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Here are eight breakout prospects, and four underachievers from the Class A Midwest League:

Breakouts:

Rock Shoulders, 1B, Kane County Cougars (CHC)
.365/.450/.646, 6 HR, 9 2B, 20 RBI
After a mediocre 2012 campaign with the Boise Hawks, it appeared like Shoulders, the Cubs’ 25th round pick in 2011 out of JUCO, would be known solely as the guy who won MiLB.com’s Moniker Madness tournament because of his cool name. He has shattered all expectations this year with Kane County, outhitting teammate and more well-known hitting prospect Dan Vogelbach, and currently in 2nd in the MWL (behind Byron Buxton) in OPS.

Renato Nunez, 3B, Beloit Snappers (OAK)
.318/.383/.600, 6 HR, 6 2B, 18 RBIThe 19-year old Nunez was ranked the No. 8 prospect in the Athletics organization going into this season, and he has done nothing but improve his position as a prospect as he thrives in the MWL. He’s got great raw power and bat speed and has shown improved patience at the plate this year. If he keeps this pace up he could potentially be finding himself in the MLBs Top 100 Prospects list next season/

Devon Travis, 2B, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET)
.356/.419/.554, 5 HR, 3 2B, 1 3B, 20 RBI, 3 SB
Travis was the Tigers’ 13th Round pick in 2012 out of Florida State where he had moderate success with the Short Season Connecticut Tigers before missing the end of the season with an injury. The 22-year old has proven to be advanced for Low A ball and could progress through the Tigers system quite quickly. While not intimidating in terms of athleticism or physical stature (only 5’9″), Travis makes solid contact and could potentially be a big league caliber second baseman with a little bit of pop.

Jabari Henry, OF, Clinton Lumberkings (SEA)
.377/.490/.584, 3 HR, 7 2B, 16 RBI, 4 SB
It’s starting to appear like the Mariners may have gotten a steal in the 18th round of the 2012 draft by selecting Henry, an outfielder out of FIU. Henry was impressive last year with the Rookie League team in Pulaski, bus has taken his game to another level this season. He has been especially impressive with his patience, shown by a whopping .490 OBP, and a decent amount of power, making him a player to watch in the loaded Mariners organization.

Andrew Toles, OF, Bowling Green Hot Rods (TBR)
.321/.356/.518, 1 HR, 9 2B, 5 3B, 22 RBI, 13 SB
Toles was a 4th Round pick of the Florida Marlins out of High School in the 2010 draft, but opted to go to Tennessee instead. After a year with the volunteers he transferred to Chipola CC in Florida, where he was drafted in the 3rd Round by the Rays last year. His blazing speed is clearly his best tool, and that alone would make him an interesting prospect, but early this year with the Hot Rods he has proven that he can hit a bit as well. He leads the league in triples, and ranks 4th in total bases. Plate discipline is something that needs to be improved, but Toles’ athleticism and hitting ability makes him one to watch.

Brandon Sinnery, RHP, South Bend Silver Hawks (ARI)

5 G, 3 GS, 0-0, 0.67 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 27 IP, 24 K, 5 BB
Maybe the biggest longshot out of this group is South Bend’s starting pitcher Brandon Sinnery, who went undrafted out of Michigan last year. Instead of signing with a big league team last June, Sinnery played in the American Association, where he impressed enough to get a deal with the Diamondbacks this spring.  On Friday, May 3rd, Sinnery took a no-hitter into the 7th inning in perhaps his finest professional start to date. While he is considered old for his league, Sinnery’s success can’t be denied much longer, and it will be interesting to see how he progresses.

Jeff Ames, RHP, Bowling Green Hot Rods (TBR)
5 G/GS, 3-0, 1.80 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 25 IP, 22 K, 2 BB
In a Bowling Green rotation which also features top prospects Taylor Guerrieri and Blake Snell, Ames has had the most impressive start to the 2013 season. Drafted in the sandwich round by the Rays in 2011 out of JUCO, Ames was dominant last season in the New York Penn League and has continued that success to the next level. This season he leads the MWL with an eye-popping 0.60 WHIP, and has only walked two batters in 25 IP. The 22-year old features a quality fastball and slider, and the command he’s showing this season will allow him to continue to climb the prospect ranks.

Vincent Velasquez, RHP, Quad Cities’ River Bandits (HOU)
7 G, 4 GS, 3-0, 3.03 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 29.2 IP, 35 K, 9 BB
The Astros’ 2nd Round pick from 2010 has been excellent so far in his first full professional season after being successful in 2012 with Tri Cities of the NYPL. While Velasquez’s ERA is somewhat on the high side, his WHIP and K/BB numbers show that he has been dominant this season pitching in the Astros’ designed “piggy-back” role, where he both starts and pitches in long relief. Vincent appears to be fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, which kept him out of the 2011 season, with a plus fastball that can hit 97.

