League Top 20 Prospects

Texas League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Felix Hernandez, rhp, San Antonio (Mariners)
2. *Dallas McPherson, 3b, Arkansas (Angels)
3. *Jeff Francis, lhp, Tulsa (Rockies)
4. *Shin-Soo Choo, of, San Antonio (Mariners)
5. *Denny Bautista, rhp, Wichita (Royals)
6. Sergio Santos, ss, El Paso (Diamondbacks)
7. *Carlos Quentin, of, El Paso (Diamondbacks)
8. *Ezequiel Astacio, rhp, Round Rock (Astros)
9. *Ian Kinsler, ss, Frisco (Rangers)
10. *Alberto Callaspo, 2b/ss, Arkansas (Angels)
*Has played in major leagues
The Double-A Texas League lacked a slam-dunk top prospect this year, and most of those players who did rise to the top of the talent pool left before they even completed a circuit around the league. Five of the top seven players on this list were gone by the Fourth of July, with top prospect Mat Latos jumping straight to the big leagues and providing a glimpse of a brighter future in San Diego.

Even the player who dominated the league for most of the season, Midland first baseman Chris Carter, departed for Triple-A before the year was over, leaving the RockHounds to battle through the playoffs without the league MVP. The supporting cast rose to the occasion, however, as Midland won the league title over Northwest Arkansas.

The RockHounds roster was representative of the league as a whole, with a few standouts and a depth of players who are interesting but are probably marginal major leaguers at best.

1. Mat Latos, rhp, San Antonio (Padres)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Padres '06 (11).
Latos was known for his raw power arm and immaturity coming into the year, but he did nothing but dominate after missing the first month with an ankle injury. He opened with a cameo in the low Class A Midwest League, then made a nine-start run through the TL before stepping into the San Diego rotation.

Latos was absolutely untouchable in his nine starts, commanding a 94-95 mph fastball, a sharp breaking ball and a good changeup. He gets great downhill angle on his pitches with his big frame. "It just took one inning of seeing him pitch in the (Texas League) all-star game to show me he was the top pitching prospect in the league," Arkansas manager Bobby Magallanes said.

Because of Latos' delivery and arm action, it's possible he could end up in the bullpen down the road. He answered the questions about his makeup by bouncing back from his injury quickly and sailing through the system.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
9 5 1 0 1.91
47
32 11
10
0 9 46 .192
 
2. Justin Smoak, 1b, Frisco (Rangers)
Age: 22. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Rangers '08 (1).
Smoak is another of the league's top prospects who was gone before everyone got a good look at him, earning a promotion to Triple-A and then playing in the IBAF World Cup. He ended up taking MVP honors at the event, hitting nine home runs with 22 RBIs in 14 games as Team USA won the gold medal.

A complete hitter who should hit for both average and power, Smoak shows a great deal of confidence at the plate. He's patient and shows a good approach and pitch recognition. Smoak has Gold Glove potential at first base but is a below-average runner who never will be an asset on the bases.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
183
30
60 10 0 6 29 39 35 0 0
.328 .449 .481
 
3. Chris Carter, 1b, Midland (Athletics)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Drafted: White Sox '05 (15).
Carter has built his reputation on power, with 64 home runs the last two seasons. He didn't show quite the same pop in his Double-A debut, but he did lead the league in doubles (41) and extra-base hits (67). He also looked like a much more well-rounded hitter, topping the TL in on-base and slugging percentage while winning MVP honors.

People who had seen Carter in previous seasons said he showed a quicker bat and did a better job of handling an assortment of pitches this year. He still has amazing bat speed that gives him easy power.

Skeptics still see Carter as a high-strikeout hitter whose average will come back to the .260-.280 range. Some still regard him as a defensive liability, but most scouts and managers thought he had improved at first base and might be playable in an outfield corner if he got himself into better shape.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
490
108
165 41
2 24 101 82 119 13 5
.337 .435 .576
 
4. Jhoulys Chacin, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Signed: Venezuela '04
Chacin established himself as the top pitching prospect in the Rockies organization in 2008, then continued his fast progress by earning his first big league callup in July.

Though he was one of the youngest starting pitchers in the TL, Chacin was also one of the most polished. Managers and scouts were impressed with his poise, not to mention his assortment of pitches. He sits at 92 mph with his fastball, a plus pitch because of its sinking action, and both his slider and changeup can be above-average pitches as well.

