League Top 20 Prospects

Carolina League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Wieters is a clear choice for Carolina League top spot




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Zack Greinke, rhp, Wilmington (Royals)
2. *Jeremy Reed, of, Winston-Salem (White Sox)
3. *Andy Marte, 3b, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
4. *John VanBenschoten, rhp, Lynchburg (Pirates)
5. Kris Honel, rhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox)
6. *Edwin Encarnacion, 3b, Potomac (Reds)
7. *John Maine, rhp, Frederick (Orioles)
8. *Dan Meyer, lhp, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
9. *Ian Oquendo (Snell), rhp, Lynchburg (Pirates)
10. *Bryan Bullington, rhp, Lynchburg (Pirates)
*Has played in major leagues.
There was no doubting the identity of the high Class A Carolina League top prospect in 2008. Catcher Matt Wieters broke into pro ball by hitting .345/.448/.576 in 69 games at Frederick, the first step in earning Minor League Player of the Year honors.

Wieters' presence atop the list is made even more notable by the absence of Lynchburg lefthander Daniel Moskos from the Top 20. The Pirates famously balked at Wieters' price tag and instead chose Moskos with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2007 draft. Moskos, whose fastball dipped into the high 80s and whose slider flattened out, went 6-7, 6.72 as a starter and gave up runs in each of his first five outings after moving to the bullpen in late July.

Catchers would have ranked 1-2 if Kinston's Carlos Santana hadn't fallen 12 plate appearances short of qualifying. Described by one evaluator as a mini-Wieters, Santana went to the Indians in the midseason Casey Blake deal. The best pitcher who missed out was Myrtle Beach righthander Tommy Hanson, who held opponents to a .116 average in seven starts.

1. Matt Wieters, c, Frederick (Orioles)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 230 Age: 22 Drafted: Orioles '07 (1)
Matt Wieters
Wieters' ability to hit for average and power at the plate, and his advanced defensive skills behind it, made him a unanimous choice for the No. 1 ranking among the scouts, player-development officials and managers surveyed for this list. He overwhelmed CL pitching for three months, then did the same in Double-A, putting himself in line to join the Orioles at some point in 2009.

Wieters showed the ability to handle the league's best fastballs from either side of the plate, hitting .391 with eight homers as a lefty and .327 with seven homers as a righty. He uses a quick, strong swing to hit with power to all fields. Unusually disciplined for a power hitter, Wieters worked counts to get in good hitting situations and walked (44) nearly as much as he struck out (47). "Leave it out over the plate and he'll hurt you," Wilmington manager Daryl Kennedy said.

Wieters is deft behind the plate for a 6-foot-5, 230-pounder. He has quick feet, soft hands and plus arm strength, a combination that helped him throw out 45 percent of basestealers.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
229
48 79 8
0 15 40 44 47 1 2 .345 .448 .576
 
2. Jake Arrieta, rhp, Frederick (Orioles)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 225 Age: 22 Drafted: Orioles '07 (5)
Embracing a few adjustments the Orioles made to his delivery in the Arizona Fall League last offseason, Arietta responded by emerging as CL's pitcher of the year and ERA leader (2.87). His above-average command of a fastball that reaches 95-96 mph sets up his four-pitch arsenal. He can locate the fastball to both sides of the plate and throws it with confidence, as he did when he struck out a rehabbing Josh Fields on three straight mid-90s fastballs.

Arrieta needs to refine his secondary pitches by using them more often, though one scout suggested he could have three plus offerings and become a No. 2 starter in the big leagues. He can keep hitters off-balance with a big-breaking curveball, and he also throws a changeup that has its moments.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
20
20
6 5
0
2.87
113 80 44 36 7
51 120 .199
 
3. Gorkys Hernandez, of, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 175 Age: 20 Signed: Venezuela '05
He didn't win a batting title like he did in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2006, or an MVP award like he did in  the low Class A Midwest League last year, but Hernandez's all-around skills rated second only to Wieters'. A five-tool athlete with above-average speed that translates equally well to the outfield and basepaths, Hernandez projects as a big league leadoff hitter with 40-steal potential.

Hernandez has gap-to-gap power that should result in an increase in doubles, but he likely won't develop into much of a home run hitter. His youth sometimes showed at the plate—he played the entire season at age 20—and he needs to be more consistent in his at-bats. The CL's best defensive outfielder, Hernandez takes outstanding routes to the ball and has a better arm than most center fielders.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
406 75 107 23
6 5 42 48 79 20 4 .264 .348 .387
 
4. Nick Weglarz, of, Kinston (Indians)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 245 Age: 20 Drafted: Indians '05 (3)
Weglarz is just tapping into his power potential, and the 6-foot-3, 245-pounder is still growing. He has figured out how to take advantage of his size, using his lower half in his swing to generate power that led to 35 extra-base hits in 375 at-bats during his first full season. He also delivered two homers for Team Canada in a loss to Cuba at the Olympics.

