MINK League Top 10 Prospects
Chillicothe won the North division while Sedalia won the South. The Chillicothe Mudcats, who were led by Nicholls State righthander Tyler Minto (0.58 ERA in 47 innings), defeated the Sedalia Bombers in the league championship series. The Beatrice Bruins, led by coach Bob Steinkamp, finished a close second in the Northern division. After the season, the Beatrice club was dissolved by Steinkamp after more than 40 years of existence. Steinkamp's teams produced over 250 professional players and 18 major leaguers, including Joba Chamberlain and Alex Gordon.
1. Mike Morin, rhp, Mac-N-Seitz (Fr., North Carolina)
Morin was one of the few fresh high school graduates to join the league after an impressive senior season. After an inconsistent start, Morin started to pitch to his abilities and finished the summer with 4.93 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 49 innings. Morin's 6-foot-4, 175-pound frame screams projection. He was drafted by the Royals in the 40th round in June, and after a few dominating outings a number of high-profile college programs started following Morin's starts in the MINK. Originally committed to Iowa Western CC, Morin signed with North Carolina midway through the summer after pitching coach Scott Forbes watched him dominate for eight shutout innings with 13 strikeouts while only allowing one hit and one walk. Morin's fastball consistently sits in the 90-91 mph range and occasionally touches 93. He projects to have a plus fastball in the future. Morin has a very good curveball with sharp bite, and he began to get a better feel for his changeup as the season progressed. Morin also flashes a slider, but his curveball is his main out pitch and he can throw it for strikes. Scouts say he gained more focus as the season went on and showed good composure on the mound. Morin has a natural delivery with good balance and a clean arm action.
2. Adam Smith, ss/rhp, Beatrice (So., Texas A&M)
Drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 28th round out of high school, Smith opted to attend Texas A&M, where he stepped immediately into the starting shortstop role and held his own as a freshman, hitting .267/.364/.489 with nine home runs. Smith struggled this summer, hitting just .231/.333/.362 with one homer in 78 at-bats. He has a great professional frame at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds. His best tool is a plus-plus arm. He's received 75 grades (on the 20-80 scale) for his arm, and it also has drawn comparisons to Troy Tulowitzki's. Smith is an average to plus runner, and he's shown good range at shortstop but needs to become more consistent. Scouts project Smith to become an average to above-average fielder accompanied with average hitting tools. Smith's career as a position player might run into a roadblock if he can't cut down on his strikeouts and make more consistent contact. He was the starting quarterback for two seasons at Klein (Texas) High, and as an experiment he pitched two innings this summer and started firing fastballs in the 92-94 mph range, touching 96. Smith has never pitched regularly before and doesn't have any current secondary pitches, but he'd be worth a shot on the mound if his bat does not develop as hoped.
3. Nick Martini, of, Topeka (So., Kansas State)
Martini, a 5-foot-11, 198-pound corner outfielder, can do a little of everything but doesn't have one standout tool. He figures to add strength as he matures and currently uses his lefthanded swing to spray the ball to all fields. He has good feel for the strike zone and he flashes occasional pop. A good defensive outfielder despite a below-average arm, Martini is a solid runner with good instincts. He had a strong spring, hitting .336 with 19 stolen bases for Kansas State.
4. Michael Fuda, of, Clarinda (Jr., Rice)
A former two-sport athlete, Fuda dropped football after his freshman year at Rice to concentrate on baseball. He moved from second base to the outfield before the 2009 season to better utilize his speed and arm strength. In regular playing time, Fuda hit .359 with three homers and eight stolen bases this spring. He took a step forward once MINK League play began, hitting .394/.429/.545 with a home run through 33 at-bats before an ankle injury (similar to Freshman of the Year Anthony Rendon's) caused him to have surgery. Fuda is expected to be at full strength next spring and scouts rave about his plus arm and plus speed. He has a 6-foot, 190-pound frame with room to fill out. A key to Fuda's game will be his ability to hit for more power. If the power progresses as he grows then his value will take a jump.
5. Johnny Coy, 3b/1b, St. Joseph (So., Wichita State)
Coy was drafted by the Phillies in the seventh round in 2008 and was their highest draft pick that went unsigned. Coy starred in basketball and baseball in high school and chose to attend Arizona State to play both sports. After one semester, he had a change of heart and decided to transfer to Wichita State and play solely baseball. Transfer rules required him to sit out last spring, but he had a good summer in the MINK League, batting .299/.331/.394 with three homers and seven walks and 30 strikeouts in 137 at-bats. Coy has a massive 6-foot-8, 210-pound frame and has plenty of room to further fill out his upper body. Scouts say Coy has above-average to well above-average raw power, but it hasn't shown up in games yet. He has an impatient approach at the plate, and his poor plate discipline impacts his hitting and power tools. Coy runs well for his size and stole 10 bases for St. Joseph's. He has good hands at the hot corner, but he may have to shift across the diamond if he outgrows the position. Now that Coy has dropped basketball, he can focus on managing the strike zone better. His ability to recognize balls and strikes will make or break his career, but his ceiling is high.
