SONAR takes on corner outfield prospects

The next installment of the SONAR series is going to focus on corner outfielders. I’ve decided to group the two positions (LF and RF) together, because its common for prospects in the minors to switch between the outfield spots, and in many cases, you’ll see a player with 70 games in RF and 55 in LF, his team obviously sees him in a corner, and his arm is probably borderline in right field, but they are giving him a chance there. The difference in LF and RF is small, but it is an important difference. Rightfielders are required to make the longest throw, from the right field corner to 3B, while the LF’s longest throw is to home plate. A corner outfielder is less valuable than a CF in terms of defense, and a right fielder is a tick or two more valuable than a leftfielder. Both positions are more valuable defensively than 1B, though the offensive expectation in LF is slightly higher than RF. If you’re new to the concept of SONAR, how it works, what it means, etc etc, then I suggest you read this, then check here for more scores and information. Check below the fold for more

Since I am combining two positions here, I’m going to do the top 40, but I’m going to make the blurbs shorter. If there are specific questions on specific guys, please ask away.

Here is the chart for the top 40. (If the image doesn’t display correctly, click here)

01 – Jason Heyward (ATL) – SONAR 123.74

Heyward is the top prospect in baseball and the highest scorer among all prospects according to SONAR. His game is nearly flawless, as he has patience (12.1% BB rate), good contact skills (12.1% K rate), and good power (.232 ISO) while also being capable on the bases, stealing 10 in 11 tries this year. He’s a plus defensive right fielder with a strong arm. He’s even great against LHP, hitting .318/.412/.591 in 2009 and .357/.434/.533 for his minor league career. He turned 20 in August, meaning he’s likely to make his big league debut before his 21st birthday, and once he gets there, its unlikely he’ll ever see the minors again.

02 – Thomas Neal (SFG) – SONAR 88.03

The dropoff from Heyward to Neal is sizable and understandable. The Giants signed Neal as a draft and follow in 2006, and he’s made a slow and steady climb up the system since. After a solid but unspectacular 2008, he was sent to the hitter friendly Cal League and responded with a .337/.431/.579 line in 559 PA, with an 11.6% BB rate and a .242 ISO at age 21. The Giants Cal League affiliate in San Jose plays as a bit of a pitcher’s park in a hitter friendly league, so his numbers aren’t grossly inflated in that respect, in fact, his home line .306/.380/.545 seems to back that up, as he went .353/.463/.568 on the road. His .382 BABIP definitely helped his batting average, but the walks are there, as is the raw power. Last season in Low A he posted a 9.7% BB rate and a .168 ISO, but he was praised for his raw power, with scouts saying he could take off if he put things together. Maybe the Cal League helped him, but he definitely showed positive signs. Repeating it at AA is the next big step.

03 – Mike Stanton (FLA) – SONAR 85.76

Some prospect sites will have Stanton as high as #3 overall in the game, but he’s one of the biggest high risk/high reward prospects out there. At just 19, he made it to AA and ended up posting a combined line of .255/.341/.501 in 551 PA across A+/AA. At 6’5/205, Stanton has a prototypical power hitter’s frame, and has some of the best raw power in the minors, but his power is already usable. He hit 39 home runs in 2008 in Low A at age 18, and followed it up with 28 in 2009, including 12 in the very pitcher friendly FSL. He struggled a bit in AA, going .231/.311/.455, but was very young for the level, and that kind of line is one you’d expect from a 19 year old at that level, which makes Heyward’s numbers seem even more unbelievable. Stanton’s walk rate was good in 2009, 10.7%, but the strikeouts are still an issue, at 26.1%. Scouts like the way he makes adjustments, and point out that he was considered very raw when he was drafted, so in a way he’s way ahead of schedule. Florida can slow him down a bit and get him a season at AA, no sense rushing him to the majors and starting his arbitration clock.

04 – Jaff Decker (SDP) – SONAR 84.15

Decker is a polarizing prospect, in that he’s the typical 3 true outcomes player (walks, strikeouts and home runs), but has already reached that stage at age 19. He’s not good defensively, and will likely end up having to play LF full time, though he could stick in RF for a while. His calling card is his batting eye, as he posted an eye popping 18.7% BB rate in 2009, backing it up with a .215 ISO. His 20% K rate isn’t too high, but he’s always going to strike out a decent amount. Because Petco will eventually be his home park, its going to be tougher to hide his defense in the spacious outfield gaps, but there should be little doubt that he’s going to hit.

05 – Randal Grichuk (LAA) – SONAR 70.00

Grichuk feels a little similar to what Mike Stanton was when he came out of high school. He’s considered a bit of a project, but his physical tools are undeniable. He posted an impressive .229 ISO as a 17 year old in the AZL, hitting .322/.352/.551 in 256 PA. The 3.5% BB rate isn’t good, and the 25% K rate is a concern, but the raw power is there. At 6’1/195, he has some room to add more muscle and even more raw power as he moves forward.

06 – Marcell Ozuna (FLA) – SONAR 69.81

A product of the Dominican Republic, Ozuna was excellent in the GCL in his first taste of pro ball, going .313/.377/.486 in 244 PA. He’s still very raw, but the 9% BB rate is good, though the 21.3% K rate is something to monitor. His .173 ISO isn’t off the charts, but at 6’2/190, there is probably room for more. Scouts were impressed with his performances, so it doesn’t appear fluky.

