Tag:Top 15 Prospects
Posted on: April 1, 2009 11:35 am

Top 15 Prospects: Boston Red Sox

Boston Red Sox: Top 15 Prospects

Yes, welcome back to the top 15 prospects series.  I have been looking into the 2009 amateur draft, and got motivated to get back on the prospect series.  I would like to note that all of my rankings were made many months ago.  So, if players have since left the organization, i.e. the rule 5 draft, I may not be on the ups of that.  The ages of some players may also be a year off, as I did this late last year, and do not wish to look up the birthdates of a couple hundred players.  However, I will do my best.  I also have no idea how most of the players are doing this spring.  This series is a continuation of the prospect series I started last October.  So, it is each team’s top prospects, following the 2008 season, if you get what I mean by my wording.  The series is targeted more towards casual fans, than hardcore prospect followers.  I also value experience experienced, low upside prospects.  MLL = minor league level last season – A+ is a high A team, A- is a low A team, A (no +/-) means the prospect played at both high A and low A levels last season, “a” is short season A league, and R is rookie league.  Something else of note, that you will notice, is that I like to stay pretty objective and “professional” when writing capsules but, will break out of character, and display my own thoughts, and personality as well, especially when in parentheses.  Enjoy, and please comment your thoughts. 

15. Che-Hsuan Lin Age: 20 MLL: A-

Lin won out this spot amongst some tough competition, guys like Oscar Tejada, Anthony Rizzo, Felix DuBront, and Chris Carter will not be found on this list.  Anyways, Lin’s greatest strengths are on defense, as he possesses the glove, range, and strong arm of a big league centerfielder.  Lin has good speed, and is capable of stealing a bag or thirty three, which is how many he stole in 2008.  Lin has struggled with his bat, he hit .249 with a .359 SLG%, his on base percentage however, was a respectable .342, thanks to good plate discipline.  Lin wins out the last spot on this list, because of his excellent defensive ability, and, even though his offense wasn’t great, it was still better than Oscar Tejada’s.  I also like Lin’s advanced plate discipline, and speed, and he has time to develop more power, his 27% XBH% needs to get hiked up a bit.  It’s too early to tell if Lin can be a starter, or defensive specialist backup, that will depend on the growth of his bat. 

14. Kyle Weiland RHSP Age: 22 MLL: a

Weiland was a closer in college but, the Red Sox have decided to stretch him out as a starter.  The transition to starter has gone well, as Weiland pitched a total of 90 pitches between college and the minors.  In 60 minor league innings he posted a 1.50 ERA and struck out 68 batters.  Weiland’s fastball reaches 95 mph; it has downward movement causing groundballs.  The other two pitches are a slider with a slurvy movement, and a solid changeup.  It will be interesting to see how many innings Weiland will be able to throw in his first season as a starter.  Weiland has the tools to become a starter in the big leagues, and he is good thus far, results wise. 

13. Yamacio Navarro SS Age: 21 MLL: A

Navarro is the second of four international prospects on this list.  He showed good hitting ability in 2008, with a .304 batting average and .359 on base percentage.  He added a good SLG% of .447, and hit 11 homeruns.  However, Navarro’s XBH% was a low 29%.  With more experience Navarro should develop average power, and possibly better than average contact skills.  One part of his offensive game that needs his work is his plate discipline, as he struck out 103 times, with a K: BB ratio of over 2:1 (103 Ks to 41 BBs).  Navarro has average speed but, giving him the ability to steal a few.  Navarro is defensively sound, with adequate range for short, and an above average to plus arm.  Navarro also has some versatility, with the ability, and experience to play second and third as well.  Navarro’s ceiling is an above average shortstop on offense, and average or better defensively, I believe his floor is as a big league utility player, and good bat off the bench.  This season will be big for Navarro as he faces the AA test. 

12. Bryan Price RHSP Age: 22 MLL: a

Price was a supplemental first round pick in the 2008 draft.  Like Weiland, he was a reliever in college but, the Red Sox will try to stretch him into a starter for the time being.  Price’s repertoire includes five pitches.  He throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s, and was able to reach high 90s in relief; his 2-seamer is thrown in the high 80s to low 90s.  Price’s second plus pitch is a slider, he throws in the mid 80s. The other two pitches are his changeup and a curveball that shows some promise.  Price commands his pitches well for the most part.  In 40 innings last summer Price recorded an ERA of 3.83, striking out 43 batters.  Price certainly has the stuff to become a starter in the big leagues but, it is too early to get specific; a number three starter is certainly a possibility, especially if his curveball becomes a plus pitch.  Again, like Weiland, Price’s durability over the course of a full season (starting) is something to watch out for. 

11. George Kottaras C Age: 25 MLL: AAA

First of all, it seems that Kottaras has the backup catcher position under wraps for the Red Sox.  That being said he is a very solid catching prospect (and soon to be rookie).  Kottaras’ best tool is his above average power.  He hit 22 homeruns in 2008, he added a good .457 SLG%, and very good 42% XBH%.  Kottaras also boasts pretty good plate discipline walking 64 times last season.  Kottaras has been all over with his batting average over the years, and last season he hit .243, however, because of his ability to take walks, Kottaras did not have a problem getting on base, his on base percentage was .348, not a great number but, it will not hurt the team when he’s batting sixth or lower.  He also strikes out quite a bit, 110 times in 2008 but, again, I am not worried too much about his ability to get on base, especially with his power.  Kottaras can struggle on defense, although he does a great job blocking pitches, and he has a hard time throwing runners out.  Kottaras does have experience catching knucklers, which certainly helped him when the backup/Wakefield catcher job.  Kottaras may not have the highest of upsides but, I am very high on him.  If he can manage on defense, and hit for a solid average, I think Kottaras can be an average offensively minded catcher, with above average power.  I do not think his downside is any less than a decent backup, and bat off the bench. 

10. Stolmy Pimentel RHSP Age 19 MLL: a

At only nineteen Pimentel put up solid numbers in the New York – Penn league.  He pitched 63 innings with an ERA of 3.14 ERA, striking out 61 batters.  He has good command and movement with his fastball but, he has only average velocity (88-92 mph).  Pimentel has a good feel for his changeup, and throws it in the 78 to 82 range.  His curveball has 12-6 movement, and has the chance to be a plus pitch, its average right now.  Although it’s early in his career, and Pimentel will likely play his first full season this year, he could be a middle of the rotation starter. 

9. Michael Almanzar 3B Age: 18 MLL: A-/R

Athletic and toolsy with limited playing experience; Almanzar must be a high upside Latin American player.  Almanzar saw moderate success in rookie league last season before struggling in the South Atlantic League, in all he hit .262, with a .306 OBP, and .376 SLG%.  Almanzar added a lousy 28% XBH%, and had a SO to BB ratio of 4:1.  Summed up, he is raw offensively and defensively for that matter.  Lucky for Almanzar and the Red Sox, he has all the tools and projection to be a very good player.  His power grades as above average, as does his arm, while everything else seems to be average, except for below average speed.  I am going to wait till he plays a full season before I say anything about just how good he can be.

8. Ryan Westmoreland OF Age: 18 MLL: NA

Westmoreland is not the type of player I usually rank high but, scouting reports are too high in his case.  Ryan had labrum surgery late last year, and will likely be out till the summer.  Still all his tools grade as potentially above average, including a plus arm.  Westmoreland will have no problem being a top centerfielder on defense, and also possesses good plate discipline for his age.  It’s tough to say anything else before he plays a game professionally, depending on his success in a shortened season he could jump into the top five though. 

7. Ryan Kalish OF Age: 20 MLL: A

I actually had Kalish sixth until I wrote the blurb on Casey Kelly, I convinced myself to bump him ahead of Kalish… I must be a good persuader.  Anyways, Kalish had mixed success in 2008, he hit .273, with a .365 OBP, and only a .363 SLG%.  Kalish’s poor power numbers showed up across the board, as he hit only five homeruns over the course of the season, and hit just a 24% XBH%.  Kalish did display good plate discipline, he had a K: BB of 1.5 to 1 (99 SOs to 61 BBs).  Kalish also has above average speed, and stole 19 SBs last season.  He is a good defender in center and has great range, and an average to above average arm.  Kalish has tremendous upside as a top of the lineup batter.  More power could come, as Kalish is still only 20.  He will likely play most of the season in AA.

6. Casey Kelly RHP/SS Age: 19 MLL: a

Kelly was Boston’s first round pick last June.  Coming into the draft he was highly touted as both a pitcher and shortstop.  He played shortstop in short season A ball after signing but, Kelly will start the 2009 season as a pitcher.  After Kelly pitches 100 innings he will return to the field as a shortstop.  This new development makes Kelly a very interesting prospect.  He could become a good shortstop with power, or a starting pitcher with a better than average pitches.  After signing, Kelly hit .215 with only a .255 OBP, he showed good power, hitting a 49% XBH%.  His plate discipline was bad however; he struck out 42 times in 130 at-bats, while walking only 6 times.  Kelly is very athletic, possessing plus range and a plus arm.  He should develop into an at least average defensive shortstop but, he may grow too big for the position, he is already 6-3/6-4 and 205ish.  He has good power but, he has to work on making contact and his plate discipline.  On the mound Kelly throws an average fastball in the 88 to 92 mph range, and the pitch has good sink.  His fastball velocity should rise as he focuses on pitching, he has plenty of projection.  His curveball is a 12-6er and is an above average pitch; his changeup is average at least right now.  As stated before Kelly has a high upside as either a shortstop or pitcher, and the Red Sox are going to look into both options for now, we’ll see how he is doing at both positions at the end of the year. 

5. Nick Hagadone LHSP Age: 22 MLL: A-

Hagadone was the Red Sox’ first pick in 2007, he was a college reliever (most of the time) but, the Red Sox have made him starter, although it would not be surprising if Hagadone ended up as a reliever before establishing a career in the majors.  Before moving on, I should mention that Hagadone underwent Tommy John surgery last June but, his recovering has been going well, and he hopes to be pitching in games by June or May.  He throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s with good movement.  He also throws an above average to plus power slider in the low 80s, and a getting to average changeup in the low 80s.  Hagadone’s stuff translates to him being a number two or three starter, and he has had success on the mound, when healthy.  However, there is still talk of Hagadone becoming a reliever (how do you crack a rotation already consisting of Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, and Dice K with Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson floating around, not mentioning Michael Bowden?), and we have yet to see how Hagadone returns from injury. 

4. Daniel Bard RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AA/A-

Bard pitched in 78 innings in 2008, all in relief; he struck out 107 batters in that time, recording an ERA of 1.51.  As you can tell from the numbers, Bard is a very special reliever, which will give Boston two of those as early as this summer.  Bard throws his fastball in the mid to high 90s, reaching triple digits; the pitch has a lot of movement on it.  He also throws a plus slider, which has almost sluve-like movement, there’s a curveball and changeup in his repertoire as well but, Bard doesn’t have to throw those two pitches in relief.  As I said, Bard will be a special reliever; it just may not be as a closer, because Papelbon is there. 

3. Josh Reddick OF Age: 21 MLL: AA/A

Reddick is a guy a like, his scouting reports are solid, and his stats back them up beautifully.  In 2008 he hit .311 with a .356 OBP.  His power was great, and can be found in three places: he hit a .544 SLG%, 23 homeruns, and a solid XBH% of 36%.  Reddick lacks plate discipline, his SO: BB rate was about 2.5 SOs to BB.  Reddick has good speed, and used it to steal 14 bases last year.  He is an above average outfielder with the ability to play center or a corner, and he possesses a plus arm.  Unlike many centerfield prospects, Reddick’s value would not dissipate with a permanent move to right field, as he has above average power.  Reddick has the ability to become an above average outfielder in the majors but, not an elite outfielder. 

