Welcome to the September 16, 2010 edition of This Week in Prospects!
This is the second installment (the intro/honorable mentions section was the first) of my Top 100 Prospects list. If you haven’t read the intro, definitely go back and check it out.
Anyway, it’s time to look at prospects 100-91!
#100.) Dylan Unsworth, RHP, Mariners (Rookie)—It seems like a continual thread in prospect rankings is the tendency to throw interesting but anomalous players into the very back of the list, rather than leaving them off entirely. The Baseball America Prospect Handbook does it all the time, with weird cases like Josh Hamilton and Angel Villalona slipping into #30 rankings on the team lists. I used my #100 spot last year to look at Anthony Hewitt, an incredibly skilled player with zero polish.
This year, I’m essentially looking at Hewitt’s opposite in Unsworth, a pitcher with the best walk rate in the minors but questionable projection.
The 17-year-old threw 50 1/3 innings this year.
In that span, he walked one batter.
The sinkerballer only allowed one homer all season while whiffing 44.
Polish of this sort from a 17-year-old is extremely uncommon, making Unsworth an extremely interesting young arm. Obviously, the million-dollar question is whether his stuff is good enough for him to pitch in the zone this much at higher levels without getting crushed, and he did allow 71 hits this year already (although who knows what sort of defense was behind him in the AZL).
The South African righthander works primarily off a sinking fastball with average velocity, and pairs it with a slurvy breaker and advanced changeup.
#99.) Juan Castillo, C, Cardinals (Short-season-A)—I realize how stupid it is to put Castillo, and Unsworth for that matter, on a top 100 list when they’re both nobodies at the lower levels.
I kept looking over Castillo’s numbers, trying to find a flaw in them that would make me go “Oh, he shouldn’t be on the list,” but it just never materialized.
The 20-year-old catcher split his time between the Appy League and the NYPL this year, batting .328/.368/.517.
That’s a potentially sustainable .328, because Castillo only struck out 11 times in 32 games. Potential .300-hitting catcher with some pop? Yeah, that’s good.
What about defense, though? Well, he threw out 16 of 30 batters attempting to steal off him, and has caught 42 of 92 in his career, a Pudge-esque 46%. Castillo’s receiving skills are nothing special for his age, but they aren’t terrible, and he could be a plus defender in that regard down the line.
So, to recap: catcher who makes a ton of contact, has pop, and has one of the best arms in the minors? This may be way premature, but I really think that’s worth this ranking. Of course, like many players, Castillo could implode in full-season ball (a la Josmil Pinto). We’ll just have to see.
#98.) Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks (High-A)—A .314/.386/.606 line is going to land somebody on some top 100 lists, particularly when it comes in High-A at age 22 and contains 35 homers.
There’s a reason Goldschmidt checks in this low, though.
First off, he’s just an adequate first baseman with zero defensive value, so his bat has to carry him.
With the offensive bar already raised that high, Goldschmidt shows some chinks in his armor. First, he whiffs way too much, with 161 K in 138 games. You don’t hit .314 for long with that sort of ratio.
Second, Goldschmidt shows a huge platoon split, hitting .413/.453/.860 against southpaws and just .277/.359/.510 against his fellow righties.
And finally, of course, Goldschmidt’s huge year came in the California League, which inflates offensive numbers like crazy. Put him in the Southern League, and he won’t be cracking 35 homers or hitting for .300 averages when striking out like this.
That’s a lot of negativity for a top 100 prospect, though, and the fact remains that Goldschmidt just had a huge year, projects as a lefty’s nightmare, and stands to be a solid power threat in the majors. There’s always Chris Davis bust potential with these types, but it’s far too early to go there.
#97.) Ronald Torreyes, INF, Reds (Low-A)—We go right back to the low-minors nobodies with Torreyes, who actually opened the season in the Venezuelan Summer League, arguably the lowest level of affiliated ball.
He tore that circuit apart (.390/.468/.606) and did the same with the AZL (.349/.379/.494) before getting a six-game late-season cameo in Low-A that began the day before his 18th birthday.
We’re dealing with a similar package here as we were with Castillo: Torreyes has a high-average bat and rarely strikes out, adding some gap power as well.
