MLB Draft Prospect: Kolbrin Vitek – 2B/RHP – Ball State – Scouting Report

MLB Draft Prospect: Kolbrin Vitek – 2B/RHP – Ball State University. 6’3 195. Jr. DOB: 4/1/89.


Ball State @ Ohio State – May 12, 2010. (In Person)

2008 – FR – .305 – 128-39 -4 – 3 – 5 – 24 -.388 -.500 – 3
2009 – SO – .389 – 208-81-25 – 4 – 13 – 67- .465 -.736 – 17
2010 – JR – .363 – 204-74-17 – 3 – 15 – 59 -.448 -.696 – 13 (Through 5.16.10)

It’s important to note that watching one game doesn’t provide nearly enough information to produce a true scouting report. That’s not going to stop me from giving you my report anyway.

HITTING – Although this is probably his most advanced tool, Vitek would not be getting the attention he is if he were in the unusually deep 2008 college position player draft class. It’s the lack of impact bats in this particular draft class that makes Vitek’s hit tool stand out. In the small sample that I witnessed, Vitek pulled a fastball on the inside half on a hard line out to left field and later in the game hit a double off the right field wall on a strike up and on the outside half displaying the easy yet surprisingly uncommon ability to hit the ball where it’s pitched.

POWER – Vitek’s power projects as merely average despite hitting 28 HR over the past two seasons. The double referenced above displayed his bat speed and forearm strength.

SPEED – As you can see in the video above, I had Vitek at 4.2 seconds from home to first base on a groundout to the shortstop, which is above average from the right side of the plate.

ARM – A pitcher on in the weekend rotation, Vitek has been clocked at 92 hence his arm should play as a plus at any position.

DEFENSE – As a Sophomore in 2009, Vitek played third base before shifting to second base this season in an attempt to rest his arm when not pitching. He projects to move back to the hot corner as a professional where he should be an average defender. The first step quickness appears adequate to me to handle third base, but the club that selects him will need to be patient with him as he adjusts to the position as a professional. Some clubs see him as more of a outfielder and he has the athletic ability to play there.

FUTURE – While Vitek is one of the best two-way players in College Baseball this season and was recently named the Mid-American Conference West Division “MAC” pitcher of the week, there is little doubt that his future is as a position player. While probably an unfair speculation on my part because he plays for a small conference, I think Vitek will be an easy sign. That factor, combined with him being one of the more advanced bats in the draft make him a safe bet to go in the mid to late portion of the first round. While I don’t think he’ll ever be a star in the League, his above average collection tools combined with his advanced bat make him a safe bet to reach the major leagues and contribute as an everyday player.


College Baseball Prospect Update – Hitters

Junior College

Bryce Harper – C – SoNV. 7-14 8RBI. 4HR (12). He’s living up to the hype with a wood bat.

Atlantic Coast Conference

Jarrett Parker – OF – UVA. 3-11.
Tyler Cannon – SS – UVA. 5-12 1RBI. HR (1). One of the better Sr. position players in the nation.
Kyle Parker – OF – CLEM. 4-12 1RBI. Clemson’s starting QB.
Tyler Holt – OF – FSU. 5-10 4RBI 2HR (4)
Derek Dietrich – SS – GTECH. 7-17 4RBI. 2HR (6). Check out some video at
Yasmani Grandal – C – MIA. 9-14 6RBI. HR (2) He and LSU Catcher Michael Gibbs might both go in the first round.
Stephen Perez – SS – MIA. 3-10 1RBI. HR (2) Will battle ASU’s Deven Marrero and Stanford’s Kenny Diekroeger for Freshman All-American SS.
Austin Wates – OF – VATECH. 4-12 1RBI.
Brian Goodwin – OF – UNC. 2-12 1RBI. Will make the White Sox wish they could have signed him last year.

Southeastern Conference

Micah Gibbs – C – LSU. 5-14 4RBI.
Leon Landry – OF – LSU. 3-11 2RBI. HR (3)
Blake Dean – 1B – LSU. 4-13 1RBI.
Matt den Dekker – OF – FLA. 3-11 2RBI.
Austin Maddox – C – FLA. 6-14 6RBI. HR (7). Moves ahead of Goodwin in Freshman of the Year race.
Preston Tucker – 1B – FLA. 3-12.
Hunter Morris – 1B – AUB. 5-13 2 2B 0RBI
Brett Eibner – OF – ARK. 3-10 3RBI. HR(6). Also had a good outing on the mound on Saturday.
Zack Cox – 3B – ARK. 6-11 8RBI 2HR (5). Draft eligible Sophomore.
Ross Wilson – 2B – ALA. 3-15 3RBI. HR (5)
Jackie Bradley – OF – SOCAR. 3-12 2RBI.
Zach Cone – OF – UGA. 4-12 6RBI. HR (4). The lone bright spot on a struggling Georgia team.
Connor Powers – 1B – MISS ST. 2-9 2RBI.

Big 12 Conference

Cameron Rupp – C – TEX. 3-14 3RBI.
Brodie Greene – OF – A&M. 2-11 1RBI.
Tony Thompson – 3B – KAN. 6-10 3RBI. HR (1)

Pac 10 Conference

Deven Marrero – SS – ASU. 2-4 3RBI HR(1). Played 1 game and made the most of it.
Kenny Diekroeger – SS – STAN. 2-11.
Jake Stewart – OF – STAN. 3-7.
Mark Canha – 1B – CAL. 4-12 3RBI.

Big East

Jedd Gyorko – 2B – WVU. 4-13 1RBI.

Big West

Christian Colon – SS – CAL ST. FUL. 5-12 3RBI. HR (6)
Gary Brown – OF – CAL ST. FUL. 5-13 1RBI. 2SB (14)

Conference USA

Anthony Rendon – 3B – RICE. 5-13 4RBI. HR (10). Top prospect in 2011 draft class.
Rick Hague – SS – RICE. 3-12 0RBI. Struggling.
Steven Sulzbaugh – OF – RICE. 5-15 2RBI.
Diego Seastrunk – C – RICE. 4-14 4RBI. HR (2) Seastrunk and Sulzbaugh as Seniors need to turn Rice around.


Gauntlett Eldemire – OF – OHIO. 3-9 2RBI. HR (4) Again, best name in college baseball.

