League Top 20 Prospects

Florida State League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Porcello's poise stands out in talented FSL




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Joe Mauer, c, Fort Myers (Twins)
2. Greg Miller, lhp, Vero Beach (Dodgers)
3. *Gavin Floyd, rhp, Clearwater (Phillies)
4. *Franklin Gutierrez, of, Vero Beach (Dodgers)
5. *Dioner Navarro, c, Tampa (Yankees)
6. *J.D. Durbin, rhp, Fort Myers (Twins)
7. *James Loney, 1b, Vero Beach (Dodgers)
8. *Dustin McGowan, rhp, Dunedin (Blue Jays)
9. *Denny Bautista, rhp, Jupiter (Marlins)
10. *David Wright, 3b, St. Lucie (Mets)
*Has played in major leagues.
The high Class A Florida State League always seems to get a glimpse of the best pitching prospects in baseball. In 2004, Chad Billingsley and Scott Kazmir stopped by, followed by Justin Verlander the following season. Homer Bailey and Yovani Gallardo dueled for the top spot in 2006, while Joba Chamberlain launched his pro career in Tampa last year.

This year David Price, the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, showed up in Vero Beach, dominated and moved on before he logged enough innings to qualify for this list. If he had stayed longer, he easily would have ranked No. 1. With Price out of the running, another pitcher from last year's draft claimed the top spot on the prospect list. Lakeland's Rick Porcello jumped from high school to high Class A and had no difficulty looking like he belonged.

Besides Price, there were several other first-rounders who didn't stick around long enough to qualify. Dunedin outfielder Travis Snider hit four homers in 17 games before beginning a rapid ascent to Toronto. Sarasota first baseman Yonder Alonso, Dunedin first baseman David Cooper, Fort Myers righthander Carlos Hernandez and Lakeland righty Ryan Perry also impressed in limited action.

1. Rick Porcello, rhp, Lakeland (Tigers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Tigers '07 (1)
Rick Porcello
Porcello may have been one of the youngest pitchers in the FSL, but it didn't show. Lakeland made four errors behind him in one start, but he showed no emotion and just kept working. That maturity was one of the reasons the Tigers felt comfortable having Porcello make his pro debut in high Class A, and he rewarded their faith by leading the league in ERA (2.66).

At 19, Porcello is close to a complete package. He has a classic pitcher's frame (6-foot-5, 200 pounds), a mid-90s fastball with tremendous sink and a pair of plus breaking balls in his hard slider and big-breaking curveball. He has no trouble throwing strikes or keeping the ball down in the zone, as his excellent 2.5 groundout/airout ratio attests.

Porcello had just 72 whiffs in 125 innings, a surprisingly low number for a pitcher with his stuff, but that's attributable to Detroit's desire that he work on his changeup and limit the use of his curveball and slider. He also was kept on tight pitch counts, so he focused on being efficient rather than going for strikeouts.

G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
24
8 6
0
2.66
125 116 51 37 7
33 72 .244
 
2. J.P. Arencibia, c, Dunedin (Blue Jays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 215 Age: 22 Drafted: Blue Jays '07 (1)
Before he was promoted to Double-A in June, Arencibia made a run at the FSL triple crown and also impressed observers with his work behind the plate as well. He uses the whole ballpark and shows some power to the opposite field. While he doesn't walk much, that's more a result of aggressiveness than of chasing pitches out of the zone. He takes a pretty big hack and usually goes after the first strike he sees. "He's aggressive in the zone," Fort Myers manager Jeff Smith said. "He doesn't get cheated up there, but he has knowledge of the strike zone."

Arencibia has a strong arm and quick release, and he threw out 35 percent of basestealers. He came to the FSL with a reputation for having mediocre receiving skills, but he showed agility and an aptitude for framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
248 38 78 22 0 13 62 11
46 0 0 .315 .344 .560
 
3. Logan Morrison, 1b, Jupiter (Marlins)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 215 Age: 21 Drafted: Marlins '05 (22)
A year ago, Morrison showed his power potential by hitting 24 homers while playing his home games at the bandbox that is low Class A Greensboro's NewBridge Bank Park. His 13 homers and 38 doubles this year may have been more impressive, as Jupiter's Roger Dean Stadium is where fly balls go to die. The league MVP, he led the FSL in batting (.332), hits (162), doubles and on-base percentage (.402).

