Best Tools: 2013 Draft
Baseball America’s Best Tools list for the 2013 draft, with candidates drawn from the top 250 prospects on the BA 500. Compiled by Jim Callis, Aaron Fitt, Conor Glassey, John [...]
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A veteran scout took in the season-opening series between the Triple-A affiliates of the Angels (Salt Lake) and Diamondbacks (Tucson), and came away impressed with the plethora of impact prospects on the two Pacific Coast League rosters. Salt Lake won three of the four games to open the season.
"I would bet those are the two best teams in Triple-A this year, in terms of talent. You look at some Triple-A rosters and see a lot of older guys and maybe one guy you could really call a prospect. You look at these teams, and you see prospects. Look at Tucson, with (Conor) Jackson, (Carlos) Quentin and (Sergio) Santos. All those guys are 21-22-23 years old, they're in Triple-A and they can do some things.
"I like Quentin better than Jackson because he can do a lot more. Jackson's a good hitter, but he's playing first base right now, and he doesn't look too good over there. Quentin is a real right fielder, good arm, good defensive player.
"Santos is very big for a shortstop, but he looks like a good infielder. His actions and his footwork are OK for an infielder; I don't think he has to go to the outfield. There's some talk he might move to second base, but I think he's more likely to go to third. He's strong and well put-together, and he's got a strong arm. But there's nothing harder to do than scout a player who's playing out of position, and that's what you have to do with Santos.
"Salt Lake's got (Casey) Kotchman, (Dallas) McPherson and (Jeff) Mathis, those guys are all going to be big league regulars. Mathis looks good; he really plays hard and he's a tough kid. He struggled last year but I still think he's going to hit, and he can really catch and throw. Kotchman doesn't have a hit yet (he's now 0-for-17), but it's really cold out here and he's a Florida kid; I'm not surprised he's off to a slow start. Nothing looks wrong with his swing, and he's selective (six walks, two strikeouts).
"McPherson's the one to really watch. He's still swinging and missing an awful lot, and he's also still really pounding the ball. I say he'll be better than Russell Branyan; I understand the comparison, but I think McPherson's better. His power is ungodly. It's 80 raw power, but the big question is how much contact is he going to make. It's a bigger swing with a lot of leverage, and he just has to be more selective about what he swings at.
"He misses fastballs and breaking balls; it's not one pitch giving him trouble, it's lots of pitches out of the strike zone that he's chasing. If he is more selective and swings at more strikes, he's going to hit .280 and hit 40 home runs. He has that kind of power."
Quentin continues to be one of the hottest hitters in the minors. After going 2-for-2 with a home run and two walks in Tucsons 7-5 loss to Colorado Springs, Quentin is now batting .600/.682/1.333 in five games with three homers and eight RBIs; hes 9-for-15 with six walks.
Braves third baseman Andy Marte appears to have adjusted just fine to Triple-A pitching. Marte went 3-for-4 last night at Scranton/Wikes-Barre, including a pair of hits against rehabbing Phillies starter Vicente Padilla. Marte, the No. 2 prospect in Atlanta's system, is hitting .435/.480/.870 with three homers and eight RBIs in 23 at-bats. Red Barons first baseman Ryan Howard went 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles. Padilla threw 79 pitches--48 for strikes--in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre's 11-5 win.
In the hopes of bolstering the bullpen at the big league level, the Indians are experimenting with righthander Andrew Brown as a reliever, and so far the results have been positive. Brown tossed two shutout innings and struck out two to close out Syracuse, 5-3. The Indians have three potential impact relievers in Triple-A in righthander Fernando Cabrera, lefthander Brian Tallet and now Brown. Tallet is currently in the rotation but could be used in either role. "He's still coming off (Tommy John) surgery (in 2003) and we're going to lengthen him out down there with the thought process to start him or relieve him," Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said. "The plan is to stretch him out and we can bring him in either way."
West Tenn first baseman/outfielder Brandon Sing picked up where he left off after leading Florida State League in hits and making a run at its all-time home run mark with Daytona last season. Sing hit his Southern League-leading fourth homer last night in an 8-1 win over Mississippi. A 20th-round pick of the Cubs in 1999 out of Joliet (Ill.) West High, Sing is batting .375/.500/1.188 with five RBIs in just 16 at-bats.
Astros righthander Fernando Nieve allowed just one hit over six shutout innings, and struck out eight, as the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks earned their first victory in franchise history, improving to 1-4 with a 4-1 win against Frisco. It was the second straight strong start for Nieve, who has showcased a much-improved slider early on.
Rockies righthander Ubaldo Jimenez recorded his first outs since May of last season, pitching three-plus innings in Class A Modesto's 5-4 win over Rancho Cucamonga. Jimenez, who was the top pitcher in the California League in the first six weeks of the season before being shut down with a stress fracture, struck out five, but also walked five and gave up four runs and three hits.
Orioles righthander Fredy Deza was impressive in his 2005 debut for high Class A Frederick, allowing three earned runs over seven innings of work. This is the third stint in the Carolina League for the 22-year-old Dominican, but some scouts have compared him to Daniel Cabrera, and he could be poised for a breakout year this season. The O's have taken it slowly with Deza, whose repertoire includes an easy 92-94 mph fastball, quick slider and developing changeup. He has the tendency to let his fastball up in the zone at times, however, and that was evident last night when he gave up two homers to Salem outfielders Adam Seuss and John Fagan in a 4-1 Avalanche win.
A number of pitchers in the Florida State League impressed on Opening Day, and the group continued to open eyes in their second turn through the rotation Tuesday. Dodgers lefty Chuck Tiffany's streak of double-digit strikeout games ended at five, but he still punched out eight over five innings, allowing one run on four hits. Blue Jays lefthander David Purcey also allowed one run over six innings, as did Detroit righty Justin Verlander. The top performance came from Mets righthander Philip Humber, who pitched five scoreless innings, allowing one hit, in St. Lucie's 3-2 loss to Brevard County.
Scouts and team officials raved about Padres' 18-year-old lefty Fabian Jimenez despite a 6.95 ERA in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year. Jimenez, ranked as the No. 19 prospect in the Padres system, allowed two hits over six shutout innings in his season debut, as Ft. Wayne earned its first win of the year with a 4-1 victory over West Michigan.
Low Class A Lexington outfielder Hunter Pence probably shouldn't be in the South Atlantic League very long. The 22-year-old blasted his first two homers of the year--and added five RBIs--Tuesday in an 8-0 win against West Virginia. Righthander Ronnie Martinez allowed just one hit over seven innings, walked two and struck out nine. Martinez threw 84 pitches, with his fastball topping out at 92 mph. "My best pitch is my fastball, and my curveball," Martinez told the Lexington Herald-Leader. "But every pitch was good."