League Top 20 Prospects

Southern League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports





FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
*1. Delmon Young, of, Montgomery
*2. Jeremy Hermida, of, Carolina
*3. Jeff Francoeur, of, Mississippi
*4. Chris Young, of, Birmingham
*5. Chad Billingsley, rhp, Jacksonville
*6. Joel Guzman, ss, Jacksonville
*7. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Jacksonville
*8. Felix Pie, of, West Tenn
*9. Brian McCann, c, Mississippi
*10. Russell Martin, c, Jacksonville
*11. Scott Olsen, lhp, Carolina
*12. Matt Murton, of, West Tenn
*13. Bobby Jenks, rhp, Birmingham
*14. Jonathan Broxton, rhp, Jacksonville
*15. Rich Hill, lhp, West Tenn
*16. Dustin Nippert, rhp, Tennessee
*17. Ricky Nolasco, rhp, West Tenn
*18. Renyel Pinto, lhp, West Tenn
*19. Chuck James, lhp, Mississippi
*20. Elijah Dukes, of, Montgomery
*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.

Following a year when Jason Heyward, Gordon Beckham, Desmond Jennings and Mike Stanton occupied the first four spots on our Southern League Top 20 Prospects list—and Jeremy Hellickson, the 2010 Minor League Player of the Year, ranked ninth—the Double-A circuit had a tough act to follow.

This year's crop of fast-rising SL prospects was up to the task. Stanton returned to the league and was everyone's choice as the No. 1 prospect after hitting a combined 44 homers between Jacksonville and Florida (with a week remaining in the big league regular season). West Tenn teammates Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda earned promotions to Triple-A, while Mississippi lefthander Mike Minor joined the Braves for the stretch drive.

The Top 20 would have been even stronger if Tennessee shortstop Starlin Castro and Mississippi righthanders Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado hadn't just missed the cutoff.

1. Mike Stanton, of, Jacksonville Suns (Marlins)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 235. Drafted: HS—Sherman Oaks, Calif., '07 (2).
Stanton finished second in the SL in home runs—despite playing just 53 Double-A games before the Marlins called him up on June 6. At the time, his 21 homers led the minors. But pop never has been an issue for Stanton, who has 80 power on the 20-80 scale. He refined his approach even more in 2010, chasing fewer pitches out of the zone. Stanton still strikes out about once a game, but scouts say that's more a function of his long arms and swing than his strike-zone awareness, which has improved. Not only are his hands well positioned and his stroke full of leverage and torque, but Stanton has learned to study pitchers' plans of attack. Stanton also made big strides with his reads, jumps and throwing accuracy in right field. His speed and arm strength are average, and he's an aggressive defender with plus range.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
192 42
60
13
2
21
52 44
53
1
0
.313
.442 .729
 
2. Dustin Ackley, 2b, West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (Mariners)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 185. Drafted: North Carolina, '09 (1).
Making his pro debut after signing a $7.5 million big league contact as the No. 2 overall pick in 2009, Ackley initially struggled to live up to his billing as the best college hitter in recent memory. As late as May 3, Ackley was batting .139. One scout questioned his bat speed, and another wondered if he was having problems seeing the ball. Ackley's strong plate discipline never wavered and he eventually fought his way out of the slump. He hit .310/.425/.448 in his final two months with West Tenn, showing his ability to make adjustments, barrel balls and drive them into the gaps. He's not much of a home run threat now, but he should develop average power as he gains strength, and he hit seven Triple-A home runs, counting the playoffs.

