source: sportslogos.net

Projected Texas League (AA) Prospect Team

Each year a new flood of prospects enter each league in minor league baseball. For the Texas League, the pool of talented prospects is seemingly never dry. Over the past seven Baseball America prospect lists, six of the lists have had at least 12 prospects that played the previous season in the Texas League. Five of those seven lists have included two Texas League players from the previous season in the top ten prospects in baseball.

As usual, the Texas League will be a fun league to watch in 2011. While there may not be the surefire top prospect like Mike Trout in the league, the depth should once again be strong and could be strengthened even more by June or July when prospects like Jurickson Profar (Texas Rangers), Oscar Taveras (St. Louis Cardinals), Carlos Martinez (St. Louis Cardinals), Rymer Liriano (San Diego Padres), and George Springer (Houston Astros) could be possible call ups.

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

Position Players

 

C Derek Norris, Midland Rockhounds (Oakland Athletics)

2011 Statistics (AA Harrisburg): 423 Plate Appearances  .210/.367/.446/.813 37 XBH 77 BB-117 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: ESPN (#93), Baseball Prospectus (#96), John Sickels (#88)

A key part of the trade that sent left handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals, Derek Norris projects as a power hitting catcher with solid defensive ability. While there are questions over whether he’ll make enough contact, Norris is patient and has hit 20 or more homeruns in two of his four minor league seasons. He did get 423 plate appearances in AA last year, so it’s possible that he will begin the 2012 season in the Pacific Coast League for the Sacramento River Cats (AAA).

1B Jonathan Singleton, Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros)

2011 Statistics (A+ Clearwater/A+ Lancaster): 530 Plate Appearances .298/.392/.441/.833 37 XBH 70 BB-123 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #65

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#39), ESPN (#46), Baseball America (#34), Baseball Prospectus (#73), MLB.com (#44), John Sickels (#47)

Traded by the Philadelphia Phillies in a package for Hunter Pence last July, Jonathan Singleton was a big addition to a previously weak Houston Astros farm system. Jonathan Singleton hit in polar opposite leagues in 2011 as he went from the hitter’s paradise California League to the pitcher friendly Florida State League. Still, Singleton will spend all of the 2012 season as a 20 year old in the Texas League. In a league that has seen its share of top first base prospects from Mark Teixeira to Daric Barton to Chris Davis and finally to Justin Smoak and Eric Hosmer, Jonathan Singleton hopes to strengthen the list even more.

2B Jean Segura, Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels)

2011 Statistics (A+ Inland Empire/Rookie League): 232 Plate Appearances .295/.341/.447/.787 21 XBH 15 BB-29 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #73

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#22), ESPN (#44), Baseball America (#55), Baseball Prospectus (#67), MLB.com (#55), John Sickels (#66)

The 21 year old Jean Segura endured hamstring injuries in 2011, but when healthy produced as expected. Segura, who stole 50 bases for class A Cedar Rapids in 2010, looks to join a lengthy list of middle infield prospects that rose through the Angels farm system. Prospects like Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, and Brandon Wood made the same trip through Arkansas that Segura will be making. Jean Segura has great speed and displayed that when he stole 50 bases in single-A in 2010. Despite playing in just 52 games in 2011, Segura was still 3rd on the Inland Empire team in steals with 18. He has shown good discipline in his career with 99 career walks to just 149 strikeouts over 1,304 plate appearances. He also holds a career .316 batting average. In 2010, Segura hit .313 for the Cedar Rapids Kernels.

3B Mike Olt, Frisco RoughRiders (Texas Rangers)

2011 Statistics (A+ Myrtle Beach): 292 Plate Appearances .267/.387/.504/.891 29 XBH 48 BB-70 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#62), ESPN (#75), Baseball America (#43), Baseball Prospectus (#45), MLB.com (#43), John Sickels (#65)

On the verge of a breakout season, Mike Olt was injured with a broken left collarbone in a collision at home plate in June. A 22 year old at the time, Olt was batting .286 with a .903 OPS. He finished the season with an OPS 22 points lower. Still, Olt was one of 9 players to finish with a slugging% of .500 or higher in the Carolina League. Projected as a future big league caliber player, Mike Olt is strong on both sides of the ball. He combines very strong defense with good power and discipline.  Olt looks to provide the same type of power that third baseman Tommy Mendonca provided Frisco in 2011.

