D-backs Prospect Progress Report: Off-Season Top-20

While perusing John Sickels' ever-awesome Minor League Ball site, I noticed a post predicting an updated BA top-50 prospects list, and I was surprised at how many names have been moved off of the list (like Jarrod Parker, though I disagree with moving him) and added onto the list (a few interesting choices, like Astros infielder Jose Altuve and Rangers pitcher Joe Wieland).  We're just two months into the year, but prospect opinions have been rapidly changing and evolving, as the scouting community is a fickle one.

This gave me the idea of writing up a quick progress report for the top-20 prospects in the system according to my initial rankings posted here on the 'Pit (I changed them at various points throughout the off-season, but will stick with this list for simplicity).  Since a player on the list, Yankee farmhand Scottie Allen, is no longer in the system, I'll be tacking on right-hander Eric Smith at the end of the list, as he was ranked #21 on my initial list.

* Stats updated through games of Friday, May 27.

1 - RHP Jarrod Parker - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 43 IP, 5.86 ERA, 33:23 K:BB, 1.64 GO/AO, seven HR, 5.87 FIP

It hasn't been an easy return from Tommy John surgery for Parker.  As much as we all hoped he would be able to contribute meaningfully in 2011 after showing flashes of brilliance in Spring Training (he was absolutely incredible in the one game I saw him pitch), getting back in the groove of starting every fifth day has been difficult.  Command and control take time to return, and being patient with your team's top prospect is a frustrating chore for any fan, particularly when he's being limited to five innings per start.

However, there are definitely reasons to be encouraged: every report I've read says that the stuff is still incredible, he's still getting ground balls, and he's starting to cut back on the walks.  Over his last four starts (20 innings), Parker has walked just six batters, though with just 13 strikeouts.  It's looking more and more like the fantasy that Parker could join the big-league rotation mid-season is just that, but we'll probably still see him at some point this year, with some late-year bullpen work setting up the possibility of Parker joining the rotation sometime in 2012, provided his command continues to return.

Updated Rank: Holding the fort at #1, but we'll need to see continuing progress in his command throughout the season for him to remain there.

 

2 - LHP Tyler Skaggs - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 59 IP, 3.05 ERA, 74:23 K:BB, 1.56 GO/AO, four HR, 2.81 FIP

Yes, it's been difficult and frustrating to be patient with Parker while he struggles at times in his recovery from Tommy John.  However, that pales in comparison to how difficult and frustrating to be patient with the development of a pitcher like Skaggs, who is thriving, no, dominating Hi-A ball.  It's the basic nature of a fan to want to see exactly what your top prospects are capable of at higher and higher levels, and Skaggs is Exhibit 1A (Exhibit 1B is slotted at #12 on this list) in the D-backs farm system of a player who looks like he has nothing to prove at his current level.  After showing some shaky control in first four starts, Skaggs has posted a 1.86 ERA in his last six outings, spanning 38.2 innings, with a 45:9 K:BB ratio in that time.

However, I would pump the brakes on crying for Skaggs to be moved up to Double-A.  Yes, he's been fantastic, but the development of pitchers is a tricky mistress.  It's well known that he has a pair of plus offerings in his low-to-mid-90's fastball and devastating curveball, but his change-up could use refinement.  Pushing Skaggs up to Double-A, considered the most difficult transition to make in the minor leagues, invites the chance for him to struggle against more advanced hitters and become reliant on his two best pitches, since they currently give him the best chances of getting hitters out.  If he's going to reach his ceiling as a TOR starter in the big leagues, he'll need to refine that third pitch, and the development of a change-up requires repetitions in order to gain a feel for the pitch.  Hi-A gives him a good place to throw and refine that change-up.

Updated Rank: Still behind Parker at #2 on the list, but an awesome #2.

