League Top 20 Prospects

2012 Northwest League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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FIVE YEARS AGO
*1. Matt Latos, rhp, Eugene (Padres)
*2. Josh Donaldson, c, Boise (Cubs
3. Juan Ramirez, rhp, Everett (Mariners)
4. Tony Thomas, 2b, Boise (Cubs)
5. Fabio Castillo, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
6. Kellen Kulbacki, of, Eugene (Padres)
*7. Tommy Hunter, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
*8. Greg Halman, of, Everett (Mariners)
9. Helder Velazquez, ss, Tri City (Rockies)
*10. Matt Mangini, 3b, Everett (Mariners)
*11. Corey Brown, of, Vancouver (Athletics)
*12. Bruce Billings, rhp, Tri City (Rockies)
13. Cory Riordan, rhp, Tri City (Rockies)
14. Mitch Canham, c, Eugene (Padres)
15. Robinson Fabian, rhp, Tri City (Rockies)
16. Kyler Burke, of, Boise (Cubs)
17. Edward Paredes, lhp, Everett (Mariners)
18. Chris Huseby, rhp, Boise (Cubs)
19. Brian Rike, of, Tri City (Rockies)
20. Jake Brigham, rhp, Spokane (Rangers)
For the second year in a row, Vancouver (Blue Jays) won the Northwest League championship. While last year's edition of the Canadians featured No. 1 prospect Justin Nicolino, this year's club was an older team highlighted by the No. 20 prospect in the league, righthander Taylor Cole. In the finals, Vancouver beat Boise, which placed a league-high seven players on this Top 20.

While most Rookie-level and short-season leagues greatly benefited from the earlier draft signing deadline, NWL talent was just OK this summer. The top half of this list would have been much stronger had several other notable prospects played enough to qualify, such as Boise center fielder Albert Almora, Salem-Keizer righthander Chris Stratton, Spokane third baseman Joey Gallo or Vancouver righthander Roberto Osuna.

For the first time since 1999 (when we went just 10 deep), this list doesn't include a lefthanded pitcher.

1. Mike Zunino, c, Everett AquaSox
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 220  Drafted: Florida, 2012 (1st round).
Zunino enjoyed a stellar career at Florida, leading the Gators to three College World Series in three years and winning the Baseball America's College Player of the Year and the Golden Spikes awards in 2012. After signing for $4 million as the No. 3 overall pick in the draft, he hit better at Everett and in Double-A than he did as a junior.

Power is Zunino's lone plus tool, and everything else grades as solid except for his below-average speed. He has grown up around the game, as his father Greg has been a scout for more than 20 years, so it's no surprise that Mike has a high baseball IQ. He threw out 43 percent of NWL basestealers and calls a good game, though he can sharpen up his receiving, blocking and throwing mechanics.

"He has plus power to all fields," said Everett manager Rob Mummau, who's also Zunino's signing scout. "That's the one thing that really, really stands out. You watch him take batting practice and he can really backspin a ball with the best of 'em . . . The complement of all five tools and then his leadership capabilities and the fact that he plays a premium position, you just don't see that very often."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
110 29 41 10 0 10 35 18 26 1 0 .373 .474 .736

2. Dan Vogelbach, 1b, Boise Hawks
Age: 19  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 250  Drafted: Bishop Verot HS, Fort Myers, Fla., 2011 (2nd round).
Signed for $1.6 million as a 2011 second-round pick, Vogelbach batted .322/.410/.641 with 17 homers between the Rookie-level Arizona League and the NWL in his first full pro season. His power earned him that big bonus, but he also has pure hitting ability.

"He has a real feel to hit," Vancouver manager Clayton McCullough said. "He has a plan when he goes up there to hit. He has a very advanced approach. He's as good of a hitter as anybody in this league."

