League Top 20 Prospects

2012 South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports






See also: South Atlantic League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Bill Ballew
See also: Complete League Top 20 Prospects Schedule
FIVE YEARS AGO
*1. Desmond Jennings, of, Columbus (Rays)
*2. Hector Gomez, ss, Asheville (Rockies)
*3. Faulino de los Santos, rhp, Kannapolis (White Sox)
*4. Lars Anderson, 1b, Greenville (Red Sox)
*5. Chris Marrero, of, Hagerstown (Nationals)
*6. Jordan Schafer, of, Rome (Braves)
*7. Henry Sosa, rhp, Augusta (Giants)
*8. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Columbus (Rays)
9. Ryan Royster, of, Columbus (Rays)
*10. Chris Carter, 1b, Kannapolis (White Sox)
*11. Chris Coghlan, 2b, Greensboro (Marlins)
*12. John Raynor, of, Greensboro (Marlins)
*13. Adrian Cardenas, ss, Lakewood (Phillies)
*14. Tommy Hanson, rhp, Rome (Braves)
*15. Brandon Snyder, 1b, Delmarva (Orioles)
*16. Jared Goedert, 3b, Lake County (Indians)
17. Daniel Mayora, ss, Asheville (Rockies)
*18. Justin Maxwell, of, Hagerstown (Nationals)
*19. Josh Reddick, of, Greenville (Red Sox)
20. Billy Rowell, 3b, Delmarva (Orioles)
*Has played in major leagues.
ASHEVILLE, N.C.—The Dylan Bundy Tour began on Opening Day in the low Class A South Atlantic League and never hit a speed bump or pothole. In 30 innings with Delmarva, he allowed five hits, two walks and two unearned runs while striking out 40.
Bundy was the biggest story in the league this season but didn't stay long enough to qualify for this Top 20, paving the way for fellow 2011 high school first-rounder Jose Fernandez(^) to claim the No. 1 spot. Fernandez also ranked atop our high Class A Florida State League list, as did Bundy in the high Class A Carolina League. The SAL had a nice balance of hitters and pitchers, though seven of the next eight prospects after Fernandez were position players.
"There was a lot of talent in the league, the most I can remember in a long time," veteran Rome manager Randy Ingle said. "A lot of guys who played in the league are going to be in the big leagues."

1. Jose Fernandez, rhp, Greensboro (Marlins)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 215  Drafted: Alonso HS, Tampa, 2011 (1st round)
The 14th overall draft pick in 2011 was even better than advertised in his first full professional season. He won all seven of his decisions and didn't allow more than two earned runs in a game until the last of his 14 starts. Some SAL observers didn't care for his flair on the mound, exemplified by his orange cleats and glove, but they all agreed he was the best pitcher in the league among those who qualified.

Fernandez has advanced command of a power repertoire highlighted by two- and four-seam fastballs that range from 93-99 mph and maintain their velocity deep into games. His sharp curveball also can devastate hitters, and he shows the makings of an average changeup.

"He had a really good idea of how to pitch, especially for a young guy," Hagerstown manager Brian Daubach said. "He could throw all three pitches for strikes. As long as he's keeping his pitches down, he has a chance to move fast."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 0 1.59 14 14 0 79 51 16 14 2 18 99 .177

2. Trevor Story, ss/3b, Asheville (Rockies)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175  Drafted: Irving (Texas) HS, 2011 (1st round supp)
Story displayed advanced skills in all phases of the game, leading the SAL with 43 doubles and 67 extra-base hits while earning recognition from the managers as the league's best defensive shortstop. He also batted .310 with two homers in the playoffs to help Asheville win its first outright championship since 1984.

A solid hitter for average and power, Story has a mature approach and makes impressive adjustments at the plate, using the leverage in his swing to drive the ball to all fields. Some scouts think he has fringy actions and arm strength for shortstop, so he could wind up at third base, where he played 21 games for the Tourists. His instincts enhance his defensive tools and his solid speed on the bases.

