posted 4/15/12 11:13 AM PST
by Jason Martinez
We're kicking off the start of our UTR (Under the Radar) feature with the NL breakout candidates for 2012. Marc Hefferan is the man for NL position players and Jim Brown monitors NL pitchers throughout the year. I make the AL picks. Marc and Jim are longtime friends who participate in a very deep NL-only keeper league. Thus, the fascination with NL players who fly 'under the radar'. They have been contributing this feature since 2009 when they joined on MLBDC just weeks after I launched the site. Their hard work and dedication to researching these 'UTR' players is what makes them so good at it. Keep an eye out for their picks every Wednesday, starting next week, until the last week of the minor league season.
For those who aren't familiar with how the UTR works, this feature focuses on minor leaguers in Double-A and below who aren't on a team's 40-man roster and not recognized as a Top 10 prospect in their respective organization by Baseball America or a Top 11 prospect by Baseball Prospectus. Last year's breakout candidates included current big leaguers Kelvin Herrera and Erasmo Ramirez, as well as prospects such as David Holmberg, Drew Hutchison, and Matt Adams, who are much more recognized now than they were a year ago. In-season picks included current White Sox closer Hector Santiago, Royals catcher Sal Perez, and Braves starting shortstop Tyler Pastornicky. Those guys weren't under the radar' very long.
Here are Marc's (position players) and Jim's (pitchers) picks and analysis for 2012.
OF Chase Larrson
2011 Stats: .250 BA, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 15 2B, 31 BB, 36 K, 5 SB in 61 G with Rookie Level Danville
The Braves' farm system remains bountiful with future pitching ace Julio Teheran and shortstop Andrelton Simmons closing in on the big leagues. They may have yet another future star in Larsson, their 9th Round draft pick in 2011. The left-handed hitter had a .250 BA with 8 home runs and 27 RBI in his pro debut in the Appy League, but more impressive was his 31 walks to 36 strikeouts in 250 PA’s. Larsson possesses a good glove and surprising speed. The 23 year-old Larsson has started 2012 with Lo-A Rome, where his overall game
LHP Matt Talley
2011 Stats: 1-3, 3.49 ERA; 49.0 IP, 49 H, 13 BB, 32 K in 7 starts and 7 relief appearances between GCL Braves/Rookie Danville/Hi-A Lynchburg
The Braves selected Talley in the 28th round of the 2011 draft out of the Citadel, where he was named the 2011 Southern Conference Pitcher of the Year and earned honors after his regional appearance in the 2010 College World Series. Though he possesses an average fastball, his stuff projects overall and he has good athleticism for a big kid. It’s unsure where he will land in 2012, although I would expect him to eventually crack the rotation for Lo-A Rome.
C Austin Barnes
2011 Stats: .288 BA, HR, 19 RBI, 13 2B, 25 BB, 22 K, 6 SB in 57 G with Short-Season Jamestown
Finishing last in 2011, Marlins owner Jeff Loria expressed a reinvestment into a minor league system that ranks near the bottom of the league. After drafting catcher JT Realmuto in 2010, the Marlins feel he has already surpassed Kyle Skipworth as their catcher of the 'future'. Barnes could also make that discussion more interesting. A product of Arizona State, Barnes debuted in Class-A Short Season after being taken in the 9th round in 2011 and posted a solid .288/.369/.361 slash line. Barnes is a great athlete with raw power, game speed (6 SB) and possesses superior plate discipline by drawing more walks (25) than strikeouts (22). Most impressive, some scouts believe his defense behind the plate is already the best in the system despite not catching until after high school. The 22 year-old is starting the season in Lo-A Greensboro.
RHP Matthew Neil
2011 Stats: 4-3, 3.29 ERA, 76.2 IP, 80 H, 7 BB, 71 K in 15 starts between Short-Season Jamestown/Hi-A Jupiter
The 29th pick out of BYU in 2011 stepped away from baseball after high school to fulfill his Mormon mission. Upon his return to BYU in 2009, it took Neil two years to get back in the groove, racking up a ridiculous 10.1 K/BB rate in his pro debut last season. The 25 year-old has a four-pitch mix with a plus four-seam fastball (89-92 mph), circle change, a decent slider, and curve. Neil, who tossed five scoreless innings in his 2012 debut with Hi-A Jupiter, should be on the fast track to get to Double-A Jacksonville by mid-season.
