Archive for February, 2016

Top 100 Prospects - 90 Through 81

Monday, February 29th, 2016

90. Touki Toussaint RHP (Braves) - The general manager of the Diamondbacks Dave Stewart did not think a lot of him, trading him to the Braves to get rid of the contract of Bronson Arroyo. His fastball hits the high 90s, but his command is poor. Last year he walked 48 hitters in 88 innings. Despite his blazing fastball his career strikeout rate (7.7 per nine innings) is not indicative of a pitcher who can throw so hard. His curveball has potential with a hard break and his change is rudimentary. The bullpen is always an option of his secondary pitches and command remain inconsistent. What myworld likes about him is his long and loose limbs, which could result in higher velocity as he matures. The Diamondbacks drafted Touki in the first round of the 2014 draft so giving him away to lose a contract was a waste of a pick. If the rotation is not an option he can always fill a role as a closer.

89. Christian Arroyo SS (Giants) - Arroyo was a first round pick of the 2013 draft by the Giants. His biggest tool is his hit tool, which could lead to averages over .300. His power could get him into double digits with homeruns, but at this point it is mostly to the gaps. His defense at short is average while his arm is not strong so his best position may be second base. The Giants have Joe Panik to play there. If his power can develop he could move to third base where his defense would be considered above average. At worst he could end up a utility player with a good stick.

88. Kolby Allard LHP (Braves) - The Braves first round pick in the 2015 draft. The lefthander has a good fastball that sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s. He still must develop his secondary pitches with his curveball and change the two pitches he has in his repertoire . The Braves only put him out on the mound three times last year so there were not a lot of opportunities to see him. When he did pitch he struck out two hitters per inning but he only threw six innings. The opposition got only one hit off him for a .053 average and he walked no one. Kolby pitched for the 2014 18 and under team that won a gold medal. At 6′1″ he is not a big guy, but it is not required for lefthanders to have height. He could see time in extended spring training before the short season league starts but the Braves could be aggressive with him and start him in Low A.

87. Jorge Lopez RHP (Brewers) - The Puerto Rican was the second round pick of the Brewers in 2011. The 2015 season was his breakout year where he limited the opposition to a .205 average, sixty points below his two previous seasons. This got him a promotion to the major leagues where he was not so unhittable in his two starts (.350 opposition average). There is velocity to his fastball, his 6′4″ frame able to wing the ball to the plate in the mid 90s with an effective curveball and change that will allow him to remain in the rotation. Expect him to start the season in AAA and with success he will earn a quick promotion to the major leagues.

86. Josh Hader LHP (Brewers) - The Orioles drafted him in the 19th round of the 2012 draft but then traded him to the Astros for Bud Norris. The following year the Astros packaged him to the Brewers for Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers. Josh has good velocity for a lefthander, hitting the mid-90s. This has gotten him a whiff rate of 9.9 per nine innings. Last year he pitched in AA where he had success. Jorge Lopez will be the first promoted if the Brewers need a starter but Josh is not far behind. The bullpen is also an option since lefthanders have trouble hitting him (.194 at AA Biloxi).

85. Hunter Renfroe OF (Padres) - The Padres drafted Hunter in the first round of the 2013 draft. The Padres tried to trade all their prospects last year for veterans, but Hunter could not be dealt, despite their need for a shortstop. Power is his game. The last two years he has slugged 20 plus homeruns, impressive when you consider one of the parks he played in was the pitcher’s park San Antonio. He may not hit for a high average or play gold glove defense, but his arm will allow him to fit in right field. There is a lot of swing and miss in his swing (37/132) which will result in averages hovering below .250. If the Padres can trade Matt Kemp there will be room for him in right field. Hunter should start the season in AAA and with success the Padres will make room for him.

84. Alen Hanson 2B (Pirates) - Alen can be a volatile player with two suspensions during the season over his career because of disagreements with his managers. An opportunity at second base could open up for him with the trade of Neil Walker. He started his career as a shortstop but a short arm forced a move to second base. Speed and defense will win him a major league job. His power is limited to the gaps and legging out extra base hits. If he doesn’t win the second base job out of spring training there is another opportunity for him to win the super utility job that was once held by Josh Harrison. More than likely Hanson will spend another year in AAA where he can work on improving his OBA (.313) which would allow him to slot in the leadoff position.

83. Trent Clark OF (Brewers) - Trent was the Brewers first round pick in the 2015 draft. His power is limited but could improve as he matures. His defense will allow him to play centerfield, but if he needs to move to a corner the power must develop. Last year he stole 25 bases in 55 games but myworld sees a player at 6′0″ 205 pounds whose speed may not keep as he matures. What myworld likes about Trent is his 39/44 walk to whiff ratio, which should result in consistent .300 plus averages in the major leagues. The 2016 season should see him challenged with a start in Low A where it will be interesting to see if he can maintain his .309 average.

82. Amed Rosario SS (Mets) - The Mets need a shortstop. Amed is a smooth fielding shortstop. After Asdrubal Cabrera sees his two years at short in New York expect Rosario to take over. Last year Amed saw two games in AA. He should start the season there for the 2016 season. His glove will get him to the major leagues. Power is not existent and his batting average will hover around .250. A lack of patience at the plate will leave him with OBAs below .300. The Mets have been aggressive with him, promoting him to leagues where he is usually one of the youngest players so once he catches up with the league his bat could improve.

