Happy Thanksgiving to everybody at the 'Pit! A holiday where we do what we do everyday: stuff our faces endlessly. (But it's special!) Anywho, sorry about missing last week's post, I had to catch a plane early Thursday morning (early enough for it to still be Wednesday night back in Arizona) to London, and didn't have internet access for the entire weekend. But, what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than by cracking the top-20 on my list? Okay, fine, there are tons of better ways of celebrating, but that's beside the point.
Today's list is full of intriguing names, though I will begin by admitting a pretty significant mistake. I left two players completely out of the list because I simply forgot that they were prospects - Sam Demel and Carlos Rosa. Demel would have rated as #14 for me, just ahead of Mike Belfiore, sliding Wagner Mateo to #15 and everyone on this list down a spot. After Demel's inclusion, Rosa would have subsequently fallen just outside of the top-20, at #21 behind Collin Cowgill and just ahead of Eric Smith.
Neither player reached the minimum innings requirement to lose prospect status, despite Demel being a big-league mainstay from the day he was acquired from Oakland and Rosa having seen big-league time in Kansas City prior to his acquisition. And to think that John Sickels rated Rosa ahead of one John Lamb in the Royals system an off-season ago...
That all said, the names on today's list are certainly intriguing. The list contains three outfielders, the first of whom has one of the highest ceilings in the system amongst position players, due to both incredible raw power potential and the ability to be a well above-average defender in the outfield. The next outfielder is the guy who I hold in much less esteem than the rest of the scouting community, and for whom 2011 could be a make-or-break year. The final outfielder had a fantastic season at an upper-level affiliate, but remains a question mark because of his size.
Mixed in with those outfielders are a pair of arms, one of whom is the best pure reliever the D-backs have in their system, and who could be working his way towards the eighth inning in our 'pen around 2012. The other arm is a prototypical Arizona sinkerballer, with relatively unpolished off-speed stuff and a lack of a third pitch.
Once again, amidst the hubbub of last weekend's trip and assignments starting to flow in at college, I have managed to not have any interaction with Wes on this week's posts. Apologies once again to Wes, but I've got to run to a Thanksgiving Dinner gather, so here's the list for the week:
16 - OF Ty Linton - 1/17/1991 - 19 years old - Highest Level: Rookie - IHSB’s ’09 rank: N/A
Video link – Linton’s first professional home run, hit in an Instructional League game; turn the volume up for this one, the crack of the bat when he hits it is beautiful.
2010 Stats - Rookie: 1 game, ---/1.000/---, 0:1 K:BB, .720 wOBA, --- BABIP. (Linton had just 1 plate-appearance and drew a walk… but I find this stat-line amusing, so it’s there)
Let’s get this straight right up top: we wanted Barret Loux to have been healthy. The condition of Loux’s shoulder was not good news for the D-backs. Sure, there’s a compensation pick, but that’s an unprotected pick, which means we cannot draft a player of higher caliber than Loux without running the risk of either completely breaking our draft budget or not signing the player. Loux would have slotted in at number six or seven on my list, and simple common sense states that it’s better to have an asset now than have one of equal value in the future.
Just look at who the Rangers, an aggressive drafting team, took this year with their compensation pick for not signing Matt Purke – Jake Skole, a toolsy high school outfielder who was supposed to be more of a third-round pick, not anywhere near the first round, headed into the draft.
That being said, Linton is as nice of a recovery option for failing to sign Loux as a team could hope for. Power is the calling card for Linton, who is a generally poor defender in center field despite his adequate foot speed, likely meaning that a move to a corner outfield slot is in the works. However, it is believed that Linton could be a good defender in a corner outfield spot based purely on his athleticism. There are also slight concerns about the length of his swing, but that can be refined, and there's a ton of upside in Linton if he can develop as hoped.
17 - OF/1B Marc Krauss - 10/5/1987 - 22 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #15
2010 Stats - Hi-A: 138 games, .302/.371/.509, 27 2B, 4 3B, 25 HR, 141:57 K:BB, .383 wOBA, .371 BABIP*.
Most will be surprised by how low I have Krauss on this list. Krauss joins Visalia teammate Paul Goldschmidt as the most one-dimensional players in the top-30 of this list. Like Goldschmit, Krauss is a true a bat-only prospect. However, he has an unfortunate tendency to roll over the ball, as demonstrated by his almost 50% ground ball rate at Visalia, which isn't conducive to the raw power that Krauss possesses in spades. Factor in some incredible luck on BABIP, and the fact that the Cal League likely spiked his HR/FB rate, and there is certainly cause for concern.
Krauss got his first taste of upper-level pitching this fall in the Arizona Fall League, and had an opportunity to demonstrate that his numbers were not a Cal League mirage. There, he did not get off to a great start, lacking power in his first few games and surviving off of walks. But then the power showed up, and Krauss subsequently exploded for the Scorpions, finishing with five doubles, a triple, and four homers for an ISO of .226 during his AFL stint.
