After checking in on the preseason top prospects from each National League organization last week, it’s time to evaluate the progress of the No. 1 prospect from each American League organization.
Baltimore Orioles, C Matt Wieters: Unless Wieters stormed away with the American League Rookie of the Year this year a la Evan Longoria in 2008, there was no chance he could live up to the massive expectations placed upon him before he made his major league debut. The No. 1 prospect in baseball coming into the year, Wieters is hitting .259/.316/.407 in 117 plate appearances, though with his swing and ability to hit for power, expect those numbers to climb. Quickly.
Boston Red Sox, 1B Lars Anderson: It’s easy to look at Anderson’s .272/.366/.413 batting line in 79 games this year and wonder if something is wrong. The answer? Probably nothing. In 507 Double-A PAs in his age 20 and 21 seasons, Anderson has hit .285/.389/.448 with 31 doubles, 13 home runs, 73 walks and 120 strikeouts. He will have to show more game power in time, but the raw power is already there and he’s still one of the youngest players in the Eastern League.
Chicago White Sox, 3B Gordon Beckham: A little more than a year ago, Beckham was swinging a metal bat for Georgia. Now he’s hitting .271/.336/.415 with wood in 34 major league games as a 22-year-old. With his offensive tools, athleticism, youth and feel for the strike zone, Beckham has the potential to be a star in the big leagues.
Cleveland Indians, C Carlos Santana: Santana takes an aggresssive hack at the plate, but don’t be fooled—the 23-year-old switch-hitter also has excellent plate discipline. Through 83 games with Double-A Akron, Santana is hitting .266/.394/.494 with 59 walks and 47 strikeouts, showing the potential to be a catcher who can both get on base at a high clip and hit for average to above-average power. If he can do that, he’s a star.
Detroit Tigers, RHP Rick Porcello: While even the most advanced high school pitchers from Porcello’s 2007 draft class are in Double-A, the 20-year-old Porcello made the leap from high Class A to the big leagues on Opening Day. Porcello’s strategy has been to pound the strike zone with his plus two-seamer that comes in the low-90s and makes it difficult for hitters to lift the ball. As Porcello learns at the big league level how to best use his mid-70s curve, his low- to mid-80s slider and developing changeup, expect his strikeout rate (he has just 47 in 87 innings) to climb and his 4.14 ERA to drop.
Kansas City Royals, 3B Mike Moustakas: The Royals must be hoping that Moustakas pulls out some of that second-half magic he showed last year in the Midwest League, as he’ll need it to get his OBP back above the Carolina League average. Moustakas is batting .266/.303/.431 for high Class A Wilmington in 82 games, while his 17 errors haven’t been great either. He’s still just 20 and is gifted with above-average tools at the plate and a rocket arm, but his results still need to catch up to his raw talent.
Los Angeles Angels, RHP Nick Adenhart: Tragedy struck Adenhart on April 9, when he was killed in a car accident in Fullerton, Calif. Adenhart was 22 years old.
Minnesota Twins, CF Aaron Hicks: Hicks dominated the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last year as a 2008 first-rounder, but the Twins held the toolsy 19-year-old back in extended spring training this year until June 20, when he made his full-season debut for low Class A Beloit. Hicks hasn’t been on the field long enough for his stock to rise or fall, which means he’s still one of the best center field prospects in the minors.
New York Yankees, CF Austin Jackson: With a .324/.389/.452 batting line in 82 Triple-A games, Jackson’s .840 OPS is tops among International League center fielders. The 22-year-old Jackson is a solid all-around player with mostly average to above-average tools across the board. His present power is below-average, though he could develop average power in time.
Oakland Athletics, LHP Brett Anderson: Last year Anderson was able to crank his four-seam fastball up 94 mph, but he sat more comfortably at 88-92 mph. This year, Anderson’s fastball has been as high as 97, with a slider that at times has been a plus pitch in the mid-80s, complemented by a changeup and curveball that both flash above-average. At 21 years old, Anderson is already arguably a league-average pitcher. As he continues to improve, he could be one of the best starters in baseball.
Seattle Mariners, CF Greg Halman: Let’s start with the good: in 74 games, Halman already has 20 home runs and an isolated power of .259 in the Double-A Southern League. Unfortunately, none of that matters because Halman has shown no semblance of plate discipline or ability to hit pitches that aren’t fastballs, which is why he’s hitting .215/.271/.474. Halman has a chance at a 200-strikeout season, as he already has 120 strikeouts (and only 16 unintentional walks) in 314 PAs, with a K rate of 38 percent.
Tampa Bay Rays, LHP David Price: Electric stuff? Yes. Major league average command? Not quite yet. Price works in the low- to mid-90s with his fastball and can touch the high-90s, complementing the pitch with a mid-80s slider and an occasional changeup. In nine major league starts, Price is averaging just over a strikeout per inning and has a 4.70 ERA, but he’s also walked 31 batters in 44 innings. Price has an athletic, fluid delivery, and when he learns to repeat it every time and throw his high-octane pitches for strikes with more regularity, he could be one of the game’s best pitchers.
Texas Rangers, RHP Neftali Feliz: Armed with arguably the best fastball in the minor leagues, Feliz moved to the bullpen (at least temporarily) late last month. As a reliever, Feliz can routinely pump high-90s fastballs that will peak at 101 mph. His arm is still the same as last year, but he’s been passed in the system by first baseman Justin Smoak.
Toronto Blue Jays, LF Travis Snider: The sweet lefthanded stroke and easy power are still there for Snider, but durability is starting to become a bigger concern. A back injury has limited Snider to just 49 games this year between Toronto and Triple-A Las Vegas, one year after a right elbow injury hampered his performance. At 21, Snider is still the organization’s most promising young player.
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