6. Dominic D'Anna, 1b, Sedalia (Jr., Cal State Northridge)
D'Anna resurfaces on this list after ranking ninth in the MINK League a year ago. He had an impressive sophomore season for Cal State Northridge, hitting seven home runs and leading the team in slugging (.587) despite playing in just 36 games due to injury. D'Anna's 6-foot-1, 210-pound frame and below-average speed limits him to first base, but he flashes plus raw power from the left side. Scouts believe his hit tool will become solid-average. D'Anna was supposed to play on the Cape this summer, but a hand injury foiled those plans. When he got healthy, he joined Sedalia late in the season to pick up 25 at-bats, recording seven hits including two doubles and two home runs. D'Anna possesses gap power in addition to home run power, and his defense is passable at first base.
7. Randall Thorpe, of, Beatrice (So., San Jacinto, Texas, JC)
Drafted by the White Sox in the 29th round out of high school, Thorpe played in 26 games for Texas A&M during his freshman year and went 2-for-21 with a home run. He is transferring to San Jacinto JC for his sophomore season and figures to find more playing time there. Thorpe had a strong summer for Beatrice, hitting .282/.400/.479 in 117 at-bats. Fifteen of his 33 hits (45 percent) went for extras bases, including three home runs. Scouts expect Thorpe to add more strength to his slender, athletic, 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame. Thorpe is a plus-plus runner who stole eight bases in 11 tries this summer. He has strong defensive skills in center field, though his arm is below-average at best. Scouts believe Thorpe projects to be a below-average to fringe-average hitter, and he doesn't figure to hit for much home run power. He profiles as a defensive-minded center fielder with good speed in the outfield and on the bases.
8. Shane Minks, rhp, Beatrice (Sr., Texas A&M)
Minks has spent the past three summers with Beatrice, and this is his third appearance on this list. He has an imposing 6-foot-3, 205-pound frame that is likely maxed out, and each summer he has slipped a few spots in the rankings. A disappointing season with the Aggies (6.45 ERA in 19 relief appearances) didn't help his stock, but Minks showed up again in a big way this summer in a number of roles. He saw action in the bullpen and in the rotation and had a 0.73 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 25 innings. Minks hides the ball well from a low three-quarters arm angle and gets good sink on his fastball. He comes at hitters with an 88-91 mph heater and an 80-84 slider with sharp, late break. His slider is his out pitch, and scouts believe Minks will turn into a middle reliever or situational pitcher at the pro level. He is very effective against righthanded batters, and his makeup is a plus.
9. Mike Mariot, rhp, Beatrice (Jr., Nebraska)
Mariot was Beatrice's most effective starting pitcher after his lackluster sophomore campaign (7.06 ERA in 51 innings) with Nebraska, when he split time relieving and starting. He turned a corner this summer, posting a 3.13 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 46 innings. Mariot has a 6-foot, 180-pound frame with room for growth. His upside is limited to a back-end starter, but his polish should get him drafted next June. Mariot has drawn comparisons to former Central Missouri State righty Danny Powers, who is now in Double-A for the Twins. Mariot has good command of a fastball in the 89-92 mph range with late life. He needs to do a better job commanding his secondary pitches. Mariot flashes a slider with sharp break but must improve his inconsistent changeup to be successful at the next level. He currently lacks a serviceable third pitch.
10. Darian Sandford, cf/2b, Chillicothe (Sr., Park, Mo.)
The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Sandford hit .388 with 43 stolen bases last spring to break the career and single-season stolen base records at NAIA Park University. Sandford is a true 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale: He runs the 60-yard dash in 6.2 to 6.3 seconds, and multiple scouts have clocked him at 3.5 seconds down the line from the left side. Unfortunately, Sandford's other tools lag behind, and scouts have pegged the switch-hitter with a 30 hit tool and 25 power. Scouts believe he could improve his hitting, but one coach in the league said he never saw Sandford hit a baseball farther than 200 feet. He hit .336/.412/.390 with 33 stolen bases in 146 at-bats during MINK League play this summer, and just nine of his 49 hits left the infield, as he took advantage of his blazing speed to record 11 bunt singles and 29 infield hits. Including NBC World Series play, Sandford finished the summer with 69 hits (tied for the most in Chillicothe history) and 50 stolen bases (a club record). Sandford has a well below-average arm and is an adequate defender in the outfield. He has worked hard to improve his defense, but he doesn't have a good first step on fly balls, though his speed can make up for mistakes. Coaches have seen him play an adequate second base but feel that his speed is wasted at the position and belongs in the outfield. He'll be a major project if he reaches the professional level, but his one premium tool could carry him for a while.