Vogelbach will need to continue to mash because he doesn't have much in the way of other skills. He's a baseclogger who lacks athleticism and will have to work hard to even be an adequate defender at first base.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
143 23 46 9 1 10 31 23 34 0 1 .322 .423 .608

3. Victor Sanchez, rhp, Everett AquaSox
Age: 17  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 255  Signed: Venezuela, '11
Sanchez showed why he ranked as the top pitcher on the international amateur market in 2011 and received a $2.5 million bonus. The youngest player in the league, he more than held his own and finishing second with 69 strikeouts

Sanchez's pitches off a 90-94 mph fastball and mixes in a hard slurve and a changeup that gets lefthanders out. Stout and muscular with very long arms and huge hands, he's physically maxed out and unlikely to gain more velocity. But if he repeats his delivery better and improves his control and secondary pitches, he'll profile as a mid-rotation starter.

"He's so beyond his years, it's unbelievable," Eugene manager Pat Murphy said. "He adds and subtracts, he locates. He could pitch at high-A right now, no doubt. He just dominates because he can really pitch, it's not just stuff."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 2 3.18 15 15 0 85 69 37 30 5 27 69 .213

4. Joe Ross, rhp, Eugene Emeralds
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185  Drafted: Bishop O'Dowd HS, Oakland, 2011 (1st round).
Signed for $2.75 million as the 25th overall pick a year ago, Ross got hit hard in low Class A to start his first full pro season and missed four weeks with shoulder inflammation before pitching well in the NWL. The younger brother of Athletics righthander Tyson Ross, Joe showed improved command and his slider was better than ever during his time in Eugene.

Ross has a live, athletic build. He can run his fastball up to 96 mph and now has the confidence to throw his slider in any count. He throws a good changeup in bullpen sessions, but it can be a little too firm at times and he doesn't trust it completely.

"It's a very easy, effortless delivery," Padres pitching coordinator Mike Cather said. "It's an easy 92-93 and if he wants to get angry, he can make the ball jump up 3-4 miles an hour and get good carry at the top of the zone. He has plus angle, he'll flash an average slider and he's got a very good feel for a changeup."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
0 2 2.03 8 8 0 27 16 6 6 1 9 28 .167

5. Tom Murphy, c, Tri-City Dust Devils
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 220  Drafted: Buffalo, 2012 (3rd round).
Murphy enjoyed a breakout 2011 summer in the New England Collegiate League and with Team USA, putting his name on scouting directors' must-see list. He followed up by hitting 13 homers as a junior, becoming the highest-drafted player to come out of Buffalo since 1983 and continuing to produce at Tri-City.

As with Zunino, Murphy's best tool is his plus power and he can do a little bit of everything. He has a good feel for hitting and runs well for a catcher. He has the hands and solid arm strength to be an asset behind the plate, though he threw out 21 just percent of NWL basestealers.

"He's a physical kid. He's well put together with natural strength," Rockies farm director Jeff Bridich said. "He looks like he has a chance to develop into an offensive catcher."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
212 26 61 13 3 6 38 14 52 1 1 .288 .349 .462

6. Marco Hernandez, ss, Boise Hawks
Age: 19  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170  Signed: Dominican Republic, '09
Hernandez beat out 2011 first-round pick Javier Baez for the starting shortstop job at low Class A Peoria to start this season, but the Midwest League proved to be too fast with him. He looked like a different player at Boise, where he made some offensive adjustments and regained his confidence.

"He really came on and was the most improved hitter on the team," Boise hitting coach Bill Buckner said. "Most of it was pitch selection. He finally realized that by getting good pitches to hit that he's a better hitter."

Hernandez still has room to improve in terms of plate discipline and pitch recognition, but he shows good bat control and eventually should have the strength to hit 15 homers annually. He has good athleticism and is a 65 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He has very good footwork at shortstop, with nice actions and average arm strength.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
269 39 77 12 4 5 38 10 36 8 3 .286 .310 .416

7. Jeimer Candelario, 3b, Boise Hawks
Age: 18  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180  Signed: Dominican Republic, '10
After Candelario tore up the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in his 2011 pro debut, the Cubs aggressively jumped him to Boise as an 18-year-old. The youngest regular in the NWL, he ranked fourth with 47 RBIs.