81. Hunter Harvey RHP (Orioles) - The Orioles drafted Hunter in the first round of the 2013 draft. He is the son of closer Bryan Harvey. Since they drafted him the Orioles have only gotten 113 innings from him. He has not pitched for them since mid 2014 because of elbow issues. Surgery has not been done, but he has missed more time doing rehab and having setbacks than other pitchers who have had surgeries. His fastball is electric, hitting the mid 90s. In his 113 innings pitched he has averaged 11.1 hitters per nine innings while limiting opponents to a .212 average. The Orioles will cross their fingers Harvey will be ready to pitch for them at High A in 2016. If he continues to have health issues a move to the bullpen may be required.

Top Ten Minor League Prospects from Australia

Friday, February 26th, 2016

This is not a strong list. A couple of the top players have an opportunity to be impact players and a couple players at the bottom of the list can become fringe players. In the middle there are some younger players full of hope and promise. It does appear to be an improved top ten from previous lists. The list is not much of a change from the top ten last year that can be viewed at the link below.

1. Lewis Thorpe LHP (Twins) - Tommy John surgery in April prevented him from playing the 2015 season. The Twins paid $500,000 to sign him. His fastball hits the mid-90s, pretty impressive for a kid coming out of Australia. The last lefty who threw mid-90s was Travis Blackley. Thorpe hopes to have a longer career than Blackley. Prior to last year, as a teenager he averaged 11.2 whiffs per nine innings. Command could be a problem with a walk every two innings in Low A in 2014. Lewis throws a change, slider and curve so he has the repertoire to make a starting rotation. After he completes a few rehab starts expect him to reach High A in 2016.

2. Zach Shepherd 3B (Tigers) - Not the best of years for Zach. Teams don’t want their third baseman slugging .339. In his defense he was playing in Low A as a teenager for most of the year. There was also a propensity to strikeout, with 117 whiffs in 114 games, resulting in a low .245 average. Zach was the Australian baseball youth player of the year in 2011, convincing the Tigers to shell out $325,000 to sign him. He started his career as a shortstop but moved to third base last year, so his defense at third is quality. His bat is going to have to show a little more pop if he wants to create a little more interest from major league scouts. Expect Zach to see time in the Florida State League next year, a league with several parks not favorable for hitters. His best bet for major league time may be as a utility player.

3. Jake Turnbull C (Reds) - The Reds paid Jake $400,000 to sign him to a contract in 2014. Dave Nilsson made catching a position of choice for many Australian youth. In his first year of minor league ball he drove in 17 runs as a 17 year old in the Arizona Rookie League with a .291 average. At that age most kids are still in high school looking for a major league team to find interest in them for the July draft. Defensively, his arm is average but he has the soft hands needed for catching. Expect him to start the 2016 season repeating the half season rookie leagues.

4. Daniel McGrath LHP (Red Sox) - Daniel signed for $400,000 in 2012. At 6′3′ the Red Sox hope to get a few more ticks on his fastball to get it up to 90. His breaking pitches tend to be slow to slowest with a change in the high 70s and a curve in the low 70s. That is enough to play mind games with low level minor league hitters but may not be as effective the higher he rises. Lefthanders were limited to a .171 average against him so there is the possibility he could become a lefthanded specialist if he does not make it as a starter. An injury in May forced him to miss two months of the season. In six starts prior to the injury his ERA was 1.98. He finished the season with an ERA of 3.84 in 17 starts. Next year he should see time in High A, a good progression for a 21 year old.

5. Sam Gibbons RHP (Twins) - Sam throws a fastball in the mid-90s but it sits mostly in the low 90s. He is the second of five Twins on this list and the second of three pitchers. Last year he started 15 games at Low A compiling an impressive 2.89 ERA. Command is what will give him success with a three to one strikeout to walk rate. Sam pitched for the Team Australia under 21 team when they played in the World Cup in Taiwan a couple years ago. He did not give up an earned run in his two starts against the opposition, though they hit him at a .323 clip. Low A hitters found him a little more difficult to hit with just a .246 overall average against him. Gibbons should find himself pitching in High A next year. He was on the Australian roster for the WBC qualifier but did not pitch, the second youngest player on that team.

6. Sam Kennelly - 1B/3B (Pirates) - Most of the Kennelly brothers came up through the minor leagues as catchers but never found the road to the major leagues. Sam is taking a different path. In 2014 it was as a middle infielder, but last year he spent most of his time at first base. He will need to hit for more power than his .346 slugging average for the Gulf Coast League Pirates if he wants to continue his path as a first baseman. The Pirates tried him at third but he committed four errors in seven games for a .827 fielding percentage. Sam may see another year in the Rookie level next year but with a good spring could find himself in a full season league.

