League Top 20 Prospects

2012 Midwest League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports




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FIVE YEARS AGO
*1. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
*2. Travis Snider, of, Lansing (Blue Jays)
*3. Brett Anderson, lhp, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
*4. Gorkys Hernandez, of, West Michigan (Tigers)
*5. Hank Conger, c, Cedar Rapids (Angels)
*6. Carlos Triunfel, ss, Wisconsin (Mariners)
*7. Jose Ceda, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)
*8. Gerardo Parra, of, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
*9. Josh Bell, 3b, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
*10. Drew Stubbs, of, Dayton (Reds)
11. Tyler Herron, rhp, Quad Cities (Cardinals)
12. Omar Poveda, rhp, Clinton (Rangers)
*13. Jeff Manship, rhp, Beloit (Twins)
14. John Whittleman, 3b, Clinton (Rangers)
*15. Juan Francisco, 3b, Dayton (Reds)
16. Drew Miller, rhp, Fort Wayne (Padres)
17. Kasey Kiker, lhp, Clinton (Rangers)
*18. Sean O'Sullivan, rhp, Cedar Rapids (Angels)
*19. Trevor Cahill, rhp, Kane County (Athletics)
*20. Tyler Robertson, lhp, Beloit (Twins)
* Has played in big leagues
The low Class A Midwest League boasted one of the minors' deepest pools of talent in 2012, and not just because it's one of the two circuits with 16 teams.

The MWL featured elite sluggers in Peoria shortstop Javier Baez and Beloit third baseman Miguel Sano and future Gold Glovers at up-the-middle positions in Lake County shortstop Francisco Lindor and Fort Wayne catcher Austin Hedges. South Bend righthander Archie Bradley had the most upside on the mound, while Lansing's Noah Syndegaard, Aaron Sanchez and Justin Nicolino were the league's most talked-about pitching trio in years. Even the group of players who made cameos and didn't qualify for this list was outstanding: Kane County righthander Kyle Zimmer, Burlington shortstop Addison Russell and Peoria outfielder Jorge Soler.

Wisconsin captured the championship with the oldest roster in the league and nary a prospect who received strong consideration for this list. The Timber Rattlers won the finals in four games over Fort Wayne, which led all clubs with five prospects among the Top 20.

1. Javier Baez, ss, Peoria (Cubs)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 205  Drafted: Arlington Country Day HS, Jacksonville, Fla., 2011 (1st round)
Baez spent barely two months at Peoria, yet that was long enough for managers to tap him as the MWL's most exciting player. His elite bat speed draws comparisons to Gary Sheffield's, giving him the potential to be a well above-average hitter for average and power. A National League scout called Baez' batting practice the highlight of his summer.

Baez is incredibly aggressive at the plate, taking a huge hack at everything, but he also has a knack of imparting tremendous topspin when he mishits the ball. He plays much more under control in other areas of the game, exhibiting average speed and good instincts on the bases. His actions and range at shortstop were a pleasant surprise, and his arm never has been questioned, but he may outgrow the position and move to third base once he fills out.

"Instinctually, he's about as good a baseball player as I've ever seen," an American League scout said. "He makes the right decision and knows what's going on. That bat has a chance to be really good and I think he'll be able to play shortstop unless his body becomes an issue."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
213 41 71 10 5 12 33 9 48 20 3 .333 .383 .596

2. Miguel Sano, 3b, Beloit (Twins)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
"Pelotero," a movie documenting Sano's signing for $3.15 million, drew critical acclaim when it came out in July. By that time, he long ago had received two thumbs up in the MWL. He homered three times in his first four games and went on to top the league in homers (28), RBIs (100), extra-base hits (60), total bases (238) and rank second in walks (80).

Capable of driving the ball out of any part of any ballpark, Sano has 80 power on the 20-80 scouting scale and a selective approach that should allow him to hit for average as well. Already huge as a teenager, he moves well for his size and has a cannon arm. His hands and instincts are nothing special at third base and he made 42 errors in 125 games, so he may wind up in right field, where he'd have the upside of a Giancarlo Stanton.

