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

Posted on: November 21, 2008 3:17 pm
Edited on: November 30, 2008 6:25 pm

Top 15 Prospects: NL East Re-Wrap Up

NL East Top 15 Prospects Wrap Up

Top 15 Prospects: NL East Team Rankings

5. New York Mets – 46%

4. Washington Nationals – 49%

3. Philadelphia Phillies – 53%

2. Atlanta Braves – 65%

1. Florida Marlins – 84%

Top 25 Prospects of the NL East

25. Reese Havens SS Nym

Havens was taken in the sandwich portion of the first round of the 2008 draft. Havens is a likely second basemen in the future, he will play good defense there, and hit for a solid average, and some power.

24. Michael Burgess OF Was

A bad 2008 season, but still has a lot of tools, specifically his power, and arm strength.

23. Eddie Kunz RHRP Nym

Already has made his debut for the Mets, the Mets are looking externally for their next closer, but Kunz will be back towards the back-end of their rotation again in 2009. If he shores up his command he could make for a great closer.

22. Freddie Freeman 1B Atl

Really young, but has been one of the best offensive players in his league thus far. I jumped him up to the fourth ranked prospect in the Braves’ organization since last ranking their prospects.

21. Sean West LHSP Fla

West is the best starting pitcher in the Marlins’ system.  He throws a mid 90s fastball with some movement, and a power breaking pitch.  Some scouts think he is headed to the bullpen because of his awkward arm action but, I still think he can be a number two or three starter.

20. Jon Niese LHSP Nym

Niese has a killer curveball. I also see him as a number three starter.

19. Zach Collier OF Phi

Collier is athletic, and a potential 5-tooler from the 2008 draft. Collier has a ton of ability, but he is too raw right now to get a good read on him for the future.

18. Kyle Drabek RHSP Phi

Drabek has outstanding stuff, and he has recovered from Tommy John Surgery. I expect him to soar through the Phillies system, and this list next season.

17. Logan Morrison 1B Fla

You said it, and I listened. I have moved Morrison up to the 7th top prospect in Florida's system. Which allows him to be moved onto this list.

16. Chris Coghlan 2B Fla

Coghlan does most things well – except hit for power. That will make him an above-average second basemen, as early as next season if Uggla is moved from second, or traded.

15. Lou Marson C Phi

Had a breakout season offensively, and has always had the defensive capabilities to be a major league catcher. There is not anyone in Philadelphia standing in his way.

14. Kyle Skipworth C Fla

A four-tool catcher, Skipworth was taken with the sixth pick in the 2008 draft. He has a ton of raw power, and should become one of the best offensive catchers in baseball one day. He is extremely raw, so expect the Marlins to take their time with him.

13. Ryan Tucker RHRP Fla

The best reliever on this list, Tucker has great velocity, and command. Although, Matt Lindstrom is going to start the season replacing Kevin Gregg as the Marlins’ closer, I expect Tucker to finish the season with the job.

12. Matt Dominguez 3B Fla

One of my favorite prospects in all of baseball Dominguez is an exceptional fielder, he also mashed in his first pro season, hitting an unexpected 18 homeruns, while also hitting for a .296 average, and striking out only 68 times.

11. Ike Davis 1B/OF Nym

Another 2008 draftee, Davis has plus, plus power potential. I would love to see him as a corner outfielder, but he may be trapped at first, we’ll see. He should move through the system though.

10. Fernando Martinez OF Nym

I am not high on Martinez. He has lost a lot of his value, as he is not an exceptional fielder, and has not shown power in the minors. He still has a lot of potential, but his clock is ticking.

9. Chris Marrero 1B Was

A great hitter, but was hampered by injuries in 2008. He is also saddled to first base.

8. Jordan Zimmerman RHSP Was

I love this guy. He had a great statistical year in 2008, and throws a plus hard sinker, as well as three other average pitches. He is a front of the rotation starter.

7. Tommy Hanson RHSP Atl

Hanson throws a mid 90s fastball, and a plus, plus curveball. He is only 22, and already pitching well in AA. Hanson struck out 163 batters during the 2008 season.

6. Jordan Schafer OF Atl

Is no longer one of the best prospects in baseball, but Schafer is still a gold glove defender, with a lot of upside on offense – he could be a 20-20 guy every year.

5. Ross Detwiler LHSP Was

Detwiler is still a little raw, but has ace type stuff, with a large arsenal of pitches. He should be starting for Washington by 2010.

4. Carlos Carrasco RHSP Phi

Another personal favorite, Carrasco finished the season in AAA at the age of 21. He had a great season overall, and has absolutely dominating stuff, including a plus, plus changeup, and top notch fastball.

3. Mike Stanton OF Fla

Stanton hits a lot of homeruns, but strikes out even more frequently. He is extremely athletic in the outfield. He is still only 19, so he has plenty of time to refine his game. He has a lot of potential.

2. Cameron Maybin OF Fla

Still one of the best prospects in baseball, Maybin will be starting for the Marlins at some point next season. He still is a little bit of a mystery to me, and strikes out a lot.

1. Jason Heyward OF Atl

I have nothing bad to say about Heyward. He is only 19, but you can already get a good idea of what he is going to be in the big leagues. I said it in my Braves article, and I will say it again here .300 batting average, 30 HRs, 20 stolen bases, while playing great defense. What else can you ask for?

