The 2016 minor league season has come to an end and in the New York Penn League the State College Spikes are the champions for the second time in three seasons. As is normally the case in short season leagues, development is the most important aspect over the course of a season. Let's take a look at the top 20 prospects in the NYPL this season.
1. A,J, Puk, LHP, 21 - Vermont Lake Monsters (Oakland A's)
0-4, 3.03 ERA. 32.2 IP, 40 K, 12 BB, .185 BAA
A.J. Puk was a potential number one pick in the past June's amateur draft, but he slipped down to Oakland at sixth overall. The stuff for Puk is there, but his command is what is lacking at this point in his career. He has a plus fastball with a plus slider as well. His changeup is still developing, but it does not appear to be far off from being a viable third pitch.
Though he struggles with his command, his strikeout to walk ratio was solid in 32.2 innings. Left-handers tend to take longer to develop, especially those that are 6-7, but once Puk brings it all together and gains command, he will be a front-end starter at the Major League level.
2. Brady Aiken, LHP, 20 - Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Cleveland Indians)
2-1, 4.43 ERA, 22.1 IP, 22 K, 8 BB, .233 BAA
Aiken has had his share of injuries, his injury after being drafted by the Astros and failing to sign is well documented, but fortunately for Cleveland he fell into their lap in 2016. After struggling in Rookie ball to begin his professional career, Cleveland promoted him to Mahoning Valley, hoping Aiken would improve. In his first start against Batavia, he allowed three runs in three innings, but he was pitching well until allowing a three run home run to J.J. Gould in the third inning. He would allow at least a run in his remaining four starts in the NYPL, including five in his last start of the year against eventual champion State College Spikes.However, he struck out at least five in three of his five starts with the Scrappers, including six in five innings against the Spikes.
While the results were not there for Aiken in 2016, his pitches are still considered plus. Clearly the past injury history and long road back from Tommy John surgery meant he was not full back to his prep form. I look for a more conisistent season from Aiken in 2017 and a shift towards the potential he has of being at the front of a rotation down the road.
3. Will Craig, 3B, 21 - West Virginia Black Bears (Pittsburgh Pirates)
.280/.412/.362, 2 HR, 23 RBI, 79 TB, .343 AVG in final ten games
Craig flew up draft boards this spring and became a first round draft pick of the Pirates. He had a breakout season with Wake Forest and was one of the top offensive players in this year's draft according to my analysis. Craig continued his success once he started his professional career and most importantly continued to get on base, which is a major part of who he is as a player. Craig was second in the league in on-base percentage behind Jeremy Martinez.
Craig played first base as well in college, but spent his time in West Virginia at third base. There is the potential of him playing first in the long term, but Craig gives the Pirates the flexibility to know he can play both corners of the infield. I project Craig as a 20-25 home run player, which profiles well for a corner infielder.
4. Justin Dunn, RHP, 21 - Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets)
1-1, 1.50 ERA, 30.0 IP, 35 K, 10 BB, .227 BAA
Justin Dunn is another player that shot up draft boards in June. Dunn built his draft profile as a reliever, but the long term plan is he will be a starter. At this point in his development, Dunn has a plus fastball, but his curveball and slider are not far behind. Also, Dunn has a changeup that is average, but if he can develop it and use it effectively, then Dunn will have another weapon in his arsenal. Developing a fourth pitch will go a long way in making Dunn a starter in the future. His delivery is fluid, so there is little fear of it hurting him long term.
When the Mets first selected Dunn, I was surprised they did not go with Will Criag, since he was still on the board. However, the more I saw Dunn, the higher I became on him. He struck out more than a batter an inning - and that is with the Mets using him conservatively. He did not throw more than three innings in any game with the Mets keeping his innings down since he threw 65.2 innings with Boston College. Dunn will be an exciting arm to watch in 2017, probably beginning the year in Colombia and making his way to Double-A Binghamton.
5. Dane Dunning, RHP, 21 - Auburn Doubledays (Washington Nationals)
3-2, 2.14 ERA, 33.2 IP, 29 K, 7 BB, 208 BAA
I profiled Dunning prior to the draft in June and had this to say about him: "Dunning has a fluid motion starting at the hip, continuing to bring his hands up, and followed by a late breaking of the hands. The late break of the hands allows Dunning to hold the ball longer and hide the ball from the hitter. His mechanics remind me of Zack Wheeler. His fastball is consistent at 93 and 94, but as a reliever he will max out at 96 since he is only in the game for a short time.
