Stick a shiny fork in the minor league regular season because it is officially over. Time for Top 50/75/100/150 lists and organizational reviews as we try to digest the final numbers of the season. I took a look at each position and looked at all levels, from the foreign summer leagues to AAA, to find who was the Best of MiLB at each position. The top candidates are listed as well with statistics. Minimum to be included - 200 PA for hitters, 100 IP for starting pitchers, and 40 IP for relief pitchers.
Catcher - Josmil Pinto, Minnesota Twins (AA/AAA)
Josmil Pinto really had his big break out season last year, and he carried that success and confidence over to 2013. He split last year between High A Ft. Myers and AA New Britain, only registering 52 PA after his promotion. He started the year as a 24 year old in AA and he was outstanding. The majority of his season was spent there with a promotion to AAA Rochester the first of August. In 75 PA in AAA, he hit .314/.333/.486 with 22 H, 9 2B, 1 HR, 6 R and 6 RBI. This got him a September call up to the big leagues. Pinto signed in 2006 from Venezuela and is a stout 5'11 210 lb behind the dish. His numbers prove his ability with the bat, with power and a good hit tool. Defensively, he threw out 29% of potential base thieves, made 7 errors and allowed 8 passed balls in 535 chances over 74 games. He's been said to possess a plus arm with his defense progressing throughout the year. He records pop times in the 2.00 second range which works, but is not that great.
Murphy made a strong case but his very favorable home park was the deciding factor. Ohlman has some impressive power, but he's behind the curve defensively. I love the the displine Plawecki has but until more power shows, he's out. I honestly can't see Peter O'Brien being eligible at C for a list like this after this year. He's already being groomed as a 3B, with 1B really being his only fallback position due to his speed. Rowan Wick put a hurting on Appy league pitching but he was a bit old for the league at 20, and 67 K in 207 AB is a little troubling. David Rodriguez is a name to watch for sure next year as he moves stateside as an 18 year old. His .949 OPS was tops for all catchers in the minor leagues with at least 200 PA.
First Base - Greg Bird, New York Yankees (A)
Bird finally got a full season under his belt this year and was very impressive in doing so. He was drafted in the 5th round of the 2011 draft from high school in Colorado as a catcher. He signed for $1.1M but only got into 5 games in 2011, then another 28 in 2012 due to a back injury which prompted the move to 1B. This year, finally healthy, he punished Sally pitchers all year long. He's got a sweet left handed swing that produces plenty of power (59 XBH, .223 ISO) and he's got a knack for getting the barrel to find the ball. Defensively, he's still got to learn the finer points of playing 1B but he has time. This year he spent 90 games at first and made 11 errors in 819 chances for a .987 fielding %. Luckily, his position throughout the organization is filled with minor league vets and aging major league stars past their prime. Another impressive performance at A+ Tampa would cement his place among the top 1B prospects in the game.
Best of the rest - Max Muncy (OAK-A+/AA), Ji-Man Choi (SEA-A+/AA), Jayce Boyd (NYM-A/A+), Dan Vogelbach (CHC-A/A+), Daniel Palka (AZ-R+/A-), Dominic Smith (NYM-R/R+)
Max Muncy showed off some impressive power this year after that was his main concern coming out of college. Bird's superior plate discipline and ability to drive the ball to all fields won out though. Ji-Man Choi had a great year, even after he left the launching pad of High Desert. Dan Vogelbach is going to be a special bat, especially once he grows into his power stroke. Jayce Boyd did a lot of things well, he's just got to get a few more of those 2B to go over the fence. A pair of 2013 draftees made the cut with Daniel Palka doing work on the Pioneer and Northwest Leagues but with too many K's. Dominic Smith was the best 1B in the Rookie League circuits, but still needs to develop more power.
Second Base - Devon Travis, Detroit Tigers (A/A+)
Devon Travis fits the mold of "scrappy 2B" completely. In fact, he may have been the basis of the mold. He’s 5’9 185 lb and was drafted in the 13th round of the 2012 draft out of Florida St. He spent the first 25 games of his pro career in Connecticut in the New York-Penn League, posting decent numbers but nothing special. This year was a totally different story. He started out by mashing Midwest League pitching to a .352/.430/.486 triple slash line with 35 BB to 32 K in 77 games. A promotion was in order, and he was sent back to sunny Florida to play with Lakeland in the Florida State League. There he hit .350/.401/.561 with more power than he had previously shown. His plate discipline waned a bit, striking out 32 times to 18 walks. He also hit 10 of his 16 HR there in only 55 games. Defensively he’s made 12 errors this year in 619 chances for a .981 fielding %, and has also been a part of 81 double plays.
