44. Nick Franklin, 2B/SS, Seattle Mariners
Vitals: DOB 3/2/1991, 6’1″ 180lbs. Drafted by the Mariners with the 27th overall pick in 2009 and signed for a $1.28 million bonus.
As a spoiler to later: I don’t agree with people calling Franklin the Mariners’ best position prospect. But I do like Franklin a lot, even in the context of a loaded Seattle system with much to be excited about.
When I saw Franklin as a teenage shortstop during a season in which he led the Midwest League in home runs, I thought he was intriguing but potentially someone who could fall flat in the high minors when exposed to more advanced pitching. He was the early, less good version of Oscar Taveras at the plate, with a sometimes long and always hard swing that was getting by on bat speed and hand-eye coordination. To his credit, Franklin’s hand-eye makes up for the hard swing, and strikeouts never have become a problem for him, even in the high mirons.
Franklin’s swing still gets a little long, but the effort he seemed to be putting into it has been far more controlled now. The power has come down as a result–Franklin had more home runs at Clinton in 2010 than in the rest of his minor league career combined–but, correspondingly, his walk rate has been in double-digits and his strikeout rate has been lower since Clinton 2010.
Defensively, Franklin is better suited to a future at second, where his arm will play–it won’t play at the MLB level at shortstop.
43. Michael Wacha, P, St. Louis Cardinals
Vitals: DOB 7/1/1991, 6’6″ 195lbs. Drafted by the Cardinals with the 19th overall pick in 2012 and signed to a $1.9 million bonus. Currently playing in the Texas League playoffs for AA Springfield, which is likely where his 2012 season will end.
The first entry from the 2012 draft. I’m going to need to struggle to not get really hyperbolic about Wacha.
I like a starting pitcher with a big frame, big legs, and a big ass. Wacha is six-six and has the kind of frame that can add to his 195 pounds, building the 21 year-old into that big legs/big butt pitcher who seems sent from the heavens to throw 220 quality innings every year.
Wacha has a lively but flat mid-low 90s fastball and a plus changeup that is close to a major league out pitch already. The knock on Wacha coming out of the draft was the lack of a quality breaking ball. When I saw him pitch on August 29 against Tulsa, I saw Wacha throw only a few curves: one was loose and loopy, the last few were sharp, and he showed some feel on all three.
Wacha is a drop-and-drive pitcher with a lot of torque in his delivery, but he lacks balance and can fall to the first base side at the end of his delivery. He needs a bit of work on his posture, and it would help to slow down his delivery just a tick to make sure his timing is repeatable in the developmental stage of his career. The mechanical knocks are small ones, as Wacha remains an excellent pitching prospect with a great arsenal to build from.
42. Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Houston Astros
Vitals: DOB 9/18/1991, 6’2″ 235lbs. Drafted by the Phillies in the 8th round in 2009 and signed for a $200,000 bonus. Currently in AA Corpus Christi.
The second Astros player, and the second from their AA roster. Singleton is a big-bodied first baseman (the first of two on this list) who has only one expectation: produce at the plate. And that’s precisely what Singleton does.
Singleton was a young draft pick in 2009 who signed quickly and got right to work in rookie-level play at age 17. The following year, low-A competition provided little challenge to Singleton, high-A was the same story in 2011, and this year, at just 20, Singleton posted a .284/.396/.497 line at double-A Corpus Christi. He displayed patience, walking in almost 16% of his plate appearances, and power, with roughly one extra-base-hit per 9 at-bats.
Singelton’s numbers taken alone are not gaudy–he has yet to have a full season with an OPS over .900 or a wOBA over .400–but given the age at which he has produced those numbers, his performance metrics are impressive.
It’s tough to be a bat-only first base prospect who climbs the ranks, and Singleton will be followed on this list by a big fat first baseman who I think is a superior hitter. One thing that holds Singleton back is his approach: he’s far too prone to wait around at the plate. That does deliver a terrific walk rate, but it also means that far too often this muscle car is left parked in the garage. The first two weeks of this season, Singleton was getting hits and drawing walks, but did not hit a home run. Singleton needs to get more aggressive and let his power play as much as his eye.
Singelton has strong hands and a fast bat, allowing him to turn on fastballs and drive them. He hits well to all fields. He has good pitch recognition. There’s really not much to knock in his hit or power tools, just the nit to pick that he’s not aggressive enough. That’s enough to make him one of the two top-tier bat-only prospects in baseball.
41. Jedd Gyorko, 3B, San Diego Padres
Vitals: DOB 9/23/1988, 5’10″ 195lbs. Drafted by the Padres in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft and signed for a $614,000 bonus. Currently in AAA Tucson.
Gyorko had one of the best bats in the 2010 draft, but went 59th overall. He has proceeded to hit at every level in the minors. This year, he struggled a bit at AA, before getting a bump to AAA that had me questioning if San Diego had moved him too quickly. Turned out, I was wrong. Gyorko ripped up the Pacific Coast League to the tune of .328/.380/.588, good for a .409 wOBA that was sixth-best in the PCL, trailing only one player who was younger than he (Adam Eaton.)
Gyorko has a line-drive swing with good gap power–great news for the Padres, who won’t have to worry about their park driving down the ceiling of their best offensive prospect. He’s a bad baserunner who won’t have any impact there, and an above-average fielder with soft hands and a good enough arm for third. Physically, Gyorko is a small player (an inch taller than Dustin Pedroia) who lacks much physical projection.