Top 15 Shortstop Prospects

In reviewing the shortstop prospects throughout minor league baseball I found it to be more difficult to narrow down a list of 15 than I did with the other positions I’ve ranked thus far. I think this position has both depth and star power and as I mentioned in my second baseman rankings, many of the players on this list will have MLB careers as second basemen. There were a lot of guys that I had to leave off the list that I can see having very significant careers and others that might rank in the top 5 on this list as early as next season.

Junkie Glossary

Bats – Throws – Height – Weight – D.O.B.

1. Alcides Escobar – R-R – 6’1 185 – MIL – 12.16.86. A master defenseman with plus range, soft hands and a good arm, the Escobar era in Milwaukee begins now with the departure of J.J. Hardy. While his glove has always been his calling card, Escobar’s offense has improved steadily over the past several years. In a brief stint in Milwaukee last season he posted a .304/.333/.368 line in 125 ABs. He stole a total of 48 bases last season with 25 doubles and 5 HR. He doesn’t walk enough (6.6%) for a man of his speed and lack of power, but he also makes pretty consistent contact evidenced by his 15.1 K%.

2. Starlin Castro – R-R- 6’1 175 – CHC – 2.24.90. While not quite the defender that Escobar is, Castro is still a plus defender and has more pop to his bat. Castro’s line between two levels (.299/.342./392) in 2009 won’t blow you away but he was the youngest player in the High A Florida State League and in the AA Southern League and still merged to stand out being named the best defensive shortstop in the former. He has a slight hitch in his swing where he drops then raises his hands instead of loading them back that will need to be corrected, but it’s not alarming. He stole 28 bases last season but was caught 11 times. Like Escobar, he doesn’t walk as much as he should. He should go back to AA to begin the year.

3. Jose Iglesias – R-R- 5’11 175 – BOS – 1.5.90. The 2nd most hyped Cuban defector to sign in the past year behind Aroldis Chapman, Iglesias is quickly growing a legendary reputation for his glove work. Signed to a 4 year – $8.25MM contract, he got his first taste of pro ball at the Arizona Fall League. Although he’s just 20 years old there is no question that Iglesias will remain at SS as he progresses and he should be a gold glove caliber player when he arrives in the major leagues. At the plate he has a very short and compact line drive stroke. At this point the major question mark for me will be his selectivity at the plate. Just as it’s an adjustment for Cuban pitchers to recognize that hitters don’t chase as many balls out of the zone in this country, Cuban hitters must make the same adjustment by not swinging at bad balls. He could start in AA and I’m anxious to start watching his box scores to see if he’s drawing walks.

4. Jiovanni Mier – R-R – 6’2 175 – HOU – 8.26.90. Mier and Mychal Givens were regarded as the clear top two prep shortstops in the 2009 draft. Houston selected Mier in the 1st round, signed him quickly and Jio started backing up his reputation up at the pro level. Mier showed power, patience, speed and defensive ability in his debut. He smacked 7 HR and posted a .484 SLG. He walked 13.1% of the time and he stole 10 bags. He’ll get his first taste of full season ball in the Low A South Atlantic League and could advance quickly.

5. Grant Green – R-R – 6’3 170 – OAK – 9.27.87. The University of Southern California product was regarded as the second best position player (behind Dustin Ackley) in the draft heading into the 2009 college season, but he may have been looking ahead and his stock dropped significantly during a disappointing first half of the season. He would later recover and Oakland used the 13th pick on him and signed him to an above slot $2.75MM bonus. At the plate he has good balance and a simple compact stroke that should lead to above average power numbers. While he doesn’t project to be a gold glover at shortstop, he should be able to remain at the position long term.

6. Devaris Gordon – L-R – 5’11 150 – LAD – 4.22.88. The son of MLB pitcher Tom “Flash” Gordon, the younger Gordon might earn the same nickname but for his foot speed rather than his fastball. He stole 73 bases last season in the Low A Midwest League where he was the co-MVP. Despite his MLB bloodlines, Gordon didn’t play baseball until his senior year in HS, so his game needs years of refinement. He’s a good contact hitter though he’s too much of a slapper and he also doesn’t walk as much as he should. He’s posted very high BABIP numbers over the past two seasons (.368 and .357) but that’s not too unusual for a ground ball hitter with his speed. I expect the infield hits and batting average to decrease as he progresses and faces better pitching and defense. He could put up another good offensive season for Inland Empire in the High A California League.

7. Miguel Sano – R-R – 6’3 195 – MIN – 5.11.93. Sano was rated as the top prospect on the international amateur market last summer and was paid like it too, signing with the Twins for $3.15MM. It’s doubtful he’ll stick at SS, but he has the arm strength and raw power to move to 3B or RF. At just 16 he’ll continue to get bigger and while that will prove to be his demise at short, it will likely improve his already high ceiling power potential.

8. Derrik Gibson – R-R- 6’1 170 – BOS – 12.5.89. Gibson was a 2nd round pick out of HS in 2008 and while I don’t think he’ll stick at SS (especially with Jose Iglesias now in the organization) he’s being ranked as one. With patience at he plate and speed, Gibson looks like a true leadoff hitter. He maintained a BB% of at least 12.4% in his three minor league stops, and had 0.93 BB/K ratio last season while stealing 28 bases. He’s yet to hit his first professional HR and he doesn’t project to develop much power as he matures.

9. Chase D’Arnaud – R-R- 6’1 175 – PIT – 1.21.87. Chase’s brother Travis ranked 12th on my Top 15 Catchers List and like his brother, he doesn’t possess much power. I do like his approach though as he walks at an above average rate and he walks nearly has much as he strikes out. Defensively, D’Arnaud holds his own, being voted as the best defensive shortstop in the Carolina League by the league’s managers.

10. Wilmer Flores – R-R – 6’3 175 – NYM – 8.6.91. When reading about Mets prospects, you see a similar phrase in many scouting reports. Because they’re aggressive with signing teenagers in the international signing period and with promoting them later, you often see, “he was the youngest player in his league last year.” It was true of blue chip pitcher Jenrry Mejia, and with outfielder Fernando Martinez. Unless you’ve seen these guys with your own eyes and I haven’t, it makes it difficult to evaluate them because their stats are usually just OK while they try to hold their own against older competition. Flores is no exception being the youngest player in the Low A South Atlantic League last year. Flores won’t be a shortstop much longer and a move to third base is probable. He flashed power in 2008 but hit just 3 HR and slugged a weak .332 last season.

