League Top 20 Prospects

2011 Eastern League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




Follow me on Twitter

FIVE YEARS AGO
1. Phil Hughes, rhp, Trenton (Yankees)*
2. Matt Garza, rhp, New Britain (Twins)*
3. Mike Pelfrey, rhp, Binghamton (Mets)*
4. Adam Miller, rhp, Akron (Indians)
5. Adam Loewen, lhp, Bowie (Orioles)*
6. Adam Lind, of, New Hampshire (Blue Jays)*
7. Jacoby Ellsbury, of, Portland (Red Sox)*
8. Carlos Gomez, of, Binghamton (Mets)*
9. Humberto Sanchez, rhp, Erie (Tigers)*
10. Tyler Clippard, rhp, Trenton (Yankees)*
11. Jonathan Sanchez, lhp, Connecticut (Giants)*
12. Trevor Crowe, of, Akron (Indians)*
13. Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3b, Akron (Indians)*
14. Kory Casto, 3b/of, Harrisburg (Nationals)*
15. Alexi Casilla, ss, New Britain (Twins)*
16. Scott Mathieson, rhp, Reading (Phillies)*
17. Jair Jurrjens, rhp, Erie (Tigers)*
18. Gio Gonzalez, lhp, Reading (Phillies)*
19. Radhames Liz, rhp, Bowie (Bowie)*
20. Garrett Olson, lhp, Bowie (Orioles)*
*Has played in major leagues.
A year after reaping the benefits of Stephen Strasburgmania, Harrisburg once again had the Double-A Eastern League's star attraction. Bryce Harper may have generated even more hype when he jumped two levels from low Clas A in early July. His outstanding power and overall package of tools allowed him to follow in Strasburg's footsteps and rank atop our EL Top 20 Prospects list.

While the Senators had Harper and the league's best regular-season record, New Hampshire had the EL's top cache of prospects and wound up winning the playoff championship. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud and center fielder Anthony Gose anchored the lineup all season long as the Fisher Cats edged Richmond for their first title since 2004. When righthanders Henderson Alvarez and Joel Carreno got promoted to Toronto, New Hampshire replaced them with two more quality arms in Drew Hutchison and Deck McGuire.

Power arms stood out all over the EL, on the mound, behind the plate and in the infield and outfield. The league's best pitching prospects—Harrisburg's Brad Peacock, Erie's Jacob Turner and Trenton's Manny Banuelos—all could light up radar guns. Many of its best position prospects, most notably Harper and Portland third baseman Will Middlebrooks, also had plenty of arm strength.

"It seemed every team had a guy with a cannon," New Britain manager Jeff Smith said. "That and catching were the most stacked positions in the league, if you can call 'arm' a position."

1. BRYCE HARPER OF, HARRISBURG SENATORS (NATIONALS)
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: JC of Southern Nevada, '10 (1).
The league's youngest player by 15 months, Harper overcame the first extended slump of his pro career, a 1-for-25 slide, to finish with more than respectable numbers. A hamstring injury ended his season two weeks early, but he made a strong impression in his short time.

Harper has excellent strength and bat speed and near-legendary power. He refined his two-strike mindset and learned to spread out and let balls travel deeper, an approach that culminated with a game-winning, 450-foot homer over the batter's eye in center field against Trenton on Aug. 12. He does have some excessive movement in his swing that gives scouts and managers pause while grading his hit tool, though his fearsome presence ensures that he'll draw plenty of walks.

A former catcher who played center and right field in low Class A, Harper moved to left field for the first time when he got to Harrisburg. He made quick adjustments after some early struggles, using his plus-plus arm to pick up seven assists in 37 games. He also has slighty above-average speed and an intense nature on the bases and on defense.

"He's a throwback with off-the-charts ability," Erie manager Cris Cron said. "He has it all and has it at such an early age. He flat-out attacks the ball with a very solid approach. He's figured it out so early in his life, when it takes some a lifetime. I love the aggressiveness to his game"
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
129 14 33 7 1 3 12 15 26 7 2 .256 .329 .395
 
2. TRAVIS d'ARNAUD C, NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS (BLUE JAYS)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HS—Lakewood, Calif., '07 (1s).
Chase d'Arnaud won an EL title and all-star recognition in 2010, and his younger brother Travis matched his championship and eclipsed him by earning MVP honors this year. One of three blue-chip prospects the Phillies traded for Roy Halladay, d'Arnaud recovered from an April concussion to lead the league with a .542 slugging percentage. Though New Hampshire's Merchantsauto.com Stadium is a hitter's yard, managers emphasized that his power wasn't a creation of the park.

