League Top 20 Prospects

Pacific Coast League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports





FIVE YEARS AGO
1. *Felix Hernandez, rhp, Tacoma
2. *Rickie Weeks, 2b, Nashville
3. *Prince Fielder, 1b, Nashville
4. *Conor Jackson, 1b, Tucson
5. *Matt Cain, rhp, Fresno
6. *Casey Kotchman, 1b, Salt lake
7. *Carlos Quentin, of, Tucson
8. *Dan Johnson, 1b, Sacramento
9. *Ezequiel Astacio, rhp, Round Rock
10. *Jeff Mathis, c, Salt Lake
11. *Anthony Reyes, rhp, Memphis
12. *Yuniesky Betancourt, ss, Tacoma
13. *Ben Johnson, of, Portland
14. *Rich Hill, lhp, Iowa
15. *Fernando Nieve, rhp, Round Rock
16. *Ronny Cedeno, ss, Iowa
17. *Joe Saunders, lhp, Salt Lake
18. *Josh Willingham, c, Albuquerque
19. *Josh Barfield, 2b, Portland
20. *Justin Huber, 1b, Omaha
*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.

Offense tends to rule the day in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, and this year's Top 20 Prospects list bears that out once again. A total of 14 hitters populate the list, including five players who finished among the top 10 in the minors in home runs.

The crop of position players consists mostly of corner players whose value is linked almost entirely to their bat. Just five of them play up the middle, and of those, only Fresno catcher Buster Posey looks like a complete package. Not coincidentally, Posey ranked No. 1 on the PCL Top 20 for the second straight season.

Pitchers usually find the going tough in the PCL, especially in some of the Pacific Conference cities such as Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, Reno and Salt Lake, where the parks can do a number on a young hurler's confidence. Tacoma's Michael Pineda and Oklahoma City's Tanner Scheppers made the Top 10 much more for their stuff than for their performance. The youngest pitcher in the league as well as the Giants' top pitching prospect, Fresno's Madison Bumgarner tamed PCL hitters, seemingly with ease. Colorado Springs' Jhoulys Chacin would have made the list, but the Rockies called him up after he went 3-0, 1.69 in April.

1. Buster Posey, c/1b, Fresno Grizzlies (Giants)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Florida State, '08 (1).
Posey blistered PCL pitching during his time in the league and has no glaring flaws as a hitter. He has a balanced swing and keeps his bat in the hitting zone for a long time with excellent plate coverage. He controls the strike zone and drives balls to all fields, rarely getting fooled. His power is still developing, but he projects to be an annual 20-homer threat.

"I put him down as the best hitter in the league," Salt Lake manager Bobby Mitchell said. "He's far advanced for his age, as a hitter especially, and he's proven it. He's gone up to the big leagues and done a great job for them."

Posey famously struggled with handling quality stuff early in his pro career, but he has come a long way defensively and allowed just one passed ball in 32 games with Fresno. He improved his set-up behind the plate, as well as his footwork on his throws. He used his strong arm to erase 44 percent of PCL basestealers, and he also garnered praise for his leadership qualities.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
172
31
60
13
2
6
32
28
30
1
1
.349
.442 .552
 
2. Mike Moustakas, 3b, Omaha Royals
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., '07 (1).
Moustakas struggled initially after a promotion to Omaha in mid-July, beginning his PCL stint in a 12-for-55 (.218) slump, but closed with eight homers in his final 12 games to share the minor league home run crown with Salt Lake's Mark Trumbo at 36.

Moustakas' home run total certainly wasn't an accident. His swing is short to the ball and extremely powerful. He has quick hands, exceptionally-strong wrists and his bat explodes through the ball. Moustakas got pull-happy when he first arrived in Triple-A, but he adjusted and did a better job of laying off bad pitches.

"You make the analogy of a guy that's standing out there on the mound where the ball just jumps out of his hand at 97 or 98," a National League scout said. "It's the same way with Moustakas' bat. The bat speed just jumps out at you."