Candelario has a smooth, handsy swing from both sides of the plate and projects to be an above-average hitter with solid power. He shows good plate discipline and pitch recognition, and heuses the entire field. Most of his value lies in his bat, because he's a below-average runner and fringy defender (albeit with the requisite arm strength) at the hot corner.

"He's got the perfect body for third base," Buckner said. "He's got some power from both sides of the plate. Of course he's real young, but he's got a great attitude too. Nothing bothers him. I think he's going to be a 20-home run guy. He's just 18 years old and he's going to be big and strong."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
278 34 78 14 0 6 47 26 55 2 1 .281 .345 .396

8. C.J. Edwards, rhp, Spokane Indians
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 155  Drafted: Mid-Carolina HS, Prosperity, S.C., 2011 (48th round).
Texas' farm system already was loaded without 48th-rounders turning into legit prospects. Edwards lasted until the end of the 2011 draft because he didn't play in any high-profile showcases, but Chris Kemp had recruited him for Spartanburg Methodist (S.C.) JC before leaving to become a Rangers area scout. Edwards also ranked as the No. 8 prospect in the Arizona League, where he opened the summer with 20 scoreless innings.

Edwards has a long, lanky frame and has some looseness and athleticism to his delivery. His fastball sat at 90-95 mph in the NWL and hit 98 mph in the AZL, and it looks even faster with natural late life and deception. He throws an effective breaking ball and is gaining confidence in his changeup.

"He was the best pitcher we saw all year," Murphy said. "He's got something to him. The last five feet of his fastball, it's going up like a rocket ship. There's a lot of hop on it."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
2 3 2.11 10 10 0 47 26 13 11 0 19 60 .156

9. Gioskar Amaya, 2b, Boise Hawks
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175  Signed: Venezuela '09
Amaya showed off his best tool (his bat) by hitting .377 in the Arizona League last year, but he didn't hit a single home run. This summer he popped eight and also led the NWL with 12 triples, showing improved power with his short, quick swing. A sneaky above-average runner who profiles as a tablesetter, he needs to continue to improve his pitch recognition.

Amaya and Hernandez have been teammates for the past three seasons now. The two alternated in the middle of the diamond in the AZL, but Hernandez is the better defender and Amaya played exclusively at second base in 2012. His range and arm are just a bit subpar to play shortstop but work fine at second base.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
272 61 81 6 12 8 33 33 65 15 5 .298 .381 .496

10. Patrick Kivlehan, 3b, Everett AquaSox
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 210  Drafted: Rutgers, 2012 (4th round).
After playing defensive back on Rutgers' football team for four years, Kivlehan got the itch to play baseball again this spring for the first time since high school. He became the first Scarlet Knight honored as the Big East Conference player of the year since Todd Frazier in 2007, then encored by winning MVP honors in the NWL. He led the league in homers (12) and slugging (.511).

Kivlehan's above-average raw power comes with a catch, as he topped the league with 93 strikeouts. He has some length and stiffness to his rotational, upper-half swing, but most scouts believe he'll be able to make adjustments because of his athleticism and relative inexperience. When he does make contact, he has a knack for centering the ball.

A solid average runner, Kivlehan is just OK defensively at third base. His arm is fringy for the position and he may wind up moving to left field. He plays hard and shows natural leadership on and off the field.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
282 46 85 17 3 12 52 19 93 14 1 .301 .373 .511

11. Mac Williamson, of, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 240  Drafted: Wake Forest, 2012 (3rd round).
Williamson rated as the top prep pitching prospect in North Carolina in 2008, but he hurt his shoulder and never took the mound in college. He became a slugger instead, tying for the Atlantic Coast Conference lead with 17 homers in 2012 and continuing to display plus power after signing as a third-round pick.

Though he has a quiet setup, Williamson profiles as a below-average hitter because he has some stiffness and lacks natural rhythm at the plate. He also can be too passive at times, taking fastballs he should be crushing.

