League Top 20 Prospects

Florida State League Top 20 Prospects




FIVE YEARS AGO
1. *Mark Teixeira, 3b, Charlotte (Rangers)
2. *Jose Reyes, ss, St. Lucie (Mets)
3. *Francisco Rosario, rhp, Dunedin (Blue Jays)
4. *Taylor Buchholz, rhp, Clearwater (Phillies)
5. *Miguel Cabrera, 3b, Jupiter (Marlins)
6. *Laynce Nix, of, Charlotte (Rangers)
7. *Alexis Rios, of, Dunedin (Blue Jays)
8. *Joel Hanrahan, rhp, Vero Beach (Dodgers)
9. *Ben Kozlowski, lhp, Charlotte (Rangers)
10. *Reggie Abercrombie, of, Vero Beach (Dodgers)
*Has played in major leagues
The high Class A Florida State League normally is a pitcher's paradise. Teams allow their top arms to stay in the warmth of the Sunshine State early in the year when it's cold elsewhere, and the ballparks, used for big league spring training, are spacious.

This year, for a change, it was two outfielders who left league observers amazed. Sarasota's Jay Bruce and Lakeland's Cameron Maybin were the best position prospects the league has seen since Joe Mauer played for Fort Myers in 2003. They were the first pair of hitters to top our FSL prospect list since Mark Teixeira and Jose Reyes ranked 1-2 five years ago.

"The best players in the league by far were Jay Bruce and Cameron Maybin," Jupiter manager Luis Dorante said. "They're both talented five-tool players."

While Bruce and Maybin stood out the most, the FSL's mound talent was still impressive. The next six prospects on this list are pitchers, led by Vero Beach teammates Jake McGee and Wade Davis. That group doesn't include Tampa's Joba Chamberlain, who would have ranked right behind Bruce and Maybin had he not fallen seven innings short of qualifying.

1.Jay Bruce, of, Sarasota Reds
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 218 Age: 20 Drafted: Reds '05 (1)
Jay BruceIt's hard to decide which part of Bruce's game managers like more: his power/speed combination that has future all-star written all over it, or his mature approach which makes it hard to remember that he's only 20.

Baseball America's 2007 Minor League Player of the Year, Bruce has a quick stroke and his knowledge of his swing makes him more effective. A natural athlete, he shows the ability to make adjustments from at-bat to at-bat or even from swing to swing. He has above-average speed and he's an aggressive baserunner, albeit not a prolific stolen-base threat.

There's not much to nitpick about Bruce. He struck out 135 times in 133 games, though it's hard to argue with his production. Most scouts expect Bruce to slide to right field eventually, which leads to plenty of Larry Walker comps, but St. Lucie manager Frank Cacciatore liked his work in center.

"The way he plays defense reminds you of a Jim Edmonds," Cacciatore said. "He gets great jumps and has great hands."
 
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2.Cameron Maybin, of, Lakeland Flying Tigers (Tigers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205 Age: 20 Drafted: Tigers '05 (1)
He may be No. 2 on this list, but Florida State League observers expect Maybin to be a perennial all-star. He beat Bruce to the majors with an August callup, and he hit his first big league homer off Roger Clemens.

Like Bruce, Maybin has plus power and plus speed. He's not as an advanced hitter as Bruce, which is why Maybin has yet to match his power production, but that will come as he matures and fills out his athletic frame. His plus-plus speed is readily apparent and he's an above-average defender in center field with the ability to track down drives in the gap.

"He's exciting to watch," Sarasota manager Joe Ayrault said. "Every at bat, he's a threat to hit the long ball or to chop it over the head of the pitcher and leg it out."
 
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3.Jake McGee, lhp, Vero Beach Devil Rays
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Devil Rays '04 (5)
McGee and teammate Wade Davis have had a friendly rivalry throughout their minor league career. So when Davis got the call to Double-A before McGee, it fired up the lefty. He responded the right way, sharpening his command and throwing back-to-back seven-inning scoreless outings to earn a promotion to rejoin Davis.

The FSL strikeout leader with 145 in 117 innings, McGee is blessed with rare velocity for a southpaw, as he sits at 93-95 mph and can touch 98. His fastball rendered lefthanders helpless—they hit .141/.200/.214 against him in the FSL—and Vero Beach manager Joe Szekely said just one lefty managed to get good swings against McGee: Bruce, who went 1-for-4 but hit the ball hard.

"To watch those two go after each other was a real pleasure," Szekely said. "It was fun because you knew it was a battle that you could see happening for years to come."