2. Michael Bowden RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA/AA

Bowden throws his fastball in the low 90s.  He also throws an above average hard 12-6 curve in the mid 70s, and an above average circle change in the low 80s.  He complements his stuff with excellent control of all three pitches.  In the minors last year he pitched 144 innings, posting a 2.62 ERA, and striking out 130 batters.  He also had success in stints in Boston.  Bowden is major league ready but, there isn’t a place for him in the big league rotation, which means Michael is either on his way to the bullpen, like Justin Masterson, bouncing back-and-forth between AAA and the majors regardless of his performance, like Clay Buchholz, or headed out of the organization.  Bowden would likely develop into a mid rotation starter if given a chance, and could be a low-end number two starter.

1. Lars Anderson 1B Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+

There is some debate as to whether Anderson is just an above average first basemen, or if he is an All Star at the position.  I tend to agree with the latter.  In 2008 he hit .317, with a .417 OBP, and .517 SLG%.  He also hit 18 homeruns, and an XBH% of 37%.  Like most power hitters Anderson does strike out a lot, 107 times in 2008 but, he also drew a lot walks, 75.  Anderson’s hitting numbers are all there, and his power should even rise, as he continues to gain experience.  Anderson is at least average defensively, and works hard at improving, he is fairly athletic for a first basemen.  I see Anderson as a .300BA/.400BP guy, with 30 homerun potential.  Now seems as a good a time as any to say that a hitter usually does not peak until 27, which is well known for those of you who play fantasy baseball.  So, when I say Anderson has 30 homerun potential, he likely will not reach that number for awhile, even if he plays in the majors everyday next year at 22. 

Final Thoughts:   The Red Sox’ list has two good things going for it, check that, three: 1. they have great talent at the top in Anderson and Bowden 2.They have a very deep list; all fifteen prospects are quality prospects 3. Their list is littered with diversity.  They have a solid prospect covering each position, a good mix of pitchers and hitters, and they also have a good mix of near ready prospects, and high upside guys who are a long way from the majors.  The biggest strength of Red Sox’ group of ‘top prospects’ is their diversity and pitching.  The Red Sox already have Josh Beckett, Jon Lester and Dice K as locks in their rotation for the foreseeable future, not including Clay Buchholz (who would rank second after Lars Anderson if he still qualified for this list), and currently the Red Sox have Brad Penny, John Smoltz, and Tim Wakefield for at least a year, possibly two.  Bowden is ready to start in the majors, Justin Masterson would be a solid starter, and Hagadone, Price, Weiland, and Pimentel (not including the versatile Casey Kelly) are well on their way to becoming starting options in the next 2-3 years.  The Red Sox also will have two of the best relievers in baseball in Papelbon and Bard.  Let’s speculate the entire pitching staff for the end of the 2011 season, five-man-rotation: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Dice K, Buchholz, Bowden, and Justin Masterson, the seven in the bullpen: Papelbon, Bard, Hideki Okajima, Nick Hagadone, Bryan Price, Kyle Weiland, and Junichi Tazawa (who I did not include on my list, he is a good enough prospect but, when I created the list way back when, I didn’t know much about him, and decided to stick with what I know).  I want to know how the Yankees (or anyone else) expect(s) to hit against a pitching staff like that. 

Next Up: The Yankees



Category: MLB
Posted on: March 21, 2009 9:32 pm

Top 15 Prospects: Baltimore Orioles

Baltimore Orioles: Top 15 Prospects

Yes, welcome back to the top 15 prospects series.  I have been looking into the 2009 amateur draft, and got motivated to get back on the prospect series.  I would like to note that all of my rankings were made many months ago.  So, if players have since left the organization, i.e. the rule 5 draft, I may not be on the ups of that.  The ages of some players may also be a year off, as I did this late last year, and do not wish to look up the birthdates of a couple hundred players.  However, I will do my best.  I also have no idea how most of the players are doing this spring.  This series is a continuation of the prospect series I started last October.  So, it is each team’s top prospects, following the 2008 season, if you get what I mean by my wording.  The series is targeted more towards casual fans, than hardcore prospect followers.  I also value experience experienced, low upside prospects.  MLL = minor league level last season – A+ is a high A team, A- is a low A team, A (no +/-) means the prospect played at both high A and low A levels last season, “a” is short season A league, and R is rookie league.  Something else of note, that you will notice, is that I like to stay pretty objective and “professional” when writing capsules but, will break out of character, and display my own thoughts, and personality as well, especially when in parentheses.  Enjoy, and please comment your thoughts. 

15. (13). Matt Angle OF Age: 23 MLL: A-

My list is the only place you will find Angle, why?  Well, I like low ceiling established players, even if they are 23 playing in low A ball, ok, so, he’s not a great prospect but, I like him all the same, and who cares about the fifteen ranked prospect in a system with Matt Wieters in it.  Angle was drafted in 2007, the same draft that produced the aforementioned Wieters (why so much talk about Matt Wieters you ask, because he deserves it!  Josh, pull yourself together, and defend your reasoning for placing Angle on this list over someone like Kam Mickollo… a reliever).  Angle is a terrific fielder in center, rated as the best fielding outfielder in the system by BA (I hate mentioning BA in my posts).  Angle also flashed good offense hitting .287 with a .385 OBP (on base %), he also flashed great base running ability, stealing 37 bases.  Another plus to Angle’s season was his near 1:1 SO to BB (strikeout to walk) ratio (86 SO: 71 BB).  The downside, Angle does not have much power hitting a .379 slugging %, hitting only 4 homeruns in a full season, and hitting an XBH% (extra base hit percentage) of only 23%.  Still, you have to love Angle’s ability to get on base, and use his speed both on the base paths, and in the field.  Angle is a very capable backup outfielder, at least, and I think he could potentially be an adequate starter but, no one else seems to share that sentiment.

(14). Collin Allen RHSP Age: 22 MLL: R

Allen was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2007 draft (2007?  Just like Angle… and Wieters!).  Anyways, last I knew Allen was throwing his fastball in the 80s touching the low 90s.  His out pitch is his curveball, while he also throws a changeup.  His stuff, not overwhelming by any means however, I value a guy who knows how to pitch, and has proven that he knows how to pitch.  In 2008 he threw 62 innings in rookie league ball, posting an ERA of 2.31, and striking out 64 batters.  Those are nice numbers.  Allen was also a pretty good outfielder in (junior) college, he’s a good athlete – this means the ability to repeat his mechanics, and less of an injury risk, however, he does not have a projectable body, and his stuff will stay below average.  With the 11-15 slots I like to include guys you should keep an eye on moving forward, Allen is that type as he begins his first full season in 2009.  How is he better than Angle?

(13). Kenny Moreland RHSP Age: 22 MLL: A+/R

Here’s the skinny on Moreland, he throws his fastball in the high 80s/low 90s range, and has no projection at 5’11”.  However, he also throws a good curveball, with good command.  He has also shown results starting last season in the summer running rookie league, and reaching high A ball.  In seventy innings he posted a 3.10 ERA, and struck out 68 batters.  Moreland would not be on this list were it not for his control but, still he is very low upside.  So, how is he better than Angle?

12. Ryan Adams 2B Age: 21 MLL: A-

I do not understand why people do not like Adams.  In 2008 Adams hit .308 with a .367 OBP, the average is great, and the on base percentage is more than respectable for a 21 year old.  Adams also flashed good power for a second basemen, recording a SLG% of .462 and hitting 11 homeruns.  He also added an XBH% of 30%, which is a respectable number, and you would expect the power to continue to improve moving forward.  Adams also stole 12 bases.  There are two problems in Adams’ game 1. He strikes out to much, 109 SOs, to 36 BBs - that SO: BB rate is slightly worse than Bill Rowell’s and I am about to hammer Bill Rowell for his plate discipline.  In my defense, Rowell’s OBP is only .315, while Adams’ is .367 so; his lack of plate discipline does not hinder him as much.  2. That’s right I said two things.  Adams’ defense has become problematic, racking up errors last season, they were however, throwing errors, and he still has the hands and range to be a capable defender.  So, this also does not worry me.  Anyways, I think Adams can become a possibility at second base, especially with the Orioles’ lack of middle infield prospects. 

11. Zach Britton LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-

*I apologize for the two scrubs I threw in at 13 and 14.  I like analyzing 15 prospects from each team, and those two were guys I threw in because of success at lower levels but, they both lack the ability to improve their below average stuff, and thus will probably not ever make it to the big leagues.  For all intents and purposes, I will refer to this list as a top 13 list, with Matt Angle moving up two spots to 13.  I can now list off much better prospects than the previous two: L.J. Hoes 2B, Xavier Avery OF, Chorye Spoone RHP, Pedro Beato but, I am not going to go rewrite the 13 and 14 prospects.  So, deal with the two guys who do not belong there. 

Britton was taken in the third round of the 2006 draft.  I want to point out, quickly how Britton was not a “can’t miss” high school prospect when he was drafted but, opted to sign anyway, instead of developing his game with Texas A&M.  This decision has proved to be a wise decision for Britton as he has been very consistent, and will play in AA at some point this season, and is probably on par stuff wise with the college pitchers who will be taken at the end of the first round.  Had Britton gone to college he would be eligible to be drafted this year (players attending a four-year college must wait till after their junior year to be drafted), and would likely start playing for minor league team in low A this summer.  Anyways, sorry for the tangent but, I wanted to illustrate, well, something, at the least this is a small lesson about the draft.  Back to Britton!  Britton throws his 2-seam fastball in the low 90s, and pairs it with a slider (he used to throw a power curve but, recently dumped it for the slider).  Due to those two pitches Britton does an excellent job of inducing ground balls.  Britton will probably have to improve his feel for his changeup to have the same success he’s had at higher levels.  In 147 innings in 2008 Britton posted an ERA of 3.12, he stuck out 114 (maybe a 6.98 strikeout/9 innings is not all that impressive in low A ball but, remember, he’s a groundball pitcher).  Britton has the capabilities and stuff to become a number four starter, maybe even a number three starter but, what are the chances Baltimore needs him to start? 

10. Bill Rowell 3B Age: 20 MLL: A+

This guy is a great prospect.  Let me explain, Billy Rowell is a great prospect in the sense that he is a former number nine overall pick (2006) has struggled hitting, some injury problems early last season, has had some pride issues but, still has a boatload of potential (how much is a boatload, well, it’s a lot), and he is only 20 years old, and was the youngest everyday player in the Carolina, high A, league.  That being said, I have him pretty low on this list, which says two things 1. This system has more than a boatload of talent, and 2. I like to see results/I like established players.  Anyways, more specific to Rowell, he disappointed offensively in 2008 (maybe expected being so young for the level of competition he was facing).  He hit for only a .248 BA, and slugged for .368 – Rowell’s second best tool, his power potential.  I will continue writing about his power numbers, Rowell (I get sick of using a guy’s last name when referring to him, I need to give everyone a nickname) hit only 7 HRs in 375 at bats – 10-15 over the course of a full, healthy season – Billy R also hit an XBH% (extra base hit percentage, I use it a lot) of 33% which actually is not bad, especially given his slugging percentage.  Now the really bad part, Billy R struck out almost three times more than he walked (104 SOs to 36 BBs, yikes!).  Rowell is below average defensively, and does not project to be any better than average (if average).  Many believe he will need to move to first, which would 1. Waste his best tool, his arm, and 2. Lower the value of his bat, because although he does have above average power potential, he does not have thirty home run power, and will not hit for a high batting average.  So, it is best if Billy R stays at third.  If he cannot, and has to be moved, why not to a corner outfield position, there his arm would still play, and he is not a terrible athlete so, left field is a possibility (I mean, Manny does it, right?)  Billy R could be an above average third baseman at the big league level but, that is contingent on three things 1. The power comes 2. His plate discipline improves 3. He stays at third.  If not than Billy R could be an effective corner infield sub/pinch hitter/left side of a platoon/average-below average first basemen/corner infielder, you have to like the options (Remember when I said Billy R was a great prospect?  Well, look at how long his blurb is, that is how intriguing (yes, intriguing is the better word) he is).  