Despite his big, strong frame, Williamson moves well and shows some quick-twitch athleticism. A center fielder last spring at Wake Forest, he fits best in right field and played their exclusively as a pro. He has solid speed and arm strength, and he tracks balls well.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
114 22 39 8 0 7 25 6 19 0 0 .342 .392 .596

12. Rosell Herrera, ss/3b, Tri-City Dust Devils
Age: 19  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180  Signed: Dominican Republic '09
Signed for $550,000 in 2009, Herrera made his full-season debut at the beginning of this season but hit just .202 in low Class A. He looked more comfortable after arriving in Tri-City, flashing the potential to have several solid tools once he adds some polish.

A switch-hitter, Herrera is better swinging lefthanded and has gap power from that side. He has to tone his approach down to tap into the pop, as he has a big leg kick and recoil in his swing, which can get uphill. He has above-average speed, along with the smooth actions and arm strength for shortstop, though his consistency and focus leave something to be desired.

"He's an interesting kid," a National League scout said. "He's a ways away strength-wise, but I think he's a guy. I don't know if he'll be one for another three or four years, but I think he can stay at shortstop."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
194 30 55 6 2 1 30 14 34 7 3 .284 .332 .351

13. Jose Valdespina, rhp, Spokane Indians
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-6 Wt.: 220  Signed: Dominican Republic '11
Signed just before his 19th birthday for $27,500, Valdespina is a raw talent who's still relatively new to pitching. He has added velocity as his 6-foot-6 frame has filled out and gotten stronger, with his fastball now sitting at 92-97 mph. "When he's pitching with that down angle, he's almost unhittable," Spokane manager Tim Hulett said.

Valdespina's season got off to a rocky start, but two changes helped him finish on a strong note. He started pitching exclusively from the stretch because he tended to rush his delivery out of a windup. He also scrapped his curveball in favor of a slider that became a swing-and-miss weapon for him at the end of the summer.

Valdespina also throws a changeup that needs a lot of work. He throws more strikes working from the stretch, but he needs more consistency and control to make it as a starter. More likely, he'll wind up as a power reliever.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
3 6 5.58 15 15 0 60 67 40 37 3 34 54 .272

14. Dane Phillips, c, Eugene Emeralds
Age: 21  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195  Drafted: Oklahoma City, 2012 (2nd round).
Phillips bat got him drafted in the second round in June. He hit well in two years at Oklahoma State, finished second in the Cape Cod League batting race (.349) in 2011 and then batted .410/.506/.762 after transferring to NAIA power Oklahoma City last spring.

Though he struggled at the plate in his pro debut, Phillips strength and all-fields approach should serve him well. He'll need to smooth some things out in order to tap into his power, as he cheated on fastballs and didn't keep his barrel in the hitting zone for very long while in the NWL.

Defense is the bigger question with Phillips, however. He blocks well and has above-average arm strength, but he's a stiff receiver and must greatly improve his footwork and transfers. He allowed an NWL-high 48 swipes in 45 games while throwing out 26 percent of basestealers.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
234 33 53 17 0 4 30 38 53 4 2 .226 .327 .350

15. Stephen Bruno, inf, Boise Hawks
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 165  Drafted: Virginia, 2012 (7th round).
Despite his undersized build, Bruno always has produced at the plate. In his pro debut, he led the NWL in batting (.361), hits (91) and on-base percentage (.442).

Bruno uses a compact swing and stays behind the ball really well. A pure hitter who has no problem handling premium velocity, he provides more power to the gaps than over the fence. He's fearless and doesn't give an inch at the plate—as evidenced by his 20 hit by pitches, which ranked sixth in the minor leagues.

"He's amazing," Buckner said. "The guy hit the ball hard three times every game. He just never takes a bad swing."

A solid defender who fits best at second base, Bruno has enough arm strength and range to play almost anywhere on the diamond. He started games everywhere except pitcher, catcher and first base for the Hawks this summer. He has average speed but needs to get better jumps on the bases.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
252 51 91 19 3 3 37 18 47 2 7 .361 .442 .496

16. Trey Martin, of, Boise Hawks
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 188  Drafted: Brookwood HS, Snellville, Ga., 2011 (13th round).
It's easy to dream on Martin because he has a wiry, athletic build and loose, natural actions. He has plenty of room to continue filling out and add power. He has long arms that create natural leverage in his swing.

