Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 5/22/12

Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 1st
Current Value: Star-in-the-Making

It’s not even June but the Rockies are fading fast from the playoff picture. The hot corner has been a gaping hole and the organization’s top prospect just happens to be a third baseman. Unfortunately, Arenado is not exactly forcing the club’s hand to promote him. He’s currently hitting .303 in double-A but his OPS is just .788 as he’s not exactly getting on-base at a huge rate and he’s just hitting for OK power. Never one to take a huge number of walks, his rate is down to just 5.6 BB% this year after topping out at 8.1% in 2011. His strikeout rate is still good at 14.0 K% but it’s up to the highest mark of his career and 5% higher than last season. Arenado, 21, has 13 doubles but just three home runs after slugging 20 last year; his power, as witnessed by his ISO rate, has dipped each of the past few seasons from .212 to .190 to .137. After a breakout 2011 season in the California League and then an even better performance in the Arizona Fall League (.388/.423/.636 in 121 AB), the organization was probably hoping for a little bit more from Arenado and it looks like he won’t be ready before 2013.

Andrew Chafin, LHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
Current Level: A+
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 8th
Current Value: Breakout Potential

It seems like every time I turn around there is another pitching prospect showing off for Arizona. This time it’s Chafin, the 43rd overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. A hard-throwing left-hander, he struck out 12 batters – without issuing a walk – in 7.0 innings during his last start on May 21. He’s now whiffed 66 batters in 50.2 innings of work while also producing above-average ground-ball rates. The southpaw’s splits are interesting; he’s allowed a .298 batting average to left-handed hitters while righties are hitting just .217. Chafin flashes a plus slider to go along with his 90-95 mph fastball but the improved numbers against right-handers lend proof to the belief that he’s made huge strides with his changeup. The Diamondbacks may have another gem in Chafin, who continues to look better and better as he quiets concerns over his 2010 Tommy John surgery.

Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 5th
Current Value: Almost Big League Ready

It’s safe to say that Franklin is on fire. After hitting a respectable .296 in April, his batting average is up to .415 in May. Overall, he’s hitting .336 with 11 doubles and just 16 Ks in 33 games. On the down side, the home run power he displayed in 2010 in low-A ball is looking more and more like a fluke; going forward we should expect gap power with 10-12 home runs from the middle infielder. He hasn’t been running much this year (three steal attempts) but he’s a good base runner and has the speed to steal 15-20 bases at the big league level. A switch-hitter, Franklin is hitting just .233 from the right side, compared to .370 from the left. The shortstop position has been a gaping hole in Seattle this season with both Brendan Ryan and Munenori Kawasaki hitting below .180 and Franklin is probably the long-term solution but he may not be ready until 2013 and likely won’t be a star.

Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates
Current Level: AAA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: 6th
Current Value: Overrated

The Pittsburgh Pirates have received brutal production from the outfield in 2012, save for center-fielder Andrew McCutchen. After what seemed like a breakout 2011 season, many fans were eagerly anticipating the arrival of outfield prospect Marte to help take some of the offensive load off of the current starting outfield trio. Unfortunately, the wait may be longer than anticipated for many. Marte, 23, is struggling to put the finishing touches on his minor league career while playing at the triple-A level. He’s hitting just .246 and has taken nine walks on the year – which is actually an improvement over 2011 for the notoriously impatient hitter. Swift of foot, Marte hasn’t made the best decisions on the base paths and has been caught trying to steal during five of his 14 attempts. On the plus side he’s showing some gap power. Although the big league club could really use him now, Marte is probably still about a year away from helping the big league club on a regular basis but I’m still not sold on him being anything more than an average big league regular.

Ethan Martin, RHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Current Level: AA
2012 Top 15 Prospects Ranking: NR
Current Value: Exceeding Expectation

It seems like everything is going right for the Dodgers organization this season as the McCourt fog of controversy begins to dissipate. The big league club is winning – even without Matt Kemp‘s bat in the lineup – and the minor league system is starting to breed true blue prospects. Martin was a lost soul within the system for the past two seasons – and even ended up in the bullpen for a time – but he’s back in the starting rotation in double-A and he’s on a roll. He’s given up more than two runs in a start just once in his last five appearances. The soon-to-be-23-year-old right-hander has given up just 34 hits with 47 strikeouts in 51.2 innings of work. On the down side, Martin has walked 27 and has been a fly-ball pitcher (despite giving up just three home runs). His changeup still needs a lot of polish, which is one of the reasons why left-handed batters are hitting .274 against him, compared to right-handed hitters at .113. If he continues on this path, Martin could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter.


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