07 – Domingo Santana (PHI) – SONAR 68.97

Santana, as we’ve chronicled here, showed immense tools in the GCL at the tender age of 16, posting a .288/.388/.508 line in 139 PA. The 10.8% BB rate is very nice, as is the .220 ISO. The 31.7% K rate is alarming, and something that will have to be altered going forward, but at 6’5/200, he’s perfectly built for a power hitting right fielder, and it appears that power is already usable. Its important to note that he turned 17 in August, he’s likely headed to the NYPL, where he’ll again be one of the youngest prospects in the league. He has a high attrition rate, simply because of his rawness, but he also has sky high potential at the plate.

08 – Kyler Burke (CHC) – SONAR 57.03

Burke was a supplemental first round pick in 2006 (35th overall) by the Padres, but was traded to the Cubs in 2007 in the Michael Barrett deal. Burke has been a slow mover, spending parts of 2006, 2007 and 2008 in rookie ball, while getting close to a full season’s worth of AB’s at Low A, but split across 2 seasons. He was back in the MWL in 2009, his 3rd stint in the league, but his first full campaign there, and he put up a .303/.405/.505 line in 555 PA. The third time proved the charm, as Burke posted an excellent 14.1% BB rate, a .202 ISO, and also stole 14 bases in 16 attempts after stealing only 14 bases in his previous 3 seasons combined. At 6’3/205, he’s well built and projects well in RF, where he had 11 assists in 2009. He also spent time in CF (28 games), LF (29 games) and even 1B (10 games) in 2009. He was 21 in A ball, but it was a young 21, as he has an April birthday, but he should be ready for A+ in 2010, maybe even a run up to AA.

09 – Cody Johnson (ATL) – SONAR 52.57

Johnson epitomizes the three true outcomes moreso than any other player on the list. He has some of the best raw power in the minor leagues (.261 ISO) and a solid walk rate (12.9%), but he strikes out a lot….like, a lot, 34.7% in 2009, and 33.4% in his minor league career. While its easy to compare him to someone like Adam Dunn, Dunn had much more luck with contact in the minors (.304 batting avg, 18.2% K rate) and still showed the impressive power and plate discipline. Johnson obviously needs to make adjustments, but the raw tools are there. If he can shorten his swing, cut 10-12% of his K’s, and still maintain a .200 ISO, then he’ll definitely be a starting outfielder in the majors. If he can’t, then hes probably going to end up a 4A outfielder who bounces around. He was just 20 in 2009, so he has time to cultivate his game, but now that he’s reached AA, he needs to start making those adjustments.

10 – Caleb Gindl (MIL) – SONAR 51.47

Gindl stands at just 5’9/185, but he’s done nothing but hit in the minors, despite the skepticism from scouts. He posted a .277/.363/.459 line in A+ this season at age 20, with a 12.3% BB rate and a .182 ISO, as well as adding 18 stolen bases in 22 attempts. He did struggle against LHP in 2009, posting a .214/.275/.408 line in 98 AB, but he was better in 2008, going .338/.400/.475 in 139 AB, so I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from it. As an undersized guy without a ton of raw tools, he’s going to have to prove it at every level.

11 – Domonic Brown (PHI) – SONAR 49.65

I’ve devoted a ton of words to Brown here on this site, so no need to go into great detail. His 10.8% BB rate and .205 ISO combined between A+ and AA are solid, as is the 23 SB, but he’ll need to improve his technique, as he was thrown out 10 times. The rawest part of his game remains his defense, where he’s prone to suspect route running. But he has a strong arm, so he should stick in RF, he just needs to continue to get reps to better master his routes. At the plate, more power could still be on the way, and he’ll just need to continue to develop.

12 – Michael Taylor (OAK) – SONAR 47.31

I’ve written plenty about Taylor here as well, so I’ll just comment that he put on an impressive display in 2009, especially in the power department, with an ISO of .229 despite scouts questioning his future power output. His swing is geared to contact (14.9% K rate), but he still has the raw power to hit 20-30 HR a year. His BB rate of 9.8% is solid, and it might improve as he faces better pitching and has to be more selective.

13 – Jonathan Gaston (HOU) – SONAR 44.58

Gaston, like his fellow Astros teammates playing in the Cal League, was the beneficiary of a very hitter friendly home park, which helps to inflate his ISO to an astronomical .320 which coupled with his 11.7% BB rate makes him look very appealing. His 27% K rate is a red flag, but even after adjusting his numbers for his home park and general hitting environment, his score is still impressive. Like all hitters that call Lancaster or High Desert home, its important to look at home/road splits. He posted a .249/.339/.510 line in 253 Road AB, compared to .309/.399/.695 in 259 home AB. Rate wise, he had a 12.4% BB rate and .386 ISO at home, compared to an 11.2% BB rate and .261 ISO on the road. So while his power was vastly inferior away from the Lancaster launching pad, a .261 ISO is still elite level. The .249 batting average away from home is troubling, but I think the belief that playing in a park like that affects your entire approach is very real. He’ll need to detox, if you will, and get back to a more balanced approach in AA. He was 22 in 2009, a year old for A+ ball, and he’ll be slightly old for AA as well, but if he can replicate something close to his road line from 2009 in 2010, he’ll definitely be an upper echelon corner outfield prospect. If it was a Cal League mirage, it wouldn’t have been the first one, and it won’t be the last.

14 – Scott Van Slyke (LAD) – SONAR 43.22

VanSlyke, a 14th round pick in 2005 and son of former big league outfielder Andy, has moved slowly through the Dodgers system, starting in rookie ball at 18, and basically moving a level at a time, though he did spend half of 2008 repeating Low A, then spent almost all of 2009 at A+ ball, where he posted a .294/.373/.534 line in 563 PA. Prior to 2009, his career prospects looked fairly bleak; 925 PA – .251/.309/.353, 7.4% BB rate and .102 ISO. Nothing to write home about. But before writing this off as just a Cal League mirage, its important to note that according to my 3 year park data, Inland Empire has played a a pitcher’s park, hurting home runs at the 2nd highest rate in the CAL behind Modesto, while also suppressing doubles. Van Slyke’s performance was almost identical, home and away, as he posted a .377 OB% at home compared to .370 away, .222 ISO at home, .259 ISO on the road. Solid peripherals overall. At 6’5/195, he has a large frame and I suppose he could add a bit of muscle which would improve his raw power even more. He’s not much of a base stealing threat, but seems to be at least a solid athlete.

