League Top 20 Prospects

2011 Arizona League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports






1. *Hank Conger, c, Angels
2. *Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Brewers
3. *Cedric Hunter, of, Padres
4. Marcus Lemon, ss, Rangers
5. Brent Fisher, lhp, Royals
6. Matt Sweeney, 3b/1b, Angels
7. Sharlon Schoop, ss, Giants
8. Kyler Burke, of, Padres
9. Jason Taylor, 3b, Royals
10. Vladimir Veras, rhp, Angels
11. Brent Brewer, ss, Brewers
12. Gerardo Avila, 1b, Mariners
13. *Luis Durango, of, Padres
14. *Jose Ceda, rhp, Cubs
15. Manuel Cabeza, rhp, Giants
16. Derrick Robinson, of, Royals
17. Nick Van Stratten, of, Royals
18. *Carlos Peguero, of, Mariners
19. *Warner Madrigal, rhp, Angels
20. Felix Carrasco, 3b, Padres

*Has played in major leagues.
The Rookie-level Arizona League expanded for a third straight year, increasing to 13 teams in 2011 with the Diamondbacks adding a third short-season affiliate to play at their new Salt River Fields training complex. The addition of four clubs since 2008 hasn't correlated to a bigger pool of top-notch prospects, however.

Fewer high draft picks are making their way into the complex leagues because most wait until the Aug. 15 signing deadline to turn pro. Four 2011 first-rounders made their pro debuts in AZL, but none of them qualified for this Top 20 list and only Rangers lefthander Kevin Matthews came close. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, Athletics righthander Sonny Gray and Padres righty Joe Ross made only token appearances.

Most of the best prospects in the AZL were signed on the international market, including 10 of the top 11. Leading the way is outfielder Yoan Alcantara, one of three Latin Americans from the AZL Padres to make the list.

Giants third baseman Jose Cuevas, the league MVP, didn't make the list despite batting .337/.403/.639 with a league-leading nine home runs. A 29th-round pick as a Lee (Tenn.) University senior in 2010, he was extremely old for the AZL at age 23 and doesn't profile as a prospect.

The Rookie-level Arizona League expanded for a third straight year, increasing to 13 teams in 2011 with the Diamondbacks adding a third short-season affiliate to play at their new Salt River Fields training complex. The addition of four clubs since 2008 hasn't correlated to a bigger pool of top-notch prospects, however.

Fewer high draft picks are making their way into the complex leagues because most wait until the Aug. 15 signing deadline to turn pro. Four 2011 first-rounders made their pro debuts in AZL, but none of them qualified for this Top 20 list and only Rangers lefthander Kevin Matthews came close. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, Athletics righthander Sonny Gray and Padres righty Joe Ross made only token appearances.

Most of the best prospects in the AZL were signed on the international market, including 10 of the top 11. Leading the way is outfielder Yoan Alcantara, one of three Latin Americans from the AZL Padres to make the list.

Giants third baseman Jose Cuevas, the league MVP, didn't make the list despite batting .337/.403/.639 with a league-leading nine home runs. A 29th-round pick as a Lee (Tenn.) University senior in 2010, he was extremely old for the AZL at age 23 and doesn't profile as a prospect.

1. YOAN ALCANTARA OF, AZL PADRES
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Signed: Domincan Republic '09.
Unheralded before arriving in Arizona, Alcantara impressed scouts and managers more than any player in the league. He has added more than 40 pounds in two years since signing for $135,000, and he draws Vladimir Guerrero comparisons for his willingness and ability to hit any pitch thrown his way. Alcantara finished strong, hitting six of his seven homers during the season's final month, and he led the AZL in runs (50), RBIs (46), extra-base hits (28) and total bases (123).

Alcantara has all five tools, with his power and arm standing out the most. He keeps his hands back and barrels the ball well despite having a big swing and an unconventional approach. "It works for him," said Randy Smith, Padres vice president of player development and international scouting, "so we'll leave him alone for now."

