50: Anthony Gose/OF/Toronto Blue Jays/8-10-90/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Best MLE wOBA is .290 in 2011. Poor defense record. Peak .253/.317/.394.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Gose’s play in the AFL was essentially an extension of his play in Double-A all year. His .250/.348/.433 slash in the AFL was a near carbon copy of his .253/.349/.415 slash with New Hampshire in the Eastern League.
He understands the value of a walk, but struggles to make contact. After struggling with inefficiency stealing bases in 2010, he became a great base stealer in 2011. While hitting is a completely different skill, if his growth as a base runner foreshadows his ability to be coached up elsewhere, Gose could really turn the corner in 2012. He’s primed to enjoy the friendly confines of the Pacific Coast League, but is stuck behind a crowded outfield on the parent club.
October 2011: Forecast doesn’t like his defense, but most scouting grades suggest his best attributes are his range and arm in the outfield, and his speed. His hitting is what comes under the most scrutiny. Some reports suggest he’ll be able to make enough contact to take advantage of his speed and post a decent average. Others see a guy who strikes out too frequently to hit for average.
He offers some pop, and is capable of drawing walks. If he’s can get on base at even a moderate rate in the majors, he can be an impact stolen base threat with better than negligible power. If he isn’t able to cut back on the strikeouts, he’ll be a defensive-minded center fielder or fourth outfielder. Either of those scenarios would make him a fantasy non-contributor. The ceiling may not be high enough to offset the floor and justify this ranking. I’m buying in based on the leap he was able to make in stolen base success, and hoping that’s evidence of him being coachable.
51: Michael Olt/3B/Texas Rangers/8-27-88/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Breakout 2011 result in a projection of useful home run power from the hot corner, with a poor batting average.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Olt had a huge showing in the AFL. He hit .349/.433/.764 and his power was in full force. Olt crushed 13 home runs in 127 plate appearances, leading the AFL, and six more than the next closest hitter. He struck out often, but also walked at a high rate. Basically, his play in the AFL was an extension of his minor league play with some BABIP luck sprinkled in, and the aid of a home run friendly environment. Olt should get his first taste of the upper minors in 2012, opening in Double-A.
October 2011: Olt suffered a broken collarbone which shortened a season that was off to a solid start. He projects to hit for power, but he’ll need to cut back on his strikeout rate to hit for average. His defense is quite good at the position, but a move to the outfield may be necessitated by Adrian Beltre‘s long-term deal in Texas. If he moves to the outfield, he drops entirely off this list. Plus power at third base with the potential for a passable average is too much to pass up at this point on the list.
52: Matt Harvey/SP/New York Mets/3-27-89/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: Yet to have a major league quality season; 2011 is best with 4.3 BB/9, 8.4 K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Harvey spent half of the season toying with High-A hitters before a promotion to Double-A. In Double-A, he retained a high strikeout rate, though, it did drop a bit. His walk rate rose from 2.84 BB/9, which is quite good, to just a passable 3.47 BB/9. Both component stats should have resulted in better than his 4.53 ERA, something his 3.23 FIP can attest to. He induces more groundball outs than flyball outs and he may not even require a full season in the minors before making his big league debut. It’s possible the Mets could send him back to Double-A for more time there, but I expect he’ll open the year in Buffalo with their Triple-A affiliate.
October 2011: Harvey follows Wheeler on this list, but it is debatable which is the better prospect. That’s good news for the Mets assuming both reach their ceiling. Harvey throws a plus fastball in the low-to-mid-90s and can touch the 95-97 mph range. He also throws a hard slider, a plus curveball that could develop into a plus-plus pitch according to Goldstein, and a developing change-up. The development of his change-up is going to determine whether he just lives up to his high floor, or reaches his front-of-the-rotation ceiling.
53: Jarrod Parker/SP/Oakland Athletics/11-24-88/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Oliver’s six year forecast is that of a replacement level player, almost exactly.
