League Top 20 Prospects

International League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *B.J. Upton, ss, Durham (Rays)
2. *Justin Morneau, 1b, Rochester (Twins)
3. *Grady Sizemore, of, Buffalo (Indians)
4. *Jason Kubel, of, Rochester (Twins)
5. *Jeremy Reed, of, Charlotte (White Sox)
6. *Alexis Rios, of, Syracuse (Blue Jays)
7. *Ben Hendrickson, rhp, Indianapolis (Brewers)
8. *Dan Meyer, rhp, Richmond (Braves)
9. *Guillermo Quiroz, c, Syracuse (Blue Jays)
10. *Jason Bartlett, ss, Rochester (Twins)
*Has played in major leagues
The industry consensus at the start of the season was that the two best prospects in baseball were Orioles catcher Matt Wieters and Rays lefthander David Price. Both began the year in the Triple-A International League, with Wieters staying in Norfolk just long enough to lock down the No. 1 spot on our IL Top 20 Prospects list. Price departed Durham too soon to qualify.

Ranking right behind Wieters are two prime National League rookie of the year candidates, Gwinnett righthander Tommy Hanson and Indianapolis center fielder Andrew McCutchen. Both foreshadowed strong big league debuts by tearing up the IL for the first two months of the season.

Durham center fielder Desmond Jennings would have challenged McCutchen for the third spot on the list if a late-season quad injury hadn't left him seven plate appearances short of qualifying. Even without Price and Jennings, the Bulls put a league-high three players on our IL Top 10: righthanders Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson, and shortstop Reid Brignac. In September, Hellickson and Jennings helped Durham win the IL title and the Triple-A championship.

1. Matt Wieters, c, Norfolk (Orioles)
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Orioles '07 (1).
Wieters did little in Norfolk to diminish his status as the top prospect in baseball, and he showed consistent improvement in his first season in the majors. He has the tools to be an all-star for years to come, yet for all his physical talents, his biggest asset may be his levelheaded, intelligent approach to the game.

"The best tool he's got is the one between his ears," Norfolk manager Gary Allenson said. "For someone who has been written about so much and the expectations are so high, he has handled himself well."

Wieters provides the complete package at the plate, mixing good bat speed, good timing and huge raw power to all fields. His home run totals should climb as he learns to hit the ball with more backspin.

Behind the plate, he displays an above-average arm and uses his quick hands to make a rapid transfer. He threw out only 24 percent of IL baserunners, but he was making strides with his footwork. He's large for a catcher, but he has the agility and receiving skills to remain there. About the only thing he won't do well is run.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
141 25 43 9 2
5 30 20 30
0 0 .305 .387 .504
 
2. Tommy Hanson, rhp, Gwinnett (Braves)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Braves '05 (22).
The Braves surged into contention after promoting Hanson as he solidified the final spot in Atlanta's rotation with the poise of a veteran. With the Braves mired in a four-game losing streak in late June, he took the mound while battling the flu and shut out the Red Sox for six innings—despite throwing up after the third.

Hanson overwhelms hitters with three above-average pitches: a 91-96 mph fastball that features good late trail, an 81-86 mph slider with two-plane break and a 73-78 mph curveball. His slider is his out pitch. He challenges hitters and generally keeps the ball down.

Hanson also throws an 80-84 mph changeup that still needs work. He has problems getting consistent fade with the pitch and often leaves it up in the zone. He pitched past the sixth inning in just three of his 11 starts because his pitch count would get too high from striking out so many batters.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11
11 3 3 0 1.49
66
40
16 11
5
17
90 .169
 
3. Andrew McCutchen, of, Indianapolis (Pirates)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175. Drafted: Pirates '05 (1).
Ranked No. 2 on this list a year ago, McCutchen entered the season with a reputation for getting antsy at the plate and chasing pitches out of the zone. Once the Pirates saw that he had improved his pitch selection and discipline, they cleared room for him by trading Nate McLouth to the Braves.