15 – Daniel Brewer (NYY) – SONAR 40.43

Brewer was an 8th round pick in the 2008 draft out of Bradley University, and after a modest debut, he had a nice season at Low A this year as a 21 year old, posting a line of .323/.429/.473 in 241 PA before being promoted to High A, where he didn’t have quite the same success, going .290/.359/.402 in his remaining 253 PA. Combined, he posted a solid 11.1% BB rate, but just a .129 ISO. He does have some speed, stealing 22 in 30 tries combined. Having turned 22 in July, he’ll need to move quickly, hopefully reaching AA in 2010 if he doesn’t start there.

16 – Yohermyn Chavez (SEA) – SONAR 40.15

Chavez was acquired from Toronto in December as part of the Brandon Morrow deal, and is an intriguing outfield prospect. He posted a .283/.346/.474 line repeating MWL at age 20, with good power (.190 ISO) but lots of strikeouts (24%), so his rawness is still there. He goes from a tough hitting environment in 2009 to the Cal League in 2010 and one of the best home parks to hit in at High Desert, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see all of his numbers, especially power, tick up in 2010.

17 – Adam Milligan (ATL) – SONAR 38.66

The Braves grabbed Milligan in the 6th round of the 2008 draft, but his debut was delayed until June because of injury. When he got on the field, the 21 year old tore the cover off the ball, hitting a combined .344/.393/.592 in 285 PA spread across rookie ball, Low A and High A. While his approach at the plate is crude (5.3% BB rate, 20% K rate), his raw power is very real (.248 ISO), and scouts generally praise all of his tools except his speed. He should have plenty of arm to remain in RF. He’ll likely start 2010 where he ended 2009, at High A, and he should finish at AA as a 22 year old.

18 – Allen Craig (STL) – SONAR 37.77

Craig had his breakout season in 2007, when he hit .311/.367/.541 in 493 PA spread out across 3 levels, and he followed it up with a decent showing in AA last year (.304/.373/.494) and then an even better effort at AAA this season, posting a line of .322/.374/.547 in 521 PA, with a solid .225 ISO. His 7.1% BB rate is lower than you want, and he doesn’t have elite contact skills (18% K rate), so I’m not sure what his ultimate upside is. He turned 25 in June, so he basically needs to break into the majors this season. He played primarily 3B heading into 2009, but the Cardinals moved him to the outfield. Its hard to see where he fits into their plans in that regard.

19 – Christian Marrero (CHW) – SONAR 37.58

Marrero, brother of Chris who ranked 6th in the 1B rankings, had a nice season in 2009, posting a line of .308/.348/.501 in 498 PA across A+/2A. His peripherals rate as average, as his 5.8% BB rate is on the low side, and the 18.9% K rate is a bit high. His .193 ISO is very good, but he doesn’t offer much in the speed department. His performance did tick up a notch when he was promoted to AA, which is always a good sign.

20 – Oswaldo Arcia (MIN) – SONAR 35.29

Arcia is another product of Minnesota’s efforts in Venezuela, as he made his US debut in 2009 posting a .275/.337/.455 line in 187 PA in the GCL. His 8% BB rate doesn’t jump out, but he showed excellent bat control, striking out in only 9.6% of his PA’s, while also showing moderate power (.180 ISO), as well as going 8 for 8 in stolen bases. At 6’0/210, he’s already filled out considerably, so there isn’t much projection here physically, but his current tools look moderately interesting.

21 – Julio Martinez (HOU) – SONAR 34.70

An obscure 20th round pick by Houston in 2009, Martinez had a nice debut, posting a .348/.399/.598 line in 291 PA in two short season leagues. It was a case of man versus boys, as he was bludgeoning younger competition, but a .250 ISO is still solid nonetheless. He didn’t walk much, but his K rate wasn’t out of control. His .386 BABIP obviously contributed to the .348 average, but his flyball/groundball distribution was decent for a power hitter. Having turned 22 in late August, he needs to be aggressively promoted in 2010, starting no lower than A+ and finishing at AA. At 6’3/175, he has an ideal frame for a corner outfielder, and if the power is real, he’s an intriguing prospect.

22 – Kelvin De Leon (NYY) – SONAR 34.55

The Yankees gave De Leon a $1.1M signing bonus in 2007 and he created plenty of buzz when he was signed, but he didn’t make his US debut until 2009, where he posted a .269/.330/.438 line in 221 rookie ball PA’s. His rawness is still evident, as he struck out in 27.6% of his PA’s, walking only 7.2% of the time, and showing only moderate power, with a .169 ISO. At 6’2/180, scouts still love the projection and athletic tools, but he has a long way to go.

23 – Michael Saunders (SEA) – SONAR 34.47

Saunders just barely gets in on the eligibility requirements, as he accumulated 122 AB in the majors in 2009. In AAA, he posted a .310/.378/.544 line in 282 PA, with a good approach (8.9% BB rate, 17% K rate) and very good raw power, evident in the .234 ISO. He’s lost most of the base stealing speed he showed early in his minor league career, but he’s still a capable guy on the bases. Seattle has a number of options, so its unclear where he fits into their 2010 plans, but he will exhaust his rookie eligibility barring a season ending injury in spring training.

