2011 Prospect League Top 10 Prospects
Riding the best offense in the Prospect League, the Quincy Gems captured their second championship in three years with a 5-0 victory over the West Virginia Miners. The Gems paced the league in virtually every hitting category, leading in batting average (.307), runs scored (415), homers (39) and OPS (.825). Chris Serritella (Southern Illinois) and Bryan Lippincott (Concordia-St. Paul, Minn.) powered the Gems' lineup, combining in the regular season for 25 home runs and 117 RBIs. Reliever John Jahway (Southeast Louisiana) proved himself one of the most reliable bullpen arms in the league, posting a 1.36 ERA that does not include his two spotless innings that closed out the championship game.
1. Stephen Bruno, ss, Terre Haute (Jr., Virginia)
After missing the majority of the spring due to a serious hamstring injury, Bruno showed no ill effects this summer with the Terre Haute Rex. Despite joining the Rex with only a third of the season remaining, Bruno quickly established himself as the top position player in the Prospect League. Bruno possesses a surprising amount of pop for a player of his stature (5-foot-9), and in just 66 at-bats with the Rex, he utilized his compact swing to club six home runs, tied for eighth in the league. His .394 batting average would have led the league if he had enough plate appearances to qualify. Coaches noted that Bruno squared up whatever he saw—fastballs and breaking balls alike. His defense also earned plaudits from coaches, who were impressed by his smooth, fluid movements at shortstop and strong arm. Bruno has a quality all-around tools package at an up-the-middle position.
2. Sean Manaea, lhp, DuBois County (So., Indiana State)
Manaea has as high a ceiling as anyone in the Prospect League, if not higher. The 6-foot-5 southpaw already consistently throws in the low 90s with good run on his fastball, and he projects to add velocity as he fills out his long, 215-pound frame. Manaea's changeup currently rates as his best secondary pitch, and he repeats his arm slot well. His slider could use some tightening up as it sometimes gets slurvy and is not particularly deep. Manaea sometimes runs into bouts of wildness (27 walks in 53 innings this summer), but that's not unusual for a kid with plus raw stuff who is still trying to learn how to consistently harness it. He has some funk to his delivery that lends him some deception, and hitters don't square him up consistently; he didn't give up a home run this summer. He was 2-3, 2.89 overall with 59 strikeouts and just 40 hits allowed.
3. Chris Serritella, 1b, Quincy (Sr., Southern Illinois)
The Royals drafted the lefthanded-hitting Serritella in the 31st round this year, despite a broken wrist that cost him the entirety of the 2011 season, with the intention of following him this summer. They couldn't have asked for more from the first baseman, as he went on to lead the Prospect League in home runs (14) while batting .361/.423/.705. Coaches credited Serritella with an "effortless swing" that generates "unreal" pop, and generally regarded him as the best power hitter in the league. Serritella also possesses good average skills because of a strong eye and an ability to use the entire field. Some coaches expressed concern that Serritella has trouble with breaking balls and that he can be gotten out when a pitcher hits his spots. Those same coaches note, though, that he hits mistakes a mile. Serritella's defense at first also has drawn some praise, particularly his soft hands. Serritella's best asset—big-time power—is going to be what carries him wherever he may go.
4. Shae Simmons, rhp, Nashville (Jr., Southeast Missouri State)
The only reliever on this list, Simmons ranks so high because he possesses not one but two of the best pitches in the Prospect League. His fastball sits in the 92-94 mph range, and he can reach back for 95s or even 96s at times. Simmons complements his fastball with a sharp slider, an offering his coach Brian Ryman termed a "righthanded hitter's nightmare." He has shown a changeup, but it's not a pitch he throws often, mainly because he hasn't needed it to dominate the end of games. Simmons' fastball-slider combo was virtually untouchable this summer, as he allowed just seven hits and one earned run in 17 innings of work (0.53 ERA) while striking out 32. He also controlled his plus stuff well (three walks), but he needs to take that command back with him to Southeast Missouri in 2012 after walking 25 in 31 innings in the spring. His size (5-foot-10) likely confines him to the bullpen moving forward, but he has the arm strength and swing-and-miss slider to be successful at the next level.
