More than half of the Major League Baseball teams have a Triple-A affiliate in the Pacific Coast League and so there are a lot of talented players in the league on a regular basis. The league also features some of the best offensive ballparks in baseball. Last season the league’s OPS was .806, the highest in minor league baseball, leaving one to venture the league is not a good league for young pitching prospects. In 2012, though, the league looks to be “armed and dangerous” with not only a handful of potential front line pitchers, but very good depth as well. In fact the depth looks so good that the minor league team that probably has the best overall triple-A rotation out there did not have a pitcher in the best prospect rotation. Try to rack that through your brain for a second as you read through the team.
Once again, the sources I will use for the prospect rankings are:
C Travis d’Arnaud, Las Vegas 51s (Toronto Blue Jays)
2011 Statistics (AA New Hampshire): 466 Plate Appearances .311/.371/.542/.913 55 XBH 33 BB-100 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #35
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#43), ESPN (#6), Baseball America (#17), Baseball Prospectus (#16), MLB.com (#25), John Sickels (#26)
Viewed as the catcher of the future for the Toronto Blue Jays, Travis d’Arnaud had a breakthrough season with the bat in 2012 despite playing half his games in a ballpark that is not conducive to run production. After hitting 29 homeruns in his first 1,250 plate appearances in the minor leagues, Travis d’Arnaud showed the power potential that scouts have seen from him. He hit 21 homeruns and stroked 33 doubles in 466 plate appearances for the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The power spike coupled with a career high in batting average could be signs of things to come from the 23 year old catcher. If there is a concern offensively, it is that he lacks the patience desired of a very good hitter making his on base percentage very batting average driven. Travis d’Arnaud helps himself on defense though as he has a good arm and is agile around the plate. With a good year in AAA, he could position himself for a big league promotion later in the year. And there is no reason to think that Travis won’t be able to have a good year as he moves to a more hitter’s park in Las Vegas.
1B Matt Adams, Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
2011 Statistics (AA Springfield): 513 Plate Appearances .300/.357/.566/.923 57 XBH 40 BB-90 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Baseball Prospectus (#69)
A 23rd round pick in 2009 out of Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania, Matt Adams didn’t exactly take the conventional method to where he is today. But that shouldn’t take away from what he has done on the field. After putting up good numbers (.310 average, 63 extra base hits, and an .896 OPS) in the Midwest League as a 21 year old in 2010, Adams skipped high-A completely and was named the Texas League (AA) Player of the Year in 2011. Adams has done nothing but hit since entering pro baseball. Whether it’s contact or power, Adams has been able to do both. If there is one concern about Adams offensively it is that he has yet to show patience at the plate. In 2011 Adams walked 40 times to 90 strikeouts, but 7 of the 40 walks were intentional. Still, it’s tough to be concerned about a power hitter that put up a .923 OPS while skipping a level and a player that struck out minimally more while playing in a league that shattered the league record for strikeouts in a season. Defensively, Adams won’t wow you, but he has definitely improved since entering pro baseball. Between weight concerns, average at best defense, and lack of patience, there are enough reasons for doubters to bring up. But, between bat speed, plate coverage, and the raw power there are enough reasons to be on the bandwagon.
2B Charlie Culberson, Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco Giants)
2011 Statistics (AA Richmond): 587 Plate Appearances .259/.293/.382/.675 46 XBH 22 BB-129 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A
Son of a former minor league player, Charlie Culberson might have become another number in the California League trickery that has been going on for years. After putting together two consecutive sub-par seasons in A ball in 2008 and 2009, Culberson hit .290 with a .457 slugging percentage and .797 OPS overall for the San Jose Giants in 2010. While Culberson did not go back to single-A ball form, he hit just .259 with a .382 slugging percentage and .675 OPS for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. He did keep up the power signs that he showed in 2010 though, as Culberson had 46 extra base hits including 10 homeruns. Discipline at the plate remains a big issue for Culberson, who walked just 22 times in 2011 and struck out 129 times. Over 4 full seasons in the minor leagues, Culberson has struck out 395 times and walked just 106 times. While Culberson doesn’t project to be a star, between the power and speed there are still reasons for optimism. Defensively, Culberson projects above average at second base. Culberson will likely make the jump to AAA and a Giant’s fan can only hope he can display more of 2010 than any other season he’s had.