New York Mets
C Alberto Cordero
2011 Stats: .286 BA, 6 HR, 44 RBI, 15 2B, 15 BB, 69 K in 104 games with Lo-a Savannah
A strong 2012 can help Cordero add strength to a rather thin position in an overall solid farm system. The 21 year-old Venezuelan knows how to work out of pitch counts, but doesn’t possess much power. He strikes out at a near 3:1 ratio; but shows off a good line-drive stroke that will garner more home runs as he develops more muscle on his 5'10" 185 lb frame. His defense is the best in the system and shows great pop times to second base. Cordero is starting the year with Lo-A Savannah but a mid-season promotion to Hi-A St. Lucie is a possibility.
RHP Ryan Fraser
2011 Stats: 7-9, 3.58 ERA, 138.1 IP, 140 H, 63 BB, 90 K in 21 starts and 7 relief appearances for Lo-A Savannah
After being taken in the 16th round of the 2010 draft, the 6'3" 195 lb. right-hander helped guide the short-season Cyclones to a New York-Penn division title and a runner-up finish in the NYPL Championships by picking up 12 saves in 26 appearances. Pitching as a starter for Lo-A Savannah in 2011, Fraser went on to lead the staff with 138.1 innings while posting a 3.58 ERA. The 23 year old is capable of throwing heat, touching 97 out of the 'pen at Brooklyn and then bringing it down to 92-94 as a starter in Savannah. He begins this season in the Hi-A St. Lucie bullpen, where he's allowed one run and two hits in 2.1 IP.
3B Harold Martinez
2011 Stats: .256 BA, 2 HR, 31 RBI, 13 2B, 37 BB, 61 K, 3 SB in 67 games with Short-Season Williamsport
The Phillies major league roster ranks first in average age at 30 yrs old and sits third behind only the Yankees and Red Sox in payroll at $168.1M. This is a sure fire recipe for a tough rebuilding process and GM Ruben Amaro stated that his focus is on bringing youth to Philly. For the sake of winning now, trades have stripped the farm system of blue-chip prospects like Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart. The Phillies talent pool is still extremely deep, however, and Martinez could help fill a 3B void rather quickly. Drafted in 2011, Martinez is known for his off-the-charts makeup and work ethic. The 21 year-old displays a pure-power swing that scouts say has very few holes if he doesn’t rush his plate approach. With his bat projection, defensive skill and superior make-up, Martinez could rach Hi-A Lakewood by season's end.
LHP Lino Martinez
2011 Stats: 67.2 IP, 2.79 ER, 64 H, 23 BB, 46 K in 13 starts for Short-Season Williamsport
At just 18 years of age, Martinez was facing hitters much older than him in the New York Penn League in 2011. He showed plenty maturity on the hill and a good feel for pitching, as he posted a 2.79 ERA in 13 starts for Williamsport. His fastball sit in the high 80’s and the curveball is his best pitch, which rates as above average. Of course, as he fills out his frame, he will add velocity with a consistent arm slot and downhill plane to the plate. Martinez, who turned 19 shortly after the short-season ended, has allowed 4 ER in his first two starts over 10.2 IP with Lo-A Lakewood.
OF Billy Burns
2011 Stats: .262 BA, HR, 18 RBI, 3 2B, 2 3B, 12 BB, 22 K, 13 SB in 32 games for Short-Season Auburn
It’s not only Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper who have DC buzzing. Quite a few of the Nationals' draft choices are starting to produce results after aggressive drafts have provided the team with plenty of depth. But once the Strasburg/Harper show hits Nationals Park for good, a new set of prospects will be ready to take their turn in the spotlight. Burns could be a big part of that charge. The Nationals took notice of his great speed, flawless glove and superior plate discipline and took Burns in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft. The 22 year-old and his prototypical centerfielder skills are in Lo-A Hagerstown to start the season.
RHP Paul Demny
2011 Stats: 10-10, 4.32 ERA, 143.2 IP, 144 H, 54 BB, 108 K in 26 starts for Hi-A Potomac
Demny has ranked near the top of my UTR tracking system over the last three years for pitchers in the Nationals' farm system. He's seemed so inconsistent over that period, but yet crops up as one of the better pitchers in the Nats' system, a true UTR candidate. In fact, not once was Demny in consideration for a weekly UTR mention in 2011. I actually thought I was on to something, until the Baseball America Prospect Handbook arrived at my door and there’s the 22 year-old cracking the Top 30 at #29. Demny throws a low 90’s fastball that can top out at 96 mph, a potential plus slider, and a promising curve. It just hasn’t “clicked” for Demny in regards to command and control, but I believe 2012 holds promise for the July 2009 UTR alum. With most of the right-handed arms gone due to trades, its time for Demny to set sights on AA-Harrisburg this season and proving himself as a future innings-eating #4 or #5 starter.
