Prospect watch: Top 25 most impressive minor leaguers
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With just about a quarter of the minor league season gone, it’s time to take a look at some of the more impressive prospects this season. This is not a top-25 list of the best prospects, rather a list of the players who have impressed the most, either through improvements in their games or continued success despite a jump in competition. This list doesn’t include guys like Will Middlebrooks and Mike Trout, both of whom were extremely impressive, but both of whom are now in the major leagues.
25. Andrew Chafin, LHP, Diamondbacks, 21 (age)
2-0, 3.03 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 46 K, 10 BB, 32.2 IP, 12.7 K/9
As if the Diamondbacks don’t already have enough future aces in their farm system with Tyler Skaggs, Trevor Bauer and Archie Bradley, here comes another one in Chafin, a 6’-2”, 210-pound rocket arm who had Tommy John surgery in 2010. A first-round pick (43rd overall) by the Diamondbacks in 2011, Chafin currently ranks among the leaders in strikeouts at class-A. He struck out a career-high 12 batters over seven innings on April 28 against San Jose, a Giants affiliate. With his fastball touching 94 mph with good movement, and the development of his secondary pitches over the off season, Chafin has put to rest any questions about him being a starter at the next level. Bauer, Bradley and Chafin in the same draft? Not fair.
24. Eddie Rosario, 2B/OF, Twins, 20
32 G, .287 AVG, 11 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 17 RBI, 7 SB .388/.426/.814
Rosario blitzed through the Appalachian League last season, hitting .337 with nine doubles, nine triples, 21 home runs, 60 RBI, 17 stolen bases and a 1.068 OPS over 67 games. The 6’-0″, 175-pound left-hander has incredible bat speed, raw power, and advanced approach at the plate and above-average speed. He Hasn’t shown that home run power in his first full season at class-A Beloit, but his 11 doubles show it’s coming. He continues to show great plate discipline by drawing 19 walks to just 17 strikeouts on the season.
23. Jurickson Profar, SS, Rangers, 19
30 G, .261 AVG, 7 2B, 4 3B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 4 SB .323/.462/.785
Profar is a defensive whiz who turned heads with his offensive potential last season. Over 115 games at class-A Hickory, he hit .286 with 37 doubles, eight triples, 12 home runs, 65 RBI, 23 stolen bases and an .883 OPS. He also had 65 walks to 63 strikeouts, showing a great approach at the plate for an 18-year old. With the bump to double-A Frisco this season, most expected some struggles. The switch-hitter has held his own despite being one of the youngest players in the league and is currently riding a 19-game hitting streak as of May 10.
22. Robbie Erlin, LHP, Padres, 21
1-1, 2.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 36 K, 8 BB, 28.2 IP, 11.3 K/9
Erlin is one of the best control pitchers around, averaging 1.3 walks-per-nine innings over his 294.2 career minor league innings. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, which makes his 11.3 K/9 ratio one of the more impressive stats this season. He is a master of mixing his pitches to keep hitters off balance and attacks hitters inside and out with a bulldog mentality. He is a tactician who reminds me of Greg Maddox the way he approaches hitters without fear.
21. Tyler Austin, OF, Yankees, 20
28 G, .309 AVG, 9 2B, 4 3B, 10 HR, 26 RBI .358/.736/1.095
Austin has always been able to hit for a high average, as evidenced by his .354 average over 47 games split between rookie ball and class-A Staten Island last season. His power, however, has developed quicker than most thought, and he currently ranks among the leaders in home runs in the Sally League. The 13th-round pick by the Yankees in 2010 has far exceeded expectations this season and gives the organization another prospect to keep an eye on in their suddenly deep farm system.
20. Carlos Martinez, RHP, Cardinals, 20
2-1, 2.17 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 30 K, 9 BB, 29 IP, 9.3 K/9
Control problems were the main culprit for Martinez’ struggles at class-A advanced Palm Beach last season. Over 46 innings, he walked 30 batters en route to a 5.28 ERA and 1.71 WHIP. With improvements made in the off season, and more confidence in himself, he has cut his walks down from 5.9 to 2.8 this season, while also maintaining his high strikeout totals. At 6’-0”, 160-pounds, the diminutive right-hander has drawn comparisons to Pedro Martinez. His fastball can hit the upper-90s, and he has one of the best change-ups in the minors. He also mixes in a curveball and is very aggressive on the mound.
19. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles, 19
31 G, .264 AVG, 9 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 3 SB .378/.425/.802
Machado, the third-overall pick by the Orioles in 2010, has often been compared to Alex Rodriguez for his offensive potential at his position. While that may not be fair, and his numbers don’t exactly pop out at you, he is improving his game at his own pace. After drawing just 22 walks over 63 games at class-A advanced Frederick last season, he has already drawn 19 through his 31 games at double-A Bowie this year. He is one of the youngest players at double-A and his bat is starting to heat up as he is hitting .333 with a .944 OPS over his last nine games. His 4.71 range factor also shows he will be able to maintain his position despite his size (6’-3”, 200-pounds).
18. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins, 20
25 G, .310 AVG, 5 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 9 RBI, 9 SB .387/.554/.941
Yelich was named the Marlins Minor League Player of the Year in 2011 after hitting .312 with 32 doubles, 15 home runs, 77 RBI, 32 stolen bases and an .871 OPS. He also hit one of the more memorable home runs when he smacked a game winning, walk-off home run in game one of the South Atlantic League finals. It was his first professional playoff game, and that home run would propel the Grasshoppers to the Sally League title. With the jump to class-A advanced Jupiter, the area he has improved the most is his power. With his two-homer game on May 9, Yelich is starting to display the power that many knew was going to come from his 6’-4”, 200-pound frame. The left-hander is on pace for a 30 HR/30 SB season, something extremely rare in the minors.
17. Jackie Bradley, OF, Red Sox, 22
28 G, .378 AVG, 9 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 11 SB .504/.582/1.085
No one has gotten on base at a higher clip than Bradley has this season. The Red Sox’ first-round pick (40th overall) in 2011 out of the University of South Carolina, the left-hander currently leads the minors in on-base percentage, thanks in part to a league-high 24 walks. Known more for his speed and defensive prowess in center field coming out of college, his hard work and dedication to become a complete player is evident and he projects to a prototypical leadoff hitter with some pop in his bat, as well.
16. Tony Cingrani, LHP, Reds, 22
4-1, 0.53 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, 45 K, 9 BB, 34 IP, 11.9 K/9
I’ll forgive you if you have never heard of him. Cingrani continues to fly under the radar even after posting a 1.75 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and 80 K/6 BB over 51.1 innings at Billings of the Pioneer rookie league last season. The 6’-4”, 200-pound southpaw has advanced control of his pitches, including a fastball that can touch 96 mph with late life. He does rely on his fastball too much, something he can get away with at the lower levels, but needs to work on his secondary stuff to remain a starter as he advances through the system. Still, few have been as dominant on the mound as Cingrani this season.
15. Tyler Thornburg, RHP, Brewers, 23
4-0, 1.98 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 47 K, 11 BB, 41 IP, 10.3 K/9
Thornburg, the Brewers third-round pick in 2010, has always been a high strikeout pitcher. Coming into this season, he owned an 11.1 K/9 over 160 minor league innings. With the jump to double-A Huntsville, the 6’-0”, 190-pound right-hander has maintained those numbers while also dropping his walks-per-nine innings from 3.9 to 2.4. He flirted with a perfect game on April 16 against Tennessee, a Cubs affiliate, before surrendering a hit with one out in the eighth inning. He ranks among the league leaders at double-A in strikeouts, ERA and WHIP and could end the season in Milwaukee the way he is pitching.
14. Mason Williams, OF, Yankees, 20
27 G, .321 AVG, 8 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 12 SB .367/.486/.853
Williams tore up the New York Penn League last season, hitting .349 with 20 extra-base hits, 31 RBI, 28 stolen bases and an .863 OPS over 68 games. With a bump in competition to class-A Charleston, he has continued to show an all-around game that could make him the next Yankee superstar one day. One of the fastest players around, he also shows good pop from the left side and should develop more power as his 6’-1”, 160-pound frame matures. The most impressive thing about him, however, is his incredible ability to make contact. Over his 121 plate appearances this season, he has struck out just six times, or 5 percent of his trips to the plate.
13. Francsico Lindor, SS, Indians, 18
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