7. Todd Von Steensel RHP (Twins) - Another Twins pitcher who made the WBC roster for Australia in the qualifying round but did not pitch. He’s bounced around a bit, pitching for the Phillies, Twins, Tigers and back to the Twins. He has even pitched a season in the Dutch professional league. Now back with the Twins he is pitching in the bullpen averaging 11 whiffs per nine innings and limiting the opposition to a .223 average as the Fort Myers Miracle closer in High A. This should at least give him an opportunity in AA next year with an opportunity to see the Twins bullpen by mid-year if he continues to have success in the minor leagues.

8. Aaron Whitefield OF (Twins) - Aaron has only been playing baseball for a year. Prior to that he was a top flight softball player on the Australian national team. The Twins signed him to a minor league contract in 2015 and visa issues left him with the opportunity to play just seven games once he arrived in the States. The Australian national baseball team thought enough of him to put him on the WBC qualifier roster, the youngest player on the team. He did not get an opportunity to play in any of the three games. At 6′3 he has a good frame to play baseball. In the ABL he played for the champion Brisbane Bandits hitting .314 with a .781 OPS. His 1/16 walk to whiff ratio is indicative of his inability to be patient with pitches, but at 19 years of age with one year of baseball experience that should improve with time. Expect him to start the season in rookie ball after time in extended spring training. As a softball player he played middle infield. The Twins have put him out in the outfield to begin his baseball career.

9 Warwick Saupold RHP (Tigers) - Another late arrival to the baseball scene, Warwick signed a contract with the Tigers in 2012 at 22 years of age. He played for the 2013 Australian World Baseball Classic team and also started a game in the WBC qualifier this year. In the ABL he is used as a closer by the Perth Heat. His fastball sits in the low 90s but can hit the mid-90s. His secondary pitches are a bit rudimentary which results in inconsistent results. At AA lefthanders hit him at a .288 clip. He pitched two and half years at AA Erie breaking the career franchise record for strikeouts. A three start six appearance performance in AAA resulted in 10,13 whiffs per nine innings and a .203 opposition average, but his ERA was still a lofty 4.43, the result of one poor outing. If he pitches well he could find himself in the back end of the Tigers bullpen for 2016.

10. James Beresford UTL (Twins) - At 27 Beresford is a bit old to be considered a prospect. We preferred to put catcher Robbie Perkins in this spot, but we couldn’t ignore his .307 average last year in AAA, .330 against lefthanders. Beresford played mostly second base last year, but he has played shortstop so he could be a utility option for the Twins next year. There is little power in his bat and he is not a stolen base threat, but he can be a solid player off the bench.

Top Ten Australian Prospects for 2015

Europe to Begin Four Team Professional League in 2016

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

While 11 European teams expressed interest in playing in the European professional league budget and logistics issues allowed only three teams to field teams for the 2016 season. The three teams are Draci Brno (Czech Republic), Munich-Haar Disciples (German) and Buchbinder-Legionare Regensburg (German).

It was hoped that a fourth team would be L&D Amsterdam (Netherlands) but negotiations for fielding a team have not been successful. L&D will be replaced by a Team Amsterdam composed of players from different leagues in Europe and the United States.

The downsized schedule is an attempt by the European League “to address grassroots issues and to fine tune the organization for future expansion.”

Braves Bevy of Number One Draft Picks

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

A team with a roster of number one picks is bound to be a talented team. The Braves have traded for a number of players and now have on their roster at least 21 number one picks. Myworld may have missed one somewhere along the way. The players and the year in which they were drafted number one:

Jason Grilli RHP - 1997
Nick Swisher OF - 2002
Jeff Francouer OF - 2002
Nick Markakis OF - 2003
Chris Withrow RHP - 2007
Gordon Beckham 2B - 2008
Casey Kelly RHP - 2008
Tyrell Jenkins RHP - 2010 supplemental
Mike Foltynewicz RHP - 2010
Jace Peterson 2B - 2011 supplemental
Lucas Sims RHP - 2012
Max Fried LHP - 2012
Aaron Blair RHP - 2013
Jason Hursh RHP - 2013
Sean Newcomb LHP - 2014
Touki Toussaint RHP - 2014
Braxton Davidson OF - 2014
Austin Riley 3B - 2015 supplemental
Mike Soroka RHP - 2015
Dansby Swanson SS - 2015

13 of those 21 players were drafted in 2010 or earlier. That would make for a pretty good beginning to a top 30 prospect list.

Top 100 Prospects - 100-91

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

The countdown begins. Myworld will start with number 100 and wind our way down to number 1. You can see past top 100 picks at the link below. As noted in previous Top 100s we use a collection of Top 100 lists, rank them, assign them values and then put together this list. Since it is impossible for me to see every player in the minor leagues myworld relies on the opinions of others, but what we see of a player carries the greatest weight. The Top 100s of Baseball America. MLB.com, Scout.com and others were used in coming up with this list. If we were to rate the top prospect in baseball not in the major leagues for 2016 it would be Shohei Otani, but he is playing in Japan and not eligible for this list.

