NL Prospect Values: Climbing the Depth Chart
The 2010 minor league baseball regular season has come to an end. As with every season, we've seen a lot of prospect values both increase and decrease over the long season. Pre-2010 Top 10 prospect lists are sadly out of date and prospect mavens are madly starting to update their rankings for the off-season, which will see a fresh batch of indispensable lists from the likes of Baseball America, Kevin Goldstein, Keith Law, John Sickels, and FanGraphs.
It's still a little too early to talk Top 10 lists, but let's peruse the National League organizations for some prospects that have significantly increased their values over the course of the 2010 season. Recently, we looked at the American League prospects.
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, A+
Goldschmidt did exactly what a first base prospect has to done: He slugged his brains out with an overall triple-slash line of .314/.384/.606 in 525 at-bats. He posted an impressive .291 ISO and has massive raw power. On the down side to Goldschmidt's profile, he was playing in a very potent offensive league. He also posted a 30.7% strikeout rate, with a modest walk rate of just 9.5%. With those kind of rates - along with a BABIP of .385 - he doesn't project to hit for average at higher levels... unless he can make some adjustments.
Jordan Pacheco, C, A+/AA
Originally a utility infielder, Pacheco's prospect value took a huge increase when he moved behind the plate in 2008. He made huge strides behind the plate in '10 but still struggles a bit with his receiving skills and allowed 14 passed balls this season. His throwing is improved and he nailed 36% of base runners in high-A ball. Offensively, Pacheco projects to be at least average offensively for a catcher. He hits for a good average, and shows patience at the plate. Unfortunately, he doesn't have much power (.123 ISO). His overall triple-slash line at high-A was .321/.407/.444.
Trayvon Robinson, OF, AA
At worst, Robinson should develop into a fine fourth outfielder. He he can trim his strikeout rate (28.7%), though, he could develop into a solid regular at the MLB level. The .401 OBP is extremely attractive for a leadoff-type. The walk rate has improved from 6.7 in '08 to 9.5 to 14.0% in '10. His power numbers dropped from an ISO rate of .194 to .138, which suggests (along with the increase in OBP) that he's buying into his profile.
Drew Cumberland, SS, A+/AA
Not surprisingly, Cumberland enjoyed playing in the offense-boosting California League in 2010. His .177 ISO was and .365 batting average were definitely impacted by the environment (and his .398 BABIP) so don't expect those numbers to continue. Still, scouts like his actions in the field - including his range - and his bat should be at least average. Cumberland has the potential to steal 15-20 bases at the MLB level.
Brandon Belt, 1B, A+/AA/AAA
An adjustment to his batting stance led to massively-improved numbers in 2010. Belt zoomed through the minors after beginning the year in high-A with a triple-slash line of .381/.491/.626 in 270 at-bats. His batting averages at high-A and double-A were aided by high BABIPs. He showed massive power (.260 ISO rate) and kept his strikeout rate below 20%. There are not many holes in his offensive game right now, although he hit just .229/.393/.563 in a 13-game trial at triple-A. He could be in the Majors by mid-2011.
Devin Mesoraco, C, A+/AA/AAA
Mesoraco entered 2010 hanging by a thread over the Prospect Bust Pit. He made adjustments and flew through three levels of the minors. He posted a .449 ISO in high-A and .421 in double-A. He slumped a bit at triple-A with a triple-slash line of .231/.310/.462. The 26 homers shows that Mesoraco has a lot of power, but he also shows some good patience. The organization will soon have a very good problem on its hands when 2010 No. 1 draft pick (and fellow catcher) Yasmani Grandal reaches the upper levels of the minor (which shouldn't take too long).
Joe Kelly, RHP, A
There is nothing I love more than a pitcher with solid ground-ball rates and Kelly backs that up with a fastball that can hit the mid-90s. He simply needs to improve upon his secondary pitches if he's going to remain in the starting rotation. If not, he could make a dominating closer. It's a little surprising that the organization left the 22-year-old hurler in A-ball all season but his ERA did look a little mis-leading at 4.62 (3.31 FIP). Ground-ball pitchers tend to struggle in the low minors - especially in terms of hits allowed - because they put so many balls into play with poor defenders (and fields) behind them. Kelly also needs to improve his control (3.92 BB/9).