"I like him better than all the power guys who have come through the Midwest League," the AL scout said. "He's not as good a hitter as Carlos Gonzalez or Justin Morneau was, but he's every bit as good a prospect as they were. He's much more athletic than I thought."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
457 75 118 28 4 28 100 80 144 8 3 .258 .373 .521

3. Francisco Lindor, ss, Lake County (Indians)
Age: 18  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 175  Drafted: Montverde (Fla.) Academy, 2011 (1st round)
The youngest regular in the MWL, Lindor also was clearly its best defensive shortstop. He has tremendous instincts, enhancing his range to both sides, and the strong, accurate arm to make all the plays. His hands work well and he made just 18 errors in 120 games, an exceptionally low total for an 18-year-old.

"He has unbelievable skills," said Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin, a big league shortstop for 16 seasons. "It's so impressive how he approaches the game. He plays like he's been in the big leagues for 20 years. He knows how to position himself and he's always in the right spot. It's fun to watch him. He can play in Double-A right now."

Lindor has the tools to contribute offensively, though he'll need to get stronger after wearing down following a .285/.369/.410 first half. He's a switch-hitter who controls the strike zone and has gap power from both sides of the plate. A solid runner, he can steal a few bases.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
490 83 126 24 3 6 42 61 78 27 12 .257 .352 .355

4. Archie Bradley, rhp, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 225  Drafted: Broken Arrow (Okla.) HS, 2011 (1st round)
If the Diamondbacks hadn't paid Bradley $5 million, he'd have spent this fall understudying as a quarterback at the University of Oklahoma. His athleticism and arm strength were apparent in the MWL, as was the fact that he hadn't devoted all his energy to baseball in the past. He led the league in opponent average (.181) as well as walks (84).

Bradley's lively fastball sits at 93-94 mph and ranges from 91-96, though his command of it is erratic because his high leg kick can throw his delivery off balance. When he locates his heater to both sides of the plate, his sharp 12-to-6 curveball racks up strikeouts. He'll also flash an average changeup with sink and a tough 10 mph differential from his fastball.

"The only other guy I've given that high a grade to in that league is Jarrod Parker," the NL scout said. "Stuff-wise, in that league at the same age, they're on par. I know he had a lot of walks, but his misses were three inches below the knees. I like his athleticism and how he creates really good angle with his fastball."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
12 6 3.84 27 27 0 136 87 64 58 6 84 152 .176

5. Noah Syndergaard, rhp, Lansing (Blue Jays)
Age: 19  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Legacy HS, Mansfield, Texas, 2010 (1st round supp)
While Sanchez has the best pure stuff and Nicolino has the most polish among Lansing's pitching standouts, Syndergaard offers the best combination of both. After the Blue Jays stopped easing them into full-season ball by piggybacking their starts, Syndergaard was far and away the most dominant in the second half, going 5-3, 1.65 with 65 strikeouts in 60 innings.

He has a fastball that ranges from 92-98 mph and throws it with sink and cut on a steep downhill plane to both sides of the plate. He gets outs with his downer curveball, though it's a little soft and inconsistent, and he sells his changeup well. He has good body control for a tall pitcher, and a second AL scout said Syndergaard reminded him of Adam Wainwright with perhaps a better changeup.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8 5 2.60 27 19 1 104 81 41 30 3 31 122 .207

6. Aaron Sanchez, rhp, Lansing (Blue Jays)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 190  Drafted: Barstow (Calif.) HS, 2010 (1st round supp)
The only MWL pitcher with raw stuff to match Bradley's, Sanchez still is figuring out how to harness it. He owns a pair of plus pitches in his 93-98 mph fastball and his tight 12-to-6 curveball, and his arm speed and sink on his changeup give it a chance to become an average offering.

"With his easy delivery and arm action, it looks like the kid is playing catch on the mound," a third AL scout said. "The first pitch I saw was 97 and there was no effort at all to what he was doing."

While Sanchez got low Class A hitters to chase a lot of pitches out of the zone, he'll need to improve his command at higher levels. He's very athletic and projectable, though he could use more deception in his delivery.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8 5 2.49 25 18 0 90 64 33 25 3 51 97 .191

7. Austin Hedges, c, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190  Drafted: JSerra HS, San Juan Capistrano, Calif., 2011 (2nd round)
Hedges earned a $3 million bonus in the second round of the 2011 draft because scouts thought he was the best defensive high school catcher in years. He lived up to that reputation in the MWL, consistently delivering accurate throws with 1.85-second pop times while erasing out 32 percent of basestealers. He has soft hands and receives and blocks well, and his only defensive shortcoming is that he sometimes rushes his throws.

