The Most Naturally Gifted Prospect in Each MLB Team's System
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After looking at each team’s top prospect headed into the offseason last week, I wanted to begin the week with another all-inclusive article. Over the upcoming months, I plan on breaking down the prospect landscape by position and offer various thoughts about the top overall tools.
Today, I thought it’d be interesting to look at some of the elite athletes housed in the minor leagues. Keep in mind that when I use the term athlete, it in no way means best prospect; it makes no difference whether the player is a .180 or .280 hitter. I’m talking about prospects that are gifted athletically.
Having said all that, here’s my take on each team’s top athlete.
Baltimore Orioles: OF Glynn Davis
2012 Stats (A-, A+): .253/.345/.301, 20 XBH, 37 SB, 116/63 K/BB (123 G)
Scouting Overview: 80-grade speed makes him a dynamic top-of-the-order threat; plus range in center field should allow him to stick there; closing speed on balls in gap ranks among best in minor leagues; if his hit tool continues to improve, Davis could be at least a fourth outfielder or late-inning defensive replacement/pinch-runner.
Boston Red Sox: SS Derrik Gibson
2012 Stats (AA): .225/.304/.272, 16 XBH, 14 SB, 93/44 K/BB (115 G)
Scouting Overview: Highly athletic shortstop with quick feet and plus range at shortstop; success as base-stealer doesn’t accurately depict true plus speed; excellent and versatile defensive infielder who is waiting for his bat to catch up to raw talent.
New York Yankees: OF Mason Williams
2012 Stats (A-, A+): .298/.346/.474, 37 XBH (11 HR), 20 SB, 47/24 K/BB (91 G)
Scouting Overview: Plus overall speed translates into superb range in center field; instinctual athlete and player who continues to grow into projectable frame; still a raw base stealer who’s learning to read pitchers; smooth left-handed swing has surprising power and projects for above-average hit tool.
Tampa Bay Rays: OF Andrew Toles
2012 Stats (Rk): .281/.327/.482, 23 XBH (7 HR), 14 SB, 36/12 K/BB (51 G)
Scouting Overview: Athletic bloodline (father played in NFL); not physically imposing but has explosive strength; wired with quick-twitch muscles that yield plus bat speed and surprising power; 60-to-70-grade runner depending on who you ask; should be able to stick in center field.
Toronto Blue Jays: OF D.J. Davis
2012 Stats (Rk, A-): .250/.355/.386, 18 XBH, 25 SB, 70/27 K/BB (60 G)
Scouting Overview: Younger player relative to draft class; arguably fastest player of all 2012 draftees; plus speed is as obvious on basepaths as it is in center field; plus range should keep him in center field despite fringy arm; strong wrists and athletic frame result in plus bat speed and sneaky power; immense potential as top-of-the-order hitter at a premium position.
Chicago White Sox: OF Trayce Thompson
2012 Stats (A+, AA, AAA): .253/.328/.482, 62 XBH (25 HR), 96 RBI, 21 SB, 166/55 K/BB (136 G)
Scouting Overview: Family ties (son of Mychal Thompson, former No. 1 overall NBA draft pick); was a standout basketball player in high school; owns chiseled 6’3”, 195-pound frame that oozes projection; above-average baserunner with plus speed as an outfielder due to long strides; may lose a step as he ages; plus raw power to all fields but upper-cut bat path results in high strikeout totals.
Cleveland Indians: OF Levon Washington
2012 Stats (Rk, A-, A+): .333/.439/.354, 13/8 K/BB (13 G)
Scouting Overview: Has battled severely limiting injuries (knee, hip, shoulder) since turning pro; lacking hit tool has prevented him from showcasing true athletic ability; long swing inhibits consistent contact; plus runner who’s a raw defensive center fielder; has fallen behind developmental curve.
Detroit Tigers: OF Austin Schotts
2012 Stats (Rk, A+): .310/.360/.449, 15 XBH, 16 SB, 42/12 K/BB (42 G)
Scouting Overview: Third-round draft pick in 2012 is an elite athlete who starred as a two-way player on his Texas high school football team; double-plus speed profiles extremely well in center field with impressive range in all directions; makes lots of hard contact and hit tool could be solid-average when he cuts down on swing-and-miss; hard-nosed ballplayer who’s electric in everything he does on the field.
Kansas City Royals: OF Bubba Starling
2012 Stats (Rk): .275/.371/.485, 20 XBH (10 HR), 10 SB, 70/28 K/BB (53 G)
Scouting Overview: Ridiculous athlete who was headed to Nebraska as a quarterback until the Royals paid him over $7 million; plus defensive center fielder with extraordinary range and instincts; arm strength and above-average speed make him a viable candidate at each outfield position; long swing and inconsistent swing plane result in contact issues; still has plus raw power and chance for above-average hit tool once mechanical issues are ironed out.
