|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Andy Sisco, lhp, Boise (Cubs)|
|2. *Freddie Lewis, of, Salem-Keizer (Giants)|
|3. Ismael Castro, 2b, Everett (Mariners)|
|4. Luke Hagerty, lhp, Boise (Cubs)|
|5. *Jae-Kuk Ryu, rhp, Boise (Cubs)|
|6. Ben Fritz, rhp, Vancouver (Athletics)|
|7. Steven Obenchain, rhp, Vancouver (Athletics)|
|8. *Jerry Gil, ss, Yakima (Diamondbacks)|
|9. John McCurdy, ss, Vancouver (Athletics)|
|10. *Travis Ishikawa, 1b, Salem-Keizer (Giants)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Matt Latos, rhp, Eugene Emeralds (Padres)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-5 Wt: 208 Age: 19 Drafted: Padres '06 D/F (11)|
|Because of questionable makeup and unrealistic bonus demands, Latos fell to the 11th round of the 2006 draft. He opted not to sign immediately with the Padres, a decision that paid off when he got $1.25 million as a draft-and-follow this spring.|
Latos' stuff is firm, beginning with a fastball he dialed up to 97 mph and showed fair control of at 92-93 mph in the majority of his outings. His curveball, slider and changeup are inconsistent, though his curve shows occasional plus break with good downer action.
His delivery isn't flawless, but his arm works well enough and his fastball has some life when it's down in the zone. Most of the NWL managers thought Latos' mound presence improved as the year went on. He lacks maturity but isn't regarded as malicious.
"He improved in every aspect of the game," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "It was like climbing the ladder. In the beginning you could see it when he got frustrated, but it's going to be a process. He came a thousand miles as far as that was concerned."
|2.||Josh Donaldson, c, Boise Hawks (Cubs)|
|B-T: L-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 202 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '07 (1S)|
|Donaldson was recognized as the league's leader in on-base percentage (.470) and he would have ranked first in slugging percentage (.605) if he hadn't fallen three plate appearances short of officially qualifying. He showed he could handle wood last summer in the Cape Cod League, and he benefited from Boise's hitter-friendly Memorial Stadium (where he hit .364 with eight of his nine homers), so his performance wasn't too surprising.|
He came out of college as an offensive-minded catcher with an aggressive approach and an unproven defensive package, and that's what NWL observers saw in Donaldson. He's geared to pull, feasts on fastballs and has above-average bat speed and raw power. He has good strike-zone awareness and will shorten his swing and use the opposite field when he's behind in counts.
He has a solid-average arm with a quick, clean release and passable receiving skills. He threw out 40 percent of basestealers, but ranked second in the league with 11 passed balls in 42 games.
"I thought he showed some agility behind the plate and his throws were online," an American Leaue scout said. "He's got some work to do back there, but he has a good feel for catching."
|3.||Juan Ramirez, rhp, Everett AquaSox (Mariners)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 185 Age: 19 Signed: Mariners FA '05|
|The Mariners ambitiously sent Ramirez to Everett with just a half-season in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League to show for experience. He had his share of rough outings and struggled with his command, but his upside is undeniable.|
He has a prototypical pitcher's body and compares favorably to former Mariners prospect Rafael Soriano for his looks and his delivery. Ramirez, a native of Nicaragua who turned 19 August 16, has a loose, easy arm and the ball jumps out of his hand from a three-quarters arm slot. His fastball sat near 93 mph, touching 95 with rising life and occasional arm-side run.
Ramirez will rush his delivery and miss up in the strike zone. His breaking ball is a work in progress, but he'll flash tight spin on a 75 mph curve with three-quarter tilt, and also shows a fair changeup.
"He was the best arm I saw, bar none hands down," another AL scout said, "and I could even include some of the major league guys I saw this year."
|4.||Tony Thomas, 2b, Boise Hawks (Cubs)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '07 (3)|
|During the spring, Thomas led NCAA Division I in hits (97) and doubles (28), and he ranked second in on-base percentage (.542) and third in batting (.449). Drafted in the third round out of Florida State, he settled into the leadoff spot for Boise and continued to hit.|
Thomas has a mature approach with solid-average bat speed and a knack for squaring up the ball. His flat swing isn't conducive for much power, but he sticks with his approach, uses all fields and can pepper the alleys with doubles.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of his debut was his basestealing, as he ripped off 28 bags in 30 attempts by using his instincts to enhance his average speed. He's a below-average defender with a below-average arm.
|5.||Fabio Castillo, rhp, Spokane Indians (Rangers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 220 Age: 18 Signed: Rangers FA '05|
|Spokane had the league's best collection of pitchers, and Castillo has the most upside. He has a durable frame and an easy delivery, producing fastballs that sit at 92-93 mph with heavy sink and occasional boring action. His breaking ball is a hard, short-breaking slider that parks at 83 mph and peaks at 86.|
Castillo's changeup is a rudimentary third pitch. He has below-average command because he doesn't repeat his delivery and tends to fly open, causing his elbow to drag and his stuff to flatten out. But his arm works well and there were few NWL arms who could match the life on his fastball.
