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September 14, 2011

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

2011 Minor-League Awards: Position Players

by Jason Parks

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Best Tools (Present Utility y Projection)
Speed: Billy Hamilton (Reds)
TCF: Well, he’s fast. Really fast. He’s 100 on the 20/80 scale fast. His speed inflates his prospect status, as I question how effective he will be against superior pitching. But Hamilton’s speed tool is elite, and it makes him a catalytic player, at least at this stage of his career. He stole 103 bases this season, which is an impressive accomplishment, regardless of his offensive projections (which I question and others champion). Hamilton should put up better [read: more impressive] numbers in the hitter-friendly California League in 2012, which should enhance the shine on his prospect star. I’ll remind people to be cautious despite the numbers, then Hamilton will probably develop into a top-tier talent at a premium position and I’ll look like a fool. Thanks, Hamilton.

Arm: Christian Bethancourt (Braves)
TCF: With a handful of legit 80 arms in the minors, I decided to go with the catcher, because I like catchers, especially 20-year-old catchers that can pop in the 1.7 range. That’s just ridiculous, by the way. 1.7? I had a scout tell me he clocked him at 1.65. I just assumed the scout was on mescaline. Regardless, Bethancourt has an elite arm, and the utility of that arm is slowly gaining on the raw strength; his release is Usain Bolt quick, with clean throwing mechanics and improving accuracy. Bethancourt’s bat is his ticket to first-division status, but his defensive skills behind the plate will carry him a very long way. 1.7? Not even #TheLegend can hang with that.

Glove: Freddy Galvis (Phillies)
TCF: When I saw Galvis in Reading in 2010, I couldn’t believe the contrast between the quality of the glove and the quality of the bat. In the field, Galvis has a preternatural feel and the instincts, actions, and arm to play shortstop. He’s a major league-quality shortstop, a true Venezuelan middle infielder that I’d pay to watch take grounders.

At the plate, Galvis looked like a very good defensive shortstop. I didn’t see any hope. His bat took a step forward in 2011, and that gives me some optimism that he can eventually stick in the majors. But even if the bat falls short of the mark, Galvis will get looks at the highest level because his skill set at shortstop puts him in select company.

Hit: Oscar Taveras  (Cardinals)
TCF: There are lots of good candidates, but the name that received the most love was Taveras, a gifted hitter who exploded on the prospect scene this season with a sexy slash line of .386/.444/.584 in the Midwest League. The 19-year-old’s present performance suggests his hit tool is very real, and the balanced approach and fluid swing mechanics should allow the tool find utility as he advances through the system. Taveras’ power grades vary, ranging from 40 (future) to 60 (future). But the voices sing in unison on his hit tool, with all signs pointing to a future .300-hitter at maturity.

Power: Bryce Harper (Nationals)
TCF: An 80-grade power is rare in the majors, and even more so in the minors. Harper can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his peers on both levels when it comes to that tool’s potential. His raw strength is off the charts, and his swing isn’t as lengthy and loaded as you would expect from such displays of force. According to every source I sought, Harper’s power will translate to the professional level, even if the hit tool doesn’t allow for a high batting average. Refinement is needed (of course), as Harper’s aggressiveness and stumbles with pitch recognition could lead to some exploitation against pitchers with advanced arsenals. But people will line up with cash in hand to watch him take batting practice (I would), and given the fact that his power will continue to play, Harper sits alone at the top of this list, ahead of other promising power bats like Miguel Sano and Guillermo Pimentel.

Best All-Around Tools (Utility y Projection)
Jurickson Profar (Rangers)
TCF: Profar is as polished as any teenager in recent memory, bringing a bag of above-average tools to the table, both at the plate and in the field. He lacks elite-level physical attributes, but his weakest tool (speed) is still slightly above average, and it plays up even more in game action (just like all his other tools). Simply put, Profar doesn’t just wear the five-tool label in projections, he exists in a reality where all five tools are present and accounted for. He’s the player the label was created for; he’s a five-tool dream.

Jake Marisnick (Jays)
TCF: “Marisnick is the poster boy for the modern prospect: He has size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds), plus athleticism, present tools and polish to go with future projection and ceiling, not to mention a name that just sounds like it belongs in the game.” I like quoting myself. It makes me feel important. Marisnick shows all five tools, with solid-average to plus projections across the board. Industry debate exists over Marisnick’s future role, with some seeing right field as a better fit given his strong arm and offensive profile, while others think his skills can play in center field, making him one of the most valuable prospects in the game. Regardless of the position, Marisnick’s toolbox gives him a major-league future, and if everything comes together, a first-division ceiling is within reach.

Gary Brown (Giants)
TCF: More balanced than he gets credit for (I’m guilty of this), Brown’s overall tool collection extends beyond his elite speed. He can really hit, showing a plus potential hit tool (it’s nearing that point now) and at least solid-average pop that will continue to play outside of the friendly confines of the California League. His arm isn’t a plus tool, but it plays to average (even if “average” is closer to fringe than solid), and the glove is well above average. Brown is a first-division center fielder in the making, and if he handles the transition to Double-A, especially at the plate, he should arrive in San Francisco by the end of the 2012 season.