Minnesota Twins: OF Byron Buxton
2012 Stats (Rk): .248/.344/.448, 19 XBH (5 HR), 11 SB, 41/19 K/BB (48 G)
Scouting Overview: Potential five-tool talent at big-league level; present plus tools are speed and arm; plus range in center field with a natural feel for the position; will develop above-average power as he adds strength; hit tool is still suspect, but bat speed and quick wrists suggest above-average potential.
Houston Astros: OF George Springer
2012 Stats (A+, AA): .302/.383/.526, 55 XBH (24 HR), 32 SB, 156/62 K/BB (128 G)
Scouting Overview: One of the more well-rounded athletes in all the minor leagues; effortless, plus raw power; makes plenty of hard contact but inconsistent approach results in way too high strikeout rates; true potential to be a big-league center fielder with excellent reads and plus speed; strong arm also lends to a future in right field.
Los Angeles Angels: OF Travis Witherspoon
2012 Stats (A+, AA): .268/.350/.418, 49 XBH (13 HR), 34 SB, 106/57 K/BB (121 G)
Scouting Overview: Highly impressive athlete with plus range in center field; adept base stealer who’s not afraid to turn it loose; has the raw bat speed and hand-eye to hit for average, but poor approach has held him back; pull-happy approach results in lengthy, upper-cut swing.
Oakland Athletics: SS Addison Russell
2012 Stats (Rk, SS, A-): .369/.432/.594, 26 XBH (7 HR), 16 SB, 48/23 K/BB (55 G)
Scouting Overview: Shed significant weight as high school senior and should be able to remain at shortstop; instinctual first step and above-average speed with more than enough arm for position; quick bat and compact swing gives him chance for plus hit tool; power will more so be a product of his approach.
Seattle Mariners: OF Jamal Austin
2012 Stats (A-): .283/.326/.341, 19 XBH, 36 SB, 66/29 K/BB (110 G)
Scouting Overview: Undersized at 5’9”, 170 pounds, Austin is still waiting for his baseball skills to catch up to his overall athleticism; plus runner who should continue to improve upon already solid base-stealing skills; makes surprisingly consistent contact but offers no power outside of double-digit doubles.
Texas Rangers: OF Lewis Brinson
2012 Stats (Rk): .283/.345/.523, 36 XBH (7 HR), 14 SB, 74/21 K/BB (54 G)
Scouting Overview: 6’3”, 170-pound center fielder is great but raw athlete; legit 80-grade, top-of-the-order speed that lends to his defense and range; lack of pitch recognition and experience led to high strikeout total; has showcased substantially more power than was expected at time of draft; could have solid-average hit tool once swing is shortened and approach refined.
Atlanta Braves: OF Matt Lipka
2012 Stats (A+): .271/.335/.337, 8 XBH, 12 SB, 32/20 K/BB (51 G)
Scouting Overview: Injuries and a move from shortstop to center field have held him back; passed on scholarship to play both baseball and football for Alabama; plus-plus speed gives him excellent range in center field where his arm is a more natural fit; cut down on strikeouts in 2012, though hit tool has a ways to go.
Miami Marlins: C Jacob (J.T.) Realmuto
2012 Stats (A+): .256/.319/.345, 24 XBH (8 HR), 13 SB, 64/37 K/BB (123 G)
Scouting Overview: Standout prep athlete who quarterbacked high school team and set national offensive records as a shortstop; converted to catcher upon turning pro; highly athletic and agile behind the plate with quick feed and all-out approach; plus arm is most outstanding defensive tool; blocking and receiving skills continue to improve; average speed gives him high ceiling at position; has bat speed and power to be big-league catcher, but needs to iron on arm-bar and casting of hands in swing.
New York Mets: OF Brad Marquez
2012 Stats (Rk): .267/.313/.367, 2 XBH, 6/2 K/BB (9 G)
Scouting Overview: 16th-rounder signed under the condition that he be allowed to honor his commitment to Texas Tech as a wide receiver; blazing, plus speed in 6’1”, 185-pound frame; plus range has him pegged as center fielder; spray hitter who focuses on putting the ball in play and letting his wheels take care of the rest; don’t expect any power; disappointing football season could have him focusing on baseball full time in the near future.
Philadelphia Phillies: SS Roman Quinn
2012 Stats (SS): .281/.370/.408, 21 XBH (11 3B), 30 SB, 61/28 K/BB (66 G)
Scouting Overview: Premium, top-of-the-order speed from a contact-oriented switch-hitter; knows how to get on base and utilize dynamic speed; has tools, quick feet and athleticism to stick at shortstop with plus range in all directions; impressive hand-eye coordination and ability to make adjustments; potential for overall above-average hit tool.
Washington Nationals: SS/3B Jason Martinson
2012 Stats (A-, A+): .245/.340/.430, 42 XBH (22 HR), 106 RBI, 30 SB, 167/68 K/BB (135 G)
Scouting Overview: Attended Texas Tech as wide receiver but suffered serious hamstring injury early in first season; lacks significant baseball background; athleticism, range and strong arm give him a chance to play a variety of positions; long swing and quick bat yield plus raw power to all fields; lots of swing-and-miss to his game due to propensity to chase breaking balls and front-side-oriented swing.
