Baseball Instinct 360° | Top Prospects 120° to 81°

Happy Saturday everyone!  We hope that all of you out there are enjoying our Baseball Instinct 360° series.  We’ve had a lot of e-mail with positive comments and some great ideas for future articles that will spin off of this series, so stay tuned for those.

The Padres and their new logo take the lead in the Top Prospects 120° to 81° with four prospects in this portion.  The Royals show up with three players as do the  Athletics with three prospects, including recently acquired RHP Brad Peacock.

For a bit of the random, two of the three Wheeler’s on our 360° prospect list show up in his section.  As we’ve mentioned throughout these articles, make sure to check back as we do comprehensive reports on all 360° Prospects.

Cincinatti Reds120°. Robert Stephenson, SP, Reds 2/24/93  – He was the 27th pick in the 1st round of the 2011 draft and many felt that he should have gone much higher.  It is easy to see why, with an arsenal that includes a mid-90’s fastball and good curveball. Stephenson has a good, projectable frame and is around the strike zone most of the time.  He needs to work on his third offering (which is a changeup) and overall command of his pitches within the strike zone. He has the stuff to be a front-end starter.  ETA 2015.

Boston Red Sox119°. Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, Red Sox 9/9/89 – Ranaudo entered the 2010 amateur draft as the top pitching prospect, but an elbow injury caused him to drop to the Red Sox in the first supplementary round. Though he started the season well in 2011 (posting a 3.33era, 9.78k/9ip and 3.13bb/9ip in low-A), his performance in high-A was seen as a disappointment, posting 4.33era, 7.44k/9ip and 3.33/bb9ip. We have doubts that he will ever be a front line starter, but he could be a decent #3.  ETA 2013.

Oakland Athletics118°. Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics 11/7/1989  – The Athletics saw some Tim Hudson-like qualities in Gray when they drafted him in 2011 ahead of quality arms like Taylor Guerrieri (Rays), Matt Barnes (Red Sox), and Alex Meyer (Nationals).  He got into action at AA in 2011 and will likely start there again.  He’s going to need to develop his secondary pitches to go with an upper 90’s fastball to off-set his frame if he’s going to stay a starting pitcher and not a bullpen specialist.  ETA 2013.

Arizona Diamondbacks117°.Ryan Wheeler, 3B, Diamondbacks 7/10/1988 –  Wheeler may eventually be the best pure hitter when lining up Arizona’s 3B prospects- Davidson, Wheeler and Borchering. The big lefty is able to use the whole field and should be a solid bet for a .285 AVG, if not better.  He’s not going to hit for much average, nor is he going to be an average defender at 3B.  A move to the outfield is possibly.  ETA 2013.

116°. Matt Dominguez, 3B, Marlins, 8/28/1989 –  Drafted in the 1st round of 2007 draft along with fellow Chatsworth High School (CA) teammate and Royals 3B Mike Moustakas, Dominguez was set to win the 3B job for the Marlins out of spring training in 2011.  He did not play terribly well and fractured his left elbow before he got a chance.  He could use some more seasoning in the minors and with Hanley Ramirez shifting to 3B to accommodate newly acquired SS Jose Reyes, he should get it.  It is possible that Dominquez is now expendable and may be traded to another team if things work out with Han-Ram at 3B.  ETA 2013.

Detroit Tigers115°. Drew Smyly, LHP, Tigers, 6/13/1989 – A 2nd round pick in the 2010 Amateur Draft out of Arkansas, Smyly wasted no time in proving that he belonged.  He started his season at Advanced-A Lakeland and ended the season in Double-A Erie sporting a 1.18 ERA, giving up 6 earned runs, walking 15 and striking out 53 hitters in 45 innings pitched.  He got it done with a low-90s fastball and advanced command and control of his curveball and change-up.  As a result, Smyly was named Tigers’ Minor League Pitcher of the Year. ETA 2013.

