League Top 20 Prospects

AZL Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Royals add a gem in Montgomery




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. Chris Lubanski, of, Royals
2. *Wladimir Balentien, of, Mariners
3. Ryan Harvey, of, Cubs
4. *Mitch Maier, c, Royals
5. Alexi Ogando, of, Athletics
6. Bear Bay, rhp, Cubs
7. *Shane Costa, of, Royals
8. *Adam Jones, ss, Mariners
9. *Brandon Wood, ss, Angels
10. Charlie Fermaint, of, Brewers
*Has played in major leagues.
TEMPE, Ariz.—The Rookie-level Arizona League was on the brink of extinction two years ago when Major League Baseball considered compressing the minor leagues. Now the AZL's outlook is brighter than ever, with as many as four teams added in the next two years as more big league teams move their training bases to Arizona or add teams at the lower end of their farm systems.

The AZL's best prospect this summer was catcher Buster Posey, who joined the Giants for the final week of the season after signing for a record $6.2 million bonus. The fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, Posey hit .385 and drilled his first pro homer, but he didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for this Top 20 Prospects list. He helped the Giants win their fourth league title in six years before finishing in the high Class A California League playoffs.

Even without counting Posey, the AZL's pool of prospects was deeper than in past years, with advanced high school pitchers and flashy Latin American shortstops standing out the most.

1. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Royals
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 180 Age: 19 Drafted: Royals '08 (1s)
Yovani GallardoAfter signing Montgomery for $988,000 as a supplemental first-round pick, the Royals assigned him to the AZL to work with former Cy Young Award winner Mark Davis, one of two pitching coaches on their Rookie league club. Montgomery showed plenty of polish while being kept on tight pitch counts.

His mechanics and feel for pitching are advanced for a pitcher fresh out of high school. Not only can he challenge hitters with a low-90s fastball, but he also can throw them off balance with a deceptive changeup. He should add more velocity as he fills out his slender 6-foot-4, 180-pound frame.

His primary breaking ball was a palmball, but his coaches worked with him all summer on a curveball. The curve was still a work in progress at the end of the season, though he was becoming more consistent with it.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 9 2 1 0 1.69 43 31 12 8 2 12 34 .211
 
2. Jaff Decker, of, Padres
B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 190 Age: 18 Drafted: Padres '08 (1s)
Jaff DeckerDecker didn't have to go far to start his pro career after San Diego made him a sandwich pick. He starred at Sunrise Mountain High in Peoria, the same Phoenix suburb where the Padres' training complex is located.

He was a favorite of area scouts for his natural hitting ability and extremely patient approach at the plate, both of which played well in the AZL. He earned league MVP honors after finishing second in the batting race (.352) and first in runs (51), walks (55) and on-base percentage (.523). He excels at setting up pitchers, uses the entire field and projects to hit 20-25 homers annually once he learns which pitches he can drive on a consistent basis.

Decker bats with an open stance and had a tendency to dive in toward the plate early in the season. The Padres had him modify his stride so he'd instead move toward the pitcher. He may need to close his stance a little more in the future.
He played all three outfield positions and projects best as a right fielder with a strong arm. He has deceptive speed and good instincts on the bases. The biggest question about Decker relates to his body, as there's no projection remaining in his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
159 51 56 11 2 5 34 55 36 9 1 .352 .523 .541
 
3. Jharmidy DeJesus, 3b, Mariners
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Jharmidy DeJesusDeJesus made his pro debut in the AZL this summer after the Mariners signed him out of the Dominican Republic for $1 million in 2007. Originally a shortstop, he grew out of the position and moved to third base. He has enough bat for his new position, as he hit .339 with six homers before earning an early-August promotion to the Northwest League.

DeJesus should add more power as he grows stronger. His biggest needs at the plate are to improve his pitch recognition and his ability to drive balls to the opposite field. He's an average runner who probably will lose a step as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame.

His shortstop instincts transferred well to the hot corner, and he has solid arm strength. Mariners managers Andy Bottin also praised DeJesus' work ethic.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
127 27 43 12 1 6 18 14 25 4 1 .339 .471 .591
 
4. Ehire Adrianza, ss, Giants
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.:155 Age: 19 Signed: Venezuela '06
Despite missing more than half the season with a broken foot, Adrianza was one of the AZL's more impressive teenagers. Giants manager Dave Machemer says that the Venezuelan already is capable of playing defensively in the majors. He has terrific instincts, a quick first step, well above-average range and soft hands. Adrianza also impressed Omar Vizquel when Vizquel was in Arizona to rehab an injury.

