League Top 20 Prospects

Pacific Coast League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Casey Kotchman, 1b, Salt Lake (Angels)
2. *Dallas McPherson, 3b, Salt Lake (Angels)
3. *Edwin Jackson, rhp, Las Vegas (Dodgers)
4. *Nick Swisher, of, Sacramento (Athletics)
5. *Jose Lopez, if, Tacoma (Mariners)
6. *Jeremy Reed, of, Tacoma (Mariners)
7. *Chris Burke, 2b, New Orleans (Astros)
8. *Joe Blanton, rhp, Sacramento (Athletics)
9. *Juan Dominguez, rhp, Oklahoma (Rangers)
10. *Yadier Molina, c, Memphis (Cardinals)
*Has played in major leagues
The Triple-A Pacific Coast League long has been known as a hitter's league, and this year did nothing to detract from that reputation. Position players claimed eight of the first nine spots on our Top 20 Prospects list, led by Fresno catcher Buster Posey.

Posey was one of three players who jumped from the first round of the 2008 draft to our PCL Top 20 a year later. Third baseman Brett Wallace and Oklahoma City first baseman Justin Smoak joined him in that regard. Wallace entered the PCL with eventual league champion Memphis and was the only Redbird to crack our list. He finished the year in Sacramento, which posted the league's best record. He was one of four River Cats on our Top 20, a league high.

The PCL's pitchers weren't as talented, though Oklahoma City's Neftali Feliz drew strong consideration for the No. 1 ranking and was sensational in the majors with the Rangers. New Orleans second baseman Chris Coghlan and Albuquerque righty James McDonald also performed well in the big leagues but were promoted from the PCL too quickly to qualify for this list.

1. Buster Posey, c, Fresno (Giants)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Giants '08 (1).
The Giants invested $6.2 million in Posey after making him the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft, yet he already looks like he might be a steal. He draws raves for his poise and maturity. He has an outstanding mind for the game, both at and behind the plate, where he was able to learn his pitchers quickly and play to their strengths.

Posey's physical tools aren't lacking either. He has a compact swing with pop to all fields. His raw power isn't tremendous, but his disciplined approach allows him to get in favorable counts where he can get pitches to drive. He rarely swings at bad pitches and has shown he can adjust quickly if he does get fooled.

A shortstop before converting to catcher in 2007 at Florida State, Posey has good hands and agility behind the plate, a strong arm and a compact throwing motion. He threw out 38 percent of PCL basestealers. Passed balls were a problem when he first arrived in pro ball, but he calmed that problem somewhat with the Grizzlies, allowing just four in 33 games.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
131 21 42 8 1
5 22 17 23
0 1 .321 .391 .511
 
2. Neftali Feliz, rhp, Oklahoma City (Rangers)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005 (Braves).
One of five players the Rangers acquired from the Braves for Mark Teixeira in mid-2007, Feliz reached the big leagues in only his second year of pitching in full-season ball, joining the Rangers' bullpen in early August. In his first 12 games with Texas, he allowed just seven baserunners and one walk while striking out 28 in 22 innings.

Feliz went 3-5, 3.86 as a starter for the Redhawks before converting to the bullpen in late June in anticipation of his callup. Most PCL observers felt Feliz could succeed as a starter, though some had reservations about his command. All were in agreement that he has tremendous stuff, headlined by a lively four-seam fastball which sits in the high 90s and routinely touches 100 mph.

Just as impressive, Feliz delivers the ball with an effortless delivery that makes it look like he's just playing catch. He complements his fastball with a biting curveball and has some feel for a changeup.

"It's such an easy 96 (mph) fastball, it's just ridiculous," an American League scout said. "When you're that athletic, you can do so many things. He could probably pitch with more effort and still have good command."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
25
13 4 6 0 3.49
77
69
36 30
2 30
75 .240
 
3. Travis Snider, of, Las Vegas (Blue Jays)
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 235. Drafted: Blue Jays '06 (1).
Snider entered 2009 as a prime Rookie of the Year candidate, but he tried to do too much and lost his approach, hitting just .242/.292/.394 in Toronto before being sent down in mid-May. He tore up the PCL—though he spent a month on the disabled list with a back injury—and performed better when he returned to the Blue Jays in mid-August.