3B Matt Dominguez, New Orleans Zephyrs (Miami Marlins)
2011 Statistics (MLB Florida/AAA New Orleans/AA Jacksonville/A+ Jupiter): 443 Plate Appearances .248/.307/.397/.704 35 XBH 30 BB-63 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: MLB.com (#87)
Mike Moustakas and Matt Dominguez were drafted out of the same high school within the first 12 picks of the 2007 draft. Yet, the third base prospects are polar opposites of each other. Known more for his leather than his bat, Matt Dominguez seemed to be on his way towards joining Moustakas as a starting position player in the major leagues in 2012 until the Miami Marlins signed Jose Reyes in the offseason. While the bat has not come around the way that some hoped it would for Dominguez, he did have his best offensive season since 2008. In 87 games for AAA New Orleans, he hit .258 with a .431 slugging percentage and a .743 OPS. Dominguez doesn’t project for much more than average power and after making progress, he regressed with discipline in 2011 as seen by his 6.7% walk rate in 2011. Dominguez rates as a potentially elite defensive third baseman in the major leagues and that will be his calling card to the big leagues. Likely to begin the year back in AAA, Dominguez might have a better chance of starting in the major leagues with a trade down the road.
SS Ryan Jackson, Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
2011 Statistics (AA Springfield): 599 Plate Appearances .278/.334/.415/.749 48 XBH 44 BB- 91 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A
Like Matt Dominguez, Ryan Jackson is known far more for his glove than his bat. However, after showing developing potential with his bat in a small sample size for the Palm Beach Cardinals in 2010, Jackson carried the improvements over to the Springfield Cardinals in 2011. Playing shortstop nearly every day, Jackson improved his slugging percentage 53 points over his 2010 slugging percentage (.362). His 48 extra base hits were the most by a St. Louis Cardinals minor league shortstop since John Nelson had 49 in single-A in 2002 and his 221 total bases were the most since Pablo Ozuna (266 in single-A) and Adam Kennedy (255 between A+/AA/AAA) in 1998. On defense, Jackson has great instincts, a strong arm, and good throwing accuracy. He is viewed by many as the best defensive shortstop to come through the Cardinal’s farm system since Brendan Ryan.
LF Anthony Gose, Las Vegas 51s (Toronto Blue Jays)
2011 Statistics (AA New Hampshire): 587 Plate Appearances .253/.349/.415/.764 43 XBH 62 BB-154 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #22
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#45), ESPN (#59), Baseball America (#39), Baseball Prospectus (#68), MLB.com (#57), John Sickels (#51)
One of the fastest players in minor league baseball, Anthony Gose had a breakthrough with the bat to some degree in 2011. He still does not make enough contact, but Gose more than doubled his previous high in homeruns and for a third consecutive year improved his discipline. Gose strikes out a lot and holds just a .258 career batting average in the minor leagues, but the improvements in power and discipline should be an encouraging sign. He will also have the luxury of playing in a good hitter’s park like Las Vegas in 2012. Gose also showed vast improvements in basestealing as he stole 70 bases in 85 attempts. The 82 percent stolen base percentage is a far step up from the 58 percent he had in 2010. On defense, Gose provides plus ability with a strong arm and great range. He will spend most of 2012 as a 21 year old in AAA and looks to have a chance to earn a promotion to the major leagues later this season.
CF Mike Trout, Salt Lake Bees (Los Angeles Angels)
2011 Statistics (MLB Los Angeles (AL)/AA Arkansas): 547 Plate Appearances .298/.381/.504/.885 53 XBH 54 BB-106 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #1
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#2), ESPN (#1), Baseball America (#3), Baseball Prospectus (#3), MLB.com (#3), John Sickels (#3)
When people talk about football players, one of the phrases that is often thrown around is how “so and so is a playmaker”. It’s not used as often in baseball lingo, but if there is a player in minor league baseball that fits this description it is Mike Trout. The former 25th overall pick in 2009 can do a whole lot on the field well and when I mean well, I’m talking well above average. Do you want a hitter that will make contact? Trout holds a career batting average of .338 in the minors. Do you need patience? Trout has walked 11.5% of the time in the minor leagues and holds an on base percentage of .422. Need speed? Trout has plus-plus speed and his 102 steals, including 33 in 91 games in AA in 2011, are a sign of that. Need a smart base runner? Trout has averaged 0.82 runs per game in the minors and has stolen bases at a 79% success clip. Need power? Trout may not be a prolific homerun hitter, but he has had an extra base hit in 8.5% of his plate appearance, including 10.2% of the time in 2011. Need defense? Trout provides plus defense in a critical position… centerfield. There are few players that can match the overall tools package that Mike Trout has to offer and Salt Lake might get the opportunity to see that at the beginning of this season after not getting that chance last season.
