After posting scouting reports and data on Major League Baseball’s top pitching prospects earlier this winter, we’re shifting our focus to the MLB’s top hitting prospects. Now that we’ve established our rankings and posted in-depth scouting data and reports on the MLB’s four-best position prospects, BaseballNewsHound.com takes a look at a group of young stars from the second-tier . Below, we’ve posted in-depth scouting reports the hitters who rank 5-8 in our Top 121 Hitting Prospects for 2012. All of these hitters receive “A” grades, and are considered only slightly less valuable than those in tier-one (those graded “A+”). These prospects have star power, and they boast a superb combination of present ability and polish, though their stock comes with a bit more risk than the first-tier.
Former Rice University Owls third baseman, Anthony Rendon, was widely considered the top amateur talent heading in to last June’s MLB Draft. Though he didn’t end up as the Draft’s top overall pick, with the Pirates selecting the fireballing UCLA righty Gerrit Cole in the number-one slot instead, Rendon’s June 6th birthday was still celebrated appropriately. The Washington Nationals were delighted to see Rendon fall to in to their hands and they used their top pick (sixth overall) on him. After establishing themselves as big spenders in the previous two drafts, the Nats’ treated Rendon no differently, paying him like a Bryce Harper clone. Rendon inked a massive $7.2 million MLB contract that included a $6 million signing bonus with Washington in August. His signing bonus was the draft’s fourth largest, and more than double the MLB’s $2.34 million slot recommendation.
The 2010 Dick Houser Trophy Winner as the Nation’s top college player, Rendon led a storied amateur career. He boasts numerous accolades, including National Freshman of the Year (2009), Conference USA Male Athlete of the Year (2010) and Rawlings Sporting Goods National Player of the Year (2010). He was honored as an All-American in each of his three seasons at Rice, and his career totals suggest he’s the most talented player in the program’s bright history. As a sophomore, he led the Owls with a .394 batting average and his 26 home runs rank second behind Lance Berkman for Rice’s single-season mark, He walked 65 times and struck out just 22 times all year. Though a slew of nasty ankle and shoulder injuries suppressed his junior season performance, Rendon still managed to lead the Owls in batting average (.327) and his 80 walks were most in NCAA Division-I baseball since 1998.
Rendon is a polished player with a second-nature feel for baseball. His hitting technique reflects a life-long dedication to the game, and he’s remarkably advanced for an amateur player. His hitting mechanics are a bit of a throwback, with well-separated upper and lower body segments of his swing. He starts wide open, then gathers himself quickly and smoothly by closing his foot to a neutral position. As he moves to this position, he loads on his firm back leg, cocks the bat barrel forward, raises his hands slightly, and then pulls the trigger. He employs a short, controlled stride, and explodes through the ball. His mechanics are advanced and waste little energy, creating easy bat speed and natural power. His wrists are among the quickest in the game and he has the hands to catch up to premium fastballs and adjust to hard breaking balls. His weight transfer is flawless, and his swing is powerful yet controlled. He puts the bat on the ball consistently and effortlessly. True to his pure-hitter profile, Rendon keeps his hands back as he moves his weight forward. Simply put, Rendon has a bright future as a .300 hitter in the MLB.
Rendon’s batting eye is razor-sharp and already big league-ready. While playing for the Owls, he established himself as one of the NCAA’s most disciplined hitters, rarely swinging at a pitch he can’t drive. He works the count with veteran savvy and he’s blessed with the type of hawk-eye pitch recognition that should allow him to maintain his high BB/K ratios in the pros. His lightning-quick wrists and swing mechanics suit his approach and add to his already cushy reaction time. He’s able to adjust and lay-off breaking and offspeed pitches. He’s more than comfortable at staying behind the ball and using the entire field. His combination of sweet swing mechanics, advanced discipline and pitch recognition also make him a formidable two-strike hitter.