NL East First Team All-Prospect

SP Carlson Carrasco
SP Ross Detwiler
SP Tommy Hanson
SP Jordan Zimmerman
SP Jon Niese
CL Ryan Tucker

C Kyle Skipworth
1B Ike Davis
2B Chris Coghlan
SS Wilmer Flores Nym
3B Matt Dominguez Fla
OF Jason Heyward
OF Cameron Maybin
OF Mike Stanton
Honorable Mention: Logan Morrison

NL East Second Team All-Prospect

SP Kyle Drabek
SP Sean West
SP Joe Savery
SP JA Happ
SP Josh Smoker
CL Eddie Kunz
C Lou Marson
1B Chris Marrero
2B Reese Havens
SS Anthony Hewitt
3B Jason Donald

OF Jordan Schafer
OF Fernando Martinez
OF Zach Collier
Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman

Posted on: November 21, 2008 1:35 am
Edited on: November 21, 2008 11:54 am

Top 15 Prospects: NL Central Wrap Up

Included in the wrap up is the ranking of the top 25 prospects in the division, I also rank the six organization’s top 15 lists, and reveal my first, and second all-prospects team. The “Team Rankings” are based on the top 15 prospect list of each team only; it is not an assessment of the entire minor league system, or the major league club.

NL Central Top 15 Prospects Wrap Up

Top 15 Prospects: NL Central Team Rankings

The percentage is how many points the team scored on my ranking matrix, divided by the total possible number of points (180).

6. Chicago Cubs – 36%

As you can see the Cubs are far behind the other teams. They were not helped by a recent trade that sent Jose Ceda – who I had ranked as their second best prospect – to the Marlins. That being said, the Cubs still have six really good prospects in Vitters, Colvin, Samardzija, Veal, Cashner, and Flaherty. This season could easily improve if Vitters, and Colvin produce in 2009, and Samardzija can prove he can start in the big leagues.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates – 51%

It is really disappointing to see the Pirates’ top 15 prospects ranked so low in the division, since they are always drafting oh, so high. McCutchen is going to be a star, and will graduate to the majors in 2009, and Alvarez is a nice big step in the right direction, I also really like the addition of Jose Tabata, but guys like Neil Walker, and Moskos have been disappointing, and there are not many big names other than those, expect Brad Lincoln – how’s that for a run-on sentence?

4. Houston Astros – 55%

Fourth in the division is a nice improvement since being named the worst farm system by Baseball America last year/six months ago-ish. I really want to make you believe this is not just the Astros – my favorite team if you did not know – bias too. The Astros had one of the best drafts of any team back in June, and many of those players – five – made my top 15 list. Breakthrough years from Drew Sutton, Brian Bogusevic, and Chris Johnson also helped Houston climb the list.

3. Cincinnati Reds – 63%

The top three teams in the NL Central – when it comes to prospects – have really separated themselves from the other three. The Reds have good depth, and a lot of interesting prospects, especially in the infield, with Alonso, Frazier, Valaika, Neftali Soto, and Juan Fransisco all residing in the Reds’ top 10. I still feel as though Homer Bailey can be a front of the rotation starter, but there is a lot of doubt surrounding him.

2. St. Louis Cardinals – 68%

The Cardinals have a ton of depth, with at least seven pitchers in their top 15 list that I believe could become members of a major league rotation. They also have a number of great hitter prospects with Peter Kozma, Byran Anderson, Wallace, and possibly the best prospect in the NL Central, Colby Rasmus.

1. Milwaukee Brewers – 75%

The Brewers are the clear cut winners here. They have talent, depth, and versatility throughout their top 15 list – and it is the top 15 lists that I am ranking these teams on, remember. Mat Gamel is a terrific bat that will excel in the majors no matter where he plays on defense. Salome is one of the best young catchers in the minors, and Jeffress is one of the few prospects with true ace potential, and Brett Lawrie is a versatile prospect with plus power potential. It also helps that the Brewers are likely to receive four high draft picks – possibly all four in the first round of the 2009 draft – as compensation for losing C.C., and Ben Sheets.

Top 25 Prospects of the NL Central

25. Jaime Garcia LHSP StL

Garcia is going to miss all of 2009 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but has the stuff – with two plus pitches, a sinking fastball, and curveball – to be a middle-front of the rotation pitcher. He is also major league ready when he returns in 2010.

24. Felipe Paulino RHRP/RHSP Hou

Paulino throws his fastball in the high 90s, touching 100, and also throws a plus curveball, but struggles with his command. Houston is still trying to make a starter out of him, but I see Paulino as the second best closer on this list. A trade of Jose Valverde may force Paulino to the back-end of the bullpen this offseason.

23. Drew Sutton 2B Hou

Sutton may only become an above-average utility guy, but he has hit so well, this year in AA and in the AFL, that I think he can be an everyday second basemen. I probably have him too high.

22. Jeff Samardzija RHSP/RHRP Chc

In the same boat as Paulino, Samardzija was a great addition to the Cubs’ bullpen, which is relieving Kerry Wood of his closers’ duty this offseason. He also has excellent stuff. I rank him ahead of Paulino, because I believe he has a better chance of making it as a starter.

21. Todd Frazier 3B/SS Cin

He is not going to play shortstop at the big league level; he is likely to stick at third base. I am not overly high on Frazier, but he finds himself just outside the top 20 because of his likelihood to become an above-average third basemen.

20. Chris Perez RHRP StL

Perez is the best closer in the division, and the Cardinals are likely to go to him in the ninth in 2009. He throws his fastball in the mid 90s with sink, and also a plus slider in the mid-high 90s.

19. Bryan Anderson C StL

He can be an above-average catcher, with a solid batting average, and on base percentage to go with solid defense, but I do not think he will supplant Yadier Molina as the Cardinals catcher, unless they are looking for an extremely affordable option.

18. Chris Valaika SS/2B Cin

Valaika is not a shortstop, he is a second, or third basemen, or a corner outfielder. But, after one of the best offensive years in the minors I feel obligated to put Valaika in the top 20. Valaika does not have as good of tools as everyone else on this list, but plays hard, and produces, you have to like that.

