We’re moving along, heading to the Texas League where some of the top names in all of minor league baseball currently hone their craft. Names like Arenado, Segura, Singleton, Profar, Choice Taveras and Wong highlight some of the elite bats. Hellweg, Rosenthal, Cosart, Odorizzi, Sampson and Erlin are the ones to watch on the mound. So let’s get right to it and start with the Travelers as we travel through the Texas League for the start of the 2012 season.
Los Angeles Angels – Arkansas Travelers
Johnny Hellweg, RHP – Tall with a power fastball that reaches 100, Hellweg has the making of a mid rotation starter or better. He needs to refine his mechanics and command of a potential plus curveball and will also need to refine a changeup to reach his upside.
Ariel Pena, RHP – Pena works in the low 90s with hard sinker and runs a 4-seamer into the upper 90s. His best pitch is a low 80 slider that he commands in the zone and can spin out for strikeouts. His changeup lags far behind, so he should be destined to the bullpen as a power RP.
Dan Tillman, RHP – Tillman has a mid 90s fastball and power slider that’s a true strikeout pitch. He’s still learning to harness both pitches and command them in the zone. He has power RP stuff and could move quickly.
Jean Segura, SS – Segura has a premium bat and plus speed. Currently at SS, it’ll take hard work for him to stick there, but the Angels would love it. He projects to hit 20 HR and steal 30+ bases early in his career.
One to Watch: Orangel Arenas, RHP
Houston Astros – Corpus Christi Hooks
Jarred Cosart, RHP – Cosart has the stuff of which he touted by many. But it has never translated to K rate and his mechanics are a “How NOT to” seminar. He can still work his way into the rotation but projects better at the back of the bullpen.
Brett Oberholtzer, LHP – He’ll probably head to Triple-A by mid-season. Back of the rotation stuff with the ability to be an innings eater. 80-91 fastball with an average slider, curveball and changeup mix.
Ross Seaton, RHP – This is the year for Seaton to breakout in the rotation or head to the pen. He has a low 90s fastball and power slider. The frame says innings but he needs to develop the changeup into an average pitch.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B – He has the best pure bat in the system and he’ll hit for average at the highest level. How much power he develops will determine if he’s a star 1B or just a passable major leaguer. He seems to be limited to 1B defensively but could be average there at least.
Jonathan Villar, SS – Villar is talented, with plus defensive ability and arm on the glove side and some good power with speed. But he is not yet a good hitter, striking out 156 times last year. Not a number for this players profile. He needs mature quickly as a hitter. Watch closely.
Ones to Watch: Austin Wates, OF; Kody Hinze, 1B; Jose Cisnero, RHP; Jake Buchanan, RHP
Texas Rangers – Frisco RoughRiders
Barrett Loux, RHP – Big frame but has health issues. His fastball works in the mid 90s in short stints but his secondaries, though flashing plus, are wildly inconsistent. He’s a major project if he can stay healthy but has major league stuff.
Leury Garcia, SS – Spectacular defender with a great arm. His speed translates to the offensive game, but he’s not a great hitter and has little to no power. Defensively he can make it as a pro. But he’ll need the bat to mature. Quickly.
Mike Olt, 3B – Plus power and a professional approach but he strikes out a lot and will need to refine his pitch selection to make the most of his tools. But he’s a professional hitter already.Defensively he’s solid with some calling him a plus 3B, I have my reservations, but I do think he can stick there.
Jurickson Profar, SS – Young SS with above average major league tools across the board offensively and is an excellent defender with a plus arm. He’s being aggressively pushed and may struggle because of it. His defensive home in the future will be determined by need for the big club.
Ones to Watch: Engel Beltre, OF; Miguel De Los Santos, RHP; Justin Grimm, RHP;
Oakland Athletics – Midland Rockhounds
Sonny Gray, RHP – Gray has the upside of a mid-rotation starter or better with a low 90s fastball that he can dial up to 97. His curveball is a plus hard breaker that’s swing and miss. His changeup lags behind and will need to be refined for him to reach his SP upside, but I see a closer in the wings here.
A.J. Griffin, RHP – Griffin is a big kid, but his fastball sits in the low 90s at its best. He matches it with a solid curveball and changeup and solid approach to his game. He has back of the rotation upside. But not a high ceiling.
Michael Choice, OF – Elite level power CF. While he strikes out more than I would like, he takes walks too, so it’s livable. He’ll have 30+ HR power in CF. That is if he can stick there. If not the power plays anywhere.
Kansas City Royals – Northwest Arkansas Naturals
Noel Arguelles, LHP – A year removed from labrum surgery, the Cuban native might see the gloves come off in 2012. If his fastball can uptick back to the pre-injury low 90s, his changeup will allow him to move quick. If not, $6.9mm mistake.
