As I jump into to my prospect list, I thought I’d tell you guys who I considered but did not make my list and who I like as a sleeper heading into the 2012 season.
I considered Burg and Monell for their offensive chops and Sim and Stiner for their defensive reputations. Unfortunately they all had too many questions for them to make my top 30. Monell, Sim, and Burg were all a bit old for their levels last year and Stiner was an older draft pick. Monell has good patience and power and is a rare lefthanded batting catcher, but there are questions about his defense behind the plate and with Fred Stanley saying they plan to have Monell repeat AA, I couldn’t fit him in. Sim and Stiner both have stellar defensive reputations with Stiner having caught Orioles first round pick Dylan Bundy in high school. But Sim was a college pick in 2010 playing in the AZL and Stiner was a 43rd round draft pick who already has a PED violation to his name. Burg came the closest to making this list as he split time at catcher, 1st base, 2nd base, 3rd base, and DH last year, posting a .298/.369/.550 line. His year kind of came out nowhere as in 2010 he split time between three levels and got just 121 plate appearances. I imagine he’ll go to AA next year splitting time around the infield again.
I probably should have found a way to put Pill on the list, given that his 53 PA’s and 16 games are more than most that did make my list are going to get. But when I look at Pill I can’t get over the fact that he’s a RH 1B with more gap power than HR power, who only hit 7% better than league average in his second attempt at AAA. It’s just not an exciting package. As for Villalona, he was raw when he played, and missing the last two years away from the game isn’t going to help him. It sounds like he still has the tools but he’s missed a lot of at bats.
Cavan is an interesting guy-he doesn’t have loud tools but does a solid job of maximizing them. It isn’t a good sign that his power decreased from the SAL to the CAL. He could work his way into a utility role. Delgado has an interesting bat from Puerto Rico. He posted a strong K/BB in his AZL debut this year and is fairly young as he’ll be 19 in 2012. Noonan just hasn’t developed as hoped and looks like org fodder at this point, unfortunately. Willoughby is fast and a good defensive 2B. He does a solid job of getting on base, but needs more pop.
Jurica was a guy who kind of got lost in the shuffle, getting injured last year and with Panik entering the org, it’ll be interesting where he plays next year. Relaford is the cousin of ex-big leaguer Desi, and is athletic but raw. Tomlinson has solid defensive skills and a decent approach, but lacks power. I imagine he’ll be the everyday starter at Augusta next year.
Buechele was the Giants 14th round draft pick this year, and the son of ex-big leaguer Steve. I liked the value when the Giants picked him. He struggled at Salem-Keizer last year, but that was likely related to fatigue. Cuevas was the AZL MVP, but he spent the year as a 23 year old. Paulino is the guy I like as a potential sleeper. He had a solid year in the AZL, splitting time between 2B and 3B and posting a 16/17 BB/K and 10/1 SB/CS. He looks like a guy who has solid polish and could make a full season debut next year.
Cartagena, Fuentes, and Valdez are recent high profile international signings, though not on the level of Villalona and Rafeal Rodriguez. But they’re still very raw and weren’t considered elite international prospects, so I couldn’t add them just yet. Krill was considered a potential late bloomer and had a decent year at Salem-Keizer, but given his age I couldn’t put him in the top 30. Kieschnick still has power, but I’m not totally confident that his approach and propensity to strikeout will allow him to excel.
Graham and Lofton are both guys with very good speed and defense, but lack power. Graham has spent the majority of the last two years at AAA and stole 60 bases last year so he could be a potential 5th OF. Lofton is still young and transitioning from splitting time between football and baseball, so he could potentially have some more upside. Perez spent last year at AA and he has an intriguing combination of power/speed/and defense but he lacks a solid approach and is a bit old. Payne came the closest to making the top 30, making a good debut at Salem-Keizer. He makes contact and can work a walk, and is another very good defender. He also flashed good speed, but his age and power output held him back. Hill was the Giants 10th round pick this year. He has athleticism but is a bit raw.
Gregorio was the one of my last two cuts on this list, and I wanted to find a way for him to make this list. Unfortunately I couldn’t find the tall righthander on the list, but he is still a very interesting player to watch. Mendoza was right on that bubble too as he had a very solid year for a 19 year old in the Northwest League. Jorge Bucardo had some velocity questions at the end of last year, and then didn’t pitch this year. It’s too bad because he was a very intriguing guy at the end of last year. Sanford won the SAL ERA title, but isn’t a guy with overpowering stuff. Heston is in a similar vein, as he does a good job of limiting walks and getting groundballs. Fitzgerald has solid stuff that could possibly play up in the bullpen, where he began his career.
Otero was my very last cut, and I think he could play a solid role in the big league bullpen this year. Edlefsen is in a similar vein, though I prefer Otero. Casilla was a bit like Bucardo in that they were interesting but their injuries put me in a wait and see mode. Black is a guy with good stuff, but needs reps. Bochy had a solid debut and could move quickly, but I do have some concerns with his age. Arnold and Law are intriguing draft picks who both made solid debuts in the AZL.
Bandilla was the Giants 4th round draft pick, but I couldn’t put him on my list because of reports of a shoulder injury that the Giants found after he took his physical. Escobar was the return for Ben Snyder, he had a rough year last year, but he is still young and has the potential to miss bats. DeJesus put up interesting numbers, but DSL stats should always be viewed cautiously, and there are reports that his fastball is more in the 80′s range.
So to end I’ll give a sleeper hitter and pitcher. Last year I had Edwin Escobar as a sleeper, so hopefully these picks will work out better.
Sleeper hitter: Cristian Paulino
Sleeper pitcher: Ray Black