League Top 20 Prospects

Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Hicks brings all-around game to GCL




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. Eric Duncan, 3b, Yankees
2. Jake Stevens, lhp, Braves
3. *Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c, Braves
4. Hector Made, ss, Yankees
5. Lorenzo Scott, of, Orioles
6. Blair Johnson, rhp, Pirates
7. Matt Moses, 3b, Twins
8. Tyler Pelland, lhp, Red Sox/Reds
9. *Jai Miller, of, Marlins
10. Steve Doetsch, of, Braves
*Has played in major leagues.
The Rookie-level Gulf Coast League is where most teenage prospects get their first exposure to U.S. professional baseball, either fresh out of the draft or after playing in the Dominican or Venezuelan summer leagues. That was certainly the case with the GCL champion Phillies, who featured Philadelphia's top four 2008 draft picks (third baseman Anthony Hewitt, outfielders Zach Collier and Anthony Gose, righthander Jason Knapp) and Venezuelan catcher Sebastian Valle. Knapp, Collier and Valle all made this Top 10 list, Hewitt checked in at No. 13 and Gose would have made a push for inclusion had a back injury not limited him to 11 games.

Besides the Phillies contingent, the league was filled with 2008 first-rounders (led by Twins outfielder Aaron Hicks, Marlins catcher Kyle Skipworth and Red Sox shortstop/righthander Casey Kelly) and international bonus babies (headlined by Mets third baseman Jefry Marte and Red Sox third baseman Michael Almanzar). The talent in the GCL was more impressive than in 2007, with a balance of athletes, power hitters and pitchers.

1. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170 Age: 18 Drafted: Twins '08 (1)
Yovani GallardoHicks entered the 2008 draft regarded as the top two-way prep prospect, as teams were split on whether he fit best as a pitcher or position player. After revealing his desire to play every day, Hicks went 14th overall and signed for $1.78 million. He tallied two hits and two RBIs in his first professional game and continued his success at the plate throughout the summer.

Hicks is a switch-hitter with real five-tool potential. He showed the ability to hit for average and power from both sides of the plate, He showed a good eye for the strike zone, took his walks and also worked to improve his pitch selection.

"He's starting to realize which pitches to drive and which to lay off," GCL Twins manager Jake Mauer said. "He's also learning to recognize pitchers' moves and counts and when to take advantage of them."

A gifted athlete, Hicks combines a very strong arm and above-average speed to play tremendous defense in center field. With more experience and improved jumps, he should improve his range and basestealing ability. He has one of the stronger center-field arms in the game.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
173 32 55 10 4 4 27 28 32 12 2 .318 .409 .491
 
2. Kyle Skipworth, c, Marlins
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195 Age: 18 Drafted: Marlins '08 (1)
The top prep catching prospect in the 2008 draft, Skipworth went sixth overall and signed for $2.3 million. Though heralded for his offensive abilities, he struggled with the bat in his pro debut, starting off 0-for-12 and batting .208/.263/.340 overall.

Despite his difficulties, Skipworth displayed the tools and ability of a top-level prospect. He has natural power, bat speed and a good approach at the plate. He led the Marlins with five homers and made midseason adjustments with his pitch selection and strike-zone discipline.

"Skipworth may have been pressing early on in the season," Marlins farm director Brian Chattin said. "But he settled in and started waiting for his pitch, and we started noticing improvements through the summer."

Defensively, Skipworth has the tools to stay behind the plate with a strong arm and durable frame. He has a tendency to get long with his arm stroke but is improving his footwork and transfer. He threw out 36 percent of basestealers to lead the GCL.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
159 22 33 6 0 5 21 13 46 2 2 .263 .340 .603
 
3. Jefry Marte, 3b, Mets
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 187 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
The Mets signed Marte last summer out of the Dominican Republic for $550,000. He participated in the instructional league last fall but had to wait until he turned 17 before he could participate in his first pro season. Even as one of the youngest players in the GCL, he had one of the more impressive offensive seasons, batting .325/.398/.532.

Marte already has shown the ability to hit for average and power and seems to only have scratched the surface of his capabilities. Advanced for his age mentally, but with plenty of maturing to go physically, the 6-foot-1, 187-pounder has huge projection.

"He already has a good swing and a strong body, but I can see him growing and getting even bigger and stronger," GCL Mets manager Bobby Floyd said. "He is going to have some real power."

Marte showed a good approach at the plate, as he rarely chased curveballs out of the zone. An average runner with good instincts, he'll steal an occasional base. While he made 19 errors at third base, he projects as an average defender with average arm strength.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
154 29 50 14 3 4 24 13 30 2 0 .325 .398 .532
 
4. Jason Knapp, rhp, Phillies
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 215 Age: 18 Drafted: Phillies '08 (2)
Knapp's stock surged just before the draft, as his raw arm strength pushed him into second round and earned him a $590,000 bonus. He arrived in the GCL by striking out six over three innings in his lone relief outing of the summer, and he showed improvement throughout the season.

