League Top 20 Prospects

South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Perez is top arm among group of potential aces




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Delmon Young, of, Charleston (Rays)
2. *Ian Stewart, 3b, Asheville
3. *Lastings Milledge, of, Capital City (Mets)
4. *Adam Miller, rhp, Lake County (Indians)
5. *Yusmeiro Petit, rhp, Capital City (Mets)
6. Chuck Tiffany, lhp, Columbus (Dodgers)
7. *Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c, Rome
8. *Brandon McCarthy, rhp, Kannapolis
9. *Andy LaRoche, 3b, Columbus
10. Clint Everts, rhp, Savannah
*Has played in major leagues
Most years, the best teams are led by the best players. In the previous two years in the low Class A South Atlantic League, for example, No. 1 prospects Desmond Jennings (Columbus in 2007) and Madison Bumgarner (Augusta in 2008) sparked their clubs to championships. This season, the storyline was different. League champion Lakewood's highest-rated prospect, outfielder Anthony Gose, checked in at No. 13. Righthander Jason Knapp, who ranked seventh, opened the season with the BlueClaws but finished the season in Lake County after getting included in the trade that sent Cliff Lee from the Indians to the Phillies.

In another change, pitchers rather than position players dominated the league. Thirty-one of the 40 prospects on our 2007-08 SAL Top 20s were hitters, but this year pitchers claimed the first three spots and seven of the top 11. And Asheville lefthander Christian Friedrich would have ranked prominently had he not missed qualifying by two-thirds of an inning. The Rockies' 2008 first-round pick went 3-3, 2.18 with 66 strikeouts in 45 innings for the Tourists.

"There's no question about it. The starting pitching was the cream of the crop," Bowling Green manager Matt Quataro said. "Pitching is where the majority of the talent was."

1. Martin Perez, lhp, Hickory (Rangers)
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. HT.: 6-0. WT.: 178. Signed: Venezuela, 2007.
Fair or not, there seemed to be only one apt comparison for the SAL's youngest pitcher: Johan Santana. Everything from Perez's frame to his delivery mimic Santana. What's more, both are Venezuelan lefthanders who sit at 92-94 mph and touch 96 with their fastballs

"Projection-wise, this kid is special," Hickory manager Hector Ortiz said. "He has the potential to be the next Johan Santana. I'm not saying he is Santana, but it's in his hands. He has all the God-given talent."

By improving his changeup to a plus pitch, Perez took another step to support the Santana comparisons. He's confident enough to throw the changeup in any count and utilizes great hand speed to create deception. He also throws a sharp, late-breaking curveball at 75-78 mph. Perez made the most of his 80-pitch limit in each game and earned a callup to Double-A Frisco in mid-August.

 "There's too much in that left arm for him to not succeed at higher levels," Lakewood manager Dusty Wathan said. "He was pretty good. A lot of times I wished he was pitching for us."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
22
14 5 5 1 2.31
94
82
35
24
3 33 105
.236
 
2. Casey Kelly, rhp, Greenville (Red Sox)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 194. Drafted: HS-Sarasota Fla., 2008 (1st round).
Whether Kelly winds up on the mound or at shortstop remains uncertain, but for Greenville manager Kevin Boles, it doesn't matter. "When you look out on the field, your eyes are drawn to Kelly," Boles said. "Whatever aspect he chooses, he's going to be successful at it. He can do everything."

Kelly opened this season on the mound and looked like a natural. He works at 90-94 mph and creates a good downhill plane with his fastball, with good sink. Kelly also throws a changeup and curveball. He's especially deceptive because he throws every pitch with the same arm action and repeats his delivery.

A quality athlete who had a football scholarship to play quarterback at Tennessee, Kelly enjoys playing every day and the Red Sox allowed him to play shortstop in the second half. Though he struggled offensively, he's an aggressive hitter with good bat speed. In the field, he has plus range, advanced footwork and obvious arm strength.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
9 6 1 0 1.12
48
38 9
6 0 9 39
.210
 
3. Matt Moore, lhp, Bowling Green (Rays)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HS—Edgewood, N.M., 2007 (8th round).
Moore allowed 33 walks in his first 35 innings this season. Then he focused on being more of a pitcher, cutting his walk rate to 3.8 per nine innings while going 6-3, 2.67 over the final three months.

