Prospect Crushes: My Heart Belongs to…………
Projecting prospects is like projecting the stock market. You win some, you lose some.
But sometimes you just have a gut feeling that it will work out. Any person familiar with prospects and the world of scouting has their “favorite” guys. These are guys they are particularly more fond of than others. Just look at Jason Park’s infatuation with Oscar Taveras as a great example. And of course, I have my “favorites” too.
The following are 5 players that I am particularly “high” on:
Roberto Osuna, RHP – Toronto Blue Jays
Preseason Rank: Unranked
Osuna shows a plus fastball that sits in the 91-96 MPH range. He has a strong changeup that projects as plus down the road, and he has an inconsistent slider that could become an asset to him if he can work out its’ kinks. He has yet to reach full season ball, having played most of 2012 in Bluefield (Rookie ball) and Vancouver (Short-Season ball), but for a pitcher of his youth (17), Osuna is exceptionally polished.
Osuna’s already thick frame limits some of his projection, but he still has a chance to be a number 2 or 3 type starter. Osuna will likely spend most, if not all, of 2013 in Low-A, but he has a chance to move through the system quicker than the typical Latin American signee. He is still a long ways away, but Osuna has a chance to be a 200+ inning workhorse with plenty of strikeouts in the majors.
Austin Hedges, C – San Diego Padres
Preseason Rank: 101 (10 who just missed)
Since making his professional debut in 2011, Hedges has had opposing scouts drooling over his marvelous skills and potential. As Hudson Belinsky noted over at Baseball Prospectus, Hedges’ defensive skills are unquestionably some of the best in the minors behind the plate. He has outstanding receiving and leadership skills to go along with a plus-plus arm, making him a potential perennial Gold Glove contender. The difference between Hedges being the next Jeff Mathis or a Matt Wieters type player comes down to his offensive ability. Hedges is merely average with the bat, showing 50 grade (on the 20-80 scale) contact skills with 55 raw power. Hedges has a chance to hit in the .270-.280 range with 20-25 home runs at the big league level, and combined with his defense, that makes him a potentially elite catcher.
Aaron Sanchez, RHP – Toronto Blue Jays
Preseason Rank: 55
Sanchez, a 2010 supplemental 1st rounder, is a classic example of a lanky high school pitcher fulfilling his projections. Sanchez’s strongest attributes are his prototypical starter’s build and overpowering fastball that grades out as an easy 70 on the 20-80 scale. He will generally sit in the 94-98 MPH range and miss plenty of bats, which works well with his potentially plus changeup. Sanchez has a 3rd plus pitch in his curveball which features a sharp vertical bite. In 2012, Sanchez struck out 97 batters in 90 innings, while allowing just 64 hits, limiting opponents to a .191 batting average.
The big knock on Sanchez is his below average command. If he can somehow turn the corner and at least show average to above-average command, then he could reach his potential as a top of the line, number 1 or 2 type starter. Sanchez has yet to play above Low-A ball, but he has some of the best and most overpowering stuff in the minors. He has been a personal cheeseball since he was drafted as he ranked 90th on my top 100 in 2011, and 55th last year. His is sure to jump into the top 40 and maybe the top 25 when I do my rankings in the Spring.
Corey Seager, 3B/SS – Los Angeles Dodgers
Preseason Rank: Ineligible
Seager already has lofty expectations to live up to given that his older brother, Kyle, has already had success in the major leagues for the Seattle Mariners. The younger Seager was taken in the first round, 18th overall, by the Dodgers in the 2012 draft and projects as a solid, all-around hitter. Seager has the potential to have a 55 hit tool and 65 power, meaning he could one day hit in the .280-.300 range with 25+ home runs. One talent evaluator I spoke to noted his “potential for great power,” but that he was still ”really raw.” That same evaluator also noted his strong makeup praising him as an “excellent, all around kid.”
Scouts consistently praise his offensive abilities, but the main question around Seager is his defense. As of right now, Corey Seager is a shortstop, but most talent evaluators feel he is destined for 3rd base. At 3rd, Seager’s plus arm strength and quick-reacting hands could turn him into one of the better defensive third basemen in baseball once he fully matures. His speed is currently above-average, but as he fills out it should drop to roughly average, giving him solid range at third. Seager is one of the few 2012 draftees that has a chance to develop into a star-caliber position player, and I have received plenty of glowing reports on his abilities, giving me nothing but high hopes for the kid.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B – Los Angeles Angels
Preseason Rank: 83
Cowart, who is the Angels only true impact prospect with All-Star potential, was a first round pick in 2010, and since then has shown promise at each step of the minor leagues. He spent 2012 playing first in Low-A Cedar Rapids before reaching High-A Inland Empire midway through the year. He made quite a bit of strong adjustments that have significantly raised his stock. His plate discipline is greatly improved, and he proved to be much less error-prone defensively. Cowart, a switch hitter, shows strong contact skills and potentially plus power (possibility of 20-30 home runs a season at his peak).
I’ve seen Cowart in person, and was amazed by his defensive prowess. Cowart had superb instincts as well as a plus throwing arm, which you would expect from a player who could have been drafted in the first round as a pitcher. Cowart has excellent athleticism, and I think when you combine his outstanding defensive skills and overzealous potential with the bat, you get the makings of a player who could be among the best 3rd basemen in baseball in his prime. Cowart, who I rated as the 83rd best prospect in the minors last season (and in retrospect should’ve been higher), will likely reach Double-A sometime in 2013, giving him a decent chance of reaching the big leagues in 2014.
When I saw Cowart, one thing that really stuck out to me was his incredible makeup. Scouts have raved about his good sportsmanship, and it really is exemplary. When all is said and done, Cowart could be the best home-grown 3rd baseman the Angels have ever produced.
Other personal favorites: Max Fried, LHP Padres; Jonathan Singleton, 1B Astros; Dorsyss Paulino, SS Indians; Taylor Guerrieri, RHP Rays; Jorge Bonifacio, OF Royals; Henry Owens, LHP Red Sox; Nolan Fontana, SS Astros; Robert Stephenson, RHP Reds; Taylor Jungmann, RHP Brewers; Jesse Winker, OF Reds
You can follow Justin Millar on twitter at @justinmillar1, or email him at Justinmillar1@gmail.com. Comment below to join the discussion.