Had lunch with Seth Stohs earlier this week when we talked a lot about the minor leagues. One question that keeps coming up in a lot of these discussions and frequently on this and other sites is how to evaluate the top players playing each year at Elizabethton?
The ETon Twins have either won or played in the league championship game during each of the last four seasons. Each year there are several players that finish their Appy season amongst the best in the league with very gaudy numbers. Yet, the Appy League is a short season rookie league with rosters that include several of the best current season college draft picks together with players earning promotions from the GCL Twins (usually previous year high school draft picks and the cream of the crop from the Dominican Summer League who had success in the GCL the previous year). I will try to take a look at how these players have progressed from the 2005 and 2006 teams.
The highest average in 2005 was Steve Tolleson/Draft 5th Round-2005/21 years old in 2005 (.321/.457/.422, 2HR, 56 ab) before moving up to Beloit (.176/.311/.284, 3HR, 102ab), earning him my year end ranking of #45. In 2006 Tolleson was the 28th ranked player beginning at Beloit (.287/.390/.392, 2HR, 171ab) before moving up to Ft. Myers (.268/.353/.408, 4HR, 157ab). Tolleson spent all of 2007 at Ft. Myers(.285/.388/.382, 5HR, 27sb, 487ab) moving up to #20. Although he had a stay on the DL, Tolleson had a break out season at New Britain in 2008 (.300/.382/.466, 9HR, 12sb, 343ab), moving up to the #8 spot in my post-season rankings. Juan Portes/D15-2004/19 (.286/.349/.494, 12HR, 245ab) was the highest ranked Elizabethton player in 2005 at #8. Portes moved up to Beloit in 2006 where he battled injuries all season (.231/.278/.310, 2HR, 268ab), dropping to #66. Last year Portes moved up to Ft. Myers where he improved (.269/.338/.410, 12HR, 495ab), ranking #27. This season Portes returned to Ft. Myers (.270/.319/.395, 12 HR, 456ab), dropping two spots to #29. Erik Lis/D9-2005/21 also had a big rookie season (.315/.356/.577, 10HR, 168ab) ranking #15 in 2005. Lis also moved up to Beloit in 2006 where he was their top hitter (.326/.402/.547, 15HR, 411ab), ranking #5. In 2007 Lis took another step up to Ft. Myers (.274/.334/.470, 18HR, 492ab), ranking #8. Lis is another player who lost part of this season to injury while at New Britain (.277/.318/.462, 11HR, 405ab), dropping to #21 in this season's rankings.
The top hitter at Elizabethton in 2006 was Steven Singleton/D11-2006/20 (.340/.368/.556, 4HR, 144ab), earning the #54 ranking. Steve moved up to Beloit in 2007 (.271/.294/.346, 2HR, 383ab), ranking #62. This season was Singleton's break-out year beginning at Beloit (.302/.348/.421, 6HR, 235ab) and then at Ft. Myers (.295/.371/.452, 5HR, 241ab), moving up to the #18 ranking in 2008. The 2006 Elizabethton rookie class also included Danny Valencia/D19-2006/21 (.311/.365/.505, 8HR, 190ab), breaking the 2006 Top 20 at #20. In 2007 Valencia was the top hitter in Beloit (.302/.374/.500, 11HR, 242ab) before a promotion to Ft. Myers (.291/.332/.422, 6HR, 230ab) which was good enough for a #12 ranking. This season Valencia led the FSL in hitting at the break (.336/.402/.518, 5HR, 220ab), then moved up to New Britain where he hit very well following the first few weeks (.289/.334/.485, 10HR, 266ab) which moved Valencia up to the #6 spot this year. Garrett Olson/D4-2006/21 was the #56 ranked player (.313/.396/.381, 0HR, 176ab) in 2006. The following year Olson slipped to #69 at Beloit (.219/.281/.310, 6HR, 416). This season Olson began back at Beloit (.247/.297/.368, 5HR, 247ab) before moving up to Ft. Myers (.201/.249/.258, 2HR, 209ab), ranking #55.
In 2005, Tolleson and Lis had big years at Elizabethton, ranking #45 and #15, respectively. Portes also had a very good year as a former high school draft pick, ranking the highest at #8. In 2006, Singleton, Valencia and Olson all had excellent seasons for the Appy League Twins, ranking #54, #20 and #56, respectively. As we move forward to 2008, Lis, Tolleson and Valencia have all progressed to New Britain, each playing very well. Singleton also has progressed with an excellent 2008 split between Beloit and Ft. Myers. Portes is still young, however, has not progressed as quickly as Lis, Tolleson and Valencia who all were college selections. Olson is a solid player who hasn't put up gaudy numbers at the plate since his rookie season at ETon.
What does this tell us? It appears to me that a player putting up big numbers at Elizabethton with a Top 20-25 ranking should have the potential to continue moving up the ladder toward the Twins. As I look at this season's rankings, the top ranked players from Elizabethton were Angel Morales/D3-2007/18 (.301/.413/.623, 15HR, 183ab) ranked at #19, Evan Bigley/D10-2008/21 (.300/.360/.587, 14HR, 213ab), ranked #30, Alex Soto/ndfa/21 (.276/.344/.621, 20HR, 116ab) ranked #34, and Jonathan Waltenbury/D7-2006/20 (.319/.382/.540, 10HR, 253ab), ranked #35. Morales was ranked very high and the players that preceded him would indicate that he should continue as a very good player as he advances through the system all the way to the Twins. It is less clear for Bigley, Soto and Waltenbury, however, there is an excellent chance that one of two will also develope into solid players in the higher levels of the system.