OF Pin-Chieh Chen
2011 Stats: .301 BA, 2 HR, 30 RBI, 14 2B, 4 3B, 25 BB, 44 K, 20 SB in 60 games for Short-Season Boise
With eyes on building the system from within, Chen fits perfectly into the Cubs' future plans. Chen posted his best numbers as a pro in 2011 with a slash line of .301/.363/.424 and 20 stolen bases while repeating Short Season Boise. His overall skills sit near or at the top of a long line of international talent inside the Cubs system. Chen has grazed comparisons to Ichiro due to his slash-and-dash hitting style. He uses superior hand-eye coordination to square up on pitches and shows promise of becoming one of the Cubs most gifted outfield prospects. A converted second baseman, Chen knows how to draw walks and possesses great speed both in the outfield and on the base paths. Chen will be challenged in 2012 with a promotion to Lo-A Peoria as the Cubs wait patiently for him to develop into their leadoff hitter of the future.
RHP Yao-Lin Wang
2011 Stats: 4-4 3.22 ERA, 67.0 IP, 64 H, 20 BB, 77 K in 14 starts for Short-Season Boise
Just as I was putting the finishing touches on my Cubs' breakout pick, one of my top candidates, Aaron Kurcz, was traded to Boston as compensation for Theo Epstein. Great pick Boston, you won't be sorry. The trade actually settled my own internal dispute. The Cubs are making inroads into the Far East, and along with my UTR partner Marc Hefferan’s selection, Pin-Chieh Chen, Wang could also quickly make a name for himself in the Cubs' system. The right-hander chewed-up the hitters in the Northwest League last season with an almost 4:1 K:BB ratio. The 21 year-old is getting mixed appraisals amongst scouts, however, as some rate his stuff as fringy while others looking for him to be a quality long-term starter. A full season against more advanced hitters at Lo-A Peoria should answer some questions.
2B/SS Brodie Greene
2011 Stats: .287 BA, 14 HR, 79 RBI, 21 2B, 6 3B, 21 BB, 6 3B, 41 BB, 75 K, 36 SB in 126 games for Hi-A Bakersfield
Even though the Reds sent three of their top 10 prospects packing in trades this offseason, the farm system is still ripe with prospects like catcher Devin Mesoraco and shortstop Billy Hamilton. But a gritty middle infielder is also hoping to work his way into the newly shifted prospect map. A full-time outfielder at Texas A&M, Greene was taken in the 4th Round in 2010 and aggressively assigned to Hi-A Lynchburg, where he batted .269 in 70 games. Most impressive was his superior defensive versatility, playing everywhere but first, third and catcher. The 24 year-old played the majority of 2011 at second base and shortstop, while adding power and plus speed to his polished plate arsenal. With makeup off the charts, this blue-collar leader will start 2012 in Double-A.
RHP Stalin Gerson
2011 Stats: 8-2, 3.01 ERA, 80.2 IP, 81 H, 26 BB, 65 K in 14 starts and 2 relief appearances between Rookie Billings and Lo-A Dayton
Gerson is another pitcher who is facing younger hitters, but yet I find him an intriguing prospect poised for a possible breakout in 2012. He began to emerge in 2011 but the 23 year-old has gotten lost amongst other prospects like 2011 UTR’s Daniel Corcino and Daniel Renken. He has an average change-up and his curveball is a work in progress, which with improvement will dictate his success through the system. The right-hander struggled in his 2012 debut with Lo-A Dayton, but he could eventually earn a promotion to Hi-A once he gains some consistency.