Second base was a loaded position this year. Rougned Odor climbed all the way to AA as a 19 year old and finished the year with the second most XBH (58) for a 2B (Ryan Rua - 60). Micah Johnson was the fastest man in the minors, tallying 83 stolen bases. Mookie Betts busted out in a big way this year, but couldn't match Travis' superior season. Joe Wendle was old for A+ but had a fantastic year. Delino DeShields didn't steal 100 bags like last year but kept his batting average above .300 and his OBP above .400. Gosuke Katoh came out of nowhere after the 2013 draft and tore apart the Gulf Coast League. I don't usually keep tabs on players in the foreign summer leagues, but Domingo Leyba put up some seriously eye-popping numbers as a 17 year old with a 196 wRC+ and 1.032 OPS.
Third Base - Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins (A+/AA)
What more can be said about this guy? He demolished the Florida State League with no regard to human life, then spun his wheels a bit getting acclimated to AA as a 20 year old. Once he got going though he posted a .915 OPS including 19 HR and 37 XBH in 67 games. He actually had more home runs than singles (19-18) once he got to AA. His .330 ISO for the year was bested only by Joey Gallo. His .992 OPS trailed only 23 year old phenom Cal Towey of the Orem Owlz for best in the minors at 3B. Even the majority of his doubts at the hot corner were resolved this year with some solid D. Miguel Sano will be hitting balls a long way for a long time, possibly in a stadium near you.
Best of the rest - Maikel Franco (PHI-A+/AA), Garin Cecchini (BOS-A+/AA), Patrick Kivlehan (SEA-A/A+), Joey Gallo (TEX-A), Ryan McMahon (COL-R+)
Maikel Franco had arguably one of the biggest breakouts at any position this year, but it just wasn't quite enough to edge out Sano. Cecchini showed some very impressive plate discipline and a knack for getting on base. Kivlehan's numbers don't look that impressive, but he spent 4 years playing college football exclusively before returning to baseball last year. Its hard to think that the minor league HR leader, Joey Gallo, didn't make the cut as the best player at his own position, but then you notice he struck out 172 times in 411 at bats and it makes more sense. McMahon's numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt playing in the offensively charged Pioneer league, but they are still impressive for a guy who is just out of high school.
Short Stop - Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (A+/AA)
These days its a very short list when you think of short stops that can hit 25-30 bombs in a season. Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, JJ Hardy and maybe Ian Desmond would make the cut. That is the potential that Baez shows at arguably the most important position on the diamond. He's not a sure thing to stick at short, but if he does, and all signs are pointing to that in the Cubs organization, he will make a huge impact on the north side. He strikes out at a somewhat alarming rate but he has been able to utilize his freakish bat speed to still hit balls anywhere in the strike zone to all fields. 75 extra base hits and 20 stolen bases are a very enticing package and he has not really shown any signs of slowing his roll.
Its great to see so many top prospects litter this table. Bogaerts, Correa and Baez all ranked within the top 10 on just about all notable mid-season top prospect lists. XB has shown his ability to stick at short and has already made it to the majors at age 20. Marcus Semien had a breakout year showing a power/speed combo and a good ability to take the walk and get on base. He has also reached the MLB. Carlos Correa has shown feel for the game far beyond his years and has the frame and time on his side to develop into a complete 4 tool guy (minus the speed). Rosell Herrera has had an amazing season, but it warrants some skepticism after seeing what happened to Trevor Story last year. Christian Arroyo is the only 2013 draftee to crack the list with a great performance in the AZL. Coming into the draft it looked like Arroyo may have been a bit of a reach to go in the first round but he has made the San Fran front office look good.
Center Field - George Springer, Houston Astros (AA/AAA)
With outfielders, the difference between center field and the corners is huge in terms of difficulty, and in turn, value. This is why I differentiated between CF and LF/RF. Springer was the player of the year in my eyes for 2013. Including the playoffs and all-star game, Springer accomplished a 40/40 season with 2 HR in the AA All-Star game and one in the playoffs. He struck out a good bit but also walked a lot this year. Now combine that with this being the first time Springer has seen the upper minors and its also just his second full season of pro baseball. I think this man will become the anchor of the Astros lineup for the next 6-7 years. The reason why I am not scared away by his high strikeout rate is that he is still learning the strike zone and improving his pitch recognition. He played college ball at Connecticut which doesn't exactly play in the most difficult of conferences in college baseball. Last year in his first full season, he was 22 and challenged jumping from 8 games in short season A ball to A+ where he struck out at a 26.4% rate. This was his first prolonged exposure to higher fastball velocities and decent breaking balls. Hit the fast forward button and Springer is seeing the best junk of his life and the best pitching of his life, and has slightly raised his K rate to 27.3%. The more repetitions a player gets in seeing back foot sliders, well placed change-ups, change-of-speed slow curves, and bowling ball sinkers, the better he will get at picking these pitches up out of the pitcher's hand. It doesn't look like he will have much more time in the minors, so it seems we will have to wait and see
|Michael De La Cruz||16||PIT-DSL||225||67||50||11||3||0||20||14/26||59/51||.415||151||.298/.443/.373||.817
Pederson came into the year under the radar but a strong 20/30 season in AA as a 21 year old has changed that. He lloks like a top 50 guy for sure.I know Byron Buxton will be the number 1 prospect in all the lands for most people. He may very well deserve such an honor, but what George Springer did this year was magical. And it certainly isn't beyond the realm of possibility that Buxton has a similar year in his future.Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier will probably be compared to each other for their entire careers, but Meadows had the better first year as a pro. The deep sleeper here is Michael De La Cruz who played in the Pittsburgh DSL and was fantastic as a 16 year old. Any 16 year old that puts together a 59/51 BB/K ratio deserves a mention, no matter the league.
