Detroit Tigers' 1B Prospect Jordan Lennerton - Eric Hartline-US PRESSWIRE
Obviously, the Top 50 Prospects Countdown has concluded with Nick Castellanos taking top honors. But I thought it would be beneficial to write up some of the guys who "just missed" the list.
When I first began putting together my Top 50 Prospects list, I started with every prospect in the organization. From there, I whittled it down to around 100 names, then 75, and finally I had 60 names on my list. Then, with the 60 names, I ranked my top 50. This left 10 names that I felt could have argument's made for them to be on the Top 50, but lost out in the end. This article will introduce you to those guys. Their blurbs won't be nearly as in depth as the ones for the Top 50, but I hope it will be informative nonetheless.
Keep in mind, these are not in order. This list will not appear as "No. 51-60" or whatever, these are just the 10 guys I had JUST on the outside looking in.
Jason King, 3B
King was drafted in the 4th round of the 2011 draft out of Kansas State. He missed all of the 2010 season at KSU after having Tommy John surgery, but returned in 2011 and did well enough at KSU for the Tigers to draft him rather highly. He played the 2011 season at Class A Short Season-Connecticut, where he posted a .756 OPS in 227 PA's. He suffered a significant knee injury which delayed his 2012 season, but he made it back and saw 378 PA's at Class A-West Michigan, where he posted a .707 OPS (although he came on strong towards the end of the season). He's a switch hitter that is better from the left side, and shows average hitting projection. He has some power, more from the left side, and should be able to hit 15 or so HR's every year. He's a good athlete, but struggles a bit at 3B, leading some scouts to believe that he will transition to LF eventually. He shows a plus arm at times, so the transition to the OF (if it happens) shouldn't be a major issue. He has good speed, enough to steal double digit bases, but the knee injury set his speed back a bit. He should be the everyday 3B for Class A Advanced-Lakeland in 2013.
Jose Valdez, RHP
Valdez is a 6'1" reliever that spent his first season stateside in 2012 with the GCL Tigers as their closer. He was old for the level (22), but had nice numbers nonetheless and shows as an interesting prospect. He posted a 0.82 ERA in 22 innings, with a 1.13 WHIP, 15 saves, 11.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. He throws a fastball and slider. His fastball is plus, sitting in the mid 90's with good movement, and his slider grades out as average. I have a 7th inning profile on his as of now, but the fact that he was 22 in rookie ball and that he hasn't pitched in full season ball yet kept him off of my Top 50 list. He should head to West Michigan in 2013, maybe as their closer.
Melvin Mercedes, RHP
Mercedes raised some eyebrows this offseason due to the fact that he was added to the 40 man so as to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. He kind of reminds of Valverde (strictly due to physical appearance) because he's a hefty guy with chicken legs that looks kind of funny on the mound. Regardless, he has a late-innings profile. He spent 2012 mostly at West Michigan, where he posted a 2.80 in 64 1/3 innings. He had a 1.19 WHIP, 6.0 K/0 and 3.2 BB/9. He made strides with his command in 2012, but didn't post the strikeout numbers everyone expected. He throws a fastball that sits in the 93-94 range, can ramp it up on occasion, and shows solid late sink. When it's commanded, it can both induce groundballs and get swings and misses. He also throws a slider that flashes above-average potential. He was probably #51 on my list, and was damned close to making the cut, but the lack of K's in 2012 stopped me short. Hopefully he can show off his late innings profile at Lakeland in 2013, and if he does, he'll vault his way up the list.
Michael Torrealba, RHP
A shorter guy, Torrealba is a 5'11" right handed reliever that spent 2012 at West Michigan. He posted a 3.01 ERA in 74 2/3 IP, with a 1.18 WHIP, 9.8 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9. He repeated Class A in 2012, which was surprising to some due to his excellent numbers there in 2011. Obviously, he's not challenged by Class A hitters, so I was somewhat perplexed that he didn't at least make it to Lakeland in 2012 at some point. Regardless, he shows a middle reliever profile, maybe a bit more depending on his development. He throws a fastball that sits in the low 90's with solid movement, and he can ramp it up to the mid 90's in short bursts, but it does straighten out with added velocity. He also throws a curveball that has flashed above average potential, but like with a lot of young pitchers, his problem is command. I would assume he heads to Lakeland in 2013, where he'll see if his arsenal can hold up against more advanced hitting.
Javier Betancourt, SS
Betancourt was signed just last year out of Venezuela, and played the 2012 season with the Tigers' Venezuelan Summer League team. He showed well there, hitting .333 (.847 OPS) in 139 PA's. He's listed at 5'10" 170, so he's got a solid frame with projection left. I don't know a whole lot about Betancourt, but I have seen that he's a very solid all around player that has a chance to stick at SS, but may be a 3B/2B down the line as he fills out. He's not flashy, but shows above-average projection defensively and with his arm. He's only 17, so we have quite a ways to go before we see what he's truly capable, but reports say that he's solid with the bat as well, and actually projects to have some power. He may stay in the VSL for another season in 2013, but that's more to do with the fact that there will be a log jam of infielders at the lower levels as opposed to Betancourt not being able to handle coming stateside. Keep an eye on him.