9. David Hernandez RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA

David Hernandez is the Orioles’ sicth best pitching prospect, on this list, which speaks volumes as to how much of a boatload of talent this system has, particularly on the mound.  David Hernandez has been dominant the last couple of seasons.  In 2008 he led the Eastern League in strikeouts, with 166 in 141 innings; he posted a stellar 2.68 ERA.  David Hernandez throws an above average fastball into the mid 90s; he also throws an above average slider/slurve in the high 70s, low 80s.  Despite the great stats, and two above average pitches, many people, including myself have doubts about his future as a starter.  The reasons are threefold 1. His spotty command, even when D Hern is throwing his fastball. 2. His lack of a third pitch.  D Hern’s changeup is far below average.  3. The Orioles have five pitching prospects ahead of him, plus R Liz, and Guthrie, why would they want to waste D Hern in the minors when he could be an effective reliever right now?  Best case scenario, D Hern develops an average third pitch, shores up his fastball command, and becomes a number three starter, which would make for some excellent spring training battles!

8. Brandon Snyder 1B/3B Age: 22 MLL: A+

Snyder is currently a first baseman but, the thought of trying him at third has been tossed around.  His value, obviously, increases with a move to third.  Defensively he is solid at first though.  Why start talking about Snyder’s D, because it will not matter for the rest of this blurb, his game is his offense.  Bryder (this nickname thing is catchy) hit for a .315 average last season.  He, however, has the same problem as Adams, and Rowell, that is a K:BB ratio in the range of 3 to 1 and 2 to 1.  However, like Adams, Bryder still managed a respectable OBP of .357, not great, but respectable.  Snyder showed good power last season, and has a little more potential left in the tank, hitting a SLG% of .490 (compare it to Rowell’s .368, someone with similar power potential) in 2008.  Bryder added 13 homeruns, and an XBH% of 35%.  I like Snyder as an average big league first baseman, and above average third baseman (on offense) but, his outlook gets better if he increases his walks, and power.  As of now, Bryder is headed in the right direction. 

7. Brandon Erbe RHSP Age: 21 MLL: A+

Erbe threw 151 innings in 2008, posting a lackluster 4.30 ERA but, striking out 151 batters.  Erbe throws two fastballs, his 4-seamer is thrown in the low 90s but, can touch the mid 90s, while his 2-seamer is thrown a couple mph slower but, compensates that with heavy life.  He also throws a slider, which should be above average in the future.  I can almost assure you that either Erbe or D Hern will be moved to the bullpen soon.  The Orioles just have too many starting pitchers (too many starters?  There’s no such thing), and Erbe and D Hern have the power stuff that plays well in the bullpen, and lack effective third pitches.  If Erbe remains a starter he should continue to work on his changeup, and like D Hern, can become a third starter type. 

6. Troy Patton LHSP Age: 23 MLL: NA

Patton is the “gem” (tongue in cheek) of the Tejada trade with the Astros, and was injured all of last year.  However, he is back, and scouting reports are favorable.  Being a part of the Astros organization for so long makes Patton a personal favorite of mine.  He throws his fastball in the low 90s, and commands it everywhere in the strike zone.  He also throws a tight slider and changeup in the high 70s.  Patton can command all of his stuff, and has advanced pitchability.  I see as one of those crafty lefties, cough, Tom Glavine, cough, and is a number three starter type.  It may take him a little while to get the feel for pitching again though, following the injury. 

5. Nolan Reimold OF Age: 25 MLL: AA

Reimold is a guy I really like, despite the obvious flaw of being 25, and spending all of 2008 in AA.   There he hit .284 with a .367 OBP.  Unlike most of the position players on this list Reimold has good plate discipline, with a K: BB ratio of nearly 1 to1.  Reimold bolstered great power, hitting 25 homeruns, and a SLG% of .501, with an XBH% of 40%, all great numbers.  Reimold’s defense is his weakness, as he has bad instincts in the outfield.  However, Reimold has a plus arm, and is capable of serving as a centerfielder at times, although he will (and should) play everyday at a corner.  Reimold also has good athleticism, and can steal a few bags.  Reimold can be an above average corner outfielder everyday very soon. 

4. Jake Arrieta RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A+

Now comes, perhaps, the best set of pitching prospects, up first, Jake Arrieta.  Arrieta throws a mid 90s fastball with late life, however, he has trouble commanding it at times.  Arrieta’s second above average pitch is his slider; he also throws a big breaking curveball, and a changeup.  In 2008 Jake Arrieta threw 113 innings in the minors, posting a 2.87 ERA, with 120 strikeouts.  He also spent time playing for team USA in the Olympics.  Arrieta is a future top of the rotation starter but, first must refine his curve and changeup, as well as his fastball command.

3. Brian Matusz LHSP Age: 21 MLL: Arizona Fall League

Missed the regular season after signing, Matusz did, however, throw 27 innings in the AFL, posting a 4.73 ERA and striking out a 31 batters.  Matusz was the number four overall pick last June.  He throws four above average pitches.  B Mat’s fastball falls in the low 90s reaching 94 on occasion, it has some natural sink to it.  Matusz also has some projection left so; do not be surprised if you see his fastball topping somewhere in the 95-96 range before he reaches the majors.  B Mat also throws a plus curveball and changeup, as well as a slider/cutter.  B Mat is a future number two starter, his stuff is not quite electric enough to be a number one starter but, he still possesses very good stuff with good command.  He should be called up to the big leagues late in the year, and could become a fixture in the bullpen to start 2010. 

2. Chris Tillman RHSP Age: 20 MLL: AA

There are those who think Matusz is the top prospect in the system, they would be wrong.  Tillman does have that “electric” stuff required of a number one starter.  He throws his fastball in the low 90s but, gets it up into the mid 90s much more often than Matusz, and his peak of 95/96 mph is higher than Matusz’, I also believe Tillman has more projection left.  Due to his height 6’5” C Till throws his fastball on a downward plane, a difficult angle to hit.  C Till’s best pitch is a plus (possibly plus-plus) 12-6 curveball he throws in the mid 70s, he also throws a changeup, which still needs work but, should be an average offering in time.  One thing Matusz has on C Till is command but, at age TWENTY (20 and in AA last season) Tillman has plenty of time to refine that area of his game.  Now, the real reason I think Tillman is a better prospect than Matusz, his results!  In 2008, C Till threw 136 innings posting a 3.18 ERA, while striking out 154 batters.  He did this all in AA, at the age of 20.  Tillman is the future ace of this team, how fast he develops his command will determine how fast he arrives there though. 

1. Matt Wieters C Age: 22 MLL: AA/A+

Finally, the best prospect in baseball, I and Georgia Tech give you, Matt Wieters.  In 2008 Wieters hit .355, with a .454 OBP, and .600 SLG%.  I’m going to give you a second to process that… He added 27 homeruns, an XBH% of 33%, and to top it all off, Wieters walked six more times (82) than he struck out (76).  What more could you ask for from a prospect on offense?  Defensively Wieters is a complete catcher, with plus or better: receiving skills, blocking ability, and arm behind the plate.  Wieters does not run well but, is a decent athlete anyway.  What does the future hold for Wieters?  Ten all star games, 30 home runs annually, many .300/.400/.500 seasons, multiple gold glove awards, possibly an MVP award, and of course zero playoff appearances… as an Oriole at least… sorry.   

Final Thoughts:  I feel bad for the Orioles.  Having to be in the same division as the Red Sox and Yankees but, now also the Rays and the Rays do not seem to be going anywhere, anytime soon.  Still, the Orioles have a solid core of players to build around in the majors: Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, and Wieters, along with the three stud starting pitchers.  However, even with that group – and the number five pick in June – I don’t think the Orioles are good enough to compete with the aforementioned three teams any time in the coming years.  Which is a shame, because the Orioles have been doing a great job of finding and developing young prospects, particularly young pitching.  Pitching is obviously the strength of the system; they have six guys who could become number three starters.  However, after Wieters and Reimold the Orioles are really lacking for position players.  Both Snyder and Rowell show some promise but, their values will suffer if they both end up at first base and both may end up as only average offensively as well.  The Orioles are severely lacking prospects in centerfield and at the middle infield positions, I would look for them to look at this area in the draft so, be on the lookout for Donovan Tate HS OF, and Dustin Ackley OF/1B UNC. 




Posted on: December 28, 2008 11:47 pm
Edited on: December 28, 2008 11:52 pm

Top 15 Prospects: NL West

Next Up: My National League Review, then onward to the American League which I would love to have done before Spring Training.

NL West Top Prospects Team Rankings

I would just like to say that these Team Rankings are based on my top 15 prospect lists only, not the state of the organizations entire farm system. The numbers next to each team’s names is the amount of points they scored in my ranking system. The highest possible score is 150. It should also be noted that you cannot take the below “scores” and compare them to that of a NL Central or NL East team, this is because the scores are relative only to the other teams in its division. My next post will be a review of the top prospect lists of the entire National League, and there I will have a ranking of all NL teams.

5. Arizona Diamondbacks 44

Only Jarrod Parker made the top 25 list [below], although Daniel Schlereth would be one of the next three guys on, and he [Schlereth], along with Gerardo Parra made the second all-prospect team. This is, probably, the worst compilation of a team’s top 15 prospects I have ranked thus far. Only the top three prospects (Parker, Schlereth, and Parra) project to be productive major leaguers. It was only a few years ago when the Diamondback’s farm was one of the best in baseball but, since then, guys like Justin Upton, Chris Young, and Max Scherzer have graduated to the majors, and others like Brett Anderson, Carlos Gonzalez, and Greg Smith have been traded away, also they received no promising prospects when they traded Jose Valverde to the Astros – and Astros fans everywhere, including here on this blog, thank you – Juan Gutierrez is not a “promising prospect”. Luckily the Diamondbacks have a good young team right now, and do not need many more pieces, in fact, Schlereth, and Parker may be enough. That will give the organization a little time to improve the farm.

4. Las Angeles Dodgers 78

A tough ranking, I know. The Dodgers have three stellar pitching prospects in Scott Elbert, Ethan Martin, and James McDonald – not to mention Clayton Kershaw who just graduated to the majors in the later part of last season. They also have Chris Withrow, and Josh Lindblom, who both have the potential to become very good pitching prospects prospects. The Dodgers also have a couple of solid hitting prospects, as well, in Ivan DeJesus and Andrew Lambo. However, the Dodgers lack the kind of depth the Rockies, and Padres have.

3. Colorado Rockies 97

I love Dexter Fowler, who happens to be the best position prospect in the division. The emergence of Jhoulys Chacin gives the Rockies a second top five prospect (in the division). After those two, however, the talent level drops off a bit. Wilin Rosario and Mike McKenry are very intriguing catcher prospect, and Christian Friedrich is a future middle of the rotation pitcher. What sets the Rockies apart from the Dodgers is their abundance of high mid-level prospects. Such as: Eric Young Jr., Darin Holcomb, Hector Gomez, Chris Nelson, and Charles Blackmon. All of whom will never become big league stars but, most of them should be productive major leaguers at some point I their careers. I cannot, however, say the same about the Dodgers’ mid-level prospects, guys like Austin Gallagher, Josh Bell, and Cole St. Clair.

2. San Diego Padres 98

The Padres just edge out the Rockies for this spot. This is a little surprising, seeing as how I ranked the Padres best prospect, Mat Latos, the worst of any prospect ranked as his team’s best. However, the Padres have several other top tier prospects to add to the high upside Latos. Guys like Kellen Kulbacki, Kyle Blanks, Will Inman, and Cedric Hunter bolster that group. The Padres have the second most prospects in the NL West’s top 25 with seven prospects. The Padres also have an impressive group of mid-level prospects in players like Mitch Canham, Nick Schmidt, Jaff Decker, James Darnell, and Drew Cumberland.

1. San Francisco Giants 133

Without a doubt the Giants top the division. The Giants have eight of their prospects making the top 25 list, and seven of them made the First NL West all-prospect team. The Giants have a ton of top tier prospects, as I ranked five of them in the top ten in the division. The Giants also have good balance, with a couple of high quality pitchers in Bumgarner and Alderson, and a number of productive hitters in Nate Shierholtz, Nick Noonan, Buster Posey, and Conor Gillaspie.