Chicago Cubs: OF Matt Szczur
2012 Stats (A+, AA): .267/.360/.390, 38 XBH (26 2B), 42 SB, 79/61 K/BB (113 G)
Scouting Overview: Plus speed and elite athleticism had him poised to become NFL wide receiver after two-sport career at Villanova; plus speed with the range to stay in center field; reads and first step can be shaky at times; strong arm relative to the position; good plate discipline and pitch recognition, but lacks consistent hard contact.
Cincinnati Reds: OF Billy Hamilton
2012 Stats (A+, AA): .311/.410/.420, 112 R, 38 XBH (14 3B), 155 SB, 113/86 K/BB (132 G)
Scouting Overview: Fastest player in baseball, maybe even in baseball history; stole 155 bases in 132 games; range in center field is astounding and will improve as he relies less on tracking ball; 90-grade wheels will compensate for poor reads and routes; arm will suffice; swing from right side is still suspect, while left-handed is more fluid and consistent; on-base skills continue to improve and profiles as electric leadoff man.
Milwaukee Brewers: OF Reggie Keen
2012 Stats (A+): .252/.300/.331, 27 XBH, 45 SB, 89/33 K/BB (125 G)
Scouting Overview: Older player behind the curve with raw athleticism; decent hit tool but lacks plate discipline to project as top-of-order player; aggressive base stealer who’s still learning how to read opposing pitchers and gauge scenarios.
Pittsburgh Pirates: OF Gregory Polanco
2012 Stats (A-): .325/.388/.522, 48 XBH (16 HR), 85 RBI, 40 SB, 64/44 K/BB (116 G)
Scouting Overview: With 6’4”, 170-pound frame, Polanco noticeably possesses elite athleticism; above-average to plus speed that plays up in center field, where he’s expected to stay; strong arm only adds to impressive overall package; left-handed hitter who's demonstrated ability to make adjustments, especially regarding his swing and approach.
St. Louis Cardinals: OF C.J. McElroy
2012 Stats (Rk): .271/.314/.332, 13 XBH, 24 SB, 42/15 K/BB (61 G)
Scouting Overview: 2011 third-rounder was three-sport standout (baseball, football, track and field) in high school; passed on football scholarship at Houston to be a wide receiver; plus-plus speed gives him great range in center field; approach has been slightly better than anticipated given his age; sleeper prospect headed into 2013 season.
Arizona Diamondbacks: OF Keon Broxton
2012 Stats (A+): .267/.326/.437, 44 XBH (19 HR), 21 SB, 136/40 K/BB (130 G)
Scouting Overview: 6’3”, 195-pounder passed on scholarship to Florida Atlantic as a wide receiver; outstanding athleticism and unrefined set of tools; high floor, low ceiling; above-average speed gives him range in center and makes consistent reads; bat continues to hold him back with excessive strikeout rate; power has finally emerged—granted, it was in second tour of hitter-friendly California League.
Colorado Rockies: OF David Dahl
2012 Stats (Rk): .379/.423/.625, 41 XBH (10 3B), 57 RBI, 12 SB, 42/21 K/BB (67 G)
Scouting Overview: 6’2”, 185-pound outfielder is incredibly projectable with loads of present ability; possesses five tools that grade as above-average to plus across the board; speed and hit tool gives him potential to be elite run-creator; routes can be shaky in center field but continue to improve; plus speed lends to excellent range.
Los Angeles Dodgers: OF James Baldwin
2012 Stats (A-): .209/.293/.334, 33 XBH (8 3B), 53 SB, 177/45 K/BB (123 G)
Scouting Overview: Father of the same name pitched 11 seasons in MLB; 6’3”, 190-pound frame leaves room for projection on top of plus speed and elite athleticism; should have no problem remaining in center field; serious concerns about bat and lack of development since signing; adept base stealer is best offensive attribute.
San Diego Padres: SS Jace Peterson
2012 Stats (A-): .286/.378/.392, 34 XBH (9 3B), 51 SB, 63/62 K/BB (117 G)
Scouting Overview: Played four sports in high school; played two seasons at McNeese State as shortstop and cornerback on football team; explosive actions from 6’0", 200-pound frame; above-average speed plays up due to strong instincts and quick feet; natural, momentum-gaining actions at shortstop compensate for modest arm; impressive base stealer with solid-average hit tool and excellent plate discipline.
San Francisco Giants: OF Gary Brown
2012 Stats (AA): .279/.347/.385, 41 XBH (32 2B), 33 SB, 87/40 K/BB (134 G)
Scouting Overview: Defense in center field is big-league ready; incredibly quick feet with ability to cover tons of ground; 80-grade speed is legitimate, but fails to utilize it on the basepaths; hate where he starts his hand and barrel path; ceiling as major league center fielder entirely depends on hit tool and on-base skills.