We are half way done with the list and we now move up to prospects #26 to #50. As with all lists, these rankings are a compilation of hands-on scouting, dialogs with scouts and industry experts, as well as statistical analysis. As always, I welcome your feedback.
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Arenado turned a lot of heads in the 2011 Arizona Fall League, batting .388 with a 1.059 OPS while winning MVP honors. Drafted in the second round in 2008, Arenado has a plus hit tool with gap power that should eventually translate into 20-25 home run power. In High-A Modesto, he demonstrated an elite 88% contact rate and a passable 8% walk rate. Assuming Arenado continues to mash in Double-A, he will be rising very quickly on everyone’s prospect list.
The centerpiece of the Javier Vazquez trade in 2010 to the Yankees is starting to pay-off for the Braves. Vizcaino combines plus velocity that sits 93-94 and hitting 97 MPH with the ability to command the fastball. His breaking ball is now above average and continues to improve while the change-up is still emerging. There is still debate among scouts and baseball executives on whether Vizcaino is a starter or late inning reliever but all agree that the young Dominican has got great stuff and a bright future.
Wheeler was traded from San Francisco to the New York Mets in the Carlos Beltran trade and immediately went to the top of the prospect list for the Mets. He throws a nasty 92-94MPH two-seam fastball with natural sink. The results in High-A across both the Mets and Giants were 129K/55BB in 115 innings. While the walks are on the high side, this is very typical for a sinker-baller and should correct over time.
If you’re looking for a future MLB steal champion, it could very well be Gary Brown. Brown has blazing 80-grade speed and amassed 53 steals on 72 attempts in High-A in 2011. His batting approach has turned out to better than scouts predicted showing decent plate discipline (8.0 BB rate). His speed and defensive ability will fit nicely in the cavernous PacBell Park. A small blip could be his departure from the Arizona Fall League with mononucleosis. This could slow him early in 2012 as he starts in Double-A.
Montgomery is a tall 6-4 lefty that was christened as the pitching ace of the Kansas City rebuilding program, possibly starting in 2011. The stuff is excellent with a fastball that sits 92-94MPH and hitting as high as 97 with late life as well a plus curve and an improving change-up. However, the command left Montgomery as he struggled for most of the year repeating his mechanics. The results were a less than stellar 69 walks in 150.2 innings in Triple-A. There were reports of better command in August as Montgomery finished the month with a nice line of 19.2 and 21K/3BB. Don’t give up on Montgomery as lefties with the stuff that he has do not grow on trees.
31. Jarrod Parker – RHP (Oakland A’s)
The Diamondbacks took it very slowly with Jarrod Parker in 2011 as he recovered from Tommy John Surgery. Parker was basically limited to 5.0 innings per game with his plus velocity returning by May. As is typical, the command took a while but by mid-season, Parker had a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio. With his trade to the A’s, Parker has an excellent chance to break camp with club for the 2012 season with an upside of a #2 starter.
32. Drew Pomeranz – LHP (Colorado Rockies)
Pomeranz was the first college pitcher taken in the 2010 draft by Cleveland, and then found himself a year later, traded to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez. Pitching in Colorado instead of Cleveland for a guy who is more of a flyball pitcher than a ground pitcher is clearly a setback (GA/OA was 0.83). Pomeranz does have good stuff as his fastball sits 93-95MPH to go along with a plus curve. His change-up is still below average and he rarely throws it. Pomeranz did make four starts in the majors in 2012 but unless he improves the change-up and starts to keep the ball down, success will be difficult. There’s a lot to like in Pomeranz, but more development is needed.
33. Jonathan Singleton – 1B (Houston Astros)
Christmas came early for Jonathan Singleton as he was stuck behind Ryan Howard in Philadelphia but is now behind a combination of Carlos Lee and Brett Wallace in Houston. Singleton posses great raw strength with quick hands and nice plate discipline for a 19-year old - walking 70 times in 449 at bats in 2011. While the 13 home runs he hit didn’t challenge any record, he’s still very young and raw and should grow into his power.
34. James Paxton – LHP (Seattle Mariners)
Drafted in the fourth round in 2010, Paxton has very good stuff with his fastball sitting 90-94MHP with good life and sink as well as one of the better curves in the minors. The change-up is still a work in progress but is beginning to flash as an above average offering. He does have a long delivery which can sometimes lead to inconsistent command as is evidence by his 43 walks in 95 innings in 2011. However, the ground ball rate is excellent with a 1.53 GO/AO rate. Paxton will start 2012 in Double-A.
35. Matt Harvey – RHP (New York Mets)
The concerns of overuse in college have subsided and the Mets look like they’ve gotten an excellent front of the rotation arm in the 2010 draft. Harvey sits 93-95 with nice spin on his breaking ball. His change-up is not there yet but should develop as he moves through the Mets organization. Harvey should continue back in Double-A to start the 2012 season, but a mid-season promotion to Triple-A or Flushing is probably in the cards.
36. Zach Lee – RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)
The Dodgers #1 pick in 2010 had a very good first year in professional ball, striking out 91 in 109 innings while only walking 32. A very athletic hard thrower who sits 91-94MPH with a lot of late life, Lee has better secondary pitches than scouts originally thought. The Dodgers have a history of moving top pitching prospects quickly through their system and Zach Lee should continue that tradition.
