State College Spikes
New York-Penn League Champions
Three Year Park Factor: 101 (Neutral)
Player of the Year:
Rowan Wick, 21, RF
Wick only spent half the season with the Spikes, but he put up absolute cartoon numbers while he was there, posting a very Bondsian line over 141 PA's: .475 OBP, .437 ISO, and 14 homers. He struggled upon promotion to Peoria, with his strikeout rate ballooning to 38.2% over the second half of the year, but suffice to say this is one of the only high upside bats the Cardinals have above rookie ball, and one with a decent amount of tools to go along with it.
Wick has fantastic raw power, a great arm, fields his position fairly well for having just moved there from behind the plate. The question for him will be whether he can make enough contact as he faces better pitching to put all that raw power into play. He belted 6 homers at Peoria but did little else, so the jury is still out. Keep in mind, however, that the pitching in the Midwest League was very good last year, so it's possible Wick just ran into a bad situation for his first taste of full season ball.
I think he's likely underrated as a prospect due that low contact rate and I am always skeptical of big power/low contact hitters in the minors. Wick doesn't have as much raw talent as someone like Joey Gallo, but if he starts the year well at Peoria next year he could creep on to some midseason lists, mostly due to the lack of anyone in front of him to slow his progress.
Players of Note:
Andrew Sohn, SS, 21
The 195th pick in the 2014 draft out of Western Michigan, Sohn was having a solid rookie season in pro ball before having his season cut short due to injury. He hit .324/.405/.486 with a .162 ISO -- that's good for a .479 wOBA in his 43 PA's. Sohn's experience in wooden bat leagues during his college offseasons likely contributed to his quick adjustment.
Considering all the high ceiling talent at the SS position in the Cardinals minor league system, it's easy to overlook Sohn, a college junior eligible player from a solid Western Michigan baseball program, and someone who may have flown under the radar a bit by playing in a smaller conference in the Midwest and not doing much barnstorming around the country prior to college. I've yet to see him in person, but scouting reports are fairly favorable -- definitely a guy to watch as he moves into full season leagues in 2015.
Nick Thompson, OF, 21
Another 2014 draftee out of college (and one who's already earned a degree in biochemistry and is working on a master's degree in biology from William & Mary), Thompson was a key cog in the Spikes' championship run, hitting .282/.396/.410. He's found success at two different schools, transferring before his final college season after earning his degree at East Carolina, and probably has the highest IQ of any player in the Cardinal minor league system.
How those smarts translate to the baseball diamond is anyone's guess, but it's nice to see an under slot signee do this well in low-A to start his career. Lots of talent in front of him in the minor league system, so he's really going to have to hit to make any headway.
Darren Seferina, 2B, 20
Imagine a poor man's Kolten Wong with 70 grade speed? That's Darren Seferina. High contact hitter that puts the ball in play, walks a fair amount and swiped 20 bags at an 80% success rate. He'll likely never have Wong's elite hit tool or power potential, but as a speedy, solid defender, Seferina is the type of player who will have some value to the club at some point even if it's just as a utility guy, provided his bat-to-ball ability can translate against better pitchers. He'll live by his BABIP most likely, and the .383 average on balls in play last season is a little scary given his complete lack of power and just a .294 batting average to go along with it.
Still, the tools are intriguing, so I'm putting him on my list, especially given that he's two years younger than most players in the Penn League and will likely start full season ball this spring.
Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, 22
After being drafted for the 4th time by 4 different clubs, Poncedeleon finally got a chance to pitch as a pro this year and was impressive: 1.87 FIP, 2.44 ERA, and a 28.4% K-rate with 52 strikeouts in just 44 innings of work. After messy situation with the Cubs regarding a physical a year ago, which cost him his eligibility for a senior season at Houston, Poncedeleon (great name, right?) made the most of it pitching for NAIA Embry-Riddle to keep his pro baseball dreams alive. He spoke about his road to the pros with Redbird Rants back in June.
Recently departed scouting director Dan Kantrovitz loves Poncedeleon's stuff, as he told Rick Hummel earlier this year:
Poncedeleon also was at the recent Jupiter camp, displaying what Kantrovitz called a "nasty, sinking fastball at 92 to 95 and a cutter in the upper 80s. I don’t think he could throw a straight fastball if he tried.
"He’s got an outstanding slider and an above average changeup and he’s got a chance to move quick if he stays healthy."
At worst, he's probably a candidate for a middle relief role if healthy. At best he's a much cheaper version of Luke Weaver, who the Cardinals took in the first round in June, and he couldn't be in a better organization in terms of developing as a pitcher and moving quickly through the minors. This could be the next Cooney or Petrick -- a starting pitcher who moves two to three levels in a single minor league season.
The 2014 Spikes were built almost entirely around the middle rounds of the 2014 draft. Senior signees taken in the latter part of the bonus pool rounds, like Danny Diekroeger (another Stanford bat!) and Daniel Poncedeleon, paired with some high ceiling talent already in the organization like Wick, Will Anderson, and Alex DeLeon.
Of the players here I'm highest on Sohn and Poncedeleon as players that could potentially help the big league club in the near term as they are the players with the most polished set of skills for their positions. Wick is a big question mark, but one that could turn out to be a real diamond in the rough should he be able to get his strikeouts under control.
Next week I'll be wrapping up the season reviews for the minor league clubs as well as talking prospects and all things farm system with Overlord Humphrey on the VivaElBirdos podcast.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.