How quickly Adrianza reaches the big leagues depends on his development at the plate. He's a switch-hitter with a smooth stroke and good bat speed. He's an extreme contact hitter who struck out just four times in 55 AZL at-bats, and Machemer believes Adrianza can develop enough power to hit 12-15 homers per year.

Adrianza works out with big leaguers in Venezuela during the offseason, so he's not intimidated by advanced competition. When the Giants' Fresno affiliate needed an extra infielder in early July, he headed south after playing in an AZL game that morning and collected three hits that evening in his Triple-A debut.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
55 13 14 4 0 1 6 7 4 0 1 .255 .349 .382
 
5. Manuarys Correa, rhp, Angels
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.:170 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Correa was one of the AZL's biggest surprises in his U.S. debut. The lanky Dominican led the league in strikeouts (67 in 58 innings) despite being promoted with two weeks left in the season. At 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, he has plenty of room to fill out and add more velocity to his 92-93 mph fastball.

Correa's most impressive attribute is his ability to control all of his pitches. In addition to his four-seam fastball, he also has a two-seamer with good run, a plus slider and a promising changeup. He has gone 15-2 in two pro seasons and has a ceiling of a No. 2 starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10 8 5 1 0 2.65 58 56 23 17 1 10 67 .249
 
6. Rashun Dixon, of, Athletics
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210 Age: 18 Drafted: Athletics '08 (10)
No AZL player improved during the season as much as Dixon. The raw five-tool talent had committed to play football at Mississippi State, where his brother Anthony is a star running back, but he changed his mind when the Athletics gave him a $600,000 bonus, the highest in the 10th round this year.

At first, Dixon looked lost in the outfield, not surprising because he was a catcher in high school. By the end of the season, however, he was making highlight-reel catches in center field. He still struggles on taking proper routes, but he makes up for his mistakes with well above-average speed. A's manager Ruben Escalera says that Dixon could become another Torii Hunter.

Strong and muscular at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, Dixon can hit tape-measure shots but still chases pitches out of the strike zone too often. He showed off his strengths and weaknesses by leading the AZL in triples (10) and strikeouts (68) while ranking third in home runs (eight). The A's have worked with him to set his feet and see the ball better.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
179 32 47 3 10 8 42 18 68 5 2 .263 .328 .525
 
7. Jake Odorizzi, rhp, Brewers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Drafted: Brewers '08 (1s)
The highest-drafted player (32nd overall) to qualify for this list, Odorizzi worked just 21 innings in the AZL as the Brewers worked their young pitchers in a tandem starting system. Like Montgomery, he has an advanced feel for pitching and a projectable body.

The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Odorizzi also starred as a shortstop and as a wide receiver in high school, and his athleticism enables him to throw with an easy, repeatable delivery. He hit 93 mph early in the summer before going through a dead-arm period that wasn't considered anything more than the result of adjusting to pro ball. His slider is his No. 2 pitch, and he also throws a curveball and has made progress with his changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11 4 1 2 0 3.48 21 18 10 8 2 9 19 .220
 
8. Tyler Sample, rhp, Royals
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-7 Wt.: 245 Age: 19 Drafted: Royals '08 (3)
Sample was wildly inconsistent, but when he was good, he was very good. In two consecutive August starts, he pitched nine shutout innings, striking out 12 while walking one. Once he gets his mechanics down, the way he pitched in those outings should become the rule rather than the exception.

He has less experience than most high school pitchers after missing time following Tommy John surgery as a sophomore. He pitches off a 90-94 mph fastball with good life, and he also has a knuckle-curve that can baffle hitters. At 6-foot-7 and 245 pounds, he had the most intimidating physical presence in the AZL, and he could gain even more muscle.

"He's got no baby fat," Royals manager Julio Bruno said. "When he's 20, he'll be like Roger Clemens (body-wise)."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10 8 0 5 0 9.00 27 30 36 27 0 29 39 .270
 
9. Jose Casilla, rhp, Giants
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
Casilla pitched only six games because he came down with forearm tightness at midseason. But those who saw him proclaimed him one of the most intriguing pitching prospects in the league. Built like his brother Santiago, who pitches for the A's, Jose already has a 90-95 mph fastball with late sink.