Morrison has a flat swing that stays in the zone for a long time. He has the ability to pull the ball out of the park, as he showed with a couple of tape-measure shots, but he spends most of his time hitting line drives from gap to gap. He also shows a refined batting eye, working counts and rarely chasing pitches.

Morrison has shown steady improvement defensively and should end up being an average first baseman. He runs adequately, with decent speed once he gets under way.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
488 71 71 38
1 13 74 57 80 9 3 .332 .402 .494
 
4. Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Brevard County (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 197 Age: 20 Drafted: Brewers '06 (1)
After testing positive for marijuana, Jeffress had to serve a 50-game suspension that lasted until mid-May. In his first game back, he fired a 98 mph fastball and followed it up with a 99 mph heater on his next pitch. He has hit triple digits in the past and has one of the best pure arms in the minors.

Jeffress' fastball doesn't have a whole lot of movement, but it explodes out of his hand and leaves hitters struggling to catch up. His delivery helps too, as the ball comes out from a high three-quarters angle that makes it hard to pick up. He also has a hard 11-to-5 curveball that's a plus pitch at times.

The rest of Jeffress' game is still a work in progress, which explains why he had a 4.08 ERA despite sometimes overpowering stuff. His changeup is best used as a show-me pitch for now, partly because of the effectiveness of his other two offerings.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
14
4 6
0
4.08
79 65 39 36 5
41 102 .226
 
5. Adrian Cardenas, 2b, Clearwater (Phillies)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185 Age: 20 Drafted: Phillies '06 (1)
Cardenas left the FSL in mid-July when the Phillies sent him to the Athletics in a trade for Joe Blanton. Before he departed, Cardenas impressed with his solid swing and power potential, as well as his feel for the game.

Cardenas kept a little black book in which he jotted notes on all the pitchers he faced. It showed at the plate, where he rarely was fooled twice, and on the bases, where he went perfect 16-for-16 stealing bases despite only a tick above-average speed. His swing drew comparisons to that of Adrian Gonzalez, with his power expected to blossom into annual 15-20 homer production in the majors.

The biggest question with Cardenas centers around his best defensive position. His struggles turning the double play limit his potential at second base, and his lateral movement and footwork probably won't allow him to play shortstop. His arm is strong enough for his third base, and his bat would fit there as well.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
259 44 80 11
6 4 23 28 42 16 0 .309 .374 .444
 
6. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Vero Beach (Rays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: Rays '05 (4)
He may have a plus fastball and a sometimes devastating curveball, but the first thing FSL observers mentioned about Hellickson was his savvy. He could just reach back and blow away a lot of hitters, but he was much happier to keep them off balance.

"The beautiful part for Hellickson is he will go 2-0 in a count and go to two changeups. He'll throw changeup on 3-0," Vero Beach pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein said. "The hitter's thinking fastball and now has to rethink his plan."

Hellickson's fastball sits between 92-94 mph and he can add a tick more velocity when he needs to. On the days when he was locating his 12-to-6 curveball, he was almost unhittable, though there are games where he'll lose the feel for it and it becomes a harder 11-to-5 breaker. He also believes in his solid low-80s changeup. Hellickson had the best command in the FSL, with the ability not only to throw strikes but to hit spots on both sides of the plate, and it served him well after a promotion to Double-A.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
14
7 1
0 2.00
77 64 19 17 7
5 83 .224
 
7. Sean West, lhp, Jupiter (Marlins)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-8 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Drafted: Marlins '05 (1s)
After missing all of 2007 with a torn labrum, it took West a while to get back into a comfort zone on the mound. He struggled to repeat his delivery early in the season, leading to inconsistent command. But as he shook off the rust, he showed steady improvement and he finished by going 3-0, 1.16 in August.

