**Manning center field for Double-A New Hampshire this year is Toronto Blue Jays prospect Anthony Gose. He is one of the best pure athletes in the minor leagues, with 80 speed, a strong throwing arm, and excellent moves in the outfield. The question is the bat. Although he has wiry strength, he hits for little power and has poor strike zone judgment, a bad combination. Pessimists don't think this will improve, while optimists point to his athleticism and youth (he's just 20) and project that he'll hit enough to stay in the lineup and make the most out of his wheels and glove. In 23 games for New Hampshire, he's hitting .232/.291/.274 with seven walks and 20 strikeouts in 103 PA, which is obviously poor performance. He's stolen nine bases in 11 attempts, which is impressive considering how little he actually gets on base. I'm skeptical about Gose overall, but he's still so young I don't want to close the door on him at this point.
**San Diego Padres outfield prospect Reymond Fuentes has a similar package of skills to Gose: loads of speed, athleticism, wiry strength, a center field glove, but a raw approach at the plate, though not quite as raw as Gose. He's hitting .313/.343/.404 so far for High-A Lake Elsinore in the California League, though his rawness shows up with a poor 4/22 BB/K ratio in 106 plate appearances. Like Gose, he has the range to be an excellent defensive outfielder, though his arm is weaker than Gose's and he's more error-prone at this point. Fuentes was acquired as one of the key prospects in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, but I expect the Padres will be cautious about promoting him until he shows more refinement.
**Houston Astros prospect Austin Wates was drafted in the third round last June from Virginia Tech. Although he's not quite on the same level as Gose or Fuentes, he is a good athlete in his own right with above average speed, strength, and enough range to play center field. Wates has solid command of the strike zone and has a 12/14 BB/K in 118 plate appearances for High-A Lancaster this year, but his swing doesn't translate his wiry strength to power effectively, and scouts don't see a ton of power in his bat. He's hitting .267/.339/.381 so far, not too impressive, though he has a strong track record with wooden bats in the past and the sample is small. He's swiped six bases in eight attempts, and I think he's capable of hitting much better than he's done so far at Lancaster.
**A fourth round pick in 2008 out of high school in Puerto Rico, Minnesota Twins outfielder Danny Ortiz is off to a terrific start for Low-A Beloit, hitting .376/.426/.729 through 24 games, including six homers and 10 doubles. The 21-year-old left-handed hitter hit .259/.299/.498 last year for rookie-level Elizabethton, so his performance this year is a significant improvement, particularly in the plate discipline department. He's played all three outfield positions this year but is best-suited for right field. Scouts like Ortiz's swing and he's got plenty of bat speed, but has been held back somewhat by a raw approach. If he maintains the progress he's shown with his strike zone judgment this year, his breakthrough will look genuine.
PERSONAL NOTE: I need to sell some books, guys. I have 60 unsold copies of the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book sitting in my garage. We have .pdfs for sale too, although when we started selling .pdfs, sales of the paper copies came to a screeching halt, which I was afraid of. We love .pdf sales of course, but not everyone likes .pdfs or has electronic readers.
I know a lot of you have bought the book, but many of you haven't. It has reports on over 1,000 players, and even with the minor league season a month old, it is still extremely useful, especially for players at the lower levels or for background on guys you haven't heard of who could get promoted (Cody Eppley for example). You can only order the book at www.johnsickels.net, and once those 60 copies are gone, there won't be any more paper copies. Order today, and it will ship within 24 hours. Thanks!