The Most Disappointing Positional Prospects at Every Minor League Level in 2012
In previous weeks, I have spent every Tuesday highlighting the top hitters at every minor league level.
Well, now that the minor league regular season is complete—with all of the respective playoff series scheduled to conclude by September 15—and the top prospects have continued to be promoted to the major leagues, it’s time to look back at some of the not-so-impressive minor league campaigns of the 2012 season.
So, in the same nature as the previous series, here are my thoughts on the most disappointing positional players from every minor league level. If a prospect played at multiple levels this season, then they have been assigned to the one at which they played the most games.
Tim Beckham, IF, Tampa Bay Rays: .256/.325/.361, 17 XBH (10 2B), 6 SB, 71 K/29 BB (72 G)
After being selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 MLB Entry Draft, Beckham has been slow to develop in all facets of the game. He’s also been plagued by off-the-field problems, as he missed 50 games this season after testing positive for a drug use for a second time.
He’s seemingly stagnated as a prospect and should begin the 2013 season at Triple-A, once again.
Tim Wheeler, OF, Colorado Rockies: .303/.357/.412, 33 XBH (27 2B), 7 SB, 69 K/29 BB (92 G)
After batting .287/.365/535 with 28 doubles, 33 home runs, 86 RBI and 21 stolen bases last season for Double-A Tulsa, Wheeler’s production has suddenly vanished. His two home runs are especially puzzling considering that he’s spent the entire season in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League.
Zack Cox, 3B, Miami Marlins: .254/.301/.409, 40 XBH (10 HR), 90 K/22 BB (108 G)
Selected by the Cardinals in the first round of the 2010 draft, Cox was regarded as one of the more advanced hitters in his class. Therefore, it was no surprise when he batted .306/.363/434 with 13 home runs in 135 games between High-A and Double-A in 2011.
After receiving an aggressive promotion to Triple-A to begin the season, the left-handed hitter was batting .254/.294/.421 in 84 games when the Cardinals shipped him to the Marlins at the trade deadline.
The Cardinals were quick to part with their former first-rounder, which makes me wonder if they identified a major weakness in his swing and/or approach.
Vinnie Catricalla, 3B, Seattle Mariners: .229/.292/.348, 34 XBH (10 HR), 60 RBI, 88 K/37 BB (122 G)
Catricala nearly hit his way to the major leagues in 2011 in his second full season as a professional. The right-handed hitter batted .349/.421/.601 with 48 doubles, 25 home runs and 106 RBI in 133 games between High-A and Double-A.
He began the 2012 season at Triple-A and was expected to pick up where he left off the previous year. However, that wasn't the case, as his .640 OPS in 122 games was a substantial drop-off from last year’s 1.021 mark.
Neftali Soto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: .245/.313/.400, 44 XBH (14 HR), 59 RBI, 116 K/41 BB (122 G)
After posting a .909 OPS between Double-A (102 games) and Triple-A (four games), the Reds held on to Soto for the sake of organizational depth, despite agreeing to an offseason contract extension with perennial All-Star Joey Votto.
Considering that he amassed 52 home runs over the 2010 and 2011 seasons, Soto’s 2012 total of 14 was a major disappointment. Also concerning is the fact that he set a new career-high with 116 strikeouts in 122 games.
Provided that he’s not traded this offseason, look for Soto to begin the 2013 season back at Triple-A Louisville, as he remains trapped behind Votto.
Joe Benson, OF, Minnesota Twins: .202/.288/.336, 22 XBH (6 HR), 13 SB, 81 K/30 BB (76 G)
After receiving a call-up with the Twins last September, Benson’s regression this season has been unequivocally painful. The toolsy outfielder posted a .584 OPS in 28 games at Triple-A to begin the year before a demotion to Double-A. He then missed six weeks following surgery to repair a broken hamate bone, but gradually worked his back to Double-A.
Jake Marisnick, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: .249/.321/.399, 47 XBH (8 HR), 24 SB, 100 K/37 BB (120 G)
Although his 2012 campaign wasn’t bad by any means—I mean he did collect 29 doubles and 24 stolen bases—I expected the highly athletic outfielder to post more impressive numbers. However, his less productive campaign is most likely a result of facing more advanced competition at High-A Dunedin (Florida State League) and Double-A New Hampshire (Eastern League).
Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves: .243/.275/.291, 8 XBH, 8 SB, 45 K/11 BB (71 G)
It’s hard to knock a catcher who’s arguably the best defensive backstop in the minor leagues, but I find Bethancourt’s approach and overall development at the plate to be uninspiring.
The 21-year-old’s plate discipline has improved—to an extent—this year, however, he still swings at virtually anything around the zone and, in turn, consistently gets himself out.
But as I said, it’s hard not to love a physical and agile catcher capable of generating sub-1.8-second in-game pop times.
Reese Havens, 2B, New York Mets: .215/.340/.351, 24 XBH (10 HR), 113 K/58 BB (94 G)
Now 25 years old, Havens was drafted in the first round by the Mets in 2008 under the belief that his stay in the minor leagues would be brief. However, the left-handed hitter has been plagued with injuries, year after year, as his 94 games played represents the most complete season in his minor league career.
Destin Hood, OF, Washington Nationals: .242/.301/.339, 26 XBH (20 2B), 45 RBI, 6 SB, 89 K/24 BB (99 G)
Given a well-above-slot signing bonus as a second-round pick out of high school in 2008, Hood steadily progressed after entering the Nationals’ system, systematically advancing one level per year.
It seemed as though 6’1”, 225-pound outfielder had finally come into his own after batting .276/.364/.445 with 29 doubles, 13 home runs, 83 RBI and 21 stolen bases in 128 games for High-A Potomac in 2011.
But Hood only appeared in 99 games this season after landing on the disabled list with a wrist injury in July and a groin injury in August. Hopefully, his lack of a production this season is a result of playing in pain and it is not just a severe regression.
J.T. Realmuto, C, Miami Marlins: .256/.319/.345, 24 XBH (8 HR), 13 SB, 64 K/37 BB (123 G)
One of my breakout predictions heading into this season, Realmuto continues to be lauded for his athleticism and strong arm behind the plate—remember: he wasn’t a full-time catcher until entering the Marlins’ system—but his bat has been a disappointment this season.
After watching as much recent video as possible of Realmuto, it’s clear that his swing is long due to excessive and unnecessary movement during his load. I’m not worried, though, as his raw talent will continue to catch up to his baseball skills.
Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres: .226/.342/.278, 15 XBH (12 2B), 21 SB, 118 K/60 BB (107 G)
Now 21 years old, Tate’s career never got on the right track after the Padres selected him with the third overall pick in 2009.
He suffered both a sports hernia and fractured jaw that prevented him from making his professional debut in 2009, and he missed even more time with a concussion and a shoulder strain in 2010. To complicate matters, Tate also served a 25-game suspension after testing positive for a drug use (in his case, marijuana) for a second time.
Although he played in 107 games this season, it’s obvious just how far he is behind in his development.
Noah Perio, 2B, Miami Marlins: .248/.293/.311, 25 XBH (22 HR), 6 SB, 68 K/27 BB (119 G)
As a left-handed hitting second baseman, Perio enjoyed his best minor league season in 2011 when he batted .295/.323/.406 with 144 hits, 30 doubles and 15 stolen bases in 119 games at Low-A.
He’s still only 20 years old and made the jump to the more advanced Florida State League (High-A) this season, so I wouldn’t be overly concerned with the lack of production.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B, Kansas City Royals: .240/.296/.322, 25 XBH (7 HR), 59 RBI, 6 SB, 80 K/37 BB (124 G)
Cuthbert set the bar high for himself this season after posting a .742 OPS with 36 walks at Low-A last season as an 18-year-old. Therefore, his .618 OPS this season at High-A is naturally viewed as a disappointment. So he may need to repeat the level in 2013. For Cuthbert, that may be a smart idea, regardless of his level of production this season.
Cory Spangenberg, 2B, San Diego Padres: .271/.324/.352, 21 XBH (8 3B), 27 SB, 72 K/26 BB (98 G)
Selected by the Padres with the No. 10 overall pick in the 2011 draft, Spangenberg was expected to move quickly through their system given his advanced, left-handed hit tool, slick defense and knack for stealing bases. All of this was confirmed during his professional debut in 2011, when he batted .316/.419/418 with 21 extra-base hits and 25 stolen bases between Class-A Short Season and Low-A.
Unfortunately, his bat has been a disappointment this season, but his defense and ability to steal bases has been impressive, though. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Padres keep him moving with a promotion to Double-A to open the 2013 season, or if they start him at High-A once again.