 

3 - 3B Matt Davidson - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 204 PA, .282/.348/.436, 13 2B, five HR, 56:17 K:BB, .351 wOBA, 94 wOBA+

After demolishing the Midwest League in 2010, expectations were high for Davidson entering 2011 in a hitter's league.  However, Davidson hasn't gotten off to a start that has met those expectations, showing pedestrian power by Cal League standards and a disappointing K:BB ratio.  Yet I'm not worried about Davidson.  For one, Davidson is just a couple months removed from his 20th birthday, so it's understandable that someone as young as him could face an extended adjustment period to a higher level.  For two, the Cal League has a strange dearth of left-handed starting pitching this year, which means that right-handed hitters like Davidson in the Cal could see slightly deflated numbers throughout the entire season.

The third and most important point that keeps me optimistic, though, is that Davidson got off to a slow start in 2010 at South Bend before setting the entire league on fire for the rest of the year and rocketing himself into the top ranks of prospectdom.  True to that trend, Davidson began the year with a .250/.323/.333 April, but has since exploded to the tune of a .309/.369/.526 line in May with nine doubles, four homers, and a 29:10 K:BB in 98 at-bats.  If Davidson is able to keep up that May line through the rest of the year, while continuing to show progress at third base, he'll still improve his prospect stock by the end of the season.

Updated Rank: Slid one spot to #4 for me, but not because of his performance.  Rather, it's because of some first-baseman guy at Mobile who's supposedly raking or something...

 

4 - SS Chris Owings - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 211 PA, .263/.300/.439, 12 2B, four 3B, five HR, 49:7 K:BB, .327 wOBA, 89 wOBA+

Owings' plate discipline issues are truly beginning to worry me, as he's posted a 24:0 K:BB ratio in May after putting up an acceptable 26:7 ratio in April.  He just pulled his OBP above .300 after seeing it well below that mark for a significant portion of May.  Those issues are easy to see, though the positive signs also have to be noted.  He is still demonstrating impressive pop for a shortstop, and I haven't read a report indicating serious questions about his glove remaining at short long-term.  Most important to remember, though, is that Owings is still 19 years old, and won't turn 20 until August.  Even if his plate-discipline issues this year prevent him from advancing to Double-A in 2012, he'll still be on a perfectly acceptable age-appropriate-to-league schedule through the minors, and still have the high ceiling as an everyday shortstop with an average glove and plus bat for the position.

Updated Rank: Slid two spots to #6, behind Goldie and the next player on this list.  Upside still there, but probability isn't any better than it was a year ago, with probability beginning to diminish.

 

5 - 3B Bobby Borchering - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 203 PA, .282/.325/.468, 10 2B, two 3B, seven HR, 67:10 K:BB, .355 wOBA, 95 wOBA+

Borchering's BABIP is naturally going to deflate from his current .404 mark, but he's seeing a similar split between April and May that provide some encouragement going forward.  Borchering put up a line of .241/.280/.391 line in April, but has erupted, with the help of a bit of luck, to post a May line of .330/.377/.557.    He won't put up May numbers for the rest of the year, but if he can post an .850-.900 OPS through the remainder of the season, I'll be more than satisfied with Borchering's season, and would be confident in him going to Double-A next year at just 21 years old.  Borchering also faces the difficulty of remaining productive in spite of the lack of left-handed pitching in the Cal this year, as the switch-hitter is much better from the right side of the plate.

Updated Rank: Holding fort at #5, surpassed by Goldie by jumping ahead of Owings.

 

6 - LHP Wade Miley - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 34 IP, 8.21 ERA, 21:12 K:BB, 1.57 GO/AO, six HR, 5.58 FIP

Miley joins a pair of Visalia rotation members - Eric Smith and Mike Belfiore - as the three players on my list to put up the most disappointing results early in the year.  Miley entered the year looking polished, sporting a low-90's fastball, plus slider, and much-improved command from 2010, but it appears that some nagging shoulder issues, or simple regression, is hampering his ability to command his pitches.  The results speak for themselves - he's not missing enough bats, he's walking too many hitters, and he's allowing way too many hits.