Alcantara drew just four walks in 218 plate appearances, and more advanced pitchers could exploit his aggressiveness. A solid-average runner who shows more speed once he gets going, he fits best in right field.
2. PHILLIPS CASTILLO OF, AZL MARINERS
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic '10.
One of the marquee names in the 2010 international signing period, Castillo signed for $2.2 million, a Mariners record for a foreign amateur. In instructional league last fall, he looked every bit as raw as expected from a 16-year-old who had played very little organized baseball. He returned this year a more refined hitter, though he still has a lot of development ahead of him.

Castillo hit .300/.366/.482 in his pro debut and tied for the league lead in doubles with 18. He already plenty of bat speed and a strong, athletic body, so those doubles should turn into homers as he matures physically and as a hitter. He shows an aptitude for making adjustments in the batter's box and should hit for average as well.

Castillo's speed is slightly below average but may improve as the Mariners teach him improved running techniques. He has worked at all three outfield positions and is most comfortable in left field. He has an average, accurate arm that could get better once he refines throwing mechanics.
3. ELVIS ARAUJO LHP, AZL INDIANS
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 215. Signed: Venezuela '07.
Araujo made his pro debut as a 16-year-old in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League in 2008, then missed the next two seasons following Tommy John surgery. Finally back on the mound this year, he led the AZL with nine victories and a .228 opponent average.

Araujo's fastball reaches as high as 98 mph but he typically works from 92-94. There's still some physical projection in his body, so he could add more velocity. He commands both of his secondary pitches, a slider with wipeout potential and a changeup that lacks consistency.

His arm slot varies from three-quarters to high three-quarters and he tends to overthrow at times, but those flaws can be corrected with experience. Araujo will remain a starter for now but also could fill the role of a power reliever at the back end of a bullpen. He was the best of the league-high five prospects the Indians placed on this list.
4. CLAYTON BLACKBURN RHP, AZL GIANTS
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS-Santa Fe HS, N.M. '11 (16) .
The lone draft pick among the AZL's top 11 prospects, Blackburn was overshadowed in a deep crop of Oklahoma high school pitching talent that included two of the top seven picks in Dylan Bundy and Archie Bradley and three other arms selected in the first five rounds. Most big league teams expected Blackburn to honor his commitment to the University of Oklahoma, but the Giants signed him for $150,000 after he fell to the 16th round.

Blackburn throws four pitches for strikes—he walked just three batters in 33 innings—and induces plenty of groundballs. From an arm slot slightly higher than three quarters, he throws his 91-93 mph fastball to both sides of the plate and spins a nice curveball. He also throws a slider and has good action and location on his changeup.

Though he's only 18, there's not a lot of physical projection left for Blackburn. That limits his ceiling to No. 3 starter, but he also has a high floor. "He has as good of maturity as I've seen in a professional prospect at that age," AZL Giants pitching coach Mike Caldwell said.
5. LUIGI RODRIGUEZ OF, AZL INDIANS
Age: 18. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 160. Signed: Dominican Republic '09.
Making his U.S. debut at age 18, Rodriguez spent just 25 games in the AZL before earning a late-July promotion to low Class A. He made the most of his time in Arizona, batting .379/.408/.579 while demonstrating plus-plus speed and surprising power.

Rodriguez has a natural ability to square up the baseball. He's more of a gap-to-gap hitter but has enough pop to drive the ball over the fence. He's showing signs of developing good plate discipline, which will help him better utilize his quickness on the bases.

Converted from second base to center field a year ago, Rodriguez still is learning the intricacies of defense. Once he improves his reads and jumps, he should have plus range, and his arm is average. He's a smart player who wasn't overwhelmed by the jump to the Midwest League.
6. MARCO HERNANDEZ SS, AZL CUBS
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic '09.
The 2008 AZL Cubs had two highly touted 18-year-old Latin American middle infielders in Junior Lake and Starlin Castro, who split time at shortstop and ranked on our Top 20 Prospects list. That scenario repeated itself three years later, as Hernandez and Gioskar Amaya took turns at short and ranked among the best infielders in the league.

Hernandez is more likely to remain at shortstop than Amaya. Hernandez has a more athletic frame and good range. He also has plus arm strength but needs better accuracy on his throws.