11. Danny Espinosa – B-R – 6’0 190 – WAS – 4.25.87. While he won’t come close to matching other former Dirtbag shortstops Troy Tulowitzki or Evan Longoria, Espinosa is a legit prospect in his own right. He boasts an above average walk rate but he also has a red flag in his 27.2 K%. He did hit 18 HR and stole 29 bases and plays a good shortstop. He’s a good bet to have an MLB career, and his contact issues will dictate whether it will be as an everyday player or as a utility guy.

12. Reid Brignac – L-R – 6’3 180 – TB – 1.16.86. Once considered a prolific offensive prospect, Brignac has been rated as the top defensive shortstop in each of the past two seasons by the managers of the International League while his bat seems to have regressed slightly. His plate discipline is below average and he no longer appears to have the plus power that he showed in 2006 when he hit 24 HR and slugged .557 in the California League. With no openings in the Tampa Bay lineup, he may make the team as a bench contributor.

13. Tim Beckham – R-R – 6’0 190 – TB – 1.27.90. The first overall pick in the 2008 draft, ahead of Pedro Alverez, Buster Posey, and Gordon Beckham, Tim was expected to remain at shortstop. A thick lower half and poor footwork, however, have spurred rumblings that a move to 3B or OF is possible. A move off of shortstop would severely damage Beckham’s prospect status, as his bat was simply not advanced enough to warrant the top overall pick if he were a high school 3B or LF. At the plate he showed some power, hitting 33 doubles and 5 HR last season while stealing 13 bases. The 116 K’s compared to just 34 BB’s is a concern and he’ll need to cut down on that difference in the High A Florida State League to rebuild his reputation.

14. Mychal Givens – R-R – 6’1 190 – BAL – 5.13.90. A 2nd round prep pick out of baseball rich Tampa FL, Givens signed late so there was less opportunity for him to show what kind of player he’s going to be. Givens was a 2-way player in HS and pitched in the mid 90s so his arm at SS is plus-plus. He’s not perceived to be as polished defensively as Jiovanni Mier and I simply don’t know enough about him as a hitter to know where he might need improvement. I don’t see any major flaws with his swing in this small sample.

15. Hak-Ju Lee – L-R- 6’2 170 – CHC – 11.4.90. An international signee from Korea in 2008, Lee is impressive in several facets of his game. He flashed speed (25 SB), patience (10.2 BB%), batting average (.330) in his professional debut last season. It wasn’t all roses, as he committed 27 errors in just 68 games and he has not shown much power. He’ll get his first taste of full season ball this season in the Low A Midwest League in 2010.

Sleeper – Ivan DeJesus Jr. – R-R – 5’11 190 – LAD – 5.1.87. I don’t understand why DeJesus doesn’t get more love. His dad was an MLB shortstop, and he plays like the son of an MLB veteran. He missed most of last season with a broken leg and while he’s good enough defensively to stay at SS, there’s already talk of him moving to 2B so he can play along side Devaris Gordon in Los Angeles when they both arrive. I love his plate discipline. In his last 3 full seasons, he walked at least 11% of the time while posting a BB/K ratio near 1.00 and stealing double digit bases. I think he’s a good bet to become an MLB regular.

Overrated – Carlos Triunfel – R-R – 5’11 205 – SEA – 2.27.90. While Tim Beckham received some strong consideration for this spot, I think he deserves a spot on the back end of my top 15 while Triunfel does not. Another member of this list to receive a seven figure bonus as an international signee, this time from 2006. He’s been disappointing as a professional – refusing to take walks, battling issues with his weight, and having a perceived poor attitude. He does possess a strong arm that will give him options defensively but a move to second base will most likely be the first move. A broken leg held him to just 42 AB’s last season. While he’s still just 20, he has plenty time to restore his blue chip prospect status, but I’m betting against it.

Top 15 Second Basemen Prospects

Second base is perhaps the weakest position in the minor leagues but I still see several MLB regulars in this list. The issue with ranking second base prospects parallels that of ranking first baseman in that it’s quite possible that the top 2 or 3 minor league prospects at this position may currently be playing another position in the minor leagues. Several of the top shortstops in minor league baseball will have long and productive careers at second base in the Majors, but you won’t find them on this list as I attempted to stay pretty loyal to where each prospect is currently playing.

Junkie Glossary

Bats – Throws – Height – Weight – Team – D.O.B

1. Brett Lawrie – R-R – 5’11 200 – MIL – 1.18.90. Drafted as a prep catcher with the 16th overall pick in 2008, Lawrie was already a Canadian legend, making the Olympic team that same year at just 18. Lawrie’s pro career behind the plate didn’t last long and he moved to second base and it’s questionable that he’ll stay there. He hit 13 HR last season and he projects to hit for more power down the road. He stole 19 bags last year but considering that he was caught stealing 13 times, I’m guessing he’ll have a tighter leash on the base paths this season. He’s not quite as athletic as your typical 2B defensively, and he posted a below average .964 fielding percentage there in the Low A Midwest League last season. The true thunder in his bat aided by his large forearms makes him the top prospect at this position.

2. Todd Frazier – R-R – 6’3 215 – CIN – 2.12.86. If Todd Frazier were in 29 other organizations, I’m not sure any one of them would see him as a second basemen but Cincinnati does so I’ll respect their decision and rank him at this position. I recently read that the Redlegs will give him the opportunity to win a job in LF for the big league club this season and has played 87 games out there in the past 2 seasons. A doubles machine, Frazier smacked 45 two baggers between AA and AAA last season to go with his 16 HR and his .480 SLG. He doesn’t strike out at an alarming rate (15%) but I’d like to see him improve his 8.5% walk rate. I think he’ll start the season at AAA Louisville but his bat will force him into the Queen City sometime after the All Star Break.

3. Eric Young Jr. – B-R – 5’10 180 – COL – 5.25.85. EY Jr., like his father before him, uses his plus-plus speed as his calling card. Unlike many burners in the minor leagues, Jr. shows some true leadoff ability. He displayed a 12.8% BB rate in AA in 08 and a 10.1% rate in AAA in 09 while keeping his K’s in check. Three times in the past four seasons he’s maintained an OBP of over .385. He’s seen time in CF but his poor arm will keep him at 2B or possibly LF. He’ll begin the year as a bench player in Colorado.