Most Awkward Body Award (The Brett Wallace Lower-Half Explosion Award; Formerly Known as the Calvin Pickering Award)
Matt Adams (Cardinals)
TCF: We’re not selling jeans here, but if we were, Adams would require very large jeans. Husky jeans. He doesn’t have a great body. But he can hit. That’s all the matters.

Best Farm Systems Award (This is basically impossible to do, so try not to overreact if your team doesn’t get the love you feel they deserve)
Toronto Blue Jays
Texas Rangers  
Tampa Bay Rays
Atlanta Braves
Kansas City Royals
Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals
Washington Nationals
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees

Best Prospect Name (Rangers Division)

  1. Smerling Lantigua
  2. Rougned Odor
  3. Nerfy Nunez
  4. Gabriel Larrazabal
  5. Christefer Obispo

The Biggest Positional Prospect Disappointments Based on my Own Expectations (No Order)

  1. Delino DeShields Jr.
  2. Wagner Mateo
  3. Jose Iglesias
  4. Engel Beltre
  5. Wilmer Flores
  6. Tony Sanchez
  7. James Jones
  8. Christian Colon
  9. Brett Eibner
  10. Derek Norris

The Cristiano Ronaldo Bone Structure Award: Player Division (Utility y Projection)
Jorge Alfaro (Rangers)
TCF: #TheLegend

The Tom Verducici Best-Looking National Prognosticator Award
Tom Verducci (SI)
TCF: He’s not a writer I would normally classify as a “national prognosticator,” at least relative to the minor leagues, but have you seen Verducci in person? Damn. I wanted to nominate myself, but I’ve been in the same room as Verducci and I was basically invisible. He stands alone.

The Most Ridiculous Story of the Season
Bryce Harper being a jerk means Bryce Harper has makeup issues.
TCF: This is from my Positional Primacy article on August 16, which I feel best sums up my thoughts on Harper and his “makeup issues.” Again, I’m quoting myself. I’m starting to enjoy it.

“Harper’s ‘makeup issues’ seem to get more water-cooler minutes than Walter White’s latest escapade, as his on-the-field attitude often blurs the line between what is seen as confidence and what is seen as cocky. I’ll take a little of both without much complaint, especially from an 18-year-old who has been anointed as the next deity of the diamond; given the pressures associated with the crown, I think he’s holding it together better than he gets credit for. Being a jerk might be an unattractive quality (I should know, right?), but I’ll take the talented jerk over the talentless sweetheart every time, and so would every team in baseball.

Harper can change the game if he reaches the ceiling created by his physical tools, and that’s a lot of weight to carry around on such young shoulders. Not to belabor the point, but Harper’s mature ability on the field often distorts the reality of his emotional immaturity, which currently lags behind the accelerated development of his physical tools. As observers, it’s easy to lose perspective, as we see the man in the uniform, yet fail to see the teenager underneath it. We also have a tendency to tear down what we build up, and our lofty standards are often tied to our own pedestrian failures. We can’t relate to Harper’s extraordinary ability, so it’s natural to amplify his faults or weaknesses in order to feel more comfortable with our own. I get it. Why do you think I’m so unsympathetic when it comes to Cristiano Ronaldo’s failures? Nobody should bethat good-looking.

My point: Let’s talk about Harper’s ‘makeup’ in a negative light when his actions start affecting his performance in a negative manner. Perhaps that is already the case, and if so I’ll stuff the makeup argument back into my overly agape mouth. But at the present, I just don’t feel like I’m in a position to make that call, so I’m not going to suggest it’s an issue until I actually see it becoming one. ”

The Best Story of the Season
Bryce Harper living up to expectations (and beyond).
TCF: Hype and hope have a tendency to produce failure and frustration, but Harper lived up to the enormous hype, reaching Double-A as an 18-year-old. The precocious power has already made him the most talked-about teenager in recent memory, and despite tasting some failure in his brief 37-game run at Harrisburg, Harper looks prepared to tackle the challenges of the major leagues at some point in the 2012 season. His floor is a first-division regular and his ceiling is a first-ballot bronze bust in Cooperstown, so you know, he’s pretty good. The fact that he hasn’t imploded from the pressure of expectation is a huge story.

The Least-Reported Story of the Season
*Bryce Harper hits a home run for a dying kid, then rescues the dying kid’s dying cat from a very large (and dying) tree. The appreciative (and dying kid) then asked if Harper could sign a ball for her dying friend. Harper told her, “Tell your f*cking dying friend come over here and ask for it her goddamn self.” Classic.**

*I cannot confirm this account.
**Please make sure your joke detectors are functioning. 

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Bryce Harper,  Freddy Galvis,  Hit Tool,  Tools

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