Prospect League Top 10 Prospects
The Prospect League was formerly known as the Central Illinois Collegiate League and expanded from a low of four teams two years ago to 11 this season. Quincy, which had the league's top regular season record, swept Chillicothe in the league's best-of-three championship series, winning the clincher 2-0 as closer Kevin Lee closed out both victories.
1. Mikie Mahtook, of, Danville (So., Louisiana State)
Mahtook played in just six games for Danville, but the freshman hero of LSU's 2009 national championship run made quite an impression. A freakish athlete who gained renown as a football quarterback in high school, Mahtook has true five-tool potential. He's built like a rock (6-foot-1, 200 pounds) and has yet to truly tap into his above-average raw power, though he did hit seven home runs in 196 at-bats for LSU as a freshman. Mahtook is also an above-average runner with a strong arm who projects as an above-average defender in center field. Mahtook is still raw in most aspects of his game, but the tools and potential are there, and he's got two more years at LSU to hone his skills. Mahtook has a reputation as a hard worker, and he already has developed quickly since abandoning football to focus solely on baseball.
2. Kyle Gaedele, of, Hannibal (So., Valparaiso)
An unsigned 32nd-round pick in 2008, Gaedele is the first drafted recruit ever to play baseball at Valparaiso. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder combines that imposing frame with impressive speed, especially on the basepaths, where he led the league in steals with 30, and ranked second in triples with five. He was timed at 6.5 seconds over 60 yards at the all-star game. Gaedele figures to hit for power and is a bit of a free-swinger—after fanning 56 times as a freshman this spring, he struck out 44 times in 187 at-bats this summer—but he has big, physical tools and plenty of upside.
3. Brett Huber, rhp, Danville (R-Fr., Mississippi)
An Illinois native, Huber lit up the Prospect League in relief, posting a 1.69 ERA through 21 innings of work while striking out 34. Huber throws a downhill fastball from 90-93 mph and a solid curveball. Huber is just now getting back to form after Tommy John surgery his senior year of high school sidelined him for his first year in Oxford. He made up for lost time this summer, but like many TJ alumni, his command is a bit rusty, as he walked eight. He's 6-foot-2, 200 pounds right now, and he has room to fill out physically as he matures.
4. Brian Billigen, of, Butler (So., Cornell)
Billigen hit .404 for Cornell as a freshman and continued that production in the Prospect League, where he batted .313/.415/.462 for Butler. Billigen has "sneaky pop" in his bat, according to managers, and his 6-foot, 170-pound frame has room to fill out. Billigen does a little bit of everything, with 16 stolen bases, outstanding plate discipline (30 walks, 32 strikeouts), solid wood-bat power (he ranked sixth in the league in slugging), and good defense in center field. His best tool is his plus speed, but as he fills out, Billigen could well develop solid power and become a five-tool player.
5. Jason Nappi, 3b/of, Danville (Jr., Harding, Ark.)
An outfielder who played a good deal of third base this summer, Nappi earned a good deal of praise for both his plate discipline and his defense, as he features good arm strength. Scouts and managers were impressed with his pop, and one manager said he had the best bat speed in the league. The 6-foot-1, 210-pounder wound up third in the league in batting at .336 while posting a 23-27 walk-strikeout ratio. He hit just two home runs but has decent raw power. After spending his first two seasons at Mississippi State, he's transferring to D-II Harding (Ark.) this fall, where he'll play with his brother Patrick, a righthander who is transferring in from Alabama.
6. Brad Goldberg, rhp, North Coast (So., Coastal Carolina)
Goldberg worked out of the bullpen as a freshman in the spring, and he excelled in that role for North Coast this summer, picking up four saves and striking out 37 in 32 innings. He showed enough variety in his repertoire, though, to earn three starts, even getting up to 100 pitches in a late-season outing against Chillicothe. Goldberg likes to challenge hitters with a heavy, sinking fastball that he easily gets into the low 90s. He also sports a slider that one league manager called "completely unfair." Goldberg cuts an imposing figure on the mound at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and showed enough of a changeup that one manager said he had three plus pitches at times.
7. Ashley Graeter, ss/rhp, Hannibal (So., Pearl River, Miss., CC)
Graeter showed potential to play the left side of the infield, with gap power and solid defense at shortstop and at third. A .373 hitter in the spring at the junior college level, Graeter batted .299 in the summer, and his 58 hits ranked fourth in the league. He showed gap power and solid speed with five triples. Graeter also pitched three complete games and went 3-5, 2.57 as a pitcher, ranking fourth in the league with 74 innings. He's modestly sized at a listed 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, so he may project better in the infield than on the mound. His best attribute on the mound is solid control of a fastball that scrapes the upper 80s.
8. Austin Nola, ss, Danville (So., Louisiana State)
Nola, like top prospect Mahtook, emerged as a starter in the second half of the season for Louisiana State, improving the team's defense and helping it to a national championship. Nola hit just .240 for the Tigers this spring but showed some pop, and he did that again during the summer for the Dans. In 79 at-bats, he had eight extra-base hits, batted .291/.436/.443, and walked (16) more than he struck out (15). Nola's offensive potential is improving but still ranks behind his defense. He has sure hands, good range and an above-average throwing arm, making him an excellent defender at the college level and capable of giving the position a shot as a pro.
9. Rusty Shellhorn, lhp, North Coast (So., Washington State)
Shellhorn was an important recruit for Washington State after leading the Evergreen State in strikeouts as a prep senior, and setting a state record with a 21-strikeout game. Shellhorn didn't pitch much for the Cougars as a freshman, but the 5-foot-8, 180-pound southpaw showed what he can do as the Prospect League's pitcher of the year. He just missed the pitching triple crown, ranking fifth in ERA but leading in wins and strikeouts. Shellhorn's fastball scrapes the low 90s and usually sits in the upper 80s, but it's his plus curveball that gets plenty of strikeouts—89 in 68 innings.
10.Tyler Bullock, c/dh, Richmond (Sr., Southern Illinois)
Bullock put up huge numbers for Richmond, most notably breaking Ryan Howard's league home run record. Bullock belted 14, twice as many as the next closest player. He's got power to all fields using a spread-out stance, and league coaches question whether his long but strong swing can catch up to elite velocity. His footwork behind the plate is slow as well, due mostly to his massive size—he's listed at 6-foot-4, 277 pounds. Still, 14 home runs with wood is hard to ignore, and he has plenty of arm strength that could help him be at least an emergency catcher at the pro level. Improved conditioning would make Bullock more than just an intriguing sideshow strongman.