Increased patience led to increased power for McCutchen, who had a three-homer game and drove the ball more consistently this year. His quick hands and deceptive strength give him potential for 20 home runs per season.

McCutchen's calling card always has been his plus-plus speed, which makes him a threat on the bases and an asset in center field, and he used it better in 2009. After leading all Triple-A players by getting caught stealing 19 times last year, he went 10-for-12 at Indianapolis. He also was more aggressive at taking extra bases, and he got better reads and breaks in the outfield.

Unlike many center fielders, McCutchen has a solid arm. Though he didn't join the Pirates until June, he ranked third among National League center fielders with 10 assists in the final week of the season.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
201
41
61 10 8 4 20 17 24 10 2
.303 .361 .493
 
4. Chris Tillman, rhp, Norfolk (Orioles)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Mariners '06 (2).
Adam Jones and Tillman continue to make the Erik Bedard trade look worse and worse bad for the Mariners. Tillman made his big league debut at age 21. He had his ups and downs with Baltimore, going 2-5, 5.40 in 12 starts, but flashed talent that should make him a frontline starter.

Tillman was more consistently dominant in the IL, showing two plus offerings and the potential for a third. He has a 92-96 mph fastball that could add more velocity as he fills out his lanky frame. It also will be more effective once he improves his command. His hard, late-breaking curveball is a nasty second pitch and he shows feel for his low-80s changeup.

"When he has those three pitches working," Norfolk manager Gary Allenson said, "he's as good as anyone in this league this year."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
18
18 8 6 0 2.70
97
85
36 29
5 26
99 .232
 
5. Wade Davis, rhp, Durham (Rays)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Rays '04 (3).
There was little surprise among Davis' former Durham teammates as they watched on a clubhouse televison as he limited the Tigers to one run over seven innings in his big league debut in September. He showed the same stuff that overpowered IL hitters, and it allowed him to seamlessly replace Scott Kazmir in the Rays rotation.

The hulking power pitcher throws with an easy delivery and a steep downhill plane. He works off a heavy 93-94 mph fastball that sinks and fades in on lefthanders. Hitters can't sit on his heater, or else he'll put them away with a plus 77-81 mph breaking ball with three-quarters break. He also mixes in a changeup and slider, which lack consistency.

"He's a No. 3 starter for me," a scout said. "If he could get one of those third pitches and command it a little better, he could be a No. 2 starter in the future."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
28
28 10 8 0 3.40
159
139
71 60
14 60
140 .231
 
6. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Durham (Rays)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Rays '05 (4).
Hellickson made his Triple-A debut in late July and wrapped up his stay as Durham's ace. He yielded one run on four hits over his final two regular season starts, turned in two more strong starts in the IL playoffs (including a 12-strikeout outing) and finished with five scoreless innings against Memphis in the Triple-A championship.

Hellickson hit a wall in Double-A in 2008, but he easily handled that level and Triple-A this season. Improvements to his fastball command and his changeup were at the heart of his step forward. He now delivers his 90-93 mph fastball to both sides of the plate with plus sink, and his deceptive changeup with late fade has become his strikeout pitch.

"Hitters are missing it by a mile," Durham manager Charlie Montoyo said. Hellickson's stuff tends to flatten out up in the zone when his arm slot drops. But that happened less frequently in 2009, when he gave up eight homers, down from 22 a year ago.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
9 6 1 0 2.51
57
31
19 16
4 15
70 .157
 
7. Austin Jackson, of, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Yankees '05 (8).
Jackson was the most exciting player to spend the full season in the IL, flashing all five tools while leading the circuit in triples and ranking second in hits. He drew comparisons to Torii Hunter, albeit with less power.

Jackson has bat speed and strength, but he hit just four homers and slugged only .405. While he batted .300, his 123-40 K-BB ratio was the worst of his five-year pro career. As he continues to refine his pitch recognition and plate discipline, he should continue to hit for average with at least solid power. He has slightly above-average speed and is an intelligent baserunner who will steal some bases.

