League Top 20 Prospects

2012 Southern League Top 20 Prospects With Scouting Reports






See also: Southern League Top 20 Prospects Chat With Teddy Cahill
See also: Complete League Top 20 Schedule
FIVE YEARS AGO
*1. Justin Upton, of, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
*2. Evan Longoria, 3b, Montgomery (Rays)
*3. Wade Davis, rhp, Montgomery (Rays)
*4. Johnny Cueto, rhp, Chattanooga (Reds)
*5. Brandon Jones, of, Mississippi (Braves)
*6. Reid Brignac, ss, Montgomery (Rays)
*7. Tyler Colvin, of, Tennessee (Cubs)
*8. Manny Parra, lhp, Huntsville (Brewers)
*9. Gio Gonzalez, lhp, Birmingham (White Sox)
*10. Carlos Gonzalez, of, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
*11. Mark Reynolds, 3b, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
*12. Chin-Lung Hu, ss, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
*13. Brent Lillibridge, ss, Mississippi (Braves)
*14. Jonathan Meloan, rhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
*15. Max Scherzer, rhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
*16. Jo-Jo Reyes, lhp, Mississippi (Braves)
*17. Diory Hernandez, ss, Mississippi (Braves)
*18. James McDonald, rhp, Jacksonville (Dodgers)
19. Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Carolina (Marlins)
*20. Alcides Escobar, ss, Huntsville (Brewers)
Pitchers and shortstops were the class of the Double-A Southern League this year. Led by Mobile's Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs and Jackson's Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton, the league had some of the best pitching prospects in the minor leagues.

Six shortstops claimed spots on this Top 20 list, starting with Pensacola's Billy Hamilton. Hamilton erased Vince Coleman's minor league record by stealing 155 bases, 51 of which came in 50 games with the Blue Wahoos. He eclipsed Coleman with steal No. 146 on Aug. 21 in Pensacola.

Jackson led all SL clubs with six players on this list, and catcher Mike Zunino would have made it seven had he been promoted earlier. All that talent wasn't enough to put the Generals over the top in the playoffs, however. Mobile overcame the early-season promotions of Bauer and Skaggs to beat Jackson in four games and repeat as champions.

1. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185  Drafted: UCLA, 2011 (1st round)
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bauer finished his first pro season by winning the clincher in the SL playoffs. He returned to Mobile to start this season and dominated in eight starts before moving on to Triple-A and eventually the majors.

Bauer's quirky workouts sometimes overshadow the fact that he has No. 1 starter stuff. His two best pitches are a 90-96 mph fastball with boring life and a hard curveball, both of which grade as 70s on the 20-80 scouting scale at their best. He also can get outs with his splitter, slider and changeup, though he has problems keeping his walks and pitch counts down.

"He takes his pitch counts real high," Mobile manager Turner Ward said. "He's not used to having a pitch count. That's something he has to learn to deal with."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 1 1.68 8 8 0 48 33 12 9 1 26 60 .185

2. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Jackson (Mariners)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 210  Drafted: Yucaipa (Calif.) HS, 2010 (1st round supp)
The youngest pitcher in the league by nearly a full year, Walker sailed through his first two months in Double-A with a 4-1, 2.23 record. His age showed with shaky command and modest pitchability as he went 3-9, 6.01 afterward, but managers and scouts never stopped loving his pure stuff.

Walker had the best fastball among the league's starters, sitting in the mid-90s and reaching 97 mph with electric life. The Mariners have had him scarp the slider he threw in high school to go with a curveball, and his newer breaking ball shows plus potential with good power and hard downer break at times. He sells his circle changeup well, giving him the chance for a third above-average pitch.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
7 10 4.69 25 25 0 127 124 70 66 12 50 118 .246

3. Tyler Skaggs, lhp, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
Age: 21  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 195  Drafted: Santa Monica (Calif.) HS, 2009 (1st round supp/Angels)
Skaggs has blossomed since he was the key piece of a deal that sent Dan Haren to the Angels at the 2010 trade deadline. He finished last year by helping Mobile win the SL championship, then was just as effective at the start of this year before earning promotions to Triple-A and the majors.

