Playoff Watch: 12 Prospects Still Playing

The minor league regular season is over, but prospects are still in action, as scouts and player development officials are getting a few final evaluations of minor leaguers in the playoffs. Here’s a dozen players (sorted from from highest to lowest level of the minors) to keep an eye on—either in person or in the Baseball America Prospect Report—still playing in the minor league postseason.

1. Desmond Jennings, cf, Rays, Triple-A Durham (International)

Jennings made a push for the Minor League Player of the Year award, and while Atlanta’s Jason Heyward took home the hardware, there’s ample evidence that Jennings could contribute in Tampa Bay as early as next year. His athleticism, plus-plus speed, defense, bat speed and feel for the barrel all stick out, but it’s his advanced feel for the strike zone could make his transition to the major leagues a smooth one next year. That could also mean the Rays might have the league’s premier flag football team in their outfield with Jennings (an All-America wide receiver in junior college), Carl Crawford (who could have run the option at Nebraska), B.J. Upton and Fernando Perez.

2. Jeremy Hellickson, rhp, Rays, Triple-A Durham (International)

Hellickson, 22, sat at 90-91 mph earlier in the year, touching 94 mph, but in his past several starts he’s sat at 92-93 mph at touched 94 regularly. He backs it up with an excellent changeup and a sharp curveball that he uses to get hitters to chase in the dirt, and his willingness to throw any pitch at any time has confused International League batters.

3. Chris Carter, 1b, Athletics, Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Carter’s monster 2009 campaign has continued into the Pacific Coast League playoffs, where he hit four home runs in four first-round playoff games to help propel Sacramento past Tacoma. If we go back to the last game of the regular season, Carter has homered in five consecutive games, giving him 32 in 142 games between the regular season and the postseason. Carter, 22, has benefited from playing in some favorable hitting environments between Double-A Midland and Sacramento, but his plus-plus power is real.

4. Brett Wallace, 3b, Athletics, Triple-A Sacramento (Pacific Coast)

Traded to the A’s in the deal that sent Matt Holliday to St. Louis, Wallace will face his former Memphis teammates in the PCL finals. It won’t be his first time facing the Redbirds, however, as Wallace went 7-for-15 with two home runs and two walks in a four-game series in mid-August (Memphis pitchers also plunked him twice). Wallace, 23, can’t match Carter’s outstanding power, but he should hit for above-average power and has continued to show his advanced feel for hitting by putting up a .302/.365/.505 line in 44 games after the trade.

5. Austin Jackson, cf, Yankees, Triple-A Scranton (International)

Jackson, 22, doesn’t have an outstanding tool, and his 2009 season was more steady than outstanding. Jackson posted a .354 OBP and stole 24 bases in 28 attempts, but despite hitting .300 he slugged just .405, as his .105 isolated power was propped up by his ability to leg out nine triples. While his combination of a high strikeout rate and present below-average power don’t portend a future star, Jackson is still a solid prospect.

6. Mike Stanton, rf, Marlins, Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)

At 19, Stanton is younger than most players on the Marlins’ low Class A affiliate in Greensboro. In fact, the Marlins’ Rookie-level Gulf Coast League club used 16 hitters this year who are older than Stanton. So while Stanton hitting .231/.311/.455 with 99 strikeouts in 79 games with Jacksonville is nothing special, his combination of prodigious power, size and athleticism is tantalizing. Like Minor League Player of the Year Jason Heyward, Stanton probably doesn’t get enough credit for his defense, which is above-average in right field.

7. Logan Morrison, 1b, Marlins, Double-A Jacksonville (Southern)

Morrison missed essentially the first two months of the season with a fracture in his right wrist, so the extra plate appearances he’s getting in the Southern League playoffs will benefit his development, even if it’s just an extra two weeks of games. His advanced approach and balance at the plate help him hit to all fields and draw walks, while his raw power is more evident in BP than in games for now.

8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3b, Indians, Double-A Akron (Eastern)

The first thing nearly every scout points to with Chisenhall is his pure, compact swing, which results in line drives to all fields. Not known for his power, Chisenhall still popped 22 home runs between high Class A Kinston and Akron. The Indians promoted Chisenhall, 20, after he hit .276/.346/.492 in 99 Carolina League games, but he hasn’t been able to replicate his success in the Eastern League, where he hit .183/.238/.387 in 24 games.

9. Carlos Santana, c, Indians, Double-A Akron (Eastern)

Santana has the potential to be a future major league all-star, but he’s already had to clear off some room on his mantle after collecting his second straight league MVP award. The high Class A California League MVP with the Dodgers in 2008, Santana earned the honors again this year in the Eastern league, where he batted .290/.413/.530 in 130 games. The switch-hitting catcher has bat speed, patience, power, athleticism, arm strength—the skill set to add more hardware to his budding collection in the near future.

10. Tyson Gillies, cf, high Class A High Desert (California)

Translate Gillies’ .341/.430/.486 batting line into a less offensive-crazed environment and the numbers deflate, but Gillies’ combination of speed, plate discipline and ability to put the ball in play are legitimate. He’s an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale, which makes him a threat to leg out infield hits, stretch doubles into triples (his 14 tied for third in the minors) and gives him plus-plus range in center field. Gillies, 20, is primarily a groundball hitter without much power, but even moderate pop could make him valuable as a high OBP hitter with good defense in a middle-of-the-diamond position.

11. Jaff Decker, lf, low Class A Fort Wayne (Midwest)

The two best prospects in the recently-completed Fort Wayne-Great Lakes series are about as different as it gets. Dee Gordon (Dodgers) is a wiry shortstop who relies on speed and athleticism, with little power but raw tools and a projectable frame. While Decker is more athletic than his stocky 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame would suggest, his game is about patience and power as one of the most polished 19-year-old hitters in the minor leagues. Decker is the one who’s still playing, though, as the TinCaps advanced to the Midwest League finals yesterday thanks to 22-year-old catcher Robert Lara’s game-ending home run in the bottom of the 10th.

12. Travis D’Arnaud, c, Phillies, low Class A Lakewood (South Atlantic)

D’Arnaud’s scouting reports didn’t match up with his performance earlier in the season. D’Arnaud, 20, hit 207/.269/.363 heading into the all-star break, but the reports from scouts were still generally positive for the 2007 supplemental first-round pick. So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when D’Arnaud stormed through the league during the second half, hitting .302/.366/.473 in the second half.