League Top 20 Prospects

Arizona League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports





FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. Mark Pawelek, lhp, Cubs
2. *Nick Adenhart, rhp, Angels
3. Craig Italiano, rhp, Athletics
4. Jeff Bianchi, ss, Royals
5. Johnny Whittleman, 3b, Rangers
6. Jared Lansford, rhp, Athletics
7. *Waldis Joaquin, rhp, Giants
8. *Lorenzo Cain, of, Brewers
9. Joe Dickerson, of, Royals
10. *Shairon Martis, rhp, Giants
11. Sharlon Schoop, ss, Giants
12. Manuel Pina, c, Rangers
13. P.J. Phillips, ss, Angels
14. *Kyle Blanks, 1b, Padres
15. Ramon Alvarado, of, Athletics
16. Tommy Mendoza, rhp, Angels
17. Sammy Baez, ss, Cubs
18. Brent Fisher, lhp, Royals
19. *Ernesto Frieri, rhp, Padres
20. Gustavo Espinoza, lhp, Angels
*Has played in major leagues.
Baseball America's League Top 20 lists are generated from consultations with scouts and league managers. To qualify for consideration, a player must have spent at least one-third of the season in a league. Position players must have one plate appearance for every league game. Pitchers must pitch 1/3 inning for every league game, and relievers have to have made at least 20 appearances in full-season leagues and 10 in short-season ones.

TEMPE, Ariz.—Bonus babies Michael Ynoa and Donavan Tate were the preseason favorites to rank as the Arizona League's top prospect. Instead, Mariners outfielder Guillermo Pimentel and lesser-known Royals righthanders Yordano Ventura and Robinson Yambati headlined our Top 20 Prospects list for the Rookie league in a year where there was no clear choice for No. 1.

Pimentel drew raves for his plus-plus power and five-tool potential. Ventura, who operates in the mid-90s with his fastball, and Yambati, whose heater can reach that high, had the two best arms in the league.

Meanwhile, Ynoa and Tate were disappointments. Ynoa, who signed for a Dominican-record $4.25 million in 2008, made his first pro appearance after missing all of 2009 with elbow tendinitis. He hit 95 mph while throwing three scoreless innings on Opening Day, but he pitched only twice more before being shut down again with elbow soreness. He had Tommy John surgery in late August.
The third overall pick in the 2009 draft, Tate saw his progress stymied by an ongoing stomach ailment that sidelined him for large portions of the season. When he did play, he showed much more athleticism than hitting aptitude, striking out 41 times in 90 at-bats.

Eight of the 29 first-round picks from the 2010 draft who signed made their pro debuts in the AZL, but only Angels outfielder Chevez Clarke played enough to qualify for this list. Clarke, who ranked No. 17, stuck out for his raw athleticism but his instincts need work.

1. Guillermo Pimentel, of, Mariners
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180 Age: 17 Signed: Dominican Republic '09
Pimentel received one of the top bonuses during the 2009 international signing period, getting $2 million from the Mariners. He struggled in the early part of his pro debut, especially with pitch selection and hitting curveballs, but finished strongly with a .293/.318/.537 line in August.

While he has five-tool potential, it's Pimentel's raw power that stands out the most. His strong wrists generate good bat speed through the zone. Many of his six homers were of the tape-measure variety. He's far from a finished product—he had just five walks and 58 strikeouts in 192 plate appearances—and needs to continue working on recognizing the rotation on pitches.

"There's no ceiling on him," Mariners hitting coach Andy Bottin said. "If he can discipline himself as far as pitch selection and cut down on his strikeouts, he can be a 4-hole hitter."

Pimentel, who played mostly in left field, showed defensive improved as the season progressed. His routes and angles to balls should get better as he gains experience, and his average-to-plus arm should get stronger as he refines his throwing mechanics. He has average speed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
184 20 46 7 6 6 31 5 58 5 1 .250 .276 .451
 
2. Yordano Ventura, rhp, Royals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 160 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '09
Ventura was the biggest surprise among the league's pitching prospects. When the Royals signed him prior to the 2009 season, he weighed just 140 pounds and his fastball topped out at 89 mph. After pitching last year and early this season in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, he arrived in Arizona in June with another 20 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame and much more velocity on his fastball.

Ventura's lively fastball is his lone plus pitch right now, but it's special. He usually works at 94-96 mph, and there were multiple reports late in the season that his heater hit triple digits. His curveball is still a work in progress, and with his arm speed it should become at least an average pitch, if not better.

He also has a promising changeup but is reluctant to use it in games because he can just throw his fastball by hitters. He operates out of a three-quarters delivery that is fairly clean and he repeats well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
6
4 2 0 3.25 53 49 28 19 3 17 58 .236
 
3. Robinson Yambati, rhp, Royals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '09
The Royals staff had a tough time picking the best prospect between Ventura and Yambati. "They're 1A and 1B," Royals pitching coach Mark Davis, "and the A and B flip from day to day because they both have quality arms."

