Top 100 Includes Several Bargains

Follow me on Twitter

CHICAGO—Allen Webster was primarily a shortstop at McMichael High in tiny Mayodan, N.C. He was athletic and slick with the glove, though nothing special with the bat. He'd occasionally pitch at the end of games, relying primarily on his arm strength.

As his senior season came to a close in 2008, Webster's next step appeared to be playing at nearby Rockingham (N.C.) CC.

That changed when Dodgers area scout Lon Joyce got a tip that Webster had a fresh arm worth checking out. Joyce's brother Don had coached Webster in youth league basketball, so Lon knew a little about him. He decided to go see Webster pitch in a playoff game attended by two other scouts.

Webster was 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, and he threw 89-93 mph. His breaking ball was inconsistent and his mechanics needed work, but the sinking life on his fastball stood out. He showed enough to merit a predraft workout with Los Angeles, where he didn't throw as hard but showed the same movement.

The Dodgers took Webster in the 18th round in 2008 and signed him for $20,000. Five pro seasons later, he has boosted his fastball to 92-95 mph with the same notable sink and run, developed an equally lively changeup and shown flashes of a quality slider. He'll likely make his major league debut in 2013.

"He has worked hard and gotten better," says Joyce, who has also signed three big leaguers drafted later than Webster: Adam Riggs, Reggie Abercrombie and Jerry Sands. "I knew he'd throw harder but I didn't know he'd throw this hard. You didn't have to project on his movement. He always has had real good life on his fastball."

Traded to the Red Sox in the Adrian Gonzalez/Josh Beckett/Carl Crawford blockbuster last August, Webster occupies the No. 49 spot on our annual Top 100 Prospects list. There may be 48 prospects ahead of him, but none was a bigger bargain.

Three More Top 100 Steals

This year's Top 100 signed for an average of $3,142,282 in bonuses and guaranteed salaries. On one extreme are three international signees from 2012: Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig ($42 million) and lefthander Hyun-Jin Ryu ($36 million), and Cubs outfielder Jorge Soler ($30 million).

On the other are Webster, Reds righthander Daniel Corcino, Royals righty Yordano Ventura and Diamondbacks outfielder Adam Eaton. They netted a combined $108,000—a thousand times less than Puig, Ryu and Soler.

In 2008, the Reds lavished $2.5 million on Venezuelan outfielder Yorman Rodriguez and $2 million on Dominican outfielder Juan Duran. Corcino, who earned $25,000 that January, surpassed both long ago.

Corcino became eligible to turn pro in August 2006, but teams didn't have much interest in a 5-foot-11, 165-pound righthander. His arm strength intrigued scout Richard Jimenez enough to sign him, and he has developed into a budding Johnny Cueto. Corcino is a fellow Dominican with a similar body, arm slot and stuff.

After putting 40 pounds on his thick-legged frame, Corcino now can run his 91-94 mph fastball to either side of the plate. He also has the makings of a solid slider and changeup. If he can refine his command, he could help the Reds this year.

Ventura's story parallels Corcino's. Ventura had to wait 15 months after becoming eligible before scout Pedro Silverio inked him for $28,000 in October 2008. He required a lot of projection as a 5-foot-11, 148-pounder who threw in the mid-80s.

Once Ventura added 20 pounds and refined his mechanics, his fastball took off. He has hit 100 mph repeatedly, peaked at 102 and works comfortably at 94-97 mph, earning the nickname "Lil' Pedro" in honor of Pedro Martinez. His downer curveball shows signs of becoming a plus pitch, though he's still learning how to maintain his delivery and his command.

Size also worked against Eaton, who totaled 24 homers and 58 steals in his sophomore and junior years at Miami (Ohio). A 5-foot-8, 165-pound right fielder didn't exactly fit the big league profile. Minor injuries from a car accident prevented him from getting exposure with wood bats against top competition in the Cape Cod League, further hurting his cause.

Area scout Frankie Thon Jr. recommended Eaton for a workout at Chase Field, where he put on a show in batting practice. The Diamondbacks waited 19 rounds in the 2010 draft to take him, then signed him for $35,000.

A run producer for the Redhawks, Eaton adopted more of a line-drive approach in pro ball. He has won two minor league batting titles in three years—he topped the entire minors with a .375 average in 2012—and he's quicker out of the box, with his formerly plus speed now graded as plus-plus. He spent September as Arizona's center fielder, paving the way for the trade of Chris Young.

Young is also a Top 100 alumnus who went in the teens (16th round in 2001, White Sox) and signed for a five-figure bonus ($90,000), and another example of how it doesn't always require big money to land a major talent.