Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cardinals, Brewers, Indians, Mariners, Pirates, Royals & Giants
The top of this list is muddled; I could see the top eight guys in almost any order by midseason and I predict I’ll be changing some of these 45 and 50 FV grades in-season. The Brewers haven’t had a great farm system in recent years, but the big league club had a mini-rebuild and the amateur talent acquisition has seem positive early returns from a more aggressive approach. Gilbert Lara is the consensus best player in last summer’s July 2nd crop and he took a notable step forward after signing with an impressive showing at instructs.
From the 2014 draft, I think 3B Jacob Gatewood is a little too risky for $1.83 million, but the early returns on CF Monte Harrison are excellent and there’s plenty to like about LHP Kodi Medeiros, even if he was a bit worn down after signing. All of these three were part of an aggressive approach, so I’d expect one to work out in a big way. The depth is drastically better now than the past few years and the arrow is pointing up in general. There isn’t a super elite prospect in the system and this is still a system in the bottom third of baseball, but the Brew Crew are deep in that second tier of talent and there’s plenty of depth and upside here to see a higher ranking in next year’s list as a likelihood.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Brewers prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Indians.
27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Wily Peralta, RHP, Age 25, FV: 60
2. Jean Segura, SS, Age 24, FV: 55
3. Jimmy Nelson, RHP, Age 25, FV: 55
4. Scooter Gennett, 2B, Age 24, FV: 55
5. Khris Davis, LF, Age 27, FV: 50
6. Gerardo Parra, LF, Age 27, FV: 45
7. Will Smith, LHP, Age 25, FV: 45
8. Jeremy Jeffress, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
The Brewers, more than any other team out there, are caught in the trap of mediocrity. They’re not a bad team, and have some very good core pieces in place, which should keep them hanging around the periphery of the Wild Card race for most of the season. However, there are enough weaknesses that it would take a lot of good fortune to get the Brewers into the postseason, and this also isn’t a particularly young team where you can project significant upside for the future. The Brewers are neither good nor bad, and are not obviously trying to win now or build for the future. They’re decent enough to put a solid team on the field this year, but with the Cubs, Cardinals, and Pirates looking much stronger at the top of the division and with better young cores to build around going forward, it isn’t clear when the Brewers are going to be in a position to be a strong bet for the postseason again.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Orlando Arcia, SS
Current Level/Age: High-A/20.6, 6’0/165, R/R
Signed: IFA at age 16 on October 22, 2010 out of Venezuela by MIL for $95,000 bonus
Hit: 20/50, Raw Power: 45/45+, Game Power: 20/45, Run: 55/55, Field: 55/60, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Orlando is the younger brother of Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia and has been beating expectations since he signed out of Venezuela in 2010 for $95,000. After signing, he immediately looked like a steal as a skinny kid that could play shortstop and hit a bit, but he took another step forward this year, hitting 13% better than league average, stealing 31 bases and posting great plate discipline numbers in a full season at High-A at age 19.
There’s still plenty of room for Arcia to improve offensively, as the speed and defense are carrying his prospect status for now, but the tools are here for more impact at the plate. Arcia is a gap-to-gap, line drive type hitter, but his power started to show up more regularly in games last year and it continued this winter, where he hit 7 homers in 55 games in Venezuela. Arcia missed some time in 2014 with a minor ankle injury, but the Brewers stuck with him at a challenging level and he rewarded them with a solid performance in a pitcher’s league and park. Some in the organization think he’ll add a lot more muscle, with some think he may even get taller.
Summation: Arcia will head to Double-A next year at age 20, he has the look of a solid everyday shortstop and he’s just scratching the surface.
Upside: .275/.335/.435, 15 homers
FV/Risk: 50, Medium (3 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB
45 FV Prospects
2. Gilbert Lara, 3B Video: Lara was the top player in the last July 2nd period as a physical 6’3/205 Dominican infielder with easy plus raw power and bat speed, despite just turning 16. The Brewers gave him $3.1 million, the biggest bonus in his class last year, and the early returns have been outstanding. Lara’s issue as an amateur was a wild swing that could get out of control with aggression in games and some bulk to his frame that would certainly move him to third base and maybe left field or first base eventually.