Moore has two above-average pitches, an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 94 and a tight 82-84 mph curveball with late depth. He has a deceptive fastball that jumps up on people and gets bad swings. He also throws a changeup with late screwball-like action. His three-pitch repertoire yielded a league-leading 176 strikeouts in 123 innings. If he can continue to refine his command, he profiles as a top-of-the-rotation starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
26 8 5 0 3.15
123
86 51
43 6 70 176
.195
 
4. Derek Norris, c, Hagerstown (Nationals)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Goddard, Kan., 2007 (4th round).
Norris earned near-unanimous praise as the SAL's best position player, and managers rated him as the league's best batting prospect and best power prospect at midseason. His swing is similar to his 6-foot, 210-pound frame: strong and compact. He has natural pull-side power and drives the ball to all fields. He also shows good plate discipline, with league highs in walks (90) and on-base percentage (.413).

Catching five games a week throughout the season took a toll late in the season, and his numbers dropped in August. "Hitting-wise, he was as advertised," Quataro said. "He swings it very well and should stay behind the plate in the future."

He led SAL catchers with 18 errors and 28 passed balls. He isn't a great receiver, but blocks well on pitches directly in front of him. He has an average arm and enhances it with nimble feet and a quick release, throwing out 36 percent of basestealers.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
437 78 125
30 0 23 84 90 116 6 3 .286 .413 .513
 
5. Tim Beckham, ss, Bowling Green (Rays)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Griffin, Ga., 2008 (1st round).
While Beckham was the Appy League's top prospect last year because of his athleticism, his prospect status dropped slightly this year because he bulked up and may not stay at shortstop in the future.

At the plate, Beckham stays back on the ball, uses his legs well and takes advantage of offspeed pitches up in the zone. With his plus bat speed and strong wrists, he projects to hit .300 with 20 home runs in the big leagues. He's a solid-average runner with good instincts, but not a basestealer.

Beckham is an average defensive shortstop, though he committed 43 errors this season. He has soft hands and fluid actions but is inconsistent on throws to first, as he tends to rely on his arm instead of getting behind his throws. Most managers agreed that he'll likely have to move to third base, and some saw him as a left fielder or first baseman.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
491 58 135 33 4 5 63 34 116 13 10 .275 .327 .389
 
6. Jordan Lyles, rhp, Lexington (Astros)
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Hartsville, S.C., 2008 (1st round supp.).
Lyles showed the stuff of a potential frontline starter this season. His fastball now sits at 89-91 mph and touches 93. Using a high three-quarters, clean and quick arm action and a repeatable delivery, he challenges hitters with his heater and finished second in the SAL with 167 strikeouts in 145 innings.

"He's the first pitcher I saw say, 'Here you go, Melky Mesa,' and throw him four straight fastballs and strike him out," Tyson said. "After he struck him out and turned around, I saw a little grin on his face, which I like. He's a bulldog, a competitor."

Lyles throws two different curveballs, a show-me pitch in the mid-70s and a sharper 77-80 mph bender. He might be better served scrapping the slower curveball, which he leaves up in the zone. He mixes in an average changeup and started throwing a slider halfway through the season.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
26 7 11 0 3.24
145
134 56
52
5 38 167
.247
 
7. Jason Knapp, rhp, Lakewood (Phillies)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 235. Drafted: HS—Annandale, N.J., 2008 (2nd round).
A key piece for the Indians when they surrendered Cliff Lee to the Phillies, Knapp is still young and rough around the edges, but his electric arm is hard to ignore. He works at 93-95 mph and touches 98 with a riding fastball that rated as the league's best. As he refines his delivery and repeats it better, he has the potential to add velocity. He adds in a sharp, 12-to-6 curveball that works well off his fastball but is in and out of the zone. He also throws an average changeup.

