MLB Top Prospects Preview: Southern League Baseball
Opening Day in Chattanooga is Thursday night. In 2013, the Southern League was home to dynamic prospects including Taijuan Walker, Archie Bradley (2013 Report), Javier Baez (2013 Report) and Yasiel Puig (2013 Report). Puig took the National League by storm while the other three finished the season as top-10 prospects in all of baseball. The league is expected to be deeper in 2014 with many MLB top prospects including those listed below. ROTOscouting will have multiple contributors covering the action.
MLB Prospect Preview: Southern League Hitters
Kris Bryant, 3B, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
The second pick in the 2013 amateur draft, Chicago Cubs prospect Kris Bryant has reached Double-A quickly after a dominating in his debut. Bryant has legitimate plus-plus power, amongst the best in minor league baseball. Few would argue the third baseman as the Southern League’s best prospect with a chance to debut in Chicago this season. Bryant will treat Double-A as a finishing school and will work to cut down the strikeouts — his only real weakness.
Erisbel Arruebarrena, SS, Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers)
Little is known about the 23-year-old Cuban shortstop, signed by the Dodgers in February for five years and $25 million deal. He is reported to be a superior defender with a questionable bat. Jose Iglesias has been thrown around as a comparison, but the Alex Guerrero situation shows dollar signs and talent level have little in common when it comes to Cuban players. Arruebarrena arrived at camp late due to a visa issue, so his debut may be on hold as he prepares for the season.
Jorge Soler, OF, Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
Soler had a rough 2013. First, he made headlines for attacking the opposing team’s dugout with a bat, resulting in a 5 game suspension. Then, his season ended after suffering a stress fracture in his left leg. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder with a 30-million dollar contract slashed .281/.343./467 in 55 games. Injuries aside, the Cubs expected more. As Kris Bryant’s understudy, will Soler regain lost helium with a breakout campaign? Or, will the top-100 prospect struggle to keep up with the right-handed slugger.
D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B, Seattle Mariners (Mariners)
Seattle Mariners’ prospect D.J. Peterson was struck in the face with a pitch, breaking his jaw in 2013. In Jackson, Peterson will work to shake off the physical and mental effects of the injury. Drafted 11th overall in 2013, Peterson has done nothing but hit when healthy. In the Southern League, Peterson will continue to work on his defense in an attempt to stave off a move to first base. But with Kyle Seager manning the hot corner in Seattle, Justin Smoak is the path of least resistance for the top-100 prospect.
Mitch Haniger, OF, Huntsville Stars (Brewers)
On paper, Milwaukee Brewers prospect Mitch Haniger is one of the best homegrown talents the Brewers have produced in years. Blessed with an all-around skill set, Haniger combined for 52 extra base hits in 2013 on his way to Double-A. Then, he impressed in the Arizona Fall League with a .280/.354/.480 line, raising his prospect profile. The Brewers have struggled to develop homegrown talent in recent years, but Haniger will work to change that. With a crowded outfield situation in Milwaukee, only injuries will clear a path to Milwaukee in 2014.
MLB Top Prospects Preview: Southern League Pitchers
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Jacksonville Suns (Marlins)
Baseball America ranked Andrew Heaney as its top left-handed pitching prospect of 2014. A first round draft pick in 2013, he’s the best pitching prospect in the system by a wide margin. An April look at the top-100 prospect is possible, with a detailed scouting report soon after. The key will be to scout Heaney quickly as he’ll be Miami bound at some point this season.
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Pensacola Blue Wahoos (Reds)
Stephenson struggled during a short stint in the Southern League last season, allowing 30 base runners in 16.2 innings. This, after dominating the California League, earning recognition as one of the highest ceiling pitches in the minor leagues. Once Stephenson adjusts, the top-100 prospect’s ascent to Cincinnati will be quick. If the Reds are in playoff contention in September, might Stephenson be a candidate to dominate out of the bullpen like other top prospects in recent years?
C.J. Edwards, RHP Tennessee Smokies (Cubs)
C.J. Edwards is a polarizing prospect. The stuff is top notch, but questions remain about Edwards stature (6-foot-2, 165 pounds), and ability to endure a starter’s workload. With premium athletes like Edwards, it’s not out of the ordinary for things to “click”, resulting in a big jump in production. Can the top-100 prospect replicate that success at the upper levels and make a September push to Chicago?
Jason Hursh, RHP, Mississippi Braves (Braves)
Hursh isn’t the command/control college pitcher the Braves are accustomed to drafting. After the success J.R. Graham and Alex Wood, it appears the Braves are taking a more aggressive approach with draft picks. The 2013 first rounder pitched only 131.1 innings in college due to injury, but Hursh has a heavy, low-90’s fastball and developing secondaries. Before reaching Atlanta, Hursh will work to build his innings limits at the minor league level.
Victor Sanchez, RHP, Jackson Generals
Just 19, Victor Sanchez will be the youngest player in the Southern League. Blessed with a four-pitch arsenal, scouting contacts rave about the command of his low-90’s fastball and changeup. Skipping High-A may seem like a stretch for Sanchez, but the Mariners did the same thing with Taijuan Walker in 2012 to protect its asset from the California League.
MLB Top Prospects: Late-Season “Gets”
These players won’t be the only MLB Top Prospects to debut this season in the Southern League. Dodgers prospects Julio Urias and Corey Seager, Cubs Albert Almora and Diamondbacks Braden Shipley can earn late season promotions with strong 2014 campaigns in High-A. With any luck, it will be a banner year for the Southern League and ROTOscouting will feature extensive prospect coverage.
31 Mar 2014 / ROTOscouting Staff /
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