Capable of reaching 97 mph with his fastball, Knapp typically pitches at 92-94. Still raw and learning how to pitch, he worked to clean up his slider and changeup. Commanding his arsenal is still a work in progress for Knapp, as is consistently repeating his delivery. However, he walked just two batters in his last three starts.

"Once he learns to locate his fastball, it will be an above-average pitch," GCL Phillies manager Doug Mansolino said. "He has come a long way and has gotten better at everything every time out."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 6 3 1 0 2.61 31 26 10 9 1 12 38 .228
 
5. Michael Almanzar, 3b, Red Sox
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Almanzar is on the fast track to the big leagues, as he spent half the season in the GCL before moving up to low Class A as a 17-year-old. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.5 million in 2007, he appeared too advanced for the GCL from day one. He started the season 8-for-19 at the plate and batted .348/.414/.472 in 23 games before moving up.

Almanzar has a sound swing with above-average bat speed and raw power. His instincts and plate discipline are advanced for his age—no surprise for the son of a former big leaguer, Carlos Almanzar. He has both strength and projection in his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame, and as he fills out, his power numbers should increase.

Almanzar currently plays third base but may move to first base in the future. He has the hands and arm strength to play the hot corner but needs to improve his foot speed and quickness in order to make routine plays on a consistent basis. He's a below-average runner but has good instincts on the basepaths.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
89 16 31 6 1 1 11 8 15 3 3 .348 .414 .472
 
6. Casey Kelly, ss/rhp, Red Sox
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195 Age: 18 Drafted: Red Sox '08 (1)
Before the 2008 draft, it was unclear whether Kelly made a better football (quarterback) or baseball prospect, as he signed to play both sports at Tennessee. The Red Sox drafted him with the last pick in the first round anyway and eventually signed Kelly for $3 million to play baseball only. Now the question is whether he's better as a shortstop or pitcher.

The son of former big league catcher Pat Kelly, he wants to play every day, and Boston went along with his request for his pro debut. Kelly went 0-for-16 with six strikeouts in his first four games and batted just .173/.229/.255 overall. While he struggled offensively, he does have projectable power and drew high praise for his defensive play.

"He's very smooth and the ball explodes out of his hand when he throws," GCL Red Sox manager Dave Tomlin said. "You would think he has been playing shortstop professionally for years."

Boston plans for Kelly to pitch in instructional league and spend time on the mound and at shortstop next season. In high school, he featured a low-90s fastball and a hard curveball. The Red Sox considered him the most advanced prep pitcher in the draft.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
98
10 17 5 0 1 9 6 34 1 0 .173 .229 .255
 
7. Sebastian Valle, c, Phillies
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Signed: Mexico '06
The Phillies discovered Valle playing for a Mexican club in an international tournament in Venezuela and signed him in the fall of 2006 for $38,000. He played in the Dominican Summer League last year before making a successful U.S. debut this summer.

An offensive-minded catcher, Valle has good hands at the plate and legitimate power. He does have a tendency to chase pitches out of the zone and needs to improve his pitch recognition.

Defensively, Valle has shown improvement from a year ago and has become a good receiver and blocker. He has arm strength behind the plate, but his throwing mechanics can get long and he threw out 24 percent of GCL basestealers. He did show an advanced ability to read batters' swings and game-calling savvy.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
167 27 47 15 0 2 18 12 31 0 0 .281
.381 .407
 
8. Zach Collier, of, Phillies
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 17 Drafted: Phillies '08 (1s)
Collier was the most impressive of the three high school position players the Phillies took in the first two round and sent to the GCL, outperforming Anthony Hewitt and Anthony Gose. Regarded for his lefthanded bat and projectability, Collier signed for $1.02 million and ripped a double in his first pro at-bat.

Collier swings with plus bat speed and the ball tends to jump of his bat. He didn't hit any home runs in his first pro summer, but he has plenty of power potential.

"He has some juice in his bat," Mansolino said. "Power comes when you learn how to hit in the right counts. With that and a little better pitch recognition, he will definitely have power down the road."

