SAL Breakouts and Underachievers

Posted: April 30, 2013 in by Patrick Kelly

We’re almost a month into the Minor League baseball season, and we’re starting to get a large enough sample size to really start making some early judgments on players. Sure, we’ve seen some of the top prospects, like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Archie Bradley completely dominate their leagues. But, we’ve had a fair share of sleepers emerge as legitimate breakout prospects. On the other hand, there are some guys who really aren’t living up to the hype coming into the season.

I will be spotlighting eight breakout players and four underachievers from each league so far. I’ll start with the Class A South Atlantic League.

Breakouts:

Kevin Plawecki, C, Savannah Sand Gnats (NYM)
.393/.454/.679, 4 HR, 12 2B, 20 RBI
Plawecki was a Sandwich Round pick in the 2012 draft out of Purdue University, and was considered the Mets’ 17th best prospect according to MLB.com going into the season. The 2012 Big Ten Player of the year is proving that he could translate his college success into professional success as he is absolutely mashing in the SAL League to start the season. He should move fast in the Mets system, and could potentially finish the season as high as Binghamton, even with the Mets history of moving players slowly. Plawecki is a blue collar type player, whose ceiling is that of an every day catcher in the big leagues with a little bit of pop at the plate.

Tom Murphy, C, Asheville Tourists (COL)
.408/.500/.898, 6 HR, 4 2B, 17 RBI, 2 SB
Plawecki isn’t the only college catcher from the 2012 Draft that is tearing up the SAL League in 2013, Tom Murphy, a 3rd Round pick from the University at Buffalo, is having just as much success at the plate. Murphy has only played in 14 games but has hit more HRs than Plawecki, and has a higher BA, OBP and SLG percentage. The biggest downfall to Murphy so far has been a high rate of strikeouts (14 in 49 ABs), but his great arm behind the plate combined with his developing power have drawn comparisons to the Blue Jay’s J.P. Arencibia.

Rosell Herrera, SS, Asheville Tourists (COL)
.363/.433/.593, 5 HR, 6 2B, 15 RBI, 6 SB
Herrera came into the 2012 season as the #13 ranked prospect in the Rockies organization, but is slowly moving up that list as he has a breakouts season in Asheville. After a very strong 2011 season in the Pioneer League, Herrera struggled last year, splitting between the Northwest League and the SA L League, only hitting 2 HRs all season. This year, the 20 year old already has 5 HRs, and is hitting for a high average as well. He stands at about 6’4″ and while he continues to grow into his body and develop power, he may need to transition to 3B or corner OF eventually.

Stetson Allie, 1B, West Virginia Power (PIT)
.351/.409/.660, 8 HR, 6 2B, 26 RBI, 4 SB
Allie was one of the most highly touted High School prospects in the 2010 MLB Draft, as a flame throwing RHP. After struggling greatly with control issues in 2011 and for two appearances in 2012, he was converted to a power hitting 1B, where he spent some time in the GCL last season, with limited success. This season with the West Virginia Power, the 22 year old has legitimately broken out as a power hitting machine. Allie has blasted 8 HRs already and has 26 RBI, which is 2nd in the league behind teammate Josh Bell.

Nick Williams, OF, Hickory Crawdads (TEX)
.303/.333/.618, 7 HR, 1 2B, 1 3B, 17 RBI, 2 SB
Out of all the highly touted position players on the Hickory roster, the only one who has really been a consistent offensive threat all season has been their 2nd round pick in 2012, Nick Williams. The 19 year old has 7 HRs, which is good for 3rd in the league behind teammate Joey Gallo and Allie, and has gotten his batting average up above the .300 mark. He profiles as a five-tool type guy, with a very strong throwing arm and above-average speed, and could be an impact athlete down the line. The main cause for concern with Williams has been his impatience at the plate, with only a .333 OBP, but at only 19 years old there is reason to believe he can improve upon this.

Micah Johnson, 2B, Kannapolis Intimidators (CHW)
.302/.390/.488, 1 HR, 5 2B, 4 3B, 20 SB, 4 CS
The second 2012 draftee from the Big Ten to make the list of breakout prospects from the SAL League is dynamic Kannapolis infielder Micah Johnson. Johnson was a 9th round pick in 2012 out of Indiana University,. where he missed much of his final college season after elbow surgery. The speedster is having a huge season in his full season debut, leading the South Atlantic League in stolen bases with a whopping 20 in April, while hitting over .300 with good patience at the plate. He profiles as a gap hitter with great speed and a good approach at the plate, and could develop into a big league caliber player in a few years.

