OF David Rohm —Atlanta BravesIn both the ’10 and the new 2011 seasons the Atlanta Braves have been graced with two gifted homegrown athletes in right fielder Jason Heyward and this year rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman. With Atlanta shoring up the right side of the field for years to come, David Rohm would eventually love to create a good problem for Atlanta to have. A 2010 9th round pick out of Fresno Community College (CA), Rohm is a 1B turned OF who can hammer the ball to all parts of the field. He’s been described as a ‘pure hitter’ and he saw equal time between Rookie GCL and APPY League Danville with a combined slash line of .319/.347/.406 coupled with an impressive 1+:1 K:BB rate. The 21 year old carries a compact swing and should eventually turn doubles into home runs. Not a burner on the base paths he shows above average speed for his 6’3 215 lb frame. He is an average defender with plenty of room to improve given the late position switch and the Braves will be patient. He could likely begin the 2011 season with Rookie League Danville, but his bat, approach and improving defense could earn Rohm a start to the 2011 season with a promotion to Lo A Rome. OF Tillman Pugh—New York MetsIn 2008 the Seattle Mariners upper management underwent major changes due to the major league squad losing over 100 games and the front office making one disastrous trade after another. Under new regime, the Mariners wanted to rebuild their system with young toolsy athletes and selected the 22 year old Pugh in 16th round of the 2009 draft. Pugh declined wanting to stay another year school for his kinesiology degree. He also admitted surprisingly that he felt he wasn’t ready to play pro ball. Much to the Mets benefit they selected Pugh in the 15th round out of Sonoma State in the 2010 draft. Pugh missed the first five weeks of his inaugural season registering only 82 at bats after being struck in the face in his very first pro at bat. A highlight reel defender and pure raw physical athlete, the 6’0 190 lb Pugh is an emerging hitter with blazing speed and above average plate discipline. Although Pugh showed no power and low average in his debut, a full season with his stellar make up, overall approach and discipline, his status as an elite center fielder in the system could soar. Repeating Rookie GCL is possible, but a solid start to the ’11 season could push him to Short Season Brooklyn. OF Kyle Jensen— Florida Marlins: Having filled their system with slick middle infielders and power pitchers in previous drafts, the Marlins went looking for power college bats and found one in Jensen. Drafted out of small St Mary’s College 20 miles east of San Francisco, Jensen was taken in the 12th round of the 2009 First Year Player draft. At 6’4 230lbs, Jensen showcased his tremendous power in 2010 at Lo A Greensboro knocking 26 doubles and belting 18 home runs. For his size he displays excellent speed and has been clocked at 6.7 in the 60 yd dash. Like any power hitter Jensen has holes in his swing and will strike out a lot. With a K:BB ratio of 2.6:1 Jenson needs improved plate discipline while learning to lay off pitches out of the strike zone. He has played both OF corners but seems more suited for LF due to an average arm. A strong opening in Greensboro could entice a push to Hi A Jupiter. CF Gaunlett Eldemire —Philadelphia Phillies Seldom does a player without a professional at bat catch my eye or grab my attention. The Under the Radar feature is designed to be stat driven and we choose the top statistical players within the UTR criteria. We generally don’t base our choices on player projection. However my pre-season ‘Breakouts’ is a time when we allow an exception to the rule. This leads me to Gauntlet Eldemire. The Shaker Heights, OH native oozes 5-tool potential. The 2010 6th round draft choice out of Ohio University didn’t play pro ball in 2010 due to wrist surgery. The 6’3 195lb OF been described as a potential gold glover in a wide receivers body. His bat has developing loft and could see 15 home runs annually. His stride is long and increases speed as he goes. Eldemire needs to cut down his strikeouts and polish his base running skills. The Phillies have a history of drafting all-or-nothing high school OF. This time they feel they have a true college drafted superstar on their hands. 