24 – Mitch Moreland (TEX) – SONAR 33.84

Moreland is a grinder that has hit at every level, but has always been a few years too old every stop of the way. He put up an excellent .324/.400/.536 line in the MWL in 2008, but at age 22. In 2009 he went .331/.391/.527 across A+/2A, but was 23 years old, too old for both levels really. He shows a decent walk rate (8.4%), but he makes good contact (13% K rate) and has decent raw power with a .195 ISO. He’s not a base stealer, he doesn’t have eye popping power, and he doesn’t have elite plate discipline, so hes essentially your prototypical grinder who probably ends up a tweener in the majors, but if he continues to hit, he’ll get his chance to play regularly somewhere.

25 – Kyeong Kang (TAM) – SONAR 32.62

Kang has the distinction of being the first Korean born player to enter pro baseball via the MLB Draft, with the Rays signing him in the 15th round in 2006. He’s shown slow and steady improvements, moving a level at a time and posting OPS of .769, .809 and .880 in his three seasons. His 2009 was very good, with an 11% BB rate and a .184 ISO, as well as 10 stolen bases thrown in. He did strike out in 20.4% of his PA’s, a moderate warning sign, but scouts still consider him raw, and like his considerable upside.

26 – Nick Weglarz (CLE) – SONAR 31.18

Weglarz has been on the radar for a while, as his impressive plate discipline always finds him near the top of league leaderboards. Despite an ugly .227 batting average in 2009, Im actually encouraged by his results. As a 21 year old in AA (young for the level), he went .227/.377/.431 in 427 PA, with a whopping 17.6% BB rate and a .204 ISO, good for a .422 SecA. His K rate was only 18.3%, so he doesn’t swing and miss as much as a guy like Cody Johnson above. His .253 BABIP is to blame for the low average, but he hit too many groundballs (46%) for someone with good power. If he can boost his flyball percentage and his BABIP stabilizes, he’ll hit for a decent average, which will boost his OB% and Slugging as well. I think he’s a good underrated guy right now.

27 – Todd Frazier (CIN) – SONAR 30.08

Frazier, a supplemental first round pick in 2007, is the man without a defensive home right now. In his 3 pro seasons, he’s played 5 different positions, including 4 in 2009 alone. Drafted as a shortstop, he’s been moved off the position for good, and it appears his future position is either 2B or LF, which are just about as far apart on the defensive spectrum as you can get. At 2B, his bat would profile as above average, but in LF he’s much closer to average. His peripherals are decent, but none stand out. He kind of does everything decently well, which means he should have a decent big league career, but he doesn’t scream future star.

28 – Joe Benson (MIN) – SONAR 29.44

A 2nd round pick in 2006, Benson is still quite raw overall despite being in pro ball for 4 seasons (3 full) though scouts still love his raw athleticism and tools. Benson was limited by injuries in 2008 and again in 2009, but he managed to post a .285/.414/.403 line in 327 PA in A+ ball when healthy. He posted an excellent 14.4% BB rate, though he showed very little power and did swing and miss a tad too much, striking out 22% of his PA’s. Though he’s not a burner on the bases, he should be able to steal 15-18 bags a year in the majors, at least through his peak. He needs to remain healthy for a full year in 2010, but he’s still going to be age appropriate as long as he moves up to AA.

29 – Billy Nowlin (DET) – SONAR 29.06

Nowlin, an obscure 25th round pick in 2008, put up good numbers in the MWL in 2009, going .311/.390/.483 in 480 PA, which is a great line for the MWL, but he did it at 22, which means he was way too old for the level. None of his peripherals rate as plus, though none are poor either. He turned 23 in December, and really needs to be double jumped to AA in 2010. He’s probably just noise on this list.

30 – Roger Kieschnick (SFG) – SONAR 28.91

Kieschnick has excellent raw power, posting an ISO of .236 in 2009 after hitting 17 HR in his junior year at Texas Tech. At 6’3/215, he has a power hitter’s frame from the right side of the plate, and is fairly athletic as well based on scouting reports. His problem is in his approach, where he walked just 6.4% of the time despite a 23.1% K rate. The 68 XBH are great, but he’ll need to refine his approach a bit in AA if he wants to be an every day player.

31 – David Lough (KCR) – SONAR 28.88

Lough, an 11th rounder in 2007, had a breakout year of sorts in 2009, posting a line of .325/.370/.496 in 503 PA spread across A+/AA. He’s an excellent contact hitter (12.7% K rate) but doesn’t walk much (4.8) and has only moderate power, in a .170 ISO. He went 19 for 27 in stolen bases, so he has decent speed but he needs to refine his technique, and his entire game needs a bit of refinement. At 23 in 2009, he was old for both levels, and its tough to project a lot of major improvements in his game. He looks to be a bit of a tweener/grinder 4th OF more than a starter, unless he adds a bit of patience to his game.

32 – Rene Tosoni (MIN) – SONAR 28.70

Another Twin on this list, Tosoni was looked at as a centerfielder initially, but was forced to move to a corner in 2009 for the majority of his games, and his bat doesn’t play as well there. He posted a line of .271/.360/.454 in 490 PA at AA, with a good 9.2% BB rate and moderate power, with a .183 ISO, but he struck out too much (20%) for a guy without an elite peripheral. He’s not a factor on the base paths. Like Lough, he appears to be a bit of a tweener going forward unless he can shift back to CF.