Skaggs uses his height to create good downhill action that gives his 88-93 mph some running life. His best weapon is a 12-to-6 curveball and his fading changeup plays well off his fastball. His athleticism lends him solid command that helps his pitches play up.

"He's been mostly a two-pitch pitcher at any given time," Ward said. "But when all three are working, that's when he's able to dominate."
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 4 2.84 13 13 0 70 63 27 22 8 21 71 .232

4. Danny Hultzen, lhp, Jackson (Mariners)
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Virginia, 2011 (1st round)
Selected second overall and just ahead of Bauer, Hultzen was touted as the most advanced pitcher in the 2011 draft. He easily handled a Double-A assignment when he began his pro career in April, though he found the going rougher when promoted to Triple-A in late June.

Hultzen's fastball sits at 90-93 mph with sinking and tailing action. His best pitch is tumbling changeup, and he also owns a solid low-80s slider. Standing on the extreme third-base side of the rubber, he throws with a crossfire delivery that creates tough angles to the plate.

At his best, Hultzen can locate his pitches to both sides of the plate. But his command was an issue all season long, as he averaged 3.8 walks per nine innings in the SL and 8.0 in the Triple-A. That was an unexpected development considering his reputation for being polished.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8 3 1.19 13 13 0 75 38 14 10 2 32 79 .144

5. Billy Hamilton, ss, Pensacola (Reds)
Age: 21  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 160  Drafted: Taylorsville (Miss.) HS, 2009 (2nd round)
Though Hamilton didn't arrived in Pensacola until July 11, that was enough time for him to lead the league with 51 steals. As had been the case at his previous stops in the minors, SL observers labeled his top-of-the-line speed as game-changing. He gets on base by beating out hits or drawing walks, then wastes no time taking off for second base and then third.

Hamilton won't be a slugger, but he has enough strength to drive some balls into the gaps and keep pitchers honest. He understands his game and shows good patience and pitch recognition.

Thanks to his speed and quickness, Hamilton has good range at shortstop, but his average arm remains erratic and his defense lacks polish. While he made just six errors in 48 games, he doesn't have the softest hands or a consistent arm slot. The Reds sent him to the Arizona Fall League to play center field, where his speed could be even more of a factor.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
175 33 50 4 5 1 15 36 43 51 16 .286 .406 .383

6. Andrelton Simmons, ss, Mississippi (Braves)
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170  Drafted: Western Oklahoma State JC, 2010 (2nd round)
After Simmons won the high Class A Carolina League batting title (.311) in his first full pro season in 2011, the Braves put him on the fast track. He almost won Atlanta's shortstop job in spring training and claimed it in June after just 44 games in Double-A. He played well in the majors, with his only setback a broken finger on an errant slide that cost him two months on the disabled list.

During his brief stay in Mississippi, Simmons lived up to his reputation as one of the best defensive shortstops in the minors. He has terrific range and soft hands, and his arm rates close to an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale, making plays deep in the hole look routine.

"The ball comes out of his hand with ease and just explodes with carry," a National League scout said. "It's something to see."

Simmons may never win another batting title, but he won't have to. He makes consistent contact with a short swing and is developing some pull-side power. An above-average runner underway, he became a more efficient baserunner this season.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
174 29 51 9 2 3 21 20 20 10 2 .293 .372 .420

7. Nick Franklin, ss/2b, Jackson (Mariners)
Age: 21  B-T: B-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 180  Drafted: Lake Brantley HS, Altamonte Springs, Fla., 2009 (1st round)
After taking a step back due in part to mononucleosis in 2011, Franklin got back on track at Jackson, where he'd made cameos the previous two seasons. His .896 OPS represented a career high and earned him a ticket to Triple-A in late June.