West's stuff bounced fully back. He pitched at 92-93 mph and touched 96 with his fastball, and he showed a hard slider with good tilt that he can throw for strikes or bury out of the zone for strikeouts. His changeup is an average pitch at times, though he doesn't always use it enough. Though he's 6-foot-8, he has no obvious mechanical flaws, so it may be that he just needs more experience and sharper concentration to find more command.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
21
20
6 5
0 2.41
101
79 33 27 3
60 92 .224
 
8. Wilson Ramos, c, Fort Meyers (Twins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 178 Age: 21 Signed: Venezuela '04
Arencibia was the highest-profile catcher in the league, but the Twins' under-the-radar signee from Venezuela proved nearly as impressive. While many other players were melting in the Florida sun, Ramos hit .328/.385/.468 after the all-star break. He's a gap-to-gap hitter with a line-drive swing, but if he gets ahead in the count he knows how to gear up to drive a fat pitch.

Ramos has a strong arm and easily led the league by throwing out 43 percent of basestealers. He also has soft hands and calls a good game. He runs adequately for a catcher but is prone to grounding into double plays (he ranked second in the league with 23).
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
452 50 130 23 2 13 78 37
103 0 1 .288 .346 .434
 
9. Scott Cousins, of, Jupiter (Marlins)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 23 Drafted: Marlins '06 (3)
A two-way player in college at San Francisco, Cousins didn't focus on hitting full-time until signing as a third-round pick in 2006. He emerged with a solid season in 2007, then played his way out of the FSL with a dominating two months. He has natural loft in his swing, which is more conducive to hitting for power than for a high average. He did bat .304 at Jupiter, however, and his solid batting eye should allow him to maintain a healthy on-base percentage.

His speed, range and arm are all plus tools, and he could be a 20-20 player in the majors. The Marlins have deployed him mainly in right field, though he takes good enough routes and covers enough ground to play center.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
191 35 58 9 2 9 29 20
47 11 3 .304 .370 .513
 
10. Michael Taylor, of, Clearwater (Phillies)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 250 Age: 23 Drafted: Phillies '07 (5)
Taylor's production never matched his potential until he became one of the breakout stars of the minor league season. After a lackluster career at Stanford and a .227 pro debut in 2007, he hit a combined .346/.412/.557 with 19 homers and 15 steals between low Class A Lakewood and Clearwater.

Taylor's tools are impressive. At 6-foot-6 he looks like a power forward, and he finally began to tap into his impressive raw power. He generates excellent leverage with his long arms, and balls make a different sound coming off of his bat. As a right fielder, Taylor has a 65 arm on the 20-80 scouting scale, but he needs to work on getting better jumps and taking better routes. He's not particularly fast from home to first, but once he gets going he has impressive speed for a big man. He's a heady player with the ability to read pitchers and pick his spots to steal.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
243
36
80 27
1 9 38 19 46
5 6 .329 .380 .560
 
11. Todd Frazier, ss/3b, Sarasota (Reds)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215 Age: 22 Drafted: Reds '07 (1)
Considering that he played four different positions defensively during his 3 1/2 months in Sarasota, there's some confusion about where Frazier will end up playing in the big leagues. There's far less discussion about whether he'll hit enough to make it.

Frazier's swing isn't particularly smooth, but he has excellent bat control and drives the ball to all fields. He has the power to be a 20-25 home run hitter in the majors.

Few observers believe Frazier can stay at shortstop, though his feel for the game may allow him to play there in a stopgap role. He doesn't look particularly athletic, but he positions himself well and makes all the routine plays. His arm is strong enough for him to handle third base or right field, and a couple of FSL managers thought he could fill a role playing on an everyday basis while moving between several positions.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
366 62 103 20 3 12 54 41
84 8 4 .281 .357 .451
 
12. Drew Stubbs, of, Sarasota (Reds)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Reds '06 (1)
A year ago, Stubbs struggled to hit in low Class A, which makes his climb from high Class A to Triple-A in 2008 all the more impressive. He spread out his stance this year, improving the balance in his swing. He also showed a better awareness of how to work counts into his favor, and while he still chases pitches out of the zone, he didn't get himself out as much as he had in the past.