1B Chase Davidson
2011 Stats: .335 BA, 11 HR, 44 RBI, 13 2B, 24 BB, 51 K, 8 SB in 43 games for Rookie Level Greeneville
In 2011, the Houston Astros suffered 106 losses and the worst season in their 49 year history. With a move to the American League West in 2013, their philosophy of drafting athletically raw toolsy hitters won’t change. 2010 ‘Under the Radar Breakout Player of the Year’ J.D. Martinez is one of the few recent home grown draftees that have made a successful rise to the major leagues. However, the move to the AL ushers in the designated hitter; and adds opportunity for prospects, such as Davidson, who may otherwise be on the outside looking in. A 41st round draft pick in 2011, Davidson has been described as an ‘all-power-all-the-time’ prospect, once drawing Jim Thome comparisons as a high school senior. While Jonathan Singleton is Houston’s top prospect and first baseman of the future, Davidson could become the organization's first true designated hitter prospect.
LHP Kyle Hallock
2011 Stats: 3-4, 2.63 ERA, 61.2 IP, 58 H, 17 BB, 61 K in 13 starts for Short-Season Tri-City
It looks like this will be the last breakout that I get to write on the AL bound Astros. So pardon me if I first mention a pitcher that didn’t make my selection, but was tops on my UTR/TPS List. Carlos Quevedo is a pitcher I just couldn’t get a read on but it will be interesting to see if makes progress in 2012. Hallock, on the other hand, was probably the most balanced pitcher in the Astros' farm system, and possibly the entire New-York Penn League. Fresh off a trip to the 2011 College World Series with the Kent State Golden Flash, the 10th round pick was impressive in his pro debut. In 12 of his 13 starts with Tri-City, the left-hander surrendered 2 earned runs or less and pitched at least 5 innings in 9 of those starts. The 23 year-old is not a power pitcher, but is crafty in finessing hitters with several reliable pitches and exceptional control. His fastball runs in the high 80’s, but does occasionally touch in the 90’s as he works both sides of the plate. He also possesses a power slider with sink, a decent change-up, and a breaking ball that he’s looking to improve on its sharpness. Hallock is a study of the game, as he constantly looks to make adjustments to get quality strikes early. Hallock is starting the season with Lo-A Lexington.
SS/3B Chris McFarland
2011 Stats: DNP
The 2011 Milwaukee Brewers were the poster boys for the cliché often heard in the sports world: “A victim of their own success.” Trades that brought in key players also gutted the blue chip depth of their system. The likes of Brett Lawrie, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar now gone, Milwaukee has to look to a thin core of hitters to hold down the fort while GM Doug Melvin restores the system. He may have found a lot of hope with 2011 draftee McFarland. The 19 year-old brings incredible bat speed, big time power and polished plate discipline to an organization lacking in superior infielders. He'll make his pro debut in a Short-Season league later this summer.
RHP Austin Ross
2011 Stats: 10-7, 5.28 ERA, 133.0 IP, 143 H, 50 BB, 114 K in 25 starts and 1 relief appearance between Lo-A Wisconsin and Hi-A Brevard County
Issues with signability slipped Ross to the 8th round of the 2010 draft, but Ross signed quickly and dominated from the rotation and the bullpen in his debut season with Rookie Level Helena. He didn’t miss a beat in 2011, earning All-Star honors in the Midwest League. The hitters caught up to him when he was promoted to Hi-A Brevard County in late June 2011, as he gave up 3 or more earned runs in 9 of his 13 starts. Ross struggled as FSL hitters teed up on his low 90’s fastball, which virtually has no movement. Ross needs to concentrate on not trying to be a strike thrower, but to use his excellent mechanics and pitchability to finesse hitters. He possesses a plus slider, which has been described as nasty and a much improved change-up. The 23 year-old is off to a great start in 2012, allowing just 1 ER in 10 IP over his first two starts with Hi-A Brevard County.
SS Drew Maggi
2011 Stats: .267 BA, 3 HR, 45 RBI, 27 2B, 4 3B, 64 BB, 71 K, 32 SB in 125 games for Lo-A West Virginia
The last time the Pittsburgh Pirates produced a winning product on the field, Jay Bell was their All-Star shortstop, winning a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger award and receiving MVP votes. Since then, the Pirates have seen a total of 21 players man the shortstop position. None have posted a season even the most dedicated Bucco’s fan could possibly remember. The pitcher-heavy draft philosophy has produced a bevy of talent that includes Gerritt Cole and Jameson Taillon. Outfield prospects Josh Bell and soon-to-be major leaguer Starling Marte are the organizations top hitting prospects. It’s a step in the right direction, but a gaping hole remains in the middle of the infield. Maggi could help fill that gap. A 15th Round draft pick in 2010, Maggi was aggressively pushed to West Virginia in 2011, where he held his own. The switch-hitting Maggi’s stats may not scream ‘special’, but his bulldog-like intensity and gamer-style passion give him the ability to play well above his skill-set. This helps put Maggi in position to become a Pirates fan favorite at shortstop. The 22 year-old is playing with Hi-A Bradenton to start the season.