4. Jemile Weeks – B-R – 5’10 175 – OAK – 1.26.87. Jemile’s brother Rickie holds the career NCAA DI record for batting average (.465), and Jemile was no slouch himself. He led a talent laden Miami team to Omaha in 2008 and became the 12th overall selection in that year’s draft. Weeks has battled injuries as a professional, totaling just 99 games over the past two seasons. When healthy, he shows the ability to draw walks and make consistent contact. He has plus speed, but that has not yet translated into high SB numbers. He should spend the majority of the 2010 season in AA Midland.

5. Scott Sizemore – R-R – 6’0 185 – DET – 1.4.85. Sizemore has an advanced bat and he’s ready to take over for Placido Polanco in Detroit and he may even take over the #2 spot in the batting order. He’s expected to be fully recovered by Spring Training from a broken ankle suffered in the Arizona Fall League. None of his tools are overly impressive, and his defense is below MLB average, but he showed good speed and power last season, hitting 17HR and stealing 21 bases. He shows above average OBP skills and doesn’t strike out at an alarming rate.

6. Reese Havens – L-R – 6’1 195 – NYM – 10.20.86. A teammate of top 1B prospect Justin Smoak at South Carolina, Havens joined him in the 1st round of the 2008 draft. There was some pre-draft buzz that some teams were interested in converting Havens to a catcher, he’s played SS thus far as a professional, but he’ll be moving to 2B this year. He’ll learn the position in the AA Eastern League where he’ll try to approve his .247 career batting average.

7. Adrian Cardenas – L-R – 6’0 185 – OAK – 10.10.87. The Phillies used a supplemental 1st round pick on Cardenas out of a Miami HS, then traded him to Oakland for Joe Blanton in 2008. Cardenas plays all over the infield and could help the A’s as a utility man right now. He walks at a decent rate and he doesn’t strike out a whole lot. He’s never going to hit for much power and he’s not much of a base stealer. While there is value in Cardenas’ defensive diversity, he’s not yet mastered any of his defensive positions.

8. Jeff Kobernus – R-R – 6’2 210 – WAS – 6.30.88. A UC Berkley product, Kobernus was regarded as the best collage 2B in the 2009 draft and the Nationals used the first pick in the 2nd round on him. Kobernus has solid average tools across the board. He has a patient approach, will flash occasional power, can steal bases and he’s athletic enough to stick at 2B. His mustache points will land him in the top 15, and I expect his talent to keep him there.

9. Ryan Flaherty – L-R – 6’3 200 – CHC – 7.27.86. A shortstop in college, Flaherty shared the left side of the infield with Pedro Alvarez at Vanderbilt where his little brother Regan, a blue chip prospect of his own, is getting ready for his Freshman season. A left-handed hitter with power, the elder Flaherty smacked 20 HR last season in Low A ball where he saw time at SS, 2B and 3B. No matter what position he settles into, he’ll have to keep his strikeouts in check as he’s had a K% over 20% in each of his first two seasons.

10. Johnny Giovatella – R-R – 5’8 185- KC – 7.10.87. If you’re going to be 5’8 and trying to reach the major leagues, you’d better do some things right and Johnny does just that, getting on base on such a high clip. He walked at a 11.8% rate last year and had an outstanding 1.22 BB/K ratio and stole 26 bags. He doesn’t have much power and projects as a below average defender.

11. Logan Watkins – R-R- 5’11 170 – CHC – 8.29.89. A 21st round pick in 2008 because of his strong college commitment to Wichita State, Watkins is a prototype of a guy I’d like my team. He’s shown an impressive 0.94 BB/K ratio as a professional, he’s got a good arm and he runs well. He has yet to hit a professional HR and he doesn’t project to develop much power in his slight frame. A move to the OF is possible as the Cubs have a plethora of 2B/SS types. He’ll get his first taste of full season ball in the Low A Midwest League.

12. Ryan Schimpf – L-R – 5’9 180 – TOR – 3.11.88. Part of the 2009 National Championship LSU team, Schimpf began the season as the double play companion of SS D.J. LaMahieu and ended it in LF when LaMahieu moved to 2B. Schimpf was one of my favorite college players in 2009 and at just 5’9 he’s one of my favorite scrappy minor leaguers. He uses a compact stroke to drive the ball to the opposite field and has slightly above average power for a 2B. He’ll struggle on defense but his offense could make him a MLB regular. He’ll open his first full professional season in High A.

13. Ruben Tejada – R-R- 6’0 160 – NYM – 10.27.89. Three years younger than Reese Havens, but one level in front of him, Tegada illustrates the difference in development between a teenage international signee and a prospect that spends three years in college. While a better defender than Havens, his bat is not as advanced. He lacks plate discipline and doesn’t have much power. He’ll advance to AAA Buffalo this season and could potentially challenge unpopular 2B Luis Castillo for playing time in the 2nd half.

14. D.J. LeMahieu – R-R – 6’4 185 – CHC – 7.13.88. LeMahieu began last season as the starting SS on the eventual National Champion LSU team but he moved to 2B half way through the year to improve the overall team defense. At his height and frame he doesn’t really look like a 2B and I don’t anticipate a long stay at that position. He’s yet to prove he can hit for power with a wood bat.

15. L.J. Hoes – R-R – 6’1 190 – BAL – 3.5.90. A 2008 second team High School All American as an outfielder, Hoes moved to 2B as a professional where he’s still raw. At the plate, Hoes appears to take a simple approach to his swing. It’s nothing more than a simple weight transfer and the hands stay level as he brings them through the zone. Hoes has good speed but is lacking in his other offensive tools. He refuses to take walks, strikes out too much and has well below average power. Defensively, he’s still very raw at 2B but he’s athletic enough to become above average at that position.

Sleeper – C.J Retherford – R-R – 5’11 190 – CWS – 8.14.85. An undrafted free agent from Arizona State, Retherford has worked his way up the prospect ladder into legitimacy. He has power that is a tick above average and he led the minor leagues in doubles last season with 46. He doesn’t do anything particularly well but I could see him helping a major league team as a utility infielder/pinch hitter.

Overrated – Corban Joseph – L-R – 6’0 170- NYY – 10.28.88. Corban’s brother Caleb is a catcher in the Baltimore organization who almost made my Top 15 Catcher Prospect List. Corban was drafted in the 4th round in 2008 out of HS. He fits the mold of many second basemen on this list. He gets on base, walks nearly as much as he strikes out, doesn’t have much power and has some questions on defense. It’s still early for Corban, but I view him more as a utility player at the MLB level.

