In our continued coverage of the upcoming Futures Game we are going to take a look at the United States corner infield selections. For the most part all of these prospects have been on people’s radars for awhile and for good reason. The players selected to man the corners are all polished hitters with strong plate discipline and advanced approaches. All of them are in Double-A and three out of the four are currently in the Texas League. There are big power bats and there are high average contact hitters with gap to gap approaches. Each player has outstanding potential and are amongst the top talent in their respective organizations. So without further ado here is the list of corner infielders for the US in this years Futures Game.
Summary: Nolan Arenado was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 2nd round (#59 overall) of the 2009 amateur draft. Arenado was initially drafted as a shortstop but made the transition to third base where he is an above average defender with a strong arm. His bat is by far his best tool as he has tremendous bat speed and gets the barrel of the bat through the zone quickly. He has home run power but for the most part he has shown excellent ability to drive the ball into the gaps and make consistent contact. He also has outstanding plate discipline and is a polished overall hitter with an advanced approach at the plate.
Arenado is in the midst of his 4th professional season and has been steadily progressing level by level through the Rockies’ organization. He started his career in the Pioneer league in 2009 where he hit .300/.351/.404 with 15 doubles and 2 HR. What was most impressive about his debut was that he showed a discerning eye at the plate and drew 16 walks against only 18 strikeouts in 54 games. His advanced understanding of the strike zone was a revelation considering he was only 18 years old.
He followed up his strong professional debut with a breakout of sorts in 2010 with Class-A Asheville of the South Atlantic League. He hit .308/.338/.520 with 12 HR but an even more impressive was his 41 doubles in just 92 games. His plate discipline faltered a bit as he only drew 19 walks against 52 strikeouts but his ability to make soild contact kept his strike out numbers from becoming a problem. His efforts in 2010 paid off as he was rated the 80th best prospect entering 2011 by Baseball America.
Arenado exceeed everyone’s expectations in 2011 as he took the California League by strom. In 134 games for Modesto he hit .298/.349/.487 with 20 HR and 122 RBI, but what is most impressive is the fact that he coaxed 47 walks and only struck out 53 times. It was his performance in the California League that had Baseball America rate him the 42nd best prospect prior to 2012. His patience at the plate returned in 2011 and he showed the kind of plate discipline that will translate well to the Major Leagues.
2012 has seen Arenado advancing to Double-A Tulsa and finding both his share of success and stumbles. Perhaps he is falling victim to his own outstanding 2011 but his triple slash line .282/.334/.405 is widely considered a mild disappointment as he has only hit 7 HR and 24 combined extra base hits. His current OPS is .739 and represents the lowest of his minor league career. However, while his 2012 numbers are lacking in terms of the “wow” factor most talent evaluators were expecting he has shown some of the best plate discipline and polish of any hitters his age. As a 21 year old in Double-A he is both one of the youngest players in the league but still one of the most talented. His ceiling is that of an MLB regular with All-Star potential with the ability to hit for above average power as well as maintaining a solid batting average.
Summary: Nick Castellanos was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 1st round (#44 overall) in the 2010 draft. He was drafted as a shortstop out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida. He, like Arenado, has made the transition from prep shortstop to professional third baseman. Initial draft reports profiled Castellanos as a good overall hitter with flashes of power and solid athleticism. Draft reports also questioned his ability to translate his power potential into game situations and his ability to produce enough offensively to merit a corner infield spot on a Major League roster. Suffice it to say he has exceed expectations by leaps and bounds thus far.
Castellanos started his professional career in the Gulf Coast Rookie League in 2010. He only played in 7 games and put up decent offensive numbers in a small sample size to the tune of .333/.414/.417 across 29 plate appearances. Prior to the 2011 season Castellanos was ranked the 65th best prospect by Baseball America. 2011 was the first time that Castellanos got an extended chance to showcase his potential. The Tigers assigned him to Class-A West Michigan of the Midwest League and he did not dissapoint. Across 135 games he hit .312/.367/.436 with 7 HR and 76 RBI at age 19. More impressively he also had 36 doubles which tied for second most in the entire league. He did have some issues with plate discipline as he struck out 130 times and only drew 45 walks but his ability to make contact allowed him to post a solid batting average.
Castellanos performance in 2011 earned him a promotion to Class-A Advanced Lakeland of the Florida State League for the 2012 season as well as a bump by Baseball America who rated him the 45th best prospect to start the season. Looking back even that might have been too conservative as it was with Lakeland that Castellanos stock began to fly up the prospect ranks. Despite being one of the youngest players in the league, at age 20, he was absolutely crushing the ball. Through 55 games he had accumulated a triple slash line of .405/.461/.553 leading the next closest player by .041 points in batting average and his OPS of 1.014 ranked first in the entire league. Castellanos also had 23 extra base hits, although only 3 of which left the park, which indicates that he was consistently making hard contact and driving the ball to the gaps. He also showed a more discerning eye at the plate by drawing 22 walks and only 42 strikeouts. His dominance of the Florida State League earned him a promotion to Double-A Erie of the Eastern League. Through 27 games with Erie he has accumulated a .307/.311/.482 line with 4 HR and 11 total extra base hits. The plate discipline has become an issue again as he has only drawn 2 walks against 26 strikeouts but he is one of only four players age 20 or under.
Certainly Castellanos has some issues to iron out as he progresses through the upper minors, but that fact that he has been able to sustain solid batting averages despite his evolving plate discipline is an excellent indicator that his potential is through the roof. As a big proponent of “age relative to league” in evaluating the ceiling of prospects I believe that Nick Castellanos has a bright future and if he is able to reduce his strikeouts he will have the ability to hit for a plus average and decent power. His power as of now has not necessarily translated to in game results but I believe that he has the ability to hit 15+ HR on a regular basis at the MLB level and the fact that he hasn’t show power yet has more to do with his competition and the fact that he has always been extremely young for each level of competition.
