League Top 20 Prospects

New York-Penn League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Catchers are the story in the NYP this year




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Nick Markakis, of, Aberdeen (Orioles)
2. *Aaron Hill, ss, Auburn (Blue Jays)
3. Tony Giarratano, ss, Oneonta (Tigers)
4. *Kody Kirkland, 3b, Oneonta (Tigers)
5. *Josh Banks, rhp, Auburn (Blue Jays)
6. *David Murphy, of, Lowell (Red Sox)
7. Kurt Isenberg, lhp, Auburn (Blue Jays)
8. *Nyjer Morgan, of, Williamsport (Pirates)
9. Clint Everts, rhp, Vermont (Expos)
10. *Tom Gorzelanny, lhp, Williamsport (Pirates)
*Has played in major leagues.
Talent was up across the short-season New York-Penn League in 2008. Rarely has the league seen the quality of catching it featured this summer. Tri-City's Jason Castro, a first-round pick in June, topped this list, while Vermont's Derek Norris and Williamsport's Travis D'Arnaud, high school draftees in 2007, ranked in the top five. Jamestown's Miguel Fermin slugged a league-leading 17 homers and showed a strong arm but did not crack the Top 20 as a 23-year-old.

A bevy of power arms populated the league, highlighted by Batavia's breakout prospect Adam Reifer and second-year prep products Nick Barnese (Hudson Valley) and P.J. Dean (Vermont). Then there were the oddballs: righthanders Jenrry Mejia (Brooklyn) and Danny Farquhar (Auburn) were two of the more unique prospects to pass through the NY-P in recent years.

As usual, the NY-P showcased a number of high-profile college draftees making their pro debuts, and some performed better than others. While Castro stood out and Auburn's David Cooper tore the league apart, fellow first-rounder Ike Davis of Brooklyn went homerless in 215 at-bats.

1. Jason Castro, c, Tri-City (Astros)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Astros '08 (1)
Jason Castro
Castro immediately made the Astros look good for drafting him 10th overall out of Stanford, shining in all facets of the game at the College World Series in June. He arrived at Tri-City in mid-July and impressed managers and scouts with his complete tool package, though his numbers were nothing special.

Castro stands out most for his mature offensive approach, quick hands and ability to square balls up consistently and easily. He showed slightly above-average raw power, though he tended to cut off his swing, causing him to roll over pitches and hit a lot of hard grounders to first base.

He has a well-proportioned catcher's frame and is a very good defender behind the plate, with advanced receiving skills and footwork and a plus arm, which helped him throw out 40 percent of basestealers in the NY-P. Castro easily profiles as a solid everyday catcher in the big leagues.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
138 10 38 9 0 2 12 22 32 0 2 .275 .383 .384
 
2. David Cooper, 1b, Auburn (Blue Jays)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Drafted: Blue Jays '08 (1)
A star at Cal State Fullerton and then Calif­ornia, Cooper was widely regarded as one of the best hitters in the 2008 draft. After the Blue Jays selected him 17th overall, he tore up the low minors, hitting .333/.399/.502 over three levels and finishing at high Class A Dunedin.

"I think he was born to hit," Auburn manager Dennis Holmberg said. "He's a sweet-swinging lefthanded hitter with the ability to barrel the ball up. He's got confidence, a terrific gameplan—just a professional kid."

Cooper has plus power to all fields. His bat will have to carry him because he's a poor defender at first base who's still adjusting to the speed of the pro game. Scouts have questioned his desire to improve defensively since college, and some project him as a DH down the line.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
85
10 29 10 1 2 21 10 16 0
1
.341 .411 .553
 
3. Adam Reifer, rhp, Batavia (Cardinals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 22 Drafted: Cardinals '07 (11)
An elbow injury limited Reifer to seven innings as a UC Riverside junior in 2007, so the Cardinals were able to nab him in the 11th round. After sitting out last summer, he finally made his pro debut in 2008, finishing second in the NY-P with 22 saves in 24 chances. He had the best arm and the best pure stuff in the league.

One scout rated Reifer's fastball as an 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale, and said when his slider is on, it was at least a 70. His fastball sits around 96-97 mph and tops out at 99, though it dips to 93-95 when he pitches on back-to-back days. He throws his slider at 90-93 mph with tilt. Every once in a while, he mixes in a good changeup at 86-87.

