As many of you already know, I joined the S2S crew long after the Top 100 was started and eventually finished. I think Nathaniel did a wonderful job putting together the Top 100 for the site; I respect anyone who takes the time to make a list that is well informed. Below I list my Top 11 players to miss the Top 100 in the order I think they missed. Also I will include a direct quote from what I wrote about each player before the 2012 campaign began, and an update for how their season has started and any other thoughts I may have on that player.
- Billy Hamilton, SS, Cincinnati Reds
Preseason Thoughts: Hamilton has 80 speed, and if it was possible to go higher than 80, I assure you people would. Hamilton stole 103 bases in 123 attempts at Lo A Dayton this past season. Hamilton’s hit tool is improving as is his approach, but his 130+ strikeouts this past season must decrease to utilize his speed on the base paths. Hamilton’s power is non-existent and he has a good chance to hit as many inside-the-park home runs as he does traditional home runs. Hamilton has good range at SS because of his speed, but his arm may not be good enough to stick at shortstop. Hamilton’s speed will probably allow him to move to center field, but if he can’t read fly balls properly he could transition to 2B easily. A simplified approach will help Hamilton in 2012 and in the future.
2012 Update: High-A Bakersfield 10 games: 13-34 (.382), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 9 SB (3 CS), 7 BB, 6 K, .500 OBP, .676 SLG. Wow, Billy Hamilton has started off the season about as well as I or any fan of him could have hoped. Granted it has only been 10 games, but it is still impressive. The part that is most impressive to me is the 7 walks compared to 6 K. He is still on pace to strikeout roughly 85 times, but if the walks are anywhere near that number, it is excusable. Hamilton’s speed needs to be on base, and the elevated walks are just what he needs. Hamilton’s improved plate discipline/pitch recognition has also helped his hit tool as well. There is no way he can keep this pace, but if he can hit .300 with 65+ walks, look for him to be a Top 15 to 25 prospect going into next year.
- Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
Preseason Thoughts: Rizzo has plus to plus-plus power which showed last year in AAA, and projects to hit 25-28 HR. His hit tool is above average, but was exposed last year in his brief stint with San Diego. Rizzo has average defensive skill at first base, he won’t win any gold gloves, but he is certainly better than some 1B in the league today. Rizzo has a tick below average speed. Rizzo will spend most of the 2012 campaign in Iowa eliminating holes in his swing, and hoping Bryan LaHair doesn’t have career year that could delay his debut on Chicago’s north side.
2012 Update: Triple-A Iowa 11 games: 18-46 (.391), 5 HR, 13 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 SB, .417 OBP, .739 SLG. Rizzo joins Hamilton in the hot start category. I highly doubt he keeps up the pace he is on, which would result in 65 home runs and 169 RBI. But 35 HR and 100 RBI certainly aren’t out of the question. The concern for holes in his swing is still there. His strikeout and walk rates are right on pace for where they were last year and that has to improve. Major league pitchers exposed Rizzo and Chicago’s developmental staff will help fill those holes, so when Rizzo does get to the major leagues again, it will go better than it did before.
- Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Preseason Thoughts: Castellanos is a high school shortstop turned third baseman that has no elite tools, but could be average or better at everything. Castellanos has an above average to plus hit tool and could hit .300 for a majority of his career. He has average speed and good reactions at the hot corner and a good arm. He is large for the position and projects to hit for average power. Castellanos’ downfall is that he is strikeout heavy and doesn’t draw a lot of walks. Castellanos will play this season at Hi A and hopefully see maturity in his power.
2012 Update: High-A Lakeland 10 Games: 16-39 (.410), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 10 K, 3 BB, o SB (1 CS), .442 OBP, .564 SLG. Not much from the projection has changed for Castellanos. He is barreling balls and showing his high average potential with not a lot of power to show yet (3 double, 1 HR). Castellanos is still striking out about once per game. While it isn’t ideal, if Castellanos can hit .300 with 15 HR no one will complain about 130 strikeouts a year. If the number goes up for some reason, some adjustments will need to be made.