At a lean and athletic 6’0″, Rendon doesn’t possess the look of a prototypical slugging third baseman. His swing can get a big long for some, and because he lacks an imposing frame, many scouts doubt his power ceiling. However, Rendon’s knack for barreling pitches, his excellent bat acceleration and his efficient swing mechanics make him a 15-20 homerun threat at the very least. Depending on how his shoulder heals and how he fills out, he could develop even more power. Regardless of his home run totals, he’ll always collect plenty of extra-base hits. He doesn’t sell out for power, and that’s part of the formula for a special hitter. His drives aren’t cheap, and he can rake quality stuff.
Rendon is an all-around player who offers value in all facets of the game. At third base, he possesses the body control, nimble feet, arm strength and throw accuracy to compete for Gold Glove awards in the big leagues. If ankle surgeries hadn’t nicked his wheels, he might have grown into an above-average defensive shortstop if given the opportunity. He reads linedrives with precision and uncanny reaction speed. His hands are soft, and reliable, and he shows plus range at the hot corner already. He moves well laterally, and shows the fluid motions and transfer to turn the double-play and make the difficult stop. If the Nationals choose to move him to second in deference to Ryan Zimmerman, his body control and proficiency at playing the ball aggressively and low to the ground should make the transition relatively easy.
Shoulder and ankle injuries have suppressed Rendon’s potential both at the plate and in the field. He’s recovered nicely, but has had to let go of some of his athleticism. He’s lost a tick of running speed and his ankle and shoulder troubles may lower his power ceiling a bit. He may still be able to regain his average wheels once he’s on an MLB work-out regiment. His swing gets a bit long for some, but once he adds more hand strength, he should be able to tighten it up.
Rendon is advanced enough to thrive on an accelerated timetable to the MLB. He has the makings of an all-around star third baseman, though he will need to avoid the injury bug that’s plagued him recently. If his power develops as planned, he should be a third baseman similar to Ryan Zimmerman or Mike Lowell. Otherwise, his hitting skills and advanced glove make him a solid bet to be a Jeff Cirillo-type player with high on-base percentages and a well-rounded supply of secondary skills.
After leading Wesleyan Christian Academy to the 2008 North Carolina 3-A State Championship as a junior, Wil Myers followed with a monster encore. He hit .532 with 14 homeruns and 41 RBI in his senior season, earning him widespread recognition as both North Carolina’s top high school ballplayer and one of the best hitter’s available in the 2009 draft class. If nearly a third of Wesleyan Christian’s games weren’t cancelled by inclement weather during his final season, Myers might have even boosted his stock further by breaking Josh Hamilton’s state homerun record. His commitment to play for NCAA baseball’s most storied program, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks, ended up scaring clubs from drafting him in the first round. Falling out of the first round didn’t hurt his wallet however. The Royals selected him with the 91st overall pick, and proceeded to sign him for a (WELL) well-above slot $2 million bonus.
Myers began his pro career with a bang, and has since firmly established himself as one of the game’s premier prospects. In his 2009 debut, he hit .369/.427/.679 through twenty-two games in Rookie ball. He proved his stats were no fluke by following with a sparkling 2010 campaign in full-season ball. Splitting the season between Low-A and High-A, he hit .315/.429/.506 combined. He was honored with a Midwest League All-Star nod, and later earned recognition as a Baseball America Minor League All-Star.
After he started his pro career as a catcher, the Royals moved Myers to the outfield last season. The decision was made with hopes that a less-demanding defensive position would allow Myers’ special bat to develop more smoothly. Af first the plan seemed like a reasonable one, but when the Royals promoted Myers to the Texas League (AA) to start the season, he struggled. As one of the league’s youngest regulars, Myers’s batting numbers plummeted as adjusting to advanced pitching while overcoming injuries wore him down. Adding in the rigors that follow a drastic position change, it’s not surprising that Myers struggled.
