ANAHEIM, Calif. – Row upon row of scouts were in place three hours before the Futures Game, gorging on every batting-practice swing and ground ball off a coach’s fungo. This was a feast for their eyes, the best minor league talent on one field.
A quick canvassing of opinion from several scouts on every position player is brought to you. Use it as a primer while watching the U.S. against the World, nine innings worth:
U.S. BATTING ORDER
Desmond Jennings(notes), Rays, LF: The heir-apparent to Carl Crawford(notes) if the Rays lose him to free agency after this season, Jennings has similar skills. He can fly, plays solid defense and could develop decent power. His arm is better than Crawford’s. The only knock on Jennings is that he’s been hurt a lot. He needs to stay on the field.
Dee Gordon, Dodgers, SS: The son of longtime closer Tom “Flash” Gordon, the Double-A shortstop has extraordinary range, a smooth glove and a rifle arm. He’s extremely fast, although he is thrown out stealing about one out of four tries. He’ll go as far as his bat takes him, and so far he hasn’t hit for any power.
Mike Moustakas(notes), Royals, 3B: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft has overcome a slow professional start to become one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. He can hit right- and left-handed pitchers and handles off-speed pitches well. Defense is not his forte.
Dominic Brown, Phillies, RF: Along with Jennings perhaps the closest U.S. player to the big leagues, Brown would replace Jayson Werth(notes) if he departs via free agency. Brown has home run power to all fields, makes steady contact despite an uppercut swing and can steal a base. His arm is more suited for left field.
Eric Hosmer, Royals, DH: Vision issues have been corrected, and Hosmer is finally displaying the hitting ability expected when he was a first-round pick in the 2008 draft. He is aggressive while also selective and uses the power alleys, giving him huge offensive upside. His glove is average.
Hank Conger, Angels, C: Very close to big league ready, the switch-hitting Conger makes consistent hard contact and could hit for a higher average than the Angels are used to at catcher. Defensively, he blocks the ball well but his throws take too long to get to second base.
Brett Jackson, Cubs, CF: A superior athlete out of Cal whose bat has come around better than most scouts expected, showing consistent contact and some power from an upright stance. He’s a plus defender in every respect, including his arm, and his speed plays in the outfield and the basepaths.
Logan Morrison(notes), Marlins, 1B: Gaby Sanchez beat him out for the Marlins’ first base job in spring training at least in part because Morrison had a shoulder injury. He’s ready for the big leagues right now. Morrison, whose wry humor has already made him a favorite with the media, is a solid first baseman, too.
Drew Cumberland, Padres, 2B: In his first injury-free season, Cumberland tore up the High-A California League and is doing the same in Double-A, albeit with no power. Some scouts project him as a super-utility player at the major league level would also could play outfield.
Mike Trout, Angels, OF: It’s been a breakout season for a player previously best known as the only prospect to attend the MLB Network draft show two years ago. Trout, 18, is a five-tool player who could be in the major leagues by age 20 now that it appears he has controlled his aggressiveness.
Austin Romine, Yankees, C: More attention has been paid to Yankees’ Triple-A catching prospect Jesus Montero(notes), but Romine might be the one who eventually replaces Jorge Posada(notes). Strictly a pull hitter, but a good one. Romine is a limber catcher with a strong arm.
Grant Green, Athletics, SS: A mature player who is putting up impressive offensive numbers in High-A ball, Green nevertheless needs work defensively. He tends to play shortstop passively and doesn’t possess great range. His bat will get him to the big leagues.
Ben Revere(notes), Twins, CF: Speedy leadoff hitter in the Juan Pierre(notes) mold, Revere is a master at beating out ground balls and using the entire field. His speed also makes him a dangerous baserunner and an above-average outfielder. Suspect arm strength might force a move to left field.
Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians, 3B: Solid all-around prospect who could challenge for a major league spot next spring, Chisenhall just needs more time at third base since he is a converted second baseman. He is rarely fooled by a pitch and uses the entire field.
Danny Espinosa, Nationals, 2B: A blue collar-type who embodies the “Dirtbag” mentality of all Long Beach State products, Espinosa projects as an everyday major league second baseman and possible shortstop. He is struggling to hit for average in Double-A at the moment.
WORLD BATTING ORDER
Brett Lawrie, Brewers, 2B: An aggressive hitter whose bat is ahead of his glove, Lawrie is projected as an everyday major league player. Lawrie was the highest-drafted Canadian position player ever, going as the 16th overall pick in 2008.
Ozzie Martinez, Marlins, SS: Extremely quick on defense, Martinez projects as an everyday shortstop if he can continue to hit like he currently is in Double-A. He’s batting No. 2 because he sprays line drives to all parts of the field.
Yonder Alonso(notes), Reds, 1B: A highly regarded hitter who was born in Cuba and attended high school in Miami, Alonso only needs to generate the power he’s capable of to become an everyday big leaguer.
Alex Liddi, Mariners, 3B: Striving to become the first Italian-born position player to make the big leagues, the mature Liddi has power to all fields and doesn’t strike out much. His defense is a work in progress.
Carlos Peguero, Mariners, LF: A classic all-or-nothing hitter who leads the World lineup with 15 home runs but has struck out 106 times already in Double-A. His defense needs work as well, but his power will get him to the big leagues.
Wilkin Ramirez(notes), Tigers, RF: When Tigers manager Jim Leyland said in spring training that he couldn’t believe the power in some of the organization’s prospects, Ramirez was one of the guys he was talking about.
Wilin Rosario, Rockies, C: A premium prospect who could be behind the plate in Denver for many years, Rosario is especially outstanding defensively. He also has raw power that could do damage at Coors Field.
Gorkys Hernandez, Pirates, CF: Once a top prospect in the Braves’ organization, Hernandez’s star has faded a bit with the Bucs. He still projects as a leadoff hitter – if he can improve his on-base percentage – and a good defensive outfielder.
Francisco Peguero, Giants, DH: Although Thomas Neal is ahead of him as a hitting prospect in the Giants’ organization, Peguero has a superior glove and arm. Peguero also has hit for a decent average despite rarely drawing a walk.
Hak-Ju Lee, Cubs, SS: A South Korean wizard with the glove, Lee ought to at least become a solid major league utility infielder. Everyday work will depend on his bat, which doesn’t have many extra-base hits in it.
Pedro Baez, Dodgers, 3B: A knee injury short-circuited his season a year ago after he played in the Futures Game, but Baez seems to be back on track in High-A ball. Scouts are perplexed by his lack of consistency.
Chun Chen, Indians, C: Chen pulls fastballs with the best of them but has to prove he can handle off-speed pitches to advance. A marginal receiver with a solid arm, he projects as a major league backup.
Pedro Ciriaco, Diamondbacks, SS: An excellent gloveman with a suspect bat, Ciraco makes all the plays and possesses a strong, accurate arm. He’s a free swinger who doesn’t like to walk.
Luis Jimenez, Angels, 3B: Third base remains a problematic position for the Angels, and Jimenez’s progress toward filling it was stalled last year because of shoulder surgery. Needs to show power to be an everyday player.
Eury Perez, Nationals, OF: Perez got off to a great pro start last year, leading the Gulf Coast League in batting average and on-base percentage. He can also run, throw and play defense, so his future could be bright.