League Top 20 Prospects

International League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Reds outfielder Jay Bruce repeats as the IL's top prospect




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Jose Reyes, ss, Norfolk (Mets)
2. *Justin Morneau, 1b, Rochester (Twins)
3. *Victor Martinez, c, Buffalo (Indians)
4. *Chase Utley, 2b, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Phillies)
5. *Freddy Sanchez, ss/2b, Pawtucket (Red Sox)
6. *Adam LaRoche, 1b, Richmond (Braves)
7. *Brandon Claussen, lhp, Columbus/Louisville (Yankees/Reds)
8. *Cliff Lee, lhp, Buffalo (Indians)
9. *Jeremy Guthrie, rhp, Buffalo (Indians)
10. *Coco Crisp, of, Buffalo (Indians)
*Has played in major leagues.
If our Triple-A International League prospects list looks familiar, there's a reason. Louisville outfielder Jay Bruce repeats at No. 1—following former Durham outfielder Delmon Young (2005-06) as the second consecutive player to accomplish that feat—and six other players made the top 20 for the second straight year.

Pawtucket shortstop Jed Lowrie and Louisville righthander Homer Bailey returned, though their stock is headed in opposite directions. Lowrie took over as an everyday player with Boston, while Bailey failed to claim a rotation slot in Cincinnati and wasn't recalled in September. Other repeaters were Pawtucket first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss, Durham righty Jeff Niemann, Richmond outfielder Brandon Jones and Columbus righty Collin Balester.

With the exception of Durham righthander Wade Davis, who blew through the league with nine late-summer starts, position players stood out the most in the IL. That wouldn't have been the case had other young hurlers pitched enough to qualify. Pawtucket's Michael Bowden, Lehigh Valley's Carlos Carrasco, Syracuse's Brett Cecil and Ricky Romero, Rochester's Anthony Swarzak and Louisville's Daryl Thompson all fell short of the required 48 innings.

1. Jay Bruce, of, Louisville (Reds)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Reds '05 (1)
Jay Bruce
The 21-year-old Bruce's precocity was on full display in the minors—he seemed to hit everything hard—and he continued to showcase his skills in the majors, though he still needs to show a more disciplined approach to dealing with offspeed pitches. He can jump out of his swing at times in an effort to pull, and he struggled against big league lefthanders.

Hot or cold, Bruce still is the same talent he was when he earned Minor League Player of the Year honors in 2007. He has a classic lefthanded swing, tremendous bat speed and the natural ability to hit for average and power, grading on both counts as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

An average runner, he shows strong tracking ability and easy range in center field. He has an above-average arm.

"You may fool him once or twice," Richmond manager Dave Brundage said. "One changeup will make him look bad, but the next one will be off the right-center field wall for a triple. He makes adjustments on the fly."

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
184
34
67
9
5
10
37
12
45
8
1
.364 .393 .630
 
2. Andrew McCutchen, of, Indianapolis (Pirates)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Drafted: Pirates '05 (1)
McCutchen went 11th and Bruce 12th overall in the 2005 draft, and three years later they rank among the finest young outfielders in the game. Bruce's hitting and power tools grade out higher than McCutchen's, but the latter's game has more dimensions.

McCutchen has plus hand speed and keen pitch recognition for a 21-year-old. His quick bat, hitting instincts and self-evaluation skills ensure he'll hit for average, and his wiry strength could translate into average power as he matures. Like a lot of young hitters, he tends to get pull-happy, making him susceptible to breaking balls away, and he slugged just .378 versus righthanders.

While he's a plus runner, McCutchen doesn't get down the first-base line that quickly because he has a big swing. He stole 34 bases, yet he managed just a 64 percent success rate, as he topped all Triple-A players by getting caught 19 times. He has plus range in center field and an average throwing arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
512
75
145
26
3
9
50
68
87
34
19
.283 .372 .398
 
3. Wade Davis, rhp, Durham (Rays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220 Age: 22 Drafted: Rays '04 (3)
Davis made his Triple-A debut on July 20, threw seven shutout innings in his first start for Durham and breezed through the league until Scranton/Wilkes-Barre bombed him for eight runs in two innings in the final game of the playoffs. A classic power pitcher with clean mechanics, Davis sits at 92-93 mph with plus life on his fastball, and he keeps the pitch down in the zone. He can reach back for 94-95 when he needs it, though his command suffers.

