League Top 20 Prospects

Southern League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Kershaw, Price stand out in loaded league




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Miguel Cabrera, 3b, Carolina (Marlins)
2. *Edwin Jackson, rhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
3. *Jeremy Reed, of, Birmingham (White Sox)
4. *J.J. Hardy, ss, Huntsville (Brewers)
5. *David Krynzel, of, Huntsville (Brewers)
6. *Joel Hanrahan, rhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
7. *Dan Haren, rhp, Tennessee (Cardinals)
8. *Neal Cotts, lhp, Birmingham (White Sox)
9. *Angel Guzman, rhp, West Tenn (Cubs)
10. Mike Jones, rhp, Huntsville (Brewers)
*Has played in major leagues.
One of the most prospect-laden leagues in the minors, the Double-A Southern League was rich with high-ceiling arms and bats, as well as several players who project as at least solid regulars.

Lefties Clayton Kershaw (Jacksonville) and David Price (Montgomery) were arguably the two best pitching prospects in the minor leagues, and both players ended up reaching the big leagues this year, as did Marlins righthander Chris Volstad. Price headlined a Biscuits rotation that also placed Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson and Jake McGee on the Top 20.

Huntsville was an offensive powerhouse, with since-traded outfielder Matt LaPorta, shortstop Alcides Escobar and third baseman Mat Gamel ranking as three of the four best position prospects in the league. Catcher Angel Salome, the league batting champ, and outfielder Michael Brantley join them on the Top 20.

The SL was so deep that many talented players couldn't make the cut. Among the best position players to fall short were West Tenn outfielder Greg Halman, Mobile outfielder Gerardo Parra, Chattanooga shortstop Chris Valaika and Carolina first baseman Gaby Sanchez, the league MVP. Several power arms also missed, most notably Carolina righty Ryan Tucker, Birmingham lefty Aaron Poreda, Tennessee righties Jose Ceda and Jeff Samardzija and Mississippi righty Luis Valdez, among others.

1. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220 Age: 20 Drafted: Dodgers '06 (1)
Clayton Kershaw
The No. 7 overall pick in the 2006 draft, Kershaw's combination of plus pitches and advanced feel for pitching propelled him to the big leagues as a 20-year-old. Even in the SL, he was the league's youngest starting pitcher.

Kershaw's fastball sits in the low to mid-90s and explodes out of his hand. He has a knockout mid-70s curveball, a nasty big-breaker with two-plane depth and late action that grades out as a second 70 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. His curve is so good that even when he didn't snap off a good one, hitters often would chase it out of the zone or find themselves unable to check their swings.

His mid-80s changeup is a solid pitch with plus potential. The Dodgers had Kershaw focus on developing his change and throwing his curveball for strikes more often in the minors. His fastball command still needs fine-tuning, but he projects to have plus command in the big leagues thanks to clean arm action and a mechanically solid delivery that he repeats. His high three-quarters arm slot gives his pitches a good angle down in the zone. He also generates rave reviews for his poise, maturity and work ethic.

G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
11
2
3
0
1.91
61.1
39
19
13
0
19
59
.179
 
2. David Price, lhp, Montgomery (Rays)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 225 Age: 23 Drafted: Rays '07 (1)
Price dialed his fastball into the high 90s in spring training, but a sore elbow prevented him from making his first pro start until May 22. The No. 1 overall pick in 2007 began at high Class A Vero Beach and reached the majors after just 19 pro starts. He's a good bet to make the Rays' postseason roster.

Price works off an electric fastball that sits at 93-96 mph and can touch 97-98. It's a plus-plus offering, as is his hard 85-87 mph slider, a swing-and-miss pitch with sharp break and tilt. He also has an average changeup, though he rarely used it in the minors. At times he sells the changeup well with his arm speed, while at other times he throws it too hard.

He has clean arm action and a sound, athletic delivery that he repeats easily. Price has good control and only needs to fine-tune his command and mix in his changeup more effectively to become a true No. 1 starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
9
7
0
0
1.89
57
42
13
12
7
16
55 .206
 
3. Cameron Maybin, of, Carolina (Marlins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Tigers '05 (1)
A five-tool player with outstanding athleticism, Maybin's ceiling is the highest among the SL's position players. His combination of power potential, on-base skills, speed and plus defense at a premium position is tantalizing, though it comes with some risk because he's still raw as a hitter.