5. Evan Mitchell, rhp, Danville (So., Mississippi State)
Mitchell didn't pitch much for the Danville Dans this summer, but when he did, he dominated. He struck out at least 10 batters in each of his three starts, all victories, and allowed only a single run in 21 innings (0.39 ERA) before running into a rib injury that would end his summer. Coaches liked his low-90s fastball and were especially impressed with his ability to work down in the zone. Mitchell's curveball was also on display, and he utilized it to induce weak contact as well as put batters away (32 strikeouts). Mitchell was a part of the Bulldogs' rotation that fell one win shy of the College World Series and, with a year of experience and confidence under his belt, he could be a factor in a 2012 run for the Bulldogs.
6. Nick Rumbelow, rhp, Danville (So., Louisiana State)
A short, albeit encouraging freshman season at LSU saw Rumbelow strike out 16 batters in 10 innings of relief, and his work as a starter with Danville was superb. His fastball sits in the low 90s, touching 94 at times, with movement, serving as his primary weapon. Rumbelow can at times overthrow his heater and get out of sync mechanically. His slider is a solid pitch, and he used it extremely well this summer, racking up 60 strikeouts while walking 15 in 51 innings. Rumbelow is presently more of a thrower and lacks polish, but he is young and athletic with a live arm, a good combination.
7. Clayton Schulz, lhp, Chillicothe (SIGNED—Royals)
Schulz had limited opportunities in two seasons out of North Florida's bullpen, tossing 66 innings, yet managers felt he rivaled Manaea as the league's top pitching prospect. A solid 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Schulz operates in the high 80s and low 90s with his fastball, touching 94 at times according to coaches. His curveball is his best secondary offering, with hard, sharp break to it. Schulz showed a solid knack for pitching, good command of all his offerings and the ability to pound the zone, issuing just 12 walks in 55 innings this summer. His 1.63 ERA ranked third in the league. Though Schulz went undrafted in June, the Royals followed him during the summer and signed him to a free agent contract.
8. Trenton Moses, 3b, Dekalb County (Sr., Southeast Missouri State)
After finishing second in the Ohio Valley Conference batting race in 2011 (.395), Moses boasted the highest average in the Prospect League this summer, hitting a robust .388/.487/.592 with six home runs. He also set a Prospect League record by reaching base in 45 consecutive games. Widely regarded as one of the best pure hitters in the league, Moses generates good bad speed and exhibits power to all fields while maintaining a patient approach at the plate (28 walks, 21 strikeouts). League coaches were divided about his future defensive home. Some believe Moses' large frame (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) will necessitate a move to first base, while others believe he has the agility and enough arm strength to stick at the hot corner.
9. Koby Kraemer, 2b, Terre Haute (Jr., Indiana State)
Scouts and coaches alike came away impressed by Kraemer, who displayed an unexpected amount of pop for a middle infielder by hitting six home runs for the Rex this summer. Kraemer also put his plus speed on display, racking up 21 stolen bases. It wasn't just his offensive capabilities that drew attention, but his contributions with the glove. Kraemer was featured at second base this summer, but he has the arm to hold down shortstop and third base adequately, as well as the outfield. Still, second base remains the most appropriate position for Kraemer, who joins Manaea to give the Sycamores a pair of prospects in the Top 10.
10. Nolan Earley, of, Richmond (Jr., South Alabama)
Earley ranked among the league's top 15 players in batting (.336), home runs (five) and steals (16) in a consistent summer. He's mainly a gap-to-gap hitter (he hit 20 doubles in the spring for the Jaguars), but coaches have noted that he's gotten stronger recently and has the potential to add power to his swing. Earley rounds out his solid tools package with good outfield defense mainly due to his above-average speed. He profiles best on a corner spot rather than center. Earley's lack of a true standout tool led one coach to say, "He doesn't pop when you see him, but then you look down at the box score and he's killed you."