Blessing’s 2012 Top 50 Prospects Scouted: Prospects 20 Thru 11
Going through all my boxscores this season, I watched over 450 different players play across three levels of the minor leagues. I’ve seen guys who are familiar to casual prospect follower, like Byron Buxton and Zach Lee, to guys who are just trying to hang on like Brahiam Maldonado and James Adduci. I’ve seen some good baseball. And I’ve seen some bad baseball. This series of articles is about some of the good I’ve seen this year; the Top 50 Prospects Scouted during the 2012 season.
20. Brad Miller SS Mariners – The Jackson Generals were a prospector’s dream in 2012. The left handed hitting Brad Miller came in and performed where fellow Mariners prospect Nick Franklin left off prior to Franklin’s promotion to Tacoma. In the year of the shortstop, Miller showcased above-average skill defensively and has more than enough ability to stick at the position in the majors, unlike the aforementioned Franklin, who will appear in the last part of this prospect series. With the bat, Miller projects as a top-of-the-order type hitter. Patient, and a pest to opposing pitchers, Miller also has the ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. Miller features a quick, compact swing and has a real feel for situational hitting. He doesn’t try to do too much and that’s what I really like about him. Look for Miller to start 2013 with Triple A Tacoma. I really believe this kid, at a position of offensive skill scarcity, could rack up a few all star selections.
19. Bubba Starling OF Royals – Bubba Starling is a tremendous athlete. Blessed with good speed, tremendous power, strong wrists, and a fantastic throwing arm, Starling makes a scout’s job easy. Scouts dream on his body, projecting him to superstardom. Then, however, he swings the bat. Calling Starling’s swing a mess is an understatement. Watching the video, a pretty noticeable hitch appears when he swings the bat. The swing is killing his prospect status. He’s 19 on this prospect list because his athletic gifts are tremendous. He’s also 19 on this list because this swing is a terrible red flag in his development. At this time, he is a right handed hitting strikeout machine. He’ll likely start 2013 in Class A Lexington. I hope, by the time he passes through my neck of the woods, the Royals have totally reworked his swing. I would hate to see a kid with his gifts get ruined by a terrible swing.
18. Max Kepler OF Twins – Prospecting is sometimes a hard business, especially when you’re funding the operation yourself. In a perfect world, every worthwhile prospect will play when you go to scout them. Unfortunately with Max Kepler, he was held out of the Elizabethton Twins lineup due to a scheduled day off. Kepler did participate in outfield drills and a few rounds of batting practice before the game, enough to proclaim him the 18th best prospect I scouted this year. The left handed hitting German outfielder has a sweet swing and should generate plenty of power as he climbs up the Twins farm system. While he has played Centerfield for most of his career, it’s likely he’ll go out of the position sooner than later. Plus the Twins already have a fantastic Centerfielder in their chain named Byron Buxton. I expect Kepler to start 2013 as a member of the Class A Cedar Rapids.
17. Hak-Ju Lee SS Rays – Top 100 consideration for me starts from this point on. Hak-Ju Lee struggled mightily the first half of 2012. I scouted him in May, just prior to him breaking out of his slump, and I saw a player that I felt was over-ranked by the prospect community. The rest of the prospect community, more or less, agreed with my observations and the left handed hitting Lee dropped out of the top 50 in many mid-season prospect rankings. While I’m bearish about his bat going forward, I like the combination of speed and patience he brings to the table. An excellent bunter, Lee will find his way on base despite some deficiencies with his swing. In the field, Lee was the second best defensive Shortstop I scouted in 2012, behind DBacks prospect Didi Gregorius. Lee’s future is bright, just not as bright as many thought going into last season. With the acquisition of Yunel Escobar, the Rays are likely to take their time with Lee. He should at least start 2013 with Double A Montgomery. To read a complete scouting report, click here.
16. Michael Fulmer RHP Mets – The South Atlantic league was filled with good young starting pitching prospects this season. One of those prospects was Michael Fulmer. I caught Fulmer’s act early in the 2012 season. Talking to a scout at a Double A game in early August, Fulmer kept getting better as the Sally League went on. Like another player profiled in this ranking, Giants prospect Clayton Blackburn, Fulmer offers little or no physical projection for a teenage pitcher. He worked in the low 90s with reports that he was touching 94 at various times during 2012. His breaking stuff projects to be average to above average while he flashes a good changeup, which he continued to develop consistency with as 2012 moved on. A pitcher who potentially will have a full 4-pitch arsenal in the big leagues, I project him to be an innings eating, number 3 starter, with a ceiling of something a bit higher than that. He’ll start 2013 pitcher for High A St Lucie in the Florida State League.
