League Top 20 Prospects

Pioneer League Top 20 Prospects

1. *James Loney, 1b, Dodgers
2. Jonathan Figueroa, lhp, Dodgers
3. *Manny Parra, lhp, Brewers
4. *Prince Fielder, 1b, Brewers
5. Sergio Santos, ss, Diamondbacks
6. *Alberto Callaspo, 2b, Angels
7. *Joel Guzman, ss, Dodgers
8. *Joe Saunders, lhp, Angels
9. Greg Miller, lhp, Dodgers
10. *Dustin Nippert, rhp, Missoula
*Has played in major leagues
Great Falls lefthander Aaron Poreda (first round) and Billings shortstop Todd Frazier (supplemental first round) were the highest draft picks to qualify for the Pioneer League list this season, and the two college prospects dominated the Rookie league as expected. Poreda had a 1.17 regular-season ERA and didn't allow an earned run in two playoff starts, while Frazier hit for power and average before earning a promotion to low Class A.

More notable, however, were the performances put forth by some of the players who fell to some of the later rounds in the draft and boosted their prospect status with impressive showings this year. Helena outfielder Caleb Gindl, a fifth-rounder, took the Pioneer League by storm, winning the batting title at .372. Billings third baseman Brandon Waring, a seventh-rounder, nearly broke the league record with 20 homers, giving him a total of 47 for the year between pro ball and Wofford.

Those four players and Orem righthander Jordan Walden stood out form the rest of the league. The remainder of the prospects on this list are mainly raw talents with a lot of potential but also plenty of room for improvement.

1.Todd Frazier, ss, Billings (Reds)
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 215 Age: 21 Drafted: Reds '07 (1-s)
Todd FrazierFrazier had a storied amateur career, winning the 1998 Little League World Series title and setting the single-season (22) and career (47) home run records at Rutgers. His pro career got off to a fine start as well, as he showed a polished approach and good control of the strike zone. He has plus power with a line-drive swing, and earns praise for his instincts and baseball savvy.

Frazier played shortstop in college and for Billings, but he almost certainly will have to change positions. He doesn't have the range needed for shortstop, particularly to his right side. He also needs to get better with his footwork and with fielding the ball in front of him. He does have an average arm and could profile well at third base or on an outfield corner.

2.Caleb Gindl, OF, Brewers
B-T: L-L Ht: 5-9 Wt: 185 Age: 19 Drafted: Brewers '07 (5)
Gindl threw 88-90 mph and showed feel for pitching as a high school lefthander, and some clubs considered drafting him as a pitcher. The Brewers liked him better as a position player, and he was arguably the best hitter in the Pioneer League despite also being one of its youngest players.

Gindl has a remarkably good approach at the plate for a teenager, showing patience and discipline. With his stocky build and line-drive power, he receives frequent comparisons to Brian Giles. He displays the ability to hit both fastballs and offspeed pitches. Some scouts who saw Gindl in high school had concerns about his bat speed, but scouts and managers who saw him play in Helena didn't share that opinion.

Gindl is an average defender in right field with a plus arm in terms of both strength and accuracy. There's no reason he would have to move from right field in the future. Managers also praised Gindl for his maturity, confidence and work ethic.

3.Jordan Walden, rhp, Angels
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 190 Age: 19 Drafted: Angels '06 (12)
Orem won its third Pioneer League championship in four years by sweeping all four of its playoff games, and Walden was at his best in the finale. Though he received no decision, he allowed just an unearned run in eight innings while striking out a career-high 10 and touching 98 mph with his fastball.

Walden was considered a surefire first-rounder heading into his senior year of high school in 2006 until his fastball velocity dipped into the high 80s. When it bounced back this spring, the Angels signed him for $1 million as a draft-and-follow. He maintained a plus-plus fastball in his pro debut, sitting at 94-96 mph even in the later innings of his starts.

Walden has good arm action on his slider, which has the potential to be a plus pitch once he refines it and locates it for strikes consistently. His changeup is also improving. His mechanics were off a bit at the beginning of the season, but he since has smoothed them out.

4.Aaron Poreda, lhp, White Sox
B-T: L-L Ht: 6-6 Wt: 240 Age: 20 Drafted: White Sox '07 (1)
The highest draft pick (No. 20 overall) to play in the league this year, Poreda has rare velocity for a lefthander. He can get his fastball up to 98 mph, and it sits in the low to mid-90s with late life, inducing both ground balls and strikeouts. A good athlete who gets praised for his makeup and work ethic, he was clearly too good to be pitching against Pioneer League hitters.

Yet there are some legitimate concerns. Poreda doesn't have a secondary pitch that grades as average. He made a concerted effort to improve his slider and his changeup, but his low three-quarters arm slot and high-effort mechanics hamper him. The White Sox shut him down for three weeks in July when he came down with a tender arm, but he returned and didn't allow an earned run in either of his playoff starts.

