It's been a while since part of the list was recapped, so here are prospects 23-28.
#23- Alex Torres, LHP (36%)
Strengths: Evidently has an extra option year; on a stuff level, his fastball, slider and changeup all have plus potential, giving him an arsenal deep enough to start
Weaknesses: It's hard to imagine his 2012 season being any worse; control has always been pretty bad and may never improve; small frame could lead to durability concerns
2012 campaign: 2012 was an unmitigated disaster for Torres. Although his 27% strikeout rate was the best in his career, his walk rate, already very high in his career, exploded to 18.7%. The organization tried him in the bullpen after getting off to the bad start as a starter, but that didn't get him on track. He pitched just 69 innings, a season low for Torres since 2008 in the Angels organization.
Going forward: Torres' off-season provides a little hope for 2013. He accumulated 60.1 more innings in his native Venezuela, and he struck out 86 batters, walked 27 and posted an impressive 2.24 FIP. This success won't necessarily carry over into his stateside career, but it's a nice note for him to end 2012 on after the ugly season with Durham. Thanks to a 4th option year, he'll be able to continue his development as a starter with Durham.
This is a little higher than the writers' poll had him, but this is a fine place for him to be on the list. Despite the dreadful season, as noted in the voting, his stuff is too good to give up on. The extra option year is huge for his development because he can continue working as a starter, holding out hope that he can remain in the rotation. Ryan Brett put up the most opposition, but Torres easily earned the plurality.
#24- Ryan Brett, 2B (33%)
Strengths: Every superlative used to positively describe small white players applies; great baserunner; has the patience to find his way on base
Weaknesses: Strikeout rate spiked in introduction to full-season ball; has gap power at best; just an okay defender at second base with nowhere else to move
2012 campaign: Brett's season ended early as one of several Rays prospects suspended 50 games for performance enhancing drugs. Before that, his season wasn't anything to write home about anyway. With a slight dip in his walk rate and big jump in his strikeout rate, the plate approach that set him apart with Princeton was a lot more ordinary. He actually had one fewer extra base hit in 456 plate appearances than he did in 270 in 2011.
Going forward: Brett wasn't suspended until late August, and that means much of it will carry over to 2013. Once that's over with, he'll move up a level to Charlotte where he'll look to rebound and be closer to the player he was in 2011. 50 game suspensions aren't a death sentence for player development, but it's never ideal to miss a lot of game action. One aspect of his game that remained strong with Bowling Green was his baserunning; he stole 47 bases in 55 tries for a strong 85% success rate.
This is a sizable drop in the ranking for Brett after his mediocre season, and it's in line with the writers' poll. Second base prospects face a tough road to the majors. It's a position that's typically a last resort for players on the left side of the infield who don't have the defensive chops or arm to play shortstop or third, and since Brett's already there, there's a lot of pressure on his bat to carry him to the majors. He's not going to hit for power, so he's going to have to get the ball in play, rely on his speed and grind out at-bats to return to his previous higher ranking.
#25- Felipe Rivero, LHP (52%)
Strengths: Fastball velocity has improved and can touch 95 MPH; breaking ball has plus potential; changeup shows promise; owns a career 3.5 K:BB ratio
Weaknesses: Command has to improve; has to prove he can hold up over a whole season with small frame
2012 campaign: For much of the 2012 season, Rivero was really, really good. His great first half landed him a spot in both the Midwest League All-Star Game and the Futures Game, but he was hit hard as the season wrapped up. His 3.4 :/BB ratio reflected his ability to fill up the strike zone with pretty good stuff. In August, he was charged with 14 earned runs in 17 innings, but he still struck out 16 while only walking four. It's important to point out that his August/September BABIP was .425.
Going forward: In the second half of the season, the organization worked to limit his innings as well as several other pitchers on the Bowling Green staff. They used the piggyback system with Rivero and Roberto Gomez. One turn through the rotation, Rivero would start and throw three innings, followed by Gomez throwing three innings. The next time, the roles would be reversed. This can be tough for pitchers to adjust to, and in 2013 he'll look to improve his durability and throw more innings.
