Prospect League Top 10 Prospects
The Chillicothe Paints proved to be the best team in the Prospect League from start to finish after beating the Danville Dans for the title in dramatic fashion. The Paints finished the regular season with the best record in the league at 39-17, but they still needed a walk-off, two-run home run from Ian Nielson (Ball State) in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat the Dans, 7-6, for the title. Andrew Walter (San Diego) took the loss for Danville after reliable closer Will Browning (Louisiana-Monroe) allowed an inherited runner to score the tying run in the ninth inning.
1. Navery Moore, rhp, Nashville (Jr., Vanderbilt)
Entering the 2011 season, Moore seems to be on the cusp of realizing the vast potential that made him one of the top pitchers in the country as a 16-year-old. Moore had Tommy John surgery prior to his senior season in high school and threw just five innings as a freshman at Vanderbilt while rehabbing his elbow. He struggled mightily with his control that spring and last summer in Cape Cod. As a sophomore, Moore was unlucky again when he broke his kneecap during fall practice, limiting him to just 13 innings; he finished with a 9.24 ERA, 16 strikeouts and 12 walks. Finally healthy this summer, Moore showed what he was capable of on the mound for the Outlaws. In 46 innings, he posted a 3.94 ERA as well as 48 strikeouts to 21 walks. Opponents hit just .236 against him and no one took him deep all summer. Moore's fastball may not have as much zip as it did before the surgery, but it still sits in the 92-94 mph range with late life. When he is locating his curveball, it is a true 12-to-6 pitch with tight spin; the problem is that his control is still inconsistent. Once he gains more confidence in his pitching ability, and if he harnesses his secondary stuff, he has a high ceiling as a potential closer—but that's a big if. The good news is Nashville coach Brian Ryman lauded his makeup and called him one of the hardest-working players on the team.
2. Zach Kometani, c, Quincy (Jr., San Diego)
After playing sparingly as a freshman for the Toreros, Kometani showed flashes of his ability as a sophomore, hitting .351/.430/.606 with six home runs in 94 at-bats. He continued that momentum this summer, hitting .315/.402/.594 with eight homers. A number of Prospect League coaches said Kometani was easily the best offensive catcher they saw thanks to his impressive raw power, great bat speed, and ability to make adjustments. He still gets a little too trigger-happy sometimes and can get caught guessing occasionally, but he covers the entire plate, has quick hands, and "he doesn't get fooled twice," as one coach put it. Defensively, he received mixed reviews that ranged from fringe-average to potentially above-average. He is sneakily athletic and has a strong arm, but his pop time is still in the 2.0-2.1-second range. He needs to polish his catch-and-throw skills, but his complete package is intriguing.
3. Kevin Plawecki, c, Richmond (So., Purdue)
Plawecki emerged as one of the best freshmen in the country this spring, garnering second-team freshman All-America honors while hitting .343/.384/.529 with eight home runs and 53 RBIs, most for any freshman in Boilermakers history. He continued to impress this summer, hitting .308/.398/.389. He didn't hit a single home run, but he did hit 15 doubles, and some of those should turn into home runs as he continues to build strength. Plawecki has great pitch recognition for his age and had an 18-28 strikeout-walk ratio this summer. He has a great catcher's body at 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, but he still has room to grow into it. He has a good swing and should develop power as he fills out. Defensively, Plawecki is raw and could potentially move out from behind the plate at the next level. He has an average arm but does have plenty of athleticism to play the position. The biggest thing will be that he continues to mature as some coaches thought he looked like he was on cruise control for the last part of the season.
4. Chris Marlowe, lhp, West Virginia (Jr., Oklahoma State)
After putting up gaudy numbers for Navarro (Texas) JC in the spring, Marlowe told a West Virginia newspaper that the Yankees had looked into picking him in the seventh round. But Marlowe said he would honor his commitment to Oklahoma State if he didn't get picked in the first five rounds, so he will head to Stillwater. Marlowe makes up for his lack of size (6 feet, 175 pounds) with hard, swing-and-miss stuff that helped him rack up 61 strikeouts in just 32 innings at Navarro. Some of the Prospect League coaches compared his windup to Tim Lincecum's because it is max effort with a lot of head movement, but one coach said it might actually add to his success, and it's hard to argue with the numbers. Marlowe led the circuit in strikeouts with 72 in just 52 innings and finished with a 2.96 ERA while opponents hit just .209 against him. Armed with a fastball that sits in the 89-92 range and a vicious 83-84 mph slider, Marlowe simply dominated many Prospect League hitters. He still struggles with his command at times, and his violent throwing motion might raises durability concerns, but his electric stuff will force some team to take a chance on him.
5. Chuck Ghysels, rhp, Richmond (Jr., Maryland)
The first thing Prospect League coaches noticed was that Ghysels' demeanor on the mound is tailor-made for the closer's role. An intimidator who likes to come after hitters, Ghysels has power stuff and tends to pile up strikeouts. After an inconsistent freshman season at Dayton, Ghysels pitched for Lincoln Trail (Ill.) CC last season and finished sixth in the country among junior college pitchers with 117 strikeouts in just 79 innings. The Reds took a flier on the Illinois native in the 36th round, but he decided to head to College Park where he will be coach Erik Bakich's first high-profile recruit. Ghysels made just two starts this summer, but he did pitch 44 innings, posting a 3.07 ERA with 58 strikeouts—fourth in the league. Like Marlowe, Ghysels isn't blessed with ideal size (5-foot-11, 200 pounds), but he compensates with nasty stuff and a bulldog mentality. His fastball is usually between 90-92 mph and his curveball is above-average when he can locate it. There is a lot of effort in his delivery, and he struggles with his control at times. But he even earned a Ricky Bottalico comparison for his closer's mentality and power fastball-curveball combo.
