We kick off the National League today as we continue our series looking at disappointing seasons from prospects ranked on the pre-season 2011 FanGraphs Top 10 prospect lists. We’ve already taken a look at the American League: East, Central, and West.
Drafted 35th overall in 2010, Lipka’s first full season was disappointing. A natural shortstop, Lipka worked very hard at the position in 2011 in the hopes of remaining there despite projects that he would need to move to the outfield. He had a decent year splitting time between shortstop and second base but the club made the decision to move him to center field during Instructional League after the ’11 season concluded – mostly due to organizational need. Hopefully the move out of the infield will jump-start Lipka’s bat. He posted a wOBA of just .283 at low-A in 2011. His triple-slash line was .247/.305/.304 in 530 at-bats. He didn’t hit for average or power (.057 ISO). He stole 28 bases but showed he needs to sharpen his base running skills by getting nabbed 14 times. Still just 19, Lipka has plenty of time to develop as hoped.
This is a tough decision given that the list lost three players in a trade with Houston (Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and Domingo Santana) and the remaining prospects actually performed quite well as a whole. So I’m going to pick on Altherr, who could still end up on the club’s Top 10 list for 2012 because the system is so thin. The outfielder still has youth on his side but he hasn’t lit the world on fire despite spending parts of three seasons in short-season ball. The 20-year-old actually began the year in low-A ball but posted a .274 wOBA and was generally over-matched. Brought back to short-season ball in June, the athletic outfielder showed signs of life with a .332 wOBA and 25 steals in 71 games. His strikeout rate also dropped from 28.8 to 17.6 K%. Altherr will have work to do in 2012 to avoid joining a group of disappointing outfield draft picks that includes Greg Golson, Zach Collier, and Anthony Hewitt.
Urbina was a big ticket signee out of Latin America for the Mets and is the son of former big league closer Ugueth Urbina. The young southpaw doesn’t possess the same explosive stuff that his father did, although he’s shown flashes of promise with his repertoire in the past. His stuff, as well as his results, took a step back in 2011 in rookie ball. Although he was repeating the level, Urbina is still just 18 years old so there isn’t a need to get too excited about his regression. His FIP sat at 4.83 (5.95 ERA) and his BABIP-allowed was high at .341. He produced some decent rate stats with a strikeout rate of 7.88 K/9 and a walk rate of 3.21 BB/9. Currently, his command is not as good as his control (He was also helped by overly aggressive young hitters swinging at too many pitches out of the strike zone).
A former No. 1 draft pick, Skipworth has really never hit as a pro. He showed a brief flash of breaking out of his funk with a .332 wOBA after repeating low-A in 2010. He also showed the best power output of his career (.176 ISO) with 17 homers in 397 at-bats. Skipped over high-A ball (for no good reason), Skipworth was then overwhelmed in ’11 at double-A. His wOBA slumped to .268 and his strikeout rate hit a dangerously-high 32.9 K%. He’s a decent defensive player but at this point his bat probably won’t play at the MLB level – even as a back-up. The organization might want to consider sliding him back down to high-A ball in 2012 to try and help him achieve some traction. With such a thin, disappointing system (made even worse by the Ozzie Guillen trade) and low budgets, the organization really cannot afford to see its top prospects washout like this.
There weren’t many analysts that had Ramirez ranked as high as I did entering 2011 and he didn’t do me any favors by regressing badly. He made my Top 10 list because A) I bought into the improvements shown with the bat in ’10, and B) I wasn’t overly enamored with the other prospects in the system so I went with a sleeper (who suffered from narcolepsy in ’11). Moved up to high-A ball at the beginning of the year, Ramirez posted a wOBA of .283 and his power dried up (ISO from .174 in ’10 to .119 in ’11). The outfielder will need to recover quickly in 2012 because he’s a one-trick pony as an offensive-minded prospect. His defence is questionable in the outfield and his fluctuating power may not be sufficient for first base. The good news for the Nationals organization is that its system improved significantly in 2011 and Ramirez lack of development does not hurt nearly as much as it would have a few years ago. It also allows the club time to be patient with his development.