The GCL (Gulf Coast League) Tigers, the Rookie ball affiliate, finished their season with a record of 36-24, winning the GCL North division before falling in the GCL Playoffs. They successfully combined raw, young talent with older, more seasoned talent to win their division. They have several legitimate prospects on their roster, however, with rookie ball, it's imperative to understand that most of the prospects are either very young and raw or older, yet still in their first season of professional baseball.
CF Austin Schotts was the Tigers 3rd Round pick in the 2012 draft. Selected from HS in Texas, Schotts played SS in high school, but was quickly converted to CF by the Tigers right after signing. Schotts is an exciting prospect, with his most notable tool being his plus-plus speed. His projection is that of an above-average regular in CF, with his D still needing significant refinement, seeing as this was his first season in CF. The arm plays pretty well from there, although it's solid-average. Schotts was able to post an OPS of .809, but it hovered closer to .900 for most of the season before tailing off a bit down the stretch. Schotts has very good bat speed, and already has doubles power. I don't see him ever being a 15-20 HR guy, but the power should develop as he matures into some solid HR pop. He struck out too much, but that's to be expected from an 18 year old. Overall, Schotts is an exciting prospect with a very bright future. He will probably start 2013 in West Michigan, playing very young at age 19.
2B Harold Castro burst onto the scene this season, at least for me, showing solid D, speed, and hitting in his first season stateside. He commands the strike zone very well for an 18 year old, striking out only 13% of the time, which is very encouraging. I'd like to see more walks, but I'm not going to complain about a .343 OBP in his first season. I've seen some projections for Castro moving him to the OF, or maybe 3B, but I like him where he is at, 2B. His arm plays very well from there, and I love his defense. Based on the film I've seen (minimal, to be fair), Castro seems to have very quick feet and a quick release, which are both good signs for a MIF prospect. I could see Castro heading to WMI to begin 2013, but ideally, the Tigers will take it slow with him and have him in extended spring training before heading to Connecticut for short season ball.
OF Tyler Gibson is one of the more toolsy prospects in the entire system, but he has yet to put it together. A legitimate 5 tool talent, Gibson profiles as having the potential for 4 above-average tools (speed, D, arm, power) with the hit tool lagging as of right now. A real burner, he may even be faster than Schotts, and his 18 SB lend credence to that. He played a lot of LF this season, and while I didn't catch a GCL game, I can imagine that he and Schotts didn't let too many balls drop in. He struck out way too much, and didn't do much with the balls he actually put in play, but he is still only 19 and still incredibly raw. He's one to watch for sure. I'd see him spending 2013 at extended spring training and then heading to Connecticut, and perhaps a late season call up to West Michigan if he starts to put his tools together.
1B/3B Jesus Ustariz is a guy I like, but I don't really get too excited about guys who are only 19 but already profile as 1B without outstanding hit/power tools. Ustariz did some good things this season, most notably his 26:25 BB:K ratio, so it's pretty obvious that he commands the strike zone very well. I have not seen Ustariz play, nor is there any film on him that I can find, but based on what I have read he has legitimate power potential, but it has yet to develop, and his D at 1B is solid, as opposed to his minus D at 3B. Ustariz is certainly a prospect to watch over the next few years, but he won't be ranked particularly highly on any top prospect lists.
There are some other guys who show some potential, but are incredibly raw and still learning to actually play the game, like OF Rashad Brown, IF David Gonzalez, and OF Ismael Salgado.
And now for the pitching staff:
SP Jake Thompson was the Tigers top draft pick in 2012 (2nd Round), and absolutely dominated Rookie ball before an innings limit shut him down. Thompson is 18, but already 6'4' 235, so his big frame suggests some potential added velo on his fastball as he matures physically. He currently sits 91-93, and has been clocked as high as 95, and I see room for a little bit of added velo, but I don't see the arm speed for a significant increase, so maybe in the future he'll sit 93-94 with the potential for 96-97 once in a while. He was very effective at getting groundballs, and struck out more than a batter per inning, so the future is bright for this young man. I could see him making the trip north to West Michigan with Austin Schotts in 2013, as well all know how the Tigers like to rush their pitching prospects.