Maybin has electric bat speed and quick hands. He has an athletic, wiry frame with good present strength, above-average raw power and the potential for more as he continues to fill out. He could generate more loft in his swing to help his power translate into game situations, though with plus-plus speed he's capable of beating out infield hits.

Maybin struck out in 27 percent of his plate appearances, a byproduct of his unrefined pitch recognition and swing. He draws walks by being patient at times, though he needs to do a better job of laying off fastballs up in the zone and recognizing the spin on breaking balls and changeups. He has plenty of bat speed but still swings through even fringy fastballs because of a late hitch in his swing, a problem that could be corrected by quieting his stance and learning to trust his hand speed.

Like many young center fielders, Maybin struggles at time with balls hit straight over his head, but he could play defense in the majors right now. He has plus range, gets good jumps on flyballs and owns enough arm strength to play right field if needed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
390
73
108
15
8
13
49
60
124
21
7
.277 .375 .456
 
4. Matt LaPorta, of, Huntsville (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210 Age: 23 Drafted: Brewers '07 (1)
LaPorta had an eventful first full season in pro baseball. After being named to the Futures Game while with Huntsville, he went to the Indians as the centerpiece of the deal that made C.C. Sabathia a Brewer. LaPorta played in the Double-A Eastern League after the trade, as well as Team USA's bronze-medal winning Olympic team.

With a physical frame, strength and a good load in his swing, LaPorta has 70 power on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has the patience to take his walks, but he's still an aggressive hitter who punishes mistakes. Like a lot of power hitters, LaPorta still has some holes in his swing—high and inside, and against offspeed pitches low and away—but when he gets his arms extended he can drive the ball out of the park to all fields.

A first baseman in college, he shifted to the outfield after signing because Milwaukee had Prince Fielder. LaPorta has surprised scouts with his instincts and reads off the bat in the outfield. However, he has a thick lower half and is a below-average runner with below-average range, so a move back to first base is possible.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
302
56
87
23
2
20
66
45
63
2
1
.288 .402 .576
 
5. Alcides Escobar, ss, Huntsville (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Signed: Venezuela '03
While LaPorta and Mat Gamel provided most of the power for an incredible Huntsville lineup, some observers believed that Escobar was the Stars' best prospect because of his ability to contribute in all aspects of the game. Though Escobar had a fine season at the plate, leading the SL with 179 hits and batting a career-high .328, it's his plus-plus defense that dazzles onlookers.

With quickness, agility and good instincts, Escobar has outstanding range to his left and right. His footwork is superb and his hands are soft, and he completes the defensive package with a cannon arm. He runs well and has a thin lower half.

Though his bat was a concern earlier in his career, Escobar is no slouch at the plate. He doesn't project to hit for much power, but he added some strength this season and showed the ability to do some damage to pitchers who attacked him in the strike zone. While some scouts expect his aggressive approach to provide some initial growing pains in the big leagues, he shows the ability to hit all types of pitches.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
546
95
179
24 5
8
76
31
82
34
8
.328 .363 .434
 
6. Chris Volstad, rhp, Carolina (Marlins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-8 Wt.: 225 Age: 22 Signed: Marlins '05 (1)
Volstad was the ace of a Carolina staff that featured other talented young arms in Brett Sinkbeil, Aaron Thompson, Tucker and Rick Vanden Hurk, but he separated himself with his performance at Double-A and in the big leagues. Volstad gets tremendous downward plane from his 6-foot-7 frame. He gives hitters fits when he throws his 90-94 mph fastball with heavy sink and run to both sides of the plate.

Volstad doesn't strike out many batters, but he generates an abundance of groundouts and weak contact. His 78-81 mph spike curveball is a plus pitch with two-plane break that he tightened up this season. His 83-84 mph changeup makes him effective against lefthanders and often grades as an above-average offering as well.

While taller pitchers often struggle with their mechanics, Volstad has clean arm action and a sound delivery. He had a tendency to drift, but he worked to keep his legs back longer to help his timing. He still needs to polish his command, though it should be above average once he gains more experience.

"Chris Volstad to me is one of the most special guys that was in the minor leagues," an American League scout said, "and one of the most special guys to come through in the last five years of the draft."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15
4
4
0 3.36
91
86
37
34
0
30
56
.251
 
7. Mat Gamel, 3b, Huntsville (Brewers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Signed: Brewers '05 (4)
Gamel established his offensive credentials before arriving in Huntsville, batting .297 in three pro seasons and fashioning a 33-game hitting streak in 2007. He managed to boost his stock even further by setting career highs in average (.329) and homers (19) while leading the SL in RBIs (96) and extra-base hits (61).

