The Stevedore Apprentice Program: Canton Longshoremen Top 25 Prospects

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Updated: August 22, 2015

The Stevedore Apprentice Program

Written by Stevedores_Fan_Bob, Special to The Record

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Time flies.  This is the fourth edition of The Stevedore Apprentice Program, the now-annual list of the not-yet-proud organization’s Top 25 Prospects, and a look back at how last year’s list performed.  At the PEBA level, 2021 was a decided step forward for the franchise, as the Longshoremen shook off a rough April start to record the second best win total in franchise history, at 79-83, while graduating several players from a farm system that was ranked 6th in all of PEBA at the season’s start.

As usual, this review of the Canton Longshoremen organization is a joint effort of The (Canton) Record and StevedoresFan.com, the preeminent fan blog of your Canton Longshoremen. The rankings are compiled from an array of votes taken by an anonymous panel consisting of members of the local and national press, PEBA scouts from several franchises, and performance analysts. Narratives and analysis were written by the StevedoresFan.com staff.

The Top 25

#1 SS Gonzalo Gonzalez (previously #1) – Two things stand out as TSAP names its first repeat top prospect: (1) Hey, we were right last year, and (2) Man, the Longshoremen were patient with this Faberge egg.  On the field, GG shone again, starting the season with a short 326/461/404 stint in AAA, and making the most of a late May call-up to AAA Allentown, hitting 310/376/428 and leading the Falcons to the second playoff round, where he hit 333/459/633 in 30 post-season plate appearances.  Along the way, he had a 32-game hitting streak and played plus defense at both SS and 2B.

ETA – Opening Day 2022, perhaps as the starting SS in Canton.

Upside – Top-to-middle of the order hitter, All-Leather SS, perennial All-Star; fringe Hall of Fame candidate if he continues to develop.

Risks to projection – Critics would say that Gonzalez has not yet flashed elite power or glovework.  At 22, lots can happen good or bad.  Some observers think that the successful, but injury-shortened rookie season of John Barker may have bought Gonzalez some needed additional development time.

#2 SP Alfonso Romero (previously #5) – Mission accomplished – after learning a curveball last winter, the 23-year old dominated both of the upper levels of the minors in 2021.  He went 13-4 in 27 starts split almost evenly between Youngstown and Allentown, with ERAs of 3.84 in AA and 2.76 in AAA. He struck out more than a batter an inning at each level, but has yet to average 6 innings per start at any level.  The stuff is unquestioned now, with three true out pitches, but control is a nagging concern, as Romero continues to walk 3+ batters per game.

ETA – 2023, although need could dictate a quicker arrival.

Upside – An ace-quality starter who doesn’t have the ability to go deep into games thanks to a lack of stamina.

Risks to projection – Stamina becomes a true stumbling block; he doesn’t hone his control any further.

#3 SP/RF Juan Márquez (previously #3) – Two seasons in a row at the high minors where you contribute from the mound, the plate, and in the outfield is unprecedented.  That’s the unchartered territory that Juan Marquez negotiated in 2021: 264/335/468 with 8 HR in 250 AB and a 10-6 record on the hill with a 4.03 ERA may seem pedestrian, but that’s 4.2 WAR of value without taking into account the defensive value of a player with All-Leather ability in a corner outfield spot.  Marquez got the vast majority of his 2021 at bats as a designated hitter in a nod to the difficulty of developing as a two-way player.  At 25, Marquez is on the cusp of making history as PEBA’s first accomplished two-way player.

ETA – September call-up in 2022.

Upside – His AAA stats weren’t eye-popping, except when taken in context.  Most observers feel that his best use in PEBA would be as a slugging corner outfielder.  The Longshoremen’s greatest need, however, is on the mound, as their outfield at the PEBA level is deep and talented.  Don’t be surprised to see Marquez get one more year at AAA, but this time with his development time skewed more heavily to OF and less to the mound.  A 450 AB, 15 games started split rather than 2021’s 250 AB, 25 games started split would be a possibility.

Risks to projection – Myriad, as no two-way player has ever achieved the success that Marquez has in such a high level of the minors, much less PEBA.