"He's as good a young defensive catcher as I've seen," a fourth AL scout said. "He's not Joe Mauer all-around, but he can really catch and throw. You just don't see young catchers throw like this."

Though he may not be Mauer in the batter's box, Hedges will provide some offense. He doesn't chase pitches and hits to all fields with a compact swing that promises average or better power. He's a below-average runner but is aggressive on the bases and plays with high energy.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
337 44 94 28 0 10 56 23 62 14 9 .279 .334 .451

8. Kaleb Cowart, 3b, Cedar Rapids (Angels)
Age: 20  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195  Drafted: Cook HS, Adel, Ga., 2010 (1st round)
Though many teams preferred him on the mound when the Angels drafted him 18th overall in 2010, Cowart ended any talk of him pitching by making major strides in his introduction to full-season ball this year. He batted .276/.358/452 with 103 RBIs between two Class A stops and looked like a future all-star with all-around skills at third base.

Cowart is growing more comfortable with switch-hitting, showing power to all fields from both sides of the plate. He's also getting more disciplined, as evidenced by his 45 walks in 69 games in high Class A. A grinder who gets the most out of his fringy speed, he plays a solid third base with a quick first step and a strong arm.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
263 42 77 16 3 9 54 22 44 9 4 .293 .348 .479

9. Matt Wisler, rhp, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 175  Drafted: Bryan (Ohio) HS, 2011 (7th round)
Wisler spent most of his high school senior season throwing high-80s fastballs and mediocre breaking balls, which dropped him to the seventh round of the 2011 draft. The Padres signed him for $500,000 and were rewarded with the most pleasant surprise in the MWL, as he topped out at 96 mph and had one of the best curveballs in the league.

"He has maturity and mound presence beyond his years," the NL scout said. "He doesn't get rattled when he gets into jams, and he pitches his way out of it. Not to mention, he has three legitimate pitches and he mixes them all."

Wisler usually works at 91-93 mph with hard sink on his fastball and throws his curve for strikes in any count. He also can keep lefthanders at bay with his changeup. Some scouts have minor quibbles with his delivery, but he fills the bottom of the strike zone and had the best home run rate in the league (1 in 114 innings).
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 4 2.53 24 23 0 114 95 39 32 1 28 113 .217

10. A.J. Cole, rhp, Burlington (Athletics)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 180  Drafted: Oviedo (Fla.) HS, 2010 (4th round/Nationals)
He has the most upside of the four players the Athletics acquired in Gio Gonzalez trade last December, but Cole looked terrible when he began 2012 by going 0-7, 7.82 in eight high Class A starts. After he surrendered 12 hits in his MWL debut, he recovered and looked like the pitcher Oakland hoped it was getting.

Cole sits at 93-95 mph and ranges from 90-97 with his fastball, which features some cutting life. He's aggressive with his heater but still refining a slurvy slider learning to trust a changeup with the potential to be an average pitch. He's a bit of a slinger from a low three-quarters arm slot, which costs him some command and deception.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 3 2.07 19 19 0 96 78 32 22 7 19 102 .214

11. Justin Nicolino, lhp, Lansing (Blue Jays)
Age: 20  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 160  Drafted: University HS, Orlando, 2010 (2nd round)
His stuff takes a back seat to that of his teammates Sanchez and Syndergaard, but it was Nicolino who led the MWL in ERA (2.46) and WHIP (1.07). He stood out as easily the best lefty in the league, consistently repeating his delivery and filling the strike zone with three pitches.

Nicolino's 89-92 mph fastball plays up because he can spot it on both sides of the plate and isn't afraid to challenge righthanders inside. His plus changeup rated as the MWL's best, and his curveball gives him a solid third offering. He throws across his body somewhat, though that didn't hamper his command.

"He knows how to get people out," Valentin said. "He works both sides of the plate with his breaking ball and he can come inside to righthanders. You never know what's coming because he can throw all three pitches in any count for a strike. You don't see too many lefthanders with that command."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
10 4 2.46 28 22 0 124 112 41 34 6 21 119 .231

12. Eddie Rosario, 2b/of, Beloit (Twins)
Age: 20  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170  Drafted: Rafael Lopez Landron HS, Guayama, P.R., 2010 (4th round)
Rosario sustained one of the scariest injuries in the MWL this year, getting smoked in the face by a line drive during batting practice on June 12. He had surgery to insert a plate above his lip and missed seven weeks. He showed no ill effects when he returned, batting .301/.316/.516.

