Instead of the normal prospect preview where I take an in-depth look at a prospect below Double-A, I've opted to highlight five players in the lower minors that are making a name for themselves. This can cover anyone from Rookie League complex guys to Hi-A. This won't just be a review of pop up guys or a re-listing of top draft picks, but hopefully a blend of both that will allow you to familiarize yourself with guys who are generating buzz with their performance. With that said, on to the five!
Gregory Polanco - OF - Pirates - 13.7. That's Polanco's K% through 453 at-bats in Lo-A, where he is producing an unbelievable .324/.387/.505 slash line, making Pirates fans ask the question "Josh who?" I highlight his K% to demonstrate Polanco's contact ability, and he supplements that with a 9.3 BB%, which, while not stellar is more than good enough with a K% so low. Polanco has never shown this kind of production in his two seasons split between rookie and short season ball, but he doesn't lack for ability. Polanco is tall but wiry and could add power down the line by adding bulk to his frame, though it's possible he remains a wiry strong outfielder. Polanco covers plenty of real estate in centerfield, often making it look effortless in the process. As icing on the cake, Polanco has stolen 40 bases on the year, though he has been caught 15 times. For a more in depth look at Polanco please see this report by Chris Blessing at Bullpen Banter.
Robert Stephenson - SP - Reds - The celebrated former first rounder has performed above expectations in his introduction to the professional ranks. in 30.2 innings in rookie ball Stephenson struck out 37 and walked only 8, earning a promotion to Lo-A. In 10 Lo-A innings, he has continued to dominate, striking out 11 compared to 2 walks. Stephenson throws gas like he has a propane tank attached to his arm. He pumps in mid-90s fastballs and touches the upper 90s with relative ease, but that appears to be his lone above-average offering at the moment. He's dominated so far on the strength of his fastball, and while he shows a curve and a change, both need extensive refinement, though either can flash plus on a given night. He's a player to keep an eye on, but there are a lot of pitchers who have dominated with a strong fastball and fizzled in the upper minors. His above average control of the pitch gives him a headstart though.
Check out 3 more names after the jump!
Joey Gallo - 3B - Rangers - Gallo was drafted in the supplemental 1st round and handed an incredible $2.25 million bonus. Owner of the best raw power in the draft as well as a power arm, Gallo had no interest in toeing the rubber. Fortunately, the Rangers drafted him as a third baseman and the early returns have been more than they could have hoped. He's provided power as hoped in 16 home runs, but more average than anticipated at .297 and a phenomenal 18.3 BB%. He has been striking out at a worrisome 27.4% clip, but that was a known flaw in his game, and reports are that he's been expanding his zone as pitchers have begun to be more careful with him. His strong arm (up to 98 MPH) plays well at third, and he's moved better than anticipated at third, but he could easily be forced to move to first give his size (6'5/205 lbs). When all is said and done, he is doing this in a complex league in rookie ball and these statistics should be sponsored by Morton's and taken with a shaker of salt.
Anthony Garcia - OF - Cardinals - After spending three years with moderate success in rookie ball, Garcia broke out in 2011...in rookie ball. He posting a .308/.407/.527 slash line, but everything I said about Gallo and the "shaker of salt" should go double for Garcia as someone who was repeating the level. In 2012, Garcia has built on a strong year, producing a .282/.355/.526 slash line in Lo-A, to go along with 16 home runs and a .244 ISO. The flaws in his game are readily apparent though, as he's hacking his way to a 23.8 K% and walking just under 8% of the time. He's going the wrong direction in both respects, seeing his K% increase 7% and his BB% drop almost 2%. His power is for real, but the question on him will be whether he can make enough contact to tap into it at the higher levels. I expect he'll have to prove it at every level, but then again, most 18th round picks do. Not even on Baseball America's top 30 prospects for St. Louis, Garcia is an underrated name to keep an eye on.
Arismendy Alcantara - SS - Cubs - Alcantara was the much more celebrated Javier Baez's roadblock to Hi-A. Once he was injured and out for the year, the Cubs didn't hesitate to promote Baez. Alcantara has turned himself into a prospect in his own right, compiling a .302/.339/.447 slash line while playing the premium position of shortstop. He has accomplished the impressive and important feat of raising his BB% (albeit to a still low 5.3%) and lower his K% (17%) all while moving up a level. He has shown power, upping his ISO from .081 to .145, and speed, swiping 25 bases in 29 attempts. It's important to note that despite all that improvement, he still sports an K/BB of over 3/1 in Hi-A. Another member of this list not to make his team's top 30 (Per BA), it would be surprising not to see him in next years list.
All of these players could burn out without ever reaching the majors and will likely span the range from not seeing a single game to being a productive big leaguer. Being so far away from the majors makes it extremely difficult to have any sort of grasp on how they may turn out. My goal here is to give you sense of what they've done up to and including this season, and encourage you to keep an eye on their prospect status so that you can be the first to grab them if they turn a corner. Hope you all enjoyed this article in place of the usual style, and if you do or don't, let me know in the comments and I can either abandon it or try and work it in a little more.
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