#4 1B Nicholas Carr (previously #19) – Not much has changed from what we said a year ago – Carr is still more projection than performance.  So why the jump from #19 in the organization to #4? Age and level matter, and a 23 year old potential slugger who hits 295/356/432 in AA is a better prospect than a 22 year who hits 286/373/422 in A-ball, superficial statistical similarities notwithstanding.  That jump from A to AA is a big one, and Carr went from being roughly the average age at full season-A to being young for the AA level.  A deeper look shows a prospect with the potential to receive hosannas from traditional talent evaluators and sabermetricians alike.  Carr’s walk rate held up reasonably well with the promotion (8.6% in AA, 11% in A), and his strikeout rate actually declined (16.1% to 14.6%).  Of course, none of that will matter if Carr’s power doesn’t develop.  Despite impressive exit velocities, Carr has only hit 13 homers in roughly 440 at bats in each of the last two seasons.

ETA – 2023, with an outside chance at a September 2022 call-up.

Upside – A “boring” .300, 25 HR first basemen who will touch 400 OBPs from time-to-time.

Risks to projection – The power never develops as scouts think it should; empty-average first basemen aren’t prospects.

#5 LF Bill Carter  (previously #12) – The third time in A-ball was the charm for Carter, who returns to the top 10 after a one-year hiatus (he was #8 at the end of the 2019 season).  A startlingly slow mover for a 1st round draft pick out of college, Carter’s career finally caught fire with a 320/394/503 campaign.  A potential 4-tool outfielder (his defense projects to be adequate at best), Carter’s power is a better bet to develop than Carr’s – he hit 42 doubles, 5 triples, and 13 homers this season.  What was in question until this year was whether Carter would ever make consistent hard contact.

ETA – 2024, although given the Longshoremen’s crowded organizational corner outfield depth chart, Carter could be trade bait.

Upside – A perennial 6 WAR player who could challenge for batting titles; some scouts see a lot of similarities with the Peyton Bishop development path.

Risks to projection – Carter stumbles in the high minors, repeating his first two disappointing years in Middle Bass.

#6 LF Jose Perez (previously not in the organization) – Prospects can come from anywhere.  Jose Perez took the railroad hobo route, being traded, released, and waived before emerging as a prodigious power threat for the AAA Allentown Falcons as their DH.  In his third season getting time at AAA, Perez swatted 29 HR in less than 300 at bats. Even at 28, that’s an eye-popping run.  His former Falcon teammate Bob Robertson has already blazed a trail for erstwhile sluggers to the Longshoremen outfield rotation.  Perez’s elite power skill set may be close behind.

ETA – 2022, despite a set rotation in Canton’s outfield.

Upside – A 30-home run threat, with the potential to hit many more if he can bring enough else (defensive adequacy, non-awful batting average) to the table.

Risks to projection – 2021 proves to have been a fluke, Perez’s barely broken-in glove proves too much of a liability for an organization that already tries to hide Peyton Bishop’s defensive stylings on a regular basis.

#7 CF Vaclav Verlaan (previously not in the organization) – It’s a testament to the organization and to some draft day trades that the first prospect mentioned from this season’s draft clocks in at the relatively meh #7 spot.  It’s odd, too, that Verlaan wasn’t even the first player the Longshoremen drafted (or the second or the third or the fourth, for that matter).  The Dutch native Verlaan was one of two Outstanding Hitter award recipients in the new International Collegiate circuit.  Verlaan put up a 1.011 OPS for Hamilton College, swatting 17 home runs in 189 at bats. He hit a perfectly respectable 357/404/543 at short season-A Akutan Island while playing an above-average CF.  He will be fast tracked to full season ball next season, less than a year after being selected with the 3-8 pick in the June amateur draft.

ETA – 2026

Upside – A perennial All-Star outfielder who can challenge for All-Leather Awards in a corner, and play at least average defense in CF.

Risks to projection – Verlaan is raw, having played very little organized baseball, and that against suspect competition.  So there is a lot of development necessary to turn Verlaan the PEBA All-Star theory into Verlaan the actual PEBA All-Star.  Most observers think his glove will eventually need to be moved to a corner outfield spot, which would require more production from his bat.

