Luis Sardinas, SS, Rangers (High-A Myrtle Beach)
A popular name in recent trade rumors, Sardinas is an attractive target for most teams because of his pure defensive qualities at a premium position. The tools are even louder than fellow J2 classmate Jurickson Profar, as Sardinas has superior speed, similar hit tool potential, and a superior glove. The 20-year-old Venezuelan has struggled to stay on the field because of injury, but when he's healthy and decides to turn on the effort, Sardinas can flash first-division potential, an impact defender with plus plus speed and natural bat-to-ball ability. —Jason Parks
Braulio Ortiz, RHP, White Sox (High-A Winston Salem)
It has been a big season for the big Dominican arm, making the jump from the DSL to full-season ball, and after a stellar run in Low-A, the 21-year-old now finds himself in the Carolina League. Even though he has made a few starts, Ortiz profiles as a power arm in the 'pen, riding an impressive mid-90s fastball and missing more than a bat per inning. The command is loose and the secondary arsenal needs refinement, but Ortiz is on the fast-track, and looks like a prospect to keep an eye on going forward. —Jason Parks
George Springer, OF, Astros (Triple-A Oklahoma City)
The 23-year-old Springer has torn through the Pacific Coast League since being promoted from Double-A late last month, hitting .371/.464/.786 in 21 games. The small-sample numbers include a 9.5 percent home run rate (eight HR in 84 PA), a 13 percent walk rate, and a near 30 percent strikeout rate. A 6-foot-3, 200-pound centerfielder, Springer isn’t short on raw talent. His power and bat speed can stand out at any level, he’s a plus runner with 20-plus steal potential, and he’s also a plus defender in center.
Despite his sky-high whiff rate (29.7 percent at both levels), Springer is putting up massive numbers, and scouts generally seem sold that he’ll become an everyday-caliber player up the middle. The primary debate among scouts has been whether Springer will develop into a role 5 (average everyday) or role 6 (first-division) player at full maturity. His strikeout totals are always at the forefront of that discussion, and that––coupled with the loud tools––make him one of the game’s more intriguing prospects for me. I’m almost viewing Springer as a test subject; regardless of his ultimate outcome in the majors, a player like him should provide a valuable lesson in scouting. —Jason Cole
George Springer, OF, Corpus Christi Hooks (6/10-11/2013) from Jason Cole on Vimeo.
Jose Rondon, SS, Angels (Rookie Orem)
The Angels’ ninth-ranked prospect entering this season, Rondon was slowed by a broken hamate bone in spring training but returned with a strong performance in extended spring. He’s currently having an impressive summer in the rookie Pioneer League, hitting .330/.398/.434 through 26 contests (124 PA). The 19-year-old shortstop is a well-rounded prospect, combining his solid tool-set with some projection and the mature skills and instincts necessary to bring those tools to full utility.
At the plate, Rondon flashes the potential to hit for average with good bat speed and a relatively disciplined approach. His 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (14 apiece) stands out on the stat line, particularly given his age. He doesn’t project as much of a home run threat, but his bat speed and strong wrists yield some gap-to-gap punch.
Having committed only three errors in 25 games at shortstop, Rondon is also showing his polish in the field. While the Venezuelan is a fringy runner––his biggest drawback, though his instincts on the base paths are strong––his overall feel, quick feet, good hands, and solid-average arm should enable him to stick at short long term. Rondon was the most advanced all-around infielder that I saw at extended spring training in May, and he quickly became a favorite of mine. He’s emerging as one of the top prospects in a still-thin Angels system. —Jason Cole
Jose Rondon, SS, Los Angeles Angels Extended Spring (5/28/2013) from Jason Cole on Vimeo.
Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins (Double-A Jacksonville)
Yelich is usually mentioned early in any conversation about pretty, classic left-handed strokes. The 21-year-old effortlessly guides the head of the bat through the hitting zone via strong wrists and forearms, while flashing the ability to keep his hands inside of the baseball to drive offerings hard into both gaps. Yelich has made a smooth transition to the Southern League this season, posting a .274/.360/.522 line in 47 games. Both his patience and advanced eye have been on display during his first test in the upper minors. However, he has expanded his strike zone at times, with a little too much swing-and-miss, a sign that the young hitter is still learning how to slow the game down. I see Yelich having the potential to post .300 plus batting averages at his peak, but there are still some adjustments in front of him, mainly in consistently staying back and not jumping out at breaking balls. A strong finish to the season would be a clue that those adjustments are being made, and the bat is trending toward being ready to take the next step up. —Chris Mellen
Eddie Butler, SP, High-A Modesto (Rockies)
If you watched the Futures Game, you must have noticed the one-inning showcase of Eddie Butler's electric arm. I watched and was instantly interested, and decided I needed to see that arm in person. Butler exceeded my expectations. The fastball played up with two-seam movement at 92-94. His four-seamer was sitting 96 and he looked like he could reach back for more if he wanted to. The slider was already plus, sitting 86-88 with heavy tilt and bat-missing ability. His changeup looked as good as, or even better than his slider with serious vertical drop that could be plus-plus once he gets a better feel for his command. He even threw a couple plus curveballs at 82 mph. What does this all mean? Butler could be a monster pitcher, maybe even a 7 starter when it’s all said and done. He shows three or even four pitches that could be major league plus along with current average command. He didn’t rack up the strikeouts in this look, but he created a lot of weak contact and some weird swings from the San Jose lineup. One of the only negatives is that his body isn’t necessarily built to throw a lot of innings, and I’m not yet sure if he can maintain his stuff in the later innings. He could move quickly, and I think he’ll be in Double-A by the end of the season. He’s definitely a pitcher to keep an eye on. —Chris Rodriguez
Kyle Crick, SP, High-A San Jose (Giants)
A big, thick Matt Cain Doppelganger, Kyle Crick has even better raw stuff than the Giants ace. His fastball was 93-95 and touched 96 multiple times with some good life, and he even showed the ability to command the pitch early in the game. His curve was his strikeout pitch, anywhere from 80-84 with some serious bite and movement with 11 to 5 shape. Crick’s third pitch is a very fringy changeup that can get too firm in the 86-88 mph range without any plus movement. Crick's problems came in the fifth, where he completely lost his release point and general feel for all of his pitches. He began to overthrow his fastball and at one point walked three in a row. Overall, Crick showed some great stuff and a body to log innings. It will be interesting to see how his command develops because he showed some ability in the early innings. If he can figure out his command/control and the changeup jumps a grade, I can easily see a top-of-the-rotation starter at the highest level. If all else fails, he can be a legit big-league closer with his above average two-pitch mix. It all depends on how his command develops, so time will tell which way he falls. —Chris Rodriguez
Robert Stephenson, SP, High-A Bakersfield (Reds)
On the way back from San Jose, I stopped in Bakersfield to see some legit velocity from Robert Stephenson. The 27th overall selection in the 2011 draft, Stephenson shot up the prospect lists with his elite fastball potential and a great opening act, reaching full-season ball. In his first start with Bakersfield, he showed that fantastic fastball, sitting 97-98 and touching 99 with some good arm-side movement. His curveball lacked bite on occasion, but it was still very projectable and he showed ability to drop it for strikes and get hitters to chase. Stephenson’s changeup was a little firm, touching 90 mph in the first inning, but he later dialed it back down to the 87-88 mph range. Early in the game it appeared he was going all out with all his pitches, whipping his head down after every offering. I’d like to see him ease off the gas pedal early in his starts. The slower his fastball was, the more movement the pitch featured ,which could allow him to reach back for more when he needs it in the later innings. Although his fastball was touching the elite territory, the pitch got squared more than I anticipated and it seemed the hitters were sitting on that velocity. Because of his current fringy command of both his curve and his change, Stephenson might need to develop a fourth pitch he can throw for strikes. Currently, he has an all-star upside and his results will only get better once his pitchability improves. Might be the highest upside of any pitcher I saw this past week. —Chris Rodriguez
Trevor Story, SS, High-A Modesto (Rockies)
A first-round pick in the 2011 draft, Story hit well in his first full season of ball as a 19-year-old, which propelled him to the top of many Rockies prospect lists. This season it seemed as if he had regressed, exposing some huge holes in his game. Against Kyle Crick he was completely overmatched, swinging and missing at some curveballs by a several inches. His plate approach and pitch-recognition skills were very depressing; at some points it seemed as if he was just swinging to swing, or completely guessing. The bat speed is even leaving some question marks, as he could barely touch solid fastballs from Crick and company. The second game wasn’t much better for Story, as anything soft and spinning chewed him up. He finished the two-game look going 0-for-8 with four strikeouts and two pop-ups. Defensively, he made some highlight reel plays showing off his natural athleticism. With his good arm and plus range, he’ll be able to stick at shortstop, which is important if the bat doesn't show. It’s not a death sentence for Story, but he really needs some fundamental adjustments to his game or he risks getting knocked off prospect lists completely. —Chris Rodriguez
Michael Feliz, RHP Houston Astros (SS-A Tri-City)
Among a rapidly improving collection of high-end prospects in the Astros system, Michael Feliz can often be overlooked, in part because you have to look deep to recognize his success in Low-A in 2012. With 28 1/3 innings under his belt at the short-season level this season, his stock is soaring, with several New York-Penn League coaches dubbing him the best arm they’ve faced in the league this year. In the two outings I have seen from Feliz this summer his fastball was electric in the 94-96 mph range, touching as high as 98 a couple of times each night. His velocity is generated with relative ease as he has a quick arm and good strength. Feliz backed up his fastball with a potential plus hard slider that one coach dubbed unhittable after a recent outing. He hasn’t had much need for his changeup but it flashes average potential when he decides to pull it out of his bag of tricks. At just 19 years old, Feliz is still a long way from Houston but his stock is improving and he adds to an already impressive collection of young talent in a Houston organization that is on the rise.—Mark Anderson
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