Saturday, March 5, 2011

TEAM #12 – Boston Red Sox

Ranaudo could end up as the best collegiate pitcher from the 2010 draft

We have always been admirers of the way Theo Epstein runs the Red Sox. They draft well, aren’t afraid to pay above slot bonuses, excel at scouting the international market, sign quality key free agents and aren’t afraid to trade prospects for quality Major League additions. But none of that was able to rescue the Red Sox in 2010 from a rash of injuries that saw Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Kevin Youkilis—three of their top four hitters from opening day--combine to miss nearly 300 games. Determined to not be left out of the playoffs again, the Red Sox pulled off some of the winter’s biggest coups dealing for Adrian Gonzalez and signing free agent Carl Crawford—which should provide the Red Sox the opportunity to challenge the Yankees for baseball’s most potent offense.

While the Gonzalez deal certainly weakend the Minor League system that was rated #3 last year (TEAM #3 – Boston Red Sox)—especially at the top—the Red Sox still have one of the deepest groups of Top 30 prospects in the game. This was aided in large part by a June draft that was among the best in all of baseball. Not only is it deep, it is incredibly balanced. Starting pitchers, relief pitchers, left-handers, right-handers, infielders, outfielders, near ready, not-so-near ready—you name it—it has them all. The only thing it doesn’t seem to possess, is a lot of low-ceiling/high-floor types, as that doesn’t seem to be part of the Red Sox philosophy. If there is an over-abundance of anything, it is middle infield prospects—especially shortstops—as no team in baseball can match the Red Sox depth at the shortstop position. The other thing the system seems to be short on is the catching position, as the Red Sox are banking on Saltamacchia becoming a main stay, because you have to go all the way down to #26 to find the first true catching prospect on this list. While 2010 was certainly a disaster if you are a Red Sox fan, it will be hard to shed many tears of sympathy, as the Red Sox appear to not only be one of the best teams in baseball at the Major League level, but they also have a minor league system that is positioned to remain strong for quite some time.

Best Pick from 2010 – We tend to be partial to players that have the defensive skills to guarantee them an opportunity to prove their worth from an offensive stand point at the Major League level. That was the key factor behind our ranking of Jose Iglesias at #6 last year. Iglesias is #2 on the list this season, and #1 on many others. Few shortstops in the game—at any level—can match him in the field, and we expect his offense to be at least league average.

Worst Pick from 2010 – We could easily call this for Westmoreland at #1, but, given the circumstance, that would be unfair to both him and us as his battles became more important than those about baseball. While we aren’t unhappy with much of what we said about the Red Sox last year, picking Lars Anderson at #4 now appears to be the biggest miss.

Grade A

1) Anthony Ranaudo, RHP

Ranaudo entered his junior season at LSU as the unquestioned top college pitching prospect available, but a nagging elbow injury caused him to pitch nothing remotely similar to his 2009 form. As the season wore on, he showed some signs of returning to his former self—enough so that the Red Sox selected him in the sandwich round. Determined to regain some of the luster that disappeared this spring, Ranuado went to the Cape this summer where he was lights out—allowing no earned runs in thirty innings of work. That was enough for Boston to believe he was worth the 8th highest bonus doled out to 2010 draftees—only $100,000 less than the Indians gave Drew Pomeranz. We became huge believers in Ranuado after 2009. When healthy, Ranuado shows a mid-90s fastball, a plus curve and an at least average change. At 6’7”, 230lbs, he is able to throw with a significant downward plane. Although he struggled with command this past season at LSU, his command has historically been a strength. If it all comes together, Ranaudo is a potential Major League ace. The Red Sox are likely to be cautious with his elbow this season, as he make his debut in the Carolina League (CAR). If his health concerns are a thing of the past, he should become a mainstay of the Red Sox rotation by mid-2012.

Grade A-

2) Jose Iglesias, SS (2010 Performance Scores– Power 30; Discipline 51; First Base Rate 67; Speed 49)

If Iglesias never becomes more than an average offensive player at the Major League level, he still is likely an all-star caliber shortstop, due mainly to his gold-glove caliber defense. With soft hands, smooth footwork and a powerful arm, Iglesias has the ability to make outstanding defensive plays look effortless and routine. Offensively, at only 21yo, there is every reason to believe that Iglesias will develop into an above average contact hitter. We would like to see my patience at the plate, he possesses only average speed for the shortstop position, and he will never have more than below average power. Still, he could become a formidable threat near the top of the order. 2011 should find Iglesias in the International League. Defensively he is Major League ready, so his ascension to Boston is merely a decision as to when the Red Sox are willing to live with his offense. Certainly by 2012 we expect Iglesias to be the Red Sox everyday shortstop.

Grade B+

3) Oscar Tejeda, 2B (2010– Power 53; Discipline 63; First Base Rate 53; Speed 75)

With the #6 Performance Score in the Carolina League in 2010, Tejeda made significant strides offensively. A converted shortstop, Tejeda demonstrated above average defensive skills playing second base. With potentially plus power and contact skills, to go along with above average middle infield speed, there is every reason to believe that Tejeda can become an above average Major League second baseman. However, only 21yo, there is still significant work to be done, as Tejeda’s attacking style offense leaves him vulnerable to talented pitchers. As he moves to the Eastern League (ESL) in 2011, he will have to begin to show more plate patience. While there is still considerable downside risk, Tejeda’s upside could be special.

4) Stolmy Pimentel, RHP (2010 – Dominance 44; Control 55; HRrate 43; Stamina 68)

Pimentel has been a fringe upper-tier prospects for a couple of seasons now, who made a major breakout when he posted the #6 Performance Score in the CAR in 2010. At 6’4”, 225lb, Pimentel, can cut an imposing figure. Pimentel uses a low- to mid-90s fastball to set up a devastating change. His curve shows at least average potential, making him a solid #2/#3 Major League starting pitcher candidate. Pimental’s control is at least average, if not slightly better, and he is showing increasing ability to pitch deeper into games. The comps show a durable, workhorse that may never be a star at the Major League level, but could be very good. Barley 21yo, Pimentel will open 2011 in the ESL, with a solid chance of seeing Boston sometime in 2012.

5) Garin Cecchini, SS

Cecchini opened his senior season as a Top 50 draft prospect before knee surgery cost him the bulk of his final prep year. While we still had him rated as a solid second round selection, the question entering draft day was how far he was likely to fall. The Red Sox were able to get him in the fourth round before signing him to first round money. Regarded as a hit first shortstop, his lack of fundamental quickness will likely dictate a move to third base where his contact skills should be solid above average, with potentially average power. Speed isn’t a significant part of his make-up, and is only likely to be less so after the knee injury. While we don’t foresee tremendous power, his ceiling appears to be that of an average everyday Major League third baseman. How he performs this spring is likely to dictate whether his first assignment is in the South Atlantic League (SAL) or the New York-Penn (NYP).

6) Drake Britton, LHP (2010 – Dominance 65; Control 55; HRrate 49; Stamina 52)

While we aren’t as high on Britton as are some, it isn’t because we don’t recognize the significant upside that exists with his plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s with sink. He complements that with a potentially plus curve and a change that is best described as useful. If it all comes together, we can envision a Major League #2/#3 starter. That said, with only 121 innings over three professional season and a 2009 Tommy John surgery, combined with averaging only 3.6 innings per start in 2010, we believe Britton will be most effective as a two-pitch back of the bullpen lefty, where his fastball has the potential to be a high-90s offering. Turning 22yo in May, Britton is a tad behind schedule, as he is likely to begin the year in the CAR. We’d like to see him continue his dominance there in the first half of 2011 before moving to AA in the second half of the season.

Grade B

7) Josh Reddick, OF (2010– Power 67; Discipline 66; First Base Rate 28; Speed 35)

Reddick returns to the #7 position on this list, after a year in which he opened it competing for a job and Boston and finished it as his most disappointing season as a pro. In between he did manage a Top 25 Performance Score in the International League (INT) and he did see 62 MLB ABs. Reddick profiles as a prototypical Major League right fielder, with average or better speed, a strong arm and solid contact and power skills. The downside is that he is tremendously impatient at that plate, and therefore doesn’t produce the on base numbers that you would like from a corner outfielder with likely 20HR power. All things considered, Reddick is looking more and more like a very good fourth outfield candidate. Further complicating things is the fact that, barring injury, there isn’t likely a spot in the Boston outfield for him. 24yo, Reddick seems destined for a third stint at Pawtuckett. While injury could provide opportunity for him, we would not be surprised to see Reddick dangled as trade bait come mid-summer.

8) Felix Doubront, LHP (2010 – Dominance 56; Control 43; HRrate 77; Stamina 64)

Like Pimentel, Doubront has been trying to break through to the upper tiers of prospect status for quite some time, as he posted the Top Performance Score in the VSL as long ago as 2005. In 2010, he posted the #7 Performance Score in the ESL, before posting the #14 Score at Pawtuckett. He also made it all the way to Boston in 2010, and looks positioned to get a long look for a bullpen job there this spring. With a low-90s fastball that he primarily uses to set up a plus change, and an adequate curve, Doubront has the upside of a solid back of the rotation Major League starter. However, it looks more likely that he will end up as a bull pen contributor. While he has an outside shot at opening the year as a left-handed arm in the Red Sox bullpen, expect him to return to Pawtuckett in 2011.

9) Yamaico Navarro, SS (2010– Power 67; Discipline 72; First Base Rate 53; Speed 65)

Seemingly a bargain, Navarro was a $20,000 signing by the Red Sox in 2005. He has had somewhat of an up and down career that seemed on the way up after the 2008 season, but a wrist injury in 2009 wiped out any progress he seemed to have made. Finally, in 2010, we got that breakout offensive performance that we have been waiting five years for, as Navarro posted the ESL’s #11 Performance Score. With plus middle infield power and solid on-base skills, Navarro has the upside of an above average Major League middle infielder. The question is whether or not it will be at shortstop—the position where he would hold the most value—as his stocky build causes us to wonder if second base, or perhaps even third, may be a better fit. Questionable work ethics and a poor fundamental approach to the game leave many wondering how much of his potential Navarro can realize. The 23yo, will return to the INT in 2011.