#8 RF Pedro Castro (previously not in the organization) – Production matters, and that’s why a 5th round draft pick cracks the top 10.  Castro signed with the Longshoremen within a week of being drafted, flew to the Aleutians, and hit and hit and hit.  He won the SS-A league’s first two batter of the month awards and ended the season with a 338/425/521 line, winning the Alaskan circuit’s batting title and leading it in OPS, VORP, and RC/27.

ETA – 2026.

Upside – A hitter first, last, and always, who will need to find a team willing to let him DH.

Risks to projection – Castro’s bat clearly translated well from college, but he is position-challenged despite decent athleticism.  He also is somewhat impatient at the plate.

#9 CL Iwao Rin (previously not in organization) – As the Longshoremen big league bullpen suffered through a miserable 2021, the draft war room noticed, drafting a handful of power college arms that should be equipped to rise quickly through the ranks.  Rin, the Longshoremen’s 2nd round pick, had the thinnest resume of any of the closers drafted, but the most impressive debut, skipping short season-A ball for full season Middle Bass after a mere 9 appearances. Rin cashed 10 of 11 save opportunities, striking out 36 hitters in 25.3 innings at the higher level. Rin is a traditional fastball-slider righty who sits in the mid-nineties with both pitches and can touch 97 with his fastball.  Both are plus-plus pitches right now, but Rin sometimes experiences bouts of wildness.

ETA– September 2023.

Upside – A dominant closer.

Risks to projection – Scouts say that Rin’s troubles with mechanics go beyond mere command to sometimes having trouble with control.  At the lower levels, batters generally have to decide too quickly whether to swing to take advantage of Rin’s strike zone problems.  Upper level hitters with better zone recognition could draw free passes in bunches if Rin can’t harness his electric stuff.

#10 CL Edward Adams (previously not in organization) – Spider was chosen 19 spots higher than Rin, but his more impressive college pedigree did not lead to similar professional debut success.  Purdue’s Friday night starter, Adams projects to be a closer at the PEBA level, something that became apparent when Adams’ 14 starts for Middle Bass produced a 5.89 ERA with poor peripherals.  Sources in the organization suggest that the experience may have broken Adams’ will to be a starter, a long-term positive development.  Adams is almost the exact opposite of Rin, with a very repeatable motion and nearly impeccable control and command, but two pitches that are works in progress.

ETA – 2025.

Upside – A closer.

Risks to projection – Adams does not have the luxury of overpowering hitters, and so must develop movement and pinpoint control to make it as a closer.

#11 CL Will Douglas (previously not in the organization – with an asterisk) – Say, this guy looks familiar.  In what had to be a cruel twist of fate for a chagrined prima donna, Douglas was drafted in two straight drafts by the Longshoremen, and more than a round later in 2021 than in 2020.  The former Iowa closer is yet another bullpen arm whose upside is probably somewhere between Rin’s and Adams’.  To his credit, his delayed professional debut was a good one: a 3.71 ERA in full season A-ball with 16 walks and 42 strikeouts in 43.6 innings.

#12 RF Richard McGowan (previously #13) – The third year pro and former third round draft pick proved that the third time was the charm in SS-A, hitting 314/378/397. He will get promoted to full season A Middle Bass for his age 22 season.  Still young, he projects to develop power as he matures. (Editor’s note: McGowan was traded for C Jesus Tellez after press time.)

#13 SP Bryan Metcalf (previously not in organization) – A fourth round draft pick, the Memphis product is a solidly-built lefty starter who has an advanced feel for all four of his pitches.  He dominated short season-A opponents, going 8-3 with a 2.51 ERA and solid peripherals.  He has yet to give up an extra-base hit to a left-handed hitter as a professional.  Metcalf appears to have a chance to be a fast riser, with an upside of a mid-rotation starter.

#14 C Michael Wilkinson (unranked in 2021) – After a one-year hiatus from these rankings (Wilkinson was ranked #22 in the 2020 edition), this 26-year old organizational soldier returns with a 300/385/407 campaign, his first at AA.  Despite the positive numbers, some in the organization believe that Wilkinson’s development has stalled.  He will get a chance to prove his detractors wrong in AAA in 2022.

#15 SP Quinton Field (previously #6) – After a slow start to his career, the 2018 6th round pick has now recorded two straight impressive seasons as a starter for AA Youngstown, with a 14-4 record in 27 starts and a 3.52 ERA in 2021.  A good start in AAA Allentown in 2022 could earn him a call-up.  He might even be a longshot to make the big club out of spring training.