Cesar Puello, OF, New York Mets: .260/.328/.423, 25 XBH (17 2B), 21 RBI, 19 SB, 58 K/7 BB (66 G)
A toolsy, 21-year-old outfielder, Puello’s athleticism and raw talent still profiles through the roof. He’s had an injury-plagued 2012 season, though, missing two months after breaking the hamate bone in his hand in May and landing on the disabled list in late July with a hamstring issue.
He’s struggled to find rhythm at the plate, but either way his 58 strikeouts to seven walks in 66 games is worrisome.
Brandon Jacobs, OF, Boston Red Sox: .252/.322/.410, 43 XBH (13 HR), 61 RBI, 17 SB, 128 K/39 BB (114 G)
Jacobs had a breakout season in 2011, posting an .881 OPS with 17 home runs and 30 stolen bases at Low-A.
He’s taken a step back this year after a promotion to High-A Salem, as his production regressed considerably. He has loads of raw power and the potential for a decent hit tool, but his strikeout-prone ways (123 in 2011; 128 in 2012) continue to impede his overall development.
Jordan Akins, OF, Texas Rangers: .199/.224/.323, 28 XBH (11 HR), 14 SB, 162 K/12 BB (120 G)
I know I’ve said this several times before, but Akins really is the epitome of a toolsy outfielder. He has the ceiling of an elite major league outfielder, but he also has the floor of a prospect that never advances beyond Double-A.
Clearly, plate discipline continues to be the major problem for Akins. However, his extreme struggles at Low-A this season has been a bit of surprise considering that he posted a .740 OPS with 13 stolen bases last season for the Rangers’ rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League. However, that was also his second consecutive season at that level, so perhaps another trial at Low-A Hickory is in order to begin 2013.
Brandon Drury, 3B, Atlanta Braves: .229/.270/.333, 31 XBH (6 HR), 51 RBI, 73 K/20 BB (123 G)
Drury earned Appalachian League player of the year honors in 2011 after batting .347/.367/.525 with 93 hits, 23 doubles, eight home runs and 54 stolen bases in 63 games.
He was promoted to Low-A Rome of the South Atlantic League to begin the 2012 season and posted a paltry .603 OPS in 123 games. His struggles can hardly be attributed to chance, as indicated by his .262 batting average of balls in play this season.
Cito Culver, SS, New York Yankees: .215/.321/.283, 22 XBH (14 2B), 22 SB, 104 K/71 BB (122 G)
Although his bat was expected to be raw from both sides of the plate, Culver demonstrated impressive plate discipline last season in the New York-Penn League, fanning 57 times compared to 30 walks in 69 games.
His plate discipline has improved even more in 2012 despite an overall down-year at the plate (71 walks in 122 games). Still, Culver won’t start moving through the Yankees’ system until his bat further develops.
Dante Bichette, Jr., 3B, New York Yankees: .248/.322/.331, 30 XBH (24 2B), 46 RBI, 94 K/44 BB (122 G)
I don’t think anyone expected Bichette to have such a lackluster season, especially after the right-handed hitter posted a .947 OPS with 43 strikeouts and 31 walks in 54 Short Season games in 2011.
Playing in 122 games for Low-A Charleston this season, Bichette’s OPS has dropped by 176 points after hitting only three home runs. He launched four last season in half the games.
Chevy Clarke, OF, Los Angeles Angels: .222/.322/.336, 31 XBH (9 HR), 53 RBI, 22 SB, 130 K/53 BB (130 G)
This may sound odd, but Clarke is almost too toolsy for his own good. After two unimpressive seasons in the Arizona League, Clarke was hastily promoted to Low-A to open the 2012 season. After the switch-hitter posted a .581 OPS in 77 games, he was demoted to the Angels’ rookie-level affiliate in the Pioneer League. He stabilized to an extent with a .772 OPS in 53 games, but the 20-year-old still has a long, long way to go.
Class-A Short Season
Wagner Mateo, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: .205/.275/.263, 12 XBH (11 2B), 98 K/20 BB (59 G)
The Diamondbacks have eased Mateo through their system, stashing the left-handed hitting outfielder at rookie-levels in both 2010 and 2011.
The organization has loosened the leash this season—but maybe they shouldn’t have. In 59 games between High-A and Short Season, Mateo mustered only 12 extra-base hits with 98 strikeouts.