Weglarz is a bit inexperienced, but his strike-zone judgment already is advanced and bodes well for his chances to hit for average in addition to power. So does his habit of driving the ball to the opposite field. "He's the most exciting and explosive position player in that system," a scout said.

Weglarz's value will be even greater if he can remain in left field, particularly considering the logjam of first basemen ahead of him in the Indians system. He's an adequate defender at best right now, with fringy range and arm strength. He needs to improve his routes and angles to the ball.

 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
375 68
102 20
5 10 41 71 78 9 5 .272
.396 .432
 
5. Beau Mills, 1b, Kinston (Indians)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 220 Age: 22 Drafted: Indians '07 (1)
Mills batted just .222 in April, but he rebounded after adjusting his hands and simplifying his swing. He tied for the CL lead in homers (21) and ranked second in RBIs (90) while being named the circuit's MVP. He has above-average power to all fields and generally stays on top of offspeed pitches, and he showed better strike-zone discipline than he did in his pro debut in 2007.

Mills' career as a third baseman came to an end in April because he lacked the range for the position. Now firmly cemented at first base, he has the potential to become at least an average defender and the bat to profile there. He's a below-average runner though his arm strength has improved.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
482 78 141 34
3 21 90 54 105 2 3 .293 .373 .506
 
6. Aaron Poreda, lhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 240 Age: 21 Drafted: White Sox '07 (1)
Poreda stuck around Winston-Salem for just 12 starts but made a lasting impression. He pitched off a 94-96 mph fastball that induces groundballs because of its movement. "His stuff is nasty and will only get better," one talent evaluator said.

Poreda also began to show a feel for his changeup and defined his breaking pitch.

Poreda threw a curveball in college before adding a slider after turning pro, and he found himself caught in between the two pitches at the outset of the season. The White Sox have pushed him to focus on his hard slider, which dives at righthanded hitters' feet.

Pitching from a three-quarter arm slot makes it a challenge for Poreda to stay on top of his slider, and he also struggles to repeat his delivery at times. That could lead to a future as a reliever, and once scout said Poreda is ready to pitch out of a big league bullpen now.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
12
5 5
0 3.31
73 67 31 27 1
18 46 .238
 
7. Blake Wood, rhp, Wilmington (Royals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 225 Age: 23 Drafted: Royals '06 (3)
Wood made up for lost time after his first full pro season in 2007 was delayed by a herniated disc in his back that required surgery. He needed just 10 starts with Wilmington, recording quality starts in his final six outings, before earning a promotion to Double-A in late May.

Wood threw a fastball that topped out at 94-95; it has sink and bores in on righthanded hittes. His true 12-to-6 curveball gives him a second plus pitch. He still needs to refine his mechanics and improve his changeup, but he throws strikes and has served notice that he'll be pushing for a spot in the Royals rotation before too long.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10
10
3 2
0 2.67
57 32 17 17 3
15 63 .168
 
8. Brandon Erbe, rhp, Frederick (Orioles)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180 Age: 20 Drafted: Orioles '05 (3)
Erbe went 6-8, 6.26 at Frederick as a 19-year-old last season, resisting adjustments to his delivery and wanting to pitch solely off his fastball—a recipe that worked in the lower minors but not against more advanced hitters. Erbe worked hard in the offseason to avoid a repeat of the humbling experience and shined in his second tour of the CL, leading the league with 151 strikeouts in as many innings.

He still pitched off his 92-94 mph four-seam fastball, but Erbe incorporated a two-seamer with sink and life that allowed him to pitch down in the zone. He also mixed in a changeup more regularly and a much-improved slider.

"Sometimes you have to get your nose bloodied a bit before you can have success," an Orioles official said. "He's a little hard-headed, a little bull-headed, but those qualities are OK. He'll be 21 in Double-A next year. He's in very good shape."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
28
28
10 12
0 4.30
151 120 82 72 21
50 151 .216
 
9. Hector Rondon, rhp, Kinston (Indians)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 20 Signed: Venezuela '04
Rondon had one of the more electric arms in the league, overpowering hitters primarily with a 92-95 mph fastball that seemed to gain extra life as it exploded out of his long, wiry frame. He showed an ability to locate his heater to both sides of the plate while featuring armside run and sink.