He’s made strides in both areas, shocking even Brewers officials with how good he was at shortstop in instructs after cutting some weight, forcing their hand to develop him there for at least another year or two. He had the highest batting average in instructs (the stats aren’t public), showed an advanced ability to lay off tough pitches given his age (he turned 17 just after instructs) and he hit some massive homers in games, including one off a team of older Mexican professionals.
The Brewers are raving about Lara’s makeup, energy and his work ethic to shore up his two areas of concern so quickly and so convincingly against players mostly 5-7 years older than him.Hitting in an instructs BP group with Harrison and Gatewood probably helped push him to perform more than being a man-child amongst his Latin peers in amateur showcases. The ultimate fit is still third base and Lara likely starts in extended spring, but will probably get Low-A time at some point because he appears to be a man on a mission.
3. Kodi Medeiros, LHP Video: Medeiros was one of the most unique pitchers in the 2014 draft, as a skinny 6-foot prep lefty from Hawaii that threw from a near sidearm angle, but hit 95 mph with an easy plus slider. Scouts weren’t sure where to rank such a unique prospect, but he steadily moved up boards into the mid-to-late first round, with a sterling pre-draft workout in Milwaukee prompting the Brewers to draft him at 12th overall. Medeiros also had a growth spurt after showcase season and now stands 6-foot-2. He sat 90-94 mph in most outings over the summer and in the spring, but his velocity dipped after signing and he lost his delivery/command as well. This isn’t a long-term concern as most prep pitchers will struggle after signing given the length of the season.
Given his slot, Medeiros can throw a 4-seamer in games because the slot creates life on it’s own, though he can get around the ball too much at times. Adding some bulk should help him hold up later in the season and repeat his delivery more often given the funk, but the knockout slider is a rare gift you don’t see often at this age. He also throws a changeup that’s improved to flash solid average at times, so the 3/4 starter toolkit is present, there’s just some uniqueness and risk to consider. There’s a chance the Brewers take it slow and open with Medeiros in extended spring training, but that decision hasn’t been made yet. There’s mid-rotation or closer upside and it’s too early to have a good idea of what he’ll turn into.
4. Clint Coulter, RF Video: Coulter was a late 1st rounder in 2012 out of a Washington high school that had a physical 6’3 frame with above average power and arm strength, but the state wrestling champ had some concerns about whether he could stick at catcher long-term. Some in the organization still want to play Coulter behind the plate, but he still has lots of work to do and he looked good exclusively playing right field in instructs. His arm and caught stealing numbers were good in Low-A in 2014, but the release quickness and receiving need work and the rigors of catching wore on his bat later in the season.
Coulter seems more comfortable and fresh as a right fielder, and he will end up there long-term at some point, even if he dabbles behind the plate in 2015. He has a solid sense for the strike zone, above average raw power and enough bat speed and bat control to project at least an average bat, which would profile him as an everyday player in right field. One scout compared the upside to Matt Holliday if the bat comes all the way along. A Brewers official pointed out that Ryan Braun hit better in the big leagues than at the challenging pitcher’s paradise of High-A Brevard County, Coulter’s 2015 assignment.
5. Monte Harrison, CF Video: Harrison was a high-profile Missouri prep wide receiver commit to Nebraska, but the 6’3/200 athlete committed to baseball when Milwaukee gave him and over-slot $1.8 million bonus in the 2nd round last summer. Despite limited baseball reps in a state without much high level baseball, Harrison was much better at the plate than Gatewood at Area Codes last summer and performed much better in Rookie-ball after signing, underlining his raw athleticism. His plate discipline still needs some work, as he’ll chase breaking stuff out of the zone a little too often, and his swing is still progressing, as his mechanics will vary at times.