Still just 21, Snider has tremendous power to all fields and is a gifted natural hitter as well. His biggest need right now is to tighten his strike-zone discipline, and he made strides in Las Vegas. He has to be sure to stay through the middle of the ball and not sell out for power, which is unnecessary with his strength.

Snider isn't a great runner or the most rangy outfielder, but he's a better athlete than his 6-foot, 235-pound frame might indicate. He's an intelligent defender in left and right field, doing a good job of cutting balls off and throwing to the right base. He has enough arm to stick in right field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
175 32 59 13 1
14 40 28 47
2 3 .337 .431 .663
 
4. Michael Saunders, of, Tacoma (Mariners)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Mariners '04 (11).
Saunders needed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in the offseason, but that didn't slow him down once he joined Tacoma's lineup in late April. An explosive player for his size, he has the bat speed to turn on 95 mph fastballs and a willingness to use the whole field, though his power is more geared to his pull side. He makes consistent hard contact, and some of his doubles should turn into homers as he continues maturing.

Saunders doesn't have blazing speed, but he's an intelligent baserunner who gets good secondary leads and always looks for chances to take an extra base. He played mostly left field while recovering from the surgery, but he showed a solid arm in the past and has enough range to play in center.

"I liked Saunders best of anybody in the league," Fresno manager Dan Rohn said. "I think his upside is tremendous. I think this kid's got a nice swing. He's got power potential with speed and is a solid defender."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
248 58 77 15 2 13 32
25
48 6 3 .310
.378 .544
 
5. Cameron Maybin, of, New Orleans (Marlins)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Tigers '05 (1)
Like Snider, Maybin opened the season in the big leagues but struggled and was sent down in May. Though Maybin first reached the majors two years ago, he never had played in Triple-A. He hit a career-high .319 for New Orleans, earning his way back to Florida in September.

It seems like ages ago that he homered off Roger Clemens at Yankee Stadium, yet Maybin still is maturing as a hitter. Maybin worked hard this year on improving his pitch recognition, letting the ball travel deeper into the zone and making better use of the opposite field. The altered approach helped him make more consistent contact, but it also cut into his power production.

Maybin still has five-tool potential, though he still requires more polish as well. He has well above-average speed but his basestealing needs work. He covers a lot of ground in center field and has a strong arm, but he needs a quicker release and better accuracy on his throws.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
298
44
95 18 8 3 39 38 58 8 2
.319 .399 .463
 
6. Alcides Escobar, ss, Nashville (Brewers)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela '03.
Long hailed as one of the game's elite defensive prospects, Escobar proved he could handle Triple-A pitching. That gave the Brewers the confidence to elevate him to the major leagues in August to supplant the struggling J.J. Hardy.

Escobar has good plate coverage and is willing to hit balls where they're pitched, though at times he'll get pull-conscious and overswing. He doesn't offer much power, but he does have some bat speed and leverage in his stroke. He has good speed and is an intelligent basestealer.

His defense remains his calling card. Escobar's range, hands and arm strength are all easy plus tools. In each of the last three years, managers have rated him the best defensive shortstop and owner of the strongest infield arm in his league.

"He's got a chance to be one of the premier shortstops in baseball," Memphis manager Chris Maloney said. "He's got big range both ways, a very strong throwing arm, his hands are excellent and you can tell he loves to play defense. He's got a chance to hit a little bit, too."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
430
76 128
24 6 4 34 32 65 42 10 .298 .353 .409
 
7. Brett Wallace, 3b/1b, Memphis (Cardinals)/Sacramento (Athletics)
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Cardinals '08 (1).
Matt Holliday may not have produced like the Athletics hoped he would after trading for him in the offseason, but he did yield Wallace and two other prospects (righthander Clayton Mortensen and outfielder Shane Peterson) in a midsummer trade with the Cardinals. The 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft, Wallace is one of the most advanced hitters in the minors.