- Mike Olt, 3B, Texas Rangers
Preseason Thoughts: Olt was having a fine first full professional season last year at Hi-A Myrtle Beach. Olt’s season ended early, when he broke his collarbone in a collision at home plate. Olt has plus power and an average hit tool. His defensive range is average due to his below average speed, but his arm makes up for his lack of range and he could play 3B at the major league level. With Adrian Beltre filling the Rangers 3B spot in the lineup through 2016 Olt will have to move to 1B or a corner outfield spot to make the major league squad. Olt will start the year at AA Frisco and has potential to put up some crazy power numbers in the Texas League this summer.
2012 Update: Double-A Frisco 10 games: 9-39 (.231), 2 HR, 5 RBI, 4 BB, 15 K, 0 SB, .302 OBP, .462 SLG. It appears Olt is having some trouble adjusting to Double-A pitching. His strikeout rates are up, and his walk rates are down. In the past Olt’s K/BB rate has been between 1.5 and 2, the inflation to close to 4 would be concerning if it continued over the course of 144 games. Olt is on pace for 28 HR, about what would be projected of him. The biggest thing for Olt will be staying healthy. A full year will be just as crucial to development as anything else.
- George Springer, OF, Houston Astros
Preseason Thoughts: Springer is a five potential above-average or better tools center-fielder from Connecticut. Springer has a good hit tool, with improving pitch recognition and plate vision. He has potential for above average power and could see home run totals in the mid to high teens at some point in his career. Springer has good speed and uses it not only on the base paths, but in the outfield as well. Springer’s range in center is good and he also features a plus arm from the field. Springer has all the tools to become a quick mover through the Astros organization.
2012 Update: High-A Lancaster 10 games: 11-40 (.275), 2 HR, 9 RBI, 3 BB, 9 K, 2 SB, .341 OBP, .475 SLG. Springer is actually right on pace for what should be expected from him. Power likely will decrease once he moves on from the Cal League, but other than that there is nothing to get overly excited or disappointed about through 10 games. I do think he will move to AA by mid-season, and potentially a cup of coffee in AAA this year. It would not surprise me to see George Springer in an Astros uniform sometime in 2013. I would like to see his walk rates increase a bit more and see the OBP closer to .375.
- Kolten Wong, 2B, St. Louis Cardinals
Preseason Thoughts: Wong is rapidly moving through the Cardinals organization and could easily start the year in AA with a solid spring training. He has a great hit tool that is helped by his excellent plate vision and pitch recognition. Wong is an above average defender with a great arm from 2B. He doesn’t have great speed, but it is serviceable due to his above average skills in other areas.
2012 Update: Double-A Springfield 9 games: 14-33 (.424), 1 HR, 7 RBI, 5 BB, 3 K, 1 SB, .500 OBP, .697 SLG. Quick, raise your hand if you thought Billy Hamilton and Kolten Wong would have the two highest OPS percentages on this list. Wong is picking up right where he left off from his pro debut in 2011. Wong has two triples and two doubles as well and is making good solid contact on everything. Strikeouts are rare for Wong, and there isn’t much not to love about him. Wong could provide 10-15 home runs annually at the major league level.
- Zach Lee, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Preseason Thoughts: Lee was considered one of the toughest signs in the 2010 draft class considering his dual football/baseball scholarship to LSU. Lee elected to sign with the Dodgers and enjoyed a successful first professional year in Lo A. Lee’s fastball sits in the low 90s but can jump to the mid-90s and is already a plus pitch. His best off speed pitch is his slider and he is working on developing a power curve in the low 80s as well. Lee needs to work on developing his change-up as it is nowhere near what it needs to be presently. Lee’s command is above average and he should spend the 2012 campaign in High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
2012 Update: High-A Rancho Cucamonga 3 Games Started: (0-1), 15 IP, 11 H, 3 BB, 16 K, 4 R / 4 ER, 1.33 GO/AO. Lee has had a good start to the year, going 5 innings in each of his three outings. His ERA is sitting at 2.40, but more importantly has a 5.33 K/BB ratio. That is up from his 2011 ratio which was just below 3. Lee has allowed 2 home runs on the year, which is not bad at all in the Cal League where he could easily allow 4 in one game later in the summer. His strikeouts combined with his GO/AO rate will keep him successful if they continue.
- Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Preseason Thoughts: Middlebrooks is an above average defender with an excellent arm from across the diamond. He shows potential for above average power and an average hit tool. Middlebrooks is not a good runner, but he will not block the base path at the same time. Needs more patience at the plate to improve his walks and decrease his strikeouts which is one major area of concern.
2012 Update: Triple-A Pawtucket 11 games: 16-44 (.364), 3 HR, 11 RBI, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 SB, .378 OBP, .636 SLG. Middlebrooks has done exactly what you would expect, high average and power with lots of strikeouts and few walks. Middlebrooks’ strikeouts per game has decreased each of his 4 seasons, and is surprisingly on pace to yet again. Unfortunately for him, so have his walks per game, which is also on pace to decrease yet again. Middlebrooks will need to change these trends before he reaches the major league level.
- Austin Hedges, C, San Diego Padres
Preseason Thoughts: One of the best if not the best defensive catchers in all of the minor leagues. Hedges has an incredible arm with a recorded 1.78 pop time by Baseball America. He has all the tools you want from behind the plate and is advanced with his blocking, receiving, and game calling skills. Hedges needs to improve his bat, but even if he can hit .250 he will have a lengthy MLB future ahead of him because of his defensive prowess. Hedges is one of my favorite players to take a huge jump forward this year.
2012 Update: Low-A Fort Wayne 9 games: 8-28 (.286), 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 BB, 6 K, 0 SB (1 CS), .394 OBP, .536 SLG. I’ll be open and honest, I love Hedges. Quite frankly I love any catcher who can play defense the way Hedges can. I love Christian Bethancourt, I love Jose Molina, and I love catchers that do the little things. Add in the fact that they can potentially hit and I’m going crazy for them. Hedges .394 OBP is beautiful. I heard great things about his progression as a hitter during the Padres fall instructional league and so far it has translated into success at Fort Wayne. I can’t wait to see him in person this summer.
- Garrett Richards, RHP Los Angeles Angels
Preseason Thoughts: Pitch to contact pitcher who can strike out batters if needed. Has a two-seamer that features decent sink and run. He also has an above average curve and a slider that is developing to be above average as well. If he can improve on his secondary stuff, Richards can be an above average starter at the top level.
2012 Update: Triple-A Salt Lake 3 Games Started: (2-0), 21 IP, 12 H, 4 BB, 21 K, 5 R/5 ER, 1.56 GO/AO. Richards has been doing his best to force the Angels hand into moving him into the rotation. Richards didn’t show this kind of strikeout potential at Double-A last year, but he has in the past. He is keeping the ball down, showing command and control, and being efficient with his pitch counts. Richards has all of his pitches working for him early in the season. The number of times the Angels run Jerome Williams out to the mound to get shelled will directly correlate to the amount of time until Richards will make his return to the big league rotation. I honestly see June 1st at the absolute latest if Richards continues to pitch this well.
- Jose Fernandez, RHP, Miami Marlins
Preseason Thoughts: Young Cuban defector with five pitches (2-seam, 4-seam, Curve, Slider, Change-Up) led by the mid to upper 90s 4-seam fastball. A large frame, with already average and improving control, needs time to develop all his pitches, but at age 19, time is on his side.
2012 Update: Low-A Greensboro 2 Games Started: (1-0), 11 IP, 5 H, 4 BB, 18 K, 2 R/2 ER, 1.00 GO/AO. Another ‘wow’ moment to round out the Top 11 not to make the Top 100. Fernandez has always had raw stuff, but numbers suggest he is turned raw stuff into legit pitches. Granted it is Low-A and just two starts, but the 18 strikeouts in 11 innings is absolutely ridiculous. I haven’t heard any reports from a scout or industry personal that have seen him in person this year, but the numbers are very promising through 2 starts. Fernandez could reach the major leagues at very young age, but he is still very raw at this time.