Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Athletics (Low-A Beloit)
After seeing the start to his season delayed as a result of a shoulder injury suffered in spring training, Sanburn made his Midwest League debut this week after four brief innings in the Arizona Complex League. Sanburn’s debut for the Low-A Beloit Snappers went well, with the former Arkansas Razorback throwing two hitless innings while walking and striking out two. He sat a comfortable 90-92 mph with his fastball, moving it around the zone and touching 94 twice. Sanburn also mixed in two distinct breakers in the form of a hard 83-84 mph slider with tilt and a downer upper-70s curve with good bite. Sanburn also throws a straight change with some late dip, but did not utilize it in-game. The plan is still to eventually shift Sanburn over to a starter role, but for now the A’s will look to build up his arm strength and help him get innings under his belt. –Nick J. Faleris
D.J. Peterson, 1B, Mariners (Short-season Everett)
Peterson was arguably the most advanced bat of the 2013 draft class, and he has begun to put his lumber to work through his first 21 games with the short-season Everett AquaSox. Over 93 plate appearances, Peterson is hitting .286/.344/.536 with eight walks and 15 strikeouts, while launching five home runs and six doubles in his short pro career. The former Lobo boasts a tight bat path and good extension through contact, as well as balance at the plate and an ability to utilize a full-field approach. Peterson likely won’t see his first true test until he reaches High-A (potentially later this summer) or Double-A (most likely next year), where the caliber of pitching is more likely to match up with his advanced approach. –Nick J. Faleris
J.P. Crawford, SS, Phillies (Rookie GCL Phillies)
Crawford didn't appear in the first six games of the Gulf Coast season, but has been fun to watch since taking the field. He's quite possibly the smoothest shortstop I've seen in my three years covering the GCL, with the natural ability to make tough plays look routine on a regular basis. He has soft hands and his actions and transfers at the position are clean and crisp. His arm is plenty strong and accurate, even while making throws on the run. He was the best shortstop available in this year’s draft class and all signs point to his having no problem staying at that position.
Offensively, the most impressive part of Crawford’s game thus far has been his two-strike approach–taking what the pitchers have given him while simplifying and shortening his swing. Crawford has been making contact on a regular basis, but there is work to be done with his mechanics before he starts facing more advanced pitching. He doesn't possess blazing speed like his cousin Carl, but runs well enough and is a very athletic player. As long as he continues to work and improve, he could profile as a top-of-the-order bat for the Phillies who will hit for average with some pop. In addition to the on-field tools, the word around Clearwater is that he has been an outstanding teammate and truly enjoys showing up to play hard every day. The Phillies were excited when they drafted him and so far he's been everything they thought he would be, and more. –Chris King
Dorssys Paulino, SS, Indians (Low-A Lake County)
After a slow start to his 2013 season, Paulino has seen a steady rise in offensive production across the board, culminating in a scorching first half of July in which the talented 18-year old has hit .316/.381/.526 over 43 plate appearances. Paulino has quick hands and generates loud contact through bat speed and an ability to find the ball with the barrel. His actions in the field remain stiff and unrefined, with timid feet frequently leading to difficult hops and rushed throws. Paulino will play the entire year as an 18-year old and will look to continue his positive momentum through the final eight weeks of the season. –Nick J. Faleris
Andrew Aplin, OF, Astros (High-A Lancaster)
While not a sexy prospect, Andrew Aplin can play the game. A fifth-round selection in the 2012 draft out of Arizona State, Aplin possesses decent bat-to-ball skills and an advanced plate approach for the Cal League. He has natural actions in center field and glides around the outfield with ease, though he unfortunately lacks plus speed at a position where it’s a prerequisite. His solid average arm is light for an everyday right fielder, making a move to left the most logical shift.
