MLB Prospects: Every AL Central Team's Rawest Prospect
Bubba Starling: His 2012 season will give us an idea of how raw he really is
With Prospect Pipeline's Top 50 now in place, it's time to take a deeper look at these prospects from a positional standpoint.
As I continue to put together Top 10 prospect scouting reports for every organization, I'll also be ranking prospects by both position and skill-set (or as I refer to them, tools).
Today, we look at baseball's rawest prospects. These players typically possess pure athleticism and natural talent, but their baseball skills tend to lag behind. For example, a player who runs from home-to-first in around four seconds may struggle to consistently put the ball in play.
After profiling the American League East earlier today, it's now time to focus on the American League Central.
Trayce Thompson, Chicago White Sox
Drafted/Signed: 2009, second round (HS—Santa Margarita, CA)
Single-A: .241/.329/.457, .216 ISO, 113 wRC+ (597 PA)
Overview: Thompson has some of the best raw power in the minor leagues thanks to an ability to drive the ball with backspin carry to all fields. However, his power is a product of a lengthy swing, which has led to exceptionally high strikeout rates.
He religiously chases breaking balls and lacks a feel for the strike zone. His defense in center is tolerable, although he does possess a strong arm. He’ll continue to play center for the time being, but his combination of raw power and arm strength profile better in right field than center.
Ronny Rodriguez, Cleveland Indians
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
Single-A: .246/.274/.449, 10 SB, .203 ISO, 98 wRC+ (394 PA)
Overview: Despite having all the tools to be an all-around solid shortstop, Rodriguez still has a long way to go. His above-average speed and athleticism give him range at shortstop, although his actions can be choppy and over-aggressive.
He arguably has a double-plus arm across the infield, but his poor footwork makes him prone to throwing errors.
At the dish, Rodriguez is a bit of a free swinger, which is most likely due to lack of experience. His bat speed and loft in his swing produced 46 extra-base hits in 2011, but also led to 83 strikeouts in 370 at-bats.
Both his hit and power tool will ultimately depend on his plate discipline, which should improve as he gains experience.
Nick Castellanos, Detroit Tigers
Drafted/Signed: 2010 – First round (Archbishop McCarthy HS, FL)
Single-A: 312/.367/.436, .124 ISO, 129 wRC+ (562 PA)
Overview: A first-round selection in 2010, Castellanos is hands down the Tigers’ top hitting prospect. After an anemic start to the 2011 season at Low-A, he went on to slash .312/.367/.435 while playing in 135 games.
Even though he hit only seven home runs, the right-hander did tally 36 doubles. Considering his ability to barrel up the baseball, adding a little loft to his swing should yield more home runs. He struck out 130 times compared to 45 walks, so he’ll need to improve that differential this season.
Castellanos is still learning how to play third base, but his range, instincts and above-average arm work well there. He’s tall (6'4") with wiry strength and lots of room to fill out.
It’ll be interesting to see what adjustments he makes at High-A in 2012.
Bubba Starling, Kansas City Royals
Drafted/Signed: 2011 – 1st round (Gardner Edgerton HS, KS)
2011 Stats: DNP
Overview: Any conversation about five-tool prospects isn’t complete without referencing Bubba Starling. Heavily recruited for every sport out of high school, it cost the Royals $7.5 million to lure him away from a scholarship to be the Nebraska quarterback.
At 6'4", 205-pounds, Starling is strong, athletic and has already flashed double-plus power. He should hit for some average in the future, although his true value is rooted in his power-speed combination.
Also a standout pitcher, Starling has been clocked in the mid-90s off the bump, and throws absolute pills from the outfield.
As it is with Bryce Harper, it’s difficult to assign a ceiling to Starling. However, there’s no denying that it’s one of the highest in all of baseball.
Joe Benson, Minnesota Twins
Drafted/Signed: 2006, second round (HS—Joilet Catholic, IL)
Double-A: .285/.388/.495, 13 SB, .210 ISO, 141 wRC+ (472 PA)
MLB: .239/.270/.352, .113 ISO, 64 wRC+ (74 PA)
Overview: Despite his gradual ascent up the Twins’ organizational ladder, Benson is still a five-tool player with 20/20 potential. His speed and plus arm strength are suitable for all three outfield spots, while his natural instincts generate above-average range in all directions.
The only aspect of Benson’s game that impedes his overall progress is his inability to make consistent contact. He’s posted three 100+ strikeout seasons, although he did coax a career high 56 walks in 2011.
If he can learn to manipulate counts in his favor and lay off sub-par off speed offerings, Benson could pan out to be a valuable big league outfielder.