Scouting notes: March 2012: The most important stat for Parker in 2011 was his 136.1 innings pitched. He remained healthy, and regained much of his pre-Tommy John injury stuff according to most reports. Parker found his name in the transactions as he was dealt from the Diamondbacks to the A’s in a multi-player package that saw Trevor Cahill head to Arizona. He’ll no longer call the pitcher-friendlier National League home, but he’ll offset the change of leagues by swapping hitter-friendly Chase Field for the O. co Coliseum (previously just called the Oakland Coliseum).
At his best, Parker uses a low-90s sinking fastball to induce groundballs, and his slider to strike batters out. His slider was graded as the best in the Diamondbacks organization before surgery, and it reportedly gained much of its sharpness back as 2011 wore on, and he was further removed from the operation. His other secondary offerings include an above average change-up, and a show-me curveball. Parker’s control has been shoddy in the spring, walking six in 7.1 innings. He was sent down to the minors on Monday, but remains in the mix for the A’s fifth starter spot as they don’t need one until April 17.
October 2011: John Sickels wrote an outstanding Prospect of the Day piece recently about Parker. In short, his stuff is still there, but he’s still working to regain control after Tommy John surgery shelved him last season. He isn’t throwing his slider as much, but it remains a plus offering. Before his injury he’d have ranked much higher. If he goes back to using the slider more frequently as a punch-out pitch and his strikeout rate climbs, he’ll shoot up the list.
54: Randall Delgado/SP/Atlanta Braves/2-9-90/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: 2010 only year with MLE ERA under 6 (4.21)
Scouting notes: March 2012: Delgado got a taste of life in the majors last year, starting seven games for the Braves. He could begin the year in the major league rotation filling in for Tim Hudson while he recovers from offseason back surgery. Delgado’s 2.83 ERA in 35 major league innings suggests he’s big league ready, but his advanced measures paint a different picture. His control needs work, and his strikeout rate was low and could stand to improve.
His low strikeout rate was largely a result of a low whiff rate on his fastball. Most scouting reports grade his curveball as being ahead of his change-up. With that in mind, it was surprising to see that his change-up generated a whiff rate of 19.29 percent, per his Brooks Baseball player card, compared to 10.0 percent whiff rate on his curveball. His ability to generate empty swings with both secondary pitches should help him improve his strikeout rate substantially in time.
October 2011: The Braves have a glut of young talented pitchers, but not everyone views Delgado as being in the same class as the rest. He throws a fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, a plus curveball and a developing change-up that is described as average with plus potential.
His command is lacking, and is his biggest problem at this point in his young career. His strikeout rates have been solid, but have slipped a bit at each level he’s moved up (with the exception being 21.2 innings in Triple-A this year). His walk rate has fluctuated between passable in the mid-3s BB/9, to mildly concerning in the lower-to-mid-4s BB/9.
There is no reason to rush the youngster with all of the rotation under contract (or team control) next season, and other more polished arms like Teheran, Mike Minor and Vizcaino to turn to, so expect to see Delgado spending a significant chunk of next year in Triple-A (barring a trade).
55: Brad Peacock/SP/Oakland A’s/2-2-88/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Breakout 2011 and two years of 8+ K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Parker wasn’t the only prospect starting pitcher the A’s acquired this offseason. In a separate trade, the A’s further overhauled their pitching staff sending Gio Gonzalez to the Nationals in return for a prospect haul that included Peacock. A breakout season in the minors earned him three appearances, two of which were starts, with the Nationals in 2011. His 12 innings pitched are too few to draw firm conclusions about his ultimate major league value, but they did provide some PITCHf/x data.
According to his Brooks Baseball player card, he threw two fastballs, but primarily leaned on his four-seamer that averaged 93.19 mph. He also threw a change-up and curveball. His secondary pitches were thrown with near equal frequency. He turned to his change-up 18 percent of the time, and his curveball 15 percent of the time. Of the two, his curveball was much better at creating empty swings from opposing hitters, and the data lined up with his scouting reports, which grade his curveball more favorably than his change-up. Peacock is in the mix for one of three remaining rotation spots. He has been pummeled this spring, and may end up in Sacramento pitching for the A’s Triple-A affiliate to begin the year as a result.