New York Mets114°. Jenrry Mejia, RHP, Mets, 10/11/1989 – I do not think there is a reason to knock Mejia down our ranks any further due to an injury.  His timeline is shot and he’s not going to be back before mid-season.  Even then there’s simply no reason to push him.  Once back, I expect him to get some rehab starts in the GCL/FSL before being ushered to the Wally Backman-led AAA Buffalo Bisons. His mid 90s FB and split CU give him two plus offerings that should usher him into the back end of the bullpen if there isn’t time to refine his curveball. He’s a pitcher that can live on his FB, cutter and change alone in short stints. ETA 2013.

113°. Zack Cox, 3B, Cardinals, 5/9/1989 – He’s currently blocked at 3B by David Freese, but if Cox continues to produce as a .300 hitter they will find someplace to put him. He shows moderate power, but a .104 IsoP in the FSL and a .139 in Double-A isn’t going to cut it as corner infielder. He’s behind Kolten Wong as a 2B so it’s doubtful that transition will be made. Even with his elite level contact ability being a possible major league tool, it’s difficult to project Cox as more than a league average player – possibly a platoon 3B/2B/OF in the future. We’ll need to see another bump in IsoP in 2012 and if that happens, he could hit his ceiling. David Freese at 3B though. A lot of questions. ETA 2013.

Houston Astros112°. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Astros, 5/25/1990 – Houston needs to keep Cosart in AA and work on his delivery. My worry is that the organization will want to move him up too quickly as he has major league talent and the major league roster needs a lot of help. Cosart also has durability issues. With Cosart’s mechanical concerns and his lack of dominance despite a plus fastball, there are glaring signs that he would be better suited in the bullpen. He should get another season to try to turn it around as a starter, but the safest path runs through the pen. ETA 2012.

San Francisco Giants111°. Joe Panik, SS, Giants, 10/30/1990 – He definitely finds ways to get on base, which was nicely complimented by 13 stolen bases during the 2011 season. With 49 runs scored and 54 rbi’s, Panik has the look of an offensive player that can cause damage in all sorts of ways. Another very promising marker for Panik is his excellent strike zone management with 28bb/25k. This is a player that will make pitchers work and can maximize his tools. He needs to carry this performance to higher levels, but Panik has the potential to become a high-level middle infielder at the major league level. ETA 2014.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim110°. Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels, 6/2/1992 – Cowart was LAA’s 2010 first round pick, but since his contract wasn’t ironed out until late in the year, he never had a shot to play. 2011 was really his first professional season. Cowart showed his power in The Pioneer League hitting .283, 7 HR, 12 Doubles with 40 RBI.  He is very athletic and graduated as a pitcher at Cook County High in Adel, Georgia were he threw in the upper 90s.  The strong arm makes him a nice third base prospect. ETA 2015.

109°. Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals, 8/31/1988 – Adam is not going to be the greatest defender, but he will be effective enough to be an everyday 1B. With Albert Pujols gone, his future with the Cardinals may start now. He has enough power and contact ability to be a solid regular at 1B and could be a 30+ HR type. He may not be a .300 type average hitter, but .280 is definitely possible and he controls his K numbers well for a power hitter. ETA 2012. 

Arizona Diamondbacks108°Matt Davidson, 3B, Diamondbacks, 3/26/1991 – Davidson is the best power hitting prospect left in the system after Paul Goldschmidt made his debut in Arizona in 2011. He’s just 20 years old, but he’s already spent a season in High-A and came away with 60 XBH. That’s 39 doubles, 1 triple and 20 Home Runs. He was also able to hit a respectable .279 even though he’s striking out more, which will be unacceptable at the next level. Davidson is still young and profiles as a .280 hitter with 30+ Home Run power. Amongst the Diamondback’s 3B prospects right now, Davidson is the best bet to stick at 3B. He will take his game to Double-A Mobile in 2012. ETA 2013.

