Almonte relies on his fastball/changeup combination to keep hitters off balance. The fastball works in the low-to-mid 90s and can touch higher when necessary. Almonte’s best weapon is his changeup, at 80-83 with excellent life; scouts feel this pitch has the potential to be a plus-plus offering. He has toyed with multiple breaking balls (curveball and slider). While he shows the ability to spin these offerings, he is still developing consistency. In a perfect world, Almonte develops into a frontline starter that baffles hitters with his changeup.
Carlos Contreras, RHP, Reds (High-A Bakersfield): 90.0 IP, 70 H, 38 ER, 41 BB, 96 K, 3.80 ERA, 5-7
After he worked as a reliever the previous two seasons, the Reds moved Contreras back into a starter role in 2013. Contreras attacks hitters with a fastball-changeup tandem; the heater gets plus-plus grades from some scouts, and the changeup grades as a true plus pitch. The problem is that Contreras has never developed a consistent breaking ball. Going forward, the Reds will continue to develop Contreras as a starter, but long term it appears as though he will be a high-leverage reliever in the majors.
Rafael De Paula, RHP, Yankees (High-A Tampa): 79.0 IP, 61 H, 32 ER, 28 BB, 108 K, 3.65 ERA, 6-4.
After not being able to throw stateside because of identity issues, De Paula has excelled in 2013. De Paula uses a fastball that can touch the upper 90s with life, a hard curveball that works in the low 80s, and a changeup at 83-86 with fade. The changeup still needs some seasoning, but he shows the ability to pronate, and it should develop into at least a solid-average offering. The future for De Paula is still cloudy; some questions about his age still linger, and he may only be a reliever in the long run. However, for those who really like him, he has the potential to be a frontline starter.
Chen Lee, RHP, Indians (Triple-A Columbus): 16.1 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 8 BB, 25 K, 2.76 ERA, 16 appearances
Lee was signed out of Taiwan, and has pitched effectively in relief in the Indians’ system ever since. Lee has a fastball that touches the mid 90s with life and a slider that is a fringy offering because of poor command. The thing that makes Lee so special is that he throws from an extremely low slot, and the deception he creates enhances his already-high-velocity fastball. Lee has the potential to pitch high-leverage innings for the Indians in relief, and he should be utilized in the majors in the near future.
Rafael Montero, RHP, Mets (Triple-A Las Vegas): 97.2 IP, 90 H, 34 ER, 20 BB, 99 K, 3.13 ERA, 8-5
Montero’s success can be credited to his plus fastball and curveball, along with his plus command profile. It is rare to see a young arm that is able to command plus offerings like Montero is able to. The changeup is still fringy, but Montero makes do with it by using it in effective sequences. Montero does not project to develop into much more than he is now, but with the surplus of frontline starting pitching that the Mets have, he should be able to slot in well as a number-four starter who overachieves.
Andre Rienzo, RHP, White Sox (Triple-A Charlotte): 100.2 IP, 104 H, 50 ER, 36 BB, 96 K, 4.47 ERA, 6-6
Rienzo tested positive for PEDs in 2012 and was suspended for 50 games. After he returned, Rienzo showed a fastball that can touch the mid 90s with steep plane. He uses a curveball that has good downward action. Rienzo lacks other quality secondary offerings, and has a fringy-at-best command profile. Rienzo profiles best as a middle-innings reliever, but the White Sox may give him the chance to start in the near future if the opportunity presents itself.
Eduardo Rodriguez, LHP, Orioles (Double-A Bowie): 96.1 IP, 87 H, 33 ER, 30 BB, 78 K, 3.08 ERA, 6-5
Rodriguez has been pushed by the Orioles to Double-A at age 20. He features a fastball that works in the low 90s but has touched 95 when he needs it. Rodriguez uses a slider and changeup as his secondary offerings, and while both flash the potential to be usable major-league pitches, I, as well as scouts I’ve spoken with, feel that they will be closer to average than plus. The best-case scenario is that Rodriguez’s secondary offerings play high enough for him to be a mid-rotation starter; I feel he will be a very good number-four.