37. Miguel Sano -3B (Minnesota Twins)
Candidly, I’m a little uncomfortable putting an 18 year-old player this high on the list, particularly when the highest level he has played in is the short season Appy League, but there’s too much talent in Miguel Sano to ignore. Sano was signed by the Twins in 2009 out of the D.R. for $3.15M. He posses plus-plus power and when fully actualized in the majors, could hit 30-35 home runs. He still is learning how to hit as is evidence by his high swing and miss ratio (77K in 267 at bats) but scouts believe his quick hands and decent batting eye will lead to a plus hit tool.
Not only is Dellin Betances a very large human at 6-8 and 260 lbs, he’s also has nasty stuff with his fastball sitting in the mid 90’s and a nasty power curveball. In 2011 across Double-A and Triple-A, he’s struck out 142 in 126.1 innings but he also walked 70 indicating that his command is trailing his stuff. Betances still has some development left but given the status of the Yankees rotation, he could very well make the starting rotation out of camp in 2012. If he does, expect him to struggle a bit but remember, the upside is still there.
39. Brad Peacock – RHP (Oakland A’s)
Not many prospect saw their stock rise in the 2011 season more than Brad Peacock. Across Double-A and Triple-A, Peacock struck out 177 in 146.2 innings while walking only 47. This resulted in a September callup where Peacock won his first two major league starts, although he didn’t pitch all that effective. Peacock stuff is legitimate as he combines a 91-94MPH four seam fastball that with a lot of late life with a plus 12-6 curve that produces a lot of swing and misses. His change-up is still a work in progress and if the A’s are smart, they would give Peacock another 12-15 starts in Triple-A to refine the pitch. Peacock has strong #3 potential with #2 upside.
Promoted from Single-A to Triple-A in 2011, Ramirez has started to show why he was a supplemental pick in the 2007 draft. Ramirez put things together last year with a fastball that sits 93-94MPH, a plus curve and an above average change-up, although some shoulder problems hampered his second half development. With the addition of Darvish and Feliz to the rotation, Ramirez timeframe has been delayed. However, the talent is there and Texas has never been shy about trading talent to help their major league ball club.
41. Yasmani Grandal - C (San Diego)
The Reds had depth at catching and decided to trade Grandal to the Padres in the Mat Latos deal. While the path to the majors is now clear, Grandal will be faced with a massive Petco Park instead of the small confines of "The Great American" Park in Cincinnati. While Grandal doesn’t have the upside of Mesoraco, he still has the offensive skill set to become an elite backstop and hit in the middle of the lineup. Plus power and a great approach to hitting were demonstrated over three stops in 2011 (14 home runs, 16% walk rate, and a 75% contact rate).
42. Wilin Rosario – C (Colorado Rockies)
Rosario was having a breakout year in 2010, when knee surgery cut his season short in Double-A. In 2011, he repeated Double-A and continued to show considerable power by hitting 21 home runs in 405 at bat but also demonstrated a lack of plate discipline by only walking 19 times. Defensively, Rosario has a plus arm and handles pitchers very well. Whether we like to admit it or not, this is becoming a typical profile of a major league catcher - some pop with a poor batting average.
43. Michael Choice - OF (Oakland A’s)
Oakland has searched for a long-time for a middle of the order power bat and may have found one in Michael Choice. Taken as the #10 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Choice dominated the CAL league by hitting 30 home runs and batting .285. While his strikeout rate was high at 28%, Choice did shorten his swing throughout the year and dropped his strikeout rate significantly without loosing power. He does swing with maximum effort causing noticeable backside collapse ala Adrian Beltre.
44. Leonys Martin – OF (Texas Rangers)
I’ve gone back and forth on Leonys Martin. Originally, I didn’t believe the hype surrounding his signing, but the success in 302 at-bats in the minors changed my mind as he had an 88% contact rate to go along with a 9% walk rate. He also managed to steal 19 bases but did get thrown out 11 times. I’m still not totally sold on the hit-tool and could very well see him flame out
In 2010, Yonder Alonso batted .296, had 12 home runs and 56 RBI at Triple-A. In 2011 in Triple-A, he batted .296, had 12 home runs and 56 RBI. Talk about consistency! Alonso has a nice lefty swing that profiles as a plus hit-tool and above average power. He is ready for the major leagues and while the trade to San Diego moved him away from MVP Joey Votto, he will now be competing with Anthony Rizzo for playing time. There has been talk of moving him to the outfield, but I don’t believe the speed and athleticism is there to warrant the move.
46. Aaron Hicks – OF (Minnesota Twins)
Scouts fall in love with tools and Aaron Hicks has a ton of them. The problem is his ability to hit has yet to catch up to his athleticism. Part of the problem is the 78 walks he took in 443 at-bats this year in the Class-A Florida State League. Scouts look for aggressive hitters with a good eye but Hicks is just passive at the plate. He doesn’t swing at good pitches and then gets himself into poor hitting counts resulting in weak contact. In the final two months of the season, Hicks batted a paltry .195. At 22 years-old and likely to repeat Single-A, Hicks needs to start figuring things out.