"He's a big league hitter right now," New Orleans manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "His pitch recognition is fine. He stays inside the ball very well. That's why he hits lefthanded pitching very well. He drives the ball to left center. He shows power to all fields."

Defense remains his biggest question mark. His hands are fine and he has enough arm to play third base, but his lack of agility and range make it unlikely that he'll be able to stay there. Most PCL observers thought he'd have to move to first base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
404
54 120 22 0
15 47 29 82
1 2 .297 .354 .460
 
8. Kyle Blanks, 1b/of, Portland (Padres)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 285. Drafted: Padres '04 (42).
At 6-foot-6 and 285 pounds, Blanks is the biggest legitimate prospect in the game. But his size shouldn't overshadow his ability, as he topped 20 homers for the third consecutive season and was the Padres' second-most productive hitter after they called him up in mid-June.

Blanks brings tremendous raw power to the table, which isn't surprising for a player who looks like a fullback. He has good pitch recognition and the strength to get jammed and still get a hit. After cutting his strikeout rate in each of the last three seasons, he saw his whiffs rise in 2009 as he had a harder time laying off breaking pitches, especially against righthanders who could speed his bat up.

Blanks is more agile than he looks and has good footwork around the bag. However, the Padres have Adrian Gonzalez at first base, so they had to deploy Blanks mostly on the outfield corners. He has an adequate arm and will catch what's hit to him, but he lacks mobility and range and figures to get slower as he ages.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
233 35 66 9 1 12 38 39 63 0 0 .283 .393
.485
 
9. Justin Smoak, 1b, Oklahoma City (Rangers)
Age: 22. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Rangers '08 (1).
Smoak had more trouble catching up to the PCL than fellow 2008 draftees Posey and Wallace. After batting .328/.449/.481 in Double-A, he hit just .167/.267/.244 in his first 20 games at Oklahoma City after being promoted in early July. He was much better in August, though his power never really got untracked.

A switch-hitter, Smoak has a mature approach and uses the whole field well. Though PCL pitchers made him look pretty raw at times, he still projects to be at least an average hitter with 20-25 home run power in the majors. He has good strength and will take a walk when pitchers won't challenge him.

Smoak doesn't have a lot of speed or athleticism, but he should be a solid defender.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
197
25
48
11 0 4
23
35
45 0 0
.244 .363 .360
 
10. Vin Mazzaro, rhp, Sacramento (Athletics)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Athletics '05 (3).
Mazzaro proved that his 2008 breakout season, when he led the Texas League in ERA (1.90) and was the circuit's pitcher of the year, was no fluke. He was mostly untouchable during his two months with Sacramento before joining Oakland's young rotation in June.

Mazzaro induces plenty of grounders thanks to a sinking fastball that sits in the low 90s and can touch 96 mph. His 84-86 mph slider gives him a second above-average pitch. His delivery isn't textbook, as he throws slightly across his body, but it does aid in giving him some deception. When Mazzaro did struggle in Triple-A, it was usually because he wasn't throwing his changeup enough. His changeup has a chance to be a slightly above-average pitch, but he's still learning to trust it. He also throws a downer curveball, but it's not much more than a show-me pitch at this point.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10
9 2 2 0 2.38
57
42
17 15
2 17 44 .205
 
11. Bud Norris, rhp, Round Rock (Astros)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 225 Age: 24 Drafted: Astros '06 (6)
Despite toiling for last-place Round Rock and winning just four of his 19 starts, Norris was named PCL pitcher of the year after leading the league in ERA (2.62), strikeouts per nine innings (8.4) and opponent average (.237). Called up to Houston in late July, he allowed just four runs in four September starts.

Norris' primary weapon is a fastball that sits at 92-95 mph. His sharp slider gives him a second plus pitch. His changeup could become an average pitch down the road, but he often throws it too hard and struggles to command it.

