|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Sean Burnett, lhp, Lynchburg (Pirates)|
|2. *Jose Castillo, ss, Lynchburg (Pirates)|
|3. *Adam Wainwright, rhp, Myrtle Beach (Braves)|
|4. Bubba Nelson, rhp, Myrtle Beach (Braves)|
|5. *Chin-Hui Tsao, rhp, Salem (Rockies)|
|6. *Brad Hawpe, 1b, Salem (Rockies)|
|7. Corey Smith, 3b, Kinston (Indians)|
|8. *Dan Haren, rhp, Potomac (Cardinals)|
|9. Rhett Parrott, rhp, Potomac (Cardinals)|
|10. *Grady Sizemore, of, Kinston (Indians)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Jordan Schafer, of, Myrtle Beach|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 20 Drafted: Braves '05 (3)|
|Schafer hit just .228 in his first two seasons after the Braves made him a third-round pick in 2005. But he broke out by leading the minors with 176 hits and hitting .312/.374/.513 between two Class A stops, and his stock has risen considerably.|
A lefthanded hitter with a line-drive stroke that generates above-average loft power, Schafer uses the whole field. He still needs to cut down on his strikeouts. He's an above-average runner with outstanding range and a plus-plus arm in center field, though he needs to improve his instincts to become a more effective basestealer.
“Think Grady Sizemore meets Steve Finley,” one American League scout said. “All five tools profile, and he’s a gamer with tremendous work ethic.”
|2.||Chris Marrero, of, Potomac|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 19 Drafted: Nationals '06 (1)|
|After tearing up the South Atlantic League, Marrero made his CL debut before he turned 19. He hit .302/.375/.500 in July before running out of gas in August and having difficult making adjustments. As he wore down, he dropped his right shoulder and pulled off pitches, but several scouts give him a pass because he was so young for high Class A.|
“The kid can hit,” another scout from an AL club said. “He has a good approach with power to all fields and should continue to hit for average. The other tools are just OK, but it’s the bat that’s going to play.”
Marrero doesn't run particularly well and will be limited to an outfield corner. He has average arm strength, which is better than the typical left fielder, and he may be able to handle right field.
|3.||Elvis Andrus, ss, Myrtle Beach|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Signed: Braves FA '05|
|A key part of the trade that sent Mark Teixeira from Texas to Atlanta, Andrus wowed the league with his glove. He showed outstanding range to both sides, soft hands and plus arm strength at shortstop. The jury is still out on whether he’ll hit enough, but that wasn’t a concern for his CL manager.|
“He had 30-some RBIs, but he probably saved us 50-some runs with his defense,” Pelicans manager Rocket Wheeler said. “He has all the tools and the presence about him.”
If only Andrus could carry that presence with him to the plate. He's still a teenager and showed improved patience, but he struggled with pitch recognition often and was vulnerable to quality breaking balls. He made strides using his plus speed to steal bases, which might be the most impressive development in his game this year.
|4.||Max Ramirez, c, Kinston|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180 Age: 22 Signed: Braves FA '02|
|Ramirez also was traded to the Rangers during the season, as the Indians used him to acquire Kenny Lofton one year after getting him from the Braves for Bob Wickman. A line-drive hitter with the ability to use the whole field, Ramirez wore out CL opponents with shots in the right-center gap.|
“He’s a very mature hitter for his age, a very advanced approach,” a scout from a National League club said. “Great two-strike approach. He shortens up well in those situations but also has some juice.”
Ramirez made it a point to become a better receiver and game-caller this season, but still only threw out 29 percent of would-be basestealers. There's still some concern that his defense may not be good enough to make him an everyday catcher in the majors.