Enny Romero, LHP, Rays (Double-A Montgomery): 95.1 IP, 79 H, 32 ER, 45 BB, 73 K, 3.02 ERA, 8-4
Romero is making his second consecutive trip to the Futures Game. Romero’s fastball can touch plus-plus velocity and his curveball can show hard snap. However, Romero’s changeup is fringy at best and he struggles to maintain his command throughout his starts. Romero will profile best as a reliever with the possibility of pitching meaningful innings out of the bullpen.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals (Triple-A Omaha): 92.1 IP, 73 H, 34 ER, 37 BB, 110 K, 3.31 ERA, 5-5
Ventura may have taken one of the largest steps forward of any prospect in 2013. His fastball is easily touches triple digits, his curveball has hard downward break, and his changeup has improved to the point where it now grades at least as solid-average. Scouts still have questions about whether his small frame will hold up for 200 innings, but he sure is showing the stuff to be a frontline starter.
Michael Ynoa, RHP, Athletics (High-A Stockton): 58.2 IP, 49 H, 18 ER, 21 BB, 52 K, 2.76 ERA, 2-1
Ynoa received the largest bonus for an amateur in Latin America ($4.25 million). After multiple injuries, Ynoa has performed well in 2013, and he was added to the 40-man roster this offseason. He features a fastball that works in the low to mid 90s. Scouts I have spoken with question his secondary offerings; the curveball flashes promise but is inconsistent and the changeup is even further behind. After giving him that type of bonus, the Athletics will give Ynoa every opportunity to figure it out.
The prospect known as “The Legend,” Alfaro has as many tools as anyone in the minors. He has top-notch bat speed and plus-plus raw power. He is still developing his plate discipline and can get himself into trouble against secondary offerings. Alfaro is at least a solid-average runner and is aggressive on the base paths. Defensively, Alfaro’s arm is as strong as any in the minors, but he is still developing his receiving ability. Alfaro’s ceiling is as high as any, but as with all prospects, he needs to add plenty of polish before he is a finished product.
Christian Bethancourt, C, Braves (Double-A Mississippi): .262/.293/.398, 22 R, 13 2B, 0 3B, 5 HR, 24 RBI, 10 BB, 41 K, 7 SB, 5 CS
Bethancourt has elite arm strength with an ultra-fast delivery from behind the plate. His ability behind the plate is game-changing. Offensively, he shows power potential, but his inability to get into good counts causes him offensive headaches. Some have questioned Bethancourt’s work ethic in the past. Going forward, Bethancourt could become a glove-first everyday catcher, but he will have to provide enough offensively to stay in the lineup.
A.J. Jimenez, C, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire): .388/.411/.529, 25 R, 11 2B, 0 3B, 2 HR, 25 RBI, 5 BB, 19 K, 0 SB, 0 CS
Jimenez is the Blue Jays’ lone representative and he is also a glove-first catching prospect. Jimenez shows the ability to make consistent contact, but scouts question how much punch he will provide. Jimenez had one of the best arms in the minors, and he is now working back to that level after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Going forward, Jimenez profiles best as a backup catching option who is able to stay on the roster due to his superior defensive ability.
Arismendy Alcantara, SS, Cubs (Double-A Tennessee): .275/.349/.477, 45 R, 23 2B, 2 3B, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 36 BB, 81 K, 21 SB, 3 CS
Alcantara provides excellent bat speed and power potential. Most scouts do not believe he will stick at shortstop long term; he fits better at second base. He is a plus runner who is aggressive and not afraid to swipe a bag when necessary.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox (Triple-A Pawtucket): .297/.393/.487, 52 R, 12 2B, 6 3B, 12 HR, 52 RBI, 49 BB, 70 K, 7 SB, 2 CS
Bogaerts is a top-of-the-scale prospect. Offensively, he has the potential for a plus-plus hit tool with plus-plus power. That would be a perfect-world scenario, and in the real world, Bogaerts is likely to have one of the tools remain plus-plus and the other tool settle much closer to plus. Defensively, Bogaerts has always been questioned. I believe that in the short term, Bogaerts could play shortstop if needed, but his long-term future will be at third base or in right field.
Maikel Franco, 3B, Phillies (Double-A Reading): .321/.364/.606, 51 R, 24 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 63 RBI, 21 BB, 41 K, 0 SB, 0 CS
Franco has excellent bat speed and tremendous raw power. At the plate, Franco attacks every pitch like it is the last one he is going to see. He will run into some problems against advanced stuff/sequences. A scout I spoke with described his defense best: “He made every play this series, but I could totally see that guy racking up four errors in two games.” I believe Franco will be an everyday player, but his frame offers nothing in the way of projection, and his ability at third is fringy at best right now. He is more likely to be an average major-leaguer than an All-Star.