With a short swing and an all-fields approach, d'Arnaud should hit for a solid average as well. Some managers rated his arm as average, but scouts said it plays below average because of his inconsistent footwork and throwing accuracy. He threw out 27percent of basestealers.

"He's the best guy the Jays got in the Halladay package. He's receiving the ball better now than he did before, giving a better target, setting up better," an American League scout said. "And he falls out of bed hitting. He's got such good hands and good timing."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
424 72 132 33 1 21 78 33 100 4 2 .311 .371 .542
 
3. ANTHONY GOSE OF, NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS (BLUE JAYS)
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HS—Bellflower, Calif., '08 (2).
Another ex-Phillies farmhand now with the Blue Jays, Gose went to the Astros in a trade for Roy Oswalt and then to Toronto straight up for Brett Wallace. His approach remains very raw by Double-A standards and several managers chafed at his exuberance and unnecessary mustard, but his tools are undeniable.

Gose has the bat speed to produce power and nearly doubled his previous career high with 16 homers. Already a plus-plus runner, he improved his basestealing technique and cut his caught stealings from a minor league-high 32 in 2010 to 15 this year while topping the EL with 70 swipes. He's a potential impact defender with tremendous closing speed and an above-average throwing arm.

"I always think he plays too shallow, but you never see one hit over his head," Richmond manager Dave Machemer said.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
509 87 129 20 7 16 59 62 154 70 15 .253 .349 .415
 
4. BRAD PEACOCK RHP, HARRISBURG SENATORS (NATIONALS)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Drafted: Palm Beach (Fla.) JC, D/F '06 (41).
Peacock entered the season with a reputation as an athletic power arm who was more thrower than pitcher. He finished it with the EL pitcher of the year award and a spot in the major leagues, winning his first two starts and making a bid for a spot in the Nationals' 2012 rotation.

Using a fastball that sat at 91-94 mph and touched 97, Peacock was leading the league in strikeouts when he departed for Triple-A in mid-July. He commanded the pitch much better this year than he had in a seven-game EL trial in 2010, thanks in part to working with Harrisburg pitching coach Randy Tomlin on keeping his front shoulder closed longer. The adjustment also added to his deception.

Peacock's hard curveball and tailing changeup also are solid-average pitches at times. His changeup can get too firm, but it was better than his curve and helped him limit lefthanders to a .470 OPS.
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16 14 10 2 0 2.01 99 62 25 22 4 23 129 .179
 
5. JACOB TURNER RHP, ERIE SEAWOLVES (TIGERS)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—St. Louis, '09 (1).
The ninth overall pick in 2009, Turner became the first high school pitcher from that draft class to reach the majors. Scouts and managers thought he wasn't ready when he got the call in July, but also agreed he had as much upside as any EL pitcher this year thanks to his combination of size, stuff and polish.

Turner's low-90s fastball has late, heavy life and he needs to use it more often. His curveball lacks consistency but both it and his changeup are above-average at times. His control and command are advanced for his age. "He's big, he's got angle, he can pitch and the fastball will play," a second AL scout said. "He needs to pitch off the fastball more but there's still projection there too. And I think the curveball will be plus."
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17 17 3 5 0 3.48 114 102 47 44 9 32 90 .239
 
6. MANNY BANUELOS LHP, TRENTON THUNDER (YANKEES)
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 155. Signed: Mexico, '08.
Banuelos opened the season to fanfare after a torrid spring training in which he showed three above-average pitches and posted a 2.08 ERA in big league camp. His fastball command wasn't ready for prime time, however. He wasn't efficient enough to pitch more than six innings in any start before heading to Triple-A in August.

Banuelos has excellent velocity for a lefthander, with his fastball sitting at 90-94 mph and touching 95 with regularity. Some managers and scouts thought his command suffered because he overthrew, while others thought he just lost the feel for his release point. While he averaged 4.9 walks per nine innings, several observers believed that his delivery will allow him to throw more strikes as he matures.

