2012 MINK League Top 10 Prospects
For the second straight season, the St. Joseph Mustangs compiled the best record (28-17) in the MINK League, easily winning the North Division. And for the second straight season, that led the Mustangs to a MINK championship.
The Sedalia Bombers (24-21), the last team other than St. Joseph to win a MINK title, edged out the Ozark Generals for the South Division. The Bombers won the first game of the three-game championship series, but the Mustangs rallied to take the final two games and the title.
1. Robert Greco, rhp, Sedalia (Jr., Bellevue, Neb.)
Greco turned in the most dominating single-game performance in the MINK League this season, a 14-strikeout no-hitter that took just 91 pitches to complete. But he was pretty good in all his other MINK starts, too, finishing with a 2.77 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 52 innings. He throws from an over-the-top delivery, and his fastball sits in the 89-91 mph range. His best pitch is his slider, which one coach said was currently a 60 on the 20-80 scale. He also throws a changeup that has the potential to develop into a third quality pitch. To top off the package, Greco has a projectable, lithe 6-foot-4 frame. The biggest key for Greco is improved command, which has allowed him to take a step forward. As a freshman at Bellevue, he walked 28 in 50 innings, leading to mediocre results, but he cut that number to 15 free passes in 45 innings this spring.
2. Dylan Nelson, rhp, Omaha (So., California)
Nelson only played about half the season with Omaha before heading up to the Northwoods League, but he certainly made an impact in the MINK while he was there. Pitching mostly out of the bullpen, Nelson struck out 24 batters and walked only one in 15 innings, leading to a 0.59 ERA. This came after a solid freshman season as closer at San Mateo (Calif.) JC, earning him an offer from Cal. His fastball sits 88-91, and he complements it with a good slider that he uses as his main out pitch. He made a couple of spot starts, both for San Mateo and Omaha, but he will likely be a reliever in pro ball. Some MINK coaches projected the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Nelson to add some velocity in the next few years, which would give him a legitimate chance to be a late-innings reliever in pro ball.
3. Mark Robinette, rhp, St. Joseph (Jr., Oklahoma State)
Robinette ranked second on this list a year ago, but an injury forced him to miss the entire Oklahoma State season this spring, causing him to go undrafted. He should give the Cowboys two-way value next spring—he's hit over .300 both last year and this year in the MINK—but his professional value lies in his arm. He's touched as high as 96 with his fastball and regularly sits in the low 90s. In addition to his fastball, the 6-foot-1, 191-pounder throws a slider, cutter and changeup—all of which he feels comfortable throwing in any count—with the slider being the best pitch. He'll need to develop more consistent command in order to boost his prospect stock.
4. Cody Cunningham, rhp, St. Joseph (So., West Texas JC)
The best pitcher on the best team in the league, Cunningham made easy work of opposing MINK lineups. He finished the season with a 2.13 ERA and struck out 45 batters to just 19 walks. His fastball sits in the upper 80s, occasionally touching the low 90s when he really lets it go. He complements his heater with a hard slider—his best secondary pitch—and a decent changeup. While not overpowering, he knows how to pitch and keeps hitters from squaring him up by locating well and changing speeds. His 6-foot-3, 190-pound body leaves room for projection and a possible velocity bump in the future, which would raise his prospect status.
5. Matt Sinclair, c, Clarinda (So., Angelina, Texas, JC)
Of all the players on this list, Sinclair put up the most pedestrian stats this summer (.294 with four extra-base hits in 32 games for Clarinda), but he also has one of the highest ceilings of any player in the MINK. He's got a 6-foot-3, 225-pound body with the potential for big power in the future once he learns how to use his bulk to his advantage. Right now, he has a tendency to hit on his front foot, instead of staying back and using his lower half to maximize his power potential. Managers said he sometimes gets a little lackadaisical behind the plate, leading to passed balls, and he has a lot of work to do to solidify his defensive skills. If he makes the necessary adjustments—and he is just a sophomore, so he has time—he could prove to be the best player on this list.
6. Nick Billinger, if/of, Ozark (Sr., Regis, Colo.)
The 6-foot, 170-pound Billinger was named the MINK player of the year after posting a league-leading .388 batting average, which was a continuation of what he did in the spring at Regis. He's a gap-to-gap hitter from the left side with good pitch recognition and an understanding of the strike zone. He's also a plus runner. The knock on him is he's unlikely to develop much power. Defensively, he's versatile enough to play second, third or the corner outfield spots, but he's more adequate defensively than a standout at any position. In pro ball, he'd likely be a second baseman or utility player, due mostly to his lack of power.
7. Jeff Gacke, rhp, Clarinda (Sr., Morningside, Iowa)
Gacke was Morningside's ace this spring (3.15 ERA in 66 innings), and that success translated to the MINK this summer, where he led the league in ERA at 2.00. MINK coaches raved about his demeanor on the mound, and he's got good stuff to back up his strong makeup. As well as a low-90s fastball with movement, he has a decent overhand curveball, both of which he's able to consistently spot on both sides of the plate. At just 6 feet tall, Gacke may end up a reliever in pro ball, though his moxie gives him at least a chance to start.
8. Robert Preito, ss, Ozark (Sr., Freed-Hardeman, Tenn.)
The brother of Alex Preito, who got cups of coffee in the majors with the Twins in 2003 and 2004, Robert is no stranger to the baseball life. After hitting .417/.466/.554 this spring, he proved to be one of the MINK's best hitters, despite using a broken bat he became attached to, something his teammates and coaches couldn't talk him out of. He hits for average and is able to hit the ball where it is pitched, and at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, he demonstrates decent power potential for a middle infielder. He has the arm, glove and range to play shortstop, though he still needs work. He'll make some of the great plays, but sometimes gets lackadaisical on the routine ones, causing unnecessary errors.
9. Aaron Baker, rhp, St. Joseph (Sr., Central Missouri)
After a mediocre junior season at Central Missouri, Baker's prospect status has dropped a bit since he made this list last season. Baker had a 4.58 ERA out of the bullpen this spring with the Mules, but for the second straight season, he transitioned to being one of the MINK's best starters. Professionally, he could get at least a shot at starting, due to his 6-foot-3, 215-pound body. He has a solid fastball and changeup and a good cutter. But the knock on him this summer was the same as a year ago: He still needs to develop a breaking ball.
10. Ethan Opsahl, lhp, Sedalia Bombers (SIGNED: Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks)
After four years at Dakota Wesleyan, including this spring when he had a 3.43 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 18 walks in 84 innings, Opsahl went undrafted and played in the MINK. He struck out more than a batter an inning with Sedalia and was one of the main reasons the Bombers reached the championship series. He gets his fastball up to 91 and has a solid curveball and changeup, as well. An unorthodox delivery helps him hide the ball and miss bats. Multiple coaches were surprised he didn't seem to get much of a look from any big league clubs and speculated that playing for a small school scouts don't often visit kept him hidden. He signed with Fargo-Moorhead of the independent American Association.