Just-Missed Prospects Offer Hidden Potential





In 14- and 16-team leagues, our prospect lists easily could extend beyond 20 places. Such depth has the effect of leaving a handful of interesting prospects on the cutting-room floor. In smaller leagues, non-traditional prospects sometimes get omitted, their stories never told. Here the various Top 20 Prospects authors shed light on one player who just missed the cut in his league.

International League (AAA)

LHP Scott Barnes, Columbus (Indians)

Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-4. Wt: 185. Drafted: St. John's, 2008 (8, Giants).

The booty in the 2009 deadline deal that sent Ryan Garko to San Francisco, Barnes struggled in Double-A in 2010 and was reassigned to Akron to open this season. Two brilliant starts later he was in Columbus. His season ended in early July when he tore the ACL in his left knee while fielding a bunt. Barnes always has changed speeds well, using his changeup effectively to keep hitters off balance. He has grown into his 6-foot-4 frame a little bit, helping push his fastball to 91-92 mph, with the occasional 93-94 reading. He made progress with his slider to both sides of the plate, and his ability to locate all of his pitches improved this season. Barnes incorporates some deception in his delivery, though his mechanics are not always repeatable and he'll lose his arm slot from time to time.

Pacific Coast League (AAA)

RHP Kyle Drabek, Las Vegas (Blue Jays)

Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 220. Drafted: HS—The Woodlands, Texas, 2006 (1, Phillies).

After a three-start September callup in 2010, Drabek seemed poised to secure a permanent rotation spot in Toronto this season. He made the team out of spring training but things quickly deteriorated. Drabek earned a demotion to Triple-A in mid-June after going 4-5, 5.70 in 14 starts while allowing 78 hits and 52 walks in 74 innings—good for a 1.76 WHIP. However, the unforgiving conditions at Las Vegas did him no favors. In 15 starts for the 51s, Drabek went 5-4, 7.44 while allowing an average of two baserunners per inning (111 hits, 41 walks in 75 innings). Drabek still has wicked stuff—a low-90s fastball that can reach 96 mph, a power breaking ball in the low 80s and a cutter he developed to keep lefties in check. But Drabek's control failed him in 2011 as he walked hitters at an extreme rate and left a lot of pitches up in the zone, easy hitting for experienced bats. Managers liked his stuff but wondered whether he'd be better suited in a relief role.

Eastern League (AA)

1B Tyler Moore, Harrisburg (Nationals)

Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 185. Drafted: Mississippi State, 2008 (16).

Moore led the Carolina League in homers last season but scouts had their doubts about his ability. He continued to open eyes with 31 home runs this season, a total that led the EL and tied for ninth in the minors. A solid, strong athlete who's a slow but capable baserunner, Moore fields first base well. His value will be determined by how much he hits, and a second-half adjustment indicates he will hit enough to be a regular. He adopted Bryce Harper's two-strike approach, letting balls travel deeper to better recognize pitches with spin, and learned he doesn't have to cheat or pull the ball to hit for power. "I saw gaping holes early," Harrisburg manager Tony Beasley said."He made the adjustment and closed up those holes. His power is no fluke. It makes a loud sound. Everyone's looking for righthanded power, and he has it."

Southern League (AA)

RHP Matt Bush, Montgomery (Rays)

Age: 25. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-9. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—San Diego, 2004 (1, Padres).

Montgomery had two players drafted as high school shortstops with the No. 1 overall pick, but it wasn't Tim Beckham who stood out. That would be Matt Bush, who moved to the mound with the Padres when his hitting career went bust and finally looks like a future major leaguer. Bush had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and then missed all of the '08 and '09 seasons. He threw 142/3 innings in 2010 after signing with the Rays before the season as a free agent. Bush achieved Tampa Bay's main goal for him—staying healthy—and showed a power arm with the ability to miss plenty of bats. This season he worked primarily off a two-pitch mix of a 94-97 mph fastball and an above-average curveball to strike out 77 batters in 50 innings. He also has an average slider and a below-average changeup. With a 4.83 ERA and a rate of 4.3 walks per nine innings, there's still work for Bush to do on the mound. He's athletic and has a sound delivery, so he should be able to make adjustments and throw more strikes once he refines his feel for pitching. It's not hard to imagine Bush as a two-pitch middle reliever in Tampa Bay's bullpen in the near future.

Texas League (AA)

RHP Matt Shoemaker, Arkansas (Angels)

Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 225. Signed: Eastern Michigan, NDFA 2008.