"He has a powerful swing," Greenville manager Carlos Febles said. "He's very aggressive. The ball jumps off his bat and he makes some loud contact."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
477 96 132 43 6 18 63 60 121 15 3 .277 .367 .505

3. Gregory Polanco, of, West Virginia (Pirates)
Age: 20  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 170  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
West Virginia had a pair of players who had huge breakouts in the SAL. Both he and Alen Hanson ranked among the league's most dangerous hitters, with Polanco appearing first on this list because he has a better chance to play a premium defensive position.

Polanco batted .370/.438/.592 in the second half, abusing lefthanders and righthanders alike. He makes consistent hard contact, so he should produce for both average and power, though he can get pull happy at times. He might have been the best athlete in the league, with well above-average speed, plenty of center-field range and a strong arm.

"He can definitely stay in center," Febles said. "He runs very well and he's an outstanding athlete, especially for his size. He can move for a big guy. His swing gets a little long but he makes adjustments. We got him out by pounding him inside and the next day we tried to do it again and he took us deep. We then went away on him and he adjusted to that as well. You don't see that much at this level."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
437 84 142 26 6 16 85 44 64 40 15 .325 .388 .522

4. Tyler Austin, of, Charleston (Yankees)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Heritage HS, Conyers, Ga., 2010 (13th round)
Austin entered the season residing in the shadow of higher-touted Charleston teammates Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams and Dante Bichette Jr. He passed them all as a prospect while making a seamless transition to the outfield.

With a balanced approach, terrific hand-eye coordination and good strength, Austin makes hard contact with solid power to all fields. He's an average runner with uncanny instincts on the bases, and he went 17-for-19 stealing in the SAL. He exhibits average range and plus arm strength in right field after catching in high school and playing the infield corners last year.

"He plays hard," Febles said. "He has a great approach at the plate. He's a gamer. This is the kind of kid you want on your team. He has the ability and the desire, and that's a great combination."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
266 69 85 22 5 14 54 37 68 17 2 .320 .405 .598

5. Gary Sanchez, c, Charleston (Yankees)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 220  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
Ranked 14th on this list a year ago, when his offensive upside was obvious but his defense and work ethic were lackluster, Sanchez returned to Charleston for the first three months of this season. He continued to show prodigious power with 32 extra-base hits and 56 RBIs in 68 games. Though he struck out in one-fourth of his at-bats, he does an outstanding job of barreling balls and using the entire field.

"Quick swing, fast hands," Febles said. "You see the power he possesses and you say, 'You got to be kidding me.' "

Scouts continue to wonder if Sanchez, a well below-average athlete, can be more than a DH at higher levels. While he has a strong arm, as evidenced by him throwing out 31 percent of SAL basestealers, his movements behind the plate leave much to be desired. He had 12 errors and 10 passed balls in 53 games behind the plate, and still seems disinterested at times in working to improve.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
263 44 78 19 0 13 56 22 65 11 4 .297 .353 .517

6. Alen Hanson, ss, West Virginia (Pirates)
Age: 19  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 152  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
He isn't nearly as big as his teammate Polanco, but Hanson is just as deadly at the plate. An aggressive switch-hitter, he led the SAL in runs (99), triples (13) and total bases (258). He's developing solid power, going deep 16 times this year after hitting just four homers in his first two pro campaigns.

"He and Polanco are young and athletic and bring a lot of energy to the ballpark every day," Daubach said. "They opened my eyes right away. Hanson is stronger than you think he is just by looking at him. He moves well in everything he does. He brings a lot to a team."

Hanson also brings plus speed and basestealing prowess. The biggest question with him is his defense, as he made 40 errors in 103 games and has only average arm strength. He does have good middle-infield actions, so the worst-case scenario is that he'd move to second base, a position he has played in the past.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
489 99 151 33 13 16 62 55 105 35 19 .309 .381 .528

7. Kyle Crick, rhp, Augusta (Giants)
Age: 19  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220  Drafted: Sherman (Texas) HS, 2011 (1st round supp)
Crick didn't concentrate on pitching until his senior year in high school in 2011, so he's far from a finished product. He's still learning how to harness his fastball, though at 94-99 mph it's hard for hitters to handle as well.