Davis works quickly, and his power curveball is his out pitch, topping out in the low 80s and featuring true 12-to-6 break. He dominated righthanders in Triple-A, but lefties fared better as Davis worked to improve the consistency of his changeup and cutter. Both have the potential to be average pitches.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
9
4
2
0 2.72
53
39
16
16
5
24
55
.205
 
4. Reid Brignac, ss, Durham (Rays)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 22 Drafted: Rays '04 (2)
Once regarded as an offensive-minded infielder, Brignac was a unanimous pick by the managers as the IL's top defensive shortstop. He has plus range, hands and arm strength, and he committed just 12 errors in 92 games. He still can hit, too, allowing him to profile as a quality starter on a contending ballclub.

Brignac shows solid plate coverage and a willingness to go with the pitch, though he's susceptible to hard stuff up and in because he has a little lift to his swing. His strike-zone discipline regressed this year and he was inconsistent, but he still projects as a .280 hitter with average power. He has good athleticism and average speed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
352
43
88
26
2
9
43
25
93
5
2
.250 .299 .412
 
5. Jed Lowrie, ss, Pawtucket (Red Sox)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 180 Age: 24 Drafted: Red Sox '05 (1s)
Lowrie opened the season in Triple-A, but after Julio Lugo went down with a quad injury in mid-July, Lowrie proved he was more than up to the challenge of playing every day in Boston, adapting quickly to big league pitching. A polished offensive player, Lowrie rarely offers at pitches outside the strike zone. A switch-hitter, he has hit for a higher average and more power over the past two seasons as a righthanded batter. As a lefty, he has shown a better feel for the strike zone and more bat control. His power is strictly to the gaps now, but some observers saw the potential for 10-15 homers in the future.

A second baseman in college, Lowrie has made a smooth transition to shortstop as a pro, showing average range and good hands. He has enough arm for the left side of the infield, and he could move to third base if necessary.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
198
35
53
14
2
5
32
31
43
1
0
.268 .359 .434
 
6. David Huff, lhp, Buffalo (Indians)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 24 Drafted: Indians '06 (1s)
Elbow soreness limited Huff to 59 innings in 2007, but he bounced back to blow through Double-A and reach Buffalo in early June. The Indians kept him on a strict pitch count, but he showed enough to indicate that he's a potential mid-rotation starter.

Huff has sound mechanics, good mound presence and strong command of four pitches. He has picked up a few ticks on his fastball since college, as he now sits at 90-92 mph with a two-seamer that gets on batters quickly because of the natural deception in his delivery. He's not afraid to work inside to righthanders with his fastball, and his plus changeup gives him an out pitch against them. He had more trouble against lefthanders in the past, but he has improved in that regard after sharpening the bite on his curveball and slider.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
16
6
4
0 3.01
80.2
68
31
27
8
15
81
.224
 
7. Neil Walker, 3b, Indianapolis (Pirates)
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 217 Age: 22 Drafted: Pirates '04 (1)
Walker hit just .242/.280/.414 in his first full season in Triple-A, but his youth (he was 22), contact skills and ability to drive the ball from both sides of the plate still make for an intriguing package. Indianapolis manager Trent Jewett said Walker hit in rough luck, and the numbers bear this out. He recorded hits on just 27 percent of the balls he put in play, well below the league average of 31 percent.

Walker led the Indians with 16 home runs, and he flashes average hitting and power potential for a third baseman. A switch-hitter, he has shown more bat control as a righthanded batter. He's an intelligent and hard-working player who's still improving his strike-zone judgment.

Drafted as a catcher, Walker always has shown a plus arm, and this season he turned the corner in his transition to full-time third baseman. A good athlete with average speed, he has developed solid-average range, great anticipation and the confidence to not force plays.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
505
69
122
25
7
16
80
29
102
10
6
.242 .280 .414
 
8. Denard Span, of, Rochester (Twins)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 205 Age: 24 Drafted: Twins '02 (1)
Span had stagnated in the high minors before catching fire in May. He hit .340/.434/.481 for Rochester and carried that success into the majors, where he seized the Twins' leadoff job by the end of July.