Dunning's changeup is the better of his off speed pitches when compared with his breaking ball. His breaking ball is in the low 80's with an11-5 spin. The breaking ball still needs work. He has a tendency to keep it up in the zone and get in trouble, but once he fixes that he will have an even more impressive three pitch mix"
6. Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, 22 - Connecticut Tigers (Detroit Tigers)
0-2, 2.65 ERA, 37.1 IP, 34 K, 8 BB, .246 BAA
Funkhouser had a great start to his professional career with Connecticut. He had an excellent 34-8 strikeout to walk ratio and finished the season strong with a 1.78 ERA in his final ten starts of the season. Funkhouser has a plus fastball, but his secondary pitches fell off heading into the draft. They appeared to improve once his professional career began and the hope is he will regain the stuff that had him pegged as one of the top arms leading into the 2015 draft. If Funkhouser regains that form, I envision him as a middle of the rotation starter.
7. Desmond Lindsay, OF, 19 - Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets)
.297/.418/.450, 4 HR, 17 RBI, 50 TB, .282 AVG in last ten games
Lindsay's professional career did not begin in a successful manner in 2015. Fortunately for him and the Mets, Lindsay had a stellar year in 2016. His bat is the most advanced aspect of his game and Lindsay showed that this year. He improved his overall numbers in every category with only eight extra at-bats. I project Lindsay to develop more power as he develops further in the future.
Lindsay spent every inning in the field this year in center field. Lindsay's plus speed will help him make up for his average defense, this is not a knock on Lindsay at all, but more of a compliment of his speed. Lindsay only stole three bases in four attempts this season, but I hope he integrates that more into his game next season. Lindsay is the first in a trio of young prep outfielders in the NYPL this season to make an appearance in my top 20. Of the three (Whitley and Cameron included), Lindsay has the potential to be the best of the three if his current rawness turns into the tools he is projected to have.
8. Daz Cameron, OF, 19 - Tri-City ValleyCats (Houston Astros)
.278/.352/.418, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 33 TB, .359 AVG in last ten games
Cameron started the 2016 season with the Quad Cities River Bandits and struggled mightily. Cameron only hit .143 and had 33 strikeouts in only 77 at-bats - necessitating a demotion to Tri-City. Upon arriving with the ValleyCats Cameron's season turned around. In only two more at-bats, here is how the numbers compared between Quad Cities and Tri-City:
Quad Cities Tri-City
H - 11 H - 22
TB - 17 TB - 33
HR - 0 HR - 2
BB - 8 BB - 6
SO - 33 SO - 26
Slash Line - .143/.221/.221 Slash Line - .278/.352/.418
Clearly Daz Cameron was in the middle of turning his season around (.359 AVG in final ten games) before a broken left index finer ended his season. Cameron profiles as a glove first, a plus glove at that, leadoff hitter with the potential to hit 15 home runs in the future.
9. Garrett Whitley, OF, 19 - Hudson Valley Renegades (Tampa Bay Rays)
.266/.356/.379, 1 HR, 31 RBI, 97 TB, .250 AVG in last ten games
Whitley began his way in lackluster form with no results in 2015. The tools were evident, but he could not find any success. Fortunately for all involved, 2016 was a stark contrast. Whitley showed improvements and gained positive results. Whitley has always had plus speed, but in 2016 he further implemented it in his game, going from eight stolen bases to 21 this year. His hands are quick to the ball with explosion upon entering the zone. He still is too raw to fully project where he will wind up in his career, but his improvements from 15-16 are great signs for Tampa.
10. Adonis Medina, RHP, 19 - Williamsport Crosscutters (Philadelphia Phillies)
5-3, 2.92 ERA, 64.2 IP, 34 K, 24 BB, .203 BAA
Medina has had an upward trend to his professional career and that continued in 2016. Only 19, he has great sink on his fastball which in turns generates a lot of groundballs. He still has plenty of time in his development to develop his secondary pitches. I was most impressed with his changeup at this stage in his development. As is typical with young arms, there is improvement needed in his command, but as he brings it all together Medina profiles as a possible mid-back end of the rotation starter.