While Stubbs' power was one of his calling cards when he went eighth overall in the 2006 draft, it's still more raw power than productive power. He launched a couple of moon shots out to straight center field, but the majority of the time he was content to line balls into the gaps. His plus-plus speed continues to make him a basestealing threat, and he's a heady runner who aggressively takes the extra base.

Stubbs is one of the best defensive outfielders in the minors. He has well above-average range in center field to go with a plus arm and good instincts.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
303 49
79 21 4 5 38 50 82 27 8 .261 .366 .406
 
13. Chris Valaika, ss, Sarasota (Reds)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 23 Drafted: Reds '06 (3)
Based strictly on tools, Valaika wouldn't make the Top 20. Based solely on performance, he'd likely be in the top five. Whatever the perspective, it's hard to find a manager who wouldn't want to have Valaika on his team.

He played his way out of the FSL in just over a month, showing excellent bat control, an intuitive feel for what pitchers were trying to do to him and a knack for positioning both himself and his teammates in the field. Valaika doesn't have one tool that grades out as a plus, but he also doesn't have any dramatic deficiencies either, and his instincts allow his tools to play up.

Valaika is an aggressive at the plate and grades out as a 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale in both hitting and power. His slightly below-average speed keeps him from being a threat on the basepaths, and it likely will push him from shortstop to second base. He showed up this year lighter than he was in 2007, which paid off in improved lateral agility and range. But he still fits best at second base, where he'll more than enough range and an average arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
135
20 49 9
0 7 31
7 28 2 0 .363 .393 .585
 
14. Jose Ceda, rhp, Daytona (Cubs)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 275 Age: 21 Signed: Dominican Republic '04
Ceda did nothing to dissuade the Lee Smith comparisons he brought with him to the FSL. His numbers in Daytona weren't impressive, but that's largely a sign that he's not a starter. The Cubs knew that but put him in the rotation so he'd be forced to work on his secondary pitches, command and mental approach.

Ceda's fastball sits at 95-97 mph and touches 100. He also has a power slider that can be unhittable at times. He threw a changeup as a starter, but he junked it when he moved back to the bullpen in June and he won't need it as a big league reliever.

He sometimes hooks his arm in the back of his motion, which affects his command, but Ceda sharpened his mechanics once he moved back to the bullpen. His massive size and conditioning concerns shouldn't be as much of a problem for a reliever. He still gets rattled at times, but it's just a matter of his maturity catching up to his fastball. He still projects to be a big league closer.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
12
2 2
0
4.80
54 41 29 29 4
28 53 .212
 
15. Juan Francisco, 3b, Sarasota (Reds)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Signed: Dominican Republic '04
Francisco was one of the few players who could induce opponents to wander out into the muggy Florida afternoon heat just to see him take batting practice. With some of the best raw power in the minors, he was capable of making baseballs disappear. He's also owner of one of the least discerning batting eyes in the minors—he has walked just 62 times in 1,426 minor league at-bats.

While Francisco will have to learn to lay off more pitches as he climbs the ladder, pitchers haven't been able to take advantage of his free-swinging ways. He actually cut his strikeout rate this year by working more counts. He's a nightmare for pitchers because he'll make contact even when they're trying to pitch around him, and his strength allows him to turn checked swings and mis-hits into balls that bounce off the wall.

Francisco is already a big man and he's likely to keep getting bigger, so he projects to move off the hot corner as he adds weight. The Reds put him in left field for three games late in the season, and he showed some aptitude for the position. He had a plus-plus arm and runs pretty well for his size, so he could end up in right field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
516 71 143 34 5 23 92 19 123 1 2 .277 .303 .496
 
16. Tyler Green, 3b, Brevard County (Brewers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Brewers '05 D/F (25)
The Brewers' 2007 minor league player of the year, Green spent much of this summer in limbo. On the list of potential players-to-be-named that the Indians can choose to conclude the Matt LaPorta trade, Green is rumored to be Cleveland's preference. But the Indians have yet to make a decision, so Green remained in Brevard County all year.

