League Top 20 Prospects

Midwest League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Last year's draft class stands out in MWL




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. Brian Dopirak, 1b, Lansing (Cubs)
2. *Daric Barton, c, Peoria (Cardinals)
3. Eric Duncan, 3b, Battle Creek (Yankees)
4. *John Danks, lhp, Clinton (Rangers)
5. *Brandon Wood, ss, Cedar Rapids (Angels)
6. *Jairo Garcia, rhp, Kane County (Athletics)
7. *Joey Votto, 1b, Dayton (Reds)
8. *Ian Kinsler, ss, Clinton (Rangers)
9. *Sean Marshall, lhp, Lansing (Cubs)
10. Adam Harben, rhp, Quad Cities (Twins)
*Has played in major leagues
Scouts thought the 2008 draft included one of the best hitting crops this decade, and the low Class A Midwest League reinforced that notion this year. Seven of our MWL Top 20 Prospects are position players drafted a year ago, starting with Beloit center fielder Aaron Hicks, the 14th overall selection.

Two more first-rounders, Wisconsin second baseman Brett Lawrie and Burlington first baseman Eric Hosmer, cracked the list, as did Fort Wayne left fielder Jaff Decker, a sandwich pick. The league's co-MVPs also were products of the 2008 draft, Great Lakes shortstop Dee Gordon (fourth round) and right fielder Kyle Russell (third).

Decker and third baseman James Darnell, a 2008 second-rounder, were part of a TinCaps team that won a minor league-high 94 games and both half-season titles in the MWL East, then swept Burlington in the playoff finals.

1. Aaron Hicks, of, Beloit (Twins)
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HS—Long Beach, 2008 (1).
The Twins handled Hicks cautiously, keeping him in extended spring training for two months before sending him to Beloit in mid-June. Even when he started slowly, his all-around tools were evident. He drew comparisons to the likes of Adam Jones, Dexter Fowler and Curtis Granderson.

"He's the most dynamic, projectable position player I saw," a National League scout said. "He can play a premium position and he has a chance to be a five-tool guy. It's a wiry body with some leverage to it."

A switch-hitter with a quick bat from both sides of the plate, Hicks shocked scouts with how well he controlled the strike zone, drawing 40 walks in half a season. A plus runner with above-average power potential once he fills out, he should be at least a 20-20 man in his prime. His swing can get long and has some holes, but he should hit for a solid average.

Hicks also should be an above-average center fielder once he learns to get better jumps and take proper angles on balls. His arm rates an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and some teams preferred him on the mound after he was clocked at 97 mph in high school.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
251 43
63 15 3 4 29 40
55 10 8 .251 .353 .382
 
2. Dee Gordon, ss, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 150. Drafted: Seminole (Fla.) CC, 2008 (4).
A transcript mixup left Gordon ineligible to play in the spring before the 2008 draft, but the Dodgers learned about him because his father Tom, the big league all-star, tipped off Los Angeles farm director DeJon Watson, a former teammate in the Royals system. Smaller but just as athletic as Hicks, Gordon is still raw yet hit .301 in his first full season and stole a league-high 73 bases.

"He's just touching what he can do," South Bend manager Mark Haley said. "He's got a lot more in the tank. He's just learning to play the game."

Gordon crowds the plate and is a free swinger, but he consistently barrels balls and drills liners to the opposite field. He's working on drawing walks and bunting so he can get on base more to take advantage of his top-of-the-line speed. He's still learning to steal bases after topping the minors by getting caught 25 times. More than a slap hitter, he should have decent pop once he gets stronger.

A defensive work in progress as well, Gordon led MWL shortstop with 34 errors. He needs to charge more balls and keep his elbow up on his throws. With good actions, plus range and a solid arm, he has the tools to stay at shortstop, and it's also easy to envision him as an above-average defender in center field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
538 96 162 17 12 3 35
43 90 73 25 .301 .362 .394
 
3. Josh Vitters, 3b, Peoria (Cubs)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Cypress, Calif., 2007 (1).
Vitters opened 2008 at Peoria but played in just four games before a hand injury shut him down. In his return to the MWL this year, managers rated him as the league's best hitting prospect and the best power prospect.