With well below-average speed, Moustakas will have to earn his hits. While his thick body left some observers doubtful about his ability to stick at third base, he's not a bad athlete for his size and shows good hands and a strong arm.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
225
36
66
16
0
15
48
8
25
2
0
.293
.314 .564
 
3. Michael Pineda, rhp, Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 250. Signed: Dominican Republic, '05.
Pineda breezed through Double-A before running into some trouble after a June promotion to Tacoma. While his 4.76 ERA as a Rainier wasn't pretty, most of his peripheral numbers remained strong.

Few prospects have better arms than Pineda, who unleashes heavy 95-98 mph fastballs. One scout clocked him at 101. He throws his heater for strikes and while his command isn't pinpoint, it's good enough considering his velocity.

Pineda complements his fastball with a power slider that shows late bite at times. He also has a changeup that's below-average right now, though it has some sink and he has some feel for it. Some observers thought the inconsistency of his secondary pitches and the effort in his delivery pointed to a future as a late-inning reliever.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12
12
3
3
0
4.76
62
54
33
33
9
17
76
.227
 
4. Madison Bumgarner, lhp, Fresno Grizzlies (Giants)
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS—Hudson, N.C., '07 (1).
Bumgarner went into spring training with a chance to open the year as San Francisco's No. 5 starter, but he bombed in three Cactus League appearances and was sent down. His velocity dipped in 2009 and hadn't yet recovered, with his fastball sitting in the upper 80s. His turnaround began when the Giants discovered he was throwing across his body and not getting enough acceleration out front in his delivery.

Once Bumgarner got his mechanical issues straightened out, his fastball climbed back into the low 90s, topping out at 93 mph with a little tailing and sinking action. His command of both his fastball and his hard, biting slider is outstanding. He also throws an average changeup with some fade, but his biggest asset may be his mound savvy.

"When I look at his stuff, it's the stuff of a No. 4 in the rotation lefthander," a second NL scout said. "But that guy knows how to pitch and he competes his butt off. He throws strikes and he's 21 years old. I don't ever see him being a great stuff guy. He just really knows how to pitch. He's committed to throwing strikes and sets up his pitches."
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14
14
7
1
0
3.16
83
88
32
29
5
22
59
.275
 
5. Dustin Ackley, 2b, Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: North Carolina, '09 (1).
Ackley looked overwhelmed early in the year, when the Mariners sent him straight to Double-A and moved him to second base to start his pro career. After a horrific April, his bat came alive and he earned a promotion to Tacoma in July.

Ackley has a picturesque swing that generates solid bat speed with excellent plate coverage. He has some loft in his swing, though his all-fields approach is geared more for doubles than homers, and his raw power grades out as average. He has plus speed and draws praise for how hard he runs out every ball.

Though he's quick and athletic, Ackley is a below-average defender at second base. He's still learning the position, but his arm strength is questionable and he struggles to turn double plays. PCL scouts projected that he'd return to the outfield, where he played in the Arizona Fall League in 2009, a move that would get his bat to Seattle more quickly.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
212
37
58
12
4
5
23
20
38
2
1
.274
.338 .439
 
6. Logan Morrison, 1b/of, New Orleans Zephyrs (Marlins)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 235. Drafted: Maple Woods (Mo.) CC, D/F '05 (22).
Morrison has a mature, patient approach and advanced pitch recognition. He's not afraid to go deep in counts and hit with two strikes. His hands work well and he hits with an up-the-middle mentality. Though he hasn't shown a lot of pop against advanced competition, he has the size and strength to hit for at least average power once he learns to turn on more pitches.

A first baseman by trade, Morrison had good reactions and a strong arm for the position, assets that translated well to the outfield. He has limited speed and range, and his inexperience was evident at times, but he handles himself well enough in left field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
238
36
73
17
4
6
45
48
35
1
2
.307
.427 .487
 
7. Tanner Scheppers, rhp, Oklahoma City RedHawks (Rangers)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: St. Paul/American Association, '09 (1s).
Scheppers was strong early while coming out of the bullpen, but he struggled in a stint as a starter and posted an 8.10 ERA in the second half.

Scheppers' fastball is certainly his main weapon, a power offering that sits in the upper 90s and touches 99 mph with boring action. He compliments the heater with a hard, downer curveball that gives him a second swing-and-miss pitch. He also has a changeup, but he uses it only sparingly and it doesn't stand out.

