Best Of The Rest: The 2012 NL Just-Missed Team




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CHICAGO—Paul Goldschmidt had a long track record of hitting before he won the California League MVP award in 2010, though scouts thought he might have trouble handling more advanced pitching after he struck out 161 times in high Class A. The Padres made Jedd Gyorko a second-round pick that summer, but like Goldschmidt he was another bad-body, all-bat player.

So neither appeared on our organization Top 10 Prospects lists following the season, with Goldschmidt checking in at No. 11 in the Diamondbacks system and Gyorko doing the same with the Padres. Both did make our annual all-non-Top-10-Prospects team for the National League, foreshadowing their breakouts in 2011.

Goldschmidt won another MVP award in the Southern League after smashing 30 homers in 103 Double-A games, then smashed 10 more in Arizona, including two in the NL Division Series. In his first full pro season, Gyorko topped the minors with 192 hits and won batting titles in the Cal League (.365) and Arizona Fall League (.437).

They're just the latest two players to spring from the non-Top-10 team to success. Others include 2011 postseason heroes Nelson Cruz and Jaime Garcia, big league sluggers Ike Davis and Logan Morrison, and elite prospects Billy Hamilton and Jonathan Singleton.

Here are 11 more players who could be headed for bigger and better things after falling short of our recent NL Top 10s:

Jason Hagerty, c, Padres: San Diego has the NL's deepest system, which is how a potential everyday catcher got left off a Top 10. He wasn't an everyday catcher in college because eventual Reds first-rounder Yasmani Grandal also was at Miami, but Hagerty hits for a solid average with at least gap power while getting the job done behind the plate.

Alex Dickerson, 1b, Pirates: After winning the Big Ten Conference triple crown in 2010, Dickerson wasn't as productive with muted metal bats last spring and lasted until the third round of the 2011 draft. He's really going to have to hit after moving from left field to first base, but he has the approach and the strength to do so.

Zeke DeVoss, 2b, Cubs: DeVoss gained an influential fan after drawing three walks and destroying a catcher in a home-plate collision in an August game that Chicago owner Tom Ricketts attended. DeVoss has plenty of speed and knows how to use it, profiling as leadoff man who will draw walks and steal bases.

Matt Carpenter, 3b, Cardinals: CarĀ­penter was already 23 when he signed as a fifth-year senior out of Texas Christian in 2009, but he did reach Double-A a month into his first full pro season and the majors by the end of the second. While he's stuck between David Freese and Zack Cox and may need a change of scenery, he's a capable hitter with power and on-base skills.

Roman Quinn, ss, Phillies: The fastest player in the 2011 draft, Quinn looks like Jimmy Rollins and runs like Michael Bourn. It remains to be seen if he'll be a shortstop or a center fielder, but Quinn is a switch-hitter with surprising pop for a 5-foot-9, 165-pounder and has a strong arm.

James Darnell, lf, Padres: Darnell batted .310/.406/.547 last season, doing most of his damage in Double-A and adding his first major league homer in September. He'd have more value if he could have stayed at third base, but he may provide enough power and walks to play regularly in left field.

Michael Taylor, cf, Nationals: A high school shortstop, Taylor took off once he moved to center field in instructional league a year ago, drawing comparisons to Mike Cameron and Devon White. He's loaded with raw power and speed, and could be a future 25-25 player if he can make progress at the plate.

Yorman Rodriguez, rf, Reds: Rodriguez has yet to live up to the then-Venezuelan-record $2.5 million bonus he got in 2008, mainly because he's immature as a hitter and as a person. Then again, he's still just 19 and it's easy to dream about his tools. His plus power, speed and arm strength could translate into something special once he grows up.

Andrew Chafin, lhp, Diamondbacks: As if Arizona needed more pitching, it stole Chafin in the sandwich round of the 2011 draft after he faded late in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. There aren't many lefties who have a 90-95 mph fastball, yet it's his slider that's his most devastating pitch. If he doesn't make it as a starter, he could become a closer.

J.C. Sulbaran, rhp, Reds: A mainstay on the Dutch national team that won the World Cup in October, Sulbaran signed out of U.S. high school for $500,000 as a 30th-rounder in 2008. He has averaged more than a strikeout per inning at three pro stops, and his K-BB ratio soared to a career-best 3.1 in high Class A last season. He ran his fastball up to 93-95 mph more frequently and flashed a plus curveball.

Santo Manzanillo, rhp, Brewers: Manzanillo's pro career began inauspiciously, as he walked 47 batters in 16 innings in his 2006 debut and missed all of 2009 after Tommy John surgery. He finally gained some semblance of control in 2011, enough to make hitters look silly with his 94-99 mph fastball, mid-80s slider and deceptive changeup.