2012 ACBL Top 10 Prospects
In their first ever playoff appearance, the North Jersey Eagles won the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League crown, defeating the Kaiser Division champion New York Atlantics in the final game, 3-2. The Eagles finished the regular season 19-20 to claim the Wolff Division's No. 3 seed, but they reeled off five consecutive one-run victories to earn the league title. In the semifinals, North Jersey knocked out the Southampton Breakers, winners of the Hamptons Division, 4-3. Most of the league's talent was based in the Hamptons, where nine of the league's top 10 prospects played.
1. Paul Paez, lhp, Southampton (So., Rio Hondo, Calif., JC)
Paez is generously listed at 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds, but that hasn't deterred scouts from expressing interest in the southpaw. Paez began his college career at San Diego before leaving campus last fall and landing at Rio Hondo, where he was drafted in the 18th round despite not pitching this spring to preserve an extra year of eligibility. Paez led the ACBL with seven wins and 82 strikeouts, compiling a 1.65 ERA in 60 regular-season innings and yielding just 35 hits. Paez's success stems from steady command of four pitches. His fastball works between 87-91 and touches 92 mph; he locates it to both sides of the plate with arm-side run. His best secondary pitch is a plus changeup with downward life around 78 mph that he sells well. He also throws an 11-to-5 curveball and tight slider, both quality pitches with similar arm speed. His delivery and arm action are clean and repeatable, and he uses his strong legs efficiently when he throws. Paez's projectability is limited by his size, but his feel for pitching is advanced.
2. Kyle McGowin, rhp, Sag Harbor (Jr., Savannah State)
Savannah State hasn't had a player drafted since 2003, but that should change next year with McGowin. For the second straight summer, the Sag Harbor native returned home to flash as much upside as anyone in the ACBL. At 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, McGowin is lanky and broad-shouldered with plenty of room to fill out. He has a loose and athletic delivery, though he has a slight bow-and-arrow arm action as he brings his arm up to throw. Still, the righthander already reaches 92 mph with his fastball, sitting comfortably at 89-91, and he pounds the zone with plenty of arm-side run. He also commands two very promising offspeed pitches. His changeup rates at his best secondary pitch right now, coming in around 77 mph with downward movement. He has confidence in throwing it in any count and to either righties or lefties. His slider doesn't lag far behind; he throws it in the mid-70s with good tilt and impressive command.
McGowin walked just 11 hitters in 56 innings this summer while fanning 65. He knows how to get a strikeout and can dominate lineups—he tied a Hamptons Division record with a 14-strikeout performance on July 3 vs. North Fork. He also impressed this spring with 91 strikeouts and 14 walks in 97 innings.
3. Esteban Gomez, 1b, Westhampton (Jr., St. Thomas, Fla.)
Gomez was on radars for his sweet lefthanded swing well before his standout summer in the ACBL. A member of New York's four-star draft class in 2010 that included Yankees first-rounder Cito Culver and current North Carolina standout Colin Moran, Gomez was drafted in the 35th round that year by Houston out of Bishop Ford High in Brooklyn. Gomez did not sign and instead took his game to San Jacinto (Texas) JC for two years. He will now head to St. Thomas University, an NAIA school in Florida.
Gomez is a gifted hitter with above-average bat speed and an intriguing mix of power potential and bat-to-ball ability. This summer, he hit .324 in 74 at-bats, and had more home runs (seven) than strikeouts (five). League coaches were equally impressed with Gomez's patient approach: He rarely swung at breaking balls before two-strike counts and he hit them the other way when he was forced to take a hack. He's also proven he can hit with wood at various stops, as he hit .289 with four home runs in the NECBL a summer ago. Defensively, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder is agile around the first base bag and did not make an error all summer. He has enough arm strength and speed (7.1 seconds in the 60-yard dash) to play in the outfield if necessary. As he gets the older, Gomez needs to continue to hit with the power he flashed this summer. Some evaluators have pegged him as a singles-hitting first baseman in the James Loney mold.
4. Patrick Peterson, lhp, Southampton (So., Temple)
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Peterson owns a track record of success that began well before his summer with Southampton. As a freshman at Temple, Peterson immediately became the Owls' ace when he finished 3-4, 3.51 with a .226 batting average against in 84 innings. He earned Atlantic-10 Conference rookie of the week honors when he carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against St. Louis in late March. This summer, Peterson struck out 48 and walked eight in 34 regular-season innings, and he tossed a complete-game two-hitter with 12 strikeouts in postseason play. His fastball currently ranges from 89-91 mph with command to both sides of the plate, but his best pitch is a changeup that coaches feel is already above-average. Peterson throws his change to any hitter in any count, and it features fastball arm speed and downward action. He also owns a curveball that he spins from his high three-quarters arm slot, but it's more of a show-me pitch. Peterson throws with ease—he models his delivery after Cliff Lee—and projects as a starter. His twin brother, Eric, also pitches at Temple and threw for Southampton, checking in as the No. 5 prospect on this list.
5. Eric Peterson, rhp, Southampton (So., Temple)
Like his twin brother Patrick, Eric Peterson has projectable size, current stuff, a loose arm, and a track record of success. As a junior in high school, Eric set the Delaware state record with 20 strikeouts in a seven-inning game. Listed at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, he didn't fare as well as his twin at Temple—a 5.29 ERA in 17 appearances—but he dominated hitters as a starter this summer. Peterson struck out 74 in 49 league innings. But the brothers are different pitchers. Eric throws righthanded and with more effort than Patrick. His fastball has greater velocity, reaching 93 this summer with excellent two-seam movement, and he relies more on a downer curveball than a changeup. He does throw a change, as well as a cutter, but they both lag significantly behind his breaking ball. Temple has had just two players drafted since 1999, and one family may match that mark come 2014.