If you are interested in seeing a more in depth look for any of these teams, just check my archives, or go to my blogs homepage, and scroll down.

NL West Top 25 Prospects

25. Conor Gillaspie 3B/2B SF

I really like Gillaspie as either a third or second basemen with a high batting average, and at least solid defense.

24. Allan Dykstra 1B SD

You have to like Dyksta’s bat with 20-30 homerun potential, and above average plate discipline. He also is not going to hurt a team defensively.

23. Henry Sosa RHSP SF

Sosa has great stuff – with his 97 mph fastball and above average curveball – but the lack of command, and unimpressive numbers at his age and level concern me.

22. Andrew Lambo 1B/OF LAD

I will admit, I may have him a little too low but, I do not totally buy into him as an outfielder yet. I also think his chance of being a bust is still high, and he has to shore up that 3:1 K to BB ratio. He is young, and has a lot of upside though, very high ceiling.

21. Cedric Hunter OF SD

Maybe Hunter’s tools are a little too close to average to be higher than Lambo but, I think his bust potential is much lower, and I like his 1:1 K to BB ratio at the age of 20.

20. Matt Antonelli 2B SD

I still like him. High walk rates – 1:1 K to BB ratio – above average defensively, 20-30 SBs a year, some power potential – could hit 20 homeruns, probably will hit somewhere in the 10-15 range. Very disappointing 2008, look for him to bounce back in spring training to become the Padres everyday second basemen in 2009.

19. James McDonald RHSP LAD

Will Inman or James McDonald? McDonald throws a low 90s fastball, and a 12-6 curveball which he uses as an out pitch. He is major league ready, and will become a solid number four starter next season.

18. Kyle Blanks 1B SD

Blanks hit 20 homeruns in 2008, and he still has more power in his tank. I may have him rated to low, like I did for Lambo – what is it with me not liking big power 1B/LF guys? He is a decent athlete for his massive size but, still below average defensively.

17. Will Inman RHSP SD

I really like Inman, and like his 2008 stats better, I may have even over rated him because of them. Inman’s stuff is not very impressive throwing a 90 mph fastball, and low 70s/high 60s curveball, his stuff his pretty deceptive, though, and fools hitters – which is all that matters. I think his makeup, and pitchibility are enough to make him a number three starter.

16. Christian Friedrich LHSP COL

I love this guy. He throws three major league average pitches in his fastball, cutter, and plus curveball, and also had a great debut to pro ball.

15. Wilin Rosario C COL

Great defensive catcher with a strong arm – throwing out 46% of would be base stealers. Rosario also has some offensive upside with plus power potential, and hit well overall in the Rookie League last season. He has the potential to be an elite catcher.

14. Ivan DeJesus SS/2B LAD

DeJesus is an above average offensive minded middle infielder. He has great hitting ability, with good plate patience, lacking power; he also has enough speed to steal 20 bases most seasons.

13. Ethan Martin RHSP LAD

2008 first round pick, Martin throws three above average pitches in his fastball, power curve, and splitter. He is very athletic for a pitcher, and garnered scout’s attention as both a pitcher, and third basemen. He has future number two written on him.

12. Kellen Kulbacki OF SD

Kulbacki hit .300/.400/.500+ last season, and shows no signs of slowing down. Sure, he is nothing spectacular defensively, and will probably play left his entire career; his bat has been playing very well. Next season in double A will be a good measure of what he could be in the majors.

11. Nick Noonan 2B SF

Great defender at second – his weak arm prevents will prevent him from playing short. Noonan profiles as a top of the order hitter, he has above average contact ability, and capable of stealing more than 30 bases a year, however, he really has to work on his plate patience.

10. Nate Schierholtz OF SF

Schierholtz is an average corner outfielder offensively, and above average defensively, with a canon of an arm.

9. Mat Latos RHSP SD

Latos depends on his plus mid 90s fastball but, is now starting to mix in his “knuckle” curve which grades as above average, or possibly plus, in the future. Statistically he was right on track in his half season last summer. Latos could be a top 5 guy – on this list – next season if he puts up good numbers over a full season in 2009.

8. Scott Elbert LHP LAD

Elbert just edges Latos because he is major league ready, and has a better track record; however, Latos has the higher ceiling, especially if Elbert ends up in the bullpen for good. Scott still has top of the rotation stuff, with his plus fastball and slider combo but, due to injuries the Dodgers have him in the bullpen – for now.

7. Angel Villalona 1B SF

Villalona is very young and very undisciplined – recording a K:BB ratio of 6.5:1 in 2008. However, he does have plus plus power potential, and has already started to show some of it but, his power numbers will rise, if he improves his discipline.

6. Tim Alderson RHSP SF

Alderson has great command, and pairs it with a couple of plus pitches in his low-mid 90s fastball, and power curve.

5. Buster Posey C SF

Posey is a plus defender, and has a lot of upside offensively. He will hit for a high average, and average power could develop eventually. He is a good athlete behind the plate. I had him as the number one pick in my mock draft back in June but, instead fell to number five.

4. Jhoulys Chacin RHSP COL

I really like Chacin, he led the minors in wins in 2008. He throws a mid 90s sinking fastball, and plus changeup. He is a number two starter.

3. Jarrod Parker RHSP ARI

Parker is the first of two pitchers on this list to possess a plus plus fastball. He throws his in the mid-high 90s, and has great command of it. He also throws a slider, curveball, and changeup, the first of which could be a plus pitch as well.

2. Dexter Fowler OF COL

I really debated making Fowler the top guy in the NL West but, ultimately decided on Bumgarner instead. Fowler is a 5-tooler who plays exceptional defense, and will be a well above average centerfielder offensively, as well.

1. Madison Bumgarner LHSP SF

Bumgarner, like Parker, throws a plus plus fastball in the mid-high 90s – and he could add a couple ticks of velocity still. It [his fastball] also has a ton of late tailing action. Bumgarner has also messed around with a couple different breaking pitches (curveball, and slider) but, as of yet none of them really stand out. Bumgarner has ace potential if he can establish his secondary stuff.

First Team All NL West Prospects

C Buster Posey SF
1B Angel Villalona SF
2B Nick Noonan SF
SS Ivan DeJesus LAD
3B Conor Gillaspie SF
CF Dexter Fowler COL
RF Nate Schierholtz SF
LF Kellen Kulbacki SD
SP1 Madison Bumgarner SF
SP2 Jarrod Parker ARI
SP3 Jhoulys Chacin COL
SP4 Tim Alderson SF
SP5 Mat Latos SD
RP Scott Elbert LAD
HM Allan Dykstra 1B SD

No hard decisions here. The outfield even works perfectly for a RF, CF, LF. The pitching staff is full of aces. Even with Elbert in the bullpen.

Second Team All NL West Prospects

C Wilin Rosario COL
1B Kyle Blanks SD
2B Matt Antonelli SD
SS Hector Gomez COL
3B Darin Holcomb COL
CF Cedric Hunter SD
RF Gerardo Parra ARI
LF Andrew Lambo LAD
SP1 Ethan Martin LAD
SP2 Will Inman SD
SP3 James McDonald
SP4 Henry Sosa SF
SP5 Josh Lindblom LAD
RP Daniel Schlereth ARI
HM Mike McKenry C COL

There is a significant drop off at all positions except LF, 1B, and possibly 2B, and C. The pitching staff likely only has one top of the rotation guy in Ethan Martin, the rest either have lower ceilings (McDonald, Inman, Lindblom) or have big bust potential (Sosa). Holcomb and Gomez make the list due to a lack of depth on the left side of the infield.

Posted on: December 23, 2008 3:20 am

Top 15 Prospects: San Francisco Giants

The Giants are the final national league team, finally!  I hope you guys have enjoyed the first half of my Top 15 Prospects series, I know I have enjoyed writing it.  This article will be followed by a divisional wrap up - probably sometime after Christmas.  Then I will do some kind of special National League wrap up... I just do not know what exactly.  I just know it will include a top 50 list, and I will probably rank each team against each other, I may have to break it up into a couple of different parts.  Then in 2009 I will start the AL beginning with the AL East, and the Baltimore Orioles - here's a teaser, Matt Wieters is the top Orioles prospect. 

As always, if you read the article post a comment - they can range from voicing your discrepancies with my list, mention guys I may have omitted, point out flaws in my list, talk about other prospects, when/where these prospects will play.  Let's get some discussion going. 

Commonly Used Abbreviations:
MLL – minor league level
A+ - high A
“A-“ - low A
A - Played at both high, and low A
a – short season A
R – Rookie league
w – Winter league stats included
BA – batting average
OBP – On Base %
SLG – Slugging %
XBH – extra base hit %
K:BB – ratio of strikeouts to walks

San Francisco Giants Top 15 Prospects

1. Madison Bumgarner LHSP Age: 19 MLL: A-

There may not have been a more impressive pitcher in all of minor league baseball last year, yes, that includes David Price.  Bumgarner pitched in 142 innings with a 1.46 ERA striking out 164 batters, and holding opponents to a .216 batting average.  Bumgarner has a PLUS PLUS fastball, he throws it up to 96, and still has enough projection for its velocity to rise.  As a lefty Bumagarner’s fastball has a lot of late tailing movement.  He also throws a curveball, which could be a plus pitch in the future, he also shows a slider which could be promising – he has messed around with the grip of his breaking pitches so, it is tough to tell whether he will though both a curveball, and slider – his changeup is a below average pitch.  He also has impressive control for a flamethrower, his command is better than average.  Bumagarner is a future front of the rotation starter with ace potential if he can develop a reliable breaking pitch.   

2. Buster Posey C Age: 21 MLL: A-/a/w

Posey was the number five pick in the 2008 draft.  He has very advanced batting skills, hitting .342, with a .425 OBP split between the end of the 2008 season, and the Hawaii Winter Baseball league.  Posey has below average power, though he did post a .467 SLG% in 2008, his XBH% was only .29, he could hit 10-20 homeruns in the future.  Posey already has good plate discipline.  One of the reasons Posey was drafted so high was his defensive ability.  Posey should be a plus defender when he makes it to the big leagues, he has an average arm behind the plate.  Since before the draft I have been really high on Posey, and I think he has the potential to be an above average catcher both offensively, and defensively very soon. 

3. Tim Alderson RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A+

Alderson put up a great 2008 campaign, pitching 145 innings with an ERA of 2.79 striking out 124 batters.  He throws his fastball in the low to mid 90s.  He also throws a plus power curveball between 80 and 78 mph, and a changeup he is still developing.  Alderson has great command.  There is not much downside with Alderson, although it would be great if he could get his changeup to be an average pitch.  I believe Alderson profiles more as  a number three starter, rather than a top of the rotation guy but, he could be a number two starter if that changeup improves – of course he will never be asked to be a number two starter in San Francisco with Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner. 

4. Angel Villalona 1B Age: 18 MLL: A-

Villalona was much younger than his competitors in low A last season, yet, he put up somewhat respectable numbers.  Hitting .263, with a .435 SLG%, and .38 XBH, however, Villalona’s OBP was only .312.  Villalona also managed a dismal 6.5:1 K to BB raito.  Villalona did hit 17 homeruns, though, and his future power grades somewhere between plus, and plus plus.  Villalona was originally signed as a third basemen but, now is viewed, by most, as a first basemen only – although there is plenty of debate surrounding whether he can play third or not.  Villalona has as much potential as anyone on this list but, he is still a long way from reaching it, and I am not confident he can shore up that K:BB ratio. 

5. Nate Schierholtz OF Age: 24 MLL: AAA

Schierholtz is a tough guy to rank – since he is major league ready, compared to the projects that surround him (Villalona, Sosa, and Noonan).  He put up great numbers in AAA in 2008 in between being called up.  He hit for an average of .320, and an on base % of .363.  Schierholtz has good power –about average for a corner outfielder – hitting 18 homeruns in 350 at bats, with a SLG% of .594, and XBH% of .45.  However, Shierholtz lacks discipline at the plate striking out 67 times, compared to 38 walks.  Schierholtz is a good fielder in right, and possesses a canon arm.  Offensively, Schierholtz is about average, maybe a little above, across the board for a corner outfielder. 