Chacin should have plus command, though he didn't always show it this year, particularly with his fastball. At times he tries to live up to his hype and overthrows, costing him control.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
18
18 8 6 0 3.14
103
87 45
36
10 35 86 .227
 
5. Brett Wallace, 3b, Springfield (Cardinals)
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Cardinals '08 (1).
Wallace left the TL before the end of May, then he became the key player the Athletics received when they sent Matt Holliday to the Cardinals at the trade deadline. He has an impact bat, with a good swing and a keen ability to handle the strike zone, and he should hit for power and get on base consistently. Some thought he was pitched around in the TL and expanded his zone at times.

Most observers see Wallace as a marginal defender at third base, average at best, though his supporters think he gets the job done even if it's not always pretty. He has limited range with decent hands and an average arm. After he got traded to the A's, though, playing first base and DH become viable options.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
128
22
36 5 0 5 16 18 34 0 0
.281 .403 .438
 
6. Jason Castro, c, Corpus Christi (Astros)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Astros '08 (1).
There aren't many scouts who think Castro is going to be a star, but there also aren't many who think he'll be less than a solid major league starter. He came to the TL at midseason after opening in the high Class A California League, and then joined Team USA for the World Cup.

Castro doesn't have a standout tool, but he's a slightly above-average hitter who should have average power. He has a knack for staying inside the ball as well as good pitch recognition. He's a solid catcher with good defensive skills and the ability to handle a pitching staff. He threw out 28 percent of basestealers in the after nabbing 59 percent in the Cal League. Like most catchers, he's not a good runner.

"You're not going to see any sevens or eights (on the 2-to-8 scouting scale)," an American League scout said, "but can you win with this guy? Absolutely."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
239
38 70
11 1 3 29 25 35 2 1 .293 .362 .385
 
7. Esmil Rogers, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 150. Signed: Dominican Republic '03.
In just his third full season on the mound after converting from shortstop, Rogers made his major league debut and spent most of the second half in Triple-A.

Rogers brings a power arsenal to the mound, with a fastball that touches 94-95 mph—though his velocity usually falls off during games—and a power curveball in the low 80s. He has easy mechanics and gets good life on his pitches, and he shows a willingness to go after hitters as well as advanced command for his level of experience.

Rogers' changeup, like many of the subtle aspects of pitching, is a work in progress. He's still learning his craft as well as improving the way he handles himself on the mound.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15 8 2 0 2.48
94
87
30 26
2 19 83 .243
 
8. Trevor Reckling, lhp, Arkansas (Angels)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Angels '07 (8).
Reckling came to Arkansas as the youngest player in the TL after making three starts in high Class A, and he ended up as the only lefthander to make the league's postseason all-star team. He also pitched for Team USA in the World Cup in September.

With a solid-average fastball that sits at 87-91 mph, as well as plus pitches in his slider and changeup, Reckling has the arsenal to dominate. Most people think his breaking ball is his best pitch, with its sharp, late break, though he also has good arm speed on his changeup and commands it as well.

Questions about Reckling stem from his over-the-top delivery, which has a lot of moving parts and can get jerky, affecting his command. His mechanics do give him deception and a good downhill plane, but he has trouble repeating his delivery and loses his release point at times. He's athletic enough that he should be able to smooth things out.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
23
23 8 7 0 2.93
135
118 50
44
4 75 106 .244
 
9. Peter Bourjos, of, Arkansas (Angels)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Angels '05 (10).
Bothered by a wrist injury for most of the second half of the season, Bourjos still led the TL with 14 triples and managers universally regarded him as the most exciting player in the league. The excitement stems from Bourjos' plus-plus speed, which is legitimate yet deceptive. He never looks like he's running particularly hard, but watching him go from first to third always leaves an impression. He's also a well above-average defender in center field, with a strong, accurate arm.

Bourjos has an unorthodox swing but he makes it work, and he is improving his bunting ability as well as his pitch recognition. He shows some pop when he gets good extension, though it's just gap power.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
437
72
123 16 14 6 51 49 77 32 12
.281 .354 .423
 
10. Hank Conger, c, Arkansas (Angels)
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Angels '06 (1).
Though Conger just completed his third full season, he had been limited by injuries in previous seasons. He appeared in 87 games behind the plate this year, nearly doubling his previous career total, and he was the catcher on the TL's postseason all-star team. He's still raw behind the plate, however, because of his inexperience. He shows athleticism and quickness with good hands and good blocking skills, and he works well with pitchers. While he has raw arm strength, though, he lacks accuracy and needs work on his game-calling. He threw out 30 percent of basestealers this season.

Few doubt Conger's bat, and most liked his approach and swing and think he'll be a run producer. He has a quick bat and generates a lot of power. Those who doubt him think his swing is too violent and he needs to tone it down, though the bigger concerns are his health and his ability to stay behind the plate.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
458
61
135 20
3 11 68 55 68 4 2
.295 .369 .424
 
11. Kasey Kiker, lhp, Frisco (Rangers)
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt. 170. Drafted: Rangers '06 (1).
Kiker spent the whole season in Double-A at age 21, leading TL starters in strikeouts per nine innings (8.5) while finishing second in opponent average (.219). He still lacked some consistency but impressed managers with his toughness.

