Appalachian League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports


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FIVE YEARS AGO

(Click here for the complete list)

1. Adam Miller, rhp, Burlington Indians

2. *Chris Young, of, Bristol White Sox

3. Robert Valido, ss, Bristol White Sox

4. James Houser, lhp, Princeton Devil Rays

5. *Daric Barton, c, Johnson City Cardinals

6. *Chuck James, lhp, Danville Braves

7. Carlos Perez, lhp, Bluefield Orioles

8. Matt Esquivel, of, Danville Braves

9. *Denard Span, of, Elizabethton Twins

10. *Rafael Perez, lhp, Burlington Indians

*Has played in major leagues.

In most years, Tim Beckham’s selection as the Rookie-level Appalachian League’s top prospect would have been a foregone conclusion. Though he struggled with the bat, the Princeton shortstop was the No. 1 overall selection in June’s draft.

But the Appy League enjoyed an almost unprecedented depth of talent in 2008, highlighted by Beckham but also by a renewed emphasis on Latin America by big league clubs. In fact, seven of the league’s top 10 prospects were born outside the United States.

Kingsport shortstop Wilmer Flores, who played most of the season at age 16, was the most notable example. Signed by the Mets for $750,000 a year ago, the Venezuelan was both the Appy League’s youngest player and one of its most dangerous hitters.

One international phenom who didn’t make the list was Danville righthander Julio Teheran, whose $850,000 bonus was the highest among pitchers on the international market last year. He battled shoulder tendinitis all summer and worked just 15 innings, not enough to qualify for consideration.

1. Tim Beckham, ss, Princeton Devil Rays

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 188 Age: 18 Drafted: Rays ’08 (1)

Tim BeckhamBeckham joined Josh Hamilton (1999) and Joe Mauer (2001) as recent No. 1 overall picks who spent their first pro summers in the Appy League. Beckham didn’t dominate, but observers still were impressed enough by his raw tools and up-the-middle profile to regard him as the league’s top prospect.

After signing for a $6.15 million bonus, Beckham reported to Princeton in late June and hit just .167 without an extra-base hit in his first 12 games. He improved both offensively and defensively in subsequent months, though, as his natural enthusiasm and off-the-charts makeup took over.

An outstanding athlete, Beckham has plus hitter’s hands, solid pitch recognition and the bat speed to turn around quality fastballs. As he matures, he also should add average power, though he’s already solidly built and doesn’t project to be much more than an average runner.

Beckham is an above-average defender with major league actions at short. His arm is above-average and he gets rid of the ball quickly. As the season wore on, he improved in getting his feet behind him on throws to first base.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
177 30 43 12 0 2 14 13 43 5 1 .243 .297 .345
 
2. Wilmer Flores, ss, Kingsport Mets

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175 Age: 17 Signed: Venezuela ’07

The Mets’ 2007 international haul is shaping up to be a bumper crop of Latin American talent, and Flores could be the best, as he has drawn comparisons to a young Miguel Cabrera for his build, offensive potential and Venezuelan heritage.

The youngest player in the league (he turned 17 on Aug. 6), Flores showed plus-plus bat speed and a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. He struck out in just 11 percent of his at-bats, the lowest rate among league batting title qualifiers.

Though he’s an aggressive hitter, he keeps his hands back well and adjusts to breaking balls. Flores also showed a willingness to use the whole field when behind in the count. His power at this stage is predominantly to his pull side, but his line-drive stroke and physicality suggest the potential for plus power.

Flores has sound infield actions and hands. But he has below-average speed and lacks first-step quickness, making him a below-average defender overall at shortstop. His solid-average arm would play at third base, though, and his bat figures to profile at any position.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
245 36 36 12 4 8 41 12 28 2 1 .310 .352 .490
 
3. Matt Moore, lhp, Princeton Devil Rays

B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 205 Age: 19 Drafted: Devil Rays ’07 (8)

Moore fell short of qualifying for (and thus winning) the ERA title by one-third of an inning, in part because Princeton had six games canceled. He showed much better control than he did in his first tour of the Appy League, cutting his walk rate from 7.1 per nine innings in 2007 to 3.1 this summer. He also led the league with 12.8 strikeouts per nine innings and didn’t allow a home run.