Harrison has the intense football mindset on the field, is coachable, competitive, picks things up quickly and is freaky athletic. He’s a plus runner now, though some think he may lose a step due to his physical build, but his above average arm is plenty for right field. Harrison added bulk last spring that improved his average raw power from showcase season to above average and he has the bat speed and feel for the bat head to make contact even when his mechanics and pitch recognition isn’t quite there. He’ll get at least some sort of chance to play at Low-A as a 19-year-old in 2015 and, if he puts up big numbers, we could be looking at an elite prospect.
6. Corey Knebel, RHP Video: Knebel was acquired as the headline piece form Texas this winter in the Yovani Gallardo deal, after being traded at the trade deadline from Detroit to Texas in the Joakim Soria deal. His star dimmed a big after arriving in Texas when it was revealed he had a sprained UCL, but Milwaukee’s doctors cleared him to pitch immediately, with a good chance he breaks camp in the big league bullpen.
Knebel drew a lot of attention in the months leading up to the 2013 draft with two team suspensions, though scouts shrugged them off as a fiery kid being emotional (verbal fight with coach) and loyal (covering for a teammate in a drug test). He went a little higher than expected to Detroit, a team renowned for taking the hardest thrower available.
Knebel’s stuff is electric, with a fastball that sits 94-96 and regularly hits 98 mph and a plus curveball. His delivery is funky, but it works for him, as Knebel commands his pitches better than you’d guess. His changeup and command are both below average, but his two primary pitches and deception are good enough that only slight adjustments should allow him to reach his closer upside, though he’s a strong bet to be at least a setup guy.
7. Tyrone Tavlor, CF Video: Taylor was a 2nd rounder out of a SoCal high school in 2012 that had a physical 6’0/185 frame and a football background as a running back. With two years of control left on Carlos Gomez, some in the organization think Taylor can take over center field in 2017. Taylor is an above average to plus runner with an average arm and good defensive instincts that profiles in center field, though he doesn’t have a huge margin for error and some think he may end up in a corner eventually.
If he ends up in that defensive tweener category, Taylor will have to hit, but his power is below average and he’s more of a gap-to-gap hitter. He’s been a year young for each of his levels, has had excellent plate discipline numbers and the bat speed and swing are there to support those skills. Scouts aren’t super enthusiastic about the upside, but there’s likely a low-end everyday player here of some sort. He’ll be 21 in Double-A to open 2015 and his offensive performance could tell us how quickly he may be able to get to Milwaukee.
8. Taylor Jungmann, RHP Video: Jungmann has been on a roller-coaster development journey since going 12th overall in 2011 out of Texas. He slipped that far despite a 6’6/220 frame, track record and mid-rotation stuff because scouts were scared off by his short, abrupt, awkward arm action, which the Brewers corrected after signing him. Some teams don’t even consider changing arm actions because they can quickly lead to injury and, in Jungmann’s case, his velocity did dip. I saw him 91-94 mph early in 2012, then saw him 88-91 mph by the end of that year.
His velo has ticked up since then, working 90-91 with sink and hitting 94 mph last season, then he had a very strong finish to the 2014 season in Triple-A, with the career-high strikeout rate to prove it. In his final 49.2 innings last season, Jungmann struck out 56 batters and the stuff was there for scouts to explain the improved numbers. Jungmann moved around on the rubber, which unlocked a little more velo and curveball sharpness.
His fastball was 90-93 with above average sink, his above average slider would flash plus at at times and his changeup would flash above average at times as well. He has more confidence and is more coachable after his struggles and delivery adjustments and is the 6th starter at the moment, likely breaking camp in Triple-A, but first in line if a rotation spot opens.
9. Jorge Lopez, RHP Video: The super-lanky 6’4/165 Puerto Rican righty was a 2nd rounder in 2011 picked out of high school. His numbers haven’t been flashy, but he’s still got projection left, pitches to contact and also had a tough personal situation last year with a sick infant that he drove to see in Miami in between starts for Brevard County. He’ll head to Double-A this year at age 22 after a nice showing the Puerto Rican Winter League and has the stuff to be a #4 starter with a chance more is coming.
