Sunday, April 1, 2012

Buried Treasure Top 100 Prospects: #11-20

11. Gerrit Cole
Position: SP
Team: Pittsburgh Pirates

Not only would I have selected Bundy ahead of Taillon, I would have also selected Bundy ahead of Cole, hence that ranking.  That said, the actual #1 overall pick in 2011 is an elite prospect in his own right.  Cole has absolutely filthy stuff that rivals Stephen Strasburg, although he’s currently more reminiscent of a guy like A.J. Burnett who was unable to fully harness his arsenal due to a lack of command.  Cole’s arsenal includes three fastballs, highlighted by a 4-seamer than can consistently hit triple digits, a 2-seamer and a cut fastball.  He also has a slider that garners plus-plus grades and a changeup that flashes above-average on some days and plus-plus on others.  If everything works out well, Cole could become the most dominant pitcher in baseball for a multi-year stretch.

12. Taijuan Walker
Position: SP
Team: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners didn’t have a first round pick in 2010.  That ended up just fine for them as they were able to draft Walker in the supplemental round.  At the time of the draft, Walker was seen as incredibly projectable due to a 6’5, 200 pound frame and elite athleticism that had helped him excel on the basketball court.  He was also seen as incredibly raw.  However, in his first year as a professional, he was able to shed that label and become a top prospect in thanks to surprising polish, a hike in velocity on his fastball, and a rapidly developing curveball that now ranks as a plus pitch.  Walker completes his arsenal with a changeup that shows plenty of promise and will play well with a heater that tops out at 98.  With still plenty of projection, the sky seems to be the limit for Walker and even that may not be able to keep him down.

13. Tyler Skaggs
Position: SP
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

When Diamondbacks traded Daren Haren back in 2010 for Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin, and a PTBNL, the return looked underwhelming and that may have been an understatement.  Ultimately, how the Diamondbacks fared in the trade would come down to the PTBNL.  It ended up being Skaggs, who had tons of potential but was also unproven.  Fast forward a season and a half and the Diamondbacks have to be thrilled with getting Skaggs, who has now established himself as one of the top prospects in baseball.  To understand how he’s has arrived at this point, look no further than at Skaggs’s age and his K/9 in 2011.  He started the year at age 19, turned 20 in July, and in 27 starts across A+ and AA ball Skaggs struck out 11.3 batters per 9 innings.  To repeat, that’s 198 strikeouts in 158.1 innings.  He wasn’t especially wild either for a 2.8 BB/9 for a 4.04 K/BB ratio. 

14. Travis D’Arnaud
Position: C
Team: Toronto Blue Jays

When the Blue Jays traded Roy Hallday to the Phillies in the offseason prior to 2009, Kyle Drabek was considered the best player the Blue Jays received in return. In fact, D'Arnaud was less well-regarded than outfielder Michael Taylor, making him allegedly the “least” promising player shipped out by Philadelphia. Today, D'Arnaud has made sure that's not true. Drabek struggled as a rookie for the Blue Jays and Taylor has become a prospect afterthought in Oakland – Taylor was immediately traded to Oakland in exchange for Brett Wallace, who was later traded to the Astros for Anthony Gose; Gose was traded to the Astros by the Phillies in exchange for Roy Oswalt, which is ironic because the Phillies were unwilling to include Gose for Halladay – but D'Arnaud has mashed his way through the minors and as a result he's one of the top prospects in baseball and my top catching prospect. A .311/.371/.542 line as a 22 year-old in AA speaks volumes.