PCL observers praised Norris' competitiveness and confidence on the mound, traits that allowed him to succeed even on days he didn't have his best stuff.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
19 4 9 0 2.63
120
104 42
35
6 53 112 .237
 
12. Esmil Rogers, rhp, Colorado Springs (Rockies)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 150 Age: 24 Signed: Rockies '03.
Rogers tore through the Texas League, going 8-2, 2.48 before being promoted to Colorado Springs in early July. He found the going much tougher in the PCL, but still impressed observers with his lively 92-95 mph fastball. He also can spin a plus curveball with good velocity and two-plane break.

A converted shortstop, Rogers has a clean delivery and is plenty athletic on the mound, but he's still learning the mental side of pitching. There were times where he appeared to get rattled easily, and he still has to understand that he can trust his stuff and doesn't have to try to overpower every hitter. His changeup is still a work in progress as well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
11 3 5 0 7.42
61
61 77
50
9 35 46 .317
 
13. Mat Gamel, 3b, Nashville (Brewers)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 200 Age: 24 Drafted: Brewers '05 (4)
Gamel has become well known for his tremendous raw power as well as his defensive deficiencies, both of which were on display in the PCL. He has the ability to drive the ball to all fields, the bat speed to catch up to quality fastballs and the natural timing to center the ball. His only real drawback at the plate is his lack of a two-strike approach, as he won't give up on trying to crush balls, no matter what the count.

"He has really strong hands to the ball," a National League scout said. "He does let the ball travel and hit it deep and still drive it out to left-center and drive it over the fence. He's just one of those guys where the ball comes off the bat differently than most other guys."

Though Gamel was better defensively than in past years, his .910 fielding percentage was still substandard. His speed, range, reactions and arm strength are fine, but his footwork and throwing mechanics still fall apart at times. One manager said he thought Gamel had lapses of concentration and got careless in the field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
273 42 76 18 1 11 48
38 89 1 0 .278 .367 .473
 
14. Brandon Allen, 1b, Reno (Diamondbacks)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 235 Age: 23 Drafted: White Sox '04 (5)
Allen began the season in Double-A and as Paul Konerko's heir apparent in the White Sox organization. A trade and two promotions later, he was in the big leagues with the Diamondbacks by the end of August. In between, he torched PCL pitching for the six weeks he was in the league.

Allen has power to all fields and is willing to take what pitchers give him. He's short to the ball and doesn't have a long swing for a hitter his size. Though he posted the lowest strikeout rate of his minor league career in 2009, he still gets tied up by inside fastballs and caught on his front foot on offspeed pitches away.

He's not a great defender at first base, but Allen's footwork around the bag is good and he shows a willingness to learn and get better. He's a good athlete for a big man and has enough speed to steal a few bases if teams don't pay attention to him.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
145 33 47 8 1
12 23 20 35
6 0 .324 .413 .641
 
15. Gio Gonzalez, lhp, Sacramento (Athletics)
B-T: R-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 195 Age: 24 Drafted: White Sox '04 (1s)
The only returnee from last year's PCL Top 20—he ranked eighth in 2008—Gonzalez again put up a spectacular strikeout rate (10.5 per nine innings) in his second stint with Sacramento. He joined the Athletics for good in late June, but command issues continued to plague him in the major leagues.

Gonzalez has plenty of stuff. His fastball sits in the low 90s and can reach 94 mph. His curveball is an even deadlier pitch, a 12-to-6 downer with tight spin, late break and plenty of depth. His changeup has some sink and deception, though it has too much velocity at times.

Gonzalez has trouble commanding his fastball and changeup, making it hard for him to set up his curveball. He also has to learn to keep his emotions in check and not allow one bad pitch to affect his next one. He should be at least a No. 3 starter if he throws more strikes.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
12 4 1 0 2.51
61
42 21
17
5 34 71 .194
 
16. Jeff Samardzija, rhp, Iowa (Cubs)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220 Age: 24 Drafted: Cubs '06 (5)
Samardzija bounced back and forth between starting in Iowa and relieving in the majors as the Cubs continued to try to find him a role. The former Notre Dame football star wasn't as successful in either job as he had been in 2008.

His best pitch is a 90-94 mph fastball with armside run and sink, but Samardzija doesn't command it or throw his secondary pitches with much consistency. His 80-82 mph slider can be a plus pitch and his changeup can be an average offering, but neither is reliable.