Reifer has an athletic 6-foot-2, 195-pound frame and a good delivery without a lot of effort. He attacks hitters with his fastball and has the stuff and mentality to close in the majors.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
32
0
2 1 0 2.97 30 18 14 10 2 15 41 .162
 
4. Derek Norris, c, Vermont (Nationals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 210 Age: 19 Drafted: Nationals '07 (4)
Norris hit just .203 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in his pro debut last year, but he turned a corner as a 19-year-old in the NY-P. His power potential and plus arm were his best tools in high school, and he earned raves for both this summer. He has average or better pull power and is learning to use the whole field. Norris has a terrific feel for the strike zone and led the league with 63 walks—22 more than any other hitter in the NY-P—and a .444 on-base percentage.

Norris' strong arm and quick release helped him throw out a league-best 47 percent of basestealers. He's very aggressive throwing to every base and calls a good game. He's also a surprisingly good receiver for someone who didn't start catching until his senior year of high school, but he still needs to work on blocking because he has a tendency to try to pick pitches in the dirt.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
227 42 63 12 0 10 38 63 56 11 9 .278
.444 .463
 
5. Travis d'Arnaud, c, Williamsport (Phillies)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 19 Drafted: Phillies '07 (1s)
D'Arnaud had an even better summer in the NY-P than his older brother Chase, who starred for three years at Pepperdine and played well at shortstop for State College this summer. Travis, who played the whole season as a 19-year-old a year after the Phillies drafted him in the supplemental first round out of high school, earned a callup to low Class A in mid-August and continued to perform against older competition.

D'Arnaud's premium defense was his calling card in high school, and he has gotten even better behind the plate. He's an excellent receiver who handles the pitching staff well, and he's improved his throwing times to second base by straightening his alignment, getting his body more involved rather than relying solely on arm strength. Offensively, d'Arnaud is a good contact hitter with gap power, and he projects to hit some homers as he matures. When he's locked in, he drives the ball to right-center. He also earns plaudits for his work ethic.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
175
21 54 13 1
4 25 18 29 1 2 .309 .371 .463
 
6. Lonnie Chisenhall, ss, Mahoning Valley (Indians)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Indians '08 (1)
Chisenhall carried great expectations into his college career at South Carolina, ranking as the nation's top freshman heading into 2007. But he was arrested and charged with larceny midway through the season, and the Gamecocks dismissed him from the team. He latched on in 2008 with Pitt (N.C.) Community College, where he established himself as one of the top hitters in the draft, in which he went 29th overall to the Indians.

Chisenhall has a smooth, fluid lefthanded swing and an advanced all-fields approach for a 19-year-old. He commands the zone and takes his share of walks, and he projects to hit for average power down the road. He does need to keep his hands inside the ball better to drive it with more consistency.

Chisenhall played shortstop for Mahoning Valley all summer and made good strides defensively, but the Indians intend to move him to third base in instructional league. His sure hands, strong arm and promising bat could make him a good fit at the hot corner.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
276 38 80 20 3 5 45 24 32
7 2 .290 .355 .438
 
7. Brad Holt, rhp, Brooklyn (Mets)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 194 Age: 21 Drafted: Mets '08 (1s)
Holt went in the supplemental first round of the 2008 draft thanks to his above-average fastball, loose arm and prototype pitcher's frame. He dominated the NY-P despite throwing 90 percent heaters, leading the league in ERA (1.87) and strikeouts (96 in 72 innings). He commands his fastball very well in the zone and throws it at 93-96 mph with excellent life.

Holt repeats his easy delivery and throws from a downhill angle. Occasionally he flashes an average or better slider around 80 mph, but most of the time he holds onto the slider too long when he throws it. Scouts are encouraged that he at least repeats the pitch, giving reason to believe he could throw an average slider with a couple of mechanical adjustments and some repetition.