"He's a special player," Cedar Rapids manager Bill Mosiello said. "He physically reminds me of a righhanded Chase Utley. He's stronger than he looks."

Vitters excels at the plate more through a short, powerful stroke and hand-eye coordination than pure bat speed. He makes consistent hard contact but gives away at-bats by swinging at too many pitches, a weakness opponents exploited more after his promotion to high Class A at the end of June. He may hit for power and average but never draw many walks. He's also a below-average runner.

His defensive ability is of greater concern. Vitters has good hands and enough arm for third base, but he lacks a quick first step and range. He's a laid-back kid, and MWL observers would have liked to see him be more aggressive about addressing his plate discipline and his defense.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
269
42 85 12 1 15 46 7 42 4 0 .316 .351 .535
 
4. Brett Lawrie, 2b, Wisconsin (Brewers)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Langley, B.C., 2008 (1).
The highest drafted position player (16th overall) ever out of Canada, Lawrie reached Double-A as a 19-year-old in his first pro season, then helped his nation win a bronze medal at the World Cup.

Most of Lawrie's value comes from his offense. He has strong hands and exceptional bat speed, and while his swing is a bit long, his bat stays in the zone for a long time. Using an open stance and diving into pitches, he drives the ball to all fields. He's a more disciplined hitter than most teenagers, and he has average speed and some instincts on the bases.

Lawrie never has shown much interest in defense, and he gave up on catching before the season. If he works, he could be a second baseman in the style of Dan Uggla, but his hands are rough and his footwork isn't smooth. He has the arm strength to play right field, and his bat will profile there.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
372 48 102 18 5 13 65 41 70 19 11 .274 .348 .454
 
5. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Burlington (Royals)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Newhall, Calif., 2008 (1s).
Protecting Montgomery's arm from the early-season chill in the MWL, the Royals didn't send him to Burlington until mid-May. Once he got there, he couldn't be held back, allowing more than one earned run in just two of his 12 starts and pitching even better following a promotion to high Class A.

"He's one of the best pitching prospects I've ever seen," said Burlington manager Jim Gabella, who has scouted and managed for 25 years. "He has all the stuff a frontline starting pitcher needs, and his makeup is off the charts."

Montgomery's fastball already sits at 90-92 mph with room for a lot of projection, and it looks quicker because there's little effort in his delivery. He also throws a potential plus changeup, a hard downer curveball that he needs to stay on top of more often, and a palmball. He'll rush to the majors once he gets more consistent with his secondary pitches and his command.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
12 2 3 0 2.17
58
42 19
14 1 24 52
.206
 
6. Casey Crosby, lhp, West Michigan (Tigers)
Age: 20. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Maple Park, Ill., 2007 (5).
Because he had Tommy John surgery shortly after he signed in 2007, Crosby had pitched just five pro innings before this year. His rust was evident, but his stuff was undeniable.

"He kinds of reminds me of Clayton Kershaw when Kershaw was in the Midwest League," an American League scout said. "I'm not saying he'll be that good, but he has the power fastball up to 95 and the power breaking ball. He was lights out when I saw him."

Crosby has uncommon velocity for a lefthander and he had the best fastball in the league, sitting at 92-95 mph and touching 98 with late life. He'll flash a hard breaking ball and a promising changeup, but he lacks consistency with both pitches as well as his command. A quality athlete who was an all-state wide receiver in high school, he has a delivery that's more deceptive than smooth.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
24 10 4 0 2.41
105
70 36
28
3 48 117
.195
 
7. Simon Castro, rhp, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 203. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006.
Castro's arm strength has been evident since he made his pro debut three years ago, and he started to make the jump from thrower to pitcher in 2009. He led the MWL with 157 strikeouts in 140 innings, spun a seven-inning no-hitter against Dayton in August, then no-hit South Bend for 6 2/3 innings before reaching his pitch count in the playoff opener.

