League Top 20 Prospects

Midwest League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Moustakas goes from lost to found in one season




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Prince Fielder, 1b ,Beloit (Brewers)
2. Blake Hawksworth, rhp, Peoria (Cardinals)
3. Justin Jones, lhp, Lansing (Cubs)
4. *Manny Parra, lhp, Beloit (Brewers)
5. *Joe Blanton, rhp, Kane County (Athletics)
6. *Joel Zumaya, rhp, West Michigan (Tigers)
7. *Andy Sisco, lhp, Lansing (Cubs)
8. *Felix Pie, of, Lansing (Cubs)
9. Tom Wilhelmsen, rhp, Beloit (Brewers)
10. *Brent Clevlen, of, West Michigan (Tigers)
*Has played in major leagues.
Early on, 2008 looked like it would be a year that Mike Moustakas and the Burlington Bees would rather forget. Moustakas opened the season at shortstop, which wasn't a good fit.

While his defensive struggles weren't a surprise, his offensive woes were a shock. A native Californian, he had trouble adapting to the cold climates in the low Class A Midwest League, hitting just .190 with one homer in April.

Both Moustakas and his team got untracked as the weather warmed up. He hit .321/.392/.557 after the all-star break and became the league's first teenaged home run champion since Steve Gibralter in 1992. Burlington posted the MWL's best record in the second half (43-26) and went 6-0 in the playoffs to win its first championship since 1999.

With Moustakas leading the way, hitters stood out in an average year for talent in the MWL. Four other first-round picks made the Top 10: South Bend righthander Jarrod Parker, Beloit outfielder Ben Revere, Quad Cities third baseman Brett Wallace and Wisconsin righty Phillippe Aumont.

1. Mike Moustakas, 3b/ss, Burlington (Royals)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 195 Age: 19 Drafted: Royals '07 (1)
Mike Moustakas
His 22 homers were the most by a MWL teenager since Prince Fielder hit 27 in 2003, and Moustakas has similar offensive upside. He has so much bat speed and strength that he can wait longer than most hitters to start his swing without compromising his power. He's at his best when he stays balanced at the plate and uses the whole field, though he tries to do too much and gets pull-happy at times.

"I saw Moustakas the first week in the season when he was the worst player in the league," one scout said. "Of course, it snowed for three of the five games. I came back later and he was a completely different guy. He's going to hit, no question, for both power and average."

Moustakas is a decent athlete with a cannon arm, but he never projected as more than an adequate shortstop and would have outgrown the position anyway. The consensus is that he can become a plus defender at third base, though one scout thought he would need quicker hands and feet there.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
496 77 135 25 3 22 71 43 86 8 4 .272 .337 .468
 
2. Neftali Feliz, rhp, Clinton (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 20 Signed: Dominican Republic '05
Feliz may have the most explosive fastball in the minors. He effortlessly sat at 93-94 mph and touched 99 mph with Clinton, and he reached triple digits after jumping to Double-A. Between the two stops, he led all minor league starters by averaging 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

"The ball jumps out of his hand," a scout with a National League club said, "and it jumps past bats also."

Feliz could rely on his fastball alone to overpower most MWL hitters, but he needs to use his secondary pitches more often. His hard breaking ball shows flashes of becoming a plus pitch and is at its best when he stays on top of it and achieves curveball action, but he tends to slow down his arm and drop his elbow, resulting in a flatter slurve. His changeup is promising, too, though he rarely unveils it.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
17
6 3 0 2.52 82 55 25 23 2
28 106 .193
 
3. Jarrod Parker, rhp, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 19 Drafted: Diamondbacks '07 (1)
The debate as to whether Feliz or Parker was the league's best pitching prospect was evenly split. Feliz's velocity, performance and size were more impressive, but Parker isn't lacking in those categories and he's more polished.

