Ten first-half climbers: Eastern 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. Anthony Ranaudo, SP (Portland Sea Dogs) — 2010 Draft, 1st round, 39th overall, Red Sox No. 16

What he did: 8-2, 2.67 ERA, 94 K/32 BB in 91 innings. And there it seemed like Ranaudo had been all but written off after a disastrous debut with Portland in 2012. Last year, the 23-year-old made just nine starts and posted a 6.69 ERA with an ugly 27/27 K/BB. Now, the shine appears to be back, with the former LSU standout leading the league in WHIP, ranking in second in strikeouts and third in ERA.

Where he might rank now: Though the Red Sox certainly have a deep, talented farm system, it’s difficult to imagine Ranaudo left out of the top 10 after the year he’s having.


2. Cesar Puello, RF (Binghamton Mets) — 2007 international signing, Mets No. 14

What he did: .323/.384/.575, 15 HR, 15 2B, 55 RBIs, 19 steals in 24 tries in 67 games. Yes, Puello was implicated in the Biogenesis affair. But until something concrete emerges, it’s only fair to judge him on his performance — and that’s been terrific. At 22, making him one of the youngest regulars in the league, he came in second in OPS, second in average and tied for second in home runs. He’s also been a decent base stealer and built quite impressively on a .260/.328/.423 line in 66 games last year for Class A Advanced St. Lucie.

Where he might rank now: On performance alone, he should certainly deserve a bump up to at least the No. 9 or 10 spot in New York’s system.


3. Henry Urrutia,OF (Bowie Baysox) — 2012 international signing, Orioles unranked

What he did: .365/.433/.550, 7 HR, 15 2B, 37 RBIs in 52 games. Urrutia is a unique case, in that he fled his native Cuba for Haiti in 2011 and couldn’t authorized to sign until 2012. It’s effectively cost him a couple of years of his career, and, at 27, he’s older than your typical prospect. But clearly he can hit. Yoenis Cespedes debuted with the Athletics last year at 26, and while they’re not really similar players, his example can give you an idea of how to weigh the potential of a successful, albeit older, Cuban preparing for the Majors.

Where he might rank now: This one is almost impossible to peg, but I think top 10, or perhaps 11 or 12 if you’re being more conservative, would generally figure.


4. Andrew Susac, C (Richmond Flying Squirrels) — 2011 Draft, 2nd round, Giants No. 16

What he did: .265/.373/.489, 11 HR, 16 2B, 38 RBIs in 70 games. Susac is only in his second full season after being taken out of Oregon State, but he’s already reached Double-A thanks to an advanced approach coming out of the college ranks. The 23-year-old slugged just .380 in the California League last year but has obviously turned on the power this season, already surpassing his home run total from last year (nine) and equaling his 16 doubles.

Where he might rank now: Susac might actually have an argument for being the best San Francisco hitting prospect, but with so many quality starters among their ranks, anywhere from 6-12 could be justified.


5. Josmil Pinto, C (New Britain Rock Cats) — 2006 international signing, Twins unranked

What he did: .318/.418/.516, 13 HR, 20 2B, 62 RBIs in 85 games. The 24-year-old Venezuelan might have had one of the most complete offensive first halves in the league, coming in third in average, third in OBP and fifth in slugging. He debuted in the Minnesota system with huge seasons in the GCL and Appy League in 2008-09 before stumbling a bit the next two years but last year hit .295/.361/.473 in 93 games for Class A Advanced Fort Myers and has seemingly taken another step forward this year.

Where he might rank now: Somewhere in the 15-20 range seems about right.


6. Logan Darnell, SP (New Britain) — 2010 Draft, 6th round, Twins unranked

What he did: 6-6, 2.61 ERA, 77 K/23 BB in 96 2/3 innings. Darnell makes it back-to-back Rock Cats. The 24-year-old was second in the league in ERA and kept his walks-per-nine at just 2.14. The biggest improvement on his disappointing 2012 stint with New Britain (5.08 ERA, 98 strikeouts, 47 walks, 156 innings), though, has been the improvement in his K rate, from 5.65 per nine last year to a much sturdier 7.17 this season.

Where he might rank now: It’s hard to see him quite cracking the top 20, with how crowded the Minnesota system is, but he has received a promotion to Triple-A Rochester, and if he excels there could find himself alongside Pinto somewhere in the 15-20 range.


7. Jake Lowery, C (Akron Aeros) — 2011 Draft, 4th round, Indians unranked

What he did: .305/.375/.516, 5 HR, 12 2B, 18 RBIs in 38 games. Lowery got a bit of a late start on his year, missing all of April and a chunk of May, but he’s made up for lost time by putting together a very well-rounded offensive season after hitting just .232/.332/.397 between Class A Lake County and Class A Advanced Carolina last year. That the 22-year-old has done it after an aggressive promotion to Double-A, where he’s been younger than most, makes it all the more impressive.

Where he might rank now: He’s going to need a larger sample under his belt, but if he maintains something like this production, he could land somewhere like 18, where promoted teammate Chun Chen resides.


8. Logan Verrett, SP (Binghamton) — 2011 Draft, 3rd round, Mets unranked

What he did: 8-4, 4.22 ERA, 83 K/23 BB in 102 1/3 innings. His ERA won’t stick out at you, but his peripherals have quietly been very strong. His K/9 stands at 7.30, his BB/9 is at 2.02, his K/BB is 3.61 and he tied for third in the league with a 1.13 WHIP. His one concern going forward will be cutting down on home runs, as he’s allowed 14 so far.

Where he might rank now: With a similarly strong second half and fewer gopher balls, he could slot in at the back of the top 20 around 18-20.


9. Michael  Almanzar, 3B (Portland) — 2007 international signing, Red Sox unranked

What he did: .282/.346/.474, 11 HR, 22 2B, 53 RBIs, 7 steals in 7 tries in 81 games. The 22-year-old Dominican Republic native gets big points for his youth, his mature approach (31 walks to 54 strikeouts) and his surprisingly efficient base stealing. After putting up OPS lines of .684, .573, .670 and .517 his first four years in the Minors, something appeared to click last year with Class A Advanced Salem, where he hit .300/.353/.458 in 124 games, and he’s built on that this year.

Where he might rank now: Once hugely hyped as a pricey international signing and then hugely disappointing until most forgot about him prior to last seasin, his 2013 performance is definitely impressive for someone his age at Double-A. I could see him finding his way into Boston’s top 15.


10.  Kyle Lobstein, SP (Erie SeaWolves) — 2008 Draft, 2nd round, Tigers unranked

What he did: 7-4, 3.12 ERA, 83 K/27 BB in 95 1/3 innings. The 23-year-old lefty rediscovered some of his shine as a prospect this year at Double-A. After middling returns the last few years in the Rays organization, the 47th overall pick in 2008’s Draft was plucked by the Mets this offseason in the Rule 5 Draft and then sent to the Tigers for cash considerations. This was his third stint in Double-A, but it’s easy to forget how young he was as he debuted at the level when he was just 21.

Where he might rank now: After finishing in the top 10 in ERA and strikeouts, he proved there was still some room for development. He’s now with Triple-A Toledo to see if he can realize more, and, if he does, he could figure anywhere in the 10-20 range for Detroit.


1 Comment

I am a SeaDogs season ticket holder and can say that Ranaudo is the real deal. His approach this year has been spot on, pounding the zone all year long. Almanzar reminds me of JD Drew though. All the talent in the world, but a dime store head. He just doesn’t seem to care that much about the game. Rarely runs out ground balls, makes mental errors in the field. Too bad, the guy can rake but he isn’t going anywhere until he starts to care. I just don’t see it happening.

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