Scouts like the fact that Crick throws his offspeed pitches for strikes even when he struggles with his control of his fastball. He has an effective slider, though he's working to make it sharper and less sweepy. He also has made strides with his changeup and trusts it more than ever.

"He's got a bright future ahead of him," Augusta manager Lipso Nava said. "He is blessed with a great arm. He's raw, but we accomplished what we wanted for him this season. He got better for the next level. He's got a great head on his shoulders, and he will accomplish his goals pretty soon."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 6 2.51 23 22 0 111 75 39 31 1 67 128 .183

8. Brian Goodwin, of, Hagerstown (Nationals)
Age: 21  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 195  Drafted: Miami Dade JC, 2011 (1st round supp)
A hamstring injury that knocked him out for five weeks was the only thing that stopped Goodwin in the SAL. Before he skipped a level to Double-A in mid-July, he showed jaw-dropping athleticism and all five tools.

His plus power potential and speed make Goodwin at least a 20-20 candidate once he reaches the majors, though he's still learning how to read pitchers. His short stroke and disciplined approach should allow him to hit for a high average as well. Defensively, he's a quality center fielder with solid arm strength.

"He's made huge strides," Daubach said. "From last instructional league to now, he's made more progress than anyone in our organization. The tools have always been there. His demeanor also doesn't change. It's odd for a young player to be that mature as far as going about his business on a daily basis."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
216 47 70 18 1 9 38 43 39 15 4 .324 .438 .542

9. Mason Williams, of, Charleston (Yankees)
Age: 20  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 150  Drafted: West Orange HS, Winter Garden, Fla., 2010 (4th round) 
Rated the No. 1 prospect in the short-season New York-Penn League last year, Williams needed just three months in the SAL before earning a promotion to high Class A. His plus-plus speed and center-field defense are his loudest tools, and he also offers a quick bat and average power. His arm grades as average as well.

Williams lost some of his appeal to league managers and scouts alike because of questions regarding his makeup. He reportedly caused a few headaches for the Charleston staff and turned off observers with the way he carried himself on the field. "He's got tools but needs to be humbled," a National League scout said.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
276 55 84 19 4 8 28 21 33 19 9 .304 .359 .489

10. Alex Meyer, rhp, Hagerstown (Nationals)
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-9 Wt.: 220  Drafted: Kentucky, 2011 (1st round)
Meyer battled inconsistency but also dominated at times in his pro debut. He lowered his ERA in each of his three months in the SAL, then worked in the Futures Game and performed even better following a promotion to high Class A.

"He's a great kid who's fun to be around every day," Daubach said. "He came here realizing there were some things he needed to work on and we started to see some results. He worked on his mechanics a lot and he really came a long way. With his size and ability, he's tough to hit."

At 6-foot-9, Meyer has a lot of moving parts, which makes maintaining his mechanics a challenge. When he's in sync and maintains a consistent release point, he works downhill with a 93-97 mph fastball and a wipeout slider in the mid-80s. He also shows some feel for a changeup that could become an average third pitch.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 4 3.10 18 18 0 90 68 33 31 4 34 107 .201

11. Mike Foltynewicz, rhp, Lexington (Astros)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Minooka (Ill.) Community HS, 2010 (1st round)
A classic raw Midwestern high school pitcher, Foltynewicz had spent all of 2011 at Lexington, and showed he wasn't ready to thrive in full-season ball. The Astros kept him with the Legends for a second full season, and he led the SAL with 14 victories while being named the league's pitcher of the year.

Foltynewicz showed more maturity and confidence in his second year in Lexington. He did a better job of maintaining the velocity on his 93-98 mph fastball and working both sides of the plate. He also made strides with his curveball and changeup, which remain inconsistent but show promise. His change is ahead of his curveball.

"He made a lot of progress this season compared to last year," Hickory manager Bill Richardson said. "Sometimes wins and losses don't mean a whole lot, especially at this level, but he earned his numbers. You could see him really refine his ability to pitch."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
14 4 3.14 27 27 0 152 145 65 53 11 62 125 .241

12. Delino DeShields Jr., 2b, Lexington (Astros)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 5-9 Wt.: 210  Drafted: Woodward Academy, College Park, Ga., 2010 (1st round)
Like Foltynewicz, DeShields opened 2012 back at Lexington after experiencing significant growing pains there in his first full pro season. He boosted his numbers from .220/.305/.322 in 2011 to .298/.401/.439 this year before earning a promotion to high Class A in August. Between the two stops, he stole 101 bases in 120 attempts.