Top 15 First Basemen Prospects

This isn’t a stellar class of First Baseman and that can partially be attributed to the fact that often some of Major League Baseball’s best first baseman play third base for much of their Minor League career. See Teixeira, Mark. This year’s crop of prospects is no exception as Pittsburg’s Pedro Alvarez and Toronto’s Brett Wallace will likely spend the majority of their MLB career at first base. For now however, I’ll be ranking those two among the third baseman until their clubs move them off of the position. It’s also important to note that Seattle’s Dustin Ackley will be ranked among the outfielders.

Junkie Glossary


1. Justin Smoak – B-L – 6’4 220 – TEX – 12.5.86. Imagine that you are a future 1st round pick as well as the top prospect at your position and yet you weren’t even the best player on your high school team. That was Justin Smoak and that’s what he gets for going to school with a kid named Matt Weiters. Smoak didn’t sign when the A’s selected him in the 16th round of the 2005 draft, instead choosing to go to South Carolina. Three years later the Rangers would use the 11th overall selection on Smoak and he signed for $3.5MM. Smoak only hit 12 HR during the regular season last year then went on to hit 9 in just 14 games during the World Cup. A switch hitter with power, Smoak is a better hitter at this point against right handed pitching as he hit just .196 from the right side in 50 AA games compared to .379 from the left. The splits evened out a bit when he went to AAA going .231 from the right and .250 from the left. Smoak has nice loft to his swing and possesses great patience at the plate (15.9% BB Rate) and a great .925 BB/K ratio. He will likely begin the season back in AAA Oklahoma City where he finished 2009 but he should arrive in Texas after the All Star Break.

2. Logan Morrison – L-L – 6’2 215 – FLA – 8.25.87. It’s strange that a player coming off of a league MVP season (High A Florida State League) and misses significant time the following season with a broke thumb still improves his stock, but Morrison did just that. He saw his walk rate jump from 10.3% to 18.4% and his BB/K ratio went from a solid .71 to an amazing 1.37. Morrison is athletic enough to play LF and was used out there sparingly in 2009 but his home is 1B. To reach his ceiling as an All Star 1B, he’ll need to improve v. LHP as he hit just .233 against them last year.

3. Chris Carter – R-R – 6’4 210 – OAK – 12.18.86. Drafted by the White Sox out of a Las Vegas HS in 2005, Carter has already been traded twice. First to the Diamondbacks for Carlos Quentin then again to the Athletics with Brett Anderson and Carlos Gonzalez for Dan Haren. Carter rivals Florida OF Michael Stanton as having the most power of any current prospect in the Minor Leagues. He won the AA Texas League MVP posting a 1.011 OPS with 67 XBH. Strikeouts will always be a concern for Carter but he did cut down on his hideous 30.8 K% of 2008 to a less atrocious 24.3% in 2009. Carter’s swing reminds me a little of Glenallen Hill’s as he appears to commit too early, guess at a spot and swing hard. My apologies for the grainy Glenallen Hill clip, but there is not an abundance of footage of his swing on the interweb.

4. Yonder Alonso – L-R – 6’2 215 – CIN – 4.8.87. Originally drafted as a catcher by the Twins in the 16th round in 2005, Yonder decided instead to go to college where he, Jemile Weeks, Carlos Gutierrez, Dennis Raben, and Blake Tekotte led Miami to the College World Series in 2008. Yonder hit just .231 v. lefties in High A Sarasota, and just .242 v. them in AA Carolina while hitting over .315 v. righties at both levels. He broke his hamate bone in his right hand last year and that may hinder his 2010 power numbers. If I were Cincinnati, I’d start him where he finished 2009, in AA. Before the start of the 2011 season, Cincinnati will have to decide to either move Joey Votto to LF or trade either him or Alonzo.

5. Freddie Freeman – L-R – 6’5 220 – ATL – 9.12.89. A second round pick in the same 2007 draft the Braves selected Jason Heyward #14 overall, Freeman broke out in 2008 when he put up a .316/.378/.521 line in the South Atlantic League where he had 18 HR and 33 2B. He didn’t fair as well in 2009, totaling just 8 HR between High A and AA. His season was cut short by a left wrist injury that didn’t require surgery. If I’m Atlanta, I’d start Freeman back in AA Mississippi with the hopes that he can compete for the 1B job in Atlanta in 2011.

6. Lars Anderson – L-L – 6’4 215 – BOS – 9.25.87. Had this blog been operating a year ago at this time, Anderson might have ranked as my top 1B. He was coming off of a year where he dominated High A and AA showing the ability to hit for average, power and maintained his high OBP capabilities. 2009 was a disaster as his AVE dropped from .317 to .233 and his HR production dropped from 18 to 9. The only knock on Lars heading into this past season was that he could be too patient at the plate. This may have been the primary contributing factor to his awful 2009. His BB rate was still high at 12.3% and he pretty much maintained his K rate. Perhaps he just wasn’t aggressive enough with hittable pitches early in the count and was forced to hit pitchers pitches. If he can adjust his approach he could return to form, but it’s clear he’s not as close to being ready to contribute in Boston as we previously thought.

7. Eric Hosmer – L-L – 6’4 215 KC – 10.24.89. Hosmer was regarded as the most advanced HS bat in the 2008 draft and was selected by the Royals with the 3rd overall pick. He fell victim to the same slow start that his Royals orgmate Mike Moustakas suffered in the cold Midwest League. Hosmer’s struggles were more troubling to me however, as he seemed to have developed mysterious vision problems. Also, at the time of the draft Hosmer was thought to have been athletic enough to handle a move to a corner outfield position if necessary but he has proved to be a slower runner than previously thought. Hosmer will have to prove he can hit left handed pitching in 2010 to regain his elite prospect status. A glimmer of hope from last season was his above average 13.5 BB% in 280 Low A AB’s.

8. Ike Davis – L-L – 6’5 195 – NYM – 3.22.87. A teammate of fellow 2008 first rounder Brett Wallace at Arizona State, Davis went his entire professional debut season without a HR, hitting only 15 2B, and posting a pedestrian SLG of just .326. Something clicked with Davis in 2009 however as he smashed 20 HR, slugged .524 and posted a .905 OPS. Even with just a half season of AA under his belt, Davis might be the best first base option in the entire Mets organization. While Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis may start the season as the options at that position, Davis should finish it.

