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Myers, Hamilton top list of IL prospects04/03/2013 6:00 AM ET
By Sam Dykstra / Special to MLB.com
Here's a ranking of the 10 prospects we're most excited to see light up the International League in 2013:
No. 1: Wil Myers (OF, Durham Bulls): Myers may not be long for his return trip to North Carolina, and that's all the more reason to watch him while you can. (Note: Most thought he wasn't long for Triple-A Omaha last season either, but he finished the year there.) The 22-year-old slugger's 2012 numbers are the stuff of legend at this point: A .314/.387/.600 slash line with 37 homers and 109 RBIs between Omaha and Double-A Northwest Arkansas. He was the key part of the Rays bounty in the swap of with the Royals and now joins Durham, the second-best spot for home-run hitters in the IL, according to MiLB.com. MLB.com's No. 4 prospect is a decent bet to slug his way to Tampa Bay by the All-Star break.
No. 2: Billy Hamilton (OF, Louisville Bats): The Minors' steal king is well worth the price of admission, based on his legs alone. (In case you didn't know, Hamilton stole a Minor League-record 155 bases last season. He's pretty fast.) But there's plenty of other intrigue there too. The 22-year-old will be making the move from shortstop to center field for the Bats this season after playing there in the Arizona Fall League. He'll also be facing Triple-A arms for the first time. With the Reds' acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo in center, Hamilton should be allowed plenty of time to get some seasoning in Triple-A. Enjoy the show, Louisville.
No. 3: Gerrit Cole (RHP, Indianapolis Indians): Like Hamilton, Cole is known for his speed, just in a different sense. A typical postgame topic of conversation following a start by the 2011 top overall pick is "Did he hit 100?" Even if he doesn't quite hit the triple digits, Cole, who will be entering just his second full pro season, can run it up to the high-90s without breaking a sweat. What makes him even more special is a plus slider that not only keeps hitters honest but keeps them constantly befuddled. He'll continue to work on his other offspeed offerings, but his top two pitches may get him to Pittsburgh much sooner than later.
No. 4: Nick Castellanos, (OF, Toledo Mud Hens): There may not be a purer hitter in the International League this season. The third baseman-turned-outfielder batted .405 in 55 games for Class A Advanced Lakeland last season before running out of steam at Double-A Erie, where he batted just .264. However, the Tigers' top prospect just turned 21 on March 4, meaning he's far from done developing. Look for his sweet stroke to add some more power -- he's hit 17 home runs in the past two seasons combined -- with the increased age.
No. 5: Trevor Bauer (RHP, Columbus Clippers): Sometimes all you need is a change of scenery, and Bauer, who was traded from the D-backs to the Indians in the offseason, will certainly put that to the test. The UCLA product showed how good he can be at the Triple-A level for Reno in 2012, going 5-1 with a 2.85 ERA, 97 strikeouts and 35 walks in 82 innings, but struggled in the Majors (1-2, 6.06 ERA, 17-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in four starts for Arizona). He'll be a man with something to prove in 2013, and hey, he's always worth watching for his unorthodox long-toss program before every start.
No. 6: Jake Odorizzi (RHP, Durham Bulls): Like Bauer, Odorizzi also joins a new organization, his third in four seasons, but the circumstances feel different. While Bauer looked like he was leaving Arizona, Odorizzi appears to be arriving in Tampa Bay, or Durham to start anyway. The 23-year-old right-hander had his best season in the Minors, going 15-5 with a 3.03 ERA and a .238 batting average against between the top two levels in the Royals system. He struggled a bit in two Major League starts, but with the Rays' rotation depth, they won't rush him up barring injury, allowing him to continue to work on a four-pitch mix that has gotten him this far.
No. 7: Chris Archer (RHP, Durham Bulls): Archer is the second Durham pitcher and third Bull overall on this list -- scared yet, IL? -- and with good reason. The 24-year-old righty can ramp up his fastball up to 98 on the gun, and that along with an advanced slider has been enough to bring him success in the past. This will be his third straight season in Durham, making him the most senior starter on an impressive staff. As such, he could also be the first one primed to make the permanent jump into the Majors.
No. 8: Kyle Gibson (RHP, Rochester Red Wings): Gibson's story might be the most interesting to follow in the IL. He made 18 starts for Rochester in 2011 but underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow in September, keeping him out for most of the 2012 season. The 6-foot-6 right-hander, whose specialty is inducing groundballs, pitched in the Arizona Fall League, where he started in the Rising Stars Showcase against some of the best prospects in the game. He's healthy and ready to go for the start of 2013, and the Twins hope it won't be long before their 2009 first-round pick can make his Major League debut -- a notion that seemed almost inevitable not too long ago.
No. 9: Tony Cingrani (LHP, Louisville Bats): Cingrani was arguably the best pitcher in the Minors in 2012. His 1.73 ERA was the lowest among all full-season hurlers while his 172 strikeouts ranked second and .191 batting average against tied for fourth. Although it's not likely the 23-year-old southpaw will reproduce those numbers at Louisville, which he skipped for a September callup to "The Show," there's no reason to doubt that he'll attempt to come close, thanks to an above-average fastball and changeup. The biggest tipping point could be the slider that will aid his transition from great pitcher to great starter.
No. 10: Allen Webster (RHP, Pawtucket Red Sox): Along with Rubby De La Rosa, Webster was one of the key pieces the Red Sox acquired in a mega-deal with the Dodgers that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to Los Angeles. The right-hander steps in as Boston's No. 4 prospect when he takes the hill for Pawtucket this spring. That number could have been higher -- Webster's always been known for electric stuff, particularly a hard, sinking fastball and changeup -- but he has battled control issues in the past. He looked to be past them in Spring Training, where Red Sox manager John Farrell declared him to be "pretty damn good."