This ranking is quite different from the writers' poll, and I was leading the way putting him 14th in the system. I'll acknowledge he does have weaknesses. His stuff isn't overwhelming, and small lefties (6'0, 151 pounds) may not be able to improve durability. Still, he has a pretty nice package of stuff and control, and he's done a very good job doing three important things for pitchers: strike out batters, limit walks and keep the ball in the park.
#26- Andrew Toles, CF (59%)
Strengths: Top notch speed benefits him on the bases and in the field; arm is solid; has above average raw power
Weaknesses: Plate approach has to improve; needs to make consistent contact to take advantage of his speed; baserunning could improve; makeup was a concern during amateur career
2012 campaign: After being drafted in the 4th round, Toles went on to have a solid pro debut with Princeton with one great month and one pretty poor one. In the end, the speedy center fielder finished with a .281/.327/.482 line in 214 plate appearances with 14 steals in 19 attempts. His August OPS was 306 points lower than his July which isn't too shocking with his 205 point BABIP drop.
Going forward: Toles should probably be assigned to Bowling Green to start 2013. As a player with SEC and junior college experience, he shouldn't need the extra year in short-season ball. He still has a lot to improve on. He could be a little more efficient on the bases, and improving his on-base skills would really complement his speed as a leadoff hitter.
Like Rivero, Toles' spot on this list is pretty significantly different compared to the writers' poll. That shouldn't be too difficult to explain. He's coming off a pretty good season, but the competition he faced in the Appy League probably wasn't too far off from the competition he faced as an amateur. He could certainly flame out against tougher pitching, and he'll have to improve his plate approach to be sure it doesn't happen. I really value his upside though which is why I had him higher.
#27- Patrick Leonard, 3B (70%)
Strengths: Plus raw power is already showing up in games; has shown the ability to make adjustments at the plate; third base defense should be good enough to stay at the position
Weaknesses: Very unathletic; has to keep swing short to make better contact
2012 campaign: Leonard, a 2011 5th rounder from a Texas high school, made his pro debut in the Appy League and was only tied for the league lead in home runs. He batted just .251, but the power is definitely for real. In addition, his plate approach seemed solid with an 11.2% walk rate and 20.5% strikeout rate. It was a nice debut for a bat that appears to be very polished.
Going forward: Along with Toles, Leonard should be up with Bowling Green to start 2013. He's not one of the prospects that's an athlete and needs the extra time to learn the game. He should have the bat that allows him to transition smoothly to full-season ball, and he should continue to provide the kind of power the organization is looking for.
This is nearly exactly where the writers positioned Leonard, and I think it's a fair starting point for him in the organization. He certainly got his career off to a good start, but he's limited athletically and will have to keep hitting at each level to raise his value. If he can do that, and hopefully make better contact, then he'll rise in the rankings.
#28 Ty Morrison, CF (37%)
Strengths: Few in the organization can rival his speed; plays above average defense at a premium position on the diamond; has been able to cut down on strikeouts
Weaknesses: Needs to continue approving plate approach; has to make better contact to take advantage of speed; not much power to speak of
2012 campaign: It looked like Morrison's career was stalling in high-A, but he ended up having what could be considered a career year. In a month's worth of action repeating the Florida State League, he was batting a career high .281 with an improved 6% walk rate. He was bumped up to Montgomery for the rest of the season and didn't skip a beat, improving his walk rate to 7.6% and keeping his strikeout rate below 20%.
Going forward: Morrison's plate approach is critical because he already has good defense in center field and speed on the bases. If he can keep making solid contact and getting on base at a good rate to take advantage of that speed, he has the chance to be an everyday big leaguer. He's picked up 458 solid plate appearances at AA, so he could be up at Durham to start 2013.
I personally didn't have Morrison on my top 30, but he certainly belongs in this range. He's been in top 30 rankings before, and it's no surprise that he's back in one after a rebound season. Because of that down year, he's kind of flying under the radar now, but the readers clearly acknowledge that he's on the right track again. He beat out a little opposition from Brandon Martin and a couple others, but no individual was close enough to Morrison.