Projected Eastern League (AA) Prospect Team

source: sportslogos.net

 

The first of three Double-A (AA) leagues, the Eastern League is home to the AA affiliates of some of the highest profile teams in baseball, like the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Philadelphia Phillies. The Eastern League looks to be strong in starting pitching and outfield, but very weak on the infield this season.

Once again, the sources I will use for the prospect rankings are:

Seedlings to Stars

Scout.com

ESPN

Baseball America

Baseball Prospectus

MLB.com

John Sickels

 

Position Players

C Sebastian Valle, Reading Phillies (Philadelphia Phillies)

2011 Statistics (A+ Clearwater): 365 Plate Appearances .284/.312/.394/.706 26 XBH 13 BB-84 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

The 21 year old catcher Sebastian Valle displayed solid power in the pitcher friendly Florida State League in 2011, which should come as no surprise. Signed as an international free agent out of Mexico in 2006, Valle is a potential power hitting catcher in Philadelphia’s system. As a 19 year old in single-A, Valle hit 45 extra base hits, including 16 homeruns in 2010. In five seasons of pro ball, Valle has produced a .418 slugging percentage. The power is there, but Valle still needs to work on discipline as he has taken just 107 walks over 1,634 plate appearances as a pro, including 40 over 850 plate appearances the last two seasons. Over the same two years, he has struck out 185 times. On defense, Valle has the potential to be above average. He has thrown out 32.5% of attempted base stealers over the last two seasons. Valle will begin the 2012 season in AA and could be a potential replacement for Carlos Ruiz down the road.

 

1B Tyler Townsend, Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles)

2011 Statistics (A+ Frederick/RK): 292 Plate Appearances .312/.356/.580/.936 42 XBH 14 BB-68 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

A favorite sleeper of mine in the 2009 draft, Tyler Townsend has not disappointed… when healthy. A 3rd round pick out of Florida International University, Townsend has been bit by the injury bug early in his career as he has played just 124 games over the last two seasons. During those two years though, Townsend has hit .318 with 73 extra base hits and a .946 OPS in 512 plate appearances. If Townsend, who turns 24 in May, can manage to stay healthy in 2012 in AA he could have a breakout season and find himself in AAA or possibly even the major leagues by the end of the year. His biggest weakness offensively is his plate discipline, a common theme early on with this league. Tyler took just 11 walks and struck out 64 times in 271 plate appearances in high-A in 2011. Over 477 plate appearances in full season ball, he has taken just 30 walks and struck out 97 times. Townsend won’t hurt himself much, but won’t help himself either on defense. Overall, Townsend has always been able to hit, so at this point health is what has held him back.

 

2B Jarek Cunningham, Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates)

2011 Statistics (A+ Bradenton/RK): 355 Plate Appearances .260/.325/.514/.839 44 XBH 17 BB-82 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

Jarek Cunningham had a big year with the bat in a league that in general keeps power down. Cunningham followed up his 56 extra base hit season in single-A in 2010 with a 44 extra base hit season in high-A. The kicker is that he had 178 less plate appearances in 2011 than 2010. Still, Cunningham’s bat does not come without issues. He has hit just .259 over the last two seasons and with 47 walks in 888 plate appearances, his discipline is just not even below average… it’s bad. He also has struck out in 24% of his plate appearances in the single-A levels. What will that become when he reaches AA in 2012? On defense, Cunningham has proven to be error prone as he committed 22 errors in 80 games in 2011 at second base. That is not good on any level. At what looks to be a weak position for the Eastern League in 2012, Cunningham was the best of the group. While the power looks promising, Cunningham has a lot of work to do on multiple facets of the game. At 22 years old, he does have time to make improvements.