Rosario has nice feel for hitting, especially for a youngster. He has strong hands and a quick bat, works counts, uses the whole field and catches up to quality fastballs. Though he topped the Rookie-level Appalachian League with 21 homers in 2011, he holds his hands low and has a relatively flat swing, so he may top out around 15 homers annually in the majors.

A full-time center fielder a year ago, Rosario saw most of his action at second base in 2012. While he worked diligently on his defense, scouts don't think his hands, range or throwing are good enough for second base. His average speed may not bode well for a long-term fit in center field either.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
392 60 116 32 4 12 70 31 69 11 11 .296 .345 .490

13. Jorge Bonifacio, of, Kane County (Royals)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 192  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009.
Bonifiacio couldn't be more of a different player than his older brother. While Emilio has carved out a niche in the majors as a light-hitting, speedy utilityman, Jorge profiles as an everyday right fielder whose bat will carry him. He batted .314/.369/.469 in the first half, then slumped before missing the final month with a right wrist injury.

An aggressive hitter who swings early in the count, Bonifacio focuses on using the opposite field. His quick wrists give him bat speed, and he likes to stay inside the ball. There's some violence and length to his swing, but he still controls the barrel well and could have plus power down the road.

Presently an average runner, Bonifacio figures to lose a step as he gets older and fills out. He gets the job done in right field and has plus arm strength.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
412 54 116 20 6 10 61 30 84 6 3 .282 .336 .432

14. Tyrell Jenkins, rhp, Quad Cities (Cardinals)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 192  Drafted: Henderson (Texas) HS, 2010 (1st round supp)
An outstanding athlete who had a football scholarship from Baylor, Jenkins has made slow progress since committing to baseball full-time. He spent his first two years as a pro in Rookie ball, then never got untracked at Quad Cities in his introduction to full-season competition. He missed most of June with shoulder soreness and the final two weeks with a strained lat muscle, and he was inconsistent when he took the mound.

Jenkins still has a lean body, loose arm and a 93-96 mph fastball that he maintains in deep into games. He's still trying to figure everything else out. He has some depth on his curveball, mainly because he has a straight-over-the-top delivery that scouts don't care for, but his breaking ball lacks power at times.

Jenkins shows some feel for a changeup that has a chance to become a solid pitch. He needs to improve both his control and command, as he falls behind in the count and gives up more walks and gets hit harder than he should.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
4 4 5.14 19 19 0 82 84 53 47 5 36 80 .254

15. Drew Vettleson, of, Bowling Green (Rays)
Age: 20  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185  Drafted: Central Kitsap HS, Silverdale, Wash., 2010 (1st round supp)
Bowling Green had the second-youngest and most prospect-laden lineup in the league, with Vettleson standing out the most among the Hot Rods. He's still refining his game, but all the tools are there for him to become an everyday right fielder in the majors.

Vettleson has a good setup at the plate, with a short stroke and an all-fields approach. He shows an aptitude for handling good fastballs and for hitting behind in the count. He projects to have solid power, but he can get a little home run conscious and lengthen his swing at times

Vettleson enhances his average speed with good instincts on the bases, though he needs to improve his basestealing jumps. He also can do a better job with the routes he takes in right field. His strong arm fits well at the position.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
505 80 139 24 5 15 69 51 117 20 11 .275 .340 .432

16. Kyle Smith, rhp, Kane County (Royals)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 170  Drafted: Santaluces HS, Lantana, Fla., 2011 (4th round)
Smith signed late last summer for $695,000—the biggest bonus in the fourth round a year ago—so the Royals planned on having him make pro debut in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. When he fanned 11 over five innings in his first start there, they immediately promoted him to Kane County and he responded with six no-hit innings in his initial outing. He earned pitcher-of-the-week honors in both leagues simultaneously.