McGee's changeup was very erratic early in the season, but he developed more feel and confidence in it as the season went along. His breaking ball has good tilt, though he sometimes struggles to locate it. Both could end up as plus pitches if he improves his command.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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4.Wade Davis, rhp, Vero Beach Devil Rays$
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220 Age: 21 Drafted: Devil Rays '04 (3)
Even though he's No. 4 on this list, it's not hard to project Davis as a future front-end starter. McGee ranks ahead of him because he's a lefty and has a tick more velocity, but Davis is more polished and has quality stuff as well.

Davis sits at 92-93 mph and can hump his fastball up to 96 mph when needed. He throws his tight 11-to-5 curveball at any point in the count and his changeup has developed into an average pitch that he trusts. He also throws a cutter that he can drop over for strikes, giving hitters something else to worry about, and shackled righthanders to the tune of .124/.201/.214 numbers.

But Davis' most impressive attribute might be his consistency. He maintained his quality stuff from start to start. He didn't allow more than three earned runs in any of his 13 starts and permitted one run or less in nine of his last 10 outings, including a seven-inning no-hitter against Jupiter.

"You could see Wade was on a mission," Szekely said. "He was lights out from the word go."
 
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5.Johnny Cueto, rhp, Sarasota Reds
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 192 Age: 21 Signed: Reds FA '04
While Davis towers over hitters at 6-foot-5, Cueto doesn't look intimidating when he steps on the mound. In fact, at 5-foot-10, he looks like the average command/deception righthander who has to baffle hitters with offspeed stuff. But when his fastball comes out of his hand, it's clear that he's a power pitcher.

With a free and easy delivery, Cueto unleashes 93-94 mph fastballs and he can reach back to touch 96-97. Just as important, his slider and changeup are potential plus pitches that he's comfortable throwing when he's behind in the count.

His command also is advanced for his age, as he comfortable locating to both sides of the plate and has no problems busting hitters inside. Though he doesn't have an ideal frame, his pitches and his mechanics allow him to project as a No. 2 or 3 starter. Cueto is a more refined pitcher than Homer Bailey, who stopped back by Sarasota on a rehab stint, and his stuff doesn't lag far behind Bailey's.
 
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6.Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Clearwater Threshers (Phillies)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 20 Signed: Phillies FA '03
Carrasco is a long ways from a finished product, but he does have a pair of major league pitches. He throws a plus fastball that sits at 91-92 mph and touches 95 with good life, as well as a quality changeup. His mechanics are nearly picture-perfect, as he looks like he's throwing an easy side session while popping 92s and 93s.

Carrasco's biggest concern is his consistency. When he begins a game with good stuff, he usually leaves hitters helpless. But when he doesn't, he has yet to show the savvy to win with less than his best. He tries to overthrow, which results in him leaving vulnerable fastballs up in the strike zone.

He also needs to refine his curveball. Carrasco shows some feel for it and occasionally snaps off a plus bender, but he struggles to locate it.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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7.Ian Kennedy, rhp, Tampa Yankees
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Yankees '06 (1)
If this list were based entirely on pure stuff, Kennedy wouldn't make it. If it were totally dependent on performance, he could be No. 1. His results were no fluke, as he continued to succeed all the way up the ladder to New York.

Kennedy doesn't have a plus pitch. His best offering is a changeup that would grade as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and his 89-91 mph fastball, his curveball and slider are all average. But he has well above-average command, and his feel for pitching and ability to locate all four pitches make them play up.

FSL managers were extremely impressed by Kennedy's approach. He throws all four pitches in any count, he doesn't get rattled and he always seems to be a step ahead of hitters.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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8.Deolis Guerra, rhp, St. Lucie Mets
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 200 Age: 18 Signed: Mets FA '05
There's still a lot of projection left with Guerra, who didn't turn 18 until after the FSL season began, and his present stuff already is solid. He gained an extra 3-4 mph on his fastball this year, jumping at times to a consistent 92-93 mph with some late life. He doesn't always maintain that velocity, as he sometimes sits at 89-90.

Guerra has developed much more confidence in his changeup, which has good deception as long as he maintains his arm speed. He struggles to locate his curveball and it gets loopy at times. His curve has the potential to be a plus pitch, but for now he lacks a true out pitch, which explains his less-than-stellar strikeout rate (6.6 per nine innings in the FSL).