Every once in a great while, Holt also throws a 79 mph changeup, but the pitch remains very raw. The Mets kept him in the rotation this summer, though some scouts think he profiles better as a reliever. If he switches to that role, he could advance quickly, thanks to his fastball and New York's willingness to expedite relievers to the majors.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
14
5 3 0 1.87 72
43 18 15 3
33 96 .171
 
8. Nick Barnese, rhp, Hudson Valley (Rays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170 Age: 19 Drafted: Rays '07 (3)
Barnese established a reputation as a strike-thrower in his pro debut last year in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, posting a dazzling 37-4 K-BB ratio in 36 innings. He continued to pound the zone but was even more dominating this summer as a 19-year-old in the NY-P, striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings.

Barnese's biggest strength is his excellent command of a low-90s fastball with outstanding life down in the zone. He has a loose arm action and a projectable 6-foot-2, 170-pound frame, suggesting he could add velocity as he matures. He has an aggressive, unflappable mound demeanor and isn't afraid to attack hitters on the inner half.

His breaking ball is also a quality offering, with good depth and late break. Barnese made progress with his changeup this summer, and it projects as a third average-or-better pitch.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
13
5 3 0 2.45 66 52 26 18 1
24 84 .212
 
9. Jenrry Mejia, rhp, Brooklyn (Mets)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 162 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Prospects like Mejia don't come along very often. He's listed at 6 feet and 162 pounds, but one scout said he looks closer to 190. Regardless, he throws much harder than most 6-footers, running his fastball up to 97-98 mph and sitting at 95-96 even when throwing out of the stretch in the middle innings.

"He's a power-armed guy. He's a freak," a National League scout said. "I'm not even saying he's any good right now, I'm just saying he's a freak. He could probably throw 100 mph. His delivery's fair, but it's hard to repeat. I see a hell of a lot of effort with Mejia. He's like the kid at the carnival trying to win the thing, just letting it all go. He's got no rhythm. He's trying to be more fluid, but it's not happening."

Mejia works around the plate but doesn't have a lot of command in the strike zone or feel for pitching. He does have a chance for three legitimate above-average pitches, however. He has good feel for his plus 88-90 mph changeup, which he uses like a two-seam fastball. His low-80s power curveball is inconsistent, ranging from a plus pitch to well below average. If Mejia can harness his stuff, his ceiling is high, but long-term durability is a major concern with his small physique and max-effort delivery.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11
11 3 2 0 3.49 57 42 22 22 4 23
52 .209
 
10. P.J. Dean, rhp, Vermont (Nationals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175 Age: 19 Drafted: Nationals '07 (7)
Like Barnese, Dean is a 19-year-old righthander who dominated older competition, allowing no more than one earned run in eight of his 10 starts. After he worked in the 88-91 mph range with his fastball last year in his pro debut, his velocity jumped in his first full season, sitting at 91-92 and touching 93-94. The life on his fastball makes it an above-average offering, and he could add more velocity as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 175-pound frame.

Dean complements his fastball with a pair of average secondary pitches: a hard curveball, and an improved changeup with good fade that he uses against both lefthanders and righthanders. He has a very good feel for pitching but needs to improve his fastball command, as he has a tendency to leave it up in the zone. He's a quality athlete who fields his position well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10
10
4 1 0 1.57 46 26 10 8 2 16 34 .169
 
11. Reese Havens, ss, Brooklyn (Mets)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195 Age: 21 Drafted: Mets '08 (1)
After two disappointing seasons at South Carolina, Havens adjusted his setup in the Cape Cod League last summer, moving his hands to an unusually low position in front of his belly. He responded with a fine summer and an All-America spring, batting .359 with 18 homers for the Gamecocks. He also improved defensively and convinced scouts he had adequate range, instincts and arm strength to stick at shortstop, so the Mets drafted him 22nd overall in June.

An elbow injury hampered the start of Havens' pro career, limiting him to DH for all but two games in the NY-P. He also missed time with a pulled groin, and his overall numbers were lackluster at best. But scouts caught a glimpse of his easy power to all fields in batting practice. He has a mature offensive approach and the ability to wear out the gaps.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
85 13 21 6 2 3 11 11 27
3 1 .247 .340 .471
 
12. Bryan Price, rhp, Lowell (Red Sox)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Red Sox '08 (1s)
Price always had an electric arm, but his poor command and lack of feel for pitching limited him to 17 innings over his first two seasons at Rice. He started to harness his arm last spring and showed enough to convince the Red Sox to draft him in the supplemental first round.

