League Top 20 Prospects

Eastern League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports





FIVE YEARS AGO
(Click here for the complete list)
1. *Francisco Liriano, lhp, New Britain
2. *Lastings Milledge, of, Binghamton
3. *Hanley Ramirez, ss, Portland
4. *Jon Lester, lhp, Portland
5. *Ryan Zimmerman, 3b, Harrisburg
6. *Nick Markakis, of, Bowie
7. *Jonathan Papelbon, rhp, Portland
8. *Jeremy Sowers, lhp, Akron
9. *Anibal Sanchez, rhp, Portland
10. *Joel Zumaya, rhp, Erie
11. *Yusmeiro Petit, rhp, Binghamton
12. *Dustin Pedroia, 2b, Portland
13. *Hayden Penn, rhp, Bowie
14. *Denard Span, of, New Britain
15. *Merkin Valdez, rhp, Norwich
16. Matt Moses, 3b, New Britain
17. Eric Duncan, 3b, Trenton
18. *Michael Bourn, of, Reading
19. *Paul Maholm, lhp, Altoona
20. *Franklin Gutierrez, of, Akron
*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.

Outfielder Domonic Brown needed just a month at Reading in 2009 to rank No. 6 on our Double-A Eastern League prospects list. His tools were even more apparent this season when he spent the first two months with Reading, showing why the Phillies refused to include him in any of their recent trades. Brown vaulted to the No. 1 spot on the list en route to Philadelphia.

Two of the league's deepest teams met for the EL championship, with Altoona defeating Trenton. The Curve was loaded with pitching, while second baseman Chase d'Arnaud cracked three homers in the playoffs. Though the Thunder had sent league MVP Brandon Laird to Triple-A, they still made it to the finals behind catcher Austin Romine and righthanders Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Andrew Brackman and Adam Warren. Banuelos, Betances—not to mention a rehabbing Andy Pettitte—didn't qualify for this list. Neither did the brightest star in the minor leagues, righthander Stephen Strasburg, who briefly flashed across the EL firmament in five April starts.

1. Domonic Brown, of, Reading Phillies
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Redan, Ga., '06 (20).
After getting his feet wet in Double-A in 2009, Brown punished EL pitchers from the outset of this season. He added power to his tools package while continuing to polish his all-around game and draw physical comparisons to Darryl Strawberry.

While no one thinks he has the strength and power to be the home run hitter Strawberry was, Brown has loose hands and leverage in his swing. Even scouts who see holes in his stroke and chalk up some of his power spike to Reading's fairly cozy dimensions believe he should produce at least 20 homers annually.

A plus runner, Brown has the strong arm and solid range to be an average defender in right field. He's still polishing his defensive skills.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
236
50 75
16
3
15
47
29
51
12
6
.318
.391 .602
 
2. Zach Britton, lhp, Bowie Baysox (Orioles)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Weatherford, Texas, '06 (3).
Britton defies comparison, because scouts and managers can't think of another lefthander with similar velocity and sink on his fastball. He has one of the minors' best fastballs, notable as much for its sink as for its 90-94 mph velocity. Britton got 2.81 groundouts for every airout between Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. His sinker has so much life down in the zone that he racked up 18 wild pitches despite having solid control.

One National League scout said he liked Britton's slider better, citing its occasional depth, while others prefer the change, which is a bit too firm but features some of his trademark sink. Control and handling the running game are the other issues that will determine his ceiling as a No. 2 starter or a bit less.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
14
7
3
0 2.48
87
76
33
24
4
28
68
.231
 
3. Kyle Drabek, rhp, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Blue Jays)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—The Woodlands, Texas, '06 (1/Phillies).
The son of Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek had makeup issues in high school but matured significantly as a Phillies farmhand while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. After the Blue Jays acquired him as the key piece in the Roy Halladay trade last winter, he led the EL in wins (14) and opponent average (.215) to earn the league's pitcher-of-the-year award and a September callup.