Though he's not a blazer, Jackson played all three outfield positions for Scranton and could handle center field in the major leagues. He covers a lot of ground and makes accurate throws with an above-average arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
504
67
151 23 9 4 65 40 123 24 4
.300 .354 .405
 
8. Matt LaPorta, 1b/of, Columbus (Indians)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Indians '07 (1).
The seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft and the key player for the Indians in the trade that sent C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers a year later, LaPorta is known primarily for his offense with well-above-average power potential and an aggressive yet disciplined approach at the plate. That mindset helped him make a smooth transition to the majors after he got called up for good in mid-August.

"He's a dangerous hitter," Louisville manager Rick Sweet said. "You can't pitch him the same way to get him out. I like his approach to hitting. He gives you little room for error and covers the strike zone. He has power to all fields. He's a strong, strong kid."

The biggest question surrounding LaPorta is where he'll play on defense, as he has below-average speed and range to go with a fringy arm. The Indians had him split time between the outfield and first base, and they raved about his development at both positions. While with Cleveland, he played mostly in left field, where he projects as an average defender at best.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
338 63
101 23 2 17 60 42
56 1 3 .299 .388 .530
 
9. Hector Rondon, rhp, Columbus (Indians)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 2008.
After reaching Triple-A for the first time in July at the age of 21, Rondon responded with 11 scoreless innings. He tired late in the year, but not before showing that he's on the verge of helping the Indians' decimated pitching staff. a Cleveland pitching staff that has collapsed in the wake of the trades of former Cy Young Award winners Sabathia and Cliff Lee.

Rondon's go-to pitch is a lively 92-94 mph fastball that he can throw to both sides of the plate and dial up to 96. He uses it to set up an average changeup that would be more effective with a little less velocity. His mid-80s slider is average at times but lacks consistency.

Some scouts wonder if Rondon's secondary pitches are enough for him to start in the big leagues. The Indians briefly moved him to the bullpen in Double-A in May to see if they could fast-track him for some instant relief help, but plan on keeping him in the rotation.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
12 4 5 0 4.00
74
83
38 33
8 13
64 .282
 
10. Reid Brignac, ss, Durham (Rays)
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Rays '04 (2).
Brignac is one of the best shortstop prospects in the minors, but he's blocked by all-star Jason Bartlett in Tampa Bay and has Tim Beckham, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft coming up behind him.

One of the best shortstop prospects in the minors, Brignac hits for a solid average and has good lefthanded power for a middle infielder, though he doesn't draw many walks. He gets into trouble when he becomes homer-conscious and adds too much length and uppercut to his swing. He's at his best when he shortens his stroke and focuses on making hard contact. He has solid-average speed but isn't a big basestealing threat

Once considered primarily an offensive shortstop, Brignac steadily has improved in the field and managers rated him the league's best defender at his position. He has good range and solid arm strength, and he can make both routine and highlight plays.

"He has as good defensive instincts as anyone I've seen," Allenson said. "If the Rays don't want him, I'll take him."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
415
51
117 28 2 8 44 27 69 5 5
.282 .327 .417
 
11. Jake Arrieta, rhp, Norfolk (Orioles)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt. 225. Drafted: Orioles '07 (5).
Arrieta picked up where he left off last year, when he led the high Class A Carolina League with a 2.87 ERA in his pro debut. He cruised through Double-A, recording a pair of shutouts and posting a 2.59 ERA before earning an early-June promotion to Norfolk. Though he had a few hiccups with the Tides, he continued to show his potential as a middle-of-the-rotation starter.