Span has quick hands and he stays within his swing, making him an above-average hitter. He has good pitch recognition and commands the strike zone, looking for any way to get on base. He has home run power when he turns on the ball, but for the most part he's geared for doubles and triples in the gaps. Span's fast-twitch athleticism, plus-plus range in center field and above-average speed are all obvious. He also throws well enough to handle right field in the majors, with Carlos Gomez entrenched in center field for Minnesota.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
 156
32
53
11
1
3
14
26
36
15
8
.340 .434 .481
 
9. Charlie Morton, rhp, Richmond (Braves)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 190 Age: 24 Drafted: Braves '02 (3)
Morton had little success in six previous seasons before breaking through in 2008. He didn't give up a home run in 12 starts, he kept the ball on the ground and he posted healthy strikeout and walk rates. In the majors, though, he developed soreness beneath his right shoulder blade that diminished his velocity, and he got hit around. The slender righthander also lost about 15 pounds during the season.

Morton showed three average or better pitches that he's willing to use in any count. He pitches at 91-93 mph with his two-seam fastball and can go get 95-96 with his four-seamer when he needs it, even late in games. His hard-biting, power curveball is his out pitch, and he keeps both lefties and righties honest with his changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
12
5
2
0
2.05 79
51
20
18
0
27
72
.181
 
10. Homer Bailey, rhp, Louisville (Reds)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205 Age: 22 Drafted: Reds '04 (1)
While Bailey got out of whack in his delivery, didn't throw enough strikes and went winless after April, he still had a couple of things going for him: his age and his stuff. The 22-year-old was the youngest rotation regular in the IL, a full eight months younger than Wade Davis.

When he's right, Bailey has explosive life on a 93-95 mph fastball, especially when he throws it in the upper or lower regions of the strike zone. At other times, his fastball flattens out in the middle of the zone at 89-91. Scouts say an arm wrap in back of his delivery might affect his release point and thus his command.

Bailey can put plus spin on a power curveball, and he's nearly unhittable when he's working ahead of batters and throwing the pitch for strikes. His changeup and cutter have average potential. The Reds opted not to recall him after the IL playoffs, letting him end his season on a high note after he struck out eight in six shutout innings in a playoff start against Durham.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
19
4
7
0
4.77
111.1
118
62
59
10
46
96
.281
 
11. David Purcey, lhp, Syracuse (Blue Jays)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 230 Age: 26 Drafted: Blue Jays '04 (1)
Offseason surgery to remove cysts from his forearm and triceps seems to have revitalized Purcey's career. The 2004 first-round pick put everything together in his fifth pro season to lead all Triple-A hurlers with a 2.69 ERA. He also ranked second with 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings and fourth with a .227 opponent average.

The ball always has come out of Purcey's hand well, and when he's at his best it looks like he's playing catch with the catcher at 90-94 mph with good movement. He can hit 95 mph consistently in short stints, and he throws everything on a steep downward plane. He changes eye levels with his strong, 76-78 mph curveball, though his changeup is less refined and he has below-average feel for the pitch.

Purcey started throwing a slower slider more this season to give batters a different look. He showed more maturity and better poise than he had in the past.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
19
8
6
0 2.69
117
97
41
35
8
34
121
.227
 
12. Kevin Mulvey, rhp, Rochester (Twins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 23 Drafted: Mets '06 (2)
Under scrutiny as a key piece of the Johan Santana trade with the Mets, Mulvey met expectations in Triple-A as a poised strike-thrower. While he doesn't overpower batters and profiles more as a No. 3 or 4 starter, he impressed the Twins by locating his fastball and embracing his changeup.

Mulvey fills the zone with an 88-92 mph sinker that features good movement around the plate and gets on batters quickly because of natural deception. He's unafraid to throw his slider and change for strikes in any count, though both pitches are average at best. He also employs a slower, low-70s curveball.

Because he's slow to the plate and uses a high leg kick to get on top of his breaking pitches, Mulvey is easy to run on. Rochester catchers threw out just 19 percent when he was on the mound, and only Durham's Jeff Niemann was run on more often in the IL.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
27
7
9
0 3.77
148
152
80
62
16
48
121
.265
 
13. Matt Joyce, of, Toledo (Tigers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 24 Drafted: Tigers '05 (12)
Joyce carved out a big league role with the Tigers with a huge month of July, batting .321/.384/.654 in 24 games. In the process, he separated himself from a pack of power-hitting Mud Hens that included first baseman Jeff Larish, second baseman Michael Hollimon and center fielder Clete Thomas.

