|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Jake Peavey, rhp, Mobile (Padres)|
|2. *Aaron Cook, rhp, Carolina (Rockies)|
|3. *Frank Beltran, rhp, West Tenn (Cubs)|
|4. *Jason Young, rhp, Carolina (Rockies)|
|5. *Ricardo Rodriguez, rhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)|
|6. *Miguel Olivio, c, Birmingham (White Sox)|
|7. *Choo Freeman, of, Carolina (Rockies)|
|8. *Vinny Chulk, rhp, Tennessee (Blue Jays)|
|9. *Ben Henrickson, rhp, Huntsville (Brewers)|
|10. *Dennis Tankersley, rhp, Mobile (Padres)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Justin Upton, of, Mobile BayBears (Diamondbacks)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 205 Age: 20 Drafted: Diamondbacks '05 (1)|
just 32 games in high Class A, Upton was called up to Mobile and spent 10 weeks
reinforcing what has been written about him since he was 15: He's one of the
most physically gifted players in the game. He took over as Arizona's regular
right fielder three weeks shy of his 20th birthday and held his own as the
Diamondbacks won the National League West.|
Upton's package of tools is unparalleled, prompting one scout to award him future grades of 70 (on the 20-80 scale) in all five categories. His lightning-quick bat allows him to let balls travel deep, and he maintains his balance through his swing. He drives balls out to all parts of the park, and while he has a tendency to chase balls out of the strike zone, he made improvements with his plate discipline this year.
"When I saw him take a slider on the outside part of the plate and rake it into right field and then turn a plus fastball around and hammer it over the center-field wall, you know you're looking at a pretty special hitter," Montgomery manager Billy Gardner said.
Upton's speed allows him to compensate for his lack of experience in the outfield. He has feel for all phases of the game and should shore up his routes in the outfield and his decisions on the basepaths with more experience. He has the speed for center field and the arm for right.
|2.||Evan Longoria, 3b, Montgomery Biscuits (Devil Rays)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Devil Rays '06 (1)|
|Longoria's raw power
and his extraordinary feel for hitting rank right with Upton's. The league MVP, he ranked among the
league leaders in average (.307), homers (21), on-base percentage (.403) and
slugging (.528) when he left for Triple-A in
Longoria has a fluid game with an easy, loose swing that generates exceptional bat speed. His power comes from leverage created by his quick hands and strong wrists. He's aggressive in all counts and will chase breaking balls away, but he also displayed patience as he was often pitched around this season.
"He's hitting balls that were traveling to parts of parks you just don't see guys hit them," an American League scout said. "The leverage and finish he generates in his swing is something you just can't teach."
A solid-average defender with a slightly above-average arm, Longoria displays body control on slow rollers and he has soft hands. He's a below-average runner.
|3.||Wade Davis, rhp, Montgomery Biscuits (Devil Rays)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220 Age: 21 Drafted: Devil Rays '04 (3)|
|Davis dominated high
Class A during the first half of the season and maintained that success when he
was called up to Montgomery in July. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in
eight out of his first nine Double-A starts before fading at the end.|
A pure power pitcher, Davis lacks only feel for his craft and a polished third pitch. His fastball ranges from 93-97 mph, though he dropped to 86-92 later in the year. He gets a good plane on his fastball, which he can locate to both sides of the plate. He's at his best when he's spotting it down in the zone, but he has a tendency to work deep in counts.
Davis' breaking ball is a hard curve with occasional two-plane break at 79 mph. He also throws a cutter and changeup, though neither is a quality third offering at this stage.
"You never want to say a guy is a true No. 1 starter, but he might be better than a No. 2," a second AL scout said. "He has durability and a good delivery, he has poise and he has really good stuff."
|4.||Johnny Cueto, rhp, Chattanooga Lookouts (Reds)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 174 Age: 21 Signed:Reds '04|
|Two years removed
from Rookie ball, Cueto climbed from high Class A to Triple-A this season,
dealing all the way. The 21-year-old compiled a jaw-dropping 170-34
strikeout-walk ratio in 161 innings, including a career-high 13-whiff
performance against Carolina
in his second SL start.|
"You see a lot of Latin kids with real good arms, and he's got a good arm," a third AL scout said. "But the thing with him is he had plus control and average command."
Cueto pounds the zone with a 91-95 mph fastball and an 82-89 mph slider. His arm action is quick and relatively clean. He powers through his slider, giving it cutting action without depth, but its tight spin provides deception even when it lacks a defined shape. He keeps lefties at bay by using his changeup and pitching inside.
|5.||Brandon Jones, of, Mississippi Braves|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Drafted: Braves '03 (24)|
|Injuries cut short Jones' last two seasons, but he
moved closer to becoming a complete hitter in 2007. The three-sport star from a
tiny town in the Florida panhandle climbed to
Triple-A shortly after the all-star break and helped carry Richmond to the International League
Jones has a smooth lefthanded swing, keeping his barrel in the zone long enough to hit pitches deep over the plate as well as those out front. He hit 19 homers between Double-A and Triple-A, and his knack for making hard contact and his athleticism could produce above-average power numbers down the road. He has a bad habit of trying to lift balls, rather than letting his bat speed and hands do the work.
