There are only about three or four European players on this top ten list who will make it to the major leagues. For some of these players it may only be for a cup of coffee or a September of fun. Too many of the true European prospects are raw and it takes them awhile to get acclimated to the United States game. After the sixth rated player it is like throwing darts at a board and letting it find a name for you. That is my level of confidence on these ratings after the sixth pick.
Aaron Altherr was the only player from the list last year to lose rookie eligibility. Donald Lutz made the list last year, played very little because of injury, was released by the Reds and resigned, but he actually lost his rookie eligibility in 2014. Max Kepler had a break out year. He became the first player born and raised in Germany to play in the major leagues when he got a September call up. Donald Lutz also played in Germany, but he was born in New York and his mother moved him back to Germany when he was an infant. One of the more talented European prospects the last couple years Lars Hujer decided to return to Europe to play in the Dutch League, ending his major league career ambitions for one closer to home when the European professional league will make its debut.
You can see the list from last year at the link below.
1. Ozzie Albies SS (Braves/Curacao) - The Braves traded Jose Peraza because they felt Ozzie was the better middle infield prospect. Then they traded Andrelton Simmons, their gold glove fielding shortstop also from Curacao. The only player standing in the shortstop path for Ozzie is Eric Aybar, who will become a free agent after next year. It may be expecting a lot from Ozzie to find him playing shortstop for the Braves in 2017. Last year was his first in full season where he hit .310 in Low A. Like Jose Peraza he lacks power, but his arm strength makes him a better fit for short. He may not steal as many bases as Jose, but he has the patience to take walks and get on base, duties valued when looking for a lead off hitter. The best the Braves can hope for is a September callup in 2017, when he will be a 20 year old youngster with a starting position available to him in 2018. The Braves hope he can maintain his .328 minor league career average as he rises up the minor league ladder and faces more talented pitchers.
2. Max Kepler OF/1B (Twins/German) - Myworld rated him a bit low last year, but he was a first baseman/corner outfielder with little power. He had a breakout season this year, hitting .322 at AAA with a .947 OPS. That resulted in a September callup where he hit only .143, but still getting a baseball for achieving his first major league hit. Max was able to bunch together 56 extra base hits, nine of them going over the fence, so his power is really more to the gaps. In the outfield he lacks the speed to play center and lacks the power to really be a solid corner outfielder. A gig as a fourth or fifth outfielder in the major leagues is not a bad job. Currently the Twins have some talented outfielders and a crowd at first base so it could be difficult for Max to find major league time next year. If he continues to hit the Twins will have to find room for him, or trade him to a team that has an outfield need.
3. Marten Gasparini SS/2B (Royals/Italy) - Marten signed for $1.3 million in 2013, breaking the European signing bonus record previously held by Max Kepler. There are some questions whether Marten will have the bat to find himself wearing a major league uniform. His legs can churn out speed and his arm is strong but his 37 errors in 52 games is a cause for concern. A move to second may be required if he can not correct his fielding flaws. Last year he stole 26 bases in 54 games and of his 16 extra base hits, ten of them were for triples. Recognizing breaking pitches has been his biggest challenge resulting in 80 whiffs in 54 games. The 2016 season should see his first season in a full season league, a true test of his abilities over a long season.
4. Spencer Kieboom C (Nationals/Netherlands) - His father was born in the Netherlands but he moved to the United States when he was 17. That allows him to be eligible to play for Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic. In 2013 he was supposed to be one of their catchers but Tommy John surgery forced him to miss much of the 2013 season. The Nationals have a number of talented catchers ahead of him, forcing him to toil in High A as a 24 year old. Defense is his forte. His bat tends to fall a little short (.248, 2, 6) but he did have an impressive 36/30 walk to whiff ratio. The Royals have shown how important it is to have someone who can make contact with the ball and Spencer is a good barrel of the bat on ball kind of hitter.
5. Carlton Daal SS/2B (Reds/Netherlands) - A Didi Gregorius protégé, he has 2014 first round pick Alex Blandino ahead of him in the Reds minor league system. While he may be a better defensive shortstop than Alex, with more speed, his bat falls quite a bit short. Power is the big tool he lacks with a .308 minor league career slugging average and just one homerun in his three year minor league career. While his defense will be good enough to start at a middle infield position, his bat may restrict him to a utility role. He did get named as the shortstop on the All Premier 12 team.
6. Marek Minarik RHP (Pirates/Czech Republic) - At 6′7″ he has the height to intimidate hitters. The fact he has trouble throwing the ball over the plate makes him a bigger pitcher to fear. Originally signed by the Phillies they gave up on him ever mastering the strike zone and released him. The Pirates signed him last year and hope to put him into their rotation. Last year with the Phillies he could only master a 6.32 ERA with 21 walks in 52.2 innings, but worse yet, 11 jacks and 13 hit batsman. His fastball has good velocity, sitting in the low 90s but his secondary stuff is a bit iffy. At only 22 years of age Marek still has plenty of time to master his game.
7. Matz Schutte RHP (Twins/Netherlands) - He is still a young kid at 19 years old. At 6′3″ and 185 he has a good pitcher’s body. Last year was his first season in the minor leagues after spending some time in Australia. In the rookie league he finished with a 3.07 ERA, showing good control with a 4/18 walk to whiff ratio in 29.1 innings. He played for the European team that went to Taiwan to play winter league ball there. It would not be a surprise if he spends another season in the short season leagues.
8. Markus Solbach RHP (Diamondbacks/Germany) - Another pitcher with a large frame (6′5″) who was released by the Twins. He put up some good numbers in A ball (2.88 ERA) even though his whiff numbers (58) per innings pitched (121) were not awe inspiring. At least he did not walk a lot of hitters (30). He struggled a bit when promoted to the California League (5.58 ERA), but that tends to be a hitters league. At 25 years of age in the 2016 season it would be nice if he hit AA. Like most European pitchers his fastball is not overpowering, sitting at 88-91 so location is critical for continued success.
9. Alberto Mineo C (Cubs/Italy) - Not much of an offensive player, failing to hit over in his four seasons of minor league ball. He replaces Martin Cervenka who will turn 24 and has yet to reach High A. Albert has shown little power (.287 slugging) but makes good contact. He needs to make it as a catcher where his stolen base success rate is 26 percent. He’s been mainly a backup for the minor league teams he has played for as he rises up the system, but at 21 he is still young enough to make an impact. Next year should be his first complete year in High A ball.
10. Loek Van Mil RHP (Twins/Netherlands) - Loek has been around for awhile. He has played in Australia, Japan and Netherlands. He was supposed to be the Dutch closer in the Olympics but an arm injury ended that hope. At 7′1″ if he puts on a major league uniform he will break the record for tallest pitcher ever to throw a pitch in the major leagues. His fastball generally sits in the low 90s, but with his height the arm appears to come right down at you. At 31 years of age he is a bit old to be considered a prospect, but with any kind of success in the minors the Twins may end up putting him in the bullpen. Command has been a problem with his large, lanky frame and all the elongated body parts flying all over the place trying to find consistency in his windup. In Japan last year he appeared in seven games in relief for Rakuten, walked 7 and struck out 7 in 8.2 innings of relief, finishing with a 4.15 ERA.
European Top Ten Prospects 2015