Saturday's Under Armour All-America Game featured the most sloppy play of the five I've attended at Wrigley Field, yet there still were plenty of highlights. The top three high school players on our early Top 50 Prospects list for 2013 all had their moments.
Outfielder Austin Meadows (Grayson HS, Loganville, Ga.) tripled off hard-throwing Brett Morales (King HS, Tampa) to start the game-winning rally in the ninth inning. Outfielder Clint Frazier (Loganville, Ga., HS) followed with an opposite-field double off the wall in right. That and a roped ground-rule double by outfielder Trey Ball (New Castle, Ind., HS) were the closest anyone came to homering with wood bats on a day that the ball wasn't carrying at Wrigley. Ball, whom teams like both as a position player and a pitcher, wasn't as impressive on the mound, where he topped out at 89 mph.
For more on the UA Game, John Manuel has a recap, and Nathan Rode is working on a superlatives feature.
Baez and Lindor figure to be linked for a while. They were both born in Puerto Rico and played their high school ball in the United States. They were the top two middle-infield prospects in the loaded 2011 draft and went with back-to-back picks, Lindor at No. 8 to the Indians and Baez at No. 9 to the Cubs. They both spent much of this season in the low Class A Midwest League.
For all their similarities, they're different types of players. Baez stands out most for his bat, while Lindor is the classic smooth defender at shortstop. Neither is one-dimensional, however. Baez has gotten strong reviews for his defense and baserunning ability this summer, and Lindor has the potential to develop into a top-of-the-order hitter.
Though Lindor is nearly a full year younger, Baez has the higher ceiling. He has incredible bat speed, and if he settles down at the plate, he could develop into a well above-average hitter for both average and power. He ripped through the MWL by batting .311/.360/.554, and scouts give him a better chance to stick at shortstop than they did a year ago.
If Baez has to move off shortstop, you could argue for either as having the brighter future. Lindor could be a Gold Glove shortstop and leadoff man, while Baez could be a .300 hitter with 30 homers, which would make him a star at any position. I'd lean toward Baez for the upside, but a lot of clubs would love to have a shortstop with Lindor's skills.
Based on the way he played as a rookie this season, when he reached Boston ahead of schedule, the job belongs to Middlebrooks for the long term. He's 23 and should hit for power and play quality defense for years to come.
The best prospect in the Red Sox system is Bogaerts, who has hit his way to Double-A at age 19. Though he's athletic enough to have remained at shortstop thus far, he's also 6-foot-3 and figures to move once he fills out. Third base would be a logical destination if not for Middlebrooks, but Bogaerts has the bat to profile well in right field too.
After struggling for the last three seasons, Almanzar finally has gotten back on track this year in high Class A. Even if the $1.5 million bonus baby has figured it out at the plate, he fits much better defensively at first base. He won't be a factor at the hot corner for Boston.
The guy who might get squeezed is Cecchini, who signed for $1.31 million as a fourth-round pick in 2010. Fully healthy after tearing up his right knee in 2010 and breaking his right wrist toward the end of his 2011 pro debut, he has shown the sweet lefthanded stroke and promising power potential the Red Sox expected. Assuming Middlebrooks locks down third base, Cecchini probably can't shift to second base and would have to move to an outfield corner.
A Birmingham-Southern product, Maxwell hit his way into the second round of the draft, leading Division III in doubles (25), homers (15), walks (59), total bases (142), on-base percentage (.619) and slugging (.918) and ranking fourth in batting (.471) last spring. Lefthanded power is his biggest tool, and while he hasn't gone deep yet as a pro, he has hit .301/.380/.388, mostly at short-season Vermont.
The Athletics are trying to make Maxwell a full-time catcher, which would give him much more value than if he had to move to first base. He has arm strength but lacks agility and his receiving still needs a lot of work.
The MVP of the Division III College World Series after leading Marietta (Ohio) to the championship, Saunders tied Maxwell for the D-III lead in total bases while also topping the division in runs (80) and hits (94), ranking sixth in steals (41) and batting .441. He has plus speed but scouts weren't solid on his ability to stay at shortstop, which is why he lasted until the Cubs took him in the 32nd round.
Saunders still isn't a lock to stay at shortstop, and the Cubs have also played him at third base, second base and center field. He has opened eyes with his offensive production, hitting .410/.467/.583 with 14 steals, including batting .310 during a two-week stint in high Class A. Saunders isn't a top prospect and probably profiles best as a utilityman, but it's hard to knock his first pro summer.
This was a good year for Division III prospects. Maxwell and righthanders Brian Rauh (11th round, Nationals), Ben Klimesh (15th round, Reds) and Austin Blaski (21st round, Brewers) all made the BA 500, and righties Tucker Healy (23rd round, Athletics) and Paul Schwendel (40th round, Rangers) have had nice debuts.