His changeup has sinking, screwball action when it's on and was often his best secondary pitches. He can get swings and misses with a power curveball that flashes good bite.
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
20 20 4 5 0 3.59 95 94 46 38 7 52 94 .263
 
7. STARLING MARTE OF, ALTOONA CURVE (PIRATES)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, '07.
Though Marte led the league in batting (.332), hits (178) and doubles (38), EL observers liked his glove as much or more than his bat. His excellent speed that plays well in center field though not as well on the bases, and he owns a solid, accurate arm. His tools prompt comparisons to Austin Jackson's.

Marte does a good job of making contact and uses his speed to beat balls out, but he still has to prove that he can do more offensively than hit for average. While he doesn't draw walks, he made significant strides in identifying and laying off breaking balls out of the strike zone, indicating his aptitude. He'll have to incorporate his lower half into his swing better to improve his below-average pop.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
536 91 178 38 8 12 50 22 100 24 12 .332 .370 .500
 
8. WILL MIDDLEBROOKS 3B, PORTLAND SEADOGS (RED SOX)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HS—Texarkana, Texas, '07 (5).
Two third baseman in the EL truly fit the profile for what clubs look for at the position. Richmond's Chris Dominguez has similar physical tools, but Middlebrooks is two years younger and has a better feel for hitting. The former Baylor punting recruit has solid athleticism to go with his size and strength.

A solid athlete with size and strength, Middlebrooks generates above-average bat speed and showed power to all fields, especially before a triceps strain landed him on the disabled list in June. After he earned a promotion in mid-August, Triple-A pitchers exploited his aggressiveness. His defense needs less polish than his offensive approach, as he has good agility and a strong arm.

"He has the chip on his shoulder," Smith said. "He's a competitor. You see the tools and that he's young, he can defend and can hit. But you can see he wants it. That's a separator."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
371 54 112 25 1 18 80 21 95 6 0 .302 .345 .520
 
9. DELLIN BETANCES RHP, TRENTON THUNDER (YANKEES)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-8. Wt.: 260. Drafted: HS—New York, '06 (8).
While most EL observers considered Banuelos the better prospect, Betances had his supporters because he's considerably bigger and has better pure stuff. He's a physical beast who uses his size to sit at 91-95 mph and reach 97 with his fastball.

Betances' plus curveball sits in the low 80s but is primarily a chase pitch. He has added a high-80s cutter/slider through the years to give him a breaking ball he can throw consistenly for strikes. His changeup has improved and is an above-average pitch at times. Command of his fastball and curve will determine if he reaches his considerable ceiling.

"When he threw harder he could be erratic," Harrisburg manager Tony Beasley said, "but he when he threw more strikes, he still had plenty of velocity to go with that curveball. I think it's fair to say when we saw him later in the year, he was a strike-thrower with real good stuff."
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
21 21 4 6 0 3.42 105 86 49 40 7 55 115 .219
 
10. HENDERSON ALVAREZ RHP, NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS (BLUE JAYS)
Age: 21 B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 195. Signed: Venezuela, '06.
After being New Hampshire's best starter in the first half and pitching in the Futures Game for the second straight season, Alvarez shot to the major leagues. He held his own in Toronto over 10 starts by doing what worked in Double-A: pitching off his two- and four-seam fastballs. He can sit in the low 90s with a sinker or work in the mid-90s with his four-seamer, which touched 100 mph this year.

Alvarez' changeup, his best secondary pitch, has sink similar to his two-seamer, helping him combat lefthanders effectively and giving him a solid average No. 2 pitch. He throws two breaking balls and is inconsistent with both, getting better bite with a cutter/slider that can reach the upper 80s. If he could develop a true slider with more depth, he could be a future No. 2 starter.

"He has some pitch feel," a National League scout said. "He cruised at 92-94, then was up to 94-97 to finish. He showed a sense of urgency that I liked."
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
15 14 8 4 0 2.86 88 81 31 28 7 17 66 .245
 
11. ERIC SURKAMP LHP, RICHMOND FLYING SQUIRRELS (GIANTS)
Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190. Drafted: North Carolina State, '08 (6).
In an organization noted for power arms, Surkamp is an anomaly who pitched too well for the Giants to ignore. After leading the EL in ERA (2.02) and WHIP (1.08), he earned a promotion to San Francisco, where he won two of his six starts.

A prep and college teammate of Yankees farmhand Andrew Brackman, he has all the touch and feel that Brackman lacks. Surkamp's fastball sits in the upper 80s with late tailing action and sink, and his delivery adds deception. His ability to command his fastball sets up his secondary stuff, which he uses wisely.