RF Wil Myers, Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City Royals)
2011 Statistics (AA Northwest Arkansas): 416 Plate Appearances .254/.353/.393/.745 32 XBH 52 BB-87 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #16
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#17), ESPN (#13), Baseball America (#28), Baseball Prospectus (#19), MLB.com (#19), John Sickels (#14)
When the Kansas City Royals had Wil Myers switch from catcher to right field last spring, it was viewed as a move to fast track Myers to the major leagues. In some ways it has, as Myers should begin 2012 in AAA, but a knee injury in 2011 held Wil Myers back from possibly reaching AAA in 2011. Myers has a lot of potential with the bat and it is his plate discipline that makes him a tough out. Myers walked 85 times to 94 strikeouts in 2010 between single-A Burlington and high-A Wilmington. In 2011, Myers walked 52 times to 87 strikeouts for Northwest Arkansas. Although he has hit only 27 homeruns in 247 games in pro baseball, Wil and his listed 6 foot 3 and 205 pound frame is expected to eventually develop good power down the line. Defensively, Myers will hold his own in right field. He’s got a good arm, which isn’t surprising given his catching background, and his range is at least average. A near future outfield involving Myers and Alex Gordon could give the Royals their best corner outfielders since Johnny Damon and Jermaine Dye manned them.
DH Brett Jackson, Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs)
2011 Statistics (AAA Iowa/AA Tennessee): 512 Plate Appearances .274/.379/.490/.869 48 XBH 73 BB-138 K
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #69
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#34), ESPN (#89), Baseball America (#32), Baseball Prospectus (#44), MLB.com (#33), John Sickels (#27)
Obviously not a natural designated hitter, Brett Jackson will play centerfield for the Iowa Cubs for a short while before he gets the call to the big league club. Jackson does a lot well on the field. He has good power (48 extra base hits in 2011) and good speed (21 steals in 28 attempts). He does strike out a lot (27% strikeout rate in 2011), but he also walks a lot as well (14.3% walk rate in 2011). Over his minor league career, Jackson has hit .292 with a .393 on base percentage and .491 slugging percentage. Jackson projects to be at least a 20-20 type of player in the future for the Chicago Cubs. Defensively, he uses good range and good throwing accuracy on an average arm to provide a playable centerfield.
RHP Shelby Miller, Memphis Redbirds (St. Louis Cardinals)
2011 Statistics (AA Springfield/A+ Palm Beach): 11-6, 2.77 ERA, 139 2/3 IP, 112 H, 53 BB, 170 K, 1.18 WHIP
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #8
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#6), ESPN (#5), Baseball America (#8), Baseball Prospectus (#10), MLB.com (#5), John Sickels (#6)
Few pitchers have dominated minor league baseball more over the last two seasons than the St. Louis Cardinal’s top prospect, Shelby Miller. Blessed with an elite fastball that can at times seem unhittable, Miller has been able to overpower hitters through AA. What makes the fastball so strong though is not just the mid-90s velocity that the native Texan can display, but also the great movement and very good command that he has of the pitch. What has held back Miller so far, though, has been the consistency of his secondary pitches. The lack of total confidence in the pitches can be seen as Miller will go to his fastball a large majority of the time. Still, the 21 year old right hander has shown a plus curveball and flashes of an average to plus changeup in his repertoire. They are just not as consistent as his fastball is at this point. With more time in AAA, Shelby Miller could be ready for a big league call up by August or September of this year.
RHP Trevor Bauer, Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks)
2011 Statistics (AA Mobile/A+ Visalia): 1-2, 5.96 ERA, 25 2/3 IP, 27 H, 12 BB, 43 K, 1.52 WHIP
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #14
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#36), ESPN (#21), Baseball America (#9), Baseball Prospectus (#11), MLB.com (#9), John Sickels (#7)
There is a chance that Trevor Bauer could begin the 2012 season in the major leagues. He is basically major league ready right now despite having just seven regular season minor league starts. His workout routine is pretty well known already and he has a similar delivery to San Francisco Giant’s ace Tim Lincecum. Bauer works with two different fastballs, a two-seamer and four seamer, and two different curveballs as well. For his fastball, Bauer generally works low to mid-90s with solid life. He also mixes in a good changeup. In the end, depending on who you talk to, Bauer could have as many as four plus pitches and five or six different pitches that he can use in a start. If Trevor Bauer starts in AAA to open 2012, he could head a very impressive and unfair 1-2 punch for the Reno Aces and yes that is the team’s name.