SP Yorfrank Lopez played the 2012 season at 21 years old, so he was a bit old for rookie ball, but his effectiveness cannot be ignored. He sits 91-92 with his fastball, and this season he was able to pitch down in the zone more, so his stats reflected an increase in the amount of ground balls he was able to induce. The K:BB ratio was outstanding, but remember, he was older than the vast majority of the batters he was facing.
There were several pitchers that were a bit older (21-22) for rookie ball, but still posted some solid stats, and more than a few of them have at least marginal prospect status. These names include Josh Carr, Nick Carmichael, Julio Felix, and Jose Valdez.
There were two names in particular that jumped out to me, based on what I've read about them or the stats they put up this season. I don't know nearly enough about them to write them up, but the names I'm speaking of are Fernando Perez and Logan Ehlers. Both are names to keep an eye on, and Ehlers will probably start 2013 in West Michigan's rotation.
Now let's move on to the hard numbers:
-2B Harold Castro (18): .311/.343/.420/.763/51 Games. 193 AB, 60 H, 14 2B, 2 3B, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 24 R, 10 BB, 25 K, 15 SB.
-CF Austin Schotts (18): .310/.360/.449/.809/40 Games. 158 AB, 49 H, 11 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 21 RBI, 32 R, 12 BB, 42 K, 16 SB
-1B/3B Jesus Ustariz (19): .282/.379/.411/.789/50 Games. 163 AB, 46 H, 13 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 21 R, 26 BB, 25 K.
-OF Rashad Brown (18): .250/.312/.340/.652/30 Games. 100 AB, 25 H, 3 2B, 3 3B, 0 HR, 10 RBI, 16 R, 7 BB, 29 K, 4 SB
-SS David Gonzalez (18): .243/.348/.294/.642/39 Games. 136 AB, 33 H, 5 2B, 1 3B, 0 HR, 22 BB, 20 K, 6 SB
-C Andrew Longley (23): .236/.319/.387/.706/33 Games. 106 AB, 25 H, 8 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 9 R, 7 BB, 30 K
-OF Tyler Gibson (19): .167/.295/.253/.548/52 Games. 186 AB, 31 H, 6 2B, 2 3B, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 30 R, 30 BB, 68 K, 18 SB
-OF Ismael Salgado (19): .209/.266/.302/.569/44 Games. 129 AB, 27 H, 8 2B, 2 3B, 0 HR, 8 RBI, 15 R, 9 BB, 33 K, 5 SB
-SP Yorkfrank Lopez (21): 5-3, 2.32 ERA, 54 1/3 IP, 44 H, 12 BB, 57 K, 1.03 WHIP
-SP Fernando Perez (18): 5-4, 4.24 ERA, 46 2/3 IP, 36 H, 19 BB, 43 K, 1.18 WHIP
-SP Josh Carr (22): 5-2, 2.70 ERA, 46 2/3 IP, 47 H, 9 BB, 39 K, 1.20 WHIP
-SP Nick Carmichael (22): 3-1, 2.22 ERA, 44 2/3 IP, 40 H, 14 BB, 38 K, 1.21 WHIP
-P Julio Felix (21): 4-2, 4.11 ERA, 35 IP, 29 H, 8 BB, 29 K, 1.06 WHIP
-SP Jake Thompson (18): 1-2, 1.91 ERA, 28 1/3 IP, 14 H, 10 BB, 31 K, 0.85 WHIP
-P Jose Valdez (22): 0-1, 0.82 ERA, 22 IP, 15 H, 10 BB, 28 K, 1.14 WHIP, 15 Saves
-SP Logan Ehlers (21): 0-0, 1.10 ERA, 16 1/3 IP, 9 H, 3 BB, 16 K, 0.73 WHIP
And that's it for the GCL recap. The recap of the Connecticut season will be up in the next few days, and we as a staff are beginning work on our TPR Top 30 Prospects list, as well as Top 5 positional prospect rankings as well.
Feel free to follow me on twitter @B_Sakowski or @TigersProspects
Thanks for reading, and Go Tigers!!