Parker sat at 92-93 mph and topped out at 97, using good extension out front to creates good downward plane despite being just 6 feet tall. His secondary stuff and command are better than Feliz's, and Parker has a chance to have a plus slider, plus curveball and average changeup. He generates quality stuff with athleticism, arm speed and very little effort.

"Like no other guy his size, he throws downhill and he does it easy," a National League scout said. "When you're 6 foot tall and you throw downhill with that velocity, that's special."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
24
12 5 0 3.44
118 113 56
45 8 33 117 .251
 
4. Ben Revere, of, Beloit (Twins)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 166 Age: 20 Drafted: Twins '07 (1)
Revere went from the surprise of the draft's first round in 2007 to the MWL's most decorated player in 2008. He led the minors in hitting (.379) and also topped the league in on-base percentage (.433) while winning its MVP and prospect-of-the-year awards. Managers rated him the top hitting prospect and the most exciting player in the circuit, as well as the owner of its best strike-zone discipline and best speed. The only negative was a minor knee injury that limited him at times and required arthroscopic surgery in August.

Though he's a mere 5-foot-9, 166 pounds, Revere isn't a slap hitter. He has excellent bat control, strokes line drives to all fields and could develop double-digit home run power.

"He never swings and misses—ever—and I've seen him hit the ball 400 feet in batting practice," an American League scout said. "He has some strength and squares every ball up."

Revere made progress as a basestealer, succeeding on 29 of his final 32 attempts after getting caught 10 times in the first two months. He could further utilize his speed by improving the frequency and quality of his bunting. He also can get better jumps in center field, where he projects as a solid defender, albeit with a below-average arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
340 51 129 17 10 1 43 27 31 44 13 .379 .433 .497
 
5. Brett Wallace, 3b, Quad Cities (Cardinals)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 245 Age: 22 Drafted: Cardinals '08 (1)
After winning consecutive Pacific-10 Conference triple crowns, Wallace went 13th overall in the 2008 draft and finished his first pro summer by batting .367/.456/.653 in Double-A. A pure hitter with a quick bat and a disciplined approach, he should contend for major league batting titles while being a doubles machine with at least 20-homer power. He consistently makes sweet-spot contact and has no trouble handling lefthanders.

No scout or manager who has seen Wallace doubts that he'll hit, but his defense is another matter. He's 6-foot-1 and 245 pounds, and he's not going to play first base with Albert Pujols entrenched in St. Louis. He moved to third base at Arizona State last spring and stayed there in his debut.

Wallace doesn't have much speed or first-step quickness, but he does own a strong, accurate arm and reliable hands. He'll make the routine play, and what he lacks in lateral range he'll make up for with his production at the plate.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
153
28 50 8 1
5 25
17 32 0 0 .327 .418 .490
 
6. Engel Beltre, of, Clinton (Rangers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 169 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
The MWL's youngest player at age 18, Beltre also had the highest ceiling among its position players. The league leader in runs (87) and hits (160), he's a fast-twitch athlete with all five tools.

Beltre has a very quick, sound swing that generates easy power, and he has the hand speed to turn around quality fastballs. He's more fluid than Revere in center field and on the basepaths, and he also owns a plus arm. The only question with Beltre is his aggressiveness—he walked just 15 times in 130 games—which may create problems at upper levels when pitchers will feed him fewer strikes.

 "He's a bad-ball hitter," a second American League scout said. "He was swinging at everything, but he hit it, smoking it everywhere. He's ready to hit every pitch."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
566 87 160 26 9 8 47
15 105 31 11 .283 .308 .403
 
7. Andrew Lambo, of, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 20 Drafted: Dodgers '07 (4)
With a smooth swing and advanced approach, Lambo was born to hit. He batted .343 in his pro debut last year, and provided the lone threat in a woeful Great Lakes lineup this summer and posted a .389 average in a short August stint as the Double-A Southern League's youngest player (20). He made consistent hard contact, hung in well against lefthanders and continued to develop his power, which should produce at least 20 homers per year in the majors.