He needs to control the strike zone better, and one manager said he got in trouble later in the year because he stopped trusting his fastball and threw too many curveballs. He has the potential to be a No. 2 starter if his changeup develops, or he could be a dominant closer.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
30
7
1
3
4
5.48
69
82
45
42
5
30
71
.297
 
8. J.P. Arencibia, c, Las Vegas 51s (Blue Jays)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Tennessee, '07 (1).
Arencibia led all minor league catchers with 32 homers and won the league MVP award. He has a smooth, easy stroke that generates plus power to all fields. His approach matured in his second year in the PCL, though he isn't expected to hit for a high average because he still over-swings at times and is a well below-average runner.

Arencibia's defense remains his biggest sore point. He improved his blocking and receiving skills, but they're still just average at best. His 13 passed balls ranked second in the league, and PCL observers criticized him for getting lackadaisical behind the plate. His arm strength is average, but he threw out just 23 percent of basestealers for the 51s.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
412
76
124
36
1
32
85
38
85
0 0
.301
.359 .626
 
9. Justin Smoak, 1b, Oklahoma City (Rangers)/Tacoma (Mariners)
Age: 23. B-T: B-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: South Carolina, '08 (1/Rangers).
When the Mariners pulled the trigger on a Cliff Lee trade in July, they chose Smoak from the Rangers as the centerpiece rather than Jesus Montero from the Yankees. He heated up during Tacoma's run to the league championship, batting .423/.595/.538 in eight postseason games.

Smoak still can be an impact bat, but scouts aren't as high on him as they were when the Rangers drafted him 11th overall in 2008. He's a switch-hitter whose swing is shorter and quicker from the left side. When he uses the whole field, he projects as a plus hitter with 20-25 home run power, but he tends to press too much and sell out for power.

Smoak is a solid defender with a good arm for a first baseman, though his speed and overall athleticism are subpar. Observers praised his makeup and work ethic. If he doesn't become a star, he at least should develop into a big league regular.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
183
33
51
13
0
9
30
39
40
0
0
.279
.404 .497
 
10. Brett Wallace, 1b, Las Vegas 51s (Blue Jays)
Age: 24. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Arizona State, '08 (1/Cardinals).
Wallace has been traded three times since the Cardinals selected him 13th overall in 2008. Most recently, Toronto shipped him to the Astros in July for outfield prospect Anthony Gose as an adjunct to the Roy Oswalt trade.

Wallace's value rests solely in his bat. He has a compact swing and doesn't have any trouble handling lefthanders. His power might not be ideal for a first baseman, but he should be an annual 20-homer threat and can hit balls out to all fields.

PCL observers did have  concerns about Wallace's offense, however. He has trouble pulling balls with authority, and managers felt he could be attacked on the inner half. He doesn't clear his hips well in his swing, which makes scouts wonder how well his stroke will translate. His speed and mobility are well below-average and he'll never be an asset defensively.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
385
64
116
24
1
18
61
27
83
1
1
.301
.359 .509
 
11. Jason Castro, c, Round Rock Express (Astros)
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Stanford, '08 (1).
Castro has been the cornerstone of the Astros' downtrodden farm system ever since they made him the No. 10 overall pick in 2008. He didn't tear up the PCL offensively during his two months in the league, but he showed good defensive tools and Houston moved him up to the majors in late June nonetheless.

Few who saw Castro in Triple-A doubted he was ready for the big leagues from a defensive standpoint. An athletic catcher, he sets up nicely behind the plate, where he's adept at framing pitches and blocking balls in the dirt. He has above-average arm strength as well, throwing out 38 percent of basestealers in the PCL and 37 percent in the majors.

Castro shouldn't have any trouble being an everyday catcher thanks to his defense, but his offensive upside looks somewhat limited. Though he has a nice lefthanded swing, scouts have doubts about whether he has enough bat speed to catch up to major league fastballs. He'll hit for some power, but it's mostly to his pull side and still a tick below average overall.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
211
31
56
7
0
4
26
32
34
1
1
.265
.365 .355
 
12. Mat Gamel, 3b, Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
Age: 25. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Chipola (Fla.) JC, '05 (4).
Gamel injured his upper back in spring training, keeping him on the shelf for most of the season's first two months. He joined Nashville in June and had a typically strong season with the bat, though Casey McGehee's continued strong play in Milwaukee blocks his path to the majors.