"He was the best guy they had," said the second AL scout of Castillo's stock among Spokane's stable of arms. "His fastball was solid with plus-plus life, and he was a real (tough guy to face). And he was around the plate with surprising feel for an 18-year-old to locate."
|6.||Kellen Kulbacki, of, Eugene Emeralds (Padres)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 5-11 Wt: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Padres '07 (1S)|
|Scouts debated Kulbacki's value leading up to the 2007 draft. Though he led NCAA Division I with 24 homers and a .943 slugging percentage in 2006, there were questions about his wood-bat power and his athleticism. The Padres were sold and took him in the supplemental first round at 40th overall, making him the highest-drafted regular in the NWL.|
After a 4-for-31 start (.129) to his pro career, Kulbacki hit like San Diego expected. He has good plate coverage and a knack for putting the barrel of the bat on the ball, two ingredients that could allow him to hit for above-average power in the future. All of his value lies in his bat, as he's a below-average defender with fringe-average speed, though Riddoch was pleased with his improvement in right field during the season.
|7.||Tommy Hunter, rhp, Spokane Indians (Rangers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 250 Age: 21 Drafted: Rangers '07 (1S)|
|At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, Hunter doesn't look like much a prospect, but he has two plus pitches and solid command. A two-time junior Olympic champion in judo, he also has much more athleticism than his figure suggests. |
Hunter has a low-90s fastball, and though Spokane used him judiciously as a reliever, he showed the ability to maintain his velocity late into outings as a starter in college. His curveball comes in at 82-84 and at times has power and hard, tight spin. He tends to get around it, causing it to flatten out, but it has put-away potential.
"His curveball is what sets him apart. It's one of the best in the league with good angle and depth," Spokane manager Tim Hullet said.
|8.||Greg Halman, of, Everett AquaSox (Mariners)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 190 Age: 20 Signed: Mariners FA '04|
|Scouts love Halman's tools, managers wish he didn't play with such a chip on his shoulder and opposing pitchers learned to respect his ability. He spent 2006 at Everett and returned after batting .182/.243/.273 in low Class A to start the season. He led the league in slugging (.597) but must improve his plate discipline and stop selling out so much for power.|
Halman finally began making adjustments this summer. His strong hands and loose wrists allow him to generate plus bat speed and above-average power, so the home runs will come naturally if he lets them.
He's a plus runner, though he doesn't always hustle out of the box and in the outfield. He's an adequate defender who can handle center field, but most likely will have to slide over to right in the future.
"He runs, throws, hits and has power," Decker said. "He has tools and skill, and he has some upside. He was repeating the league and was much better this time around, a more disciplined hitter than he was the year before. He got pitches he could recognize and when you made mistakes, he would make you pay."
|9.||Helder Velazquez, ss/2b, Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 165 Age: 18 Signed: Rockies '06 (5)|
|The Rockies don't have an affiliate in a complex league, so they sent Velazquez to the Rookie-advanced Pioneer League as a 17-year-old after drafting him in the fifth round in 2006. One of the youngest players in the NWL this season, he was lauded by scouts and managers for his actions in the field and potential at the plate.|
"He's very good," Magnante said. "You tend to overlook this guy, but he's 18 and I thought he had way more upside than anyone else there at Tri-City."
Velazquez has a long swing and lacks strength, but he shows barrel awareness and pitch recognition. He repeats his swing and takes his hands to the ball, early signs he could develop average power down the line as he continues to fill out his wiry, 6-foot-3 frame. He's a free swinger who doesn't work counts well.
A smooth fielder, Velazquez makes plays look easy with his plus actions and range. Though he saw some time at second base with the Dust Devils, he's a legitimate shortstop. He's not a burner, but he's a solid-average runner once he gets going.
|10.||Matt Mangini, 3b, Everett AquaSox (Mariners)|
|B-T: L-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 222 Age: 21 Drafted: Mariners '07 (1S)|
|Since he won the Cape Cod League batting title with a .310 average in the summer of 2006, things haven't gone so well for Mangini. He didn't perform as hoped as a junior, slid out of the first round of the draft and was hampered by back soreness during his first taste of pro ball. Scouts who have history with Mangini say he always has hit better with wood bats and believe he'll hit for average with his line-drive swing and solid-average bat speed.|
While his back problems may have have been a factor, Mangini hit just four homers in 147 pro at-bats and doesn't project to have the power of a typical third baseman. He's sort of a poor man's Sean Burroughs, who was a highly touted prospect who didn't pan out in the majors. Mangini has an average arm and fringe-average range at the hot corner.
