Touch’em All: Top MLB Northwest League Hitting Prospects
So here we are at mid-season now and the Northwest League Short Season is underway. That said, the Baseball Instinct team is jumping in to profile some of the best performances so far and possibly give you a hint of what is to come with these young ballplayers. Keep in mind that these are players at the very beginning of their professional careers and that this is a top performers list and not a top prospects list. So let’s GO!
Cory Spangenberg, 2B San Diego Padres (20) – Mr. Spangenberg wasted no time after becoming a Eugene Emerald to show why the San Diego Padres selected him 10th overall in the 2011 Amateur Draft which wasn’t far off from our consensus in our Draft Preview. The 20-year-old dominated the Northwest competition in such a way that he was promoted to Class A Fort Wayne after 25 games (86 ab). During his time there, he hit .384, walked 33 times, and stole 10 bases, posting an outer-worldly .545 OBP. That said, Spang’s advanced bat and elite speed have stalled him to begin his time at the next level. Currently, he’s only hitting .091 (3 for 33) at Fort Wayne., but it often takes time for youngsters to adjust to each level. Another thing to consider, at the moment, he is positioned at 2b and that is where he’d have the most value, but if he doesn’t make the grade defensively, the outfield is definitely an option.
Joe Panik, SS San Francisco Giants (20) – Since being select 29th overall in 2011 amateur draft and dropped into the Northwest League, professional baseball has been very good to Joe Panik. He’s among the league leaders in batting, hitting .342. His OBP dazzles at .403. And he currently walks more that he strikes out with 13/12 BB/K. Panik profiles to be a top-of-the-order stick, with a talent at getting on-base, who could stay at shortstop or possibly slide over to second. Some think he could develop enough power to collect 10-15 homers a season and utilize his speed to collect the same amount of steals. The other San Fran infielders who stand in his way are the currently light-hitting/slick fielding duo of Brandon Crawford and Ehire Adianza. Those players, particularly Crawford, will be the short term answers for the middle of the SF infield. Provided he can swing the bat like this at each level and keep up his end on defense, it’ll be at least 2-3 years before Joe could be giving opposing pitchers “Panik” attacks (sorry, had to do it).
Jonathon Berti, 2B Toronto Blue Jays (21) – Any questions about this Bowling Green State product’s ability to hit with a wooden bat should have been answered by the terrific start to his professional career. Hitting .326 with 10 steals, Jonathon doing his best to earn and surpass his 18th round selection in the 2011 Amateur Draft. Add to this his pitch selectivity at the plate, supported by his stellar .411 OBP and 11/16 BB/K and we may have the makings of a prototypical leadoff or two-hole hitter. With Brett Lawrie’s move to 3b, the 21-year-old Berti doesn’t seem to have a lot of competition in the Toronto system at second base unless some of their SS prospects slide over. For now, jot Jonathon Berti down as a name to know.
Brett Nicholas, C/1B Texas Rangers (23) – Grabbed in the 6th round of the 2010 Amateur Draft, this U of Missouri product blossomed this season in Spokane. Busting out a .349 batting average, collecting 30 rbi, and maintaining a .442 OBP, the 23-year-old C/1b helped Ranger management make the decision to promote him to Advanced A Myrtle Beach recently. The problem here isn’t’ the numbers. Nicholas dominated Spokane, a league where most of his teammates were 3 years younger. He needs to keep up these numbers at higher levels and now he has the chance. This is a player who should be noted here for his accomplishments but shouldn’t’ be on your radar unless he keeps doing it.
Mike Murray, C San Francisco Giants (23) – Same situation as Brett Nicholas really. Murray was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010. He is destroying Northwest league pitching with a .403 batting average and a .429 OBP with 5 homers and only striking out 15 times in 117 at bats. Again, if he were 20-years-old and not 23, we’d have a little more excitement about this kid. But these are very good professional numbers and need to be reported. He just needs to do this in a more age appropriate league.
Jordan Ribera, 1B Colorado Rockies (22) – Whenever you see a power bat in the Colorado Rockies system where there really isn’t much depth, you might want to pay attention. Ribera is such a bat. Chosen in the 21st round out of Fresno State, 22-year-old Ribera is doing his best to show the teams who didn’t draft him in 2010 what they are missing out on. There may not be much projection left because of his age but hitting .320, 5 hrs, 30 RBI, 12 BB, and only 19 k’s in 103 at bats is significant, particularly if projected out for an entire season. Ribera needs a promotion to show his stuff against better talent.
So those are some top bats in the Northwest League. Next we will be examining the top Northwest League Pitchers. Then soon after that we go to the New York-Penn League to profile their Hitters and Pitchers. Be sure to check back soon.