October 2011: He was one of John Sickels’ breakout prospects coming into the year, and boy, oh boy, was he right. Peacock put together a monster season and now is on top-50 prospect lists left and right. His fastball is a plus pitch and sometimes is described as a plus-plus pitch. He also throws a curveball that some, such as Baseball America, describe as a knuckle curve. It is a swing-and-miss pitch that is a nice pairing with his fastball.
What will determine how successful he can be in the big leagues is how good his change-up becomes. Some still question its ability to develop into an average third offering and think Peacock will end up in the bullpen. I’m willing to gamble it becomes good enough to work through lineups multiple times and pile up strikeouts.
56: Trevor May/SP/Philadelphia Phillies/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: MLE of 6.1 BB/9 in 2011 is career best, as is 10.5 K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: May is one of the minor leagues’ finest strikeout artists. He made major advances to his control, and was much better in his second go-round with High-A Clearwater. He’s now ready for the challenges of the upper minors, and is ready to open the year with Double-A Reading.
October 2011: May’s stock is rising after he cut his walk rate from a ghastly 7.84 BB/9 last year to a palatable 4.05 BB/9. His strikeout rate is elite, as the Forecast MLE suggests. He repeated High-A as a 21-year-old this year, so he’ll need to prove himself against Double-A hitters next year before moving up this list. He’s a tall pitcher 6-foot-5 and has a body that is projectable to add on to. In addition to a fastball that is a plus pitch and can hit the mid-90s, he throws curveballs and change-ups plus potential. If he can develop his secondary stuff and refine his control, his ability to miss bats could put him on the fast track through the upper minors, making the mild age concerns due to repeating a level a moot point.
57: Arodys Vizcaino/SP/Atlanta Braves/11-13-90/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Two good years. Cut BB/9 to below 3 with a 7.5 K/9.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Uh oh, my words last October cautioning that Vizcaino may not have been out of the woods simply resting and rehabbing a partial tear of the UCL appear prophetic now. Of course I’m not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be, but this isn’t the first case of a player eventually needing surgery after suffering a partial tear. That’s not to say he should have simply had surgery and gotten it out of the way. As Will Carroll tweeted to me, you always attempt to avoid surgery.
Thankfully, medical advances mean this injury is no longer a death knell to a pitcher’s career. Unfortunately, it means Vizcaino will miss all of this season, and likely some of next year. It also probably assures him a future role in the bullpen. He’s still in the development stages of his career, he has never shown the ability to stay healthy, and working as a starter would require a longer time to build his innings up. His fantasy value drops significantly with a move to the pen, and he won’t appear on the next top-100 fantasy prospect update.
October 2011: He’s a former Yankees farmhand. The Braves are reaping the benefits of the prospect they received for Javier Vazquez. His stuff grades out well by all scouting outlets, and his performance has been tremendous. Just taking those into account, he’d rank considerably higher.
Not all is good with Vizcaino, though, which is why he lands on the list here. Last year he opted to rehab a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament (the Tommy John ligament). Thus far, that appears to have been a good choice. That said, it’s possible, if not probable, that he’ll tear it completely and require surgery in the future. Another knock against him is that this is his first season eclipsing 100 innings pitched, meaning he still has to prove he can stay healthy and build up his innings.
The last, and not least, knock against him is that being part of a loaded Braves pitching stable makes his future role uncertain. In most organizations he’d be a slam dunk to continue development as a starter, but the Braves have a number of young pitchers both in their major league rotation and knocking on the door. They may use him as a high-leverage late innings reliever to keep him healthy, and not test his small frame’s limits. Those who trust his front-line starter three-pitch mix of a plus velocity fastball, curveball and change-up should move him up the list.
58: Archie Bradley/SP/Arizona Diamondbacks/8-10-92/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Has thrown only two innings in Rookie Level ball, so he doesn’t have a forecast yet.
Scouting notes: March 2012: In most draft classes, Bradley would have been the top prep arm. In 2011, that distinction was reserved in the eyes of most for fellow Oklahoma high school pitcher Dylan Bundy. Bradley has a high ceiling in his own right; in fact, his ceiling is that of an ace. He has many hurdles to clear in his development, but the seeds of something special are there.