A mentally strong player, Myers rebounded extremely well at the end of the season, though. Then, after using September to recouperate from his grueling 2011, he tore apart the Arizona Fall League to the tune of a .360 batting average and a 1.156 OPS. He ranked among the league’s top-five batters in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and led his peers in walks and triples. He was named to both the AFL’s Rising Stars and Top Prospects team rosters
Myers is a special player, with a surplus of baseball athleticism and one of the game’s most potent bats. He’s blessed with remarkable vision and hand-eye coordination; showing the prerequisites for a .300 batting average in the MLB. His premium athletic coordination and strong, lean frame have allowed him to develop textbook swing mechanics. He has closed his stance and shortened his stride since his high school days, and his swing is even quicker and generates more line-drive power as a result. He stays compact, starts short and finishes long. His stroke and batting style resemble that of Michael Young and his hands and elbows draw some comparisons to a young Jorge Posada.
Myers’ swing is quiet and effortless. He has some of the best hands in the business, both in terms of quickness and strength. He keeps them loose and rips them through the zone with a smooth, direct path to the ball. He has an uncanny ability to find the barrel, and is able to line pitches well out of the strikezone with authority. Surprisingly skilled at using the entire field, Myers has no trouble adjusting to offspeed and breaking pitches. His powerful trunk and body control are evident in his balanced swing, and his excellent hand and wrist strength afford him remarkable bat-control.
Barely twenty-one years old, Myers already shows promising present power and boasts 20+ homerun potential. He already generates above-average bat speed, and his powerful wrists and shoulders add firmness to his cut. He controls the strikezone well and his plate vision not only makes it difficult to keep him off base, but should also help him make his raw power a reality. Furthermore, Myers’ frame is ideal for adding muscle, and he already has plenty of present strength. As he matures and continues a pro ball workout regiment, he should even add a tick more bat speed.
Though he moved positions, Myers was more than capable of developing in to a big league catcher. His hand-eye coordination gives him intriguing defensive potential, and his catch-and-throw skills are phenomenal. At catcher he was capable of producing 1.7 pop times. His tools play well in the outfield though, and with more coaching and experience, he could develop into a top-shelf defensive right fielder. On the mound in high school, Myers’ fastball hit 90 MPH and his arm is already plus. His throwing mechanics are solid, and his arm could develop in to a true weapon. He has solid-average running speed, more than enough for an outfield corner. Because he’s new to the position, his route-running is raw, but he should eventually develop above-average range.
Lauded for his makeup and feel for the game, Myers has all of the ingredients demanded of a franchise player. He’s an intelligent, competitive player and a great teammate. Though the Royals have moved him through the minors aggressively, he’s responded to adversity well and made seamless adjustments when needed. He overcame an off-the-field knee injury last spring, that even led to a painful infection, and performed admirably considering the circumstances.
His success in pro ball and present ability make it easy to forget that Myers is still just twenty-one years old. He has the intangibles and physical tools for stardom, but still needs more time in the minors to learn the outfield, and polish the rest of his game. The Royals invited him to major league camp for spring training and he will do his best to prove himself against big league arms. If all goes as planned, he could develop in to Kansas City’s new Mike Sweeney.
When the Rangers signed international free agent Jurickson Profar to a $1.55 million dollar contract back in July ’09, they thought they were getting an intriguing athlete who’s physical gifts would eventually make him a nice career on the pitcher’s mound. Profar, however, had his sights set on shortstop. The Rangers obliged and sent him to the Northwest League to begin his pro career. Two years later, the eighteen-year-old Curacao native hasn’t looked back. He’s firmly established himself at shortstop and is widely considered one of the game’s elite prospects.
After Profar showed a surprisingly advanced glove and hit .251/.323/.373 in his pro debut, the Rangers promoted him aggressively and sent him to the South Atlantic League to open his 2011 campaign. As the league’s youngest player, just eighteen years old, Profar performed remarkably in all facets of the game. His ’868 OPS in the first-half and slick fielding earned him a place in the Futures Game. Though it was his full-season debut, he didn’t slow down after the All-Star break. He hit .302/.402/.495 in the season’s final months, and stole sixteen bases in twenty attempts. Profar finished the season ranked atop the league in multiple offensive statistics, and took home honors as the South Atlantic League Most Valuable Player. Baseball America also named him Low Class-A Player of the Year.