1B/OF Justin Bloxom—Washinton Nationals No stranger to the Under the Radar feature, Bloxom was the June 23rd 2010 recipient of the award after dominating Lo A Hagerstown the very minute June 1st flipped over on the calendar. On August 7th his incredible 2010 campaign came to an unfortunate end due to a knee injury. Surgery kept him on the sidelines for the last month of the season, still Bloxom finished within the Sally League top ten in OPS and SLG percentage. The switch hitting first baseman demonstrates power from both sides of the plate and flashes surprising speed for a 6’1 205 pounder. His overall game projects best at first base and as a strong armed right fielder though he’s played the utility role with time in LF corners and at third. Fans can ask themselves the question of “what could have been” for Bloxom as he was on pace for a possible Sally League MVP run. First base has become a positional strength with Chris Marrerro and Ty Moore each cracking several Nats Top prospect lists. I feel Bloxom has it in his game to bypass both on the 1B depth chart with a possible start in Hi A Potomac. INF Matt Cerda—Chicago Cubs Motivation and inspiration can come from the most unlikely source. In the case of Matt Cerda, one person’s downward spiral can generate another’s uprising. On August 23, 2001 on little league baseball’s biggest stage, the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, in a 6 pitch at bat, 4’10 80lb Oceanside, CA catcher Matt Cerda suffered a crushing game ending strike out. But this wasn’t your ordinary every day strike out. It came at the hands of then Bronx little league pitching phenom Danny Almonte. Having disappointed his teammates, Cerda’s strikeout was morally crushing. However, Almonte’s glory would soon come to a grinding halt once news broke that the hurler was 2+ years over the legal age limit for little league participants. Immediately, Cerda felt he needed justified. The spark plug infielder spent the next several years trying to prove that he was worthy. The Chicago Cubs felt so and drafted the now muscular 5’9 175lb Cerda out of Oceanside HS (CA) in the 4th round of the 2008 amateur draft. As gritty and hardworking as they come, Cerda has superior plate discipline, shows good pop with speed and the defense to keep the Cubs organization looking over their shoulders. At only 20 years old, Cerda has plenty of time to grow into his skill set and use his unique motivation with a possible repeat of LoA Peoria or push to HiA Daytona. 2B Brandon Dailey —Cincinnati Reds As I stated earlier in my NL East Philadelphia Phillies Breakout POY choice of CF Gauntlett Eldemire, I rarely step away from the stat base of the Under the Radar Feature criteria and choose a kid that I simply have a gut feeling about. Nevertheless, going by gut instinct occasionally garners the best result. Brandon Dailey from Brantford, ON Canada is another one of those players. Listed at 5’10 170lbs, Dailey is an above average athlete whom scouts say exhibits a collection of skills unmatched in the system from a 19 yr old. A born leader on the field, he shows aggressiveness at the plate with great contact, can run well and hit for solid average. He is a superior defender with soft hands and a strong arm. Drafted in 2010, the Reds hope that their 34th round pick and small investment can reap huge awards. 1B Matt Adams—St. Louis Cardinals On a few occasions last season I stepped a little to the left and revealed a somewhat sentimental side when discussing Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams. Adams is a native of Philipsburg, PA and graduate of Philipsburg-Osceola Area HS. It is the same high school and neighborhood where fellow Under the Radar contributor Jim Brown and I grew up together. Am I biased maybe? Sure, but Adams didn’t make my choice a difficult one as my Cardinals Breakout Player of the Year for 2011. In 2009 after leading the nation in hitting with a .495 average for Division II Slippery Rock (PA), the Cardinals got a steal drafting the 6’3 230 lb slugger in the 23rd round. A converted catcher, Adams is a solid defender and has played first base exclusively. The 22 year old is blessed with a superior bat and will have his share of strike outs, but his walks should increase and he is a rare swing and miss. Adams spent all 2010 in Hi A Quad Cities crushing 22 home runs with a slash line of .310/.355/.541. With the Pujols contract looming, now is the time for Adams to make St Louis’s decision on Pujols just a little complicated. Adams could see an aggressive push in 2011 with a start in AA Memphis. 