A switch-hitter, Hernandez currently is better from the left side of the plate. He has good bat speed and contact skills, and he shows the ability to bunt for a hit. He should have at least gap power and has plus speed, though he's still learning how to use it on the bases.
7. DUANEL JONES 3B, AZL PADRES (PADRES)
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Signed: Dominican Republic '10.
After his original 2009 contract was voided following a failed drug test, Jones signed with the Padres for $900,000 in May 2010. He finished second in the league with eight homers despite getting promoted in mid-August, and he could grow into well above-average power. "When his body is totally mature," AZL Padres manager Jim Gabella said, "he'll be a big human being and will hit balls over light towers."

He uses the whole field and Gabella lauded his two-strike approach, but Jones will have to make more consistent contact as he advances. He'll also have to improve his defense, as he has just adequate speed and range and undermines his strong arm with sloppy footwork. If he grows too big, he could wind up at first base or on an outfield corner.
8. HUMBERTO ARTEAGA SS, AZL ROYALS
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 160. Signed: Venezuela '10.
The Royals signed Arteaga for $1.1 million in 2010, a bonus that some industry observers thought was exorbitant. But after a strong pro debut at age 17, he's winning over converts with his defense and savvy.

He's definitely a defense first-player. Royals hitting coach Julio Bruno says Arteaga's hands are the best he ever has seen on a young infielder, and he has an average arm, enough to play shortstop. It's his instincts, ability to make adjustments and natural feel for the game that make him special.

Arteaga's offense improved during the season, especially as he got stronger, and he batted .300/.356/.450 in August. He profiles as a situational hitter with little power and a tick below-average speed.
9. GIOSKAR AMAYA 3B, AZL CUBS
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175. Signed: Venezuela '09.
Amaya spent as much time this year at second base and third base as at shortstop, and that may define his role moving forward. He has the glove and natural instincts to play any position but lacks the quickness and arm to play shortstop on an everyday basis.

There's little question about Amaya's bat, as he hit .377/.417/.510 and led the AZL with 77 hits in his first season Stateside. A solid line-drive hitter with gap power, he has strong hands and a good swing. He has above-average speed but may slow down slightly as he gets bigger.

Amaya is a smart, instinctive player and made great strides in learning the English language this year. He should be able to move quickly through the system.
10. JORGE MARTINEZ SS, AZL INDIANS
Age: 18. B-T: S-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic '09.
Like many of his fellow 17-year-old teammates from the 2010 AZL Indians, Martinez returned to the league this summer. He showed improvement but remained inconsistent, no surprise given his youth.

Martinez' upside remains high, and one scout remarked that his tools ranked among the best in the league. His bat can be electric at times and he shows average power from both sides of the plate, exceptional for a teenage shortstop. He also has a firm grasp of the strike zone for a youngster.

Martinez has a strong arm but needs to develop more reliability and agility in the field. He could move to second or third base if he continues to grow, but scouts give him a good chance to stay at shortstop.
11. ALBERTH MARTINEZ OF, AZL PADRES
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Signed: Venezuela '09.
Martinez put together one of the best all-around seasons in the Arizona League, batting .354/.394/.593 with 14 steals and even seven homers. He has an outstanding feel for hitting, but it's his defense that drew raves from the AZL Padres staff.

"His defense was incredible," Gabella said. "He goes back on balls as well as any player I've been around."

Martinez doesn't have the traditional above-average speed of a center fielder, but he's a solid runner who gets great jumps on balls and is very instinctive. While his bat may be his only true plus tool, he doesn't have a glaring weakness and gets the most out of his ability.
12. JORDAN AKINS OF, AZL RANGERS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 192. Drafted: HS-Union Grove, McDonough, Ga. '10 (3) .
A third-round pick in 2010, Akins was a much improved player in his second AZL season. He's a fast-twitch athlete who lacked baseball skills a year ago (he was a Division I football recruit), and while he's still a long way from fulfilling his five-tool potential, he made tremendous strides this summer. "He has the potential to be a star in the big leagues," Rangers manager Hector Ortiz said.

Akins batted .283/.312/.428, a vast improvement over his .187/.241/.252 pro debut. In order for his promising power to emerge, he'll need to control the strike zone, improve his pitch recognition and add more loft to his swing. He's a well-above-average runner who stole 13 bases in 15 attempts.