10) Bryce Brentz, OF – 2010– Power 58; Discipline 32; First Base Rate 24; Speed 47)

Brentz entered the 2010 college season as one of our top ten draft eligible position players. While he didn’t have a horrible season (.350/.400/.640) it wasn’t as strong as we expected, nor enough to allay concerns about his level of competition. Add to that his profile as somewhat of a center/right field ‘tweener’ and it is perhaps surprising that he went as high as the sandwich round where the Red Sox landed him. His disappointing pro debut left many wondering just how high his upside really is. We believe his 2009 collegiate season, where he led the nation in both average and home runs, was no fluke, and while recognizing his negatives, we see the potential of a Major League right fielder, with at least average speed and above average power. The downside is that he has an impatient approach at the plate that leads to far too many strikeouts, accompanied by far too few walks. We are willing to give him a full season of A-ball to make the necessary adjustments.

11) Kolbrin Vitek, 3B/2B/RF (2010– Power 63; Discipline 31; First Base Rate 57; Speed 79)

We had Vitek rated as a sandwich round selection, but the Red Sox bought into his bat and tabbed him with their first round pick. Offense will likely never be the problem for Vitek, as he possesses 20 home run power potential, makes above average contact and has above average speed. The question is where he will find a home on defense. A two-way player at Ball State, Vitek possesses an arm that is capable of handling third base or right field. While he has good game speed, his quickness isn’t exceptional and he lacks soft hands and good fundamental footwork. For these reasons, we believe he is likely to end up a right fielder where his value will be significantly diminished. For now, the Red Sox are trying him at third base. If he shows capable of handling it, we may have him rated a bit low. Nonetheless we will have a better idea after he plays in the CAR in 2011.

12) Lars Anderson, 1B (2010– Power 73; Discipline 32; First Base Rate 51; Speed 36)

Despite a disappointing 2009 season, we snuck Anderson into the tail end of our 2010 Top 100 prospect list. After a return trip to AAA produced a .768 OPS for the 23yo in 2010, there won’t be such a lofty ranking come this year’s list. There is still plenty to like about Anderson, beginning with some of the best raw power potential in the system. The problem is that he hasn’t had the power potential manifest itself into anything more than the 18 home runs he belted in 2008, he doesn’t make consistent contact and possesses near base-clogging speed. With first base as his only plausible defensive destination, finding his offensive potential is a must. After spending parts of three seasons in AA, Anderson will see AAA for a repeat performance in 2011. This is a once-bright star that is fading rapidly.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Brandon Workman, RHP; 14) Jose Vinicio, SS; 15) Xander Bogaerts, SS; 16) Che-Hsuan Lin, CF.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Friday, February 18, 2011

TEAM #13 – San Diego Padres

Decker is slowly making believers

What’s that old saying about the definition of ‘insanity’? Over the last five drafts, the Padres have signed forty draft picks that were selected in the first seven rounds—70% of them from the college ranks. Yet when you look at the 12 players in the system that grade out a ‘B’ or better and were initially signed by the Padres, five of them come from Latin America, five of them from the prep ranks, and a grand total of two of them from colleges. While we certainly can blame Kevin Towers and Bill Gayton, neither of which is still in the organization, for this philosophy; Jed Hoyer and Jaron Madison didn’t deviate very much in their first draft last year—perhaps explaining why their initial draft ranked near the bottom in 2010. We aren’t advocating a preference for high school players over collegiate players—just a preference for an upside that teams like Padres don’t seem to find among the college ranks. With back-to-back disappointing drafts, it is little wonder why the Padres rankings are stepping backwards from last year (TEAM #8 – San Diego Padres)—despite the talent infusion from the Adrian Gonzalez trade.

At the Major League level, the Padres have a very good young pitching staff. The problem is that they are likely to struggle to score any runs to support it. They would like to be able to add from within, but no offensive help seems to be on the way until at least 2012. That lack of near ready players is one of the weaknesses of the Minor League system, as eleven of the top fourteen prospects played the majority of their time in A-ball or below in 2010. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t talent in the system, however, as the Gonzalez trade alone likely netted a return that boosted the Padres ten places in the rankings. There is a nice mix of high-ceiling and high-floor players, and a good breakdown between pitchers and position players. While it is far too early to call Donovan Tate a bust yet, it isn’t too soon to point the finger at some horrific first round draft choices. Between 2004 and 2008, the Padres signed seven picks that were among the first 35 players taken for a total of $10.6 million. That list: Matt Bush, Cesar Carillo, Cesar Ramos, Matt Antonelli, Kyler Burke, Nick Schmidt and Allan Dykstra; has produced a record of futility that would be difficult to match. While their Latin American pipeline remains among the game’s strongest, it will be difficult for the system to make substantial strides without better drafts. With a relatively new front office in place, we will reserve judgment on the overall direction of the franchise.

Best Pick from 2010 – Despite all of the criticism that he receives for not having the prototypical body type, we have been high on Jaff Decker since his debut. We ranked him in the Top 100 (#57), and #2 on our Padres list, last year and he has done little to change our mind, as he moves up this year on both lists.

Worst Pick from 2010 – While we were more cautious about Donovan Tate than most, we still rated him #1 on this list last year. He’ll have to stay on the field to provide any value, something that has been difficult thus far, but for now Tate is far more potential than production.

Grade A

1) Jaff Decker, OF (2010 Performance Scores– Power 78; Discipline 34; First Base Rate 60; Speed 42)

The ‘tools’ community has been wishing for his failure ever since he destroyed the AZL in his 2008 debut. For if Decker succeeds, it will be a relatively disturbing development for the ‘tools’ fanatics, as he has few to none. Instead, Decker is a short, squat, thick-bodied player that looks like the kind you might find in the park at a Sunday softball game playing for beers. Despite that, he continues to rake—season after season. In 2009 he led the Midwest League (MWL) with the circuit’s top Performance Score and in 2010 he finished fourth in the California League (CAL). Decker has average corner outfield power, above average contact skills and some of the best plate patience in the Minors. The downside is that he possesses below average speed and fringing pitch recognition skills—something that has led to him posting a 21% strikeout rate over his professional career. Defensively he has the potential to be adequate at either corner. This gives him the upside of an above average everyday Major League outfielder. Decker will take his game to the Texas League (TXL) in 2011, where the critics are sure to follow. If, however, he continues on the current development curve, look for him to become an everyday outfielder in San Diego sometime in 2012.

Grade A-

2) Casey Kelly, RHP (2010 – Dominance 48; Control 52; HRrate 42; Stamina 61)

It is difficult for us to do a Kelly ‘write-up’, because we aren’t as high on him as others are and it is difficult for it not to sound more negative than we truly believe. We’ll start by discussing what everyone likes about him. Kelly is an extremely polished 21yo, with a low-90s fastball, a plus change and a useable curve, that pitches with heavy sink that has thus far induced a GO/AO ratio of 1.58 over two seasons. With that repertoire, there is every reason to believe Kelly could become a solid #2/#3 starter at the Major League level. The problem is that many envision Kelly as a front of the rotation stud, and we just don’t see it. Start with the fact that Kelly uses his fastball to set up his change. Add to that his breaking ball is a fringe average offering. Need more? At 6’3”, 210lbs, and given his current advanced polish, we don’t find a high degree of projectability left. Additionally, Kelly has yet to post a K/ 9 IP ratio greater than 7.6—not the kind of numbers you find in the Minor Leagues for a future ‘ace’. Make no mistake, this is an elite pitching prospect, just not as elite as many believe. Look for Kelly to begin 2011 in AAA. He needs additional work on his control, so we hope that the Padres keep him there until at least September.

3) Anthony Rizzo, 1B (2010 – Power 75; Discipline 37; First Base Rate 36; Speed 64)

Rizzo was the return piece that is supposed to end up replacing Adrian Gonzalez in the San Diego lineup sometime in 2012. That is a tall order for anyone, and certainly it is a tall order for a 21yo. All Gonzalez replacement comparisons aside, Rizzo is a quality first base prospect. He possesses plus power, as was demonstrated by his 24 home runs in 2010—more than double his previous season high—and excellent first base defense. 2010 saw him post the #4 Performance Score in the Eastern League (ESL). On the negative side, Rizzo possesses below average speed, and he needs to work on pitch recognition, as he continues to strikeout at around a 22% clip. While there is wide debate about his contact skills, Rizzo began pulling the ball more in 2010, leading to his lowest average as a pro. If all comes together, Rizzo has all the makings of an average offensive first baseman with plus defensive ability. The Padres will start him in AAA in 2011, and he could see San Diego by September.

4) Simon Castro, RHP (2010 – Dominance 54; Control 64; HRrate 56; Stamina 72)

We continue to waiver on Castro, sometimes believing that he could become a powerful #2 Major League starter, and other times not sure that he wouldn’t be best used as a dominating back of the bullpen reliever. Castro has been on our radar longer than most anyone, as we first took notice when he posted a Top 10 Performance Score in the Dominican Summer League (DSL) in 2006. In 2008, he posted another Top 10 Score in the Northwest League (NWL), followed by a #12 Score in the MWL in 2009 and a #8 Score in the Texas League (TXL) this past season. The point is that he has been remarkably consistent over a five year stretch—something that bodes well for his longer term outlook. At 6’5”, 210lbs, Castro is remarkably durable—averaging 26 starts for each of the last two seasons. With a low- to mid-90s fastball—that he throws from a large downward plane—and two at least average secondary offerings—all of which he has above average command, Castro has substantial upside. While the downside is limited, we do still have concerns. Castro has a tendency to over rely on his fastball. His change still needs considerable work Finally, Castro doesn’t possess the pitchability that would give us more confidence in his eventual role. The Padres skipped Castro over Hi-A in 2010, and the 22yo looks ready to take on AAA in 2011. He will battle Casey Kelly for the opportunity, if one should arise, in San Diego this season.