RHP Matt Benedict
2011 Stats: 5-3, 3.79 ERA, 71.1 IP, 77 H, 15 BB, 39 K in 15 starts for Short-Season State College
Labeled as the best late round pick by the Pirates out of the 2011 draft, Benedict lived up to that billing early on with the State College Spikes. The 30th-round draft choice from Western Carolina retired all nine batters he faced in his first professional start on June 19th. He went on to give up just 3 earned runs in 18 innings over his first four starts. Benedict struggled afterwards but bounced back in the end, giving up four earned runs in 30.1 innings over his last six starts. Mostly a sinkerball pitcher, Benedict generated a decent GB rate of 55%. He also offers a cutter and change-up that he pitches to contact. The 23 year-old is currently in the rotation at Lo-A West Virginia.
St. Louis Cardinals
OF Amaury Capellan
2011 Stats: .305 BA, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 10 2B, 27 BB, 30 K in 47 games for DSL Cardinals
The Cardinals are coming off a season of an extreme high, yet several lows. They surprised many by winning the 2011 World Series for the 11th time in their history. On the other hand, they lost both Albert Pujols to free agency and HOF manager Tony LaRussa to an abrupt retirement. Cardinals scouting director Jeff Luhnow, who is partly responsible for supplying the system with plenty of supreme talent, also exited to become the Astros General Manager after nine seasons with the organization. Capellan, who signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, is hoping to become another one of Luhnow’s success stories. A high profile signee out of the Dominican Republic, Capellan brings to the table a canon arm and solid glove in right field. He also carries projectable power potential and possesses superior plate discipline, drawing 58 walks next to only 63 strikeouts in two seasons. With a lot of room to grow, the 19 year-old could become the next great outfield prospect if he can do well in his US debut.
LHP Anthony Ferrara
2011 Stats: 13-7, 3.03 ERA, 127.2 IP, 103 H, 13 BB, 93 K in 22 starts and 1 relief appearance for Lo-A Quad Cities
One of the top high school arms in the state of Florida, Ferrara slid to the 7th round in the 2008 draft where the Cardinals were more than happy to pull him off the board. The main reason for the slip were the concerns of a shoulder injury Ferrara suffered during his junior season, which later required a visit to the infamous Dr. James Andrews. Uh-oh, that spells trouble and sends a cold chill throughtout the scouting circles. Ferrara was initially diagnosed with tendonitis, but Dr. Andrews diagnosed it as a muscle imbalance and placed the young left-hander on a strength and conditioning program. After pitching 127.2 innings for Lo-A Quad Cities in 2011, the shoulder trouble seems to be a thing of the past. Ferrara generates a lot of groundballs with his four & two seam fastball, to go along with a change, curve, and slider. As he joins the staff at Hi-A Palm Beach, a slight regression wouldn't be a complete surprise after a 2011 season in which his BABIP (.262) was 100 points lower than that of 2010. But hopefully, that will be another misdiagnoses.
C/IF Fidel Peña
2011 Stats: .308 BA, 5 HR, 34 RBI, 10 2B, 6 3B, 16 BB, 50 K, 12 SB in 61 games for Short-Season Missoula
With the 4th lowest payroll in the entire NL at $69.9M, the Arizona Diamondbacks surprised many by capturing the 2011 NL West crown. GM Kevin Towers reworked a struggling bullpen while plenty of youngsters stepped up and contributed at the major league level. The Diamondbacks are in prime position to repeat as division champions, while being patient with a pitching-heavy system that ranks near the top of the prospect heap. On the flip side lies a system lacking a true middle of the diamond star that offers enough defensive tools and enough bat to make a difference. Peña can potentially provide that in the future. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 as a 17 year-old second baseman, Peña an advanced approach with his bat while playing every defensive position but both outfield corners. In filling super-utility role, Pena’s bat continued to grow while the organization decided to add catching to his list of duties. The 20 year-old is off to a slow start with Lo-A South Bend, but he has the ability to bounce back and have a solid season in 2012.