9. Brandon Allen – L-R – 6’2 235 – ARI – 2.12.86. The 2nd player on this list to come from the White Sox organization, Allen was traded to Arizona in 2009 in exchange for RHP Tony Pena. Upon his arrival in the Arizona system, Allen killed Pacific Coast League pitching, posting a .317 ISO and hitting 12 HR in just 145 ABs. He earned a promotion to the big club in Arizona and smacked another 4 HR in 104 ABs there. Allen has solid plate discipline and will post BB rates around the league average while he’ll K at more than the league average. If he can win a job out of spring training, he’d be a sleeper in the NL Rookie of the Year race.

10. Brandon Snyder – R-R – 6’2 210 – BAL – 11.23.86. Drafted as a catcher with the 13th overall pick in the 2005 draft, Snyder later moved to 1B while sprinkling in a few games at 3B each year since. I’ve only seen him play twice, but he showed pretty good lateral movement at 1B in those games. Snyder made some positive strides in 2009. After walking just 29 times in 116 games in 2008, he walked 51 times in 131 games this past season. I don’t see Snyder ever being a power hitting 1B but he’s a good enough hitter to have an MLB career serving as an occasional regular depending on who else is on the roster at the time.

11. Ryan Wheeler – L-R – 6’4 220 – ARI – 7.10.88. A 5th round selection out of Loyola Marymount in 2009, Wheeler posted an outstanding .461 OBP and .538 SLG in the short season Northwest League. He hit 20 2B in just 64 games there and walked 37 times to just 28 Ks (1.32 BB/K Ratio). He continued to mash in a small 8 game sample in the Low A Midwest League. His combination of hit tools paired with the offense slanted High A California League could result in gaudy numbers and subsequently vault Wheeler into elite prospect status.

12. David Cooper – L-L – 6’0 200 – TOR – 4.12.87. Cooper was the 3rd of 5 college first basemen selected in the 1st round of the 2008 draft (Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, Ike Davis and Allen Dykstra). He had a solid but unspectacular 1st full professional season. Spending the whole year in AA New Hampshire, he hit 32 2B but but managed just a .389 SLG. His decent 11.0% BB rate couldn’t completely off set his low AVE (.258) so he managed an OBP of .340. First basemen with an OPS of .729 are a dime a dozen and I don’t see him helping Toronto in 2010.

13. Anthony Rizzo – L-L – 6’3 220 – BOS – 8.8.89. Rizzo was a 2007 draftee yet he just played his first full season in 2009. His 2008 season was cut short after being diagnosed with Hodgkins’s Lymphoma, which is now in remission. With 50 BB’s and 99 K’s last year he doesn’t blow you away with is plate discipline. Not yet a HR hitter, when someone hits 37 2B as a 20 year old, the HRs are likely to follow. One more strong and healthy year for Rizzo and he should move ahead of Lars Anderson as the 1B of the future for Boston.

14. Gaby Sanchez – R-R – 6’1 235 – FLA – 9.2.83. Drafted as a catcher from the University of Miami in 2005, Sanchez is another Marlins 1B prospect with OBP skills. Sanchez walked nearly as much as he struck out (0.95 BB/K ratio) in 2009 and had an equally impressive 0.99 ratio in 2008. Sanchez played 41 games at 3B for AAA New Orleans last year but he made 12 errors in that short span. No matter how Florida will try to get both he and Morrison on the field at the same time, they are both first basemen by nature and the only way they’ll be in the field together is if they are playing against each other after one of them is traded. With Morrison a level behind him, I think Sanchez wins a big league job in spring training and has a successful rookie year.

15. Jeff Malm – L-L – 6’3 225 – TB – 10.31.90. The Rays selected Malm in the 5th round and signed him away from a strong USC commitment for $680,000 in 2009. Malm was a starter on 4 state championship teams for Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas and tied a High School career record for hits with 277. Malm hit 15 HR during his senior season and as a former pitcher, he’ll have a strong arm for a 1B. Ranking Malm 15th at his position is certainly ambitious on my part, but with his HS resume, he should be as prepared for professional baseball as any prep hitter could be.

Sleeper – Dennis Raben – L-L – 6’3 220 – 7.31.87. Raben was an integral part of the aforementioned stacked Hurricane team of 2008. He had a strong professional debut that same year, posting a .971 OPS, a 17.0% BB rate and a .79 BB/K ratio, although his 26.4% K rate is a concern. He missed all of 2009 with knee surgery. Raben was never a good defensive outfielder so the move to 1st will only help his prospect status. He’ll likely start in Low A, but if he starts hot, gets promoted and can spend significant time in the High A California League, I expect him to but up great numbers. There are a lot of ifs in that sentence, but I suppose that’s why he’s a sleeper.

Overrated – Ryan Strieby – R-R – 6’5 235 – 8.9.85. There is a lot to like about Strieby. The .991 OPS, the 15.7 BB Rate, and the .262 ISO are all impressive but I feel the 27.2 K% is a pretty big red flag. He also had an unusually high batting average on balls in play (“BABIP”) of .359 last season. An average BABIP is right around .290. BABIP encompasses several uncontrollable variables such as strength of the defense, and well….luck. An unusually high BABIP one year could mean a fall back to earth the next. I think Strieby will struggle in AAA Toledo in 2010.

Desme’s Decision

Oakland outfield prospect Grant Desme announced his retirement this afternoon so that he can pursue a life as a priest. Some have questioned the timing of this announcement but I for one think it’s perfect.

Desme, a 2nd round selection from Cal Poly in 2007, battled injuries late in his college career and those injuries limited him to just 49 professional ABs from 2007-2008. Healthy for the first time as a professional in 2009, Desme had an outstanding season. He totaled 31 2B, 31 HR and slugged .568 between the Low A Midwest League and the High A California League while stealing 40 bases. For an encore he was the MVP of the Arizona Fall League posting a 1.080 OPS and leading the league with 11 HR. A year like that will garner a prospect a lot of attention.

Sometimes there is a downside to all of that extra attention. It casts a spotlight on some of the things you do wrong. Things like Desme’s 30% K rate. His strikeout problems come from a deficiency in pitch recognition and in hitting curveballs. He also puts too much effort in his swing and he opens up too early.