Charles Gillies, RHP
Gillies was drafted in the 10th round of the 2012 draft, and some people I've talked to believe the Tigers may have gotten a steal here. He spent 2012 with Connecticut, making 12 starts (42 1/3 IP) with a 3.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 8.9 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9. He has a solid frame at 6'2" 210, and is one of the only true sinkerball pitchers in the org. His fastball has average velocity, mostly in the 90-92 range, but it has excellent sink and he's a groundball machine. He posted a 4.73 GB/FB ratio in 2012, which borders on ridiculous. I don't know a whole lot else about him, but I'd assume that he heads to West Michigan and is a part of their (projected) absolutely stacked rotation. I'm so stoked to go see West Michigan this year, as it looks like Jake Thompson, Endrys Briceno, Edgar De La Rosa, Brenny Paulino, and others will all be there.
Wade Gaynor, 3B/LF/1B
Gaynor was drafted by the Tigers in the 3rd round of the 2009 draft out of Western Kentucky. He is a big dude at 6'4" 225, but is still an impressive athlete. His athleticism translates to the field, where he has good range regardless of where he plays, and despite his size he's still a good enough runner to steal double digit bases regularly. He has plus raw power, and he did his 16 HR's across 2 levels in 2012, but the power doesn't show up all that often in game situations due to his below average hit tool. He struggles with pitch recognition and there is still quite a bit of swing and miss in his game, but he still posted a solid .794 OPS in 2012. He has a good idea at the plate, willing to take walks, but as I've said, the lack of an average hit tool has held him back from unlocking that power at the plate, making his profile fall a bit short. He does have good athleticism and range, but he still struggles defensively at 3B. He's better at 1B and in LF, but his bat doesn't look to support a LF or 1B profile, making him a tweener. He could make the big leagues eventually as a right handed hitting utility guy, but he doesn't profile much beyond that. At the very least, he's a good org guy.
Jordan Lennerton, 1B
Lennerton is, by a rather long shot, the best defensive 1B in the system. He also has some legitimate power in his left handed bat. He spent all of 2012 at Class Double A-Erie (at 26 years old) where he posted an .836 OPS in 582 PA's with 34 doubles and 21 HR's. He also walked 79 times (13.6%), but struck out 141 times (24.2%). His profile falls short of being an everyday major leaguer due to his underdeveloped hit tool, but he could be an up-and-down bench bat due to his left handed power profile. Unfortunately for him, the Tigers have quite the logjam in the way of 1st Basemen at the major league level, and fellow 1B prospect (and LHH) Dean Green profiles better than Lennerton in the way of the hit tool anyways. He should be Triple A-Toledo's everyday 1B in 2013.
Aaron Sayers, SS
Raise your hand if you've ever heard of Aaron Sayers. Ok, now put your hand down because you're lying. Sayers was signed as a 16 year old in 2011 while he was still in secondary school in Australia. It is my understanding that he will come stateside for the first time in 2013 and play with the GCL Tigers. He's listed at 6'0" 170 with a very projectable body and good athleticism. He struggles with nearly everything aside from range at SS, as his hands, footwork, and arm all earn below average grades as of right now. He's still young with some projection left, so the Tigers will give him a shot to stay at SS, but it's looking like he will end up as a 2B eventually. He's lauded for his hit tool, and it looks to have plus projection with development. It's advanced for a 17 year old, and shows the potential for some power as well. He's incredibly raw and is a long ways away, but he's certainly an interesting prospect that will be on my radar in 2013.
David Gonzalez, SS
Gonzalez was signed as an amateur free agent prior to the 2011 season out of Venezuela, and made his pro debut that season in the VSL. While there, he OPS'd .705 in 302 PA's, highlighted by a .382 OBP. Brought stateside in 2012, Gonzalez played somewhat sparingly with the GCL Tigers, posting an OPS of .642 in 162 PA's. When you look at his stat line, nothing jumps out to you until you reach his strikeouts and walks. He struck out only 20 times in 2012 (12.3%) which is pretty good, but then you see that he walked 22 times (13.6%). That's damned impressive, regardless of what level you play at (humblebrag: I walked more than I struck out in high school, and I'm available Mr. Dombrowski). He's still pretty small at this point, only 5'10" and around 160, but he has some strength in his frame, not to mention some remaining projection. He shows plus potential defensively at SS, in addition to a plus arm. He has an advanced idea at the plate, highlighted by his K:BB ratio, but he gets overaggressive at times. He has a solid, simple swing; but doesn't look to have any power beyond the gap variety. He's also a solid runner, with double digit stolen base potential. It'll be interesting to see where he ends up in 2013, either back in the GCL or at Short Season ball in Connecticut. Keep an eye on him: If he has a successful 2013 season he could find himself vaulted into the top 30 or so on this list next year.