October 2011: He throws a fastball that has hit 101 mph. If that’s not enough to get the juices flowing, he also throws a hammer curveball that’s praised by all outlets. He also throws a change-up that gets mixed reviews. His control lacks consistency, so expect him to be brought along slowly by the Diamondbacks. His ceiling is extremely high, high enough that Sickels suggests he may have been a steal at pick seven.
59: Mike Montgomery/SP/Kansas City Royals/7-1-89/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: Poor 2011 after good 2009-10 with too many walks (3.9, 3.6, 5.2 BB/9).
Scouting notes: March 2012: Expected by most to be the leader of a wave of young pitchers reaching the big leagues for the Royals, Montgomery went backwards in 2011. His walk rate jumped to north of four batters per-nine innings. He was at his worst prior to the All-Star break with a 4.88 BB/9. Montgomery’s control was much better post All-Star break with a 2.99 BB/9. As long as he possesses a power arsenal, he’ll remain a high ceiling prospect. He has been brutal in two spring appearances for the Royals, and looks to tackle Triple-A yet again to begin the 2012 season.
October 2011: He’s still left-handed, and he still has electric stuff. The results have been lackluster, though, as his control is less than I’d like to see, and his strikeout rate isn’t high enough to offset it. He’s just 22, so he has time to iron out his issues. The scouting industry remains high on him, but Sickels hints he may downgrade him from a B+ grade to a B and Keith Law suggesting a potential drop of 30- plus spots on his list. He doesn’t look like a slam dunk to reach his high ceiling, but if he puts it together this ranking will look foolishly low.
60: Cory Spangenberg/2B/San Diego Padres/3-16-91/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: The data are limited, but Oliver translated his professional work in 2011 into an MLE slash of .285/.351/.380.
Scouting notes: The Padres selected Spangenberg with the 10th pick in last June’s amateur draft. He played third base in college, but has been switched to second base as a pro. His power is of the gap variety, and won’t be done any favors calling PETCO park home. It’s the other facets of his offensive profile that will appeal to fantasy gamers.
Spangenberg projects to hit for a plus average, and work walks. When on base, Spangenberg will look to use his plus-plus speed to steal bases in bunches. In just 275 at-bats split between Short Season ball and Low-A, he used his wheels to swipe 25 bases in 33 chances (75.6 percent success rate). He should open the year in High-A, and may not need more than this year and next to hone his craft in the minors.
61: Billy Hamilton/SS/Cincinnati Reds/9-9-90/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Great steals, good glove, no bat, lots of strikeouts.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Hamilton followed up his 103 stolen base season in Low-A with a trip to the Puerto Rican Winter League. His offseason was a rough one. He broke a bone in his hand, though, he’s fully recovered now. Prior to suffering the injury, he struggled to hit, finishing with a line of .194/.286/.194 in 36 at-bats. That sample is way to small to freak out about, but it’s obviously always better to see top prospects performing well in any setting and over any period of time.
He’ll begin the year in High-A, and after reading his scouting reports, I’m not overly optimistic he’ll move faster than a level at a time. His speed is off the charts, though, and he’s worth dreaming on for now.
October 2011: Baseball Prospectus’ Jason Parks has described his speed as a 90 on the 20-to-80 scale—quite high praise. He’s raw and developing, and he’ll need to continue to improve making contact, but his plus-plus speed tool and insane stolen base upside at shortstop make him worth a gamble. He’s unlikely to bring any power, but young Jose Reyes-type steal numbers would look quite nice if he’s able to hit enough to reach the majors.
62: George Springer/OF/Houston Astros/9-19-89/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Some home runs, some walks, lots of strikeouts.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Springer is often described as toolsier than your average college draftee. The Astros nabbed him in the first round of last June’s draft, and signed him quickly enough that he was able to play in eight games in the Short Season New York-Penn League. He has the plus power/speed combo that fantasy gamers crave, but his ability as a hitter is more questionable. His strikeout rates were very high in his freshman and sophomore years at the University of Connecticut. He struck out in 25.0 percent of his at-bats as a freshman, and in 28.8 percent of his at-bats as a sophomore. He cut his strikeout rate back substantially to 16.0 percent as a junior.
If he’s able to keep his whiffs in check as a pro, his prospect stock will rise rapidly. He’ll open the year in Low-A, and the amount of time he spends in the minors will likely come down to how real his gains as a hitter in his junior year were.