Ackley played first base at North Carolina, but the Mariners are trying to develop him at second base, where his defensive reviews were mixed. He's a below-average second baseman with fringy arm strength, and several observers thought he'd be better off in the outfield, where his plus speed would be an asset.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
289 42
76
21
4
2
28 55
41
8
2
.263
.389 .384
 
3. Michael Pineda, rhp, West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (Mariners)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-5. Wt: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, '05.
Aside from Stanton, no SL prospect excited scouts and managers alike as much as Pineda. He throws in the upper 90s from his first pitch and maintains his velocity throughout a game. With a loose, whippy arm, he pitches to both sides of the plate with his heater, which has explosive life. Pineda also has developed a low-80s slider that improved during the season. His changeup is still a work in progress, and he struggles to control the pitch. Because he has yet to master the changeup and his healthy history includes elbow soreness that knocked him out for most of 2009, some scouts think he's more likely to succeed as a closer than as a frontline starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
13
8 1
0 2.22
77
67
23
19
1
17
78 .228
 
4. Mike Minor, lhp, Mississippi Braves
Age: 22. B-T: R-L. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 210. Drafted: Vanderbilt, '09 (1).
Minor reached the majors just three days after the one-year anniversary of his signing as the No. 7 overall pick in the 2009 draft. The minor league strikeout leader at the time of his callup, he won his first three decisions and tied a franchise rookie record with 12 whiffs against the Cubs before fading in September.

Though his fastball sat in the upper 80s for much of his draft year, Minor found extra velocity in 2010 and pitched at 91-94 mph in the early innings of his starts. His changeup is his best pitch, with some scouts grading it as a future plus-plus offering. He also has a slurvy curveball with three-quarters tilt.

Control and command are two of Minor's strong suits, though he wasn't always as sharp while trying to harness his added velocity. He also can get too fine and nibble at times but actually did a better job of challenging hitters following his callup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
15
2 6
0 4.03
87
74
48
39
8
34
109 .233
 
5. Brett Lawrie, 2b, Huntsville Stars (Brewers)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-0. Wt: 213. Drafted: HS—Langley, B.C., '08 (1).
After debuting in the SL as a 19-year-old last August, Lawrie spent all of 2010 in Huntsville. He didn't disappoint, leading the league in runs (90), hits (158), triples (16), total bases (250) and comparisons to Dan Uggla (countless).

Like Uggla, Lawrie is a strong, aggressive hitter with a big swing. He has a quick bat that stays in the hitting zone for a long time, and balls carry well off his bat. While he's prone to chasing pitches out of the zone, he also has shown the ability to make adjustments during at-bats and series. He stole 30 bases this year, but he also was caught 13 times and his speed is only average.

Lawrie's offense is well ahead of his defense at this point. He made 25 errors this year and still needs to improve his hands and footwork around second base. Many scouts believe he'll land on an outfield corner, where he'd have average range and arm strength.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
554 90
158
36
16
8
63 47
118
30
13
.285
.346 .451
 
6. Dee Gordon, ss, Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht: 5-11. Wt: 150. Drafted: Seminole (Fla.) CC, '08 (4).
Managers rated Gordon the most exciting player in the league, in large part because of his extraordinary speed. His wheels rate an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale and have helped him win league stolen-base titles in each of his two full pro seasons.

Gordon is an aggressive batter who likes to attack early in the count. He lacks patience and power but makes consistent contact and can reach base via the bunt. He has all the tools to be a standout defender at shortstop: smooth actions, quick feet and plus agility and arm strength.

Though he's the son of former all-star closer Tom Gordon, Dee lacks baseball experience because he didn't start playing the game until his senior year of high school. He's still learning many of the game's nuances, which explains why he led the league in caught stealings (20) and errors (37).
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
555 86
154
17
10
2 39
40
89
53
20
.277
.332 .355
 
7. Devin Mesoraco, c, Carolina Mudcats (Reds)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 220. Drafted: HS—Punxsutawney, Pa., '07 (1).
After he hit .240/.311/.368 in his first three pro seasons, a healthier and leaner Mesorcaco emerged in 2010. His stock skyrocketed as he set career highs in every offensive category and showed why the Reds drafted him 15th overall in 2007.

Mesoraco's quick bat and uppercut stroke give him solid power. He also covers the plate well and makes consistent contact, so he should hit for average. He's a below-average runner but good for a catcher.