11. Peter Alonso, 1B, 21 - Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets)
.321/.382/.587, 5 HR, 21 RBI, 64 TB, .368 AVG in last ten games
Peter Alonso had an excellent debut in his professional career that was unfortunately cut short due to a broken finger. In just over 100 at-bats, Alonso exhibited the best part of his game, his power with five home runs and totaled 64 bases. At the time of his injury, Alonso had a hit in seven of his final ten games, more than two hits in five of his final ten, and hit .368 - perhaps the best was yet to come for Alonso in 2016.
His defense is average, but it is well known the offense of Alonso is what will carry him in his career. There is always a place in the game for a power hitting first baseman and Alonso fits that mold. Alonso profiles as a six hitter in the order with 15 home runs.
12. Cody Sedlock, RHP, 21 - Aberdeen IronBirds (Baltimore Orioles)
0-1, 3.00 ERA, 27.0 IP, 25 K, 13 BB, .158 BAA
Sedlock is the top prospect in the Orioles farm system, according to MLB.com. He was drafted 27th overall in this past years draft and began his professional career successfully. He joins the Baltimore system already with four pitches, albeit needing to further iron them out. His fastball sits in the low 90's and his slider is his best secondary pitch at this stage in his development. The Orioles will be patient with Sedlock since he spent plenty of time as a reliever in college, so he will not move as quickly as some other collegiate arms. Overall, Sedlock is certainly an unfinished product, but I can envision him as a back of the rotation starter or a long reliever, but a lot is dependent on how he progresses over the next few years.
13. Nick Solak, 2B, 21 - Staten Island Yankees (New York Yankees)
.321/.412/.421, 3 HR, 25 RBI, 101 TB, .425 AVG in last ten games
Solak has the strongest case as the MVP of the NYPL in 2016. He finished third in on-base percentage and hits, fourth in average, and finished in the top ten in slugging percentage and total bases. He was drafted in the second round of the 2016 draft and started his career in scorching fashion. It was a long season for a player who began the year in college with Louisville and finished in the middle of September still hitting the ball well, .425 in the last ten games and at least a hit in nine of his last ten games. Solak is a hard nosed baseball player when combined with his penchant for getting on-base profiles as a top of the order hitter.
14. Bobby Dalbec, 3B, 21 - Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox)
.386/.427/.674, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 89 TB, .366 AVG in last ten games
Dalbec was one of the more intriguing bats in this seasons draft. He did not disappoint upon joining the Spinners. His seven home runs were enough to finish in the top ten in the NYPL. While the power is nice, Dalbec needs to walk more and strike out less - only nine walks in 132 at-bats. The Red Sox do not want him to be a "home run or bust" player, but his patience at the plate will be the deciding factor in that. He has a plus arm (Dalbec pitched while in college) and his defense is average, but Dalbec will stay at the hot corner in the future.
15. Logan Shore, RHP, 21 - Vermont Lake Monsters (Oakland A's)
0-2, 2.57 ERA, 21.0 IP, 21 K, 7 BB, .207 BAA
Logan Shore is a pitcher that stands out to me in a number of ways. First, he is a bulldog. Shore takes the ball and fights through every start refusing to give in to his opponent. A comp in that aspect is Rick Reed, a pitcher best remembered for his time with the Twins and Mets in the 90's and early 00's that was a gamer that delivered big outings when the staff needed one.
Shore has excellent command of his pitches with his best pitch being his changeup. He uses it effectively; the goal for Shore should be to further improve his breaking ball to give him a dangerous three pitch mix. Shore profiles as a reliable middle to back of the rotation starter that takes the every fifth day, but is the one on a staff you want on the mound in a big game because you know he will not give in in any situation.
C.J. Chatham, SS, 21 - Lowell Spinners (Boston Red Sox)
Merandy Gonzalez, RHP, 20 - Brooklyn Cyclones (New York Mets)
Stephen Wrenn, OF, 21 - Tri-City ValleyCats (Houston Astros)
Ronnie Williams, RHP, 20 - State College Spikes (St. Louis Cardinals)
Nick Banks, OF, 21 - Auburn Doubledays (Washington Nationals)