Lopez sits 91-94 mph with some life, a solid average mid-80’s changeup and an above average low-80’s curveball that flashes plus for some scouts. There’s a shot that if he can put on more weight that it could be two plus pitches and a #3 starter projection and he’s still young, so it can’t be ruled out. As is, he’s looking like a solid league-average starter that’s only a couple years away from contributing.
10. Devin Williams, RHP Video: Williams was a 2013 2nd rounder with some late helium as 6’3/165 projectable Missouri prep arm that hit the mid-90’s regularly down the stretch with an above average changeup. Williams was solid as a 19-year-old at short-season Helena, sitting 90-94 mph with solid average stuff, but he ticked up late and showed his best stuff in instructs. There, Williams sat 92-95 mph with an above average to plus changeup and his slider was now flashing above average at times. He’s long, lanky and athletic and has limited miles on his arm coming from a cooler climate, so it was expected things may take a little while to come. He’s made some delivery changes that help explain the improvement and some in the organization are predicting Williams’ 2015 Low-A assignment will be his breakout campaign.
11. Taylor Williams, RHP Video: The 5’11/195 Williams isn’t a traditional-looking top prospect, but the Brewers took him in the 4th round in 2013 out of Kent State. Due to his size, big fastball/slider combo with a changeup that lags behind and effort in his delivery, Williams has always been seen as a future reliever, but the Brewers like to develop big league type arms as starters to develop their pitches.
Williams will continue as a starter and will get a look in Double-A this year, but the Brewers know he could be an asset, if needed, in the big league bullpen down the stretch and know that’s almost certainly his ultimate fit. In a three-inning instructs outing, Williams sat 95-96 and hit 99 mph, with an above average slider and and aggressive approach. His changeup and command are both fringy and his fastball will play a tick or two lower in longer outings.
40 FV Prospects
12. Luis Sardinas, SS Video: The 21-year old shortstop is a plus runner, fielder and thrower and has already had a cup of coffee, so the road to having some big league value isn’t too long. He has well below average power and has had trouble creating an offensive impact in the past few years. Sardinas strikes out too much for the type of player that he is; he also doesn’t walk enough and doesn’t have enough power to punish mistakes.
He’s the age of a recently-draft college junior and he’s held his own offensively at Double-A and Triple-A, so there’s some hope that he can progress, but feel to hit doesn’t normally fall from the heavens. It was rumored Texas was shopping him hard this winter and Milwaukee got him in the Gallardo deal, along with Knebel and Diplan. Scouts are confident Sardinas can be a good utility guy (and he probably is already) along the lines of Cesar Izturis, but there’s some elements here that could lead to a bit more.
13. Michael Reed, RF Video: Reed signed for $500,000 out of a Texas high school in 2011 and the question then was if there was enough impact with his tools to be an everyday player. Almost four years later, Reed has proven his tools play, but there’s still a question about how much impact he’ll have. At both A-Ball levels, he’s drawn a lot of walks, not struck out too much, put the ball in play, but shown limited game power. Reed has fringy raw power to all fields and that bodes well for it showing up in games later, but that’s still 15 homers per year at best.
Reed is an average runner with a solid average arm that profiles as a 4th outfielder that can play center in a pinch. It’s worth noting that Reed is similar to Tyrone Taylor, with a notch more power and a notch less speed, so there’s some reasonable outcomes where Reed is a better player, assuming Taylor can’t stick in center field. There’s still a chance Reed could be a 55 bat with a high OBP and below average power type starting corner outfielder like former Brewer Nori Aoki, but more reasonably he’s a very good reserve outfielder.
14. Tyler Wagner, RHP Video: The 6’3/195 Wagner was a 4th rounder in 2012 out of Utah, where he was the closer. Milwaukee converted him to a starter and the results have been excellent so far. He’ll start 2015 at age 24 in the Double-A rotation and may be in line for a big league look later in the year, given the thin MLB rotation depth.
Wagner sits 90-93 with above average sink and hits 95 mph, backing up his sinker with a solid average slider that’s a 55 at times and a fringy changeup that’s average at times. Wagner’s delivery is a little funky and his arm path is longer, but it plays up deception and nothing about Wagner is conventional. I’m inclined to see a 5th starter here as it’s starting to look like Wagner is the sneaky guy that holds down a rotation spot for five years before anyone notices.