No. 3 on this list a year ago as well, Drabek saw his fastball dip to 89-91 mph early in the year. He survived by using his plus breaking ball, a 12-to-6 curve with depth and late bite, adding a show-me slider that's more of a cutter and improving his changeup.

Drabek's heater warmed up with the weather, and he regularly threw 92-96 mph into August and September. When he has enough velocity to pitch up in the zone, his fastball sets up his curveball well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
27
27
14
9
0 2.94
162
126
67
53
12
68
132
.215
 
4. Brandon Belt, 1b, Richmond Flying Squirrels (Giants)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L: Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Texas, '09 (5).
Belt brought one of the minors' best stories to the Eastern League for 46 games, blazing through the league on his way to Triple-A and leading the minors in batting (.352) and OPS (1.075) in his first full season.

Scouts like Belt but aren't sure how high his ceiling is, as he's not a typical mashing first baseman. He has a low-maintenance, compact swing that helps him hit the ball with authority to all fields. He manages the strike zone well, showing the ability to pounce early in the count as well as work deep when needed.

The athletic Belt plays excellent defense at first. He dabbled on the outfield corners and has the fringe-average speed and strong arm to be an average defender there.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
175
26
59
11
6
9
40
22
34
2
1
.337
.413 .623
 
5. Andrew Brackman, rhp, Trenton Thunder (Yankees)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-10. Wt: 240. Drafted: North Carolina State, '07 (1).
It finally happened for Brackman, who signed a $4.55 million major league contract but had Tommy John surgery and struggled in Class A prior to his ascension to Trenton. He finished on a 5-3, 2.10 tear.

Scouts long have respected Brackman's athletic ability, but the towering righthander finally got all the parts moving in the same direction this season. His fastball got better as the season went on, and often as games went on, from 89-92 mph to 93-95 in the middle innings of August starts. He pitches downhill and stays on top of his plus curveball, which he can throw for strikes or bury as a chase pitch.

Brackman needs to use his fringy changeup more often to keep lefthanders honest. He still lacks consistency, and some scouts question his ability to be at his best in tight situations.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15
14
5
7
0 3.62
81
77
38
27
3
30
70
.243
 
6. Lonnie Chisenhall, Akron Aeros (Indians)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Pitt (N.C.) JC, '08 (1).
After finishing 2009 with Akron during its EL championship run, Chisenhall returned there and got off to a torrid start, hitting .325 in April despite a right shoulder strain. The injury got him out of rhythm, sapped his power and forced him first to DH and then to the disabled list.

Chisenhall's best asset, his quick, smooth, short swing, wasn't affected. His power returned, as he hit five homers in his first 13 games back. He has the balance, barrel awareness and feel for hitting to be a consistent .290-.300 hitter with a ceiling of 25 homers.

Chisenhall's other tools grade out as solid-average. While he doesn't have any glaring negatives, many scouts say he profiles more as a solid regular rather than as a future star.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
460
81
128
22
3
17
84
47
77
3
3
.278
.351 .450
 
7. Kyle Gibson, rhp, New Britain Rock Cats (Twins)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Missouri, '09 (1).
Gibson reached Triple-A in his first full season and didn't get sucked into the vortex of New Britain's minors-worst 44-98 season, as he was the only Rock Cat with a winning record.

A sinker/slider pitcher, Gibson gets groundballs and strikeouts by pounding the bottom of the strike zone. His fastball has average velocity, ranging from 86-92 mph with good tail and sink, and he pitched off it more this season rather than he did as an amateur.

While Gibson's slider has earned 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale in the past, scouts saw it more as a 60 pitch with good bite and better command this season. His changeup gives him a second plus secondary offering, and some scouts like it better than his slider. Though he's 6-foot-6, he's athletic and stays compact in his delivery, repeating it well and throwing consistent quality strikes.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16
16
7
5
0 3.68
93
91
39
38
5
22
77
.259
 
8. Alex White, rhp, Akron Aeros (Indians)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: North Carolina, '09 (1).
Like Gibson, White jumped to Double-A in his first full pro season and had plenty of success. As with Gibson, White's velocity fluctuated as he grinded through a 140-game schedule for the first time, but he flashed 94-95 mph while usually sitting at 87-92. His two-seamer has sink and bore, and he posted a 2.05 groundout/airout ratio as he learned to pitch to contact.

