League Top 20 Prospects

Carolina League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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FIVE YEARS AGO
*1. Chuck Lofgren, lhp, Kinston (Indians)
*2. Jacoby Ellsbury, of, Wilmington (Red Sox)
*3. Troy Patton, lhp, Salem (Astros)
*4. Trevor Crowe, of, Kinston (Indians)
*5. Jimmy Barthmaier, rhp, Salem (Astros)
*6. Nolan Reimold, of, Frederick (Orioles)
*7. Matt Harrison, lhp, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
*8. Neil Walker, c, Lynchburg (Pirates)
*9. Radhames Liz, rhp, Frederick (Orioles)
*10. Scott Lewis, lhp, Kinston (Indians)
*11. Brandon Jones, of, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
*12. Collin Balester, rhp, Potomac (Nationals)
13. Van Pope, 3b, Myrtle Beach (Braves)
*14. Felipe Paulino, rhp, Salem (Astros)
*15. Garrett Olson, lhp, Frederick (Orioles)
*16. Brian Barton, of, Kinston (Indians)

*17. Brett Lillibridge, ss, Lynchburg (Pirates)
*18. Chad Reineke, rhp, Salem (Astros)
*19. Brian Bixler, ss, Lynchburg (Pirates)
*20. Jed Lowrie, ss, Wilmington (Red Sox)
* Has played in major leagues
With fewer teams (eight) than any other full-season circuit, the high Class A Carolina League is rarely loaded with talent. The Nationals' decision to skip Bryce Harper past Potomac didn't help matters, but the CL still had two of the top five picks from the 2010 draft and they headlined our Top 20 Prospects list.

Shortstop Manny Machado came to Frederick in mid-June and was at his best in the playoffs, when he hit .344 with a league-best nine RBIs as the Keys won the championship. Shortly after Machado arrived, Kinston lefthander Drew Pomeranz departed for Double-A and finished his first pro season in the majors after the Rockies acquired him in the Ubaldo Jimenez trade.

No club in the league could match Myrtle Beach's depth in prospects. The Pelicans placed seven players on the Top 20, led by third baseman Mike Olt, and righthanders Barrett Loux and Johan Yan and outfielder Ryan Strausborger didn't miss the list by much.



1. MANNY MACHADO SS, FREDERICK KEYS (ORIOLES)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185 Drafted: HS—Hialeah, Fla., 2010 (1st round).
Machado didn't exactly set the Carolina League on fire, showing a little power and making the occasional spectacular play with his glove. That still did little to dissuade many who watched him from thinking that he'll end being quite special. One observer compared him to a puppy with big paws—he may be somewhat skinny and rangy right now, but one look at his massive feet gives a good indication that he'll be an imposing man one day.

Machado has plenty of power potential and should deliver on it once he strengthens his base, as his legs are still skinny. Machado's approach will still have to be refined. He needs to lay off breaking balls and stop chasing so many fastballs out of the zone. But considering he's a teenager, it's easy to see why he projects as a plus hitter with plus power.

Though Machado may be able to stick at shortstop, some scouts believe his range will be below average once he fills out. If he has to move, he could be a standout defender at third base with excellent hands and a plus arm. Others see him as an Alex Rodriguez clone who will be able to handle shortstop because of his positioning and arm.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
237 24 58 12 3 5 26 22 48 8 5 .245 .308 .384
 
2. DREW POMERANZ LHP, KINSTON INDIANS
Age: 22. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: Missisippi, 2010 (1st round)
Pomeranz had enough polish and stuff to handle high Class A hitters in his pro debut, and to thrive after he moved on. His overall 1.78 ERA would have led the minor leagues if he had enough innings to qualify, but he was shut down for three weeks while waiting to officially become the player to be named in the Jimenez trade.

Pomeranz has a 91-95 mph fastball that gets an added boost from his somewhat deceptive delivery. He can throw four-seamers by hitters up in the strike zone or sink two-seamers at their knees. His power curveball can be more devastating than his fastball, and some scouts project that his work-in-progress changeup eventually could give him a third plus pitch.