15. Jacob Gatewood, 3B Video: Gatewood was a huge name nationally as a prep underclassman after showing massive raw power at Area Codes, a projectable frame and the skills to stick in the infield. He showed even bigger tools early in his final showcase season, but revealed even bigger holes in his swing. Gatewood has 65 or 70 now raw power, almost all to his pull side, and with a good bit of effort in batting practice, but there’s projection for a little more in the tank.
He’s a solid average runner with an above average arm that isn’t bad at shortstop, but his 6’5/190 frame and longer actions will dictate a move to third base soon, though Milwaukee will leave him at short a little longer. The issue with Gatewood is contact: he went 0 for the Area Codes in his senior year, with lots of swing-and-miss and weak groundouts, a similar story to other major events and his spring performance. There were flashes of adjustments and one hot streak during the spring, but the fundamental problems are still there with pitch recognition and toning down his max effort BP swing. He would be well-served to simplify completely, sell out for singles contact, then slowly build himself back up in a better way.
He’s doing a version of what’s giving Javier Baez so much trouble in the big leagues, but has nowhere near the same bat speed to make up for it. He’ll likely go back to extended spring and play short season this summer; he’s just 19 and there’s still time for things to click, but he’s already been passed by draft-mate Monte Harrison, even though he’s played very little baseball. All indications are that Gatewood is a good kid that should be able to figure this out, but the positive reinforcement of his current swing via all the praise from Home Run Derbies (including the junior Derby one he won before the All-Star Derby in Citi Field) hurt more than help.
16. Brandon Woodruff, RHP Video: Woodruff was maddeningly inconsistent in his three years at Mississippi State after enrolling with plenty of hype out of high school. He got a handful of starts for the Bulldogs, but injuries, command problems and inconsistency had him in the bullpen or buried altogether. At his best (like fall 2013) he sat 92-95 and hit 97 mph with plus life and a slider and changeup that were both at least average.
The Brewers gambled on the power arm that needed a change of scenery in the 11th round last summer and that gamble has already paid off hugely. Woodruff was excellent after signing, with a buzzed-about instructs outing where he sat 94-97 mph with a plus curveball and at least average changeup. In other outings, he worked 93-94 mph with above average sink, showing a surprising amount of polish given his background. His 2015 assignment hasn’t been decided yet, but an educated guess is the rotation at pitcher-friendly High-A Brevard County.
17. David Denson, 1B Video: The 6’3/255 lefty-hitting Denson was well-known for his raw power, hitting a 515-foot homer with an aluminum bat at the Power Showcase as an amateur. Given his physical limitations, some swing-and-miss to his game and his patient approach that made him hard to scouts, Denson was scooped up by Milwaukee for $100,000 in the 15th round in 2013 out of a SoCal high school.
Denson is deceptively quick, has an average arm, plate discipline so advanced that low minors umps frustrate him with their inconsistent zones, easy plus raw power and makeup that coaches love. He already looks like a steal after a strong 19-year-old season at Low-A and there’s still work to do, but the elements are here.
18. Marcos Diplan, RHP Video: Diplan was acquired this winter from Texas in the Yovani Gallardo deal and the 18-year old Dominican righty has plenty of pedigree, signing for $1.3 million on July 2nd, 2013. He earned Octavio Dotel comparisons as an amateur, given his 5’11 or 6’0 height and slight build, along with an electric arm. Diplan sits 90-94 and hits 95 mph with life and an above average curveball, along with a usable changeup and some feel to pitch. He’s small, there isn’t much projection, there’s some effort to the delivery and he still hasn’t pitched in an American league yet, so there’s plenty to doubt, but the stuff is here for a steady back-end starter or late-inning reliever.
19. Miguel Diaz, RHP Video: Diaz was a low-profile signing out of the Dominican in December, 2011 that took a big step forward last year in the AZL as a 19-year-old. The 6’1/175 righty isn’t that physical, but his the arm is clean and he has big stuff, sitting 92-95 and hitting 97 mph with an above average curveball. The changeup and command are below average and he’s likely a reliever. Diaz will get a long look at Low-A this year, though that may be delayed a bit so he doesn’t have to deal with the cold weather.
