The countdown continues today with 25 more prospects. Oakland is well represented today.
75. Chad Bettis, RHP, Colorado: Nicknamed “The Bus” because of his fear of flying, Bettis is coming off a season where he was the best pitcher in the Cal League. He touched 100 MPH in a start late last season, and even if the gun was a bit hot, his high velocity is uncommon among starters. If he improves his changeup and avoids the home run ball, he could be a part of Colorado’s new look rotation in a couple years.
74. Matt Davidson, 3B, Arizona: Now that he has improved his defense to the point that it’s reasonable that he can stick at third base, fears that Davidson’s bat won’t profile at his eventual position are alleviated. He’s going to have decent power and the ability to hit to all fields. Third base has not been a productive position for Arizona in recent years, and Davidson could soon provide some stability.
73. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City: 2011 was the first time Montgomery struggled statistically when he was expected to reach the majors at some point. His command failed him, and he finished the season with a 5.32 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. There’s no question that he has the size and stuff of a frontline pitcher, but he needs to stay healthy and throw strikes.
72. Sonny Gray, RHP, Oakland: Gray could have gone higher in the draft than he did, but concerns about his size may have played a role in allowing Oakland to steal him. If anything prevents him from staying in a rotation, it’ll be the development of his changeup. He was a very effective ace at a program with a recent track record of developing pitchers, and the A’s have to like his plus fastball and curveball.
71. Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Kansas City: Odorizzi’s stuff isn’t as good as Montgomery’s, but his floor is much higher. His fastball has great velocity and action which allows him to rack up strikeouts. He has no secondary pitches that have plus potential, but with his fastball and an ability to command all of his pitches, he can still become a reliable starter for the Royals.
70. Eddie Rosario, 2B, Minnesota: Rosario’s not an overwhelmingly physical player, but he turned heads in the Appy League in 2011 putting up stats very comparable to a much more highly regarded Twins prospect. Despite only measuring at 6’0 and 170 pounds, he hit 21 home runs and could develop plus power. He makes good contact, and the rest of his tools are passable.
69. Jesse Biddle, LHP, Philadelphia: This Philadelphia area product shot up draft boards before the 2010 draft thanks to improved velocity, but he didn’t show it for most of the season in low-A. Still, it was a solid pro debut, and with his uncommon size, he should be able to get that velocity back. He has a nice feel for a changeup, and the organization loves his makeup.
68. George Springer, CF, Houston: Springer slipped in the draft due to concerns about his hit tool, but he still has star potential. He has the quick hands and strength to make better contact, and that’ll help his power tool materialize. His athleticism shows on the basepaths and in centerfield, and this kind of high ceiling talent is what Houston needs to rebuild.
67. Michael Choice, OF, Oakland: Choice got better and better as the 2011 season went on, and his 47 game on base streak best exemplified that. His unorthodox generates a ton of power, and that power will allow his bat to profile on a corner if he has to move off centerfield. He’s going to rack up strikeouts, but he’s capable of getting on base, and the rest of his game makes up for it.
66. Javier Baez, 3B, Cubs: Theo Epstein and company inherited an organization without much going on in the majors or minors, but Baez could be a big part of the rebuild. He has the potential to bat in the middle of a lineup with a great ability to make contact and potential plus power. He’s a shortstop now, but he won’t be able to retain the athleticism to play the position.
65. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs: It’s become clear that Jed Hoyer really thinks highly of Anthony Rizzo, having helped acquire him for three different franchises. He struggled in his brief opportunity with the Padres last year, but scouts still expect him to become a middle of the order power threat. He still has some flaws to work out, but the Cubs aren’t putting any pressure on him by starting him in AAA.
64. Neil Ramirez, RHP, Texas: Ramirez had a career stuck in neutral for the first half of his career, but the Rangers’ development staff tinkered with his delivery, and his career took off. His command has improved, and he still has his strikeout stuff. He’s developed his changeup which gives him three potential plus pitches which is enough to make him a middle of the rotation starter.
63. Mason Williams, CF, Yankees: Williams was the top player on an impressive Staten Island club in 2011, and he’s emerging as the organization’s best athlete. He had 28 steals in a short-season league, and that kind of speed helps him in centerfield as well. He doesn’t have the frame to hit for power, but his quick bat makes him a really good contact hitter.
