After a successful 2011 season in low-A ball, Cole was one of the prospects packaged up in a deal between Washington and Oakland that saw Gio Gonzalez head to the Nationals. Cole, a 20-year-old starting pitcher, was originally assigned to high-A ball to start the 2012 season but he’s since been moved back down to low-A, where he spent the ’11 season. The right-hander posted a 7.82 ERA in 38.0 innings in the California League. He walked just 10 batters but allowed 60 hits and seven home runs. In his first start back in low-A, Cole gave up eight runs (five earned) on 12 hits in 5.0 innings. Clearly the struggles in Stockton messed with his head so it may be some time before he irons out his game. Despite the hiccup in his career, Cole remains healthy and has a high ceiling. He’s just going to need a little longer to develop than expected.
Gose, 21, is among the Top 5 youngest players in the Pacific Coast League so you can excuse him for getting off to a slow start in 2012. The uber-toolsy outfielder has raised his batting average up to .272, along with a wRC+ of 101, after finishing April with a .216 average, 33 Ks in 24 games, and an OPS of .583). He’s hitting .337 in May with 10 extra base hits and is a perfect 9-for-9 in steals. On the down side, the left-handed hitter is batting just .146 versus southpaws and his strikeout rate is still around 23%. Gose will probably always strike out a lot but he has the chance to be the best defense outfielder in the game (a bold statement), steal 40-50 bases and provide a little pop. Toronto fans will be forever bitter over losing ace Roy Halladay but that trade* with Philadelphia has a chance to go down as the spark that helped ignite another run of playoff-caliber Blue Jays teams – if both Gose and Travis d’Arnaud reach their immense ceilings.
*Gose was not directly acquired in that deal (He was with the Phillies organization at the time but they refused to include him) but fellow outfielder Michael Taylor was, who was flipped to Oakland for 1B/3B Brett Wallace, who was later sent to Houston for Gose (who had gone from Philly to Houston in the Roy Oswalt deal).
Danny Hultzen‘s battery-mate at the University of Virginia, Hicks was selected three rounds after the Mariners’ first round pick from the 2011 amateur draft. The catcher did not move behind the plate on a regular basis until his final year of college but he’s made nice strides and could develop into an average receiver in time. He receives top marks for his leadership and he has an above-average arm that results in excellent caught-stealing rates (44% for his career so far). An aggressive hitter, Hicks has a nice line-drive swing and has hit above .300 in his career but his 2012 numbers have been aided by his environment (high-A California League). He projects to be an average to slight-above-average hitter for a catcher (The bar is low). The Mariners organization has struggled to develop catchers in the past but Hicks, 22, is quietly becoming a prospect to watch.
I ranked Lee very aggressively on the Top 100 list prior to the 2012 season and he’s let me down a bit. The South Korea native has all the ingredients to make an all-star shortstop – speed, excellent hand-eye coordination, line-drive swing, strong arm, plus defense – but he’s struggled at double-A. Still quite young for his league, the 21-year-old Lee has been painfully inconsistent and is swinging-and-missing a lot more than usual. The left-handed hitter has also struggled to hit southpaws (.536 OPS vs LHP, .650 vs RHP). Lee needs to slow the game down and get back to basics; he’s been pressing lately and his numbers have been even worse in May. Because he’s so young there is no need to panic just yet.
There is probably no other team in baseball that is as embarrassingly rich at the shortstop position than the Texas Rangers, who already features an all-star-caliber, young shortstop at the position at the big league level in Elvis Andrus. The organization also has Jurickson Profar, Luis Sardinas and Odor who was drafted as a shortstop but has moved to the keystone due to the depth ahead of him. The Venezuela native is holding his own in low-A ball with a wRC+ of 119 at the age of 18. He handles the bat extremely well and has a strikeout rate of just 15.7%. Odor is also showing surprising pop with an ISO rate of .195 and six home runs in his first 40 games. He has a chance to be an above-average fielder at second base.
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