17. Tyler Colvin OF Chc

Once, not to long ago, Colvin was one of the top 50 prospects in baseball. Now, I still think he is one of the top 20 in the NL Central, and on the fringe of the top 100 overall, but if Colvin repeats his 2008 performance in 2009, start considering him a bust. He still has great potential.

16. Jonathan Lucroy C Mil

There are quite a few good catchers in this division. Lucroy does not have the same potential has Salome, but could make things interesting for the Brewers at the position pretty soon.

15. Jose Tabata OF Pit

I still really like him. He can field, hit, and run. So, that once was expected is not there, who cares? He is still a really good prospect, who, despite his young age, could help the Pirates very soon.

14. Jordan Lyles RHSP Hou

Could it be Lyles is only the first prospect on this list from the 2008 draft, four more will follow. Upside gets him here. Lyles was taken in the first sandwich round of the 2008 draft. He only throws his fastball in the 88-92 range right now, but should add some velocity as he grows. I think Lyles can be a number two pitcher in the future, and I cannot say the same for many in this division.

13. Jeremy Jeffress RHSP Mil

The last pitcher in the top 25, Jeffress is the only pitcher with true “ace” potential. He has command, and off the field issues. But, his potential is too high to deny him of much, for now.

12. Angel Salome C Mil

Salome has faced a 50-game suspension in the past for performance enhancers. But, he hit .360 this past season in AA, off the “juice”. A bit below-average defensively, Salome should compete for a major league spot at catcher soon.

11. Alcides Escobar SS Mil

Escobar is a great defender, with good speed, and the ability to hit the ball for a good average. I compared him to Jason Bartlett when doing the Brewers’ top 15, and I am sticking with that assessment, I think he will plays the same way as Bartlett, but Escobar is a little better at every facet of the game.

10. Brian Bogusevic OF Hou

Just added to Houston’s 40-man roster, Bogusevic, a pitcher just a few months ago, could compete with Michael Bourn for the centerfield job in Houston during Spring Training. Bogusevic should be average, at least defensively, with a strong arm. He will also hit for a good average, and doubles power, he possesses a good batter’s eye.

9. Drew Stubbs OF Cin

Great defender in centerfield, with a plus arm, and plus speed. Stubbs has a lot of upside offensively, but he may, or may not reach it. I have him as a better defender than Bogusevic, but Bogey probably edges him out on offense.

8. Jason Castro C Hou

A little high, maybe, but because of my system of ranking it would have been almost impossible for someone ranked first on his team to slip further. Castro was the tenth pick in the 2008 draft. Castro should be an all-star catcher. He prides himself on his defense, although his arm is only average, and has good power potential, with good plate patience.

7. Josh Vitters 3B Chc

Like Colvin Vitters has slipped. But, I still think he can be a complete hitter and above-average defensively.

6. Yonder Alonso 1B Cin

Alsonso is going to have an impact bat, with plus power, hitting ability, and plate patience. Despite being drafted in June, Alonso should play for Cincinnati soon.

5. Brett Wallace 3B/1B StL

Yes, I like him over Alonso. Wallace was drafted seven spots – I believe – after Alonso, but Wallace made it all the way to AA in his first taste of pro baseball, and excelled in his experience. He also has a chance to play third, but realistically not well.

4. Pedro Alvarez 3B Pit

The third 2008 draft pick, and last, Alvarez had the best bat in the draft, with the ability to hit for a high average, and possessing plus power, I also believe Alvarez has the best chance to stay at third base.

3. Mat Gamel 3B/1B Mil

Has a great bat, which is major league ready, and is very athletic. However, Gamel piles up a lot of errors, and may/probably will have to switch positions before becoming a full time player in Milwaukee. He is one of the top prospects in baseball if he can stay at third, or as I suggest make a move to right field, due to his strong arm, and athleticism.

2. Andrew McCutchen OF Pit

McCutchen is terrific defensively, above-average offensively, great speed, all he is lacking is above-average power, but that may come. McCutchen will be the first all-star from this list.

1. Colby Rasmus OF StL

Rasmus should make for an above-average centerfielder defensively, and an all-star offensively. Rasmus is going to be a 25-20/20-25 (HR-SB) guy every year. He is still a year away from starting in St. Louis, though.

NL Central First Team All-Prospects

SP – Jeremy Jeffress
SP – Jordan Lyles
SP – Jeff Samardzija
SP – Homer Bailey RHSP Cin
SP – Jaime Garcia
CL – Chris Perez
C – Angel Salome
1B – Brett Wallace
2B – Chris Valaika
SS - Alcides Escobar
3B – Mat Gamel
OF – Colby Rasmus
OF – Andrew McCutchen
OF – Drew Stubbs
Honorable Mention – Josh Vitters
Other than second base, this team features some of the best position players in the minors. The pitchers on the other hand are very mediocre, as Jeffress is the only ace among them.

NL Central Second Team All-Prospects

SP – Donald Veal LHSP Chc
SP – Darryl Thompson RHSP Cin
SP – Jake Odorizzi RHSP Mil
SP – Brad Lincoln RHSP Pit
SP – Lance (Michael) Lynn RHSP StL
CL – Felipe Paulino
C – Jason Castro

1B – Yonder Alonso
2B – Drew Sutton
SS – Pete Kozma SS StL
3B – Pedro Alvarez

OF – Brian Bogusevic
OF – Jose Tabata
OF – Tyler Colvin
Honorable Mention – Todd Frazier
Once again great position players, except for maybe the middle infield. But, I really had to dig deep to pick out those starting pitchers.