Rondon struggled early, posting a 5.57 ERA in April and not earning his first victory until his 10th start, but he finished the season on a roll. The improvement was a credit to the development of his secondary pitches, a hard-breaking curveball and a serviceable changeup. He does a good job of attacking the strike zone.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
27
11 6
0 3.60
145 130 63 58 12
42 145 .239
 
10. Chris Marrero, 1b, Potomac (Nationals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 20 Drafted: Nationals '06 (1)
One of the more acclaimed hitters in the lower minors last year, Marrero hit just .200 in April. He was rounding into form when his season came to an end in June after breaking his right ankle sliding into home plate.

Marrero is extremely advanced and polished at the plate for his age. He incorporates his powerful lower half into a compact swing that allows him to drive balls to all parts of the ballpark. He usually makes consistent contact but sometimes gets aggressive and chases pitches.

A third baseman in high school, he moved to left field after turning pro and became a full-time first baseman in 2008. His below-average speed was a liability in the outfield but he should be able to develop into an average defender at first base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
256 40
64 15
2 11 38 25 55
0 0 .250 .325 .453
 
11. Ross Detwiler, lhp, Potomac (Nationals)
B-T: R-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 185 Age: 22 Drafted: Nationals '07 (1s)
Potomac won the Nationals' first-ever minor league championship thanks in part to Detwiler's second-half surge, including a 3.84 ERA and 52-18 strikeout-walk ratio in his final 61 innings. After becoming the first 2007 draftee to reach the majors last September, he struggled at the outset of this season. Potomac pitching coach Randy Tomlin worked with him to get him to stop throwing across his body and take a more direct line to the plate, a move that Detwiler didn't embrace initially.

"He went through some tough times," Potomac manager Randy Knorr said. "Mechanics-wise, he was dealing with a lot of issues. He didn't know what to do with a lot of the changes made, but he battled through it."

Detwiler's stuff was rarely questioned, even as his ERA rose to 5.87 in early July. His sinking fastball reached 95 mph, his plus curveball had good velocity and bite and his changeup showed nice fade at times. He induced a lot of grounders throughout the season and did a better job of throwing strikes with his revamped delivery.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
26
8 8
0 4.86
124 140 72 67 8
57 114 .289
 
12. Tyler Flowers, c, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 245 Age: 22 Drafted: Braves D/F '05 (33)
Flowers tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs shortly after turning in pro 2006, but he has put that behind him by consistently producing at the plate since serving a 50-game suspension. He ranked fourth in the CL with 88 RBIs and sixth with a .494 slugging percentage, in large part because he has advanced strike-zone judgment and consistently works counts in his favor (he drew a league-high 98 walks). He may need to shorten his swing in order to keep pace with more advanced pitchers as he rises through the minors.

Flowers has more work to do defensively after spending his first full pro season behind the plate. A first baseman after recovering from knee surgery in 2007, he flashed a plus arm this year but struggled with his footwork and threw out just 27 percent of basestealers. His receiving skills also need work.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
413 72 119 32 1 17 88 98 102 8 7 .288 .427 .494
 
13. Brandon Hicks, ss, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Drafted: Braves '07 (3)
Though Hicks was a third-round pick in 2007, some area scouts who saw him at Texas A&M wondered how well he'd fare with wood bats. He answered some of those questions by batting .313/.433/.492 in low Class A in his first pro summer, then further stated his case by tying for fourth in the CL with 19 homers.

Hicks still has improvements to make at the plate after hitting .234 with 122 strikeouts (which also ranked fourth in the league). He has a quick, powerful swing but he's still learning the strike zone and has a tendency to chase pitches.

Though he's bigger than most shortstops at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Hicks was the CL's best defender at that position. He has enough range to stay at shortstop, along with a plus arm and a quick release.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
342
68 80 23
2 19 56 45 122 14 3 .234 .335 .480
 
14. Brandon Allen, 1b, Winston-Salem (White Sox)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 235 Age: 22 Drafted: White Sox '04  (5)
No CL player drew more conflicting reports than Allen. Those who like him see him as a possible impact power hitter, while others deem him below average in every category but power. The league's slugging percentage leader at .527, Allen bettered that mark after a mid-June promotion to Double-A, where he homered twice in his first game and slugged .614.

Allen improved his ability to stay back on offspeed pitches, but he still struggles with pitch recognition and may never make enough consistent contact to hit for a high average. He moves better than most 6-foot-2, 235-pounders, but he's still rough with his footwork at first base and may wind up as a DH. He ranked second among the league's first basemen in errors despite playing just 89 games at the position.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
319
57 89 26
4 15 44 41 83 14 3 .279 .372 .527
 
15. Carlos Rivero, ss, Kinston (Indians)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Signed: Venezuela '05
Rivero's anticipated power potential began to emerge as the CL season wore on. His average jumped from .241 in April to .358 in the final month, when he hit five of his eight homers. His power still hasn't peaked, and his gap power should begin to translate into home runs as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame.