Martin has good hand-eye coordination, but his stroke gets too long at times and leaves him vulnerable to being tied up on fastballs inside. He's a well-above average runner, though he needs work on reading pitchers and improving his jumps on the bases. Even if he doesn't break out with the bat, he has major league defensive value and solid arm strength.

"He's a big league center fielder right now," Boise manager Mark Johnson said. "You could put him out there and he'd be better than some of the big leaguers right now. Everything he does, he just makes it look routine. He covers a lot of ground because his stride is so long. He just floats out there in the outfield and takes effortless routes."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
204 26 55 5 4 3 23 13 48 6 5 .270 .318 .377

17. Tayler Scott, rhp, Boise Hawks
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 165  Drafted: Notre Dame Prep, Scottsdale, Ariz., 2011 (5th round).
Scott's family moved to the United States from South Africa at the beginning of his high school career, so he's relatively inexperienced for a high school pitcher from a warm-weather state. That contributed to the Cubs' decision to keep him in short-season ball during his first full year as a pro.

While Scott has a solid three-pitch mix, he's still learning how to command it and miss bats. He creates groundouts with a 90-92 mph sinker, a tight 78-80 mph curveball and a decent changeup. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter with the chance to be better because he still has projection remaining in his thin frame.

A standout soccer player in high school Scott has outstanding athleticism that helps him repeat his clean delivery. He works quickly, fields his position well and controls the running game.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 1 2.52 15 15 0 71 66 30 20 0 29 43 .236

18. Jeremy Baltz, of, Eugene Emeralds
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195  Drafted: St. John's, 2012 (2nd round).
Baltz's bat will have to carry him and it may be up to the task. It propelled St. John's to its first-ever NCAA super-regional appearance last spring and him into the second round of the draft.

Baltz shows flashes of above-average raw power and controls the strike zone well. He generates his pop more with strength than bat speed, however, and he needs to incorporate his lower half more into his swing. At times he tries to do much, swinging out and around pitches instead of driving them.

With his fringy speed and below-average arm, Baltz is limited to left field or first base. NWL managers loved his passion for the game.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
263 44 74 16 2 5 43 33 43 12 2 .281 .375 .414

19. Ketel Marte, ss/2b, Everett AquaSox
Age: 18  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180  Signed: Dominican Republic '10
Marte's NWL statistics mean little because the Mariners were hyper-aggressive to place him in the NWL in his first year in the United States. They even gave him four starts in low Class A in May. The league's second-youngest player is still an intriguing prospect, even with a sub-.600 OPS.

Marte's most advanced tools right now are his speed and his slick defense. He can really pick it at shortstop and shows flashy actions, plus range and an average arm. He's an above-average runner with natural instincts on the bases.

A switch-hitter, Marte has a better swing from the left side of the plate. He's aggressive at the plate but shows good bat control and the ability to make consistent contact. He doesn't have much power and needs to get stronger, but even if he does he'll probably be a bottom-of-the-order hitter.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
251 36 62 4 2 0 22 12 35 14 4 .247 .281 .279

20. Taylor Cole, rhp, Vancouver Canadians
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180  Drafted: Brigham Young, 2011 (29th round).
It's easy to write off Cole and take his NWL dominance—he led the league in ERA (0.81), WHIP (0.80) and opponent average (.161)—with a grain of salt. After all, he's a 23-year-old drafted in the 29th round who was repeating the league. Dig a little deeper, though, and Cole he intriguing.

Cole was old for the NWL because he served a two-year Mormon mission in Toronto. If he can regain a little of the 94-96 mph velocity he flashed prior to the mission, he'll enhance his prospect status significantly. Even if he doesn't, he could return to Toronto as a No. 5 starter because of his feel for pitching.

Cole throws three average pitches: an 89-91 mph fastball, a tight slider and a changeup with good fade. He throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone. He didn't surrender a home run all summer and yielded just six extra-base hits in 66 innings.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 0 0.81 12 11 0 66 36 6 6 0 17 57 .153