Baseball Factory Alumni On Baseball America’s 2016 Top 10 Prospects List: A.L. Central
Baseball America has released their 2016 Top 10 Prospects Index which ranks each major league team’s top players as well as the team’s farm system overall and, again in 2016, many Baseball Factory alumni find themselves as top prospects heading into the season.
Players from across the country have attended Baseball Factory player events, ranging from Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryouts to the Under Armour All-America Game. A total of 82 Baseball Factory alumni across all 30 baseball teams make up the list in 2016.
Each Thursday, we’ll take a look at where our alumni stand according to Baseball America’s rankings, looking back at their Baseball Factory experience and what they’ve done so far during their professional careers.
Rankings are prioritized by Baseball America and numbered 1 through 10 for each team. We take a look at Baseball Factory’s alumni from the American League Central, where a total of 19 players land on this week’s list.
Chicago White Sox
Spencer Adams – RHP (BA’s Rank: #3)
Adams ranks third on BA’s list for the second straight year after winning 12 games in 2015. The second round selection out of White County High School in Cleveland, GA, pitched to the tune of a very impressive 2.99 ERA in a combined 129 1/3 innings pitched between A-ball Kannapolis and High-A Winston-Salem as a 19-year old. His 1.3 walk rate per nine innings ranked within the Top 15 (14th overall) among qualified minor league starters according to Baseball America.
The impressive right-hander attended the September 2012 Team One Futures Series East event, showing a good low 90’s fastball with good run. It was clear he had the arm strength to reach the pro level when our scouts saw him that weekend and that has been the case in his two years of professional ball. Adams features a three-pitch arsenal with a slider and a change-up to accompany his fastball.
Trey Michalczewski – 3B (BA’s Rank: #4)
The White Sox drafted Michalczewski in the seventh round of the ’13 Draft as the Jenks, OK native moves up four spots on BA’s list of White Sox prospects. The 6’3″ 210 pound corner infielder is multi-dimensional, bringing legit power to both sides of the plate and above-average talent to the hot corner.
Last season at Winston-Salem, Trey played 127 games for the Dash, hitting seven homers and driving in 75 to go along with 35 doubles. The power is there, more so from the left-hand side but struggled somewhat due to a back injury in mid-June that drained his power but looks to be healthy and ready to contribute at Double-A Birmingham at 21-years old. Defensively, he has a strong arm and good range to play and stick at third. Michalczewski attended our College PREP event in Oklahoma City OK in March of 2012 and impressed scouts and coaches with his ability to spray the ball to all fields.
Corey Zangari – 1B (BA’s Rank: #10)
Zangari, the team’s sixth round pick in 2015 out of Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, OK joined the rookie-level Arizona League ball club to start the season and hit .323 good for seventh in the league, to go along with 13 doubles, 6 homers and 40 RBI. Almost immediately, Zangari received a promotion to rookie-level Great Falls where he made a huge splash, going 2-for-4 in his first game.
The 2014 Under Armour All-American who showed as a power arm at the event with an upper 90’s fastball, made the transition to first base after being drafted to get the most of his impact bat.
Clint Frazier – OF (BA’s Rank: #2)
The Cleveland Indians are absolutely loaded with Baseball Factory talent, starting with the No. 2 prospect in the Indians system, jumping up a spot from last year’s list after a solid 2015 season.
Frazier played in 133 games at High-A Lynchburg, splitting most of his time between CF (93 starts) and RF (35 starts), recording 267 putouts in 276 chances with just six errors all season. His outstanding bat speed helped double his extra base hit category (doubles) from ’14 (18 to 36) as well as an increase in home runs (13 to 16), RBI (50 to 72) and walks (56 to 68). The Loganville, GA native gets it done on the bases, stealing 15 last season and that speed should allow him to stay in center to patrol that space for the foreseeable future.
Frazier, a 2012 Under Armour All-American, was named a 2015 All-Star with Lynchburg last year and played in the competitive Arizona Fall League just a few months ago where he hit .281 with an OPS of nearly .800 (.785). According to Baseball America, the Indians made adjustments at the plate with Clint, helping to quiet his stance and hands. He’s also gained more of an understanding at the plate of his approach to pitchers, all of which should bode well for him in 2016 as the organization will likely challenge him at Double-A Akron to see how he handles it.
