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TL Prospects: Bumper crop of potential04/04/2013 6:00 AM ET
By Andrew Pentis / Special to MLB.com
Here's a ranking of the 10 prospects we're most excited to see light up the Texas League in 2013:
No. 1. Orlando Calixte (SS, Northwest Arkansas): The fourth-ranked Royals prospect, with a big year at age 21, could become one of the Minors' next best shortstops of the future. Calixte has all the physical gifts to become exactly that and has proven able to play up to his competition, which explains why Kansas City keeps pushing him up the ladder. He won't have as much support in the Naturals lineup as his Travelers counterparts, but if Calixte is ever going to make a Profar-ian emergence, this would be the time to do it.
No. 2. George Springer (CF, Corpus Christi): The third-ranked Astros prospect is may be further along developmentally than Calixte despite playing at the same level. Like his peer, Springer has every edge physically -- he plays outstanding defense and collected 24 homers and 32 steals in 2012 -- but has some rough edges to his game. Strikeouts are the biggest culprit -- he has fanned 287 times in his first 939 at-bats, or 31 percent of the time -- and that could be what keeps him from becoming an all-around star. We'll see soon enough.
No. 3. Kyle Parker (RF, Tulsa): The fourth-ranked Rockies prospect made the strikeout adjustment Springer seeks in his two seasons of pro ball. Parker, a former Clemson quarterback, righted his strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2012 (88-to-66, up from 133-to-44 in '11) while actually increasing his slugging (.562, up from .483) in 15 fewer games. Expect this strong-armed right fielder to register another 100-plus games campaign while his numbers may dip given the greater challenge posed by a small league large with pitching talent.
No. 4. C.J. Cron (1B, Arkansas): The third-ranked Angels prospect could be battling with Parker all season long for the Texas League home run crown. The 2011 first-round draftee hit 27 home runs in his first full season as a pro. Scouts are somewhat concerned by his low walk totals, but Cron can simply hit; that is his calling card. He's not an especially good defender at first base, but at 23 and in his first Double-A season, he has time to improve. Plus, he'll be sharing the Travelers infield with some great talent.
No. 5. Kaleb Cowart (3B, Arkansas): The first-ranked Angels prospect will return to the Travs, with whom he spent the latter half of last season. He will man the hot corner with Cron across the way and fourth-ranked prospect Taylor Lindsey at second base. Cowart, who was drafted one slot after and one year before Cron, has as much thunder in his bat. He has yet to prove he's as good of a natural hitter, though. The switch-hitter batted .259 in 69 games for Arkansas in 2012, but will have much more of a lineup cushion in '13.
No. 6. Yordano Ventura (SP, Northwest Arkansas): The third-ranked Royals prospect is not the sure thing among this year's group of TL hurlers, but he will be the most fun to watch. Armed with a 100-mph fastball and developing secondary offerings, Ventura is well ahead of the curve at 21. He showed his youth in six starts for the Naturals in 2012, going 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA, but will be given the opportunity to lead a staff until peaking around the 140-inning mark. We should know a lot more about the likelihood of Ventura reaching the height of his potential by August's end.
No. 7. Cody Buckel (SP, Frisco): The fourth-ranked Rangers prospect is a year (nearly to the day) younger than Ventura but significantly more polished. He probably tops out as a middle-of-the-rotation righty, but that's a pretty good commodity. Buckel, a second-round draftee in 2010 and a pupil of friend Trevor Bauer, pitched in 13 games for the RoughRiders last year, compiling a 3.78 ERA and 68 strikeouts in 69 innings. Given that experience, expect him to move onto Triple-A Round Rock by midsummer.
No. 8. Nick Maronde (LHP, Arkansas): The second-ranked Angels prospect -- and the third of three Los Angeles farmhands on this list -- may be downplayed with the news that he'll be transitioning full time to the role of reliever. Don't get us wrong, he and lefty Daniel Tillman will give the Travs one of the Minors' best bullpen combos. Now 23 and entering his third pro season, Maronde has a potent fastball-slider pairing. He won't need his developing changeup if he's closing or setting up for Tillman. In other words, once Arkansas' talent-laden lineup gets ahead on the scoreboard, the opposition will have a hard time making a late-inning comeback.
No. 9. Cory Spangenberg (2B, San Antonio): The 10th-ranked Padres prospect excelled at Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore last year, but a concussion cost him six weeks of action. The 10th overall pick in the 2011 Draft has the kind of offensive skill set that could net 30 extra-base hits as well as 30 steals. If the Missions have a bounce-back year and return to the postseason it will be because Spangenberg proved to be the kind of leader that Kolten Wong was for league-champion Springfield a year ago.
No. 10. Miles Head (3B, Midland): The ninth-ranked A's prospect represents the seventh different TL club on this list. (Only Springfield, which graduated the likes of Wong and outfielder Oscar Taveras to Triple-A Memphis, is absent.) Head, a Boston-to-Oakland acquisition two offseasons ago, dominated the Cal League in his first year with his new organization, batting (.382) -- more than 100 points higher than Spangenberg (.271). He's still fighting the home run-strikeout seesaw battle, but his 57 games stint with the RockHounds last summer should give him a head start this spring.
BONUS: Nos. 11-15: Chad Bettis (Tulsa), Adys Portillo (San Antonio), Taylor Lindsey (Arkansas), Nick Tropeano (Corpus Christi) and Travis Witherspoon (Arkansas).