RHP Yiomar Camacho
2011 Stats: 4-6 3.07 ERA, 67.1 IP, 62 H, 17 BB, 56 K in 14 starts between AZL D-Backs/Hi-A Visalia/Short-Season Yakima
One has to wonder how far Camacho would have progressed last year if it hadn’t been for a lost season to Tommy John surgery back in 2009. The right-hander out of Venezuela shredded the Arizona Rookie League to start 2011 when he struck out 36 batters, walked only four, and gave up a meager five earned runs over 32.2 innings. His numbers dipped a bit after a promotion to Short-Season Yakima and he was overmatched in a spot start with Hi-A Visalia. Camacho throws a low- 90’s fastball, a devastating curve, and an advanced change-up. The 22 year-old should reach Lo-A South Bend at some point in 2012.
1B Harold Riggins
2011 Stats: .279 BA, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 13 2B, 46 BB, 85 K 67 games for Rookie Level Casper
Early last season, I discussed in a UTR feature how Todd Helton took over first base for the Rockies in 1995 and became the face of the Rockies franchise and has set several team records along the way. However, Helton’s contract is ending in 2013, which leaves the organization to find his replacement. The Rockies could certainly look to the pure power of prospect Ben Paulsen, but another option making a case is Riggins. Drafted in the 7th round of the 2011 draft, Riggins debuted with Rookie level Casper and quickly displayed his hitting ability with 8 home runs and a respectable .279 BA in 67 games. The 22 year-old plays above-average defense and even though his pure power game racks up strike outs, he’s a great athlete with solid bat control. The right-handed slugger is off to a great start with Lo-A Asheville, where he has a 1.112 OPS thru his first eight games.
RHP Joshua Slaats
2011 Stats: 7-3 4.18 ERA, 125.0 IP, 135 H, 51 BB, 103 K in 22 starts for AZL D-Backs/Hi-A Visalia/S-S Yakima
Since 1975, there have been 11 pitchers drafted from the University of Hawaii that have made it to the Show, the last being Dusty Bergman (6th Rd) in 1999. Since his time on the mound with the Anaheim Angels, 11 other pitchers have been drafted before Slaats’ named was called during the 5th round in 2010. The 23 year-old has a low 90’s fastball with good command, a sharp breaking slider that he uses as his out pitch, a curve, and a work in progress change-up. As many pitcher's will do, Slaats is having a tough time early on in the Hi-A Cal League, where he’s given up 12 ER in his 7 IP over 2 starts.
Los Angeles Dodgers
CF Leon Landry
2011 Stats: .250 BA, 4 HR, 41 RBI, 21 2B, 11 3B, 37 BB, 67 K, 28 SB in 125 games for Lo-A Great Lakes
The Magic Johnson-led ownership group have a solid crop of minor leaguer pitchers coming up in the farm sytem, including Zach Lee, Nate Eovaldi and Allen Webster. Shortstop Dee Gordon was one of the few position prospects that made their mark in 2011, yet the Dodgers will have to be patient with many of their younger prospects. One hitter making the wait worthwhile is center fielder Landry, an incredible athlete who can hit the ball out of any part of the park with a smooth left-handed stroke. Drafted out of high school in 2007 by the Reds, Landry decided to commit to the LSU Tigers. After a three-year collegiate career and a ’09 National Championship, the Dodgers drafted Landry in the 3rd round in 2010. The 22 year-old has great overall game speed with above-average defense and his only average to below tool is his arm strength. He's being challenged with an assignment in the Cal League, where he's responded with a 1.022 OPS in nine games.
RHP Matt Magill
2011 Stats: 11-5 4.33 ERA, 139.1 IP, 156 H, 52 BB, 126 K in 21 starts and 5 relief appearances for Hi-A Rancho Cucamonga
With nearly half of their top 30 prospects being pitchers, and ten of those ranked in the first fifteen, Magill didn’t stand a chance to have the bright light of Dodger Blue shone upon him. Granted that “under the radar” is the stigma when one is drafted out of high school in the 31st round, but the 22 year-old has now succeeded over four levels. It's become apparent that respect won't come until he proves his worth against Double-A hitters. So far, he's doing just that with five no-hit innings in his debut for Double-A Chattanooga. His 88-90 fastball could use more velocity, which should come as he fills his 6’3” 190 lb frame.