2B/3B Jarek Cunningham— Pittsburgh Pirates If there was an Under the Radar Comeback POY award, Jarek Cunningham would be my unanimous choice. After missing his entire high school senior season due to a knee injury, Cunningham fell heavily down draft boards. The Pirates took a chance luring him away from an ASU commitment making him an 18th round draft choice in 2008. Cunningham’s debut was stellar batting .318/.385/.507 along with 5 home runs. In spring training 2009 Cunningham reinjured his ACL and missed the entire season. Having felt like he lost momentum, Cunningham finally played a full season in 2010 at Lo A West Virginia garnering mixed reviews with both his bat and defense. He showed impressive pop at the plate feasting on fastballs early in the count, but bailed on breaking balls with an unwillingness to take walks. When he connects, the ball drives off his bat. With fringy stiff defense, it’s hard to say where the Pirates may place the 6’1 185 pounder. In 2011 Cunningham needs to prove he still has the highest ceiling of any INF deep within the system. OF Jordan Scott—Houston Astros 2010 will probably go down in Astros history as the time when new direction came to order. The new brass in Houston was now spotlighting developing a competitive major league product and retooling the minor league system. Trades followed and an accent on drafting athletes was the emphasis. Jordan Scott fits exceptionally well within the new plan. A 14th round draft choice in 2010 out of Riverside HS in Greer, SC, Scott had a positive debut for GCL Rookie League batting .301 with 6 stolen bases and a .372 OBP in 42 games. Scott’s 2:1 K:BB rate needs improvement, he struggled hitting with runners on base and needs better reads on the base paths to utilize his stolen base speed. Scott is a premium OF prospect playing all of 2010 without an error. The 6’1 180 lb Scott played the majority in left, but has the speed and arm to be a star centerfielder. Scott is only 19 and has plenty of time and room to grow and Houston will be patient with this potential 5-tool prospect. 1B Sean Halton—Milwaukee Brewers To even the casual minor league baseball fan it remains no secret that the Milwaukee Brewers bear one of the lowest rated minor league systems in the game. A recently depleted system has left even the most keen eyes and ears guessing what the future holds for the proud blue collar organization. Hopefully Sean Halton can help. A 13th round selection out of NAIA powerhouse Lewis and Clark State (ID) in 2009, the 23 year old first baseman brings enormous size and epic power to a position that could very well be up for grabs if All-Star Prince Fielder decides to leave via free agency. The 6’5 240 lb Halton probably will never be a gold glove winner, but he provides adequate defense at both first base and outfield. The Brewers have advanced Halton two levels in each of his first two seasons. His 3:1 K:BB rate is normal for a ‘light tower’ power hitter, but strangely, Halton seemed to defy the odds showing increased batting average and OBP after both ’09 and ’10 promotions. If Halton could draw more walks and show increased plate discipline he will make a case for a certain promotion to AA Huntsville and quite possibly a late season sip of coffee with the major league club. 2B David Nick —Arizona Diamondbacks After being lauded for his bat and defensive prowess, the Diamondbacks heavily targeted Nick drafting him out of Cypress High (CA) which is the same high school that produced Cubs farmhand Josh Vitters. The 4th round pick of the 2009 first year player draft, Nick brings to the table an unconventional swing and unique defense that some say should be left alone because he has made it work. Others feel that Nick’s game and habits could be easily exposed as he reaches higher levels. The Diamondbacks watched the converted short stop succeed with Rookie league Missoula batting a solid .286 w/ 6 HR and 16 SB in 66 games. In 2010, the 6’2 175lb Nick leapfrogged Short Season Yakima with an assignment to Lo A South Bend. His overall stats declined, but the organization wasn’t deterred and wanted to continue pushing the tenacious 20 yr old. Nick’s baseball intellect is well beyond his years and is an intuitive player who drips moxie. With Kelly Johnson’s future uncertain after 2011, Nick’s path to Arizona is clear. Nick could see another heavy push in 2011 to Hi A Visalia or even AA Mobile. OF Rafael Ortega — Colorado Rockies The Colorado Rockies success scouting the international market has been very well documented. With the organization littered with encouraging youngsters, none may hold more promise that CF Rafael Ortega. A 16 year old international signee out of Venezuela in 2008 for 65K, Ortega played the ’08 and ’09 seasons in the Dominican Summer League showing that Colorado’s investment was wise. His two seasons saw a combined slash line of .300/.372/.375 with 56 stolen bases. 