Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain)
Sano has been getting column inches since his amateur days, and thanks to a breakout spring, the press love shall continue. We all know that Sano has some of the best raw power in the minors, with plenty of strength built into a leveraged swing with loft. He was born to hit the ball a long way, and so far in 2013 he’s put 16 balls into Florida State League seats. The 20-year-old takes the headlining spot in this week’s Ten Pack because of his upcoming promotion to the Double-A level, where the precocious talent will face his biggest professional challenge. The swing has some length, and his willingness to expand his zone makes him vulnerable to quality secondary offerings and pitchers with a plan. Double-A arms are better equipped to exploit such weaknesses, and if Sano is slow to make the adjustment (shortening up, looking to go the other way, not selling out for power), his on-the-field production could take a step back before it inevitably takes another step forward. —Jason Parks
Henry Owens, LHP, Red Sox (High A Salem)
The 20-year-old left-handed starter has made a smooth transition in taking the next step up the ranks, racking up 68 strikeouts in 56 innings while only allowing 38 hits thus far into the season. The big thing that has jumped out when scouting Owens is the development of his changeup. Showing as a below average offering last season, with varying arm speed and lacking finish, the pitch flashed much improved consistency and fading action in his last outing. Owens also created better deception via arm speed in sync to that of his fastball. While the 6-foot-6 lefty’s change is pushing toward becoming an above average weapon at his disposal, there is still work to do in enhancing the command of the 89-93 mph heater. Owens is inconsistent utilizing his large frame to stay on top of his offerings, and he is often unable to find the balance between over-throwing and releasing early. The young arm has ample development in front of him in reaching a ceiling of a mid-rotational starter, but the progress with his overall game is a good sign things are moving forward. —Chris Mellen
Bryce Bandilla, LHP, Giants (High-A San Jose)
A fourth-round pick of the Giants in 2011, Bandilla is seeing his prospect status rise after moving to the bullpen this season. The southpaw is an imposing presence on the mound at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, and he attacks hitters with plus-plus velocity. According to a Cal League scout, Bandilla has flashed a 94-98 mph fastball and an easy plus changeup that flashes better. While his fringy slider and suspect-at-times control will relegate him to the bullpen long term, he has improved of late. Over his last 12 appearances, Bandilla has tossed scoreless ball 11 times, walking two and fanning 20 over 12 innings. —Jason Cole
Michael Ynoa, RHP, Athletics (Low-A Beloit)
Ynoa has seen his share of ups and downs since receiving a signing bonus north of $4 million as a promising 16-year old out of the Dominican Republic. He has since had difficulty staying on the field and, now with a Tommy John surgery successfully behind him, he is tackling full-season ball in the Midwest League as a 21-year-old. Ynoa was added to the 40-man roster to avoid Rule 5 Draft eligibility, so the clock is now running faster on his developmental timeline—the focus in 2013 being above all else getting him significant innings. The Athletics have eased him into the rotation with limited innings per start, with the big righty throwing five innings in his last start on Friday.
An imposing presence on the mound, Ynoa is still hanging weight on his projectable frame and will get even stronger as he continues to mature. He utilizes his size, and high waist, to produce solid extension to the plate, though he loses some of the benefits due to a slight fall off to the first-base side (which can also negatively impact his command). His motion can get deliberate and stiff at times, though he has been making improvements in smoothing the rough edges throughout the spring. For a big body, he has been impressive with runners on base, routinely clocking 1.22 to 1.30 times to the plate.
The stuff continues to show potential, headlined by a four-seamer that sits 91 to 94 mph and can reach 96 with arm-side run, and a two-seamer that clocks in three to four miles per hour slower with more sink. His breaking ball tends to come in with slow 12-to-6 action, but will flash good shape and depth when he snaps it off. There is potential for the offering to grow into an above average pitch, and it shows flashes right now. His changeup is in the early stages, showing some late tumble but below-average command. Ynoa has swing-and-miss stuff that could blossom in time, but for now the focus will remain on slowly building up reps through longer starts. His upside is that of a mid-rotation or late-inning arm. —Nick Faleris
Albert Almora, CF, Cubs (Low-A Kane County)
After starting the year on the shelf with a hamate injury, Almora has since returned to game action and is putting on a show at the full-season level. At the time of the injury, I was concerned about the severity and possible lingering effects, especially at the plate, where the strength and flexibility can be slow to return. But Almora has done nothing but rake when he’s been on the field, with 29 hits in only 67 at-bats. Out of sight out of mind in this business, which is unfortunate because Almora is not only the top prospect in the Cubs organization but a top 20 talent in the entire minors. This is a baseball player, one who shows five-tool potential to go along with instincts for the game. He’s a rare package, and if he can stay on the field and avoid injury, the 19-year-old is a likely candidate for an aggressive developmental plan. —Jason Parks
Courtney Hawkins, OF, White Sox (High A Winston-Salem)
