During the now-concluded Arizona Fall League, we got a chance to look at some of the game’s best prospects from each team. Some maintained their status among the elite, some struggled and others put their names on the map for next year. Considering those performances, along with the regular season, here are the top-50 prospects to watch for in 2012.
50. Travis d’Arnaud, 22, C, Blue Jays
.311 21 HR 78 RBI 4 SB .371/.542/.914
Coming into this season, d’Arnaud was known for being an excellent defensive catcher. After he put up monster numbers on the offensive side, J.P. Arencibia should be worried. Has excellent bat speed, which should allow him to continue to hit at the major-league level, and his defense could earn him a Gold Glove one day.
49. Robbie Grossman, 22, OF, Pirates
.294 13 HR 56 RBI 24 SB .418/.451/.869
Grossman walked an impressive 104 times this season, which played a big part in him leading the minors in runs scored with 127. The switch-hitter really made a name for himself at the Arizona Fall League by hitting .375 with seven home runs, 22 RBI and 20 walks, all ranking among the leaders. He does just about everything well on both sides of the field.
48. Yonder Alonso, 24, OF, Reds
.296 12 HR 56 RBI 6 SB .374/.486/.860
With Joey Votto not going anywhere at first base for the Reds, Alonso had to make a move to the outfield. Alonso has always been known for his advanced bat and it showed over his 88 at-bats with the Reds this season. He hit .330 with five homeruns and 15 RBI, and should earn himself a spot now that Jonny Gomes is gone.
47. Julio Rodriguez, 21, RHP, Phillies
16-7 2.76 ERA 1.01 WHIP .186 BAA 168 K/56 BB
The minor-league leader in wins, Rodriguez baffled hitters all season with his wipeout curveball and mid-90s fastball with great movement. At 6’-4”, 210 lbs, he has the frame to be a workhorse in the majors. A former eighth-round draft pick, he has progressed by leaps and bound every year, showing a strong work ethic and commitment that will make him a star at the next level.
46. Jonathan Singleton, 20, 1B, Astros
.298 13 HR 63 RBI 3 SB .392/.441/.833
Singleton was acquired by the Astros from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade. Being a first baseman, Singleton had a major road block in Ryan Howard, so the move works out great for him. He has an advanced approach at the plate, as shown by his .392 OBP and should be a high-average hitter in the majors. His defense is solid, and at 6’-2”, 210 lbs, the power is coming from the lefty.
45. Junior Lake, 21, SS, Cubs
.280 12 HR 51 RBI 38 SB .316/.434/.750
Lake was one of the most impressive players at the AFL, hitting .296 with eight doubles, three triples, five home runs, 21 RBI and a .900 OPS. He also led the league with 18 stolen bases without being caught. His defensive needs major work, and his plate discipline is slowly progressing, but his talent makes him one of the most exciting players in the minors. At 6’-3”, 200 lbs, he has the frame to add power to go along with his outstanding speed, making him a special player at the next level.
44. Drew Hutchison, 21, RHP, Blue Jays
14-5 2.53 ERA 1.04 WHIP .220 BAA 171 K/35 BB
Hutchison seemingly came out of nowhere to have one of the most impressive seasons in the minors this year, ranking among the leaders in wins, WHIP and strikeouts. He isn’t a power pitcher but he racks up strikeouts by mixing his pitches with great control and aggressiveness. His fastball sits in the 90-93 range, his slider is a plus pitch and his change-up is a solid offering. Has an advanced feel for the game for his age.
43. Martin Perez, 20, LHP, Rangers
8-6 4.33 ERA 1.51 WHIP .284 BAA 120 K/56 BB
The numbers may not look impressive but the talent does. Perez has a change-up comparable to Johan Santana‘s and he can get his fastball in the mid-90s. He just needs to work on his control and harness the talent he has. At just 20 years old, time is still on his side. The Rangers are one of the best at developing pitchers, so the lefty is also in good hands.
42. Michael Choice, 22, OF, Athletics
.285 30 HR 82 RBI 9 SB .376/.542/.918
Choice brings jaw-dropping power to the plate. His aggressive approach leads to a lot of strikeouts — he struck out 134 times over 118 games this season — but he balances it out by drawing his share of walks. Solid in the field, and enough speed to swipe 10-15 bases a season, Choice should get a shot in the big leagues next season. Was among the leaders at the AFL with six homeruns and 18 RBI in limited action.