With easy 92-94 mph velocity (and the ability to touch 95) from the left side and a tight, late-breaking curveball, Moore offers true top-of-the-rotation potential. He also fine-tuned his changeup, which runs away from righthanders. Add in plus makeup and competitiveness, and Moore has established himself as one of Tampa Bay’s brighter pitching prospects.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 12

2 2 0 1.66 54 30 22 10 0 19 77 .154
 
4. Gabriel Noriega, ss, Pulaski Mariners

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170 Age: 17 Signed: Venezuela ’07

Noriega has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus, the standard-bearers among Venezuelan shortstop prospects.

Noriega, who signed for $800,000, has big hands and broad shoulders, giving him the chance to develop average power for the position. He stays inside the ball well and already shows an aptitude for hitting for average, as evidenced by his .308 performance in August.

But it’s on defense where Noriega shines. Despite just average speed, he’s a smooth fielder with plus instincts, anticipation and hands at shortstop. A strong arm and excellent footwork should keep him there, regardless of his offensive development. If Noriega develops gap power, then his ceiling will eclipse that of Mario Martinez, his countryman and teammate on the left side of Pulaski’s infield.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
151 11 36 4 2 0 18 6 43 6 1 .238

.266 .291
 
5. Mario Martinez, 3b, Pulaski Mariners

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 208 Age: 18 Signed: Venezuela ’06
With an average age of 18.3 years, Pulaski’s offense was easily the youngest in the league. The 18-year-old Martinez supplied much of the firepower as part of a promising core of Venezuelans, which also included Noriega, right fielder Jose Rivero and third baseman-turned-catcher Juan Fuentes.

Martinez’s athleticism, strength and body control make him an offensive threat. He stays inside the ball well and figures to develop above-average power as he matures. His hitting approach is advanced for his age, as he looks to use the opposite field with two strikes, but his swing can get long and his pitch recognition is inconsistent, so he may not hit for a high average.

Signed as a shortstop for $600,000 in 2006, Martinez has made a smooth transition to third base, where he displayed sure hands to go with plus range and a plus throwing arm. In fact, managers regarded him as the league’s top defender at the hot corner, as he led all third basemen in total chances (170) and assists (130) and ranked second in double plays (11).

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
251

43 80 15 3 5 32 10 47 2 2 .319 .344 .462
 
6. Randall Delgado, rhp, Danville Braves

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 165 Age: 18 Signed: Panama ’06

That the Braves skipped Delgado over the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League this summer—where the organization’s teenage arms usually spend their first summers—speaks to how highly they regard the 18-year-old Panamanian. He sat at 89-91 mph last season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, but when his velocity crept to 92-94 in extended spring training, Atlanta made the decision to assign him to Danville. Delgado easily handled the jump, ranking second in the league in strikeouts (81 in 69 innings) and ninth in ERA (3.13).

At 6-foot-3 and with an easy throwing motion, Delgado generates downward plane from his high three-quarters arm slot. He stays over the rubber well, allowing him to leverage the ball down in the zone. He flashes an above-average curveball at times, but it’s inconsistent, as is his changeup. He’ll also need to tighten his overall command as he moves up, as his 30 walks were second-most in the league.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14 14

3 8 0 3.13 69 63 32 24 5 30 81 .249
 
7. Jordan Lyles, rhp, Greeneville Astros

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 185 Age: 17 Drafted: Astros ’08 (1s)

Lyles was considered an overdraft when the Astros took him 38th overall, but he sure didn’t pitch like it. Athleticism and a clean, easy delivery were among his strongest traits as an amateur, and Appy League observers concurred. His fastball sat at 88-92 mph, and though it doesn’t feature much life, Lyles commands it well for a young hurler. His 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame leaves plenty of room to project more velocity.