October 2011: The words “upside,” “tools” and “raw” are thrown around in just about every notable scouting report on Astros first-round pick George Springer. He has plus speed and plus power potential, but his swing mechanics have come into question and he isn’t as developed as your typical high first-round college hitter. He’s a high risk/high reward prospect, but because he’s older than prep boom-or-bust prospects Bubba Starling and Josh Bell, he’s finds himself rated lower.
63: Javier Baez/SS/Chicago Cubs/12-1-91/ETA: 2015
Forecast notes:Too small a sample as a 2011 draftee
Scouting notes: March 2012: Baez didn’t sign until the Aug. 15 deadline, but that didn’t prevent him from playing in three Arizona Rookie level league games, and two in Short Season ball. He has the type of power and batting average projection to suggest he could eventually hit in the heart of the order at the friendly confines of Wrigley Field. He’ll begin the year in Low-A.
October 2011: Baez is a high offensive ceiling 2011 draftee who currently plays shortstop. Some think he’ll need to move to third base, which is why he slots here instead of a dozen or more spots higher. Another knock against Baez is that his makeup has been questioned by a number of scouts. As far as positives, he has plus bat speed that should allow him to hit for power, but Project Prospects’ Steve Carter questions if the way he generates plus bat speed will allow him to reach his ceiling as a hitter. Whether he plays shortstop or third base, the potential for both a plus power and hitting makes him an exciting prospect.
64: Dante Bichette Jr./3B/New York Yankees/9-26-92/ETA: 2015
Forecast notes: Data limited, but his MLE .756 OPS in his professional debut is pretty impressive for a young man who was an 18-year-old last season.
Scouting notes: Bichette was selected in the supplemental first round of last June’s draft by the Yankees. He signed quickly, and absolutely annihilated Gulf Coast Leauge pitching, hitting .342/.446/.505 with 23 extra base hits and a 30:41 walk-to-strikeout rate in 240 plate appearances. Perhaps more impressive than his bat was how well he performed in the field. Drafted as a third baseman, many thought he’d end up being forced to the outfield. He showed enough fielding skills at the hot corner to provide hope he can stick there.
Bichette is a below average runner. That won’t hurt his fantasy value too much, as he projects to hit for above average power, and add a solid batting average. As his outstanding walk rate suggests, he’s got a mature approach at the dish in spite of his youth. He will play in his first full season league in 2012, opening in Low-A.
65: Starling Marte/OF/Pittsburgh Pirates/10-9-88/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: .280s type hitter with a little bit of power and speed.
Scouting notes: March 2012: In over 1,400 career minor league at-bats, Marte has hit .309/.366/.453. It would be nice to see him improve his walk rate, but that .309 batting average is spectacular. Extended a spring training invite, he made the most of his 25 at-bats, hitting .520/.520/.920 with three long balls. Alas, the inevitable demotion to the minors came on Sunday.
He’ll open the year in Triple-A, but should be promoted during the season. With Alex Presley impressing last year, and Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata cemented in the other two starting outfield positions, Marte’s first taste of the majors could come in a fourth outfielder capacity. Because of that, the Pirates may choose to keep him in the minors most of the year so that he can get regular playing time.
October 2011: Marte is a tremendous athlete learning to play baseball. He’s a plus defender who may force the Pirates to move Andrew McCutchen to a corner outfield position. His most salivating tool, especially from a fantasy perspective, is his plus-plus speed. His success rate (just 66.6 percent) indicates he’s still learning, but his 24 stolen bases are solid. His power is average-ish, but he has a chance to contribute a bit in the future.
He hit for a ton of average (.332) in Double-A and projects to have a plus hit tool. The fly in the ointment with Marte is his incredibly aggressive approach at the plate, which may not allow him to fully take advantage of his plus-plus speed and his hitting skill if more advanced pitchers make him hit their pitches. His walk-to-strikeout rate was 22:100 this year; he’ll need to learn to be patient if he wants to reach base at a high rate. Walking is considered an old person skill, so there is hope he’s able to learn.