His biggest weaknesses are his lack of command, though with his stuff Pomeranz needs control (the ability to throw strikes) more than precise command. He showed improvement as a pro after some struggles in his final season at.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
3 2 1.87 15 15 0 77 56 22 16 2 32 95 .202
 
3. MIKE OLT 3B, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Connecticut, 2010 (supplemental first round).
An injury was the only thing that could stop Olt. He was making a case for the league's MVP award when he snapped his collarbone in a home-plate collision on June 6. He missed two and a half months and struggled to regain his swing after he returned.

Olt's selective approach at the plate enables him to get pitches he can drive, pulling them out of the park or driving them to the opposite-field gap. He'll need to make more contact to hit for a high average. A slightly below-average runner, he has the easy actions, quick hands and storng arm scouts want to see in a third baseman.

"He reminded me of when I saw Evan Longoria in Double-A," Lynchburg manager Luis Salazar said. "He looks just like him. He's a tremendous athlete, he can pick it at third base and he's got good power to right-center field. This kid is a major league third baseman."

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
240 39 64 15 0 14 42 48 70 0 1 .267 .387 .504
 
4. ANDRELTON SIMMONS SS, LYNCHBURG HILLCATS (BRAVES)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Drafted: Western Oklahoma JC, 2010 (2nd round).
Machado may have been the best prospect in the Carolina League, but the most exciting shortstop was Simmons. His fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph while pitching in junior college, but he wants to play every day and shows just about everything scouts want in a shortstop.

Simmons has a tick above-average range, extremely quick hands and one of the better arms in the minors. He possesses excellent hand-eye coordination, which he demonstrated by leading the league in batting (.311) and plate appearances per strikeout (13.3). He has well below-average power but beats out some doubles with average speed and aggressive baserunning.

"He could go to the big leagues and play defense right now," Salazar said. "And he doesn't miss the fastball."

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
517 69 161 35 6 1 52 29 43 26 18 .311 .351 .408
 
5. ROBBIE ERLIN LHP, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht. 6-0. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HS—Scott's Valley (Calif.), 2009 (3rd round).
CL hitters knew that there was only one real way to get to Erlin. Every now and then, he'd leave a pitch up that could be hit hard. But if they missed their one chance, they likely would be walking back to the dugout shaking their head.

He had the second-best K-BB ratio in the minors this season, striking out 154 and walking just 16 in 147 innings. Promoted to Double-A in late May, he and Myrtle Beach teammate Joe Wieland went to the Padres in a trade for Mike Adams two months later. Erlin finished the season by allowing four runs in six starts with his new organization.

Erlin's fastball velocity is average at best, generally sitting at 88-91 mph, but he tickles the corners of the strike zone. Once he gets ahead in the count, he abuses hitters with a pair of plus secondary pitches, a hard-breaking curveball and a deceptive changeup with late fade. He's prone to home runs, but his excellent control means that he usually limits the damage.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
3 2 2.14 9 9 0 54 25 15 13 7 5 62 .132
 
6. JONATHAN SCHOOP 2B/SS, FREDERICK KEYS (ORIOLES)
Age: 19.  B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 187. Signed: Curacao, 2008.
In deference to Machado, Schoop started the season playing third base at low Class A Delmarva. A knee injury to Machado in May and a promotion to Frederick for Schoop in June gave him a chance to move back to his natural shortstop position until Machado rejoined him with the Keys. From that point on, Schoop played second base almost exclusively.

That versatility should serve Schoop well, as there's some debate whether he'll end up as a second baseman or third baseman in the long term. His actions may work better at the hot corner, where he has a strong arm and would still profile well as a hitter.