Next Up: the NL West starting with the Diamondbacks
Posted on: November 17, 2008 3:46 pm

Top 15 Prospects: St. Louis Cardinals

K:BB = strikeout-to-walk ratio
OPS = on base percentage + slugging percentage
MLL = minor league level last season
- AA
- A+ = high A ball
- A- = low A ball
- A = player played at both high, and low A ball
- a = short season A
- R = rookie league

St. Louis Cardinals Top 15 Prospects

1. Colby Rasmus OF Age: 22 MLL: AAA

Rasmus is the epitome of a five-tool player, as all five tools are plus for him. Rasmus struggled a little in AAA in 2008 hitting .252, with a .351 OBP – which is a high OBP for a .252 average. He also hit 12 homeruns, and stole 15 bases in 350 at bats. In the past Rasmus has struck out a little too much. Rasmus is a great fielder, and will stick at centerfield. Rasmus will still only be 22 next season, and will go back to AAA, with a call-up to the Cardinals soon after the season starts – he could also start the season there if he does really well in spring training. Once he does make it to the Cardinals he will be a great overall player with the potential to be a 20-20 guy every year.

2. Brett Wallace 3B/1B Age: 22 MLL: AA/A-

The 2008 draftee absolutely mashed in his pro debut, being called all the way up to AA before the year was through. Wallace hit .377, with a .427 OBP in 202 at bats in 2008. He also hit 8 homeruns – so, somewhere within a range of 25-30 homeruns had he had around 550 at bats, or a full season. Defensively Wallace has an above-average arm, and good hands, but his range is said to limit him to first. The Cardinals have decided to try to keep him at third – since they have a first basemen for now, and the future – and they sent him to the Arizona Fall League to work on his defense. If he can stick at third, he could be in the big leagues next season, but if he does not it will take a little longer to find a place for him, he is a middle of the order bat either way.

3. Bryan Anderson C Age: 22 MLL: AAA/AA

Anderson had a good year in 2008 hitting .308, with a .377 OBP, and a K:BB of just under 2:1 in 313 at bats. However, he does not have much power. Anderson is pretty good on defense, and has a strong arm. Despite being only 22, Anderson is just about ready to make the move to the big leagues. So, who do you start Yadier, the defensive phenom, or Anderson, the good defender, with good hitting skills?

4. Chris Perez RHRP Age: 23 MLL: AAA

He has yet to pitch 50 innings in the big leagues, and thus still qualifies as a rookie, so I feel obligated to keep him on the top prospect list. So, no one come to me saying he spent too much time with the big league club to be considered a prospect, he qualifies on this list, and that is all that matters. Perez is the future, and soon to be, closer for the Cardinals. He throws his fastball in the mid 90s with sinking action, and also throws a plus slider in the mid-high 80s. Perez, however, has some control problems, and has trouble staying low in the zone at times. In a perfect world I would have Perez work in the seventh, or eighth innings for a little while before moving into the closers spot, but if pitches well in spring training, he will enter the 2009 season as the closer.

5. Jaime Garcia LHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA

Dah! Garcia has great stuff with a plus sinking fastball he throws in the low 90s, a plus curve – which he throws too often – and a changeup. He also performed well in 2008 pitching 106 innings in AAA with a 3.45 ERA, and striking out 100 batters, before being called up to St. Louis. Then he was shut down for the season, and had Tommy John Surgery. Consequently he will miss all of 2009. Garcia has the potential to be a number two, or three starter in the big leagues, but injuries continue to hurt him, and this most recent one really hurts. Garcia stays in the top five because he is young, and major league ready… once he returns in 2010… hopefully.

6. Lance Lynn RHSP Age: 21 MLL: A-

Maybe I have Lynn a little too high, but I definitely think he is top ten guy right now. His stuff is only average throwing a low 90s fastball with sink, along with an average curve, and average changeup, but Lynn has great command of all three. He did really well in his pro debut pitching close to 27 innings, while striking out 29 batters, and putting up an ERA of only 1.35. If he can duplicate his success over a full season, he could enter the top five, with a chance to be a number three starter fairly soon.

7. Pete Kozma SS Age: 20 MLL: A

Kozma was the Cardinals’ first pick in the 2007 draft. He was touted as having great hitting ability, with some power, and being an average fielder at short. Kozma was ok in his first full season, hitting .258, with a .340 OBP, while hitting only 5 homeruns. Kozma also had a K:BB rate of less than 2:1, and stole 12 bases. These numbers may not shine, but are pretty good for a player drafted out of high school in his first full season. Kozma should become a solid hitter at shortstop, and will play just good enough defense to stay at shortstop. This, to me at least, makes him a very good prospect.

8. Jon Jay OF Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Had an absolutely great season after doing poorly in his first full season, in 2007. Jay made the Texas League (AA) All-Star team in 2008, and finished the year in AAA. In all last season Jay hit .312, with a .382 OBP, and .845 OPS. He only hit 12 homers, but also stole 10 bases, and recorded a K: BB ratio of almost 1:1 (56 strikeouts to 48 walks). Jay will start 2009 in AAA, but could work himself into the mix in St. Louis if Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, or any of their others outfielders either get traded or prove to be one-year-wonders (ok, so two years for Rick Ankiel, but I do not think it is too much of a stretch to think Duncan, or Ludwick will take steps back in 2009.

9. Jess Todd RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AAA/AA/A-

Todd’s best pitch is his average fastball which he throws between 92, and 89 mph. His slider is just average, and changeup below-average. Todd also possesses exceptional command of all three pitches. He had a terrific 2008 finishing the season with a 2.88 ERA over 153 innings across three leagues, he also struck out 136 batters in that time. Todd’s stuff profiles best at the back-end of the rotation, but I think he will excel there very soon.