Underachievers:

Austin Schotts, OF, West Michigan Whitecaps (DET)
.169/.253/.234, 1 HR, 2 2B, 10 RBI, 6 SB
Schotts was the Tigers’ 3rd round pick in 2012, out of High School in Texas, and was ranked by MLB.com as their 10th best prospect going into the season. His assignment to full season ball this season was a bit aggressive, and he has really struggled at the plate thus far. That being said, Schotts has plus speed and potentially plus defense in the outfield, so if the 19-year old starts to hit a little better, he will still be a prospect to watch for the Tigers.

Patrick Leonard, 3B, Bowling Green Hot Rods (TBR)
.146/.226/.177, 0 HR, 3 2B, 10 RBI
Leonard was the 4th and most raw player that the Rays received in their blockbuster with the Royals this off-season. Though not as well known as Wil Myers, Jake Odorizzi or Mike Montgomery, Leonard was still supposed to be one to keep an eye on, as he was ranked no. 20 on the Rays preseason prospect list. The 20-year old showed good power in the Appy League (14 HRs in 62 G) in 2012, but that has failed to translate to the next level. With an OPS of under .400, Leonard has been just dismal offensively this year.

Orlando Arcia, SS, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers (MIL)
.198/.245/.242, 0 HR, 4 2B, 5 RBI, 3 SB
After just one season in the DSL in 2011, it was considered an extremely aggressive assignment for Arcia, a big SS with great upside, to be assigned to full season ball. As expected, he has struggled quite a bit offensively, with an OPS of only .487 without any home runs so far. While a good start in the Midwest League would have propelled Arcia into many Brewers top prospect lists, he has failed to turn any heads with his offensive production thus far.

Ismael Guillon, LHP, Dayton Dragons (CIN)
6 G/GS, 0-4, 10.07 ERA, 2.49 WHIP, 19.2 IP, 30 K, 30 BB

There have been some other pitching prospects who have struggled so far in the MWL this year, notably Mitch Brown (CLE) and Daniel Norris (TOR), but Guillon is perhaps most alarming because his strikeout numbers appear dominant. His K/IP ratio is among the best in the league, but he has had huge struggles with control all year. Guillon’s 30 walks not only rank atop of the Midwest League, but are a whopping 11 higher than Zach Bird and Michael Strong, who are in 2nd with 19. Guillon is supposed to feature a plus change-up, and clearly he has swing and miss type stuff. Hopefully for the Reds, he starts commanding and controlling his pitches much better as the season progresses.

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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

Well, it’s officially that time of year again. Happy Minor League Baseball season everyone. This is Patrick Kelly from Minor League Scoop, with my first blog entry for the Bowman Scouts. I’ve compiled a list of some of the best cities to be a fan of a minor league baseball team this year. This is not necessarily a list of the best teams in MILB, but rather some of the cities which will be homes to some of the most exciting players to watch this summer.

Memphis, TN
Team: Memphis Redbirds
MLB Organization: St. Louis Cardinals
Level: AAA
Key Players: OF Oscar Taveras, RHP Michael Wacha, 2B Kolten Wong, SS Greg Garcia, OF Adron Chambers
Why Memphis?: The Cardinals have arguably the top farm system in baseball and much of it is due to their depth and talent level in the upper levels of their system. Obviously 20-year old Taveras is the biggest draw here, as he may be the best pure hitter in the minor leagues. Wacha, the Cardinals 1st Round pick in 2012, is one of the most under-appreciated pitching prospects in the game, with electric stuff and the ability to help the Cardinals this season. Lastly, the middle infield of Wong and Garcia are a talented duo who will be competing with the likes of Pete Kozma, Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter, and Ryan Jackson for big league playing time sooner rather than later.

Tacoma, WA
Team: Tacoma Rainiers
MLB Organization: Seattle Mariners
Level: AAA
Key Players: LHP Danny Hultzen, C Mike Zunino, RHP James Paxton, 2B/SS Nick Franklin, 2B/3B Stefen Romero
Why Tacoma?: If the Cardinals aren’t at the top of your list in terms of best farm system in baseball, it’s most likely the Seattle Mariners. And again, like St. Louis, Seattle has much of their minor league talent in the upper levels, specifically AAA Tacoma. Hultzen and Paxton are two of four (Taijuan Walker, Brandon Maurer) outstanding pitching prospects that will most likely compete for big league rotation spots in 2014. Many have said Zunino has a chance to be the best power hitting catcher since Mike Piazza, while Romero (who will start the season on the DL), starts the season in AAA after being the organization’s best bat in A and AA ball in 2012.

Round Rock, TX
Team: Round Rock Express
MLB Organization: Texas Rangers
Level: AAA
Key Players: SS Jurickson Profar, 1B/3B Mike Olt, OF Engel Beltre, RHP Justin Grimm, 1B Chris McGuinness
Why Round Rock?: Clearly the main attraction in Round Rock this season is the consensus #1 prospect in baseball, 20-year old phenom Jurickson Profar. Profar should be in the big leagues sooner rather than later, but the talented youngster will get a chance to hone his skills in AAA after a quick stint as a September call-up in 2012. Olt, from UConn, is one of the better power hitting prospects in the game who also got a chance at the big league level in 2012.

