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April 8, 2013

Monday Morning Ten Pack

Prospects We Can't Wait to Put Our Eyes on in 2013

by BP Prospect Staff

Courtney Hawkins, OF, Chicago White Sox (High-A Winston-Salem)
My appreciation of Courtney Hawkins is similar to my appreciation of Shiner Bock: it’s from Texas, I’m supposed to love it unconditionally, others love it unconditionally, I recognize some of the qualities that encourage others to love it unconditionally, but it just doesn’t tickle my fancy and I don’t freak out when it’s available. In 2013, my goal is to sit on a Winston-Salem series until the Courtney Hawkins buzz intoxicates me. I enjoy his approach and sturdy physical characteristics, but I’ve yet to witness the major-league flash, the high-end tool utility that separates good amateur prospects from good professional players. I’ve also yet to meet an amateur scout who wouldn’t walk a mile for a cooler full of Courtney Hawkins, and that fact alone makes me feel like I’m the one who is missing out, not the other way around. In 2013, I’m going to find out for sure. Jason Parks

Kevin Gausman, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
After I just missed Gausman at both Fall Instructs and spring training, catching the right-hander throw is a high point of interest.  My appetite’s been whetted by reports from a couple of contacts: a 93-97 mph explosive fastball with late life, a hard, deep swing-and-miss slider, and a deceptive fading changeup that the 22-year-old shows excellent feel for.  I love watching how pitchers with Gausman’s level of stuff go about executing it.  Now that he’s in the upper minors, it comes down to pitchability.  Does he know how to set a hitter up to utilize the secondary offerings?  Can he pitch with his fastball?  Or will Gausman just try to blow everyone away?  These are aspects of his game that I’ll be looking over closely, while also zoning in deeply at his developmental progress over the course of the season.  –Chris Mellen

Luiz Gohara, LHP, Seattle Mariners (Extended Spring Training)
For me, Gohara is one of the most fascinating young prospects in baseball. A large-bodied lefty with a July 31, 1996 birthdate, Gohara signed with the Mariners out of Brazil for a reported $880,000 bonus last August. He’s currently attending extended spring training and should be pitching in games. When Jason Parks and I peeked at the 16-year-old in a late-spring bullpen session, we got a glimpse of his hard, lively fastball and tight-spinning curveball. The quick look left me wanting more, and he now tops my “must-see” list. Jason Cole

Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
Buxton enters the minor-league season as the no. 8 prospect on Parks’ Top 101, and with good reason.  The second selection overall in last year’s June draft, Buxton possesses as lofty a ceiling as any prospect in the minors, boasting the potential for above average or better offensive tools and plus-plus or better grades in arm strength, speed and defense in center field.  Buxton’s overall in-game realization still lags behind his potential, which is not uncommon for high school draftees (and in particular, draftees with limited advanced competition).  He should be adequately challenged by the Midwest League and could see his share of ups and downs as he continues to refine.  The same, it would not be a shock to see his athleticism take over in the form of a huge jump in his game this summer.  There’s an argument for his being the most physically talented player in the minors; scouts with Midwest coverage could be in for a treat. –Nick Faleris

Gregory Polanco, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (High-A Bradenton)
Polanco made a memorable first impression on me back in 2011 while playing for the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League team. He had all the tools you look for and showed a plus approach at the plate for a 19-year-old. Last season, he seemed to put all those shiny tools to work. He was without question the Pirates’ minor-league breakout player, as shown by his .325/.388/.522 slash to go along with 16 HRs and 40 steals while playing an above-average CF. Some of his routes to the ball are shaky, but his plus speed and arm make up for most of those mistakes. His solid approach at the plate allows him to use his quick hands to consistently make good. At 6'4" and 170 lbs., it's obvious his body could use some work, but the added weight he needs should not affect his speed. His steady improvements have turned Polanco from a raw and talented to prospect to a more polished and legit player who can play center or a corner. –Chris King

Addison Russell, SS, Oakland Athletics (High-A Stockton)
Russell brings a great glove and good arm and is more adept at the plate than anticipated. I want to see the quick bat; I want to see the glove at short; but the thing I’m most excited to see is how well he can make adjustments in his first full season. He crushed it in all three levels in 2012, finishing off in Low-A Burlington where he hit .310/.369/.448 in 16 games. Moving into his first full season at High-A, he should see prospects with better secondary and offspeed pitches on the mound, something that could slow up the 19-year-old. The bat and power potential are there though, and depending on how well he looks he could easily make it to Double-A before the end of the season. If it all clicks, you could be looking at the top prospect in all of baseball going into the 2014 season. He is a must follow for all of these reasons.  –Chris Rodriguez

Roman Quinn, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
Quinn is one of the fastest players in baseball, consistently able to get from home to first from the left side in the 3.6-3.7 range. He is a natural right-handed batter, but scouts like him better from left side; from the right, he has a stride and a much louder load, but from the left he keeps it very simple, is shorter to the ball, and finds easy contact. He has bat speed and should develop over-the-fence power after adding strength. Defensively, Quinn has outstanding first-step quickness and plenty of arm strength, though his hands leave a little bit to be desired. Quinn will play shortstop for a few seasons, but I believe he shifts to centerfield and uses his elite speed to cover plenty of real estate. –Zach Mortimer

Yordano Ventura, RHP, Kansas City Royals (Double-A Northwest Arkansas)
Ventura was an easy choice, as triple-digit velocity is never boring. Armed with a knockout fastball-curveball combo, the 21-year-old righty could probably pitch in the Royals’ bullpen right now. But despite his slight 5’11” frame, Ventura has a chance to stick as a starter, and he may have front-line pure stuff. To make that dream a reality, the right-hander must prove that he can handle a starter’s workload on an annual basis. While that won’t be definitively answered this summer, I’m looking forward to seeing how his mechanics, velocity, and overall stuff hold up through what’s likely to be a career-high workload in 2013. –Jason Cole

Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (Low-A Bowling Green)
In a Midwest League loaded with arms, Taylor Guerrieri jumps out as a “must see.”  He saw a slight drop in velocity during his short-season debut in the New York-Penn League last summer, but nevertheless looked the part of a potential impact starter off the strength of developing secondaries and a solid step forward in the command/control department.  The former Palmetto State standout excited scouts by reining in his mechanics and showing more consistent execution of his curveball, while sacrificing some velocity on the fastball for life and command.  Scouts will be looking for more of the same during this year’s Midwest League campaign, with a focus on more consistent execution and command in the zone across each of his offerings.  The Rays seldom rush their prospects, so Guerrieri should have the opportunity to turn over the league several times regardless of results (with the smart money being on the young hurler spending all of 2013 in Bowling Green).  The no. 48 prospect on Parks’ Top 101 entering the year, Guerrieri could see his stock jump with a few more strikeouts and continued growth in the repertoire. –Nick Faleris

Carlos Tocci, CF, Philadelphia Phillies (Low-A Lakewood)
Tocci, a 17-year-old Venezuelan signee, makes his full-season debut as the youngest player in the South Atlantic League. At the plate, Tocci has average bat speed with a good swing path, and he shows the ability to put the good part of the bat on the baseball. Because of his approach, pitchers are able to get him to expand the zone with secondary offerings, which is something the young hitter will need to refine in order to avoid exploitation against better pitching. Tocci still is a work in progress, as he lacks the present strength to flourish at his current level; he currently stands at 6’2 and weighs a slim 145 pounds. One major-league executive said, “I really like all the tools, but if he can’t add 20 more pounds it will be hard for him to withstand the grind of a full season.” –Zach Mortimer

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