10. Adam Ottavino RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AA

Big step back in 2008, Ottavino pitched 115 innings in AA with a 5.23 ERA, and 96 strikeouts. Still, Ottovino had a great 2007, and has superb stuff. He throws a 95 mph fastball, as well as a plus slider, curveball, and changeup. However, Ottavino needs to work on his control, but give Ottavino a year, or two, and he could be a second or third starter.

11. Scott Gorgen RHSP Age: 21 MLL: a

Gorgen’s best pitch is a possible plus, plus changeup. Along with the changeup he throws a high 80s, to low 90s fastball, and a curve/slurvish breaking ball. He had a great premiere to pro ball: in 54 innings Gorgen posted a 2.32 ERA with 60 strikeouts. Gorgen has good enough stuff to become a big league starter, but I would like to see him pitch a full season before top tenning him – yes, I just used “top 10” as a verb.

12. Clayton Mortensen RHSP Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Mortensen fell well short of expectations in 2008, pitching a total of 139 innings with a 4.96 ERA. He also only struck out 105 batters. Mortensen has decent stuff with a fastball he throws in the 92-89 mph range, slider, and changeup. I think Mortensen has a better chance of staying in the rotation – even if it is at the back-end – than Herron, and Boggs, but I will have to see him improve next season to put him into the top 10.

13. David Freese 3B Age: 25 MLL: AAA

Before the 2008 season, Freese had not played higher than an A league. But, he comes to the Cardinals organization, they move him up to AAA, and he knocks the cover off the ball. Last season, Freese hit .306, with a .361 OBP, and .910 OPS. He hit 26 homeruns, while striking out 111 times, acquiring a K:BB ratio of almost three-to-one. I am not going to jump all over Freese just because of one solid season, but if he can repeat his success next year – possibly spring training - Freese will find himself on the big league roster, most likely as a glorified bench player.

14. Tyler Herron RHSP Age: 22 MLL: AA/A-

Herron throws his fastball between 89-93 mph, and also throws a possible plus curveball, and changeup. Herron had a bit of a disappointing season in 2008, pitching 138 innings with a 4.17 ERA, striking out 102 batters, and allowing opposing batters to hit a .277 batting average against him. Herron seems like a future fourth starter to me, but he has a couple of years before he makes it up to St. Louis.

15. Mitchell Boggs RHSP Age: 24 MLL: AAA

Boggs’ stuff features a low 90s fastball, curveball, and a slider/cutter. Boggs spent 2008 in AAA, pitching 125 innings, striking out 81 and posting an ERA of 3.45. If needed – or if he impresses in spring training – the Cardinals could use Boggs as a fifth starter but, I think he is most likely to become a stable part of the Cardinals bullpen, starting in 2009.

Strengths: How about everything. Ok, a bit of an exaggeration, but they have a number of impact position players waiting to bust into the big leagues in the next 18 months. They also have a number of potential starting pitchers, and a great closer. Their greatest strength is their hitters with Rasmus, Wallace, and Anderson all just about ready for the big leagues, and Kozma should be a an above-average shortstop.

Weaknesses: Garcia’s injury, and Ottavino’s decline leaves them without a potential front-of-the-rotation pitcher, but they have a lot of back-enders to make up for it.

Next Up: the NL Central wrap up, followed closely by the NL West, starting with the Arizona Diamondbacks

Posted on: November 14, 2008 3:29 pm

Top 15 Prospects: Pittsburgh Pirates

No, nothing really to add at the top. Sorry, it took me so long to get this one up. It has been a really long week for me. I will admit that after analyzing the Pirates' farm system, I am not optimistic about their future, although they do have a couple of the top prospects in baseball. Enjoy.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Top 15 Prospects

1. Andrew McCutchen OF Age: 22 MLL: AAA

McCutchen had a solid season in AAA last season. He hit .283, with a .372 OBP, while keeping a good K:BB ratio, 87:68. McCutchen supposedly has 20-20 potential, but he has yet to hit for that much power. He still has the potential to develop power, seeing how he is only 22, and should be starting for Pittsburgh by the all-star break, but he may only have the ability to 10-15 in the future. McCutchen has great speed, stealing 34 bases in 2008, and plays gold glove defense. At worst McCutchen is an above-average centerfielder, and leadoff hitter, but he has the potential to be an absolute star if the power comes.

2. Pedro Alvarez 3B Age: 21 MLL: NA

Alvarez was the top prospect heading into the 2008 draft, Alvarez has a terrific bat, which should allow him to hit for a high average, as well as hit 30 or more homeruns every year. There are, however, some questions as to if Alvarez will stay at third in the big leagues, or if he’ll have to move to first, due to his average range, and arm. Alvarez is below-average on the base paths. Alvarez’ advanced bat will allow him to move through the minors quickly, and he could be called up as early as late 2009, and certainly by the first half of 2010.

3. Jose Tabata OF Age: 20 MLL: AA

I am much higher on Tabata than most. Tabata is a great fielder – although the best place for him is right field – with good speed, and hitting ability. At one time scouts thought he would develop 20-25 HR power, but those projections have dropped, he still remains a solid hitter overall, though, and has hit consistently near .300 – despite falling to an average of .277 in 2008, in AA. Tabata does not strikeout too much – 67 times in 2008 – but does not walk a whole lot either – 36 times, which means, despite his low strikeout numbers, he still has a K:BB ratio of 2:1. I like Tabata because he is still only 20 years old, and could be in the big leagues for September call-ups in 2009. He will draw more walks as he matures, and can steal bases when he gets on. Tabata will be an above-average outfielder when he joins the already exciting duo of Nate McLouth, and Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh.