Franklin hasn't come close to the matching the 23 homers he hit in 2010 to lead the low Class A Midwest League, but he has above-average bat speed and pepper the gaps, particularly from the left side of the plate. He's much less comfortable from the right side, from which he has hit just .207 during the last three seasons. He has an aggressive stroke from both sides of the plate but made strides with his plate discipline while at Jackson.

Franklin's hands, arm and range all grade out as average, which usually isn't good enough to play regularly at shortstop in the majors. He fits better at second base and saw most of his Triple-A action there. He's a solid runner with good instincts on the bases.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
205 25 66 17 4 4 26 24 38 9 2 .322 .394 .502

8. Hak-Ju Lee, ss, Montgomery (Rays)
Age: 21  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 170  Signed: South Korea, 2008 (Cubs)
Part of the trade that sent Matt Garza from the Rays to the Cubs in January 2011, Lee ended that season and spent all of this year in Double-A. His bat has leveled off during that time—he has hit .249/.325/.351 with the Generals—but he has maintained his standing as a quality defender and baserunner.

Lee positions himself well and has the quickness to track down balls with ease. He augments his strong arm with a quick release. He has well above-average speed and succeeded on 80 percent of his SL steal attempts.

At the plate, Lee sprays lots of line drives to the opposite field. He's a slap hitter with no power, so Double-A pitchers aren't afraid to challenge him. Showing more patience and working more counts might help his cause, but he projects to bat toward the bottom of a big league lineup.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
475 68 124 15 10 4 37 51 102 37 9 .261 .336 .360

9. Allen Webster, rhp, Chattanooga (Dodgers)
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 185  Drafted: McMichael HS, Madison, N.C., 2008 (18th round)
Webster went from an overlooked 18th-round pick in 2008 to a valuable trade chip four months later, with the Dodgers using him in the August blockbuster than brought Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto from the Red Sox. Webster spent most of the last two seasons in Chattanooga and turned a corner after the all-star break this year, going 5-1, 2.08 with 64 strikeouts in 65 innings.

His 92-95 sinker breaks bats and generates groundouts, but its extreme life makes it difficult for Webster to control. He found more success when he began throwing a four-seam fastball that he could locate in the strike zone better than his two-seamer.

Webster's breaking ball doesn't always show consistent shape, but when it's on it's a mid-80s slider with bite. His changeup has good sink and fade and should be at least a solid third pitch.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
6 8 3.55 27 22 0 122 120 63 48 1 57 117 .247

10. James Paxton, lhp, Jackson (Mariners)
Age: 23  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 220  Drafted: Grand Prairie (American Association), 2010 (4th round)
Bothered by tendinitis in his right knee, Paxton battled his control until he took six weeks off starting in late May. Once healthy, he went 6-1, 2.40 while cutting his walk rate to 3.3 per nine innings after averaging 6.2 before his disabled-list trip. He dominated in two playoff starts, striking out 19 in 13 innings without surrendering an earned run.

Paxton throws two-and four-seam fastball, sitting at 91-95 mph and peaking at 98. His curveball gives him a second plus pitch, and he shows some aptitude for throwing a circle changeup that he picked up last year. His stuff and command improved once his knee stopped bothering him and has was able to finish his pitches better.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
9 4 3.05 21 21 0 106 96 43 36 5 54 110 .231

11. Tony Cingrani, lhp, Pensacola (Reds)
Age: 23  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 200  Drafted: Rice, 2011 (3rd round)
A senior sign out of Rice who cost the Reds just $210,000 last year, Cingrani exploded through the minors in 2012, finishing the season in Cincinnati. He won the minor league ERA title with a 1.73 mark and ranked second in the minors with 172 strikeouts in 146 innings.

Cingrani fastball sits at 92-94 mph and he backs it up with a solid changeup. A delivery that includes some deception makes him that much more difficult to hit.