Though he doesn't have LaPorta's plus-plus power, Gamel should hit for above-average pop and is a better pure hitter. He handles lefties and righties, fastballs and breaking balls. He recognizes pitches well and drives the ball with authority to all fields, letting pitches travel deep in the zone before turning on them.

Defense is the biggest question mark for Gamel, who led the minors with 53 errors in 2007 and made 30 miscues this year. He's athletic but lacks fluidity and has struggled with his footwork, affecting his fielding and throwing mechanics. Many scouts project him to follow LaPorta's path and move to the outfield rather than first base because of the presence of Fielder in Milwaukee.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
508
96
167
35
7
19
96
55
111
6
7
.329 .395 .537
 
8. Michael Saunders, of, West Tenn (Mariners)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Signed: Mariners '04 D/F (11)
The Mariners don't hesitate to move their prospects quickly, and Saunders was no exception. After Saunders torched through the SL, the Mariners promoted him to Triple-A, where at 21 he was the second-youngest regular position player in the Pacific Coast League. He left Tacoma in late July to play in the Beijing Olympics, where he led Team Canada with two homers.

Saunders has a compact swing that he leverages well to generate good backspin on the ball to all fields. A premium athlete with good strength and plus power, he has good hands and is a strong fastball hitter. Though he has made some strides in his plate discipline, he still chases offspeed pitches in the dirt.

Saunders does the little things well, too. He shows above-average speed and good instincts on the bases, and West Tenn manager Scott Steinmann calls him one of the best drag bunters in the organization. He has a strong arm and can handle center field, though as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, he eventually may move to right.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
248
46
72
18
3
8
30
30
66
11
6
.290 .375 .484
 
9. Tommy Hanson, rhp, Mississippi (Braves)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 210 Age: 22 Drafted: Braves '05 D/F (22)
Mississippi had the best second-half record in the Southern League, thanks in part to the emergence of Hanson. After dominating the high Class A Carolina League, he went 3-3, 5.27 in his first eight starts with Mississippi. Then he tossed a 14-strikeout no-hitter against Birmingham on June 25, the start of a 5-1, 1.41 surge that included 79 whiffs in 57 innings.

Hanson works off a lively 90-94 mph fastball. He has a good 12-to-6 curveball and a changeup that rates as a plus pitch at times. At midseason he started mixing in a plus slider, which he broke out for the first time in the no-hitter.

Hanson has clean arm action with a lag in his release point behind his right ear, which creates some deception in his delivery and makes hitters pick up the ball late. Though he can throw his entire repertoire for strikes, he can cut down on his walks by not trying to be too fine with his pitches.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
18
18
8
4
0
3.03 98
70
39
33
9
41
114
.197
 
10. Wade Davis, rhp, Montgomery (Rays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220 Age: 23 Drafted: Rays '04 (3)
Davis was solid but not quite as effective as he was in his 2007 stint with Montgomery, though his work ethic and commitment to perfecting his craft may have skewed his overall numbers. He focused on mixing in an 84-85 mph changeup and added a slightly faster cutter at midseason, though both pitches were inconsistent.

Davis can overmatch hitters with his fastball and curveball. He has a four-seamer that sits at 93-94 mph and touches 96, and he also has a two-seamer. His hard 74-78 mph curve is a plus pitch with two-plane depth and tight 11-to-5 rotation that elicits swings and misses from both lefties and righties.

His biggest needs are to refine his fastball command and find a reliable option between his changeup and cutter. Though at times he falls off to the first base side of the mound, his mechanics are solid and his arm action is clean.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
19
9
6
0
3.85
107.2
104
49
46
7
42
81
.261
 
11. Chris Coghlan, 2b, Carolina (Marlins)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Drafted: Marlins '06 (1s)
An exceptionally polished hitter, Coghlan rarely chases pitches out of the strike zone thanks to his pitch recognition and disciplined approach. He works deep counts and rarely has a bad plate appearance. When he does swing, he's short to the ball and has quick hands, allowing him to hit all types of pitches and to drive the ball with backspin to all fields against lefties and righties.

Coghlan hits for average and provides gap power. He's a solid-average runner, and his instincts helped him steal 34 bases in 44 attempts.