Colorado Rockies107°. Tim Wheeler, OF, Rockies, 1/21/1988 – In 2011,Wheeler recreated his performance from the past two seasons, but this time, he added power, which is why the Rockies drafted him as a first-rounder in 2009. Wheeler smacked 33 homeruns, slugged .535, and posted a mighty .248 ISOP (after scoring only .125 and .135 in previous seasons). Just as impressive, he kept the walk rate right around 10% and only increased the strikeouts 3% to 22.3%. Not to mention, he swiped over 20 bases again as well. ETA 2013.

Cleveland Indians106°. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians, 11/14/1993 – The consensus of opinion is that Lindor will stick at shortstop. He has quickness, great range and a cannon-arm. Offensively, they hope he can play the table-setter role in the batting lineup and use his plus speed to cruise the bases. With Tony Wolters a year ahead of him development-wise and Cabrera and Kipnis in the bigs already, there won’t be any need to rush him. Unfortunately, he signed just in time to provide us with only a tiny sample of statistical data. He should go back to NY/Penn to start 2012. Then we will have some numbers to dig into. ETA 2015.

Colorado Rockies105°. Wilin Rosario, C, Rockies, 2/23/1989 – We were a little high on Rosario coming into 2011, but the missed time set him back a little. With the Rockies recent signing of Ramon Hernandez, Rosario will most likely be sent to Triple-A in 2012, where he’ll work on cutting down the strikeouts, rather than sitting on the bench as a back-up catcher. In the long run, Colorado probably won’t be extremely picky about the k’s as long as he keeps giving them production at a reasonable level for a full time power hitter. ETA 2012.

Oakland Athletics104°. Grant Green, OF, Athletics, 9/27/1987 – Green’s move to the outfield has been a success thus far and the A’s hope he can be their everyday Center fielder of the future. Green reportedly had good range at Shortstop, but was extremely errant in his throwing. Instead of testing Green at 3B, where such a defensive flaw might still persist, the A’s moved Green to the outfield. He hit well at the Arizona Fall League, posting a .290/.342/.551 triple slash and a .261 ISoP.  He’s headed for AAA and if can prove himself there, look for him around the All-Star break in 2012. ETA 2012.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim103°. C. J. Cron, 1B, Angels, 1/5/1990 – The knee injury ended his season and off-season surgery should have him ready for spring training.  Expect him to start the season with the High-A Inland Empire 66ers of the California League. At one point, we assumed he would be on the fast track to the majors.  Now we can’t help but wonder if he’s an appealing trade piece in the wake of the Albert Pujols signing.  Mark Trumbo and Kendry Morales probably wonder where they fit in as well. ETA 2014.

Texas Rangers102°. Leonys Martin, OF, Rangers, 3/6/1988 – He would look good batting ahead of the power bats in the Texas lineup. One cautionary note: his performance dropped significantly from double A to triple A competition. There is a substantial decrease in Martin’s slash line and walk rate as well as significant increase in Martin’s k-rate as he rose to the triple A level. However, the amount of transition he underwent in such a short time can account for much of the performance hit. Already 23 years old, there isn’t any reason to hold Martin in the minors for very long. I expect him to be the regular centerfielder in the Texas outfield in short order. His speed and on-base capabilities are an excellent fit with the Texas Rangers. Success may soon follow. ETA 2012.

Kansas City Royals101°. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Royals, 11/16/1992 – Cuthbert did a lot of things right in the Midwest League. Overall he hit .267 with 13 doubles and 8 HR in 300 AB. But it was his growth in walk rate, strikeout rate and solid IsoP for such a young player that makes his projection a high one. What Cuthbert did in the first half of his season shows his upside. It will be interesting to see if he can carry that over into 2012 at Wilmington when he’s back to full health. ETA 2015.

