I'm delighted to be back writing my column after having been away on assignment for more than a month.
I want to do something totally different this week. I want to take a look at the distant future and introduce some new names that fantasy players may hear in the years to come.
There are numerous columns and opinions regarding the top-tier prospects in baseball. Most, including the one's I am usually associated with appears in the Top 100 prospect lists on the cusp of arrival to the major leagues.
This week I want to look at players that are likely three or more years away from their ultimate promotion. They are the future of baseball.
Not all the prospects I list this week will make it. In fact, only 10 percent of all professional players ever play in the big leagues. That's an astounding figure – 90 percent of the players getting a paycheck from a baseball organization will either a) remain a minor league player for their career or b) leave the profession.
The players I am listing today are among high performance players at the beginning of their career. Their professional track records are minimal, but they are showing promise.
I have studied the numbers of each player. Each has played with success in the Arizona (Rookie) League this past season.
I am going to keep my list in my personal archive and visit it again in the future. I think it will be fun to see if my list has any meaning.
Here is my list:
2012 ARIZONA LEAGUE STANDOUT PLAYERS
Paul Hoenecke, LAD, OF/1B/3B, LHH
Hoenecke was a 24th-round selection of the Dodgers in 2012. Previously, he was drafted by the Tigers out of high school in 2008, but he went to school at University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.
In the Arizona League, the left-handed hitting Hoenecke hit .382 with five homers and 38 RBI in 165 at-bats covering 41 games. Those are fantastic statistics in a short season. Now 22, Hoenecke is 6-foot-1 and 180 pounds.
The overwhelming buzz about Hoenecke is that the ball just jumps off his bat. The Dodgers are making dramatic improvement and it may be difficult to find a lineup spot for him in the future, but his bat seems to play well and he's on the radar at least to see if he maintains success at higher levels.
Dorssys Paulino, CLE, SS, RHH
Paulino opened lots of eyes in Arizona with a very loud bat. He faces tough competition going forward with top prospect Francisco Lindor ahead of him. If Paulino is the real deal, it could ultimately give the Tribe enough depth to trade him for help elsewhere, or even move Lindor.
The 17-year-old (he'll turn 18 in November) is currently six feet and 175 pounds. He's from the Dominican Republic and given his age, he does not have a lengthy resume at this point. A right-handed hitter, Paulino's Arizona League line was .355 with six homers and 30 RBI. Paulino is said to be a "hitter first" shortstop. He is a raw defender, but his bat is what will likely carry his career.
Ben Carhart, CHC, 1B/3B, RHH
Carhart was a 35th-round pick of the Cubs in 2012. Currently listed at 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, he plays both corner-infield positions. The 22-year-old Florida native hit .353 with a homer and 21 RBI in Arizona including nine doubles and a triple, with one stolen base.
He could move through the system quickly because he puts the bat on the ball. He's already 22 and could be on a faster track now. The Cubs need bats. He may fill the bill.
Janluis Castro, TEX, 2B/3B, SWH
Castro was a 16th round selection by the Rangers in the 2012 draft. A Puerto Rican-born player, Castro is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds. He played both third and second for the Rangers in Arizona, but he profiles more as a second baseman, despite seeing occasional time behind the plate as part of his development.
Castro hit .350 with a homer and 23 RBI in the Arizona League, racking up 11 doubles, an interesting statistic. He also has some speed, as evidenced by his four steals, but Castro was also thrown out four times. Just 18 years old, Castro showed a fairly good eye, as he walked 16 times.
Jorge Martinez, CLE, SS/3B/2B, SWH
Martinez is a member of the Cleveland Indians organization. The 19-year-old was signed out of the Dominican Republic, and he hit .347 with seven homers and 39 RBI in the Arizona League this summer.
In the field, Martinez plays third base, a position of weakness on the Indians' roster. They have few, if any, top prospects in development now at the position. Martinez also plays shortstop – probably the deepest position in the organization at the present time.
Currently at 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds, Martinez can stand to add some muscle weight.
Martinez is an offense first player. His bat may play, but he projects to have a tough time in the field. Scouts are divided on the best defensive position for him. He has a long way to go in development, especially with the glove.
Alexis Rivera, KC, LF/RF, LHH
Rivera, 18, was a 10th-round selection of the Royals out of Puerto Rico in the 2010 first-year player draft. At 6-foot-2 and 225 pounds, he still has growth potential beyond those current statistics.
He hit .341 with three homers and 34 RBI in Arizona, while showing some speed, as he hit seven doubles and had four triples while going 9-for-12 as a basestealer. Rivera was one of the most prominent power bats in this past draft and is a complete player.