He may one day approach his brother's triple-digit velocity, and Jose already has better control. He pitches down in the strike zone from a low-three-quarters arm angle that gives righthanded hitters problems. Besides his fastball, he also has a hard, late-breaking slider and an improving changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 5 3 1 0 1.59 23 19 10 4 1 1 19 .216
 
10. Yowill Espinal, ss/2b, Royals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic '08
The Royals invested more heavily in the draft and the Latin American market this year than they have in the past. Espinal, who inked for $250,000 out of the Dominican Republic, was the best of their international signees.

Despite his less-than-impressive numbers at the plate, league managers loved Espinal. Brewers skipper Tony Diggs compared him to Alcides Escobar, who didn't hit much in the lower minors but has improved since reaching Double-A and has become one of the game's top shortstop prospects. Offensively, Espinal has good pop for a middle infielder and above-average speed, though developing better plate discipline will be critical. He walked just twice and struck out 42 times in 204 at-bats.

A solid defender, Espinal has at least average range, good hands and a plus arm. He played nearly every day for the Royals despite having just turned 17 in April. He showed improvement later in the summer, batting .289 in August after hitting .207 in the first two months.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
204 21 49 4 3 4 19 2 42 13 2 .240 .248 .348
 
11. Joe Wieland, rhp, Rangers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Drafted: Rangers '08 (4)
Drafted in the fourth round and signed for $263,000, Wieland may prove to be a bargain for the Rangers. His 1.44 ERA would have ranked third in the AZL if he hadn't barely missed qualifying, and his mound presence was as impressive as his performance.

"He walked into that clubhouse out of high school and acted like he belonged," Rangers manager Bill Richardson said. "His sides are just impressive. He takes it out to the game. For a high school draftee, you don't see that every day."

Wieland's forte is pounding the bottom of the strike zone with three pitches: a 91-93 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup. He gained 2 mph on his fastball after turning pro, and he still has room to add more upper-body strength on his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13 7 5 1 0 1.44 44 32 8 7 2 8 41 .200
 
12. Tyler Chatwood, rhp, Angels
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Drafted: Angels '08 (2)
Chatwood was the Angels' first pick in the 2008 draft, going near the end of the second round. He was a two-way player in high school in southern California, and though he's just 5-foot-11, teams preferred him on the mound. He regularly touched 94 mph with his fastball in the AZL and also featured a knee-buckling curveball

Chatwood was inconsistent in his pro debut, looking unhittable at times and struggling with his command at others. Angels pitching coach Trevor Wilson believed Chatwood's difficulties resulted from giving hitters too much credit instead of challenging them with his best pitches. He also needs to improve his changeup.

"He's one of the harder-throwing smaller guys I've seen in my career," said Wilson, who compared Chatwood to one of his former teammates, Jeff Brantley. "When he gets relaxed, we're going to see a more polished pitcher."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11 11 1 2 0 3.08 38 25 15 13 1 36 48 .195
 
13. Jose Bonilla, c, Royals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 188 Age: 20 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
Bonilla's offensive numbers stood out, as he hit .357/.405/.625 with five homers in 34 games with a compact swing and a willingness to use the entire field. But he drew more raves from AZL managers for his defense.

His arm grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he enhances it with a quick release. He topped the league by throwing out 43 percent of basestealers. He also blocks balls well, and Davis credited him for the way he handled the pitching staff and for making a lot of defensive progress.

"He's receiving the baseball a lot better than he was last year," Davis said. "From one year to the next, he's made huge strides."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
112 20 40 9 3 5 24 5 22 5 0 .357 .405 .625
 
14. Starlin Castro, ss/2b, Cubs
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 160 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
The AZL Cubs had two intriguing 18-year-old Dominican infielders, Castro and Junior Lake, who rotated between shortstop, second base and third base. Opinions are split as to which is the better prospect, with Castro getting the nod here after improving significantly in the second half.

Castro has a good approach at the plate and handles curveballs better than most young players. He flashes some power and will have more once he adds to the 160 pounds he carries on his 6-foot-1 frame. With plus range and a solid, accurate arm, he can handle any position in the infield.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
196 33 61 11 5 3 22 14 33 6 5 .311 .364 .464
 
15. Seth Lintz, rhp, Brewers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 170 Age: 18 Drafted: Brewers '08 (2)
As with Odorizzi, the Brewers were cautious with Lintz, limiting him to 18 innings after signing him for $900,000 as a second-round pick. His command and 6.87 ERA weren't impressive, but he hinted at his quality raw stuff by striking out 26 batters.