6. Trevor Simms, rhp, Shelter Island (So., Weatherford, Texas, JC)
Recruited as a place-kicker, outfielder, and pitcher for Rice's football and baseball teams, Simms struggled to find time on either field as a freshman and will now transfer to Weatherford (Texas) JC. His lack of playing time hardly stems from a lack of talent, however. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder took evaluators by surprise at the league's annual scout day when he turned in the event's best 60 time at 6.4 seconds. Even so, the righthander profiles best on the mound for a couple of reasons. For one, his swing is choppy (though he did hit .321 in 53 at-bats this summer). And more importantly, his long, loose body pumps 88-92 mph fastballs. Simms is raw—he struggles to repeat his delivery and throw quality strikes—but the ball explodes out of his hand, a product of "off the charts" arm speed, as one coach described him. The Texan also throws a slider that flashes plus, but he comes around it too often, letting it flatten out. His quirky, crossfire delivery and lanky body led two different coaches to liken him to Kyle Hansen, St. John's ace in 2012 and a sixth-round pick by the White Sox. Simms has a world of potential, but he'll need a hands-on pitching coach to help him add polish.
7. Brenton Allen, of, Southampton (Jr., UCLA)
League coaches were split on Allen, but no position player in the league projects as well as the tooled-up outfielder. At 6-foot-1, 215 pounds, Allen looks like an NFL running back, and his older brother, Tony Fisher, was just that from 2002-2006. Allen was drafted in the ninth round out of high school by the Phillies, but in two years with the Bruins he has made just six starts and remains very raw. Several coaches felt he was so raw that they slapped a non-prospect label on him, even if his athleticism is undeniable.
Allen's best tool is his speed—he runs the 60-yard dash consistently between 6.6 and 6.7 seconds—and it plays on the basepaths, where he was 13-for-13 this summer. His speed also plays in the outfield, where he rotated between all three positions this summer. His well below-average throwing arm may relegate him to left at the next level. As such, Allen's bat will have to carry him. A lefthanded hitter, he has bat speed but his swing is long. At times, he flashes average pull power. Allen managed to lead Southampton in hitting with a .329 average and improved as the summer went along. Coaches who were high on him recognize that there are adjustments he needs to make, but believe he will flourish with consistent playing time.
8. Thomas Roulis, 2b/ss, Shelter Island (So., Dartmouth)
Roulis burst onto the prospect landscape with a robust summer in which he finished third in the Hamptons Division batting race (.399) and led the circuit in stolen bases (24-for-26). He won co-MVP honors for regular-season champion Shelter Island. At 5-foor-10, 175 pounds, Roulis stands out more for his switch-hitting ability than his physicality. His right- and lefthanded swings mirror each other well, and he makes consistent hard contact with short strokes from both sides. Roulis hits the ball where it's pitched and is not fazed by quality breaking balls. He projects to hit for average, but because of his size and current lack of strength, he doesn't project for much power. Roulis is a plus runner, routinely turning in home-to-first times around 4.1 seconds.
Defensively, Roulis played shortstop this summer after starting 37 games at second base for Dartmouth in the spring. He has the hands and feet to stick in the middle infield at the next level, and should fill the void left by Astros 14th-rounder Joe Sclafani at shortstop for the Big Green. However, his below-average arm strength will almost definitely force him to move to second base in a few years. Roulis is a heads-up player who works hard and earned comparisons to slightly smaller version of Jed Lowrie.
9. Steven Goldstein, of, Long Island (So., Stony Brook)
Goldstein manned right field for Stony Brook's College World Series team this past spring and continued to showcase his solid all-around skills this summer with the local Long Island Shamrocks. As a freshman for the Seawolves, Goldstein started 48 games and hit .337/.415/.494 with as many walks as strikeouts (21 of each). He's a lefthanded hitter with a short stroke and spray approach, and he battles well with two strikes. He hits with gap-to-gap pop now, but can continue to loosen up his swing, which gets tense at times and causes him to pull off. Goldstein's calling card is his above-average speed. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder was 14-for-19 in stolen bases this spring, and he swiped four more this summer despite arriving late due to the CWS. Considering his wheels, Goldstein gets thrown out too often. He needs to improve his jumps and do a better job picking situations to run.
When the Shamrocks were knocked out of the playoffs, Goldstein joined the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League for their playoff push and held his own. Thanks to his speed, good outfield instincts, and average throwing arm, Goldstein should move to center field next spring to replace Travis Jankowksi—the 44th overall pick last June.
10. Charlie Curl, 2b/ss, Sag Harbor (Jr., Texas A&M)
Curl ranked second on this list a year ago, but his prospect status stalled when he found just 13 at-bats as a sophomore for Texas A&M. This came just a year after he earned Big 12 all-freshman honors. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder found refuge in the ACBL—along with other prospects whose star had dimmed like Jerome Werniuk (St. John's) and Mark Podlas (Dayton)—and he rebounded to hit .307 with seven home runs and 11 stolen bases for Sag Harbor. Curl stands out more for his aggressive style of play than his tools, though he is athletic and runs well—a 6.7 in the 60-yard dash. He has good instincts on the bases and in the field, where he primarily played shortstop this summer. His arm strength has improved over the last year, and he filled in ably in the outfield with the Whalers, giving him a better chance to fill a utility role at the next level. At the plate, Curl shows pull power and good bat speed, but there is swing-and-miss to his game. He struck out 36 times this summer in 140 at-bats.