15. Rafael Montero RHP Mets – One of the biggest surprises of 2012 was the emergence of Mets pitching prospect Rafael Montero. Showing plus command and control of the strikezone, Montero dominated the lower minors with his ability to pinpoint his fastball throughout the zone. Montero brings three solid pitches to the table. He has a fastball that flashes above average, a changeup that flashes plus, and an ever-improving slider that helped him dial up strikeout totals in the Florida State League. An easy thrower with a good bit of deception, Montero is one of the best pitching prospects I saw in 2012. Montero will start 2013 likely with Double A Binghamton. To read a full scouting report from earlier in the season, please click here.
14. Lance McCullers RHP Astros – Going into last year’s draft, various rumors circulated around the draft prospects of Lance McCullers. It was believed that McCullers wouldn’t sign for anything less than Top 5 draft pick money. Some scouts also had concerns that McCullers profiled as a big league reliever. The Astros snatched him up with the 41st pick and gave him a 2.5 Million dollar signing bonus, just slightly less than the signing bonus received by the 12th pick of the draft, Gavin Cecchini of the Mets. The McCullers I saw in August looked like a starting pitching prospect. Featuring a good fastball, slider, and a changeup that has the potential of being a difference maker, McCullers has a very bright future. He’ll likely start his 2013 campaign in Single A full season Quad City. To read a full scouting report on McCullers, please click here.
13. Daniel Corcino RHP Reds – The third Pensacola Blue Wahoo to make my top 50 prospect scouted list, I saw Daniel Corcino at his absolutel worst. Coming off eight innings of no hit ball his previous start, Corcino couldn’t find a consistent release point throughout his June 24th start against Chattanooga. He walked six, hit one batter, and was out after working four innings. Regardless, I was willing to give the flame-throwing right hander coming off a “no-no” a mulligan. Corcino worked in the 92-94 range, toughing 96, with his errant fastball. While I’ve heard his 80-82 MPH breaking ball referred to as a slider, to me it was more of a slurve. He commanded the slider a bit better than his fastball, but not by much. His changeup was rarely used, likely due to his inability to command his fastball. The feel for his change was rough at best. So how did he end up 10th on my list? Well, the pitcher I saw on June 24th was not the real Daniel Corcino. When filling out a top 100 prospect list in baseball, I would almost everytime place him ahead of the three pitchers listed previously. Thus, he’s the 13th best prospect I’ve scouted this season. He’ll likely start 2013 in Triple A Louisville.
12. Matt Davidson 3B DBacks – My first article on Bullpen Banter was a piece profiling DBacks third baseman Matt Davidson. For the first half of 2012, Matt Davidson and Mariners SS Nick Franklin were the two best hitting prospects I saw. With that said, and now looking back, I may have short-changed Davidson a bit. I don’t believe Davidson will ever be a .300 hitter, likely topping out as a .260-.270 hitter. I do however see a kid learning to work pitchers, as evidenced by his career high .367 2012 OBP. Davidson will slug a bit, probably in the .460 range in the bigs, with a fair amount of doubles to go with 20-25 HR power. In game action, I saw Davidson absolutely destroy a mediocre fastball for a Home Run. Defensively, I saw a player untested. I’ve heard several conflicting reports on his defense at the hot corner, from both “abysmal” to “solid.” Davidson is a player I wished I had seen again but he likely moves on to Triple A in Reno. For a complete scouting report, click here.
11. James Paxton LHP Mariners – It’s never good to go into a game with a flat, 4 seam fastball. Even one of the weaker Southern League lineups can abuse you. That’s just what happened on May 14th when I saw Paxton give up 5 earned in 3 innings against the Tennessee Smokies. It wasn’t a surprise to me when Paxton was placed on the disabled list shortly after this game. Like Corino, I had to rely on trusted contacts to form an opinion on Paxton. I gave him an edge over Corcino because he flashed an excellent 12 to 6 curveball. While Paxton is likely a two pitch pitcher in the bigs, flashing an occasional changeup, those two pitches are enough for the left hander to succeed. He’s a poor man’s Tyler Skaggs, who also struggled with fastball command when I scouted him a few weeks prior to Paxton. Paxton likely starts the 2013 season with Triple A Tacoma.