2014 South Atlantic League Northern Division Preview


Delmarva Shorebirds

Organization: Baltimore Orioles


First off, RHP Hunter Harvey makes his full-season Single-A debut this year. Baltimore’s 1st round pick in the 2013 draft out of Bandys High School in Catawba, North Carolina, Hunter is the son of former All-Star closer Bryan Harvey. Even at 19 years old, he has shown the makeup, poise, and arm of a future star in his own right. Sitting in the mid-90’s with his fastball and backing that up with a strong curve gives him a great foundation on which to build, but add to that a great deal of projectability (6’3”, 175) and you have a pitcher who could top out as a rock-solid #1 starter.

Righty Dylan Rheault is a giant of a man at 6’9”, 245, and is most certainly a work-in-progress. His low-90’s sinking fastball and ability to create leverage make him intriguing, but he’ll have to overcome significant inconsistencies in his mechanics in order to make it up the ladder. His numbers with the Low-A Aberdeen Shorebirds (3.57 ERA, 40 1/3 IP, 16 BB, 26 K) were a good sign. 

RHP Sebastian Vader was an 18th round pick out of San Marcos HS (California), but is slowly growing into a consistent performer. Vader posted a 7-3 record in Aberdeen last year over 85 1/3 innings, striking out 64 and walking only eighteen. A smooth delivery and developing feel for his change-up could carry him above expectations. 


CF Josh Hart is a toolsy first-rounder from 2013’s draft who is making his full-season debut as a 19 year-old after only 33 games in the Gulf Coast League and three games at Aberdeen. Hart shows enough arm for center, a smooth swing from the left side, and ran a 6.49 in the 60 last year. He profiles as a lead-off hitter and center fielder but will need to work on his routes and reads in the field. Fortunately, Hart will not be judged on his knowledge of baseball history.

First baseman Trey Mancini tore up the diamond in 2013 with Notre Dame and subsequently brought his tools to Aberdeen, where he was named Topps NY-Penn League Player of The Year. The 8th round pick batted .328 with 18 doubles and 35 RBI in 68 games last year, and will likely be counted on as a core run-producer in the Shorebirds lineup for 2014. 

Greensboro Grasshoppers

Organization: Miami Marlins


LHP Jarlin Garcia has been nothing if not consistent since his first pro season in 2011. Garcia has started a little more than half his games as a pro, with consistent numbers from the beginning (8.5 H/9 IP, 8.5 K/9 IP, 2.5 BB/9). He has a good deal of projectability left in his 6’2”, 170 pound frame, and should be at least a strong short reliever or even a back-end starter at the higher levels.

RHP Blake Logan was a two-way player at East Oklahoma State, pitching as well as catching. Logan was at Greensboro in 2013 and put up a mixed bag of stats (5.01 ERA, 67 K in 59 1/3 IP, 11 SV), but expect him to show marked improvement in his encore performance. He’s got the raw arm strength, build and mentality to be a solid reliever, but will need to add to his velocity in order to close games above Single-A (sits in the low-90s).

RHP Ryan Newell is a 7th round pick from 2012 who sits in the low-90s and shows a solid curve and a changeup that can come at a batter around 13-14 MPH slower than his fastball, which in and of itself is interesting. He’s got good mechanics and arm speed, and he’s projectable as well. He looks like a good back-end starter candidate or a strong reliever for the high levels.

Righty Drew Steckenrider is a highly-athletic two-way player from the University of Tennessee, who could probably make it as an outfielder if he doesn’t cut it on the mound. Even so, he brings a low-90s fastball to the table as a pitcher. With his projectability (6’5”, 215), he could easily end up with mid-90s heat. Personally, I’d rather see what he can do as a full-time player; he had switch-hit homers in the Metrodome in 2009, has plus power from the right side, and runs a 6.8 60 at present.

LHP Sean Townsley was a 25th rounder in 2013 who has limited pro experience thus far, but he’s posted a ton of strikeouts to this point. At 6’7”, 240, you’d expect that to be the case. He could bear watching.


Austin Dean was a 4th round pick in 2012 who has shown some early extra-base pop, and he’s demonstrated solid base-running skills and a good eye at the plate so far.

1B Felix Munoz shows an even better eye at bat, with burgeoning extra-base power that could turn into double-digit homers. He’s been in the system since 2009 but is only 22 for the opening day of 2014.

3B JT Riddle has only 59 games in pro ball, but has the size and swing to be a doubles machine if he can reach his peak potential. He’s got a strong glove and can play short or second if needed, though he’s stronger at second.