Though he doesn't have the softest hands, Coghlan worked hard on his defense this year, improving his footwork and his double-play pivot. A former third baseman who saw some time at the hot corner with Carolina, he has an average arm and projects at best as a solid-average defender at second base. That would make him a defensive upgrade over Marlins starter Dan Uggla.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
483
83
144
32
5
7
74
67
65
34
10
.298 .396 .429
 
12. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Montgomery (Rays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Signed: Rays '05 (4)
The Rays waited until late April to let Hellickson make his first regular-season start last year, but he showed up to spring training in better shape this season and took off. He excelled in high Class A, where he walked just five batters in 77 innings, and his forte is his ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes.

Hellickson's fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 with good life within the zone, though scouts say he lacks a true out pitch. His curveball is solid-average and his changeup was average, and all of his stuff plays up because of his advanced pitchability.

Though he's an extreme strike-thrower with clean arm action, Hellickson still has success getting hitters to chase pitches out of the zone. Some scouts have concerns about how that will translate in the majors, however. While took him a few starts to adapt to more advanced hitters in Double-A, he finished the year by going 3-1, 3.00 over his final seven starts.

"He's a strike-thrower deluxe and other teams know that," Montgomery manager Billy Gardner said. "So what he's learned is that you need to throw some bad ones, elevate, change eye level, and he's been much more effective."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
13
4
4
0
3.94
75.1
84
36
33
15
15
79
.292
 
13. Jordan Schafer, of, Mississippi (Braves)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Drafted: Braves '05 (3)
After a breakout season in 2007, Schafer ranked as the top prospect in the Braves system. But just four games into the year, Schafer was suspended for 50 games for an human growth hormone-related infraction despite never failing a drug test. He struggled initially after his return, but he kicked into gear down the stretch to help Mississippi win the SL championship.

Schafer's tools are legitimate. He's a very good athlete who generates plus bat speed with his quick hands and wrists. He has a good approach at the plate and power to all fields. At times his swing remains on one plane through the zone, which gave him problems against lefties (.196/.306/.299), though he showed the ability to make in-game adjustments.

In the field, Schafer's instincts help him read the ball well off the bat, giving him excellent jumps and range in center. He has solid speed and well above-average arm strength.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
297
46
80
18
6
10
51
49
88
12
5
.269 .378 .471
 
14. James McDonald, rhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Drafted: Dodgers '02 (11)
After leaving spring training with a bit of a dead arm and getting off to a slow start, McDonald emerged as one of the SL's best pitchers. Lanky and athletic, he won't blow anyone away with his 88-92 mph fastball, but he does rack up strikeouts with his curveball and changeup.

While his fastball lacks plus velocity, his 74-77 mph changeup provides enough separation from his heater to keep hitters off balance. He'll throw his changeup when behind in the count and maintains his arm speed on the pitch, at times making it a well above-average pitch with sink and fade. His curveball is an average-to-plus pitch, and he can add and subtract from it as needed.

McDonald has clean arm action and raises his front side to create deception with all of his pitches. While he doesn't get himself into trouble with walks, he needs to improve the command of all of his pitches, particularly his fastball. A flyball pitcher, he lacks life on his fastball and gets hammered when he leaves it up in the zone.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
22
22
5
3
0
3.19
118.2
98
47
42
12
46
113 .227
 
15. Ivan DeJesus, ss/2b, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 182 Age: 21 Signed: Dodgers '05 (2)
DeJesus finished the season on a 23-game hitting streak, which propelled him to the SL's on-base percentage title at .419. Considered a steady player entering the year, he impressed scouts and managers with his steady improvement. His instincts and feel for all aspects of the game—no doubt the product of being the son of a longtime big league shortstop—help his athleticism and tools play up.

DeJesus always had plus bat speed, but he worked to shorten his swing and showed the ability to make adjustments not only during the season but also within individual games. He has excellent strike-zone judgment and squares up balls well. His approach is more geared to hit the ball to right-center, though he can use the whole field. While he shows occasional pop to his pull side, he'll need to add strength to be able to handle big league pitching.

Defensively, DeJesus' hands and feet work well. Though he's only a fringe-average runner, his instincts give him solid range. He has solid arm strength, but 17 of his 26 errors this season came on throws and some observers though he looked more comfortable at second base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
463
91
150
21
2
7
58
76
81
16
2
.324 .419 .423
 
16. Jake McGee, lhp, Montgomery (Rays)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Rays '04 (5)
McGee began the year by teaming with Wade Davis to form arguably the best 1-2 prospect punch in any minor league rotation. McGee battled his control and was solid if not dominant before being shut down in late June with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery.