Brady Aiken – LHP (BA’s Rank: #3)
Aiken gives the Indians a premium in baseball – a quality left-handed pitcher with a full arsenal and tons of potential. Despite not pitching at all in 2015, the Indians made Aiken the 17th overall selection in last year’s draft, one year after being drafted first overall by the Astros, though the 19-year old did not sign. He attended IMG Academy in Florida to pitch last season, but, unfortunately, had to leave his first start due to injury. It was found that Aiken needed Tommy John surgery and thus, began the long, grueling process of returning to the mound.
Pitching in the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game, Aiken touched the low 90s and featured a useful breaking ball that sat low 70s that he was able to throw for strikes in any count. Now, his full repertoire of pitches: mid 90s fastball, changeup, slider and a plus curveball that is his second-best pitch.
Back on track now heading into ’16, Aiken is healthy and throwing off flat ground as of last September according to Baseball America. They project he’ll reach short-season Mahoning Valley by season’s end.
Tyler Naquin – OF (BA’s Rank: #6)
Naquin sits at No. 6 on BA’s list for the second straight year after injuries derailed his 2014 season. He bounced back nicely in ’15, hitting an even .300 with 25 doubles, seven homers and 27 RBI in 84 games between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus.
The Indians like his ability to get on-base and cause havoc on the base paths with his above-average speed, seemingly a fit atop Cleveland’s lineup at some point in 2016. That time may come soon to get his opportunity as he was penciled into the Indians first spring training lineup this week. Naquin attended an Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout in Houston, TX in February, 2007.
Mike Clevinger – RHP (BA’s Rank: #7)
Clevinger was the Los Angeles Angels fourth round selection in 2011 out of Seminole Community College in Sanford, FL, but traded him to the Indians in August 2014 for Vinnie Pestano.
Coming out of nowhere to have a breakout season in 2015, Clevinger becomes a pitcher to watch in 2016 after going 9-8 with a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts (27 appearances) at Akron. In 158.0 innings pitched, he struck out 145 batters, leading all Cleveland minor leaguers in that category. He didn’t stop there, throwing 15 scoreless frames after a promotion to Columbus for their playoff run in the International League.
The native of Jacksonville, FL attended an Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout in nearby Lake City, FL in January of 2009 and was a highly sought-after prospect coming out of a big-time JuCo school at Seminole.
According to Baseball America, the right-hander sits mid-90s with his fastball with his slider being his second best pitch. After his successful run during the Clippers playoff run, Clevinger will likely begin 2016 there.
Triston McKenzie – RHP (BA’s Rank: #8)
Drafted out of Royal Palm Beach High School as the team’s supplemental first round selection (42nd overall) in 2015, the 6’5″ righty struck out an eye-opening 157 batters in just 91.0 innings during his senior season at Royal.
He faced tough competition as an upperclassmen at the Under Armour Fall Classic in 2013, the 2014 Under Armour Memorial Day Classic and the 2015 Under Armour Southeast Championships, where he ran a low-90s fastball that he commanded to both sides of the plate and a breaking ball that sat mid-70s with downward depth.
McKenzie won’t turn 19 until August and only pitched in four games last season with rookie-league Indians in the Arizona League, but struck out 17 batters in 12.0 innings with an 0.75 ERA. Baseball America projects he’ll move forward to Low-A Lake County in 2016.
Beau Burrows – RHP (BA’s Rank: #2)
The Tigers selected the right-hander 22nd overall from Weatherford High School in Weatherford, TX in last year’s Draft and he did not disappoint in Gulf Coast League action.
Poised with an extremely quick and electric arm, Burrows was impressive in 10 appearances after being drafted, making nine starts and pitching to a 1.61 ERA in 28.0 innings. The Tigers organization kept close tabs on Burrows, who never pitched more than three innings in any of his starts. He struck out 33 batters with a solid 1.04 WHIP, while holding opponents to a .184 average.
Burrows attended an Under Armour Baseball Factory National Tryout in Carrollton, TX in August 2012 and it was clear his skill-set would play well against high competition. In November of that year, he attended the highly-competitive Team One Futures Texas event where he pitched well with a fastball that sat low 90s. In August 2014, he was selected to the Under Armour All-America Game where he dazzled scouts with a mid-90s fastball who aggressively attacked hitters, also featuring a downer curve and quality change that he threw for strikes.