2B Avery Romero is the quintessential yard rat, with hustle and competitive drive that are off the charts. To go with these plus-plus intangibles, Romero was one of the top HS batting prospects in the country in 2012 due to his short swing path and aggressive approach at the plate. He could potentially be a star catcher if the Marlins decide to put him on that path; plus arm strength, pop times around 1.85 and quick reflexes behind the plate would make him an attractive option.

OF Jesus Solorzano has big power potential, having collected 47 extra-base hits in 2013 with the Grasshoppers, though he struck out 111 times. He may be coming back to Greensboro to work on his pitch selection. On top of this, Solorzano swiped 33 bags last year while being caught only four times. He’ll be an interesting prospect to watch this year as he turns 23.

Hagerstown Suns

Organization: Washington Nationals


RHP Lucas Giolito leads this group off, and for good reason. The 1st round pick of the Washington Nationals in 2012 out of Harvard-Westlake High School in Studio City, California, Giolito has done little to suggest that he is unworthy of his status as one of the Nats’ top prospects. Baseball Prospectus ranked him the #13 prospect heading into 2014. Of course, full-season ball is the first true test for most players.

This season will tell a great deal more about his ability as a pro. Washington’s second round pick, RHP Jake Johansen, is in a similar boat. Johansen brings easy mid-90’s heat that could max out in triple-digits, one day. Thus far in his young career, Johansen has been extraordinarily hard to hit while striking out a batter per inning as a starter with the Low-A Auburn Doubledays. He made a cameo appearance in Hagerstown in 2013, logging only 9 1/3 innings. This year, much will be expected.

Naturally, righty Nick Pivetta follows Johansen and Giolito on this list. The 4th rounder for the Nats in 2013, the native of British Columbia sits in the low-to-mid 90’s with his heater, spins a solid curve, and even has advanced feel for a change-up. His ceiling is at least as a strong #3 starter, possibly a #2.

LHP Matthew Spann is all about projectability. He’s 6’6”, 185, and has plenty of room for growth, which could add velocity to his 90 MPH fastball. He currently looks like he could be a solid lefty out of the ‘pen, or potentially a #4 starter if he develops his curve and change-up. Spann is under the radar, for sure, but worth watching.


OF Rafael Bautista is a speedster who’s swiped 73 bags and batted .329 since he was signed in 2012. He has shown no real power to speak of, but if he can manage to keep the average up he could be a great leadoff batter at the high levels.

Outfielder John Wooten was picked up from the Oakland Athletics for LHP Fernando Abad last year, and could produce a lot of runs in the Nats system. Wooten drove in 69 runs on 20 homers and 22 doubles last year with the Single-A Beloit Snappers in the Midwest League. As a 37th round pick for the A’s in 2012 out of East Carolina University, Wooten might out-perform expectations.

Hickory Crawdads

Organization: Texas Rangers


RHP Akeem Bostick is a very interesting (and very young) Crawdad to watch, as he hits the Sally at age nineteen. At 6’4” and 180, there’s lots of projectability here, which is just as well; Bostick is a project, on the whole. The bloodlines are there (his cousin is Green Bay Packers tight end Brandon Bostick), and he already ranges from the low-to-mid 90’s with his fastball. He has lots of work to do with his secondary offerings, but he has plenty of time for that.

Lefty Felix Carvallo dominated the Dominican Summer League in 2013, striking out 41 in 30 innings while walking only two and allowing 3 earned runs as a nineteen year-old. Impressive numbers, to be sure.

RHP Collin Wiles has a top-notch curve already, and as he fills out his 6’4” frame his velocity should peak around 92-94, the combination of which should make him a significant performer at the higher levels.


Kellin Deglan, the 1st round pick for the Rangers in 2010, has shown good pop for his position. However, he needs to prove that he can endure a full season before he can move up the chain. This is his third season at Hickory, but he is still age-appropriate for the league.

1B Ronald Guzman is a deep sleeper, as he possesses the size and tools to become a consistent hitter with average power. Guzman already uses all fields, eschewing the ‘pull-happy’ approach shown by many young power prospects. He’s probably 3-4 years away, but Texas should be happy with the results.

OF Nomar Mazara has solid power, posting 38 extra-base hits and driving in 62 as an 18 year-old in the South Atlantic League last year, but will have to cut way down on the strikeouts if he’s going to reach his potential.

