League Top 20 Prospects

Northwest League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Rangers dominated the NWL list




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Felix Hernandez, rhp, Everett (Mariners)
2. *Conor Jackson, of, Yakima (Diamondbacks)
3. *Nate Schierholtz, of, Salem-Keizer (Giants)
4. *Wes Littleton, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
5. Todd Jennings, c, Salem-Keizer (Giants)
6. Jeremy Cleveland, of, Spokane (Rangers)
7. *Sean Marshall, lhp, Boise (Cubs)
8. Sean Thompson, lhp, Eugene (Padres)
9. *Billy Petrick, rhp, Boise (Cubs)
10. Chin-Lung Lo, rhp, Tri-City (Rockies)
*Has played in major leagues.
The Spokane Indians dominated the short-season Northwest League on the field and on our Top 20 Prospects list. The Rangers affiliate's 51-20 record was eight games better than any other club in the league, and the Indians led the circuit in runs (436) and ERA (3.46). After dropping the first game of the championship series, they rallied with three straight wins to deny Salem-Keizer a third straight title.

Spokane boasted four of the NWL's best pitching prospects in Martin Perez, Neil Ramirez, Wilfredo Boscan and Tim Murphy. Its best position prospect was third baseman Matt West, who began to put behind him a 50-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Eugene outfielder Daniel Robertson and Salem-Keizer righthander Mike Loree had incredible seasons but didn't profile as top prospects. Robertson set a league record with 114 hits, topped the NWL in hitting (.377) and on-base percentage (.443), and earned MVP honors. A 33rd-round pick out of Oregon State in June, the 5-foot-8, 175-pounder has a high-energy approach, good speed and terrific outfield instincts. Loree flirted with perfection in three straight starts, retiring 60 of 61 batters, and finished with a NWL-best 2.44 ERA. A 50th-round pick in 2007 from Villanova, he used exceptional fastball command to breeze through the league.

1. Josh Vitters, 3b, Boise (Cubs)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 19 Drafted: Cubs '07 (1)
Josh Vitters
The third overall pick in 2007, Vitters was the highest-profile player in the NWL this season. He started 2008 in low Class A but developed tendinitis in his left hand and was assigned to Boise after recuperating in extended spring training. Vitters tied a NWL record with a 26-game hitting streak and led the league with 25 doubles.

Vitters has an easy swing and plenty of bat speed, which produce above-average power. Unlike many young hitters, he hangs in well on breaking balls. He showed improvement at third base and should become an average defender with a strong arm.

"He's a good-looking player," Salem-Keizer manager Tom Trebelhorn said. "He's a prototypical third baseman. At 21, you'll have a real man. He has good bat accuracy and doesn't panic."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
259 38 85 25 2 5 37 13 45 1 3 .328 .365 .498
 
2. Martin Perez, lhp, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 165 Age: 17 Signed: Venezuela '07
It took Perez 14 tries to earn his first pro victory this summer, but his season couldn't be considered anything but a success. After all, he was the youngest player in the Northwest League at age 17 and was making his pro debut after signing out of Venezuela in 2007. He finished seventh in ERA (3.65) and allowed just three homers in 62 innings.

Small and wiry at 6 feet and 165 pounds, Perez nevertheless has two plus pitches. He consistently works from 89-92 and touches 94 mph with his fastball, and his power breaking ball may be the best curve in a Rangers system loaded with arms. Perez shows some feel for a changeup, a third potential plus pitch, but it's still a work in progress. He maintains good arm speed and gets good action on it, though it can be too firm.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15
1 2 0 3.65 62 66 32 25 3
28 53 .274
 
3. Christian Friedrich, lhp, Tri-City (Rockies)
B-T: R-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Rockies '08 (1)
Undrafted out of high school, Friedrich took off in three years at Eastern Kentucky and went 25th overall in the 2008 draft. He struggled in his first two pro starts as he battled the command of his fastball, but recovered to allow just six earned runs over his final six NWL starts to earn a promotion to low Class A.

Best known for his overhand 12-to-6 curveball, Friedrich actually has two above-average breaking pitches. He also has a tight slider that can creep into the low 80s. He sets up his breaking stuff with a fastball that rests at 89-90 mph and tops out at 92, and his deceptive delivery makes his heater appear quicker.