Torreyes has played all over the infield but settled in as a plus defensive second baseman when he came to US ball. He offers speed on the bases but was caught 17 of 42 times, so he needs to polish that up. Set to start 2011 in Low-A at age 18, Torreyes could really burst into the mainstream prospect scene.
#96.) Michael Choice, OF, Athletics (Short-season-A)—The 10th overall pick in the 2010 draft, Choice hit .288/.388/.627 in short-season ball in his pro debut at age 20. He offers a Jack Cust-esque power and patience combo, but unlike Cust, he’s a plus defender in the outfield who may even be able to handle center in the majors.
Unfortunately, Choice has borrowed Cust’s tendency to strike out in bunches, and he whiffed 43 times in 27 games in his pro debut. That’s the sort of thing that’ll catch up to a hitter quickly, although at least he has the patience to help his OBP out with walks, something a guy like Goldschmidt could use more of.
2011 will be a big test for Choice, who could easily make this ranking look silly in either a positive or negative direction.
#95.) Clint Robinson, 1B, Royals (AA)—I know, he’s a 25-year-old first baseman, but the guy hit .335/.410/.625 in Double-A, and showed himself to be the sort of complete hitter that Goldschmidt and Choice aren’t.
Robinson hit 29 balls out of the park, but also struck out just 86 times in 129 games, showing a contact-and-power combo that very few minor league hitters possess.
Obviously, he’s in a conundrum. Not only will he turn 26 in February still waiting for a Triple-A look, but Robinson is in an organization that already boasts Billy Butler, Kila Ka’aihue, and Eric Hosmer as fearsome 1B/DH types. Not known for his defense at first base, Robinson would have to find a way to move to an outfield corner to have any shot at a Kansas City career. He should be prime trade bait, at least, and looks to be a solid first-base starter.
#94.) Eric Surkamp, LHP, Giants (High-A)—Surkamp proved to be the rare pitcher who excelled in the Cal League, whiffing 108 and walking 22 in 101 1/3 innings and posting a 3.11 ERA.
A deceptive lefty with pristine command, Surkamp works with a fastball around 90, a plus curveball, and a solid changeup. He looks to be a mid-rotation rock, and if his deception works in the majors, he could turn into a nice #2 starter. A hip injury kept the 23-year-old from pitching in August and likely kept him from debuting in Double-A in 2010, which would have given him an opportunity to move up the list.
#93. Rudy Owens, LHP, Pirates (AA)—Owens is Surkamp 2.0 to an extent, another finesse lefty who’s excelled in the minors. Owens doesn’t throw as good of a fastball or curve as Surkamp, but his changeup is lights-out, and Owens spent all of 2010 in Double-A despite being five months younger than Surkamp, giving him the edge.
The lefty walked just 23 batters in 150 innings while whiffing 132 and posting a 2.46 ERA. Dallas Braden may represent Owens’ downside, and I don’t mean that as a slight to Braden.
#92.) Jason Hagerty, C, Padres (Low-A)—For a catcher, Hagerty’s an offensive terror, batting .303/.423/.494 in a tough offensive environment in 2010. He’s just an average defender behind the plate, and at 22, he wasn’t young for the Midwest League, but Hagerty’s the sort of advanced bat who could skip a level and still thrive in 2011, boasting good contact, power, and plate discipline skills. Heck, the guy even switch-hits. I’m not going to go overboard and say he’s the next Jorge Posada, Jason Varitek, or Victor Martinez, but there’s some real potential in Hagerty’s skillset.
#91.) Reese Havens, 2B, Mets (AA)—Havens only got 32 games in in 2010, which is why he’s so low here. In an 18-game stint in Double-A, he ripped the ball for a .338/.400/.662 line, bashing six homers.
The 2008 first-rounder looks to offer 20-homer power from the left side, and could hit .270-.290 with his fair share of walks as well. Not bad for a second baseman. Again, let’s not rush to conclusions and call him the next Utley, but Havens could be a very good offense-oriented second baseman—assuming he comes back healthy in 2011. It’s worth noting that his 2008-09 seasons paled in comparison to 2010, so it’ll be on Havens to prove it wasn’t just a hot streak.