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2013 Prospect Sleepers: National League

Earlier this month we rolled out the FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects list. Today, we’re looking at 15 sleeper prospects — one for each National League club — who could break out in 2013 and find their way into the 2014 Top 100 Prospects list. The players — who possess a wide range of potential ceilings — were chosen after speaking with scouts and talent evaluators from within various big league organizations.

NL East

ATLANTA: Chase Anselment, C
How Acquired: 2012 17th round
Predicted 2013 Level: A+
In a Perfect World: An offensive-minded catcher
What Could Go Wrong: His defense may not develop
Big League ETA: 2015

Anselment’s numbers don’t jump off the page when you look at his batting average (.218) and OPS (.680) but he’s earned some early praise. He slugged seven home runs in his debut and is expected to spend time behind the dish in 2013. A scout I spoke with referred to Anselment as a left-handed bat that will hit for power. “He was pushed this year when he was sent to Rome and he held his own. He will get more opportunities to catch going forward,” the scout said. “Left-handed hitting catchers with power are hard to find.”

NEW YORK: Danny Muno, IF
How Acquired: 2011 8th round
Predicted 2013 Level: AA
In a Perfect World: A second-division starter at second base
What Could Go Wrong: He could get overpowered at triple-A
Big League ETA: 2014

Power will never be a big part of Muno’s game but he’s a switch-hitter who understands his strengths and weaknesses. He’s a smart base-runner who stole 19 bases in 22 attempts. He had a 0.94 BB/K rate and makes excellent contact. If Muno doesn’t make it as an everyday player, the California native has shown the ability to handle three infield positions so he could become a valuable part-time player off the bench.

MIAMI: Ron Miller, OF
How Acquired: 2012 10th round
Predicted 2013 Level: Short-season A-ball
In a Perfect World: An all-star outfielder
What Could Go Wrong: He’s so raw he could top out in A-ball
Big League ETA: 2017

Miller was referred to as an “under-the-radar, inner-city kid” who is a high-risk, high-reward player. The 19-year-old prospect played in 40 games during his debut and hit just .182 with six walks and 50 strikeouts. On the plus side, he flashed his raw power potential with 13 of his 24 hits going for extra bases. A prep third baseman, he split his time between the hot corner and first base during his debut. He’s expected to settle in at the latter position.

How Acquired: 2008 supplemental 1st round
Predicted 2013 Level: AA
In a Perfect World: He becomes a top-of-the-order catalyst
What Could Go Wrong: The development of his tools could plateau
Big League ETA: 2014

Originally signed in 2008 for more than $1 million, Collier’s career has been derailed by injuries and a suspension but he still flashes the potential that made him the 34th overall selection in the draft. He has above-average speed and defensive skills in center field. He also has a good idea at the plate and just needs to compile a full season worth of at-bats. Collier will look to use a strong Arizona Fall League (.993 OPS) as a catalyst to rejuvenate his pro career.

How Acquired: 2007 3rd round
Predicted 2013 Level: AA
In a Perfect World: A four- or five-tool hitter
What Could Go Wrong: He won’t make enough contact at triple-A
Big League ETA: 2014

When I asked around about a sleeper in the Nationals organization, I was surprised to hear Souza’s name. The former third round draft pick from the 2007 draft has battled through injuries, inconsistencies, maturity issues and a suspension. Still just 23 years old, he had a solid performance in 2012 — albeit at two A-ball levels. The 2013 season will be a huge test for him as he moves up to double-A. He may not hit for average at the big league level, but he’s flashed 15-15 or 20-20 (home run-stolen base) potential.

NL Central

How Acquired: 2009 18th round
Predicted 2013 Level: AA
In a Perfect World: A seventh- or eighth-inning reliever
What Could Go Wrong: May not bounce back from Tommy John surgery
Big League ETA: 2014

Beckman impressed the Pirates organization with a strong 2012 spring training but blew out his elbow after just one double-A appearance. I was told that the relief prospect “throws strikes, competes, and has a short memory.” He has a big, strong frame so he’ll hopefully be able to bounce back well from Tommy John surgery. The Texas native throws with a low-three-quarter, almost side-arm, slot. His fastball velocity fluctuated before surgery so it will be interesting to see how his stuff holds up in 2013.

How Acquired: 2009 3rd round
Predicted 2013 Level: AAA
In a Perfect World: A Tony Phillips style utility player
What Could Go Wrong: A lack of consistency/contact leads to triple-A career
Big League ETA: 2013

Prince’s name is familiar with anyone who follows the Arizona Fall League, after he hit more than .400 in 25 games. The 25-year-old Louisiana native had a modest season in 2012 at the double-A level and he posted an OPS of just .706 because he still swings and misses too much. His swing is geared to gap power but he walks a lot and has stolen more than 40 bases in two of his four pro seasons. Prince has three minor-league options remaining and can play just about anywhere in the field so he could be up-and-down between the majors and triple-A for the next three years — or until he assumes a permanent spot on the club.

ST. LOUIS: Tony (Anthony) Bryant, OF
How Acquired: 2010 16th round
Predicted 2013 Level: A-ball
In a Perfect World: He becomes a four- or five-tool player
What Could Go Wrong: The raw tools fail to translate to big-league success
Big League ETA: 2016

After hitting .186 and .208 in his first two pro seasons Bryant returned to rookie ball for a third go-around and finally started to tap into his raw tools. The outfielder turned 21 in January and needs to pick up the pace if he’s going to realize his full potential. A strong spring training could push him to full-season ball for the first time. A talent evaluator I spoke with said of Bryant, “He’s a big 6’3” kid with left-handed power… and may be the second fastest player in the [Cardinals] system.”