Gamel's bat is what carries him. His swing is direct to the ball, with above-average bat speed and good extension. He'll use the whole field and can hit balls out of any part of the park, though he still struggles to control the strike zone and recognize breaking pitches.

Though he has range and strong arm, Gamel continues to lack accuracy on his throws and rates as a below-average defender at third base. He could be a candidate to eventually replace Prince Fielder at first base, but Gamel made just two appearances there this year and would have to learn the position.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
311
54
96
24
0
13
67
38
64
3
1
.309
.387 .511
 
13. Michael Kirkman, lhp, Oklahoma City RedHawks (Rangers)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Lake City, Fla, '05 (5).
The Rangers have built a division winner through a strong farm system, with youngsters like Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz grabbing the spotlight. Kirkman mostly has flown under the radar, losing two seasons early in his career to injury and mechanical issues before starting to come on strong late in 2009. He truly broke out in his first look at Triple-A, winning the PCL's pitcher of the year award and leading the league in ERA (3.09) and strikeouts per nine innings (8.9).

Kirkman features a plus fastball from the left side, a 91-93 mph offering that has some tail to it. He has a tight slider and mixes in a hard downer curveball as well. He also has a potentially average changeup but doesn't use it much.

Kirkman's biggest issue is control, because he has trouble repeating his delivery. He gets into trouble with walks when teams lay off his slider. If he becomes more consistent, he could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
24
22
13
3
0
3.09
131
115
52
45
8
68
130
.235
 
14. Chris Carter, 1b/of, Sacramento River Cats (Athletics)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HS—Las Vegas, '05 (15/White Sox).
Carter's year was a tale of two seasons. After a disappointing first half in which he hit .233/.342/.485, he batted .319/.421/.637 after the all-star break. He wound up finishing fourth in the league in homers (31) and fifth in RBIs (94), though he ranked third in strikeouts (138).

Carter's power was never in doubt. He has the strength and bat speed to crush balls to all fields, and he's willing to take his walks when pitchers don't challenge him. Veteran Triple-A hurlers were able to exploit his problems recognizing breaking pitches, however, and managers also felt he could be exploited with fastballs inside. Teams ultimately will have to live with his strikeouts in order to get to his power.

He looked awkward at times playing first base, but Carter got better as the year went on and was a passable defender. The Athletics moved him to left field in late July and kept him there after calling him up to the majors. He has enough athleticism to get by there for now, and he has some arm strength, but he has below-average speed and range and will have to stay in shape to make the outfield a long-term option.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
465
92
120
29
2
31
94
73
138
1
1
.258
.365 .529
 
15. Peter Bourjos, of, Salt Lake Bees (Angels)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS—Scottsdale, Ariz., '05 (10).
Bourjos set a PCL record with 56 hits in July and was called up to the majors shortly thereafter, with Torii Hunter shifting to right field to make room for him in center. While he made noise with his bat in Triple-A, Bourjos' defensive play is what sets him apart.

Managers have rated Bourjos the best defensive outfielder and most exciting player in his league for three straight years. He's still refining his routes to balls but he can use his plus-plus speed to outrun almost any mistake he makes. His arm strength is average, making it solid for center field, and he makes accurate throws.

Despite his offensive prowess at Salt Lake, some observers were skeptical that he'll hit enough to be a major league leadoff man. He has a quick swing and uses the entire field, but he tends to spin off balls, giving away the outer half and making him susceptible to breaking pitches. He needs to work at getting on base so he can take advantage of his basestealing ability.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
414
85
130
13
12
13
52
24
78
27
5
.314
.364 .498
 
16. Mitch Moreland, 1b/of, Oklahoma City RedHawks (Rangers)
Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Mississippi State, '07 (17).
Moreland fought his way from the 17th round of the 2007 draft to a starting job with division-champion Texas. The Rangers thought about making him a pitcher in 2009, and a year later he took over at first base for them after Chris Davis struggled and Justin Smoak was traded for Cliff Lee.