Yambati, who towers over Ventura at 6-foot-4, led the league with eight wins. He has an effective three-pitch mix, starting with a lively 90-93 mph fastball that touches 96. He should add velocity as he fills out.

His curveball, which at times looks like a slider, sits in the low 80s. He also has a changeup that projects as an average pitch once he throws it with consistent arm speed. Davis said Yambati made significant improvements from a year ago with his curve and with repeating his three-quarters delivery.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
6 8 2 0 2.71 66
65 28 20 0 12 64
.252
 
4. Tyler Roberts, c, Brewers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 226 Age: 19 Drafted: Brewers '09 (10)
Roberts had a decent 2009 pro debut in the AZL after Milwaukee drafted him in the 10th round from a rural Georgia high school. He returned to Arizona in 2010, helped the Brewers win the league title and projects as a solid regular in the big leagues.

Nicknamed "Country," Roberts ranked second in the league with 17 doubles and sixth with six homers. Brewers manager Tony Diggs lauded him for having no fear at the plate, and also for his makeup. He worked hard this year to keep his weight under control and to improve his conditioning.

His offense is ahead of his defense, though he has made significant refinements working with Brewers minor league catching instructor Charlie Greene. Roberts was very raw in 2009, having learned most of what he knew about catching from watching Braves games on television. His setup behind the plate is now good, and his arm is average and could improve with better footwork.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
156 30 45 17
0 6 23 15
30 0 0 .288 .354 .513
 
5. Junior Arias, ss, Reds
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 178 Age: 18 Signed: Dominican Republic '09
Arias hit .231/.304/.389 in his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League, but his bat came to life in Arizona, where he was one of the league's more exciting young hitters. He needs to improve his plate discipline, but there's no denying his power.

"He's got a live bat," Reds manager Julio Garcia said. "It makes a different sound than most of the kids we have on our club."

While AZL managers loved his bat, few believed Arias could remain at shortstop. Already 6-foot-2, he'll certainly outgrow the position. With his arm and speed both rated slightly above average, he should be able to handle a move to third base or the outfield.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
195
44
56 10 5 6 25 12 58 4 3 .287 .336 .482
 
6. Donovan Tate, of, Padres
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Padres '09 (1)
The best athlete available in the 2009 draft, Tate went third overall to the Padres and signed for $6.25 million, the most ever for a high school position player. But his career has been on hold because of a succession of injuries and illnesses. He played in just 25 AZL games, and only one after August 5, while battling stomach and flu-related issues.

Opinions from AZL managers were across the board. Some raved about Tate's athleticism, as he has plus-plus speed, plenty of raw power and the potential to become a five-tool center fielder. Others expressed significant concerns about the holes in his swing.

Padres manager Ivan Cruz believes Tate just needs to get consistent playing time for his talent to break through.

"The athleticism jumps out," Cruz said. "Every time you see him on the field, he's doing something that has flashes of brilliance. I've seen flashes of him be able to take over a ballgame."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
90 19 20 5 0 2
10 15
41 7 1 .222 .336 .344
 
7. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3b, Royals
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 17 Signed: Nicaragua '09
The son of a lobster fisherman and local baseball coach, Cuthbert hails from the Corn Islands, located 50 miles off the coast of Nicaragua. He signed for $1.35 million last summer, setting a bonus record for a Nicaraguan.

Just 17, Cuthbert launched his career in the AZL before jumping to the more advanced Rookie-level Pioneer League after less than a month. He has an advanced bat for his age, with a good swing and power to all fields. He also has solid arm strength and the potential to be a plus defender at third base.

Royals manager Darryl Kennedy lauded Cuthbert for his intelligence, character and work ethic. He already speaks English, helping him adapt to life in the United States.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
68 14 18 3 2 1
5 6
19 1 1 .265 .342 .412
 
8. Luis Sardinas, ss, Rangers
B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 150 Age: 17 Signed: Venezuela '09
The Rangers gave seven-figure bonuses to a pair of Latin American shortstops in 2009, and they're already seeing positive returns from Jurickson Profar (the No. 1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League) and Sardinas. After missing the first month after a pitch hit him on the hand in extended spring training, Sardinas showed plus speed and defensive tools to go with a promising bat.

A switch-hitter, Sardinas has good on-base skills and should hit with more power as he adds strength to his 160-pound frame. His speed grades as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and he can zoom to first base in less than four seconds on bunts.

