With action underway (if not postponed) throughout the minor leagues, we are happy to bring you these guides to the players you should be watching in each league throughout the minor league season. Throughout the week the Prospect Team will bring you a league or three per day, with every team covered, and every Top 10 prospect noted. We'll also provide reports on guys who couldn't crack the Top 10s, but are well worth your time anyway. Other pieces in this series:
California League South
High Desert Mavericks – Texas Rangers
Keep An Eye On:
Travis Demeritte, 2B
Demeritte’s on-field performance hasn’t caught up with his tools to this point–his Hickory line two years ago was magnificent performance art–but as Chris noted in yesterday’s Ten Pack there’s pop in the bat and some useable speed, along with potential defensive versatility down the line.
Jairo Beras, LF
Beras will be an interesting case study for the league, as he’s got the kind of raw power that can play up to distorting heights in his environment. His swing mechanics were compared to a battle scene in Braveheart in this year’s Annual, however, and he remains a different age than he was supposed to be.
Ariel Jurado, RHP
Jurado’s three-pitch mix produced stellar results last year, highlighted by outstanding command of a fastball-cambio combo that produced more than three grounders for every ball in the air.
Michael De Leon, SS and Jose Trevino, C
De Leon just turned 19 in January, and Trevino, at 23, is basically the same age in catcher years. These two share a common profile at different, premium positions: they can both flash leather and neither has shown a ton of offensive projection.
Inland Empire 66ers – Orange County Angels
Keep An Eye On:
David Fletcher, SS
The team’s over-slot sixth rounder last summer from up the 5 at Loyola Marymount, Fletcher hit well in his first 300 professional trips to the dish after signing. He has a solid if unspectacular collection of shortstop tools, and if the bat holds as he progresses there’s a nice utility profile here.
Jeremy Rhoades, RHP
Rhoades’ second-half stint in San Bernardino did not go so well last summer, with an 8.35 ERA and 14 homers allowed in barely 50 frames. He has a fastball and a slider that can do some things when he commands them, and will face a farther uphill climb in his second go-‘round to stave off a transition to the bullpen.
Eduardo Paredes, RHP
Paredes dominated as Burlington’s closer in the Midwest League last year, featuring two very good variants to his fastball and stellar command. The curveball will need to develop to match his heaters, but there’s a potentially fast-moving bullpen arm here.
Lancaster JetHawks – Houston Astros
No Players in Top Ten
Keep An Eye On:
Riley Ferrell, RHP
Last year’s third-rounder is the closest thing to a top prospect to open in the Antelope Valley. The former Horned Frog boasts a mid-90s fastball and slider with nasty bite, but the command leaves a lot to be desired. If he can figure out a way to harness the stuff more consistently, he can be a contributor to Houston’s bullpen as soon as the stretch run this summer. If not, well, Lancaster’s an easy place to pitch for the next couple seasons, so…
Akeem Bostick, RHP
The Rangers drafted Bostick in the second round once upon a time, but he’s 6-foot-6 and, well, he has some serious issues with mechanical consistency. Serious enough that they led to Houston (naturally) swooping in and grabbing him in a lo-fi trade last year. He oozes athleticism and projectability, and there’s enough raw stuff to hope for a big-league future if he can refine it.
Jason Martin, OF
Martin boasts a prototypical fourth-outfielder skill set, with defensive projection at all three spots driven by plus speed and decent instincts in center. Those instincts haven’t translated fully on the bases as yet, and his offensive profile is limited by a linear swing with more miss than you’d like. But he shows enough bat-to-ball and nascent pop to hope for more, and further refinement of the raw speed may be enough to put him into the big league conversation down the line.
Lake Elsinore Storm – San Diego Padres
Keep an Eye On:
Franchy Cordero, OF
This being Baseball Prospectus I am contractually obligated to give a nod to the Ghost of Jason Parks and mention Cordero. The now-21-year-old suffered through a brutal offensive campaign at Fort Wayne last year while transitioning off the infield dirt, and will look to restore some of his previous shine with a trip to the high-octane Cal League. He shows solid tools and surprising instincts in center, and there’s enough bat speed to dream on a big league future.