Cingrani's walk rate nearly doubled from high Class A to Double-A, and some scouts see him more as a reliever. His slider holds the key to his future role. It can be hard to distinguish from his fastball as it comes out of his hands, but his slider also lacks consistency and lags behind his other two pitches.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 3 2.12 16 15 0 89 59 24 21 7 39 101 .180

12. Matt Davidson, 3b, Mobile (Diamondbacks)
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 225  Drafted: Yucaipa (Calif.) HS, 2009 (1st round supp)
For the first time in his pro career, Davidson was able to truly call third base his home. After sharing the position with 2009 first-rounder Bobby Borchering in his first three pro seasons, Davidson played a career-high 127 games at third base in 2012 and continued to show the power that has become his calling card.

Davidson has pop to all fields and ranked fourth in the SL with 23 homers. He has trimmed his strikeout rate while maintaining his power, though swings and misses always will be part of his game and will keep him from hitting for a high average.

The extra reps helped Davidson improve defensively, though he did make 28 errors—11 more than any other third baseman in the league. He has well below-average speed but decent range, though he needs to learn to position himself better. His hands and arm strength are average.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
486 81 127 28 2 23 76 69 126 3 4 .261 .367 .469

13. Zach Lee, rhp, Chattanooga (Dodgers)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 190  Drafted: McKinney (Texas) HS, 2010 (1st round)
Lee bypassed an opportunity to play quarterback and pitch at Louisiana State, choosing instead to sign with the Dodgers for $5 million as the 28th overall pick in 2010. The second-youngest player in the SL after he arrived in at the end of June, he displays the promise that captured the imagination of amateur scouts but his velocity hasn't increased as expected.

Lee's fastball sits at 89-92 mph, a tick below how hard he threw in high school, though it plays up because he commands it to both sides of the plate. His curveball, slider and changeup all shows signs of becoming average or better offerings. He has a cerebral side to his game that is uncommon in 20-year olds.

"This is a kid that if you challenge him or he feels challenged, like he did here, he'll live up to expectations," Chattanooga manager Carlos Subero said.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
4 3 4.25 13 13 0 66 69 37 31 6 22 51 .259

14. Brad Miller, ss, Jackson (Mariners)
Age: 22  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185  Drafted: Clemson, 2011 (2nd round)
The 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, Miller hit .334/.410/.512 with 15 homers in his first full pro season, finishing with six strong weeks in Double-A. Slender but wiry strong, he holds his hands unusually high in his stance but make consistent hard contact thanks to his uncanny hand-eye coordination and bat-to-ball skills. With his polished approach, line-drive stroke, gap power and plus speed, he's a potential leadoff candidate.

Miller's shortstop defense was erratic in college and remains so as a pro, though he made just five miscues in 37 games with Jackson. His throwing mechanics and confidence tend to wavers, but he has the solid range and arm strength to be at least an average defender at shortstop. His work ethic and feel for the game could make him an everyday player in the mold of Adam Kennedy.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
147 21 47 7 2 4 12 22 26 4 1 .320 .406 .476

15. Didi Gregorius, ss, Pensacola (Reds)
Age: 22  B-T: L-R  Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185  Signed: Curacao, 2007.
Gregorius has the misfortune of being sandwiched between two more well-known young shortstops in the Reds organization. Zack Cozart hit 15 homers and played solid defense as a rookie in Cincinnati this season, while Hamilton obliterated the minor league record for steals. Moved up to Triple-A when Hamilton came to Pensacola in mid-July, Gregorius made his big league debut in September.

A good bet to remain at shortstop, he looks more natural there than Hamilton. Gregorius has above-average range, arm strength and athleticism.

While he's a slicker defender than Cozart or Hamilton, Gregorius doesn't have the former's power or the latter's speed. He identifies pitches well and can sting some balls to the gaps, but he's most likely to hit in the bottom half of a batting order. He has fringy speed.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
316 45 88 11 8 1 31 29 49 3 4 .278 .344 .373

16. Tyler Thornburg, rhp, Huntsville (Brewers)
Age: 23  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 190  Drafted: Charleston Southern, 2010 (3rd round)
Thornburg began his second full pro season in Double-A, retired the first 22 batters he faced in one April start, and was pitching in the Brewers rotation by June. He gave up four homers in his first big league start and eight in 22 innings in Milwaukee, compared to just seven longballs surrendered in 113 innings.