Grade B+

5) Drew Cumberland, SS (2010 – Power 50; Discipline 68; First Base Rate 64; Speed 63)

Cumberland was in the midst of a breakout campaign in 2010 when he injured his knee shortly after his promotion to AA. That has been pretty much the story of his professional career as Cumberland’s 303 Abs in 2010 were the most in his four professional seasons. He still managed to post the CAL’s #3 Performance Score with his first half, and we have confidence in his ability to continue on that development path. Cumberland’s bat is his most potent weapon, as he has plus contact skills and controls the strike zone with the best in the Minors. Perhaps his greatest attribute, though, is the combination of substantial athleticism, melded with an aggressive approach to the game and a high baseball IQ. Defensively he has soft hands and quick feet. While he has a strong arm, it is often erratic, causing some to suggest that he may have to move off of shortstop. His bat will play at either middle infield position, so that isn’t too much of a problem. The only other negative is Cumberland’s dearth of power that has produced only 10 home runs in 912 At Bats. Cumberland looks to be a prototypical #2 hitter at the next level, playing either shortstop or second base. He will return to the TXL in 2011, hoping to remain healthy for a full season.

6) Juan Oramas, LHP (2010 – Dominance 79; Control 65; HRrate 56; Stamina 48)

Oramas is a player that has gone overlooked far too long. While his path to this point has been unconventional, it has definitely been successful. Oramas first appeared on our radar screen when he posted a Top 10 Performance Score in the DSL in 2007—as a 17yo, but didn’t gain our full attention until the Padres lent him to Mexico City in the Mexican League in 2009 where he posted unbelievable numbers for a 19yo—earning the circuit’s Top Performance Score. Proving that he could have success on U.S. soil, Oramas spent most of 2010 in the hitter friendly CAL, and posted that League’s #3 Performance Score—his best season yet. He finished up his successful 2010 with an excellent performance in the Mexican Winter League. So why hasn’t he garnered any attention? A bad-bodied prospect in the Jaff Decker mold, Oramas stands at 5’10”, 215lbs. With a fastball that is a low 90s offering, an average curve and an adequate change, there is plenty of reason to believe that he could be a solid #4 type starter, but there isn’t a lot of additional upside projection. Only 20yo, Oramas should begin 2011 in AA.

Grade B

7) Reymond Fuentes, CF (2010 – Power 41; Discipline 49; First Base Rate 56; Speed 80)

The third piece that the Padres acquired in the Adrian Gonzalez deal, Fuentes is a prospect that is more potential than production at this stage. Athletically gifted, Fuentes best skill is his plus-plus speed. But that is far from the only thing Fuentes offers. A slightly built 6’0”, 170lbs, Fuentes makes solid contact and has reasonable strike zone management skills. While he doesn’t presently offer much in the way of power, the belief is that he will eventually become a 15+ home run per year hitter. Defensively, he covers tremendous ground, and shows plus center field defensive skills. The only real negative is that Fuentes is tremendously raw and is only likely to advance one level at a time. He will begin 2011 in the CAL and could eventually become a game changing top of the order threat.

8) Matt Lollis, RHP (2010 – Dominance 43; Control 69; HRrate 65; Stamina 77)

One of the largest players in the Minors, Lollis stands at 6’7”, 280lbs. A 15th round draft pick in 2009, Lollis had a surprising season as he posted the #5 Performance Score in the Northwest League (NWL) and a Top 10 Score in the MWL. With a low-90s fastball, an average slider, an average curve and a developing change, Lollis has a four pitch repertoire, that he commands well, that should provide him the opportunity to become a mid-rotation workhorse. The only downside is the lack of a historical record of success of pitchers his side, as conditioning will be a key determinant of future success. Look for Lollis to move up to the CAL in 2011.

9) Jedd Gyorko, 3B (2010 – Power 72; Discipline 56; First Base Rate 67; Speed 34)

Gyorko was a shortstop in college who most thought would slide over to second base in the pros. We had him rated as a likely sandwich round pick, but he fell to the Padres in the second round. The Padres decided that they would try him at third base, rather than second, and they sent him to the NWL to make his debut where he posted the circuit’s #16 Performance Score. His bat is his premium tool, as he makes above average contact, has solid plate discipline, and should eventually hit 15-20 home runs per year. The negatives include being another in the bad-bodied Jaff Decker mold, possessing below average speed, and having defensive limitations. While he has enough arm for third, and surprising quickness given his 5’10”, 210lb frame, he may come up a bit short on the usual power expectations for a third baseman. You may see an offensive explosion, as Gyorko will get a crack at the CAL to open 2011.

10) Donovan Tate, OF (2010 – Power 63; Discipline 21; First Base Rate 58; Speed 71)

When we wrote about Tate last year, we cautioned about his comps extensive wash-out rate and relatively low (for a #3 overall pick) expected career WAR values. That wasn’t enough for us to ignore his tremendous athleticism and we still ended up ranking him as the top prospect in the system. A year has passed, little evolution on the development curve has occurred and Tate now has more questions, as he apparently has an uncanny knack for missing time due to illness or injury. All else being equal, just these events are going to lead to a downgrade in his prospect status as he is now 20 years old with no professional At Bats outside the complex rookie leagues. An amazing athlete, Tate has a nearly unlimited Power/Speed combination potential. Defensively he covers substantial ground and has the arm of a right fielder—a position he may have to eventually transition to with Fuentes ahead of him on the depth charts. However, the big question surrounding Tate has always been whether he can make consistent enough contact, and unfortunately we are no closer to answering that. Tate will try it again in 2011, hopefully this time making his debut in the MWL.

11) Keyvius Sampson, RHP (2010 – Dominance 77; Control 47; HRrate 30; Stamina 67)

Arguably, no pitcher in the system has a higher ceiling than the 20yo Sampson. With consistent mid-90s heat, a curve that flashes potential of a plus pitch, and an average change, there is enough raw stuff here to envision a quality towards the front of the rotation starter. Unfortunately, Sampson remains more thrower than pitcher at this stage. His secondary offerings are inconsistent and he struggles mightily with command. That, however, didn’t stop him from posting the Top Performance Score in the NWL in 2010. While we have seen hundreds of these profiles never develop or end up as purely bullpen material, we can’t ignore the considerable ceiling here. Look for Sampson to make his full-season debut in the MWL in 2011.

12) Jonathan Galvez, SS (2010 – Power 59; Discipline 30; First Base Rate 67; Speed 70)

Galvez made his US debut by posting the #2 Performance Score in the AZL in 2009. He followed that up by posting the #16 score in the MWL this past season. Signed as a 16yo, for $750,000 in 2007, Galvez is a shortstop that is likely to change positions due to fundamentally poor defensive skills. Although some have suggested a move to third base, we believe his below average arm makes second the only real possibility. While his defense may be lacking, there is absolutely nothing wrong with his offensive game. With advanced strike zone management skills that we don’t usually see in young Latin American hitters, Galvez works pitchers to gain a hitter’s advantage. Far from mature physically, his 6’2”, 175lb frame, portends eventual plus power and solid contact skills. His plus speed may be his most potent weapon. Galvez can get into ruts where he tries to pull everything. This leads to more strikeouts than we would like, but the overall package is extremely intriguing. We can envision a future above average offensive Major League second basemen. Only 20yo, Galvez will move to the CAL in 2011.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) James Darnell, 3B; 14) Adys Portillo, RHP; 15) Edison Rincon, 3B/LF.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

TEAM #14 – New York Mets

Wilmer Flores typifies Mets’ prospect in so many ways

I am not sure that there is any team in baseball that is more in disarray than the New York Mets. Out with Omar Minaya and Rudy Terrasas and in with Sandy Alderson and Chad MacDonald. Trustees for the bankruptcy case of Bernie Madoff are looking for $300 million from the Wilpon ownership group. The pitching staff’s best pitcher is likely out until after the all-star game. Their five-time all-star center fielder has had 528 ABs over the last two seasons. The battle for second base is between a 35yo career .719 OPS hitter, a converted corner infielder/outfielder and a 21yo coming off a debut season in which he posted a .588 OPS. To add injury to insult, their top two competitors for the NL East—the Phiilies and the Braves—added a Cy Young winner and an all-star second baseman over the off season. Sandy Alderson has seventeen years at the helm of a Major League organization and is coming off of an assignment for Major League Baseball where he was charged with cleaning up the mess that is amateur scouting in the Dominican Republic—perhaps the only baseball situation more screwed up than the Mets. He is going to need every bit of that experience to right this ship.

Given the state of the franchise, our ranking of the Mets system likely comes as a surprise to some, but it remains fairly consistent with our view of the system from last year ( TEAM #16 – New York Mets )—a year that saw four of our top eight ranked prospects (Ike Davis, Reuben Tejada, Jon Niese and Josh Thole) make significant contributions with the Big League club. It is an interesting organization in the sense that there are few superstars but a substantial number of players that are likely to make Major League contributions—something that would typify last year’s rookie crop. The strength of the system lies in its Latin American scouting program—something that should continue under the leadership of Chad MacDonald—as eight of the Mets Top 12 prospects hail from that region. But where MacDonald is going to have to make a difference is in the draft. Over the last five years, the Mets have been one of the draft’s lowest spending teams in all of baseball, at barely $4 million per year. The philosophy has been to draft inexpensive, high-floor, college players (20 to 4 college to prep ration in the first seven rounds). It’s a philosophy that still permeates the system today, and a philosophy that gets an organization right where the Mets find themselves—mediocre.