Managers rated DeShields the fastest and best baserunner in the SAL. He has plus-plus speed, a quick first step and the ability to read pitchers. Some skippers thought he was too greedy stealing bases, going at any time regardless of the game situation.

DeShields possesses good bat speed yet struggles at times to make consistent contact. He has some gap power but gets too pull-conscious at times, though his overall plate discipline has improved. He has fringy hands and arm strength, so he eventually may move from second base to center field.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
440 96 131 22 5 10 52 70 108 83 14 .298 .401 .439

13. Michael Fulmer, rhp, Savannah (Mets)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Deer Creek HS, Edmond, Okla., 2011 (1st round supp)
Overshadowed by Bundy and Archie Bradley in an outstanding 2011 Oklahoma high school class, Fulmer went 44th overall in that draft and showed why this year. He exceeded expectations by pitching his way onto the Savannah roster during spring training, then got better as the season went on, posting a 1.95 ERA in his final 11 starts.

"He improved in every phase of the game this year," Savannah manager Luis Rojas said. "His command got better, his secondary pitches got better and his sequences got better. He's a smart kid with tools."

Fulmer's fastball sits in the mid-90s, reaches 97 mph and has nice tailing action through the strike zone. His hard slider gives him a second potential plus pitch and he's working on a changeup after not needing one in high school. He does a good job of throwing strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 6 2.74 21 21 0 108 92 37 33 6 38 101 .221

14. Adam Conley, lhp, Greensboro (Marlins)
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185  Drafted: Washington State, 2011 (2nd round)
A closer in college before moving to the rotation in his final season at Washington State, Conley took the ball every fifth day in his first full pro campaign. He showed an advanced feel for pitching in the SAL, combining with Fernandez to give Greensboro the league's best 1-2 punch before they moved up to high Class A.

Conley mixes two- and four-seam fastballs, ranging from 91-95 mph and inducing groundouts. His solid changeup is his best secondary pitch, while his breaking ball gets caught in between a curve and a slider. He needs to add strength to his lanky frame after tiring late in the year.

"We only saw him once but he was lights out against us," Richardson said. "He has excellent command of all his pitches. He throws harder than you think, and he can run the four-seamer up there from the left side. There were a few at-bats against us where our guys were walking back to the dugout saying, 'Wow.' "
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 3 2.78 14 14 0 74 58 30 23 4 24 84 .206

15. Garin Cecchini, 3b, Greenville (Red Sox)
Age: 21  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Barbe HS, Lake Charles, La., 2010 (4th round)
Cecchini's first two pro seasons were cut short by a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee (2010) and a broken right wrist (2011), but he finally stayed healthy this year. He responded by ranking third in the league in doubles (38) and steals (51), fourth in runs (84) and 10th in hitting (.305).

Cecchini controls the strike zone and consistently barrels balls with power to the gaps. He has solid speed and his outstanding instincts make him a basestealing threat. He's still learning third base after playing shortstop in high school, but he has the agility, hands and arm—manager rated his the strongest among SAL infielders—to stay there for the long haul.

"This guy's a better runner than I thought he was," a scout with an American League club said. "It's a 55 or 60 runner with very good instincts. He's solid at third base. He doesn't have profile power yet, but I think he will grow into his power. I like the swing."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
455 84 139 38 4 4 62 61 90 51 6 .305 .394 .433

16. Maikel Franco, 3b, Lakewood (Phillies)
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2010
Overmatched against SAL pitching when called up to Lakewood last August, Franco continued to struggle in the first half of his year before batting .346/.395/.530 after the all-star break. He led the Blue Claws in homers and tied for fourth in the league in RBIs.

An aggressive hitter, Franco has above-average raw power. But instead of letting it come naturally, he'll lengthen his swing and shoot for the fences more than he should. Though he's a below-average runner, he moves well laterally at third base and exhibits good hands and a strong arm.

