As we move towards the Futures Game, it’s time to reveal my mid-season Top 50 Prospects.
The 2012 has seen a number of top prospects graduate to the majors including Bryce Harper (1), Mike Trout (2), Matt Moore (3), Jesus Montero (6), Jacob Turner (12), Trevor Bauer (15), Martin Perez (18), and Anthony Rizzo (48). As is always the case, there have been a number of significant risers that I will detail at the end of the list, including some that have not made the list but you should start to track and be made aware.
While his last three outings have shown there is work left to do, 19 year-old right-hand pitcher Taijuan Walker has held his own in Double-A in 2012. The stuff is impressive with a fastball that sits 93-95 with great movement, a wipeout curve, and a change-up that is flashing plus. At 19 and with limited pitching experience, both professionally and as an amateur, a true ace potential is there. Like Walker, Jose Fernandez, is a 19 year-old righty that has pitched exceptional well in 2012. In 79.0 IP, he has a 99K/18BB strikeout to walk ratio and has demonstrated a mid 90’s fastball that bores in on right-handers with a complementary nasty curve and slider combo. The results have earned Fernandez a promotion to High-A in the Florida State League, a great pitchers league.
Jackie Bradley hits the list at #22. Originally projected as a top 20 pick in the 2011 draft, Bradley dropped to a Supplemental pick due to a wrist injury sustained in the Spring. He’s a great athlete showing a excellent approach to hitting and the ability to make contact. In 231 at-bats in High-A, he had a 52BB/40K ratio while batting .355 and swiping 16 bases. Upon a recent promotion to Double-A in the Eastern League, he has continued to rake to the tune of a .368 batting average. Two spots later, Mason Williams, another young center fielder makes his first appearance. Similar to Bradley, Williams makes great contact but appears to have a little more pop, slugging eight home runs in 267 at-bats in Charleston of the Low-A Sally League.
Two third baseman, Mike Olt (28) and Matt Davidson (41) have also made significant progress throughout the year and both are getting close to being big league ready. Olt is batting .304 with 20 home runs in Double-A while Davidson has 16 home runs at the same level. Two up the middle infielders, Alen Hanson (47) and Kolten Wong (48) have also played extremely well in the first half with Hanson coming out of seemingly nowhere to make the list. The 19 year-old Dominican is batting .333, while hitting 12 home runs and stealing 20 bases in the Low-A Sally League for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Scouts don’t think he’ll stay at SS, but could be a quick riser through the minors as a dynamic player at the keystone.
Keeping an eye on these players
It’s always hard doing a Top 50 list as there are players that are deserving, but somehow just wind up short. Here are five guys that you need to be tracking in the second half of the year.
Jonathan Schoop (Bal, 2B) – For those who have followed my prospect writings know that I’ve long been a fan of the young infielder from Curacao. The Orioles elected to promote the 20 year-old to Double-A to keep him pared with Manny Machado and he’s been up and down. While he’s only batting .247, the bat speed is still there and I am still projecting him as a first division starter with a plus hit tool and above average power.
Gary Brown (San, OF) – I wrote in the winter that I was worried that Gary Brown would struggle out of the gates in 2012 due to leaving the Arizona Fall League with mono. Well, he has, but has been improving during the month of June by batting .295 with an 87% contact rate. You’re buying Brown for speed and with 21 thefts so far this year while continuing to play an elite outfield, he is still the future in centerfield for the San Francisco Giants.
Dan Stailey (Oak, RHP) – Who is the strikeout leader in minor leagues this year? Somebody named Dan Straily. Taken in the 24th round of the 2009 draft, Dan Stailey has excelled in each level that he has hit but blew up in 2012 and scouts and analyst have taken note. His fastball sits 91-94 with a nice slider and change-up to complement. He is now in AAA and continuing to excel and I would not be surprised if you see him this year in the big leagues. The comparable is Brandon Beachy as the draft history, size, and stuff is very similar.
Tyler Austin (NYY, OF) – The Charleston Riverdogs are stacked with prospects and Tyler Austin is one of the best. A catcher, turned 3B, turned OF is having one of the best years in any level of the minors. He’s batting .327 and slugging .605 with 14 home runs and 17 stolen bases while walking 33 times in 257 at-bats. His contact rate is also terrific. I’m guessing that the Yankees will be promoting both Williams and Austin very soon.
Austin Hedges (SD, C) – One of the best catching prospects in the minor leagues is Austin Hedges. At 19 years old, Hedges receiving skills and arm are already big league ready. For a catcher, that is amazing. The big question is will the bat play? Scouts are mixed, but so far, he is showing nice contact at 80% and good plate patience with 16 walks in 182 at-bats. The power is also coming through, mostly in batting practice, but he has also slugged six during game action. Hedges is a unique player that bears watching as he is likely to be promoted to High-A this summer. I doubt he will stay there long as his offensive numbers will likely over inflate due to Cal Leagues extreme hitting environment.