33 – Moises Sierra (TOR) – SONAR 28.35

Sierra is a product of the Dominican Republic and gained the attention of scouts because of his raw tools, notably his arm strength. The raw power is yet to emerge, as he hit just .292/.360/.399 in 495 PA across A+/AA. While his BB rate and K rate are decent, his .107 ISO leaves a lot to be desired. He was young for his level at A+, and even younger for AA, so he’s still got plenty of time to figure out how to unlock his raw tools.

34 – Jerry Sands (LAD) – SONAR 28.29

An obscure 25th rounder in 2008, Sands followed up a modest debut (.784 OPS in the GCL) with a nice 2009 season, going .315/.401/.618 in 308 PA, split between the rookie level Pioneer League and the Low A MWL. At 6’4/210, he certainly looks the part, and his peripherals were excellent, with a 12% BB rate and a .303 ISO, with a 19.5% K rate, highish, but not too bad. His 14 HR in 185 PA in the Pioneer League was impressive, though he was 21, but he held his own in the pitcher friendly MWL. Scouts don’t seem too enamored with him, but his peripherals were certainly excellent in 2009. He’s one of those guys who is going to have to prove it at every level.

35 – Ronnie Welty (BAL) – SONAR 28.21

Another late rounder showing up on the fringes, Welty hit .290/.373/.425 in the SAL as a 21 year old, with a solid 9.4% BB rate, but little else, as he struck out 24.4% of the time and posted only a .135 ISO. He does have a little speed, stealing 13 in 18 attempts, but isn’t likely to be a threat. Because he swings and misses a lot, and doesn’t have dominant plate discipline or power, I’m inclined to think this is a blip of noise, but who knows.

36 – Wilfred Pichardo (BOS) – SONAR 27.69

the Sox have been aggressive in the International market the last few seasons, and Pichardo is a product of their work in the Dominican. He debuted in the US last year briefly in the GCL, posting just a .694 OPS. He spent 2009 in the NYPL, where he was age appropriate at 19, and he went .302/.351/.392 in 267 PA. His line appears to be the product of a fortunate .420 BABIP, as his BB rate (6.7%), K rate (28.5%), and ISO (.090) all point to a very raw kid who had a nice season, but one that was largely lucky. With any system you’ll find guys who sneak through the cracks. That’s why its nice to look at results individually.

37 – Fernando Martinez (NYM) – SONAR 27.42

Martinez has long been the Mets most hyped prospect, and like many of their other prospects, they’ve promoted him very aggressively, even when his performance might indicate he wasn’t ready for it. They continued that path in 2009, pushing him to the big leagues at age 20, where he posted just a .517 OPS in 100 PA. In the minors, his crude approach at the plate was evident (5.8% BB rate, 17% K rate), but so was the raw power, as he posted a .250 ISO in just 190 PA. The big problem with Martinez has been staying healthy, as he’s logged just 1,200 PA in 4 seasons, no more than 400 in any one season, and his 2009 ended because of injury at the big league level. The Mets have pushed him too fast, and its yet to be seen whether he’ll be able to adequately develop while being in over his head. He came up as a CF, but has been moved to an outfield corner now, and that’s probably his long term role anyway. Having turned 21 in October, he could spend the entirety of 2010 at AAA and still be young for his level. His upside is considerable, but he is still quite raw.

38 – Sawyer Carroll (SDP) – SONAR 27.32

Carroll is another grinder, posting a .317/.413/.489 line across A/A+/2A. He hit well at all 3 stops, but posted solid numbers at both A+ and AA, where he was still old for his levels, but a bit closer to age appropriate than in Low A. His 14.1% BB rate is excellent, while his power and bat control are closer to average. Despite a power frame (6’4/215), he’s more of a line drive hitter, as he racked up 40 doubles in 2009, but only 8 HR. As he turns 24 in May, there isn’t much projection left here, but he could be a decent starting corner guy, he just needs to hop on the fast track because of his age.

39 – Destin Hood (WAS) – SONAR 27.11

Hood was a two sport star in high school and had a scholarship to play football and baseball at Alabama, but the Nats gave him an above slot deal to turn pro, and turn he did. After a modest debut in the GCL last year, he started back there this season, posting a .300/.388/.614 line in just 98 PA before being promoted to the NYPL, where he didn’t have quite the same success, going .246/.302/.333 in 159 PA, giving him a total line of .279/.335/.442 in 257 PA. His tools still outpace his refinement at the plate, evident in the 24.9% K rate and modest 7.4% BB rate plus the .164 ISO. Though he has good speed, he’s yet to show it on the basepaths. He could stand to repeat the NYPL and is likely still 1,500-1,800 PA away from being close to big league ready.

40 – Abner Abreu (CLE) – SONAR 26.89

Abreu is a scouts favorite, as he has raw tools in abundance, but he’s yet to make it a full season in pro ball, logging a combined 725 PA over the last 3 seasons. The good news is he just turned 20 in October and already has a half season at A ball, which is where he was in 2009, posting a .305/.351/.488 line in 265 PA. His approach at the plate is crude at best, posting a 4.2% BB rate and 25.7% K rate. His .183 ISO is decent, but he’ll obviously have to make some adjustments, as he can’t count on a .399 BABIP again next season.

The Sleeper

Tom Hickman (FLA) – SONAR 7.19

Hickman was a 2nd round pick in 2006, and though its been a slow climb, he’s starting to show the raw ability that was linked to him when he was drafted. In another shortened campaign, he went .242/.364/.484 in 217 PA across rookie ball, Low A and High A with a 14.7% BB rate and .242 ISO. His one big red flag is the K rate, as he struck out 31.8% of the time. Hickman has yet to log more than 400 PA in a season, accumulating just 1,013 PA’s in 4 pro seasons, but he doesn’t turn 22 until April. If he can cut down on the strikeouts in a meaningful manner, he could emerge as an upper echelon corner bat, and youth is still on his side.