Samardzija's best fit may be in the bullpen, even if he can improve his command and secondary pitches. He has an unorthodox arm action that makes him a higher risk for injury, and his stuff seemed to regress after 60 pitches, though that may have been a result of constantly switching roles.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
18
17 6 6 0 4.35
89
98 46
43
12 27 71 .283
 
17. Adam Moore, c, Tacoma (Mariners)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220 Age: 25 Drafted: Mariners '06 (6)
Moore was an offense-first catcher whose power bat was supposed to carry him when the Mariners drafted him out of Texas-Arlington. He has hit at every level, but it's his defensive improvements that got him to the majors and give him a chance to be Seattle's starter in 2010.

PCL observers praised his blocking and receiving, and he has become a sound fundamental catcher under the tutelage of Mariners catching instructor Roger Hansen. Moore has a plus arm behind the plate and ranked second in the league by throwing out 31 percent of basestealers.

Moore's raw power is still there and he has shown he can hit to all fields. He has a short stroke and makes consistent contact, and though he's a well below-average runner, he still should hit for a solid average.

"He stuck out for me in the way he went about his business," Reno manager Brett Butler said. "Very quiet at the plate. Had a good idea. You can't make a mistake with that guy."

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
340 41 100 19 0
9 43 26 51
1 1 .294 .346 .429
 
18. Angel Salome, c, Nashville (Brewers)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-7 Wt.: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Brewers '04 (5)
After hitting .360 in Double-A a year ago, Salome had his worst offensive season since his 2005 pro debut, though his .286/.334/.413 numbers were still respectable. He has an unorthodox swing in which he steps towards third base and flies open, but he makes it work. He's strong and can drive balls to right center, but most of his home run power is to his pull side.

"It's like he's compensating for his mechanical deficiencies because he has such good hand strength," the NL scout said. "He can pull the outside pitch with some authority. It's not conventional. It's not the way you'd teach it."

Salome should be more productive than most catchers, and he has the tools to be effective behind the plate as well. He has well above-average arm strength, but his throws tend to tail and he threw out just 26 percent of basestealers for Nashville. He's athletic enough and blocks balls well but must remember to make defense a priority.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
283
32
82 14 2 6 44 22
55 0 0
.286 .334 .413
 
19. Adrian Cardenas, 2b, Sacramento (Athletics)
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 185 Age: 22 Drafted: Phillies '06 (1s)
After acquiring him in the Joe Blanton trade in July 2008, the Athletics mostly played Cardenas at shortstop. He split time between second and third base in Double-A to open the season, but saw most of his Triple-A action at second.

Regardless of where he plays, Cardenas is a pure hitter with a sound approach. He has a short, line-drive stroke with gap power, with Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco comparing him to Adam Kennedy. Cardenas hit just .177 when he first joined the River Cats in May, but then batted .289 after earning his way back in August.

Second base will be Cardenas' most likely position in the big leagues. He has average speed but lacks the range and pure arm strength for shortstop. Though his footwork still needs smoothing out at second base, his bat projects better there than it does at third base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
183 23 46 15 2
1 24 17 29
3 2 .251 .317
.372
 
20. Gaby Sanchez, 1b/3b, New Orleans (Marlins)
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 235 Age: 26 Drafted: Marlins '05 (4)
Injuries to both knees hampered Sanchez's season. A bone bruise on his left knee in spring training cost him the chance to open the year as Florida's starting first baseman, then he sprained his right knee on a play at home plate in May which knocked him out of New Orleans' lineup for five weeks.

When healthy, Sanchez bolstered his reputation as a mature, professional hitter. He has a compact swing, allowing him to hang in well against breaking pitches and drive the ball to all fields. He has some power, though it's modest for a first baseman. Plate discipline is also one of his strengths, but he could do a better job with pitch recognition.

Sanchez is an average defender at first base. He's a below-average runner, but his hands are serviceable and he has the arm strength to play third base in a pinch, though the hot corner won't be a long-term option for him.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
318
55
92 11 0 16 56 41 44 5 0
.289 .374 .475