This will conclude the 2012 Eastern League report.
Please note that there might be reports or decisions about certain players already. There was an issue in part of the preview when one team's GM addressed where a player would start at an event that wasn't widely publicized.
Also, the preview isn't definitive. It's based on several factors, which include previous season's results, time spent at lower levels, projections, as well as reports from sources and my own research. If anything changes, I'll update on Twitter @heelsonthefield.
The preview focuses the spotlight on one to two players.
Akron Aeros - The Indians are rich with pitching prospects and Brett Brach is among those that impressed in 2011. His ability to make adjustments and stay the course were on display. He began the season at Class-A Kinston where he pitched 115 innings and finished with a 3. 60 ERA. His time with Akron consisted of 28 innings. He gave up four home runs and struck out 15, a number that reflects his fearlessness to pitch to contact. But his growth is still in the early stages. More time at the Double-A level would help him get acclimated to smarter hitters and give him time to develop confidence when attacking hitters. He won't overpower, but he'll need to keep from elevating the ball in the zone, something he had some trouble with.
Clayton Cook has some kinks to work out, but probably not in the Carolina League. There's a strong possibility he starts 2012 with Akron. Cook clocked 122 innings going 9-9 with a 4.56 ERA. His command was an issue in parts of the season, so it's possible he gets a bit more time with Kinston. But if he has a good start to the season, don't expect him to be there long.
Binghamton Mets - Of Mets prospcts Zack Wheeler ranked the highest on MLB.com's top 100 prospects coming in 28th. His 2011 season for Advanced-A San Jose concluded with 88 innings of work under his belt and 3.99 ERA. He struck out 98 batters. He lacks experience, but at 21 he's ripe for Double-A. If he doesn't start the season with Binghamton, he's a sure thing for a promotion. And if he can repeat the success of 2011, the Mets will likely have him with the big club in 2013.
Erie Seawolves - Drew Smyly, the Tigers 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, has made his way through the levels by impressing consistently. He's received a spring training invite, giving him a shot to show his progress early.
He spent part of the season with High-A Lakeland and was then promoted to Erie where he finished with a 1.18 ERA. The twenty-two year old could be writing a fast ticket to the big leagues if he can continue that progress in 2012.
New Britain Rock Cats - Switch-hitter Aaron Hicks development has been highly anticipated every step of the way since he was drafted in 2008. 2011 proved mostly successful, with Hicks playing a full season at High-A Fort Myers. He hit .242 in a 122 games, collecting 38 RBI. While there were some ups and downs, he's earned consideration after a good showing at the Arizona Fall League. Hicks appears ready to come out of the gate in the Eastern League.