Friedrich's biggest needs are to keep his fastball down in the zone and to trust his changeup more often.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8
8
2 1 0 3.25
36 31 16 13 2 8 50 .228
 
4. Neil Ramirez, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Drafted: Rangers '07 (1s)
As with Perez, the Rangers challenged Ramirez by sending him to the NWL to make his pro debut as a teenager. He had little trouble overpowering older hitters, holding them to a .166 average while striking out 52 in 44 innings.

Ramirez attacks hitters with a 90-94 mph fastball that touches 96 and has decent life to the arm side. He has shown the ability to change speeds with his fastball, keeping hitters off balance. They can't gear up for it because his curveball is a hard, late-breaking hammer, a true plus pitch.

At 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Ramirez also has projection remaining. He's working on a changeup that showed improvement throughout the summer. He has to improve his command and control, but his pure stuff is exciting.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
13
1 2 0 2.66 44 25 15 13 5
29 52 .166
 
5. Conor Gillaspie, 3b, Salem-Keizer (Giants)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Giants '08 (1s)
Gillaspie became the first player from the 2008 draft to reach the majors, setting a Giants record for quickest rise from the draft to the big leagues. He got a September callup, not as a reward for his performance but rather because San Francisco has a huge hole at third base and wanted to see if he could fill it next year.

He wasn't at his best in the NWL, perhaps because of the rust he accumulated while negotiating for two months, but Gillaspie is a quality hitter. He consistently put the barrel on the ball and should hit for average with gap power. His speed and athleticism play up thanks to his instincts and aggressiveness.

His so-so range and occasional erratic play at third base have led some scouts to question whether he can stay there. However, Gillaspie has soft hands and solid arm strength, and he has the necessary work ethic to get better defensively.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
71
4 19 4 0
0 8
9 13 2 0 .268 .350 .324
 
6. Wilfredo Boscan, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 160 Age: 18 Signed: Venezuela '06
Another teenage pitching standout for Spokane, Boscan led the NWL in wins (nine) while finishing fourth in ERA (3.12) and strikeouts (70 in 69 innings). For an 18-year-old, he showed uncanny fastball command and mound presence. He was fearless, working the inside corner and throwing any pitch in any count.

Boscan's fastball ranges from 88-92 mph and it tends to sink down and away from righthanders. He changes speeds on his over-the-top curveball, and he gets good late movement on his plus changeup. His 70-11 K-BB ratio ranked second in the league to Loree, who's three years older.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
12
9 1 0 3.12
69 66 30 24 4
11 70 .251
 
7. James Darnell, 3b, Eugene (Padres)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 21 Drafted: Padres '08 (2)
A month into the season, Eugene was in last place in its division. Darnell joined the Emeralds after signing near the mid-August deadline and nearly pushed them into the playoffs by batting .373/.462/.582 in the final 16 games.

Darnell is a better athlete than most third basemen and has borderline five-tool ability. Though he has plus power to all fields, he gets too pull-conscious, which affects his consistency at the plate. He also tends to chase offspeed pitches out of the zone, though that wasn't much of an issue during his pro debut.

An above-average runner with a strong arm, Darnell has the raw tools to play a solid third base. His hands aren't the softest, but he made just one error in 36 chances in the NWL. He has the athleticism to play right field if he can't handle the hot corner.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
67
9 25 6 1 2 15 11 12 1 1 .373 .462 .584
 
8. Tim Murphy, lhp, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Rangers '08 (3)
A two-way prospect who focused solely on playing the outfield as a UCLA freshman, Murphy has established that his future definitely is on the mound. He drew some Andy Pettitte comparisons in the NWL, where he was one of the best relievers around. His competitive nature makes him a perfect fit for a late-inning relief role, though he also may have enough stuff to serve as a starter.

Murphy has a 90-92 mph fastball, but his best pitch is a sharp, over-the-top curveball. If he can improve his changeup and his control (he gave up nearly as many walks as hits), he could move into the rotation. His arm action is long in back, which affects his release point and his ability to locate his pitches.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
1
3 1 2 3.03
33 17 12 11 3
15 40 .152
 
9. Jharminy DeJesus, 3b, Everett (Mariners)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
DeJesus signed for $1 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2007. Making his pro debut this summer, he lit up the Rookie-level Arizona League—ranking No. 3 on that Top 20—before bringing his raw power to the NWL.