Jose Torres, LHP
Torres came over from Oakland with Drew Pomeranz in an offseason deal that netted Yonder Alonso and Mark Rzepczynski for his former franchise. He whiffed more than a batter an inning with solid ratios in the Midwest League last season, posting a reverse split on the back of mid-90s gas. The 22-year-old was added to San Diego’s 40-man roster after the acquisition, and is a candidate to move quickly up the ladder if he posts similar numbers again this spring.
Jimmy Brasoban, RHP
Another reliever, because if the Padre organization is known for one thing it’s a never-ending cadre of smoke-throwing relievers filtering through the PETCO bullpen. His fastball-slider combination played up big time after a relief conversion last year, and his bugaboo control even fell into line in short bursts. He’ll work from the back of the Lake Elsinore bullpen, with rapid advancement possible if last year’s command gains hold.
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Los Angeles Dodgers
Keep An Eye On:
Johan Mieses, RF
I pegged Mieses as my breakout prospect for 2016 a couple weeks ago. He shows all five tools and handled an extremely aggressive promotion schedule with relative aplomb last season. The offensive profile remains extremely raw but highly intriguing, and he has an above-average defensive profile in right. A stable, successful season in the Cal League would have him shooting up organizational lists by this time next spring.
Julian Leon, C
Yet another in the trove of prospects collected by the Dodgers’ internationalists during their 2012 swing through Mexico (yes, the Puig/Urias trip, that one), Leon drew praise as a prospect on the rise before a rough full-season debut in the Midwest League. The Dodgers promoted him anyway, and he’ll look to reestablish some bonafides with a (much) stronger offensive campaign in the desert.
Tim Locastro, 2B
The Dodgers bought Locastro from Toronto last summer, and while he struggled in his initial assignment to Rancho down the stretch, he brings a solid keystone glove, plus speed, and some contact ability back to the position this year. Also: he wears no batting gloves.
Joshua Sborz, RHP
Last year’s College World Series MVP was snapped up by the Dodgers in the second round last June and made a dozen appearances out of the Rancho bullpen in the face of an innings cap, acquitting himself well during the team’s playoff run. He’ll slide back to the rotation this year, though he’ll need to overcome a shallow arsenal and repeatability issues to stay there.
California League North
Bakersfield Blaze – Seattle Mariners
#7 Drew Jackson
Keep An Eye On:
RHP Andrew Moore
The club’s second-rounder last summer was outstanding in the Northwest League after signing, walking just two batters in 39 innings, while whiffing 43. He’s an undersized kid that lacks big time stuff, but has shown an outstanding feel for pitching and mound intelligence throughout his college and early-professional career.
RF Austin Wilson
Wilson looks more like a linebacker than he does a baseball player, and the former second-rounder suffered through a brutal campaign in the Cal last year, earning a return engagement. The organization has overhauled his swing, but consistent contact as thus far eluded the new mechanics. He has the athleticism and physical strength to bust out if it all somehow clicks, and positive reports about his work ethic and makeup suggest it’s not an impossibility.
C Tyler Marlette
A bat-first catching prospect whose bat never got on track last year, Marlette hit a wall against Double-A pitching and finds himself right back where he started last season as a result. He’s a converted infielder, and progress behind the plate has been of the slow and steady variety. He’ll need the bat to perk back up to get back on track.
Modesto Nuts – Colorado Rockies
#7 Forrest Wall
Keep An Eye On:
C Dom Nunez
Nunez burst into the mix of things with a break out offensive performance in the Sally last year, showing power and patience that went beyond standard Asheville inflation for left-handed hitters. He was a middle infielder in High School, only converting behind the plate in 2014. There’s requisite rawness to his defense at the time being, but plenty of athleticism and arm to make for an intriguing defensive profile as well.
RHP Jesus Tinoco
Tinoco was targeted by the club as part of their return for Troy Tulowitzki last summer and broke out in his full-season debut. The fastball is a legit pitch, and he started to show a competent companion to it in a newly-adopted slider last summer. He enters the season as a long-term project still, but one who has already taken a couple developmental steps forward with his arsenal and execution.