Other notables

49 – Tim Kennelly (PHI, SONAR 22.88) – The Phillies don’t seem all that enamored with Kennelly, as they left him unprotected in the Rule 5 draft, but the other 29 teams apparently didn’t think he could stick on a big league roster either, as he went unclaimed. Despite playing 5 seasons in pro ball, Kennelly has accumulated only 1,158 PA’s, and prior to 2009, he was largely anonymous, posting decent peripherals but nothing outstanding. In 2009 he posted a solid 10% BB rate, made good contact (14.5% K rate), but still hasn’t shown much power. In 5 years, he’s played 5 defensive positions (C, 1B, 3B, LF and RF) and in 2009 he split time between the OF and C for the most part. Its tough to really see where he fits into the Phillies plans long term, or any MLB team’s plans. He can play all over, but his bat isn’t really what you’d want out of a starter. If he continues to show a good approach in 2010, and he can play all over the field, an Eric Bruntlett type career isn’t out of the question, but with slightly more to offer at the plate.

63 – Kyle Russell (LAD, SONAR 18.09) – Russell has excellent raw power (.273 ISO) and showed a good eye at the plate (12.8% BB rate), but he strikes out a ton (32%) and he did his damage as a 23 year old in Low A, about 3 years too old for the level. His power and patience are good, but the K rate, combined with him beating up on much younger talent makes it tough to properly rate him. He needs to be double jumped to AA to start 2010, and then end up in AAA before the end of the season. If he carries over his success at higher levels, he is a legit prospect, but 2009 didn’t tell us a whole lot about him, other than he’s likely going to be a 3 true outcomes type hitter.

65 – Matt Spencer (OAK, SONAR 17.83) – There’s our old friend. One of the prospects dealt to Oakland in the Joe Blanton deal, Spencer put up his best pro season to date, posting a line of .289/.345/.488 in A+/AA before being traded to the Cubs this winter. Spencer spent most of the year at AA, where he posted a .294/.347/.461 line. Overall, his peripherals were decent (7.1% BB rate, 16.7% K rate), but he showed good raw power, with a .199 ISO. Having turned 24 in January, he needs to be pushed this season and should spend the bulk of the year in AAA. He’s likely a 4th outfielder in the bigs, as he doesn’t have one plus tool offensively.

71 – Jose Tabata (PIT, SONAR 17.53) – Tabata was one of the key pieces acquired from the Yankees in the Xavier Nady/Damaso Marte deal in July 2008. Tabata was one of the more hyped Yankees prospects in recent years, signing for a big bonus and then being placed under the microscope every step of the way. He has had numerous off the field issues as well as suspensions while with the Yankees for reported attitude issues. He had a somewhat decent campaign for Pittsburgh in 2009, posting a .293/.357/.406 line in 402 PA between AA and AAA as a 20 year old. His bat control is elite (10.7% K rate), but he doesn’t walk a ton, and the raw power (.113 ISO) still hasn’t emerged. Its being reported that he may actually be 3-4 years older than his listed age, which obviously would crush any prospect value he currently has.

75 – Chad Huffman (SDP, SONAR 17.07) – Huffman posted a nice line in AAA this year, going .269/.361/.469 in 540 PA, with a 10.6% BB rate and .200 ISO. His K rate was moderately high at 21.3%, but not too high to be seriously worried. As a 24 year old (he turns 25 in April), he doesn’t have much projection left, but he looks like he could be a starting outfielder on a second tier team. He lacks the one elite tool, but he has enough power and patience to be a regular, it would appear.

88 – Steve Susdorf (PHI, SONAR 14.30) – Susdorf is a fan favorite, and though he doesn’t have one stand out tool, he should do enough to have some kind of career in the big leagues. His peripherals are all average or below, and he’s limited to LF, but his bat would play decently well as a 4th/5th outfielder.

109 – Michael Burgess (WAS, SONAR 9.63) – A supplemental first round pick by the Nationals in 2007, Burgess has yet to really bust out. He has good raw power, but after posting a .231 ISO in 2008 at Low A/High A, he dropped back to a .175 ISO in 2009 spending the full year in A+ ball. Potomac, his home park, is pitcher friendly and suppresses home runs and doubles a modest amount. Either the park was in his head in 2009, or it was just small sample noise, but he went .190/.265/.338 in 216 home AB, while posting a .274/.370/.471 line away from home in 263 AB. He has the raw tools, his 9.9% BB rate is good, but his 24.8% K rate is reason for concern, and he needs to post solid numbers in 2010, which he’ll likely spend at AA as a 21 year old.

132 – John Mayberry Jr (PHI, SONAR 7.37) – Acquired for former first round pick Greg Golson, Mayberry (a former first rounder himself) had a decent season at AAA in 2009, posting a .256/.332/.456 line in 358 PA while also making a brief cameo in the bigs, hitting a home run at new Yankee Stadium during interleague play. Having turned 26 in December, Mayberry is essentially a finished product, but there is no clear spot for him in Philadelphia. He has good raw power (.200 ISO) and can draw a walk (9.5%), but he strikes out a lot (26.3%) and he isn’t a big defensive asset or above average base runner, so he doesn’t fit the pinch hit/defensive replacement mold. While he mashed lefties in 2008and most of his minor league career, he actually was a bit better against RHP in 2009, showing much more raw power (.233 ISO) despite only a .242 batting average, as well as a better walk rate. Mayberry is a 4th/5th outfielder in the majors, but would be better suited to a platoon role instead of being used primarily as a pinch hitter. With Ben Francisco, a similar player but with better speed/defensive value already on the 25 man roster, there doesn’t appear to be a long term role for Mayberry in Philly, but that could change if people are shifted around. He’ll likely return to AAA this season, as he still has options remaining.