Thornburg's fastball ranges form 90-97 mph and usually operates at 91-94. Scouts consider his changeup better than his curveball, though his curve was clearly his most effective pitch during his time with the Brewers. At times, his changeup has late sink and his curve has 11-to-5 shape and power.

Because Thornburg lacks size, he doesn't get much plane on his pitches and there are concerns about his durability. His arm tends to drag when he throws his secondary pitches, making them less consistent and hampering his ability to locate them. Though he mainly worked out of the bullpen in September, he still has the makings of a No. 3 starter for the long run.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8 1 3.00 13 13 0 75 57 36 25 6 24 71 .202

17. Daniel Corcino, rhp, Pensacola (Reds)
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 205  Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008.
The Reds skipped Corcino past high Class A and he proved he was up for the challenge, ranking second in the league in ERA (3.01) and opponent average (.216) and third in strikeouts (126). He draws comparisons to Johnny Cueto for size, stuff and Dominican heritage.

Corcino has a quick, loose arm and throws a bit across his body, giving his 89-94 mph fastball some run and cutting action. He also throws a hard slider with occasional good depth, and a changeup with some deception and armside sink. His walk rate nearly doubled from 2011 to 2012, so he'll need to refine his control and command to reach his ceiling of a No. 3 starter.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
8 8 3.01 26 26 0 143 111 61 48 9 65 126 .205

18. Christian Bethancourt, c, Mississippi (Braves)
Age: 20  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 219  Signed: Panama, 2008
Bethancourt's strong throwing arm may be the best among minor league catchers. He regularly posts pop times around 1.8 seconds and he threw out 39 percent of SL basestealers. A broken hand in early August ended his season and prevented a showdown between him and Hamilton.

Bethancourt moves well behind the plate and is a good receiver, but he's going to have to improve offensively to become Brian McCann's heir apparent in Atlanta. Bethancourt chases too many pitches and often gets himself out. When he does make contact, it produces mostly soft line drives because he lacks strength and loft in his swing.
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS AVG OBP SLG
268 30 65 5 1 2 26 11 45 8 6 .243 .275 .291

19. Carter Capps, rhp, Jackson (Mariners)
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 220  Drafted: Mount Olive (N.C.), 2011 (3rd round supp)
Capps arrived at NCAA Division II Mount Olive (N.C.) in the fall of 2008 as a catcher. Less than four years later, he was pitching out of the Mariners bullpen. He required just 43 minor league appearances before getting the call, 38 of which came at Jackson.

Capps is all about power, throwing his fastball in the upper 90s and touching 100 mph. He's still developing his curveball and occasionally will mix in a changeup, but he mostly relies on his heat. He doesn't have ideal arm action, as he plunges in the back and gets long, hindering his curve and his control but also adding to his deception.

To paraphrase one scout, if Capps develops a secondary pitch he trusts, he can be a closer. If not, he'll be a setup man along the lines of Matt Lindstrom.
W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
2 3 1.26 38 0 19 50 40 8 7 2 12 72 .211

20. Sean Gilmartin, lhp, Mississippi (Braves)
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190  Drafted: Florida State, 2011 (1st round)
Showing the polish that made him a first-round pick in 2011, Gilmartin finished his first full pro season in Triple-A. The SL leader in WHIP (1.15), he's an athletic, command-and-control lefthander with a good changeup, good frame and classic, smooth lefthanded delivery. The total package evokes some comparisons to Tom Glavine, though Gilmartin profiles more as a back-of-the-rotation starter than a future Hall of Famer.

At his best, Gilmartin fills the strike zone with 88-91 mph fastballs and plus changeups. In the second half, his velocity dipped to 86-88 mph but he still worked both sides of the plate and maintained late life on his fastball. His slider is below average but has some late bite, and he has the savvy to use it well.

W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG
5 8 3.54 20 20 0 119 111 49 47 9 26 86 .237