His best pitch is a heavy fastball that tops out at 95 mph and bores in on righthanders. He commanded it well this summer and complemented it with a hard slider has reached 87 mph and has a chance to be another plus offering. He tried to develop a changeup this summer, but it's still a work in progress.

Though Price racks up strikeouts, he still gives up more hits than someone with his stuff should, as NY-P opponents batted .281 against him. He seemed to wear down at the end of the summer, as his ERA climbed from 1.40 to 3.83 over his final four starts. With some more strength and polish, he could blossom into dominant late-inning reliever or maybe an upper-end starter. The Red Sox plan to leave him in the rotation, at least for now.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 9
1 3 0 3.83 40 47 22 17 2 10 43 .281
 
13. Brock Huntzinger, rhp, Lowell (Red Sox)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 20 Drafted: Red Sox '07 (3)
Huntzinger was the best of a group of intriguing teenage pitchers on the Lowell staff, and he had no problems facing more experienced hitters in his first extended taste of pro ball. He gave up a total of three runs in eight starts, earning a late-July callup to low Class A, where two rough outings skewed his ERA (7.09).

Huntzinger has an athletic, physical frame and good mechanics. He has decent command of a three-pitch repertoire, highlighted by a lively low-90s fastball that he spots to both sides of the plate. He also throws a solid-average slider and a very promising changeup with fade. As a Indiana high school product with relatively few innings under his belt, he has a fresh arm and a high ceiling.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8
8
5 0 0 0.64
42 25 3 3 1
7 32 .168
 
14. Danny Espinosa, ss, Vermont (Nationals)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Nationals '08 (3)
Espinosa signed for an over-slot $525,000 bonus as a third-round pick right before the Aug. 15 deadline, then took the NY-P by storm, going 9-for-11 over his first four games. He finished at .328, though he didn't deliver another extra-base hit after doubling in his first two games.

A switch-hitter, Espinosa hits for better average from the left side but shows more power potential from the right. Despite his lack of pop with Vermont, he's capable of stinging hard line drives to all fields and producing occasional home runs. He showed more strike-zone discipline with the Lake Monsters than he did at Long Beach State.

Espinosa's instincts and work ethic make his tools play up. He's just an average runner but is aggressive and intelligent on the basepaths. His first-step quickness and ability to read the ball off the bat translate to good range at shortstop, and he has a strong, accurate arm, though his actions are unorthodox.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
64 8
21 2 0 0 4 17 17
2 2 .328 .476 .359
 
15. Kyle Weiland, rhp, Lowell (Red Sox)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 195 Age: 21 Drafted: Red Sox '08 (3)
As with Price, the Red Sox plan to use Weiland as a starter for now after he pitched primarily in relief at college. He made five appearances out of the bullpen before moving into Lowell's rotation, where he went 3-2, 1.23 with a 52-6 K-BB ratio in 44 innings.

Weiland responded very well to the shift, pounding the strike zone with a boring 91-93 mph fastball and working very efficiently. His 80-82 mph breaking ball is slurvy but sharp and gives him a second potential plus offering, and he has feel for a changeup. His long legs and loose arm evoke Jered Weaver, and his delivery has minimal effort.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15 10
3 3 0 1.50 60 36 17 10 1
10 68 .166
 
16. Tim Fedroff, of, Mahoning Valley (Indians)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 220 Age: 21 Drafted: Indians '08 (7)
The undersized Fedroff flew under the radar at his New Jersey high school, but his bat garnered plenty of attention in his two seasons at North Carolina. A draft-eligible sophomore, he signed for $725,000 as a seventh-rounder a few days before the deadline.

Fedroff stood out for his compact lefthanded stroke in college, though his swing got too big at times this summer despite his .319 average. He packs plenty of strength into his 5-foot-11 frame and routinely peppers hard line drives from gap to gap, with occasional home run power.

He's an average to slightly above-average runner with a fringe-average arm, and he's a good, aggressive defender. Fedroff played some center field for Mahoning Valley but profiles better on a corner. A classic gamer, he plays above his tools.

