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Midseason Top 100 Prospects Round Table: 2012′s Breakout Prospects

Written By on 30th July, 2012

We dropped our Mid-Season Top 100 on the world Friday. As promised here is the first of three round table discussions we did. As the title indicates, this one is about the guys who have wowed us this year. Tomorrow we’ll discuss the disappointments, and finally the guys who graduated from the list.

Tyler Austin

Evan Rentschler: Tyler Austin is a big riser this year as well assuming we’re talking about guys who will receive serious Top 100 consideration after being well off lists last season. He got injured almost immediately after he was recently promoted, but he’s going to look awfully good at the end of the year and scouting reports say he’s legit.

Al Skorupa: As much as teammate Mason Williams impressed me, I was mildly disappointed in my viewings of Austin for Staten Island last year. His glove and build didn’t really profile at 3B or 1B where I saw him play and he didn’t hit well in game. He kept selling out and dropping his back shoulder, trying to jack balls out. He made some hard contact in bp, but I didn’t really see a top 50 kind of talent. Yes on the bat speed, but the other tools just weren’t that loud here… based on what I saw and the discussions I’ve had I very much do buy the bat fitting as a major league regular.

Robert Stephenson

Michael Herrick: Went from an interesting arm who just missed our pre-season top 100 list to a top 60 prospect in short order. Stephenson had a strong debut in the Pioneer League, posting a 37/8 K/BB in 30 innings while holding opposing batters to a .195 average. Hopefully we’ll get some video of Stephenson soon now that he’s been promoted to Dayton of the Midwest League.

Al Skorupa: Stephenson got buried in a very deep top of the 2011 Draft along with Henry Owens and Joe Ross. Any of these guys would normally have gotten a lot more buzz and attention in a year with more typical draft depth & quality. Aaron Sanchez was another kid who was in the conversation for best California prep arm the year he went. All these pitchers probably didn’t receive the attention they deserved from writers and pundits. Nasty stuff and a real high ceiling.

JD Sussman: In his first start at Dayton he threw a first pitch strike to Darnell Sweeney. 96 MPH at the knees. Sweeney looks down, nods his head a few times and undoubtedly thinks, “fuck.” Pitch two is a 97 MPH fastball away. Sweeney fouls it off.  At this point he’s probably thinking, “okay, maybe I can do this.” Then comes the hammer. A looping 11-5 78MPH curveball and Sweeney is toast. “That’s unfair,” exclaims the announcer. Indeed. Indeed it is. The next two hitters went down on strikes too. Watch this kid, he’s going to skyrocket up lists.

Rougned Odor

Michael Herrick: Odor seems to be following in Jurickson Profar’s footsteps somewhat, making major strides in the Sally League after a so-so stateside debut. He doesn’t have the same ceiling as Profar, but he has a good combination of contact skills, power and speed that will play well at either SS or 2B. He’s definitely a player I’d target if I was discussing a trade with Rangers in the next few days.

JD Sussman: After watching Odor blast an opposite field homerun earlier this year, I was hooked. He’s physically developed, especially in his lower half and I can’t foresee him adding too much more muscle. Nor do I see him being a major league SS, Mike. He’s got a very mature game and is easily one of my favorites.

Yordano Ventura

Michael Herrick: Ventura was little more than an electric fastball last year but he’s made progress with his secondary pitches with both flashing above average or better, they just need more consistency. A strong finish to the year puts him in top 50 territory, if not higher.

JD Sussman: I’m not sure he’s made enough progress with the secondaries to warrant being higher than Stephenson, Aaron Sanchez, or Joe Ross but that’s the book on him, Mike.

Al Skorupa: There are clearly profile issues… but this is a kid who will wow you if you see him live and leave you shaking your head. Bottom line is that this is an electric arm with impact potential.

Austin Hedges

Michael Herrick: Hedges is another guy that just missed the preseason list that has flown up the list. Known for the glove, Hedges has shown much more than expected with the bat this early. A 19 year old catcher with a .185 ISO, a solid grasp of the strikezone and good speed for the position? Sign me up.

Al Skorupa: I’m a big fan. I was surprised to see Hedges get such an aggressive assignment and even more surprised to see how well he’s handled it. I still don’t know how much he will hit, but impact defensive catchers who can hit some are far and few between.

Oscar Taveras

Al Skorupa: He has so many attributes that came up as red flags… this time last year there was just so many reasons to think he could struggle as he climbed the ladder in the minors (especially the toughest jump to AA) – but his natural hitting ability and hand/eye coordination just overcomes it all and he keeps hitting. Damn impressive.