His changeup sinks and tails like his fastball after an adjustment he made on his grip with Richmond pitching coach Ross Grimsley. Surkamp learned to pitch without relying on his average-to-plus curveball, which the Giants had him shelve for a time to work on his other pitches. His fringy cutter-type slider gives hitters another pitch to think about.

"He slices and dices 'em up," Machemer said. "He commands the inner half well and just never gets hit hard. I can see him in a rotation for 10 years."
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
23 22 10 2 0 2.02 142 110 37 32 5 44 165 .213
 
12. DEREK NORRIS C, HARRISBURG SENATORS (NATIONALS)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HS—Goddard, Kan., '07 (4).
Norris had the best .210 season in the minors, ranking third in the EL with 77 walks and slugging 20 homers despite missing time in April with an ankle injury. He remains an enigmatic hitter, with patience and above-average power as well as a swing that scouts like. At the same time, he gets too passive at times and pull-conscious at others, and his batting averages have declined steadily in full-season ball.

Though scouts still consider Norris an offensive catcher, he has improved defensively, so much so that his bat doesn't completely have to carry the load. His receiving still needs polish, as evidenced by his 15 passed balls, but he doesn't box nearly as many pitches as he used to. He's refined his throwing technique and used his average arm strength to throw out a league-best 40 percent of basestealers.

He's also more athletic than most catchers and a solid runner underway, capable of stealing 10-12 bases per year at his peak.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
334 75 70 17 1 20 46 77 117 13 4 .210 .367 .446
 
13. JEURYS FAMILIA RHP, BINGHAMTON METS
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Signed: Dominican Republic, '07.
Familia started the year in dominant fashion in the warm weather of the Florida State League, then made his Double-A debut in May and earned league all-star honors. He posted a 3.38 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 56 over his first 10 EL starts, then missed a month with a shoulder impingement and wasn't quite as effective upon his return.

Familia toned down his delivery from his phrenetic motion he showed prior to 2011, and that allowed him to throw more quality strikes with one of the EL's most explosive fastballs. His loose, whippy arm helps him sit at 92-96 mph with hard life down in the zone.

His curveball has improved, and while it has slurvy shape, it has late break at times and gives him another swing-and-miss pitch. His changeup is too firm but is a decent third pitch that plays up thanks to his premium fastball. His youth and inexperience show up most with his erratic defense and difficulties holding runners.
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
17 17 4 4 0 3.49 88 85 43 34 10 35 96 .249
 
14. FRANCISCO PEGUERO OF, RICHMOND FLYING SQUIRRELS (GIANTS)
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 195. Signed: Dominican Republic, '05.
Peguero had preseason surgery on his right knee that delayed his EL debut until June, and he still wasn't 100 percent right after his return. He ran stiffly despite showing average-to-plus speed, and the knee bothered him when he had to cut and change direction in the outfield. That didn't stop him from keying the Flying Squirrels' second-half playoff run, which ended in a finals loss to New Hampshire.

Peguero's swing isn't pure, but he has a knack for putting the barrel on the ball. He projects to have average power that he'll tap into it more with a bit more patience. When healthy, he's a legitimate stolen-base threat. Though he was tentative at times this season in right field, he can be a quality defender and has an above-average arm.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
285 34 88 12 6 5 37 5 45 8 1 .309 .318 .446
 
15. RYAN LAVARNWAY C, PORTLAND SEA DOGS (RED SOX)
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Yale, '08 (6).
A NCAA Division I batting champion in his days at Yale, Lavarnway has continued to be a prolific hitter as a pro, adding power to the equation. He has increased his home run total in each of his three full seasons, tying for fourth in the minors with 32 this year.

Lavarnway has improved defensively, from not being a realistic big league option as a catcher to being adequate. He's still a below-average receiver who struggles with agility at his size. His arm is average at best, though he did erase 38 percent of EL basestealers.

His limited athleticism and well below-average speed preclude a move to anywhere other than first base. However, the strength in Lavarnway's swing makes scouts sit up and take notice.

"He has power from foul pole to foul pole," Smith said. "It's pretty hard to ignore."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
208 35 59 5 0 14 38 25 47 0 0 .284 .360 .510
 
16. FRANCISCO MARTINEZ 3B, ERIE SEAWOLVES (TIGERS)
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, '07.
Martinez was a key piece used to acquire Doug Fister from the Mariners in a deal that helped propel the Tigers to the AL Central crown. Martinez has impressive all-around tools but lacks polish because he has been rushed, though Detroit's approach to his development most likely made him attractive trade bait.