Scouts and managers liked the way Mesoraco manages the game from behind the plate. He's a solid receiver who blocks balls in the dirt and shifts well from side to side. He showed off a plus arm by throwing out 41 percent of SL basestealers.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
187 42
55
11
3
13 31
18
37
1
0
.294
.363 .594
 
8. Brett Jackson, of, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 210. Drafted: California, '09 (1).
Jackson continues to refine the power-speed package that led the Cubs to select him with the 31st overall pick in 2009. He followed up a solid debut by batting a combined .297/.395/.493 with 58 extra-base hits and 30 steals between high Class A Daytona and Tennessee.

Jackson has a smooth lefthanded stroke with good loft and pull-side power. Jackson struggled with strikeouts in college at California, but scouts say he has developed a more patient approach in pro ball.

Jackson has plus speed and good baserunning instincts. His quickness helps him in center field, where he gets good reads and jumps and shows an accurate arm. 
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
228 47
63
13
6
6 28
30
63
18
4
.276
.366 .465
 
9. Chris Archer, rhp, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3. Wt: 180. Drafted: HS—Clayton, N.C., '06 (5/Indians).
Since coming over as part of the three-player package for Mark DeRosa last December, Archer has established himself as Chicago's top pitching prospect.
Archer's fastball sits in the low to mid-90s, and he achieves average life and command from an over-the-top delivery. His slider lacks consistency at times, but it usually ranges from an average to a plus-plus pitch. His changeup also has its moments.

Archer is very athletic and has a fluid, repeatable delivery. Nevertheless, his control can get spotty and he struggled to pitch to contact at times with the Smokies. He has enough stuff to possibly become a closer if he can't add the polish to become a big league starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
13
13
8 2
0 1.80
70
48
19
14
2
39
67 .198
 
10. Matt Dominguez, 3b, Jacksonville Suns (Marlins)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-1. Wt: 205. Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2007 (1).
Managers rated Dominguez the best defensive third baseman in the league, and he has legitimate Gold Glove ability with great hands and footwork and a strong, accurate arm. The knock on him has been that he has failed to make adjustments at the plate, a common refrain when he hit .186/292/.320 following his promotion to Jacksonville in 2009.

Dominguez had a top-hand chokehold on the handle of the bat, slowing his wrists and impeding his swing plane. This year, he didn't grip the bat as tightly and simplified his setup. He started to show some opposite-field pop and could develop average home run power. He homered three times in the playoffs to help Jacksonville win the league title. Though Dominguez has well below-average speed, he's an astute baserunner who does a good job of getting from first to third base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
504 61
127
34
2
14 81
56
96
0
2
.252
.333
.411
 
11. Chris Withrow, rhp, Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Midland, Texas '07 (1) .
Withrow's stuff has impressed scouts since he entered pro ball as a first-round pick three years ago, and with good reason. He features a mid-90s fastball that bores and sinks, and he also spins a plus curveball in the mid-70s.

But his stuff and smooth delivery haven't translated to positive results, as his 5.97 ERA this year ballooned his career mark to 5.27. He struggles with his fastball command, and his overall control always remains an issue. His changeup continues to be a work in progress.

While Withrow has the arsenal to become a front-of-the-rotation starter, he needs to start refining his pitches and having sustained success at the minor league level. He lost most of 2008 to elbow trouble and his development is taking longer than the Dodgers had hoped.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
27
4 9
0 5.97
130
146
92
86
13
69
120 .285
 
12. Alex Torres, lhp, Montgomery Biscuits (Rays)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela '05 (Angels)
Torres reminds some scouts of Gio Gonzalez. Both are little lefthanders with big stuff, and they both led the SL in strikeouts (Gonzalez in 2007 with 185, and Torres this year with 150). They both also were involved in major trades while in the minors, with Gonzalez getting swapped three times (in packages for Jim Thome, Freddy Garcia and Nick Swisher) and Torres heading from the Angels to the Rays in the Scott Kazmir deal last year.