Travious Relaford, SFG, 2B/SS/3B, RHH
Relaford, 20, was a 44th-round pick of the Giants from Union City, Georgia. At 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds, he possesses a prototypical middle-infield physique. Relaford hit .331 with 18 RBI in Arizona while collecting 13 doubles and four triples while stealing two bases.
A superb athlete, Relaford could have been a top-notch basketball player if he would have taken that route. Big future.
Renato Nunez, OAK, 3B, RHH
An 18-year-old in the A's organization, Nunez hit .325 with four homers and 42 RBI along with 18 doubles, three triples and four stolen bases in Arizona this summer. He also walked 17 times.
Nunez is 6-foot-1 and 185 pounds, and he seems to have some pop in his bat and could have a good future as a corner infielder. This is a player that can probably hit for power and average. He was seen as the top hitter out of Venezuela.
Ronald Guzman, TEX, 1B/LF, LHH
Guzman, 17 (he'll turn 18 in October), is a left-handed hitting player in the Rangers' organization from the Dominican Republic. Although he's very young, Guzman is huge at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds. He will get bigger and stronger as he gets older, and could be a huge power source as a corner-infielder or outfielder.
In Arizona, Guzman hit .321 with a homer and 33 RBI. While he drove in runs, I was surprised at the lack of home runs in his line. He had 15 doubles and three triples while stealing seven bases. So for a big, big man, Guzman has speed and he was only caught stealing once.
There were some pre-daft issues about Guzman's bat speed. At that size, such a concern may have some validity. I'll keep watching for that issue to surface, but it's worth noting that Guzman had a 19:42 BB:K in 235 plate appearances this summer.
Timothy Lopez, SEA, 2B/SS, RHH
Lopes was a sixth-round pick of the Mariners out of Huntington Beach, California. A right-handed hitting middle infielder, Lopes is 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds and is just 18 years old.
Although he's been seen as a "slap hitting" defense-first infielder, Lopes he had a very good offensive season in the Arizona League. This summer, he hit .316 with 32 RBI in Arizona with 12 doubles and 32 stolen bases.
Tyler Pike, SEA, LHP
Pike is a third-round pick (2012) of the Mariners from Winter Haven, Florida. He joins a long list of Mariners pitching prospects waiting in the wings. Pike's record in Arizona was 2-1 as a starter, while he threw 50.2 innings and gave up 34 hits with a 57:21 K:BB. He had an ERA of 1.78 with a WHIP of 1.086.
Just 18 years old, Pike is six-feet tall and 180 pounds. He has an outstanding fastball and a repertoire that includes a solid curveball and a good changeup. He's a solid prospect. It appears he was way ahead of most Arizona League hitters.
Alexander Claudio, TEX, LHP
Claudio is 20-year-old from Puerto Rico and was selected by the Rangers in the 27th round of the 2010 first-year player draft. Currently he's a lanky 6-foot-3, 160-pound lefty with an outstanding (and very deceptive) breaking ball dominant repertoire.
In Arizona, Claudio's line included a record of 4-0 with a 1.79 ERA and a WHIP of 1.667, with an impressive 54:5 K:BB. The excellent control paired with his ability to miss bats is ultimately what made him so special. Claudio gave up just 36 hits in 45.1 innings pitched. He should continue to fool a lot of hitters with his stuff as he advances.
Miguel Sulbaran, LAD, LHP
Sulbaran is an 18-year-old member of the Dodgers organization. The left-handed Venezuelan product will turn 19 in March. His line in Arizona included a 6-3 record with a 2.51 ERA, 1.151 WHIP and 62:9 K:BB. He also gave up 57 hits in 57.1 innings pitched.
Sulbaran is currently 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds. He is not an overpowering guy, and doesn't have much velocity. He has an ability to throw good off-speed pitches and his breaking balls are effective. Sulbaran's command is outstanding as seen by his K/BB ratio.
- Lots of candidates for AL Comeback Player Of The Year but where would the White Sox be without Adam Dunn or Alex Rios?
- The Red Sox knew they had problems at the beginning of the season, but I don't think they counted Jon Lester among them.
- While I was away, the Tigers totally fell apart. And here we thought we had a new star in the making.
- Justin Masterson never finds himself on any of my fantasy teams ever again. Ever.
- Manny Acta began begging for offensive help during spring training. His pleas fell on deaf ears.
- The young Diamondbacks pitching staff should be strong for years to come. I believe in Wade Miley, Ian Kennedy, Pat Corbin, Tyler Skaggs, etc. Now they need a shortstop and an outfielder. Justin Upton should be able to fetch some help.
Follow me on Twitter @BerniePleskoff. I'll be tweeting from the remaining Diamondbacks games in September. I oope you will follow my work on MLB.com in the Voices section.