Lintz's primary strikeout pitch was his 90-93 mph fastball, and he could add more velocity as he gets stronger. He also has a true 12-to-6 curveball with good bite. He needs to throw more strikes and more quality strikes, and he's also working on developing a changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9 6 0 3 0 6.87 18 22 20 14 3 16 26 .289
 
16. Junior Lake, ss, Cubs
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
For now, Lake is a solid defensive shortstop with a strong arm. The question is whether he'll be able to remain at the position long-term as he fills out his lanky 6-foot-3 frame. He also played some third base this summer and looked comfortable there.

Lake should have enough bat for the hot corner if that's his eventual position. He has the potential for plus power and the ball comes off his bat really well. He feasts on fastballs but needs to improve against offspeed pitches and stop chasing balls out of the strike zone.

Though his speed is no better than average, Lake has good instincts on the bases. He stole 12 bases in 14 attempts and legged out six triples.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
168 24 48 4 6 2 23 13 42 12 2 .286 .335 .417
 
17. Kyle Nicholson, rhp, Giants
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 205 Age: 23 Drafted: Giants '07 (7)
It's extremely difficult to rank a 23-year-old college pitcher among the top prospects in a complex-based league, but it's even harder to ignore Nicholson based on his performance this year and the potential to move quickly through the Giants system. A seventh-round draft pick in 2007, he needed Tommy John surgery shortly after turning pro. He returned 10 1/2 months later to pitch the entire season in the AZL, tossing a complete-game shutout in his final outing to clinch a playoff berth.

Nicholson's numbers were outstanding as he led the league in ERA (1.15) and K-BB ratio (54-3) while ranking second in wins (six). Despite his dominance, he stayed in the AZL all summer to keep him from overextending himself so soon after surgery.

He has three quality pitches, an 87-89 mph fastball with exceptional late sink, a changeup and a curveball. He could regain velocity as he gets further removed from his surgery. He spots his pitches very well and changes speeds effectively.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11 11 6 1 0 1.15 62.2 34 10 8 1 3 54 .159
 
18. Clark Murphy, 1b, Rangers
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age:18 Drafted: Rangers '08 (5)
Murphy didn't appear in the AZL until late July, as it took him seven weeks to sign with the Rangers for $200,000 as a fifth-round pick. He tried to pull everything when he first started with the Rangers, but the coaching staff worked on helping adopt more of an all-fields approach. The results paid off as he finished on a 20-for-44 (.455) tear.

"He's got the mentality to get away from his power and go gap to gap to be a better hitter," Richardson said. "He's a sponge. He'll take it all in."

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Murphy has a strong build and plays a decent first base. The Rangers are expected to try him in the outfield during instructional league, though it's questionable whether he has the speed to play there.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
95 13 34 7 3 1 21 12 19 1 0 .358 .435 .526
 
19. Terrell Alliman, of/3b, Angels
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Age: 20 Drafted: Angels '07 (43)
Alliman was an obscure 43rd-round choice out of Waterloo, Ontario who signed too late in 2007 to play last year. He opened eyes in his pro debut by batting .339/.383/.506 while splitting time between his natural outfield position and third base.

The 6-foot-3, 185-pound Alliman has room to fill out and should add power as he gets bigger. He has a quick bat but needs to tone down his tendency to try to uppercut and pull too many pitches. The Angels worked with Alliman on keeping his hands inside the ball.

"If he figures that out," Angels manager Tyrone Boykin said, "he's going to be dangerous."

Alliman has the chance to become a decent third baseman, but his future is more likely in the outfield. He has a solid arm and good speed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
180 36 61 17 5 1 39 12 44 8 3 .339 .383 .506
 
20. Wendell Fairley, of, Giants
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 20 Drafted: Giants '07 (1)
Fairley was the biggest enigma in the AZL. A first-round pick in 2007 who signed at the Aug. 15 deadline, he turned 20 before making his pro debut. To put that in perspective, he started his career in the same league and at the same time as fellow Mississippian Rashun Dixon—and Dixon is nearly 2 1/2 years younger.

Fairley is still very much a raw talent who's trying to turn his natural ability into baseball skills. He has good bat speed and showed good patience, drawing 26 walks in 52 games. He also was inconsistent at the plate, though he improved after the coaching staff adjusted his hands and shortened his swing.

An athletic 6-foot-2, 190-pounder, Fairley has plenty of speed and at times made spectacular plays in center field. At others, he struggled with his jumps and routes. His arm is below average.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
193 39 50 5 2 2 17 26 37 7 3 .259 .388 .337