CINCINNATI: Seth Mejias-Brean, 3B
How Acquired: 2012 8th round
Predicted 2013 Level: A-ball
In a Perfect World: An all-star third baseman
What Could Go Wrong: His home-run power fails to develop
Big League ETA: 2015

Mejias-Brean’s name came up while speaking with talent evaluators both inside and outside the organization. He has the potential to develop into a plus defender at third base thanks to good actions and a strong arm. At the plate, he should for average, thanks to his patient approach and ability to make consistent contact. How much power Mejias-Brean, 22, will hit for remains in question, but he did show some pop in his debut (albeit in a good hitter’s league).

CHICAGO: Gioskar Amaya, 2B
How Acquired: 2009 international free agent
Predicted 2013 Level: A-ball
In a Perfect World: A starting second baseman and No. 2 hitter
What Could Go Wrong: His plate discipline doesn’t improve
Big League ETA: 2016

While watching higher-profile prospects with the Northwest League’s Boise Hawks late last season, Amaya caught my attention. The 20-year-old middle infielder is a potentially-plus fielder at second base and can handle shortstop in a pinch. He has a solid line-drive swing with gap power, and his speed is his best tool. With a little more polish he could develop into a top-of-the-order threat.

NL West

ARIZONA: Jake Lamb, 3B
How Acquired: 2012 6th round
Predicted 2013 Level: A+
In a Perfect World: An all-star third baseman
What Could Go Wrong: His swing may not work at upper levels
Big League ETA: 2015

I asked two people in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization to name a sleeper that could surprise a lot of people in 2013 and they both chose Lamb. The 2012 6th round pick is a strong defender at third base and his left-handed bat is starting to show signs of becoming average or better. What could ultimately determine his future potential is the development of his power tool, which currently projects as fringe-average to average for a third baseman. One of the contacts commented, “He has a chance to be an offensive corner infielder and a very good defender.”

SAN DIEGO: Matt Andriese
How Acquired: 2011 3rd round
Predicted 2013 Level: AA
In a Perfect World: An innings-eating No. 3 starter
What Could Go Wrong: An inability to handle tough left-handed hitters
Big League ETA: 2014

Andriese, 23, is one of my favorite arms in the Padres system because of his low-to-mid-90s velocity, ability to miss bats, and high ground-ball rates. At 6’3” 210 lbs, he has the frame of an innings-eater that could settle in as a middle-of-the-rotation starter if he can improve against tough left-handed batters and sharpen the overall command of his repertoire. At worst — assuming he stays healthy — Andriese should see time in the majors as a reliever or swing man.

SAN FRANCISCO: Stephen Johnson, RHP/Steven Okert, LHP/Ian Gardeck, RHP
How Acquired: 2012 6th rnd/2012 4th rnd/2012 16th rnd
Predicted 2013 Level: A-ball x 3
In a Perfect World: They become high-leverage relievers
What Could Go Wrong: Command/secondary pitches fail to develop
Big League ETA: 2015/2015/2016

Northwest League hitters were haunted by a three-headed beast on the Salem-Keizer squad in 2012. Stephen Johnson (2012 6th RND), Steven Okert (4th) and Ian Gardeck (16th) can all fire bullets in the mid-to-upper 90s. As one talent evaluator said, “When you got to the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, it was not fun. Those are three really good arms.”

Okert, the highest drafted of the trio, fires 92-96 mph heat from the left side with an above-average slider, and one talent evaluator referred to him as the “best pitcher” of the group. Johnson has the most pure velocity of the group and can dial his fastball up into the triple digits. Unfortunately, he has command issues and his secondary stuff needs a fair bit of work. Gardeck works in the 93-98 mph range with his fastball and features the best secondary pitcher of the group in a potentially-plus slider, but struggles with both his command and control.

COLORADO: Sam Mende, 3B
How Acquired: 2011 31st round
Predicted 2013 Level: A+
In a Perfect World: A second-division starter at third base
What Could Go Wrong: Washes out due to a lack of patience/power
Big League ETA: 2015

I stumbled across Mende in 2012 while watching the low-A Asheville Tourists play. He impressed me with his above-average defense at third base and overall athletic play. A college shortstop, he could probably handle all four infield positions at the big league level as a utility player if his bat doesn’t hold up. Now 23, Mende flashed gap power during his debut and likely won’t ever display the power that most teams covet from his best defensive position.

LOS ANGELES: Bobby Coyle, OF
How Acquired: 2010 10th round
Predicted 2013 Level: AA
In a Perfect World: A regular left-fielder
What Could Go Wrong: Lack of power makes him a ‘tweener
Big League ETA: 2014

Coyle, 24, has flashed above-average offensive potential from the left side of the plate since turning pro in 2010. Unfortunately he has limited defensive value as a future left-fielder and it might be a stretch to predict 15 home runs during a full season of at-bats at the big league level. Coyle, who struck out just 27 times in 69 games last season, could develop into a solid platoon big league outfielder or a dangerous bat off the bench.

Up Next: The American League Sleepers