A 2010 Futures Gamer, Torres strides across his body and catapults over his front side, creating plus life on his low-90s fastball. Managers rated his changeup the best in the league, and he sells it well with good arm speed. His curveball is a plus pitch when he's on.

The downside of Torres' delivery is that it leads to problems with command. He led the SL in walks (70) in addition to whiffs, was more hittable than he should have been and averaged barely five innings per start because he ran up high pitch counts. If he can add some polish, though, he could have as many as three plus pitches and become a No. 2 starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
27
11 6
0 3.47
143
136
63
55
9
70
150 .256
 
13. Trayvon Robinson, of, Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers)
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Los Angeles, '05 (10)
Robinson has made a lot of progress turning his considerable tools into skills the past couple of seasons. His improvement is notable in his on-base percentage, which rose from .328 in 2008 to .373 last year and .404 this season.

A switch-hitter, Robinson shows bat speed from both sides of the plate. Though he'll still chase some pitches out of the strike zone, he stays inside the ball well and has gap power. He uses his plus speed to bunt for hits and steal bases, though he's still honing his instincts on the bases.

Robinson's speed also plays well in center field, where gets good jumps and takes solid routes. He has average arm strength and aggressively charges balls, enabling him to record 12 assists this year.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
434 80
130
23
5
9
57 73
125
38
15
.300
.404
.438
 
14. Brandon Guyer, of, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Virginia '07 (5).
Guyer isn't young for a prospect at 24, but he has solid across-the-board tools and turned in the best season of his four-year pro career. He led the league in slugging (.588) and OPS (.986) while stealing 30 bases 33 attempts.

The ball jumps off Guyer's bat and he's a potential .280 hitter with 15 homers annually in the majors. He's still developing as a hitter, though, as he tends to hunt for pitches off the plate and sometimes gets himself out by taking defensive swings. He makes good contact but doesn't work counts or draw walks as much as he should.

Guyer has plus speed and an aggressive mentality on the basepaths. Capable of playing all three outfield positions, he reads balls well off the bat and makes strong accurate throws. One scout compared Guyer to Reed Johnson as a hard-working, max-effort player who may stick more as a good fourth outfielder than as an everyday player.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
369 76
127
39
6
13
58 27
51
30
3
.344
.398 .588
 
15. David Sappelt, Carolina Mudcats (Reds)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 193. Drafted: Coastal Carolina '08 (9).
Sappelt raked in his 89 games at Carolina, winning the league batting title (.361) and MVP award, and continued to produce after getting to Triple-A. "Everybody was waiting for him to cool off," Bell said, "but that's his consistent approach at work."

A quick-twitch athlete, Sappelt makes good adjustments at the plate and should hit for average with surprising pop for his size. He can get pull-conscious at times and could use more patience, but his approach works for him. He's a plus runner who's still learning how to use it to steal bases after getting caught 13 times in 28 attempts in the SL.

Sappelt's deceptive speed plays better in center field, where he covers a lot of real estate. His arm rates a tick above average, making it stronger than most at his position, and he charges balls hard and makes accurate throws.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
330
53
119
19
8
9
62 31
46
15
13
.361
.416 .548
 
16. Alex Liddi, 3b/1b, West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (Mariners)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 176 Signed: Italy '05.
Liddi's numbers were bound to take a hit after he played at hospitable High Desert in the hitter-friendly California League last year. A career .244/.311/.372 hitter entering 2009, he led the minors in hitting while batting .345/.411/.594. He legitimized himself as a prospect with a solid 2010 season at West Tenn, leading the league with 92 RBIs.