Don’t mistake us. The Mets have plenty of prospects that we like—many that we like moreso than others in the industry. But even the parts that we like—like the Latin American position players-- have a problem in being too similar to each other (Wilmer Flores, Aderlin Rodriguez, Fernando Martinez and Jefry Marte for instance). Writing the profiles became essentially a ‘cut and paste’ exercise, as nearly all of the prospects fall into three or four basic categories. Understand that the Mets earn this ranking not through their potential stars but through their substantial depth of likely mediocre Major League contributors. You will find few ‘game-changers’ on this list. If Alderson and MacDonald are going to change the direction of the franchise, they are going to have to completely revamp the philosophy that brings players into the system.

Best Pick from 2010 – As the saying goes…The Mets are pretty much what we thought they’d be, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for glaring hits or misses. The two selections that stand out to us were our selection of Ruben Tejada at#6—believing that he will be no worse than a solid utility infielder with the upside of a Omar Infante-ish career—and our selection of Kirk Nieuwenhuis at #10—believing his 2009 season was for real and that he was destined for a career no worse than that of a 4th outfielder. Neither pick was exciting, but both were on target.

Worst Pick from 2010 – While we were not alone, and we still haven’t given up on him, 2010 was an extremely rough season for our #5 selection—Brad Holt.

Grade A -

1) Jenrry Mejia, RHP (2010 Performance Scores – Dominance 54; Control 52; HRrate 49; Stamina 69)

Back for a return engagement as the Mets’ top prospect, Mejia should have been collecting frequent flier miles in 2010, as he pitched at five different levels—most of them quite effectively. The bouncing around, for the most part had to do with a nagging shoulder problem that saw him make rehab starts in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) and Florida State League (FSL). And it is things like that ‘nagging shoulder’ that prevent Mejia from ranking higher on our list, as he has yet to pitch more than 95 innings in any of his four professional seasons. With a mid-90s fastball, a plus change and a potentially plus curve, the Mets are convinced that he has the stuff of a front of the rotation ace. We have our doubts. Start with the demonstrated lack of ability to stay healthy. Add to that the command issues that earned him a demotion in June. Then, for good measure, throw in some good—but underdeveloped—secondary offerings that are still quite a ways away from being consistent Major League quality. In the end, it is beginning to look more and more like Mejia’s best days may come in the bullpen. There is a substantial ceiling here, but plenty of questions. The Mets are likely to give Mejia a chance to earn a rotation spot this spring. Even if he comes up short, he is likely to open the season as part of the bullpen.

2) Wilmer Flores, SS/3B (2010 – Power 62; Discipline 73; First Base Rate 48; Speed 34)

We were tempted to rank Flores #1 in the system, but in the end he is surrounded by nearly as many questions as is Mejia. Splitting his time evenly, in 2010, between the South Atlantic League (SAL) and the FSL, Flores posted the #2 Performance Score in each League. From a hit standpoint, there is tremendous potential, with lightning quick wrists and a sweet swing, Flores shows plus power potential, precocious strike zone management skills and above average contact. The questions surrounding Flores have to deal with his defensive position. He has soft hands and a strong arm, but lacks the footwork or the quickness for shortstop. The logical move is to third base, and there has been some discussion of even left or right field. We believe his bat will play at any position, but his value drops as he moves to third and even further if he goes to left. Our ranking assumes he won’t be a Major League shortstop. With nearly 300 FSL plate appearances, it is possible that Flores opens 2011 in AA—as a 19yo.

3) Matt Harvey, RHP

After a sophomore season that had Harvey’s draft stock in freefall, he rebounded nicely last spring and went even higher (7th overall) than we expected (mid-first round). At 6’4”, 225lbs, Harvey has additional projection on his already mid-90s fastball. He compliments the heater with a plus curve and average slider. Where Harvey struggles is with his command—as he has a tendency to overthrow, getting his mechanics out of whack. Adding to longer-term concerns is the current lack of a useable change. This is more born from lack of necessity than anything mechanical. If it all comes together, Harvey has the repertoire to pitch at the front of a Big League rotation, and we will likely get to see just how much work there remains when Harvey makes his debut in the FSL in 2011.

Grade B+

4) Fernando Martinez, LF (2010 – Power 70; Discipline 34; First Base Rate 27; Speed 36)

As prospect evaluators we sometimes become the victim of our own expectations. That certainly is the case in regards to Martinez. Signed in 2005, to one of the largest bonuses ever given to a Latin American 16yo. Martinez added to the expectations when, in his debut season, he posted a .894 OPS in the SAL—as a 17yo! It may not be possible for anyone to live up to those expectations, so we will try to view Martinez’s 2010 season from the perspective of any generic 21yo prospect. In a return trip to the International League (INT), in 2010, Martinez posted the circuit’s #21 Performance Score. He possesses plus power, and average contact skills. Now the negatives, Martinez has never posted 400 PAs in any season since signing. It hasn’t been significant injuries that have gotten in the way, just numerous little nagging ones. While at one time Martinez possessed average speed, as he has matured he has slowed to a below average runner. Perhaps the biggest problem Martinez faces is his over-aggressive approach at the plate that leads to way too few walks and too many strikeouts. Defensively he appears to be a capable right fielder, but little more. While at one time he appeared destined for superstardom, now his upside looks to be that of a power hitting everyday Major League outfielder. Keep in mind that Martinez is still younger than many of the college draftees from the 2010 class. Martinez will go to camp this spring with a shot at an everyday job with the Mets. The expectation is that he at least wins a roster position.

5) Cesar Puello, RF (2010 – Power 32; Discipline 59; First Base Rate 74; Speed 80)

Puello was part of the same 2007 Latin American class that netted Flores. While Puello is actually four months older than Flores, he has typically played a level below him. They both spent time in the SAL in 2010, where Puello posted the circuit’s #5 Performance Score. Despite all of that, there are those in the scouting community that prefer Puello because of his multi-facted game. With plus speed, average power, contact and strike zone management skills, and adequate right field defense, Puello has a ceiling of an above average every day right fielder. There are few knocks on his skill set, but one of the more glaring one is a lack of a substantial baseball IQ. While there is little doubt that Puello could eventually outperform Flores, all of our indications are that Flores is the safer bet. Look for Puello to open 2011 in the FSL.

6) Aderlin Rodriguez, 3B (2010 – Power 79; Discipline 67; First Base Rate 35; Speed 48)

At the present time, Rodriguez is the best third baseman in the system not named David Wright. 2010 found Rodriguez using his plus power, precocious strike zone management skills and solid contact skills to post the Appalachian League’s (APY) #2 Performance Score. At 6’3”, 210lbs, and only 19yo, there is every reason to believe that Rodriguez could develop into a 30HR per year Major League third basemen. The obstacles to accomplishing that can be find in his below average speed, stiff lower body and questionable work habits. If he has to move off of third base, his value takes a significant hit. Additionally, Rodriguez will have to learn more patience at the plate. Look for him to begin 2011 in the SAL.

Grade B

7) Jefry Marte, 3B (2010 – Power 58; Discipline 60; First Base Rate 57; Speed 37)

Marte was signed from the same 2007 Latin American class that found Wilmer Flores and Cesar Puello. In fact, after their debut seasons in 2008, one where Marte posted the #1 Performance Score in the Gulf Coast League (ahead of Aaron Hicks), it was Marte that was considered the top prospect of the trio. However, his over aggressive plate approach has made him vulnerable to full-season league pitching, and he has yet to come close to repeating that performance. A repeat trip to the SAL in 2010 saw him finish with the #7 Performance Score. Contact is the only plus skill offensive skill that Marte exhibits, although he should hit for no worse than average power. Defensively, he is a marginal, but improving, third baseman, but there is little reason that he can’t succeed at the position. His ceiling appears to be that of an average Major League third baseman. With more than 800 ABs in the SAL, expect Marte to move up to the FSL in 2011.

8) Reese Havens, SS/2B -

It was a bit of a lost season for Havens, who appeared in a total of 32 games between the FSL and Eastern League. The only positive aspect to the year was that Havens made the move to second base that we have been expecting since he was an overdraft first round pick in 2008. Make no mistake, with average power, contact and strikezone management skills, all of the pieces are there for Havens to become an offense-first second baseman at the Major League level. But at 24yo, not only is time passing him by, we are seeing an ceiling that continues to get lower. Havens will return to the ESL to begin 2011. With a solid season, he could see some time in New York in September—although 2012 is more likely.

9) Kirk Nieuwenhuis, OF (2010 – Power 65; Discipline 31; First Base Rate 31; Speed 53)

Nieuwenhuis followed up his breakout 2009 campaign with a Top 25 Performance Score in the ESL in 2010. While Niewenhuis possesses average-plus power and speed, it is his all-out approach that attracts the most accolades. While Nieuwenhuis could potentially develop into an everyday Major league outfielder, the primary obstacle to that appears to be an all-out approach at the plate that was badly exposed by the more advanced pitching in AAA. A typical low-ceiling, high-floor, college player, Nieuwenhuis will look to improve upon his 2010 performance with a return trip to the International League. All signs seem to point toward a final product as a fourth outfielder type at the next level.

10) Lucas Duda, OF/1B (2010 – Power 78; Discipline 54; First Base Rate 54; Speed 33)

Watching the very large, lumbering, 6’5”, 240lb, Duda playing left field for the Mets near the end of last season was certainly entertaining. Duda earned that opportunity with a #11 Performance Score in the International League. Possessing plus power, solid contact skills and a discerning eye, Duda has the potential to hit at the Major League level. The problem is at what position. With near base-clogging speed and an arm that could best be described as poor, the outfield doesn’t seem to be an option—at least on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that leaves only first base, and with the Mets that position seems to be firmly in the grasp of Ike Davis. Barring a trade to the American League, where he would be an ideal DH candidate, Duda looks to have a future role as a power, left-handed bench bat. He’ll get a chance to win a roster spot this spring, but could well end up returning to AAA to open the season.