His slider remains below-average with some better flashes, and his splitter gives him a second plus pitch and a weapon against lefties, who hit just .231/.288/.349 against him.

His competitiveness, athleticism and live arm make him a perfect fit for the bullpen, but the Indians want him to be a starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
18
17
8
7 0 2.28
107
91
45
27
8
27
76
.226
 
9. Jason Kipnis, 2b, Akron Aeros (Indians)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Arizona State, '09 (2).
Some EL observers preferred Kipnis to Chisenhall because his bat is more explosive. In his first full pro season, Kipnis shifted from outfield to second base and didn't miss a beat offensively.

Kipnis swings aggressively and attacks the ball. He has loose hands, bat control and good balance in his swing, producing power to all fields. He could wind up hitting 40 doubles and 20-25 homers annually, and he has a chance to match Chisenhall as a consistent .290-.300 hitter. He's a solid-average runner.

The biggest question with Kipnis is his defense. His athleticism, quick feet and solid hands give him the tools to be at least a fringe-average defender. He'll have to continue to put in the work to improve his positioning, as well as his double-play pivot.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
315
63
98
20
5
10
43
31
61
7
1
.311
.385 .502
 
10. Casey Kelly, rhp, Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht: 6-3 . Wt: 195. Drafted: HS—Sarasota, Fla., '08 (1).
Kelly was the youngest EL pitcher to qualify for this list, and he was in his first year as a full-time pitcher after playing shortstop in the second half of the 2009 season. Scouts and league managers had no problem with his stuff, as he flashed three plus pitches, but his inconsistency showed.

Athletic and projectable, Kelly took a step forward with his velocity, sitting at 90-94 mph and touching 95. His changeup passed his curveball as his best secondary pitch, and both had their moments. Kelly first must address his fastball command. His arm works well and his delivery is fairly compact, but he fails to throw consistent strikes and falls behind hitters too regularly. He also relies too much on his changeup.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
21
21
3
5
0 5.31
95
118
60
56
10
35
81
.307
 
11. Brandon Laird, 3b, Trenton Thunder (Yankees)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Cypress (Calif.) CC, '07 (27).
Laird has a big league pedigree—he's the younger brother of Tigers catcher Gerald—and a solid minor league track record. Still, few expected him to be both one of the best hitters in the EL and a competent defender at third base. He was an easy choice for league MVP, finishing fourth in homers (23) and fifth in RBIs (90) despite being promoted to Triple-A in early August.

With strength in his hands and forearms and leverage in his swing, Laird generates good power. He's aggressive and jumps on pitches he can drive. He has a quiet confidence in the batter's box and a knack for putting the barrel of the bat on the ball.

"I saw him hit pretty good pitching, and he hit mistakes," an AL scout. "He recognized them and hit them hard, and showed me off-field power."

Laird doesn't do anything pretty, particularly on defense. He's adequate at third, with enough arm and solid hands but below-average range and speed. He should hit enough to be a regular there, and potentially enough if he's forced to first base.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
409
73
119
22
2
23
90
38
84
2
2
.291
.355 .523
 
12. Danny Espinosa, ss, Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Long Beach State, '08 (3).
Scouts and managers generally panned Harrisburg's talent, with one exception. Espinosa followed Troy Tulowitzki as Long Beach State's shortstop and played with Evan Longoria. He doesn't have their star potential, but he does have some similarities to his fellow former 49ers. He plus arm is his best tool, and he also has solid raw power, though not along the lines of Longoria and Tulowitzki.

Espinosa has strong hands, quick wrists and a loose swing. He'll get to his power more if he becomes more selective, but he's a bit of a free swinger. An average runner, he joined Belt and low Class A shortstop Nick Franklin as the only 20-20 players in the minors this season.

