Aug 27, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado (28) runs to third base during the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Top Prospects Recap; 51-55

We continue our recap of our preseason top 115 prospect list with numbers 51-55.

#55 – Nolan Arenado, Third Baseman, Colorado Rockies

Height/Weight: 6’1″, 205

Born: April 16, 1991 (age 22)

2013 Stats (MLB): .267/.301/.405, 133 G, 514 PA, 10 HR, 72 RBI, 23 BB, 72 SO

Heading into 2013…Long considered one of the game’s top third base prospects, Arenado struggled mightily in 2012, but looked to get back on track in 2013 and possibly earn a call up to the big league club.

Now that the 2013 season is over… A torrid start earned Arenado a promotion to the show after just 18 AAA games, and he remained there for the rest of the year. Although not quite yet showing his 25 HR, .300 average potential, Arenado’s 10 home runs and .267 average were adequate for a 22 year old rookie. His walk rate (only 4.5%, 1/2 of the big league average), however, will have to improve. Once considered to be too poor a fielder to remain at the position, Arenado was arguably the best fielding third baseman in the league this year. He won rave reviews by scouts, racked up numerous web gems, and was second among all national league infielders in defensive war, according to baseball reference.

Looking ahead…. Arenado has solidified himself as the Rockies third baseman of the future, and while his fielding may fall off slightly, his power and on base ability should see rapid improvement as time goes on.

#54 – Kevin Gausman, Right-handed pitcher, Baltimore Orioles

Height/Weight: 6’4″, 185

Born: January 6, 1991 (age 22)

2013 Stats (AA/AAA): 3-6, 3.51 ERA, 16 G (15 GS),  82.0 IP, 82 SO (9 SO/9), 14 BB (1.5 BB/9)

2013 Stats (MLB): 3-5, 5.66 ERA, 20 G (5 GS), 47.2 IP, 13 BB (2.5 BB/9), 49 SO (9.3 SO/9)

Heading into 2013… After being taken out of college with the 4th overall pick in the 2012 June draft, Gausman was a polished prospect who could rise quickly, and – with some success at double and triple-A could reach the majors by the end of 2013.

Now that the 2013 season is over… Thanks to terrific start in AA, Gausman found himself in the Baltimore rotation by the end of May. Despite his prospect pedigree, he was lit up for 21 runs over 24.2 innings in his first five big league starts, prompting a move to the pen. Although the Orioles shuffled him between the big league bullpen and the AAA rotation for the rest of the season, he pitched well when in the big leagues, posting a 3.52 ERA and 29 strikeouts in 23 innings of relief.

Looking ahead…. While Gausman’s 5.66 MLB ERA may seem alarming, it is likely more of an aberration as his FIP was 3.99 and his xFIP (which correlates most strongly with future success) was a very impressive 3.04. He will likely be given every opportunity to make the major league rotation out of spring training in 2014, where he could remain as a number 2 starter for years to come.

#53 – Michael Choice, Outfield/First Baseman, Oakland Athletics

Height/Weight: 6’0″, 220

Born: November 10, 1989 (age 23)

2013 Stats (AAA): .302/.390/.445, 132 G, 600 PA, 14 HR, 89 RBI, 69 BB, 115 SO

Heading into 2013… A former 10th overall pick, Choice was a hit-first outfielder whose power had fallen off in the past year. Still, he had excellent on base ability and the potential to get his 20-30 home run power back on track.

Now that the 2013 season is over… Choice’s power never materialized, but his on base ability improved as he hit .302 with a .390 OBP in a full AAA season. Thanks to a largely healthy Oakland outfield, Choice did not reach the majors until September, where he collected only 19 at bats.

Looking ahead…. With the power is gone, it remains to be seen if his minor league stats will translate in the majors. His strikeout rate (19%) is high for a .300 hitter and while he will probably continue to walk, his average may fall in the big leagues. Still, GM Billy Beane has said that he could make the 2014 club as a 4th outfielder, his likely role for the majority of his career.

#52 – Courtney Hawkins, outfielder, Chicago White Sox

Height/Weight: 6’3″, 220

Born: November 12, 1993 (age 19)

2013 Stats (A+): .178/.249/.384, 103 G, 425 PA, 19 HR, 62 RBI, 29 BB, 160 SO

Heading into 2013… A toolsy outfielder selected 13th overall in the 2012 draft,  Hawkins saw his stock skyrocket after he did nothing but rake in his first professional half-season.

Now that the 2013 season is over… The White Sox were overly aggressive with Hawkins, sending the 19 year old to high-a to start the season. The results were disastrous. Hawkins showed power, ranking 4th in the Carolina League in home runs, but rarely made contact, hitting .178 with a K rate of 38% (league average is 18.5%, and fangraphs lists anything above 27% as “awful”)

Looking ahead…. Hawkins should not be faulted for the White Sox front office’s mistake to promote him too quickly. He is still a plus defender in center with above average power, and he should perform better in his second Carolina League stint in 2012.

#51 – Mason Williams, outfielder, New York Yankees

Height/Weight: 6’0″, 150

Born: August 21, 1991 (age 22)

2012 Stats (A+/AA): .245/.304/.337, 117 G, 537 PA, 4 HR, 40 BB, 79 SO

Heading into 2013… Ultra-athletic, Williams was a potential gold glove centerfielder with the chance to post a 360 OBP, hit 15 home runs, and steal 35 bases in the minors. After a season split between low and high-A, Williams was set to start the year in high-a and make AA by July.

Now that the 2013 season is over… Williams’ natural gifts did not translate onto the field in 2012 as his power dropped off significantly (from 11 HR in 2012 to 4 in 2013), and he struggled to get on base with any consistency (.304 OBP after a .346 in 2012). This all was partly the result of an increased strikeout rate (14% in 2013, 11% in 2012). Its hard to see how his performance in High-A merited a promotion to AA, but the Yankees seemed to think it did. The move was obviously a mistake as Williams was completely overmatched, hitting .153/.164/264 in 17 games.

Looking ahead…. Williams’ impressive array of tools give him a chance to overcome his 2013 struggles, and his ceiling is still as a speedy, gold glove centerfielder.. He will report to either AA or A+ to start next season and he could earn a September call up with solid play.

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