4. Neil Walker 3B Age: 23 MLL: AAA

Walker’s 2008 numbers were bad, but do not really tell the true story. Last season Walker hit .242, with only a .280 OBP in AAA, but hit 16 homers, and stole 10 bases. He also struck out over 100 times, while walking less than 30. A guy, who hits like that in triple A, should not really be considered a top prospect, but Walker’s year has to be considered one misstep, and not a complete collapse. Walker has good power, especially for a switch hitter, and should hit for a better average in the big leagues. Walker is a converted catcher, and the organization wants him to work on his defense in the minors before they move him to the big leagues. The biggest problem for Walker may be the inclusion of Andy LaRoche to the third base equation, brought from the Dodgers in the Manny trade. I like LaRoche better, but if Walker can produce early in 2009 the third base job should be his.

5. Jim Negrych 3B Age: 23 MLL: AA/A+

Negrych simply raked in hits in 2008, posting a .359 batting average – ninth best in the minors – and finishing the season with a .438 OBP. He also had a K:BB ratio of 1:1, while only hitting five homeruns, but stealing 12 bases. His defense was not impressive amassing 31 errors last season, but it was his first season at third base, following a switch from second. Negrych probably does not hit for as much power as you would like from a corner infielder and because of the young players in front of him at third – Pedro Alvarez, LaRoche, Walker, not mentioning Jose Bautista – he would have been a much better prospect had he been able to stay at second base. Still if Negrych can outperform Neil Walker again next season, he will make the situation interesting.

6. Daniel Moskos LHSP Age: 22 MLL: A+

Moskos was the number four overall pick in the 2007 draft. There are those who feel he has the ability to become a middle of the rotation pitcher, but most seem to think he is best suited at the back-end of the bullpen. Moskos can throw his fastball in the 91-96 mph range, and has a good slider he throws in the mid 80s, he also has the makings of a good changeup. Moskos was not very good as a starter in 2008, pitching in 110 innings, with an ERA of 5.95, and striking out only 78 batters. The Pirates could really use a top starting pitcher, but Moskos is not going to cut it. In 2009 he should move back into the bullpen, and be ready anchor the Pirate’s bullpen – along with Matt Capps, who should be the closer over Moskos, for now – in 2010.

7. Jamie Romak OF Age: 23 MLL: AA/A+

Romak led the Pirates organization with 25 homeruns, but he hit for a low average of .258, while posting an OBP of .345. Romak’s K:BB ratio is 2.5:1. Despite a good arm, Romak is limited defensively, and does not have very good running speed. In order to become a good starting option in the outfield Romak has to cut down his strikeouts, and increase his average, without losing much power, otherwise he is just a decent backup/pinch-hitter.

8. Shelby Ford 2B Age: 24 MLL: AA

Ford also plays third, and shortstop. Ford was injured with hip flexors for the first couple of months of the season, but still had a productive season. He hit .285, with a .338 OBP, while hitting 4 homeruns, and struck out twice as many times as walks.

9. Steve Pearce 1B/OF Age: 25 MLL: AAA

Big step back in 2008, Pearce flopped splitting time between the majors, and AAA. In the minors he hit .251, with a .312 OBP; he hit only 12 homeruns, and struck out twice as many times as he walked. Still, Pearce could come back next season as the starting first basemen for the Pirates, and crush the ball, like he had prior to last season. He has 20-30 HR potential, and can steal a few bags as well, but I fear last season might have been a precursor to his future in the majors, where he is an average first basemen, at best.

10. Matt Hague 3B Age: 23 MLL: A-

Good offensive numbers in 2008, hitting .322, with an OBP of .386. He also hit 6 homeruns in 242 ABs, and struck out 33 times, while walking 23 times. I expect his numbers to carry over to next year, as he looks to play a full season.

11. Brad Lincoln RHSP Age: 23 MLL: A

Lincoln had a decent season coming back from Tommy John surgery, forcing him to miss all of 2007. He struck out 75, while walking 17, in 103 innings in 2008. Lincoln throws his fastball in his low-mid 90s, and a good curveball. He has a nice comeback story unfolding if he can continue to improve next season – Lincoln will crack the top 10 next season if he does well in AA, in 2009.

12. Anthony Watson LHSP Age: 23 MLL: A+

Watson’s fastball hardly touches 90, but also throws a good changeup. He pitched great in 2008 striking out 104 batters in 151 innings, while maintaining an ERA of 3.56. Watson could move into the top ten if he repeats his 2008 success in AA.

13. Brian Friday SS Age: 23 MLL: A+

Friday is a defensive specialist with some upside on offense. In 2008 he hit .281, with a .359 OBP, while hitting only 2 homeruns. Friday also had a K:BB rate of almost 2:1, and stole 16 bases. Despite lackluster offensive numbers Friday could become a solid utility infielder, maybe more if the offense comes in.

14. Brian Bixler SS/2B Age: 26 MLL: AAA

Bixler is a natural second basemen, but looking to play shortstop in the majors with Freddy Sanchez at second. He had a good overall year in 2008 hitting .280, with a .346 OBP, and stealing 23 bases. He has limited power, with 7 homeruns in 2008, and strikeouts a lot, with a K:BB ratio of 4:1. Bixler does not have the arm for short, but if Wilson departs, as is expected, Bixler will take over there in 2009.

15. Alex Presley OF Age: 23 MLL: A+

I do not have much to say about him. He hit .258, with a .325 OBP, while hitting 6 homeruns in 287 ABs, and stealing 13 bases in that time. He has some power, and speed potential, which will cause me to keep an eye on him next season in AA.

Strengths: Pittsburgh has a few really good position players in Andrew McCutchen, and Pedro Alvarez. They also have a number of options at third base with Alvarez, Neil Walker, and Jim Negrych. The Pirates have a lot of variety in tools among their position players: Alvarez can flat out rake, and McCutchen is one of the best overall prospects in the minors, Walker, Romak, and Pearce can mash, Negrych is a great on base guy, and Tabata does everything, but hit for power.