Moreland has a balanced lefthanded stroke and the ability to drive the ball to all fields with plus raw power. He got in trouble early in the year by being too pull-conscious, but he showed a more solid approach as the season went on. He'll still swing for the downs, though, and isn't projected to hit for a high average.

"We played them in the opening series and he didn't swing the bat well at all," Albuquerque manager Tim Wallach said. "Then the next couple times we saw them, he was a different hitter, using the whole field with some power. He was probably the toughest out in their lineup."

A two-way player in college at Mississippi State, Moreland has a strong arm capable of throwing low-90s fastballs. While he has below-average speed, he has good instincts and is an average defender at first base or on an outfield corner.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
353
52
102
29
2
12
65
47
63
2
1
.289
.371 .484
 
17. Henry Rodriguez, rhp, Sacramento River Cats (Athletics)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 220. Signed: Venezuela, '03.
Rodriguez's second tour of the PCL went much better than his first one did in 2009, and the Athletics rewarded him by keeping him in the big league bullpen for most of the second half. He lives off his fastball, which sits in the upper 90s and can hit 100 mph. He also has a hard slider with tilt, though he struggles to throw it for strikes.

His wildness led to his undoing a year ago, and Rodriguez's command still wasn't ideal this year. He still flies open in his delivery, though he didn't overthrow as often and was much more under control on the mound. His fastball and slider give him the chance to be a big league closer—if he can refine his control and command.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
20
0
0
2
11
1.69
21
10
8
4
1
9
31
.133

18. Greg Halman, of, Tacoma Rainiers (Mariners)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Signed: The Netherlands, '04.
No player frustrated PCL managers and scouts more than Halman. He finished second in the PCL in homers (33) while leading it in strikeouts (169)—the second year in a row he's topped his league in whiffs after fanning 183 times in the Double-A Southern League a year ago.

Halman's pure tools are undeniable. He has the strength and bat speed to generate plus power to all fields, but his swing has length and a natural hooking action to it. Though he did a better job of attempting to make adjustments this year, he overcompensated and starting pulling off balls when pitchers tried to jam him. That made him even more vulnerable to breaking pitches away, which he struggles to recognize.

Halman has an athletic build and a strong arm, yet he's an erratic defender. He frequently gets poor reads on balls and led PCL outfielders with 11 errors. Observers criticized his inconsistent attitude and wavering effort level, and there are increasing doubts about whether he can reach his tantalizing ceiling.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
424
82
103
21
4
33
80
37
169
15
4
.243
.310
.545
 
19. Cory Luebke, lhp, Portland Beavers (Padres)
Age: 25. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Ohio State, '07 (1s).
Luebke's season began with a stint on the disabled list at Double-A San Antonio with a strained oblique and ended in the majors. Along the way, he made an impressive stop at Portland, holding PCL opponents to three runs or less in seven of his nine starts.

Luebke isn't overpowering but generates a good downhill plane with a tailing 87-91 mph fastball that he can locate to both sides of the plate. His slurvy slider rates a tick above average and is his best swing-and-miss pitch, and he also throws a fringy changeup with some fade. He gets in trouble when he leaves balls up, but he throws strikes and repeats his delivery well.
 
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9
9
5
0
0 2.97
58
42
22
19
6
17
44
.201
 
20. Mark Trumbo, 1b/of, Salt Lake Bees (Angels)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Villa Park, Calif., '04 (18).
Trumbo spent two years in low Class A and didn't reach Double-A until the end of his fourth pro season, but he has started to take off. He tied Moustakas for the minor league lead with 36 homers and also paced the PCL in runs (103), RBIs (122) and total bases (307). Trumbo didn't receive unanimous support, but most PCL observers do believe in him.

Trumbo has a sound, balanced swing and does a good job of imparting backspin on the ball, giving him outstanding raw power. He has shown a willingness to take breaking pitches the other way, but he's still learning to control the strike zone and develop a sound two-strike approach. Some scouts doubt he has the bat speed to handle major league fastballs.

Primarily a first baseman, Trumbo saw some time in right field also. He's not too agile and has below-average speed, but he moves well for a big guy once he gets going. A highly regarded pitching prospect in high school, he has enough arm strength to play right field.
 
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
532
103
160
29
5
36
122
58
126
3
4
.301
.368 .577