6. Nick Noonan 2B Age: 19 MLL: A-

Noonan has above average contact ability, and average power potential – he could hit between 10 and 20 HRs.  In 2008 he hit .279, with only a .315 OBP, and disappointing .730 OPS.  Noonan’s K:BB ratio was greater than 4:1, which reflects his very poor plate discipline.  However, Noonan did for a surprising 9 homeruns – at least I found it surprising – and an XBH% of .31.  Noonan is a plus defender at second, with good range, and great instincts, in fact the only reason he moved off of short was because of his below average arm strength.  He has average speed but, is a great base stealer, stealing 29 last season.  Nick Noonan profiles as a top of order above average second basemen but, he is going to have to improve his plate discipline first. 

7. Henry Sosa RHSP Age: 23 MLL: A

I will start with Sosa’s 2008 stats.  Sosa was healthy for only half the year, and thus pitched in only 58 innings.  He finished the season with an ERA of 4.21, and striking out 58 batters.  Sosa throws a 97 mph fastball, and pairs it with an above average curveball, Sosa will also throw a changeup but, it is below average.  Sosa lacks command at this point in his career, it, along with staying healthy is what he will have to work on.  Sosa has the stuff to become a number three, or better, starter but, age, and health, are no longer on his side.  I think Sosa could make an effective late innings reliever, and eventually a closer. 

8. Conor Gillaspie 3B Age: 21 MLL: a

Gillaspie was the first player drafted last June to reach the big leagues.  Gillaspie is a plus contact hitter, and should hit for a high average.  He also has good plate discipline – striking out 14 times in 93 minor league at bats, while walking 12 times.  However, Conor only has doubles power, and it is not likely he will develop more.  Gillaspie has an average arm at third but, has limited range, due to fringy speed; he also is prone to fielding errors.  Still, the Giants like him at third, and believe his great instincts, and baseball know-how will allow him to learn the position, a move to second later in his career is not out of the question, though.  It is tough not to like this guy, many call him a Bill Mueller like third basemen – who has a batting title, and world series ring – and say his floor is a Mark DeRosa type of utility player, which means Gillaspie should enjoy a pretty good major league career, even if not a famed one. 

9. Matt Downs 2B Age 24 MLL: AAA/A+

Downs put up great numbers in 2008.  He has a BA of .294, with a .827 OPS.  He flashed good power, hitting 20 homeruns, and finishing the season with a .480 SLG%, and .36 XBH%.  Downs also stole 25 bases.  Along with his offensive ability, Downs is a very versatile defensive player, having the ability to field all four infield positions, and both corners of the outfield.  Downs is similar to Houston’s Drew Sutton, in that both profile as super utility players, despite the fact they put up great offensive numbers, I think Downs should get a shot at the second base job in spring training. 

10. Wendell Fairley OF Age: 20 MLL: A

Fairley is a very toolsy outfielder, who has yet to produce equivocal numbers.  I like him because Fairley had an OBP of .288 129 points higher than his batting average – thanks to a high walk rate.  He also has an average arm, plus speed, and is a good enough fielder to stay in center.  Some scouts said he had plus power potential when he was drafted in 2007 but, I do not see it, and he certainly did not show it in 2008, hitting a .337 slugging percentage, and .18 extra base hit percentage.  In the past some have questioned Fairley’s character but, those have mostly dissipated this year.  Fairley is young, toolsy, and relatively new to the sport so, I think Fairley has the ability to be a very good centerfielder but, it is going to take some time.  Just how good he becomes depends on how he develops over the next couple of seasons but, I do think he is off to a good start. 

11. Clayton Tanner LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A+

I am high on Tanner.  In 2008 he threw in 117 innings with an ERA of 3.69, and struck out 84 batters in that time.  Tanner does get hit pretty often, putting up an opposing batting average of .274.  He throws a high 80s fastball, touching 91, and also throws a curveball, slider, and changeup for strikes.  His curveball is the best of his secondary pitches, and should be his out pitch in the majors.  I like his four pitch repertoire, and advanced way of pitching but, his propensity to get hit on brings up concerns as he moves up to AA.  If he pitches well next season, in AA, you can view him as a back of the rotation guy. 

12. Kevin Pucetas RHSP Age: 24 MLL: A+

Pucetas throws four average pitches in the form of a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup – the last of which is probably his best pitch.  Last year he pitched 125 innings with a 3.02 ERA striking out 102 batters.  However, he was a 24 year old in a high A league so, take his stats at that level in perspective.  Anyways, he has four major league average pitches that makes me think he can be a back-end of the rotation starter.  Tanner edges out Puceta due to his youth, and better fastball/curveball combo. 

13. Roger Kieschnick OF Age: 21 MLL: w

Roger Kieschnick is the third 2008 draftee to make this list.  He is a potential five tool player.  However, his power is still very raw – with the chance to be above average in the future – and his poor mechanics limit his hitting ability.  Kieschnick does have a plus arm, and will be an above average right fielder defensively.  He has average or a little above speed, and is aggressive on the base paths.    He did not debut until playing in the Hawaii Winter Baseball League this fall, where he hit for an OPS of .815 but also tallied a K to BB rate of 3:1.  Kieschnick will likely start next season in low A, where I expect him to struggle to start the year.  He will have to make adjustments to his swing before putting up good numbers in pro ball, I would keep him in extended spring training, and then put him in short season A during the season. 

14. Joseph Martinez RHSP Age: 25 MLL: AA

Martinez is a very polished pitcher, who led the Eastern League in both ERA, and WHIP.  He pitched 148 innings in 2008 with a 2.49 ERA while striking out 112 batters.  Martinez throws a mid to high 80s 2-seam fastball, along with an average curveball, and changeup.  Martinez will get a chance to start for the Giants next season, although he profiles as a number five, or at best number four pitcher in the majors. 

15. Jesse English LHSP Age: 24 MLL: A+

English has been plagued by injuries but, was finally healthy in 2008.  He pitched in 135 innings with an ERA of 3.19 – fourth best in the California League - striking out 135 batters.  English’s fastball is thrown only in the high 80s but, he mixes it with a good changeup to get batters out.  A healthy season where he strikes out a batter per inning earns English the last spot on this list.

Strengths:  Two top of the rotation guys.  The Giants also have a good mix of high upside guys, and near ready, mid range potential guys.  Their top eight prospects are very impressive. 

Weaknesses:  This list is not as deep as it is for other teams but, they certainly make up a lack of depth, with some high quality prospects.  They do not have a shortstop of the future prospect that is about as big of knock as I can give. 

Next Up:  NL West wrap up, followed by the National League wrap up

Posted on: December 21, 2008 12:37 am

Top 15 Prospects: San Diego Padres

Sorry about another brief hiatus but, now my semester is officially over, and I should start cranking these things out again. Anyways I hope you guys enjoy.

As always, if you read the article, I ask you to comment below. I really enjoy the interaction, and discussion we have had with the previous articles (such as we had about the Rockies, and Dodgers). Some things to consider discussing are your thoughts on how I ranked the following prospects and my opinion on each, or any prospects I may have left off – state your case for them, etc. It has been a lot of fun the past couple of articles discussing with you guys so, let’s keep it going…

San Diego Padres Top 15 Prospects

1. Mat Latos RHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-/a/R

The Padres’ top spot can be highly debatable; every guy ranked 1-5 has an argument for them to be the top guy. I picked Latos. An oblique injury prevented Latos from pitching more than 56 innings but, in those 56 innings he posted a 2.57 ERA, and struck out 69 batters. Latos throws an electric fastball, with some deception, that he throws in the mid 90s. He used to throw it in almost every count but, has since developed a “knuckle”-curve which he throws in the high 70s. His curve is still in development but, will be above average, and possibly plus in the future. Latos also throws a changeup, and slider but, both grade out to below average, and he rarely throws the slider. Latos is a top of the rotation starter, now that he has a second above-average pitch; however, he is also a few years away from the major leagues.

2. Kellen Kulbacki OF Age: 23 MLL: A

I am really high on Kulbacki, as I was last season following the 2007 draft. He can flat out hit. Last season Kulbacki hit .304, with a .400 OBP, and .940 OPS. He also possesses plus power with 22 homeruns, and a slugging percentage of .540, while knocking 38% of his hits for extra bases. Kulbacki has above average plate discipline, and his K to BB ratio is closer to 1:1, than 2:1. His defense, and arm are just below average so, the most accommodating position for him is left field in the majors. He also has below average speed. Kulbacki should be an above average corner outfielder when he reaches the majors.

3. Will Inman RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AA

The best things going for Inman are his command, mental makeup, and pitchability. He put up good numbers in 2008 pitching 135 innings, in AA, with an ERA of 3.52 while accumulating 140 strikeouts. Inman’s fastball is just average, throwing in around 90 mph, but has a deceptive delivery. Inman’s curveball is his best pitch; it is an above average to plus pitch which he throws in the high 60s to low 70s. The disparity in velocities between the two pitches can really throw batters off. He also will occasionally throw a below average to average changeup. Inman’s stuff profiles him more to the back of the rotation but, I think he has the makeup to be much better, probably a number three starter.

4. Kyle Blanks 1B Age: 22 MLL: AA

I can not saying anything bad about his hitting. He ended the 2008 season with over a .300 BA, .400 OBP, .500 SLG%, and .900 OPS. He can hit, and he has plus raw power – and despite the 500 SLG% I am about to show you why it’s only plus raw power – however, his XBH% was only 30%, not terrible, but you would like to see more from a future middle of the order guy, Blanks hit 20 homeruns, though. His K:BB ratio was 90:51 last season which is also not bad – since his strikeout total is under 100, and the K:BB ratio is less than 2:1 – but, it is not going to receive my praise either. Blanks is a slightly below average defender at First Base, and his speed is below average. As I mentioned before Blanks should be a future middle of the order guy – especially with his OBP at .400+, and SLG at .500+. Blank’s biggest problem is that he will not start with the Padres with Adrian Gonzalez at first – as Gonzalez is a gold glove defender, and probably edges out Blanks offensively too – the Padres could try Blanks in left field but, I do not see him sticking there - think Adam Dunn when he plays defense.

5. Matt Antonelli 2B Age: 23 MLL: AAA

I refuse to drop Antonelli any further. Yes, his 2008 season was abysmal - .215/.335/.322/.657 but, I am going to call that one disappointing year, and look at his 2007 numbers (when he was easily a top 50 prospect) .307/.404/.491/.894 with 21 homeruns, and 28 stolen bases. So, which is the real Antonelli? Well, I do not have the answers, but we will start find out when he goes to spring training in a few months. A couple constants for Antonelli are his high walk rates and 1:1 K:BB ratios. He is also a very athletic player, with the ability to play almost anywhere on the field (except shortstop and behind the plate), and he is above average defensively with a decent arm. Antonelli probably falls somewhere in between his 2008 and 2007 seasons. Which makes him an average second basemen, maybe more if his power numbers are closer to his 2007 campaign.

6. Cedric Hunter OF Age: 20 MLL: A+

Hunter’s only plus tool is his ability to make contact. He hit .318 in 2008, with an OBP of .362. His K:BB ratio was just about 1:1 – 47 Ks to 42 BBs. It is good that he only struck out 47 times but, he needs to take more walks, and bump up his OBP a few points – luckily he’s only 20. Hunter has some power but, it is mostly line drive power to his pull – which is the left side… in PECTO Park. His slugging percentage was .442 in 2008, and he did hit 11 homeruns. Hunter is average defensively in centerfield, with average speed (12 SBs), and a slightly below average arm. The hope is that Hunter can stay in center, despite his fringe arm, because he does not have the power to make him an above average corner outfielder. Hunter looks like a top of the order guy, especially if he can raise his OBP a couple of ticks. Hunter has a lot of upside because he still has a lot of time to develop better plate discipline, and possibly more power but, if he has to move to a corner his value will drop.