Guerra uses his 6-foot-5 frame well, pitching on a downhill plane that causes problems for hitters. He has a good frame and an easy delivery, though he did miss a month with shoulder tendinitis.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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9.Jose Tabata, of, Tampa Yankees
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 180 Age: 19 Signed: Yankees FA '05
Tabata had a breakout performance as an 17-year-old in low Class A last year, and added to his prospect luster with an outstanding at-bat against fellow Yankee Philip Hughes in the Futures Game. His power numbers were down in 2007, but that can be attributed to a damaged hamate bone in his right hand. The hand injury makes his ability to hit .307 in high Class A all that much more impressive.

He showed a good batting eye, and league observers believe he'll develop plus power as he matures and recovers his full health. Though he's still a teenager, Tabata already is getting thick in his lower half, which has sapped his speed. He's now a below-average runner who'll have to watch his weight as he gets older, and he's an average right fielder with an average arm.
 
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10.Austin Jackson, of, Tampa Yankees
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 20 Drafted: Yankees '05 (8)
A standout point guard who would have started for Georgia Tech as a freshman had he not turned to professional baseball, Jackson was lackluster for 1 1/2 seasons in low Class A before his promotion to Tampa in late June. He hit safely in 24 of his 25 games and showed why he earned a then-record eighth-round bonus of $800,000 in 2005.

When he's locked in, Jackson uses the entire field and shows pop to both gaps. He has bat speed and strength, so he should develop more home run power in the future. Though he's just an average runner and there have been concerns about his defense in the past, FSL managers like his routes and arm strength in center field.

Szekely said Jackson made the best outfield catch he's seen in years, flipping over the fence while stealing a home run from Vero Beach's Rhyne Hughes. Jackson also displayed a fine ability to track balls over his head.
 
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11.Chris Volstad, rhp, Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-7 Wt.: 190 Age: 20 Drafted: Marlins '05 (1)
The Marlins planned on having four first-rounders in the Jupiter rotation. But Sean West was shut down before the season even began with a torn labrum, Aaron Thompson missed six weeks with shoulder tendinitis and Brett Sinkbeil had elbow and neck problems.

Only Volstad stayed healthy, and he held his own against older hitters in the FSL before faring better following a late-July promotion to Double-A. His stuff is solid but not overwhelming, as he features a 90-92 mph fastball that he can locate to both sides of the plate.

Volstad never has piled up strikeouts and likely never will, as his game is to keep the ball down and use his fastball and solid changeup to induce groundouts. His curveball ranks as his third pitch. He gives up a lot of hits, but he does a good job of throwing strikes down in the zone and limiting the damage.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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12.Alcides Escobar, ss, Brevard County Manatees (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 165 Age: 20 Signed: Brewers FA '03
Escobar spent much of 2006 in the FSL, impressing with his glove but leaving major questions about his bat. A year of maturity, an offseason in winter ball and added strength made him a much better hitter. He led off for Brevard County, though he's more likely to hit near the bottom of the order in the big leagues, where his contact approach and speed will give him some value.

Escobar's swing is too long for his skill set, especially when he tries to drive the ball, which usually just leads to flyout. He did a better job this year of hitting the ball on the ground, where his 4.1-second speed from home to first gives him a chance to beat out infield singles. He was especially good against lefthanders, hitting .372 against them between Brevard County and Double-A. He needs to work on getting better jumps and picking his spots to run.

His defense is his calling card. Escobar has the consistency to make routine plays, and the range and arm to make highlight plays. His arm is his best tool, as it's extremely strong and accurate and grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.
 
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13.Tyler Colvin, of, Daytona Cubs
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '06 (1)
Colvin showed his ability to make adjustments as the season went along. Though the statistics don't really reflect it, several managers felt that he chased too many pitches early in the year before settling down. He has a nice natural stroke with the ability to drive the ball to the opposite field.

He stays inside the ball well, though Colvin has yet to pull inside pitches on a consistent basis. For now he's more content to line doubles the other way. He has slightly above-average speed, and he shows solid instincts on the bases to go with good jumps and routes in center field.

While he made it to Double-A in his first full pro year, the athletic Colvin is still very much a work in progress. He needs to learn the strike zone better and show more patience.
 
ABRH2B3BHRRBIBBSOSBCSAVGOBPSLG
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14.Josh Outman, lhp, Clearwater Threshers (Phillies)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Phillies '05 (10)
With Outman, it's all about control. He struggles at times to control his fastball, which explains why ranked among the minor league leaders with 77 walks in 159 innings. At times he struggles to control his emotions, which explains why he overthrows and is prone to big innings and bad outings.

But there's also a lot to like about the lefty, who led the league with a 2.45 ERA and earned a promotion to Double-A. Outman's fastball sits at 92-94 mph and he pairs it with an 84-87 mph slider. He's working on a changeup that still has a ways to go.

