1) Jurickson Profar, Ss, Texas Rangers
Profar has been on the radar for a long time. He represented his country at the Little League World Series where he showed the potential he’s now realizing. Some teams preferred him as pitcher prior to the 2009 signing period but he wanted to play the infield and the move has paid off. He’s now one of the top 10 prospects in all the minor leagues after he showed advanced hitting skills to go along with above-avg power for a middle infielder and great defense at SS. There is nothing he can’t do. He had a 12.6 BB% with a 12 K% over 516 plate appearances and 57 extra-base hits. By the way he’s only 18. The Rangers have a pretty good SS of their own in Elvis Andrus so there is no need to rush Profar but his bat is so advance that he’ll push them. He has a better offensive potential than Andrus so the Rangers will have a desicion to make.
2) Julio Teheran, Rhp, Atlanta Braves
Teheran made a quick ascent through the minors after he signed with the Braves in 2007. The Yankees offered him more money but the Braves had a wildcard as one of their scouts was Teheran’s cousin. He has an athletic frame and throws hard, he showed an advanced change up when he was an amateur and he has refine it and is a plus pitch now. Some scouts question his delivery and whether he can stay healthy long term. He had some spot starts last season and should compete for a rotation spot from spring training. Strong candidate for Rookie of the Year.
3) Manny Banuelos, Lhp, New York Yankees
The Mexican lefty has been one of the better finds for the Yankees in terms of pitching. He has had some health problems in the past but he put together a strong season while reaching AAA. He’s short 5’11” but he has a muscular build and pumps fast ball in the mid 90s. He has an advanced change up to go along with an avg curve ball. He’s one step behind the big leagues and will likely make his debut at some point in 2012. Needs to be more consistent with his command as he walked 4.9 hitters per 9 innings.
4) Yonder Alonso, 1b, San Diego Padres
Alonso was recently traded to the Padres as part of the Matt Latos trade and that’s good news for him as he was blocked by former MVP Joey Votto. He has an advanced feel for hitting, displays power to all fields and knowledge of the strike zone. He has at least avg power for a 1B. Defensively Alonso is an avg 1B with good hands but lacks some lateral movement. The Reds tried to move him to the OF with not a lot of success. The Padres recently traded Anthony Rizzo to the Cubs so its Alonso’s job. He’s a strong candidate for NL ROY.
5) Yasmani Grandal, C, San Diego Padres
Grandal is a switch hitting C with avg power and sound hitting skills. He has a strong arm and shows good movement behind the plate and is generally thought to be a good game caller. He needs to get better at blocking balls as he had 19 passed balls across 3 levels in 2011. Catchers with his offensive skills are rare but Cincinnati had one of the better hitting catching prospects in Devin Mesoraco who was ultimately blocking him. Now with the Padres he should open the season at AAA with a clear view of making his big league debut at some point.
6) Xander Bogaerts, Ss, Boston Red Sox
Bogaerts has made one of the quickest ascents from the Dominican Summer league than anybody in the Red Sox system before. He has an athletic frame that suggests future plus power, and has already displayed it in half a season at Low-A. He plays SS right now and doesn’t look bad at the position but with his athletic frame and youth he’ll get bigger and outgrow the position. He has the arm and hands to shift to 3rd base but he could also move to the OF with his athleticism. He had a .249 IsoP, impressive for an 18 y/o regular and walked 8% of his AB while striking out 24%. He’ll open the season in High-A as a 19 y/o.
7) Cheslor Cuthbert, 3b, Kansas City Royals
Cuthbert has a great back story of perseverance. He hails from the Corn Islands off the coast of Nicaragua. His father had to organize his own little league team to help his son play the game. He has a big athletic body with above-avg power potential. He got off to a great start but faded late in the season more do to fatigue than anything else. He has a thick lower half and some think he will lose movement and shift to 1B but he made great strides at 3B last season showing much improve lateral movements. He’ll move up to High-A with a vision to put a strong full-season together.
8) Randall Delgado, Rhp, Atlanta Braves
The Braves have a great scouting service across Latin America finding gem in less scouted places like Panama, Nicaragua, and Colombia etc. Delgado is from Panama and already made a quick ascent to the big leagues, pitching under pressure when the Braves needed him. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball which he complements with a plus curve ball and an avg change up. He’ll battle for a rotation spot in sprig training but even if he doesn’t get it he’ll be first in line for a call up. Candidate for NL ROY.