7. Allan Dykstra 1B Age: 21 MLL: A+

I really like Dykstra: 1. He is a 2008 draftee 2. He has plus power, with already above average plate discipline. I am convinced Dykstra’s bat will play at first in the majors. However, Adrian Gonzalez is there for the foreseeable future, and Kyle Blanks is next in line – and also has a higher ceiling. However, Dykstra is a better fielder than Blanks, and I believe he will be an average defensive first basemen by the time he reaches the majors. He also has a higher floor – in my opinion – and has better plate discipline than Blanks – Dykstra’s K:BB ratio was 1:1 in his pro debut this past summer/fall. I see Dykstra as an above average first basemen in the future.

8. Mitch Canham C Age: 24 MLL: A+

Canham is athletic, and should be at least an average defensive catcher when he finally finishes developing. That being said Canham is above average offensively, for a catcher. In 2008 he hit .285, with a .382 OBP, and .434 SLG%, his XBH% was 34%. Canham also hit 8 homeruns, and also struck out only 73 times, compared to 66 walks, and also stole a surprising 13 bases. Canham is a line drive hitter, which means he will not hit a lot of home runs but, will hit a lot of other XBHs.

9. Nick Schmidt LHSP Age: 23 MLL: INJURED IN 2008

Yes, Schmidt missed all of 2008 following Tommy John surgery but, a lack of depth on this list allows me to make him a top 10 guy. Schmidt is a big (6’5) lefty, he throws his fastball in the low 90s (90, 91 mph), he also throws an above average changeup, and a slider which still needs to be refined. Schmidt has good command, and that darn pitchibility thing (you know when a does not have great stuff but, still manages to put up big numbers, especially at lower levels). There is no way anyone could make an accurate prediction about Schmidt’s future but, I do not see any reason why Schmidt will be any less of a pitcher now that he is healthy. He certainly looks like a major league pitcher.

10. Jaff Decker OF Age: 20 MLL: a/R

Decker is an interesting prospect. Taken in the first supplemental round of the 2008 draft, Decker hit .343, with a .513 OBP. He also showed some power, finishing the season with a .521 SLG%. He does not have much projection left power-wise, and will likely end up with only average, or maybe a little above average power. Decker plays centerfield but, he really does not project as one at the major league level, and has below average speed so, I am counting on a move to a corner, which diminishes his value. Decker has a plus arm – in fact he could make a switch to the mound, if he falls short at the plate, he throws his fastball in the 93-91 mph range with a good curveball, and good command. I have Decker pegged as an average corner outfielder, or fourth outfielder in the future.

11. James Darnell 3B Age: 21 MLL: a

Darnell has a lot of power potential, and great overall hitting ability. He hit for an OPS of 1.044 in limited action last season after being drafted in June. Darnell has very limited range – but, he does have good hands, and fielding skills - and thus will likely shift to a corner outfield spot eventually. However, I do believe Darnell has the bat to be a productive player there. He has an average arm, and is not a threat with his speed. Darnell is very raw, and should move up this list pretty fast.

12. Drew Cumberland SS Age: 19 MLL: A-/R

Cumberland is a high upside player. He has tremendous potential as a shortstop however, he is an inconsistent fielder, and may have to move to second, or centerfield – like B.J. Upton did. Cumberland hit well in 216 at bats last season. Finishing with a .296 BA, and .354 OBP, Cumberland has well below average power. Cumberland possesses plus plus speed, and has great base running instincts, as well as considerable range at short (or second, or centerfield). However, Cumberland is still a long way away, and I want to see the offensive numbers over a full year. If it turns out Cumberland will stick at short, and continues hitting at a high level, he will become one of the best prospects in this system.

13. Dan Robertson OF Age: 23 MLL: a

A personal favorite, Robertson has a very advanced approach to the game in multiple aspects. In 302 at bats Robertson hit .377, with a .443 OBP, and .497 SLG%. He also ended 2008 with a strikeout to walk ratio of 1:1 (34:34), and stole 20 bases. He is above average defensively in centerfield. Robertson was taken in the thirty third round of the amateur draft but, has thus far out played a majority of the players drafted last June. Obviously it is too early to give an accurate prediction on Robertson, and I would like to see him play a full season before thinking about moving him into the top 10.

14. Matt Buschman RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AA

You have to like the numbers Buschman put up in 2008. In AA Matt pitched in 148 innings with a 2.98 ERA, and struck out 118 innings. Buschman throws a sinker/slider combination but, his velocity max’s out in the high 80s. He will start 2009 in AAA but, will graduate to the majors if he can show last season was not a fluke, and his mediocre stuff will work at higher levels. His ceiling is not that high: a number four or five starter, or reliever but, the stats are tough to argue with.

15. Chad Huffman OF Age: 23 MLL: AA

The numbers were there in 2008, Huffman hit .284, with a .383 OBP. However, he did not hit for much power; hitting nine homeruns, and finishing the season with a .419 SLG%, and .32 XBH%. Huffman is very limited defensively, which makes the power numbers all the more important. Huffman could/should be a very good role player, and likely bench outfielder, with a good bat.

Strengths: After finishing the write-up on this system, I like it more than I did when I started. One thing I really like about this list is its diversity. The Padres have a really high ceiling pitcher in Latos, as well as a lower ceiling “sure thing” pitcher close to the majors in Will Inman. They have some high ceiling bats in Kyle Blanks, Dykstra, Darnell, and Cedric Hunter, as well as a couple guys with more polish in Kulbacki, Antonelli, Dykstra – he could be classified as either, and Mitch Canham, Cumberland is a bit of a wild card.

Weaknesses: I do not think they have that one true number one prospect – instead they have a good number of top five guys… which is certainly not bad. I have Latos ranked number one, but he is still mostly projection, Kulbacki does not have the largest ceiling, and I am not sold on Blanks. Otherwise… good list.

Next Up: San Francisco Giants, then the NL West Wrap up, then I conclude the National League with yet another wrap up.

Posted on: December 9, 2008 12:22 pm
Edited on: December 9, 2008 1:42 pm

Top 15 Prospects: Los Angeles Dodgers

Holiday, Finals, etc. Anyways, sorry for making you wait for this next installment of the top 15 prospects. Now that I am almost finished with classes for the semester I should be spitting these out rather frequently now.

As always leave a comment if you stay to read the whole article. I really value the opinion of readers. I also really like using the comments sections as a forum. We really did a nice job of this for the Rockies article, and I would like to keep it up.

Las Angeles Dodgers Top 15 Prospects

1. Scott Elbert LHRP/LHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA

In my mind he is a starter, potentially a very good number two starter to be exact, but it looks like Elbert will instead move into the Dodgers’ bullpen in 2009. This move – assuming he stays in the bullpen, and is done as a starter – really hurts his upside. Elbert throws a plus fastball between 92 and 96 mph – he was throwing it around 90 in 2008 following his injury, but it’s a plus fastball – he also throws a plus slider in the mid 80s with late break. Elbert missed the first half of the 2008 season following shoulder surgery – relatively minor – he returned to the AA bullpen in June, and excelled there pitching forty-one innings in relief with a 2.40 ERA, and striking out forty-six batters. He also held opposing batters to a .157 batting average. Elbert is number one of my list because [He has been a favorite of mine] I still believe he has the more upside, as a starter, than the following two pitchers – he has been compared to both Scott Kazmir and Billy Wagner. Elbert could be a number two starter – he has the stuff for it – and would form a terrific young rotation with Clayton Kershaw, and Chad Billingsley. However, it is looking like Elbert will be a reliever, with a future in the late innings of games.

2. Ethan Martin RHSP Age: 19 MLL: R

The Dodgers’ first round draft pick in 2008; Martin received attention as both a pitcher, and third basemen. Martin throws his fastball in the low-mid 90s; he also throws a power curveball between 78 and 82 mph which could be plus in the future, and another potential plus pitch in his splitter which he throws in the low 80s. Martin did not pitch during the 2008 season, after being drafted in June. Martin has the stuff to be a number two starter, but I cannot know for sure before he throws a pro pitch.

3. Ivan DeJesus SS Age: 21 MLL: AA

An absolutely terrific hitter; DeJesus hit .324, with a .419 OBP in AA last season. He does not hit for much power; hitting seven homers in 2008 while only 20% of his hits went for extra bases. DeJesus does however, have good plate patience recording a K:BB of just over 1:1 – with 76 walks and only 81 strikeouts. DeJesus has good range and great instincts defensively but, manages to rack up errors – mostly throwing related -, making him only average defensively at short, or second base. DeJesus has average to above-average speed, again good instincts allowed him to steal sixteen bases in 2008. Many have questioned his work ethic, especially after seeing him in the AFL this past fall, so that may be something to keep an eye on. However, I see no reason why DeJesus cannot become a well above average offensive minded middle infielder – with a high OBP, but limited power.

4. James McDonald RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA/AA

McDonald put up outstanding numbers in 2008; pitching in 141 innings, and striking out 141 batters and tallying a 3.26 ERA. McDonald throws his fastball in the low 90s – mid 90s as a reliever -, and also throws an average changeup, his out pitch is a big 12-6 curveball, which is his only plus pitch. McDonald makes up for his average – probably a little bit better than average – stuff with excellent command of all three pitches. At this point McDonald is a rock solid number four starter, and he certainly has the potential to be a number three.

5. Andrew Lambo 1B/OF Age: 20 MLL: AA/A-

Lambo put good numbers in 2008, while reaching double A at the age of twenty. He hit .295, with a .351 OBP. Lambo also hit 19 homers, and 37% of his hits were of the XBH variety – compiling a .482 SLG%. Despite those solid offensive numbers, Lambo still needs to work on his plate discipline as his K:BB was just under 3:1 – luckily he’s young, and has plenty of time to shore that up. Lambo has a very high ceiling, and is already showing success at higher levels of the minors despite his age but, because of the high K rate, there is a chance he could become a bust. Lambo is also only average, at best, defensively, ideally he could become an average left fielder [defensively], with an above-average bat.

6. Josh Lindblom RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AA/A-

A power closer in college; the Dodgers turned Lindblom into a starter after drafting him in June. He had an ERA of 2.12 in 34 innings, while striking out 37 batters, and holding opponents to a .157 BA. Lindblom has a great repertoire of pitches; throwing a plus mid-low 90s fastball, slider, and splitter – the latter two being major league average. He will likely start 2009 in AA, and if Lindblom can put up numbers anywhere near those 2008 numbers he could be looking at an ETA of 2010. If he continues to dominate the minors he could be a number two starter but, I see him more as a number three or number four starter instead. I need to see his numbers over the course of a whole season before I move him ahead of any of the top five guys.

7. Chris Withrow RHP Age: 19 MLL: A+

Can someone say injury prone? Luckily its more incident related injuries – cut his hand on a snorkel? Withrow pitched only four innings late in the 2008 season. I still believe Withrow has the stuff to be a starter in the majors, however, he throws a plus fastball which is thrown in the low 90s – regularly – but, has been clocked as high as 98 (towards the end of 2007). He also throws a plus curveball, and developing changeup. He is only 19, so he has plenty of time to make up for the season he lost injured, and it seems as though he will start 2009 in high A. I like his chances of making the majors at some point as a starter anywhere between the third, and fifth rotation spots… he could also become an effective reliever, its too early in his career to get a good grasp of his future.

8. Anthony Delmonico 2B Age: 21 MLL: R

Maybe 141 Rookie League at bats should be taken with a grain of salt but, you have to like 11 homeruns in those 141 at bats. The rest of Delmonico’s hitting line was this: .340/.443/.716/1.159 (BA/OBP/SLG/OPS). The slugging percentage is especially impressive. Extra base hits (XBH) also accounted for 65% of Delmonico’s hits. I would like to see Delmonico’s numbers over a full season of A ball but, as of right now, I really like his potential as a second basemen with well above average hitting ability, especially power.