66: Nick Franklin/SS/Seattle Mariners/3-2-91/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: 2011 saw a regression in power. Oliver still likes him to hit upper teen home run totals in the next six years, but with few walks and a low batting average.
Scouting notes: March 2012: It appears at least some, but perhaps most, of Franklin’s struggles in 2011 can be attributed to poor health. He suffered a concussion and broken jaw that caused him to miss time, and fought through a case of mononucleosis.
Franklin was able to make up some of his missed time by accumulating 102 plate appearances in the AFL. There, he hit .258/.333/.393, showing a bit of pop, hitting two home runs, and some patience, walking 11 times. He also showcased a propensity for striking out, recording 26. A healthy season that will start in Double-A should better help in gauging Franklin’s future offensive projection. He finished the year strongly there in 2011, and if he picks up where he left off, he could end up in Tacoma before long.
October 2011: Franklin is the Sudoku puzzle of prospects. Last year he ripped 23 home runs in his full season debut while swiping 25 bases. This year he opened in the hitter friendly confines of the High-A Cal league and his power took a dive, producing just five home runs in 258 at-bats. The Mariners promoted him to Double-A, and his power output and his hitting in general improved substantially (albeit in a small sample). He’s playing passable defense at shortstop, but some, such as Jim Callis, suggest he’ll eventually move to second base. He’s set to play in the Arizona Fall League, and is the most likely player on this list to see his stock soar or plummet based on his performance there.
67: Oswaldo Arcia/OF/Minnesota Twins/5-9-91/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: MLEs regressed in 2011 but projected for 25-30 homers with few walks.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Arcia didn’t participate in any offseason leagues, but he did receive nine at-bats in spring training. They were uneventful, and do nothing to change his timetable or future projection. He remains a prospect with the potential to hit for average and power. Arcia was good, but not great in High-A, and he’ll open the year there to further refine his craft. Already a veteran of 228 plate appearances there, he may not spend more than a half season with Fort Myers.
October 2011: He’s young with plus power projection and a solid average. He’s a ways away, but has shown enough for Keith Law to rank him in the middle of his Midseason Top-50 Prospect List. He’ll need to tighten his command of the strike zone to really flourish (9:53 walk-to-strikeout in 213 High-A at bats).
68: Nick Castellanos/3B/Detroit Tigers/3-4-92/ETA: 2014
Forecast notes: Projects to have below average power for a corner position in the next six years.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Surfing around the internet after the Tigers signed Prince Fielder and announced Miguel Cabrera‘s move back across the diamond to the hot corner yielded some comical, but expected, overreaction to what it meant for Castellanos’ future.
Castellanos has finished just one full season of minor league ball, and is a few years away from competing for a major league roster spot. What that means is, the speculation is likely much ado about nothing. After spending all of 2011 in Low-A, he’ll begin the year in High-A in 2012.
October 2011: His bat gets good grades from most, and most scouting reports expect him to develop his power as he matures and eclipse 20 home runs annually. He has what some describe as a sweet swing with good bat speed that allowed him to hit over .300 in Single-A this year. He may have to sacrifice some average to generate power, but most would sign up for a .280 average if it comes with 20 plus home runs from their fantasy third baseman. Toss in his respectable 8 percent walk rate as a 19 year old in full season minor league baseball and the seeds of a middle-of-the-order hitter are in place to bloom in Detroit.
69: Robbie Erlin/SP/San Diego Padres/10-8-90/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: Great walk rate with above league average strikeout rate.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Erlin is a control guy, but but some question whether he has a put-away pitch capable of striking out major league hitters. Just over four innings in spring training isn’t enough time to determine anything, but he has yet to strike anyone out, so I’ll mention it.
Reports of his change-up having deception and a double-digit disparity in velocity from his fastball lead me to believe he’ll do enough to keep hitters off balance to continue to succeed. Control of multiple pitches and the ability to change speeds can go a long way. Erlin will begin the year in Triple-A as part of a prospect-laden rotation that includes fellow hurlers Casey Kelly and Joe Wieland. Could be a photo finish in the race to the majors for this trio.