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, A
The organization has used kids' gloves with Odorizzi, who spent two years in rookie ball and then a full season in low-A despite some good success. The right-hander saw his strikeout rate jump to 10.07 K/0 while his walk rate remained respectable at 2.98 BB/9. He posted an average ground-ball rate at 46% and his overall numbers were aided slightly by a BABIP of .299. Odorizzi has the makings of a No. 2 starter.
Tanner Bushue, RHP, A
Bushue is a highly-projectable pitcher who has tons of potential. He struggled with the long ball (1.21 HR/9) but had a respectable strikeout rate (7.68 K/9) and walk rate (3.23 BB/9). Still, a ground-ball rate of 39% needs to improve if he's going to have success in the upper levels of pro ball. Age is on his side.
Bryan Morris, RHP, A+/AA
Injuries and make-up issues have marred Morris' career to this point but he seemingly turned the corner with the Pirates organization in 2010. The right-hander projects as a solid No. 3 starter, which is welcomed news for a club that has struggled with pitching depth for years. At double-A in 2010, Morris posted a 3.87 FIP with a +50% ground-ball rate in 89.0 innings. I'd like to see Morris continue to pitch well in 2011 at triple-A before I truly buy into his turnaround.
Chris Archer, RHP, A+/AA
A former Indians draft pick, Archer has struggled with both his command and control throughout his career, which has caused him to move slowly through the system. His game took a big step forward in 2010. His control was improved in high-A when he posted a 2.85 FIP. Unfortunately, it rose from 3.24 to 5.01 BB/9 with a promotion to double-A. There is work to be done but all the pieces are coming together.
Brandon Beachy, RHP, AA/AAA/MLB
Beachy has gotten a lot of press for his impressive season but the hype is a little unjustified right now. Yes, he had a very good minor league season but his overall repertoire is fairly average and he dominated minor league hitters with good command and control of his stuff. His ground-ball rate is also a tick below average. He'd probably be a middle reliever in the American League but will probably survive as a No. 3 or 4 starter in the National League.
Cesar Puello, OF, A
Puello produced promising numbers for a teen-aged speedster in 2010. The right-handed batter produced a triple-slash line of .292/.375/.359 in 404 at-bats, while also stealing 45 bases. He continues to make adjustments and his walk rate has improved in each of his three seasons and was at 6.8% in 2010, which is OK but not great. Although he hasn't shown much power in his ISO rate, Puello has seen his line-drive rate increase dramatically since 2008 (9 to 13 to 15%). Defensively, he made some over-aggressive errors but shows good range.
Brad Peacock, RHP, A+/AA
A position player college, it's taken Peacock some time to get his feet underneath him on the mound in pro ball. He has a solid fastball that can touch the mid-90s and his secondary pitches are developing nicely. His strikeout rate jumped to 10.28 K/9 in 103.1 high-A innings. His walk rate was good at 2.18 BB/9 but it jumped to 5.12 BB/9 in 38.2 double-A innings. Peacock has shown flashes of an above-average ground-ball rate but it was average in 2010.
Trevor May, RHP, A/A+
May had a very nice beginning to the season with a FIP of 1.94 in 65.0 A-ball innings. He moved up to high-A and saw his FIP jump to 4.76, mainly due to a walk rate that skyrocketed to 7.74 BB/9 despite a strikeout rate of 11.57 K/9. If May can get the ball over the plate consistently, he could be a dominating starter thanks to a mid-90s fastball and two other solid pitches (curve, changeup).
Brad Hand, LHP, A+/AA
Hand isn't flashy (although his fastball velocity is above-average for a southpaw) but he reached double-A at the age of 20. He posted a 3.37 FIP in 140.2 high-A innings despite a .352 BABIP. His walk rate of 3.14 BB/9 was solid and improved over '09's rate of 4.65 BB/9. He projects to be a No. 3 starter who can provide a lot of innings.