 

3B Kolbrin Vitek, Portland Seadogs (Boston Red Sox)

2011 Statistics (A+ Salem): 529 Plate Appearances .281/.350/.372/.722 31 XBH 45 BB-102 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

A 20th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Kolbrin Vitek had what could be viewed as a solid, but not spectacular first full season of pro ball. Viewed as one of the best pure hitters in the 2010 draft, Vitek hit for a solid average and showed solid, but not great discipline. He is expected to hit for a good average and at least average power. A first full season in the Carolina League, especially in Salem, is not an easy first assignment. Vitek should be able to get a boost with more experience and a better hitting environment in 2012 as Portland has a nice hitter’s park. Defensively, Kolbrin is in an interesting situation. He was a second baseman in college, but the Boston moved him to third base in pro ball. In the end, some people believe he’ll wind up in the outfield.

 

SS Wilmer Flores, Binghamton Mets (New York Mets)

2011 Statistics (A+ St. Lucie): 559 Plate Appearances .269/.309/.380/.689 37 XBH 27 BB-68 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

Wilmer Flores has been rated a top 100 prospect by Baseball America three different times… and he won’t turn 21 until August. That pretty much says it all right there. Flores has been on the prospect radar for quite some time and for that, it’s easy to forget he’s so young. Flores followed up a nice breakout year in 2010 (50 extra base hits) with a bit of a disappointing, but somewhat expected down year. Flores spent most of 2011 as a 19 year old in high-A in a league that is tough on hitters, especially from a power standpoint. Flores has always been seen as a hitter first and some think he has the potential for good power as he fills out. Given his age, Flores has time and ability on his side, even if the production doesn’t match the ability yet. While he does not walk a lot, he doesn’t strikeout a lot either. Since reaching pro ball, Flores has struck out in 13% of his plate appearances (219 in 1,689). Defensively, it is not likely that Wilmer Flores remains at shortstop. Third base could become a possibility in the future. Flores will begin 2012 in AA likely and will be only 20 years old for most of the season. Going from St. Lucie and the Florida State League to Binghamton and the Eastern League should help boost him a bit offensively.

 

LF Aaron Hicks, New Britain Rock Cats (Minnesota Twins)

2011 Statistics (A+ Fort Myers): 528 Plate Appearances .242/.354/.368/.722 41 XBH 78 BB-110 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#27), ESPN (#80), MLB.com (#72)

Few players have better tools than Aaron Hicks, a 14th overall pick in the 2008 draft. And few players have disappointed more baseball people by not utilizing those tools as much as he should. Aaron Hicks repeated single-A in 2010 and seemed to have a breakthrough season. Hicks then disappointed in 2011 by hitting for little power, albeit again in the Florida State League. At just 22 years old, it’s quite possible that Aaron Hicks can turn it around and “figure it out”. He has shown an ability to get on base with a career .377 on base percentage in the minor leagues, including .401 in 2010. However, many scouting reports of Aaron Hicks note that his walk totals are more a sign of passiveness than patience. Still, Aaron Hicks projects raw power and has good speed. His plus to plus-plus defense in centerfield is a big asset as well and could get him to the major leagues alone. Even if Hicks turns out to be a .250 type of hitter with a .350-.360 OBP, good speed, and gold glove defense, then that will be a valuable player. But the potential is so much more than that, that it can be viewed as disappointing.

 

CF Gary Brown, Richmond Flying Squirrels (San Francisco Giants)

2011 Statistics (A+ San Jose): 638 Plate Appearances .336/.407/.519/.925 61 XBH 46 BB-77 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #76

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#57), ESPN (#68), Baseball America (#38), Baseball Prospectus (#18), MLB.com (#48), John Sickels (#43)

The 24th overall pick in the 2010 draft out of Cal State Fullerton, Gary Brown has the potential to be an all-star centerfielder in the major leagues. Brown has the potential to be a high average hitter in the major leagues and should hit for average power. What he lacks in drawing walks, he makes up for by not striking out a lot. Gary struck out just 12% of the time in his first full season in high-A. Defense and speed are where Brown excels at. He has excellent speed and displays gold glove caliber defense in centerfield.  Gary Brown should start the season in AA, but might not last long there as he’s expected to fly through the system.