6. Jeff Holm, of, Chillicothe (Sr., Michigan State)
After watching him tear up the league this summer, many coaches were shocked that Holm, who hit .350/.421/.544 with three home runs and 23 stolen bases for the Spartans last season, went undrafted. Quite simply, Holm was too advanced for many of the pitchers in the Prospect League this summer and hit .359/.465/.622 while leading the circuit in home runs, slugging and doubles, and finishing second in on-base and average. He even managed to swipe 38 bases—13 more than anyone else in the league—without having elite speed. Holm derives a lot of his success offensively from his instincts and advanced plate discipline. The Paints play in a small ballpark, and he got caught looking for the long ball more as the summer went on and his numbers got inflated. He is more of a gap-to-gap guy with plus speed. But his stance is not very quiet, and his swing is too long currently, making him susceptible to quality fastballs on the inner half. He is less instinctive in the outfield than he is at the plate or on the bases, and his arm is just average, but he has enough range for a corner outfield spot—he just might not be able to hit enough. He is athletic enough to play some first base also, although right now he needs a lot of work there.
7. Kenton Parmley, ss, DeKalb (Jr., Southeast Missouri State)
After getting a chance to watch Parmley play this summer while coaching Danville, Steve Bieser, who is headed to Southeast Missouri State as an assistant next season, could hardly contain his excitement about the opportunity to work with the toolsy shortstop. Parmley has started all but one game for the Redhawks since he stepped on campus two years ago, hitting .380/.429/.570 with 11 home runs, 10 doubles, and a team-best 67 runs scored this past season. Parmley still needs work offensively, and using wood bats this summer, that was evident. He hit .267/.344/.418 with four home runs, 11 stolen bases and a number of key hits for DeKalb down the stretch. A solid 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Parmley has some present pop and is tough to strikeout, but he also still struggles with breaking pitches and has minor swing flaws that prevent him from hitting elite pitching. Where Parmley truly shines is defensively. What he lacks in foot speed he makes up for in arm strength, and he could potentially handle third or even play the outfield, but he still has a shot to stick at short if he can improve his accuracy and tighten up his actions.
8. Kevan Smith, c/1b, Butler (Sr., Pittsburgh)
Fifth-year seniors don't usually make for intriguing draft prospects with upside, but Smith is an exception to that rule. Smith, who just turned 22 at the end of June, played quarterback on the Panthers' football team before switching to baseball in 2009. Last season the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder hit .361/.422/.511 with five home runs, 20 walks, and just 15 strikeouts. This summer he was the Blue Sox's best player and one of the best in the entire league, hitting .347/.450/.447 with one home run, 23 walks and just eight strikeouts. Smith seems to have relearned hitting backwards—he is currently more of a spray hitter who goes up the middle and to the right side a lot. However, once he learns to turn on the ball better, he could tap into his above-average raw power. Smith could play first base at the next level, but most of the coaches who saw him were convinced that, while he is raw now, he had the tools to play behind the plate. His footwork is shaky and he isn't very technical, but he has an above-average arm and is great at playing low and blocking balls. He is only going into his third full season as a baseball-only player, so some team figures to take a chance on him next June.
9. Corey Kimes, lhp, Springfield (Jr., Illinois)
As far as stuff is concerned, Kimes is pretty much the same pitcher he was coming out of high school, when he used an 86-88 mph fastball, a slurvy breaking ball, and good command to be one of the better prospects coming out of Illinois. Last season for the Illini he went 2-1, 3.12 with nine strikeouts and 10 walks in 17 innings out of the bullpen. This summer, his command and his durability were markedly better, and he finished with a 2.64 ERA, 38 strikeouts and 16 walks in 48 innings. He even threw three complete games in his five starts. At 6-foot-4, 250 pounds, Kimes needs to do a better job keeping his weight in check, which should improve his athleticism and his defense off the mound. His fastball sat in the 86-89 mph range, but it was heavy and he could crank it up to 90-91 mph at times. Some coaches thought his breaking ball looked more like a cutter, but they all seemed to agree his delivery is free and easy, meaning he has the potential to add velocity and tweak his secondary stuff.
10. Jon Ivie, rhp, Nashville (Sr., Belmont)
With the exception of his cutter, Ivie doesn't possess any trait that truly makes him stand out as a prospect. He does do a number of things well, however, and the result was a dominant summer, albeit in a small sample. A former outfielder, Ivie converted to the mound as a sophomore and emerged as a reliable closer this spring for Belmont, posting 10 saves, a 3.91 ERA, and 27 strikeouts in 37 innings. This summer he was nearly unhittable, allowing just one unearned run in 27 innings while striking out 28 hitters and walking just eight. His cutter sits between 88-91 mph with a lot of sharp movement, but he relies on it too much. His slider has made strides, but he still needs to tighten it, and his changeup is also still a work in progress. But he has terrific makeup, and the closer's role suits him well thanks to his attacking mentality and intimidating presence. At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, there isn't a lot of projection, but he has an easy and loose arm and could add a tick or two of velocity.