"He's an intense kid. I appreciate his intensity," Scrappers manager Travis Fryman said. "He's a gritty player who gets the bat on the ball, fights hard at the plate and has command of the strike zone. He's short but real strong, a solid kid with a Giles brothers-type physique."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
91
12 29 6 1 0 12 10 20
1 1 .319 .382 .407
 
17. Ike Davis, 1b, Brooklyn (Mets)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 195 Age: 20 Drafted: Mets '08 (1)
The son of former all-star Ron Davis, Ike had a standout career as a two-way player at Arizona State, capped by a All-America junior year this spring. The Mets took him with the first of their two first-round picks (17th overall), but he was one of the bigger disappointments in the NY-P. Before getting relatively hot over the final 14 games of the season, Davis was hitting .227, and he finished the summer homerless in 215 at-bats.

"He was just a flop," an American League scout said. "I don't know if anyone will have anything good to say about him. He was moping around, just not giving it to you. He wasn't very aggressive at the plate, and when he strikes out he's always shocked when he's called out."

Multiple scouts questioned Davis' toughness and attitude, but all still acknowledged the tools are there. He shows easy lefthanded power in batting practice, particularly to right field, and he can lace doubles to the opposite field. He did a better job staying back on the ball late in the season.

His bat will carry him, but he also has a very strong arm that could allow him to slide to right field. He doesn't run well and isn't particularly agile, so he may remain at first base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
215
17
55 15 0 0 17
23 43 0 0 .256 .326 .326
 
18. Chase d'Arnaud, ss, State College (Pirates)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Drafted: Pirates '08 (4)
D'Arnaud played a sound third base during his first two years at Pepperdine before sliding over to shortstop last spring. When he had his best season with the bat and showed he could handle shortstop, he climbed into the fourth round of the draft. After struggling at State College in June and July and missing some time with a sprained foot, he hit .343 in August to finish.

D'Arnaud is a gap-to-gap, line-drive hitter who can punish fastballs, particularly to left field. He's still refining his offensive approach. He has average speed and is an excellent baserunner thanks to his aggressiveness and intelligence.

Defensively, d'Arnaud has a strong arm and sure hands that play well at either position on the left side of the infield. His range is average at shortstop and above average at third base. He brings energy and savvy to every facet of the game.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
168
26 48 10 5 1 21 11
30 14 2 .286 .333 .423
 
19. Cord Phelps, 2b, Mahoning Valley (Indians)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Indians '08 (3)
Through sheer hard work, Phelps made himself into a prospect over three years at Stanford. After hitting .351 with 13 homers in a breakout junior year last spring, he catapulted himself into the third round of the draft. Scouts and managers who saw him in the NY-P gave him plaudits for his all-around game.

The switch-hitting Phelps hit better than .300 against lefties and righties in his debut, though his swing is longer from the right side. He has a strong frame and a line-drive stroke, but he needs to cut down his load. An intelligent player who picks up new skills quickly, he's an outstanding situational hitter.

Phelps' instincts also play well on the basepaths, where he's a fringe-average runner. He has solid range, hands and arm strength at second base, where he's steady but not spectacular.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
141 24 44 10 2 2 21 15
22 4 3 .312 .376 .454
 
20. Danny Farquhar, rhp, Auburn (Blue Jays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 180 Age: 21. Drafted: Blue Jays '08 (10)
After dominating in a swing role for two years at Louisiana-Lafayette, Farquhar struggled as the staff ace and lost velocity in 2008. The Blue Jays took a shot on him with a 10th-round pick and signed him for $112,500, then watched him thrive back in the bullpen.

Farquhar stands out with his ability to throw hard from various arm angles. He can sit at 93 mph from a high three-quarters slot, then drop down below sidearm and throw an 89-90 mph fastball with incredible life.

"He's a filthy, filthy, filthy young man," an NL scout said. "He was scary good. I don't know what he's going to be, but any manager in the country would love to have that guy. I've never seen anyone throw that hard from that low. You can't throw hard from down there—it's impossible. But he's not just a raw arm speed guy. He's got pitchability."

Farquhar maintains fine command and throws a quality breaking ball from both slots. He throws an average power curveball from the higher angle, and drops down to serve up a sweeping 78-82 mph slider that eats up righthanders. He also uses an 84-mph changeup as a show pitch.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
0
2 2 0 2.39 26 20 10 7 1
6 27 .215