Knapp missed time in 2008 with elbow fatigue and was on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis when he was traded. After the season, the Indians learned he'll need arthroscopic surgery to remove loose bodies in his shoulder. That's not a long-term worry, but because he has an awkward delivery, health concerns always will be present. Because of that and his largely two-pitch arsenal, he could end up as a power closer.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
17 2 7 0 4.01
85
63 45
38
3 39 111 .208
 
8. Jared Mitchell, of, Kannapolis (White Sox)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Louisiana State, 2009 (1st round).
There aren't any Sally League players who are more accustomed to playing in front of a big crowd with lots of noise than Mitchell. The 2009 College World Series MVP, he also was a backup wide receiver on Louisiana State's football team. Used to being under the spotlight, he doesn't get rattled by much of anything, and certainly didn't during his stay with Kannapolis.

The best college athlete in the 2009 draft, Mitchell is an exciting player with incredible raw speed. He has been clocked from home plate to third base in 10.3 seconds. His lone below-average tool is his arm. As a former football player who hadn't focused exclusively on baseball, he has surprisingly good baseball instincts, especially in the outfield.

"It looks like he's covering ground in milliseconds," Kannapolis manager Ernie Young said. "He takes control in center field like he's been playing professionally for a while."

At the plate, Mitchell has gap-to-gap power and could develop into a home run threat as he grows into his solid frame. He also can hit for average and has good patience.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
115 13
34 12 2 0 10 23 40
5
3 .296
.417 .435
 
9. Manny Banuelos, lhp, Charleston (Yankees)
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 155. Signed: Mexico, 2008.
Banuelos is from the same mold as Martin Perez: a young, hard-throwing lefthander with beyond-his-years pitchability. Banuelos doesn't throw quite as hard but does a solid job of working both sides of the plate with a 90-92 mph fastball that touches 95. He also throws a curveball that has good depth but is inconsistent. He has a well-above-average changeup and is working on a two-seam fastball to run back in on lefthanders.

Banuelos is mechanically sound and has a loose arm and clean delivery, hiding the ball well from a three-quarters arm slot. He needs to address the finer aspects of pitching, including holding runners and fielding his position.

"He's the most impressive pitcher I've had at this level since Phil Hughes five years ago," Tyson said. "For me, he's a front-end starter in the big leagues, and you don't have too many guys like that come through here."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
25
19 9 5 0 2.67
108
88 40
32 4 28 104
.219
 
10. Wilmer Flores, ss, Savannah (Mets)
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela, 2007.
Not many 17-year-olds can compete in a full-season league, but that's exactly what Flores did before turning 18 on Aug. 6. He didn't put up huge numbers but he consistently put the barrel on the ball. He also showed advanced strike-zone discipline and worked counts in his favor. As he fills out and becomes more aggressive, he should hit for more power to all fields.

At shortstop, Flores has smooth actions with soft hands and flashes an above-average arm. But he has below-average range and is a well-below-average runner. He has a big lower half and has drawn comparisons to Miguel Cabrera, who moved to third base early in his big league career and then to first base. Flores is expected to do the same.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
488 44 129 20 2 3 36 22 72 3 3 .264 .305 .332
 
11. Rudy Owens, lhp, West Virginia (Pirates)
Age: 21 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215 Drafted: Pirates '06 (28)
Owens didn't need to light up the radar guns to gain the respect of SAL managers. Though his fastball sits at 87-90 mph, they rated him the league's best pitching prospect at midseason, and also cited him as having the best changeup and control. He also won the SAL's pitcher of the year award after going 10-1, 1.70 in 19 starts.

Owens threw a two-seam fastball in the past but solely concentrated on a four-seamer this year. His changeup operates in the upper 70s, and his third pitch is a slower, loopy slurve. He repeats his simple delivery well.

His greatest advantage, however, might be his intelligence. Owens knows that he's not going to overpower hitters, so he pitches quickly when runners aren't on base. Once runners do get on, he slows down his pace and works on getting outs. He knows how to pitch and use his defense.

Given those attributes, Owens garnered comparisons to Tom Glavine.

"The only thing is at this level, lefties can dominate just by being lefty," Wathan said. "But I think he's the real deal, just because of his fastball command to both sides of the plate and that changeup. He's already got those things going for him."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
19 10 1 0 1.71
101
71
22
19 8 15 91
.197
 
12. Tony Sanchez, c, West Virginia (Pirates)
Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht. 6-0 Wt.: 220 Drafted: Pirates '09 (1)
Though Sanchez didn't grade out as the fourth-best player in the 2009 draft, that's where the Pirates selected him after projecting him as a potential all-star who'd be a slick fielder and solid hitter. That's exactly what he looked like in the SAL, and he hit even better than expected. His makeup also set him apart from other players for the Pirates, as he's a charismatic guy who loves to play the game.