|11.||Corey Brown, of, Vancouver Canadians (Athletics)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Athletics '07 (1S)|
|Brown played with Mangini at Oklahoma State and went seven picks after him in the supplemental first round. Brown's average sat at .207 two weeks into his pro career, but he made some adjustments and began to get to his power. He injured a tendon in his finger with a headfirst slide, forcing him to miss the final 12 games of the season.|
Brown has plenty of bat speed and plus raw power, though he does it in unorthodox fashion. He hits from an exaggerated open stance and has lots of pre-pitch movement. It's a complicated load, though he repeats it relatively well. He tends to drift out on his front side and dive toward the plate, opening holes in his swing.
He swings and misses too much, but he has good pitch recognition, and if Brown tones down his approach, he might make more consistent hard contact. He's a solid-average runner but isn't light on his feet, and his center-field defense is below-average overall. His feel for the position, reads and routes are surprisingly raw given his college experience.
He has a solid-average arm that could play adequately in right field if he had to move.
"I think he can be an impact run producer," the first scout said. "Whether he can play center field is up in the air."
|12.||Bruce Billings, rhp, Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Rockies '07 (30)|
|A 30th-round pick as a San Diego State senior, Billings had an outstanding debut. He paced the league in strikeouts (89) and ranked second in ERA (2.97) and third in innings (79).|
Billings has some savvy on the hill and pitches off an 89-91 mph fastball that bumps 94. It plays as a plus pitch when he's spotting it to both corners and keeping it down in the zone. Billings' secondary stuff is below-average. Neither his 82-84 mph slider nor his 76-79 mph curveball has consistent shape, but he dominated by getting ahead in counts with his fastball and burying a breaking ball.
He has little margin for error and his command is paramount to his success.
"Throughout the season, he has definitely shown plus fastball command and he's done it on a nightly basis," Tri-City pitching coach Doug Linton said. "He pitches to both sides of the plate and up and down. He pitches in better than anyone on our staff."
|13.||Cory Riordan, rhp, Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Rockies '07 (6)|
|Because he was inconsistent at Fordham, scouts were divided on Riordan's worth. Those who had seen him at his best, such as last summer when he dealt in the Cape Cod League, had a hunch he might break out after turning pro. That's exactly what happened after the Rockies took him in the sixth round.|
At times Riordan performed as well as any starter in the league, such as an 11-strikeout performance against Eugene in August during which he had three pitches working for strikes. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph. His curveball is inconsistent, but at times shows hard, sharp tilt, and he'll mix in an average changeup.
Riordan was on track to claim the league's ERA crown before he gave up 14 earned runs in his final three regular season starts. While he'll show stretches where he commands the zone, he also has bouts of erratic control.
"You see him and automatically think he was a high pick, but he was a sixth-rounder," a third AL scout said. "He was 89-93 and could absolutely carve with his secondary stuff, kind of like a Jeff Suppan but with better velo."
|14.||Mitch Canham, c, Eugene Emeralds (Padres)|
|B-T: L-R Ht: 6-2 Wt: 212 Age: 22 Drafted: Padres '07 (1S)|
|Canham's makeup and offensive prowess were a big part of Oregon State's back-to-back College World Series titles. The day he reported to Eugene, he introduced himself to manager Greg Riddoch and promptly asked to take the opposing hitters' chart home with him to prepare for the next night's game.|
Canham injured a testicle in mid-July and missed two weeks. After he returned to the lineup, his solid-average bat speed and raw power weren't as evident, but he's a confident hitter with a good approach from the left side of the plate. He has a tendency to drift during his swing, which creates some length.
Canham's defensive skills are subpar, but he's a good athlete with plenty of agility and aptitude to work his way into becoming an adequate catcher. He has solid-average arm strength with a fair release that would be aided by better footwork, and he threw out 31 percent of basestealers in the NWL. He's an average runner.
|15.||Robinson Fabian, rhp, Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 185 Age: 21 Signed: Rockies FA '03|
|Fabian has added 30 pounds since signing out of the Dominican in 2003, and his 6-foot-3 frame still has plenty of projection remaining. He has yet to reach full-season ball in five years as a pro and is far from a finished product, but his loose arm is loaded with potential.|
Fabian's fastball sits at 91 mph and he was up to 96 in the first game of the NWL finals, when he pitched into the eighth inning and earned the win against Salem-Keizer. He's aggressive and attacks hitters, though his command is below-average.