 

RF Robbie Grossman, Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates)

2011 Statistics (A+ Bradenton): 616 Plate Appearances .294/.418/.451/.869 49 XBH 104 BB-111 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #61

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: ESPN (#86), Baseball Prospectus (#76)

Few players had a bigger season in 2011 than the Pirate’s switch handed hitting outfield prospect. As he repeated high-A after a disappointing 2010 season, Grossman put up monster numbers for the Bradenton Marauders. Grossman doesn’t show excellent upside at any one tool, but he does a lot at least average. His discipline is his best asset as Grossman has walked 249 times in 1,734 career minor league plate appearances, or 14.4% of the time. He projects for about average power with solid contact ability. His speed is above average, but he’s not a burner. He doesn’t have a prototypical arm for right or center either, which likely means Grossman will wind up in left field. After his repeat year, Grossman will make the jump to AA.

 

DH Bryce Brentz, Portland Seadogs (Boston Red Sox)

2011 Statistics (A+ Salem/A Greenville): 507 Plate Appearances .306/.365/.574/.939 59 XBH 40 BB-115 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: MLB.com (#64)

Bryce Brentz had a very nice first full season in the minor leagues. After being taken with the 36th overall pick by the Red Sox in the 2010 draft, Brentz began his first full season in 2011 with the single-A Greenville Drive and finished with the high-A Salem Red Sox. Between the two teams, Brentz hit 30 homeruns, drove in 94 runs, and scored 91 of his own. His 263 total bases were the most by a Boston Red Sox minor league player. Brentz has great bat speed and raw power. His biggest asset is his bat, although his discipline still needs work. It’s hard to pick at a first full season like Brentz had though. Defensively, Brentz profiles as a prototypical right fielder with solid speed and a plus arm. He has a chance to move quickly through the Boston Red Sox organization.

Starting Pitchers

RHP Matt Harvey, Binghamton Mets (New York Mets)

2011 Statistics (AA Binghamton/A+ St. Lucie): 13-5, 3.32 ERA, 135 2/3 IP, 125 H, 47 BB, 156 K, 1.27 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #45

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#52), ESPN (#38), Baseball America (#54), Baseball Prospectus (#25), MLB.com (#38), John Sickels (#35)

Drafted with the 7th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the New York Mets, Matt Harvey dominated in high-A during his first full season of pro ball before ending 2011 in AA. Despite an ERA over 2 runs higher in AA than high-A, Harvey’s numbers overall in AA were still not terrible in his 12 starts. He averaged a strikeout per 9 less in AA, but still averaged more than a strikeout an inning. His walks went up, but not to a terribly high level of 3.5 per 9 innings. His homeruns per 9 were nearly identical and his hits per 9 were still under a hit an inning. Still, Harvey is likely to go back to AA, but probably not for that long. When he’s going right, Harvey is a tough pitcher to hit. He is usually around the mid-90s with his plus fastball and can hit as high as 97 as a starter. He mixes in a changeup as well as a slider and curveball. If Harvey ends up back in AA, he will likely head a two headed monster at the front of Binghamton’s rotation.

 

RHP Zack Wheeler, Binghamton Mets (New York Mets)

2011 Statistics (A+ St. Lucie/A+ San Jose): 9-7, 3.52 ERA, 115 IP, 100 H, 52 BB, 129 K, 1.32 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #51

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#53), ESPN (#27), Baseball America (#35), Baseball Prospectus (#30), MLB.com (#28), John Sickels (#36)

Zack Wheeler was drafted in the 1st round (6th overall) of the 2009 draft by the San Francisco Giants and acquired by the New York Mets last summer in the deal that sent Carlos Beltran to San Francisco. Wheeler has always had outstanding stuff, but his command has been his question mark. He usually works low to mid 90s with his fastball and can get up to 97. He complements the fastball with a good curveball and an improving changeup. If Wheeler can improve the command, he has the ability to be a front line starting pitcher. After spending his first 16 starts in the California League, his last 6 starts in the Florida State League must have looked like pitching in high school. At the very least, his numbers looked like they were as Wheeler went 2-2 with a 2.00 ERA for the St. Lucie Mets, including 10.3 strikeouts per 9 and just 1.7 walks per 9 for a nifty 6.20 strikeout to walk ratio. Wheeler will join Matt Harvey at the top of what could be a very nice rotation for the Binghamton Mets.

