Welcome to On The Level! Baseball Writers at Fansided have united to provide fans with focused areas of baseball coverage that should be very entertaining and informative, to say the least. I was honored with the opportunity to cover all four levels of the minors by giving my synopsis of 1 player at each level of the minors on a weekly basis. My aim will be to spread these out through each league (AL/NL), and I’ll also attempt to ensure that 4 different divisions are covered each week. Sounds like a lot of balancing, but it’s to ensure that if you do have a hole at a certain position, or are in an AL or NL only league, you’ll still get the maximum benefit from my column.
With no further adieu, here are my first offerings to fans and fantasy owners that I have unearthed for my initial 4 guys to look for and monitor this season. Videos are shown or linked when found, but getting videos for guys at the lower end of the minors is very hard to accomplish so it won’t always be a possibility.
Carlos Perez - Catcher – Toronto Blue Jays
Born Oct 27th ’90 – 6’0″ 195 lbs – Signed as international free agent out of Venezuela
The road to the Blue Jays is definitely steep for this young Venezuelan, with Travis d’Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Sean Ochinko, Brian Jeroloman, and JP Arencibia all ahead of him, but few scouts doubt his abilities or the fact that he very well could be the catcher of the future for the Jays. Although some dedicated Jays fans knew of Carlos before the 2009 season started, Baseball America (BA) and others really started to open some eyes this off season with their ranking of Carlos as one of the best Jays prospect, 10th for the Jays in BA’s case.
The reason he is seem by many as possibly overtaking all other catchers in the Jays organization is his overall package. He does everything at an above average level, except to hit for power which may come with time. His defense is outstanding, proven by the fact that he threw out 49% of would be base-stealers in 2009 and has an extremely quick and consistent pop time of 1.9 seconds. Carlos hit .291 in the GCL last season as an 18 year old and should gain a lot more power as he adds strength, but still managed a decent 15 extra base hits in only 141 ABs. He drew a good number of walks for a young guy with 16 of them, and he struck out only 23 times.
Carlos was ranked as the 5th best player in the GCL by BA for his efforts in the 2009 season and they mentioned that he “should develop some gap-to-gap power” as his approach at the plate matures. I’m holding out more hope that he’ll be able to develop 15-25 HR potential and will be a much better doubles hitter as a catcher than the Jays have had in quite a long time.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Carlos Perez is that he has received the MVP award for each team he has played for as a pro. His leadership and overall attitude towards the game are both outstanding tools that sadly do not show up in a box score.
There is a possibility that the Jays could have Carlos play in Auburn this year or to have him stay in the GCL for another season, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play in Lansing for a full season, as he is more than ready to do so defensively and has proven he can hit well enough to handle LoA. You should be able to follow his progress as a member of the Lansing Lugnuts here.
Of all the guys listed here, Carlos could make the biggest jump in terms of prospect rankings and could eventually make it to the middle of the top 100 prospects listed yearly by BA. Look for him as a sleeper prospect in 2010 with a possibility of making the majors in 2013 or beyond. I see him as having the same clout as someone like Wilson Ramos does today within 2 years. Draft accordingly!
Nick Ciolli - Outfielder – Chicago White Sox
Born Dec 6th ’87 – 6’2″ 215 lbs - Drafted in 2009 in the 10th round
Nick Ciolli didn’t even have an adviser when he entered into the draft in 2009 out of Indiana, but the White Sox still had enough hope for him to select him in the top 10 rounds and signed him for only $90,000. I could have included this guy in my LoA portion because it’s still not a sure thing that he’ll be pushed to HiA in 2010, but it is expected that the White Sox will do so so I took a shot. If you’re a fan of fantasy baseball, Nick Ciolli is one player you have to keep an eye on during the 2010 season as he has the tools to outpace expectations.
The reason he isn’t ranked highly on most rankings of the White Sox prospects is due to the fact that he has an awkward stance at the plate. Well, you know what, so did Gary Carter and that still got him into the hall of fame, so to me this is a non-issue so long as it is effective for that player. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any video to make comparisons with and to examine what it looks like in motion.
The real issue here is the fact that despite this stance he still hit .317 in his first partial season as a pro while in the Pioneer league and hit a decent 7 HRs in only 240 ABs. He also managed an impressive .389 OBP, walked 26 times and struck out 49 times, showing some patience and maturity at the plate. He had the second highest number of steals in the Pioneer league, getting caught 4 times in 27 attempts for 23 steals, and should be able to continue to steal as he heads up the ladder despite only having slightly above average speed.
If he matures as expected and adds a little strength, Ciolli could perform as an outfielder in the mold of current White Sox outfielder Alex Rios, with a projection of 15 plus HRs and 20 plus steals to go along with a slightly above average OBP. He most likely will not be a super star, but when you consider his offensive potential is similar to a Alex Rios or a Mike Cameron type who hits for average, you see a decent future in the young man, both in real life and in terms of fantasy baseball.
With Jared Mitchell’s injury creating some room in the White Sox minors this spring, Ciolli could move quickly and should be pushed to become one of the, if not the, top OF prospect the White Sox have in the system until Mitchell recovers. I expect him to begin the year with the Winston-Salem Dash, which you can follow here. He was ranked 31st in BA’s 2010 prospect handbook, but I definitely believe we will see him making a big jump to the top 10 once 2010 is in the books and the 2011 edition of the handbook comes out.