Before he got hurt, McGee sat at 92-93 mph and touched 97 with his fastball. His slider showed above-average potential, but it was inconsistent in terms of its tilt and the frequency with which he threw it for strikes. He also struggled with his release point, leaving pitches up in the zone too often.

McGee remained more thrower than pitcher. He often leaned on his velocity to try to blow his fastball by hitters rather than mix in his offspeed stuff. His changeup won't develop until he uses it more frequently, though he wouldn't need it as much if he became a reliever, which some scouts believe is his destiny.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15
6
4
0
3.94
77.2
65
38
34
6
37
65
.230
 
17. Angel Salome, c, Huntsville (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-7 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Signed: Brewers '04 (5)
There isn't anything classic or conventional about Salome, ranging from his short yet hulking stature to his hitting mechanics. When Salome swings, he begins his stride toward the third-base line, flying open as he steps in the bucket. He usually spins on his back foot, producing an off-balance swing. The style may be unorthodox, but nobody can argue with the results so far. He won the SL batting title with a .360 average, raising his career mark to .322. He has very good hand-eye coordination, which allows his unusual style to work, and his tremendous strength permits him to drive he ball without a classic power hitter's frame or mechanics. Most of his pop comes to the opposite field.

"You definitely don't show this film to kids and say, 'This is how you do it, kids,' " an AL scout said. "But he just gets it done."

Salome has a strong arm, but teams didn't show much restraint against him on the basepaths. His arm action is a little long and he struggles at times with his accuracy, and opponents swiped 90 bases against him in 76 games (with a 74 percent success rate). He also needs to improve his game-calling. His agility and speed are well below average.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
367
67
132
30
2
13
83
33
57
3
2
.360 .415 .559
 
18. Adam Moore, c, West Tenn (Mariners)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220 Age: 24 Drafted: Mariners '06 (6)
Jeff Clement isn't the only promising offensive-minded catcher in the Mariners organization. Moore is a smart hitter with good balance and a short swing. He waits on pitches well, hits offspeed stuff with authority and drives the ball to all fields. He has solid power and makes reasonably consistent contact.

Moore has made some strides behind the plate, though he still could improve his blocking and receiving. He has a good arm both in terms of strength and accuracy to go with a quick release, helping him throw out 35 percent of SL basestealers. A late broken hand kept him from continuing his breakthrough season in the Arizona Fall League.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
429
60
137
34 2
14
71
40
77
0
1
.319 .396 .506
 
19. Michael Brantley, of/1b, Huntsville (Brewers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Brewers '05 (7)
Believed to be one of the prospects on the list of players to be named that the Indians can choose from to finalize the C.C. Sabathia trade with the Brewers, Brantley has excellent strike-zone discipline. He ranked second in the minors this year in plate appearances per strikeout (17.7) and has walked more than he has whiffed at every stop in his pro career.

Brantley has good bat speed and a pure swing, lining balls to all fields and doing a good job of going the other way against lefties. The drawback to his contact-oriented approach is that he has well below-average power, with his four homers this season doubling his career total from three previous pro seasons.

The son of former big leaguer Mickey Brantley, he has a good feel for the game at the plate and on the basepaths. He runs well but gets mixed reviews for his defense in center, because he sometimes gets poor jumps and has a below-average arm. He spent time at first base and left field, but his bat doesn't profile well at either position.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
420
80
134
17
2
4
40
50
27
28
8
.319 .395 .398
 
20. Luis Valbuena, 2b, West Tenn (Mariners)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Signed: Venezuela '02
After the Mariners pushed him to Double-A last year as a 21-year-old, Valbuena returned to West Tenn and showed improvement in all facets of the game. He finished the year playing regularly for Seattle.

Valbuena has plus bat speed and handles the bat well, making frequent contact. He has a sound approach at the plate and had nearly as many walks (28) as strikeouts (32) in the SL. He has pull power, though he's more of a line-drive hitter with pop to the gaps.

Managers rated Valbuena the best defensive second baseman in the league. While his speed is just average, he has good range to both sides and turns double plays well. He plays above his tools because of his overall feel for the game.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
240
43
73
12
2
9
40
31
37
8
4
.304 .381 .483