Bowie, MD
Team: Bowie Baysox
MLB Organization: Baltimore Orioles
Level: AA
Key Players: RHP Dylan Bundy, RHP Kevin Gausman, OF Xavier Avery
Why Bowie?: The consensus top pitching prospect in the game is 20-year old Bundy, who completely dominated both levels of A-ball in 2012, before getting a quick September call-up. Gausman, the 4th overall pick in the 2012 draft out of LSU, is another one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. Both will start with the Bowie Baysox with every intention of being on the big league squad by the season’s end. The Baysox also will have an outfield full of guys with big league experience, including Xavier Avery, who at 23 is still a prospect to watch in the Orioles organization.

Portland, ME
Team: Portland Sea Dogs
MLB Organization: Boston Red Sox
Level: AA
Key Players: SS Xander Bogaerts, RHP Matt Barnes, RHP Daniel Bard, C Christian Vasquez
Why Portland?: A combination of two of the top prospects in the Red Sox organization, and an established veteran trying to work his way back to the big leagues, make the Sea Dogs a very interesting team to watch this year. Bogaerts is on many’s Top 10 prospects in baseball list, with elite athleticism and raw talent. Barnes is also on most top prospect lists, and will join a rotation full of guys who could help the big league club soon including Brandon Workman, Anthony Ranaudo and Drake Britton. Finally, Daniel Bard will be appearing at Hadlock Field, at least for the early part of the season, in an effort to regain his dominant form from the 2010 Red Sox season.

Chattanooga, TN
Team: Chattanooga Lookouts
MLB Organization: Los Angeles Dodgers
Level: AA
Key Players: OF Yasiel Puig, OF Joc Peterson, RHP Zach Lee, LHP Chris Reed
Why Chattanooga?: One of the biggest stories in 2013 Spring Training was the dominance of Cuban OF prospect Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who was eventually optioned to Chattanooga to start the season. He will join another outstanding young hitter in the outfield with the underrated 20-year old Joc Peterson. To top it off, two of the more electric arms in the system (especially after dealing Allen Webster to the Red Sox), in Lee and Reed will be on the roster as well.

Daytona, FL
Team: Daytona Cubs
MLB Organization: Chicago Cubs
Level: A-Advanced
Key Players: OF Jorge Soler, SS Javier Baez, 2B Zeke DeVoss
Why Daytona?:  While the Daytona Cubs aren’t quite as deep with prospects as some of these other teams, they do have two of the most dynamic young players in all of minor league baseball in Baez and Soler. Soler, the No. 42 prospect in MLB for 2013, signed a massive major league contract with the Cubs in 2012 before impressing in the Arizona and Midwest Leagues. Baez, the 9th overall pick in the 2011 draft, is a talented bat at a premium position who was ranked the No. 16 prospect in baseball.

Cedar Rapids, IA
Team: Cedar Rapids Kernels
MLB Organization: Minnesota Twins
Level: A
Key Players: OF Byron Buxton, LHP Mason Melotakis, RHP Hudson Boyd, 3B Travis Harrison, IF Jorge Polanco, OF Max Kepler (maybe??)
Why Cedar Rapids?: I admit, I expected this team to be much more loaded than it actually is, but due to the draw of Buxton it is still a place I would want to be as an MiLB fan. Buxton is one of the highest upside prospects in baseball, and will be joined by other solid prospects in the lineup like Harrison, Polanco, and Adam Walker. Kepler, a German native who was awesome at Elizabethton in 2012, should join the team eventually after recovering from an elbow injury. The pitching staff isn’t as strong as expected, with the notable omissions of RHPs from the 2012 draft Luke Bard and Jose Berrios, but Melotakis and Boyd are both decent prospects to watch, and Tyler Duffey, a Rice product from the 2012 draft, looked dominant in his first start, pitching seven perfect innings as part of a combined no-hitter.

Hickory, NC
Team: Hickory Crawdads
MLB Organization: Texas Rangers
Level: A
Key Players: OF Lewis Brinson, 1B/3B Joey Gallo, OF Nomar Mazara, OF Nick Williams, C Jorge Alfaro, RHP C.J. Edwards, 1B Ronald Guzman (eventually)
Why Hickory?:  There’s a reason why Texas is consistently ranked among the top five farm systems in baseball, and it’s not just because of Jurickson Profar The Rangers have as much young talent as anybody in the league, as they have done a fantastic job acquiring talented international prospects and high school draftees. Many of these guys will start the season in Class A Hickory, including 2012 Draftees Brinson (18 years old), Williams (19), and Gallo (18). To top it off, the Crawdads will also have 17-year old phenom Nomar Mazara in the outfield, who may be joined by fellow Dominican, 18-year old Ronald Guzman, who is recovering from an injury, at some point in the season.