41. Zack Wheeler, 21, RHP, Mets
9-7 3.52 ERA 1.32 WHIP .231 BAA 129 K/52 BB
Wheeler was acquired by the Mets from the Giants in the Carlos Beltran trade. He excelled at class-A advanced St. Lucie, going 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 31 K/5BB over 27 innings. At 6’-4”, he is a power righty who can get his fastball up to 96 mph. He also adds a power curve, but his change-up still needs work. Should be a middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Mets in a year or two.
40. Devin Mesoraco, 23, C, Reds
.289 15 HR 71 RBI 1 SB .371/.484/.855
Mesoraco is an above-average defensive catcher with the ability to hit 20+ home runs in the majors. He got a taste of the big leagues by going nine-for-50 (.180) with two home runs over 18 games for the Reds this year. It will be interesting to see where Mesoraco ends up with 2010 first-round pick Yasmani Grandal fast-tracking through the farm system. Grandal is a better defender and has almost as much power potential.
39. Anthony Rizzo, 22, 1B, Padres
.331 26 HR 101 RBI 7 SB .404/.652/1.056
Rizzo had one of the best offensive seasons in the minors this year, but you have to take PCL numbers with a grain of salt. Over 128 at bats with the Padres, he hit .141 with just one home run, nine RBIs and a .523 OPS. At 6’-3”, 225 lbs, the power is there, it’s just the question of him being able to handle big-league pitching. Should make the roster out of spring training on potential alone, but will need to produce to avoid the dreaded quad-A label.
38. Bryce Brentz, 22, OF, Red Sox
.306 30 HR 94 RBI 3 SB .365/.574/.939
Brentz was extremely impressive in his first full season of pro ball. He ranked among the leaders in HR, RBI and OPS en route to being named the organization’s minor-league player of the year. The hitting didn’t come as a shock to anyone as he led the nation with a ridiculous .465 and 28 HR over 220 at-bats as a sophomore at Middle Tennessee State in 2009, prompting the Red Sox to grab him with their first-round pick the following year. Should start the year at double-A, and another monster season could earn him a promotion to Fenway by year’s end.
37. Anthony Gose, 21, OF, Blue Jays
.253 16 HR 59 RBI 70 SB .349/.415/.763
Gose might be the fastest player in the minors. He has stolen 194 bases over 409 career games and added some pop to his game this season, smacking 16 home runs for double-A New Hampshire. He did strikeout 154 times over 137 games, something he will have to work on to become a productive leadoff hitter at the next level.
36. Eric Surkamp, 24, LHP, Giants
11-4 1.94 ERA 1.07 WHIP .212 BAA 170 K/45 BB
The 6’-4” lefty is a control pitcher who gets hitters out with his ability to change speeds and locate rather than overpower them. He had one of the best seasons by a pitcher in the minors this season as he finished third in ERA, while placing among the leaders in WHIP, BAA and strikeouts. Struggled with his control against major-league hitters, going 2-2 with a 5.74 ERA and 13 K/17 BB over 26.2 innings with the Giants. With the nerves out of the way, he has a very good shot to make the rotation out of spring training this season.
35. Jake Odorizzi, 21, RHP, Royals
10-7 3.73 ERA 1.21 WHIP .244 BAA 157 K/44 BB
Odorizzi was acquired by the Royals in the Zack Greinke trade, and his mound presence, control, athleticism and mechanics have drawn comparisons to the former Cy Young winner. His slider is filthy, and his fastball hits the mid-90s with late movement. The Royals have assembled an impressive offense through the draft. Odorizzi will give them a frontline starter to fill the void left by Greinke.
34. Gary Sanchez, 18, C, Yankees
.256 17 HR 52 RBI 2 SB .335/.485/.820
Sanchez is the reason Jesus Montero is not going to be the Yankees catcher of the future. He already is a better defensive backstop than Montero, and at just 18, the power projects better, too. Montero will be the better overall hitter, but Sanchez’ defense will most likely push him to an outfield spot or DH once he arrives.
