Elizabethton (Twins) 2
Pulaski (Yankees) 0
Bluefield (Blue Jays), 46-22 (.676)
|Most Valuable Player:
Ryan Noda, 1B, Bluefield (Blue Jays)
|Pitcher of the year:
Randy Pondler, LHP, Bluefield (Blue Jays)
|Did Not Qualify:
Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Elizabethton (Twins)
SEE ALSO: Appalachian Top 20 Chat
To qualify for a Minor League Top 20 Prospects list, a position player must have one plate appearance per team game, a starting pitcher must have one-third of an inning per team game and a reliever must have 20 relief appearances.
For many players in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, the cultural transition into pro baseball is just as challenging as the skills transition. These players are just dipping their toes into the waters of pro baseball and seeing how they stack up, while also learning how to communicate with their fellow teammates. Consequently, results in the Appy League can't be observed from just a box score.
The catching depth in the league this year stood out, as typified by Princeton's Ronaldo Hernandez, Danville's William Contreras and Kingsport's Juan Uriarte all cracking the top 20 ranking. This is one of the deepest catching crops in the league's history of rankings. The 2014 list boasts four catchers, the most in the past fifteen years. The last catcher to hold a rank as high as Hernandez was Brandon Snyder in 2005, when the Orioles first-rounder ranked as the best prospect in the league that season.
Elizabethton was one of the most talent-laden teams in the Appy League and won the title because of contributions on both sides of the ball. A hearty group of draft picks like Brent Rooker and Andrew Bechtold, along with international signings like Wander Javier kept the offensive cylinders running. Pitchers Charlie Barnes, Brusdar Graterol, and Ryley Widell maintained strong performances to drive a 3.86 team ERA. Had Graterol qualified for this ranking, he would have ranked highly because scouts love his high-octane arsenal.
Maitan headlined the 2016 international signing class and was considered by some to be the best international amateur since Miguel Sano in 2009. The Venezuelan shortstop signed for $4.25 million with the Braves, who assigned Maitan to Danville after a brief tuneup in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Maitan scuffled in the early part of the season but as he got his feet under him, evaluators began to take notice of his switch-hitting ability and plus raw power. He flashes impressive hitting hands and keeps his swing under control when he's in the zone. While his pitch recognition needs work, Maitan's ability to make consistent hard contact should come to life with more repetitions. At peak, he could be a plus hitter with greater than plus power.
Maitan's ultimate position is in question. He has gained mass rapidly at a young age and may outgrow shortstop. One manager described him as "barrel-bodied." Despite notable athleticism and a plus arm, he faces a potential move to third base down the line.