20. Hector Gomez, SS Video: The perpetual prospect had a bounce-back season at age 26 in Triple-A last year and while some scouts will debate whether he belong on this list, he’s only had a cup of coffee, so he’s technically eligible. Gomes can still play short and he has a little pop with his feel at the plate improving last year, so there may still be something here, but likely as a utility guy.
21. Victor Roache, RF Video: Roache was a projected 1st rounder entering his 2012 draft spring has a power hitter with contact questions, then he broke he wrist a handful of games into the season. He wasn’t able to answer those contact questions, but the Brewers had seen him enough to pop him 28th overall for $1.525 million. Roache has 60 raw power and a solid average arm, so it’s classic everyday right field tools if he can make contact, which he hasn’t really so far.
He struck out in 29% of plate appearances in High-A last year and his swing got long, with some speculating the pitcher friendly environment caused him to press, with other suggesting he wasn’t fully back from his wrist injury yet. A 2015 assignment to Double-A will be a big one, because he looks like a 4A hitter as is, so he needs to show significant progress to change that perception.
22. Wei-Chung Wang, LHP Video: Wang was an unexpected Rule 5 pick last winter as the Brewers plucked him from the Pirates Rookie-ball team. He was only eligible because his initial deal in 2011 for $350,000 out of Taiwan was voided and by signing a new deal, he became Rule 5 eligible immediately. He was good in 47.1 innings in 2013 in the GCL after returning from the Tommy John surgery that caused his first deal to be voided and survived in the bigs so Milwaukee could keep his rights.
Wang has been up to 96 mph in short stints, but sits 88-92 and hits 93 mph in most starts. His above average changeup is his best off-speed pitch, his average curveball is a bit ahead of his fringy slider and his command projects to be at least average, bolstered by his aggressive approach. There’s a back-end starter in here somewhere and he likely heads to High-A and/or Double-A for 2015.
23. Nathan Orf, 2B Video: Undrafted senior from Baylor was signed in 2013 and hit way more than expected at short-season Helena. He was pushed in 2014 at age 24 to High-A and the 5’9/180 Orf hit well again, posting a .288/.388/.386 line. Orf is a plus runner with a simple, compact stroke and gap power. He’s played center field and second base for the Brewers and actually caught some in college, so he’s a great fit as a utility guy and emergency catcher that grinds out at bats and has the makeup coaches love. He’ll head to Double-A in 2015 and could be on the fast track to a big league utility look.
24. Kyle Wren, CF Video: The son of fired Braves GM Frank Wren probably didn’t want to hang around the organization much longer, so the Braves traded him to the Brewers soon afterwards. The 5’10/175 Wren is an overachiever, who went in the 8th round in 2013 as a senior sign out of Georgia Tech and hit his way to the upper levels in his first full year. He’s a plus runner with below average power and arm strength that profiles in center field, with his ultimate role depending on how much contact he makes. The likely outcome is a solid average bat and a solid 4th outfielder and he may get a big league look late in 2015.
Austin Ross, RHP
Generally speaking, the last thing to return for a pitcher who’s been compelled to undergo Tommy John surgery is his control. Ross, for whatever reason, appears to have been spared this particular side effect. Over 195.2 innings between July of 2010 and April of 2012 — after which month he was sidelined with an elbow injury — he produced strikeout and walk rates of 21.3% and 7.3%, respectively. In 180.2 innings since August of 2013, however — which date marked his return from the aforementioned procedure — he’s improved those rates to 22.6% and 6.6%, respectively, while also facing generally more talented competition. In a recent spring-training appearance, he sat in the low-90s while topping out at 94 mph, suggesting that he possesses adequate arm speed. Moreover, he throws a slider effective enough to strike out Elliot Johnson.
