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February 27, 2012 at 8:01 AM

2012 Prospect Previews: Watch List - Bats

Mookie Betts
Position: Infielder
2011 Team: Gulf Coast Red Sox
2012 Projected Team: Lowell Spinners
Opening Day Age: 19

2012 Outlook: Betts is likely to stay back in Florida for extended spring training and then play with the Lowell Spinners in the New York-Penn League when the season starts in June. Betts shows a compact, level swing. He uses his hands well to hit inside of the baseball and quickly pulls them in against fastballs on the inside third. He has the type of swing to produce a lot of contact, but will need to begin developing his approach and pitch recognition to allow his hit tool to show. Betts will be challenged during his assignment in Short-Season ball by the more advanced pitching he is going to see. Secondary offerings are likely to give him trouble early in the year. Betts’ best tools are his speed and defensive ability. An excellent athlete, he is capable of impacting a game with his legs. Once on base, he should be able to steal bases frequently at this level. Betts projects as a future above-average base stealer. A shortstop in high school, he worked as a second baseman during the Fall Instructional League. He is very fluid and smooth defensively, with a solid-average-to-better arm. Betts will be able to come up to speed at second quickly. This season he is set to begin the initial development stages and build experience as a professional.

David Renfroe
Position: Third base
2011 Team: Greenville Drive
2012 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 21

2012 Outlook:
Developmental strides have been on the slow side for Renfroe. He looks likely to return to Greenville in 2012 for more seasoning. Renfroe’s pitch recognition is still on the rough and raw side. He struggles to pick up secondary offerings out of opposing pitchers’ hands. This causes the vast majority of his inconsistency making solid contact. Renfroe is typically either out on his front foot or bailing against breaking balls. Rarely does he do anything other than swing-and-miss or weakly put them in play. His swing has looked choppy and lacked fluidity because he hesitates to attack offerings. This season is big for him to show improvement with his ability to make contact. He has plus raw power, but his troubles squaring the ball up with backspin do not let it translate into game action. A second go-around in the South Atlantic League will give Renfroe a chance to be more comfortable against the level of competition he is facing. He has been pressed and behind the curve in his first two seasons. With a strong crop of infield talent in the lower levels of the organization, 2012 is a year for Renfroe to show that he is taking steps forward with his overall game.

Keury De La Cruz
Position: Outfield
2011 Team: Lowell Spinners
2012 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20

2012 Outlook: De La Cruz has an inside track at breaking camp with the Greenville Drive and getting consistent playing time in the outfield. While he improved on being more relaxed in the batter’s box over the course of last season with Lowell, he will need to continue focusing on being more disciplined in Greenville to make consistent contact. De La Cruz has some pop in his bat and by being more selective can improve the frequency he produces extra-base hits this coming season. Adjusting to the level of competition is going to be a challenge though. He could start off slow in 2012 as he finds his footing. De La Cruz also has some upper-cut in his swing that can stand to be leveled off. He has a tendency to come through the hitting zone, underneath the ball and create too much topspin. Ironing this out will give him a better chance to project to make enough contact in higher levels. De La Cruz’s biggest asset is his defensive ability. A natural center fielder, he gets excellent reads off of the bat and covers both gaps well. He should continue to prove to be a solid defender in 2012. This year’s assignment in full-season baseball will serve as a proving ground for De La Cruz to show that he is trending towards becoming a more polished hitter and ready to take the next step up the ranks to start 2013.

Matt Marquis
Position: Outfield
2011 Team: Lowell Spinners
2012 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 22

2012 Outlook:
Marquis looks likely to receive a placement with the Greenville Drive to start the 2012 season after showing a more developed approach at the plate than many of his peers during his time with the Lowell Spinners last season. A solid athlete, he moves well in the outfield and can play either of the corner slots more than adequately. His arm can play up in right field and he makes accurate throws to the bases. Offensively, Marquis has some leverage in his swing and can drive fastballs middle-to-in with backspin. His patience at the plate should allow him to adjust relatively quickly to the South Atlantic League. Given the inconsistent nature of opposing pitchers’ command at this level, he will most likely take his fair share of walks and find himself able to work into favorable counts. One area Marquis needs improvement with is his handling of secondary offerings. He tends to loop around the pitches with the head of the bat when he attacking them. This may not hinder him too much at the A Ball level from making a lot of solid contact, but he will have to eliminate the jerk in his swing to be successful against more advanced pitching. This season will give Marquis his first taste of the long professional season and how to handle the grinding nature of it.

Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen