It’s time for Round 2 of the Top 100 Prospects: This time, the focus is on the AL West. Instead of individual profiles this time, I’ll concentrate the prospects into one paragraph on how each prospect fits into his team.
Top 100 Prospects:
8. SS Carlos Correa (2012 R1)
17. P Mark Appel (2013 R1)
21. OF George Springer (2011 R1)
50. 1B Jonathan Singleton (2009 R8, Acquired from PHI in Hunter Pence Trade)
52. P Lance McCullers (2012 R1C)
54. P Mike Foltynewicz (2010 R1)
66. OF Delino DeShields (2010 R1)
The Astros are a terrible team now, but the future is bright for them. To begin, this team has been preparing for the future by drafting high ceiling talent. What started last year with Jarred Cosart will likely continue this year with the anticipated debut of Mark Appel. Appel, the first overall pick from Stanford University comes with a major league fastball and two solid secondary pitches. Given the track record for first overall picks from big time colleges, (Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg come to mind), Appel should be in the majors by August or September. Until the draft comes around, the next big Astros pitching prospect is Lance McCullers. McCullers was viewed at one time to be the top pick in the 2012 draft, until the Astros decided to go with Carlos Correa (more on him later) However, McCullers, who is the son of the former Padres and Yankees pitcher, fell to the compensatory round, where Houston eagerly snatched him up. McCullers had a decent first full season in Quad Cities, with 117 strikeouts, but given his age and the time it usually takes for high school arms to develop, McCullers probably won’t see the Majors until 2016 at the earliest. Lastly, there’s Mike Foltynewicz. Folty, who was the second first rounder the Astros had in 2010, has one of the best fastballs in the minors, but beyond that, his offerings are average and his control is below average. Houston has used him in both the rotation and the bullpen, and given the speed of his fastball, he looks to be more like an Aroldis Chapman-ish closer. He will likely see plenty of time in AAA before making his big league debut, and if the Astros are smart, they’ll concentrate his use to small doses. In the position player department, the Astros are pretty set in terms of speed. Two former first round picks, George Springer and Delino DeShields are considered to be two of the fastest runners in the top 100. Springer is practically Majors ready, especially after ringing up AAA pitching with 37 home runs this past year, while DeShields is still stuck in A ball at Lancaster. Both however were futures game prospects last year and impressed plenty with their play, and will likely make up 2/3 of the Astros outfield in the future. Carlos Correa may not be as fast as Springer or DeShields, but he can hit. Viewed by many as a surprise first overall pick, especially with the likes of Byron Buxton and Appel on the board, Correa has really impressed so far in his minor league career, hitting at a .320 clip with 144 hits at Quad Cities. His defense is okay, given his strong arm yet weaker fielding capability, but time in the minors should give him some chance to develop. Finally, there’s Jonathan Singleton. Singleton, the other prize in the Pence trade (Cosart was the first) has had a very long minor league career. There is potential still, but drug problems have continually offset his major league career. Singleton will be under the microscope this year, especially given the failure of Brett Wallace as the Astros future at first base. If he can stay clean and hit the way that scouts have gushed over him for the past few years, the first base job will be his. All in all, the Astros have what many consider to be a top farm system, rivaled only by Boston and Chicago. It should be interesting to see if the homegrowns help contribute to the Astros’ ascendance back into the Major League elite.
Los Angeles Angels
No Prospects in Top 100
Top 100 Prospect:
12. SS Addison Russell (2012 R1)
Oakland has only one prospect in the top 100 this year, and he may be the most talked about prospect that isn’t already under the microscope. Addison Russell was the first high school draft pick taken in the first round by general manager Billy Beane since 2001, when they selected Jeremy Bonderman. Russell represents a departure from the Moneyball drafting strategy of taking low ceiling/high floor collegiate players in the first round. But how is he paying off on Beane’s gamble? After an aggressive development which had him starting at High A Stockton (A full level above where he should have been) he surprised many by hitting a respectable .275/17/60. He had 118 hits, but his strikeout numbers were high, just two less than his hit total. Russell impressed enough to be selected to Team USA’s Futures roster, then followed it up with a short call up to AAA Sacramento, completely bypassing Double-A. I expect Russell to begin play at Double-A this year with a quick rise to AAA by mid June. If he continues to play the way he has, there is a good chance that he’ll be making his Major League debut especially early. Russell has plenty of good tools. His hitting is possibly his best asset, but he’ll need to cut down on his K rate if he wants to make any real impact in the higher levels. Still, the first pick in the post-moneyball strategy era is definitely looking like a wise pick.