Don’t get me wrong, Desme is a good prospect and with his combination of speed and power I think he would have eventually advanced to the Major Leagues. However I don’t think he would have become a regular and he wouldn’t have been in my top 100 prospect list. While the California League can make a good hitter look great, he was about to head to the AA Texas League where prospects either solidify their premium status or they fall back to earth. It’s my belief that Desme would have done the latter. He’s walking away while his value is at it’s peak and not many people do that. He’s James Dean. He’s John Elway. He’s Grant Desme.

Top 15 Catcher Prospects

I can see three potential future stars and a handful of MLB regulars in this deep class of catching prospects. The wild card of this crop is the talented High School catching class of the 2009 draft and we’ll know more about them after their first taste of full season ball this year. However, it wouldn’t be much fun to release this list in September when their seasons are complete. More accurate maybe, but not as much fun. My rankings are based heavily on a player’s ceiling and the probability of him reaching that ceiling. To be honest, there is quite a bit of subjectivity in my rankings. I try to be objective in evaluating all players on a specific set of criteria but I’m guilty of subjectively selecting the criteria that I feel is most important in evaluating players.

Junkie Glossary


1. Carlos Santana – B-R – 5’11 190 – CLE – 4.8.86. Santana will turn 24 during the first week of the 2010 season where he’ll begin in AAA Columbus and likely finish in Cleveland. Acquired from the Dodgers in exchange for Casey Blake in 2008, Santana is now Cleveland’s #1 prospect for the 2nd year in a row. His outstanding BB rate (17.4%) and his BB/K ratio (1.08) are just two of the reasons why I feel he’s the top overall catching prospect in baseball. Last year’s Eastern League MVP is an advanced hitter who punishes pitches in the zone and has the ability to recognize and lay off poor offerings. He has a plus arm and should develop into an above average defensive catcher. Relatively new to catching after a 2006 move from third base, Santana still has to refine his receiving and his game calling abilities. A switch hitter who hits better from the right side (.329) he is still respectable (.270) from the left. Santana broke his hamate bone in his right hand in winter ball. He’s expected to be ready by opening day but his power could take a significant hit in the first half of the season.

2. Jesus Montero – R-R – 6’4 225 – NYY – 11.28.89. A seven figure bonus baby signed out of Venezuela in 2006, Montero handled both high A and AA as a 19 year old in 2009 while getting raves from scouts about his hit tools. Montero has pretty advanced hitting ability, and pretty weak defensive ability. He increased his BB rate lowered his K rate and saw his power numbers increase across the board in 2009. His best position is DH and I don’t see him developing into an even below average MLB receiver in his career. Like Royals slugger Billy Butler a few years ago, his bat will find him a position in the major league lineup and he’ll crush enough to stick around when he arrives. Montero has also drawn Miguel Cabrera comparisons.

3. Buster Posey – R-R – 6’1 205 – SF – 3.27.87. If my name were Gerald Demp Posey III, I’d use a nickname too. Gerald destroyed pitching and especially LHP (.440 ave.) in High A San Jose in 2009. Posey, who skipped AA to allow ultralight hitting catcher Jackson Williams to keep playing every day, held his own in AAA then became an observer down the stretch after being called up to San Francisco to light a fire under Bengie Molina. Gerald has franchise player potential, but the Mets failure to sign Molina means Posey won’t make the team out of spring training. That’s likely a good thing as he showed a lack of polish behind the plate in the AFL. Power was supposed to be a question mark as a pro but he managed a .531 SLG last year with 18 HR, 80 RBI and 31 2B. He also displayed a .213 Isolated Power (ISO = SLG-AVE) average during his stint in High A. To put that into prospective, Johnny Bench had a career .208 ISO. To put that prospective into prospective, Johnny Bench didn’t play his career in the hitter friendly California League.

4. Will Myers – R-R – 6’3 190 – KC – 12.10.90. Regarded as a 1st round talent in the 2009 draft out of a North Carolina H.S., Myers slipped to Kansas City in the 3rd round because of signability concerns. The Royals lured him away from his South Carolina commitment for $2MM. Myers gets high marks for his power and gave us a taste with 5 HR in his first 84 professional ABs. His arm is also a plus tool which will benefit him behind the dish but it will also allow him position flexibility if catching doesn’t work out. He played all over the field in HS so his receiving skills need some serious refinement at this point. Catchers develop slowly, especially when drafted out of HS so predicting a MLB debut date would be futile. He should get the same opening assignment that Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer received when they were drafted out of HS and go to Low A Burlington in the Midwest League. Let’s hope he starts faster than they did in the cold weather.

5. Derek Norris – R-R – 6’0 210 – WAS – 2.14.89. The reader is going to find that I love guys who can draw walks and Norris can do just that. He led the South Atlantic League in walks last season with 90 and has maintained a high BB rate (16.9 in 07, 21.7 in 08 and 17.1 in 09) throughout his professional career. He saw a jump in power last year as he went from 10 HR in 08 to 23 in 09. Similar to Santana, Posey and Myers he has a plus arm and he’s a poor receiver. He’s still a few years away from being ready but his bat is a good bet to make him an MLB regular.

6. Tyler Flowers – R-R – 6’4 220 – CWS – 1.24.86. The key piece that the White Sox received from Atlanta in the Javier Vazquez trade of 2008, Flowers posted an outstanding .302/.445/.548 in AA Birmingham last year while surprisingly being voted the top defensive catcher in the Southern League by the league’s managers. His performance earned him a promotion to AAA Charlotte and then to the South Side. Flowers arm, size and athleticism limit him defensively but he takes pride in catching and gets rave reviews for his game calling ability and developing a rapport with pitchers. His bat is advanced enough right now that he could help the Pale Hose and spell A.J. Pierzynski v. tough lefties and we know GM Kenny Williams will do what he feels is best for the team in 2010. The best decision for Flowers however, would be to start him at AAA where he can continue to refine his defense.

7. Tony Sanchez – R-R – 6’0 220 – PIT – 5.20.88. Rated as a fringe 1st rounder or supplemental round pick out of Boston College heading into the 2009 draft, the Pirates drafted Sanchez 4th overall and signed him for $2.5MM. It was a strategic move that paid double as the Bucs used the money they saved to sign several later round prospects away from their college commitments, and also Sanchez exceeded expectations. There is nothing about Sanchez that says he’ll be an MLB star, making his ceiling fairly low, however he’s a good bet to reach that ceiling. He’s pretty advanced behind the dish possessing a good arm and solid receiving skills. Sanchez showed good patience and power in Low A WV last year (.976 OPS). If he can continue to get on base, he’ll provide reinforcements to Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez on the 2011/2012 Pirates teams if they haven’t already been traded.