Michael Herrick: Taveras was a guy that intrigued me after his 2010 season in the Appy League, so I snapped him up in a couple of fantasy leagues before the start of last season.  He had a very good year in the Midwest League but the scouting wasn’t in line with the performance.  I’m a numbers guy by nature, but with all the talk about his swing I was skeptical of Taveras having great success against better pitching and I didn’t buy into all the hype.  He was still a “lottery ticket” in my eyes.  I was wrong.  As Al said, he’s damn impressive.

JD Sussman: I wrote a piece on Wil Myers and Taveras earlier this year, so I won’t spend too much time on him.  I’m clearly partial to guys who have an advanced approach, but when you’ve got a stick like Taveras or Nick Castellanos (both who enjoy to swing often) I can look past it.

Jeff Reese: It has taken some time for me to warm to Oscar Taveras, but you can now consider me a true believer. The hit tool is exceptional, and the power has really emerged to go with it. I, too, was wrong.

Mason Williams

Al Skorupa: I was sold last year. Nice simple swing. Fantastic athlete. All the tools are there.

JD Sussman: I’d just like to say, so far, I’m winning the power argument. He’s got 11 dingers in 2012.

Kaleb Cowart

Al Skorupa: Jeff and I were big proponents of Cowart last year. Athletic 3B and I really believe in the bat. One of the better 3B prospects in the game to my mind. Tier down from the top guys still but the same kind of talent and a really interesting set of tools. Does he have top 10-20 prospect in the game potential this time next year? He very well might.

Michael Herrick: I wasn’t quite as high on Cowart as Al and Jeff were(he was #124 on my preseason list), the defense and power were always there but I was worried about his approach and a bit concerned how much contact he would make in the long run as a result.  He’s lowered he K rate substantially(25.4% last year, 15.2% in the MWL, up a bit to a respectable 19.1% in the Cal) and has really bumped the BB rate up with his promotion to the Cal League, though I’m sure it will even out a bit the rest of the way.  If he can keep the BB rate in the 10% or better range and the K rate around 20%, he’s going to be a very valuable player.

Jeff Reese: As wrong as I was on Oscar Taveras, I feel good about my stance on Kaleb Cowart since he was a two-way prep out of Georgia. I loved the bat speed and power potential from both sides of the plate and the potential defense at third base enough to prefer him as a positional player to that of a RHP. His 2011 season was a big disappointing, but he adjusted tremendously well to the Midwest League before earning the promotion to the Cal. He’s suddenly on a a fairly fast track to reach Anaheim.

Jose Fernandez

Al Skorupa: I was a little skeptical of the profile, but he’s answered most of my questions. A lot of times an amateur will enter pro ball and you never see the crisp stuff or velo he flashed the Spring before the draft. Fernandez got stronger and solidified his repertoire. He’s not quite elite for me yet given his build and command but big arm and a great FB.

Michael Herrick: Fernandez sneaked onto my preseason list at #99 because I saw a lot upside and a power relief arm floor.  As much as I liked him, I didn’t see him being this good, this soon.  Definitely a major breakout year.

Jeff Reese: Fernandez’s advanced arsenal as a prep endeared me to him, but I don’t think anyone expected him to be THIS good. He has clearly established himself as one of the elite arms in the minor leagues.

Dan Straily

David Wiers: I’d think Daniel Straily has to be a riser. His K% is crazy.

Al Skorupa: Very much on the Straily bandwagon. He probably lacks the stuff and velo to be any more than a 3/4 starter but he’s pretty much there now. Strike thrower with a solid 4 pitch mix (which is a great way to strike out minor league hitters and give your stats the appearance of front line potential!). Unusual development path but he’s very close to helping a major league team. Could be a very nice piece for a suddenly competitive Oakland team.

Michael Herrick: I wrote Straily off as a command/control guy that was beating up on younger and less experienced talent last year as a 22 year old in the Cal League.  Instead, he’s a potential #3 that has a broad arsenal at his disposal and knows how to work a hitter over.  Sounds like an A’s pitcher to me.

 Gregory Polanco & Alen Hanson

Jeff Reese: Two of the biggest risers this year are the pair of Latin talents in West Virginia. Interesting footnotes coming into the season, Hanson and Polanco have showed remarkable offensive refinement with the move to full season ball (with plenty of still untapped potential). Josh Bell entered the year as the “name” prospect on that team; these two have not only filled the void after Bell’s injury but leapfrogged him as a prospect.

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