Now ready to take on his first full professional season, the Tigers are expecting big things from their highly-touted pitching prospect. It’s not exactly known yet where he’s begin 2016, whether at Low-A West Michigan or extended spring training in Lakeland, but the Tigers will assess and go from there as he progresses.
JaCoby Jones – SS (BA’s Rank: #5)
Jones was selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the third round of the 2013 MLB Draft and was traded to Detroit in the deal involving Joakim Soria near the trade deadline in 2015.
The former LSU standout who was a 2013 Second Team All-SEC selection, was a 2009 Under Armour All-American and showed that day as an exciting fast-twitch athlete with above-average speed and the ability to go to all fields with power. After his trade to Detroit, Jones played at Double-A Erie and hit .253 with 10 homers, 58 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 93 games.
He’ll likely start 2016 at Erie again, but so far in big league camp, Jones has already gone deep, hitting a home run on March 2nd.
Kevin Ziomek – LHP (BA’s Rank: #6)
Drafted out of Vanderbilt University in the second round of the 2013 Draft, the Springfield, Mass native pitched the entire 2015 season at Lakeland, putting up solid numbers and gaining experience in a full season’s work in the minors.
The lefty led the High-A Florida State League in strikeouts with 143 last season and made 27 starts, going 9-11 with a 3.43 ERA with opponents hitting .243 off him.
Ziomek is impressive with his pitching repertoire, mixing pitches and changing speeds with his four-pitch offering. At the October 2008 Under Armour Baseball Factory College PREP event in Trenton, NJ, Ziomek showed an upper-80s fastball, that at the time, was noted as near-pro ability. He sits low-90s, occasionally touching mid-90s with his fastball now and an above-average changeup as his main secondary offering.
This season, Ziomek should advance to Erie to build upon a solid 2015 campaign.
Spencer Turnbull – RHP (BA’s Rank: #10)
The power-pitching righty had a big year at West Michigan in 2015 and the Tigers will likely move him up a level to face better hitters and gain more experience.
Turnbull won 11 games last season, pitching to a 3.01 ERA with 106 strikeouts in 117.0 innings pitched, even more impressive he did not allow a home run to hitters in 2015, making him the only qualified minor league pitcher to hold that claim, according to Baseball America.
The Madison, MS native has always had an electric arm, unleashing an upper-80s fastball as a junior way back at the Team One South event in June, 2010. Now, the right-hander sits mid-90’s with a fastball that has reached upwards of 99 mph with hard, sinking action. Scouts believe he could be a starter, but may be more valuable as a power arm out of the bullpen.
Kansas City Royals
Bubba Starling – OF (BA’s Rank: #3)
Starling checks in at No. 3 on the defending World Series Champs Top Prospects list for 2016 and the former first round selection is ready to take the next step forward in 2016.
Drafted out of Gardner-Edgerton High School in Gardner, KS in 2011, Starling lowered his strikeout rate and drove the baseball at a better rate than ever before, hitting a combined .269 with 23 doubles, 12 homers and 44 RBI in 103 games between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Northwest Arkansas last season.
It’s a huge year for the 2010 Under Armour All-American who was added to the Royals 40-man roster last November, and can figure as a contributor for the Royals late in 2016 with his power potential and above-average glove in the outfield.
Ashe Russell – RHP (BA’s Rank: #6)
The Indianapolis native checks in at No. 6 after being selected with the 21st overall pick in last year’s Draft from Cathedral High School. One of the better overall arms in last year’s Draft, Russell, the 2014 Under Armour All-American made 11 starts at rookie-level Burlington, pitching to a 4.21 ERA and flashed a fastball that touched 97 mph last season.
The 2014 Gatorade Player of the Year in the state of Indiana showed a mid-90s fastball during All-America with late life to the pitch, eliciting a number of swing-and-misses.
Baseball America predicts that depending on how Russell performs this spring, it will determine his assignment for 2016 but could begin the season at Low-A Lexington.
Byron Buxton – OF (BA’s Rank: #1)
The No. 2 overall prospect according to Baseball America figures prominently on the Twins 25-man roster in 2016 after having a “cup of coffee” with Minnesota last season.