Kansas City Royals100°. John Lamb, LHP, Royals, 7/10/1990- While he missed most of the year with Tommy John, I believe that with some learning experience, it will only make him better.  Lamb’s knack for pitching combined with three solid pitches (90-94 fastball, curve and change) can help him get through lineups even when he doesn’t have his best stuff.  Last seasons adversity should only make the talented lefty better, showing him that he should never take his conditioning for granted.  While at instructs, I heard he was working as hard as ever and should be ready to go by midseason. ETA 2013.

Cleveland Indians99°. Dillon Howard, RHP, Indians, 7/1/1992 – With Howard’s projectable frame and high power stuff, we just can’t wait to see him in action and dive into some stats for you. Unfortunately, he hasn’t thrown a pro pitch yet. Let’s just say, he has all the skills of a front of the rotation starter. Lake County would be a reasonable place for him to start next year, but he may get his feet wet in Short Season ball first. We could of easily went with Francisco Lindor here, but with the depletion of  the Indians system we went with the player we felt had the higher upside. ETA 2015.

Minnesota Twins98°. Liam Hendriks, RHP, Twins, 2/10/1989 – Hendriks mixes up 4 pitches – a 90-91 mph fastball, a curve, a slider, and a change-up and he does it with excellent control.  Hendriks is probably ready for a starting job now at the back-end of the Twins rotation and should get a shot in spring training.  It’s not out of the question that he could head back to AAA to start the season.  While I doubt that he will end up in the bullpen initially, his future could very well be now.  If he can turn a few of those fly balls into ground outs, he could turn into an inning eating #4 starter and at very least a solid arm out of the pen. ETA 2012.

97°. Keyvius Sampson, RHP, Padres, 1/6/1991 – There are still concerns about Sampson’s durability after a shoulder injury that cost him all but 43 innings in 2010.  This past season, he came back with a monster 12-3 mark, 2.90 ERA, an eye popping 10.91 K/9 and a respectable 3.74 BB/9 rate over 118 innings in the Midwest League as a 20-year-old.  He has 3 out pitches and if he can tighten his command, he will be devastating at Petco. ETA 2015.

96°. Parker Bridwell, RHP, Orioles, 8/2/1991 – Bridwell has the pitch mix, frame and velocity that makes it clear how good he might be one day. With just 75 innings pitched this season, there is still plenty of development time before he’s ready to step into a major league rotation for 200 innings. There is still room for Bridwell to fill out, especially in that lower half that should help him build a stronger base and add some additional velocity without undue stress on the shoulder. He’s big enough to handle the workload  and as long as his changeup comes along, his sinking fastball and slider are good enough to rack up strikeouts. He has a high-end #2 starter upside, but is at least 2 years away. ETA 2014.

95°. Drew Hutchison, RHP, Blue Jays, 8/22/1990 – Despite a lanky frame at 6ft2 165lbs, it is unlikely that Hutchison will pick up much more velocity.  There’s just not much projectability left in his body. He pitches in the low 90s and can touch the mid 90s at times, with good command and movement. A plus CU and an average breaking pitch give him the full arsenal. Hutchison is good enough to pitch in the big leagues right now. His ceiling is probably a solid #3, but he’s close to a finished product.  The rest of the system is talented, but raw. ETA 2013.

Kansas City Royals94°. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Royals, 3/27/1990 – Odorizzi’s five pitch mix (fastball, slider, cutter, curve and change up) is the deepest in the system, but he’ll need to concentrate and refine all of his offspeed offerings.  He’ll also need to stay on top of his fastball to reach a #2-#3 ceiling.  Look for Jake to start the season at AA where he’ll need to work on keeping the ball down. We liked Odorizzi a ton heading into the 2011 season, seeing him as a potential #3 starter and he did not disappoint. There is still some additional velocity in his frame and if that happens, he should reach that ceiling. ETA 2014. 

