League Top 20 Prospects

Northwest League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Hak-Ju Lee dominates as a teenager




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. Javier Herrera, of, Vancouver (Athletics)
2. Ryan Harvey, of, Boise (Cubs)
3. *Carlos Gonzalez, of, Yakima (Diamondbacks)
4. Craig Whitaker, rhp, Salem-Keizer (Giants)
5. *Matt Tuiasasopo, ss, Everett (Mariners)
6. *Juan Morillo, rhp, Tri-City (Rockies)
7. Richie Robnett, of, Vancouver (Athletics)
8. *Asdrubal Cabrera, ss, Everett (Mariners)
9. *Matt Macri, 3b, Tri-City (Rockies)
10. *Chris Carter, of/dh, Yakima (Diamondbacks)
*Has played in major leagues
Position players dominated the short-season Northwest League prospect scene in 2009. The first seven prospects on our Top 20 list are everyday players, starting with a pair of international signees, Boise shortstop Hak-Ju Lee and Eugene third baseman Edinson Rincon. Prominent 2009 draftees also made their mark, with first-round outfielders Brett Jackson (Boise) and Tim Wheeler (Tri-City) standing out the most.

Several other high-profile draftees, such as Everett shortstop Nick Franklin and Vancouver catcher Max Stassi, performed well but didn't spend enough time in the NWL to qualify. There also were a number of older hitters, like Salem-Keizer third baseman Drew Biery (the league MVP at age 23) and Everett first baseman Gerardo Avila (the NWL home run leader with 13 at age 23 and in his sixth pro season), who didn't profile as top prospects.

Last year's NWL crop featured a better balance between hitters and pitchers, with talented arms (Martin Perez, Christian Friedrich) who went on to bigger and better things in 2009. For the second straight summer, the league's best pitching prospect was a Spokane lefthander, as Robbie Ross followed in Perez's footsteps. Tri-City lefty Rex Brothers, a supplemental first-round pick, would have factored prominently on the list had he pitched enough to qualify.

1. Hak-Ju Lee, ss, Boise (Cubs)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Signed: South Korea '08
Signed out of Korea for $725,000 in 2008, Lee made his pro debut this summer after injuring his elbow last season and requiring Tommy John surgery. One of the youngest players in the NWL, he was also its best all-around player. While Lee only projects to have gap power, his other four tools are all above average.

His plus-plus speed stands out and gives defenses fits. If infielders play him back, he'll lay down a bunt for a single, and if they play him in, he'll shoot a hard grounder right by them. He led the NWL with 56 runs and 25 steals (in 33 attempts) and his quickness helped on defense, where managers considered him the best shortstop in the league.

"When he goes in the hole, he has plenty of arm to make that play," Boise manager Casey Kopitzke said. "When he goes up the middle, he has the athleticism to spin and make the play, and he has the hand-eye coordination when he comes in on balls to make those plays too."

Lee led all NWL shortstops with 27 errors, but he also got to more balls than anyone else and Kopitzke said the errors were mainly from a lack of experience—usually rushing plays when he didn't have to—and not from deficient skills. He aggressively goes after balls and has soft hands.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
264 56
87 14 2 2 33 31
50 25 8 .330 .399 .420
 
2. Edinson Rincon, 3b, Eugene (Padres)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '07
Unlike many teenagers, Rincon has a mature approach at the plate. His quick swing and strength allowed him to hit .300/.415/.468 with 18 doubles and seven homers for Eugene. His discerning eye enabled him to draw 46 walks, the third-highest total in the league.

One scout said Rincon's performance wasn't a fluke and projected hit to consistently hit .300 with average power in the big leagues. He has good pitch recognition and hits breaking balls. Even though he's built like a catcher and weighs about 25-30 pounds more than his listed weight, he has decent speed and was perfect in five steal attempts.

Rincon's agility in the field is an issue, however. Though he has an above-average arm, he lacks the first-step quickness and mobility needed to stay at the hot corner. He made 22 errors in 44 games there this summer, and his future position likely will be left field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
267 47 80 18 3 7 47
46 60 5 0 .300 .415 .468
 
3. Brett Jackson, of, Boise (Cubs)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Cubs '09 (1)
Jackson offered one of the best power-speed combinations in the 2009 draft, which is why the Cubs selected him 31st overall. The knock on him was that he struck out too much in college, but he made an impressive transition to pro pitching and wood bats.