100, Brandon Drury (3B/2B) Arizona Diamondbacks (1.02 points) - The Braves traded Drury to the Diamondbacks for Justin Upton prior to the 2013 season, when the Braves were focused on winning. They have since traded Upton to the Padres and focused on rebuilding. They were probably too embarrassed to ask for Drury back in any subsequent trades the Braves make with the Diamondbacks when they were acquiring prospects for veterans. The Diamondbacks have moved Drury to second since John Lamb seems to have claimed the third base job. Drury lacks the range to play second base but his bat could force the Diamondbacks to play him there. His power numbers dropped off a bit from last year, though he did make his major league debut and bombed two balls over the fence in 56 at bats. His overall slugging average was under .400 last year when the previous two years he hovered around .500. Expect him to be with the Diamondbacks by mid-season.

99. Taylor Guerrieri (RHP) Tampa Bay Rays (1.05 points) - A first round pick in the 2011 draft, Taylor was dominant in the starting rotation at High A and AA. There have been bouts with Tommy John surgery and 50 game suspensions because of recreational drug use, but all appears good now. His fastball measures in the low 90s with good downward movement generating a lot of ground ball outs and his secondary pitches (slider, curve and change) are quality pitches that will allow him to survive in a major league rotation. He reached AA last year and dominated in eight starts with a 1.50 ERA and a .206 opposition average. Expect him to start the season in AA and with an uptick in velocity find himself in the Rays rotation by mid-season.

98. Jacob Nottingham (C) Milwaukee Brewers (1.1 points) - The Athletics traded Nottingham to the Brewers for Khris Davis. Expect a lot of bullpens to nickname him “Sheriff”. He was drafted by the Astros in the sixth round of the 2013 draft, traded to the Athletics in the Scott Kazmir trade, then shipped this year to the Brewers. At 6′3″ he is big for a catcher. Currently he is noted more for his power than his catching prowess at this point. Last year he slugged 17 homeruns with a batting average over .300 at two different levels and with three minor league teams. His arm is strong, throwing out 38 percent of those runners who attempted to steal against him, but the other parts of his game need work. If catching does not work out Jacob will have enough power to make a move to first base. Expect him to start the season in AA after his success at High A last year.

97. Tyler Kolek (RHP) Miami Marlins (1.1 points) - Tyler was one of the largest players ever selected in the first round, chosen with the second pick in the draft. He stands at 6′5″ and 260 pounds with a fastball hitting regularly in the triple digits. The draft is filled with high school kids who can throw high 90s/triple digits drafted in the first round who never make it to the major leagues because they did not develop their secondary pitches. Tyler needs to develop his secondary pitches (slider and change) and improve his command (61 walks in 109 innings) or he will join this long list of high velocity fastball pitchers who never smelled the major leagues. To date, the high velocity does not allow him to miss a lot of bats, with the opposition hitting him at a .258 clip with Tyler only averaging about 6.7 whiffs per nine innings. Spring training will determine whether he repeats Low A or is promoted to High A.

96. Matt Olson (1B/OF) Oakland Athletics (1.12 points) - Matt is a slugger drafted in the supplemental portion of the 2012 draft. At 6′5″ 230 pounds, when he gets his arms extended and makes contact with the ball it will go a long ways. In 2014 37 balls carried over the fence. Last year only 17 balls went over the fence. It resulted in his slugging average dropping by more than 100 points. In addition to his homerun totals Matt shows a lot of patience at the plate, walking over 100 times in his last two seasons. Those walks do not come with a baggage full of strikeouts, with just one whiff per game. Matt is a gifted defensive player at first base, but in the outfield his slow foot speed makes covering a lot of ground a challenge. With a glut of potential first baseman in the minor leagues it may benefit the Athletics if Matt could learn the outfield.

95. Forrest Wall (2B) - Colorado Rockies (1.12 points) - Forrest was a supplemental first round pick in the 2014 draft. The Rockies drafted him for his one skill - the bat. He rakes line drives and as he gains strength some of those gap shots could shoot over the fence. A weak arm restricts him to second base, so a utility role would not be an option. There was enough speed in his legs last year to steal 23 bases in just 99 games. A shoulder injury ended his season after July. He hit .280 with 33 of his 101 hits going for extra bases. Expect a promotion to High A to begin the 2016 season. A high OBA (.381) and good speed make him an ideal leadoff hitter.

94. Jack Flaherty (RHP)- St. Louis Cardinals (1.12 points) - Not really too sure what happened to the Cardinals high 90s to triple digit fastball pitchers. Jack Flaherty was drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft, but his fastball is not overpowering, sitting mostly in the low 90s. At 6′4″ the fastball could show some tick upward in velocity as he fills out. Currently a command pitcher, the next best pitch for Jack is his change. Last year his pedestrian stuff averaged 9.2 whiffs per nine innings, but the opposition hit him at a .251 clip. Next year he will see some time in High A, where he will work on improving his secondary pitches. He was a third baseman on his high school team when Max Fried and Lucas Giolito were the star pitchers. He moved to the mound after they got drafted in the first round in 2012. The talent package is not quite as strong for Flaherty, though unlike his two high school teammates he has avoided Tommy John surgery.