Though Lyles relies on his fastball, he already shows advanced feel for a changeup, getting good arm speed and separation on the pitch. His stumbling block could be the development of his low-70s curveball, which rates as below-average. He struggles to stay on top of his curve and to find a consistent release point.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13

13

3 3 0 3.99 50 44 26 22 4 19 64 .228
 
8. Angel Morales, of, Elizabethton Twins

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 18 Drafted: Twins ’07 (3)

Though shaky pitch recognition and a stubborn, pull-only approach made him a frequent strikeout victim, Morales’ raw power is immense. He led the Appy League with 15 home runs and a .623 slugging percentage, and he has come a long way from his debut season, when he batted just .256/.357/.405 in the GCL.

Along with his power potential, Morales’ solid range in center field, average speed and strong throwing arm will afford him many opportunities to prove himself. He may not hit for average as he moves up, because he tends to chase pitches out of the zone when he isn’t going well. He has trouble getting to pitches on the outer half of the plate and in identifying and hitting breaking balls.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
183 55 33 12 1 15 28 26 72 7 2 .301 .413 .623
 
9. Albert Suarez, rhp, Princeton Devil Rays

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 186 Age: 18 Signed: Devil Rays ’06

After signing in 2006, Suarez spent last season working out at the Rays’ new Venezuelan academy before coming to the U.S. He distinguished himself with easy 93-94 mph velocity and a mature approach both to the game and to a new culture.

With a projectable 6-foot-2, 186-pound frame and a clean arm stroke, Suarez has drawn comparisons to countryman Freddy Garcia. His repeatable delivery features terrific downhill plane, and he walked just seven batters in 11 appearances. His curveball has above-average potential but is inconsistent. He also showed aptitude for a changeup that he began throwing in extended spring training, but it also needs refinement.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11 9 0 2 0 3.92 44 41 28 19 3 7 37 .232
 
10. Kelvin Herrera, rhp, Burlington Royals

B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 162 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic ’06
Though he stands just 5-foot-10, Herrera looks much bigger because of the plane he creates on his pitches. His sinking, boring fastball sits at 89-91 mph and runs to 94 mph, leading to awkward swings, especially by righthanders. Herrera’s command and feel for the pitch was so advanced, and his maturity so pronounced, that the Royals pushed him to low Class A in mid-August.

When it’s on, Herrera’s slurvy breaking ball can be an above-average pitch. He shows plus spin on the pitch at times, and it’s especially effective when he’s working ahead of batters and controlling both sides of the plate with his fastball.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11 8

2 2 0 1.42 51 48 17 8 0 5 45 .254
 
11. Jon Gilmore, 3b, Danville Braves

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195 Age: 20 Drafted: Braves ’07 (1s)

A 2007 supplemental first-rounder from an Iowa high school, Gilmore played far less baseball as an amateur than the other players on this list. That inexperience showed when he batted just .173/.193/.173 in 22 low Class A games in May and June. It was a different story in the Appy League, though, where the he hit .337 and ranked first with 87 hits and 23 doubles.

An aggressive righthanded hitter who strives for contact and handles inside pitches well, Gilmore already has a big league body at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds. Breaking balls can give him trouble, but he uses the whole field and has the power to drive balls to both gaps.

Though he has a long arm path on throws, Gilmore has above-average arm strength. He has worked hard on his footwork at third base, where he can become an average defender.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
258 27 87 23 0 4 31 13 41 0 3 .337 .365 .473
 
12. Jay Austin, of, Greeneville Astros

B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170 Age: 18 Drafted: Astros ’08 (2)

Though he struggled to make contact in his debut, Austin hit hard line drives when he did connect. The Astros’ second-round pick in June, he maintained his composure and gave a consistent effort in the field and on the bases, regardless of his fortunes at the plate.