While he lacks size, Smith is athletic and his quick arm works well, generating fastballs that sit at 88-91 mph and top out at 93. His plus curveball is his best pitch and he also has an average changeup. His ability to repeat his delivery results in advanced control and command for his age.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
4 3 2.94 13 13 0 67 62 26 22 3 20 87 .235

17. Travis Jankowski, of, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 21  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190  Drafted: Stony Brook, 2012 (1st round supp)
Jankowski fueled Stony Brook's storybook run to the College World Series by batting .414 and leading NCAA Division I with 79 runs, 110 hits and 11 triples. A bit worn down when he first arrived in Fort Wayne, he caught a second wind in August and hit safely in his final 23 games (including the playoffs) before he broke a rib when hit by a pitch.

Jankowski fits the profile of the prototypical leadoff hitter and center fielder. There isn't much power in his handsy swing, so he concentrates on making line-drive contact to all fields. He controls the strike zone and the barrel of the bat, working to get on base so he can unleash speed that grades as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

His wheels make Jankowski an asset in center field as well. He tends to play deeper than he needs to, allowing runners to take advantage of his fringy arm strength.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
238 32 67 10 4 1 23 13 44 17 7 .282 .318 .370

18. Adys Portillo, rhp, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185  Signed: Venezuela, 2008
Portillo ability to reach 93 mph as a 16-year-old earned him a $2 million bonus in 2008, but he delivered little but velocity in his first three years as a pro. He went a combined 6-26, 5.83 and posted a 7.11 ERA at Fort Wayne in 2011. He finally started making some progress while continuing to dazzle radar guns this year, meriting a promotion to Double-A in late July.

Portillo threw 95-98 mph while winning the MWL all-star game and usually operates from 93-99 with a heavy fastball that hitters struggle to square up. He'll throw some plus curveballs, though at times his breaking ball is just a get-me-over pitch without much power. His changeup is even more inconsistent.

Though he made some strides in 2012, Portillo remains more pitcher than thrower and got pounded in Double-A. While he cut his MWL walk rate from 6.0 a year ago to 4.4, his control are command are still below average, in part because his delivery and arm action aren't particularly clean. He has the ultimate ceiling of a No. 1 starter but many scouts believe he has too many obstacles to overcome to get there and will wind up as a late-inning reliever.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 6 1.87 18 18 0 92 54 30 19 3 45 81 .164

19. Jace Peterson, ss, Fort Wayne (Padres)
Age: 22  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 200  Drafted: McNeese State, 2011 (1st round supp)
For a guy who juggled baseball and football until the Padres made him a supplemental first-round pick in 2011, Peterson has extraordinary instincts. He may not have a true plus tool, but the former McNeese State cornerback extracts the most out of his ability and contributes in every facet of the game.

Peterson can bat first or second in a lineup because he makes consistent contact to all fields and draws plenty of walks. Despite just average speed, he's a threat to steal (second in the MWL with 51 swipes) thanks to his savvy and jumps. His only offensive drawback is his modest gap power.

At shortstop, Peterson's first step, range and arm are just average. Yet he finds a way to make plays and scouts lean toward him being able to play regularly at shortstop rather than having to shift to second base or become a utilityman.

"His tools are average but his instincts are great," a second NL scout said. "He makes plays look easy. He's not a plus runner on the stopwatch but he steals bases. He does a lot well. He's not sexy but he's good."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
444 78 127 23 9 2 48 62 63 51 13 .286 .378 .392

20. Stephen Piscotty, 3b, Quad Cities (Cardinals)
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 210  Drafted: Stanford, 2012 (1st round supp)
Like Jankowski, Piscotty went from the supplemental first round of the 2012 draft to our MWL Top 20. He stepped right into the No. 3 spot in the Quad Cities lineup and showed the hitting ability that earned him a $1,430,400 bonus. He works counts and never gives in to pitchers, wearing them out with line drives from gap to gap.

"The kid was unbelievable," Burlington manager Aaron Nieckula said. "He already has a big league approach. He'd just spit on offspeed pitches and wouldn't swing at anything out of the zone. He's very disciplined and works himself into hitter's counts."

No one doubts Piscotty's ability to hit, but the two concerns that knocked him out of the first round continued to linger after his pro debut. He's more of a doubles threat than the home run source teams want in a third baseman. And while he has a strong arm, he's an erratic defender (22 errors in 36 games) who lacks soft hands, range and quickness.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
210 29 62 18 1 4 27 18 25 3 0 .295 .376 .448