After playing right field last year, Akins spent most of his time in center field in 2011. He developed more confidence as a defender, improving his routes and continuing to display a plus arm.
13. ALEX SANTANA 3B, AZL DODGERS
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS-Mariner, Cape Coral, Fla '11 (2) .
The son of former major league shortstop Rafael Santana went to the Dodgers in the second round of the 2011 draft. In high school, Alex played the same position as his father. With obvious signs that already was outgrowing the position, he moved to third base as soon as he turned pro. He was the best prospect on the league-champion AZL Dodgers.

Despite his big league bloodlines, Santana is very raw. He struggled at the plate in his first year, hitting .238/.298/.339 while striking out in nearly a third of his plate appearances. He has good bat speed but needs to improve his pitch selection and approach. 

His defense is ahead of his offense right now. He has good actions and a strong arm, not to mention a solid work ethic. Though Santana didn't tear up the league, AZL Dodgers manager Jody Reed sees him as a potential five-tool player.

"It wouldn't surprise me," Reed said, "because he has deceptive speed, good arm, good hands, swings the bat. He's going to hit for power. It's going to be very exciting watching this young man develop."
14. JAKE SISCO RHP, AZL INDIANS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Drafted: JC-Merced, Calif. '11 (3) .
Sisco turned down the Giants as a 37th-round pick out of high school in 2010, then improved his draft position 34 rounds after a strong freshman season at Merced (Calif.) JC. He posted a 1.54 ERA in his first month in pro ball before wearing down from a long year that began for him in early February.

With a four-pitch mix and durable build, Sisco should be able to remain a starter. His fastball sits at 90-94 mph, and his curveball and slider are both swing-and-miss pitches at times. He also has some feel for a changeup.
15. GABRIEL ROSA OF, AZL REDS
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS-Colegio Hector Urdaneta, Puerto Rico '11 (2) .

The top position player in Puerto Rico this spring, Rosa paralleled Santana by going in the second round and moving from shortstop to third base when he entered pro ball. Rosa was hitting just .156 in early August before finishing strong to improve his final numbers to .245/.314/.406.

Rosa has a quick bat and lots of strength, giving him considerable power potential. His swing can get long and he can get pull-happy. He needs to refine his approach rather than trying to hit every pitch out of the park.

Rosa has the toold to be a solid third baseman, as he has good actions and a strong arm. He'll have to improve his footwork to get more accuracy on his throws. He runs well enough that some scouts who saw him as an amateur projected him as a center fielder.
16. FELIX STERLING RHP, AZL INDIANS
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Signed: Dominican Republic '09.
After spending all of 2010 in the AZL at age 17, Sterling returned this year for six games before making the jump to low Class A—where he was just as effective. He already has a mature body, including a thick lower half, which limits his physical projection, but he's also more polished than would be expected for an 18-year-old.

Big and physical, Sterling usually works at 92-95 mph with his fastball. He backs it up with a hard slurve and an effective changeup. His command was inconsistent this year, and some scouts believe that he'll eventually be better suited for a bullpen role.
17. LUIS SARDINAS SS, AZL INDIANS
Age: 18. B-T: S-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 150. Signed: Venezuela '09.
Following his strong pro debut in 2010, Sardinas ranked No. 8 on both our AZL and Rangers prospect list. But his progress stalled this year after he dislocated his throwing shoulder last fall, requiring surgery, and hurt his left shoulder in mid-July, right before he was to be promoted.

A switch-hitter, Sardinas batted only righthanded this year in order to protect his throwing shoulder. He has little power but puts the bat on the ball, allowing him to make the most of his plus-plus speed. When healthy, he's an excellent defensive shoulder with a strong arm, but he has played just 40 games in two years because of hand and shoulder injuries.
18. JOAN GREGORIO RHP, AZL GIANTS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic '10.
With his gangly body and inconsistent low-three-quarters delivery, Gregorio doesn't look very impressive on first glance. But he was successful in getting AZL batters out, posting a league-best 2.32 ERA.

Gregorio needs to add strength to his 6-foot-7, 180-pound frame, which would give a boost to his fastball, which averages 90 mph but sometimes hits 94. The pitch has life and he's able to throw it for strikes at the top and bottom of the zone. He also throws a breaking ball that he commands well—"The best thing he does is he can spin the ball," Caldwell said—and is starting to use his changeup more often.