5.Brandon Waring, 3b, Reds
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 195 Age: 21 Drafted: Reds '07 (7)
Few hitters in Pioneer League history can match what Waring accomplished this season. He hit a league-high 20 home runs, 10 of which came in a 10-game stretch at the end of the year, to fall three short of the league record Greg Morrison established in 1997.

Waring has plus power and bat speed. He's an excellent fastball hitter with power to the opposite field. He still needs to avoid chasing breaking balls in the dirt and uppercutting the ball too much with his swing.

As with his teammate Frazier, Waring may have to switch positions. He made 16 errors in 63 games and must improve his footwork. He could wind up in left field or at first base.

6.Jonathan Lucroy, c, Brewers
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: Brewers '07 (3)
An offensive-minded catcher, Lucroy is particularly adept and controlling the outer half of the plate and driving the ball to the opposite field. He has a good, level swing and a sound approach at the plate, though he could be a bit more patient. He doesn't have great home run power right now, but he has strong hands and hit 18 doubles, so he could develop more pop with further experience.

Managers praised Lucroy for the confidence and leadership he showed on the field, though his defense still needs improvement. He's an adequate defender, but his arm strength is fringy and his throws to second base tend to tail away from the bag. He still managed to throw out 43 percent of basestealers in his pro debut.

7.Austin Gallagher, of, Dodgers
B-T: L-R Ht: 6-4 Wt: 217 Age: 19 Drafted: Dodgers '07 (3)
Several area scouts who covered Gallagher as a Pennsylvania high schooler thought he wasn't ready to handle professional pitching, but he proved otherwise. He held his own in the Pioneer League, showing a good grasp of the strike zone and opposite-field power.

His swing tends to collapse on the backside and he's raw in many phases of the game, but his instincts should improve now that he's focused full-time on baseball after playing basketball and football in high school. Gallagher has good hands but doesn't move well at third base, which could lead to a move across the diamond to first base in the future.

8.Robert Bryson, rhp, Brewers
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Brewers (31)
The Brewers were extremely active in the last year of the draft-and-follow process, and one of their key signings was landing Bryson for $300,000. Though he spent most of his pro debut as a reliever, he nearly led the league in strikeouts. His best pitch is a fastball that clocked in the low to mid-90s during the spring and was down slightly at Helena because he was tired.

Bryson's 78-82 mph slider is improving, as is his changeup, but the latter is still a below-average pitch. His mechanics are solid, but as with most young pitchers he can develop better rhythm and timing.

9.Reynaldo Navarro, ss, Diamondbacks
B-T: B-R Ht: 5-10 Wt: 175 Age: 17 Drafted: Diamondbacks '07 (3)
Still just 17, Navarro offers more projection than any other player in the Pioneer League. He gets rave reviews for his slick defense and excellent range at shortstop. While he made a league-high 28 errors, many came on balls other shortstops wouldn't reach and he should get steadier with more experience.

A switch-hitter with average speed, Navarro still has a long ways to go at the plate. He does have bat speed, a line-drive stroke and a willingness to use the entire field. He'll have to get stronger and more patient to be productive, however.

10.Christian Marrero, 1b, White Sox
B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: White Sox '05 (22)
If the name looks familiar, it's because Marrero's younger brother Chris was a first-round pick in 2006, the same year Christian signed as a draft-and-follow. Chris is one of the game's best young outfield prospects, while Christian started to come into his own in his second year in the Pioneer League.

The White Sox smoothed out Marrero's swing after he hit .252/.337/.360 for Great Falls last year, and this season his batting average and power spiked. His stroke is more fluid and line drives jump off the barrel of his bat. A converted outfielder, he also looks comfortable at first base.

11.Salvador Sanchez, of, White Sox
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-6 Wt: 195 Age: 21 Drafted: White Sox '04 (FA)
In terms of raw tools and athleticism, Sanchez matched up well with anyone in the Pioneer League. He's a 6-foot-6, 195-pounder with plus speed and power, and he did have the best season of his four-year pro career. But he also was old for the league at 21 and played in low Class A in 2006.

Sanchez still is figuring out how to translate his tools into skills. He covers a lot of ground in right field but doesn't take good routes to the ball. He's quick but has much to learn as a basestealer after getting caught 13 times in 31 attempts. He led the league with 97 hits but still shows a lack of discipline at the plate.

12.Jaime Ortiz, 1b, Dodgers
B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200 Age: 19 Drafted: Dodgers '06 (7)
Ortiz' raw power ranked with anyone's in the Pioneer League and he hit 11 homers, up from two in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League a year ago. Most of his pop comes to the pull side at this point, but with his size and strength, he should develop home run potential to all fields.

His swing is solid, but he'll have to do a better job of working counts as he moves up the ladder. Ortiz is a well below-average runner but managers praised his defensive abilities at first base. His soft hands are an asset.