11) Brad Holt, RHP (2010 – Dominance 40; Control 20; HRrate 55; Stamina 53)

After tearing through his first two professional assignments in the NYP and FSL, Holt rolled an ankle upon his promotion to AA in 2009 and hasn’t been the same pitcher since. While there are signs of the raw stuff that made him a sandwich round selection in 2008; like a low- to mid-90s fastball and a potentially plus curve and change, they appear to get lost in a myriad of problems. His mechanics appear to be out of whack, he shows little sign of knowing what he is doing on the mound and his control has deserted him. We wouldn’t rank him this high, if it weren’t for a surprisingly strong performance in the AZFL that leaves us wondering if there is hope for him getting back to his pre-injury level. At his best, Holt profiles as a quality #2/#3 starter or potentially devastating back of the bullpen arm. We just have little confidence we will ever see the ‘at his best’ again. Look for Holt to return the ESL to open up 2011. All bets are off, but a rapid rise is not out of the question.

12) Cory Vaughn, OF (2010 – Power 80; Discipline 46; First Base Rate 64; Speed 70)

After the Mets selected Vaughn in the 4th round of last June’s draft, he went on to post the New York-Penn League’s (NYP) #4 Performance Score, showing off plus power and above average contact skills. A bit larger than his father at 6’3”, 225lbs, Vaughn shows surprising athleticism and average speed. If there is a negative, it is his lack of strike zone management skills. Defensively, Vaughn covers adequate ground with a solid arm, making him a prototypical right fielder. There is enough promise here to see Vaughn as an above average offensive right fielder at the Major League level. He is likely to be tested in 2011 with a full season debut in the FSL.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Jeurys Familia, RHP; 14) Juan Urbina, LHP.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

TEAM #15 – Oakland Athletics

While Grant Green still has many questions to answer, the number is far fewer than other top Athletics’ prospects

The Athletics’ Minor League system was a model of consistency in 2010, as only Eric Sogard (up from #21) was in the system last year, but is new to the Top 15 this time around. The other four new entrants to that list (Michael Choice, Yordy Cabrera, Renato Nunez and Aaron Shipman) were either drafted or were international signees in 2010. The result is that the Athletics ranking has not varied much from last year’s #14 finish ( ). I suppose that is what we should expect, given that the A’s top three front office leaders (Billy Beane, Keith Lieppman and Eric Kubota) have all been in their respective positions continuously since 2002—the longest such tenure in the Majors. For the Athletics, though, longevity hasn’t bred complacency, as there have been significant philosophical changes since 2008. Between 2002 and 2008 when ‘Moneyball’ was at its heyday, Oakland signed fifty-nine players that were drafted in the first seven rounds. Only eight (13.6%) came from the prep ranks—with five of those years not having a single prep player. In the two most recent drafts, seven of thirteen signees came from high school. Additionally, prior to 2008, the Athletics were extremely insignificant players in the Latin American market. Then in 2008, came the record signing of Michael Ynoa, and in the two years that have followed, Oakland has been one of the most aggressive organizations in the Latin American market, in all of baseball. While it is still likely another year or two before the impact of this is evident within the system, these are tremendously positive steps.

Also a positive, with players like Grant Green, Chris Carter, Tyson Ross, Jemile Weeks, Michael Taylor, Josh Donaldson, Adrian Cardenas and Eric Sogard, the Athletics have a collection of ready or near ready Major League players as deep as anyone. When you combine this with one of the best young starting rotations in baseball, it is not difficult to imagine a substantial step up this season for the team in Oakland. Looking for negatives? There still aren’t a tremendous amount of high ceiling players in the upper tiers of the system. The same can be said of skill position players, with as many as half of the top twelve prospects eventually having their best position being 2B, 1B or LF. Finally, while the Major League rotation may be young and talented enough to not need an additional infusion in the near future, there is a dearth of quality starting pitching prospects after seeing players like Cahill, Anderson, Gonzalez and Braden graduate to the Big Leagues over the last few seasons. All told, we find the Athletics to be a bit of an underrated system with a solid upward trend direction.

Best Pick from 2010 – We have been believers in Grant Green’s bat since his sophomore year at USC, so much so that we were willing to overlook positional concerns and rate him as the organization’s top prospect in 2009—ahead of the more highly acclaimed Chris Carter. Green met our expectations in 2010, while Carter’s season was a disappointment to all.

Worst Pick from 2010 – The A’s gambled heavily when they signed Michael Ynoa to a record $4.25 million bonus in 2008. We still believed in his upside when we assigned the #4 ranking to him on last year’s list. More elbow problems followed by late summer Tommy John surgery will keep Ynoa off the mound in 2011. He’ll be a 20yo, with a total of 9 professional innings when he returns to the mound in 2012 and the future isn’t looking nearly as bright.

Grade A -

1) Grant Green, SS (2010 Performance Scores – Power 69; Discipline 54; First Base Rate 47; Speed 55)

A disappointing junior season saw Green drop further than he should have prior to the 2009 draft. We felt at time that the Athletics got a steal when Green lasted all of the way until the 13th overall pick, and we have seen little to change our minds. It is not that Green is likely ever to be a superstar. It is that there is little chance that he doesn’t become an above average offensive Major League infielder—regardless of whether he stays at shortstop or moves to second base. A plus contact hitter, Green doesn’t have a hit skill that isn’t at least average. The questions surround his defense, where everything except his baseball IQ rates as ‘fringy’ for the shortstop position. Our perspective is that the defense between shortstop and second base is the difference between all-star and above average Major League regular. That’s a substantially high-floor. Green will open 2011 in AA and we fully expect to see him in Oakland in September.

2) Michael Choice, OF (2010– Power 70; Discipline 20; First Base Rate 33; Speed 65)

Few players from the 2010 draft create a more divided opinion than does Choice, whom we had rated #10 on our draft board. From a performance standpoint, there are few players with more impressive numbers as he gets on base, hits for power (34 home runs in three years at Texas-Arlington) and made enough contact to rate a Top 10 Performance Score among draft eligible college players. Extremely gifted athletically, there is a power/speed combo here that makes scouts drool. But most of Choice’s critics point to his mechanics and fundamentals, claiming they raise serious concerns about his ability to continue to perform as he moves up the ladder. What we see with Choice is a player likely to strike out frequently, take enough walks to make up for his lower than desired average and steal enough bases to disrupt a defense. While he is being groomed as a center fielder, the expectation is that he ends up in left field where his power should still rate average or above. At 21yo, Choice is expected to begin 2011 in the California League (CAL). It would not surprise us to see him put up huge numbers in that circuit and perhaps no player in the system has a higher upside. Watch the strikeout totals as a key to his development.

3) Chris Carter, 1B/LF (2010– Power 79; Discipline 23; First Base Rate 45; Speed 34)

There aren’t many players that experienced a more disappointing 2010 than did Carter who ranked as a top 20 prospect on most lists (#37 here) entering the year, posted the #18 Performance Score in the Pacific Coast League (PCL) and then had a horrendous 70 At Bat Major League debut. The funny thing is that little of what exposed Carter was unexpected, as his prodigious power was offset by his inability to hit a curve and below average speed makes it difficult to see how he defensively ends up anywhere but either first base or DH. Make no mistake Carter’s power is real; but so are the accompanying strikeouts. At 6’5”, 230lbs, Cecil Fielder and Chris Davis top his comp list, and we don’t believe that is without justificaton, as Carter has the upside to put huge power numbers, but may never be able to adjust adequately enough to consistently hit Major League breaking balls; and then even if he finds success his body-type portends an early flameout. Rather than face another season of Kevin Kouzmanoff leading the team with 16 HRs, the Athletics will almost certainly make room for him in the lineup in 2011. We expect Carter to have a run of at least a few solid Major League seasons before the negatives catch up.

Grade B+

4) Ian Krol, LHP (2010 – Dominance 52; Control 62; HRrate 46; Stamina 69)

We expected Krol’s impressive 2010 debut, where he finished with the Midwest League’s (MWL) #7 Performance Score. Pitching for Kane County, two towns over from where he was raised, Krol was the complete package, with advanced pitchability, a 90-MPH fastball, one of the better curves in the system and a potentially plus change. Commanding the three-pitch repertoire well, Krol led the MWL in ERA before earning a late season promotion to the CAL. While, at 6’1”, 180lbs, he has limited projectability and likely doesn’t have a ceiling of more than a #3/#4 starter, he has a tremendously high floor for a 19yo pitcher. Krol will open 2011 in the CAL, where his advanced stuff should play well. Others will downgrade Krol because of his upside, the comps say that he is a better bet than most prep lefties.

5) Yordy Cabrera, SS/3B

Cabrera entered the 2010 high school season as one of the most highly rated prep position players after looking like a man among boys in the previous summer’s showcase events. As the season progressed, two things became clear: 1) Shortstop is unlikely to be his eventual destination and 2) he looked like a man among boys because he virtually was—two years older than much of his competition. The A’s drafted him in the second round and signed him to first round money. Athletically gifted, Cabrera has above average power and a plus arm. With average contact skills and speed, he looks like a natural fit at third base. If he were a tad younger, his profile for a prep position player would rate much higher, but at already 20yo, he will have to move fast. Expect Cabrera to make his debut in the MWL in 2011.

Grade B

6) Tyson Ross, RHP (2010 – Dominance 76; Control 34; HRrate 71; Stamina 60)

2010 was a mixed bag for Ross, who made the Athletics’ roster out of spring training, had a bit of a roller-coaster type debut, was sent back down to AAA mid-season and then had his season end early due to nagging elbow and shoulder injuries. With a slider of the near plus-plus variety and a low- to mid-90s fastball, it is easy to see why the A’s are enamored with him, as his ceiling is that of a potential front of the rotation starter. We are a bit more cautious in our assessment, as we see his deadly fastball/slider combination as a potent back of the bullpen weapon, but we aren’t in love with his command or change-up enough to view him as a legitimate long-term rotation threat. He’ll have a chance to compete with Rich Harden and Brandon McCarthy for a rotation spot this spring, but is more likely going to open the year back in the A’s bullpen.

