Gary Sanchez is a great defensive backstop — with power.
The 2013 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward today as we get back to more of our Top 60 Prospects countdown.
So while you prepare to begin the Mariano Rivera Farewell Tour, let’s examine prospects 40 through 31.
Last year’s rankings are in parentheses.
40. Martin Perez, SP, Texas Rangers (27): No. 3 on our list of the Top 23 Texas Rangers Prospects, Perez was gunning for a rotation spot in the bigs this spring and his first outing definitely put him in the good books as he tossed two perfect frames. However, he fractured his left ulna a couple of weeks ago, thereby ending his chances of earning a job. This long-heralded prospect saw his first big league action last year, but his bottom line results weren’t good despite improved control. Yes, it seems like we’ve been hearing about Perez since the dawn of time, but the southpaw is still just 21. His HR/FB rate wasn’t bad in his first taste of the majors, and that’s great news considering the launching pad that is Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Perez, the team’s top pitching prospect for the past few years, was trying to fight off fellow youngsters Justin Grimm and Robbie Ross plus some non-roster invitees for the final slot in the Ranger rotation. Signed out of Venezuela in 2007, Perez looked much better at Triple-A last season. He’s done a very good job of limiting home runs (just 10 in 21 starts and one relief appearance in the minors last season), but control remains his bugaboo (56 walks in 127 IP, or nearly four per nine innings). He enjoyed a breakout season back in 2009 at Class-A (reaching Double-A at the age of 18) and has been young for his leagues ever since. Now it’s time for Perez to make the big leap, so we’ll see how he reacts in early May when he’s ready to go.
39. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees (35): When we ranked Sanchez 35th a year ago, we said he was arguably the Yankees’ top position player. Well, he’s slipped a tad since then, partially because of his slight adjustment issues at High-A and partially because of the emergence of Mason Williams (see below). Still, Sanchez is only 20 years old and has already exhibited very nice defensive skills with power. He improved his contact rates at Class-A, but his power dipped after a promotion to High-A. Sanchez combined to hit a very impressive .290 last season and after being signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, he is now closing in on a big league job. He flirted with 20 homers and even flashed developing speed (15 steals after managing a mere four swipes his first two pro years combined). Contact (106 strikeouts) remains an issue, but as mentioned, it didn’t prohibit Sanchez from hitting for a nice average. He projects as a middle of the order bat that could arrive in New York by next year sometime.
38. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays (33): We had a chance to observe Lee at the AFL a couple of years ago and discovered that his glove is ready, but his bat needs more work. Still, we consider him the second best prospect in the Rays’ system, and although we lowered him on our list a bit this year, he remains a player that has not yet gotten the attention he deserves. Lee enjoyed better numbers in his first full season at Double-A and then got some valuable experience in the AFL. It’s not like he hasn’t shown he can hit; after the 2011 season, he was ranked as the best batting prospect in the FSL by Baseball America after putting up a .318 mark in 400 at-bats. Speed remains Lee’s best weapon as he showed with a career-best 37 thefts at Double-A last year, but a career slugging percentage of less than .385 illustrates that power is not his thang. Other than that, he pretty much has nice tools across the board, and it’s just a matter of time before he shows us why he was the key component the Rays got when they parted with Matt Garza.
37. Jake Marisnick, OF, Miami Marlins (51): When we ranked Marisnick 51st a year ago, we said he could be at Double-A by the end of 2012 if he duplicated his 2011 effort. Well, we were bang on there, but that didn’t stop the Jays from dealing him to Miami in that massive offseason deal that netted them Jose Reyes, et al. For our money, Marisnick becomes the third best prospect in a stacked Marlin system after Toronto — despite giving him a $1 million signing bonus — dealt its 2009 third round pick. Combining with Christian Yelich to form two thirds of a nice looking future outfield in Miami, Marisnick will probably begin the season back at Double-A, but another midseason promotion would not be shocking. Last year, after half a season at High-A, he was promoted to Double-A, but struggled to adjust offensively. He earned some serious valuable experience along the way, and it won’t be long until he settles in at the higher levels and is ready for another move. He struggled to make contact in the AFL, but put up solid numbers regardless. Marisnick has big-time speed, swiping a combined 24 bases last year after racking up 37 at Class-A in 2011. Patience, however, remains his weak spot as his walk rate plummeted at Double-A and looked even worse in the AFL. Marisnick will need to learn to draw more free passes before he’s ready for Triple-A and certainly the Show. Of the three prospects the Jays sent to Miami, he has the most upside and has five-tool potential. But there’s some work to do before Marisnick reaches that potential, so be patient.