Jackson didn't chase balls out of the zone, concentrated on getting good pitches to hit and bore down when he got into two-strike counts. He shows plenty of pull-side power—after homering once for Boise, he went deep seven times following a promotion to low Class A Peoria—and has good loft to his swing. When his timing is right, the ball jumps off his bat.

Jackson has above-average speed and stole 13 bases in 15 attempts in his pro debut. He also puts that speed to use in center field, where he gets good jumps on balls and chases down fly balls in the gaps. His arm doesn't stand out but is playable in center field.

"The thing that impressed me the most was that he played the game extremely hard," Kopitzke said. "He runs every ball out, he'll break up a double play for you and he goes hard after every ball in the gap. On top of that, he was able to hit for power and hit for some average. It's exciting."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
88
14 29 1 1 1 15 17 20 2 1 .330 .443 .398
 
4. Mario Martinez, 3b, Everett (Mariners)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 19 Signed: Mariners '06
At 19 years old, Martinez already has a 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame that would fit into any clubhouse in the big leagues. His game isn't as developed as his physique, however, and he struggled in the low Class A Midwest League for the first three months of the season. Once the Mariners moved him to the more age-appropriate NWL in late June, he thrived, leading the league with 93 hits.

Though Martinez hit just five home runs over 531 at-bats between the two levels, he shows power in batting practice and will have game power once he matures. He'll need to improve his approach at the plate, as he chases too many pitches and had a combined 110-22 strikeout-walk ratio, but he also strung together the NWL's longest hitting streak at 21 games.

Defensively, Martinez was the best third baseman in the league. He ranges well to both sides, has soft hands and shows off above-average arm strength. He's an average runner and probably will lose a step as he gets strong. A hard worker, Martinez already speaks English well enough to serve as the translator for Everett's other Latin American players.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
302 45 93 20 5 3 33 11 59 4 0 .308 .340 .437
 
5. Tim Wheeler, of, Tri-City (Rockies)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Rockies '09 (1)
The 32nd overall pick in June, Wheeler's statistics weren't overly impressive, but he finished the season on a 12-game hitting streak that included three of his five homers. His offensive potential and all-around potential also couldn't be denied.

An athletic 6-foot-4, 205-pounder, Wheeler hits from an upright stance. He has raw power, easily driving balls over the wall in batting practice and projects to hit .280-.300 with 15-20 homers annually. He got underneath a lot of balls with Tri-City, and the Rockies are trying to get him to take better advantage of his slightly above-average speed.

Wheeler still has some work to do in the outfield. He ranges from side to side well and has good instincts going back on the ball, but his routes could be sharper and he has some trouble coming in on balls. If he doesn't stick in center field, his average arm probably will relegate him to left.

"He's just a gamer," Tri-City manager Freddie Ocasio said. "He plays the game hard the whole time and that's a good thing to see, especially from a first-rounder."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
273 44 70 13 3 5 35 29 60 10 4 .256 .332 .381
 
6. Ryan Wheeler, 1b, Yakima (Diamondbacks)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220 Age: 21 Drafted: Diamondbacks '09 (5)
Wheeler (no relation to Tim) was one of the most impressive players in the NWL, leading the league in on-base percentage (.461) and ranking second in batting (.363) and slugging (.538). He continued to sting the ball after a late-season promotion to low Class A South Bend, where he batted cleanup in the Midwest League playoffs.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has a powerful lefthanded stroke, as well as the patience and approach to hit for average and draw walks. He does a good job with plate coverage and using the whole field.

"He reminds me a lot of Lance Berkman, the way he swings the bat from the left side," said Everett manager John Tamargo, who coached Berkman with the Astros. "He's very confident at the plate, very patient, has a good knowledge of the strike zone and he can hit the ball."