Outfielder Lewis Brinson has power and speed, slugging 21 homers and swiping 24 bags with Hickory last year as a nineteen year-old, but struck out enough for two batters (191 Ks). He should do so in his return to the Crawdads in 2014.

Kannapolis Intimidators

Organization: Chicago White Sox


The 2nd round pick for the White Sox in the 2013 Draft, RHP Tyler Danish brings his low-90s fastball and solid-average slider from an odd arm slot, and his future looks to be as a short reliever in a major league ‘pen. He’s still only 19 and has some projectability remaining, physically. His ceiling will probably see him bringing mid-90s heat with a plus slider as a seventh or eighth inning set up guy.

Righty Andrew Mitchell, the 2013 4th rounder out of Texas Christian University, could be a back-end starter or a durable reliever; it’s quite early to say. One thing for sure is that the talent is there for either outcome. He already sits 90-94 with the fastball as a starter, but command issues could keep him in the bullpen. He could be mid-to-high 90s as a reliever, and his hard curve would make him dominant as such. It all hinges on his command. After all, he walked the house at TCU. But the stuff is too good to ignore.

Lefty and fellow Texan Andre Wheeler could be very interesting to Sox fans, as he was 95-97 out of the bullpen with Texas Tech and demonstrates simple and easily-repeatable mechanics in doing so. A 15th round pick in 2013, Wheeler may fly under the radar within a lot of scouting circles. He’s definitely on my Ones To Watch List.


While there aren’t a ton of hitting prospects to be found here, there are some that merit consideration. 1B Danny Hayes was a 13th round pick out of Oregon State in 2013, and he knocked in 51 runs on 19 doubles in 58 games while batting .267 at Rookie-level Great Falls in the Pioneer League.

OF Adam Engel batted .301 and drove in 30 of his own while swiping 31 bags with Great Falls last year, after being chosen in the 19th round of 2013’s draft. Engel could be a valuable sleeper as a top-of-the-order basestealer, though it’s awfully early to tell.

Outfielder Jacob Morris will likely be asked to provide some pop for this year’s Kannapolis lineup, as he had 12 homers and 12 doubles in 2013 (also with Great Falls) after being picked in the 24th round in 2013, though he batted only .246 and went down on strikes an alarming 97 times. He also scored 59 runs in only 64 games, a total that draws attention.

Lakewood BlueClaws

Organization: Philadelphia Phillies


RHP Tyler Buckley hits the mid-90s but will be a bit of a project in terms of mechanics and control. At 6’5”, 230, that’s not surprising. His numbers in 2013 with the Low-A Williamsport Crosscutters (28 1/3 IP, 13 BB, 27 K, 2.22 ERA) were promising. Buckley worked almost exclusively as a closer last year, which is also not surprising given his size and velocity.

LHP Ervis Manzanillo has had mixed reviews over the past couple of years. At his best he brings mid-90s heat to the table, and his curve and change-up are both workable pitches if not spectacular. His mechanics have also been shaky at times, so he has some work to do if he’s going to become the #4 starter or short reliever that he could be.

Righty Mark Leiter (son of the former ML pitcher of the same name) has the bloodlines, and his repertoire is diverse. Along with his low-90s fastball, Leiter offers a curve, slider and change-up, and he threw a splitter in college as well. He’s going to be in the rotation this year with the BlueClaws, so watch his numbers closely.

Assuming he can overcome shoulder and elbow issues from last year, RHP Shane Watson could be a real mover. A first-rounder from 2013, his fastball ranges from 90-95 with movement and he throws a hard curve that could become a plus pitch. Watson also throws a changeup, though he has been asked to throw it a bit less often.


Ah, JP Crawford. The SS prospect was picked 16th overall last year, and his current ability only partially justified that. A cousin of Carl Crawford, JP has the athleticism and fast-twitch reflexes, along with the arm strength and glovework, to play shortstop at the higher levels. Much of his future will be predicated upon how much his hitting develops. He is being groomed as the heir-apparent to Jimmy Rollins, and while he’ll probably come close to replacing Rollins’ glove it’s unlikely that he’ll do the same for his bat. Still, he looks to become an above-average glove man who will likely bat #2 or #8, depending on his contact rate.

3B Zach Green is a power prospect who put up 34 extra-base hits in only 74 games as a 19 year-old with Williamsport last year, but he’ll have to watch his strikeout rate as he hits The Sally. 2B Andrew Pullin makes frequent contact and has strong defensive skills, and he is expected to move steadily up the ladder.

