Today's segment of the Top 50 is where we begin to see more players who combine upside with higher levels of past performance. Therefore it's no surprise that we're starting to see numerous players who are already on the 40-man roster, and others who will likely be added soon.
In case you're just tuning in, be sure to to catch up on groups #50-41 and #40-31 from earlier this week. Now onto the next group of prospects (NOTE - I know I already gave you a 30 yesterday, I miscounted -- so you get an extra prospect):
The 2011 third rounder has the type of polished college repertoire to dice up lower level hitters by hitting every spot with all three of his pitches -- and he did just that in 2012. But while his stock ticks up based on very strong results in his debut, the main sticking point here is that Verrett saw his strikeout rate plummet from above nine in Savannah down to just over six for St. Lucie. While he showcased more velocity on his low 90's fastball than was expected, Verrett is still shorter on stuff for a right-handed starter -- and strikeout attrition before Double-A is not a great sign. The ceiling is still a back-end starter, but an eventual move to the bullpen is certainly foreseeable.
29. RHP Tyler Pill
In his first full season the 2011 fourth rounder from Cal. State-Fullerton took a step forward in terms of missing bats, posting a strikeouts per nine mark of 8.4 between Savannah and St. Lucie. This is important for Pill as he does not currently possess the kind of stuff to comfortably project as a major league starter. Namely, his high-80s, low-90s heat from the right side just doesn't give him much margin for error -- nor does it profile well in relief. Now as we've seen with guys like Dillon Gee and Collin McHugh, it can work -- but only if Pill can maintain his pinpoint command and continue to refine his already strong secondary offerings.
Of all the Brooklyn starters, none was more successful in 2012 — or perhaps unexpected — than Robles. The 22-year-old led the NYPL in ERA (1.11) and placed top three in FIP (1.86), BB/9 (1.06), and opponent average (.184). The strong-armed righty allowed more than one earned run just once in twelve starts and finished the season by allowing zero earned over his final 45 innings. A smallish/stocky build (5'11", 185 lbs) allows him to very effectively repeat his delivery -- however it also leads some to see a reliever long-term. Either way, a mid-90's fastball as part of a solid four-pitch mix will play in the bigs -- as evidenced by his surprising addition to the 40-man this winter.
27. OF Cesar Puello
So-so 2012 campaign for the 21-year-old as he battled injuries for much of it -- something that is becoming a serious concern. When he was on the field, he played moderately well, posting a career-high .163 ISO and stealing bases much more effectively. However, the plate discipline is still awful; his walk rate dropped to a career-low 2.8% while the strikeouts jumped to an alarming 23%. Despite excellent all-around tools, Puello does not have the kind of hit tool to absorb such a glaring deficiency -- which means he'll have to make enormous strides if we're ever to believe he can have prolonged success in Double-A, let alone the majors. He's still young, but not so young that we can continue overlooking the major issues with plate discipline -- not to mention injuries -- that threaten to stall his development.
26. OF Vicente Lupo
Lupo is quickly becoming one of the more buzzed-about names in the Mets system after a 2012 campaign where he posted straight-up video game numbers. Obviously stat lines from the DSL -- or any short-season level -- are taken with a grain of salt; however it's hard to ignore the combination of outstanding power, patience, and raw hitting ability he featured in posting a 1.108 OPS with more walks than strikeouts (46:45). The just-turned 19-year-old Venezuelan possesses some speed, though he profiles as a corner outfielder thanks to a stocky, 6'0", 180 lbs build. Either way, scouts are very high on his offensive potential and if he can approximate that performance in a stateside league, he'll fly up this ranking in 2013.
25. 2B Danny Muno
Despite being suspended for 50 games after testing positive for anabolic steroids, the 2011 eighth rounder's profile really doesn't change much in the wake of his 2012 season. As expected, he shifted off of short for good and still looks like a solid bet as a cheap utility infielder who makes a lot of contact, gets on base a ton and steals some bases (I say cheap because he signed for a ridiculous $10,000). His true test will come in Double-A as we already knew his plate discipline was advanced beyond High-A — his 13.7% walk rate in 2012 was third-best among qualified FSL hitters.
24. OF Juan Lagares
Despite quite different results, the 23-year old Lagares wasn't a drastically different player than the version that hit .350 in '11. Very similar strikeout rate (17%), similarly improving walk rate (6.8%) and good speed on the basepaths (21 sb's). Now a few more homers dropped in for doubles this season, but the main difference was a drop in BABIP from an unsustainable .399 mark in 2011 down to .337 in 2012 -- much more in line with his .329 career mark. Not to mention improved defensive play in his new home in center. In fact, after playing the majority of his games in center in 2012, that storyline will be the key for Lagares' prospect stock going forward. While he's shown the ability to hit some against advanced pitching, he doesn't feature a corner outfield profile due to a lack of home run power.
23. OF Cory Vaughn
Despite a strong skillset and a major league toolbag there are reasons to pause when discussing the 23-year-old outfielder. Most notably, his .236 career average at High-A. Additionally, his strikeout rate continues to reside well above 20%. Vaughn's other rate stats remain strong: The .219 ISO in 2012 is outstanding, as is the 12% walk rate. All in all, Vaughn seemingly possesses all of the tools needed to project a major league career — from a top tier power/speed mix to a strong eye at the dish — except for perhaps the most important one: his hit tool. Without some major improvement in that area, he just doesn't consistently barrel the ball enough to project as a guy who'll ever hit for much average at the highest levels.
After posting an outstanding 13.88 strikeouts per nine in Savannah in '11, the 22-year old lefty led all qualified Florida State League pitchers with an eye-popping 14.25 mark for St. Lucie in 2012. However, the major difference between the seasons was his overall effectiveness, as he was far more hittable in '12 and even surrendered the first three homers of his career. Now his overall numbers still weren't bad -- subbing out that ugly ERA 4+ with a 2.66 FIP. But the question here is that for a guy known less for his stuff and more for his deceptive delivery, can he make those swing-and-misses translate to the highest levels?
21. SS Phillip Evans
The 20-year-old '11 15th-round steal showed a lot of the skills that excited people following the draft, including good pull-side strength, good contact skills (14.6 K%), and an excellent eye (9.4 BB%) -- not to mention solid enough range (for now) and plenty of the arm strength needed to stick at short. Going forward he's going to have to not only smooth out the peaks and valleys he experienced this year, but he'll have to translate the strength in his stout frame into more extra-base hits—he had only 14 in 73 games. Additionally, he'll have to find a way to take advantage of the right side of the field, as he's been almost entirely a pull hitter to this point.
Check back tomorrow as we get into the top 20. Also, be sure to take part in the ongoing AA community prospect rankings going on currently in the FanPosts section.