October 2011: Erlin is a left-handed pitcher whose fastball operates in the upper-80s to low-90s. He throws an above- average curveball and change-up, but neither pitch is described as being exceptional. Most scouting reports peg his ceiling as a solid No. 3 starter.
How is a pitcher with this description ranked among the top prospects in baseball? It’s a perfect storm of positives for Erlin that land him here. Every scouting report I’ve read lauds his control and high pitching IQ, which he uses to sequence his pitches in ways that maximize their effectiveness. His results have been great in Double-A, where he’s struck out more than eight times as many hitters as he’s walked (92 strikeouts to 11 walks in 92.2 innings). The final factor is his new organization. He was dealt from the unfavorable home confines in Texas to San Diego, where he can now call PETCO home.
70: Derek Norris/C/Oakland A’s/2-14-89/ETA: 2012
Forecast notes: How much are you willing to pay in the average category for around 20 home runs? Classic low average slugging catcher projection, gets boost in value in OBP leagues.
Scouting notes: Norris was a three-true-outcomes (home runs, strikeouts, and walks are defined as those “true outcomes”) machine in 2011. Over 50 percent of his plate appearances ended in in a home run, strikeout or walk. He hit for a lowly .210 average in Double-A, but his walk rate helped him post a solid .367 on-base percentage.
Can he continue to walk at such a high rate in Triple-A and in the majors? The answer likely comes down to whether he can make enough contact on pitches in the zone to force pitchers into throwing quality strikes. If they are only required to throw strikes, and not necessarily quality strikes, it’s unlikely he’ll continue to earn ball fours moving up the ladder.
Norris does have the type of raw power to punish a mistake, as he hit 20 home runs last year. It should also be noted that according to his Stat Corner page, a large percentage of his strikeouts the last two years have been looking, not swinging. A converted third baseman, Norris is a plus athlete for a catcher. He used his athleticism and decent speed to steal 13 bases in 17 chances. He shows the defensive chops to stick behind the plate, according to his scouting reports.
Norris found himself behind young Wilson Ramos in Washington. An offseason trade to the A’s help clear his path to the majors. Incumbent A’s catcher Kurt Suzuki is signed through 2013 with a club option for 2014, but could be used as a trade chip for a rebuilding squad. Norris will open the year in Triple-A with Sacramento.
71: Sonny Gray/SP/Oakland A’s/11-7-89/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Gray’s underwhelming college stats in 2009 and 2010 likely play a big role in his poor six-year forecast.
Scouting notes: Gray made himself at home in professional baseball immediately. The A’s selected Gray 18th overall out of Vanderbilt, and he made a splash in five Double-A starts. In those starts which spanned 20 innings, he allowed only one earned run. That’s right, just one. Now, here is the part where I need to caution that stats aren’t the be-all, end-all in grading and evaluating a prospect.
Gray is a short right-handed pitcher, standing 5-foot-11. In spite of being undersized, he packs a fastball that sits in the low-90s and can hit 96-97 mph. His best pitch is a nasty curveball that Baseball America rated as the best in the 2011 draft class. He’s working on a change-up, but it lags behind his fastball and curveball. If the pitch fails to develop as hoped, Gray has a nice floor of being a late inning reliever, and potentially a closer.
While Double-A hitters would like to have bid him adieu once and for all at the end of 2011, he returns there to open the year, and hopes to continue to dominate. By starting the year in the upper minors, he leaves open the chance that he could reach the majors this year.
72: Yonder Alonso/1B-OF/San Diego Padres/4-8-87/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Not nearly enough power or average to be more than a stop-gap corner infield option in large mixed leagues.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Alonso is finally free from Cincinnati, and no longer is blocked by Joey Votto at his natural position. Unfortunately, he trades Great American Ballpark for Petco. Though his minor league stats don’t suggest it, Alonso has above average power. He finally began to tap into that pop in his limited major league time. He’s likely more of a threat to hit 20-25 home runs annually than 25-30 like some of his other mashing first base contemporaries. He makes up for some of the difference in power by showcasing a well-balanced approach. Alonso should hit for a high average, and reach base regularly by walking often.
The Padres may not wish to overwhelm him with the responsibility of slotting him in the third or fourth spot in the lineup initially, but he eventually projects to hit in the heart of the order. He’ll begin the year with the Padres, and is a worthwhile gamble as a corner infield option in large mixed leagues.