OF Dylan Cozens is one big kid (6’6”, 235), but he shows both left-handed power and speed potential. With 38 extra-base hits and 50 runs scored in 68 games last year with Williamsport, expect his power to increase as long as he can keep his strikeout rate within reasonable limits.

West Virginia Power

Organization: Pittsburgh Pirates


First off, let me say that this has quickly become one of my favorite minor-league teams to watch; there always seems to be a lot of talent here. Shane Carle is a lanky right-hander who throws 92-94 with good sink, as well as a solid slider that projects as a plus pitch. He looks like he could be good short reliever material, already.

Luis Heredia hardly needs any introduction to Bucs fans. The 6’6” righty was hitting the mid-90s as a sixteen year-old, and the only thing that will keep him out of the Pirates rotation is whether or not he can develop some decent secondary offerings. He’ll need to harness his control, as well, as he’s had some definite inconsistencies in this department. He does show an average-plus change, so he’s probably got a leg up on most pitchers at his level.

The only thing keeping LHP Cody Dickson from becoming a strong #4 starter (or possibly a #3) is consistency, as the velocity and secondary pitches are already there. He is expected to add velocity as he fills out, so he could end up sitting in the mid-90s. That’s not a bad bit of skill to have, especially for a lefty.

One pitcher who might fly in well under the radar is the Lithuanian-born Dovydas NeverauskasThis right-hander is an interesting case: there are times when he’s floating around the mid to high-80s, then he might come back and deal 94-95 MPH heat, so you can see that the raw ability is there. At the core of his fluctuations in velocity is his ability to repeat his delivery consistently, and this should come with time. If you like a good sleeper prospect, this is one guy you’ll want to watch.


It’s always a lot of fun to see the kind of talent that Pittsburgh picks up in the draft, each year. To me, they draft as well as any team in the Majors, and certainly better than some others. 2013 1st rounder Reese McGuire could move quickly up the chain. He’s a left-handed batting catcher with gap power, above-average speed on the bases (for a catcher, to be sure), and produces pop times at 1.8 seconds or lower with the ability to throw out runners from his knees. Sounds good to me. Oh, and he batted .323 in 215 plate appearances vs. competition that was around 2 years older than him, last year. If he’s not on your list of ones to watch, I have to ask “why?” He was drafted out of Kentwood High School in Covington, Washington, which gives the Pirates even longer to develop his talent. Catchers often take longer to reach their full potential, since theirs is the most demanding position to play.

In truth, it seems that the Pirates are pretty well-stocked when it comes to catchers. Wyatt Mathieson is another young catching prospect who shows solid-average tools across the board, with the raw power to potentially become sound both with the glove and the bat. If he doesn’t work out for whatever reason behind the dish, he’s athletic enough to move to any number of positions on the diamond; third base would seem most likely. That’s two catchers with the potential to be successful in the high levels, and that’s not counting the rest of the Bucs’ system.

SS JaCoby Jones is a high-risk/high-reward type of player, but if he pans out he could give the Pirates 20+ HR and 20-30 steals. If he sticks at short, which by all accounts he seems likely to do, you’re talking about an All-Star. Of course, it’s far too early to say how this story will end; if he can’t reach his full potential, I still see him at least riding the shuttle between Triple-A and the Majors. His athleticism, arm strength and speed will keep him on the map, and if his bat keeps up with his glove he’ll have a spot somewhere. Perhaps the biggest red flag here is potential makeup issues, which hopefully would pass with time and maturation.

Speaking of high risk/reward players, OF Barrett Barnes has been considered above-average in both speed and power, but my early impression was that he might have put on a little weight or fallen behind on conditioning since he was drafted and may be the kind of player physically who has to be mindful of that. Barnes has struggled with a number of leg injuries, which is a big red flag for outfielders. I do think he has a ceiling of average power production for the higher levels, and he could produce 20 homers at the ML level, but he won’t be doing that as a center-fielder. Also keep in mind that the major-league club is set solid on outfielders, with others in the system who may have passed Barnes in the depth chart already. Expect Barnes to end up in left field, and keep an eye out to see if he can avoid injuries.

OF Harold Ramirez has enough speed to swipe 30 bags at the ML level, if he can develop a bit more strength in his swing to go with his already-impressive ability to make contact. Another outfielder for the list, Candon Myles also has plus speed, as well as a more-athletic build than Ramirez and the athleticism to maintain that speed as he ages. The question with Myles, at this early stage, is how much pop he’s going to be able to produce as he advances. Also, I would like to see what he can do vs. elite power pitchers.