Once he finishes filling out, Schoop should have above-average power. Like many young hitters, he's still working on recognizing breaking balls, but he shows promising bat speed and hand-eye coordination. He's a below-average runner.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
299 37 81 12 2 5 37 22 44 6 3 .271 .329 .375
 
7. JAKE ODORIZZI RHP, WILMINGTON BLUE ROCKS (ROYALS)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 175 Drafted: HS—Highland, Ill., 2008 (1st round supplemental).
Every year, Blue Rocks pitchers get a boost from the tough hitting environment of Wilmington's Frawley Stadium. Odorizzi was no exception, going 5-3, 1.93 at home and 0-1, 4.68 on the road, but he missed plenty of bats no matter where he pitched.

When Odorizzi is at this best, he dominates with a 92-94 mph fastball that feature good riding life. He's not as effective pitching up in the zone when his heater sits at 90-91 mph. He has the makings of a solid three-pitch mix with a curveball that shows plus potential and a changeup that could use more separation from his fastball.

Extremely athletic, Odorizzi repeats his delivery well and throws strikes easily. He has the upside of a No. 2 or 3 starter.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 4 2.87 15 15 0 78 68 30 25 4 22 103 .235
 
8. BRYCE BRENTZ OF, SALEM RED SOX
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Middle Tennessee State, '10 (1s).
When it comes to raw power, no one in the Carolina League could match Brentz, who finished fifth in the home run race with 19 despite playing only 75 games after starting the year in low Class A. When he squares a ball up, he can hit it 425-plus feet. He just has to work on getting more pitches to square up.

Brentz struggles to command the strike zone and can be induced to chase breaking balls. He did do a better job of using the whole field this year, but he has to improve his approach at the plate. If he does, he can be an average hitter with 65 power on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Brentz has some athleticism and is an average runner, but he figures to slow down a step over time. He struggles at times with his routes in right field and led CL outfielders with nine errors, though he does have a plus arm.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
288 48 79 15 1 19 58 26 80 1 1 .274 .336 .531
 
9. JOE WIELAND RHP, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HS—Reno, Nev., '08 (4).
OK, so it wasn't Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, but Wieland didn't walk a batter during eight straight starts from April through June. Like Erlin, he ranked among the minor league leaders in K-BB ratio (fifth at 150-21) and went to the Padres in the Adams deal.

Wieland isn't just a control pitcher, though its his first attribute that anyone mentions. He also does a good job of mixing a solid repertoire: an 88-92 mph fastball, a solid curveball and a reliable changeup. His lack of plus velocity or life on his fastball gives him a smaller margin of error than most pitchers on this list, but his command makes him a safer bet to reach his ceiling (No. 3 or 4 starter) than most.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 3 2.10 14 13 0 86 78 23 20 7 4 96 .240
 
10. CHRISTIAN BETHANCOURT C, LYNCHBURG HILLCATS (BRAVES)
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Signed: Panama, '08.
When scouts see a 19-year-old with a strong arm, some mobility behind the plate and the potential to hit, they're going to get excited—even if their enthusiasm is based on a whole lot of projection. Bethancourt threw out 47 percent of CL basestealers, and while his numbers at Lynchburg might not show it, he has at least average raw power. He even runs well for a catcher.

Bethancourt also has some significant flaws, too, though they can be somewhat explained by his youth. He has good hand-eye coordination but won't be more than a bottom-of-the-order hitter if he can't overcome his aversion to taking walks. He also has to improve his receiving, because he tends to pick at too many balls in the dirt instead of sliding over to block them.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
166 11 45 6 0 1 20 3 35 3 2 .271 .277 .325
 
11. ZEKE SPRUILL RHP, LYNCHBURG HILLCATS (BRAVES)
Age: 21. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 184. Drafted: HS—Marietta, Ga., '08 (2).
Considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Braves system heading into 2010, Spruill hurt his status by breaking his pitching hand by punching a wall after a bad start. He missed half the season and earned a repeat trip to the Carolina League in 2011. He showed renewed focus and a better approach in his second try at the league, topping the CL with a 1.01 WHIP.