93. Alex Jackson (OF) - Seattle Mariners (1.18 points) - Alex had one of the most feared high school bats attracting the Mariners to draft him in the first round of the 2014 draft. Originally a catcher, the Mariners moved him to the outfield. His speed will deny him any Gold Glove consideration but his strong catcher’s arm will make right field an easy fit for him. Last year he struggled to hit over .200, a .157 average in Low A resulting in a demotion to a short season league where he hit just .239. There were 96 whiffs in just 76 games. There is power in his bat. With better contact and recognition of breaking pitches Alex will be a middle of the order hitter. Expect him to begin the 2016 season in Low A.

92. Cornelius Randolph (OF) Philadelphia Phillies (1.28 points) - With a lower finish in the standings the Phillies will start picking higher in the draft, ensuring their opportunity to acquire more talented players. Cornelius Randolph hopes to be one of those players, drafted in the first round of the 2015 draft. There is power in his left handed swing, though it manifested itself into just one ball flying over the fence. His eye is excellent with 32 walks to go with just 32 strikeouts. His defense is a little below average with an arm restricting him to left field so if he makes the team his bat will have to produce. Next year he should begin the season in full season ball.

91. Austin Riley (3B) Atlanta Braves (1.32) - The Braves have a pretty stocked minor league system, much of that invested in pitchers. Austin was a first round supplemental pick in the 2015 draft who smoked the rookie leagues for 12 homeruns and Danville for a .351 average. Currently a third baseman, his 230 pounds may make a move to first base inevitable. Considered by some teams as a more promising pitcher out of high school, he has a good arm for third base but 16 errors in 53 games draws some questions about his ability to play there. Expect him to start the 2016 season in Low A.

Top 100 Prospects History

Guillermo Heredia Signs with Mariners

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

A Cuban outfielder who has been a free agent for awhile has finally signed. The Seattle Mariners inked Guillermo Heredia to a contract for the bargain basement price of $500,000. At 25 years of age Guillermo is not subject to any international bonus cap, but the price seems quite low when compared to other Cuban contracts.

There are some questions about his bat. He has a centerfield glove, but if his bat does not produce he could settle as a fourth outfielder. Since he has not played since the 2013/2014 Cuban season he will likely need to see the minor leagues the first part of the year. His biggest competition for centerfield could be fellow Cuban Leonys Martin, who also had a little trouble with the bat last year and was demoted to the minors by the Texas Rangers after being their starting centerfielder for two years.

In another minor signing the Padres signed Cuban lefthander Elier Sanchez to a minor league contract. At 29 years of age Sanchez is organizational depth for the Padres bullpen. He did pitch for Cuban national team in the 2007 World Cup and the 2008 Olympics but not a lot is found on him after that.

Navarro Arrested in Japan

Monday, February 22nd, 2016

Welcome to Japan Yamaico Navarro. Sometimes first impressions are lasting. The Samsung Lions did not want to sign Yamaico to an extension despite his offensive production (.287, 48, 137) saying they did not like his work ethic. The Chiba Lotte Marines may have second thoughts about signing him after he was arrested arriving in Japan for possessing live ammunition.

Navarro apologized for the incident saying the ammunition round was in the Dominican Republic and he did not realize it was in his bag. Since it is a first time offense he will probably not serve any jail time but be fined for the violation. The ownership of Japan will now wonder what kind of player they signed since first impressions are very important in Japan.

It has not been a good week for the Marines. Another foreign player Cuban Alfredo Despaigne stated he would be arriving late for spring training. He said he needed to rest after participating in the Series del Caribe. It is not like he has been playing a lot of baseball in the Nacional Series. You wonder if Cuba is going to reimburse the Marines if his late arrival forces him to miss any early games. As part of the contract with Cuba the Marines had requested Despaigne be available earlier in the season.

It appears Cuba does not have a lot of control over the players they sign to contracts with foreign teams. The Gurriel brothers Lourdes and Yulieski chose not to report to Japan after signing a contact with the Yokahama DeNA Bay Stars. They later departed Cuba for an opportunity to play in the major leagues for a lot more than the Cubans were reimbursing them.

Jose Garia, the brother of Adonis Garcia has been negotiating with the Yomiuri Giants on a contact. The Giants did not have a lot of success with Frederich Cepeda in his two years with the team, acting more as a pinch hitter and not a regular player in those two years. Jose is a much younger player with more upside. Once he gets the taste of money it will be interesting how long he stays committed to Cuba.

Top Ten Minor League Prospects from Canada

Sunday, February 21st, 2016

It can sometimes get a little cold in Canada, making hockey the sport of choice for many Canadians. There are a few oddballs from the north that ignore the call of the stick and puck and find the bat and ball the more attractive options. Dalton Pompey was the number two pick on this list last year and he graduated to the major leagues. There were three Canadians selected in the first two rounds of the major league draft last year and they have found their names on the current list, as well as a player that should have been selected earlier in the draft. They were able to squeeze onto the list because of off years by players who made the list last year. Out with the old and in with the new.

This is one of the more impressive top ten lists myworld has put together for Canada. Normally, we have to scramble to find a player from Canada to fill the list three or four to make the top ten and it is usually a journeyman player who has no hope for a major league career. This year we had at least 15 players to chose from when making this top ten, but we picked the ten we felt the most worthy.