San Diego Padres
OF Franmil Reyes
2011 Stats: DNP
After an administrative merry-go-round that left Josh Byrnes as the Padres GM once the dust finally settled, left behind was an inexperienced major league squad and a projected 2012 payroll ranked second lowest in the National League. But, where there’s a negative, there is usually a positive. Byrnes inherited a major league squad with an average age of 27 while taking over a minor league system filled with an absolute treasure trove of young prospects built by former GM Jed Hoyer. So, help is not that far away and another prospect that could make Byrnes' job much easier is Reyes. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in November for $700 K, Reyes signed too late to contribute in 2011. The 6’4 outfielder displays immense power, with average speed and arm strength. At the ripe age of 17, his room for growth leaves the Padres with a prospect that has the tools to become a star.
RHP Kevin Quackenbush
2011 Stats: 2-1 0.64 ERA, 42.0 IP, 25 H, 12 BB, 71 K in 35 relief appearances between Short-Season Eugene/Lo-A Fort Wayne
Two years ago I wrote about a future closer chosen by the Padres in the later rounds of 2008. It took Brad Brach a full season at Lo-A Fort Wayne before catching my attention, but it was evident then, that his path to the bullpen in San Diego was inevitable. The Padres may have found another relief pitcher on the fast track to the big leagues in Quackenbush, a 5th Round pick in 2011. In 42 innings between Short-season Eugune and Lo-A Fort Wayne, the 6’3” right-hander surrendered just 3 earned runs. The product of the University of South Florida was selected as the 'UTR relief pitcher of the week' on August 17th. Quackenbush’s repertoire is all about the fastball, a 90-95 heater that has angle and deception. He throws it so effectively that he rarely needed to resort to his secondary offerings, a power slider and change-up. He may find that the old adage “live by the fastball-die by the fastball” holds true, so he’ll need to rely more on those pitches as he moves up the ladder. The 23 year-old has allowed 1 ER in his first 3 innings for Hi-A Lake Elsinore.
San Francisco Giants
OF Kentrell Hill
2011 Stats: .256 BA, 0 HR, 12 RBI, 5 2B, 2 3B, 6 BB, 24 K, 2 SB in 31 games for AZL Giants
When you first think of the San Francisco Giants, the immediate thought is pitching. And for the last several seasons, the Giants have stayed afloat with a starting rotation that can rival that of any staff in the National League. Yet several injuries and underperformance left the 2011 Giants in a complete state of flux one year removed from a World Series victory. For us prospect junkies though, not only do we see a pitching-rich organization, we also see a system relatively short on position player depth. Help could certainly be on the way in Hill, a potential five-tool outfielder. Drafted in the 10th round last year, the Arkansas Baptist JC star possesses blazing speed and a canon arm. He posted a mediocre slash line of .256/.316/.360 in only 95 pro at-bats with the AZL Giants, but the 21 year-old has the potential to shoot up prospect boards with a raw bat that projects to hit for both power and average. With Gary Brown, Tommy Joseph and Joe Panik making waves, Hill could join the organization's movement to revitalize the system lacking in top tier hitters.
RHP Shawn Sanford
2011 Stats: 10-10 2.55 ERA, 169.2 IP, 143 H, 30 BB, 107 K in 25 starts with 5 relief appearances for Lo-A Augusta
Of my UTR/TPS reports for the 2011 season, Sanford was one of three pitchers to finish on top of his teams’ respective list. I thought he was going to be one of my easier pre-season choices, until I saw the 2.55 ERA accompanied by the 3.36 FIP and .259 BABIP. This raises a red flag that 2012 could be a season of regression for the right-hander. But further research painted a picture of a very mature 23 year-old with a make-up of guts, grit, and determination. His compelling story is too lengthy to mention in this medium, but should be further researched. The 2009 13th round pick was used as a swingman throughout his three years at U. of South Florida (194 IP) and his first two years as a pro, where he threw 62.1 innings. It looked as though Sanford’s career track would be that of a middle reliever, which still might be the case. But to be thrown into the rotation at Lo-A Augusta and rack-up 169.2 innings shows that Sanford is capable of anything. Sanford is a finesse pitcher that uses a low 90’s sinker and host of other off-speed offerings that almost pulled off a perfect game back in August. Sanford will take his intangibles and durability to the hitters in the California League this season, where he debuted with six shutout innings on April 5th.