Ten first-half climbers: Florida State League

By Jonathan Raymond

We’re about halfway through the Minor League season, so we’re going to start identifying 10 prospects from each full-season league who significantly improved their stock through the first half of the Minor League season. By the very nature of already being highly ranked within their organizations, it’s hard for top-10 prospects to do much more climbing, so we’ll stick to prospects that were either ranked outside their team’s top 10 — as rated before the season by MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo – or who went unranked entirely.

1. Nick Kingham, SP (Bradenton Marauders) — 2010 Draft, 4th round, Pirates No. 12

What he did: 6-3, 3.09 ERA, 75 K/14 BB in 70 innings. Kingham definitely made the strongest impression of any arm in the FSL in the first half, registering more than a strikeout an inning and notching more than five times as many punchouts as walks. The 21-year-old also happened to lead the league in WHIP, clocking in at 0.99.

Where he might rank now: He’s easily vaulted into the top 10. Whether he can inch close to the top 5 will depend on how he fares at Double-A Altoona, where he’s taking the mound every five days now.

MiLB: MAY 08 Bradenton Marauders at Dunedin Blue Jays

2. Stephen Piscotty, RF (Palm Beach Cardinals) — 2012 Draft, 1st round, 36th overall, Cardinals No. 14

What he did: .292/.348/.477, 9 HR, 2 3B, 14 2B, 35 RBIs in 63 games. Piscotty was noted for his advanced bat coming out of Stanford in last year’s Draft, and so far he’s lived up to the billing. He only struck out 27 times, least among FSL batting qualifiers, before a promotion to Double-A Springfield.

Where he might rank now: Again, his performance in the Texas League will dictate how high he can rise, but the latter half of the St. Louis top 10 is well within reach.

MiLB: JUN 03 Class A Advanced - Palm Beach Cardinals at Tampa Yankees

3. Ben Wells, SP (Daytona Cubs) — 2010 Draft, 7th round, Cubs unranked

What he did: 6-6, 3.32 ERA, 56 K/27 BB in 86 2/3 innings. At 20, he’s been one of the youngest arms in the league while turning in one of the more complete performances. The right-hander ranks 11th in ERA and has a better than 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio while maintaining a pretty low 2.80 BB/9.

Where he might rank now: If he can pick up the strikeout rate (currently just 5.82 K/9) by the end of the year, he could wind up somewhere like 13-15.


4. Kelly Dugan, RF (Clearwater Threshers) — 2009 Draft, 2nd round, Phillies unranked

What he did: .318/.401/.539, 10 HR, 12 2B, 36 RBIs in 56 games. Dugan did pretty much everything well for the Threshers, hitting for a nice average, posting an OBP over .400 and registering a slugging percentage well north of .500. The 22-year-old has solidified the gains he made last year with Class A Lakewood, where he hit .300/.387/.470 in 117 games.

Where he might rank now: I could see him working his way into the top 15, especially if he gets an extended shot with Double-A Reading.

MiLB: May 04 - Clearwater Threshers at Tampa Yankees

5. Andy Burns, 3B (Dunedin Blue Jays) — 2011 Draft, 11th round, Blue Jays unranked

What he did: .327/.383/.524, 8 HR, 5 3B, 15 2B, 53 RBIs, 21 steals in 30 tries in 64 games. The 22-year-old had one of the more impressive overall offensive seasons in the first half of the FSL, ranking fifth in average (just behind Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario) and showing much improved bat control. He walked 38 times and had 75 strikeouts in 278 at-bats with Class A Lansing last year, while this season he has 25 walks to 38 strikeouts in 248 at-bats.

Where he might rank now: Without getting too carried away by his average, he could figure somewhere like 17 or 18.

MiLB: June 18 - Dunedin Blue Jays at Tampa Yankees (LoMoglio)

6. Kennys Vargas, 1B (Fort Myers Miracle) — 2009 international signing, Twins unranked

What he did: .299/.375/.536, 13 HR, 24 2B, 62 RBIs in 76 games. Vargas showed some underrated power, overshadowed on a team that was headlined by the likes of Sano, Rosario and Angel Morales. The 22-year-old sits sixth in homers and slugging percentage, and he appears to finally be healthy after not having played in more than 44 games in any of his first four seasons.

Where he might rank now: He might not quite be able to crack the Minnesota top 20 just yet — it’s a pretty stacked system — but if he can prove his health, he might have a decent shot at the tail end of the top 20.

MiLB: MAY 21 Ft. Myers Miracle at Lakeland Flying Tigers

7. Robert Refsnyder, 2B (Tampa Yankees) — 2012 Draft, 5th round, Yankees unranked

What he did: .288/.408/.428, 3 HR, 2 3B, 19 2B, 23 RBIs, 8 steals in 10 tries in 63 games. He hasn’t had a lot of time to make an impression since he was drafted last year, but New York has to be happy with the maturity of the 22-year-old Arizona product’s approach. He only needed 13 games in the Sally League before a promotion (he hit .370/.452/.481) and in the FSL he’s walked exactly as many times as he’s struck out (40). The little bit of home run and doubles power is a nice development, and he’s also proved to be a nice base stealer.

Where he might rank now: Double-A is well-known to be the toughest proving ground for prospects, so, like a lot of his peers in the FSL, how he eventually fares there will truly tell how big an impact he can make on the Yankees’ top 20, but for now I’d say he’s earned a spot in the back, 15-20 range.

MiLB: MAY 17 Class A Advanced - Tampa Yankees at Dunedin Blue Jays

8. Aaron Altherr, CF (Clearwater) — 2009 Draft, 9th round, Phillies No. 20

What he did: .295/.361/.518, 9 HR, 5 3B, 25 2B, 50 RBIs, 15 steals in 18 tries in 72 games. The 22-year-old’s approach still needs some development (93 strikeouts in 278 at-bats), but he’s clearly got good speed and decent pop. The 6-foot-5 center fielder is in the midst of a breakout year after posting a .630 OPS in 112 games in 2011 and a .722 OPS in 110 games last season.

Where he might rank now: There’s a good chance he’ll rank somewhere right alongside Dugan in the top 20, in that 13-17 kind of range.

Aaron Altherr - Ken Inness/MiLB.com

9. Wilsen Palacios, SP (Lakeland Flying Tigers) — 2006 international signing, Tigers unranked

What he did: 3-6, 3.90 ERA, 77 K/26 BB in 83 innings. The 6-foot-3 right-hander tied with Hoby Milner for the league lead in strikeouts and kept his walks reasonably low. His K/9 clocked in at 8.35 and his BB/9 was 2.82.

Where he might rank now: At the risk of sounding too repetitive, Double-A will be the big barometer for the 23-year-old Venezuelan. For now, he’s probably a fringier candidate for top 20, just outside looking in.


10. Shane Greene, SP (Tampa) — 2009 Draft, 15th round, Yankees unranked

What he did: 4-6, 3.60 ERA, 69 K/10 BB in 75 innings. The 24-year-old was a little bit older than his peers, but he struck out nearly a batter an inning (8.28 K/9) and his strikeout-to-walk ratio was just about seven-to-one. He managed both those feats while ranking within the top 15 in the league in ERA.

Where he might rank now: A pretty similar case to Palacios, in that right now he’s probably not quite right within the top 20 just yet, but, of course, a nice stint in Double-A could change things.

MiLB: APR 12 - Daytona Cubs at Tampa Yankees

1 Comment

Wow Kelly Dugan is still around? He’s taking his time.

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