At his best, Kiker works with a sharp 90-93 mph fastball, though he pitched more at 88-90 later in the year. He posted a 9.47 ERA in August, then struggled with his command pitching for Team USA in the World Cup, walking 14 in 13 innings. Kiker's changeup is a legitimate plus pitch, and he flashes an average curveball. Managers also liked his willingness to work inside.

Skeptics see Kiker as an undersized lefty who will end up in the bullpen. He has issues with his angle to the plate, so he sometimes leaves the ball up in the zone. He's developing better touch and feel, however, and is such a strong competitor that he should continue to improve.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
25
23 7 7 0 3.86
126
108 63
54
9 66 120 .231
 
12. Lance Lynn, rhp, Springfield (Cardinals)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 250. Drafted: Cardinals '08 (1s).
In his first full pro season, Lynn jumped to Double-A in May and proved to be Springfield's best starter. He finished among the TL leaders in most pitching categories, including third in ERA (2.92) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (7.0).

Yet there are contradicting reports about just how dominant Lynn can be. He certainly has the build and the mound presence to be an innings-eater. Those who saw him at his best reported a 90-93 mph fastball that explodes as it approaches the plate. Others saw him more at 85-91 mph and said his stuff wasn't overpowering.

Lynn throws both a curveball and slider, again creating split opinion on which is better. He throws the curve more at this point and must improve his command of both pitches. His changeup has potential but he rarely throws it and needs more confidence in it.

"For him to start in the big leagues his pitches will have to get sharper," Warner said, "and I think they will."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
22
22 11 4 0 2.92
126
117 51
41
5 51 98 .251
 
13. Daniel Descalso, 2b, Springfield (Cardinals)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Cardinals '07 (3).
Descalso was nowhere on the prospect radar when the season started, but he stung the ball from start to finish in the TL. He earned a promotion to Triple-A after 73 games, then shared the second-base job for Team USA as it won the gold medal at the World Cup.

Descalso is a throwback, blue-collar player with a strong understanding of his swing and what kind of player he is. He knows how to handle the bat, with a short swing and gap to gap power, with the ability to occasionally hit the ball over the fence. He's not a good runner and doesn't have great actions at second base but makes all the plays.

Managers love Descalso because he's a scrapper who will run through walls for his team. He seems perfectly suited to be an offensive second baseman in St. Louis.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
288
46
93 26 5 8 51
31 41
0 1 .323 .396 .531
 
14. Michael McKenry, c, Tulsa (Rockies)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Rockies '06 (7).
Hank Conger was the TL's all-star catcher, but McKenry had a better OPS (.831 to .792) and played a league-high 102 games behind the plate, throwing out 33 percent of basestealers while committing only one passed ball. McKenry was scheduled to play in the World Cup, but right before the tournament a foul ball hit him in the ear, requiring him to get stitches and giving him a concussion.

Defense comes first with McKenry, but it's more because of his plus makeup, intelligence and work habits than his pure tools. He has an average arm and good hands, but he has such a thick, strong body that it inhibits his catch and release. The tightness in his upper body also hurts him in the batter's box, where his swing is strong but can get jerky.

Still, most observers think he should be able to hit .260-.280 with good power in the big leagues. Others see a player who's already maxed out and has to work too hard in every phase of the game to make it as a full-time starter. Even then, though, he could provide an energy boost to a team as a backup.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
358
52
100
25 1 12 50 54 69 2 2
.279 .376 .455
 
15. Adrian Cardenas, 2b/3b, Midland (Athletics)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Phillies '06 (1s).
Cardenas, the 2006 High School Player of the Year, came to the Athletics in a deadline deal that sent Joe Blanton to the Phillies in 2008, and he returned to Midland after finishing last season there. He moved up to Triple-A in May but rejoined the RockHounds after struggling for a month, then earned his way back to Sacramento at the beginning of August.

Cardenas has good makeup and average tools across the board. His compact swing and feel for the strike zone give him the ability to get on base consistently, and he also has gap power. He's also solid but not spectacular at second base, third base and shortstop, though playing short regularly in the majors would be a stretch with his range.

