Most minor-league attention is paid to guys at the highest levels— someone who might come up even before September, such as a Domonic Brown or a Buster Posey. The minor leagues are (obviously) multi-tiered. Here's a look at 10 guys at the lowest levels who could eventually blossom into the next Brown or Posey— in two years or so.
A 19-year-old Venezuelan, Arcia has been dominating the Appalachian League. He leads the circuit in home runs, RBI, hits, and slugging—while placing second in batting. His line of .392/.434/.773 in 44 games says everything you need to know about his performance, and his scouting reports are almost as impressive. He generates tremendous raw power with a combination of bat speed and strength that is rarely seen in players so young. He's played some center this year but will be a right fielder down the road. If there's a problem, it's this: he's a very aggressive hitter. That could lead to issues as he continues to develop. For now, though, the reports are all good.
Junior Arias, SS, Cincinnati Reds (Rookie-level Arizona League Reds):
An 18-year-old Dominican who received a six-figure bonus in 2008, Arias has blown away scouts with his tools and athleticism in the Arizona complex league. The problem is, he's got some significant holes in his game as well. He's long-limbed and graceful and his current line is .311/.356/.520. That's good. The bad? He'll swing at anything in his zip code and he's a messy defender (21 errors through 31 games at short). With a position switch, he might be more special.
Ji-Man Choi, C, Seattle Mariners (Rookie-level Arizona League Mariners):
The Mariners are one of the busiest teams when it comes to scouting in Asia; one of their biggest investments is Choi, a 19-year-old Korean who signed for just under $500,000. A left-handed hitter with a highly advanced approach and gap power with a projection for more down the road, Choi is batting an even .400/.484/.562 in 31 games while also showcasing impressive catch-and-throw skills.
Billy Hamilton, 2B, Cincinnati Reds (Rookie-level Billings):
It's no surprise to see Hamilton leading all short-season players with 26 stolen bases in 44 games— he's a superb athlete and one of the fastest guys in the 2009 MLB draft—but what is shocking is how good he's been at the plate, utilizing a short, quick swing to hit .335/.395/.470 with plenty of speed-based doubles and triples. He's already drawing some comparisons to 13-year big league vet Delino DeShields as a future second baseman with on-base skills and impact speed.
He hit .378/.395/.538 in the Gulf Coast League before moving up to the South Atlantic League recently. With ultra-clean hitting mechanics and a good feel for contact, Sanchez continues to perform since his promotion, going 9-for-20 in five contests. The problems: a lack of athleticism (that moved him to second base) and a seeming inability to draw walks (two in 139 plate appearances). He can put a bat on a ball, though—at Low-A, sometimes that's all you need to start with.
Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees (Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Yankees):
Sanchez's $3 million bonus last year was a record for a Latin American catcher, and the 17-year-old Dominican has exceeded expectations in his pro debut. He's slugged a healthy .357/.425/.602 in 26 games for the Gulf Coast Yanks. The problem: defense. He's got a plus-arm, but his release is long and slow. The difference between him and Jesus Montero—another Yankees' catching prospect that competes to be 'the next Jorge Posada—is that Sanchez has more athleticism. That's good, but there's work to be done.
Adrian Salcedo, RHP, Minnesota Twins (Rookie-level Elizabethton):
Last year, he put up a 1.46 ERA in the Gulf Coast League while walking a scant three hitters in 61 2/3 innings. Right now in the Appalachian League, he has 56 strikeouts and just eight walks in 52 1/3 frames. Long and skinny, Salcedo sits in the low-90s with his fastball and already has a solid curve and changeup. The problem is, he pitched a little in the Florida State League this year and got battered. He needs to fill out more and get more reps, but he does project as a middle-of-the-rotation starter down the road.
While small for a right-hander at 6-foot and 185 pounds, Sampson has pure power stuff, sitting in the low-90s with his fastball. He does often touch mid-90s with his heat, a velocity than many feel will become a more regular occurrence as his game matures. His very good curveball makes him the rare pitcher with two true plus pitches in the Northwest League, and that combination has led to 54 strikeouts in just 40 2/3 innings for the 19-year-old Florida native. Other than top prospect Simon Castro, no pitcher in the Padres' system can match Sampson's upside.
Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres (Rookie-level Arizona League Padres):
Tate got a $6.25 million bonus after the 2009 MLB draft; that was a record for a high school player. It's understandable: his athleticism is off the charts. He's been injured a bunch so far, though—and he's also a really raw hitter (.227/.343/.352 in 24 games, with 40 strikeouts in 88 at-bats). He was 'high-risk/high-reward' and so far, the risk side of the equation is winning.
Michael Ynoa, RHP, Oakland Athletics:
He signed for $4.25 million in 2008; that shattered all Latin American bonuses to date. He's 6-foot-7 and has the potential to dominate on the mound. Key word there? Potential. More than two years after the bonus, he's made nearly zero progress due to elbow problems. After never pitching in an official game last year due to elbow soreness, Ynoa made his official pro debut on June 21 with three dazzling innings. He then had two poor outings and essentially disappeared once again. He's now on the shelf with elbow tendinitis. The A's are being understandably cautious, and currently are consulting multiple medical experts on the issue. Ynoa is one of the bigger disappointments of the last few years.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .
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