Dilson Herrera, SS/2B, Pirates (Low-A West Virginia): .263/.323/.414, 46 R, 17 2B, 2 3B, 7 HR, 37 RBI, 25 BB, 70 K, 9 SB, 4 CS
Herrera has plenty of power potential and can make very loud contact. He profiles much better as a second baseman defensively. Some scouts question whether he will have the ability to square up quality pitching. Going forward Herrera, has a second-division-regular ceiling and may profile best as a utility player.
Jordan Lennerton, 1B, Tigers (Triple-A Toledo): .303/.406/.465, 46 R, 14 2B, 1 3B, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 60 BB, 78 K, 0 SB, 2 CS
Lennerton has average power potential and shows a quick enough bat to square up quality velocity. He struggles against quality secondary offerings and is limited to first base defensively. I heard a good story that in the offseason Lennerton works as a lumberjack.
Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians (High-A Carolina): .307/.375/.412, 51 R, 19 2B, 6 3B, 1 HR, 27 RBI, 35 BB, 39 K, 20 SB, 5 CS
Lindor is a premium defender at a premium defensive position. At the plate, he has a potential plus-plus hit tool with below-average power. Lindor is not a burner and may slow down after adding some muscle to his frame, but he shows average speed and excellent baseball instincts. Lindor understands the game and has plus baseball savvy, which should help get him to the big leagues at some point during the 2014 season.
Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Double-A New Britain): .292/.385/.611, 64 R, 18 2B, 4 3B, 22 HR, 65 RBI, 41 BB, 90 K, 9 SB, 3 CS
The first thing everyone talks about when they talk about Sano is his elite raw power, but that is not the only tool that he has. Sano could offer an average hit tool, which would allow him to tap into all of his power potential, and he also brings solid-average running ability and a plus-plus arm. When the 2013 season started, some scouts questioned Sano’s glove at third, but there is little doubt now that he can stay at the hot corner.
Yeison Asencio, OF, Padres (Double-A San Antonio): .297/.317/.431, 47 R, 25 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 59 RBI, 12 BB, 42 K, 2 SB, 2 CS
Asencio is an aggressive hitter who some would label a “free-swinger.” He has solid-average bat speed, but most scouts believe he will only have fringy power potential. He is a below-average runner and will not stick in center moving forward. Reading the tea leaves, Asencio looks like one of the fringier prospects participating in the Futures Game.
Jesus Galindo, OF, Giants (Low-A Augusta): .268/.342/.325, 56 R, 9 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 28 BB, 69 K, 40 SB, 6 CS
Galindo understands his best tool is his plus-plus speed. He utilizes it with a slap-hitter mentality. Galindo is going to provide next to nothing in the power department, but has the ability to stay in center defensively. If everything works out right, Galindo could be fifth outfielder who uses his speed to stay in the majors.
Gregory Polanco, CF, Pirates (Double-A Altoona): .307/.367/.459, 41 R, 19 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 45 RBI, 25 BB, 48 K, 28 SB, 7 CS
Polanco has placed himself squarely on the blue-chip prospect list with a stellar beginning to the 2013 season. Polanco has very fast hands and understands the strike zone. Breaking balls give him problems, but he tends to lay off the ones he needs to. He makes loud contact, but is still developing the ability to backspin the ball and tap all the way into his power source. He is an easy plus runner who has the potential to win multiple Gold Gloves with his defense in center field. He has all the tools to be a perennial All-Star.
Jorge Soler, OF, Cubs (High-A Daytona): .281/.343/.467, 38 R, 13 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 21 BB, 38 K, 5 SB, 1 CS
Soler has the potential to impact the game offensively. He has plus-plus raw power with high-end bat speed. He is still working to slow the game down and make consistent contact. Pitchers are able to attack him with a steady diet of breaking balls, hoping he gets himself out. Defensively, Soler runs well for a right fielder and has plenty of arm for the position.
Henry Urrutia, OF, Orioles (Triple-A Norfolk): .365/.429/.536, 44 R, 20 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 42 RBI, 28 BB, 42 K, 1 SB, 1 CS.
Urrutia has sort of been the mystery prospect of 2013. He has natural hitting ability and can spray line drives all over the field. The over-the-fence power is currently below average, but those who like him believe he is still working on creating backspin. Defensively, it is not pretty, and in the games I saw, he misplayed multiple balls in the outfield. Overall, Urrutia may have enough offensive ability to get to the majors, but he lacks an obvious profile and will have to improve his defense to stay in the lineup.