October 2011: Alonso is a finished product for the most part, and thus, his floor is about what you see. His home run rate in the majors won’t last, as he is more of a high teens home run hitter than one pacing for 30 plus. His hitting is good enough that he may be capable of flirting with .300 annually. He’s playing outfield now because he’s blocked at first base by Joey Votto, but make no mistake about it, he’s a first baseman in the outfield.
If he isn’t traded in the offseason to a team in need of a first baseman, he’ll find himself battling Chris Heisey for playing time in Cincinnati and will almost certainly be lifted regularly for a defensive replacement late in games he does start. If he is dealt, his value will take a huge hit as soon as he sheds outfield eligibility.
Potentially further hurting his future value would be a change in home ballparks. Few parks enhance home run hitting as much as Great American Ballpark, so any move likely will hurt his already modest power potential. Think Gaby Sanchez type value with a touch more average. In the outfield, that gets him on this list. As a first baseman, he’d just miss.
73: Matt Davidson/3B/Arizona Diamondbacks/3-26-91/ETA: 2013
Forecast notes: Projects to hit 20+ home runs in the majors in the near future.
Scouting notes: Davidson was one of two third base prospects drafted in the first round of the 2009 amateur draft by the Diamondbacks. He was drafted in the supplemental first round, after Bobby Borchering. He has since passed Borchering in the third base pecking order. In fact, Borchering will be making the move to the outfield in 2012. Davidson had to share third base duties, and is a below average defender at the position. He has shown enough to provide hope he can stick there, but he’ll never receive accolades for his play there.
He strong batter with plenty of thunder in his stick. Just how much average he hits for will be contingent on how much progress he’s able to make with reducing his strikeouts. Davidson isn’t a free swinger, and he’s shown the ability to walk at a decent rate in his young career. He finished last year on Mobile’s roster in the Double-A Southern League championship series, and will return there to start this year.
74: Addison Reed/RP/Chicago White Sox/12-27-88/ETA: Arrived
Forecast notes: Gaudy strikeout rate as a top-flight reliever.
Scouting notes: March 2012: Reed saw his fantasy stock climb before even throwing a pitch this season. The White Sox dealt Sergio Santos to the Toronto Blue Jays, clearing the path for Reed to claim the closer role in the near future. Matt Thornton is expected to begin the year as the Pale Hose closer, but it could be Reed who closes (get it, closes) the year with the gig.
Until he’s able to contribute in saves, owners in deep mixed leagues and AL-only formats can expect Reed to be a positive contributor to ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.
October 2011: Reed was an equal opportunist in embarrassing hitters at four minor league stops before reaching the majors (where he hasn’t stopped striking batters out). He throws a plus-plus fastball and a plus-plus slider. He also throws a change-up, but it isn’t as consistent as his other two pitches. He started and closed games at San Diego State, but it appears the White Sox are content with him dominating in a late-inning role. Sergio Santos did a fantastic job closing games for the White Sox, so Reed may not pick up saves anytime soon, but he should still be a fantasy asset.
75: Luis Heredia/SP/Pittsburgh Pirates/8-16-94/ETA: 2015
Forecast notes: Too small a sample size for a meaningful projection.
Scouting notes: If you are over the age of 16, think back to what you were doing at that age. My guess is that none of you were thinking about pitching in professional baseball. The fact Heredia pitched 30 innings in the U.S. as a 16-year-old (for most of those innings) is pretty astonishing. The stats won’t jump off the page at readers, but he didn’t embarrass himself against competition a couple years older than himself.
Heredia is a 6-foot-6, right-handed pitcher. He throws his fastball in the 92-93 mph range, and can pump it up to 96 mph. He backs it with a pair of offspeed pitches, a curveball and a change-up. Both show plus potential, but are a ways away from getting there. His ceiling is that of an ace, and Kevin Goldstein says it rivals that of fellow Pirates prospect arms Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. Heredia is expected to move up a level this year, and play in the Short Season New York-Penn league for State College. Heredia may be the prospect furthest from reaching the majors, but his ceiling is too high to ignore.