Joyce has a smooth lefthanded stroke and the power to hit 20-25 homers annually. He takes an aggressive hack, and while he can be prone to strikeouts, he's a good situational hitter. He hasn't handled southpaws well in his career, and the Tigers often platooned him in the big leagues.

An average runner and a well above-average defender in right field, Joyce tracks balls well and has enough range to fill in in center. He has a strong, accurate arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
200 36
54
13
2
13
41
24
62
2
3
.270 .352 .550
 
14. Brandon Moss, 1b/of, Pawtucket (Red Sox)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 205 Age: 24 Drafted: Red Sox '02  (8)
A trade to the Pirates at the deadline provided Moss with the opportunity the Red Sox couldn't give him. When Boston DH David Ortiz went down with a hand injury in June, Moss wasn't available because he was recovering from an emergency appendectomy that knocked him out for a month. Moss batted .222/.288/.424 as Pittsburgh's left fielder and No. 6 hitter after the trade.

Moss uses a short, direct lefthanded swing that furnishes him with above-average gap power to both alleys. More home runs could follow, because he gets good backspin on the ball. He hangs in against lefthanders, but he doesn't make enough contact against either side to hit for a high average.

The Red Sox played Moss mostly at first base in Pawtucket, but he's an average defender on an outfield corner despite his below-average speed. He also has the arm strength to play right field. IL observers admired his consistent effort and approach to all phases of the game.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
163
29
46
8
4
8
30
16
47
2
0
.282 .346 .528
 
15. J.A. Happ, lhp, Lehigh Valley (Phillies)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 200 Age: 25 Drafted: Phillies '04 (3)
No IL pitcher came further this season than Happ, who pitched through elbow soreness with Ottawa in 2007 and finished with the worst ERA (5.02) and the highest walk rate (4.7 per nine innings) among league qualifiers. Happ rebounded in 2008, improving his control while ranking first among Triple-A pitchers with 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings and second with 151 punchouts. He also earned a spot on the Phillies' postseason roster with a strong September.

Despite the strikeouts, Happ doesn't have overpowering stuff. Instead, he relies on natural deception and commands a lively 87-91 mph fastball to both sides of the plate. He cuts and sinks his fastball, and gets it in on the hands of lefthanders well

Happ uses his changeup, which features good depth, to combat righties. He also throws a curveball, but it lags behind his other two pitches.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
23
8
7
0 3.60
135
116
58
54
14
48
151
.234
 
16. Jeff Niemann, rhp, Durham (Rays)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-9 Wt.: 280 Age: 25 Drafted: Rays '04 (1)
The fourth overall pick in 2004, Niemann finally made his big league debut in April, pitching well in his first start and poorly in his second before getting optioned back to Durham. Niemann pitched about as well as he had for the Bulls in 2007. The highs were higher—he struck out a career-high 12 in a July 2 complete game—and he proved to be dramatically less hittable.

Niemann fills the zone with 90-94 mph fastballs that he delivers with steep plane—he's 6-foot-9—and his long stride significantly reduces the batter's reaction time. He stabs in the back of his delivery, which sometimes prohibits his arm from catching up to his body and results in fastballs left up in the zone. He has improved the consistency of his hard slider, though his slow curveball and splitter (which he uses as a changeup versus lefties) are mostly below average.

Because he's a deliberate worker who can't warm up quickly, and because he does not control the running game—just two of 33 basestealers (6 percent) were caught on his watch—Niemann's future is as a starter and not as a reliever. He projects as a No. 3 to 5 starter, and it remains to be seen whether he'll get that chance with Tampa Bay.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
24
9
5
0
3.59
133
101
60
53
15
50
128
.207
 
17. Brandon Jones, of, Richmond (Braves)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 210 Age: 24 Drafted: Braves '03 D/F (24)
Jones hit .211 with two doubles in 38 at-bats during spring training, failing to take advantage of Atlanta's wide-open outfield situation, and his poor performance carried over into the regular season. The Braves believe that he simply put too much pressure on himself, and he didn't really snap out of it until he hit .319/.412/.569 with five homers in 18 games in August.

