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2012 Sleeper Prospects Early Returns

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2012 Sleeper Prospects in Review, Part One

Here is a look at each player I tagged with a Sleeper Alert! label in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. This is A through E. I will get the rest of them tomorrow.

Some of these guys are better-known than others. By Sleeper, I mean a guy who wasn't well-known nationally as a top prospect pre-season, but who showed signs of being a breakout prospect for 2012. This doesn't mean the player in question was a complete nobody pre-season, especially to fans who follow a particular team closely, or to people who are just super prospect fanatics (like many members of the Minor League Ball Community). The idea is to look for guys with the potential for sharp increases in their performance, publicity, and placement on prospect lists.

Jason Adam, RHP, Royals: 2.14 ERA in 34 innings for High-A Wilmington with a 29/10 K/BB and 31 hits allowed. Stock climbing quickly, projects as a mid-rotation starter and is a local kid from Overland Park, Kansas. Age 20.

Jeff Ames, RHP, Rays: Extended spring training. Rated as a sleeper due to scouting reports and the fact that a couple of bad games in rookie ball inflated his ERA last year, making him easy to overlook. 21 years old.

Matt Andriese, RHP, Padres: 3.86 ERA in five starts for High-A Lake Elsinore, with a 22/4 K/BB ratio in 23 innings, 22 hits, and a 2.23 GO/AO. Another potential inning-eating starter but easy to overlook in deep system. Age 22.

Elvis Araujo, LHP, Indians:
Big 6-6 lefty, is 0-4 in six starts for Low-A Lake County but with a 2.61 ERA and a 27/8 K/BB in 31 innings, 1.74 GO/AO. Very live arm and has made progress with his command, didn't receive much pre-season notice but was known to close watchers of the Indians system. More press attention is coming. Age 20. Tommy John survivor.

David Baker, RHP, Orioles:
Extended spring training, although word is that he should be activated soon. Live arm with improving secondary pitches and 6-4, 195 build. Age 21.

Clayton Blackburn, RHP, Giants:
Burly right-hander was a steal in the 16th round last year. 5.85 ERA for Low-A Augusta but with a 23/6 K/BB and a 3.00 GO/AO in 20 innings with 25 hits allowed. Power sinker, curve and slider also have potential. Age 19.

Jorge Bonifacio, OF, Royals:
Dominican outfielder off to a fast start at Low-A Kane County, .343/.420/.457 in 105 at-bats, 13 walks, 22 strikeouts. Showed good power in rookie ball and has brought that forward. Just 18 years old. Destined for Top 50 lists, if not higher, if he stays hot.

Jake Buchanan, RHP, Astros:
4.20 ERA in 30 innings for Double-A Corpus Christi, with a 22/9 K/BB, 39 hits, 1.42 GO/AO. Not a hot prospect, but ability to throw strikes and work efficiently could make him a useful utility pitcher. Age 22.

Alex Burgos, LHP, Tigers:
4.66 ERA for High-A Lakeland, 23/14 K/BB in 29 innings, 28 hits, 1.24 GO/AO. Too many walks at this point of the season. He impressed me last year in the Midwest League but he needs to sharpen his command, doesn't have the stuff to blow by hitters without it. Age 21.

Zach Cates, RHP, Cubs:
He's been awful: 11.57 ERA in five starts for High-A Daytona, with a 7/9 K/BB and 31 hits allowed in 16 innings. Getting some ground balls with a 1.80 GO/AO but his K/IP ratio is disturbingly low and he has clearly not progressed as hoped. Age 22.

Tyler Cloyd, RHP, Phillies:
Excellent so far, 4-0, 1.45 ERA with a 28/3 K/BB in 31 innings between Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley, 22 hits. Turns 25 this month. Nebraska product doesn't excite scouts but he knows how to pitch and could get to the majors later this year.

Grant Dayton, LHP, Marlins:
0-4 in five starts for High-A Jupiter, but with a 1.71 ERA and a 22/6 K/BB in 21 innings, 17 hits. Old for the level at age 24 but is converting from relief to starting, handling it well so far. Double-A will be the big test, still unclear if he starts or relieves in the long run.

Jorge De Leon, RHP, Astros: Effective reliever in Low-A last year but getting killed this year in the California League, 9.53 ERA with a 12/9 K/BB in 11 innings for High-A Lancaster, 18 hits allowed. Throws hard but problems with secondary pitches and command hold him back. Age 24.

Zack Dodson, LHP, Pirates:
6.17 ERA with 22/8 K/BB in 23 innings for Low-A West Virginia, 32 hits allowed, has given up four homers. Pitched well in one start, got hurt in four. Inability to put away right-handed hitters the main issue (they are hitting .338 against him). Age 21.

Jaime Esquivel, RHP, Orioles
: Extended spring training, expected to go to the New York-Penn League in June. Turns 20 later this month, was a 28th round pick in 2010 but could have gone much higher if not for a Rice scholarship.