Though prospect pundits strive to get it right, it's inevitable that a prospect will come out of nowhere and put himself on the radar. Tony Cingrani is the perfect example of such a player. Nowhere to be found among Cincinnati's Top 20 prospects entering 2012, Cingrani tore through the California League and Southern League, ending up on MLB.com's Top 100 list.
To that end, the staff of MiLB.com has compiled a list of a prospect in each league who might not garner as much attention as some others in their organizations but could be on the lips of fans everywhere come September.
Alex Colome, SP, Durham Bulls: Though fans and opponents alike might focus on Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi and Mike Montgomery in the Durham rotation, Colome and his 96-97 mph fastball seem well-set to catch some people off-guard. The 24-year-old right-hander held a 3.44 ERA between two levels last season to go with 90 strikeouts in 91 2/3 innings while limited by injuries. If he can stay healthy and continue to improve his command, Colome should be able to build a resume strong enough for Major League consideration as the season progresses.
Pacific Coast League
Chase Anderson, SP, Reno Aces: Anderson entered 2012 with little fanfare and few expectations. Selected in the ninth round of the 2009 draft out of Oklahoma University, the right-hander logged just 13 1/3 innings in 2011 before being shut down with a strained flexor tendon in his throwing elbow. Healthy again last spring, Anderson started the season in Mobile, going 5-4 with a 2.86 ERA. He struck out 97 batters over 104 innings, and he was selected to participate in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League where he was named to the Rising Stars team. Anderson doesn't throw hard, but scouts rave about his changeup as well as his ability to complement his sinking fastball with a nasty hook. He's flying under the radar with the likes of Tyler Skaggs, Archie Bradley, David Holmberg and Zeke Spruill in the system, but Arizona's No. 20 prospect is one to keep an eye on in 2013.
Nik Turley, SP, Trenton Thunder: There are 50 rounds in the MLB Draft and 6-foot-4 Nik Turley was selected in the last of them, No. 1,502 overall in 2008 -- the third-to-last player picked that year. Despite the late attention (teams expected him to attend BYU), the 23-year-old California native enters Opening Day ranked as the Yankees' No. 14 prospect after going 10-5 with a 3.00 ERA and 117 strikeouts in 24 games at two levels last year. A lefty who strikes out about a batter an inning, Turley will likely anchor the Trenton rotation after earning Florida State League All-Star honors last summer with Class A Advanced Tampa.
Stefen Romero, 2B, Jackson Generals: A 12th-round pick out of Oregon State in 2010, Romero has improved with each step up the Minor League ladder. After hitting .357/.391/.581 at High Desert early last season, the 24-year-old trumped that effort by batting .347/.391/.620 over 56 games in his first taste of Double-A action at Jackson. Romero made a statement early this spring, going 4-for-5 with two homers, a double and seven RBIs against the Royals on March 7 but missed the rest of the Cactus League schedule with a strained left oblique. When he returns, the Southern League will be on notice. (Recent Q&A with Romero.)
Domingo Santana, OF, Corpus Christi Hooks: If it wasn't for the Astros' infusion of prospects via trades, there would be more talk of toolsy outfielder Domingo Santana. Now Houston's 13th-ranked Minor Leaguer by MLB.com's standard, Santana has shown the ability to hit for average (.302) and power (23 home runs) while throwing out runners with regularity from his right-field spot. He did strike out 148 times in 119 Cal League games in 2012, but he won't turn 21 until this season's penultimate month, and he'll be playing in Double-A. The Texas League gives him the perfect test: With just eight teams on the circuit, he'll be forced to make even more adjustments at the plate facing familiar pitchers. And if he can increase his contact rate, he could emerge as one of the Astros' -- and the game's -- best young players. Other relative unknowns on the circuit include No. 19 Rockies prospect Cristhian Adames, a 21-year-old shortstop whose offensive game could soon keep pace with his plus defense and Josh Bowman, an unranked A's pitching prospect who some think can mimic Dan Straily's out-of-nowhere rise through the ranks from a year ago.
Clayton Blackburn, SP, San Jose Giants: After flat-out dominating the Class A South Atlantic League in 2012, the Giants moved Blackburn up to the California League for the playoffs. There he fanned nine over seven one-run innings in the playoff opener for San Jose. Considered the club's No. 11 prospect, Blackburn has posted a 2.24 ERA since being selected in the 16th round of the 2011 Draft. The 20-year-old right-hander led the organization with a 1.02 WHIP and was second with 143 strikeouts for Augusta while finishing second in the league with a 2.54 ERA.
Keury De La Cruz, OF, Salem Red Sox: A 200-point swing in OPS is one way for a prospect with question marks to become an ascendant slugger in a hurry. Coming off a .682 OPS in 71 games with Class A Short-Season Lowell in the New York-Penn League in 2011, Keury de la Cruz found himself facing a lot of, well, questions. And he responded to the tune of a .308/.352/.536 line with 19 homers in 116 games with Class A Greenville. Combined with a six-game stint for Class A Advanced Salem, he hit .307/.350/.533 overall with 20 homers and 87 RBIs, exactly a 201-point turnaround from the year before, and earned himself the slugger label.
Florida State League
Steven Moya, OF, Lakeland Flying Tigers: Standing in at 6-foot-7, Moya and his left-handed swing have the potential to bring some formidable pop to the Flying Tigers lineup. The No. 11 prospect in the Tigers system was off to an impressive start last year as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, where he had an .801 OPS through 59 games before Tommy John surgery ended his season. His plate approach could use sharpening, and it's often a challenge for players of Moya's height to master a naturally larger strike zone, but if he does, his size and athleticism could lead him to a successful career as a slugging right fielder.
Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Kane County Cougars: If one checked the final stat lines for Class A Short-Season Boise last year, the numbers from one recent Cubs Draft pick would have immediately jumped off the screen. Sporting a .322/.410/.608 slash line with 10 homers and 31 RBIs in 37 games, this prospect tore through the Northwest League after doing the same to the Rookie-level Arizona League. It was not, however, the line of the obvious choice and 2012 sixth overall selection Albert Almora, but rather Chicago's 2011 second-rounder Dan Vogelbach. With a .322/.410/.641 overall line in 61 games last year, the first baseman may not have Almora's pedigree or positional value, but he showed his bat will make a lot of noise this year in the Midwest League.
South Atlantic League
C.J. Edwards, OF, Hickory Crawdads: As a 48th-round pick in the 2011 Draft, not much has been expected of Edwards, but he was able to open some eyes in his 2011 pro debut. The lanky right-hander -- he stands 6-foot-2 while weighing just 155 pounds -- did not allow a run over 20 innings in the Arizona League and put up a 2.11 ERA in 10 Northwest League starts a year ago. Overall, he held batters to a .141 batting average and struck out 85 in 67 innings between the two levels. That put him at the No. 20 spot on MLB.com's rankings of Rangers prospects, but if he comes close to reproducing those numbers for the Crawdads, don't be surprised to see him rocket up even higher.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.