Playing in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the TL, Cardenas had significant home (1.011 OPS)/road (.666) splits, and he also struggled against lefthanders (.677 OPS, compared to .901 against righties). Those who doubt his offensive production see him as more of a utilityman than an everyday player.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
325
56
106 26 2 3 55 38 44
5 4
.326 .392 .446
 
16. Jeff Bianchi, ss, Northwest Arkansas (Royals)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 175. Drafted: Royals '05 (2).
The presence of so many players who could end up as major league second basemen on the TL Top 20 says more about the unspectacular talent in the league than a sudden surge of second-base prospects throughout the minors. Bianchi battled shoulder and back injuries after the Royals drafted him in 2005, but he played his way back into their plans this season.

Bianchi moved back to shortstop this year after playing mostly second base in 2008, and he has the actions and arm to handle the position. He's a very good athlete who may cover enough ground at short to get a trial there in Kansas City, where there's a need.

Whichever position he ends up at, Bianchi's bat will determine how far he goes. He has a short swing and good pitch and strike-zone recognition, though he needs to be more patient and get on base more consistently. Some managers saw him as an ideal No. 2 hitter, and could add some pop as he fills out. He's an average runner.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
270
42
85 17 1 5 42 19 58 10 4
.315 .356 .441
 
17. Logan Forsythe, 3b, San Antonio (Padres)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Padres '08 (1s).
Forsythe started to get back on track this year after a disappointing debut in 2008, when the Padres made him the 46th overall pick. He dealt with foot and hamstring injuries in college and a sprained thumb ligament in his first taste of pro ball, but he was healthy this season.

Forsythe has a short, smooth swing and a good feel for the barrel, so there's little doubt he'll be able to hit for average as he moves up the ladder. He's a confident hitter with good strike-zone recognition. He also is a steady defensive player at the hot corner, with good range and hands and plenty of arm for the position.

The big question with Forsythe will be his power, which is average at best. After slugging .504 in high Class A, he dropped to .377 in the TL. . If he can't produce the pop for third, he could play second base or serve in a super-utility role.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
244
37
68 9 3 3 31 41
63 5 0
.279 .384 .377
 
18. Dan Cortes, rhp, Northwest Arkansas (Royals)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 215. Drafted: White Sox '05 (7).
Cortes always has stood out with his power arm, but he also has attracted attention with his off-field antics and the Royals finally traded him to the Mariners in July in a deal for Yuniesky Betancourt. Cortes' actions do fall more toward immaturity (charges including public intoxication) than malice, so Seattle is betting that as he grows up, he'll tap into his talent.

Not surprisingly, TL observers reported wildly inconsistent results from Cortes, with some saying he had the best curveball in the league. "I saw him last year and you could see the potential," one manager said. "This year I thought he took a step back; he was not as sharp."

Cortes' potential still gets him noticed. He pitched more in the low 90s this year after working in the mid-90s last year, and he struggled with command as well. He'll wind up in the bullpen if he can't put it all together.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
15 6 6 0 3.92
80
77 43
35
3 50
57 .258
 
19. Corey Brown, of, Midland (Athletics)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Athletics '07 (1s).
Brown didn't draw much notice this season because he missed a lot of time with a right knee strain that bothered him sporadically throughout the summer. He was batting .333/.419/.581 at the end of May when the injury hit and kept him out for most of June and July. He returned in August and hit a key home run in the playoffs to help the RockHounds win the TL title.

Brown doesn't always draw raves from managers because he's a very laid-back player who has a casual attitude and body language that sometimes turns them off. But he's a good athlete with strength, and one scout compared his skill set to that of Jim Edmonds.

Brown has loose hands and a free and easy swing, and he has the strength to produce legitimate home run power. He has the speed and defensive instincts to possibly stick in center field, with plenty of arm for the position.

"He can drive you nuts with the way he plays," the scout said. "But there are a lot of positives with this guy."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
250
46
67 20 4 9 43 27 69 5 2
.268 .349 .488
 
20. Samuel Deduno, rhp, Tulsa (Rockies)
Age: 26. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic '03.
After getting rocked in Tulsa in 2007 and missing all of last season following Tommy John surgery, Deduno returned to the TL and won the league's pitcher of the year award and pitching triple crown. He led the league in wins (12), ERA (2.57) and strikeouts (123 in 133 innings).

Deduno features a power arsenal, with a 90-94 mph fastball that cuts and runs, as well as a curveball that was a plus pitch at times. His changeup also shows promise. Nothing he throws is straight, and his .202 opponent average was easily the best in the league.

The life on his pitches sometimes works to his detriment, however. Catchers, umpires and even Deduno himself don't always know which way his pitches are going, and he often finds himself pitching out of trouble. He was just three walks away from leading the TL in that category, and he'll have to sharpen his command to succeed in the big leagues.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
24 12 4 0 2.57
133
94 48
38
3 72
123 .202