With a quick lefty bat and a sweet line-drive swing, Jones has above-average hitting potential. Much of his trouble in Triple-A derived from spotty pitch recognition, and he got off balance when he tried to do too much, especially against lefthanders. He flashes occasional plus power to all fields, but his swing is geared more for doubles than home runs.

An average runner, Jones gets down the first-base line quickly because of a clean swing. He's an average defender in left or right field, reading balls well off the bat and exhibiting a solid arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
346
44
90
24
1
8
52
46
76
9
6
.260 .343 .405
 
18. Collin Balester, rhp, Columbus (Nationals)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 195 Age: 22 Drafted: Nationals '04 (4)
Balester teamed with fellow rookie John Lannan to provide Nationals fans with a glimmer of hope for the future. While he wasn't quite ready for the big leagues at the time of his July 1 debut, Washington opted to let him finish his education in the National League. The fact that he competed in the majors at age 22 bodes well for his future.

Balester's ceiling is as a strike-throwing No. 3 or 4 starter. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and occasionally touches 93-94 with solid life. His command of his average curveball is improving, and he learned to better incorporate his changeup while with Columbus, giving him a viable three-pitch mix.

Balester still telegraphs his changeup at times by slowing his arm down. He quickened his delivery to the plate with runners on base, and opponents attempted just six steals in his 12 Triple-A starts.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15
9
3
0 4.00
78.2
79
37
35
14
23
64
.263
 
19. Brett Gardner, of, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 180 Age: 25 Drafted: Yankees '05 (3)
When Gardner received his first big league callup at the end of June, he was leading the IL in on-base percentage, stolen bases, walks and triples—nicely summing up all the facets of his offensive profile. He's a scrappy leadoff type who gets the absolute most out of his modest tools and 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame.

Gardner uses long, easy strides and pure 70 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale to function as a pest on the bases and serve as a plus defender in center field. He's especially effective as a basestealer because he never betrays when he's going to run by leaning or taking an extra step toward second base.

Gardner has an excellent feel for the strike zone, working deep counts and spraying the ball around. He'll need to adapt to pitchers jamming him with fastballs if he's going to hit for average in the big leagues. He can be defensed, too, because he favors the opposite field. Because he gets next to no extension in his swing, Gardner's power is far below average. He has nine career home runs in 1,456 minor league at-bats—or one every 162 trips—and didn't go deep in 127 at-bats in the majors.

"He's one of those pesky little players who ignites the rest of the lineup, the type of player that every good team seems to have," a scout with a National League club said. "He's got good instincts and he can make things happen. He was taught to make contact and beat out groundballs to get on base. Some players with his tools don't use them to their advantage."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
341
68
101
12
11
3
32
70
76
37
9
.296 .414 .442
 
20. Chris Getz, 2b/ss, Charlotte (White Sox)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185 Age: 25 Drafted: White Sox '05 (4)
If the White Sox let Orlando Cabrera walk as a free agent, they could shift Alexei Ramirez to shortstop and install Getz at second base while waiting for 2008 first-rounder Gordon Beckham to develop. Getz got his first taste of Chicago in September, but he was shut down when he was diagnosed with a broken left wrist, the result of getting hit by a Wade Davis pitch on the second-to-last day of the IL season.

Getz is geared for contact, striking out once every 11.4 plate appearances as a pro, and he sprays the ball all around the field. He's a calm, quiet hitter who is unafraid to work deep counts and seldom chases pitches out of the zone. Despite bettering his previous high for home runs in a season by eight—hitting 11 this year in 111 games—Getz has below-average power. All 11 of his homers were hit in Charlotte's hitter-friendly Knights Stadium.

Getz has steady infield actions and decent hands at second base. He hangs in on double plays and has a strong arm for the position. Though he's an above-average runner, Getz has a slow first step, meaning that he would be stretched as an everyday shortstop. He returned to that position this season for the first time since his pro debut, and he also spent time in left field, preparing him for a potential long-term role as a big league utilityman.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
404
60
122
24
1
11
52
41
53
11
4
.302 .366 .448