His pitch recognition, two-strike approach and plate discipline are also assets. His speed, defense and arm are solid-average to plus tools
"I'd have to imagine this was a hands-off prospect when they were making trades this year," the first AL scout said. "His approach was so easy and so mature at the plate. You're expecting a raw athlete who's rigid and jumping out on his front foot, but he's at home in the batter's box."
|6.||Reid Brignac, ss, Montgomery Biscuits (Devil Rays)|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Drafted: Devil Rays '04 (2)|
|While Upton, Longoria
and Jones have better tools, Brignac tied for the SL lead with 52 extra-base
hits and quietly put together another strong season. He overcame a two-month
slump that saw him bat just .218 in May and June, highlighting his inconsistency.
Brignac's pure bat speed is solid-average, which means he must hone his approach in order to maximize his hitting ability. He got pull-happy and tried to lift the ball too frequently this summer, and he occasionally lacks patience. He has solid-average power that can develop into a plus once he learns to stay back and trust his hands. He knows how to use the whole field and hit for average, as long as he avoids trying to hit home runs and lets his natural feel for hitting take over.
Most scouts believe Brignac can remain at shortstop, but the jury is still out. A fringe-average runner, he has good body control, adequate range and an average, reliable arm. His .963 fielding percentage was a career best.
|7.||Tyler Colvin, of, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '06 (1)|
|The top prospect in
the short-season Northwest League last year, Colvin split his first full minor
league season between high Class A and Double-A. His game is comparable to
Steve Finley's with less speed, though scouts believe Colvin can handle center
He has a smooth swing with loose hands and wrists, and he squares balls on the barrel of his bat. He projects to hit as many as 25 home runs and 35 doubles a year. He walked just 15 times in 492 at-bats between the two levels, and he could improve his patience, two-strike approach and pitch recognition.
Colvin is an instinctive player whose speed and defense play up because he gets good jumps on the bases and in the outfield. He has an average, accurate arm.
|8.||Manny Parra, lhp, Huntsville Stars (Brewers)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 24 Drafted: Brewers '01 (26)|
|Just as Parra was
ready to run for mayor in Huntsville--where he had pitched parts of the 2004,
'05 and '06 seasons--everything clicked. He cruised through 13 starts, tossed a
perfect game in his first Triple-A outing and assumed a key role in Milwaukee
as the Brewers contended for a division title.|
He has above-average control of a versatile assortment of pitches, and his stuff was as crisp as it had been since his 2005 shoulder surgery. Parra's fastball sat at 93 mph and touched 95, and his 79-80 mph curveball with 1-to-7 tilt overmatched minor league hitters.
Parra's two-seamer, changeup and splitter are effective offerings he uses selectively. Huntsville pitching coach Rich Sauveur, who had worked with Parra since 2003, praised him for his poise, as well as his improved execution of each pitch.
"The pitches themselves are what separate him from everybody else," Sauveur said. "What he did the best though was mentally. He started beating everybody down this year. He just went out there on the mound and he put everything together."
|9.||Gio Gonzalez, lhp, Birmingham Barons (White Sox)|
|B-T: R-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: White Sox '04 (1S)|
|More than one scout
referred to Gonzalez as the league's pitcher closest to the majors after Parra
graduated to Milwaukee. For the third straight summer, he pitched at least 130
innings, and his 185 strikeouts were a career high and tops in the
Gonzalez has a polished three-pitch repertoire that's highlighted by one of the minors' best breaking balls. He has great feel for and confidence in his two-plane curveball, which changes hitters' eye level and grades as a plus-plus pitch. He adds and subtracts from his fastball, which ranges from 86-92 mph and has occasional run and sink.
He also has feel for a changeup, which provides him with a legitimate third weapon. He has solid-average command, though he has a tendency to fall off the mound to the third-base side, causing him to miss his spots.
"I can remember one outing where he had our hitters talking to themselves," Sauveur said. "He's got big league stuff."
|10.||Carlos Gonzalez, of, Mobile BayBears (Diamondbacks)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Signed: Diamondbacks '02|
|"You could be
standing at the concession stand and know when Upton or Gonzalez were
hitting," a scout said, testifying to the outfielder who flanked Upton in
Double-A. Gonzalez tied for the league lead with 52
As with Upton, the game comes easily to Gonzalez, but at times his approach is too easy. When he's not giving away at-bats and taking plays off, his above-average bat speed and plus raw power can be awe-inspiring. He has a sweet swing with leverage and loft, and he can drive balls out to all parts of the park.
