Every year about this time myworld likes to put together a top ten from every region. Traditionally we start the ball rolling with a look at the European prospects. You can see last year’s list here: http://myworldofbaseball.com/wordpress/?cat=10&paged=2. Players who have graduated from the top ten from last year are Andrelton Simmons and Alex Liddi. Liddi will probably continue to see time in the minor leagues, but he now has too many major league at bats to be considered a rookie. Like last year, many of the top prospects are from Curacao, a Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela that is a colony of Netherlands.
1. Jurickson Profar (SS), Texas Rangers (Curacao/Netherlands) - He repeats this list as the number one European prospect, but his stock has risen quite a bit. He has been voted by many in baseball as the top prospect in baseball. His bat and defense, along with Elvis Andrus departure for free agency in about 2014 will make him the Rangers future shortstop. He has a chance this year to make the team as their second baseman, but he must bump Ian Kinsler to first. Myworld suspects he will see the first couple months in the minors with a mid-season promotion because of injury. He made his major league debut last year, hitting .176 with one homerun. He’s a talented player with a good 66/79 walk to whiff ratio in AA. Since he is only 20 it will be good for him to get some at bats in AAA.
2. Xander Bogaerts (SS) Boston Red Sox (Aruba/Netherlands) - Aruba is another island in the Caribbean the Netherlands has colonized. It is hard to believe Bogaerts was a seldom used backup in the World Cup. Last year was a nice break out season for him when he hit over .300 with 20 homeruns and 81 RBIs between High A and AA. The Red Sox will try to keep him at shortstop, but many think because of his 6′3″ height his best position would be right field.
3. Didi Gregorius (SS) Arizona Diamondbacks (Curacao/Netherlands) - Myworld was impressed with his smooth fielding actions when he led the Netherlands to the gold medal as their starting shortstop in the World Cup. His dad and brother are both well known in the Netherlands for their pitching exploits. Didi has the arm to be a pitcher, but he also has the grace to become a shortstop. The only thing to prevent him from making an impact in the major leagues would be his bat. He did hit .300 in his 20 at bat major league debut with the Cincinnati Reds last year. The Reds traded him to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are in need of a shorstop for 2013.
4. Jonathan Schoop (SS) Baltimore Orioles (Curacao/Netherlands) - Schoop was displaced by one of the top prospects in baseball, Manny Machado at shortstop. While he parallelled Manny with his promotions Jonathan played second base and third base. When Manny was promoted to the major leagues Jonathan returned to shortstop. Of the four players listed here he may be the least capable defensively. Some have said he is a more capable shortstop than Manny, but having watched both play the position we’re a bit more comfortable with Manny at short. He did hit 14 homeruns in AA as a 21 year old, which is a very impressive feat. Next year he should make his major league debut, but his best hope is as a second baseman to replace Brian Roberts.
5. Max Kepler (OF) Minnesota Twins (Germany) - Max is the first actual European player on this list. His mother is an American ballerina and his father is a Polish ballerina, but he was born and raised in Germany. He had a nice breakout season last year, showing a little bit of the power expected of him with 10 homeruns and a .539 slugging percentage. He played for Germany in the WBC qualifier, but hit only .143. This should be his first year in a full season league. It would be better if he could play centerfield, but his arm and range will limit him to left field. There will be a little more pressue on him at that position to produce the power most general managers look for at this position. If he can’t meet that he could still fill a major league roster as a fourth outfielder.
6. Chris Reed (LHP) Los Angeles Dodgers (Great Britain) - Reed gets a spot on this European team for being born in London, England. He played his high school baseball in the United States and was the closer for Stanford. The Dodgers drafted him in the first round in 2011. He played for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic qualifier and got one start going two plus innings. Despite his 0.00 ERA he took the loss because of two unearned runs. He does seem to have trouble picking up victories with a 1-9 two year minor league career record. He does have good velocity for a lefthander, hitting the low 90s. While he was the closer at Stanford, the Dodgers have used him as a starter. He has had problems with blisters.
7. Donald Lutz (1B) Cincinnati Reds (Germany) - He was a hockey player before he picked up baseball as a teenager. Not considered much of a prospect until last year when he hit 22 homeruns. He joined Max Kepler on the German team, hitting .308 without a homerun. With Joey Votto at first base the Reds have given him some outfield time to get his bat in the lineup and increase his versatility. At 6′3″ 235 he is not going to be a speedster out there, but he moves well for a big man. He did struggle a bit when promoted to AA hitting only .242 with a .389 slugging percentage. One of the things he needs to work on is improving his patience at the plate.
8. Aaron Altherr (OF) Philadelphia Phillies (Germany) - Some sites have him born in Arizona, but others say he was born in Germany to a military family. It qualified him to play for the German team in the WBC so myworld will include him in our top ten prospect list. He’s got nice height at 6′5″, a Dominic Brown type of look. The Phillies only hope the results are a bit better with his minor league progression. He led the German team in hitting with his .345 average and tied for the team lead in homeruns with two. As a ninth round 2009 pick he has moved slowly through the minor leagues, playing in Low A last year where he hit only .252 with 8 homeruns. He needs to cut down on his swings and misses to raise his average. On defense he runs like a gazelle, so he could fit in center and if that doesn’t work he has the arm to play right.
9. Roderick Bernadina (OF) Baltimore Orioles (Curacao/Netherlands) - The brother of Roger, he still has a long way to go to see his brother in the major leagues. Last year he was promoted to the Low A league to get over 100 at bats where he hit .298. Like his brother he could end up falling short of being a centerfielder with not enough bat to play the corner.
10. Tom Stuifbergen (RHP) Minnesota Twins (Netherlands) - He is a big man at 260 pounds. The weight is not a problem unless your ERA at the end of the year is 5.09. He has missed a lot of time with shoulder and elbow injuries, stagnating his development. He is not overpowering, relying more on command to achieve his success. His career has not had a lot of success missing bats, especially as he rises up the minor league ladder. Another shoulder injury limited him to just 74 innings where he gave up 103 hits for an opponent average of .326. He made the 2013 Netherlands WBC roster so he must be healthy now.
Other players to watch:
Kai Gronauer C New York Mets (Germany) - He plays well defensively, but he does not have much of a bat, hitting less than .200 against right handed pitching in High A and AA. At best he can hope for a back up role for a major league team. He will turn 27 after the 2013 season ends.
Loek Van Mil (RHP) Cleveland Indians (Netherlands) - We keep hoping he will get that major league appearance. If that happens he will break the record for being the tallest player ever in the major leagues. He got his start with the Twins, but has now bounced around a couple minor league teams. That is not a good sign. Shoulder injuries stalled his career when it appeared he was ready for a major league assignment, knocking him out of his closer role for the Netherlands in the 2008 Olympics.
Kalian Sams (OF) Seattle Mariners (Netherlands) - We made an error in our belief he could play centerfield. Listed at 6′2″ 248 those days appear gone. He has a power bat, though last year that slumped to just 11 homeruns in just a little over 250 at bats. He still strikes out too much.
J.C. Sulbaran (RHP) Kansas City Royals (Curacao/Netherlands) - He was recently traded by the Reds to the Royals. His stock has dropped some after a couple off years. In his four year minor league career he has yet to get his ERA below 4.00.
Jonatan Isenia (RHP) Baltimore Orioles (Curacao/Netherlands) - He is listed on the WBC roster for the Netherlands, quite an accomplishment for a player who is only 20 years old. For the Orioles he had a 1.47 ERA in the Dominican Summer League. This should earn him some time stateside.
Rodney Daal (C) San Diego Padres (Netherlands) - He didn’t get past the rookie leagues, but he hit well, hitting .306 in the Arizona League and .288 in the Northwest League. At 19 he still has a long way to go, but he has some potential to become an offensive hitting catcher.