Combing the Minors for Under-the-Radar Prospects

Posted: February 25, 2013 in by Freddy Berowski
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Everyone knows Travis d’Arnaud, Jurickson Profar, Dylan Bundy and Wil Myers.  It’s not a struggle for even the most casual prospector to follow the career paths of these players, and players with similar pedigree.  The high draft pick.  The five tool guy.  The million dollar arm.  The can’t miss prospect.  Let’s face it, more than half of the guys with these tags miss, or at least don’t live up to their potential.  And for each of these guys, there is a Keith Hernandez or a Ryne Sandberg or a Mike Piazza.  These are guys who are almost after thoughts, selected to fill out rosters, or maybe just because somebody saw something special in them that nobody else did. Or, perhaps there is a player with exceptional talent in an organization where he is third or fourth on a positional depth chart.  What you will find here are five players that fit this profile, only one of which can be found on a team’s top-10 prospect list but deserve that type of attention.

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 11.43.11 AMFirst up is Luis Sardinas.  Sardinas is a shortstop signed by Texas as an international free agent out of Venezuela for a $1.2 million bonus on July 2, 2009, ironically the same day the Rangers signed Jurickson Profar. Sardinas battled injuries in his first two pro seasons and is currently ranked third in the organization’s depth chart at shortstop, behind Profar and Major League stalwart Elvis Andrus.  Luis is a terrific defender with elite range.  He is a switch-hitter with quick hands and plus speed on the bases.  He has a lean frame so is unlikely to lose speed as his body matures, but may add a little power.  In his first full minor league season at age 19, he put up a .291/.346/.356 line with 32 steals in 412 plate appearances at Class -A Hickory.  Rangers Director of International Scouting Mike Daly said “Luis might be the most natural baseball player in the organization.”  MLB Comparison: Elvis Andrus

In the 33rd round of the 2012 amateur draft the New York Yankees took Saxon Butler, a 6-foot-2, 239-pound first baseman out of Samford University in Birmingham Alabama.  As a senior, Butler put up a .340/.429/.575 line with 15 home runs.  He was even better his junior year where he set school records in doubles (26) and RBI (61), while batting .355.   He continued to produce that summer putting up a .296/.370/.620 line at Low –A Staten Island earning a promotion to Charleston.  At Charleston, Butler admittedly ran out of gas, saying “I did decent…But my mind was saying one thing and my body was saying no, just from the wear and tear. But now I know what to expect heading into next season.”  Butler is a mediocre defender who may end up as a designated hitter, but he is a pure hitter.  In 2012, the 22-year-old combined to hit 28 home runs in just over 400 plate appearances between college and the pros.   MLB Comparison: Chris Davis/Mark Trumbo

Hansel Robles is a power pitcher signed by the New York Mets as an amateur free agent in 2008. Robles made his debut in the 2009 Dominican Summer League and the Mets finally brought the 5’11”, 185 pound hurler to the States in 2011.  The right-hander has spent time as both a reliever and a starter in the Mets system, but pitched the entire 2012 season at Class –A Brooklyn as a starter while posting eye-popping numbers.  In 72.2 innings over 12 starts last season, Robles emerged with a 6-1 mark with a 1.11 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 66 strikeouts, and only 10 walks.  The Dominican has an outstanding fastball, to go along with a good slider and an average change-up (when he uses it).  Robles mechanics make him an injury risk, although he’s steered clear of any issues during his first four pro seasons.  At age 22, Robles likely has a few more seasons in the minor leagues, but based on mechanics and his repertoire of pitches he’ll likely be joining a Major League bullpen sooner rather than later.   MLB Comparison: Carlos Marmol

Prior to being drafted in the eighth round by the Houston Astros in 2012, Tyler Heineman was a walk-on at UCLA.  It seems no matter where Heineman has gone he has outperformed expectations.  As a walk-on for UCLA in 2010, Heineman was used sparingly.  He continued to work hard to hone his craft and by his senior year he started 59 games (52 of them as catcher) for the Bruins and was the only catcher to earn all PAC-12 Conference honors.  That year he hit .332 with 27 RBI and 42 runs while finishing sixth in the conference in on-base percentage with a .435 mark.    A plus defender, Heineman won the NY-Penn League batting crown last year posting a .358 mark while getting on base at a .452 clip.  Although the 21-year-old doesn’t project to hit for power, his terrific plate discipline combined with ability to hit for average and plus defense should land him a starting Major League gig in time.  MLB Comparison: Yadier Molina (less power)

Much like the aforementioned Robles, Boston’s William Cuevas is a 22-year-old Latin American hurler who spent two seasons in the Dominican Summer League before coming to the states in 2011 and breaking onto the scene in 2012.  Used primarily as a reliever, Cuevas put up outstanding numbers in Lowell last year, posting an 8-2 record with a 1.40 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 72 strikeouts and only 15 walks in 77.1 innings.  The 6’1”, 170-pounder has a lanky frame, featuring a ¾ arm delivery on a fastball that tops out at 93 and a good looping curveball.  The right-hander also mixes in a change-up which averages about 7-9 mph slower than his fastball.  Having already mastered A -Ball, Cuevas projects to open up the season at AA Portland and should reach the Sox bullpen some time in 2014 if he continues to develop.  MLB Comparison: Tim Collins

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