The good news is that he's still inducing ground-balls at a fairly high rate, so there's still a sign that he's getting sink on his fastball and break on his slider.  Still, Miley needs to turn things around quickly, because there's a big wave of pitching storming through Hi-A and Double-A towards the big-leagues, and he could be left behind in the minors if he keeps up this level of production.

Updated Rank: Miley is down twelve spots on my list to #20, with seven pitching prospects leaping ahead of him.

 

7 - LHP Patrick Corbin - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 50.2 IP, 5.51 ERA, 42:13 K:BB, 1.50 GO/AO, seven HR, 4.34 FIP

As fantastically as Skaggs has been for the Rawhide, the other important prospect from that deal (sorry Rafael Rodriguez) has put up fairly mediocre numbers for the BayBears.  His K:BB is impressive, though the seven home runs are conspiring to prop up his FIP to unsightly levels.  Unfortunately, FanGraphs doesn't provide xFIP data for minor leaguers, so we can only guess that his HR/FB rate is slightly elevated, as seven homers for someone with that GO/AO number seems abnormally high.

Corbin has also been the victim of some poor luck on balls in play, with a .335 mark so far this year.  Whether that's attributable to poor luck or poor command is hard to know, but the reports on him have usually been positive, so I'm optimistic that his numbers will regress towards the underlying rates and he'll have a strong season.  Looking strictly at peripherals, Corbin's had plenty of great, even dominant, outings this year, headlined by his 10-strikeout performance at home against Carolina in which he threw six scoreless innings.

Updated Rank: Dropped down just one slot on my list, passing Miley but being surpassed by Goldie and...

 

8 - RHP Chase Anderson - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 13.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 20:1 K:BB, 1.86 GO/AO, one HR, 1.62 FIP

Perhaps the most heart-breaking story so far in the system is Chase Anderson's elbow injury, which cropped up after his second start on April 14.  His next start came on May 3, but he pitched just 3.1 innings before being pulled, and he hasn't appeared since.  From what I've heard, he'll miss at least another month, so 2011 is a bit of a lost year for him.  Considering that Anderson is already 23 years old and trying to build up innings as he converts from being a college reliever to a professional starter, that type of prolonged absence from the mound is exactly what the team didn't want to happen.

When he was on the mound, though, he was his typical, dominant self.  Sure, he surrendered eight earned runs, but with a 20:1 K:BB ratio in just over 13 innings of work, his stuff, command, and control were clearly just fine.  The good news as far as his development is concerned is that the team may have had to shut him down or move him to the bullpen late in the year like they did in 2010 in order to limit his innings, so there's a chance that he could still build upon his 2010 innings total (108.1), preventing it from being a necessity to move him to the bullpen.

Updated Rank: Sadly, I've had to move Anderson down a few spots in spite of him being one of my favorite prospects in the system.  I still have him 16th in the system, and remain optimistic that he could rise a few spots before the end of the year.

 

9 - RHP Charles Brewer - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 26.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 24:6 K:BB, 0.60 GO/AO, one HR, 2.56 FIP

It's a small sample thus far for Brewer, who missed some time in late April with the ill-effects of a being hit on the head with a foul ball while in the dugout, but an impressive one.  Although he was shaky in his second outing back from the head injury, he's thrown 10.1 innings over his last two starts and given up just one earned run on 11 strikeouts and two walks.  Brewer, the breakout pitcher in the system in the 2010 season, continues to look like a legitimate #4 starter in the big leagues, and if he continues to pitch like this we could see him make starts in the big-leagues this year.  Even if he doesn't see the big leagues in 2011, he is a strong candidate to fill a back-end rotation slot in 2012, possibly giving us the flexibility to move or non-tender Joe Saunders, whose salary will likely exceed his 4.7-ish ERA talent level in his final year of arbitration.

Updated Rank: Moved up two slots, being surpassed by Goldie but passing ahead of Miley, Corbin, and Anderson.