7) Renato Nunez, 3B

Nunez is arguably the highest upside Latin American position player signing of the 2010 summer period. The A’s had been on him since their resurgence in Latin America in 2008 and paid more than $2 million to sign him. Unlike many Latin American players that are signed without the benefit of significant game action, Nunez has played on the Venezuelan Junior Team. His bat is his calling card as he makes solid contact and shows plus raw power. Like many Latin American 16yos, his over-aggressive plate approach leaves him vulnerable to the strikeout, and there are those that believe that his best defensive position will be right field. While the A’s have been relatively cautious with their placement of their Latin American signees, we will get an idea of how strongly the A’s feel about him if they bring him to the U.S. and have him open in the AZL.

8) Max Stassi, C (2010– Power 67; Discipline 24; First Base Rate 41; Speed 37)

Stassi was arguably the best prep catching prospect available in the 2009 draft, where the A’s selected him in the 4th round and signed him to a first round deal. 2010 was a bit of a mixed bag, as Stassi struggled at times, was hampered most of the season by nagging injuries, earned a Top 30 Performance Score in the MWL, and clearly was one of the more impressive talents on the Kane County roster. Staying at catcher is a must for Stassi, as power is his only above average hit skill and his offensive game is unlikely to be strong enough anywhere else on the diamond. That shouldn’t be a problem though as Stassi excels at most every phase of the defensive game. Look for 2011 to fin Stassi in the CAL.

9) Jemile Weeks, 2B (2010– Power 42; Discipline 72; First Base Rate 46; Speed 65)

As the first round pick of the Athletics in the 2008 draft, Weeks represents somewhat of a demarcation point in Oakland’s drafting philosophy. While Weeks has a bit more tools than the typical high-floor, low-ceiling collegiate product that was typical of the ‘Moneyball’ era, and the A’s have still selected college players in the first round of the two drafts since then, the system has progressively introduced more upside since that draft. More quickness than raw speed, more contact than power, Weeks best offensive attribute is his ability to not give away at bats. His profile looks like a prototypical #2 hitter. Defensively, Weeks can only be described as adequate, and that looks like his ceiling, an average everyday Major League second baseman. With less than 700 At Bats in three professional seasons, the 24yo will have to demonstrate that he can remain healthy over a full-season. Weeks will likely begin 2011 in AAA, with a strong likelihood that he finds At Bats in Oakland at some point during 2011.

10) Michael Taylor, OF (2010– Power 37; Discipline 48; First Base Rate 61; Speed 76)

Like Carter, Taylor found 2010 to be an extremely disappointing season, as he began the year on most Top 100 lists, with the expectation that he would see time in the Majors, and ended the year not able to crack the PCL’s Top 50 Performance Score list. Now with the addition of Connor Jackson and David DeJesus since this time last year, the A’s outfield becomes more crowded—further reducing opportunities for Taylor. Taylor has solid contact skills, manages the strike zone well, and possesses average to slightly above speed. In 2010, his swing mechanics seemed out of whack and it resulted in the poorest power output of his career. Prior to 2010, it appeared that Taylor had the potential to become an above average everyday Major League outfielder, if last season wasn’t purely an anomaly, he may be looking at a future as a 4th outfielder type. Taylor will likely return to AAA in 2011, waiting for something to create an opening for him.

11) Adrian Cardenas, 2B (2010– Power 37; Discipline 73; First Base Rate 76; Speed 38)

Although we have never been tremendously high on Cardenas, we did give him a one position nod over Weeks in last year’s guide. In 2010 Cardenas battled nagging injuries for much of the early season and bounced back and forth between the TXL and PCL. It was a tale of two seasons though, as Cardenas posted the #6 Performance Score in his return to the TXL, but managed barley a Top 40 Score in the PCL. Cardenas’ best skill is an excellent approach to strike zone management. He also possesses sound contact skills that limit his ‘floor’. That said, below average power and speed portend a limited ‘ceiling’. Defensively, Cardenas is adequate, but little more. A onetime shortstop, who saw playing time at both second and third base in 2010, Cardenas’ most valuable role could turn out to be as an above average utility infielder. Look for him to begin 2011 back in AAA and he should find some time on the Big League roster at some point during the season.

12) Aaron Shipman, OF

A relatively ‘toolsy’, athletic prospect, we had Shipman pegged as a second round selection prior to the draft. The A’s were able to nab him in round three and appear to have received excellent value for the pick. Plus speed and above average contact skills are Shipman’s greatest attributes. While he could develop average power, the likelihood, as he learns to control the strikezone with a less violent swing, is that his power remains a tick below average. Defensively he covers tremendous ground, and there is now reason to believe that he can’t become a plus center field defender. The profile says top of the order offense igniter, but he will have to become more patient at the plate. Relatively raw, we expect that Shipman will start in extended spring training before joining the Northwest League (NWL) this summer.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – none

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Monday, February 14, 2011

TEAM #16 – Los Angeles Angels

Mike Trout is not only the Halos #1, but he is in the battle for overall #1

It has been an interesting off-season for the Angels, starting with the dismissal of long-time, and highly regarded, scouting director Eddie Bane, and ending with the horrific desperation acquisition of 32yo, Vernon Wells' contract, the one for seven years—at roughly $18 million per. This gives the Halos one of the Major’s top five payrolls, for a team that looks like it may only be the third best in the AL West. GM Tony Reagins took over in 2008, and has seen the Angels record decline in every season since. Don’t expect that trend to change in 2011, and right about now we have to view Reagins 2009 extension with considerable skepticism; as things on the Minor League front don’t appear to offer much of a different view, with the Angels now having posted four consecutive middle of the pack rankings, coming in at #16 this year—a repeat from 2010 ( .

It’s not as if the system is without talent, as Mike Trout is as good as any prospect in baseball and the likely four Angels in the Top 100 is more than any team we have reviewed thus far. But the system is characterized by two significant trends: 1) a dearth of starting pitching prospects—especially from the left-side, and few high ceiling prospects once you get past the first eight or so names on this list. Add to that a system that ranks in the bottom 25% in regards to depth, and you have the makings of an organization with an arrow pointing downward. The question is whether or not Ric Wilson is capable of even matching Eddie Banes’ performance—yet alone improve upon it. The good news—in addition to Trout—is that there appears to be a number of ready or near ready Major League prospects that should provide roster depth in Los Angeles or capital with which to make trades.

Best Pick from 2010 – This one is a slam dunk, as no one in the industry regarded CF Mike Trout higher than we did, as he was the Angels #1 prospect on our list last year and #43 overall.

Worst Pick from 2010 – While we weren’t the only ones to miss this one badly, Trevor Reckling took a significant step backwards in 2011—certainly not justifying our #4 ranking for him.

Grade A

1) Mike Trout, CF (2010 Performance Scores – Power 52; Discipline 69; First Base Rate 79; Speed 77)

We rarely get a chance to see comparables of a 19yo that provide the confidence in their lower limits that we find when we evaluate Trout. While that is certainly a positive, if he ends up performing toward the high-end of his comps this is a truly special player in the making. With plus-plus speed, plus contact and strike zone management skills and at least average power, Trout has the makings of a complete offensive force. Defensively, he has plus range and an average arm. 2010 saw Trout finish with the Top Performance Score in two different leagues—the Midwest League (MWL) and the California League (CAL). Trout is expected to open 2011 in the Texas League (TXL). While we don’t like to get too far ahead of ourselves, and Trout is yet to play a game above A-ball, Trout appears to have a floor of an above average top of the order offense igniter, and a ceiling of one of the best middle of the order hitters in the game.

Grade A -

2) Jean Segura, 2B (2010– Power 53; Discipline 75; First Base Rate 66; Speed 80)

We have been watching Segura closely since he posted the #4 Performance Score in the DSL in 2007. From a performance standpoint, he had been somewhat overshadowed by Alexi Amarista, who has been his infield partner during the 2007 and 2008 seasons—but not in 2010, as Segura had a breakout year, finishing with the #4 Performance Score in the MWL. An exciting all-around performer, Segura shows plus speed and strike zone management skills. He has a quick bat that allows him to make solid contact and even generate average power for a middle infielder. Defensively, he has solid footwork and soft hands. The Angels would like to see if he can handle a move to shortstop, but we feel his stocky build is more suited for second base. Segura looks to possess all of the skills that would give him an upside of an above average Major League second basemen. We will be watching for another step forward as he tackles the CAL in 2011.

3) Hank Conger, C (2010– Power 51; Discipline 66; First Base Rate 67; Speed 29)

One would think that the off-season trade that sent Mike Napoli to the Jays would have paved the way for Conger to move into at least a half-time role as Angels’ backstop in 2011, but we fear that Mike Sciosia’s penchant for defense-oriented catchers may see Conger as handicapped for playing time as was Napoli. Offense has never been the issue for Conger, as he has above average contact and strike zone management skills. If he stays behind the plate, his power should also rate at least average. The problem is that many, us included, aren’t convinced Conger can defensively become an average everyday catcher. If that isn’t the case, his near base-clogging speed would limit him to either first base or DH—where his bat is likely to come up short in an everyday role. Conger is ready to hit in the Major’s and will battle for a roster spot this spring.

Grade B+

4) Jordan Walden, RP (2010 – Dominance 53; Control 39; HRrate 63; Stamina 27)

Walden’s 2009 performance had many wondering if he was going to end up falling short of realizing his substantial potential. We still rated him as the Angels’ #4 prospect on last year’s list, believing that a move to the bullpen was in the offing. Sure enough, the Angels returned him to the TXL to open the 2010 season--in the pen, and while Walden did experience an adjustment period with his new role, by the time he was promoted to the Angels in August, he was once again firing bb’s like he did when he was regarded one of the system’s best prospects. Out of the pen, Walden’s fastball sits in the mid-90s and can go as high as triple digits. His next best pitch is a slider that isn’t the devastating variety that would give Walden a lethal fastball/slider combo. He will have to improve upon it—especially with regards to command, if he is to become more than an 8th inning guy. With the Angels’ closer situation unsettled, there is an opportunity for Walden to be their closer. Our expectation is that he opens the season as Fernando Rodney’s set-up guy.

