Revisiting the Top 60: 56-60

With the minor league season completed, RC is busy putting together this year's Top 60 prospect list. First, however, we take a look back at last year's Top 60 prospects. Who took a step forward? Who took a step back? Who should have been ranked higher? Today we take a look at prospects 60-56 on last year's list, which includes five players who finished the season with rookie ball clubs.

60. Geulin Beltre, OF

2009 Club: Burlington Royals

Stats
AB: 226
BA: .217
OBP: .263
SLG: .376
HR: 6
2B: 14
3B: 6
BB: 12
SO: 64
SB: 8
CS: 6

Comment
Beltre won't turn 19 until October, so it's important not to be too disappointed with his statistics. There were certainly some encouraging developments. After an elbow injury limited Beltre to DH duty in 2008, the Royals shifted him from shortstop to the outfield this year to take some pressure off his arm. He took to the new assignment very well, playing regularly in center field for the majority of the season. He stayed healthy and managed to improve upon his 2008 AZL line of .188/.235/.250.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Despite his large international signing bonus, we ranked Beltre at the bottom of the Top 60 last year due to a questionable bat and uncertainty about the health of his elbow. He alleviated our concerns about his arm, but we're still unsure about his bat. He is capable of hitting hard line drives, and he seems to have made some progress against breaking balls. But even if he does ultimately stick in center, his bat must show considerable development for him to rise on future top prospect lists.


59. Yowill Espinal, SS

2009 Club: Burlington Royals

Stats
AB: 236
BA: .246
OBP: .327
SLG: .407
HR: 7
2B: 9
3B: 4
BB: 22
SO: 53
SB: 20
CS: 14

Comment
Espinal turned 18 in April, and the athletic shortstop had an encouraging season as one of the youngest players in the Appalachian League. He showed a quick bat and the ability to pull mistake pitches out of the ballpark, leading the B-Royals in home runs. He also showed improved plate discipline, drawing a walk every 10.7 at bats after drawing just two free passes in 204 at bats last season. Like Beltre, he often looked lost against breaking balls last season, but he showed some solid improvement in that area this year. Defensively, he has good range and a strong arm, but he was a little too prone to errors this season, committing 26 in just 63 games.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
It's safe to say we flubbed our ranking of Espinal last year. We got a much better look at him this season, and he's definitely a player we're excited about. He should be considerably higher on this year's Top 60, and he's one of the most intriguing middle infielders in the Royals' system.


58. Fernando Cruz, C

2009 Club: Burlington Royals

Stats
AB: 188
BA: .277
OBP: .308
SLG: .394
HR: 3
2B: 11
3B: 1
BB: 7
SO: 23
SB: 2
CS: 0

Comment
Like Beltre, Cruz changed positions this year, moving from third base to catcher, and he added at least 20 pounds to his 6-foot-2 frame. Originally drafted in 2007 in the sixth round as a 17-year-old shortstop out of Puerto Rico, Cruz has gained strength each year, and he already has a Major League body. He seemed to take well to his new position behind the dish, and he looked comfortable making throws with his strong arm. At the plate, Cruz started driving the ball more often, vastly improving his numbers while repeating the Appy League. In fact, Cruz's batting average led the B-Royals, and he set career highs across the board. A switch hitter, Cruz's splits were relatively even from both sides of the plate.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
The move to catcher figures to help Cruz in this year's ranking. His bat won't have to develop as much as it would have had he stayed at third base, and the improvement he's shown thus far is very encouraging. In an organization desperate for catching depth, Cruz is definitely in the discussion as one of the system's top five catching prospects.


57. Carlo Testa, OF

2009 Club: Idaho Falls Chukars

Stats
AB: 118
BA: .305
OBP: .388
SLG: .585
HR: 6
2B: 11
3B: 2
BB: 16
SO: 32
SB: 9
CS: 3

Comment
The numbers were there once again for Testa, who repeated the Pioneer League after hitting .304/.395/.462 for the Chukars in 2008. The 22-year-old outfielder from Belmont battled an early season hamstring injury, and a dislocated pinky finger in August cost him the final five weeks of the season. In between, Testa put up excellent power numbers, leading the Chukars in slugging percentage while improving upon his 2008 OPS by over 100 points. He hit both righties and lefties well, and he continued to show an interesting mix of power and speed while spending time at all three outfield positions.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
It's tough to get much of a read on how the organization feels about Testa. His stats have been excellent for the last two seasons in the Pioneer League, but he's yet to sniff full season ball. We actually expected that he might start the season with the Burlington Bees, but he instead was relegated to fourth outfielder duty for Idaho Falls, only earning regular playing time once injuries and promotions necessitated it early in the season. Once there, he stuck, and Testa was invited to the instructional league this fall. For now, he remains a sleeper, but he will almost certainly move up on this year's top prospect list.


56. J.D. Alfaro, SS

2009 Club: Idaho Falls Chukars, Burlington Bees

Stats (combined)
AB: 310
BA: .226
OBP: .283
SLG: .335
HR: 4
2B: 16
3B: 3
BB: 24
SO: 84
SB: 9
CS: 7

Comment
It wasn't a great season for Alfaro, who opened with the Burlington Bees before being demoted back to Idaho Falls after hitting a paltry .168/.206/.218 in 101 at bats against Midwest League pitching. Back in Idaho, Alfaro saw time at both third base and second base, in addition to shortstop, his natural position. Despite moving around the infield, the 21-year old reduced his number of errors. However, his production at the plate slid considerably, and he hit just three home runs after banging out nine for the Chukars in 2008.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
We were intrigued by Alfaro's pro debut, in which he slugged .504 for the Chukars in 2008. We noted that Alfaro's best tool figured to be his bat, and that it would probably have to carry him through the system, since his defense doesn't project to be any better than average. Unfortunately, Alfaro's regression at the plate will likely leave him off this year's Top 60.


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