The South Atlantic League was full of prospects beginning their rise in the minor league ranks, especially at the shortstop position, where the league boasted one of the best classes in years.
BEST BATTING PROSPECT: Rosell Herrera, Asheville. Herrera hit .343 with 16 home runs and 21 stolen bases, running away with the SAL MVP award. The tall shortstop evokes memories of a young Alfonso Soriano, although Herrera has a better chance of ending up at third base than second or left field. Herrera’s swing loads well, and he gets a lot of bat speed out of his quick hands. He has solid power for his frame and can spray the ball to all fields with authority. Herrera also has above-average speed that should hold with age, for the most part.
BEST PITCHING PROSPECT: Tyler Glasnow, West Virginia. Glasnow has emerged as one of the best prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system after a lights-out 2013 season for the Power. The lanky right-hander struck out 164 in 1111/3 innings, recording a 2.18 ERA. Walks remain an issue, allowing 61 this season, but Glasnow’s combination of size and stuff causes scouts to salivate. He can reach mid-90s with the fastball and pairs it with an above-average curveball and developing changeup.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: Raul A. Mondesi, Lexington. Mondesi, the son of former major leaguer Raul Mondesi, has bloodlines to go with tools and talent as a teenager. Playing in the SAL at 17 years old for much of the season, Mondesi displayed tremendous skills at shortstop, flashing major league quality range, hands and arm already. He has a natural ability to handle the ball, much like Atlanta Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, and he gets rid of it quickly with a good release. Mondesi also held his own at the plate despite being several years younger than the opposing pitcher in some cases. He hit .261 with seven home runs and 24 stolen bases.
BEST POWER HITTER: Joey Gallo, Hickory. Gallo finished two home runs shy of the SAL record of 40, hitting 38 with a .245 average and .334 on-base percentage. Gallo is a huge third baseman with elite power that many scouts say is the best in the minor leagues, and he’s only 19 years old. As a true power hitter, Gallo strikes out a lot, but he also knows how to take a walk. Perhaps the most surprising aspect of Gallo’s game is his athleticism, as he stole 14 bases and displayed solid defense with a good arm at third. But his calling card is power, and it’s worth the price of admission just to watch him hit batting practice.
BEST BASERUNNER: Micah Johnson, Kannapolis. Before getting promoted, Johnson terrorized SAL catchers by attempting to steal practically every time he reached base. He was successful 61 of 80 times in only 77 games. Simply put, Johnson has elite speed and knows how to use it.