“The arm is average, and sometimes his lower half doesn’t work well in getting balls out and down to second,” the scout said. “After seeing him last year, no doubt he’s improved, but the bat is still well ahead of his defense.”
|5.||Wes Hodges, 3b, Kinston|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180 Age: 22 Drafted: Indians '06 (2)|
|After signing for $1 million as a second-round pick in 2006, Hodges didn't get medical clearance to play until instructional league because of a stress fracture in his leg. In his pro debut, the ball jumped off his bat. He showed power to all fields as well as a mature approach at the plate.|
Hodges went through some growing pains at third base, in part because he had a broken toe and a hamstring pull. Scouts question his range to both sides as well as his arm strength to remain at the hot corner. The Indians worked to improve his arm action--Hodges regularly flips his throws to first--to use his back leg to get more strength behind a more over-the-top release.
“You wonder if he might wind up at first down the road,” an AL scout said. “He comes in on balls well, but doesn’t have real good lateral movement at all.”
|6.||Chorye Spoone, rhp, Frederick|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 215 Age: 21 Drafted: Orioles '05 (8)|
|Spoone was the most impressive member of the hardest-throwing rotation in the league. He carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning in the first round of the playoffs against Wilmington, one of two complete games he threw to clinch each of Frederick's postseason series.|
His fastball sits consistently at 92-95 mph, touching 96. Spoone also has a big 12-to-6 curveball he can use to paint either corner or bury when he needs to, and he’s not afraid to use it in any count. He’ll also flash an above-average changeup, using the same arm speed as his fastball.
Spoone repeats his delivery well out of the windup, but flies open at times with his lead shoulder with runners on base. He struggles to control the running game as a result. His control is decent but will have to improve at higher levels.
|7.||Brandon Erbe, rhp, Frederick|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180 Age: 19 Drafted: Orioles '05 (3)|
|Judging simply by Erbe’s numbers, 2007 appears to be a lost season. His 6.26 ERA was one of the highest in the minors, and he maxed out at the Orioles' single-inning pitch limit of 30 five times in 25 starts. |
Despite his struggles, Erbe sat at 92-94 mph and topped out at 96 with his fastball. His upper-80s slider showed good tilt and bite, and his changeup got better. Lack of command is what caused Erbe fits and he eventually could land in the bullpen if he can't improve it.
“When he starts to get careful, that’s when he gets in trouble,” Orioles farm director David Stockstill said. “His stuff starts flattening out a little bit and he’ll leave pitches up, leave pitches in the middle of the zone. Sometimes he just wanted to do a whole lot more than he was capable of.”
|8.||Tommy Hanson, rhp, Myrtle Beach|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Braves D/F '05 (22)|
|Hanson was one of the most imposing pitches in the league this season. Hanson isn’t as overpowering as his 6-foot-6 frame might indicate, but he pounds the strike zone with three quality pitches on a good downhill plane.|
Drawing comparisons to former Braves righthander Adam Wainwright, Hanson pitches with his 89-93 mph fastball to all quadrants of the strike zone. He also features a hard-breaking 12-to-6 curveball and an improved changeup that has good depth and fade to both sides of the plate.
“There’s a lot to like, but he’s still raw in pitch selection and understanding situations,” another AL scout said. “There are some mechanical flaws in his delivery--a lot of moving parts and he’ll rush his lower half at times--but nothing that’s not correctable. He’s athletic for a big man and there’s a lot of upside.”
|9.||Adam Carr, rhp, Potomac|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 23 Drafted: Nationals '06 (18)|
|Carr led the Big 12 Conference with 22 homers as an Oklahoma State first baseman in 2005 and didn’t pitch in a game as a senior in 2006, but the Nationals drafted him in the 18th inning as a pitcher based one seeing him take the mound for an inning in fall practice. In his first full season as a pitcher, he was the CL's most dominant reliever.|
Carr has a 92-95 mph fastball with outstanding late life, and he can run it in against lefties (who hit just .118 against him) or righties. His out pitch is a late-breaking, 84-87 mph slider with plus tilt and depth. He also flashes a changeup at times, though the pitch is still under construction.
He walks too many hitters, but he has a surprising amount of polish for such an inexperienced pitcher. He fared well in seven late-season appearances in Double-A.