Martin Agosta, RHP, Augusta Greenjackets (SFG)
3-1, 2.08 ERA, 26 IP, 10 BB, 35 K, 1.12 WHIP
Agosta is part of a rotation with the Giant’s 2012 first round draft pick, Chris Stratton, but the fellow college draftee from 2012, Agosta, has been equally impressive. Agosta was the Giant’s second round pick in 2012 out of Saint Mary’s College, where he had a successful college career in the WCC. He could be a fast mover in the system as he is already fairly polished, showing a low-to-mid 90s fastball and two solid off-speed pitches, a cutter and a curveball. He has seen great success in his full season debut, with a 12.1 K/9 rate and a low ERA.  His upside is probably that of a mid-to-back of the rotation starter for the Giants with an ETA of around 2015.

Gabriel Encinas, RHP, Charleston Riverdogs (NYY)
3-0, 0.31 ERA, 29 IP, 9 BB, 23 K, 0.86 WHIP
Encinas was a 6th Round pick of the Yankees in 2010 out of St. Paul HS in Santa Fe Springs, CA and has slowly worked his way up to Low A ball in Charleston for 2013. Many think that his make-up and competitive nature on the mound could lead him to a reliever role later in his career, but for now he has been dominant as a starter in the South Atlantic League. He’s only given up one Earned Run in 29 IP this season, and has a WHIP well under 1.0.

Underachievers:

Humberto Arteaga, SS, Lexington Legends (KCR)
.138/.156/.138, 0 XBH, 17 K, 0 SB, 2 CS
Arteaga, from Caracas, Venezuela, came into the season ranked as the #20 prospect in the Royals organization on MLB.com, and had a chance to emerge as an 18 year old in full season A-ball. He has not done anything to increase his stock as a prospect, as he has been the worst everyday hitter in the South Atlantic League this season. Arteaga is hitting a measley .138 with no extra base hits and only two BBs, adding up to a pathetic OPS of .295. His defense has always been his plus tool, but in order to have any chance of making the big leagues Arteaga will need to hit better than he has this season.

Bubba Starling, OF, Lexington Legends (KCR)
.195/.263/.379, 4 HR, 4 2B, 32 K, 1 SB
Starling was the Royals golden child, drafted out of nearby Gardner, KS with the 5th overall pick in the 2011 draft, he has been considered one of the best talents in the minor leagues since. Despite showing major flashes of all five tools, Starling has been unable to put it all together, starting with an unspectacular debut season with Burlington in 2012, and continuing with his 2013 campaign in Lexington where his extremely high K-rate and low average have major causes for concern

Nomar Mazara, OF, Hickory Crawdads (TEX)
.172/.234/.322, 3 HR, 4 2B, 31 K, 13 RBI
Mazara has a strikingly similar line of stats to Starling, but perhaps there is a little bit less cause for concern with him because he is so much younger, having just celebrated his 18th birthday a few days ago. The Rangers invested a ton in the power hitting Mazara, who has failed to deliver so far. His main tool is his power, which profiles as exceptional as he continues to mature and grow into his body, but he will need to start hitting for a high enough average, and striking out much less, to ever be able to hone that power at the big league level.

Branden Kline, RHP, Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL)
1-2, 6.98 ERA, 19.1 IP, 11 BB, 12 K, 1.86 WHIP
Normally, as seen with guys like Chris Stratton, Martin Agosta, and Eddie Butler this season, highly touted college arms tend to dominate the South Atlantic League when they are assigned there. This has been far from the case for Branden Kline, the Orioles’ 2nd Round pick in 2012 out of the University of Virginia. Opponents are hitting .321 off of Kline this season, and he has nearly as many walks as strike-outs. It’s likely that the lack of success in a starting role, combined with his live fastball, will call for a transition to the bullpen quite soon. That being said, he was ranked #8 in the Orioles organization in terms of prospects to start 2013, and it is unlikely that he will main

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