Ravel Santana, OF, New York Yankees: .216/.304/.289, 10 XBH (3 HR), 19 RBI, 68 K/25 BB (60 G)
After an impressive stateside debut last season in the Gulf Coast League (.929 OPS, 23 XBH, 10 SB in 41 games), Santana attracted considerable hype heading into the season.
Making the moderate jump to Short Season-ball, the powerful and athletic outfielder posted only a .593 OPS with 10 extra-base hits and three stolen bases in 60 games.
He’s only 20 and still has plenty of time to develop, but everyone—including the Yankees—would like to see things come together sooner rather than later.
Mitch Walding, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: .233/.326/.308, 14 XBH (10 2B), 5 SB, 66 K/31 BB (69 G)
After being selected as a fifth-round pick by the Phillies in the 2011 draft, I continue to be impressed with Walding’s swing and easy, raw power. However, the left-handed hitter has struggled to repeat that swing with consistency this season, which has led directly to his struggles.
He was a multi-sport athlete in high school, so his undeveloped skill set isn’t surprising. He has all the attributes necessary to one day be the Phillies’ third baseman, but his development will take time.
Jared Lakind, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates: .169/.235/.210, 5 2B, 36 K/11 BB (40 G)
It seems that no matter what the Pirates try, they simply can’t bring Lakind’s bat to life. The left-handed hitter batted .148/.264/.287 last season in 34 Gulf Coast League games, so naturally he was bound to improve in 2012, right?
Not so fast.
While playing in the New York Penn-League this season (Class-A Short Season), Lakind’s OPS sank over 100 points to .445 as he recorded 36 strikeouts and only 21 hits in 40 games.
Peter O’Brien, C, New York Yankees: .212/.256/.401, 20 XBH (10 HR), 61 K/10 BB (52 G)
Regarded as one of the better offensive catchers in the 2012 draft class, O’Brien possesses enough raw power to make a Mike Zunino-like impact. However, his poor contact rate and metal-bat-swing have prevented that from happening.
Steve Bean, C, St. Louis Cardinals: .200/325/.285, 9 XBH (8 2B), 12 RBI, 43 K/23 BB (39 G)
For the record, I’m still a firm believer in Bean’s hit tool and I applaud the Cardinals for their aggressive draft. I expected him to hit the ground running in the minor leagues, but clearly the Appalachian League was a step above the high school pitching he once feasted upon on a nightly basis.
At least Bean showed signs of improvement following a promotion to the Gulf Coast League, where he batted .320/.424/.400 with seven RBI and eight walks in 15 games.
Tanner Rahier, 3B, Cincinnati Reds: .192/.266/.311, 14 XBH (4 HR), 30 RBI, 43 K/21 BB (51 G)
Another 2012 draftee who endured an unexpectedly slow start to his professional career, Rahier is the type of hitter who always tries to create his own luck. Even though he doesn’t strike out too often, the right-handed hitter religiously chases pitches out of the strike zone in favorable counts.
His approach and swing both need considerable refinement, and if he ultimately sticks at third base, then he’ll need showcase more power.
Nathan Mikolas, OF, New York Yankees: .149/.295/.184, 1 HR, 35 K/12 BB (31 G)
A toolsy, left-handed hitting outfielder hailing from Wisconsin, Mikolas struggled through 31 games this season in his professional debut. The 6’0", 200-pounder recorded only one extra-base hit (a home run) with 35 strikeouts in 87 at-bats.
Kevin Ross, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: .233/.282/.315, 4 XBH, 10 K/2 BB (21 G)
After scouting Ross this past winter at a Midwest event, I believed that he could be a potential draft-steal and sleeper prospect. While he has the power, range and arm strength to handle the left side of the infield, his progress will largely depend on his bat.
Considering that he posted a .597 OPS this season with 10 strikeouts in 21 games, Ross should receive another crack at the Gulf Coast League in 2013.
Ty Linton, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: .238/.267/.363, 12 XBH (4 HR), 19 RBI, 62 K/6 BB (42 G)
At 6’3” and 195 pounds, Linton both has the tools and frame to be a big league outfielder, and after he posted a .756 OPS in the Pioneer League last season, I expected that the right-handed hitter would at least finish 2013 at Low-A.
However, Linton was assigned to the team’s Pioneer League affiliate once again this season, where his production was less-than-spectacular (.630 OPS, 12 extra-base hits, 62 strikeouts and six walks in 42 games).