Spruill consistently works down in the zone with his 91-94 mph fastball, which generates lots of grounders with its premium sink. He also has good sink on his changeup and does a good job of staying ahead of hitters. When his slider is working, Spruill nearly unbeatable. It's still inconsistent but at his best he can vary its tilt, throwing a tighter slider for strikes or running it out of the zone as a chase pitch.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 9 3.19 20 20 0 130 108 56 46 7 23 92 .227
 
12. DESTIN HOOD OF, POTOMAC NATIONALS
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HS—Mobile, Ala., '08 (2).
After missing the 2010 season with a torn ankle tendon, former White Sox first-rounder Jared Mitchell hit just .222/.304/.377 and struck out a league-high 183 times for Winston-Salem. More than one CL observer pointed out that Hood is turning into the player Chicago hoped it was getting in Mitchell.

Like Mitchell, who played on Louisiana State's 2007 national championship football team, Hood was a Southeastern Conference-caliber wide receiver. He committed to play football at Alabama before the Nationals lured him to baseball with a $1.1 million bonus. In his fourth professional season, his skills started to catch up with his tools.

Hood's bat has come a long ways since he was drafted, but he still has to prove he can catch up to hard fastballs and quality breaking balls. His raw strength should translate into average power, especially now that he has improved his plate discipline. His plus speed plays well on the bases and in right field, where he shows a solid arm.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
463 61 128 29 5 13 83 58 96 21 6 .276 .364 .445
 
13. SAMMY SOLIS LHP, POTOMAC NATIONALS
Age: 23. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: San Diego, '10 (2).
Solis missed almost all of the 2009 college season with a herniated disc in his back, but rebounded to earn a $1 million bonus as a second-round pick a year later. A quadriceps strain and elbow inflammation sidelined him for parts of 2011, but he earned a promotion to Potomac in July and was effective in 10 starts.

As a lefty who mixes a 90-93 mph fastball with an average slider and changeup, Solis has the stuff to stick in a big league rotation. His stuff plays up because he has good feel for pitching. He throws strikes, works both sides of the plate and gets plenty of groundouts thanks to good sink on his fastball.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 2 2.72 10 10 0 56 61 20 17 5 11 53 .279
 
14. ANTHONY RANAUDO RHP, SALEM RED SOX
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 231. Drafted: Lousiana State, '10 (1s).
Ranaudo made his pro debut in low Class A to start the season, displaying a 91-96 mph fastball to go with a sharp curveball and a solid changeup. But his inconsistent stuff and approach once he got to Salem left CL scouts wondering if this was really the same guy who commanded a $2.55 million bonus as a supplemental first-round pick a year earlier.

He did show flashes where he ran his fastball up to 96 mph and spun a hammer curveball, but more often Ranaudo looked like an average pitching prospect. He worked mostly with a 90-92 mph fastball, an inconsistent curve and a below-average changeup. His command also didn't live up to expectations.

The good news was that Ranaudo made it through a fully healthy season, working 127 innings over 26 starts. Elbow issues hampered him as a freshman and junior at Louisiana State.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 5 4.33 16 16 0 81 80 43 39 6 30 67 .262
 
15. BOBBY BUNDY RHP, FREDERICK KEYS (ORIOLES)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS—Sperry, Okla., '08 (8).
Bundy's younger brother Dylan was the best pitching prospect in the 2011 draft and one of the best high school mound prospects in recent memory. The Orioles reunited the brothers when they selected Dylan fourth overall in June and signed him to a $6 million major league contract.

Bobby doesn't have his brother's overpowering stuff and has a somewhat long arm action, but he does have a solid repertoire. He does a good job of locating his 91-93 mph sinker to both sides of the pate. His curveball and slider both are fringe-average breaking balls, while his changeup is a tick below that.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
11 5 2.75 20 20 0 121 102 43 37 8 31 100 .230
 
16. LEURY GARCIA SS, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 20. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 5-7. Wt.: 153. Signed: Domican Republic, '07.
It was a good year for Carolina League shortstops. Machado's bat and power potential took center stage, and Simmons' glovework and feel for the game also were notable. But a case could be made that Garcia was the most spectacular defensive shortstop.