He'll occasionally break off a filthy downer curveball that could become a legitimate putaway offering. His changeup is below-average, though it too could develop into a weapon.
|16.||Kyler Burke, of, Boise Hawks (Cubs)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 205 Age: 19 Drafted: Padres '06 (1S)|
|A year after signing with the Padres as a supplemental first-rounder, Burke was struggling in low Class A when he was sent to the Cubs in a trade for Michael Barrett. Burke went hitless in his first 22 at-bats in the NWL before rediscovering his confidence and finally showing what makes him a prospect by slamming 10 home runs and raising his average to a respectable .254.|
"When he first came over there, he was a little bit shellshocked," Boise manager Tom Beyers said. "He was a first-rounder and all of a sudden a year later you're sitting in somebody else's locker room. Once he met everybody with the Cubs, he was probably for me one of our most improved players."
A good athlete with a muscular frame, Burke has thump in his bat and some feel for putting the barrel of the bat on the ball. He's pull-oriented and at times overaggressive. A fringe-average runner with a plus arm, he should develop into a dependable right fielder with some offensive upside.
|17.||Edward Paredes, lhp, Everett AquaSox (Mariners)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-0 Wt: 165 Age: 18 Signed: Mariners FA '05|
|After using him in relief in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League the last two summers, the Mariners stretched Paredes out by putting him in Everett's rotation. His first official U.S. appearance stateside came in Triple-A when he was used as an emergency reliever in mid-June, and he tossed five hitless innings. |
Paredes is one of the least refined prospects on this list. He led the NWL in innings (86) and walks (48), and his command issues are a byproduct of a delivery that's still taking shape. He's reed-thin with a quick, loose arm action, though he struggles to repeat his low-three-quarters arm slot.
His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph with armside run and occasional plus life at the plate. His 78 mph slurve was at times a legitimate out pitch with 2-to-8 tilt. It gets sweepy, lacks depth and hangs when he drops his arm angle, which was the case during his final few starts because he got tired. He has some feel for a changeup as well.
|18.||Chris Huseby, rhp, Boise Hawks (Cubs)|
|B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt: 220 Age: 19 Drafted: Cubs '06 (11)|
|Huseby had Tommy John surgery as a high school junior and barely pitched as a senior in 2006. The Cubs shockingly dropped $1.3 million to sign him after drafting him in the 11th round, then kept him on a short leash. He pitched just 17 innings in Rookie ball last summer and spent the first half of 2007 in extended spring training before reporting to the NWL, where he ranked sixth in ERA.|
His stuff was underwhelming, and Huseby's upside lies largely in his athleticism and projection at this stage. Huseby's fastball sat between 88-91 mph for most of the season and dipped to 86-88 down the stretch. His breaking ball was inconsistent, and he was working on sharpening a slider that looked better than the curveball he deployed as an amateur.
Huseby showed average control and below-average command overall. He has much better feel for his fastball than he does for his secondary pitches, which include a changeup. His delivery and arm action are sound, and allow him to pitch downhill from his 6-foot-7 frame.
|19.||Brian Rike, of, Tri-City Dust Devils (Rockies)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Rockies '07 (2)|
|Rike thrived in the heart of Tri-City's lineup while batting in front of another polished 2007 college draftee, Darin Holcomb. The Rockies' scouting department has an affinity for physical corner infielders and outfielders, and they believe they nabbed another power threat in Rike. |
One scout compared Rike to Brad Hawpe for his mature approach and raw power. He has solid-average bat speed and a level swing that elicits loft. He only had four home runs this summer, but he shows a feel for the strike zone, a fluid swing path with good hand strength and the ability to make consistent hard contact. He also has a frame that could add more muscle.
"He was the first guy in the cage and you notice what his plan is right away, and it's a silky smooth swing that stops you," a second scout said. "I go, 'Wow, look at that swing!' He was probably one of the top two or three hitters I saw in the league."
Rike is a below-average runner and defender with a fringe-average arm. He misjudges balls off the bat, takes circuitous routes and needs to tighten up his angles.
|20.||Jake Brigham, rhp, Spokane Indians (Rangers)|
|B-T: B-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 195 Age: 19 Drafted: Rangers '06 (6)|
|Brigham has the components necessary to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter. He has a durable, athletic build and a clean, simple delivery that he can repeat. His fastball ranges from 90-94 mph and it jumps on hitters thanks to some deception in his delivery. He holds his velocity deep into games. |
He doesn't have tremendous arm speed, so Brigham will have to improve his command in order to achieve his ceiling. His breaking ball shows plus break with three-quarters tilt, though it's inconsistent. He'll mix in a cutter against lefthanders and has rudimentary feel for his changeup.