Shoemaker was on scouts' radar coming out of high school and during his college career at Eastern Michigan, but he broke his arm before his junior season. Though he came back to pitch before the draft, his velocity was down so he went undrafted. The Angels signed him soon after the draft, and he spent 21/2 solid but unspectacular seasons in the organization. Shoemaker broke out this year, leading the Texas League in both ERA (2.48) and strikeouts (129), as well as complete games (five). Scouts and managers all rave about his makeup and bulldog mentality on the mound. He has command of all of his pitches and keeps the ball down in the strike zone, though none of his pitches is truly plus. He touches 95 mph with his fastball but usually sits around 91-93, and he throws an average slider. His best pitch might be an offspeed offering that most people refer to as a split-change. It has late bite and he'll throw it in any count, and away to both lefthanded and righthanded hitters. Shoemaker has a limited ceiling and probably profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter, but his ability to throw strikes and attack hitters will get him a major league opportunity.

Carolina League (High A)

RHP Johan Yan, Myrtle Beach (Rangers)

Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005.

Few Carolina League pitchers can match Yan's raw stuff—even if he doesn't boast the highest ceiling. A former third baseman who converted to pitching in 2009, Yan originally threw from a conventional, over-the-top arm slot. When that didn't work, a pitching coach suggested he try a sidearm delivery, which wasn't much different than the throws he had made while charging bunts. Unlike most side-armers, Yan has average fastball velocity at 91-92 mph, and thanks to the slot, his fastball has plenty of sink and run. He also throws a slider across his body that can tie up hitters. Righthanders compiled three extra-base hits in 153 at-bats, finding it almost impossible to hit the ball in the air against Yan. As an added bonus, he pitched effectively against lefties, too, thanks to the arm-side run on his fastball and a decent changeup.

California League (High A)

SS Josh Rutledge, Modesto (Rockies)

Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 190. Drafted: Alabama, 2009 (3).

Rutledge tops the class of shortstops left out of the Cal League Top 20, a group that includes a pair who made the cut last year: underachieving Lancaster 20-year-old Jonathan Villar and San Jose's slick-fielding but light-hitting Ehire Adrianza. Rutledge got into a groove during the second half, batting .410/.459/.664 with all nine of his home runs. He closed out the season by hitting safely in 19 of his final 21 games. Rutledge has great hand-eye coordination and uses a short, compact swing to consistently make hard contact. He should hit for more power as he adds strength. Rutledge has soft hands and enough range to play shortstop, but he may lack the arm strength—he's prone to throwing flat-footed—to stay there for the long term. He has average-to-plus speed and may profile best as an offense-first second baseman.

Florida State League (High A)

RHP Nestor Molina, Dunedin (Blue Jays)

Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 179. Signed: Venezuela, 2006.

Molina got a late start compared with most international prospects. He didn't sign with Toronto until he was 17 and didn't pitch in the U.S. until he was 20, but he's excelled at every level of the low minors. Molina also didn't become a full-time starter until this season, yet he went 10-3, 2.58 for Dunedin and then 2-0, 0.41 in a five-start trial at Double-A in August. Molina threw mostly fastballs and splitters as a reliever, and those remain his best weapons. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph with sink, topping out at 94, and he's shown he can miss bats with the splitter. Molina can spot his fastball to both sides of the plate, and he pitches with a quick tempo and an easy delivery. He still was tinkering with grips for his breaking ball since making the move to the rotation, trying to find one he likes. He showed a curve or a slider depending on the day, usually throwing his breaking ball at 74-77 mph. He also has an average changeup.

Midwest League (Low A)

INF Zach Walters, South Bend (D-backs)

Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 195. Drafted: San Diego, 2010 (9,).

Walters has looked liked one of the steals of the 2010 draft since signing for $97,500 as a ninth-round pick. He profiles as an offensive-minded everyday second baseman or utilityman, and the Diamondbacks cashed him in to acquire Jason Marquis from the Nationals in July. A switch-hitter, Walters has more bat speed and a better swing path from the left side of the plate, where he posted a .941 OPS compared to .689 batting righthanded. He has enough strength to drill doubles into the gaps and hit mistakes out of the park. While he has slightly below-average speed, he runs the bases aggressively and instinctively. Walters has soft hands and enough arm for shortstop, but his range is a bit lacking. He fits best at second base, where he can provide enough offense, and also has seen time at third base.

South Atlantic League (Low A)

LHP Edwar Cabrera, Asheville (Rockies)

Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008.

Though somewhat old for the low Class A circuit at age 23, Cabrera displayed the SAL's best changeup prior to his midseason promotion to high Class A Modesto. In his last six starts with the Tourists, he surrendered just seven earned runs in 42 innings, and he paced the loop by a wide margin with 110 strikeouts in 86 frames when he moved up. (He ultimately struck out 217 to lead the minors.) Cabrera worked off his 91-92 mph fastball with average movement by throwing it for strikes and getting ahead in the count. His above-average command extended to his changeup, which he threw in all counts to keep hitters off balance. He worked on improving the spin on his breaking ball but will need to develop it further in order to have three solid offerings at higher levels.

New York-Penn League (SS)

RHP Cory Mazzoni, Brooklyn (Mets)

Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 190. Drafted: North Carolina State, 2011 (2).