1. Josh Naylor OF (Marlins) - Many thought the Marlins had reached when they selected Josh in the first round. Miami liked his power. At 6′0″ he does not remind you too much of Giancarlo Stanton until he sends balls into orbit far over the outfield fences. Josh was drafted with the 12th overall pick, making him the highest drafted Canadian position player, surpassing Brett Lawrie who was drafted with the 16th pick. Josh played for Team Canada in the 18U tournament, leading all players with 15 hits and clubbing three homeruns. His speed precludes too much time spent in the outfield so expect him to settle at first base. For a power hitter he showed a good ability to make contact, hitting .327 with just 11 whiffs in 25 games. He’s still three or four years from the major leagues, so it will take time before he finds himself in the same lineup as Giancarlo, but once he arrives the duo could put on a pretty impressive batting practice display.

2. Jameson Taillon RHP (Pirates) - After the Pirates selected Taillon with the second pick in the 2010 draft many said they preferred him over the first pick, Bryce Harper. Harper has won an MVP. Injuries have prevented Taillon from making his major league debut. Tommy John surgery and a hernia forced Taillon to miss two seasons in a row. Prior to the injuries his fastball could hit the high 90s and he had a nice break to the curveball. Tommy John can lesson the break on the curveball and tame the velocity readings on the fastball. The last time he played in 2012 he got six starts in AAA. After missing two years the Pirates may start him slow at Altoona and have him progress his way to the major leagues. If he does well a September callup would not be a surprise, depending on his innings count. The Pirates will keep a close eye on his work load. Jameson pitched for Canada in the 2013 WBC, his eligibility coming from his parents birth in Canada.

3. Tyler O’Neil OF (Mariners) - The California League has inflated many a players batting stats. Tyler jumped out into the scene with a nice 32 homer output for Bakersfield, 19 more homeruns than he hit his previous year. The red flag for his season should be the .260 average and his 29/137 walk to whiff ratio. The 32 homeruns is pretty impressive when you consider he missed a couple weeks of the season to play for Canada in the Pan Am games, his three homeruns contributing to the gold medal in their win over the United States. In addition to the power Tyler also stole 16 bases in 21 attempts. He is not a burner on the bases but he has enough speed to cover ground in the outfield and a strong enough arm to fit in right field. Expect a promotion to AA this year with his production a good measuring stick of his future performance with the Mariners.

4. Demi Orimaloye OF (Brewers) - Demi could be the steal of the draft. Born in Nigeria if myworld had enough African players to make a top ten list he would be on top with Gift Ngoepe a close second. Because there is no African list Demi will have to settle for fourth on the Canadian list. Demi has five tool potential. His bat generates easy power, he has the speed to cover ground in centerfield and an arm that would not discourage a shift to right field. At 6′4″ with an athletic frame all he needs to do is learn to make better contact. A 3/19 walk to whiff ratio is evidence of his impatience at the plate, though he hit .292 with six homeruns in 33 games, stealing 19 bases. Demi also played for the 18U Canadian team but he did not make an impact like Naylor. Next year he should make his debut in a full season league.

5. Mike Soroka RHP (Braves) - The Braves made Soroka a first round pick in 2015. Unlike many United States pitchers drafted in the first round who can hit the radar guns consistently in the mid-90s, Soroka is not as overpowering, working in the low 90s. What makes the pitch so effective is the command he has for hitting the corners and forcing weak contact. At 6′4″ he also has a large frame that gives him an intimidating delivery when his arms come down towards the plate. In his rookie league debut he was able to start 9 games, limiting the opposition to a .246 average and striking out 9.8 hitters per nine innings. Next year he should start the season in Low A.

6. Gareth Morgan OF (Mariners) - Gareth was a second round pick in the 2014 draft. A year behind Tyler he could one day share the same outfield with him, giving the Mariners two Canadians in their outfield. At 6′4″ Gareth has an intimidating presence at the plate. If pitchers spied his batting practice homeruns they would avoid giving him any pitches to hit. The batting practice clouts have not transferred to the field yet with his swing and miss struggles restricting his power potential. The last two years have been spent in short season where he has hit .194 with a .329 slugging percentage and 162 whiffs in 100 games. Not fleet afoot, Gareth will be restricted to a corner outfield. The Mariners may want to challenge him and give him a shot in a full season league. If he struggles they can always demote him to short season, but at this point in his game he needs at bats to improve his ability to make contact.

7. Nick Pivetta RHP (Phillies) - Nick was drafted in the fourth round by the Nationals in the 2013 draft. The Phillies were more than happy to depart with Jonathan Papelbon to acquire Pivetta. At 6′5′ he could probably put on a pretty good choke hold on any player. His fastball can hit the mid-90s but Nick has little clue what part of the plate the ball will cross, if it is even in the strike zone, walking close to six hitters per nine innings pitched. Last year he struggled in AA, both at Harrisburg and Reading with ERAs over 7.20 in ten starts. The opposition hit him at an average close to .300. The Phillies will probably have him return to AA, perhaps moving him to the bullpen to see if that adds a few ticks to his fastball velocity. He does have the repertoire to start with a curve, slider and change, but if he can’t find the plate the bullpen would be his best address.