Wheeler has played third base in the past and saw some time in left field with Yakima, but his position will be first base. He's an average defender with sure hands.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
234 44 85 20 3 5 36 37 28 7 4 .363 .461 .538
 
7. Robbie Ross, lhp, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 185 Age: 20 Drafted: Rangers '08 (2)
Nearly every manager agreed that Ross was the best pitcher they faced this year. He was the only NWL hurler to finish in the top five in ERA (2.66) and strikeouts (76 in 74 innings). Spokane manager Tim Hulett summed it up by saying, "If he pitches, we're going to have a chance to win."

Ross touched 93-94 mph early in the summer before beginning to tire, and he sat at 90-92 for much of the year. He keeps his fastball down and it has good run, resulting in a 3.2 groundout/airout ratio, and he also can throw it by hitters up in the zone. He hides the ball well and is especially tough on lefthanders.

Ross still is working to refine his secondary offerings. He has a feel for a slider with sharp break and also mixes in a changeup, though he can get underneath his pitches at times. At 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he doesn't have an ideal pitcher's frame and will need to get stronger so he can work deeper into games, especially over the grind of a full season.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 4 4 0 2.66
74
68 28 22 5 17 76 .240
 
8. Francisco Peguero, of, Salem-Keizer (Giants)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
Pegeuro hit .353 this season, including a .394 average during three weeks at league champion Salem-Keizer sandwiched between two stints at low Class A Augusta. He plays to his strengths, hitting line drives and grounders so he can take advantage of his plus speed. He turns singles into doubles and goes from first to third or second to home with ease.

"You get him on second base with two outs, and you know he's going to score on a base hit in any park," Salem-Keizer manager Tom Trebelhorn said.

Peguero's power is his lone below-average tool, but he has the raw strength to one day hit 10-15 homers per year. He covers enough ground to play center field, and his arm is strong enough to fit in right. He gets the most out of his ability, playing with great intensity.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
71 14 28 3 1 0 12 3 9 7 0 ..394 .421 .465
 
9. Matt Davidson, 3b, Yakima (Diamondbacks)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210 Age: 18 Drafted: Diamondbacks '09 (1s)
One of the best high school power bats in the 2009 draft, Davidson went 35th overall to the Diamondbacks. His batting line of .241/.312/.319 doesn't elicit a lot of excitement, but he was the youngest regular in the league at age 18 and received a steady diet of breaking balls.

Davidson has a good frame with some strength and nice leverage in his swing. That's where his power comes from, because he doesn't have an exceptionally fast bat or quick-twitch actions at the plate. Trebelhorn said Davidson reminds him of a young Matt Williams.

Vancouver manager Rick Magnante, who also scouts southern California for the Athletics and had Davidson in his are, said he was surprised at how much Davidson's defense had improved since the spring. While his range and first-step quickness are still a concern, he became much more aggressive to the ball and improved his hands, footwork and arm strength. He also led NWL third baseman with a .934 fielding percentage.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
270 29 65 15 0 2 28 21 75 0 2 .241 .312 .319
 
10. Miguel Velazquez, of, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Rangers '06 (19)
Scouts regarded Velazquez as a premium talent when he was a Puerto Rico high school senior in 2006, but he fell to the 19th round after he was arrested for assault and involved in a shooting. He made his pro debut in 2007, hitting .330/.381/.489 in the Rookie-level Arizona League, but missed all of 2008 after a parole violation caused him to spend time in a youth-detention center.

Picking up right where he left off, Velzaquez showed five-tool potential. Pitchers pounded him with breaking balls, but he has a good approach and his above-average bat speed produces hard line drives and power to all fields. He has good speed, though he needs to work on his jumps on the bases and in right field, and a strong, accurate arm.

"He had some issues, but we knew that when we signed the player," Rangers farm director Scott Servais said. "He got some issues cleaned up off the field and we're glad to have him back. He's a very talented kid and there have been no issues this year. He's made quite a bit of progress maturity-wise and has a bright future ahead of him."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
209 33 62 12 2 10 40 19 43 9 2 .297 .359 .517
 
11. Tommy Mendonca, 3b, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Rangers '09 (2)
Mendonca followed up winning College World Series MVP honors as a sophomore by ranking third in NCAA Division I with 27 homers as a junior, propelling him into the second round of the draft. He continued to hit for power in his pro debut, slugging .537 for Spokane before a promotion to high Class A.

While the ball jumps off Mendonca's bat, he does have issues making contact (66 strikeouts in 188 at-bats) and more experienced pitchers could exploit his overly aggressive approach (he drew just nine walks). His bat path is a little too deep and he drops his hands during his swing, causing him to get underneath a lot of fastballs.

Mendonca isn't quite on par with Martinez defensively, but he's close. He has good instincts, a quick transfer and short throwing motion. His throws can get sloppy, as he sometimes drops down and flips the ball across the diamond.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
188
33 58 12 2 9 26 9 66 0 0 .309 .361 .537
 
12. James Jones, of, Everett (Mariners)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 195 Age: 20 Drafted: Mariners '09 (4)
Though he added more than 50 pounds of weight during his college career at Long Island, Jones still sports a slender, 6-foot-4 frame with long arms and legs. He played both ways for the Blackbirds and many teams liked him more as a pitcher after he touched 95 mph with his fastball last fall. The Mariners, who made him a fourth-round pick, preferred him as a position player.

Jones recognizes breaking balls well, puts together good at-bats and has quick hands that lead to above-average bat speed. An aggressive hitter, he has raw power to all fields and is just starting to tap into it. Though he's athletic, his speed is average at best and he's not a basestealing threat.

Jones played mostly right field for Everett and showed off his arm strength by recording six assists in 33 games.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
164 28 51 12 2 3 24 19 40 0 3 .311 .392 .463
 
13. Chris Dominguez, 3b, Salem-Keizer (Giants)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215 Age: 22 Drafted: Giants '09 (3)
Dominguez is quite similar to Mendonca, and finished right behind him in the NCAA Division I home race with 25 this spring. He has even more raw power and the same propensity for striking out (57 times in 181 at-bats). Though he has a tendency to swing through breaking balls, he hits tape-measure shots when he connects.

His arm strength stands out as much as his power, and Dominguez was clocked in the mid-90s as a freshman reliever at Louisville. "You could mention any arm at third base in the last 40 years of this game," Trebelhorn said, "and he's comparable to any of them."

A big man, Dominguez lacks speed and his range is below average at third base, so he may end up in the outfield.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
181 31 46 5 1 9 32 9 57 11 2 .254 .298 .442
 
14. Julio Ramos, lhp, Vancouver (Athletics)
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 158 Age: 21 Signed: Dominican Republic '06
Signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Athletics in 2006, Ramos won Arizona League all-star honors in his U.S. debut last season. He doesn't possess the raw arm strength of the other pitchers on this list, but he fills up the bottom half of the strike zone and had one of the best changeups in the league. He ranked second in the NWL with a 2.38 ERA.

"We've faced Salem-Keizer four times and he's come out with 'Groundhog Day' starts all four times," Magnante said. "He stays down in the zone, gets ahead in the count and really knows how to pitch."

Ramos' fastball sits at 89-91 mph, and managers thought it could see a bump as he adds some muscle because he has an easy delivery with a smooth arm action. He's developing a slider, but his changeup is his bread and butter. He actually throws two versions, a knuckle-change with some tumble and a one-seam changeup with nice sink and fade.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
13 6 5 0 2.38
72
67 30 19 4 18 64
.248
 
15. Rob Scahill, rhp, Tri-City (Rockies)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 205 Age: 22 Drafted: Rockies '09 (8)
Scahill has made a full recovery from labrum surgery that cost him the entire 2007 season at Bradley. His fastball now sits at 91-92 mph with good sink, and there are some outings where he operates at 94-96 for a few innings. He backs his heater up with a mid-80s slider that has a chance to be an above-average pitch if he can get more consistent with it.

Scahill's changeup isn't as good as his fastball or slider, but he needs to work on it and use it more often if he's going to remain a starter. He sometimes rushes through his delivery, which detracts from his control.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 1 4 0 3.14
63
58 30 22 2 20 58
.245
 
16. Ben Paulsen, 1b, Tri-City (Rockies)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 205 Age: 21 Drafted: Rockies '09 (3)
Paulsen consistently improved during his time at Clemson, hitting his way into the third round after a .367/.435/.618 junior year for the Tigers. The lefthanded hitter has an aggressive mentality at the plate and a swing that stays in the zone for a long time.