Liddi has a quick bat and power to all fields. His swing can get long at times and he needs more at-bats to work on his pitch recognition, because he tends to chase sliders. Liddi's 27 errors were easily the most among SL third basemen, many coming when he unnecessarily barehanded balls he could have fielded with his glove. He has soft hands and a strong arm, but he lacks speed, agility and range. If he has to move to first base, he doesn't profile as well because he doesn't quite have the power sought at that position.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
502 78
141
37
8
15
92 50
145
5
7
.281
.353 .476
 
17. Brandon Beachy, rhp, Mississippi Bravves
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Signed: NFDA—Indiana Wesleyan '08.
In one of the more improbable stories of 2010, Beachy went from being a nondrafted free agent two years earlier to opening the season in Mississippi's bullpen to making the Braves' postseason roster. In between, he won the minor league ERA title (1.73) and acquitted himself well in three crucial September starts for Atlanta.

Beachy primarily works with two pitches. His low-90s fastball doesn't have a lot of life, but he throws it on a nice downhill plane and does a good job of locating it, particularly on the inner half. His hard, big-breaking curveball has nice depth and good bite.

After moving into the rotation, Beachy began using his improved changeup more often. He has a good frame and a repeatable delivery that enables him to fill the strike zone.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
6
3 1
0 1.47
74
53
17
12
3
22
100 .200

18. Brent Morel, 3b, Birmingham Barons (White Sox)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Cal Poly San Luis Obispo '08 (3).
Morel's solid if unspectacular skill set helped him climb the ladder from Birmingham to the majors this year, which he finished as the White Sox's regular third baseman in September. He takes a smart, steady approach to the game and has a real feel for what he can and should do on the field.

He's a line-drive hitter content to drive the ball from gap to gap. He focuses on making hard contact and doesn't get caught up in trying to lift balls out of the park, though some scouts wonder if that might leave him with below-average home run power for a third baseman. He doesn't strike out excessively, but he also doesn't walk very much.

Morel was inconsistently defensively in the SL, though he settled down in Triple-A and the majors. With Birmingham, he would make some spectacular plays and then botch some simple ones, which may have just been a matter of concentration. Though he's a below-average runner, he has good instincts and reactions to go with a strong arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
184 25
60
13
1
2
30 14
36
5
5
.326
.376 .440
 
19. Alex Cobb, rhp, Montgomery Biscuits (Rays)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: HS—Vero Beach (Fla.), '06 (4).
The Rays like to develop their high school arms slowly, so Cobb didn't reach Double-A until this, his fifth pro season. He has learned his lessons well, as he finished fourth in the league in ERA (2.71) by throwing strikes and showing a knack for setting up hitters with his slightly above-average stuff. He further demonstrated that with 10 strikeouts in his Triple-A debut in the playoffs for Durham.

Cobb's fastball sits in the low 90s with occasional sink. His main trouble is fastball command, because he sometimes to get too cute with locating the pitch. His most reliable pitch is his above-average changeup, while he's still refining both of his breaking balls, a high-70s curveball that's a plus pitch at times and a low-80s slider with average tilt.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
23
22
7 5
0 2.71
120
120
47
36
7
35
128 .262
 
20. Jerry Sands, of/1b, Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Catawba (N.C.), '08 (25).
Sands had a breakout season, hitting a combined .301/.398/.586 with 35 home runs and 93 RBIs between low Class A Great Lakes and Chattanooga. The former 25th-round pick has fixed a hitch in his swing, unlocking his power to all fields. He has strong wrists and generates ideal loft with his smooth stroke.

Throughout the year, Sands had to deal with opponents trying to keep him off balance by pitching him backwards, and he learned to make adjustments during at-bats. While he struck out nearly once per game, he battled deep into counts and drew his share of walks. "Another half year of Double-A ball," Chattanooga manager Carlos Subero said, "and he'll be ready."

Capable of playing first base or the outfield corners, Sands is a solid defender who makes good decisions and flashes a strong arm. He has below-average speed but shows good instincts on the basepaths.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
243 48
81
16
3
18
46 40
61
14
2
.333
.432 .646