Rivero holds his hands high in his stance and sometimes has problems getting them down into a good load position. Improving his pitch recognition will be a key to his continued development.

Defensively, Rivero has soft hands and plus arm strength but needs to work on his lateral range. The Indians are confident he will remain at shortstop after he matures physically.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
411 46 116 27 1 8 64 36 84 1 2 .282 .342 .411
 
16. Brandon Snyder, 1b, Frederick (Orioles)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 20 Drafted: Orioles '05 (1)
After having shoulder surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff in 2006, Snyder returned to win the Orioles' minor league comeback player of the year award and the Hawaii Winter Baseball batting title (.378) last season. The 13th overall pick in the 2005 draft didn't slow down in the CL, improving his batting average each month to finish second in the hitting race (.315) and setting career highs in most offensive categories.

Snyder showed an ability to stay on offspeed pitches and drive balls to the opposite field. He has the potential to hit for average and power, as his strong hands and forearms should convert some of his doubles into homers down the road. He doesn't strike out excessively but he needs to draw more walks.

A catcher before his shoulder problems, Snyder now is permanently a first baseman. He struggled there in 2007 while focusing primarily on his hitting, but he improved defensively this year and is more athletic than most first basemen.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
435 70 137 33
2 13 80 29 83 3 2 .315 .358 .490
 
17. John Ely, rhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Signed: White Sox '07 (3)
Ely was 3-11, 5.51 in mid-July before going 7-1, 2.86 in his final eight starts, showing three quality pitches and plus command.

He's aggressive with an 88-94 mph fastball that typically sits at 91 with good movement and induces groundballs. Ely's best pitch is an above-average changeup with movement and fade that usually arrives 12 mph slower than his fastball. He sells it with good arm speed and action, though he sometimes relies on the pitch too much.

Ely mixes in a 12-to-6 curveball that can be a put-away pitch but he doesn't always trust it. He's a strong competitor who can keep his team in a game when he doesn't have his best stuff. He's not big and there's effort in his delivery, but he never has had arm problems and should be able to hold up as a starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
27
10 12
0 4.71
145 142 83 76 18
46 134 .259
 
18. Josh Tomlin, rhp, Kinston (Indians)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Drafted: Indians '06 (19)
Tomlin doesn't overpower hitters, but he flashes four usable pitches and had the best command in the league. His 109-16 K-BB ratio was the best in the CL and he had the polish to handle an emergency start in Triple-A in June, needing just 79 pitches to get through seven innings and earn a victory.

Tomlin locates his 88-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate. His top pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball, and he also throws a short, quick slider that resembles a cutter. His fourth offering is a changeup that he's willing to throw in any count.

Used primarily as a reliever in Kinston, Tomlin did go 2-3, 3.62 with a 45-3 K-BB ratio as a starter. He projects as a possible No. 4 or 5 starter in a major league rotation.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
40
9
9 5
0 2.98
103 82 40 34 10
16 109 .222
 
19. Kaneoka Texeira, rhp, Winston-Salem (White Sox)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 210 Age: 20 Drafted: White Sox '06 (22)
The CL's most dominant closer, Texeira didn't allow an earned run in his final 22 outings for Winston-Salem and finished second in the league with 20 saves despite earning a mid-July promotion. He continued to have success in Double-A and could factor into the White Sox bullpen at some point next year.

Texeira primarily relies on two pitches, a 90-91 mph fastball that he can throw to both sides or the plate and a nasty slider that can overmatch both lefties and righties. That combination yields plenty of strikeouts and groundouts. He was forced to use his changeup more often in multiple-inning outings in Double-A, but it's still a work in progress.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
36
0
3 1
0
0.93
39 28 10 4
0
14
36 .194
 
20. Bill Rowell, 3b, Frederick (Orioles)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 195 Age: 20. Drafted: Orioles '06 (1)
Rowell snuck in at No. 20 on our low Class A South Atlantic League list last year, and he's doing the same on this Top 20—more the result of his age (he was the youngest regular in the CL) and upside than his on-field performance. He went into a tailspin in June but recovered to bat .297/.354/.418 in August.

Rowell's raw power and smooth swing still portend the ability to hit for both power and average, but he needs to improve his discipline at the plate. He also needs to make adjustments against lefties, who held him to .185 and .187 averages the last two seasons. He showed a strong arm and improved footwork at third base, prompting confidence that he can remain there in the long term.

"He was 19 in a league that overwhelmed a bit," an Orioles official said. "I'm not worried about this kid. He has grown up, he has matured and I think his bat will be fine. I think he just got overwhelmed but he survived it. He needs to go back there and go at this league again."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
375 39 93 24
0 7 50 36 104 1 4 .248 .315 .368