Summary: Mike Olt was drafted by the Texas Rangers with the 49th selection in the 1st round of the 2010 draft out of the University of Connecticut. Olt is widely regarded as a top notch power hitter with excellent bat speed who has the skill and ability to stay at third base at the big league level due to his strong glove work. He combines a solid approach at the plate with excellent bat speed to generate power and solid batting average. He has also show advanced strike zone knowledge which has contributed to his 137 career walks versus only 233 strike outs across three levels.
Olt started his career at Low-A Spokane in the Northwest League as a 21 year old. As a member of the Indians, Olt hit .293/.390/.464 with 9 HR and 43 RBI. What was most noteworthy about Olt’s 2010 season was he was in the top ten in Hits, Runs, Home Runs, RBI, Doubles, and Walks. His OBP of .390 was also a strong indicator that he came into the league a polished hitter with an advanced approach at the plate.
In 2011 Olt took his talents to the Carolina League where, as a member of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans he hit .267/.387/.504 with 14 HR and 42 RBI. He was able to maintain his excellent OBP while adding more power to his game and establish himself as a potential middle of the line up threat. His 2011 campaign began to put him on prospect evaluators radar as again he was in the top ten in HR, OBP and SLG despite only playing in 69 games and suffering a broken collarbone.
Olt started the 2012 season with Double-A Frisco and to say that it has been an outstanding season would be an understatement. He came into the season rated the 43rd best prospect by Baseball America and even that seems too conservative considering he has hit to the tune of .294/.404/.578 with 22 HR and 63 RBI over only 77 games for the RoughRiders. His 22 HR lead the Texas League and his 63 RBI are second most. He is a top ten contributor in both OBP and SLG as well as Runs and Hits. Dominant is probably the best word to describe OLT’s 2012 season and he will be rewarded as such by his first ever trip to the Futures Game.
Olt should see MLB action in 2013 because a young power hitting third baseman is a bit of a rarity in today’s game. I would expect Olt to maintain his power numbers if he heads to Arlington probably to the tune of 25+ HR over a full season and I could foresee a slash line somewhere in the .270/.340/.460 range for the 2013 season. Over the course of his career I could see Olt putting up comparable numbers to Scott Rolen and developing into a first class third baseman for many years.
Summary: Jonathan Singleton was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 8th round of the 2009 draft out of High School in Long Beach, CA. He made his way to Houston as part of the Hunter Pence trade in 2011 and has really found his groove as part of the Astros organization. Primarily a first baseman, Singleton has seen some time in the outfield recently to add to his versatility. Singleton has both the polish and power you are looking for in a top tier first base prospect. So far across four minor league seasons he has consistently hovered around the .400 mark with his OBP and has flashed above average power at every stop. He is the kind of talent that you can build a franchise around and the Astros look to be doing just that.
Singleton started his professional career in the Rookie Gulf Coast League as part of the Phillies organization and over 31 games he hit a solid .290/.395/.440 with 11 extra base hits. He also coaxed more walks than strike outs at an 18:13 ratio which is outstanding for a 17 year old power hitter. Although his stint in the Gulf Coast League was brief it would serve as an excellent start to a solid minor league career to date and an excellent building block for the 2010.
Still a member of the Phillies, Singleton moved up to the South Atlantic League as a member of the Lakewood Blue Claws and over 104 games showed how legit he was as a prospect. He put together a triple slash line of .290/.393/.479 with 14 HR and 77 RBI with a mildly surprising nine stolen bases. The best part about Singleton’s 2010 season was that he drew 62 walks and only struck out 72 times as an 18 year old against much older competition, which is an excellent indicator of future success. Just for perspective Singleton was one of three 18 year olds in the SAL League in 2010. He was in the top ten in Home Runs, RBI, and Walks.
His excellent 2010 put him squarely on the prospect map as Baseball America had him rated the 39th best prospect heading into the 2011 season and Singleton did not disappoint. Singleton began drawing comparisons to current Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard for his power potential from the left side. As a member of the Clearwater Threshers of the Class-A Advanced Florida League through 93 games the 19 year old Singleton hit a solid .284/.387/.413 with 9 HR and 47 RBI before a mid season trade saw him sent to the Astros as part of the deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia. The Astros assigned him to Class-A Advanced Lancaster of the california League and Singleton finished strong posting a .333/.405/.512 with 4 HR and 16 RBI over 35 games.
2012 saw Singleton rated the 34th best prospect by Baseball America getting his first taste of the upper minors with an assignment to Double-A Corpus Christi of the Texas League. As a member of the Hooks Singleton has been dominant posting a slash line of .271/.393/.487 with 12 HR and 47 driven in through 80 games. Still one of the youngest players in the league at age 20, Singleton is within the top ten in several meaningful offensive categories including: Runs, Doubles, Home Runs, RBI, Walks, and OPS. Obviously what is most impressive about Singleton is his ability to be an excellent offensive contributor while consistently playing against older competition and year after year and still out performing them. He has earned his trip to the Futures Game not just from an outstanding 2012 but because of four outstanding Minor League seasons and his potential to be the next great power hitting first baseman.
Look for Singleton to be in serious consideration for a mid-season call up in 2013 with a real chance to start at first base for the Astros Opening Day in 2014 as a 22 year old every day player. He has the patience and the power to be a middle of the line-up threat and is capable of hitting 30+ HR and a solid .280/.360/.480 type of line at the MLB level if he continues to progress at his current clip.
For more info on the US Roster for the 2012 Futures Game click here!