205 – Daryl Jones (STL, SONAR 2.60) – Jones is ranked as the #4 prospect in the Cardinals system heading into 2010 by BA, but that’s more an indictment of the weakness of the St Louis system than Jones’ prowess. After a breakout 2008 where he posted an .889 OPS in A+/AA, he stuttered a bit in 2009, posting a .279/.360/.378 line in AA as a 22 year old. While the 9.8% BB rate was good, his power disappeared, with a .099 ISO. Scouts like his tools, but his 2009 was a definite setback. He’ll start the year at age 22, likely back in AA, and he needs to rebound.

Aaron Altherr (PHI, SONAR -10.25) – Altherr is one of the many toolsy outfielders the Phillies have drafted in the last 2 years, and while he offers explosive upside, he is one of rawest of the bunch. His 8.7% BB rate is a good start, and his bat control wasn’t terrible (16.7%), but his power and speed are still quite crude. He’s going to be a major project.

D’Arby Myers (PHI, SONAR -0.36) – Myers is still raw in most facets of the game. His approach is still suspect (4.2% BB rate, 21.5% K rate), and the raw power still hasn’t emerged (.111 ISO), but his 16 SB in 20 attempts is something to hold out hope on. He accumulated just 289 PA, and he definitely needs to play every day, not just in limited bursts, if he’s going to improve his approach at the plate.

Zach Collier (PHI, SONAR -48.67) – Collier’s season was an unmitigated disaster, as the Phillies aggressively pushed him to Lakewood after a solid debut in 2008. He struggled at Lakewood, then struggled some more at Williamsport after being demoted, but its too soon to give up on him. Despite his struggles, he made his way into my top 30 based purely on his tools and considerable upside.

Summary: The corner outfield crop is very top heavy. Jason Heyward is the best position prospect in baseball, and the three guys behind him (Neal, Stanton and Decker) all look like solid big leaguers, in Stanton’s case, maybe a superstar, but the guys after that have lots of question marks. The offensive requirements at corner outfield are high, and to be a big league regular on a good team, you generally need at least one elite tool, whether its blinding speed, an extremely advanced batting eye, or plus/plus plus raw power. There are a number of interesting guys on the list, especially in the 25-40 range, and with more data, any of these guys could jump up next year’s rankings. That’s what makes this fun.

Last up for the position players is center field. Check for that report in a few days.

22 thoughts on “SONAR takes on corner outfield prospects

  1. I don’t know if this has been discussed in other SONAR forums, but I am a bit put off by this list based on the low level hitters who struck out out 25 plus percent of the time but scored so highly. Your methodology being unavailable (as has been discussed ad nauseum and which I think is perfectly valid on your part) it is of limited value to discuss specific issues with the stats, but my impression is that this a big, if not the biggest, red flag. It does arise an interesting discussion on what is more important at that stage of development, Plate discipline or contact rate, but regardless, this is a particular aspect of the predictive nature of your stat that I will be paying attention to.

  2. K rate (contact rate) is interesting. One school of thought is that your ability to discern a breaking ball from a fastball isn’t something that is likely to substantially improve. Some guys show modest improvements, a few outliers show great improvement by logging plenty of repetitions, and some guys never progress. If you’re going to swing and miss a lot, I think its absolutely essential that you have at least one elite secondary tool and another above average secondary tool. For instance, we forgive Ryan Howard’s strikeouts, because his raw power is off the charts, and he draws a passable amount of walks (especially against RHP) to make up for his contact issues. But strikeouts for a hitter like, say, Pedro Feliz, a guy who lacks even one elite secondary tool offensively, are a bigger deal.

    The guys in the top 10 of this list with the 25%+ K rates are all 20 or younger. Whether they develop better bat control, or whether their secondary skills become elite, will determine their value as prospects. Domingo Santana is a great example. Lets assume base stealing is never part of his game (which is a safe assumption), and let’s assume that he continues to strike out at a 30% clip. The odds of him sustaining a .280+ BA are very slim. But if he maintains a 10-12% BB rate and puts up excellent raw power, you’ll forgive the strikeouts. But if his walk rate dips as he climbs the ladder and the strikeouts remain where they are (or even increase), then its a big worry.

    For me, age related to level is of massive importance, because it can tell you a lot about a player’s future abilities. Going back to Domingo Santana. He put up really big numbers in rookie ball at 16, turning 17 at the end of the year. Most 16 year olds are sophomores or juniors in High School in the US. Santana was playing pro baseball, in his first exposure to the US. He’ll be 17 for most of next season, and by the time he’s ready for full season ball, he’ll be 18, the age of most high school seniors, and he’ll already have about 400 pro PA under his belt. For him to show the raw power he did in the GCL (even though it was rookie ball) is very special. Now, it was a one season sample, and his risk level is extremely high.

    The younger a player is, the more time he has to develop both physically and tools wise. At 17, some kids are still growing, and even at 21-22, kids are still able to add bulk muscle to their physical frame. When you compare a 23 year old in AA with a 19 year old in Low A, you have to consider the 23 year old is closer to the majors and has likely performed against much more advanced competition. But you also have to consider that the 19 year old is 4 years younger, he still has time to mature more physically, and he still has the chance to accumulate 1200 more PA in the minors before he reaches the age of 23. Players develop at different speeds. But younger players who show elite tools are more valuable for me, because it indicates a higher ceiling when they are maxed out in terms of projection. It raises the risk, obviously, but nearly all prospects are risks.

    That’s a rambling reply, not sure if it answers your question.