Gregorio is very competitive and profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter. With more fastball velocity, he also could become an effective set-up man.
19. D'ANDRE TONEY OF, AZL ROYALS
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-7. Wt.: 170. Drafted: JC-Gulf Coast CC, Fla. '11 (14) .

The Royals nabbed a pair of fleet outfielders out of Gulf Coast (Fla.) CC in this year's draft, with 14th-rounder Toney showing more advanced baseball skills than speedier 20th-rounder Terrance Gore. Toney batted .340/.432/.587, prompting his manager, Darryl Kennedy, to compare him to Ron Gant for his power-speed combination in a small package.

Toney is still learning how to use his solid speed on the bases, where he was caught in 11 of 18 steal attempts. He split time between left and center field, with the Royals forcing him to play shallow to give him more experience going back on balls. His arm is average.
20. MARTIN PEGUERO SS, AZL MARINERS
Age: 17. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic '10.
Castillo and Phillips were the two best amateur hitters on the international market in 2010. The Mariners signed them both, inking Peguero for $2.9 million last December before later reducing his bonus to $1.1 million for undisclosed reasons.

Peguero's advanced bat is his best tool, which he showed by making consistent contact and batting .279/.309/.382 as a 17-year old. He has quick hands, gap power and average speed. He has good instincts on the bases, as evidenced by his 17 steals in 22 attempts.

The biggest question concerning Peguero's future is his defense. He made 21 errors in 40 games, many the result of poor footwork, and his arm and range are just average, which may not be enough to stick at shortstop. Some AZL observers were concerned that he'll end up a tweener who doesn't provide enough defense for a shortstop or enough offense for a second baseman.

HITTERS
Rk Player Age Org. AVG OBP SLG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
1 Yoan Alcantarra 18 Padres .348 .367 .586 50 210 50 73 13 8 7 46 4 25 8
2 Phillips Castillo 17 Mariners .300 .366 .482 48 170 36 51 18 5 1 27 15 61 8
5 Luigi Rodriguez 18 Indians .379 .408 .579 25 95 18 36 6 2 3 14 5 19 12
6 Marco Hernandez 18 Cubs .333 .375 .486 51 210 39 70 16 5 2 42 16 29 9
7 Duanel Jones 18 Padres .267 .349 .500 37 150 38 40 7 2 8 23 16 43 1
8 Humberto Arteaga 17 Royals .254 .290 .324 47 213 30 54 11 2 0 28 9 39 8
9 Gioskar Amaya 18 Cubs .377 .417 .510 52 204 37 77 11 8 0 36 13 39 13
10 Jorge Martinez 18 Indians .256 .313 .400 45 180 25 46 10 2 4 30 16 34 4
11 Alberth Martinez 20 Padres .354 .394 .593 44 189 31 67 12 6 7 24 10 27 14
12 Jordan Akins 19 Rangers .283 .312 .428 48 180 37 51 12 4 2 31 6 42 13
13 Alex Santana 17 Dodgers .238 .298 .339 50 189 30 45 10 3 1 19 10 64 8
14 Gabriel Rosa 17 Reds .245 .314 .406 28 106 17 26 5 3 2 10 8 28 4
17 Luis Sardinas 18 Rangers .308 .367 .385 14 52 11 16 2 1 0 7 4 10 2
19 D'Andre Toney 19 Royals .340 .432 .587 43 150 32 51 12 5 5 29 14 28 7
20 Martin Peguero 17 Mariners .279 .309 .382 43 165 23 46 12 1 1 25 6 22 17
PITCHERS
Rk Player Age Club W L ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
3 Elvis Araujo 19 Indians 9 1 2.86 13 11 63 54 28 20 2 18 58 1.14
4 Clayton Blackburn 18 Giants 3 1 1.08 12 6 33.1 16 6 4 2 3 30 0.57
15 Jake Sisco 19 Indians 2 4 5.24 12 8 34.1 40 22 20 0 17 31 1.66
16 Felix Sterling 18 Indians 2 3 4.10 6 4 26.1 26 15 12 3 8 31 1.29