Big and physical with a quick arm, Castro sits at 92-94 mph with his fastball, using a two-seamer for grounders and a four-seamer for strikeouts up in the zone. His low-80s slider has hard, late break and is tough on righthanders. He did a much better job of repeating his sound delivery and throwing strikes this year, and he should be able to succeed as a starter if he can refine his changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
28
27 10 6 0 3.33
140
118 61 52
9 37 157 .226
 
8. Jaff Decker, of, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Peoria, Ariz., 2008 (1s).
Decker led the MWL in OPS (.956), the first teenager to do so since Prince Fielder in 2003. He also topped the league with a .442 on-base percentage that ranked second overall in the minors, and he homered twice in the playoffs as Fort Wayne won the championship.

Decker shows everything scouts want to see in a hitter. He has plus bat speed, manipulates the bat head well and makes consistent hard contact, driving balls to all fields. He has a short stroke, hits the ball where it's pitched and won't chase out of the strike zone.

His lack of athleticism sticks out as much as his offense, however. Decker has 4.7-second speed to first base and has poor instincts, and one scout joked that his running should grade as a minus-10 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He handles himself OK in left field and has an average arm, but he already has a bad body at age 19 and it's going to get worse as he gets older.

"If you dream on him," a second NL scout said, "he's Nick Swisher offensively with Adam Dunn's defense."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
358 78
107 25 2 16 64 85 92 10 6 .299 .442 .514
 
9. Cody Scarpetta, rhp, Wisconsin (Brewers)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 242. Drafted: HS—Guilford, Ill., 2007 (11).
Scarpetta would have been an early-round pick in 2007 if he hadn't torn a tendon at the base of his right index finger that spring, an injury that required two surgeries. The Brewers brought him along slowly in his 2008 pro debut before turning him loose this year, when he showed the best curveball in the MWL.

In addition to his hard downer curve, Scarpetta also maintains the velocity on his heavy 90-94 mph fastball into the late innings and has unveiled a vastly improved changeup. His pitches all need more consistency and command, but they all could develop into plus offerings.

Scarpetta's biggest need is to tone up his soft body, which will help him do a better job of getting out in front with his delivery. When he doesn't, his pitches tend to sit up in the strike zone.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
18 4 11 0 3.43
105
83 53
40 5 55 116
.217
 
10. Ethan Martin, rhp, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Toccoa, Ga., 2008 (1).
The first high school pitcher drafted in 2008, Martin tweaked his knee during a postdraft minicamp, delaying his pro debut until this spring. He has an electric arm but is still figuring out how to use it, no surprise considering that he was more highly regarded as a third baseman until his senior season.

Martin has an explosive 93-95 mph fastball that touches 97. His heater features good sink at times and cuts in on lefties at others, though it also flattens out on him. He'll spin some hard, nasty curveballs, though he struggles to throw his breaking ball for strikes. His changeup is less refined, and his long arm action in back has some scouts wondering if he's destined to be a power reliever.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
19 6 8 1 3.87
100
85 55
43 4 61 120
.232
 
11. Tim Melville, rhp, Burlington (Royals)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Wentzville, Mo., 2008 (4).
Burlington had one of the best lefty-righty combinations in the MWL last year with Danny Duffy and Danny Gutierrez, and again in 2009 with Montgomery and Melville. Like Montgomery, Melville stayed away from the league's cold climate until mid-May. He remained with the Bees for the duration and pitched well in the playoffs as they fell to Fort Wayne in the championship round.

Melville lacks a little of Montgomery's polish but he has similar potential for multiple plus pitches. His fastball is his best weapon, sitting at 92-93 mph, touching 95 and running in on lefthanders. Though he's far from frail, he could throw harder as he fills out.

His 12-to-6 curveball has good bite and he shows some feel for his changeup, though Melville needs to command both pitches better. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot that he repeats well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
21
21 7 7 0 3.79
97
89
57
41 10 43 96
.245
 
12. Eric Hosmer, 1b, Burlington (Royals)
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS—Plantation, Fla., 2008 (1).
For the second straight year, Burlington featured the top high school slugger from the previous draft. Mike Moustakas won the MWL home run title and ranked No. 1 on this list a year ago, but Hosmer confounded league observers.