 

10 - CF A.J. Pollock - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 222 PA, .302/.347/.426, 17 2B, one 3B, two HR, 38:15 K:BB, .359 wOBA, 105 wOBA+

An aggressive assignment to put Pollock straight at Double-A, but it's been working out very well so far.  In a league that is probably more pitcher-friendly than Pollock's wOBA+ would make you think, he's been able to show off his line-drive stroke and doubles power, boasting a 20.5% LD-Rate that makes his .354 BABIP seem reasonably sustainable.  Even if that were to dip to somewhere around .330, Pollock would remain a solid .280-.285 hitter.  Add in a nice success rate on stolen bases - 9-12 on the year - and it's not too hard to see why the organization sees Pollock as a possible lead-off man in the not-too-distant future.  In a perfect world for the organization, we might see some sort of platoon of Gerardo Parra and Pollock in left field (how's that for plus defense?) - provided that Collin Cowgill hasn't already locked down the right-handed of the platoon - with Pollock hopefully being ready to take over in center field once Chris Young departs.

Updated Rank: Passed by Goldschmidt, of course, but moved ahead of Miley and Anderson to #9.

 

11 - 1B Paul Goldschmidt - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 214 PA, .331/.458/.680, 11 2B, 16 HR, 32:40 K:BB, .478 wOBA, 134 wOBA+

Needless to say, I've been looking forward to writing up this one for quite a while.  Time for me to go into excessive detail about the uber-pwnage that is Paul Goldschmidt vs. The Southern League.  After all, let's keep in mind that my ranking of Goldschmidt was not just in accordance with what the industry tended to think of him after last year's breakout in the Cal League - it was actually a good deal optimistic when compared to the perceptions of who I consider the big scouting juggernauts - Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, John Sickels, and Keith Law.

Baseball America: Not in the top-10, behind even Keon Broxton, who I was quite down on and continue to be quite down on.  In the D-backs top-10 chat with Bill Mitchell, Goldie was mentioned to be just outside the top-10, though I didn't buy a copy of the BA Prospect Guide so I have no idea where he wound up officially being listed.

Baseball Prospectus: Goldschmidt was tenth on Kevin Goldstein's D-backs list, as just a two-star prospect.  David Holmberg was listed ahead of Goldie, at #9.  To his credit, though, Goldstein did say that Goldie projected as an everyday first baseman, while many sources cited him as a future platoon-guy.

John Sickels: Bullish on Goldie, ranking him 9th in the system.  Grade, however, was a B-, and he expressed concerns about whether or not Goldie could put up good averages and on-base percentages at higher levels.  Woopsies.  It's very safe to assume that he'll be the recipient of a much friendlier grade after the 2011 season provided he stays healthy and maintains even a semblance of his current productivity.  I'm thinking a B+ (which is a top-50 hitter by his standards).

Keith Law: The list of names in Law's top-10 looked very similar to mine, only with Marc Krauss replacing Brewer (Pollock would have slid in mine after Allen was moved).  I'm not sure exactly where Goldie was on Law's list, but it wasn't in the top-10.

I certainly don't say this as a way of trying to poke at these four awesome sources, but just as a way to illustrate how much doubt there was about Goldschmidt's ability to keep performing well at higher levels.  Nobody seemed to even mention the possibility of Goldschmidt improving upon his numbers at Double-A.  Yet, that's exactly what the slugger has done so far, with the park-adjusted Southern League average wOBA sitting a staggering 34% below Goldschmidt's park-adjusted number.  The biggest sign of improvement, of course, is in his K:BB ratio - anytime the latter half of that ratio is larger than the former half in over 200 plate appearances, you're doing something right.