A good athlete, Outman has reworked his mechanics and developed a more conventional delivery since turning pro. He also has added some deception, as he now hides the ball much longer, and his fastball has picked up some life. One manager who saw him in low Class A in 2006 said has made significant strides since last year
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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15.Adam Ottavino, rhp, Palm Beach Cardinals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 215 Age: 21 Drafted: Cardinals '06 (1)
Ottavino's approach is simple yet effective. He relies on a 92-93 mph fastball featuring good armside run and a tight slider, as the fastball rides in on righthanders while the slider runs away from them. His command isn't very polished, but he gets enough movement that he can simply aim for the middle of the plate and relying on the run on his fastball and the tilt on his slider to hit the corners.

Ottavino got FSL hitters to chase his slider out of the zone, though there's some concern as to whether he can throw it consistently for strikes if more advanced players lay off of it. He also throws a below-average changeup and curveball, and he might wind up in the bullpen down the road.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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16.Brett Sinkbeil, rhp, Jupiter Hammerheads (Marlins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170 Age: 22 Drafted: Marlins '06 (1)
Sinkbeil made just 14 starts in his first full pro season. He missed five weeks early in the season with elbow tendinitis, and he didn't pitch in August because he came down with a herniated disc in his neck.

When healthy, Sinkbeil worked to both sides of the plate with a 92-93 mph fastball and a heavy sinker. His average slider also has some potential, but he has yet to show much feel for a changeup. He needs the changeup to battle lefties, who hit .306/.341/.476 against him.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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17.Frank Cervelli, c, Tampa Yankee
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 170 Age: 21 Signed: Yankees FA' 03
Jorge Posada doesn't seem like he'll ever relinquish the Yankees' catching job, but Cervelli should give New York another option behind the plate in a couple of years. He was the consensus best catching prospect in the FSL, beating out Clearwater's Lou Marson for that honor.

Managers loved the way Cervelli handles a staff. He frames pitches, blocks balls in the dirt and has a plus arm. He led the league's catchers in fielding percentage (.997) and erasing basestealers (41 percent).

He has a polished batting eye and should become a more productive hitter as he matures. He has good bat speed and a level swing that stays in the strike zone for a long time, though he hasn't hit for much power.
 
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18.Eduardo Morlan, rhp, Fort Myers Miracle (Twins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 220 Age: 21 Drafted: Twins '04 (3)
Morlan is the rare Cuban pitching prospect who's not a defector, as he emigrated with his family to Miami when he was 12. He made an easy transition to a full-time reliever this season and was rewarded for his solid work with a late promotion to Double-A.

Morlan has a solid frame with a relatively thick lower half. His high-effort, three-quarters delivery led to the move to the bullpen, where his power stuff should allow him to work as a setup man or closer. He attacks hitters with an 89-93 mph fastball, a plus curveball and an average slider. His fastball has quality life, which allows him to bust righthanders inside with regularity.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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19.Jeff Samardzija, rhp, Daytona Cubs
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 218 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '06 (5)
Samardzija struggled with his command and secondary pitches in the FSL, and the results were ugly. He had a 45-35 K-BB ratio in 107 innings, and FSL hitters batted .323 against him.

So why is he on this list? The reality is that Samardzija was over his head in the FSL in his first full pro season after being more of a football player at Notre Dame. He's an outstanding athlete with an easy delivery, long arms and the frame to soak up innings.

Samardzija gained velocity as the season went along, and he threw harder (94-96 mph) after a promotion to Double-A. His two-seam fastball has boring action that should lead to plenty of groundballs once he improves his location.

He needs to sharpen his loopy curveball and refine his changeup so hitters can't sit on his fastball. He may be a long ways away, but his arm gives him the chance to be special.
 
GGSWLSVERAIPHRERHRBBSOAVG
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20.Rhyne Hughes, 1b, Vero Beach Devil Rays
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175 Age: 23 Drafted: Devil Rays '04 (8)
The surprise favorite of managers around the league was a 23-year-old first baseman. Skippers liked Hughes' batting eye and advanced approach, which resulted in the FSL batting title (.329). He drew comparisons to Keith Hernandez and James Loney.

Hughes worked counts until he got a pitch he could drive, usually something on the outside of the plate that he hammered to left field. If a pitcher tried to bust him inside, he would foul off the pitch until he got one he liked. He's a below-average runner, but he's fluid and shows soft hands at first base.

The big question about Hughes is whether he'll have enough pop for a first baseman. His all-fields approach isn't conducive to homers, though he has some natural strength and has shown gap power.
 
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