Green's tools aren't particularly flashy, but he has a very good feel for the game and an all-out approach. Though he's just 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Green uses a slightly open stance with good hip turn that allows him to generate average power. He works counts and rarely is fooled into chasing pitches.

In his second season as a third baseman, Green has become an average defender. The converted second baseman's arm is a tick below average, but he makes all the plays and shows adequate lateral movement.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
418 46 121 19
0 15 73 61 59 4 2 .289 .382 .443
 
17. Cale Iorg, ss, Lakeland (Tigers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Tigers '07 (6)
Iorg's father Garth and uncle Dane were longtime big leaguers, so it's no surprise he was considered one of the FSL's smartest players. He also was one of the league's best defensive shortstops, with good range and arm strength, quick feet and the ability to make plays in the hole or up the middle. Managers also were impressed with his positioning and knowledge of the game.

Despite some natural loft in his swing and some present power, Iorg's bat created some concerns. He looked rusty after going on a two-year Mormon mission to Portugal in 2006-07, struggling at times to read pitches and striking out too often. Some managers were worried about Iorg's tendency to take a bad at-bat back to the bench with him, and they wanted to see him make more adjustments at the plate.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
383 61 96 15
7 10 47 35
111 22 11 .251 .329 .405
 
18. Francisco Samuel, rhp, Palm Beach (Cardinals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 150 Age: 21 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
In a league with several dominant relievers, Ceda and Samuel stood out because of their power stuff. Like Ceda, Samuel worked in the high 90s with his fastball, sitting between 94-96 mph and touching 98. He complemented his heater with a 85-90 mph slider with excellent tilt.

Samuel throws from a lower arm angle than Ceda, generating life on his fastball from a three-quarters delivery. He also leaves balls up in the zone when he loses his release point and starts dropping down lower. He kept hitters off balance with his power stuff, and also because his control wasn't refined enough for them to be sure the next pitch wouldn't be coming at their head.

Control is the only thing keeping Samuel from rocketing through the Cardinals system. His stuff was generally unhittable—Vero Beach pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein likened it to Jose Valverde's—but patient hitters found they could work him for walks.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
54
0
4 6
29
3.04
56 39 20 19 3
48 85 .196
 
19. Jonathan Lucroy, c, Brevard County (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 195 Age: 22 Drafted: Brewers '07 (3)
Lucroy is an offensive-minded catcher who does a good job of shutting down the running game. He has a nice, balanced approach, good power and few holes for pitchers to exploit. With his quick hands, solid batting eye and willingness to use the whole field, he should continue to hit for average.

While his average arm and quick release enabled him to throw out 51 percent of basestealers, he has a lot of work to do with his defense. Lucroy still needs to improve his receiving and polish his ability to block balls in the dirt, frame pitches and call a good game.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
239 31 69 12 1 10 44 28
45 1 2 .292 .364 .479
 
20. Zach McAllister, rhp, Tampa (Yankees)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 230 Age: 20. Drafted: Yankees '06 (3)
McAllister's 1.83 ERA easily would have led the FSL had he pitched enough innings to qualify, and his 2.09 overall mark ranked seventh in the minors. His success comes from his ability to pound the bottom of the zone with a 91-92 mph sinker, an above-average changeup and a promising if inconsistent slider. Thanks to a tweak the Yankees made after signing him in 2006, he now throws downhill from a high arm slot that takes advantage of his 6-foot-5 frame.

McAllister is a groundball machine with an outstanding feel for setting up hitters. He projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter, and his ability to induce grounders also could make him an effective late-inning reliever.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
14
8 6
0
1.83
89 74 24 18 6
13 62 .225