9. Xavier Paul OF Age: 23 MLL: AAA

Paul does not have the highest of upsides but, I like his consistency, and I like his average-high floor – what you see from Paul today, is what you are going to get in the majors. All of Paul’s tools are about major league average, his hitting tools are maybe a little below, but his arm is definitely above average. Paul put up good numbers in AAA in 2008; finishing the season with a .378 OBP, and hitting for an OPS of .841. His XBH% was 30%, and he put up a K to walk ratio of over 2:1 despite the high OBP. Maybe Paul could be an average centerfielder in the big leagues but, he is more likely to play as a platoon outfielder, or good fourth outfielder.

10. Chin Lung Hu SS Age: 24 MLL: AAA

Most people are saying he’s graduated to the majors but, I am choosing to keep him on my prospects list. He’s number 10, I don’t really like him, and so, I have nothing to say about him.

11. Victor Garate LHSP Age: 24 MLL: A

Garate’s 2008 numbers are stunning; pitching 116 innings with an ERA of 2.79, and striking out 150 batters. He is old for A but, those numbers look like that of a shut down middle-late inning reliever in the majors. [I do not know what his repertoire of pitches includes.]

12. Austin Gallagher 3B Age: 20 MLL: A+

Gallagher put up a good stat line in high A, in 2008: .293/.349/.456/.805. He has about average power, despite hitting only 5 HRs – in 303 at bats -, 43% of Gallagher’s hits went for extra bases. Gallagher also only walked 29 times, his K to walk ratio was 2:1 in 2008 but, due to his age, and minor league level, I am not worried about his plate discipline – it should be major league average once he sees more at bats. Gallagher is a bit below average defensively, with an average arm, and well below average speed, which may make him move off of third base – most likely to first, possibly left -, which would significantly hurt his value, as I do not believe his bat can play at first everyday. If Gallagher does stay at third he may be able to become an average starting third basemen, especially if the plate discipline develops, and he ends up with a little above average power.

13. Josh Bell 3B Age: 22 MLL: A+

Bell has plus power, with average defensive ability, and below average speed. Bell hit .273, with a .373 OBP, and .827 OPS, he also hit 6 homers in only 187 at bats. Also, 39% of his hits went for extra bases. He profiles as a little under average as an everyday third basemen – due to only so, so ability to make contact with the ball – but, he could make it as a backup at third, first, and the corner outfield spots.

14. Cole St. Clair LHRP Age: 22 MLL: R

Had a nice debut, Cole pitched in 17 innings striking out 22 batters. Cole throws his fastball in the 88-91 range with plenty of movement. He also throws a decent curveball for strikes. I do not know what to make of him but, he definitely has the stuff to be a top prospect.

15. Matthew Wallach C Age: 22 MLL: R

Had to take a flier, I chose Wallach. I like his .571 SLG%, and .927 OPS. He also had 10 homers in 184 at bats, and 58% of his hits went for extra bases. His K to BB ratio was 3:1 and was pretty old for the rookie league at 22. Still, I like the power, and because he’s a catcher he is someone to keep an eye on moving forward.

Strengths: The first six players on this list are all stellar prospects. Their top four pitchers are especially impressive, and a possible future rotation including Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, McDonald, Lindblom, Ethan Martin, maybe even Scott Elbert.

Weaknesses: They do not have great depth, and they also lack a true 5 star guy, now that Kershaw has graduated to the majors.

Next Up: The Padres

Posted on: November 26, 2008 1:56 pm

Top 15 Prospects: Colorado Rockies

The Rockies have a very talented young team led by Troy Tulowitzki, who I expect to bounce back from a very disappointing season. They also have a couple of 2007 top 50 prospects on the roster in Ian Stewart, who is a great all around player, and Carlos Gonzalez - who was with Arizona last offseason, then traded to the Rockies via the A's in the Holliday trade.

I created this blog series to get the casual fan acquainted with their favorite team's top prospects. My rankings are constructed by me using a variety of factors: what a prospect's potential can be, how the prospect has performed in the past, how well the prospect performs in 2008, age, and the minor league level (MLL) the prospect is currently playing at. The success of teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, and the World Series champions, the Philadelphia Phillies has stressed the importance of having a good farm system, and impact prospects. So, I have made it my task to pull out the top 15 prospects of every organization, and analyze them for you.

One thing I like is interaction from different members, and readers. So, if you do read the article, please just leave a comment at the bottom. I am perfectly ok with the comment ranging from your suggestions, to total disgust of my negative thoughts about your favorite team's future. I am not an expert, and am bound to make some mistakes, so if you see one point it out. I would like to this blog to have a forum style atmosphere, if you feel I am missing a prospect, or overvaluing/undervaluing a prospect, tell me, and tell me why you think so, also if you have any questions leave them for me, and I will answer to the best of my ability.

Colorado Rockies Top 15 Prospects

1. Dexter Fowler OF Age: 22 MLL: AA

I could make a case for either Fowler, or Chacin to be top prospect. Fowler is a five-tool outfielder with exceptional defense, and offensive upside. In 2008 Fowler hit .335, with a 431 OBP, and .515 Slugging % (SLG). Despite only 9 HRs Fowler has some power, hitting 49 XBH (extra base hits), and, because he is only 22, a surge in power could still come. His K:BB ratio is about 1.5/1. Fowler also stole 20 bases, and will steal more as he gets older, and his instincts improve. I think Fowler is one of the very best prospects in baseball; all five of his tools are above average, and his defense, and speed are already plus tools. Fowler will be given a chance in Spring Training with the departure of Matt Holliday, even if he starts the season in AAA, he will end it as the Rockies’ centerfielder.

2. Jhoulys Chacin RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A

Chacin came out of nowhere last season, and ended up being one of the very best pitchers in the minor leagues. He led the minors with 18 wins. Chacin pitched in 177 innings with an ERA of 2.03, and striking out 160 batters. Chacin throws a heavy sinker up to 94 mph; he also throws a plus changeup – his best pitch – with late drop, and an average curveball. Chacin is a future number two or three starter, and if he continues to pitch as well as he has he could be in Colorado in a couple years, at the young age of 22, or 23.

3. Wilin Rosario C Age: 19 MLL: R

Rosario had a great summer in rookie league; he hit .316, with .371 OBP, and .532 SLG. He has above average power – possibly plus in the future – hitting 12 homeruns in 263 at bats but, still needs to work on his plate patience, recording a K:BB ratio of over 2:1, but that should improve over time as he is only 19. Rosario is also above average defensively, with a very strong arm, he threw out 46% of would be base stealers when he was behind the plate last season. Rosario has all the tools needed to become an elite catcher, he just has to repeat the success he has had this year.

4. Christian Friedrich LHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-/a

The Rockies’ first pick in the 2008 draft, Christian Friedrich excelled in his first couple months as a pro baseball player. He pitched 48 innings striking out 65, and holding opposing batters to a .239 batting average. Friedrich throws his fastball between 93, and 89 mph, his best pitch is his 12-6 plus curveball, he also throws a cutter in the mid 80s, and a changeup every once in awhile. Friedrich is already this system’s best left-hander – now that Morales is officially a bust, don’t bother looking for that guy on this list – he is no worse than one of the better number four starters, and I think he can be a middle of the rotation starter with four pitches which grade as average or better.

5. Mike McKenry C Age: 23 MLL: A+/w

McKenry is an above average defensive catcher, with a plus arm – he threw out almost half of those trying to steal bases off him last season. I am also believe he has some potential on offense. McKenry possesses above average – plus power – hitting 27 homeruns in 2008, and hitting 64 XBHs, which accounted for 48% of his hits. McKerny does, however, lack even average contact skills, he also strikes out twice as many times as he walks. I believe that McKerny can become an average everyday catcher – with great defense – or, he could be more if he drops his K%, and hits for a better contact. He [McKenry] will be ready for the majors before Rosario, and if he plays well in Colorado he will have an edge over Rosario, who has more upside – both McKerny, and Rosario have similar tools; they both have plus power, and a plus arm, to go with above average defense, and lackluster hitting skills.

6. Casey Weathers RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AA

First thing to say is, Weathers will miss all of 2009 with Tommy John Surgery. Nonetheless, Weathers was solid in AA in 2008 pitching 44 innings – all in relief – with a 3.05 ERA, and striking out 54 batters. Weathers’ stuff translates to the back-end of the bullpen; he throws his fastball anywhere between 96, and 91 mph, with some late break. He also throws an inconsistent slider in the mid 80s with late break. I expect him to come back in 2010, and almost immediately make an impact in the Rockies’ bullpen, he probably will not, however, close games with Manny Corpas stationed in the ninth – for now.

7. Eric Young Jr. 2B Age: 23 MLL: AA

Son of former major leaguer, and Baseball Tonight analyst Eric Young, Jr. is a highly versatile, high speed player – sounds like his father, eh? – Young is one of the most polished players in this system. He does not have as many tools as some of the players further done on this list, but he is very polished, his K:BB rate last season was nearly 1:1 - 77Ks-61BBs – and he hit .290, with a .391 OBP. Young, however, does not possess much power, his slugging percentage was .392 in 2008, and he tallied only a 26 XBH%. Young is good defensively at second, but his “stocky” build limits his lateral range, so even though he is lightning fast, he does not have the range to play shortstop. The Rockies are trying him in centerfield with the plan to make him a super-utility guy, and free up the logjam in the middle infield. I think Young can be an everyday second basemen because of his solid defense, and his high OBP, he does have the ability to have doubles power, but I do not think he needs too to be a good starter, because if he gets a single, or draws a walk, there is a very good chance he is stealing second –Young stole 46 bases in 2008, he stole 73 in 2007, and 87 in 2006. If not a second basemen – or centerfielder I guess, although I see the prospect of him there everyday less likely – Young will be one of the best super-utility players in the league, so I feel confident placing him high on my list.

8. Brandon Hynick RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA

Another lower ceiling player, but I like Hynick – and by and large like SURE THING middle ceiling, fourth, and fifth starters, closers, average everyday players, over the high upside very high risk players, especially when those players have red flags, like injury problems, or if they are not developing like they should. Anyways in AA in 2008 Hynick pitched 172 innings accumulating a 4.44 ERA but, striking out only 97 batters. He has average stuff, throwing his fastball around 90, but also throwing a splitter, changeup, and curve/slider. My favorite part about Hynick, he has exceptional command. Although he does not have a plus pitch, his command makes him an extremely effective pitcher, who does not usually allow himself to get deep into counts, which allows him to be a workhorse pitcher – he has pitched over 170 innings the last two seasons. This gives me hope that he can a number 4, or 5 starter who pitches close to, or over 200 every year.

9. Hector Gomez SS Age: 20 MLL: A+

Gomez missed all but one game in 2008 due to a series of injuries. Gomez is a very good defender, with above average range, and a plus arm. However, his offensive ability is very raw, and, at least in my opinion, very limited. He has below average plate discipline, and below average contact ability. His power potential does grade as average, but I have yet to see him produce it. This placement is mostly based on potential, he is still only 20, and has plenty of time to develop his offensive ability. Gomez can be an average, or better shortstop, with great defense, and average or below average offense.

10. Darin Holcomb 3B Age: 23 MLL: A+

Holcomb is a little old for his league, but put up some absolutely great numbers. He hit .318, with a .400 OBP; he also walked five more times than he struck out – 60 strike outs, to 65 walks. Holcomb also put up a solid .491 SLG, and .891 OPS. He hit 14 homeruns – the Rockies think he can hit 20 or more HRs in the future - and 60 total XBHs, which accounted for 37% of his hits. Holcomb’s place in the big leagues will depend a lot upon where Ian Stewart ends up – second or third – and also the development of guys like Hector Gomez, and Chris Nelson.

11. Charles Blackmon OF Age: 22 MLL: a

Blackmon was the second pick for the Rockies in 2008. He has a good set of tools with average contact skills, about average power potential, and above average fielding potential, with a plus arm, and plus speed. He played great in 290 at bats this past summer hitting .338 and .390 OBP. We have yet to see Blackmon produce any real power hitting only a 29 XBH%. He also stole 13 bases in his 290 at bats. Blackmon could become an average centerfielder, maybe even higher if he ever hits for power.

