Top 10 MLB Prospects in the Hobby – February 2012
Last week, pitchers and catchers from the Seattle Mariners reported to Peoria, Arizona for Spring Training. As other teams head to their Cactus or Grapefruit League destinations, the collecting season for rookie card prospectors is set to burst into full bloom. Organizational top 10 prospect lists blanket the Internet like stars. This season's Top 10 MLB prospects list, aided by marquee international signings, is loaded with talent that should make the 2012 baseball card collecting season a prosperous one.
Without further ado, here is our list of the top 10 MLB prospects for February, 2012.
The 19-year-old, former #1 overall pick has been at the top of every prospect list and for good reason. Power, batting average, speed, arm strength and a burning desire for greatness fuel the left-handed hitter's push to the major league level. Nationals GM Mike Rizzo has publicly stated that Harper will have the opportunity to break camp as the Opening Day right fielder. A hot spring for Harper should make that happen, bringing his cards to a new level of hobby heat and making him an early ROY favorite in a thin National League class.
The back-to-back World Series runner-ups had a tough winter, watching their AL West rival in Anaheim win the Albert Pujols sweepstakes. The Angels also snatched the Rangers' ace, C.J. Wilson, on the same day. Texas atoned nicely by signing Yu Darvish, the best arm ever to pitch in Japan to a six-year, $56 million deal. This, of course, is on top of the $51.7 million that they paid to the Nippon Ham Fighters for the rights to him. The 26-year-old becomes the immediate ace of the Rangers and could have an impact similar to Ichiro's 2001 ROY/MVP season.
The 22-year-old's 2011 season was simply awesome. A 12-3 record, 1.92 ERA and 210 K's in just 155 innings between AA and AAA were amazing in their own right. However, two performances against elite major league lineups in late-September eliminates any doubt of Moore's ability to dominate hitters at the highest level. On September 22, Moore struck out 11 in five scoreless innings against the Yankees in New York. A week later, he allowed just two hits over seven shutout innings in a Division Series playoff game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington. Moore joins an already star-studded rotation with David Price, James Shields, and last year's ROY Jeremy Hellickson. By September, Moore could be the best of the bunch.
The M's surrendered two of the best arms in their organization in Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to acquire, what they believe to be, their cleanup hitter of the near and distant future. Montero gave every sign that he is that hitter during his September stint with the Yankees where he hit .328 with four HR and 12 RBI in just 61 AB. The move to Safeco Field could put a damper on Montero's power numbers, as it is a tough place for right-handed hitters to succeed. But with an upside comparable to Miguel Cabrera, Montero should be able to hit well in any ballpark.
Last year's #1 overall prospect started the season at AA Arkansas and played so well (.326, 11 HR, 82 R, 33 SB) that he skipped AAA and made his debut with the Angels last season at just 19-years of age. In his 40 games, he produced mixed results (.220, five HR, 16 RBI, four SB) and may need a pinch of seasoning at AAA before claiming the Halos' CF job for good. Current CF phenom Peter Bourjos was rumored to be an off-season trade candidate, but all indications point to him being in an Angels uniform on Opening Day. This is not a significant setback for Trout, however. Aging stars Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, and Vernon Wells are no obstacles for the true five-tool talent once he's deemed to be ready to return to Anaheim.
All signs pointed to the Cuban superstar to be headed to Miami until the A's enticed him with a four-year, $36 million contract. Cespedes had a monster season with the Cuban national team last year, hitting .333 with 33 HR, 99 RBI and 11 SB. He joins a muddled outfield situation in Oakland that includes offseason acquisitions Seth Smith and Josh Reddick ,along with newly re-signed Coco Crisp. Spring Training will serve as a good barometer of Cespedes' readiness to succeed against MLB pitching. If he struggles like he did in the Dominican Winter League, he may find himself starting the season at AAA Sacramento instead of in Japan where the A's will be playing their first regular season games. A minor league stint would assuredly be a temporary one since the Cuban slugger is already 26 and signed to a major league contract that relinquishes team control after four years instead of the customary six seasons. He's signed to play for the A's, and when he does, he'll be an impact bat like Kendry Morales with less batting average and more speed.
Like Matt Moore, the 21-year-old tore it up at the minor league level in 2011, going 15-3 with a 2.55 ERA and 122 Ks in 145 IP. Unlike the Tampa Bay southpaw, Teheran struggled in his brief stint at the major league level with a 5.03 ERA in 20 innings of work. 2012 should be a better showing for the Colombian fireballer given that he has made strides to harness the command of his breaking ball. Other top-tier arms like Mike Minor and Randall Delgado will give some stiff competition for the fifth spot in Atlanta's talented rotation of youngsters. This means that there is a strong possibility that Teheran will start another season in Gwinnett. When he does develop, though, Teheran has the arsenal to be mentioned with the top players on this list.
The Friars may have found their answer to the loss of Adrian Gonzalez by acquiring the Cincinnati Reds' top offensive prospect. Yonder Alonso was the centerpiece of the prospect-rich package San Diego netted in the Mat Latos trade. Alonso made a seamless transition to the majors by hitting .330 with five HR and 15 RBI in just 88 AB. The University of Miami alum is a polished product at the plate with solid discipline and above-average power to the gaps. Playing in the plains of Petco Park will almost certainly have a detrimental impact on his power numbers, especially with Alonso being a left-handed hitter. However, his all-fields approach at the plate and high rate of contact should still allow him to put up solid numbers at or near league averages for first basemen.
Now that Alonso is gone, Mesoraco sits atop the heap of Cincinnati's prospects. The offseason departure of Ramon Hernandez and trade of former first round backstop Yasmani Grandal shows the level of commitment that the Reds have placed in the 23-year-old catcher. Mesoraco batted just .180 in his brief stint with Cincy last September after hitting .289 with 15 HR, 71 RBI and 36 doubles at AAA Louisville. This spring will serve as a prime opportunity for Mesoraco to wrestle away the starting duties from Ryan Hanigan and embark on a long and promising career.
The 21-year-old tore through both of his stops at High-A and AA, combining for an 11-6 record with a 2.77 ERA and 170 K's in 140 innings. Miller has a lively fastball and curveball with both profiling as above-average pitches. Miller's changeup is not too far behind either. The Cardinals are going to be an interesting team to watch in the wake of the departure of their franchise cornerstone. Add to it that many of their other stars (Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Chris Carpenter) are on the wrong side of 30 and the word "rebuild" becomes a faint but real possibility in the near future. Miller has the talent to be the unanimous ace of the staff, but not yet. He'll likely start the season at AAA before earning a mid- to late-summer promotion. His stuff is good enough to dominate now, but every gem could use a little polish, no matter how brilliant it is.
The "Just Missed" List
Danny Hultzen, Jacob Turner, Jurickson Profar, Leonys Martin, Anthony Rizzo, Jarrod Parker, Manny Banuelos, Wil Myers, Manny Machado, Nolan Arrenado, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Skaggs, Randall Delgado, Martin Perez, Wilin Rosario, Mike Montgomery
Related Topics: Baseball Cards: Prospecting