His approach means that he doesn't strike out or walk very often, but he also doesn't get himself into power hitter's counts. He hit just one homer in 175 at-bats with Tri-City, but he has the strength to hit 15-20 per season. He projects to hit for average with a lot of doubles.

"For me, he's going to be a big leaguer," Ocasio said. "This guy's got a nice swing. He's the the one guy that I would probably say he'll be a .300 hitter."

At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he's limited to first base. He makes all the routine plays but is just adequate defensively. He's a below-average runner.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
175 28
49 10 2 1 25 12 32 2 1 .280 .325 .377
 
17. Jerry Sullivan, rhp, Eugene (Padres)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220 Age: 21 Drafted: Padres '09 (3)
Like Scahill, Sullivan recovered from a serious injury as an amateur. He had Tommy John surgery before his high school senior season but went on to star for three years at Oral Roberts before becoming a third-round pick in June.

Sullivan sits in the low 90s with his fastball and dials it up to 94 on occasion. He also throws a slider and a changeup that show promise but are still currently works in progress. He uses his big frame to his advantage by staying on top of his pitches and throwing with a good downward plane.

He has a tendency to fly open a little bit in his delivery, pulling his pitches to his arm side and resulting in some extra walks, so the Padres are working to get him on a more direct line to home plate. He should be able to make the adjustment because he's a good athlete with a strong work ethic.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
9 5 3 0 4.02
54
44 26 24 5 27 58
.219
 
18. Connor Hoehn, rhp, Vancouver (Athletics)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 205 Age: 20 Drafted: Athletics '09 (12)
One of the NWL's top relievers, Hoehn struck out 25 in 15 innings and limited opponents to a .153 average. The Athletics were trying to keep his innings down after signing him as a 12th-rounder in June, and they plan on using him as a starter in the future.

Hoehn has a sturdy frame and a live arm that delivers 92-95 mph fastballs. His No. 2 pitch is a slider that has good velocity and late, darting movement when it's on. He also shows some feel for a changeup and repeats his delivery well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
0 0 1 7 1.00
18
9 3 2 0 7 25
.143
 
19. Logan Watkins, 2b, Boise (Cubs)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170 Age: 20 Drafted: Cubs '08 (21)
Watkins didn't generate much hype before the 2008 draft, but the Cubs paid him a $500,000 bonus in the 21st round to lure him away from Wichita State. The early returns on that investment are positive so far, as the athletic Watkins has batted .326 in two pro seasons. He was one of just five minor leaguers to string together two hitting streaks of 15 games or more in 2009—an especially impressive considering he played just 72 games.

Watkins has good hand-eye coordination and sprays the ball all around the field. With his contact-oriented approach and above-average speed, he does a fine job of getting on base. He has yet to homer as a professional, but he has some gap power and still has room to fill out.

Watkins started the season in extended spring training, focusing on improving his defense. The hard work paid off, as he showed increased range, softer hands and a better ability to turn the double play when he joined Boise in June. He has a solid arm and also saw some time in left field, and it's possible that he could handle center.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
279 48 91
14 2 0 29 27 31 14 7 .326 .389 .391
 
20. Braden Tullis, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Rangers '09 (8)
Tullis is a quality athlete who played mostly first base and was also a linebacker in high school. After becoming a full-time pitcher this spring as a freshman at Skagit Valley (Wash.) CC, he went in the eighth round of the draft and had a strong pro debut with Spokane.

Tullis pitches down in the zone with a heavy two-seam fastball that ranges from 88-91 mph. He also mixes in a sharp slider and a changeup that has a chance to be a plus pitch. Despite his inexperience on the mound, he has clean mechanics and advanced feel for pitching.

"The thing I like most about him is you can't tell what just happened on the mound," Hulett said. "His composure and presence on the mound are really good. You can't tell if he just gave up a three-run home run or struck out two in a row."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
13 4 6 0 3.04
68
68 33
23 1 20 64
.252