The scouting community is starting to catch on, as well.  In the aforementioned Minor League Ball top-50 prediction post, one regular commenter pointed out that Goldschmidt belonged on the list... without pointing out the absence of Parker or Skaggs.  Reading between the lines, some people are not just beginning to think of Goldschmidt as one of the top three or four names in the system, but as the top prospect in the system.  I'm not ready to go that far, but it just shows you how much progress he's made since striking out 161 times just a year ago.  If he keeps this up, we're going to have quite the dilemma on our hands in trying to figure out how to get both Goldie and Juan Miranda - assuming Miranda also keeps swinging the bat like he has lately - into the big-league lineup.

Updated Rank: Goldschmidt has rocketed up the list to third, and would probably be second were it not for Skaggs' similarly remarkable start to 2011.

 

12 - LHP David Holmberg - 2011 stats (Low-A South Bend): 49 IP, 4.04 ERA, 50:12 K:BB, 1.31 GO/AO, three HR, 3.00 FIP

Holmberg is a bit of an enigma amongst prospects.  He's 19 years old and in Low-A, yet rather than being the projectable, unpolished, dream-on type arm (such as J.R. Bradley) typically seen at that level, he's, well, the exact opposite of that.  He has average velocity and doesn't project to have much more, three off-speed offerings, including two that are already average to above-average pitches, and impressive command and control for his age.  These classic "finesse lefty" skills have allowed him to miss bats at Low-A to the tune of just over a strikeout per inning, but already have scouts pegging his ceiling as a back-end starter.  With no new reports emerging that provide more optimistic ceilings, it's easy for Holmberg to be passed up in the rankings by low-level players with higher ceilings who are getting closer to the big leagues or breakout players who offer a bit more to dream on.

Updated Rank: Holmberg has slipped down to #18 on my latest list in favor of higher-upside prospects in the lower parts of the system and a pair of big breakouts higher up.  I've become more wary of the phrase "safe pitching prospect," particularly one still in Low-A ball.

 

13 - LHP Michael Belfiore - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 37 IP, 7.30 ERA, 33:30 K:BB, 1.80 GO/AO, 13 HR, 8.42 FIP

If the Chase Anderson-to-the-rotation experiment has run into a few bumps in the road, the Mike Belfiore-to-the-rotation experiment has been T-boned by a semi at Hi-A.  Belfiore started the season back at Extended Spring Training rehabbing an abdominal strain, and hasn't been anything like the effective pitcher he was a year ago at South Bend since returning.  In just eight starts, Belfiore has surrendered a staggering 13 home runs, at a rate of 3.12 homers per nine innings.  Sure, the Cal League is a hard place to pitch, but that's nowhere near normality.  Really, I have no way to explain why Belfiore has been so homer-prone, but, in my unprofessional opinion, this isn't the type of thing can can be chalked up to bad luck and league factors.

Between the nagging injuries (the ab injury and last year's forearm strain), shoddy performance, and back-end starter depth in the system, it's beginning to look like a move back to the bullpen is in the future for Belfiore, where, in spite of a fairly high 'pen ceiling of an eighth-inning man, his stock would take a significant hit.

Updated Rank: Anticipating an eventual move back to relief work, Belfiore has taken a significant dive on my list, to #25.

 

14 - OF Wagner Mateo - Extended Spring Training

The season has yet to begin for Mateo, who will see the first stateside pro-ball action of his career in 2011.  A strong candidate to head to the short-season Arizona League (to keep him close the mothership), Mateo features five-tool potential in a corner outfield slot, as he'll likely outgrow center field as he fills out and gains strength.  He's as raw as a top prospect can get, but the upside is tantalizing.

Updated Rank: Mateo has jumped three slots, to #11, though that of course is a factor of other prospects and my evolving valuations of prospects rather than any material changes in the reports on Mateo.

 

15 - OF Ty Linton - Extended Spring Training

Like Mateo (the player Linton will always be compared to), Linton has yet to officially begin his 2011 season.  Linton isn't as toolsy as Mateo is, but he boasts greater raw power, and the scouting community loves his ceiling.  Linton is probably ready for a bit more of a challenge than the Arizona League, so he could be assigned to Rookie-Advanced Missoula once the short-season leagues begin play.