5) Kaleb Cowart, 3B

Prior to June’s draft, Cowart ranked #14 on our board, although we, like most in the industry, liked him better as a pitcher. Cowart had other ideas, and the Angels were seemingly willing to go along for the time being. Currently a switch-hitter, but no guarantee to remain one, Cowart shows tremendous power as his major offensive skill. Only 18yo, he has an aggressive plate approach and a relatively long swing—both items that crate an excessive amount of strikeouts. Despite being a strong athlete, Cowart’s speed is barely average and is likely to decline as he matures. Defensively, while he has a plus arm, his footwork is questionable and we only see the makings of an adequate defensive third baseman. We don’t want to sell Cowart’s talent short, as he has the potential to develop into a power hitting third baseman. We just believe that he would have been better served on the mound. Look for Cowart to open the 2011 season in full-season A-ball.

Grade B

6) Fabio Martinez, RHP (2010 – Dominance 75; Control 21; HRrate 55; Stamina 72)

Martinez has been on our radar since finishing the 2008 season with the DSL’s #4 Performance Score. He followed that up with the Top Score in the AZL in his US debut in 2009, and added a #12 finish in the MWL this past season. The point is that he has consistently demonstrated that he stands above the typical prospect crowd. Still tremendously raw, Martinez has a mid-90s fastball that is complimented by a plus slider and a potentially plus change. The pure ‘stuff’ is there for Martinez to develop into a front of the rotation ace. However, if Martinez is to reach his upside, he will have to make significant changes. His delivery is full of motion that, while generating tremendous velocity, leaves him with abysmal command. His change still needs substantial work, and he will have to work on evolving into more pitcher than thrower. Only 21yo, look for Martinez in the CAL in 2011.

7) Randal Grichuk, OF (2010– Power 80; Discipline 56; First Base Rate 26; Speed 42)

While Grichuk may end up being best remembered as the answer to the trivia question of whom the Angels selected ahead of Mike Trout in the 2009 draft, we can’t understand all of the negativity that seems to surround him. Getting the negatives out of the way first, Grichuk has rarely met a pitch that he could resist tacking a hack at. He has extreme difficulty with breaking balls, that often make him look silly. Both his arm and range can only hope to be average in right field, perhaps eventually predicating a move to left. Now for the rest of the story…Grichuk will play nearly all of the 2011 season as a 19yo, with most of it likely in the CAL. His power is the best in the system, bordering on the plus-plus variety. 2010 saw him not only post the #5 Performance Score in the MWL, but after a slow April start, he posted a .350/.370/.659. While far from a sure bet at reaching it, Grichuk has the ceiling of a significant power hitting corner outfielder. He’ll likely return to Cedar Rapids for a couple of months before moving on to Inland Empire.

8) Tyler Chatwood, RHP (2010 – Dominance 38; Control 44; HRrate 62; Stamina 74)

Perhaps on the flip-side of the Grichuk story, we have difficulty understanding all the love heaped on this 2008, second rounder. Yes, Chatwood has a fastball that he runs up into the mid-90s and a curveball that may be the best in the Angels’ system. He is also able to keep the ball down in the zone—generating a 2.02 GO/AO ratio in his three professional seasons. Finally, no one questions his aggressive, attacking, mound approach. That said, at 6’0”, 185lbs, there is little physical upside projectability left with Chatwood. His change still struggles to be an average offering, and his command is often times best described as poor. Despite owning two plus pitches, he misses way too few bats, as three stops in 2010 found him with a .261 Average Against and a meager 6.3 Ks per 9 IP. Still Chatwood managed to post the #5 Performance Score in the CAL and the #7 Score in the TXL. Don’t get us wrong, Chatwood has the ceiling a solid #2 Big League starter. But, given his size, command issues, limited projectability and lack of a Major League change, we can’t help but feel he is destined for a late inning role at the next level. Look for Chatwood to begin 2011 in the PCL.

9) Alexi Amarista, 2B (2010– Power 34; Discipline 78; First Base Rate 57; Speed 56)

Amarista has now posted the #1 Performance Score in the DSL in 2007, the #5 Score in the AZL in 2008, the #6 Score in the MWL in 2009 and now the #11 Score in the CAL and #5 Score in the TXL in 2010. Amarista is a model of consistency that would likely get more notoriety if it weren’t for his diminutive 5’7”, 150lb, frame. Defense is his main calling card, as his soft hands, quick feet and solid arm earned him the designation of top defender at second base in two different leagues in 2010. Offensively, Amarista has excellent strikezone management skills, above average speed, solid contact skills and an energy level matched by few players in the Minors. Only 21yo, the only thing missing from his game is power. Despite that, Amarista exploded this winter in the Venezuelan Winter League, where he not only posted the circuit’s Top Performance Score, but belted 9 home runs in the process. Few in the industry are likely to put much credence in Amarista—given his size, but with him likely to begin 2011 in AAA, we find it difficult to see how he doesn’t get at least a crack at a Big League opportunity by 2012.

10) Garret Richards, RHP (2010 – Dominance 68; Control 63; HRrate 49; Stamina 72)

With a low-90s fastball, two potentially plus breaking balls, a 6’3”, 210lb, frame and an adequate change, Richards has the makings of the quintessential mid-rotation workhorse. Add to that a propensity for batters to beat the ball into the ground against him (2.13 GO/AO ratio as a professional) and solid command, Richards’ floor is extremely high. Our only knock is his ceiling, as his profile comps don’t provide a lot of confidence on the upside. While his 2010 season did see Richards post the #13 Performance Score in the CAL, most of the year was spent in the MWL where he couldn’t crack the Top 30. While he shows solid pitchability with his four-pitch repertoire, it often becomes far too hittable, as opposing batters have hit nearly .250 against him as a pro—despite the fact that Richards has been a tad older than we would like to see at each level. 2011 will be a critical evaluation year for Richards, as he should open the year in AA—against a competition level that will tell us far more about his future.

11) Trevor Reckling, LHP (2010 – Dominance 37; Control 29; HRrate 48; Stamina 71)

Reckling’s 2010 season can be classified as nothing less than an unmitigated disaster, as the 21yos jump to AAA proved more than he was ready for. Coming into 2010, Reckling appeared to be a rather polished lefty, with a high-80s fastball and some of the best secondary offerings in the Minors’—drawing comparisons to White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle. But the jump to AAA and the Angels’ desire to see less of his plus-plus change, played havoc with his season. Finally, he was returned to the TXL in mid-season to attempt to right the ship. Fortunately, Reckling was able to post the TXL’s #5 Performance Score in his return, and still shows significant promise, despite taking a step back this past season. Reckling still has the opportunity to become a solid #2/#3 Major League starter. He will give AAA another try to open 2011, with an eye towards joining the Angels before the season is out.

12) Mark Trumbo, 1B (2010– Power 76; Discipline 34; First Base Rate 41; Speed 37)

Trumbo is an excellent example of just how high the bar is for a player that is likely limited defensively to first base. A converted pitcher, Trumbo had a breakout season in 2008 and has been posting enormous power numbers ever since. Unfortunately, power is his only plus skill, as his long swing is unlikely to ever see him making more than average contact and he whiffs (23% strikeout ratio in 2010) far too often. With below average speed, he is likely stuck as a first baseman. While he could become an adequate everyday player on a second division team, we feel he is likely to be limited to being a right-handed power hitter off of the bench. Trumbo should get a long look this spring, and even if he doesn’t break camp with the Angels, he should see Los Angeles at some point in 2011.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Cam Bedrosian, RHP; 14) Chevez Clarke, OF.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TEAM #17 – Colorado Rockies

Matzek didn't find the transition to the professional ranks as easy as many expected

The Rockies are one of the more interesting organizations to rate, because everything about them is just so middle of the road. At the Major League level, they have a .496 winning percentage over the last six seasons. We have rated their Minor League system an average of 15th over the last five seasons including back-to-back #17s ( Their international scouting program has had an average level of success, and their drafts over the last decade have vacillated from very good (2000, 2004, 3005) to very bad (2001, 2006, 2007), but, on balance, have been pretty average. The only thing that isn’t really average is the stability of their front office, as the Rockies have had only two GMs over the last two decades, and the current leadership of Dan O’Dowd, as GM, and Bill Schmidt, as Scouting Director, have been in their respective roles for more than a decade. Given all that it makes it easy to expect more of the same moving forward.

Nothing about the Rockies’ system jumps out at us very positively or very negatively. They have some nice prospects at the top of the system, but unless Tyler Matzek finds what he had in the spring of 2009, none of them really are the envy of the baseball world. If you scan down the team list grade-by-grade, they match-up with the number of prospects that we would expect as well as any team in baseball. They have a nice mix of hitting vs. pitching, skilled vs. less skilled positional prospects and high ceiling vs. high floor. The reality is that no team epitomizes ‘average’ moreso than do the Rockies. Most importantly there doesn’t seem to be any strategic shift that would portend movement—either upward or downward—in the near future, as the Major League team is strong enough to be competitive, but not competitive enough to likely employ any ‘all-in’ type of strategy.

Best Pick from 2010 – The Rockies are an interesting list, as 2010 saw many of their top prospects take a step back, and few unexpected ones step forward. While we realize that we are still pretty much on an island with this one, but we had Rafael Ortega at #25 last year when few had heard of him. It will likely be another year before the consensus on him swings in our direction, but he is much better than most realize.

Worst Pick from 2010 – We could go with Friedrich at #2, but his step back was as much health related as anything else. Many would like us to see this a call for Tim Wheeler at#4, whom we knew put us out all alone, but we aren’t writing Wheeler off quite yet. Instead this will go to Delta Cleary—despite all of the caveats we placed upon ranking him at #11. Cleary won’t be found among the Rockies Top 30 this year and barely earns a C+ grade.