Profar is a phenomenal athlete– even by the lofty standards of pro shortstop. His arm produced 93 MPH heat on the mound, and is one of the strongest among non-pitchers in the minors. His quick release helps his arm strength play even better, and he makes accurate throws from all angles. Paired with his excellent body control and hand-eye coordination, Profar is able to turn the double-play like a big leaguer and is adept at maintaining his throw accuracy and firmness when off-balance and against body momentum.
Profar’s first-step quickness and polished understanding of fielding fundamentals make him a potential Gold Glove shortstop. He has soft hands and shows smooth actions. He plays groundballs aggressively and like a veteran. His range is already above-average and he moves fluidly to both his glove and arm side. Considering his experience level, Profar is remarkably sure-handed.
Though many scouts questioned Profar’s hitting ability when he signed with the Rangers two summers ago, he’s more than silenced those doubters. He’s a true switch hitter with a great feel for putting the bat on the ball. Like the rest of his game, he shows sound fundamentals in the batter’s box. His swing mechanics still need some work, but his lack of a platoon split testifies to the extra time he’s put in working in the cage. From the left side, he shows plus-plus pitch recognition, and he employs his core and legs to get great bat acceleration. Batting right-handed, his swing can get a bit loopy and he doesn’t always get great extension, but his hand-eye coordination and refined approach still make him a formidable hitter.
Profar is a very disciplined batter overall, blessed with sharp pitch recognition and top-shelf plate vision. He works the count with confidence and hits well with two strikes. While facing more more experience pitchers last season, he drew 65 walks (to 63 strikeouts) in 430 at bats. He’s also an impressive bunter, able to lay one down to advance a runner as well as drag-and-dart. Even with his coaches limiting his bunting, he looks more than comfortable dropping one down and using his legs to hustle-out an infield single.
Though he won’t be a slugger, Profar’s raw power is above average for a shortstop. He needs to continue to refine his swing from both sides of the plate, but he has the bat speed, hand-eye coordination and wrists to rack up plenty of homeruns and extra-base hits. In the cage, he makes loud contact consistently, with particularly impressive power to his pull-side when batting left-handed. When he bats from the right side, he needs to tighten up his weight transfer, work on completing his follow-through and getting better extension.
Profar will turn nineteen on February 20th, and though he’s advanced or his age, he’s still another couple of seasons from the MLB. Luckily, the Rangers have Elvis Andrus and have no reason to rush their young protigy. When Profar does establish himself in the big leagues, he has the makings of a first-tier starting shortstop and occasional All-Star.
Selected 24th overall by the Giants in the 2010 Draft, California native Gary Brown accepted a $1.3 million bonus to leave college and pursue his life-long dream of a big league career. A fan of the Los Angeles Angels, Brown’s style is reminiscent of his favorite player– former Halos All-Star centerfielder Darin Erstad. Like Erstad, Brown is a five-tool outfielder and first-round pick. He possesses a winning combination of athleticism, mental ability and drive.
Previously drafted by the A’s out of high school, Brown has been on MLB front office wish lists for a while. He turned down Oakland to fulfill his commitment to play for the Cal State Fullerton Titans, one of the most decorated programs in NCAA baseball. Brown put together a tremendous college career, earning First-Team and Second-Team All-American honors in his first two seasons before breaking out as a junior. In 2010, he set a school record with a .438 batting average and nearly ran the Big West Conference batting leader board. Though the Titans fell short of winning their fifth College World Series title, Brown’s performance earned him the 2010 Big West Conference Player of the Year award.
Brown’s incredible play has carried over to his pro baseball career. Making his full-season debut in the California League last season, Brown posted extraordinary stat lines while manning centerfield for the San Jose Giants. At the plate, he hit a ridiculous .336/.407/.519, leading the league in hits (188) and triples (13) and ranking second in batting average, and total bases (290). He also used his plus-plus speed to wreak havoc on the basepaths, stealing 53 bases in 72 attempts. Brown’s production was recognized with multiple All-Star nods and a Futures Game selection. He also packed his trophy case, taking home Class-A Hitter of the Year and California League Rookie of the Year awards.