“He’ll really come out and go right after you,” Kinston manager Mike Sarbaugh said. “He pounds the zone with the fastball that he’ll run in on your hands and sets righthanders up real well with the breaking ball. He’s a guy that could move quick.”
|10.||Matt Whitney, 1b, Kinston|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Indians '02 (1)|
|Whitney's power was compared to that of Manny Ramirez when he was at Rookie-level Burlington in 2002, the year the Indians made him a supplemental first-round pick. He broke his leg while playing basketball during spring training in 2003, which led to multiple surgeries and lost seasons. He finally worked his way back into prospect status with a huge 2007, when he hit .299/.364/.545 with 32 homers and 113 RBIs between two Class A levels.|
Moving from third base to first base allowed Whitney to blossom offensively. He also shortened his stroke and used the opposite field more than he ever had. One scout likened him to Richie Sexson, who came up through the Cleveland system.
Whitney's defense is still a work in progress, as he led all minor league first baseman with 21 errors. The Indians must put him on their 40-man roster or risk losing him in the major league Rule 5 draft in December.
|11.||Mitch Einertson, of, Salem|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Astros '04 (5)|
|After Einertson tied the Rookie-level Appalachian League record with 24 homers and won league MVP honors in his 2004 pro debut, he struggled just to stay afloat the next two years in low Class A. He reinvented himself in 2007, using the whole field with a line-drive stroke and grabbed the CL batting title (.305) and MVP award.|
Einertson shortened his swing and achieved better overall balance at the plate this season, which allowed him to hit for average while maintaining the ability to turn on inside fastballs. He hit just 11 homers but topped the circuit with 40 doubles.
“He’s more concentrated on being a better hitter," Salem manager Jim Pankovits said. "Not a home run hitter, but a better hitter."
A fringe-average runner with a below-average arm, Einertson is limited to left field, where he’s an average defender. His bat will determine whether he’s an everyday player or a fourth outfielder down the road.
|12.||Daniel Cortes, rhp, Wilmington|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 205 Age: 20 Drafted: White Sox '05 (7)|
|One of four Wilmington starters to finish in the top 10 in ERA, Cortes more held his own as a 20-year-old in high Class A. At 6-foot-5, he works downhill and creates good angle with his fastball, which climbed to 92-93 mph this season. He also features a hard-breaking curveball in the low 80s, and his changeup showed enhanced life.|
Cortes gets around on his curveball at times, leaving it up in the strike zone. While he repeats his delivery well, he often lands hard on his left heel, which throws off his command. After making an adjustment in late July to stay more upright and increase his stride, Cortes’ secondary pitches improved drastically and he went 5-0, 0.66 in the final month.
|13.||Josh Rodriguez, ss, Kinston|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 175 Age: 22 Drafted: Indians '06 (2)|
|In his first full season, Rodriguez surprised everyone—including the Indians—with his power explosion. With good balance and a line-drive approach, he showed the ability to both turn on inside fastballs and to hit pitches on the outer half with above-average loft power.|
At shortstop, Rodriguez has a plus arm but most scouts think it's only a matter of time before he moves to second base. He lacks range and first-step quickness, and he's a fringe-average runner.
“He played it good for me,” an NL scout said. “I wouldn’t rule out him moving to third base if the bat continues to play. But if not, he’s a valuable utility guy in the mold of a John McDonald.”
|14.||Sergio Perez, rhp, Salem|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 230 Age: 22 Drafted: Astros '06 (2)|
|A second-round pick in 2006, Perez made his full-season debut with the Avalanche. He was up an down for much of the season, but he showed two quality pitches throughout. His fastball has excellent late life and sits at 91-93 mph, while his 84-mph slider was his out pitch for much of the year.|
Perez’ changeup improved as the season wore on, though he still doesn’t have quite the arm action he needs to make it as effective as it could be. He repeats his delivery well, though some scouts expressed concern with the way he wraps his wrist in the back of his delivery
|15.||Brad James, rhp, Salem|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Astros '04 (29)|
|James flew under the radar last season despite going 6-2, 1.36 in Lexington. His fringy fastball didn't excite scouts then, but they believe in him more now that his velocity increased this year. His heater sat at 89-92 and he can sink and tail it to either side of the plate, making him a groundball machine.|
James' slider is an average pitch with plus potential. He has toyed with different grips on his changeup but hasn't found consistent command of it yet.
