Baseball America has put out an annual Prospect Handbook each year going back to 2001. The prospect handbook is a thorough team-by-team breakdown of each organization’s Top 30 prospects, in the eyes of BA staff and its longtime correspondents. Grading scales are assigned by BA to each prospect. Writers assign players with the best tools (such as best outfield arm, best curveball, best strike-zone discipline) in each organization, and even go so far as to project each organization’s 2016 lineup.
BA also has some insight on signing bonuses, how much money each major league club spent in last season’s draft, and more “green-related” items.
Well, our copies arrived within the past week and while I’m still treading through some of the pages, I figure I’ve jotted down enough notes to turn in a book report of sorts for Cougars fans who are anxious for the start of baseball.
By my count, a total of 3 major league teams have at least one former Cougars player listed by BA in their organization’s top 30 prospects. Here are some thumbnails on those players. We’ll save the Cubs list towards the end of the blog post.
Kansas City Royals – organizational rank, player name and Cougars year(s) listed in parentheses
1. Kyle Zimmer (’12)
3. Yordano Ventura (’11)
4. Jorge Bonifacio (’12)
7. Orlando Calixte (’11-’12)
8. Jason Adam (’11)
9. Cheslor Cuthbert (’11)
12. Kyle Smith (’12)
17. Bryan Brickhouse (’12)
18. Angel Baez (’12)
19. Jack Lopez (’12)
28. Robinson Yambati (’12)
29. Brett Eibner (’11)
30. Brian Fletcher (’11)
BA’s Jim Callis lists Zimmer as the 24th best prospect in the game, and projects him as a front-line starter, possibly as early as 2014. Zimmer pitched in 6 games last season for the Cougars before having surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. He’s expected to be at full speed for spring training. BA also listed Zimmer as having the best curveball and best control among pitchers in the Royals system.
Ventura, a hard-throwing righty who pitched in 19 games for the Cougars in 2011, is nicknamed “Lil’ Pedro” and has a fastball that can reach 102 mph. Ventura advanced as high as Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season.
Some other notes…BA lists Jorge Bonifacio as the “best pure hitter in the system”…Orlando Calixte is the closest to the big leagues in terms of KC’s shortstop prospects…with Brett Eibner’s offensive struggles last season at Class-A Advanced Wilmington, time is ticking for the former 2nd round pick of the Royals to right the ship…BA also projects Zimmer and pitcher Andrew Triggs (’12) as being closest to reaching the majors.
2. Michael Choice (’10)
6. Dan Straily (’10)
13. Pedro Figueroa (’09)
14. Max Stassi (’10)
27. Stephen Parker (’09)
28. Andrew Carignan (’07)
Choice was the 10th overall pick in 2010 and was part of the Cougars’ postseason roster that fall. His attributes include quick wrists, strength at the plate, and the ability to hit the ball out to any part of the park. After suffering a season-ending injury last July at Double-A Midland, Choice could return to that level in 2013 but a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento could be in the works this summer.
Cougars fans will remember Dan Straily’s phenomenal ascent through the A’s system last season. The right-hander, who was once cut from his high school team, led all minor leaguers with 190 strikeouts before receiving a promotion to Oakland last August. BA lists Straily’s greatest strength as “his command of four pitches”.
Pitcher Pedro Figueroa, who also made his MLB debut with the A’s last season, could open the season at Oakland or Triple-A Sacramento…after battling some injury-plagued stretches the last few seasons, catcher Max Stassi should be in a position to open the ’13 season at Double-A (NOTE: Stassi was part of a trade earlier today that sent him to Houston)…pitcher Andrew Carignan made four straight scoreless appearances for the A’s in a May call-up last season, but a torn elbow ligament and subsequent Tommy John surgery ended his ’12 campaign.
20. Corey Brown (’08)
Brown, who was originally an A’s prospect prior to a 2010 deal, smacked 25 home runs at Triple-A Syracuse last season and earned a September call-up to Washington, where his first big league hit was a round tripper. Whether he’s in the Nationals’ immediate plans remains to be seen, but BA profiles Brown as a power bat coming off the bench who could win a big league outfield reserve job coming out of spring training.
Cubs Top 10 Prospects (Baseball America)
1. Javier Baez
2. Albert Almora
3. Jorge Soler
4. Arodys Vizcaino
5. Brett Jackson
6. Pierce Johnson
7. Dan Vogelbach
8. Jeimer Candelario
9. Kyuji Fujikawa
10. Arismendy Alcantara
Almora, according to BA, profiles as a Gold Glove centerfielder who could hit third in the batting order. The 18-year old is listed as the Best Hitter for Average and Best Defensive Outfielder in the Cubs system, and was the 6th overall selection in last June’s draft. Almora split his first professional season between rookie-level Arizona and Short-A Boise.
First baseman Dan Vogelbach is listed as the “Best Power Hitter” in the Cubs farm system. His build and background are “similar to Billy Butler and Prince Fielder”, according to BA. Vogelbach batted .322 with 10 homers and 31 RBI last season at Boise.
Gioskar Amaya, ranked #21 in the Cubs system by BA, led the Northwest League with 12 triples last season at Boise. Amaya has batted .333 between two seasons in the United States and topped NWL second basemen with a .968 fielding percentage…third baseman Jeimer Candelario was the youngest regular in the Northwest League last season and batted .281 with 6 homers and 47 RBI…outfielder Jorge Soler batted .338 in a 20-game stint with Peoria in the Midwest League last season.
Several of the top Cubs prospects listed by BA project to be Cougars this season. Only time will tell, nothing is ever set in stone at this point in the calendar year, and I think Cubs Senior VP of Scouting/Player Development Jason McLeod said it best during Friday’s media session that preceded our sold-out “Meet the Cubs” party.
“I don’t think that would be fair to the players yet,” McLeod said of announcing who would be where at this point. “We’d like them to come in and challenge each other at spring training. It is easy to look at the Boise roster and assume that those guys will be here because they had such a good season last year. We want our guys to come in hungry. We don’t want them to come in and say, ‘OK, I’m penciled in to this certain affiliate.’ We want them to come in and really strive to go above and beyond. We want all our players to come in and think, ‘I’m going to make that (high-A) Daytona team.’ We want them to come in hungry and challenge the guys that’s in front of them.”
And I think it’s also worthwhile to note that any of the projections made by Baseball America are just that – projections. Not guarantees or certainties whatsoever. But it certainly makes for some exciting conversations, as was the case during Friday night’s Q&A portion of the “Meet the Cubs” event.
Here’s what we know: exactly two months from tonight, we’ll have a 25-man roster of Cougars players and the first of 70 home games at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in 2013.
Thanks for reading!