Mazzoni arrived at N.C. State as a power-armed but raw Pennsylvania prep product but blossomed into a legit staff ace as a junior. After signing for $437,500 as a second-round pick, Mazzoni cruised through a relief stint in the NY-P and continued to pitch well out of the bullpen after a promotion to high Class A St. Lucie. He racked up 18 strikeouts and three walks in 13 total innings but did not make enough appearances to qualify for the Top 20 in either league. Mazzoni is not overly physical but has athleticism, a loose arm and a repeatable delivery. During his Brooklyn stint, Mazzoni's fastball sat at 93-96 mph, and though it can be a bit straight, he located it well down in the zone. He complemented it with a hard 82-85 mph slider with late action, a legitimate plus offering. Mazzoni did not throw a third pitch while working in relief, but he used a decent splitter in college.

Northwest League (SS)

RHP Cody Hebner, Eugene (Padres)

Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 175. Drafted: Green River (Wash.) CC, 2011 (4).

With his slender build, throwback delivery and Northwest roots, Hebner draws natural comparisons with Tim Lincecum—-and the two even had the same high school coach, albeit at different schools. Hebner is a poor man's version of the prospect Lincecum was and embraced the nickname "Trailer Park Tim" given to him by his Eugene teammates. Hebner has an explosive fastball, especially for his size. He sits in the 90-93 mph range, but touched 97 this spring. His secondary offerings—a slider and a changeup—flash promise, but are inconsistent and he mainly relied on his fastball as a pro. Hebner has an excellent demeanor on the mound. He's a bulldog competitor with confidence that can't be taught.

Appalachian League (R)

OF Jorge Bonifacio, Burlington (Royals)

Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 192. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009.

In a breakout year for the Bonifacio clan, 26-year-old Emilio hit .298, stole 40 bases and started at every position but first base and catcher for the Marlins. Younger brother Jorge, an 18-year-old right fielder, smashed seven homers and batted .284/.333/.492 in 236 at-bats for Burlington as the Appy League's second-youngest position player. Limited to an outfield corner by fringe-average speed, Bonifacio's power must play for him to profile as a big league regular. Some scouts project solid-average power for Bonifacio because he stays on the ball longer than most young players just by virtue of his natural bat path. Others thought his poor pitch recognition skills and over-aggressive approach would hold his home run totals in check. Bonifacio has room to add a bit more strength, but he's physically mature for a teenager and looks the part of power-hitting right fielder. If he learns to lay off breaking stuff out of the zone, Bonifacio could develop into an average hitter.

Pioneer League (R)

RHP Edwin Carl, Idaho Falls (Royals)

Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 210. Signed: New Mexico, NDFA 2010.

Undrafted after his senior year at New Mexico in 2010, Carl signed with the Royals that July 20 when the organization  sought extra bullpen arms to fill out its three Rookie-level rosters. Carl reported to Idaho Falls and got into 10 games, striking out 28 in 17 innings but also allowing 13 runs. Back with the Chukars this season, Carl led all PL relievers in opponent average (.145) and both strikeouts (19.4) and baserunners (5.7) per nine innings. He struck out 58 percent of the 122 batters he faced, though he's far from a fire-breathing reliever. Carl offers minimal projection based on his age and blocky physique, but he can spin an above-average, mid-70s curveball with 11-to-5 break and locate a fringy 88-92 mph fastball that looks faster because of natural deception.

Arizona League (R)

LHP Andrew Faulkner, Rangers

Age: 18. B-T: R-L. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—South Aiken, S.C., 2011 (14).

The Rangers debuted two high draft picks on the mound in first-round lefty Kevin Matthews and third-round righty Kyle Castro, but neither hurler compiled enough innings to qualify for the AZL prospects list. The same was not true for Faulkner or 18th-round righthander Nick Martinez, both of whom excelled on the mound. Little known as an amateur, Faulkner opened eyes with a 2.16 ERA and dazzling 27-4 K-BB ratio. The tall, projectable lefthander runs his fastball up to 93 mph, and it's his best pitch because hitters don't pick it up well. He's also got a curveball that pitching coach Ryan O'Malley believes will eventually turn into a slider once Faulkner throws it with more power and break. He throws with an over-the-top delivery and at times drops down to a high three-quarters slot.

Gulf Coast League (R)

C Isaias Tejeda, Yankees

Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 195. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009.

Center fielder Ravel Santana and shortstop Claudio Custodio cracked the GCL Top 20 Prospects, but the Yankees have other young Latin American players who could emerge as sleeper prospects. Shortstop-turned-righthander Reynaldo Polanco has a promising fastball/curveball combination, outfielder Daniel Lopez has premium speed and second baseman Jose Rosario has a promising set of raw tools as well. Tejeda, meanwhile, developed out of relative obscurity to put himself on the map in an organization that always seems to have young catching. His tools have improved and he used a compact swing to bat .331/.404/.568 in 148 at-bats. He doesn't chase many pitches out of the strike zone and works the gaps as a hitter. Behind the plate he blocks balls well and has good footwork, though his arm is just average.