Updated Rank: Like Mateo, Linton has made a significant jump up the list, climbing just ahead of Mateo to the #10 slot.  For those curious, the reports on Linton are more favorable than those on Mateo, and those are all I have to work with, so I made the choice to swap the two of them.

 

16 - OF Marc Krauss - 2011 stats (Double-A Mobile): 188 PA, .245/.355/.459, 12 2B, two 3B, six HR, 49:26 K:BB, .352 wOBA, 102 wOBA+

Last off-season, I kept Krauss this low on my prospect list because of concerns about his ability to hit for high averages in the upper-levels.  In my mind, this would drag down his overall numbers and, in my mind, diminish the hype about Krauss' bat, his only real tool.  In the end, I was both right and wrong about this.  Krauss' K-rates have followed him to Double-A and his average has taken a serious hit.  Yet, Krauss still has solid offensive numbers due to the ability to draw more walks and still hit for power.

However, it's important to note that Krauss' season numbers have been propped up by a recent five-game series at Tennessee in which he went 9-16 with two doubles, three home runs, and a 2:5 K:BB.  Without that series, Krauss on the year is 30-143 with ten doubles, two triples, three home runs, and a 47:21 K:BB (with 1 HBP & 1 sac fly), which equates to a .210/.313/.371 line, a meager .684 OPS.  Additionally, since that series, Krauss has gone just 3-18 with a double, six strikeouts, and no walks.  In other words, if that series was simply a random mirage of good hitting from Krauss, his season numbers are going to be at a peak right now.  We'll have to see if he can hit more consistently as the season wears on before proclaiming him to have passed the Double-A test.

Updated Rank: Krauss' struggles have dropped him three slots on my list, to #19.  As if I wasn't bearish enough on Krauss already, right?

 

17 - RHP Kevin Munson - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 17 IP, 4.76 ERA, 26:16 K:BB, 0.92 GO/AO, 3 HR, 5.26 FIP

Munson is still the system's best relief prospect, but control issues that some scouts worried might crop up have done just that.  A walk per inning isn't helping your cause in the Cal League, where it's hard enough as it is to keep runners off the basepaths and balls in the park.  On the other hand, I'm not particularly worried about the home runs allowed, I love the 26 strikeouts in 17 innings of work, and I haven't read a report that says anything about Munson's stuff - a 92-94 mph fastball and plus slider - being any less sharp than it was a year ago.  so even though Munson doesn't look like as quick-rising of a 'pen arm as we may have hoped, he still should sniff Double-A by the end of the year.

Updated Rank: Munson falls down a handful of spots to #24, but not because of the 17-inning sample he has put in this year.  Rather, it's because of solid performances from other prospects into the system.

 

18 - OF Collin Cowgill - 2011 stats (Triple-A Reno): 210 PA, .331/.407/.541, eight 2B, three 3B, eight HR, .424 wOBA, 115 wOBA+

It's rather frustrating to see the offensive numbers through the entire Reno line-up, as it makes it really difficult to evaluate the prospects there.  Is Collin Cowgill's breakout for the Aces a league-induced mirage, or is there a chance that he could be more than a fourth outfielder?  Honestly, one could probably make an argument for putting Cowgill anywhere from #10 to the mid-20's in the system rankings.  I'm on the optimistic side, as I've always been a fan of Cowgill's ability to reach base, and a fan of his ability to be a comfortably-plus defender in a corner outfield spot.

Perhaps some are concerned that the big swings Cowgill uses to generate his power will cause his plate discipline to fall apart once he faces big-league pitchers who are able to change speeds effectively.  Then again, Conor Jackson took some of the more effort-heavy swings I've seen in the big-leagues, but yet controlled the strike zone superbly.  So, in my mind, the biggest question surrounding Cowgill is whether or not he can hit for power at the big-league level.  I'm confident that he'll mash left-handed pitching at the very least, so I see a legitimate platoon player at minimum, with his rocket arm and above-average speed (he's also 14-15 in stolen base attempts) making for a laser-throwing left field tandem for the D-backs.