"If you pitched him tough, he'd still find a way to get his one knock," Lansing manager Clayton McCullough said. "On the days when you made mistakes, he'd get two or three."

More of a first baseman in high school, Lambo has made a fine transition to left field. His speed is below average, but he has good instincts, goes back on balls well and owns a solid arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
472
58 136 33 2 15 79 41 110 5 2 .288 .346 .462
 
8. Philippe Aumont, rhp, Wisconsin (Mariners)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-7 Wt.: 220 Age: 19 Drafted: Mariners '07 (1)
Wisconsin may have finished with the worst record in the Western Division (56-80), but no MWL team could match the Timber Rattlers' trio of teenage power arms: Aumont, Juan Carlos Ramirez and Michael Pineda. Aumont made the biggest splash despite being limited to 10 innings in the second half as a precaution after he came down with a sore elbow.

Aumont already throws 90-95 mph, and the projection remaining in his 6-foot-7 frame leads scouts to believe he'll push his velocity into the upper 90s. The hard sink on his fastball and his crossfire delivery make it even tougher on hitters. He flashes a plus curveball, though his arm angle makes it tough to stay on top of the pitch consistently.

His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, but his command is already solid, no small feat considering his youth, size and limited pitching background (his Quebec high school didn't have a baseball team). He also has a commanding mound presence.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
8
4 4 2 2.75
56 46 22 17 4
19 50 .224
 
9. Derek Holland, lhp, Clinton (Rangers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: Rangers '06 D/F (25)
A 25th-rounder signed as a draft-and-follow in May 2007, Holland made one of the biggest breakthroughs in the minors this year. He didn't arrive in Clinton with the notoriety of Feliz or first-round pick Blake Beavan, but he had a better mix of pitches than either. Holland's 7-0, 2.40 performance with the LumberKings was impressive enough, but he really opened eyes when he was worked at 94-98 mph deep into games in Double-A.

In the MWL, Holland's fastball typically ranged from 91-94 mph. Though his arm action and delivery aren't the smoothest, he achieved nice sink on his heater and commanded it to both sides of the plate. He also showed a slightly above-average changeup and a sweeping 78-80 mph slider.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
17
7 0 0 2.40 94 77 30 25 2
29 91 .228
 
10. Neftali Soto, 3b, Dayton (Reds)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180 Age: 19 Drafted: Reds '07 (3)
Soto, who broke Juan Gonzalez's home run records at Colegia Marista High School in Puerto Rico, ended his first full season batting third for Dayton in the MWL playoffs. He has considerable bat speed power, and he broke his bat on a sinker this summer and still drove the ball to the wall. He's also a polished hitter for a teenager, showing a quiet setup and good balance at the plate.

He's aggressive, so he doesn't draw a lot of walks, though Soto regularly puts the barrel of the bat on the ball. His well below-average speed doomed him as a shortstop, so he moved to third base this year. He has enough arm for the hot corner, but his range is just adequate.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
218 26
71 15 1 7 36 7 36
1 1 .326 .343 .500
 
11. Danny Duffy, lhp, Burlington (Royals)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Drafted: Royals '07 (3)
Duffy flew somewhat under the radar because he got hit hard in his first three starts after arriving from extended spring training in mid-May, and he missed Burlington's postseason run after getting shut down with mild shoulder discomfort in late August. In between, the 19-year-old was as dominant as any MWL starter, going 8-2, 1.16 with 84 strikeouts in 70 innings. He permitted only one earned run over his final six starts, which included the first six innings of a combined no-hitter against Peoria.

Duffy has very good stuff for a young lefthander. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph, his curveball has the makings of a plus pitch and his changeup showed improvement in his first full pro season. He has plenty of poise, showing no fear of challenging hitters.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
17
8 4 0 2.20
82 56 26 20 4
25 102 .193
 
12. Craig Italiano, rhp, Kane County (Athletics)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 209 Age: 22 Drafted: Athletics '05 (2)
Italiano finally conquered the MWL in his third try, after tearing the labrum in his shoulder in 2006 and having a line drive fracture his skull in 2007. He worked 5 2/3 innings and struck out nine in a combined seven-inning no-hitter against Burlington in his second start, and he earned a promotion to high Class A by late June.