The good and the bad certainly stick out with Hawkins’ line this year. On the plus side there is the .596 slugging percentage, highlighted by 11 home runs in 31 games. Then, there is the .229 batting average, .289 on base percentage, and ugly 56/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. These extremes also show when sitting on the outfielder for a string of games. Hawkins’ strength and ability to drive the baseball jump out. The sound of contact is distinct off the 19-year-old’s bat. The swing is compact, with the young hitter possessing shorter arms that enable him to rip through stuff on the inner half. But the swing gets wild, the well below average pitch recognition is glaring, and a dead pull approach leaves him susceptible to swinging over the top of offerings on the outer half. It’s an overall mixed bag with Hawkins. The present flaws scream, but the talent and what it can develop into speak too. The big take is that without considerable growth in Hawkins’ secondary skills, the hit tool won’t move forward. That growth can, however, take him to a power-hitting corner outfielder. —Chris Mellen
Kolten Wong, 2B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Lost in the shadows of a highly competitive major-league team and a farm system that is absolutely stacked with talent, Wong is quietly having a strong Triple-A campaign. The diminutive second baseman with the advanced hit tool continues to rake, and in case you missed it, Wong hit a robust .375/.420/.615 in a full slate of games in May. Don’t let the size fool you: Wong can square velocity and put a charge into the ball, as he generates excellent bat speed without losing any bat control. He’s an above average defender at the keystone, and has a knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time on a field, which speaks to overall feel and instincts for the game. He’s going to be a major-league regular for a very long time, but until an opportunity presents itself the 22-year-old will remain in the Triple-A holding pattern. —Jason Parks
Renato Nunez, 3B, Athletics (Low-A Beloit)
Nunez is a physical right-right third baseman with a strong trunk, medium-thick build, and plus power in his barrel. His ability to reach that power as he climbs the developmental ladder will depend on his ability to rein in his aggression and work himself into friendlier hitter’s counts. At present, Nunez bats out of a slightly open stance and produces his pop through solid bat speed, leverage, and an aggressive hack with extension and lift.
At times, Nunez fails to fully load his hips, which causes his bat speed to bleed and can lead to some struggles to catch up to good velocity. Additionally, Nunez’s aggressive approach often finds him working behind in the count, and he’ll frequently expand the zone once behind, though he is making progress in this department as the season stretches on. His strikeout rate belies a developing approach at the plate, and there remains cause for belief that the young slugger will eventually develop into a solid average hitter with potential for 25-plus home runs a year.
Nunez remains incredibly raw, defensively, showing stiff hands and footwork in need of a lot of work. He has an adequate arm for the hot corner and shows a good delivery when he is able to set himself, but can fail to get his feet under him—particularly when moving to the left or taking a step in—with his arm accuracy an unhappy casualty thereof. He’s a well below-average runner, clocking home-to-first times last week from the low 4.5s to the high 4.6s. He remains a project with much development ahead on the path the majors, but the foundation is here for an impact player if things break right. —Nick Faleris
Kevin Quackenbush, RHP, Padres (Double-A San Antonio)
Now in his third professional season, Quackenbush continues to befuddle scouts. Although the 23-year-old reliever owns a career 0.70 ERA, he doesn’t do it with big stuff. His mostly average fastball sits between 90-93 mph, and while his slider is decent, it’s far from wipeout. But the ridiculous numbers aren’t just continuing in Double-A this season; they’re actually improving, as he has allowed one earned run in 28 innings, giving up 12 hits and striking out 41.
Much of Quackenbush’s success is derived from his deceptive mechanics. He hides the ball very well, enabling his fastball to jump on hitters. One Texas League hitter recently told me Quackenbush is so deceptive that “you must treat his fastball like it’s upper-90s.” Many scouts have written Quackenbush off as a lower-level ghostballer in the past, but as the dominance continues into Double-A, they’re beginning to believe in a big-league bullpen future. —Jason Cole
Jake Thompson, RHP, Tigers (Low-A West Michigan)
The second-round selection of the Tigers in 2012, Thompson shouldered a fairly heavy load his senior year of high school and after signing threw just 28 innings last summer in the complex league before being shut down by Detroit and told to rest rather than report to fall instructs. After completing a stint in extended spring training to start 2013, Thompson has reported to the Midwest League where he has logged 7 2/3 innings pitched over his first two starts, allowing over two hits per inning (though the shoddy defense behind him is as much to blame for the hit count as his suspect in-zone command). He has simple, repeatable mechanics, but thus far has had a tendency to fly open on the front side, leading to inconsistencies in the zone.
The stuff is there, with his heavy fastball sitting in the low-90s and, at its best, coming on a hard downward plane. The pitch flattens up in the zone and much of the trouble through his first two starts has been his catching too much of the plate too high in the zone. A fastball, slider, change-up arm when drafted, he has added a curveball this spring with 12-to-6 action. At present he has a tendency to cast the pitch, but it will flash promise when he gets on top and breaks off a good one, projecting to a potential power breaker with tight action.
The slider continues to flash bite and comes on a good fastball trajectory, adding deception, while his change-up is his least often used offering and still in the rudimentary stages. Thompson has a big, thick, durable build and projects as an innings eater. Because there is not much room to add to his frame, there is some question as to whether his stuff will back up some once he’s worked deeper into a pro season with shorter rest between starts. Thompson is already showing a feel for sequencing and understanding how to set hitters up within at bats, and across multiple looks in-game. The upside is a mid-rotation starter, though there remains a fair amount of developmental time between that outcome and the present. —Nick Faleris