"He reminds me a lot of Adrian Beltre," Nava said. "His bat with more work is going to be very good. On defense, he has a plus arm, his hands are pretty soft and he is going to get better. You look at the whole package and there is a lot to like with him."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
503 70 141 32 3 14 84 38 80 3 1 .280 .336 .439

17. Blake Swihart, c, Greenville (Red Sox)
Age: 20  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175  Drafted: Cleveland HS, Rio Rancho, N.M., 2011 (1st round)
Signed late last summer for $2.5 million, Swihart had a rude introduction to pro ball when he hit just .198 in the first six weeks of this season at Greenville. The switch-hitter adjusted well and batted .275/.312/.419 in the second half, showing a package of tools that draws comparisons to a young Buster Posey.

If Swihart continues to develop and adds discipline at the plate, he could be a plus hitter with average home run power. More athletic than most catchers, he displayed smooth catch-and-throw skills and did an excellent job of blocking balls in the dirt in his first full season behind the plate. He threw out 31 percent of basestealers.

"He's a little inconsistent with his swing because he's very aggressive and he'll chase some pitches out of the zone, especially early in the count," Febles said. "He needs to work on being more patient and more selective at the plate. He started off the season horrible but he kept playing and learned from his mistakes."
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
344 44 90 17 4 7 53 26 68 6 2 .262 .307 .395

18. Domingo Tapia, rhp, Savannah (Mets)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 186  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009
Tapia had as much pure arm strength as anyone in the league. He repeatedly throws his fastball at 95-98 mph, working both sides of the plate and occasionally featuring good sink.

Tapia worked diligently to improve the quality of his curveball and changeup, having more success with the latter. He throws strikes but is extremely slow to the plate, allowing SAL basestealers to succeed in 15 of 17 attempts. Some scouts believe he'll wind up in the bullpen, possibly as a closer in the mold of Armando Benitez.

"He's been up to 99 with some sink," Rojas said. "He has a big league arm. He's developing his changeup, and he improved it to the point that he has two plus pitches now. As he gains strength and experience, he's going to have a bright future."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 5 3.98 20 19 0 109 92 55 48 2 32 101 .220

19. Matt Skole, 3b, Hagerstown (Nationals)
Age: 22  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 230  Drafted: Georgia Tech, 2011 (5th round)
The league MVP, Skole led the SAL in homers (27), walks (94), on-base percentage (.438) and slugging (.574) and ranked second in RBis (92) despite being promoted in mid-August. Managers tabbed him as having the best strike-zone judgment in the league after watching him use his disciplined approach to pound pitchers with consistency.

"To put up numbers like that at any level is impressive," Daubach said. "He's learned to pull the ball correctly. He's not hooking the ball the way he used to and that's why his home run total went up so much. He's always had a lot of power, and he had a lot of doubles last year in short-season ball."

While Skole was old for the league, his strength and bat speed give him legitimate power. Almost all of his value is tied up in his bat, however, as he's a well below-average runner and subpar defender at third base. He does have arm strength, but his lack range limits him to making routine plays at best.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
343 73 98 18 0 27 92 94 116 10 0 .286 .438 .574

20. Rougned Odor, 2b/ss, Hickory (Rangers)
Age: 18  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170  Signed: Venezuela, 2011
Hickory had the youngest roster and one of the deepest in terms of prospects. Managers and scouts liked Odor the most among a Crawdads contingent that also included catcher Jorge Alfaro, righthander Luke Jackson and shortstop Luis Sardinas. The youngest regular in the league, Odor displayed impressive maturity and natural strength.

"Rougned is a freak because he's a kid who goes 100 percent every single play," Richardson said. "His numbers have been hurt by that a little bit, but the effort he puts forth is amazing. He has a lot of upside, a lot of heart and a great set of tools. He has the whole package."

One scout called the undersized Odor a more physical version of Jose Altuve. Odor handles the bat well while offering surprising pop and solid speed. With smooth actions and a strong arm, he's a sound defender at second base and can get the job done at shortstop when needed.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
432 60 112 23 4 10 47 25 65 19 10 .259 .313 .400