#16 C Cliff Mitchell (previously #7) – It appears that Mitchell has hit his first bump in the road.  But that’s not bad – it’s a testament to the surprising offensive skills that Mitchell flashed in his first two pro years (OPS’s of 920 and 1028) that an 828 OPS in his first crack at a full season league could be seen as a disappointment.  While his catching skills are still suspect, the bat can’t be ignored.

#17 SP Alberto Tejeda (previously unranked) – The former 4th rounder had a breakout first half for Middle Bass before missing the rest of the season with shoulder problems.  The righty with a 6-pitch arsenal went 4-0 in eight starts without giving up a home run.  He should get a crack at AA in 2022.

#18 CF Jorge Rodríguez (previously #14) – The waterbug-quick teenager had a successful American debut, hitting 315/356/366.  Unfortunately, poor fundamentals in the outfield and an outfielder-heavy draft caused an early-season move to 1B.  The spritely (6’0”, 160 lbs.) Rodriguez would seem to have the physical tools to play CF.  He’s still very raw in virtually all aspects of the game, other than the ability to make hard contact.

#19 CF Norberto Peralta (previously not in organization) – One of three centerfielders selected by the Longshoremen in the third round of the most recent draft, Peralta was considered the most advanced.  He struggled in SS-A Akutan Island, however.  After striking out only 16 times in three seasons as a collegian, Peralta whiffed 30 times in his first taste of professional pitching, hitting 272/302/411.  The organization still believes that he could be a fast mover thanks to an advanced glove in CF, but a lack of patience at the plate probably slots him for a 4th outfielder role in PEBA.

#20 C Masaki Matsuoka (previously not in organization) – With approximately a million draft picks in the 2021 draft, the Longshoremen felt freedom to gamble with some high picks, a major departure from past draft practice.  No pick underlined that swashbuckling strategy more than the 2/8 pick of a high school catcher.  At the precocious age of 18, ‘Nugget’ held his own in SS-A, hitting 287/336/297.  Scouts believe that the power will come; at 6’3”, 200 pounds at age 18, Nugget’s game certainly has room to grow into his stature.

#21 RF Martin Perez (previously unranked) – An unheralded 7th round draft pick in his 3rd professional season at Akutan Island, Perez hit 277/359/371 while splitting time between LF and 1B. Perez is the odd jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none prospect who could get lost in a system that is newly teeming with toolsy outfield prospects, and might be better served by a trade to another organization.

#22 CL Colin Jameson (previously #21) – Jameson’s drop of one spot in the rankings is less a matter of his performance (converted 20/23 saves in his third season in SS-A after being converted to closer from a star high school outfielder) and more a matter of Jameson’s odd profile for a prospect – he’s a soft-tossing closer who gets by on keeping the ball in the park (only 4 HR allowed in nearly 100 professional innings) and on the ground.

#23 CF Sean Peters (previously #24) – A third rounder from the 2020 draft, Peters is the classic low ceiling, high floor prospect.  He’s now hit 290-something, OBP’d 340-or-350 something, and slugged 400-something in full season A-ball and AA.  That’s perfectly adequate for a CF; the problem is that his defense at the premium defensive position has yet to rival his bat.

#24 3B Jesús López (previously #3) – Twenty-one spots is a precipitous drop for the 2018 Supplemental round draft pick that was #3 with a bullet last season. That’s what happens when your performance degrades from 278/372/406 to 260/357/376 while repeating AA at age 24.   That’s still relatively young for the level, but it makes his previous lofty ranking look premature.  2022 will be a big year for Lopez’ prospect status.

#25 Jim Hayden (previously #8) – It’s the third straight drop in the rankings for the former controversial first round pick, and this drop was almost enough to move Hayden to the ‘Voted Off the Island’ category below. After an 8-14, 5.46 ERA campaign in 2022 for AAA Allentown, Hayden now has two 5+ ERA seasons at the level, and at 26, the expiration on his prospect status is now within sight.