Austin has a chance to be a good hitter if he can learn to shorten his swing and use the opposite field. He also would benefit from improving his bunting ability so he could take advantage of his speed. His power potential is fringy, but he’s an above-average runner with the instincts to make him a prolific and efficient basestealer.

A premium quick-twitch athlete, Austin is a plus defender in center field and has average arm strength.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
212 31 42 4 2 0 14 19 69 14 6 .198 .277 .236
 
13. Niko Vasquez, ss, Johnson City Cardinals

B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175 Age: 19 Drafted: Cardinals ’08 (3)

Though evaluators were split on Vasquez’s power potential and future defensive home, he hit so well in the Appy League that he earned an 11-game trial with low Class A Quad Cities two months after the Cardinals drafted him in the third round. His approach, strong hands and swing path should make him a solid-average hitter, though his bat speed is average and estimates of his future power ranged from below average to fringy. He tends to expand his strike zone to chase fastballs up in the zone and swings through them.

Vasquez has athleticism and average middle-infield instincts, but he lacks first-step quickness and is a below-average runner. His solid-average arm is enough for third, and scouts thought that he profiled best either there or at second base. He could become an offensive-minded utility infielder.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
208 42 66 16 1 4 25 29 52 8 2 .317 .416 .462
 
14. Craig Kimbrel, rhp, Danville Braves

B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 205 Age: 20 Drafted: Braves ’08 (3)

The odds-on favorite to be the first 2008 Appy Leaguer to the reach big leagues, Kimbrel made just 12 relief appearances for Danville, barely qualifying for this list after signing as a third-rounder in June. He advanced to low Class A before settling at high Class A for the Carolina League playoffs.

He draws comparisons with Braves 2005 first-rounder Joey Devine for a similar delivery and repertoire, but Kimbrel’s stuff and flexibility are a tick better. He may be undersized at 5-foot-11, but he has a quick arm and a knockout two-pitch mix.

Kimbrel pitches in the mid- to high-90s—he hit 97 mph with Danville—from a low three-quarters arm slot, mixing in a slider that grades as a plus pitch at times. His low release point makes him a natural groundball pitcher, and he generated 2.13 groundouts for every flyout in his debut.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 0

1 2 6 0.47

19 5 4 1 0 10 27

.076
 
15. Paul Clemens, rhp, Danville Braves

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 170 Age: 20 Drafted: Braves ’08 (7)
Like fellow Danville righthanders Craig Kimbrel (third round), J.J. Hoover (10th) and David Francis (12th), seventh-rounder Clemens is a junior college product from the 2008 draft. Few if any organizations have been as successful at scouring the JC ranks for arms as the Braves, who can count Tommy Hanson, Kris Medlen and Cole Rohrbough among their recent finds.

A lean, athletic frame and a whip-quick arm allow Clemens to pitch at 91-93 mph and touch 94 with plus life. He moves his fastball around the zone well and shows feel for an above-average changeup. He’ll flash a plus curveball but he’ll have to improve his consistency with that pitch to remain a starter.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 8

3 3 1 3.39 58

57 33 22 6 18 57 .252
 
16. Gregory Infante, rhp, Bristol Sox

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Signed: Venezuela ’06

Infante got a later start to his career than most international free agents, signing with the White Sox as an 18-year-old in 2006 and turning 19 while pitching in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League that summer. He posted an ugly 8.61 ERA in the VSL, and followed up by going 2-3, 4.01 with 23 walks in 34 innings in the Appy League in 2007. Infante showed the same wildness in an assignment to low Class A Kannapolis this May, but he finally hit his stride in a return engagement in Bristol.

Though he’s already 21, Infante’s arm strength and clean delivery are difficult to ignore. His fastball ranges from 89-95 mph and sits at 92-93. While his command comes and goes, he holds his velocity late into his starts. He also throws a hard 74-79 mph downer curveball that functions as his out pitch.