Italiano's fastball sits in the low 90s and peaks at 96, but some observers think his curveball is an even better. It's a hard, tight curve with true 12-to-6 break, and managers rated it the best breaking ball in the league. He throws his changeup for strikes, though he ultimately may become a reliever if he can't smooth out his delivery and command.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
14
7 0 0 1.16
70 43 16 9 2
35 79 .177
 
13. Jordan Walden, rhp, Cedar Rapids (Angels)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220 Age: 20 Drafted: Angels '06 D/F (12)
The radar gun at Great Lakes' Dow Diamond may be a tad fast, as it reported Loons ace Clayton Kershaw throwing 101 mph last year and Walden doing the same in his final MWL start before a mid-June promotion. For most of the season, his fastball ranged from 90-95 mph, though one scout who saw him twice didn't see him hold that velocity and watched him pitch at 86-91 mph in the second outing.

Walden's velocity can be overpowering at times but he's still working on polishing the rest of his game. His slider has the potential to become a plus pitch, but it's inconsistent and often devolves into a softer, slurvier breaking ball. He'll have to improve his changeup, command and mechanics in order to remain a starter.

Scouts also liked the power arm of another Kernels righthander, Mason Tobin, who didn't log enough innings to qualify for this list. Before a shoulder strain ended his season in early June, Tobin pitched in the low 90s and touched 97, albeit with some effort in his delivery.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
18
18
4 6
0 2.18
107 80 32 26 3
32 91 .207
 
14. Justin Jackson, ss, Lansing (Blue Jays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 186 Age: 19 Drafted: Blue Jays '07 (1s)
Jackson came out of the same Roberson High (Asheville, N.C.) program that produced Cameron Maybin. While he didn't light up the league like Maybin did two years ago, Jackson showed a similar high ceiling for an up-the-middle player. He was one of the best athletes in the MWL and made a number of spectacular plays in the hole at shortstop.

Jackson's swing is a bit long and his approach can get inconsistent, but he has good pop for a middle infielder, the speed and instincts to steal 15-20 bases per year and the eye to draw more than his share of walks. His actions, hands, range and arm stick out at shortstop, though he can get lackadaisical in the field and sometimes holds on to the ball too long in order to show off his arm.

"He going to be a hell of a player," South Bend manager Mark Haley said. "He'll have enough bat and maybe some power down the road. He has good actions at shortstop and he has a cannon. He gets to a lot of balls."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
454 74 108 26 6 7 47 62 154 17 4
.238 .340 .368
 
15. Pete Kozma, ss, Quad Cities (Cardinals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170 Age: 20 Drafted: Cardinals '07 (1)
Kozma isn't as flashy as Jackson, but he went ahead of him in the 2007 draft (18th vs. 45th overall) and is more consistent. Employing a line-drive stroke with good bat control, Kozma should hit for average, and he also has the solid speed and instincts to steal an occasional base. He could become a No. 2 hitter if he develops some power, though scouts question whether he has the leverage in his swing or bat speed to do so. He's more of an opposite-field hitter who'll produce some doubles but few homers.

He's similarly steady at shortstop. Kozma has smooth actions, dependable if unspectacular range and reliable hands. His arm strength is average, though it plays up because he makes accurate throws and has a quick release.