33. Jarred Cosart, 21, RHP, Astros
10-10 4.12 ERA 1.27 WHIP .234 BAA 101 K/56 BB
Cosart has one of the best arms in the minors. His fastball can reach triple digits and, when healthy, he is an electric pitcher. He missed most of 2010 with an elbow injury and was part of the Pence trade, sending him from Philly to Houston. With the Phillies having one of the best rotations maybe ever, Cosart has a chance to make it to the majors much sooner, even as early as next season.
32. Mike Olt, 23, 3B, Rangers
.264 15 HR 46 RBI .381/.500/.881
Olt is one of the best defensive third baseman in the minors. He also can knock the hell out of a baseball. He led the AFL with 13 home runs and 43 RBI, while placing second with a 1.197 OPS. Injuries cut his regular season short, but another strong season on both sides of the field could earn him a spot in the already vaunted Rangers’ lineup soon.
31. Jacob Turner, 20, RHP, Tigers
4-5 3.44 ERA 1.16 WHIP .238 BAA 110 K/35 BB
Turner got rocked around by major-league hitters, posting an 8.53 ERA over 12 innings. The 20 year old clearly wasn’t ready for the jump in competition yet. Fans in the Motor City shouldn’t start counting him out just yet. The talent is without question with Turner. His fastball is lethal and his command is off the charts for such a young age. With a little more time, the Tigers are going to have a frontline starter to compliment Justin Verlander. And remember, Curt Schilling posted a 9.82 ERA as a 21-year-old rookie.
30. Joe Wieland, 21, RHP, Padres
13-4 1.93 ERA 1.01 WHIP .234 BAA 150 K/21 BB
Next to Matt Moore of the Rays, Wieland had the most impressive season this year. He finished second in the minors in ERA, and his 7.1 K/BB ratio was also second among starters. He tossed a no-hitter on July 29 against San Antonio, a team he would be dealt to a week later as part of the Mike Adams trade. Wieland doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but his outstanding control and aggressiveness will make him a valuable starting pitcher with a lot of potential.
29. Jedd Gyorko, 23, 3B, Padres
.333 25 HR 114 RBI 12 SB .400/.552/.952
Gyorko might be the best hitter in the minor leagues. A career .328 hitter over 208 games, including a .909 OPS, he went 31-for-71 (.437) over 18 games during the Arizona Fall League to take the batting crown. He added five home runs and 22 RBI, as he led the league with a 1.204 OPS, as well. Defensively, he doesn’t really have a true position, but the Padres will find a way to get his bat into their line up very soon.
28. Billy Hamilton, 21, 2B, Reds
.278 3 HR 50 RBI 103 SB .340/.360/.700
The stolen base total is not a typo. Hamilton became the first minor leaguer to steal 100 bases since 2001. The bat needs some work as he struck out 133 times over 135 games played, not ideal for a leadoff hitter. His strong arm, footwork and range should allow him to stay at his current position, or move to shortstop, where the Reds don’t have many quality options. Fantasy players are going to love this guy.
27. Brad Peacock, 23, RHP, Nationals
15-3 2.39 ERA 0.99 WHIP .188 BAA 177 K/47 BB
After going 19-35 with a 4.44 ERA 1.34 WHIP over his first four seasons, Peacock had a breakout year in 2011. He finished among the leaders in wins, ERA, WHIP, BAA and strikeouts, and earned himself a promotion to the majors. Over 12 innings with the Nationals, he went 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA. His curveball is his best weapon, and he uses it as his out pitch. His fastball sits in the mid-90s but it doesn’t have a lot of movement. With his performance at the end of season, Peacock should get a legitimate shot at the rotation this spring.
26. Nick Franklin, 20, SS, Mariners
.281 7 HR 26 RBI 18 SB .352/.418/.770
Franklin is a smooth defensive shortstop with the range and arm to excel at the next level. After hitting 23 home runs last year, the power dipped a bit, but he has the chance to be a J.J. Hardy–type player in the majors with the ability to steal 15-20 bases, as well. A “dirt bag” in a the best way, Franklin hustles on every play and has a very high understanding of the game.