Bat speed and raw power were supposed to be Hosmer's callilng cards, and he showed them off in batting practice but not during games. He stood way off the plate, struggled with pitch recognition and swung through high-80s fastballs. He does have strength and nice loft in his stroke, and the big lefthanded power potential is still there, but scouts and managers expected more.

Hosmer's vision may be an issue. He started wearing contacts at the end of spring training, switched to glasses at Burlington and eventually had LASIK surgery in late August, following an unsuccessful promotion to high Class A. His eyesight might explain his massive platoon splits in the MWL, where he batted .300/.406/.455 against righthanders but just .138/.205/.200 against lefties.

Hosmer's athleticism also was less than advertised. He has soft hands and a strong arm, but he has heavy feet and below-average speed. Scouts didn't think he moved well enough to consider a shift to the outfield.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
280 31 71 17 2 5 49 44 68 3 2 .254 .352 .382
 
13. A.J. Pollock, of, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Notre Dame, 2009 (1).
As if there wasn't enough pressure being the 17th overall pick in the 2009 draft and the recipient of a $1.4 million bonus, Pollock also had to deal with being a gate attraction for the Silver Hawks after previously starring in South Bend at Notre Dame. He handled it well while jumping into pro ball at the low Class A level.

Pollock hits better with wood bats—he was the MVP in the Cape Cod League last summer—because he doesn't cheat out on his front side for power like he does with metal in his hands. His best tool is his bat, as his bat speed, strong hands and up-the-middle, line-drive approach should allow him to hit for a high average.

Pollock has some gap power and should reach double digits in homers while providing more than his share of doubles and triples. He's a 55 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, with good instincts on the bases and in center field. His arm is average.

"All five tools don't jump off the page at you, but he does well in all five areas we like to grade as scouts. There are no 70s or 80s, but there are no 20s or 30s either," the NL scout said. "To say he's a five-tool player might be strong because he maybe doesn't have the power, but he's a four-and-a-half tool player who can play center field."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
255 36 69 12 3 3 22 16 36 10 4 .271 .319 .376
 
14. Wily Peralta, rhp, Wisconsin (Brewers)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 225. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005.
One of three Tommy John surgery survivors on this list, joining Crosby and Peoria's Chris Carpenter (No. 20), Peralta blew out his elbow shortly after making his pro debut in 2006. The Brewers have brought him along slowly since, and he worked as many as six innings just three times while pitching in Wisconsin's tandem-starter system.

Working at 92-94 mph and peaking at 96, Peralta had one of the best fastballs in the MWL, and it also features some cutting and tailing action. His low-80s slider has good tilt, though he gets under it at times but doesn't always throw it for strikes.

To remain a starter as he advances, Peralta will have to improve his changeup and his command. He's thick-bodied and must watch his conditioning. His delivery is OK but not especially smooth, and added weight could cause him problems.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
15 4 4 1 3.47
104
91 45
40 5 46 118
.235
 
15. James Darnell, 3b, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195 Drafted: South Carolina, 2008 (2).
Darnell is a typical Padres draft pick, a bat-first player with a history of success in college. He has hit at all three of his stops in pro ball since signing last August, batting a combined .319/.428/.542 while walking nearly as much as he has struck out.

Darnell has plenty of strength and bat speed. He has a line-drive stroke with occasional loft, though he hinders his power potential by diving into balls, hitting off his front foot and imparting too much topspin. All of those flaws are correctable, and he does a good job of managing the strike zone.

His defense at third base drew mixed reviews. He has enough arm for the position but lacks accuracy on his throws and made 19 errors in 66 games. He has average speed, but his hands are hard and his footwork hinders his range.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
222 40 73 17 2 7 38 57 51 5 5 .329 .468 .518
 
16. Chris Archer, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Clayton, N.C., 2006 (5).
While the Cubs may regret trading Mark DeRosa in the offseason, they're not sorry that Archer was one of the three pitchers they acquired in return. After going 5-18, 5.13 in three seasons in the Indians organization, he started to make real progress this year.

Archer breaks bats with a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95. His heater can get straight because he has an over-the-top delivery, but it flashes some sink and armside run. He throws both a curveball and a slider, which can be above-average pitches when he throws them for strikes. He didn't allow a single homer in 109 innings.