2010 saw Ortega debut in Pioneer League affiliate Caspar. Playing center field and batting leadoff, the 5’11 165lb Orteta’s game took off batting .358 w/ 7 HR and 23 stolen bases. He finished the season ranked in the Pioneer League top 10 in seven statistical categories. His tall thin frame allows for plenty of room to grow. Ortega is an excellent defender having only 9 errors in 3 minor league seasons. Ortega has an off-the-charts motor and has been praised for his capacity to learn, desire for the game and his passion to win. A start to the 2011 season should see him in Lo A Asheville with a late season end in Hi A Modesto. C J.T. Wise— Los Angeles Dodgers With just about every situation in life one has to believe that where there is a negative there’s a positive. The storied Dodgers have always been regarded with a rich history of success, but recently the much publicized divorce of Frank and Jamie McCourt placed a black eye on the franchise. Court documents revealed the McCourt’s were using franchise money for personal use. Add that in with the 2008 trade of now Cleveland Indians superstar catcher Carlos Santana, for JT Wise, this could be a rare opportunity to make a positive out of an unfortunate negative. Wise was a 45th rd draft choice by Oakland in 2007, but didn’t sign due to a commitment to play 3B for LSU. Wise transferred to Oklahoma in ’08, switched to catcher and all he did was hit. The Dodgers took noticed and made Wise a 5th round selection in ’09. Wise is a good defender with superior arm strength throwing out 38% of base stealers. Wise’s 2:1 K:BB rate could improve and he’s slow on the base paths, but he displays plus plus power with good contact. With no real star catcher in the system, a solid season in Hi A Rancho Cucamonga or even AA Chattanooga could make Wise the premiere catcher the Dodgers so desperately need. OF Chris Lofton —San Francisco Giants Most multi-sport athletes bask in the option of choosing their path to bigger and better things. The San Francisco Giants are glad that multi-sport superstar Chris Lofton chose them. A native of Raleigh, MS, Lofton was a 9th round draft choice out of Jones County Community College in the 2010 draft. Another reason the Giants felt fortunate to have Lofton was he also signed on with the University of Alabama-Birmingham to play football as a cornerback. Lofton is an obvious superior athlete at 6’1- 175lbs and the Giants envision him utilizing his explosive speed in center field and on the base paths. He was drafted with a questionable bat, but surprised at Short Season Salem Keiser with a .268 average, 2 HR and 15 stolen bases. The Giants rated recent 1st round draft choice Gary Brown and Lofton as the best athletes in their system heading into the 2011 season. San Francisco will be patient with the athletic 20 year old letting the game come to him while pushing him slowly. Lofton’s lefty bat and defensive skills give him the chance to become a paramount center fielder. A possible assignment to Lo A Augusta should test the young speedster in 2011. SS Jonathan Galvez— San Diego Padres An international signee from the Dominican Republic in 2007, Galvez was only 16, but unable to play for the organization until he turned 17. The Padres scouted Galvez as a solid average bat that would eventually produce power. He fared well in his 2008 debut in the Dominican Summer League batting .272 w/ 3 HR and 8 stolen bases. The Padres were pleased knowing that he performed well for someone playing at times against competition 3-4 yrs older than he was. The 6’2 180lb Galvez repeated the DSL in ’09 and saw his contact and power numbers improve, but his defense showed holes committing a combined 26 errors at SS and 2B. The Padres continued to show patience sending Galvez to Lo A Fort Wayne in 2010 where he batted .259 w/ 10 HR and 18 stolen bases, but again, his defense was shoddy. The Padres feel that with Galvez plethora of tools he will mature into his game and become less worried about hitting home runs and start driving the ball in doubles fashion. At this point in his development Galvez projects as an offensive second baseman due to his aggressive approach and physical tools. A repeat of Lo A Fort Wayne should be in order, but improved performance could punch a ticket to Hi A Lake Elsinore.
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