Arrieta works off a 92-94 mph fastball and mixes in a slider that proves most effective against righthanders and a curve that he focuses on lefthanders. He tends to rely on his fastball the first time through a lineup and then pitch primarily with his breaking pitches the second time through, which sometimes led to trouble when he struggled with his control. The Orioles would like to see Arrieta develop his changeup and become less predictable.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
17 5 8 0 3.93
92
97
46
40
9 33 78 .276
 
12. Fernando Martinez, of, Buffalo (Mets)
Age: 20. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic '05.
Staying healthy continues to be Martinez's biggest obstacle. After playing just 90 games because of recurring hamstring injuries in 2008, he was shut down for the season in early July after tearing the meniscus in his right knee.

Martinez flashed his five-tool potential while in Buffalo, particularly the ability to hit with power to all fields. During a scorching May, he had 15 extra-base hits (including seven homers) in a 24-game stretch. He can get overly aggressive at the plate, a weakness major league pitchers exploited during his time in New York.

A solid-average runner, Martinez shows good range and average arm strength in the outfield. He split time between left and right field in Buffalo, but he has held his own previously in center field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
176 24
51 16 2 8 28 11
33 2
1 .290 .337 .540
 
13. Jose Tabata, of, Indianapolis (Pirates)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 215. Signed: Venezuela '04.
Tabata maintained his focus during a tumultuous offseason, which included his wife being arrested for kidnapping, and continued to thrive in the Pirates system after the Yankees included him in a trade for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte last summer. He overcame a hamstring injury to rank among the top prospects in both the Eastern and International leagues.

Using a line-drive approach, Tabata drives the ball to all fields. He has flashed power potential, but it has yet to translate on the field. He combined to hit just five homers between Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis.

"As he continues to mature and evolve as a hitter, the power is going to be there," Indianapolis manager Frank Kremblas said. "The power will be something that continues to develop."

Whether Tabata has the power to play a corner outfield will be his biggest question going forward. He has average speed and played a solid if unspectacular center field—a position Andrew McCutchen won't give up in Pittsburgh. Tabata has a strong arm that will fit nicely in right.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
134 21 37 7 1 3 10
10 18 4 2 .276
.333 .410
 
14. Drew Stubbs, of, Louisville (Reds)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Reds '06 (1)
After hitting just three homers in 411 at-bats with Louisville, Stubbs went deep eight times in 180 with the Reds. The power surge didn't surprise Sweet, who said Stubbs hit many balls at pitcher-friendly Louisville Slugger Field that easily would have cleared the fences in Cincinnati.

"He really became a consistent offensive and defensive player for us," Sweet said. "He was prepared to go to the big leagues."

Stubbs has above-average raw power, speed and arm strength. He became more disruptive on the basepaths by improving his reads and picking his spots to steal—he tied Michael Brantley for the IL lead with 46 swipes. He may not hit for a high average because he strikes out too much, but he does draw a fair amount of walks.

Sweet challenged him to play a shallow center field, and Stubbs covered a lot of ground in Louisville's expansive center field. He had some trouble with plays up against the wall in Cincinnati's cozier Great American Ball Park.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
411
57
110 25 2 3 39 51 104 46 8
.268 .353 .360
 
15. Michael Brantley, of, Columbus (Indians)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Brewers '05 (7)
While the Indians surely could use C.C. Sabathia in their rotation, trading him to the Brewers last year may net them two future everyday players in LaPorta and Brantley. Brantley has yet to show much power, but he's a career .300 hitter in the minors who hit .313 in his big league debut. He excels at getting on base and is a threat once he does, tying Stubbs for the IL league with 46 steals in 51 attempts.

"He's disruptive with his speed and what he can do," Sweet said. "He puts a lot of pressure on a defense and pitcher."

Brantley has a disciplined approach and has walked more than he struck out at every stop throughout the minors. He makes consistent line-drive contact and fits nicely at the top of a batting order. A plus runner, he has improved his reads and routes on defense to become a solid-average center fielder, albeit with a below-average arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
457
80
122 21 2 6 37 59 48
46 5
.267 .350 .361
 
16. Jon Niese, lhp, Buffalo (Mets)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 245. Drafted: Mets '05 (7).
Niese's season of highs and lows came to a painful end in the big leagues. He tweaked a tendon in his right hamstring while stretching to cover first base in early August, then completely tore it off the bone on a warmup pitch, requiring season-ending surgery. His season got off to an inauspicious start as well, as he went 0-4, 7.96 in the first two months at Buffalo, but he recovered to dominate the IL for two months and pitch well for the Mets.