He's reluctant to use his changeup or pitch to contact, so Archer could wind up in the bullpen. There are no glaring flaws in his easy delivery, but he goes through stretches where he struggles to find the strike zone.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
26 6 4 0 2.81
109
78 41
34 0 66 119
.202
 
17. Kyle Russell, of, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Texas, 2008 (3).
Russell shared MVP honors with Gordon after leading the league in homers (26), RBIs (102), extra-base hits (72) and slugging (.545). He also paced the MWL with 180 strikeouts, the second-highest total in the minors.

In other words, he was the same old Kyle Russell. In high school and while setting home run records at the University of Texas, he always was a streaky boom-or-bust hitter. He has the size, strength and leverage to drive balls great distances, but he also has a long stroke, a pull-conscious approach and little discipline. He'll draw walks but won't tone down his swing with two strikes.

Russell isn't a one-dimensional player however. He has good speed and athleticism for his size, and he plays a solid right field with a plus arm. Gabella compared him to Russell Branyan, and scouts who saw him in the MWL gave him a chance to be a platoon player or a regular in the majors.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
481 90 131 39 7 26 102 72 180 20 2 .272 .371 .545
 
18. Grant Desme, of, Kane County (Athletics)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Cal Poly, 2007 (2).
Wrist and shoulder injuries stalled Desme's career for two years before he broke out in 2009 as the only 30-30 man in minor league baseball. He totaled 31 homers and 40 steals between the Midwest and high Class A California leagues.

Desme stands out most for his power, which he generates with a quick bat and nice leverage. He struggles with breaking balls and pitch recognition, which may prevent him from hitting for a high average and explains why he struck out nearly four times as much as he walked. He's similar to Russell as a hitter but has the disadvantage of batting righthanded.

Though he stole 24 bases in as many attempts in the MWL, Desme is more of an average runner with good instincts than a speedster. He played mostly center field this season but his range and reads are just average, so he projects more as a right fielder with a solid arm.

"He's proven he can hit for power, hit for average, steal bases," Kane County manager Steve Scarsone said. "He's a smart defensive player. He's a well-rounded, intelligent player. I look forward to seeing how he progresses."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
259 49 71 19 2 11 38 21 81 24 0 .274 .334 .490
 
19. Pedro Figueroa, lhp, Kane County (Athletics)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 164. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2003.
Figueroa has progressed so slowly that he was Rule 5 draft-eligible last winter, before he had pitched in a full-season league. His development accelerated rapidly in 2009, however, and the Athletics won't dare risk leaving him unprotected again. He went 6-0, 1.46 in his last six MWL starts before departing in July for high Class A, where he had continued success.

Figueroa has power stuff for a lefthander, maintaining 92-95 mph fastballs for entire slots and backing them up with sliders that are more notable for their velocity than their break. He has an easy arm action but he rushes his three-quarters delivery, leading to walks and pitches up in the zone. As a result, his stuff doesn't always play as well as it should.

He still needs to harness his delivery and watch his weight, which has been an issue in the past. If Figueroa can develop a changeup, he'll make an intriguing starter. If not, his fastball-slider combo is enough to make him a late-inning reliever.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
16 10 2 0 3.23
86
89 37
31 6 31
78
.267
 
20. Chris Carpenter, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Kent State, 2008 (3).
Carpenter had Tommy John surgery as a Kent State freshman in 2005, then a second operation to clean out scar tissue the next year. He has put his elbow issues behind him, as his ability to sit at 91-94 mph and reach 97 with his fastball will attest.

Carpenter operates mostly with a four-seamer but still gets groundballs because he locates it all over the strike zone. Whether he makes it as a starter or reliever will depend on how well he develops his secondary pitches and how willing he is to use them.

His breaking ball is something in between a curveball and slider. It flashes some bite and depth, but he needs to do a better job of staying on top of it. Scouts say his changeup is a decent third pitch but wish they could see more of it. His command was shaky in the MWL but improved once he moved on to high Class A and Double-A.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 4 3 0 2.44
74
55 23
20 4 33 60
.210