Updated Rank: As mentioned, it's difficult to rank Cowgill properly because of the mysterious effect of the league he plays in, but I've decided to move him up three slots to #15.

 

19 - RHP Josh Collmenter - 2011 stats (Triple-A Reno): 6 IP, 1.50 ERA, 7:2 K:BB, 0.25 GO/AO, 1 HR, 4.03 FIP / 2011 stats (MLB Arizona): 30.1 IP, 1.19 ERA, 16:3 K:BB, 44.3% GB-Rate, 3.54 FIP.

Well, you all know which direction this one's going.  Collmenter has been a breath of fresh air in the big-leagues in a season that has seen the D-backs suffer through some... unfortunate back-end pitching performances.  Still, it's hard to ignore some unfortunate (though small-sample) realities: a) Collmenter is a two-pitch pitcher, b) Collmenter's K-Rate dipped from 22.4% as a reliever to 8.2% as a starter, and c) Collmenter's GB-Rate dipped from 63.9% as a reliever to 31.5% as a starter.  He's hanging on to his successful ways through a combination of limiting walks as much as possible and luck, but the peripherals he's been showing as a starter aren't going to lead to success for long.  Perhaps he could hold on to a back-end #5 job in the near future, but the D-backs have better pitching prospects in the system who will be ready within the next couple of years and return Collmenter to the bullpen role that he can be more dominant in.

Updated Rank: I still have my questions, and am not willing to buy him as a long-term starter, but the fact that he's able to help out the big-league squad right now has value, and that moves him up to #12 on my list.

 

20 - RHP Eric Smith - 2011 stats (Hi-A Visalia): 43.2 IP, 10.31 ERA, 36:19 K:BB, 1.97 GO/AO, 3 HR, 4.02 FIP

This is just speculation, but this looks an awful lot like what can happen when sinkers flatten out and get left in the upper parts of the zone.  We also saw a similar collapse with Bryan Augenstein a year ago at Reno, and this year, Smith seems to be getting hammered every time he takes the mound for the Rawhide.  If Smith can sort out his issues in the following months, then great, but I'm beginning to see a reliever in Smith, who was heralded for his sinker/slider combo coming out of college with a developing change-up.  Like Chad Qualls or Ryan Cook, that ability to induce ground balls could make Smith into a solid set-up man in the big leagues if he could sort out his command and control issues while working in relief.

Updated Rank: Smith's issues worry me so much that he's dropped clear out of my top-30, there there is the opportunity for him to shoot right back up with a return to normality.

 

Prospects previously ranked outside the top-20 to move into the top-20:

- RHP J.R. Bradley - Previous Rank: 21 / New Rank: 13 - Bradley's ability to hold his own at Low-A, combined with his low-90's fastball, big curveball, developing change-up, silky-smooth mechanics, and immense projectability make him an arm capable of dreaming on.  After seeing him in-person at South Bend, it's not too hard to see why scouts like what they see in Bradley.

- RHP Robby Rowland - Previous Rank: 22 / New Rank: 14 - In spite of being drafted one round after Bradley, many at the time felt that Rowland was the better prospect and a great grab in the third round.  He has yet to made his full-season debut, but boasts a similar four-pitch repertoire, similar fastball velocity, and projectable frame.

- OF Adam Eaton - Previous Rank: Not in top-30 / New Rank: 17 - In spite of the numbers he posted a year ago at Missoula, there were obvious concerns about Eaton's ability to translate that production to higher levels.  His 5'9" frame and age-relative-to-league at Missoula were legitimate worries, but he's done his best to dispel them this year at Visalia with a staggering .387/.503/.577 line.  The guy can really hit, and scouting reports are actually generally positive in spite of his size.  Eaton definitely needs to be taken seriously as a big-league prospect.

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