A pure athlete who runs well, Collier has basestealing ability and good range in the outfield. He has an average arm and good instincts, though he'll most likely end up at a corner position as he matures physically.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
129 15 35 9 1 0 19 17 28 5 0 .271 .347 .357
 
9. Jack McGeary, lhp, Nationals
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195 Age: 19 Drafted: Nationals '07 (6)
McGeary's Stanford commitment scared off teams in the 2007 draft, dropping him to the sixth round. Shortly before the signing deadline, he signed for a deal that gave him a $1.8 million bonus and allowed him to attend Stanford from September through May for three years. After pitching just two pro innings last year, McGeary led the GCL in starts (12), innings (60) and strikeouts (64). He finished strong, striking out 18 and allowing only one earned run in his last 14 innings.

A tall, projectable lefthander, McGeary features an upper-80s fastball that currently tops out at 91 mph. His best pitch is a sharp-breaking curveball with major league bite and depth. He also throws a changeup that's at least an average pitch.  He commands all three pitches well and has the ability to throw each of them for strikes in any count.

"This kid is going to be a real pitcher, not a power guy," GCL Nationals manager Bobby Henley said. "He's going to change speeds and locate down in the zone with his fastball and changeup, and then put you away with his breaking ball."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 12 2 2 0 4.07 60 61 34 27 2 13 64 .258
 
10. Abner Abreu, 3b, Indians
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 170 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
The Indians noticed Abreu and his power potential during a workout in the Domincan Republic in the summer of 2006. They signed him shortly afterward for $75,000, then sent him to the Dominican Summer League in 2007 and the GCL this year. He wasted no time getting acclimated to the United States, topping the GCL in doubles (16), homers (11), total bases (107) and slugging percentage (.538).

A high-waisted athlete with long limbs and wiry strength, Abreu has plus bat speed and power to all fields. He'll have to improve his strike-zone discipline without losing his aggressiveness at the plate. He struck out 52 times and drew just nine walks.

Abreu is a fringe-average runner. He currently plays third base but made 18 errors this season, mostly on throws. The Indians plan on keeping him at the hot corner, but with his athleticism and arm strength, he may fit better as a corner outfielder as he progresses.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
199 32 50 16 4 11 37 9 52 4 1 .251 .289 .538
 
11. Arodys Vizcaino, rhp, Yankees
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 189 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Vizcaino was the focal point of the Yankees' international scouting efforts in 2007, signing for $800,000 out of the Dominican Republic. The bonus was the highest among pitchers on the international market last year. His fastball sat at 89-91 mph when he signed and jumped to 91-95 mph this summer during his pro debut.

Vizcaino has a quick arm and minimal effort in his delivery, leading New York to believe his fastball velocity could increase even more. On top of throwing hard, he also features a plus curveball with medium late break and depth. The Yankees hope he'll be able to develop a changeup so they can use him as a starter.

Vizcaino throws strikes but needs to improve his fastball command within the zone in order to succeed at higher levels. He's well ahead of the learning curve for a 17-year-old, however.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 6 3 2 0 3.68 44 38 22 18 5 13 48 .222
 
12. Cesar Puello, of, Mets
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Puello signed out of the Dominican Republican for $400,000 in 2007 and started his pro career in the GCL this June, recording three hits in his first game. He finished the season batting .305 but his most impressive accomplishment was overcoming a tendency to chase breaking balls out of the zone. He struck out 20 times in his first 13 games but punched out just 12 times in the final 27 contents.

Puello is a physical prospect who projects to have average tools across the board. He's an instinctive player who learns quickly. He fits best as a right fielder with a strong arm and the requisite power for the position.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
151 24 56 6 0 1 17 5 32 13 5 .305 .350 .364
 
13. Anthony Hewitt, 3b, Phillies
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195 Age: 19 Drafted: Phillies '08 (1)
The Phillies knew they were getting a raw athlete with major questions about his bat when they selected Hewitt 24th overall in June and paid him $1.38 million. But they believed his upside outweighed the risk and will be patient in his development. He went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts in his first game and whiffed in nearly half his at-bats in his first pro summer.

"He just needs to play and get at-bats, and he'll get better and better," Mansolino said. "He has unbelievable power and can hit the ball out of anywhere."

Hewitt has three plus tools with his arm, speed and light-tower power. Translating that power into games will take some time. A high school shortstop, he moved to third base and projects as an average defender there.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
117 14 23 7 1 1 9 7 55 2 0 .197 .256 .299
 
14. Esmailyn Gonzalez, ss, Nationals
B-T: B-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
The Nationals shocked other clubs when they paid $1.4 million to sign Gonzalez out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, and he did nothing to shed the notion he was overpaid by hitting .245 in the GCL last season. He returned to league in 2008 and was much improved at the plate, winning the batting title at .343.

A patient switch-hitter who fits at the top of the lineup, Gonzalez has advanced plate discipline and rarely chases anything out of the strike zone. He projects to hit for average, get on base and provide 10-15 homers per season as a big leaguer.