He also has all the tools to be a standout defender. He has plus range, tremendous quickness and a strong arm. He tends to take a few plays off in game, typical of many young players.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
103 22 32 4 0 0 8 7
15
8 2 .311 .363 .350
 
9. Ismael Guillon, lhp, Reds
B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Age: 18 Signed: Venezuela '08
Guillon first came to prominence as a member of Venezuela's 16-and-under national team. His original contract in 2008 was voided by the Reds because of injury concerns, but he later re-signed for less money. He subsequently had Tommy John surgery before debuting this summer in the AZL, which he led in strikeouts (73), strikeouts per nine innings (11.5) and opponent average (.193).

Guillon usually works at 90-92 mph with his live fastball, and he backs it up with a plus changeup. "His fastball-changeup combination is as good as it gets," Reds pitching coach Tom Browning said. "The changeup is the best in the league . . . best in a lot of leagues."

The Reds will work with Guillon to develop his breaking ball and increase the tempo of his three-quarters delivery during instructional league. His mechanics are sound, putting to rest past concerns about his arm action.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
10
3 3 0 3.32 57 39 26 21 1 23 73 .193
 
10. James Baldwin, of, Dodgers
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 18 Drafted: Dodgers '10 (4)
The first 2010 draftee on this list, Baldwin improved significantly after looking overmatched early after signing as a fourth-rounder. The son of the former all-star pitcher of the same name, he hit .357/.378/.512 in August after developing a more compact swing working daily with Dodgers hitting coach Leo Garcia. He's still working on controlling the strike zone after fanning 60 times and walking just nine.

Baldwin has a lean, athletic body that could add power as he fills out. He has plus-plus speed and stole 17 bases in 20 tries, though he still has much to learn about basestealing. He shows plus range and an average arm in center field, and he improved his routes during the summer.

 "He's taken control of this team from the leadoff spot," Dodgers manager Lorenzo Bundy said. "When he was getting on base for us, we were a lot better ball club."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
179 25 49 6 2 2 22 9
60
17 3 .274 .313 .363
 
11. Austin Reed, rhp, Cubs
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200 Age: 18 Drafted: Cubs '10 (12)
Reed dropped to the 12th round primarily because he was expected to attend San Diego State to either join or replace his brother Addison on the Aztecs staff. Neither will take the mound at Tony Gwynn Stadium next year, as Addison joined the White Sox as a third-rounder while Austin signed with the crosstown Cubs for $150,000.

The younger Reed effectively mixes a fastball, curveball and changeup from a high three-quarters delivery. He already throws his fastball at 90-91 mph and could get better as he gets stronger.

Citing his intelligence and ability to make adjustments on the fly, Cubs pitching coach Rick Tronerud compared Reed to Jon Garland, whom he coached in the AZL in 1997. "He's one of the most mature 18-year-old kids I've been around in this league," Tronerud said.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
5 3
2 0 2.94 34 24 12 11 0 11 34 .205
 
12. Jonathan Correa, rhp, Reds
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 168 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '08
Correa spent two years in the Dominican Summer League but worked just 36 innings because he hurt his elbow and had Tommy John surgery. Like his teammate Guillon, he pitched very well coming back from elbow reconstruction, and Correa needed just eight starts to earn a promotion to the Pioneer League.

AZL managers liked Correa's three-pitch repertoire and composure on the mound. His fastball usually sits at 90-92 mph and touches 94 with good movement. His hard breaking ball is a cross between a slider and a curveball, and he also has a decent changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8
8 4 2 0 2.06
39
36
16 9 1 9
49 .243
 
13. Chuckie Jones, of, Giants
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 235 Age: 18 Drafted: Giants '10 (7)
The Giants selected center fielders Gary Brown and Jarrett Parker with their first two 2010 draft picks, and they may have also found another good one in the seventh round in Jones. With a build like a linebacker and a persistent five o'clock shadow, Jones looks older than his age; in fact, several AZL managers were lukewarm on him as a prospect until told that he only turned 18 midway through the season.

Though Jones' speed is rated as slightly above average, San Francisco believes he has the range to stay in center field. He's still working on his breaks but has shown that he can go and get the ball.

Jones easily could move to an outfield corner, because he has an average arm and enough bat. His best tool is his raw power. He needs to improve his pitch selection and learn to hit curveballs.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
165 25 46
7 4 5 17 20
61
6 2 .279 .360 .461
 
14. Christian Villanueva, 3b, Rangers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 160 Age: 19 Signed: Mexico '09
Villanueva was one of the league's best surprises. He played just eight games in the Dominican Summer League last year before needing knee surgery, so 2010 was his first real taste of pro ball.

He hit consistently all summer, mainly driving the ball to the middle of the field. He hinted at his power potential with 14 doubles, some of which could turn into homers as he gets stronger and starts to pull more pitches.