“He could be unhittable at times here and all he’d throw were sinkers,” Sarbaugh said. “He’d flash you the breaking ball, he’d flash the changeup, but he was pretty much all sinkers.”
|16.||Brad Bergesen, rhp, Frederick|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Orioles '04 (4)|
|After making short work of the South Atlantic League, Bergesen was greeted rudely in the CL—not only by opponents, but his teammates as well. After tossing a complete game in his first outing, he lost two straight starts and was hit in the head by a line drive in a freak accident during batting practice. He missed just one turn in the rotation but never got untracked.|
Bergesen throws four pitches for strikes, beginning with a four-seam fastball that tops out at 95 mph. He also gets groundballs with his 90-92 mph sinker and keeps hitters off balance with a low-80s slider and changeup. While he repeats his delivery well, he ran into trouble with Frederick because he didn't locate his secondary pitches well in the strike zone.
|17.||Shelby Ford, 2b, Lynchburg|
|B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Pirates '06 (3)|
|Though Ford started off slowly and never unlocked the home run power he showed while hitting 35 homers in three college seasons, most scouts liked his offensive potential. He's a switch-hitter who sprays line drives from either side, stays inside the ball and uses the opposite field.|
He led CL second baseman with a .989 fielding percentage, and managers rated him the league's best defender at his position. He's an average runner with a slightly above-average arm for second base, and he turns the pivot on double plays well.
“He might not hit enough for what you want in a second baseman in the big leagues these days, but the track record is there,” one of the NL scouts said. “But I like his approach as a hitter from both sides of the plate. Nothing is real pretty about what he does defensively, but he’s a grinder who gets it done.”
|18.||Jairo Cuevas, rhp, Myrtle Beach|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 215 Age: 22 Signed: Braves FA '03|
|Since signing out of the Dominican Republic in 2003, Cuevas always has shown a powerful right arm, with a fastball that sits at 92-93 mph and touches 95. Commanding his heater, curveball and changeup has been a different story, however.|
Over the last two seasons, Cuevas has walked 136 in 261 innings. He gets out of sync in his delivery, flying open with his front side and dragging his arm will behind him. He rushes his lower half while pitching from the stretch, making it difficult to maintain a consistent release point. He also overthrows, leading to further command issues.
|19.||Julio Pimentel, rhp, Wilmington|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Signed: Dodgers FA '03|
|Pimentel came over from the Dodgers in the Elmer Dessens deal last year, and since then Kansas City has changed him into a completely different pitcher. When he was with Los Angeles, he would rear back and fire with the fastball, aiming for strikeouts. Now he's much more methodical and under control, both in his delivery and demeanor on the mound.|
Pimentel's fastball now parks at 90-92 mph, and he uses it to set up hitters with his offspeed stuff, yielding more groundouts than whiffs. He has a hard, three-quarters breaking ball and an improved changeup.
“He gets swings and misses on the changeup because he’s able to command and locate it effectively, and that also helps him get a lot of mis-hits on his fastball,” an AL scout said. “He commands it to both sides of the plate and it has the potential to be his best pitch.”
|20.||Kyle McCulloch, rhp, Winston-Salem|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 22 Drafted: White Sox '06 (1)|
|A first-round pick in 2006, McCulloch ended his first full season in Double-A. He couldn't survive in the CL on pure stuff, so he developed a splitter while with Winston-Salem to help him put away hitters more effectively.|
McCulloch has nice late movement to his fastball, which sat at 87-89 mph for much of the season. He also has a curveball and changeup, and the latter may be his best pitch. He's athletic, repeats his delivery and fields his position well.
His upside is still up for debate, however.
“He’s going to have to pitch, and to his credit, he battled this year,” an AL scout said. “He added a pitch because he knew he needed it. I know they hoped he’d move fast, but he isn’t much more than a No. 5 and he’s probably a middle guy.”