"What impressed me was that he kept working hard, never got down and never got discouraged," Buffalo manager Ken Oberkfell said. "Then for a stretch, he was lights out."

Niese's best pitch is a big-breaking curveball. He mixes it with a low-90s fastball that he can cut or sink, and a solid changeup that makes his fastball even more effective. Once he gained consistent command, he had little trouble with Triple-A or big league hitters.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
16 5 6 0 3.82
94
95
47 40
7 26
82 .258
 
17. Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Lehigh Valley (Phillies)/Columbus (Indians)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Signed: Venezuela .
The Phillies once considered Carrasco their potential ace of the future, but they packaged him with three other prospects in a midseason deal for Cliff Lee. The Indians hope Carrasco can stabilize the front of their rotation, and he has the raw ability to do so.

Carrasco has the potential for three plus pitches. When he's on, he throws a 92-96 mph fastball, a hard breaking ball and a changeup that has improved steadily.

Consistency, however, has been Carrasco's kryptonite. Too often, he lacks confidence in his ability and can't repeat his delivery. As a result, he gets hit harder than a pitcher with his stuff should.

G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
26 11 10 0 4.64
157
149 91
81
17 45 148 .245
 
18. Ross Detwiler, lhp, Syracuse (Nationals)
Age: 23. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Nationals '07 (1)
Detwiler made significant strides this year after a tough first full pro season in 2008, breezing through Double-A in just 27 innings before stopping in Syracuse long enough to qualify for this list en route to Washington. He scuffled in his first extended taste of the majors but rebounded to post a 1.90 ERA in September.

Detwiler has a pair of plus pitches in his 92-95 mph four-seam fastball and his power curveball. He complements them with a changeup that continues to improve. His delivery remains his biggest struggle, as he tends to throw across his body and sometimes gets offline from the plate.

"He still throws 93 miles an hour and still has a good breaking ball," Syracuse manager Tim Foli said. "He's throwing better on the glove side of the plate, but if we can straighten him up a little bit and get him over there more consistently, then everything's going to get better."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10
10 4 2 0 3.10
49
56
23 17
2 20
42 .281
 
19. Ian Desmond, ss, Syracuse (Nationals)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Nationals '04 (3).
The Nationals jumped Desmond to Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2006, and the move backfired. He hit .182 before getting demoted to high Class A, where he spent all of the next season. He entered 2009 as a career .247/.313/.373 hitter.

But Desmond made significant strides this year, batting a combined .330/.401/.477 between Double-A and Triple-A before putting up similar numbers in the majors. He has become more patient and does a better job of working himself into hitter's counts, and he has the strength and bat speed to take advantage. He has average speed and runs the bases well.

Defensively, Desmond has the plus range and arm strength required at shortstop and can make the spectacular play in the hole. He's still seeking consistency on routine plays, as he makes too many careless errors.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
178
25
63 12 2 1 14 16 40 13 4
.306 .372
.494
 
20. Chris Heisey, of, Louisville (Reds)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Reds '06 (17).
Heisey's stay in the IL was not nearly as eye-popping as the path he blazed through the Double-A Southern League, where he hit .347 and blasted 13 home runs. He initially struggled to make adjustments to more polished Triple-A pitchers, then slammed six homers in August.

Heisey employs a patient approach at the plate, making consistent hard contact with a quick bat. He's a plus runner and capable basestealer. He played all three outfield positions for Louisville and profiles best as a right fielder with good range and arm strength.

"He's a young player who works very hard at coming to the ballpark everyday and performing at the top of his game," Sweet said.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
245
37
68
17 1 9
37 14
43 8 2
.278 .323
.465