The Giants have put Brown on the fast-track to the MLB and sent him to the Arizona Fall League to cap off his 2011 campaign. He struggled mightily against the AFL’s advanced pitching, batting just .220 with no homeruns and striking out 10 times in fifty at bats. He looked worn-out, but the Giants were pleased with how he handled his first professional struggles, and feel his AFL experience was a net positive.
Brown’s game begins with his legs. He maintains 60-yard dash times between 6.5 and 6.6 seconds, giving him speed that firmly rates as a 70 on the 20-80 scale. He generates tremendous power with his legs and accelerates to his top-speed quickly and efficiently– using running mechanics similar to the Yankees’ Brett Gardner. He’s one of the minor’s fastest right-handed hitters from home-to-first, and he’s adept at beating out infield hits. What seperates Brown from other young burners, is his game-speed. Though he was caught 19 times in 72 stolen-base attempts last season, he works tirelessly to improve his jumps and timing. He makes good reads, and his baserunning aggressiveness gives the opposing defense fits. His fundamentals and tools hive him a bright future as true impact base-stealer; a burner who can steal in any situation, against the best catchers and can consistently put pressure on the opposing pitcher.
At the plate, Brown resembles his idle Darin Erstad and fellow Cal State Fullerton alumnus Mark Kotsay- albeit from the right side. He sets up with loose, low hands and his back-elbow almost completely perpendicular to his left armpit. His stance allows him to load his hands quickly and to gather batspeed and power from his trunk. He has a near-ideal swing plane and gets his bat in the hitting zone quicker than most. He uses a toe tap in his weight transfer, and generally does a nice job of keeping his hands back. He has very strong wrists, and whips the bat through the zone with above-average bat speed. With his athleticism and hand-eye coordination, Brown’s hitting technique delivers quality line-drive power.
Brown’s knack for making hard-contact, above-average bat speed and strong swing give him 20 homerun potential down the road. At present, he already shows homerun power to his pull-side, with more to come once he improves his pitch-recognition, plate discipline and hones his hitting fundamentals (possibly adding more loft). Though he lacks the homerun loop, his swing is follows a flat, sharper path and is ideal for making hard, line-drive contact. He loves smacking the ball down the line and into to the left-center gap and using his wheels to rack up doubles and triples. It would serve him well to develop more comfort taking outside/offspeed pitches to the opposite field– but that should come with more experience and coaching anyway.
Brown isn’t the most disciplined hitter but he isn’t overly aggressive either. He needs to improve his approach to avoid the streakiness he ran in to in 2010, but generally does a nice job of working the count– especially considering his experience-level. He’s more than quick enough to catch up to premium heat, but he’s susceptible to swinging through quality same-side breaking pitches. Brown is a feel-hitter, and can fall into slumps when he loses his timing. There’s effort in his swing, and his bat control isn’t his strong point, so his plate vision and pitch recognition will need to continue to move forward if he wants to reach his potential.
Brown spent much of his college career at third base and as a super-utility man, but he/s moved to centerfield full-time as a pro. After one full-season patrolling center, he already has the look of a (future) first-rate defender. His athleticism and body control allow him to glide into the gaps, and he makes nice reads off the bat. His routes to fly-balls are direct, and his wheels give him plus range. He covers a ton of ground in center, and is a great fit for the expansive outfields of NL West ballparks. His arm strength is above-average and he gets great carry and accuracy on his throws. He gunned down 16 baserunners and collected three double-plays through 120 games last season.
Brown is a superb, high-floor/high-ceiling centerfield prospect with the tools to develop in to an All-Star centerfielder. If he tightens up his plate discipline, he could be a .290-.300 hitter who racks up steals and plays above-average defense. Even if he doesn’t fulfill his potential, he shows the combination of dedication and skill to still have a long career as a Randy Winn/Aaron Rowand-type centerfielder. With an invitation to the big club’s camp for spring training, Brown will try to set the stage for a September call-up.