Sanchez controls the strike zone and he doesn't always try to pull the ball, using the opposite field to his advantage. He showed a better approach with wood bats than he did with metal in college.

Defensively, Sanchez moves well behind the plate and does a good job of getting in front of pitches in the dirt. He has soft receiving hands and a strong arm, though there's room for refinement in his footwork. He threw out 30 percent of SAL basestealers.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
155 29 49 15 1 7 46 21 34 1 0 .316 .415 .561
 
13. Anthony Gose, of, Lakewood (Phillies)
Age: 19 B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Drafted: Phillies '08 (2)
Managers considered Gose the SAL's most exciting player because of his speed. "When he's on first base," Young said, "he's already in scoring position." Gose led the minors with 76 steals and drew comparisons to Carl Crawford for his package of all-around tools.

Gose's speed translates well to defense, where he plays a very shallow center field. He reads the ball well off the bat, takes good routes and covers a lot of ground. He was clocked at 97 off the mound in the high school, and he uses that strong arm to his advantage.

At the plate, Gose is a bit of a free swinger and strikes out too much, but gets out of slumps quicker than most players because he can play the slap-and-bunt game. He also projects to produce some power once he fills out and gets a better feel for hitting. Add in his plus makeup—he's a jovial player who likes to have fun and doesn't get done—and there's not much not to like.

"The No. 1 thing that separates him from other players is confidence," Wathan said. "He could strikeout three times and come in the next day acting like he had four hits. His mental aptitude is through the roof."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
510 72 132 24 9 2 52 35 110 76 20 .259 .323 .353
 
14. Tim Federowicz, c, Greenville (Red Sox)
Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 213 Drafted: Red Sox '08 (7)
Federowicz, who played on two College World Series teams at North Carolina, was the SAL's best defensive catcher. His arm grades out as slightly above average, but it plays up because he has a lightning-quick release and he threw out 29 percent of basestealers. He blocks balls well to and is adept at running a pitching staff.

Federowicz has strong hands and a quick swing that generates gap-to-gap power, with home run potential down the line. His strike-zone discipline is above average, and he has solid speed for a catcher. Though he struggled offensively after a June promotion to high Class A Salem, he hit so well at Greenville (.345/.393/.562) that he drew some support as the league's best prospect.

 "Teams are always looking for catchers, and this guy can do it," Lexington manager Tom Lawless said. "He's a legitimate guy. He can catch and throw and hit, so you've really got something going here."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
226 34 78
19 0 10 34 15 42 1 0 .345 .393 .562
 
15. Dexter Carter, rhp, Kannapolis (White Sox)
Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 195 Drafted: White Sox '08 (13)
Carter didn't have much success at Old Dominion because of control problems, but he led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in ERA (2.23) in his pro debut and ranked first in the SAL in strikeouts (143 in 118 innings) before the White Sox included him in the Jake Peavy trade with the Padres.

Carter sits at 90-92 mph with his fastball and can touch the mid-90s, putting a little something extra on his heater when he needs to. Managers rated his sharp 76-80 mph curveball as the best breaking ball in the league, and he's willing to throw it in any count. He also mixes in a 78-80 mph changeup, mostly against lefthanders, and he has experimented with different grips and velocities on the pitch.

Because he's 6-foot-6, Carter looks like he's on top of hitters when he releases the ball. He pitches on a straight line to the plate with little wasted motion.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
19 6 2 0 3.13
118
103 44
41 9 32 143
.236
 
16. Nick Barnese, rhp, Bowling Green (Rays)
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170 Drafted: Rays '07 (3)
Barnese opened his second consecutive season in extended spring training but was rewarded with his first trip to a full-season league after battling through shoulder tendinitis. He teamed with Moore to give Bowling Green the SAL's best lefty-righty combination.

Barnese is slow and deliberate through his windup, bringing his hands over his head and taking his time to get to his balance point. Once he's there, he explodes toward the plate and pops an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 93 and has late run. His 80-82 mph changeup and 77-81 mph curveball can be plus pitches at times, but they're still works in progress.

