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Ten prospects to watch in the EL
Banuelos, Betances and Turner among circuit's top arms
04/05/2011 10:00 AM ET
Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances bolster a daunting Trenton rotation.
Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances bolster a daunting Trenton rotation. (Kevin Pataky/MiLB.com)
Though stars such as Stephen Strasburg and Domonic Brown have graduated from the Eastern League, there is still a bumper crop of highly touted prospects for fans to look forward to watching this summer, including former first-round Draft picks Jacob Turner, Tony Sanchez and Charlie Culberson.

Here's a look at 10 of the Eastern League's top prospects heading into 2011.

Xavier Avery, CF -- Bowie Baysox
Avery struggled offensively in 27 games with the Baysox late last season, but the former second-round pick has the tools to succeed at higher levels. Considered the top outfield prospect in the Orioles system, Avery hit .271 with seven homers and 38 stolen bases in 136 games between Class A Advanced Frederick and Bowie. The 21-year-old lefty needs to make more contact, though, having fanned 130 times last season.


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Manny Banuelos, LHP -- Trenton Thunder
Despite being just 5-foot-11 and 155 pounds, the 20-year-old Banuelos leads a fearsome Trenton pitching staff after posting a 2.51 ERA in 15 starts last season. The left-hander -- MLB.com's No. 35 prospect -- got off to a late start after undergoing an emergency appendectomy last spring, but still struck out 85 batters in 64 2/3 innings. With a 96-mph fastball, elite-level changeup and improving curve, he's already drawing comparisons to pitchers like Ron Guidry and Johan Santana.

Dellin Betances, RHP -- Trenton Thunder
Dellin Betances is in some ways the opposite of his teammate Banuelos -- he's a 6-foot-8, 260-pound right-hander -- except when it comes to results. The native New Yorker went 8-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 17 starts at Class A Advanced Tampa and Trenton last summer, racking up 108 strikeouts over 85 1/3 innings while holding hitters to a .174 average. The two hurlers seem destined for higher levels soon, so catch them in Trenton while you can.

Charlie Culberson, 2B -- Richmond Flying Squirrels
A supplemental first-round pick in the 2007 Draft, Culberson made huge strides offensively with the California League champion San Jose Giants last summer. He batted .290 with 16 homers and 25 stolen bases for the Giants and did not let up in the elite Arizona Fall League, where he hit .366 with 11 doubles in 21 games with the Scottsdale Scorpions. If any Giants prospect can replicate Brandon Belt's monster 2010 season, it looks to be Culberson.

Liam Hendriks, RHP -- New Britain Rock Cats
The Australian-born Hendriks -- a selection to the 2010 All-Star Futures Game -- tore through two levels last season, going 8-4 with a 1.74 ERA in 19 outings between Class A Beloit and Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Over 108 2/3 frames, the right-hander struck out 105, walked 12, allowed two homers and held hitters to a .199 average. If Hendriks can maintain that kind of domination in Double-A, the 21-year-old has a very bright future.

Derek Norris, C -- Harrisburg Senators
By his lofty standards, Norris had a down year offensively at Class A Advanced Potomac last season, hitting just .235 with 12 homers. But the former fourth-round pick, who was named MiLB.com's Class A Hitter of the Year in 2009, actually lifted his on-base percentage to .419, thanks to the 89 walks he drew -- 10th-most in the Minor Leagues. Norris' bat has always been his calling card, but his hard work behind the plate also drew praise in Nationals camp this spring.

Francisco Peguero, OF -- Richmond Flying Squirrels
Though power numbers in the California League can sometimes be misleading, the stats that Peguero compiled last year are hard to argue with: .329 batting average, 77 RBIs, 40 stolen bases and 16 triples -- second-most in the Minor Leagues. The speedy 22-year-old needs to be more judicious on the base paths -- he was caught stealing 22 times -- and increase the 18 walks he took in 122 games last season, but certainly has the tools to electrify.

Tony Sanchez, C -- Altoona Curve
Considered by some Pirates fans to be an underwhelming top Draft pick -- he was selected fourth overall in 2009 -- Sanchez has quieted all concerns with his performance. He hit .314 with a .416 on-base percentage in 59 games for Class A Advanced Bradenton before being struck in the face with a pitch, which broke his jaw and ended his 2010 campaign. After a solid Arizona Fall League outing, Sanchez is ready to help Altoona defend its Eastern League title.

Oscar Tejeda, 2B -- Portland Sea Dogs
The 21-year-old Tejeda broke out with Class A Advanced Salem last year, hitting .307 with 11 homers, 69 RBIs and 17 stolen bases, earning him Carolina League All-Star honors (as well as being named MVP of the circuit's All-Star Game). He continued to impress in Spring Training this year, where he batted .360 in 14 Grapefruit League games. Double-A pitching will demand a more disciplined approach at the plate, but Tejeda looks up to the challenge.

Jacob Turner, RHP -- Erie SeaWolves
A 6-5 right-hander who won't turn 20 until mid-May, Turner has thus far fulfilled all the expectations the Tigers had when they took him with the ninth overall pick in the 2009 Draft. Turner went 6-5 with a 3.28 ERA in 24 games with Class A West Michigan and Class A Advanced Lakeland last year and showed impeccable control, striking out 102 while walking 23 over 115 1/3 innings. Already pegged as MLB.com's No. 15 prospect, Turner seems to be following in the footsteps of another top Tigers Draft pick, Rick Porcello.

John Parker is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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