8. Tom Robson RHP (Blue Jays) - Tom was a fourth round pick in 2011. Tommy John surgery has prevented him from rising up the farm system, with Low A his highest affiliation. He has a fastball/change combination but lacks a breaking pitch to survive in the starting rotation. Though he has been a starter in his minor league career the most innings he has thrown in one year is the 64 innings he threw his first year. The two seasons he has pitched in Low A the opposition has raked him for a .300 plus clip. He also has had issues finding the plate walking between four and five hitters per nine innings. If he fails to develop a breaking pitch expect a move to the bullpen. A third season in Low A is probably best for his development, allowing him to have some success before seeing High A.

9. Jeff Degano LHP (Yankees) - The Yankees drafted Jeff in the second round of the 2015 draft. His ability to throw lefthanded with the radar guns reading his fastball in the mid-90s perhaps inflated his draft position. Lefthanders in the New York Penn League did not find him that difficult to hit, raking him for a .333 average, but in limited at bats. Jeff did miss two seasons of college ball as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. At 24 years of age to begin the 2016 season expect the Yankees to challenge him with a stint in Low A.

10. Kellin Deglan C (Rangers) - A number of bad years from four players led to three of them dropping from this list. Kellin remained at the tenth position despite a .236 average in the California League. What keeps him here is his ability to hit the ball over the fence (13 homeruns). Two years ago he broke the Australia League record for homeruns in a season with 16. He also made the roster for the Canadian Premier 12 and Pan Am team. The Rangers traded Jorge Alfaro to the Phillies and have no one in their system including the major league roster that they can call a premier catcher. So the opportunity is there if Kellin can improve on his defense and his ability to throw out baserunners.

2015 top ten Canadian prospects

Top Ten Minor League Prospects from Mexico

Friday, February 19th, 2016

There are not the number of prospects from Mexico as there are from other Caribbean countries. Major league teams have to negotiate with the Mexican League teams before a rostered player can appear in a major league camp. The Mexican League teams tend to identify the talented players in Mexico at a very young age and roster them. Very little of any bonus payment goes to the player but is pocketed by the Mexican League team. It is a system the Cubans would like to establish for their league to prevent the major leagues from poaching all of their top players without proper compensation.

Roberto Osuna was the number two prospect from this list last year. He jumped to the Blue Jays bullpen and was successful as their closer last year. He’ll have to battle Drew Storen in 2016 to keep the closer job. Daniel Castro got a little bit of major league time but not enough to lose his rookie eligibility. He returns to the list. Arnold Leon got 18 bullpen appearances for the Athletics and after the season was traded to the Blue Jays. He is getting up there in age to still be considered a prospect.

There are two players from this list who could be premium players. The others will find regular major league time a struggle. They should be happy with utility, fourth outfielder or back of bullpen roles if they should find themselves on a major league roster.

1. Julio Urias LHP (Dodgers) - Julio has superstar capability. He missed most of the beginning of last year for cosmetic eye surgery. The Dodgers wanted to limit his innings in 2015 but he ended up throwing less than he did in 2014. That couldn’t have been part of the plan. He’ll still be a teenager most of next year while he pitches in AA and will more than likely get a September callup. While his fastball hits the mid-90s but sits in the low 90s it is the change that separates his stuff from most lefthanders. It is a swing and miss pitch allowing him to strike out 10.7 hitters per nine innings in his minor league career. His curveball is also major league quality and like many Latin pitchers he uses various arm angles to confuse hitters. Julio made two appearances in AAA, struggling with his command and finishing with an 18.69 ERA. The Dodgers may start him in AA to give him every chance for success before they give him a second opportunity at AAA later in the season.

2. Manny Banuelos LHP (Braves) - Manny had some pretty impressive stuff as a teenager, but Tommy John surgery put a dent in his major league ambitions. The Braves are hoping the velocity on his fastball returns to the mid-90s, something he has not seen since his surgery. The break on his curveball and the separation of his change have also been impacted. Last year he made his major league debut and he got bounced around a bit. His walk to whiff ratio was not great in AAA (40/69) and it remained pretty pedestrian in his seven start callup (12/19). Getting a little more velocity to his fastball could change that. The Braves are loaded with pitchers ready for the major leagues. At 25, the Braves can not wait too long for Banuelos to find his stuff before they turn to another arm for success. Manny could end up being trade bait before the year is out if he can’t squeeze himself into the Braves starting rotation.

3. Fernando Perez 2B (Padres) - Fernando was born in Mexico but attended high school in the United States, selected by the Padres in the third round of the 2012 draft. In 2014 he showed some power, slugging 18 homeruns with a .454 slugging percentage. He did not replicate those numbers last year, dropping down to 10 homeruns with a .352 slugging average. His average also dropped 60 points to .224. Fernando lacks speed and is not noted for his defensive chops so he needs to hit to have an impact in the major leagues. The Padres could have him repeat the California League, normally a hitters haven, or if he has a good spring jump him up to AA.