Chris Dwyer, LHP – Dwyer has a low 90s FB, plus curveball and solid changeup. What he lacks is solid mechanics and thus lack of command. He’ll need to become solid mechanically to remain a starter and his lack of premium velocity makes the bullpen a question if he can’t stay in the rotation plans.
John Lamb, LHP – He’ll be out until mid-season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, but the lefty has a low to mid 90s fastball and plus changeup. He still needs refine his curveball and should be able to do that during the 12 months it will take to regain his command. #3 starter upside.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP – Another starter with #3 upside, Odorizzi has a low 90s fastball with a lot of action. His solid mechanics add to its deception and he commands a curveball, slider and changeup, all effectively. He’ll need to become more consistent with every pitch, but should be long for the Royals rotation.
Wil Myers, OF – A “lost” 2011 in some minds, but Myers is still a stud and has the bat to rake at the highest level and hit for above average power. In his second season in the OF he should be more comfortable and his numbers will show that.
Ones to Watch: Tim Melville, RHP; Christian Colon, SS+ HR power and
San Diego Padres – San Antonio Missions
Keyvius Sampson, RHP – Mid-rotation starter with his average fastball, but has a plus changeup and developing curveball. He’s young for the level and might have an uptick in velocity coming.
Robbie Erlin, LHP – An excellent pitcher with a professional approach. His fastball is average at best but his secondaries border on plus. He’s not an ace type, but the floor is high and he’s a rotation staple type in the middle.
Jedd Gyorko, 3B – Gyorko is the best hitter currently in the minors for the Padres. He uses the whole field, has excellent hands and knows how to work his counts. His power is just average for 3B but his bat is a professional one. He could still move to 2B in James Darnell can stick at 3B.
Ones to Watch: Matt Lollis, RHP; Jonathan Galvez, 2B; Jeudy Valdez, 2B; Jaff Decker, OF; Reymond Fuentes, OF; Edinson Rincon, OF
St. Louis Cardinals – Springfield Cardinals
John Gast, LHP – The top LHP in the system, Gast highlights a plus curveball and borderline plus changeup with a 88-93 mph fastball. That fastball velocity will determine if he’s a mid- rotation starter or ends up a long man in the pen.
Trevor Rosenthal, RHP – “Rosenthal is a different animal.” That what coach Dennis Martinez said when I asked about the aggressive assignment. Rosenthal should be dominating the FSL this year. But he takes his mid 90s fastball and biting slider to the SL. His changeup took a leap in Spring Training but will need to be refined to get him to the #2 upside he has.
Nick Derba, C – Derba is working with NY hitting guru, Joe Francisco and could be in line for a breakout 2012 at the plate. If he can stick behind the plate he could be a solid backup to Yadier.
Greg Garcia, 2B – Garcia has the ability to play 2B, SS and could handle the OF. He has surprising pop for a player his size and has utility infielder written all over him despite flying under the radar.
Kolten Wong, 2B – Top 2011 draft pick has an advanced bat and will the the Cards 2B of the future. The near future. Average speed and power combo with the ability to hit .300+.
Oscar Taveras, OF – Young OF skips the FSL. A move that is even more aggressive than Rosenthal’s. But Taveras has an elite bat and could be a very special player. He’s still very young and developing the power in his swing and his approach at the plate.
One to Watch: Xavier Scruggs, 1B
Colorado Rockies – Tulsa Drillers
Chad Bettis, RHP – Currently hurt, but will step into this rotation once he’s healthy. If he develops a changeup he has #2 starter upside based on his mid 90s fastball and plus slider. If no changeup can be had, he has the stuff to close out games.
Edwar Cabrera, LHP – Not big, no over-powering fastball and yet he strikes out batters at a very high level. Double-A will be his biggest test and he profiles more as a back end of the rotation starter. His changeup is plus at least and sometimes lefty starters with plus changeups can overcome a lack of premium velocity.
Nolan Arenado, 3B – The best 3B prospect in the minor leagues, Arenado is a premium bat that projects to hit for .300+ AVG and above average power while getting on base at a high clip.
Kent Matthes, OF – Matthes will be 25 this year and needs to prove quickly that the 65 XBH in 371 at bats last season was the real deal. He has a plus arm to handle RF and average speed. He’s one to watch and might be a late bloomer.
That’s the Texas League. We’re bowling through the leagues now and games are being played with players on hot streaks and pitches shutting teams down. We’ll move onto the final leagues over the next week as we’re also finalizing the update to the 360.
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