He hit 10 homers between the two leagues in 2008 and should become even more dangerous as he adds more muscle. There's some disagreement on how much he'll hit for average. He's too pull-conscious and needs better pitch recognition, but he also held his own at age 18 against older competition.

A former shortstop, DeJesus had one of the strongest infield arms in the NWL. He's still working on his footwork at the hot corner. He has average speed and likely will slow down a little as he gets bigger.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
90 12 24 4 0 4 15 6 28 0 1 .267 .316 .444
 
10. Charlie Blackmon, of, Tri-City (Rockies)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 22 Drafted: Rockies '08 (2)
Blackmon has been a full-time hitter for little more than a year, spending two years at Young Harris (Ga.) Junior College as a pitcher and then redshirting at Georgia Tech in 2007 after developing elbow tendinitis. After starring in the Texas Collegiate League as an outfielder that summer, he got a chance to hit with the Yellow Jackets and led them with a .396 average last spring, playing his way into the second round of the draft.

Blackmon has quality tools that are even more impressive considering his lack of experience. He makes consistent contact and has some power, possibly enough to hit 20 homers on an annual basis. He uses his plus speed to his advantage, bunting for base hits and getting great jumps on balls. He also has average arm strength that plays up because he gets to balls quickly.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
290 42 98 21 5 2 33 16 37 13 7 .338 .390 .466
 
11. Blake Tekotte, of, Eugene (Padres)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 166 Age: 21 Drafted: Padres '08 (3)
A third-round pick in June, Tekotte immediately became the best center-field prospect in the Padres organization. He also could be San Diego's leadoff man of the future as well, thanks to his ability to work counts and get on base, where he utilizes his plus speed to steal bases. He has a little pop, too, though he needs to focus on making more contact.

Tekotte's speed plays well on defense too, as he does a good job of covering the gaps. His arm is below average but playable for center field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
193
43 55 15 0 6 29 27 45
7 4 .285 .379 .456
 
12. Ryan Flaherty, ss, Boise (Cubs)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '08 (1s)
The cleanup hitter behind No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez in Vanderbilt's lineup, Flaherty has more offensive potential than most middle infielders. His smooth lefty swing is conducive to hitting for average, and he has increased his power production as he has filled out his 6-foot-3 frame. He can get a little pull-conscious at times.

Flaherty played shortstop in college and the Cubs gave him a chance to stay there, but he committed 16 errors in 52 pro games there. He's a good athlete with a strong arm, but his range already was in question. He'll probably wind up at second base, his position with Team USA last summer.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
219 39 65 19 2 8 26 24 51 4 2 .297 .369 .511
 
13. Dennis Raben, of, Everett (Mariners)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 20 Drafted: Mariners '08 (2)
Raben's prodigious power had a chance to carry him into the first round of the 2008 draft, but back problems hampered him last spring and helped drop him into the second round. He looked like a premier prospect when he batted .324/.471/.632 in his first month in the NWL, though he missed most of August with a nagging finger injury.

Raben focuses on power at the plate, with a big swing and an aggressive approach that translate into some tape-measure blasts when he connects. He may never hit for a huge average, but he does draw walks. A below-average runner, he has good outfield instincts and enough range for right field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
91 24 25 11 0 5 14 19 24 1 1
.275 .411 .560
 
14. Simon Castro, rhp, Eugene (Padres)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 203 Age: 21 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
Castro has struggled with his command in three seasons as a pro, but he started to make progress in the NWL and his upside is significant. His 6-foot-5, 210-pound frame is similar to that of Jose Contreras, and he can be an intimidating presence on the mound. He goes after hitters with a 92-95 mph that can touch 96-97 and could pick up more velocity as he continues to fill out.

His second-best pitch is an 84-85 mph changeup with glove-side life, but he often throws it too hard. His slider has the potential to become a solid-average offering, though he tends to throw it in the dirt.

His delivery is fine, but he needs to work on repeating it in order, which could be a challenge with his size and modest athleticism. The Padres are trying to get him to keep closed in his delivery, because when he flies open, his arm drags and he loses his arm slot, precluding him from throwing consistent strikes.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15
2 3 0 3.99
65 54
35 29 3
29 64 .223
 
15. Tyson Gillies, of, Everett (Mariners)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 19 Drafted: Mariners '06 D/F (25)
Clearly overmatched in a brief stint in the high Class A California League, Gillies looked much more comfortable in the NWL. His raw speed rates an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale—he can go from home to first in 3.8 seconds—and he'll be a huge basestealing threat once he improves his technique. He also covers a lot of ground in center field. 