Milwaukee Brewers93°. Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Brewers, 9/29/1988 – Tyler Thornburg was a beast in Low Single-A (7-0, 1.57 ERA, 76 K’s in 12 starts).  As a result, the Brew Crew bumped him to High Single-A (3-6, 3.57 ERA, 84 K’s in 12 Starts) against slightly better hitters. While he may get a look at joining the bullpen in spring training, he sees himself more as a consistent, reliable starting pitcher.  His velocity is typically in the mid 90′s but he can on occasion hit 98-99. Tyler has a deceptive over-the-top delivery and has good control of his pitches. There’s a good chance that Thornburg eventually ends up as a shut down RP. He’s ready now and the Brewers may not want to wait for the SP version to be fully refined. ETA 2013.

Oakland Athletics92°. Brad Peacock, RHP, Athletics 2/2/1988 – Part of the Gio Gonzalez to Washington deal, Peacock possess a solid three pitch repertoire that includes a 90-95 mph fastball, curveball, and a change up.   His change up is a work in progress and he needs to make it more consistent. His fastball command could also be better.  He should be given every chance to be in the A’s rotation right out of spring training.  I can’t stress enough the development of that change-up.  It will be the difference between a quality back-end rotation guy or a bullpen reliever.  ETA NOW.

91°. Casey Kelly, RHP, Padres, 10/4/1989 – Acquired as a centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade prior to the 2011 season, Casey Kelly is trying to validate the Padres decision to trade-off an elite player such as A-Gon. Unfortunately, the early promise of his first couple of years in pro ball has diminished somewhat. His K and BB rates were simply outstanding during his 2009 season in Single A ball, but both of those rates have been going the wrong way in 2010 and 2011. Our scouting reports, Prospect Instinct|Casey Kelly indicates that he has good command of his fastball and changeup, but is erratic with his curve. ETA 2013.

Pittsburgh Pirates90°. Robbie Grossman, OF, Pirates, 9/16/1989 – Grossman repeated the FSL and he answered the questions with a spectacular season. With that said, he was more age appropriate in the FSL in 2011.  His accomplishments in the AFL spoke volumes as to the advances he’s made in his game. While he doesn’t have an elite tool, he’s average or better across the board. He should start 2012 in Double-A and could move quickly after that. Future CF/LF. Just one of those players that’s going to be a major leaguer. Ceiling of a #2 hitter, but probably profiles better down the lineup though. ETA 2013.

89°. Rymer Liriano, OF, Padres, 6/20/1991 – He is what I wish we would see in Blue Jays’ OF prospect Anthony Gose.  A kid that’s learning how to read pitches, cutting down on chasing breaking stuff, and increasing his walk totals.  GM Josh Barnes is extremely excited about what he has in Liriano.  While we don’t share Barnes’ sentiments at the moment that Liriano is the best prospect in the Padres organization, he could turn out to be if he stays on this path in 2012. ETA 2015.

Pittsburgh Pirates88°. Luis Heredia, RHP, Pirates, 8/10/1994  – The Pirates are taking it slow with their young prospect.  At his age it makes sense to let him develop and get his stamina up before rushing him too far up the minor league chain. He has 3 above average offerings with his fastball touching 95 and a curve and change up that are actually plus, but only in small stints. His command is still an issue and he’s still growing. There’s a lot of development here and the Pirates will give him all the time he needs. He should start in extended Spring Training before seeing some additional time in the GCL and State College Short Season. ETA 2016.

Boston Red Sox87°. Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox 8/7/87 - Lavarnway hit .294/.373/.561 at AA/AAA in 2011.  Lavarnway’s value lies with his bat. Though he has an average arm and has made improvements in his receiving his skills, it’s unlikely he will even be average defensively. That said, his bat is good enough to make him a starting catcher and sometimes field presence is something that can make a catcher a leader. That’s something Lavarnway seems to have. He’s going to get a shot at being the everyday catcher at some point in 2012.  ETA Now.