9) Jonathan Schoop, Ss/3b/2b, Baltimore Orioles
Baltimore has ramped up their presence in Latin America signing less heralded prospects but they may have found a gem in Schoop, who is a teammate of Xander Bogaerts in the Netherlands’ national team. He has started to fill out his lanky frame and the power is coming right behind. He has above avg power potential with a good idea at the plate who should profile well at 3B. The Orioles drafted Manny Machado and both are moving at relatively the same pace. Machado is better defensively so Schoop has deferred but long term he wasn’t gonna be a SS. He split time between 3rd/2nd/SS showing his versatility. He finished the season holding his own at High-A and could open the year at AA but realistically the O’s let him have some success in High-A before they challenge him with the Eastern League.
10) Luis Heredia, Rhp, Pittsburgh Pirates
What can you say about a 16 year old who held his own pitching for the first time in the states? Heredia has a large, strong frame already throwing in the mid 90s and showing inconsistent spin of his curve ball he also shows an advance change up especially for his age. The Pirates have been spending a lot of money in high ceiling arms and Heredia has as much ceiling as anyone behind only Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon. He won’t turn 18 until August 2012 so the Pirates will take it cautiously with him. He’ll move up to the NY-Penn League.
11) Eddie Rosario, Of/2b, Minnesota Twins
Rosario is one of the latest finds by the Twins in Puerto Rico. He had a breakout 2011 in the Appy League along with teammate Miguel Sano. He’s one of the rare throws right, bats left players and he has some pop in his bat, he led the league in HR and 3B displaying his average power that plays up because he makes solid contact and has plus bat speed. He still needs to work at the plate, striking out 20% of his PA, but that’s ok for a youngster as he walked 9% of his PA. The Twins plan to transition him to 2B next year, if he can make the transition he could be an offensive minded 2B, if not he still profiles well as a CF.
12) Leonys Martin, Cf, Texas Rangers
The Cuban defector, Martin, landed a $15 Million big league contract from the Rangers. He performed well in his debut, showing his good eye at the plate and his ability to put the bat on the ball in AA but struggled upon his promotion to AAA, showing only glimpses of his abilities. He stands out for his speed and defense in Cf. He has gap power but is much more effective trying to get on base and cause havoc. He needs to work on stealing bases more efficiently as he was caught 11 times in 30 tries. He could compete for a roster spot in spring training but is more likely heading for AAA for more seasoning.
13) Jose Iglesias, Ss, Boston Red Sox
Iglesias defected Cuba as an 18 y/o as part of a new trend of young players leaving the Island. The Red Sox under former GM Theo Epstein placed a lot of value on defense so he signed Iglesias to a big league contract. Iglesias stands out because of his glove work as he is considered the best defensive SS in all the minor leagues maybe even all of baseball, it’s that good. At the plate is where Iglesias needs to start showing improvement. He had a dreadful 2011 with a .235/.285/.269 stat line at AAA. Granted he was only 21 y/o, playing in one of the worst hitting environments in all the minor leagues and was battling injuries so you could cut him some slack but he needs to show a little bit more to make his glove as valuable as it is. Marco Scutaro is in the last year of his deal so Iglesias is the heir apparent. The Red Sox have been looking for a long term answer at SS since Nomar Garciaparra so Iglesias will get his chance despite his bat not being ready.
14) Adeiny Hechavarria, Ss, Toronto Blue Jays
Hechavarria played along side Iglesias for the Cuban Jr National team and Iglesias deferred to him at SS so you know that he has a good glove. They are comparable prospects in many aspects of their games. Hechavarria has a great glove maybe not as good as Iglesias but it’s up there. He has an athletic, wiry frame and projects to hit for more power than Iglesias. Like Iglesias he needs to get better at the plate he struggled in AA and needs to be less aggressive. He finished the year with a strong cameo in the hitters friendly Pacific Coast League and should open 2012 there which could help him start unlocking his potential at the plate. Yunel Escobar had a strong season with the Blue Jays so they can let Hechavarria have a full season at AAA. If his bat develops enough to warrant a mid season promotion then Yunel could move over to 2B.
15) Christian Bethancourt, C, Atlanta Braves
Atlanta is one of the teams that most heavily scouts Central American and have found good prospects at great prices. Bethancourt is their latest find. He played 2010 as an 18 y/o catcher in Low A, struggling but showing glimpses his potential. He repeated the level in 2011 and showed improved performance at the plate, especially driving the ball. He gets too aggressive at the plate and needs to tone down his approach as he makes a lot of contact so he swings at everything and anything. The Braves challenged him with a mid-season promotion to High-A and while he didn’t set the world on fire he still showed the same underling theme. Behind the plate he has a strong arm and threw out 38% of would be base-stealer. He projects as a good defensive catcher with above avg power and limited on-base abilities. He had a strong cameo in the Arizona Fall League, showing his power and a .306/.324/.556 stat line. He should open the season back in High-A with the view of unlocking some of his power and toning down his approach.