8. Jason Castro – L-R – 6’3 210 – HOU – 6.18.87. Another catcher that was considered a stretch when he was selected, this time with the 10th overall selection in the 2008 draft. He’s another catcher on this list that has proved critics wrong in his short pro career. I’ve only been able to see Castro play a few times and it’s only been on TV, however his approach looked pretty advanced when he helped Stanford advance to the CWS in 2008 and again during the 2009 Futures Game when he homered off of Toronto prospect Luis Perez. A left-handed hitter, he handles lefties and righties equally and his patient approach is a good indicator that he’ll hit at the next level although he’s not expected to hit for much power. Castro is a pretty advanced receiver and could be the everyday catcher in Houston by the 2nd half of 2010.

9. Christian Bethancourt – R-R – 6-2 175 – ATL – 9.2.91. When he was 16, Bethancourt signed for $600M out of Panama as the top catching prospect in the international signing class of 2008. A future Gold Glove candidate, Bethancourt has superior arm strength, athleticism and leadership skills. He’s naturally raw as a receiver but that’s to be expected at his age given that he has grown 2 inches and gained 15 lbs since signing. While still more free-swinging than I’d like, he does show more patience than most teenage international signees. He had a BB rate of 9.1% which was also the MLB average for all position players in 2009. He’ll have to keep his K’s in check but his numbers in that department are not yet alarming. His power numbers made a jump from ’08 to ’09 and he even stole 8 bases last year. He’ll get his first taste of full season ball for Rome in the Low A South Atlantic League.

10. Hank Conger – B-R – 6’0 205 – LAA – 1.29.88. A first round pick in 2006, Conger has been troubled with injuries ever since, catching only 91 games in his first three seasons. He stayed healthy in 2009, catching 87 games and punishing AA pitching. A switch hitter, he hits well from both sides of the plate. Hank showed impressive improvement in his plate discipline this year as his BB rate jumped from 4.5% to 10.7% and his BB/K ratio jumped from 0.25 to 0.81. It’s slightly troubling however that his power numbers declined as his patience improved. He slugged .517 in the hitter friendly California League in 2008 but only managed a .424 number last season in the AA Texas League and his ISO dropped from .214 to .129. Despite his un-athletic frame and injury history, Conger receives well and has a strong arm however his footwork is sloppy and that leads to poor throws. I’ve been a Conger doubter in the past and I surely didn’t expect his rebound last season, so I honestly don’t know what to expect. Ranking him 10th in a talented group of catchers means I’m starting to come around.

11. Max Stassi – R-R – 5’10 205 – OAK – 3.15.91. Rated as the best pure HS hitter of the 2009 draft by Baseball America, Stassi’s price tag and commitment to UCLA caused him to slip in the draft but Oakland selected and signed him for a 4th round record of $1.5MM. He projects to hit for power and average while using the whole field. He impressed scouts with pitch recognition in his brief appearance in short season Vancouver last season. He was limited with a shoulder issue in HS so he spent much of his senior season as a DH. The A’s feel that he’ll be able to stay behind the plate as a pro and that he’ll be an above average defensive catcher. He’ll make his full season debut at low A Kane County of the Midwest League where the cold weather could slow his start.

12. Travis D’Arnaud – R-R – 6’2 195 – TOR – 2.10.89. Ontario bound as part of the Roy Hallady trade, D’Arnaud moves in front of J.P. Arencibia as the Blue Jays catcher of the future. Travis’ brother Chase is an infielder in the Pirates system. Travis had a pedestrian .418 SLG last season but he managed 13 HR and led the Sally league with 38 2Bs. D’Arnaud needs quite a bit of refinement behind the plate but the tools are there. His arm rates as above average.

13. Jonathan Lucoy – R-R – 6’1 205 – MIL – 6.13.86. Lucoy is one of my favorite underrated prospects. He draws walks (15.7%) and makes pretty consistent contact while possessing a strong arm and throwing out a lot of runners (41% at AA Huntsville in 2009). Lucoy maintained an impressive 1.18 BB/K ratio last season but he also saw a significant drop in power this past season going from 20 HR in 2008 to just 9 last season and his SLG dropped from .490 to .418. He’ll move to AAA Nashville this season and should debut in Milwaukee at some point after the break.

14. Wilin Rosario – R-R – 5’11 195 – COL – 2.23.89. Just as I love guys who have the ability to draw walks, I tend to be down on guys that can’t. Rosario drew just 10 walks in 213 plate appearances last season. He has a quick bat and is a good fastball hitter but he won’t offer much power. Rosario ranks as my top defensive catcher on this list possessing solid footwork and a plus arm. That arm is also accurate as evidenced by the 46% of base runners he threw out in 2008 and the 47% in 2009.

15. Austin Romine – R-R – 6’2 210 – NYY – 11.22.88. A 2nd round selection from California HS in 2007, Romine, not Montero, is the Yankees catcher of the future. He has a cannon for an arm and likes to use it. He’s not yet a good receiver as he reportedly has trouble handling velocity. He showed solid power with a .441 SLG, 13 HR and 28 2B in High A Tampa last season but he’ll have to improve his poor walk rate (6.2%) if he wants that power to continue.

Sleeper – Josh Phegley – R-R – CHW – 5’10 215. Phegley was 2nd in the nation in batting (behind Buster Posey) as a sophomore at Indiana, and had a productive junior season as well. Selected by the White Sox 38th overall in June, Phegley showed power in low A belting 9HR in 196 AB but he did struggle defensively committing 7 errors and 11 passed balls in just 47 games. He does possess a strong arm but poor footwork can sometimes cause his throws to sail.

Overrated – Wilson Ramos – R-R – 6’0 220 – MIN – 8.10.87. More HR (7) than BB (6) in 2009. How can that happen? Ramos edges out J.P. Arencibia as my most overrated catching prospect. He’s a good hitter with plus power but his lack of plate discipline will be exploited in Rochester. With some guy named Joe Mauer locking down the catcher position in Minnesota, Ramos will likely spend all season in AAA.