15. Danny Hultzen
Position: SP
Team: Seattle Mariners

As a Pirates fan, when rumors began to swirl that the Pirates were going to possibly take Hultzen with the #1 overall pick in last year's June draft, I became a bit uneasy. Critics, especially those in the Pirates fanbase, became enraged. To them, it seemed like Bryan Bullington 2.0; drafting a college pitcher with little upside and who should be an easy, cheap sign. That's completely unfair to Hultzen for several reasons. First, even though the Pirates selected Gerrit Cole, the Mariners took Hultzen second overall over players such as Anthony Rendon, Trevor Bauer, and Dylan Bundy. Second, Hultzen was not cheap. The Mariners signed him to a major league deal worth a guaranteed 8.5 million. Third, Hultzen has upside. It might not be of a pure ace, but Hultzen is a lefty that can touch 97 with his fastball. He also has an elite changeup and an above-average slider and Hultzen commands all three pitches well. Combine that with a nice, safe, floor and Hultzen is one hell of a prospect. He's certainly no Bryan Bullington 2.0

16. Nolen Arenado
Position: 3B
Team: Colorado Rockies

Talk about some helium. Arenado was barely a top 100 prospect last year, but this year he's popping up in the top 25 on some lists, including this one. Arenado is nearly the complete package at third base. He's got excellent plate discipline, quick wrists, and tremendous hand-eye coordination. Add in plus raw power and Arenado should be a weapon with the bat in his hand that can post elite numbers in both OBP and SLG. He will never be a gold-glover, but a strong arm and average range should keep him at the hot corner. Arenado will also never lead the league in stolen bases as his speed is well below-average, but those are small knocks on a player who will start in AA this year right around his 21st birthday and who projects to be a middle-of-the-order hitter.

17. Trevor Bauer
Position: SP
Team: Arizona Diamondbacks

Trevor Bauer is about as unique a prospect as is possible. He's small, has an unorthodox delivery, and threw a huge amount of innings in college. Those are the negatives. The positives were he dominated at UCLA, much more so than teammate Gerrit Cole and continued to dominate as a minor-leaguer. I'll admit it. I'm not a huge fan of Bauer. I believe the reports that believe his legendary curveball is overhyped and will be less effective against more disciplined major league hitters. Ultimately, I think his ceiling is lower than a true ace because I don't think his stuff is elite enough – hence the comments about the curveball - to overcome the command troubles. That said, Bauer will have every opportunity to prove me wrong and it looks like that may be in the major leagues fairly soon, which is plenty impressive in itself.

18. Devin Mesoraco
Position: C
Team: Cincinnati Reds

Perhaps the most telling event that spoke about Mesoraco's prospect status was the Reds willingness to trade fellow catching prospect Yasmani Grandal to the Padres. The Reds selected Mesoraco with their first round pick way back in 2007. Mesoraco proceeded to tease Reds fans for years by flashing tantalizing potential, but failing to put it all together. That changed last year as Mesoraco broke out in a big way. Starting the year at age 22, Mesoraco, OPS'd .855 in 120 games in AAA, while displaying solid plate discipline and impressive power. Mesoraco will probably never be a batting champion, but he's got plus raw power, the ability to take a walk, and average defensive skills as a backstop. He also might be in the majors sooner rather than later as reports indicate that the Reds plan to give him a shot to win the starting job in spring training.

19. Jacob Turner
Position: SP
Team: Detroit Tigers

Making the major leagues in his age 19 season says plenty about Turner as a prospect. Even if he didn't excel at that level, it was a small sample size of only three games. Plus, Turner did excel pitching at AA for most of the year , posting a 3.48 ERA in 113.2 innings. His peripheral numbers were also solid as he put up a K/9 of 7.13 and a BB/9 of 2.53. Turner has an excellent arsenal consisting of an above-average fastball that he compliments with a curveball and changeup, both of which are plus or better pitches. Combine that with impressive command and Turner has all the tools necessary to be a top of the rotation starter.

20. Anthony Rendon
Position: 2B/3B
Team:Washington Nationals

Rendon's an exceptional talent who's a top 5 or better prospect if not for his injury questions. Rendon has exceptional plate discipline and walked more than he struck out throughout college. He also possess a plus hit tool and power. With a glove, Rendon has the potential to be an elite defender at third base. Ultimately, that potential is contingent upon the health of his shoulder which affected his junior year at Rice and kept him out of playing in the AFL. The shoulder is a major concern that could force him eventually to first base where his bat is less valuable. Despite his injury history, Rendon is still a great prospect.

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