After glossing over Aplin in my first couple of viewings of Lancaster, his solid at-bats and consistent defense have slowly made me take notice. When asked, every scout has stated that Aplin is a future major leaguer, with some even going so far as to say they would take him over teammate, and former first rounder, Delino DeShields, Jr. As of today, I see more of a fourth outfielder whose reads and routes can help him to fill in at all three outfield positions when needed. –Chris Rodriguez
Eric Jagielo, 3B, Yankees (Short-season Staten Island)
One of three first round picks for the Yankees, Jagielo offers a well rounded offensive profile that should play at whichever corner he ultimately lands. It’s a potential 5/6 hit/power combo built from a leveraged swing, strong core, and improving ability to make in-game (and in-at-bat) adjustments. He’s logged just 42 plate appearances over nine games in the New York-Penn League, making the most of his limited action with a .333/.429/.472 line and four walks to just three strikeouts. Jags’ strong core and trunk are assets at the plate, but can limit his lower-half mobility at third, where the Yankees are currently playing him. He should get the opportunity to stick at the hot corner for the time being, and if he can smooth out some of the rough defensive edges he projects as the long-term solution for the Bronx Bombers at third base. –Nick J. Faleris
Franklin Barreto, SS, Blue Jays (Complex League GCL Blue Jays)
Widely considered the top international prospect in last year’s international class, Barreto was signed by the Blue Jays as a 16-year old during the 2012 international signing period. Early returns appear promising as this year the 17-year old’s production in the Gulf Coast League has exceeded expectations. Standing at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, he doesn't jump out at you physically, but when he steps in the box it's easy to see why the Blue Jays gave him nearly $2 million just 12 months ago. Barreto has very quick hands and advanced pitch recognition for his age, helping him to square up balls left and right throughout the season. Batting out of the leadoff spot he's been one of the toughest outs in the complex league, as evidenced by his .318/.416/.455 line, while striking out just 12 times in 77 at bats, as compared to nine walks. Barreto has consistently shown the ability to drive the ball to all fields and, while he has yet to register a homer, there is some pop to his game. He’s a plus runner with an unrefined feel for stealing bases.
Defensively, Barreto has shown decent range and an above average arm, but can try to do too much at times, leading to inconsistencies. His arm strength is solid, but lacks accuracy, especially coming off of movement to his left. Additionally, there is work to be done with regards to his footwork if Barreto is to continue to project as a shortstop. Some of the scouts I've talked to believe his future will be in center field where he can put his speed to best use out there. No matter where he ends up on the field, his bat will keep him all over prospect radars. –Chris King
Eduardo Rodriguez, RHP, Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
Newly promoted to Double-A Bowie, Rodriguez has logged two starts for the Bay Sox with varying success–struggling to spot his pitches against Akron in his first outing, but bouncing back with a dominant six-inning, two-hit, seven-strikeout performance last week against Harrisburg. Overall, Rodriguez is still missing fewer bats than you would like to see considering the solid, and still projectable, arsenal. The fastball has recently touched as high as 96, though he most frequently works 89 to 93 mph with the offering. His slider and changeup continue to flash promise, but lack consistency and late-game utility. As was the case at the end of 2012, Rodriguez will need to continue to add strength as he matures in order for him to continue to project as a solid no. 3 or no. 4 starter. The raw material is here for a useful rotation arm, with slow and steady progress to be excited about–especially considering he will likely finish the year at Double-A as a newly minted 20-year old. –Nick J. Faleris
Nolan Fontana, SS, Astros (High-A Lancaster)
Teammate of the aforementioned Andrew Aplin, Fontana likewise earns the “gamer” moniker. A shortstop throughout his career with the University of Florida, he has continued to man the position despite rumors he may have to move to second base, showing natural athleticism and fluidity in his movements. At the same time, the profile is more steady than standout, and I don’t think it’s likely he’ll be an everyday shortstop, long term. So long as he can maintain his current agility, however, he should at the minimum provide value as a utility infielder for the ‘Stros.
At the plate, Fontana has a special eye and is walking at an impressive rate of 19.6 percent–good for second in the Cal League. He’s recognizing off-speed pitches very well and his swing is simple and whippy, with good plate coverage and the ability to hit the ball to the opposite field. Fontana won’t set the world on fire, but it looks like his potential versatility in the field and solid plate approach could get him to the big leagues sooner rather than later. –Chris Rodriguez
Max Kepler, OF, Twins (Low-A Cedar Rapids)
After a strong June with the Kernels, Kepler has seen a slide in his offensive production over the past two weeks, dropping 22 bips in batting average, 67 bips in on-base percentage, and 102 bips in slugging. The German-born corner outfielder continues to display a projectable offensive profile, with an easy left-handed stroke and a broad frame that is beginning to see more strength comfortably hung upon it, taking some of the sting out of his recent struggles. Kepler has been pressing a bit at the plate, as well, expanding the zone and trying to force contact upon the ball, as opposed to earlier in the season when he utilized a strike zone awareness and pitch selection to help create successful opportunities. Looking ahead to the remainder of June, we should see a re-focusing of Kepler’s efforts in the box, and in particular with regards to pitch ID and implementation of a selectively aggressive approach. At just 20 years of age, Kepler has time to iron out the wrinkles, and remains one of the more interesting prospects to follow in a highly talented Twins organization –Nick J. Faleris.