The Graduates

Four graduates introduced themselves to the Canton fanbase in 2021, with varying results and varying paths forward:

SP Kokei Yamashita (previously #2)

What we said – Organization’s top pitching prospect. . .   dominated  6 starts for AA Youngstown (5-0, 2.72 ERA, 36.3 IP, 11/42 BB/K). . . big fastball sits at 96mph can touch 98. . . major-league ready curveball. . . arsenal to be a top starter in the league. . . control and stamina biggest items on development “To Do” list. . . ETA – 2022. . .Upside – Groundball-inducing #2/#3 starter

What happened – At the still-young age of 24, Yamashita put together an impressive campaign at AAA Allentown, going 9-7 with a 3.82 ERA and peripherals that suggested a maturation in control.  A six start cup of coffee in Canton was less successful, as he went 2-4 with a bloated 6.06 ERA.  Yamashita is a candidate for a rotation spot in Canton, but the organization believes that he would be better served with another year of refinement in Allentown.

SP Su-Shun Yu (previously #9)

What we said – After dominating AA at 18 and 19. . .  20 year old season was rude introduction to AAA. . .  trying 2020 hasn’t affected upside. . . lack of endurance relegates him to closer role, where he could excel

What happened – Yu’s development yo-yo snapped back, as the 21 year old made AA, AAA, and PEBA hitters look silly, ending the season as a key bullpen hand for the Longshoremen.  Yu went 3-1 with a 2.50 ERA in 36 big league innings, and a FIP (2.78) that suggests that his success was no fluke.  Never say never with Yu, but he appears to be in PEBA to stay.

Jeff Summers (previously #17)

What we said – Ten-ranking drop probably too harsh for guy with better than 50/50 chance of breaking camp. . . offensive resume took hit in AAA. . . hit 258/326/425 with 15 HR in 388 at bats. . .  Longshoremen will take hard look at Summers in spring training. . . defensive prowess behind plate. . . switch-hitting ability. . .reputation as tireless worker. . . organization believes Summers would not benefit from more time in minors.

What happened – Bored and disappointed after being sent to AAA after spring training, Summers “hit” 181/267/302 there before his defense and pitch calling earned him a promotion to Canton anyway.  While Summers didn’t wow anyone with his bat (238/291/401), he won high praise for the other parts of his game and looks set to begin 2021 as newly-acquired Jesus Tellez’ back-up catcher.  The state of the PEBA catching fraternity being what it is, Summers 87-game role in Canton was still worth 1.2 WAR.

John Barker (previously #18)

What we said – Keeps rising through ranks thanks to glove at SS. . . also quietly continues to get on base enough to remain in middle infield picture. . .2020 saw best offensive performance (263/343/355 in AAA Allentown) since 2017. . . left-handed. . . hitter better-than-respectable 281/364/388 against right-handed pitchers. . .  likely to get call at some point in 2021.

What happened – An otherwise successful debut for Barker was marred by a fractured foot, a sprained ankle, and a torn UCL that ended his season and threatened to delay the start of his sophomore campaign.  Barker was the Opening Day starting SS, and between the injuries hit 256/329/348 and played plus defense at SS (+4.8 ZR).  Before the season-ending UCL tear, Barker was on a modest offensive tear of his own, and appeared to be developing some power against right-handers. An aggressive rehab should have Barker ready for the start of spring training, where he will have to fend off a challenge for his starting spot from this publication’s #1 prospect.

Voted Off The Island

This is a long list, as eight of last year’s Top 25 were supplanted.  Unlike last year’s review, with one exception, all of these guys are still in baseball, and indeed, still in the organization:

CL Don Barnes (previously #10)

What we said – Lefty closer appeared from thin air. . .was on no one’s prospect radar. . . striking out 121 AA batters in 81 innings was bolt from clear blue sky. . .  stretch drive call up to be closer for AAA. . .converted 5 of 6 save opportunities. . . 7/23 BB/K ratio in 18.6 AAA innings.

What happened – The fireballing lefty reliever actually improved on his numbers in his first full season in AAA, striking out 100 in 79 innings while only walking 28 and giving up only 4 HR.  Frankly, the panel may have missed on this one.  The Canton voters no doubt see another Guilermo Mejia, a fireballing lefty who can’t keep the ball in the park at the PEBA level despite dominating overmatched AAA hitters.