"Our corner guys love him," Everett hitting coach Henry Cotto said. "They don't have to go in the gaps for balls. He has one speed—fast."

At the plate, Gillies has a line-drive stroke, uses the whole field and shows a knack for drawing walks. He needs to make more contact so he can use his speed, and while he has some deceptive strength, he's not going to be a power hitter. He's hearing impaired, with 30 percent hearing in one ear and 60 percent in the other, though it rarely creates issues on the bases or in the outfield.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
192 36 60 6 5 2 22 35 46 7 3 .313 .439 .427
 
16. Matt West, 3b, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Rangers '07 (2)
After signing as a second-rounder in 2007, West made headlines two months into his pro career when he drew a 50-game suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. When he returned this summer, he showed a promising bat. He has good bat speed, the ability to drive the ball to all fields and penchant for hammering fastballs.

West still is figuring out how to translate his raw power in batting practice into performance in games, and he has a ways to go in solving breaking balls. Though he played shortstop in high school, his size and range profile better at third base. He has a solid arm and average speed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
240
48 62 12 0 4 30 26 68
1 0 .258 .367 .358
 
17. Jason Christian, ss, Vancouver (Athletics)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 170 Age: 21 Drafted: Athletics '08 (5)
Though he hit .291/.404/.432, Christian's calling card was far and away his defense. He had the best range among NWL shortstops and a slightly above-average arm. He still needs to fine-turn his footwork, which led to 18 errors, but even the miscues couldn't detract from his ability at shortstop.

"He's a real good looking defender," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "He can go from line to line and is very consistent. The glove is the biggest thing. He saves a lot of pitching staffs."

With a loose swing and a quick bat, Christian should provide enough offense to find a spot in a big league lineup. He has some power potential and 55 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
213
27
62 16 1 4 24
39 65 13 1 .291 .404 .432
 
18. Dusty Coleman, ss, Vancouver (Athletics)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: Athletics '08 (28)
The Athletics landed two of the better all-around shortstops in Christian and Coleman, who headed to the Cape Cod League after the draft and earned himself a $675,000 bonus with an all-star summer. Their tools are comparable, with Coleman projecting to be slightly better with the bat and not quite as good with the glove.

Coleman has more power potential and can drive balls to the opposite field, though he needs to tone down his swing and his aggressiveness. He's a solid-average runner with good instincts on the bases. Defensively, his arm and range are solid.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
72
13 23 8 1 0 6 4
26 1 0 .319 .355 .458
 
19. Cole Figueroa, 2b/ss, Eugene (Padres)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Padres '08 (6)
Like Coleman, Figueroa was a draft-eligible sophomore who parlayed a strong summer in the Cape League into a sizeable bonus, signing with the Padres for $400,000. Figueroa's best attributes are his hustle and baseball savvy, which come from his father Bien, who played in the majors and managed Double-A Connecticut in the Giants system this year. Cole is a gamer who plays well above his tools.

Figueroa repeats a sound swing, exercises good strike-zone judgment and has the pop to hit 10-15 homers per season. A shortstop in college at Florida, he played both middle-infield positions for Eugene but profiles better at second base, because he's a below-average runner and lacks range. He does have quick feet and a strong arm, assets on the double-play pivot.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
114 23 33 6 0 5 16 24
16 7 2 .289 .410 .474
 
20. Collin Cowgill, of, Yakima (Diamondbacks)
B-T: R-L Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 195 Age: 22. Drafted: Diamondbacks '08 (5)
Cowgill led the NWL with 11 homers despite playing in just 20 games before moving up to low Class A, where he batted just .249/.346/.358. He doesn't look the part of a power hitter at 5-foot-9, but he has a keen eye, plenty of bat speed and strength in his 195-pound frame. He may be more of a mistake hitter than a slugger, but he has an intriguing all-around package of skills and could develop along the lines of Reed Johnson.

Though he's not quick out of the box, Cowgill is a slightly above-average runner once he gets going and has the instincts to steal an occasional base. He also covers substantial ground in center field and has a good arm for the position.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
79 21 24 3 1 11 28 12 17 5 0 .304 .415 .785