13.Jhoulys Chacin, rhp, Rockies
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 168 Age: 19 Drafted: Rockies '06 (FA)
In his U.S. debut, Chacin shared the league strikeout lead (77 in 92 innings) with Orem's Robert Fish and Great Falls' Juan Moreno. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, as it sits at 89-92 mph and touches 94, but it has good sink and he locates it well.

He also throws his curveball and changeup for strikes, and both have the potential to be plus pitches. He has sound mechanics and does a good job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone.

14.Robert Fish, lhp, Angels
B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt: 215 Age: 19 Drafted: Angels '06 (6)
Fish finished in a three-way tie for the league lead with 77 strikeouts in 72 innings and fanned 13 in eight innings in his lone playoff outing. His funky delivery creates deception and confuses hitters, making his 88-93 mph fastball seem quicker than it really is.

He has good secondary pitches, though he needs to be more consistent with his curveball, which rates as solid-average when he throws it for strikes. Fish still needs to improve his command and must keep his weight under control.

15.John Ely, rhp, White Sox
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: White Sox '07 (3)
Ely overmatched Pioneer League hitters in his pro debut by consistently by consistently throwing strikes and using his 91-93 mph fastball to set them up for a plus changeup that ranks as his best pitch. His curveball was a solid pitch for him at Miami (Ohio) this spring, though it received mixed reviews from those who saw him this summer.

Ely has a deceptive delivery that he repeats well and keeps hitters off balance, but he's also a max-effort pitcher with a head jerk. There are some concerns about how his ability to avoid injuries with his mechanics, but he has no history of arm problems in the past. He's extremely competitive on the mound.

16.Justin Reed, of, Reds
B-T: L-R Ht: 5-11 Wt: 179 Age: 19 Drafted: Reds '06 (4)
Like Ortiz, Reed struggled in his pro debut in the Gulf Coast League last year and showed a lot of improvement in 2007. He began the year back in the GCL and hit .310/.386/.434 in 129 at-bats before his promotion to Billings.

An outstanding athlete who was a star running back in high school, Reed has above-average speed. His swing is short but still needs some work. He strikes out to much and tends to dip his head and drop his back shoulder, which causes him to get under pitches.

His speed gives him good range in center field, though he's still learning to get better reads off the bat and split time between left and center for the Mustangs. Reed's arm is slightly below average.

17.Andrew Romine, ss, Angels
B-T: B-R Ht: 6-1 Wt: 180 Age: 21 Drafted: Angels '07 (5)
Romine's father Kevin was a major league outfielder and his brother Austin is a catcher whom the Yankees drafted in the second round in June. Andrew is a slick-fielding shortstop with excellent range and a solid arm that's tremendously accurate. As Orem manager Tom Kotchman put it, "He probably has a bunch of stuffed animals at his house from winning stuff at the fair."

The biggest question with Romine is whether he'll hit well enough to reach the majors. He's a gap-to-gap hitter who doesn't have much power. A switch-hitter, he's far more proficient as a lefthander (.323/.389/.497 in the Pioneer League) than from the right side (.188/.188/.250). He has good speed and runs the bases well.

18.Jimmy Gallagher, of, White Sox
B-T: L-L Ht: 6-1 Wt: 195 Age: 22 Drafted: White Sox '07 (7)
Gallagher doesn't overwhelm anyone with his tools, but he has excellent plate discipline and put up consistently good numbers at Duke. His ability to control the strike zone translated well to the Pioneer League, where he hit .332 with nearly as many walks (35) as strikeouts (38).

The real test will come once Gallagher faces more advanced pitchers. Scouts and managers rate his tools as average or fringy across the board. His inability to play a premium defensive position also diminishes his value, as Gallagher doesn't have the range for center field and his fringe-average arm probably won't play in right.

19.Adrian Ortiz, of, Royals
B-T: L-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 172 Age: 20 Drafted: Royals '07 (5)
The highest unsigned pick from the 2004 draft (fifth round, Cubs) in college baseball this spring, Ortiz (no relation to Jaime) went in the fifth round again, this time to the Royals. He was also the fastest true prospect in this year's college crop, and his speed makes him a weapon on the bases and an asset in center field. However, his game still needs plenty of polish.

Ortiz is a good contact hitter, but he has no power and little patience. He walked just nine times in 61 games with Idaho Falls, an unacceptable rate for a player with his speed. His instincts also could use some improvement, particularly on the basepaths.

20.Lyndon Estill, of, Great Falls
B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt: 215 Age: 20 Drafted: White Sox '07 (8)
A raw athlete, Estill drew interest from Pacific-10 Conference football programs until he ruptured a tendon in his finger as a high school senior in 2005. He spent two years playing baseball at Lower Columbia (Wash.) CC before turning pro as an eighth-round pick in June.

Estill remains raw, but he offers power and speed and he can play center field. He'll look as good as anyone on one pitch, then put up some terrible swings on the next few. He needs a lot of work at the plate because he has too much extraneous movement and his stroke has too many holes.