Weaknesses: One pitcher in the top 10, one, and he is likely a future reliever. [insert pathetic whistle here] There is a lack of both talent, and depth on the pitching side, and what do you know the Pirates passed on a couple of future aces (Brian Matusz, and Aaron Crow) in the 2008 draft to sign Alvarez. I have nothing else to say about the abysmal state of the Pirates’ pitching prospects, because they do not have much of anything there to talk about. Except Brad Lincoln who is a real great success story coming back from TJ surgery. Also it should be noted that the Pirates took Moskos one pick ahead of Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft (Wieters, a catcher, and best position playing prospect in baseball, he is a Orioles prospect. As is the aforementioned Brian Matusz, who was taken a couple picks after the Orioles took Alvarez – it should be noted that I do not dislike the Pirates’ decision to take Alvarez, he was the best college hitter in the draft, but the Pirates need[ed] pitching, and Matusz was the best pitcher in the draft.

Next Up: I finally finish the NL Central with the Cardinals, and then wrap up the division by ranking the organizations within it, and rank the top prospects, within it.

Posted on: November 10, 2008 5:31 pm

Matt Holliday Traded... to the A's?

[Top 15 Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers can be found underneath this article]

Whoa there partner, are you trying to tell me that Billy Beane made a move to acquire a superstar going into the last year of his contract, rather than the other way around?   When I first heard it I hardly believed it - especially since the Cardinals seemed like a good suitor - but, then I thought about it, and realized this move makes perfect sense.

First of all, I have heard the deal is imminent, but not finalized, so the deal I am about to analyze may be slightly different than the one that becomes official in the coming days, or hours. 

The Deal: Matt Holliday to the Athletics - The Rockies receive RP Huston Street, SP Greg Smith, and OF Carlos Gonzalez

If this ends up being the deal, and I expect it to be, I love it for all parties involved, and I will tell you why. 

-I love this deal for my own selfish reasons.  You see the Athletics did not give up any of their prospects, which means I will not have to go back, and do the work adjusting the A's, and Rockies top 15 prospects lists.  Yay!

-The Rockies come out winners because they get the closer they  are so desperate for.  They also receive a competent SP in Greg Smith, and a future star OF in Carlos Gonzalez, and I assure you Gonzalez is a future star.  Holliday was not going to stay in Colorado after next season, he made that clear when he rejected the 80 million dollar extension the Rockies offered him last offseason.  Now, you could argue the Rockies should have kept him, and traded him at the deadline next July, but you cannot count on that deal being as good as this one, and they were able to send Holliday out of the NL, and to the AL.  Nice moves.

-The A's also benefit, I think they immediately become a playoff contender in 2009, best of all they did it without sacrificing any of their prospects, pure Billy Beane.  Just to let you know the A's claim they will not look to flip Holliday at the deadline in 2009, and I suspect they will attempt to resign him to a long term deal.  Holliday is the perfect star to piece your team around, once the A's farm system starts to pump out star players (like Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, James Simmons, Adrian Cardenas, and plenty of others I will cover when I finally get to the A's system in my top 15 prospects series).  If Holliday decides Oakland is not for him, or the Athletics do not agree on an asking price with Boras they will collect two first round picks for Holliday, and no one knows how to use their draft picks like the A's. 

-The big winner in this deal is without a doubt the AL West.  Seriously, this deal makes the AL West relevant again.  Gone are the days of picking the Angels at the beginning of the season, and ignoring it the rest of the year.  The A's will be competitive this upcoming season, and, due to their fantastic farm system, the next several seasons, at least.  Also the Rangers looked good in 2008, and seem poised to add a big free agent this offseason.  If there is a loser in this deal, its the NL West since it now looks like they will be losing two of their best players in Holliday, and the soon to be moved Peavy. 
Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:46 pm
Edited on: November 21, 2008 11:56 am

Top 15 Prospects: Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee lost a couple top prospects from last season. Manny Parra graduated to the majors. While former top prospect Matt LaPorta, along with OF prospect Michael Brantley (who I had at number 7 before being named the “player to be named later”) were traded to the Indians as part of the C.C. Sabathia trade. Still, Milwaukee retains one of the better farm systems in baseball. Minor League notations in descending order
*AAA/AA signifies triple A, and Double A respectively… duh

*A+ signifies high A ball

*A- signifies low A ball
*A signifies a prospect played at both high, and low A ball throughout the course of the season
*a signifies short-season A ball
*R signifies rookie league
*MLL signifies minor league level last season

Stats I like to use:

OPS = On-Base % + Slugging %

K:BB = how many times a batter strikes out compared to how often he walks (strikeouts/walks)

Milwaukee Brewers Top 15 Prospects

1. Mat Gamel 3B Age: 23 MLL: AAA/AA

Gamel replaces LaPorta at the top of the Brewers’ list. Gamel is a tremendous hitter, as he hit .325, with a .392 OBP in 2008. He also hit 20 home runs, while collecting 99 RBIs. Despite his high OBP Gamel finished the season with a K:BB ratio of 2:1. Gamel’s bat is ready for the big leagues next year, but the Brewers will have to decide where he fits on defense. Despite being a good athlete, with a strong arm, and good range at third base, he is a terrible fielder – 119 errors in three years, or something like that. The next best place for him, because of his range, and arm may be left field, but Ryan Braun was already moved there from third, and I believe the Brewers would be reluctant to move him back to third. Gamel does have the bat to play first, but Prince Fielder is there barring a trade. I would suggest right field, but Corey Hart is there; none of the trio of Hart, Gamel Braun are center fielders, so the three of them should not play the outfield together; which leaves the open spot at third base. I would keep Gamel in AAA next season, at third, and hope he can learn the position. If Gamel cannot stick at third the Brewers will be left with some decisions to make. Obviously Braun is staying, and because Gamel is the youngest, and therefore cheapest I think he makes the eventually cut as well, which means either Fielder, or Hart get traded before the start of the 2010 season, and I have my bets on Fielder since he will be most expensive in the future, and there is no guarantee Gamel can play right – although I think he would be great there in time.