Gonzalez gets pull-happy and expands the strike zone, but his raw package of tools profile as an impact, everyday right fielder. He'll show glimpses of outstanding defense, with one of the best arms in the minors and fringe-average speed. His future will be determined by his desire to fulfill his potential.
"He has a chance to be a run producer in the big leagues, but his approach is what is going to kill him," the first AL scout said.
|11.||Mark Reynolds, 3b, Mobile BayBears (Diamondbacks)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 24
Drafted: Diamondbacks '04 (16)|
|The Diamondbacks summoned Reynolds from Mobile in
mid-May when Chad Tracy was injured, and the slugging infielder spent the rest
of the season as Arizona's everyday third baseman. He has plus power and an
aggressive approach, which eventually led to an all-or-nothing mentality in the
big leagues. He tied a major league record by striking out in nine straight
plate appearances in August, though he also ranked third on the team with 17
homers in just 366 at-bats. He added a tiebreaking homer off Carlos Marmol in
Game One of the National League Division Series.|
Reynolds' plus bat speed is his best asset. When he keeps his weight and hands back, he's a deadly hitter, mashing balls to left and left-center field. He tends to drift during his swing and often finds himself out on his front foot. Reynolds could refine his approach by improving his pitch selection and using the whole field with more frequency.
He made 11 errors in just 23 games at third base in Mobile. His defense isn't a strength, as Reynolds' range and agility are underwhelming. He's a fringe-average runner underway.
|12.||Chin-Lung Hu, ss, Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers)|
Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 150 Age: 23 Signed: Dodgers '03|
|The Dodgers always
believed Hu would hit, and the diminutive Taiwanese's offensive game turned the
corner this year following his lackluster showing in a half-season in
Jacksonville in 2006. His .325 average ranked third in the minors among
full-season shortstops and he took home Futures Game MVP honors before earning
promotions to Triple-A and eventually the majors.|
His outstanding defensive package--with the arm strength, footwork and hands of a Gold Glover--is his calling card, but he has honed his approach and become a tough out at the plate. Hu has gap power, consistently centers the top half of the ball and uses the whole field well. He's a slightly above-average runner.
"He's a good shortstop who has the blend of tools and baseball player," a third scout scout said. "He's not going to just be a scratch guy at the plate and I really liked his defense."
|13.||Brent Lillibridge, ss, Mississippi Braves|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 180 Age:
23 Drafted: Pirates '05 (4)|
|Injuries in Atlanta
triggered a series of moves that sent Yunel Escobar to the big leagues,
Lillibridge to Triple-A and Diory Hernandez to Mississippi, and all three of
them performed well upon their promotions. In his first year with the Braves
following an offseason trade with Pittsburgh,
Lillibridge established himself as a legitimate middle-infield prospect thanks
to a well-rounded game and solid tools across the
"When you see him everyday, he really makes an impression on you," the third scout said. "He's one of those guys who's a steady player, not flashy, definitely not Escobar or Rafael Furcal. But he makes all the plays and he shows you a plus tool when he needs to."
Lillibridge has solid-average bat speed, barrel awareness and control of the strike zone. He drives balls from gap to gap and has a generally refined approach to hitting. He's an average runner, but he has a great first step, good hands, enough arm strength for the back side of double plays and the agility to make the play on the run.
|14.||Jonathan Meloan, rhp, Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 225 Age: 23
Drafted: Dodgers '05 (5)|
|After a dominant season in 2006, Meloan spent the
first half of 2007 as Jacksonville's closer before climbing to Triple-A and the
majors. Managers rated him the league's best reliever and he has the makings of
a valuable late-inning man in the big leagues. |
Meloan has two speeds--hard and harder--and a tenacious attitude. He works primarily off an 89-94 mph fastball and a mid-80s slider that has touched 89. He also has feel for a curveball and changeup, but his slider and above-average command are his ticket.
Meloan attacks both sides of the plate and pitches ahead in the count. His delivery is rigid and lacks fluidity, but he has shown resilience since arm soreness arose shortly after he was drafted in 2005.
|15.||Max Scherzer, rhp, Mobile BayBears (Diamondbacks)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3
Wt.: 190 Age: 23 Drafted: Diamondbacks '06 (1)|
|Just before Scherzer
would have re-entered the 2006 draft, the Diamondbacks coughed up a four-year
major league contract worth $4.3 million in guaranteed money to sign the 11th
overall pick from 2005. Nicknamed "Max-a-million" by his teammates,
he made three starts in high Class A before arriving in Mobile in late
Scherzer's most attractive attribute is a sinking fastball that tops out near 95 mph. His mechanics need some work, as his release point is inconsistent and there's some effort to his delivery, but he does achieve good extension out front and his arm strength is obvious.