36. Mason Williams, OF, New York Yankees (NR): After completing his first full season, Williams has landed onto the prospect map, and while some consider Sanchez a better prospect, for our money, this is the top phenom the Bronx Bombers currently have. Williams’ ceiling is sky high and — hell — he’s even a budding musician. Last year, he scored a whopping 55 runs in just 69 games at Class-A, but he wasn’t quite as productive after a promotion to High-A. The Yanks’ fourth round pick in 2010, Williams has serious potential as a high-average base stealer. He’s swiped 48 bags in 159 games over the past two seasons and he smoked the New York Penn League to the tune of a .349 mark last year. He hit .304 at Class-A and nearly .280 at High-A as well. Williams’ patience, however, is another story and his walk rate at High-A simply isn’t going to cut it if he has designs on being a top of the order threat. The Yankees system has worked its way into mediocrity, and the development of Williams, the son of a former NFL receiver, is a big part of that.
35. Mike Zunino, C, Seattle Mariners (NR): We like Zunino enough to place him inside the top 45 in our Catcher Rankings this season. And why not? The 2012 first rounder (third overall) wasted no time in establishing himself at the pro level, molesting pitchers in Rookie Ball and then continuing to put up impressive numbers after a very aggressive promotion to Double-A. Can you say fast track? The second best positional player prospect in the Mariner system, Zunino hit a combined .360 in the minors last year, and while the game is littered with catching prospects who dominated offensively and moved quickly — only to stall at the majors — it’s too tempting a proposition to not try latching onto the next Joe Mauer. Zunino has top drawer power potential (13 homers in 44 games) with serious high batting average capability — an irresistible combination for any prospect, never mind for a catcher. Like most backstops, speed is not his thang. Zunino was drafted by the A’s out of high school in the 29th round in 2009, but opted to go to the University of Florida — a wise decision considering where he was plucked last year.
34. Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins (NR): The second overall pick in last year’s draft (and potentially the best prospect in the entire draft) has quickly soared to near the top of the Twins’ prospect charts, but expecting him to arrive in Minny at the same rapid pace is not wise. Buxton projects as a player who will hit for a decent BA, show decent pop and steal lots of bases. The fact that he improved his contact rate after a promotion to Low-A last year was a very promising sign. Buxton got plenty of experience in his first pro season and we expect the Georgia high school product to tackle full-season ball this year. He has amazing power and speed potential, but is going to need to make better contact as he rises through the minors. This is a true five-tool prospect that is as athletic as they come, so a year from now, he could easily be a top 10 or even top five dude on this list.
33. Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners (40): We like Franklin enough that we slotted him in our 2013 Shortstop Rankings, meaning we think he could establish some value as early as this season. He’s flashing some power in spring training and has gone on a special diet to increase his weight so he’ll have more stamina over the course of the season. It’s still unclear if Franklin will wind up at short or second base, but for what it’s worth, he spent most of last second at short (69 games compared to 48 at second). The switch hitter just turned 22 and is already knocking on the door of the bigs, although this is his first spring training with the Mariners. Last year, he spent basically a half season at Double-A before a promotion to Triple-A, where he continued to average over a hit per game. Overall, it was a productive season for Franklin, good enough for him to continue to climb the prospect charts. Seattle’s first rounder in 2009 has very good speed, although he only swiped a dozen bases last year. The 96 strikeouts, however, suggests he needs to make better contact; in Triple-A in particular he struggled in this regard, whiffing 68 times in 64 games. Franklin is a solid prospect, but he’ll be much more valuable if he remains shortstop eligible.
32. Anthony Rendon, 3B, Washington Nationals (18): As we discussed in our 2012 AFL Report, Rendon’s big issue has been staying healthy. However, when active, Washington’s top prospect has flashed some serious extra-base pop. Interestingly, he’s been seeing some time at shortstop this spring, but he’s never played there as a pro. The bigger issue here is that the Nats opted to re-sign Adam LaRoche, which means that Ryan Zimmerman will not shift from third to first base, and therefore Rendon remains blocked. Rendon, taken sixth overall in 2011, is flashing his skills this spring, but he has no chance to stick with the big league team. The talent is there — we saw that with his 10 doubles in just 22 games in the AFL, but what Rendon needs is seasoning. His numbers looked good last year, but he simply didn’t see enough action to prepare him for the next step. His patient approach is unparalleled, and now he’ll need to employ that skill to wait for his shot in the bigs. Rendon isn’t really lacking in any one tool, so there’s no doubt that if he can stay healthy, he’ll be a stud. This kid’s on the fast track, and he’ll force Washington to figure out a way to get him in the lineup (whether that’s at first, second, short or third) sooner rather than later.
31. Matt Barnes, SP, Boston Red Sox (NR): Barnes burst onto the Fantasy radar after a season in which he was untouchable in a few starts at Class-A, quickly earning a promotion to High-A, where his record was middling, but he continued to impress otherwise. Boston’s first rounder (19th overall) in 2011 combined for a nice record in his pro debut last season, showing durability and proving difficult to hit. The former UConn star has great strikeout potential (133 in 119 2/3 IP) and really no weaknesses, although the walks at High-A (nearly 3.5 per nine) started to creep up there a bit. In time, Barnes could top out as a No. 2 starter and he’s proven he’s definitely ready for Double-A this year, so don’t be shocked if he moves fast. At this stage, we expect him to compete for a rotation spot in Boston by 2014.
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