SS Jonathan Villar, Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros)

2011 Statistics (A+ Lancaster/AA Corpus Christi): 574 Plate Appearances .241/.320/.396/.716 43 XBH 54 BB-156 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

After finishing last year with 367 plate appearances in the Texas League, Villar is likely to return to AA for at least the beginning of the year. Villar will open the 2012 season as just a 20 year old, so he has age on his side. Villar did take a step forward in 2011 as he increased his plate discipline (6.7 BB% to 9.4%) and improved his power (.362 SLG% to .396 SLG% and 35 to 43 XBH). Still, Villar will need to cut down on his strikeouts (an astounding 309 strikeouts over the last 2 seasons in 1,137 plate appearances) if he is to improve more for the next level. There is room in Houston for a fast, defensive minded shortstop though. Developing power and discipline will be icing on the cake.

LF Kole Calhoun, Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels)

2011 Statistics (A+ Inland Empire): 594 Plate Appearances .324/.410/.547/.957 64 XBH 73 BB-96 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: N/A

One of the prospects I’ve been curious about, Calhoun will need to shake off the reputation of being a productive non-elite hitting prospect coming from the California League. Unlike a player like Jon Gaston though, Calhoun wasn’t a strikeout machine in the California League. Calhoun walked a lot and held his strikeout percentage to 16%. Along the way he displayed a nice power/speed package with his 64 extra base hits and 20 steals. Even if Calhoun were to put up numbers similar to what he had at home (.312/.382/.476/.858) in 2011 Calhoun would open some eyes.  For Calhoun’s sake, he is coming from one of the more difficult ballparks to hit homeruns in, so he will be used to a tough home park to hit homeruns in. According to http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/oracle/discussion/2011_minor_league_park_multipliers/ Inland Empire’s homerun park factor was 0.81 from 2009-2011. Arkansas is slightly worse at 0.78.

CF Michael Choice, Midland Rockhounds (Oakland Athletics)

2011 Statistics (A+ Stockton): 542 Plate Appearances .285/.376/.542/.918 59 XBH 61 BB-134 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #70

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospects Rankings: Scout.com (#29), ESPN (#77), Baseball America (#80), Baseball Prospectus (#39), MLB.com (#59), John Sickels (#53)

A first round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2010, Michael Choice will be back playing in Texas for the first time since he was an outfielder for the University of Texas-Arlington (UTA). Choice has done nothing but match expectations since being drafted 10th overall in the draft. Choice “struggled” somewhat in the first half of 2011, but exploded in the second half (.332/.411/.590/1.001). Choice is known for his power and discipline at the plate. His path to Midland has been quite similar to that of Chris Carter back in 2009. Carter has since stalled a bit, but had a big season in 2009 for Midland. Choice will begin the 2012 season in the Texas League and could have a presence in the middle of the Oakland Athletic’s lineup in the next couple years.

RF Kent Matthes, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies)

2011 Statistics (A+ Modesto): 400 Plate Appearances .334/.378/.642/1.020 65 XBH 22 BB-80 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospects Rankings:  N/A

The California League leader in slugging% in 2011, Kent Matthes will come to Tulsa following a big season. Matthes managed 65 extra base hits and 95 RBI in just 93 games. Like Choice, Matthes had a very big second half where he batted .368 with a 1.143 OPS. Matthes will also have to prove that he wasn’t a product of the California League, a tough thing to manage after putting up a 1.020 OPS for the season. Matthes will also likely need to improve his plate discipline (5.5% BB rate).

DH Nolan Arenado, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies)

2011 Statistics (A+ Modest): 583 Plate Appearances .298/.349/.487/.836 55 XBH 47 BB-53 K

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #87

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#18), ESPN (#26), Baseball America (#42), Baseball Prospectus (#20), MLB.com (#22), John Sickels (#13)

Universally considered one of the top third base prospects in the game, Nolan Arenado’s bat is what will carry him to the big leagues. A very tough hitter to strikeout, Arenado has struck out in just 10% of his plate appearances in the minor leagues. He also showed more discipline in 2011 with more walks last season alone than his first two years in the minor leagues. Arenado has always been able to make consistent contact, but with growth in discipline his bat looks better than ever. Scouting reports have also shown improvement in defense from Arenado, which will be a key to watch in Tulsa this season. Arenado will have big shoes to fill in the Tulsa Driller’s lineup as Tulsa will lose both Tim Wheeler and Wilin Rosario from a year ago.

Starting Pitchers

 

RHP Jarred Cosart, Corpus Christi Hooks (Houston Astros)

2011 Statistics (A+ Clearwater/AA Corpus Christi): 10-10 4.12 ERA 144 1/3 IP 131 H 56 BB 101 K 1.30 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#25), ESPN (#78), Baseball America (#50), Baseball Prospectus (#48), MLB.com (#61)

One of the key parts of the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia last season, Jarred Cosart will likely return to Corpus Christi to open up 2011. While Cosart did not show outstanding ability to get strikeouts last season, he still handled high-A and AA well. When Cosart is going strong though he can easily hit mid 90s and can reach the upper 90s with his fastball. He mixes in a swing and miss curveball and a decent changeup, that has improved since he entered pro ball, to go with the fastball. A Texas native, Cosart has very good stuff though and is capable of having a breakout year in AA in 2012.