Hector Gomez - Short Stop – Colorado Rockies
Born Mar 5th ’88 – 6’2″ 185 lbs – Signed as international free agent out of the Dominican Republic
Everyone seems to be down on this future 2B/SS stud this year because he has had injury issues in 2008 and 2009 and under performed as a result, which makes him the perfect buy low candidate in most leagues. He was ranked the 5th best COL prospect by BA in the 2010 handbook, taking the position for the second year in a row. Here’s a guy who had Tommy John surgery in 2008, only to be named as the shortstop with the best arm by league managers in 2009, so you know his defense will play well at 2B, SS, and even 3B.
I saw his 2009 season as a “recovery” season, even if he did have some groin issues during the year. He had 338 ABs in HiA, managed 93 hits, 21 doubles, 4 triples, 7 HRs and a .275 average over that span and also stole 10 bases. The reason these totals seem fairly “regular” is because of the lost time he has had to deal with due to injuries. The talent Hector holds is still there, unquestioned, and very much evident when he does play.
We all know that Troy Tulowitzki is going to be the SS in Colorado for a while yet, so considering that Hector can eventually bring a great average, 15 HRs or more, and 20 SBs or more to the 2B position should allow him to gain value as a fantasy player. If you are a Colorado fan, you have to be drooling at the thought of a Gomez-Tulowitzki combination in the infield, as the defensive capabilities of Gomez are much better than those held by Clint Barmes and Eric Young Jr. His range is better than Barmes and equal to Young’s, his hands are softer than both, and his arm puts him well over the top.
The biggest risk with Gomez will always be injuries and that might scare away some fantasy owners and frustrate some fans. If he can stay healthy, he could become one of the most coveted 2B on draft day (top 5-8). If he somehow remains at SS, he will probably fall into the top 6-10 range due to the increased depth at the position and the stars that dominate it. If he ever puts in a full healthy season in Colorado, it is definitely within his reach to have a 25 HR and 25 SB season, he is that good and talented.
Draft accordingly, while considering the risk, but I like his chances and love his current buy low status in the majority of leagues! His arrival in MLB could be as soon as some time in 2011 if planned, or late 2010 if pushed due to numerous injuries in Colorado. He’ll likely begin 2010 with the Tulsa Drillers which you can follow here.
Below is the best video I could find to show Hector’s hitting approach. He definitely moves his feet a lot, but creates a lot of power with that short-quick stroke.
Lance Lynn - Starting Pitcher – St-Louis Cardinals
Born May 12th ’87 – 6’5″ 250 lbs – Drafted in 2008 in the 1st supplemental round
Out of all the top starting prospects I looked through this year, this guy flies under the radar more than I would have thought. Not only does he have a decent few years of experience since he was drafted, going 11-4 in 2009 with a 2.92 ERA in AA as a 22 yr old, but he also has the size and strength to become a work horse on any staff. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t profile at a top of the rotation guy, but if he drops a little weight and listens to Dave Duncan, he has the stuff and body type to perform at an Aaron Harang level, and what’s wrong with that?
He has a slider, fastball, and change up that he controls well and each grades as average to slightly above average pitches, but it’s his sinker that really makes him as effective as he is. He throws his fastball anywhere between 90-92 MPH, but can also hit 93-94 the odd time when he reaches all the way back. He’ll need to locate his pitches well to be an effective pitcher in MLB, or would have to develop a stronger change up in order to keep hitters more off balance than he currently does, but the talent is there and having 4 pitches definitely helps him create some deception.
Lynn got some international experience while pitching for the Collegiate Team USA in 2007, along with other well known pitchers like Stephen Strasburg, Brian Matusz, and Tyson Ross. He was key to that team and kept a 1.80 ERA during that tournament and struck out 26 hitters in 25 innings while allowing only 9 walks and 12 hits, so he’s no stranger to high pressure situations and seems to do very well when the pressure is on.
When you add all of this to the fact that he’ll soon be taught by pitching coach Dave Duncan when he reaches the majors, you get the feeling that the Cards got a lot more than just a back of the rotation guy when they selected Lynn. With Chris Carpenter and Brad Penny being notorious for health issues, and Jamie Garcia also having issues of his own recently, it is entirely possible that Lynn will be in St-Louis at some point in 2010. I’m sure that Cards fans are willing to wait as Lynn needs to build his experience a little more. He could use some time to sharpen at least 1 of his 3 average pitches, which would give him 2 strong pitches to work with in the majors.
If you get a chance to pick him up in fantasy baseball with an eye on 2010, Lance Lynn should definitely be on your short list of guys who are almost guaranteed to get a shot and that will get a decent number of wins when he arrives due to the team he plays for. He was ranked the 3rd best STL prospect in BA’s 2010 prospect handbook and has more potential than people give him credit for. He’ll begin 2010 with the Memphis Redbirds and can be followed here.
Below is a great video of the man in action from Chris O’Leary.com. It breaks down exactly how he pitches and goes through his entire motion. Of note is the fact that he pitches with his entire body, not just his arm, and more importantly, it goes into the fact that his slider looks a lot like his change up which helps him create deception. Two of his pitches are rated as above average by this site and they state that he has solid mechanics. It’s definitely worth watching and reading.
That does it for the inaugural OTL guys for week 1. I hope it gave some more information about guys they hadn’t considered in the past and that it helps fans and fantasy baseball team owners gather a bit more information about who to look for in 2010.
Thanks for reading and good luck as a fan or fantasy owner of these players!