Scherzer has a two-seamer he can run up to 90 mph, an 80-84 mph slider and a changeup, all of which have potential to be solid-average to plus offerings. But Scherzer's arsenal is inconsistent, and his overall command is below average. That leads some scouts to project he'll wind up in the bullpen, where he can focus on his fastball and slider.
"It's an outstanding arm who needs polish and has some max effort to it, which impacts his ability to command the baseball," a fourth scout said. "The stuff is there, it's just a matter of if he can make that next step and command it."
|16.||Jo Jo Reyes, lhp, Mississippi Braves|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 230 Age: 22
Drafted: '03 (2)|
|Because of his stuff, frame and profile, Reyes gets
compared Horacio Ramirez, who likewise signed with the Braves out of a southern
California high school. Reyes made 14 starts at Mississippi
before spending three months in the majors when injuries beset Atlanta's pitching staff. He struggled but
did win two of his last three starts and posted a 3.10 ERA in
Reyes doesn't have a true put-away pitch, but he has five weapons at his disposal, headlined by a fastball that ranges from 88-94 mph. He can add and subtract from his fastball, and also throws a cutter in the high 80s. His solid-average slider is his best secondary pitch, which he complements with a usable changeup and curve.
He's erratic with his command at times, and Reyes has lapses when a series of mistakes leads to big innings. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
"He's a guy for me," the second scout said. "He can speed up and slow down bats, and he has enough effective wildness and enough stuff to get away with some of his inconsistency."
|17.||Diory Hernandez, ss, Mississippi Braves|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170 Age:
23 Signed: Braves '02|
|In a year where the
Braves emptied their farm system to trade for Mark Teixeira, Hernandez'
emergence as a toolsy, versatile infielder with a chance to hit his way into an
everyday role was a welcome development for their farm
Hernandez has a short swing with good bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination. He can drive balls from gap to gap and uses the whole field, though his approach tends to vacillate. Hernandez has pitch recognition and doesn't swing and miss often, though he could tighten his plate discipline.
He's a plus runner, which aids his ability to play both middle-infield positions. Hernandez' actions are natural and easy, with a good first step, solid range, excellent hands and a fringe-average arm that plays up because of his quick exchange. One scout questioned Hernandez' instincts, and his minor league-high 22 times caught stealing (in 46 attempts) illustrate that he has a lot to learn about the nuances of the game.
|18.||James McDonald, rhp, Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers)|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 195 Age: 22
Drafted: Dodgers '02 (11)|
|Arm trouble prompted the Dodgers to move McDonald from
the mound to the outfield shortly after they signed him in 2003. But the
experiment was short-lived after McDonald hit .226 in Rookie ball in '04-'05.
He took huge strides this season, and his 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings
ranked fourth among full-season minor leaguers.|
The son of former National Football League receiver James McDonald, he has athleticism to spare and a loose if imperfect arm action that offers some deception. His fastball ranges from 88-92 mph and he has a knack for locating it. His curveball and changeup are inconsistent, but both have potential to develop into plus offerings.
"What he has in his favor is deception," Gardner said. "From the dugout, you wouldn't think his fastball was all that great, but when you get to the plate, our hitters said it got on top of you quickly and was hard to hit."
|19.||Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Carolina Mudcats (Marlins)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 21
Drafted: Mets '04 (3)|
|Hernandez more than held his own as a 21-year-old in
Double-A. Marlins brass considered calling him to the big leagues, but he has
to refine his command and improve his breaking ball before he's ready for Florida. He tossed a
nine-inning complete game against Jacksonville in his final start in July, then
tired down the stretch and put up an 8.48 ERA in the final
Hernandez has all the ingredients for success: a solid-average fastball that touches 94 mph, an average changeup with occasional plus life, feel for pitching and a gameplan for every hitter. His curveball comes in at 75-78 mph with short break, but he has the hand speed and arm slot to create good spin, so it's mostly a matter of improving its shape. He's lauded for his work ethic, though at times tends to be too self-critical.
Hernandez profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter. Thanks to his durable frame, raw stuff and youth, he ultimately could be one of this SL crop's most successful pitchers.
|20.||Alcides Escobar, ss, Huntsville Stars (Brewers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 155 Age: 21 Signed: Brewers '03|
|Escobar recovered from a 7-for-44 spell at the start
of his Double-A tour to bat .313 the rest of the way and then .385 in the
playoffs. Nevertheless, his offensive game has a ways to go, as he has a long
swing and well below-average power. As he strengthens his upper body, forearms
and hands, he could develop into a solid-average hitter with an ability to
drive balls from gap to gap.|
A long, sinewy athlete, Escobar isn't far from major league-ready as a defender. He has easy, natural actions at shortstop with above-average hands, range and arm strength. He tends to play with too much flare, but his .981 fielding percentage was tops in the league among regular shortstops. He's a plus runner.