Though Espinosa played exclusively shortstop at Double-A, scouts and managers agree he fits better at second base, where he mostly played in the majors. His infield actions aren't quite good enough for a big league shortstop, but he has a chance to be a plus defender with a strong arm at second.

"He has a pretty big swing for a little guy," an AL scout said. "He has more feel for hitting from the left side, he should be a good defender at second who hits .260-.270 and winds up with 15-20 homers a year."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
386
66
101
16
4
18
54
33
94
20
8
.262
.334 .464
 
13. Andy Oliver, lhp, Erie SeaWolves (Tigers)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Oklahoma State, '09 (2).
The Tigers haven't been shy about speeding pitchers through their farm system. Oliver made just 14 starts in Double-A before going to Detroit in June. He made five starts in the majors, losing four of them, before finishing the season with Triple-A Toledo.

Oliver has a big league body and arm. His fastball sits at 90-95 mph and touches 96. He pitches off his fastball well and throws strikes with it, but he'll need to repeat his delivery better to improve his command.

Oliver's changeup developed nicely during the year and was better than his slider. While one scout said Oliver showed the ability to spin a hard breaking ball, another thought he'd fit better as a lefty reliever in the Matt Thornton mold, living off his heater.

"I picture him as a frontline guy as he commands his fastball better and as his secondary stuff becomes more consistent," Erie manager Phil Nevin said. "I think that's why he's in instructional league, to learn to repeat his delivery. I think he'll make those adjustments because he's got great makeup, he's a competitor and he's got an electric arm."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
14
6
4
0 3.61
77
74
35
31
7
25
70
.253
 
14. Bryan Morris, rhp, Altoona Curve (Pirates)
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Motlow State (Tenn.) JC, '06 (1/Dodgers).
For several years, the biggest hurdle standing between Morris and success has been his inability to stay on the mound. He sat out the entire 2007 season following Tommy John surgery and missed two months last year with a foot injury. Fully healthy in 2010, he responded with his best season as a pro.

Morris' stuff hasn't suffered from the long layoffs. His fastball sits between 92-94 mph consistently and he also has two above-average if inconsistent breaking balls: a sharp, downward-breaking slider and a power curveball. His delivery isn't particularly clean, but he does show the ability to repeat it.

Morris leaves his fastball up in the zone at times, and some scouts believe he profiles better as a closer. In short relief stints late in the season, he reached 96 mph with his fastball, 88 mph with his slider and 85 mph with his curve.

"He didn't show me the feel and command, the ability to soften up his stuff to be a starter," one NL scout said. "But he isn't totally a thrower either. He's just so electric out of the bullpen, I could see that being the path he winds up taking."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
19
16
6
4
0 4.25
89
87
45
42
9
31
84
.258
 
15. Rudy Owens, lhp, Altoona Curve (Pirates)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Chandler-Gilbert (Ariz.) CC, D/F, '06 (28).
Owens doesn't have Morris' ceiling, but he has feel for pitching to spare and impressive command, profiling him as a back-of-the-rotation starter. He led the EL in ERA (2.46) and baserunners per nine innings (9.1), posting a 1.41 ERA in his last nine starts after his fastball velocity improved.

Owens sat at 87-90 mph with his fastball early in the season before working at 90-93 mph down the stretch. He has solid-average fastball command and good late run on his heater. He also throws a slurvy breaking ball that shows flashes of being an average pitch, and a fringy changeup.

"He has poise, a delivery he repeats and durability," Walbeck said. "He handles success well too. He's got a little deception with his fastball, commands it and has an idea. He sees a hitter's holes and weaknesses and goes after them, and he can elevate if he needs to."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
26
26
12
6
0
2.46
150
124
46
41
11
23
132
.226
 
16. Hector Noesi, rhp, Trenton Thunder (Yankees)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, '04.
The Yankees protected Noesi on their 40-man roster last year even though he'd never pitched above high Class A. He rewarded them in 2010 by earning a Futures Game roster spot and finishing the season in Triple-A. While in Trenton, he outshined teammates with similar repertoires such as Adam Warren and David Phelps.