Garcia is exciting in a hair-on-fire kind of way. With well above-average range and arm strength, he makes plays that no one else in the CL could make, but he also commits errors on balls no one else had trouble with. His .920 fielding percentage was the worst among the league's shortstops, but several of his 37 errors came on plays where he had no business getting to the ball.

If Garcia can develop defensive consistency, he'll be an everyday player in the big leagues, even if his bat is a major question mark. He's never going to hit for much power, so he needs to stop hitting so many flyballs and improve his plate discipline so he can get on base. His speed gives him a third plus-plus tool, and some scouts grade it as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
442 65 113 19 5 3 38 28 100 30 12 .256 .306 .342
 
17. ROBBIE ROSS LHP, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HS—Lexington, Ky., '08 (2).
Ross enjoyed the Rangers' decision to move their high Class A affiliate from the hitter-friendly California League, where he posted a 5.37 ERA in 11 second-half starts last year, to Myrtle Beach. He led the CL in ERA (2.26) and opponent batting average (.227) en route to winning the pitcher of the year award.

He doesn't pile up a lot of strikeouts, but Ross generates plenty of weak contact by throwing lots of strikes and messing up hitters' timing by changing speeds. He's no soft-tosser either, running his fastball from 89-93. His heater is more notable for its life, as he can cut it or run it.

Ross' mid-80s slider and his changeup show flashes of being average pitches. Scouts aren't in love with his delivery, as he throws with effort and across his body, but it also lends him deception.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9 4 2.26 21 20 0 123 102 37 31 1 28 98 .227
 
18. JUSTIN GRIMM RHP, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 175. Drafted: Georgia, '10 (5).
When the Rangers promoted Erlin to Double-A, they made sure the Pelicans weren't left shorthanded. Grimm replaced the lefty in the Myrtle Beach rotation and while he didn't match Erlin's dominance, he did perform well in his debut as a pro. He struggled throughout his college career at Georgia because he couldn't throw strikes, but he showed improved command as a pro after toning down his delivery.

While he was a starter this year, Grimm most likely projects as a power reliever because he has one dominant pitch and his mechanics still contain some effort. His 92-94 mph fastball has good life and would play up even more if he worked out of the bullpen. His hard curveball has potential as an average to plus pitch, but his changeup is ineffective.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 2 3.39 16 16 0 90 84 40 34 2 30 73 .247
 
19. MIGUEL DE LOS SANTOS LHP, MYRTLE BEACH PELICANS (RANGERS)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, '06.
The Rangers have been very patient with de los Santos, who has barely surfaced above high Class A in six years as a pro. He opened 2011 in Double-A, where he had an 8.04 ERA in six starts before missing nearly two months with shoulder issues. Under the tutelage of Myrtle Beach pitching coach Brad Holman, he started using his curveball more and finished the season with four double-digit strikeouts games in his final six starts.

De los Santos' best pitch is a changeup that features screwball action and rates a 60-65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He still needs to show more fastball velocity and life, because he often sits at 89-90 mph with a relatively straight heater. His curve and command also require further improvements.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 3 3.82 13 12 0 64 46 32 27 2 28 97 .195
 
20. TYLER SALADINO SS, WINSTON-SALEM DASH
Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 180  Drafted: Oral Roberts, '10 (7).
Saladino beat out Juan Silverio, who played alongside him on the left side of Winston-Salem's infield, for the final spot on this list. Both project more as useful backups than first-divison regulars, though Saladino's bat and steady defense intrigued CL observers.

Saladino has a track record of hitting as an amateur at Palomar (Calif.) JC and Oral Roberts, and he has been productive as a pro. With good bat speed and hand-eye coordination as well as a solid grasp of the strike zone, he hits line drives all over the field. He has some surprising pop, too, and led the CL with nine triples.

He has fringy speed and his range is just adequate at shortstop, but Saladino has soft hands and solid arm strength. He makes the routine play and will be able to handle second or third base if he ends up in a utility role.

AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
397 75 107 26 9 16 55 51 90 7 7 .270 .363 .501