Several of the big name prospects on the Pre-Season All-Prospect Team didn’t spend long in the league or never materialized, leaving plenty of room for new names to jump onto the roster. The league wasn’t terribly deep this year but did offer some superstar potential with players like Xander Bogaerts and Dylan Bundy.
Catcher: Michael Blanke (Winston-Salem) – My pre-season pick, Evan Gattis, only played 21 games in the Carolina League and mashed while he was at it, but I find it hard to put him on back on the roster with so few games played. Blanke isn’t a big time prospect but the league as a whole didn’t have a strong year with catchers. Blanke wasn’t quite as good defensively in 2012 but he still has huge arm strength, solid receiving skills and pop in his bat. He could be a big league backup down the line. (Pre-Season Pick: Evan Gattis)
First Base: Travis Shaw (Salem) – I’m not a huge fan of any first base prospects in this league but somebody has to take this spot. Shaw has a good approach and very real power to all fields. There’s little projection left in his game and he will have to crush upper level pitching to truly get a big-league shot, but he put the right foot forward with a strong Carolina League performance. (Pre-Season Pick: Jesus Aguilar)
Second Base: Tommy La Stella (Lynchburg) – I gave serious consideration to Chicago’s Carlos Sanchez in this spot but I’m going with one of my personal favorites and a guy with more offensive potential. La Stella isn’t flashy and he has a small window as an actual prospect but he made a fan out of several scouts this year and will get a big test next year in Double-A. (Pre-Season Pick: Tommy La Stella)
Third Base: Christian Villanueva (Myrtle Beach) – Another injury to Anthony Rendon limited his time in the Carolina League as he was rushed to Double-A when he came back late in the season. That opened the door for another player to step into this spot and Christian Villanueva took the opportunity, despite being flipped to the Cubs at the trade deadline. While with Myrtle Beach, Villanueva hit .285/.356/.421 and showed a well-rounded game that could make him a solid regular. (Pre-Season Pick: Anthony Rendon)
Shortstop: Xander Bogaerts (Salem) – I cheated on my Eastern League team to make sure both Bogaerts and Manny Machado could make the roster. Did you really think I wasn’t going to put him on this team as well? Bogaerts is an ultra-talented kid with tons of tools and plenty of ability to translate his tools to on-field skills. In 104 Carolina League games, Bogaerts hit .302/.378/.505 and showed improved defensive actions, giving some hope that he may stay at shortstop during his early years in the big leagues. (Pre-Season Pick: Xander Bogaerts)
Outfield: Jackie Bradley (Salem), Brandon Jacobs (Salem), Trayce Thompson (Winston-Salem) – Bradley’s polished and broad range of skills overwhelmed Carolina League pitching and forced a promotion to Double-A around mid-season. He should be a solid-average to above-average regular in center field for a long time in Boston. Jacobs wasn’t nearly as successful with Salem in 2012 but he still shows impressive tools, including athleticism, power and speed. He remains quite raw but has impact potential if he can pull it all together. I’ve always been a sucker for Trayce Thompson’s tools and things finally started to click this year. He is a quality defender with a strong arm and the offensive game – despite tons of swing and miss – began to show in games. If the White Sox are willing to live with the strikeouts, they could have a power-speed combination that plays quality defense. (Pre-Season Pick: Brandon Jacobs, Matt Lipka, Michael Taylor)
Pitcher: Matt Barnes (Salem), Dylan Bundy (Frederick), Yordano Ventura (Wilmington) – Ventura is the only returning member to this roster and even he didn’t last long in the Carolina League as he lit up radar guns and impressed with his improved feel for pitching. There remains a wide range of outcomes for Ventura, including a very good starting pitcher or lights out closer, but the Royals will give him every chance to develop in the rotation. Bundy and Barnes both blew through the Carolina League as well, with Bundy receiving the call to the big leagues after last night’s extra-inning game for Baltimore. Bundy is an elite talent and a guy that could spend the bulk of the 2013 season in the big league rotation. Barnes on the other hand isn’t in the same class as Bundy, but he is still a very good prospect with easy number three projection and the potential to peak a tick higher than that. (Pre-Season Pick: Roman Mendez, Matt Purke, Yordano Ventura)