Minnesota Twins86°. Oswaldo Arcia, OF, Twins, 5/9/1991 – Arcia was signed back on the 4th of July in 2007 out of Anaco, Venezuela. He now has 4 seasons under his belt at age 20 and has made steady progress since his debut in 2008. He posted a .291/.335/.531 line between the MWL and the FSL. However, his FSL debut wasn’t as good as you would hope as he battled injuries and looked lost at the plate at times, falling into bad habits that so many young Latin American prospects fall into: swinging at balls in the dirt. As you can imagine, his K rate went up and his BB rate went down, affecting his numbers across the board. However, Arcia’s Midwest campaign was excellent and a repeat of the FSL seems likely. Look for a rebound and more power. ETA 2014.

85°. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres, 10/8/1990 – The main question is whether his lack of a premium fastball will prevent him from maintaining similar performance at the major league level. His excellent ability to locate the ball within the strike zone however, bodes well for future success. He is a fly ball pitcher, but Petco is very kind to that type of pitcher. I like Erlin’s chances to succeed and he’ll become a solid mid-rotation starter that can bring good fantasy value with his peripheral stats. Likely to start in AAA ball, but arrival in the majors is not far away. ETA 2012.

Chicago Cubs84°. Junior Lake, SS, Cubs, 3/27/1990 – Lake is one of the toolsiest players in the entire Cubs’ system. He’s had trouble with both his contact ability and use of his speed in past season, but in 2011, he put most of it together and made it to Double-A after dominating the FSL. While he’s getting better as a SS, he still projects to move to either 3B or 2B in the near future. He’s done very well in the AFL this fall and the speed and power are still on display. Check out his Prospect Instinct here for more details. Lake should start back in Double-A and projects as a 20/20 hitter and possibly more. ETA 2014.

83°. Mason Williams, OF, Yankees, 10/21/1991 – Williams has excellent speed, but he’s very swing happy. His natural ability to make contact is playing up at the lower levels right now, but as he moves up the ladder, he’ll start seeing less pitches to hit and will need to make adjustments. He should develop average power in time since he’s currently noted as at 150 lbs with a 6′ frame. There is room to grow. Expect him to make a jump to Low-A in 2012 and spend the entire season there working on his approach at the plate. If all breaks right, he could be a top of the order hitter and stick in CF. ETA 2015.

Chicago Cubs82°. Matt Szczur, OF, Cubs, 7/20/1989 – Szczur is one of the top athletes in the Cubs’ system. As an NFL hopeful, he was was often compared to Brian Westbrook for his speed and running ability, so we’re talking high end. He’s still settling into baseball full time but the initial production has been good and he projects as a .290 hitter with double digit home run power and 25+ SB speed. Will start 2012 in the FSL. ETA 2014.

Atlanta Braves81°. Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves, 9/2/1991 – Since his arrival, Bethancourt has had a reputation for his defensive skills behind the plate, particularly an arm that gunned down 38% base stealers in the 2011 season.  Bethancourt’s offensive stats (.303/.323/.430) improved against Sally League pitching. The Braves promoted him to Hi A-Lynchburg midseason and he’s not looking back. His stats in the Carolina League were decent (.271/.277/.325), but in no way did he struggle. He followed up his 2011 season by impressing scouts, both defensively and offensively, in the AFL.  Bethancourt hit .306 and slugged .556, matching the 5 HRs he had in 2011. Although the AFL favors hitters, Bethancourt was one of the youngest players and played well against older and more advanced competition. ETA 2014.




Check back soon as we continue with our Top Prospects List and get our baseball geek on. We will also take a look at the top 21 players for each MLB team later this winter.  While you’re here, take a look at a recent article from our Prospect Instinct series: Prospect Instinct|Derek Norris and be a step ahead of the game. Also, check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be. So don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at

Other articles in this series:

360° to 321°

320° to 281°

280° to 241°

240° to 201°

200° to 161°

160° to 121°


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