His arm angle varies from three-quarters to high three-quarters, and when he drops his arm, his stuff flattens out and hitters get a better look at his pitches. He has a slight build with the room to add more strength. His best attribute might be his ability to throw any of his pitches in any count with confidence.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 6 5
0 2.53
75
56 30
21
3 25 62
.202
 
17. Travis D'Arnaud, c, Lakewood (Phillies)
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Drafted: Phillies '07 (1s)
The Phillies felt comfortable including Triple-A catcher Lou Marson in the Cliff Lee trade because d'Arnaud emerged as a solid prospect this year. He's on track to be their catcher of the future.

D'Arnaud's calling card always has been his defense, and he continues to get better behind the plate, particularly in calling games and working with pitchers. He's a terrific receiver with soft hands and excellent blocking skills. He has strong forearms and holds pitches in the zone, often helping his pitchers get strike calls. He has a strong arm but instead of exploding toward his target, he tends to stand up out of his crouch and threw out just 23 percent of SAL basestealers.

D'Arnaud batted just .255 in his first extended taste of full-season ball, but he collected 52 extra-base hits (including a league-leading 38 doubles) and improved over the course of the season. Balls die in Lakewood's expansive FirstEnergy Park, and Wathan estimated that d'Arnaud might have had 20 homers in a ballpark that played more fairly. He has strong hands and isn't afraid to use the opposite field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
482 71 123 38 1 13 71 41 75 8 4 .255 .319 .419
 
18. Alex Perez, rhp, Lake County (Indians)
Age: 20 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 156 Signed: Indians '07
After spending one year each in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer and Gulf Coast leagues, Perez made his full-season debut in 2009. He needed just 15 starts at Lake County to earn a promotion to high Class A Kinston, where he continued to pitch well.

Perez is tall and lanky and needs to add strength as he ages. Because he has room to put on at least 25 pounds, he could add velocity as he moves up the ladder. He won't need to, though, because his three-pitch mix gets outs.

Perez's fastball sits at 88-91 mph and touches 93. His 78-80 mph curveball grades out as a plus pitch and has hard, sharp break. His changeup has shown flashes of being a plus pitch, though it still lacks consistency.

He has a flowing, loose delivery. Once Perez does a better job of repeating his mechanics, he'll have better command of his pitches.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 5 4 0 3.04
83
69 36
28 9 24 76
.223
 
19. Trevor May, rhp, Lakewood (Phillies)
Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 215 Drafted: Phillies '08 (4)
May didn't receive the same hype as Knapp, but the former Lakewood teammates are similar in stature and stuff. May is a big-bodied, hard-throwing righthander, and he may have a better change at remaining a starter than Knapp because he repeats his delivery and throws more strikes. He didn't allow a run in two playoff starts.

May wears a size-16 shoe and may not be done growing, so he could add velocity to a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96 with late sink. He also throws an 80-82 mph curveball with sharp break and a below-average changeup. He deals from a three-quarters arm slot and works both sides of the plate well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 4 1 0 2.56
77
58 24
22 3 43
95
.211
 
20. Melky Mesa, of, Charleston (Yankees)
Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 165 Signed: Dominican Republic '03
In the sixth year of his pro career, Melquisedec Mesa finally reached a full-season league in 2009. He wowed onlookers with his light-tower power, arm strength and speed.

"Everybody always talks about him," Tyson said. "He's a complete tool package. He impresses everybody with everything he does. He's the most fun guy to watch in the league."

Despite a wiry 6-foot-1, 165-pound frame, Mesa generates great bat speed thanks to strong forearms, wrists and hands. Though teams pitched around him and he batted just .231, he smacked 20 homers and 51 extra-base hits. His overly aggressive approach resulted in a SAL-high 168 strikeouts in 497 at-bats.

Mesa has plus speed but stole only 18 bases because he didn't get on base much. His quickness translates well into the outfield, where he reads balls off the bat and takes precise routes. He spent most of his time in right field and showed off the league's best arm, a plus-plus cannon that recorded a league-best 19 assists.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
497 76 112 24 7 20 74 51 168 18 6 .225 .309 .423