Still, the AFL is also very power-friendly, and Krauss did manage to strike out 22 times in 84 at-bats at the AFL. If you buy into Krauss' bat, he has the potential to be a true middle-of-the-order hitter, either fourth or fifth in the lineup. This, however, does not fix his lack of a position. His arm from the outfield is solid, but his lack of mobility will likely move him to first base, or if he cannot handle first, to a DH slot. If you don't buy into Krauss' bat, you're essentially left with a non-prospect.
18 - RHP Kevin Munson - 1/3/1989 - 21 years old - Highest Level: Low-A - IHSB’s ’09 rank: N/A
2010 Stats - Low-A: 12 games, 16 1/3 IP, 1.10 ERA, 2.83 FIP, 17:5 K:BB, 1 HR, 52.5% GB-Rate / Hi-A: 1 game, 2/3 IP, 13.50 ERA, 12.20 FIP, 0:2 K:BB, 0 HR, 33.3% GB-Rate.
Munson told D-backs brass after signing that he wanted to be in the major leagues by the end of 2010. Now, while that may have been a bit pre-mature, it does give you an idea of just what type of prospect Munson is – a quick-rising one. As a matter of fact, ESPN’s Keith Law had Munson as the best college relief arm in the 2010 draft, and tweeted his approval of the D-backs snatching Munson up in the fourth round.
He may not have the closer ceiling that arms like Daniel Schlereth, Leyson Septimo, and Juan Gutierrez have had (see what I did there?), but could make a debut in the majors in 2011 after likely starting the year at Double-A. His fastball sits 92-94 MPH, occasionally reaching back for 96, and he pairs it with a swing-and-miss slider, giving him the repertoire and ceiling of a big-league set-up man.
19 - OF Collin Cowgill - 5/22/1986 - 24 years old - Highest Level: Double-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #9
2010 Stats - AA: 131 games, .285/.360/.464, 34 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 73:57 K:BB, .363 wOBA, .304 BABIP*.
Despite the fact that Cowgill fell down a handful of spots from his ranking on last year’s list, he improved his prospect status in the 2010 season. First, and most importantly, he stayed healthy for the entire year for the first time in his professional career. Then, of course, there was his production.
He improved upon his ‘09 OPS of .819 despite making what is typically believed to be the hardest jump in the minors, from Hi-A to AA. Further, he was making that jump while going from a hitter-friendly league, the Cal League, to a pitcher-friendly league, the Southern League. I know that Cowgill is just 5’9", but his wOBA speaks for itself - Cowgill is a valuable player at the plate.
He is known for playing exceptional defense in the corner outfield positions with the ability to play center field, and successfully stole 25 of 33 bases. Those numbers indicate that Cowgill rates as solid in all five tools (power, contact/on-base, speed, defense, arm). While many don’t believe he has the bat to man a corner outfield position on an everyday basis, it’s easy to imagine Cowgill finding some sort of role on the 2011 D-backs, particularly given our current corner outfield "depth."
20 - RHP Eric Smith - 10/15/1988 - 21 years old - Highest Level: Hi-A - IHSB’s ‘09 rank: #31
2010 Stats - Low-A: 16 games (16 GS), 86 2/3 IP, 3.53 ERA, 3.41 FIP, 65:32 K:BB, 4 HR, 53.8% GB-Rate / Hi-A: 10 games (10 GS), 50 2/3 IP, 4.97 ERA, 4.58 FIP, 36:30 K:BB, 4 HR, 54.6% GB-Rate.
After I had quite dramatically underrated Smith last year, he was spectacular in 2010, and I hopefully got his ranking right this time around (though I may still be underselling him a bit). Smith had a streak of 22 scoreless innings at the beginning of the season with South Bend, and struck out twice as many batters as he walked for the SilverHawks. His heavy ground-ball tendencies helped him to allow just four home runs in 86 2/3 innings at South Bend, a rate of 0.42 homers per nine innings, which subsequently kept his FIP there sparkling.
Smith was subsequently promoted to Visalia in mid-July. His first month of Cal League baseball did not go as planned, though, as he coughed up 25 earned runs in his first 22 2/3 innings of Hi-A baseball. After that rough stretch, though, he surrendered just three earned runs in his final 28 innings of work, while recording 42 ground-ball outs and a mere 12 fly ball outs.
Smith is not an incredibly high-strikeout pitcher, with a rate of 6.62 K’s per nine innings between South Bend and Visalia in 2010, but when he limits his walks he can be incredibly successful. His ceiling is as a ground-ball inducing back-end starter in the mold of Jake Westbrook who can gobble up innings and survive in the shallow confines of Chase Field.
However, Smith’s lack of bat-missing stuff as a college arm in Low-A leaves me uneasy. I can’t shake the feeling that he’s not going to be able to miss enough bats to start at the big-league level, leading to a future as a sinker/slider reliever. Chad Qualls pre-kneecap implosion and Blaine Boyer come to mind as a couple of familiar comparables who fit this mold, though I don’t think that Smith will miss as many bats as Qualls or walk as many batters as Boyer.