RHP Ryan Castellani
Castellani was the 48th-overall pick in the 2014 draft out of high school, and he has continued to develop as one of the most projectable arms in the system. He just turned 20 at the beginning of the month and has barely averaged four innings a start over his young career, so this is an aggressive assignment—something that fits with the Rockies’ developmental strategy for their top arms.
LHP Sam Howard
A former third-rounder out of Georgia Southern, Howard made significant strides last summer and was one of the most advanced pitchers in the Sally by the end of the season. There are reports of a decent balance of stuff and pitchability, and at 23 there’s potential to climb a couple rungs this year with continued solid performance.
San Jose Giants – San Francisco Giants
Keep An Eye On:
LHP Andrew Suarez
Now a few years removed from the labrum surgery that derailed his college career at Miami, the club’s second-rounder last July shoved after signing, and through San Jose’s deep postseason run. He boasts a deep arsenal, with a fluid, repeatable delivery that checks a lot of the organization’s preferred boxes. There’s some significant helium potential here with a repeat performance of last year’s development.
RHP Jordan Johnson
Surprise! Another pitcher with potential to do some damage this year. Johnson missed two years at Cal State Northridge on account of a slow Tommy John recovery, but a Giants area guy uncovered him anyway and the team grabbed him in the 23rd round two years ago. He can run it up into the mid-90s with plane, and complements the prime-time fastball with a filthy changeup. A step forward with his relatively young curveball would likely be enough to bump him out of the Cal after just a brief second tour.
CF Ronnie Jebavy
The Giants grabbed Jebavy in the fifth round last June on the strength of his plus speed and can-play-center defensive projection. He can do more than just play the position, actually, with solid reads and track-and-close abilities pushing the glove into plus range as well. He’ll show some pull-side pop, but for the most part it’s a gap-to-gap offensive game, and the amount of contact he makes will decide the role.
Stockton Ports – Oakland Athletics
#8 Casey Meisner, RHP
Keep An Eye On:
SS Mikey White
White was the team’s second-rounder last year, and profiles similarly from a value perspective to the team’s first-rounder, Richie Martin. The skill set to get to that value is very different, however, as White’s game has much greater offensive orientation. The club shuffled him around the infield dirt a bit after signing, and the much versatility should play well in the organization.
LHP Zack Erwin
Erwin was the headline piece coming back to Oakland from the White Sox in the Brett Lawrie deal. A fourth-rounder last summer out of Clemson, he commands a solid three-pitch arsenal from the left side, generating groundball contact and avoiding self-inflicted damage.
RHP Daniel Gossett
Oakland’s organizational philosophy apparently includes a chapter on acquiring all of the Clemson pitchers. Gossett was the team’s second-rounder two years ago and had a rough start to his full-season debut last year before coming on later in the Midwest League.
Visalia Rawhide – Arizona Diamondbacks
Keep An Eye On:
SS Domingo Leyba
Leyba played all of last year as one of the youngest position players in the Cal League, and he garnered a return assignment to start 2016. He showed an extremely aggressive approach in all of my looks last year, though it’s a compact stroke and he showed better ability to track and spray pitches to all fields as the season wore on. He lacks great foot speed or more than an average arm, so the fact that there remains potential for him to turn into a solid shortstop is a testament to his footwork, body control, instincts, and quick hands.
RHP Brad Keller
Keller is a big boy, standing a listed 6-foot-5, 230, with all of the frame and pitchability you need to develop into a back-end innings eater.
OF Victor Reyes
Reyes showed one of the better hit tools in the Midwest League last year, hitting pitches all over and around the zone at a .311 clip. He’s a J2 signing from 2011 whom the Diamondbacks bought away from Atlanta last season. There’s some versatility on the grass, with could-fake-it-occasionally skills in center to go along with plenty of arm for either corner.
CF Colin Bray
The Snakes tabbed Bray as a JuCo pick in the sixth round back in 2013, and he put together a very solid age-appropriate season for Kane County last summer. He’s got a double-plus run grade, with enough instincts and feel for trajectory to play center field, and there’s enough zone command and contact to suggest potential for a decent on-base profile.