Villanueva is a plus defender at the hot corner, with the athletic ability to move to second base if necessary. He has average speed, a quick first step and a plus arm. He also has picked up English very quickly and made an impression with his work ethic.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
188 30 59 14 1 2 35 13 42 6 2 .314 .365 .431
 
15. Carlos Melo, rhp, Rangers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 19 Signed: Dominican Republic '08
Acquired from the Tigers as part of a trade involving big league catcher Gerald Laird in December 2008, Melo showed progress in his second AZL season. He added pitchability and learned to use his changeup, becoming more of a pitcher instead of a thrower under the tutelage of Rangers pitching coach Ryan O'Malley.

Melo's fastball sits at 90-94 mph and gets as high as 96. He uses a hard curveball to put hitters away, and the pitch grades as a 55 on the 20-80 scale. His changeup is still developing, and some scouts think that his future likely will be in the bullpen.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
12
3 4 0 3.83
52 41 28 22 0 26
65 .212
 
16. Heath Hembree, rhp, Giants
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 210 Age: 21 Drafted: Giants '10 (5)
The Giants love power arms out of the bullpen and may have found another one in the fifth round of the 2010 draft in Hembree. Despite being 21, he has a fresh arm after missing his senior year in high school due to a knee injury and pitching irregularly at three colleges over three years. He finished his collegiate career as a closer at the College of Charleston.

Hembree looked anything but inexperienced after joining the Giants in late July, drawing raves for his overpowering 93-98 mph fastball and power slider. He struck out 22 in 11 innings while not issuing a walk.

Hembree needs to improve his fastball command and life, and rely more on his slider. While he didn't use it in the AZL, he has the makings of an effective changeup and will work on it during instructional league.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
0
0 0 3 0.82 11 9 1 1 0 0 22 .220
 
17. Chevez Clarke, of, Angels
B-T: B-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 185 Age: 18 Drafted: Angels '10 (1)
The third of the Angels' three 2010 first-round picks, Clarke struggled offensively after signing for $1.089 million. He generates good bat speed from both sides of the plate and shows good power from the left side. He has a short, quick swing but his bat needs to stay in the hitting zone longer, and he has trouble with pitches down in the zone because his stance is upright.

An above-average runner, Clarke led the league with seven triples but still has work to do with his basestealing and baserunning. His best attribute right now is his defense in center field, where he covers a lot of ground and has an average arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
162 26 35 5 7 3 16 14 55 9
2 .216 .294 .389
 
18. Ji-Man Choi, c/1b, Mariners
B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195 Age: 19 Signed: South Korea '09
Choi's pro debut was a spectacular success. He led the AZL in batting (.378) and OPS (1.000), won the MVP award and hit well in an 11-game cameo in the high Class A California League.

Choi's strengths at the plate are his ability to use the whole field with good gap-to-gap power and his solid on-base skills. His speed is below average, but he used his smarts to steal 10 bases in 11 attempts.

"He's a student of the game," Bottin said. "That's what is going to be his plus side as he gets older and goes up in the higher levels. He understands the game."

Choi signed as a catcher and showed some skills behind the plate, throwing out six of 12 basestealers. He spent more time at first base, though his doesn't have the raw power desired at that position. The Mariners plan to develop him at both spots.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
135 23 51 15 2 1 23 21 30 10 1 .378 .459 .541
 
19. Teodoro Martinez, of, Rangers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 155 Age: 18 Signed: Venezuela '08
Martinez was only 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds when the Rangers signed him as a 16-year-old in 2008. He's now closer to 6 feet and should continue to grow, considering that his father (the late major league infielder Carlos Martinez) and his brother (White Sox outfield prospect Jose Martinez) reached 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-5. If Teodoro gets to 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, he could develop an intriguing combination of power and speed.

For now, Martinez plays the little man's game well. He was the sparkplug for the Rangers from the leadoff position, batting .313, leading the league with 66 hits and stealing 20 bases. He makes consistent contact, though at times, he gets underneath too many pitches.

Martinez is a plus runner with good instincts in center field, though his arm is below average.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
211
43 66 14 3 1 22 9 25 20 7 .313 .357
.422
 
20. Ralston Cash, rhp, Dodgers
B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 197 Age: 19 Drafted: Dodgers '10 (2)
The Dodgers made Cash a second-round pick in June, higher than he was projected to go in many predraft rankings. He showed a good feel for pitching in his first season, with three pitches that project to be average or better.

Cash's fastball runs from 88-92 mph with good movement, and he could add a little more velocity as he fills out his 6-foot-3 frame. His curveball grades as average, while his changeup is more of a work in progress. Bundy was impressed by how Cash responded to the pressure of pitching in meaningful games during the Dodgers' late-season run for the playoffs.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
8 2 2 0 3.60 30 29 13 12 0 11 25 .248