Bouncing back from some injuries the last few years, Buxton, the 2011 Under Armour All-American, jumped to Double-A Chattanooga to start 2015, hitting .283 with 12 triples, six homers, 37 RBI and 20 stolen bases. With his five-tool skill-set, the Twins promoted Byron to the majors on June 14th with a need in center field on the big league club. He had just 27 hits (two hits were homers) in 129 at-bats, but showed flashes at times why the Twins selected him first overall in 2012 with his plus-speed and natural ability in the outfield with plus-plus arm strength.
The Twins outfield situation is much clearer heading into 2016 and Buxton could be an opening day starter with a strong spring and the Twins believe he will with his ability at the plate, continuing his plate discipline and power to all fields. Scouts raved about his day during the All-America Game, noting his ability to “whistle the bat through the zone with ease” on a 93 mph inside fastball that he took to left field on a rocket for a hit. If he can do that again, he won’t see the minors in 2016.
Jose Berrios – RHP (BA’s Rank: #2)
It was a banner draft for the Twins who selected Jose 32nd overall in the 2012 MLB Draft out of Papa Juan High School in Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Berrios excelled in the 2011 Under Armour All-America Game with a fastball ranging from 90-93 with good arm-side run and a slurvish-breaking ball that sat upper-70s with big action across and down in the zone.
Berrios should be in the mix for a rotation spot this spring after a 2015 that saw him pitch well at Chattanooga and even better at Triple-A Rochester after promotion. Overall, he went 14-5 with a 2.87 ERA with 175 strikeouts (led all of the minors) in 166 1/3 innings. He pitched to a 2.85 ERA at Rochester amd was named Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the second consecutive season as well as the starter for the World team at the Futures Game in Cincinnati during All-Star Week.
Nick Gordon – SS (BA’s Rank: #4)
Part of a tremendous bloodline of major league talent, Nick Gordon is the next player from the Gordon family ready to make an impact on a major league club. Drafted in the first round (fifth overall) in 2014 out of Olympia High School in Orlando, FL, Gordon played his first full season of professional ball, starting 118 games at short stop for Low-A Cedar Rapids and excelled defensively, being named the Midwest League’s best defensive shortstop by managers in 2015.
Nick hit .277 with seven triples, 58 RBI and stole 25 bases while walking 39 times, displaying nice plate discipline and a .763 OPS after the All-Star break.
He can pick it defensively and makes all of the plays with his above-average arm, and we saw that during his time with the Factory, beginning with his first event at the 2012 Team One Futures East showcase where he showed as a pitcher. By the time he was a 2013 Under Armour All-American, he may have been the best player at the game, going 3-for-4, driving in two runs, stealing a base and scoring a run.
Gordon figures to start at High-A Fort Myers to get 2016 underway, but he may not stay there long if he continues to blossom.
Kohl Stewart – RHP (BA’s Rank: #8)
The Twins are loaded with talented pitching in their farm system and Stewart is one of them with his low-90s fastball that he can crank up to 96 mph at times. He also uses a mid-80s slider and an effective 12-to-6 curveball to go along with a changeup that shows good sink and fade.
Stewart was the Twins first round selection (4th overall) in 2013 and last season spent the entire year in Fort Myers where he made 22 starts, going 7-8 with a 3.20 ERA in 129.0 innings. Stewart attended an Under Armour Baseball Factory College PREP event in Houston, TX in February, 2012. In high school, Stewart was a legit two-way athlete who had a scholarship to play quarterback at Texas A&M, but opted for baseball instead. Football wasn’t too far away though, after a shoulder injury cost him a month of playing time in 2014, he used a football-throwing program to help in the rehab process for 2015.
Fully healthy now, Stewart will likely open ’16 atop the rotation at Chattanooga.
Nick Burdi – RHP (BA’s Rank: #10)
Burdi was the Twins second round selection in 2014 out of the University of Louisville, spending 2015 between Chattanooga and Fort Myers. The 2010 Under Armour All-American started the year at Chattanooga, running into a rough patch before going to Fort Myers to smooth out his delivery and focus on his command and the results showed greatly, evidenced by his 1.77 ERA over 20 innings to end the season.
Burdi is special because his stuff misses bats, with a high-90s fastball and a devastating slider that sits high-80s and can be thrown early for strikes. Burdi continued to show why the Twins are so high on him, striking out 11 batters in just 8.0 innings pitched. He could see the major leagues this season, according to Baseball America, as the Twins look to build their bullpen with power-capable strikeout machines.