This slider, specifically:
There are four position players at the upper levels to keep an eye on: 1B Jason Rogers (6’1/255 and 27 years old with almost no big league experience and solid average raw power isn’t a great profile, but Rogers is deceptively athletic with feel to hit), SS Yadiel Rivera (Puerto Rican shortstop has 6’3/180 frame and flashy actions with some pop, but the contact has always been an issue), C Cameron Garfield (Video the 2009 2nd rounder hasn’t hit much in the last few years but he checks the boxes with solid average raw power, an above average arm and the ability to catch; catchers typically take longer and he’s confident) and C Juan Centeno (he was claimed from the Mets this off-season and is likely no more than a backup long-term, but he’s a plus defender with a plus arm and a quick release, evident by throwing out Billy Hamilton last year).
There are six position players at the lower levels to keep an eye on: 3B Sthervin Matos (Dominican athlete will get his first real taste of full-season ball this year at age 21 and could be on the verge of a breakout; he’s still improving defensively, but flashes average or better hit, raw power and arm strength tools; it’s pronounced “servin”), 3B Tucker Neuhaus (Video he hasn’t quite regained the form of his breakout in fall 2012, but the tools still show up–above average at times in all but speed–but the approach and contact haven’t been there often enough), CF Troy Stokes (Video 2014 4th rounder is 5’8/185 with a stout frame, but is a plus runner that profiles in center and has some raw power), 3B Dustin DeMuth (2014 5th rounder was a senior-sign, bat-first third baseman with a chance to stick there, but doesn’t have much power to his game swing), CF Omar Garcia (2013 7th rounder is a righty-hitting 80 runner with no power and is still a bit raw, but has feel for the bat head) and CF Brandon Diaz (2013 8th rounder is another righty hitter with at least 70 speed, some pop and some feel to hit, but it’s still early).
There are three lefties to keep an eye on: LHP Mike Strong (was added to the 40-man after a strong AFL made him a real Rule 5 option; solid average fastball, slider and command isn’t flashy but gets results), LHP Jed Bradley (2011 first rounder had bounce-back 2014 season as a sinker/slider starter, but he’ll move to the bullpen for 2015, where he hits 95 mph in short stints) and LHP Hobbs Johnson (5’11/230 lefty sits 88-90 mph with sink and great deception with an average four pitch mix and some chance to be a #5 starter).
There are seven righties in the upper levels to keep an eye on, so here’s notes on the top two: RHP Johnny Hellweg (Video 6’7/235 righty came over from the Angels in the Zack Greinke deal in 2012 and predictably has trouble repeating his delivery and throwing strikes along with some injury issues, including a Tommy John surgery last April; he’s now back on the mound but is still rehabbing; he hit 100 mph in short stints before surgery and flashed an average slider and changeup at times; he may start this year to stretch him out and get innings to work on his stuff, but the fit is in relief) and RHP David Goforth (the velo has improved a bit since college, hitting 100 mph last season, and there’s a little more feel now: Goforth sits 95-98 mph and works in a 90-92 mph cutter that’s a 55 pitch at times, but the consistency and command vary and his curveball and changeup are below average; the upside is as a setup guy, but he’ll open 2015 in Triple-A so he just needs incremental improvements)
The other five righties of note: RHP Damien Magnifico (2012 5th rounder was a fireballing reliever at Oklahoma that hit 100 mph often, but was converted to a starter in pro ball despite big secondary stuff and command issues; he’s added some life to his heater and hit 99 in long outings, but is mostly a fastball/slider guy and will move back to relief at some point soon), RHP Austin Ross (Video Cistulli’s fringe favorite above has solid average four pitch mix that may play up in the pen, though there’s a shot he turns into a 5th starter), RHP Michael Blazek (he hasn’t quite put it all together, but has big league time, sits 94-96 and touches 98 mph along with a sharp but inconsistent breaking ball), RHP Ariel Pena (is making the long-anticipated move to the bullpen for 2015, which could help his fastball that’s been up to 98 mph and slider that flashes 55 to play better in short stints) and RHP Tyler Cravy (will open in Triple-A, has great feel for his craft and five pitches, but works primarily with solid average sinker/slider combo and could be 5th starter or swingman).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.