Noesi has a loose, live arm and good command of his fastball, his best pitch. Scouts like how he manipulates his heater, adding and subtracting velocity from it, putting it where he wants despite its solid life and showing the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate. His two-seamer sits at 88-92 mph and he touches 96 with his four-seamer.

Noesi throws both a curveball and a slider, with his curve showing more promise and some observers grading it an average pitch. His fringy changeup plays up because of his ability to use his fastball. After having Tommy John surgery in 2007 and coming down with shoulder tendinitis last year, he proved his durability by throwing a career-high 160 innings this season between his two minor league stops.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17
16
8
4
0 3.10
99
90
37
34
7
18
86
.243
 
17. Jose Iglesias, ss, Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175. Signed: Cuba, '09.
The Red Sox gave Iglesias a club-record $6.25 million bonus, and he showed why as the second-youngest regular in the EL. Managers were split on whether he or fellow Cuban shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria (New Hampshire) was better offensively, but scouts clearly preferred Iglesias' glove.

Iglesias has a chance to be a plus-plus defender as he gets a bit stronger physically and gets more acclimated to the U.S. style of play, learning how to position himself for cutoff throws and the like. He has an electric arm that allows him to make plays in the hole. He's also an above-average runner, both quick and fast.

Offensively, Iglesias has some pop but projects as a bottom-of-the-lineup hitter. He'll have to become more polished in terms of his approach and pitch recognition. Added strength will help as well.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
221
29
63
10
3
0
13
8
49
5
2
.285
.315 .357

18. Anthony Rizzo, 1b, Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox)
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Parkland, Fla., '07 (7).
Rizzo and Reading first baseman Matt Rizzotti have similar names and similar power. Rizzotti, who hit .361/.452/.635 has a future as a slugger but is limited defensively. Rizzo is a better athlete and defender and he's three years younger, making him the better prospect.

Rizzo has leverage and strength in his swing and plenty of raw power, his offensive calling card. He was more pull-happy this year than he was in previous seasons. He isn't afraid to go deep in counts, but he has a few holes in his swing and will always strike out some.

Managers voted Rizzo the EL's best defensive first baseman despite his 15 errors. He has smooth actions and can pick the ball out of the dirt, but he lets bad at-bats affect his play in the field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
414 66
109
30
0
20
80
45
100
7
1
.263
.334 .481
 
19. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, of, Binghamton Mets
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Azusa Pacific, '08 (3).
Playing center field and primarily hitting leadoff, Nieuwenhuis was Binghamton's best player until his August promotion to Triple-A. Big and physical, he profiles better on an outfield corner and batting in the middle of a lineup.

Nieuwenhuis has strength, runs a tick above average, owns a solid arm and swings the bat with authority. He hangs in well against lefthanders and learned to go deeper in counts while batting leadoff, though he still could use better patience. There are some concerns that he's a tweener who's not a true center fielder and lacks enough power to be a regular on the corner, but one scouts compared him to a lefthanded-hitting Aaron Rowand for his skills and all-out style.

"He was one of the better bats in the league," Komminsk said. "He was solid in all phases, and I thought he could handle center field pretty well."
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
394 81
114
35
2
16
60
30
93
13
7
.289
.337 .510
 
20. Austin Romine, c, Trenton Thunder (Yankees)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Lake Forest, Calif., '07 (2).
Many Yankees prospects had big years in 2010, but Romine faded after gettting off to a fast start and going to the Futures Game. Though he hit .253/.305/.363 in the second half, he still has four average or better tools and the chance to succeed Jorge Posada as the Yankees' catcher.

Romine's strong arm remains his best tool. His accuracy can be spotty, however, and he threw out just 23 percent of EL basestealers. He still has some trouble handling good velocity but is adept at blocking balls and profiles as a solid defender.

Romine's swing gets long and he's not selective to fully tap into his plus raw power, but scouts project him as an average home run hitter. While he hasn't learned to pull the ball consistently with authority, he does use the whole field. Like most catchers, he lacks speed.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
455 61
122
31
0
10
69
37
94
2
0
.268
.324 .402