Grade A

1) Tyler Matzek, LHP (2010 Performance Scores– Dominance 58; Control 20; HRrate 52; Stamina 69)

Matzek ranked as a clear consensus best prep pitching prospect entering the 2009 draft, and when he lasted all the way to the Rockies at #11 it had to be considered a bargain—despite the $3.9 million price tag. After a strong showing in instructionals, Matzek debuted in the South Atlantic League (SAL), where his control abandoned him. He still finished with the circuit’s #15 Performance Score, but it was not up to expectations. Matzek was drafted, in many respects, because he possessed the complete package—potentially four pitches, a mid-90s fastball and exceptional mound presence. Little of that was on display in the SAL, as his fastball sat in the low-90s, he barely used his change and often seemed lost on the mound. Knowing what he is capable of, we are willing to chalk 2010 to adjustment. Matzek has the potential to be a front of the rotation star. He will first need to find mechanical consistency, in order to cut down on the 62 walks he issued in 89 innings in 2010. The Rockies will bump Matzek up to the California League (CAL) in 2011, where we expect to see a different pitcher.

2) Wilin Rosario, C (2010 – Power 79; Discipline 48; First Base Rate 33; Speed 38)

Few players did more to turn potential into productivity in 2010 than did Rosario, who stamped himself among the game’s elite prospects. Already considered a virtual lock at a Big League opportunity due to his plus defensive backstop skills, the 21yo Rosario had a breakout year offensively. For the first time in his career, his plus-power was evident, as Rosario belted 19 home runs in 270 ABs, en route to earning the Texas League’s (TXL) #3 Performance Score behind the Royals’ Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. Unfortunately, knee surgery cut his season short, and may delay the beginning of his 2011 campaign. While Rosario hits with authority to all fields, he still struggles with pitch recognition and plate discipline. He was not actually a burner on the base paths prior to the knee surgery and is only likely to be less mobile upon his return. Rosario’s upside is that of an above average offensive and defensive catcher at the Major League level—capable of posting 25+ home runs annually. He’ll get a chance to prove that he is recovered in 2011 in AAA, with a chance at joining the Rockies before season’s end.

Grade A-

3) Nolan Arenado, 3B (2010 – Power 77; Discipline 73; First Base Rate 28; Speed 31)

Positional concerns kept Arenado downgraded on our 2009 pre-draft board, as we had him rated as a fourth rounder. The Rockies fell in love with his bat and selected him in the second round. While we still have significant positional concerns, Arenado’s bat is lessening them for us. Offensively, Arenado can flat out rake—showing plus power and solid contact skills. Perhaps more impressively, Arenado makes two-strike adjustments that are well beyond his years. His 2010 performance saw him finish with the SAL’s #4 Performance Score. As to the negatives, Arenado is not very patient at the plate—drawing only 35 walks in 576 professional ABs. He is not very athletic, and has below average speed. A prep shortstop, there was discussion early on of converting Arenado to catcher—a position that he physically profiles well. It now appears that his eventual destination is first base, where his bat should play, but not be nearly as attractive. The Rockies will send him to assault CAL pitching in 2011.

Grade B+

4) Kyle Parker, OF

The Clemson quarterback put together a tremendous junior year on the diamond, that saw him enter the draft as a likely first round selection. The Rockies tried to sign him to a contract that would have had him give up football, but seemingly got a bargain when the saved nearly $800,000 and signed him to a deal that allowed him to play his senior year. Seemingly that is, because in his final collegiate football game, Parker went down with broken ribs that could delay his debut until April or May. A two sport athlete, the nearly full season delay to the start of his professional baseball career is not insignificant. In college, Parker demonstrated both potentially above average power and contact skills. The downside is that—despite being a two-sport star—Parker is not exceptionally athletic, and possesses only average speed. Defensively, Parker likely ends up on an outfield corner, with right field seemingly having the edge. Once healthy, look for Parker to make his debut in full-season ball—possibly in the CAL.

5) Rafael Ortega, OF (2010 – Power 53; Discipline 74; First Base Rate 74; Speed 76)

One of the players that we are considerably higher on than most, as his slight build, that offers little in the way of obvious projection, tends to dissuade the scouting community. What can’t be ignored is Ortega’s excellent strike zone management skills, plus contact skills and plus speed—none of which will be negatively impacted by his 5’11”, 165lb frame. Even his questionable power looks to be potentially average for a Major League center fielder. With his speed, he is able to cover sizeable ground in center and has a strong arm—leaving little doubt about his ability to play the position at the next level. Ortega followed up a #12 Performance Score in the DSL in 2009 by posting the Pioneer League’s (PIO) best Score this season. Only 19yo, Ortega should have plenty of opportunity to gain additional plate patience—the only thing lacking from becoming a potential game changing top of the order threat. The Rockies will send Ortega to the SAL in 2011 and we expect that he will validate our ranking.

Grade B

6) Peter Tago, RHP

We expected Tago to be an early second round pick this past June, so we weren’t really shocked when the Rockies selected him in the later part of the sandwich round. At 6’3”, 190lbs, Tago has a frame that offers plenty of projection to his currently low-90s fastball. The problem is that this is a pitcher that is considerably more projection than production at this stage. With a middling curve and a barely used change, Tago’s secondary offerings require considerable work. But the old adage is that you can’t teach velocity and that is what the Rockies are betting on here. There is a lot to work with here, but little in the way of making sound projections at this point. A strong showing this spring could find Tago in the SAL—but given the rawness of his repertoire, a stint in extended spring training with a summer debut in the PIO may be more likely.

7) Chad Bettis, RHP (2010 – Dominance 44; Control 71; HRrate 73; Stamina 72)

Bettis is another pitcher that we had tabbed for the second round this past June. With a low-90s fastball, a potentially plus slider and an adequate change, the foundation for a solid middle of the rotation starter exists. Unlike Tago above, Bettis’ offerings are very refined, and he not only shows plus command, but he works down in the strike zone. The problem that prevents us from ranking him higher is that, without a true strikeout pitch, we aren’t sold on Bettis’ ability to remain in the rotation. In short stints, out of the pen, Bettis’ fastball becomes a mid-90s offering, giving him a strong fastball/slider combo. We believe that the eventual outcome will be that the Rockies will realize that a plus arm out of the bullpen is better than an adequate arm in the rotation. Look for Bettis to begin 2011 in the CAL.

8) Christian Friedrich, LHP (2010 – Dominance 54; Control 51; HRrate 34; Stamina 67)

After a phenomenal 2009 campaign, Friedrich came back to earth a bit in 2010, as he finished with the #14 Performance Score in the TXL. Nagging injuries played somewhat of a role in the decline, as Friedrich missed time with both a sore elbow and a shoulder muscle problem. When healthy, Friedrich shows four pitchers, with both his fastball and curve being potentially plus pitches. He demonstrates solid command, and typically keeps the ball down in the zone—despite allowing 10 home runs in 87 innings in 2010. If he can remain healthy, Friedrich can become a solid lefty in the middle of a Big League rotation. Expect Friedrich to open up 2011 in the AAA rotation, with a shot at the Major League rotation by mid-season.

9) Tim Wheeler, OF (2010 – Power 46; Discipline 50; First Base Rate 55; Speed 76)

We expected more than what Wheeler has shown after the Rockies got, what we believed to be, a steal when the selected him at the end of the first round in 2009. Although he has shown little of thus far in his professional career, Wheeler possesses plus power and plus speed to go along with average contact and strike zone management skills. With a solid arm, Wheeler could play any of the outfield positions. To some degree that is part of the problem, as his critics see him as a natural fourth outfielder type. Just 22yo, he looks to begin 2011 in AA, where a breakout season offensively would restore some of the lost luster. We aren’t giving up on him just yet.

10) Charles Blackmon, OF (2010 – Power 67; Discipline 74; First Base Rate 49; Speed 77)

We admit to being torn on Blackmon, as he remains one of those ‘toolsy’ athletic types that we aren’t usually high on. Now 24yo, we aren’t sure how much additional projection that we can expect. What we are sure of is that in 2010 Blackmon did offer us a glimpse of what the future likely holds, on his way to posting the #10 Performance Score in the TXL. Blackmon possesses above average contact skills, strong strike zone management skills and above average speed. Defensively he looks to be a competent center fielder, where his minimal power should not be a significant factor. If all goes right, Blackmon has the upside of an average Major League center fielder. What we see as more likely, however, is that he becomes a starting center fielder on a second division team or a fourth outfielder on a better one. Blackmon should begin 2011 in AAA and see Colorado at some time in 2011.

11) Rex Brothers, LHP (2010 – Dominance 76; Control 26; HRrate 71; Stamina 26)

The Rockies had targeted Brothers as a reliever even before they used a sandwich round pick on him in 2009. With a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider, he profiles as the quintessential left-handed set-up guy. He will get the chance to earn a bullpen spot in Colorado this spring, where he will have to show improved command. Brothers could rank higher on this list, if we didn’t have the data on the contribution values of Minor League relief pitchers, as his floor is relatively high.

12) Albert Campos, RHP (2010 – Dominance 41; Control 70; HRrate 63; Stamina 78)

Campos made his U.S. debut in a big way, as he posted the #2 Performance Score in the PIO in 2010. A 20yo, with a 6’4”, 225lb, frame, Campos cuts an imposing figure on the mound. Possessing a low-90s fastball, a potentially plus curve, and a useable change—with solid command—all of the ingredients are present for him to become a solid mid-rotation innings-eater. Even more encouraging is his ability to keep the ball down, inducing a 1.34 GO/AO ratio in three professional seasons. If there is one knock against him, it is that Campos has yet to miss as many bats as his stuff would portend. Look for Campos to get his first taste of full-season ball in the SAL to open 2011.

Other Potential Top 300 Prospects – 13) Alving Mejias, RHP.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2010 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation and here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2010 season.