  3. I’ve yet to hop on board the Domingo Santana bandwagon – largely because he’s so young and could go either way, but given how highly he ranked, and how much positive press he’s been getting, maybe I should get on.

    And, yes, I realize, that ridiculously young age is probably a major reason why everyone is so high on him. I guess I just want a larger sample size before I get too excited

    – Jeff

  4. I can’t wait to see this kid Heyward al beit I wish he were in our system and not the Braves. Having said that I still appreciate young talent. This kid hits the ball hard and to all fields.

    I know I can’t have my cake and eat it to but I’m still wiping tears over Taylor. I just loved everything about the kid and thought he could have been a platoon with Ibanez in LF this year taking over the position full time in 2011.

    Understandably I don’t like our chances to keep Werth so D Brown should be the natural successor in RF in 2011 however that removes another good RH bat from our line-up.

    And to your strikout point I believe approach has as much to do with hitting breaking pitches as does pitch recognition. The best hitters have trouble hitting a plus breaking pitch but they compensate by staying in fastball counts and studying on video tendancies of a pitcher, trusting their hands and letting the ball get deep in the zone when they are down in the count can dramatically improve your strikeout rate.

    There is nothing athletic or physical to that it’s simply mental dicipline. Having worked with 16-19 year old legion players for 6 years now the most frustrating thing to teach is approach. If you are a 3 or a 4 hitter in a line-up and there is a base open rest assured you are not going to see a fastball middle in at any level unless its a mistake.

    We try to train our young power hitters to sit on mistakes and take everything else but so often we see them taking fastball hacks at bad pitches early in the count basically getting themselves out. When the light comes on for a kid however its a thing of beauty.

  5. Saw Santana in only one at bat in the last FIL game of the season and he struck out swinging at a letter high hanging curve ball down the middle of the plate. It will be interesting to see how he looks in the minor league camp. Would image he starts in the NY-Penn League after extended spring training.

  6. I would have loved if Saunders had come over in the Lee deal. I’m interested to see what Gillies score is for CF’ers relative to Saunders.

  7. Does anyone expect Santana to struggle badly in NYpenn next year? He will be facing experieced college pitchers. Seems like he would have a tough go at his age and experience.

  8. IMO – the trading of Michael Taylor is likely to have the biggest adverse impact on the Phils in connection with their recent trade activit) – if Werth leaves there’s no clear upper echelon replacements – more than that, they may be forced to sign Werth and spend an awful lot of money – Taylor would have played for near the minimum. I’ll be curious to see if the Phils try to acquire another young, right-handed outfielder this year. I still think Jay Bruce is going to develop and might be had at a discount right now.

  9. Duh – Bruce is lefty isn’t he? Well, anyway, he’d be an interesting guy to have.

  10. Reds aren’t trading Bruce, he’s a cornerstone for that team.

    I have a feeling they’ll figure out a way to keep Werth, maybe through a backloaded deal, knowing that Howard is likely gone after 2011. Brown could play full seasons in the minors in 2010 and 2011, and then step into a full time job at 24 in 2012. The Phillies followed a similar path with Utley and Howard.

  11. I would love for them to trade Ibanez next off season (maybe Sabean would do it haha), sign Werth and have Brown replace Raul. That leaves the team very strong going into the next few years in the OF. It’s risky because it would have to be an almost simultaneous move.

  12. I believe Ibanez has a full no trade clause(why did ruben do this????) So unless the Phillies fall apart dramatically this year(highly unlikely), he probably wouldn’t want to go.

  13. Understood about Bruce, but he really scuffled last year and the Reds are notoriously impatient with their outfield prospects so, while it’s still unlikely he’ll be in the market, if he has a bad start, it’s within the realm of possibility he could be made available in the right deal.

    Anyway, I agree with this statement:

    “have a feeling they’ll figure out a way to keep Werth, maybe through a backloaded deal, knowing that Howard is likely gone after 2011. Brown could play full seasons in the minors in 2010 and 2011, and then step into a full time job at 24 in 2012. The Phillies followed a similar path with Utley and Howard.”

    I think Werth will stay and could ultimately become the first baseman if and when there are enough young outfield prospects that are ready to play full-time. It’s also possible that, after Ibanez’s contract ends, the Phils rent another good-hitting outfielder for a year or two until someone like Santana or Castro is ready for promotion.

  14. I am a bit put off by this list based on the low level hitters who struck out out 25 plus percent of the time but scored so highly… [M]y impression is that this a big, if not the biggest, red flag.

    Agree with this point, Will. Ryan Howard is essentially the exception that proves the rule — guys who strike out at prodigious rates in the lower minors generally can’t hack it at the major league level. As you noted, James, even Adam Dunn posted only slightly below average K rates throughout his minor league career.

    Then again, if we accept SONAR for what seems to be its greatest strength — identifying underrated guys in the lower minors with solid peripherals and ARL — then the presence of Grichuk, Johnson and Santana near the top of this list is an understandable tradeoff. It’s the same old “SONAR is a data point” argument: we should look at the players SONAR has flagged and assess them using any and all information out there.

  15. I love it when we get into the areas where the Phils are strong: Outfield and starting pitching. Can’t wait until the CF ratings are out.

    Say what you want to about SONAR, I can’t think of any other systematic ratings of all minor league prospects based on anything other than scouting reports. Good job, and highly enjoyable series!

  16. Dan: The Phillies are strong in starting pitching? I’m not sure about that. The Phillies do not have any starting pitchers with good SONAR scores. De Fratus compiled his as a reliever.

  17. The no trade protection mentioned in the COTs site doesn’t mean its a full no-trade clause. I believe that Ibanez has the ability to block a deal to a handful of teams based on a list that he provides to the team.

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