LHP Tyler Skaggs, Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks)
2011 Statistics (AA Mobile/A+ Visalia): 9-6, 2.96 ERA, 158 1/3 IP, 126 H, 49 BB-198 K, 1.11 WHIP
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #5
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#26), ESPN (#25), Baseball America (#13), Baseball Prospectus (#21), John Sickels (#23)
The second part of a potential two headed monster that could begin in Reno or Arizona, Tyler Skaggs has been in pro ball a little over a year longer than Bauer. Skaggs comes away very impressive as well though. He was one of four players that Arizona acquired in the 2010 trade that sent ace Dan Haren to the Los Angeles Angels on July 25th. Production wise, Tyler Skaggs can match almost any southpaw in minor league baseball minus maybe Matt Moore over the last two seasons. Last season Skaggs averaged 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings and just 2.8 walks per nine innings despite spending more than half his season in the California League. Overall, he has struck out 300 batters over 256 2/3 innings over the last two seasons and has walked just 74 batters. Tyler, who won’t turn 21 until mid-July, features a deceptive low 90s fastball and a very good curveball. He also mixes in a solid changeup as well, giving him three pitches that rate out as at least average.
LHP Drew Pomeranz, Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Colorado Rockies)
2011 Statistics (MLB Colorado/AA Tulsa/AA Akron/A+ Kinston): 6-4, 2.34 ERA, 119 1/3 IP, 87 H, 43 BB, 132 K, 1.09 WHIP
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #29
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#14), ESPN (#45), Baseball America (#30), Baseball Prospectus (#34), MLB.com (#24), John Sickels (#21)
Taken with the 5th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Cleveland Indians, Drew Pomeranz was used by Cleveland to acquire right handed starter Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies at the deadline in 2011. Pomeranz spent time with three different minor league teams in his first full season of pro baseball and dominated for each team. He also had 4 major league starts for the Colorado Rockies to end the season and pitched well in three of the four starts. Pomeranz has a similar repertoire to Tyler Skaggs as the southpaw features a low 90s fastball, a plus curveball, and a solid changeup. Pomeranz has a chance to be a front of the rotation starter for the Rockies in the near future. Like Bauer, it’s possible that Pomeranz starts the season in the major league rotation.
LHP Martin Perez, Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers)
2011 Statistics (AAA Round Rock/AA Frisco): 8-6, 4.33 ERA, 137 1/3 IP, 152 H, 50 BB, 101 K, 1.52 WHIP
Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #25
Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#15), ESPN (#20), Baseball America (#31), Baseball Prospectus (#36), MLB.com (#29), John Sickels (#83)
Some prospects have the ability and take a while to match production with their ability. In the case of Martin Perez, he has been exactly that. Considered the best pitching prospect in the Texas Ranger’s organization, at least of those that won’t be paid more than the league minimum when called up, Martin Perez has been on the prospect radar for what seems like years. Because of that, it’s easy to forget that Perez will turn just 21 years old on April 4th. The southpaw reached AA at just 18 years old in 2009 and endured growing pains there early on. Through his first 28 starts, Perez gave up 146 hits in 120 2/3 innings and walked 55 batters to give him a 1.67 WHIP through the first plus season. Last season though, Perez took a step forward showing more ability to effectively command his potentially plus curveball and plus changeup. He gave up 80 hits and walked 37 batters through 88 1/3 innings for the AA Frisco RoughRiders, including a 5 inning Perfect Game on April 19th. Perez did go through more growing pains after being promoted to AAA when he got blasted in 10 starts (72 hits and 20 walks in 49 innings with a 6.43 ERA). At just 20 years old, however, he has the ability to dominate at times. He will likely begin in Round Rock in 2012 and has a chance to earn a promotion to Arlington at some point this season.
Tags: Anthony Gose Arizona Diamondbacks Brett Jackson Charlie Culberson Chicago Cubs Colorado Rockies Colorado Springs Sky Sox Drew Pomeranz Fresno Grizzlies Iowa Cubs Kansas City Royals Las Vegas 51s Los Angeles Angels Martin Perez Matt Adams Matt Dominguez Memphis Redbirds Miami Marlins Mike Trout New Orleans Zephyrs Omaha Storm Chasers Reno Aces Round Rock Express Ryan Jackson Salt Lake Bees San Francisco Giants Shelby Miller St. Louis Cardinals Texas Rangers Toronto Blue Jays Travis D'Arnaud Trevor Bauer Tyler Skaggs Wil Myers