Paco Rodriguez was one of the unsung heroes on a Florida team that advanced to the College World Series in each of the last three years. Neither a starter nor a closer, he totaled just nine wins and seven saves, but he made 86 appearances with a 2.19 ERA (a Gators record for the aluminum-bat era) and 151 strikeouts in 128 innings. The Dodgers drafted him in the second round in June and signed him for $610,800.
Three months later, Rodriguez became the first player from the 2012 draft to reach the majors. After posting a 0.92 ERA and fanning 32 in 20 innings between low Class A Great Lakes and Double-A Chattanooga, he retired Brandon Belt on a groundout in a 4-0 loss to the Giants yesterday. With a low-90s fastball, high-80s cutter and a sweepy slider that play up because of his deceptive delivery, he could be more than just a lefty specialist.
As mentioned in last week's Ask BA, I believe Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar is the best prospect in baseball. But he's currently up in Texas and thus not eligible for this question. Neither are Orioles shortstop/third baseman Manny Machado or Diamondbacks lefthander Tyler Skaggs, among others.
There aren't 10 guys who feel like they should be overall Top 10 prospects in the minors right now. Nevertheless, I compiled the list below.
[Sept. 12 update: I hadn't noticed when I published my original Top 10 that I had inadvertently deleted Taijuan Walker from the list. He has been restored below.]
1. Dylan Bundy, rhp, Orioles
If I ran the Orioles, he'd be up for the pennant drive.
2. Wil Myers, of, Royals
Kansas City continues to find hitters, search for pitchers.
3. Oscar Taveras, of, Cardinals
The favorite for 2013 Minor League Player of the Year.
4. Trevor Bauer, rhp, Diamondbacks
I stubbornly cling to the notion he's the best college pitcher from the 2011 draft.
5. Gerrit Cole, rhp, Pirates
Showed better control than his former UCLA teammate Bauer in his pro debut.
6. Francisco Lindor, ss, Indians
A definite shortstop with more offensive upside than expected.
7. Taijuan Walker, rhp, Mariners
Growing pains were to be expected from a 19-year-old in Double-A.
8. Jose Fernandez, rhp, Marlins
Wouldn't last close to 14 picks again if the 2011 draft was held again today.
9. Zack Wheeler, rhp, Mets
Started to take off last year when the Giants let him use his high school delivery.
10. Byron Buxton, of, Twins
The top prospect in the 2012 draft has lofty ceiling, needs time to develop.
When it comes to the Cape League, the premier summer college circuit, there always are more prospects than spots on the Top 30. In the 2012 draft, for instance, 20 of the 25 college players selected in the first or sandwich rounds were Cape veterans.
If we had listed 40 prospects, the 10 additional players would have been (in alphabetical order) Falmouth third baseman Drew Dosch (Youngstown State), Cotuit righthander Kyle Finnegan (Texas State), Hyannis righthander David Garner (Michigan State), Bourne righthander Chad Green (Louisville), Brewster third baseman Ryon Healy (Oregon), Hyannis outfielder Dominic Jose (Stanford), Chatham catcher Andrew Knapp (California), Yarmouth-Dennis righthander Ben Lively (Central Florida), Wareham first baseman Daniel Palka (Georgia Tech) and Harwich first baseman Brian Ragira (Stanford). I compile so much information on the Cape each summer that I could go 150 prospects deep if needed, and that doesn't even count guys who didn't stick around long enough to qualify, such as Chatham righthanders Nick Burdi (Louisville) and Scott Frazier (Pepperdine) and Hyannis third baseman D.J. Peterson (New Mexico).
As for Pehl, he did bounce back nicely after hitting .293/.344/.389 as a freshman at Washington. While scouts like his bat, his power numbers must be taken with a grain of salt because the baseballs were so souped up on the Cape this summer. The biggest concern is where he'll fit on the diamond, because the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder is a below-average runner who lacks the quickness to stick at second base. First base and left field might be his only options in pro ball.
Ruf came out of nowhere to edge Minor League Player of the Year Wil Myers for the home run title in the minors. He hit 27 homers in four seasons at Creighton before signing with the Phillies for $2,500 as a 20th-round pick in 2009, then had 29 longballs in 319 games over his first three pro seasons.
Ruf had a career-high 18 homers through July, then exploded for 20 in August. No one knows if that's a minor league record for one month, but it does match the major league mark set by Sammy Sosa in June 1998.
He's a righthanded-hitting first baseman blocked by Ryan Howard, and Ruf's well below-average speed and subpar arm make even left field a stretch. He's 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds and packed with plenty of strength, though scouts aren't sure how his uppercut swing will play in the majors. He draws walks and makes reasonable contact, but he'll have to continue mashing to carve out a role at the top level.
I don't think there's much chance that Ruf becomes an all-star. Then again, even projecting him as a big leaguer before his August binge would have been a stretch, and Philadelphia called him up today.