RHP Jake Odorizzi, Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Kansas City Royals)

2011 Statistics (A+ Wilmington/AA NW Arkansas): 10-7 3.73 ERA 147 IP 134 H 44 BB 157 K 1.21 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #32

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#54), ESPN (#71), Baseball America (#68), Baseball Prospectus (#47), MLB.com (#47), John Sickels (#60)

Another in a line of top pitching prospects to come through Northwest Arkansas over the past few seasons, Jake Odorizzi is what you want in a prime prospect.  He is athletic, repeats his delivery well, and commands the ball well. He made 12 starts for Northwest Arkansas last season and will likely return for the 2012 season after struggling a bit. Even though he “struggled”, Odorrizi still displayed a good ability to keep baserunners off base (2.9 BB/9 and 1.28 WHIP). Odorrizi’s struggles in AA with the longball do not come as a surprise as Northwest Arkansas is home to a very good hitting ballpark, especially for left handed hitters. Odorrizi gave up 8 of his 13 homeruns at home and LH batters hit .276/.325/.520/.845 against him in AA.

RHP Sonny Gray, Midland Rockhounds (Oakland Athletics)

2011 Statistics (AA Midland/Rookie): 1-1 0.82 ERA 22 IP 19 H 6 BB 20 K 1.14 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: Scout.com (#31), ESPN (#73), Baseball America (#65), Baseball Prospectus (#72), MLB.com (#85), John Sickels (#85)

A 2011 First round draft pick of the Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray was pushed from the draft to AA after just one start in Rookie Ball last year, and he delivered. Gray will likely begin 2012 in AA, but has a chance to move fast given that the Athletics have already shown the willingness to do so with him. What Gray lacks in height he makes up with mound presence. He works low 90s with a good curveball. Midland will get to have more of a look at Sonny Gray in 2012 before he shoots up the latter towards Oakland.

RHP Chad Bettis, Tulsa Drillers (Colorado Rockies)

2011 Statistics (A+ Modesto): 12-5 3.34 ERA 169 2/3 IP 142 H 45 BB 184 K 1.10 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: #91

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: ESPN (#91), Baseball America (#86), Baseball Prospectus (#79), MLB.com (#66), John Sickels (#86)

The 9th best prospect in the Rockies system entering 2011, Chad Bettis used a great season in a great hitters league in the California League to jump into top prospect type status. Any pitcher who can put up the type of peripherals that Bettis did in Modesto is a legitimate pitcher to keep an eye on. He has a fastball, slider, changeup combination with the fastball being his best pitch. Bettis could eventually end up in the bullpen, but will stay a starter in the meantime.

RHP John Hellweg, Arkansas Travelers (Los Angeles Angels)

2011 Statistics (A+ Inland Empire): 6-4 3.73 ERA 89 1/3 IP 75 H 59 BB 113 K 1.50 WHIP

Seedlings to Stars Top 100 Rank: N/A

Other 2012 Top 100 Prospect Rankings: ESPN (#81)

A definite pitcher to keep an eye on and one that you can’t miss, John Hellweg began the 2011 season in the bullpen for Inland Empire and finished the year a strong pitcher in Inland Empire’s rotation. The 6 foot 9 right hander from O’Fallon, MO, has a big arm and features a plus slider to go with a mid to upper 90s fastball. As a starter, Hellweg went 4-1 with a 2.12 ERA over 14 starts for the 66ers. He struck out 80 batters over 63 2/3 innings as a starter. If Hellweg can improve his command he could have a breakthrough season in the Texas League.

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Tags: Arkansas Travelers Baseball America Baseball Prospectus Carlos Martinez Chad Bettis Colorado Rockies Corpus Christi Hooks Derek Norris ESPN Frisco RoughRiders George Springer Houston Astros Jake Odorizzi Jarred Cosart Jean Segura John Hellweg John Sickels Jonathan Singleton Jonathan Villar Jurickson Profar Kansas City Royals Kent Matthes Kole Calhoun Los Angeles Angels Michael Choice Midland RockHounds Mike Olt Mike Trout MLB Nolan Arenado Northwest Arkansas Naturals Oakland Athletics Oscar Taveras Rymer Liriano San Diego Padres Scout.com Seedlings To Stars Sonny Gray St. Louis Cardinals Texas League Texas Rangers Tulsa Drillers

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