Live-bodied and athletic, Martinez has a chance to have an impact bat if he can add more discipline to his approach. He has excellent bat speed and plus raw power, and the ball explodes off his bat when he gets extended and makes contact. He also has average arm strength at third base and plus speed on the basepaths.

Martinez must refine all aspects of his game, from his inconsistent defense to his inefficient basestealing to his control of the strike zone.

"He showed me a knack for the barrel and good plate coverage," the first AL scout said. "He's a high-ceiling player, and he really had no business being in Double-A but he held his own."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
348 63 98 14 4 7 46 19 80 7 8 .282 .319 .405
 
17. AUSTIN ROMINE C, TRENTON THUNDER (YANKEES)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS—Lake Forest, Calif., '07 (2).
Romine repeated the league and missed time with both a concussion and a back injury. Nevertheless, he wound up becoming the third member of his family to reach the major leagues, joining father Kevin and older brother Andrew.

Romine's tools remain intact despite the injuries. He has above-average arm strength, though his footwork can get awry on throws to second base and he threw out just 24 percent of EL basestealers. He has the hands, athletic ability and agility needed to be a sound receiver. Offensively, Romine remains a streaky hitter with a high leg kick and raw power. He has well below-average speed, typical for a catcher.

"I'm surprised he hasn't hit for more power," the NL scout said. "You keep waiting for it, but it hasn't come out in games consistently yet. I thought he played with more of an edge last year, got after it a little more. But he's an athletic catcher with some offensive ability."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
336 43 96 13 0 6 47 32 60 2 2 .286 .351 .378
 
18. CHIH-HSIEN CHIANG OF, PORTLAND SEA DOGS (RED SOX)
Age: 23. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Signed: Taiwan, '06.
After struggling to make much of an impact in his first five pro seasons, Chiang got a handle on his diabetes for the first time last offseason. With greater energy and consistency, he earned a Futures Game berth and led the EL in slugging (.648) before the Red Sox sent him to the Mariners in the three-team Erik Bedard trade.

With added strength due to better health, Chiang shows impressive power to the gaps and over-the-fence power to right. He's an aggressive hitter who likes to pull the ball. His value will depend on the bat, including whether he can continue to hit lefthanders like he did with Portland (.281/.326/.562).
A former second baseman, Chiang is an average defender with solid arm strength sufficient for right field. He's a below-average runner.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
321 68 109 37 4 18 76 25 61 6 2 .340 .402 .648
 
19. ADEINY HECHAVARRIA SS, NEW HAMPSHIRE FISHER CATS (BLUE JAYS)
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Signed: Cuba, '10.
The league was short on middle-infield prospects, with Hechavarria and Binghamton's Jordanny Valdespin standing out the most. Hechavarria was ineffective at the plate in 2010 with New Hampshire and less productive this year, but he's an above-average runner, defender and thrower.

Hechavarria's glove earns comparisons to defense-first shortstops from Rey Ordonez to Cesar Izturis. His bat did wake up a bit once he was promoted to Triple-A and he shouldn't be an offensive zero, especially if he can develop some more discipline and hit some more balls on the ground to utilize his speed.

"He has a good swing path," the NL scout said. "I saw better at-bats when he faced guys on big league rehab. He looked more focused. He looked a little bored in Double-A."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
464 58 109 22 6 6 46 25 78 19 13 .235 .275 .347
 
20. KYLE McPHERSON RHP, ALTOONA CURVE (PIRATES)
Age: 23. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Mobile (Ala.), '07 (14).
McPherson had pitched just two games above low Class A before 2011, when he went a combined 12-6, 2.96 between high Class A Bradenton and Altoona. He held his velocity deep into the season and showed No. 3 starter stuff—if not better.

McPherson's fastball sits in the low 90s and peaks at 95 mph. His curveball isn't a true downer with 10-to-4 shape, but it's a plus pitch with late break and power. His changeup gives him a third pitch that's at least average, and some scouts rate it as a plus offering. He repeats his clean delivery, which helps explain his solid control.

"His fastball command was shaky late when I saw him, but it was really good early," the second AL scout said. "He got after it on his sidework, too. He looks like a middle-of-the-rotation innings-eater."
G GS W L SV ERA IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
16 16 8 5 0 3.02 89 75 34 30 7 21 82 .226