4. Daniel Castro SS (Braves) - Daniel made his major league debut last year, hitting .240 in 100 major league at bats. His best bet is to fill a utility role for the Braves. His defense at all three infield positions is solid and his bat has been potent at some levels, hitting .389 in AA in less than 100 at bats last year. The power is lacking but he makes good contact not to be an automatic out when in the lineup. His minor league seasons have not been filled with stolen bases, but he has enough speed in his legs to take the extra base on hits. Expect him to make the Braves roster this year in a utility role, getting more use at shortstop with the departure of Andrelton Simmons and the older legs of Eric Aybar.

5, Luis Heredia RHP (Pirates) - A couple years ago Luis was on top of this list, signed as a big 6′5″ 16 year old lefty. He has not progressed as quickly as the Pirates anticipated. At 21 years of age he still has plenty of time to find himself. Last year in the High A Florida State League his ERA was at 5.44, not what you want to see from a pitcher. A 44/54 walk to whiff ratio is troubling and giving up 105 hits in just 86 innings does not bode well. His fastball is not overpowering and his command allows too much barrel of the bat on ball contact. The last four years the Pirates have seen his ERA rise with his WHIP being a horrendous 1.73. The Pirates will need to see some improvement to keep him on the roster next season.

6. Luis Cessa RHP (Tigers) - The Tigers acquired Cessa from the Mets in the Yoenis Cespedes trade. Michael Fulmer was the big attraction for the Tigers but Luis has some potential. He was originally signed as a shortstop by the Mets in 2008 but moved to the mound after two failed years as a hitter. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the low 90s but he has excellent command of his pitches. With pedestrian stuff he may best fit in the back of the bullpen or as a fifth starter, but he may lack the secondary stuff to have success with a lineup the second time they see him.

7. Arnold Leon RHP (Blue Jays) - Arnold also made his major league debut last year, pitching 19 games in relief. The Athletics traded him to the Blue Jays where he will provide depth at the back end of the bullpen. As a reliever his fastball can hit the mid-90s more so than as a starter. He also throws a slow curveball, slider and change to give hitters different looks. At 26 years of age Arnold is at the precipice between being a journeyman and making the back end of a major league bullpen.

8. Jose Urena OF (Padres) - Jose played with Roberto Osuna on the 16 and under team for Mexico that lost to the United States in the Pan American championship in 2010. The Padres signed him from the Mexico City Red Devils in 2011 for $550,000. His first couple years Jose has had trouble making contact. He had a little breakout season last year, walking 47 times with seven homeruns and 45 RBIs in the short season league. That kind of production should give Jose an opportunity to make his full season debut next year. There is very little speed in his legs which makes his outfield defense below average, meaning if he is going to make an impact in the major leagues Jose will need to draw on that power more consistently.

9. Leo Heras OF (Astros) - Leo was the secondary player the Astros signed out of Mexico with Japhet Amador. Amador was the big slugger who eventually went back to Mexico and this year signed a contract to play in Japan. Leo was the deer who flew around the bases showing off better overall tools Than Japhet allowing him to get a longer look. Leo needs to learn to hit for a higher average to take advantage of his speed. Last year he stole 13 bases in 14 attempts but he only hit .239 with a .325 OBA. In the Mexican League he has shown a bit of power slugging over .500. That does not translate in the United States where his career slugging average is .364. Leo lacks the instincts to be a centerfielder so to be more than a fourth outfielder in the major leagues he will need to generate a little more power. A better year for average could see him get a September callup, if the Astros can find the 40 man roster space.
10. Artie Reyes RHP (Cardinals) - At 5′11″ he lacks a pitcher’s body. His fastball is not overpowering, sitting in the low 90s and his secondary stuff lacks a real put away pitch. Last year he got 17 starts, crafting a 2.64 ERA for AA by forcing hitters to beat the ball into the dirt. When promoted to AAA Memphis he was a little more hittable, going from a .255 opposition average to .340. At this point the best Artie can hope for is a back end of the rotation slot or a bullpen role. His height and lack of velocity will always make it a challenge for him to reach the major leagues.

2015 Top Ten Prospects from Mexico

Teams Identified for July Honkball Tournament

Friday, February 19th, 2016

The schedule for the United States national team forces them to pass on participating in Honkball Week in July. Team Cuba is also not participating, but their team has been so diluted with defections it would be difficult for fans to recognize some of their players without a scorecard. The teams that will play from July 15-24 in Honkball Week in Haarlem, Netherlands at the Pim Mulier Stadium are Netherlands, Curacao, Japan, Taiwan and Australia.

The Australians are just coming off qualifying for the World Baseball Classic. This may be an opportunity for them to get some of their players some international experience before competing in the WBC in 2017. Many of their younger players will have minor league obligations and will not be able to participate, but the veterans who have retired from major league ball like Brad Harman and Luke Hughes may need the playing experience to keep them sharp.

The Netherlands usually fields an experienced team of National team players. The Japan and Taiwan rosters are dotted with college and industrial players. Most of their stars are playing in the NPB (Japan) or CPBL (Taiwan). Curacao is a island colony of the Netherlands. Many of their better players for the Netherlands national team such as Didi Gregorious and Andrew Jones were born in Curacao. So you can’t count out the players from there.

For those who want to visit Netherlands and watch some baseball too July 15-24 would be a good opportunity.