62. James Paxton, LHP, Seattle: It felt like it took forever for a team to coax Paxton into signing, but the Mariners finally did it and are certainly happy they got him signed. With two great fastballs and a curveball, Paxton was one of the toughest pitchers in the minors to get a hit off of.
61. Billy Hamilton, 2B, Cincinnati: It’s been a long time since baseball saw a player as fast as Hamilton with actual baseball skills that could help him reach the majors. He stole 100 bases in low-A last year, and the remarkable thing for a young player is that he did it at a high percentage. For this speed to be useful for the Reds, he’ll need to improve his plate approach and ability to make contact because he has no power and will likely be limited to second base.
60. A.J. Cole, RHP, Oakland: It’s a day ending in Y, and that means Oakland is trying another rebuild. Small market teams typically have a short window of opportunity to win, and the A’s haven’t been able to get things to quite line up in any year. Cole could be the next frontline guy and could be a big piece of a franchise potentially moving to San Jose. He has great stuff and improved mechanics, and he just needs to work on his changeup.
59. Christian Yelich, OF, Miami: The Marlins have a system that’s not very strong, but Yelich is one extremely bright spot. Although he’s not going to remain in centerfield, he shows signs of being the kind of pure hitter that could profile anywhere. He batted over .300 in low-A with an advanced approach, and he should develop above average power once he gets stronger. He’s not a burner, but he stole 32 bases last year and did so efficiently.
58. Trevor May, RHP, Philadelphia: A lot of pitchers with great stuff are never able to throw enough strikes for it to matter, and May could’ve been headed down that path. In 2011, he made strides with his command while maintaining his great fastball and curveball combination. He still needs to cut down on his walks and developing his mechanics, but it’s hard to ignore his upside.
57. Dellin Betances, RHP, Yankees: With his size and stuff, Betances can be quite intimidating on the mound. Unfortunately, a lot of times it doesn’t seem like he knows where it’s going. His poor command could have him wind up in the bullpen, where he could possibly be Mariano Rivera’s replacement using his mid-90’s, sinking fastball and power curve.
56. Anthony Gose, CF, Toronto: Gose has potential to be a big time player with his impressive athleticism, arm and surprising power. After hitting nine home runs in his first two and a half years, he exploded for 16 in 2011 in AA. For the second time in his career, he stole 70 bases and did so with improved efficiency. He improved his walk rate as well, but he’s a career .258 hitter who strikes out way too much.
55. Casey Kelly, RHP, San Diego: Kelly may not seem like he’s living up to the hype he had with the Red Sox a couple years ago, but he has a high floor and probability of reaching the majors. His strikeout rate isn’t up to par compared to some other top prospects, but he gets ground balls and throws a lot of strikes. His hit rate was a bit high, but this will only be his third year dedicated solely to pitching.
54. Yonder Alonso, 1B, San Diego: Alonso will finally get a chance to play every day now that he’s no longer blocked by Joey Votto, but does he have enough power to profile at first base? He only has 36 home runs in 313 minor league games which wasn’t what the Reds expected when they made him a top 10 pick. He makes consistent contact with a nice plate approach, so he should still be solid major league hitter even if he doesn’t develop power.
53. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Boston: Middlebrooks has slowly improved his stock year by year, and now he’s one of the team’s top prospects. He probably doesn’t have a real stand-out tool, but he profiles nicely at the hot corner with above average power, a nice glove and strong arm. He can hit to all fields, and he fits in the organization nicely with Kevin Youkilis aging and battling injuries.
52. Wily Peralta, RHP, Milwaukee: Due to injuries, Peralta had never quite lived up to expectations prior to 2011. His fastball generates missed bats and ground balls, and even though he complements it with a nice slider, his K/9 was only 6.4 in 2010 across two levels. He broke out in AA and AAA in 2011, striking out over a batter an inning and improving his command. His stuff is a little better than the two previous Milwaukee pitchers on this list, and he should be major league ready very soon.
51. Josh Bell, OF, Pittsburgh: It was widely believed that there was no chance that Bell would sign out of high school, but the Pirates took a risk choosing him and got him signed. Their investment got them perhaps the best pure hitter in the 2011 draft class. Bell combines great raw power with an ability to make consistent contact from both sides of the plate and a nice plate approach. He’ll be limited to left field, but his bat should be more than enough.
The list will pick up again on Monday with prospects 31-50.