"This was a big year for him to show people what he's capable of doing," Henley said. "He matured a lot mentally and physically and showcased his durability and tools."

Scouts were unsure if Gonzalez could stay at the shortstop position after 2007. He also improved defensively this year, with better actions and footwork and softer hands. He has an average arm and adequate range, though he's probably a tick below-average runner.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
181 42 62 12 3 2 33 23 19 9 2 .343 .431 .475
 
15. L.J. Hoes, 2b, Orioles
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 181 Age: 18 Drafted: Orioles '08 (3)
Hoes was a pitcher and center fielder in high school, but the Orioles drafted and signed him for $490,000 in the third round of the 2008 draft with the intention of playing him at second base. He adapted to pro ball with relative ease, finishing the season with a .308 batting average and 15 errors in 42 games.

Scouts like Hoes' well-rounded baseball skills and ability to use them on the diamond. He has plus tools across the board and the savvy to go with them. He walked (30) more than he struck out (22) and also showed good instincts on the basepaths.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
159 36 49 4 3 1 18 30 22 10 0 .308 .416 .390
 
16. Isaac Galloway, of, Marlins
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 18 Drafted: Marlins '08 (8)
Early in his high school career, Galloway emerged as a potential first-round pick for the 2008 draft. However, he slumped miserably as a senior and fell to the eighth round. After signing quickly for $245,000, he regained his stride.

"I think he was just pressing a little too much this spring," Marlins scouting director Stan Meek said. "We drafted him off of what he had done in the past, and when he got to the GCL, he stopped pressing and just let it fly."

Galloway displayed four potential plus tools in his pro debut. He has a quick bat and drives the ball into the gaps. He hit only one home run in 48 games but projects to have average power.

He's an above-average runner who will steal bases and cover a lot of ground in center field. He projects as a premium defender with a plus arm as well. He plays the game with uncommon ease and maturity for an 18-year-old.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
199 29 57 13 5 1 23 4 33 4 2 .286 .303 .417
 
17. Zeke Spruill, rhp, Braves
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 185 Age: 18 Drafted: Braves '08 (2)
The Braves have an affinity for homestate prospects, so it was no surprise when they selected Spruill in the second round out of a Georgia high school. He signed quickly for $600,000 and led the GCL in wins while going 7-0, 2.93 in 10 outings.

Spruill impressed scouts with his ability to keep the ball down in the strike zone and consistently get ahead in the count. He has fine command of a three-pitch arsenal: an 88-90 mph fastball, a slider and a changeup.

At 6-feet-4 and 185 pounds, he has an ideal pitcher's frame and projects to add velocity as he matures. He gets good downhill plane on his fastball. Atlanta was impressed with his mound presence as well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10 3
7 0 0 2.93 40 42 16 13 1 8 32 .268
 
18. Destin Hood, of, Nationals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 18 Drafted: Nationals '08 (2)
The Nationals signed Hood away from a football scholarship to play wide receiver at Alabama. They gladly paid $1.1 million to lock up a player with a lightning-quick bat and loads of athleticism.

Hood projects to have four major league tools, with only his arm strength lacking. He figures to become a power-hitting left fielder with basestealing ability. There were concerns as to whether he'd be able to adjust to pro pitching quickly, but he held his own.

"It took him a week and half of seeing fastballs at 90 mph to make adjustments, but he figured it out," Henley said. "He is very smart and teachable. When you tell him something, he gets it."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
86 18 22 6 1 0 14 8 19 5 2 .256 .333 .349
 
19. Derrik Gibson, 3b, Red Sox
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 170 Age: 18 Drafted: Red Sox '08 (2)
The Red Sox liked Gibson's athleticism enough to pay him $600,000 as a second-round pick. Though he played shortstop in high school, he saw more time at third base in the GCL in deference to Kelly. Gibson also saw action at shortstop and second base, and he's also capable of playing center field.

Gibson has a good approach at the plate and should hit for average. He has room to add strength to a thin, wiry frame, so he could develop average power. He's an above-average runner and basestealer who went 14-for-14 swiping bags in his debut.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
94 15 29 6 1 0 9 14 18 14 0 .309 .411 .394
 
20. Jarek Cunningham, 3b/ss, Pirates
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 18 Drafted: Pirates '08 (18)
Cunningham fell to the 18th round of the 2008 draft after a knee injury sidelined him for most of his high school senior season. Healthy again in the GCL, he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the league.

Cunningham is a threat to hit for average and power, and he has a good understanding of the strike zone. He spent most of the season at third base, in part to ease the strain on his knee. He has the arm strength and actions to play shortstop, his primary position in high school, and could return there next season.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
148 20 47 11 1 5 22 14 26 2 1 .318 .385 .507