 

RHP Trevor May, Reading Phillies (Philadelphia Phillies)

2011 Statistics (A+ Clearwater): 10-8, 3.63 ERA, 151 1/3 IP, 121 H, 67 BB, 208 K, 1.24 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #34

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#74), ESPN (#76), Baseball America (#69), Baseball Prospectus (#51), MLB.com (#54), John Sickels (#40)

Finding a pitcher that was more dominant at times last year than Trevor May would be a difficult task, yet he had a 3.63 ERA in a pitchers league, which tells a lot about the story of Trevor May. The 22 year old right hander has a minor league strikeout rate of 11.9 per 9 innings in his career. In 2011, his strikeout per 9 rate was 12.4. Yet, for as dominating as he can be, May gives up a lot of walks. His career 1.31 WHIP is due to control problems (4.7 walks per 9 for his career), not his .216 career opponent’s batting average. Last season, May reached double figures in strikeouts in seven different starts. He went at least 5 innings gave up 2 or less hits in six starts. For all of his strikeout ability, May works low to mid 90s and lacks the true plus pitch to go with the fastball. But, his curveball and changeup both have shown the potential to be plus, so he has that going for him. After spending the last season and a half in high-A, May will make the jump to AA in 2012. Considered the hardest jump in minor league baseball, this could be a big season for Trevor May.

 

RHP Drew Hutchison, New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Toronto Blue Jays)

2011 Statistics (AA NH/A+ Dunedin/A Lansing): 14-5, 2.53 ERA, 149 1/3 IP, 120 H, 35 BB, 171 K, 1.04 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #20

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#79), ESPN (#42), John Sickels (#73)

The Toronto Blue Jays took Drew Hutchison in the 15th round of the 2009 draft. The reward for them was to watch him rise through three levels in 2011 and get more dominating at each level, albeit small sample size. Few pitchers have the command that Hutchison has displayed early on. Hutchison walked just 2.1 batters per 9 innings in 2011 and struck out 10.3 per 9. He sits low 90s with his fastball. His best pitch is probably a plus changeup that complements his fastball well. He also mixes in a slider that is an improving pitch. Hutchison will return to AA where he finished the 2011 season and is part of a deep, up and coming Toronto Blue Jay’s system.

 

RHP Anthony Ranaudo, Portland Seadogs (Boston Red Sox)

2011 Statistics (A+ Salem/A Greenville): 9-6, 3.97 ERA, 127 IP, 115 H, 46 BB, 117 K, 1.27 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#63)

Pitching his first pro season as a 21 year old, Anthony Ranaudo pitched well for single-A Greenville and then held his own for high-A Salem. Ranaudo was drafted by the Red Sox as a first round supplemental pick in 2010 out of LSU. Making 26 starts in his first full year, Ranaudo gave up less than a hit an inning, struck out nearly a batter an inning (8.3 K/9), and walked 3.3 batters per nine innings. Anthony brings an imposing 6 foot 7, 231 pound frame to the mound and works low to mid-90s with his fastball. His curveball works as an out pitch, while his changeup is able to be mixed in without harm as seen by a lack of platoon splits. Ranaudo will likely begin the 2012 season in AA and like last season could very well finish the season in a different league and level than he began the season at. In fact it’s possible that he could finish the 2012 season in a major league uniform.

 

 

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Topics: Aaron Hicks, Altoona Curve, Anthony Ranaudo, Baltimore Orioles, Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Binghamton Mets, Boston Red Sox, Bowie Baysox, Bryce Brentz, Drew Hutchison, Eastern League, ESPN, Gary Brown, Jarek Cunningham, John Sickels, Kolbrin Vitek, Matt Harvey, Minnesota Twins, MLB, New Britain Rock Cats, New Hampshire Fisher Cats, New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, Portland Sea Dogs, Reading Phillies, Richmond Flying Squirrels, Robbie Grossman, San Francisco Giants, Scout.com, Sebastian Valle, Toronto Blue Jays, Trevor May, Tyler Townsend, Wilmer Flores, Zack Wheeler

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