"He really grows on you," the second AL scout said. "The first time I saw him, I thought, 'Geez, maybe they made a mistake.' But he's a young guy with an easy swing. The tools aren't outstanding, but they play so easy and so well that he plays above them. He doesn't make many mistakes."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
377 58 107 20 4 5 40
45 69 12 5 .284 .363 .398
 
16. Corey Brown, of, Kane County (Athletics)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210 Age: 22 Drafted: Athletics '07 (1s)
Brown's offensive game can be summed up with two statistics. In his first full pro season, he ranked 14th in the minors with 30 homers (including two months in the high Class A California League) and fourth with 168 strikeouts. He has a history of swinging and missing with wood bats, but if he can continue to provide power to all fields he'll be a regular in the major leagues.

A good athlete, Brown has average-to-plus speed and arm strength, though he needs to improve the accuracy of his throws. He exclusively played center field this year but may fit better defensively in right field at higher levels. One scout called him a faster version of Ryan Church, and as with Church, Brown doesn't hit lefties as well as righties.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
300
43 81 18 2 14 48 40 96
12 0 .270 .358 .483
 
17. Juan Ramirez, rhp, Wisconsin (Mariners)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175 Age: 20 Signed: Nicaraugua '05
Ramirez and teammate Michael Pineda had much in common. Both are products of the Mariners' productive Latin American program, pitched at age 19 this season and have big-time projection remaining. Though Pineda finished second in the league in ERA (1.95) and capped his year with a 14-strikeout one-hitter, scouts preferred Ramirez because they think he has a better chance to remain a starter.

He doesn't use much effort to throw a lively fastball that sits at 92-93 mph, and one scout projected that Ramirez might work at 96-98 if he became a full-time reliever. His slider and changeup have promise, though he doesn't stay on top of his secondary pitches on a consistent basis.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
25
22
6 9 0 4.14
124 112 68 57 9
38 113 .239
 
18. Danny Gutierrez, rhp, Burlington (Royals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Royals '05 D/F (33)
Gutierrez missed seven weeks early in the season after he came down with elbow tightness, but came back strong and was at his best in the playoffs. He struck out 11 over six scoreless innings in the opening game of the finals against Dayton.

Gutierrez' fastball sat at 88-92 mph in April and 90-95 toward the end of the season, and his heater also features good life. He also has a legitimate 12-to-6 curveball and some feel for a changeup. He throws strikes but sometimes elevates his pitches and gets hit.

"There are days when he goes out and looks like he can mow down the world," Burlington manager Brian Rupp said.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
18
4 4 0 2.70
90 83 38 27 7
25 104 .246
 
19. Kevin Ahrens, 3b, Lansing (Blue Jays)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 205 Age: 19 Drafted: Blue Jays '07 (1)
Scouts generally liked Ahrens' easy, fluid swing and his patient, all-fields approach from both sides of the plate, but at the same time they wondered why the 2007 first-rounder hit just .259 with 135 strikeouts in 122 games. One scout said it bothered him that there was no obvious flaw to fix, another thought he took too many first-pitch strikes and a third thought his bat speed was a tick too slow. He projects as a possible 20-homer threat, though he went deep just five times this year.

A shortstop in high school, Ahrens played some third base in his pro debut last summer and moved full-time to the hot corner in 2008. He showcased the MWL's best infield arm, soft hands and good range to both sides. He's a below-average runner but not a bad athlete.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
460 54 119 25 5 5 42 45
135 5 1 .259 .329 .367
 
20. Trevor Reckling, lhp, Cedar Rapids (Angels)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 205 Age: 19. Drafted: Angels '07 (8)
The MWL's youngest regular starting pitcher, Reckling didn't turn 19 until late May. He's a lefthander with a chance to have three solid-or-better pitches, and his curveball may have the most potential. It's a hard breaker that drops off the table, and it has so much movement that he's still working to control it on a consistent basis.

His changeup may be his most reliable pitch at this point, and Reckling can throw his 87-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate. He's a good athlete with a smooth delivery, which should allow him to make the necessary improvements to his control and command. He already does a good job of locating his pitches down in the zone, generating a lot of grounders.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
26
10 7 0 3.37
152 137 64 57 8
59 128 .246