Corner Outfield - Zach Borenstein, Los Angeles Angels (A+)
Zach Borenstein finished off the year in impressive fashion. His 1.034 OPS was third in the minors and the best of any player younger than their respective league average (29 year old Chris Colabello in AAA - 1.066, 23 year old Cal Towey in R+ - 1.036) His .631 slugging % was second in the minors to Colabello's .639. He also leads everyone in the Cal league in most advanced metrics (wRC+, wOBA, ISO, OPS, SLG), batting average, and HR. Not bad for a 23rd round pick in 2011 from Eastern Illinois. He also only made 4 errors in LF with 8 assists. A move to AA Arkansas is obvious, and it will also shine a good bit of light on whether 2013 was all Borenstein or was aided with a good bit of help from the California league parks.
Corner Outfield - Andrew Lambo, Pittsburgh Pirates (AA/AAA)
Lambo was a 4th round pick of the Dodgers in 2007 and was traded to Pittsburgh in 2010 along with RHP James McDonald for RHP Octavio Dotel in one leg of the "Octavio Dotel North American Tour". He was good for the pirates in AA in 2011 before injuries wiped out the majority of 2012 for Lambo (he only appeared in 35 games). This year his power stroke made an extended appearance, hitting 14 HR in 58 AA games and 18 HR in 62 AAA games. Pittsburgh called him up to the MLB roster in August, making him eligible for the postseason if they're looking for a power hitting lefty off the bench. At 24 he's about out of prospect gas, so he needs to show he can hit MLB pitching before he gets labeled as a AAAA slugger.
Best of the rest - Chris Colabello (MIN-AAA), Reymond Fuentes (SD-AA/AAA), Kelly Dugan (PHI-A+/AA), Jabari Blash (SEA-A+/AA), Scott Schebler (LAD-A+), Francisco Sosa (COL-A), Nick Williams (TEX-A), Jesse Winker (CIN-A), BJ Boyd (OAK-A-), Yordi Calderon (SEA-VSL/R/R+)
Chris Colabello is an amazing story, but he's still quite old for AAA. Reymond Fuentes bounced back this year with a performance befitting a premier lead off hitter. Kelly Dugan showed impressive power but poor plate discipline. Jabari Blash came though with a great year combining excellent power numbers with speed and a good ability getting on base. Scott Schebler is in the same boat as Borenstein, that we still need to see how he does outside of the California League. His power and speed are just as good, if not better than Blash's, but he needs to get the K's under control.
Francisco Sosa is old for A ball at 23 and hit in the paradise known as Asheville. Still, he's got pop and speed but he was heavy on the K's and that could be exploited next year. If not, he's got the potential to be a fast mover in the Colorado system. Nick Williams just needs to take more walks, plain and simple. He should spend hours upon hours just tracking pitches to familiarize himself with how certain pitches break. Jesse Winker just might be one of the best under-the-radar guys from the 2012 draft. He ranked in the top 5 in the Reds system pre-season for 3 of the 7 top prospecteers and 39 XBH as a 19 year old in the Midwest league is almost as impressive as his 63/75 BB/K ratio. BJ Boyd had a solid year in short season ball with 23 XBH in just 71 games. Yordi Calderon put together a very good year between the Venezuelan Summer League and AZL, with one game for advanced Rookie Pulaski. The only knock is that his damage was done mainly in the VSL as a 19 year old.
That's it for the hitters. Look forward to a full 12-man pitching staff in the next installment, coming soon. Now if you're one of those people who just scroll through to the bottom to get to the summary, this is for you.
|Josmil Pinto||Greg Bird||Devon Travis||Miguel Sano||Javier Baez||George Springer||Zach Borenstein||Andrew Lambo|
|Tom Murphy||Max Muncy||Rougned Odor||Maikel Franco||Xander Bogaerts||Joc Pederson||Chris Colabello||Reymond Fuentes|
|Michael Ohlman||Ji-Man Choi||Micah Johnson||Garin Cecchini||Marcus Semien||Byron Buxton||Kelly Dugan||Jabari Blash|
|Peter O'Brien||Jayce Boyd||Mookie Betts||Patrick Kivelehan||Carlos Correa||Austin Meadows||Scott Schebler||Francisco Sosa|
|Kevin Plawecki||Dan Vogelbach||Joe Wendle||Joey Gallo||Rosell Herrera||Clint Frazier||Nick Williams||Jesse Winker|
|Rowan Wick||Daniel Palka||Delino DeShields||Ryan McMahon||Christian Arroyo||Michael De La Cruz||BJ Boyd||Yordi Calderon|
|David Rodriguez||Dominic Smith||Gosuke Katoh|