Because he tends to overthrow everything now, he lacks feel for a changeup. But if he develops that pitch and improves his command, he could become a No. 3 starter.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13 12

4 4 0 2.66 74 63 26 22 4 19 57 .232
 
17. Sam Runion, rhp, Burlington Royals

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220 Age: 19 Drafted: Royals ’07 (2)

A second-round pick out of a North Carolina high school in 2007, Runion got crushed in low Class A (2-5, 5.75) to open this season before landing in the Appy League in June. Rookie ball agreed with him more, and he showed the potential to become a mid-rotation starter or set-up reliever if he can harness his heater.

Runion has a lively fastball that sat at 90-92 mph and touches 94, and he uses his 6-foot-4 frame to throw it on a good, downward plane. His three-quarters arm slot hasn’t been especially conducive to the development of his curveball, which remains a below-average pitch. He shows some feel for a changeup, though as with his curve, he has a tendency to slow his arm down when he throws it.

 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10

10

3 4 0 3.35 48 47 25 18 4 10 30 .253
 
18. Federico Hernandez, c, Greeneville Astros

B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170 Age: 20 Signed: Venezuela ’06

A cousin of Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez, Federico rated as the best defensive catcher in the league and has the potential to develop into a solid all-around backstop. Signed out of Venezuela in 2006 at age 18, he spent that summer and the next in the VSL receiving a crash course in catching.

The lessons took, as Hernandez impressed Appy League observers with advanced blocking and receiving skills and a solid, accurate arm that he used to nail 38 percent of basestealers. He’s flexible behind the plate, has soft hands and shows rare leadership and game-calling ability for such a young player.

A switch-hitter with a fluid stroke from both sides, Hernandez projects as an average hitter with a little power. He showed an undisciplined hitting approach, with a tendency to chase pitches out of the zone, especially when frustrated. But because his defensive tools are so strong, he’ll need to develop only fringe-average hitting ability to play in the majors.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
114

14 34 8 0 3 17 8 19 0 0 .298 .347 .447
 
19. Juan Silverio, ss, Bristol Sox

B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic ’07

Silverio signed with the White Sox for $600,000 out of the Dominican Republic in August 2007, but both parties credited with his signing—international scouting director Dave Wilder and scout Victor Mateo—were fired in May for their roles in alleged international bonus skimming. Silverio’s bonus may or may not have been inflated in the scandal, and he’s also a difficult player to evaluate because he seemed completely overmatched by Appy League competition. That’s understandable in one regard, seeing as only Wilmer Flores was the only position player who was younger.

Silverio has a mature upper body and the ball carries off his bat when he makes contact. However, his rudimentary pitch recognition rendered him helpless against breaking balls, and his pull-happy approach left him exposed on the outer half of the plate.

 

He earned plaudits for his solid-average arm, but Silverio likes to stand up to throw, costing him time. His range and reads at shortstop both were below-average, and he bobbled more balls than he should have. He has slow feet and is a below-average runner.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
215

31 49 8 0 4 35 8 56 3 1 .228 .265 .321
 
20. Fernando Cruz, 3b, Burlington Royals

B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 184 Age: 18 Drafted: Royals ’07 (7)

A seventh-round pick in 2007, Cruz entered the draft a year early after meeting high school diploma requirements as a 17-year-old home-schooled student in Puerto Rico. Exceedingly raw and coming off a tough year at the plate, he’s all projection at this point. He edged out a pair of righthanders from East Los Angeles Junior College for the final spot, Burlington’s Jacob Rodriguez and Princeton’s Joe Cruz.

A wiry strong, live-bodied athlete, Cruz could develop average to plus power as he fills out. He has above-average bat speed from both sides of the plate, but his hitting approach and pitch selection are extremely raw.

The Royals will develop Cruz as a third baseman after moving him off shortstop, his position as an amateur. His well above-average arm, first-step reactions and solid range will serve him well at the position.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
237 19 47 9 0 0 14 3 43 3 3 .237 .260 .283

Minors | #2008 #League Top 20 Prospects #Rankings

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