whiffs, baserunning, defenseCons: average, power, age
Acquired from the Padres on the waiver wire. Michel Bourn-esque tools, but even less power and hasn't hit for much average. Does draw a lot of walks and doesn't strike out much, but he's getting old. Could potentially get some time in CF if Schafer struggles or gets locked up or shot in a drive-by or whatever. Probably a 4th OF and pinch-runner as a career though.
Jeremiah Meiners - LH-RP:
Pros: command, polishCons: age
Have to not read too much into things, but his Rookie numbers were excellent and he was promoted all the way to Lancaster, skipping Lexington. A bit older than you'd like, but could be a serviceable lefty reliever someday.
Miles Hamblin - LH-C:
Pros: draws walks, above-average on basesCons: strikeouts, age
Being a catcher helps his value, and he has a bit of pop (keyword being "bit"), to go with the walks, so it's possible he could be a decent OPS backstop. Not enough data to say more right now.
It's related to prospects, so here's info on signing bonuses this year: www.baseballamerica.com/blog/draft/2012/02/2012-aggregate-bonus-pools/
With 11 picks in the first 10 round, we'll have $11,177,700 worth of bonus money to use on those first ten picks. Considering that the Nationals and Pirates were the only ones to spend more than that during the first ten rounds last year, we should be in decent shape. Maybe Williams really could fall to us and we could give him a little more than his slot, and then go for some value-guys in the 7th-10th rounds.