1B Billy Mills (previously #11)

What we said – Better baseball through chemistry. . .  4 college HR in 185 at bats – 2.1% HR rate. . .  As a professional, hit 50 in 1162 at bats, a 5.1% HR rate.  In 2020, he put up a 315/403/508 season in Hi-A Middle Bass, hitting 26 HR in 461 at bats.

What happened – Mills put up another 142 OPS+ season in Hi-A Middle Bass, hitting 319/393/487.  That’s a nice line, but Mills was also 24, which is pretty old for the level. Scouts like Mills’ progress, but here at TSAP, we will have to see production at a higher level in 2022.

Joe Oliver (previously #15)

What we said –  Organizational soldier. . . can play all corner positions and fill in as centerfielder in pinch. . .  hit 309/375/480 with 12 HR in 256 AB in AAA Allentown. . . given a puncher’s chance to make team in spring training. . . figures to be first outfielder called up.

What happened – Oliver started off slow and never recovered, limping to a 256/314/404 campaign for Allentown.  He was non-tendered and remains available as a free agent.

Jesús Sandoval (previously #16)

What we said– 2020 was good news/bad news year. . good news: All-Star selection in short season-A ball. . .  bad news: season-ending torn labrum. . . performed admirably as 19 year old in his second year as pro, going 7-1 with hard luck 4.33 ERA (as compared to  2.67 FIP).  .  . may get  crack at full season-A ball.

What happened – A promotion to Hi-A Middle Bass after two starts for Akutan Island didn’t work out well for the fourth year pro, who went 4-6 with a 5.33 ERA.  After three years as a pro, and appointments at two levels, Sandoval has an ERA over 5 at both levels.  Still just 20, there’s still plenty of time for Sandoval to develop into the front-line starter the Longshoremen thought they were drafting with their second round pick in 2019, but he will have to start getting batters out at some point.

RF  Júlio Rodríguez (previously #20)

What we said – Dynamite comes in small package. . . 5-10, 165 pounds. . . end of season cup of coffee with AA Youngstown. . . 346/410/575 in 127 at bats. . . plus defensive right fielder with a rifle arm.

What happened – Rodriguez wowed at AA Youngstown, hitting 326/373/589 in 95 at bats, but struggled after promotion to AAA, hitting 236/291/387 in 398 at bats.  Rodriguez is still just 25, so the poor showing in the first try at AAA isn’t fatal to the organization’s hopes for him, but the upside appears more likely to be the short side of a platoon than that of an everyday corner outfielder.

MR Anthony Gregory (previously #22)

What we said – 10th round draft choice. . . helped make back end of Eagles’ bullpen formidable puzzle. . . first taste of professional baseball, Gregory pitched 35.3 innings of 1.53 ERA baseball. . . walking 9. . . striking out 38.

What happened – A surprisingly stellar debut in short season-A ball in his first year as a professional earned Gregory a promotion to Hi-A Middle Bass, and his performance turned from dominant to merely impressive, as Gregory struck out 80 batters in 69-plus innings and recorded a 3.12 ERA while saving  5 games.  Gregory’s falling off of the list is by no means the end of his story.

SP Alan Wright (previously #23)

What we said –  unheralded pitcher out of Michigan. . . resulting in unexciting 7th round berth. . .turned heads in short season-A Akutan Island. . . 7-4 with 3.35 ERA, 2.33 FIP, and good peripherals (16 BB and 84 K in 78 innings).

What happened – On the surface, 2021 looked like an unmitigated disaster, with a 6-11 record and a 5.62 ERA in 125 innings for the Vintners.  The peripherals weren’t good, but they weren’t quite so  disastrous as that: 5.62 ERA, 53 BB, 117 K.

CF Tong-Yeop Chang (previously #25)

What we said – Cal grad made short work of short season A-ball. . . 386/556/568. . . earned promotion to full season A-ball. . .hit 278/369/354. . .low ceiling, high floor prospect. . .could move quickly through the minors.

What happened – It’s a testament to the quality of this year’s top 25 that there’s no room for a 22 year old second year pro who hit 277/399/396 in a nearly full season at AA. In many organizations, Chang would be playing in spring training for a chance to make a major league  roster as a 4th or 5th outfielder.  In the Canton organization, Chang is no better than 6th or 7th in line behind the 5 outfielders on the major league roster.