12. Chris Nelson SS Age: 23 MLL: AA/A+

Nelson had a breakthrough year in 2007 improving his power, and bat discipline. However, Nelson was hampered by a hand injury in 2008, and claims he never felt right, which caused his numbers to flat out suck. He hit .230, with a .315 OBP, and .657 OPS. He hit an XBH% of 32%, which is not bad, but also not the kind of power Nelson has been touted with. He is only a so-so fielder in my opinion, and is likely to make a shift to second with Troy Tulowitzki likely occupying short for the foreseeable future. Nelson still has great tools, and a lot of potential, but it is looking less likely that he will reach it, but I am not ready to drop him below the 26 year olds.

13. Joe Koshansky 1B Age: 26 MLL: AAA

The last two seasons Koshansky has just smashed the ball. In 2008 he hit .300, with a .380 OBP, and .600 SLG%. He hit 31 HRs, and 71 XBHs, which were 52% of his total hits. Koshansky has the bat to play in the majors right now, but with Atkins likely to shift to first when Helton’s done there it seems as though the best he will eve be is an above average pinch hitter.

14. Dan Mayora 2B/SS Age: 23 MLL: A+

Mayora is a super-utility player who can play every infield position. In 2008 he hit .288, with a .360 OBP, and 33 XBH%, he also had a K:BB rate of over 2:1. His ceiling is not that high, but he should help out the major league team at some point.

15. Seth Smith OF Age: 26 MLL: AAA

Smith was apart of the Rockies team which made the World Series in 2007, however, he has yet to accumulate 130 at bats in a season, thus his inclusion here. In 248 AAA at bats Smith hit .323, with a .426 OBP, and .524 SLG%, he also hit 10 HRs in that time and stole 11 bases. If given the chance to play a full season as an everyday player I believe Smith would be at least average, and with the Holliday trade he may get a chance if they think Fowler needs some time in AAA before coming to Colorado. Otherwise he is just a AAAA player, who may or may not ever make a considerable contribution to the big league team.

Honorable Mention: Conor Graham RHSP Age: 23 MLL: A- Cory Riordan RHSP Age: 22 MLL: A-

Strengths: Fowler is an absolute star, and he could be ready to start the season in Colorado’s outfield – he and Carlos Gonzalez are going to make an exciting young duo of outfielders. They also have a few really nice starters in Chacin, Friedrich, and Hynick. They also –like the Brewers- have two catching prospects capable of being major league starters. The Rockies also have good depth, which includes a couple of high upside guys in Nelson, and Gomez, as well as some older guys capable of helping the major league club in case of injury in Smith, and Koshansky.

Weaknesses: Weaknesses? I would not call it a weakness, but this Rockies list would be better if Franklin Morales did not fall off the map, and if Nelson and Gomez had not declined/were not injured. Otherwise the major league club is already a pretty young team, include a lot of exciting players, hopefully Tulo will bounce back for them. Do not forget about Ian Stewart, who graduated to the majors last year, he is going to be a star as well.

Next Up: the Las Angeles Dodgers

Posted on: November 22, 2008 1:05 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2008 9:31 pm

Top 15 Prospects: Arizona Diamondbacks

After a prolonged time spent on the NL Central I finally move on to the NL West. I would like to remind everybody that "top 15 prospect" articles for any NL East, or NL central team can be found below, or by clicking the "Top 15 Prospects" tag.

I created this blog series to get the casual fan acquainted with their favorite team's top prospects. My rankings are constructed by me using a variety of factors: what a prospect's potential can be, how the prospect has performed in the past, how well the prospect performs in 2008, age, and the minor league level (MLL) the prospect is currently playing at. The success of teams like the Tampa Bay Rays, and the World Series champions, the Philadelphia Phillies has stressed the importance of having a good farm system, and impact prospects. So, I have made it my task to pull out the top 15 prospects of every organization, and analyze them for you.

One thing I like is interaction from different members, and readers. So, if you do read the article, please just leave a comment at the bottom. I am perfectly ok with the comment ranging from your appreciation, to total disgust of my negative thoughts about your favorite team's future. I am not an expert, and am bound to make some mistakes, so if you see one point it out. I would like to this blog to have a forum style atmosphere, if you feel I am missing a prospect, or overvaluing/undervaluing a prospect, tell me, and tell me why you think so, also if you have any questions leave them for me, and I will answer to the best of my ability.

Arizona Diamondbacks Top 15 Prospects

1. Jarrod Parker RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A-

Parker takes over for Max Scherzer at the top of this list. In 2008 Parker pitched 118 innings with an ERA of 3.44, and striking out 117 batters. I am a little disappointed he did not move beyond low A, but Parker is only 20, and could start 2009 in AA. Parker has excellent stuff with a mid-high 90s fastball, which he has good command of. He also throws a possible plus slider, which he tosses in the mid 80s, a curveball he throws in the high 70s, and a developing changeup which should be an average pitch in the future. Parker could become an ace in the future – and at worst he is a great number three – could you imagine a D’backs rotation featuring four legitimate aces in Brandon Webb, Dan Haren, Scherzer, and Parker?

2. Daniel Schlereth LHRP Age: 22 MLL: A-/R

I do not like to rank relievers this high, but the Diamondbacks are pretty thin in the farm these days and Schlereth is going to make an impact on the major league team. Schlereth throws a live fastball up to 94 mph, but his best pitch is his power fastball, which may be a plus, plus pitch in the future. Schlereth was great in his pro debut – which was 12 innings – totally an ERA of 1.50, and 20 strikeouts. Schlereth is definitely a late innings reliever, but whether he is best suited for the eighth inning or in a closers role is yet to be seen.

3. Gerardo Parra OF Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+

Parra hits for a good average - .286 in 2008 – and has good speed, but still is lacking power. He also has pretty good plate discipline, with a K:BB ratio of less than 2:1. Parra is an average fielder, with a slightly above-average arm, which may best be suited for a corner, rather than centerfield. I have been high on Parra in the past, but he has only produced limited power, which most likely only going to equate to doubles in the big leagues. He is 21, and the power could come, but if it does not Parra will only be a slightly below-average everyday outfielder.

4. Wade Miley LHSP Age: 22 MLL: a

Miley is a 2008 draftee – like Schlereth – Miley only pitched eleven innings in short-season A ball over the summer. Miley throws his fastball between 87, and 92 mph with good sinking action. He also throws a plus two-plane breaking curveball, and a changeup. Miley is inconsistent with the command of his fastball – but, does not have that problem with his curveball. Miley is probably a back-end of the rotation starter.

5. Cesar Valdez RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA/A+

Valdez is the best major league ready pitcher in the Diamondbacks system. In 2008 he pitched 160 innings striking out 140 batters, and finishing the season with a 3.14 ERA. He does not, however, have overpowering stuff. He throws his fastball in the high 80s, on occasion touching 90 mph. His two best pitches are his above average changeup, and curveball. He profiles at the back-end of the rotation.

6. Reynaldo Navarro SS Age: 19 MLL: R

Navarro is a young hitter who repeated rookie ball in 2008. He is great defensively, with excellent range, and an average arm – maybe a little below average arm. Navarro has some power, which may grade as average in the future, but is still raw as a hitter. In 2008 he hit .258, with a .323 OBP. He also stole 17 bases, despite bad base running instincts, and tallied a K:BB ratio of 3:1 – not good by any means, but he is still young, and raw offensively. Navarro could be an average defensive minded shortstop with some pop, or he could be a utility infielder, either way I think he is a major leaguer.

7. Bryan Augenstein RHSP Age: 22 MLL: A

Augenstein pitched 131 innings in 2008, with a 2.74 ERA, and 99 Ks. His velocity has jump a bit, and now throws his fastball up 94 mph, and consistently keeps it in the low 90s. His secondary pitchers, a slider and changeup, are below average, and are at best only average in the future. He has great command of all three of his pitches, though. Augustein can be a very solid number four or five starter because of his plus command.

8. Collin Cowgill OF Age: 22 MLL: A-

Cowgill had a pretty good 2008 season. He hit .266, with a .366 OBP, and .845 OPS (on base + slugging). He also hit 12 home runs in 280 at bats (22-28 over the course of a full season). His K:BB ratio was a mediocre 2:1. Cowgill is average defensively with the versatility to play all three outfield positions, he has an average arm. Cowgill grades average across the spectrum, for the most part. Assuming he sticks at center he can be an average everyday centerfielder.

9. Josh Collmenter RHSP Age: 22 MLL: A-

Collmenter throws a deceptive fastball in the high 80s-low 90s with cutting action. He also throws a big loop curveball and a changeup, he also will throw a knuckleball, and eephus pitch once in a great while. In 145 innings, in 2008, he had a 3.41 ERA, and struck out 123 batters. His stuff profiles him as a middle reliever, but he is a great competitor so, he may compete for a rotation spot one day if he continues to find success in the minors.

10. Jaime D’Antona 3B Age: 26 MLL: AAA

D’Antona turned to fire in 2008, hitting .365, with a .405 OBP, and an OPS of 1.009! He also hit 21 homeruns, while producing a K:BB ratio slightly over 2:1. He is an older prospect, yes, but, he will get a shot in spring training to prove last season was not a fluke.

11. Brooks Brown RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA

Brooks finished 2008 by pitching 144 innings with a 4.18 ERA, and 112 strikeouts. His velocity dropped a couple mph, as he was throwing in the high 80s, and low 90s. His slider is his best pitch, but his slider is below-average. He could be a fifth starter, or middle reliever.

12. Ryne White 1B Age: 22 MLL: A-/R

Another 2008 draftee, White was taken in the fourth round of June’s draft. He finished the year with a .286 batting average, and .358 OBP. He hit 7 HRs in 287 ABs, and had a K:BB ratio of under 2:1. He is a short first baseman, which is bit of an oddity, and may limit his homerun potential. If the power does come, however, he can be a starter in the majors. Next season, if he plays a full season, I would like to see close to 20 homers, and a K:BB ratio near closer to 1:1 than 2:1.

13. Barry Enright RHSP Age: 20 MLL: A+

Enright pitched in 164 innings in 2008, his first full season. He had an ERA of 4.44, while striking out 143 batters. He lacks a true out pitch, relying on his command of his fastball to get batters out. He also throws a slider, and changeup, but neither is a plus pitch. He has seen some success in pro ball, so I do not see hwy he can’t be a major league reliever, it may be too much to say he could ever start for a big league team.

14. Bryan Shaw RHRP Age: 21 MLL: A-/R

Shaw throws a mid-low 90s fastball, as well as a hard slider. He did not have much success in his first stint in pro baseball, but it is too early to make that a knock on his back-end of the rotation potential.

15. John Whitesell 1B Age: 26 MLL: AAA

Why not? The Diamondbacks need a fifteenth prospect, and it was either Whitesell who tore up AAA – more on that in a sentence, or two – or, Wes Roemer a meh pitcher who is best suited for the bullpen or, Pedro Ciraco who had a K:BB ratio of 4:1. Whitesell hit .328 in 2008 with 26 homeruns, he is probably going to get a chance in spring training, or at least at some point in 2009 to see if he can hit in the majors.

Strengths: How about Jarrod Parker… and Max Scherzer – although he is not a prospect anymore. The Diamondbacks have two potential aces in those two, and they have Webb and Haren in front of them, so the rotation is set for a little while. Daniel Schlereth is a great LEFT-HANDED reliever at the back-end of the bullpen.

Weaknesses: After Parker, and Schlereth there are not many big impact prospects. They have a few good prospects, who may or may not become viable major leaguers, but they lack a true second tier of prospects. Due to recent trades, most notably the Dan Haren trade – which sent Carlos Gonzalez, and Brian Anderson to the A’s, along with others – the Diamondbacks have gone from one of the best farm systems, to one of the worst.

Next Up: The Rockies

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com