47. Jake Marisnick – OF (Toronto Blue Jays)
At 6-4 and 220lbs, Jake Marisnick looks like a ballplayer. He has the size, speed, and athleticism to profile as a true center fielder. He has quick hands and prenatural ability to barrel the ball. In Low-A, he batted .320 with a great contact rate of 80% and walk rate of 9% while adding 37 steals in 45 attempts and hitting 14 home runs. He’ll start the year in High-A and if all goes well, should progress very quickly through the Toronto organization.
48. Anthony Rizzo – 1B (San Diego Padres)
The cutoff for prospect eligibility for positional players is 130 major league at bats. Anthony Rizzo makes it under the wire at 128 after an unforgettable major league debut in 2011. How unforgettable? He had one more stolen base than home runs. It’s clear that Rizzo has plus raw power but he also has a very long swing that major league pitchers were able to find holes resulting in 46 strikeouts in 128 at bats. The question is will he adjust? He makes the list because of the power and the dream but could easily fall into obscurity if he doesn’t shorten up the stroke.
49. Bubba Starling – OF (Kansas City Royals)
Committed to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska, a $7.5M signing bonus by the Royals in 2011 draft quickly swayed Bubba Starling to try baseball as a career. Starling is blessed with great physical skills – a 6-5 195lbs frame, great raw power and plus arm strength. He profiles as a slugging right fielder. The big question will be, can he hit? The high-school competition he faced was pretty weak but scouts like his bat speed but do see his swing getting long. Player development will be the key.
50. Gary Sanchez – C (New York Yankees)
Gary Sanchez performance in 2010 as a 17 year-old in Rookie ball had scouts buzzing and commenting that very over-used phrase, "the ball just sounds different coming off his bat". In 2011, as an 18-year in Low-A, things were not as rosy. Sanchez still demonstrated the bat speed and strength that excited scouts, but some make-up issues surfaced that eventually sent him back to extended spring training. In the end, Sanchez played well, hitting 17 home runs with a 93K/36BB over 301 at bats but clearly there is work left to be done. The upside, particularly at the catching position, is still very high for the young Gary Sanchez.
51. Jonathan Schoop – 2B (Baltimore Orioles)
52. Oscar Taveres – OF (St. Louis Cardinals)
53. Randall Delgado – RHP (Atlanta Braves)
54. Jake Odorizzi – RHP (Kansas City Royals)
55. Francisco Lindor – SS (Cleveland Indians)
56. Nick Franklin –SS (Seattle Mariners)
57. Trevor May – RHP (Philadelphia Phillies)
58. Jarred Cosart – RHP (Houston Astros)
59. Archie Bradley – RHP (Arizona Diamondbacks)
60. Tim Wheeler OF (Colorado Rockies)
61. Rymer Liriano – OF (San Diego Padres)
62. Xander Bogaerts – 2B/3B (Boston Red Sox)
63. Casey Kelly – RHP (San Diego Padres)
65. Kotlen Wong – 2B (St. Louis Cardinals)
66. Christian Yelich – OF (Miami Marlins)
67. Anthony Gose – OF (Toronto Blue Jays)
68. Will Middlebrook – 3B (Boston Red Sox)
69. Nick Castellanos -3B (Detroit Tigers)
71. Oswaldo Arcia – OF (Minnesota Twins)
72. Corey Spangenberg – 2B (San Diego Padres)
73. Cheslor Cuthbert – 3B (Kansas City Royals)
74. A.J. Cole – RHP (Washington Nationals)
75. Drew Hutchinson – RHP (Toronto Blue Jays)
76. Bryce Brentz – OF (Boston Red Sox)
77. John Lamb – LHP (Kansas City Royals)
78. Grant Green – SS/OF (Oakland A’s)
79. Jedd Gyorko – 3B (San Diego Padres)
80. Sonny Gray – RHP (Oakland A’s)
81. Derek Norris – C (Washington Nationals)
82. Mason Williams – OF (New York Yankees)
83. Matt Szczur – OF (Chicago Cubs)
84. Zack Cox – 3B (St. Louis Cardinals)
85. Allen Webster – RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)
86. Nate Eovaldi - RHP (Los Angeles Dodgers)
87. George Springer – OF (Houston Astros)
89. Josh Vitters – 3B (Chicago Cubs)
90. Robbie Erlin – RHP (San Diego Padres)
92. Matt Davidson – 3B (Arizona Diamondbacks)
93. Tyrell Jenkins – RHP (St. Louis Cardinals)
94. Joe Wieland – RHP (San Diego Padres)
95. Alex Meyer – RHP (Washington Nationals)
96. Starling Marte – OF (Pittsburgh Pirates)
97. Justin Nicolino – LHP (Toronto Blue Jays)
98. Chad Bettis – RHP (Colorado Rockies)
99. Jed Bradley – LHP (Milwaukee Brewers)
100. Javier Baez – SS (Chicago Cubs)
101. Luis Heredia – RHP (Pittsburgh Pirates)