Top 100 Prospects:
6. P Taijuan Walker (2010 1C)
88. 1B DJ Peterson (2013 R1)
Seattle has some great young pitchers coming up soon, but only one made this year’s preseason Top 100 list, Taijuan Walker. Walker, who has been the gem of Seattle’s minor league system for the past couple years, has had nothing but success in the minors. Last year, he jumped through Double and Triple A, made an appearance in the Futures Game, and made his Major League debut. Walker may be one of the best prospects in the Mariners system, but there is talk that he may be an expendable asset, especially since the team has looked at a possible deal to Tampa Bay for David Price. What the Mariners would be losing if they traded Walker, however is big. To begin, his fastball is a Major League offering, and his off speed pitches, while still developing into reliable weapons, are solid experiments. Second, his age indicates that he could be pitching in the majors for a long time. Third, his price and arbitration clock are set for a good five to six years away, so team control would be easy for Seattle to keep him. In short, Walker, the former shortstop turned potential ace, is someone to watch this year. DJ Peterson was one of the few picks I got right in my mock draft last year. A power hitting third baseman out of New Mexico, Peterson was a defensive liability at his original position and ended up being moved to first base. At Everett and Clinton, Peterson showed why he was a first round pick by hitting well for average with some pop. Peterson should advance quickly in the minors, and given Seattle’s failure to get a solid hitting first baseman (see Justin Smoak, Mike Morse and Mike Carp for reference), Peterson’s major league time will be spent under the microscope. It will be interesting to see how he handles the next level of play though.
Top 100 Prospects:
39. C Jorge Alfaro (IFA 2010)
59. 2B Rougned Odor (IFA 2011)
72. OF Michael Choice (2010 R1, Acquired from OAK for OF Craig Gentry)
76. SS Luis Sardinas (IFA 2009)
92. 3B Joey Gallo (2012 R1C)
If you thought Houston’s system was stacked, wait until you see their rival’s. Texas’ system may not be as pitching talented as some of the other systems, but what they lack in arms, they make up for with bats and gloves. To start, let’s go behind the plate. Jorge Alfaro is one of the best international catchers in the game, even better than Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt. While Alfaro is young, he is quite advanced for his age. He has a cannon for an arm, and is a very gritty defender. Alfaro compensated for an injury plagued 2012 with a fine 2013, which cause him to go through three levels of play. Alfaro is a throwback to the primarily defensive catcher, which is fine, but if he really wants to make it to Arlington, he’d better start working on his bat. As if the Rangers’ infield wasn’t crowded enough with last year’s number 1 overall prospect in Jurickson Profar and perennial All-Star Elvis Andrus, two more young international middle infielders will likely be coming up soon. Luis Sardinas and Rougned Odor. Both have good arms, and are decent hitters, but Odor has more power and Sardinas more speed. Given the Rangers’ constant need for pitching, I doubt that either will see themselves in a Rangers uniform, likely one or both will be shipped in a deal to a team that’s looking for a middle infielder. However, they should make the trade quickly, as both finished their seasons in the Texas League and are likely to be in AAA before long. Joey Gallo has power, that’s a given, what he lacks is the hitting skill that goes with it. In essence, he reminds me of Ike Davis or Adam Dunn, only smaller. Still, Gallo would thrive in the dry heat of Dallas, as balls tend to carry farther in that park. Gallo showed why he was a first round pick last year by smashing 38 home runs for the Hickory Crawdads, an impressive feat given the more humid air of the Carolina League, but as his low batting average and high strikeout rate continue to hamper his ability, so should his development be slowed down until he can go beyond one dimension. Lastly, there’s the lone majors-ready player on this list: Michael Choice. Choice played his college ball a mere 9 minutes away from Globe Life Park in Arlington, but was drafted by the Oakland A’s. After toiling for almost three seasons in the minors, Choice impressed enough to make a September call-up. From the stats, we can see that Choice thrives as a #2 or #6 hitter, and while he does have some power, don’t let it fool you. Choice will likely be given every chance to replace Gentry, the man he was traded for, in the Ranger lineup. It will be interesting to see how he makes his situation.
So that’s the AL West. Stay tuned for next week’s installment of the top 100 prospects by division.