Over the past few years the South Atlantic League has been loaded with prospect, including last year with super prospects Bryce Harper and Jurickson Profar bouncing around the league. This year’s rendition of the SAL didn’t disappoint with prospects throughout the league and plenty of high-ceiling talents that will certainly show up in the BPN Top 150 during the off-season.
Catcher: Gary Sanchez (Charleston) – Yes, I’m putting Sanchez on a Post-Season All-Prospect team for the second day in a row. The numbers Sanchez posted in Charleston are precisely what you would hope for as an organization when you send a player back to a level for more than just performance reasons. Sanchez smashed 19 doubles and 13 home runs en route to a .297/.353/.517 line in 68 games. His offensive potential is positively monstrous and when that’s the case, teams will find a place for you to play. (Pre-Season Pick: Gary Sanchez)
First Base: Nick Delmonico (Delmarva) – There wasn’t much to choose from at first base in the SAL this year and while my pre-season pick, Jose Osuna, had better numbers, I’m going to go with the upside presented by Nick Delmonico of the Orioles. A sixth round pick out of Farragut High School (TN) in 2011, Delmonico was challenged in the SAL but offers natural hitting ability and potential for plus power. The O’s moved him between first and second base, with modest returns at both slots, meaning there’s a lot of pressure on the bat at this stage. (Pre-Season Pick: Jose Osuna)
Second Base: Delino DeShields, Jr. (Lexington) – I seriously considered cheating and sliding Alen Hanson into this slot since that’s where I think he projects long term, but I’ll give the nod to DeShields who made dramatic improvements over his 2011 debut season. Scouts I have spoken with indicate that every part of DeShields’ game improved n 2012, from his hitting ability and defense, all the way to his energy level. DeShields is a very real prospect at this point, and one with devastating speed, but it could still take a while to reach his ceiling. (Pre-Season Pick: Angelo Gumbs)
Third Base: Maikel Franco (Lakewood) – I’ve made no secret of my affection for Franco’s long-term projection. I even heaped mounds of praise on him in this recent scouting report. After a difficult first half in Lakewood, Franco exploded for a .346/.395/.530 post All-Star break line and projects to have the offensive and defensive skills necessary to be the Phillies third baseman of the future. (Pre-Season Pick: Garin Cecchini)
Shortstop: Trevor Story (Asheville) – Shortstop was a solid position in the SAL this year, featuring not only my pre-season pick Story, but also Pittsburg’s Alen Hanson, Texas’ Luis Sardinas and Boston’s Jose Vinicio. Story’s solid defense and power at a young age were enough to win me over as he slugged a whopping 43 doubles and 18 home runs in 122 games. There’s still some work to do in developing his hitting approach and defensive tools, but he has big-league potential at the infield’s toughest position. (Pre-Season Pick: Trevor Story)
Outfield: Brian Goodwin (Hagerstown), Gregory Polanco (West Virginia), Mason Williams (Charleston) – Much like Maikel Franco above, I recently threw some lofty praise Polanco’s way via a detailed scouting report. He was one of the South Atlantic League’s most dynamic players in 2012 and offers some of the most impressive upside on the circuit. Goodwin quickly proved to be too much for his SAL brethren, prompting Washington to skip him over High-A (for reason’s more than level of competition), straight to Double-A. While with Hagerstown, Goodwin showed all five tools, including solid pop to the gaps, good speed, plus defense and strong hitting ability. He has up-the-middle potential and could come quickly if he adjusts to better pitching next year. Rounding out the outfield, I stuck the last of my pre-season picks with the Yankees’ Mason Williams. Williams was one of the prospects du jour during the 2011-2012 off-season and he did plenty with Charleston to demonstrate why. Williams has exceptional natural hitting ability, good speed and is a very good outfield defender. He’s not going to fly through the system and be a savior in New York, but he should get there if given time to develop. (Pre-Season Pick: Josh Bell, Brian Goodwin, Mason Williams)
Pitcher: Matt Barnes (Greenville), Jose Fernandez (Greensboro), Alex Meyer (Hagerstown) – Just as I did with Gary Sanchez, there was no hesitation in placing Jose Fernandez on his second Post-Season All-Prospect team in two days. Fernandez dominated the SAL even more than he did the Florida State League, forcing the Marlins to accelerate his promotion schedule. A true power pitcher in every sense of the concept, Fernandez is going to reach the big leagues quickly and has true number two potential. Barnes was only with Greenville for five starts but his 0.34 ERA and swing-and-miss stuff still earns him a spot on this team. Another pitcher with limited innings in the league, Dylan Bundy, has an easy case for this team as well, but I opted to give the final nod to a pitcher that stuck around for 18 starts and dominated throughout. Washington paid a hefty price to sign Alex Meyer in the first round last year and he gave them every reason to believe it was a sound investment. Standing 6-foot-9 and owning a dominating fastball, Meyer carved up the SAL with a 3.10 ERA and only 68 hits in 90 innings while striking out 107. (Pre-Season Pick: Dylan Bundy, Kyle Crick, Alex Meyer)