2. Alcides Escobar SS Age: 22 MLL: AA

Admittedly Escobar, Salome, and Jeffress should be 2a, 2b, and 2c, they are all outstanding prospects in their own right, and any of them can slide in the 2-4 slots, it is just a matter of preference. Anyway, about Escobar… Finally! A shortstop who not only will field the position in the major leagues, but excel at it. Escobar is one of the best fielders in the entire minor leagues. He also hits for a high average, but a poor on base percentage, his K:BB ratio is 5:2. Escobar also has great speed, and base-running ability, stealing 32 bases last season. I think he is a Jason Bartlett type player at the big league level - plays the same way that is - but, Escobar is a little better at every facet of the game.  

3. Angel Salome C Age: 22 MLL: AA

Salome shook off the 50 game suspension for performance enhancers a couple years ago by putting up another great offensive season in 2008. Salome hit .360, with a .415 OBP. Salome also managed a K:BB of under 2:1, and hit 13 homeruns. Salome is below-average defensively, but should be able to stay behind the plate in the big leagues. He will start 2009 in AAA, but should end the season starting for the Brewers.

4. Jeremy Jeffress RHSP Age: 21 MLL: AA/A+

If I were basing my opinion on potential alone Jeffress would top the list. He throws his fastball in the mid-high 90s, and occasionally hits 100 mph. He also throws a sharp curveball. However, Jeffress has some control issues, which seem to be the least of his problems. Jeffress has been suspended for off the field problems – the guy really just has to grow up, and quit smoking pot. Jeffress is still young so, I believe he will end up as a #2 pitcher, or possible ace, but I am going to keep him at “2c” until I see some improvement – his 4.31 ERA was not reassuring, his 115 Ks in 94 innings was.

5. Jonathan Lucroy C Age: 22 MLL: A

Despite being the second catcher on this list, Lucroy is one of the better catching prospects in the minors. Lucroy hit well in 2008, hitting for an average of .301, while getting on base 37.7 percent of the time. He also has an adequate K:BB ratio (84:58), and does hit for some power, 20 HRs in 2008. Lucroy is average defensively, maybe even above-average, and has a nice arm to throw out potential base-stealers. Where he ends up in the future depends a lot on what happens to Salome, but at worst the Brewers have some excellent trade bait. He will play at AA next season.

6. Brett Lawrie C Age: 18 MLL: NA

Lawrie could play C, 3B, or in a corner outfield in the future, but for the time being the Brewers are going to try, and keep him at catcher. Lawrie’s best tool is his power, which scouts before the 2008 draft called raw plus, plus power. “Raw” is bolded because it is the most important word, it is likely Lawrie will never live up to that evaluation, but he could have plus power in the majors. Lawrie is also athletic, with a strong arm, so although, he is new to catching, he has the ability to become a very good fielder at the position, someday. Lawrie will skyrocket to the top of the list, if he can prove he can field the position, and hit for plus power, he has a very high ceiling as a catching prospect.

7. Jake Odorizzi RHSP Age: 18 MLL: R

Odorizzi has four average to above-average pitches, which is impressive for a high schooler. All of which he commands, except his 4-seam fastball, which he throws in the low 90s. His changeup is also behind the other pitches. His 2-seamer gets good movement to both sides of the plate, his curveball grades out as plus, and his slider gets late break. Odorizzi was mostly successful in his 21 innings in 2008, striking out 19, and acquiring an ERA of 3.48.

8. Cole Gillespie OF Age: 24 MLL: AA

Gillespie is a terrific hitter, with all of the tools available there. He can hit for contact, he can hit for power, and he draws loads of walks – in 2008 he has an OBP of .386 despite a BA of only .281. Gillespie is also a good base runner, stealing 14 bases last season. Gillespie, however, lacks range in the outfield, and has a below-average arm, which limits him to left field. His bat is good, but it may not be good enough to start in left field everyday (especially with players like Matt Gamel, and Ryan Braun), so he may profile best as an above-average fourth outfielder.

9. Taylor Green 3B/2B Age: 22 MLL: A+

Green has a K:BB ratio of 1:1, which is excellent, but has only average power, and is average at

best defensively. I think he profiles as a good second basemen, but will not make the big leagues

as a starting third basemen.

10. Caleb Gindl OF Age: 20 MLL: A-

Average power, average speed, average arm, average range in the outfield, get the picture? Gindl’s tools are just average, but he plays to his hardest on every play. However, Gindl’s ability to get on base is well above average - .388 OBP – despite the fact he strikes out way to much – 144 times in 2008 – but, he is still young. Gindl could start in a corner outfield spot, or could be an effective fourth outfielder and pinch-hitter in the future.

11. Lorenzo Cain OF Age: 22 MLL: AA/A

I am not as high on Cain as others. True, he has good speed, and is a good fielder that could play center or right field. Cain does not have much power, and does not hit for a high average, or on-base percentage. He also strikes out a little more than you would like, but still not nearly as much as Gindl. He falls into the same category as Gindl, and Gillespie he could start at right, or center, or he could make a good fourth outfielder. The Brewers at the very least have options in the outfield in the near future.

12. Brent Brewer SS Age: 21 MLL: A

Brewer is a terrific athlete with great range, and a good arm, but he has the Matt Gamel syndrome, and manages to rack up errors despite all the physical gifting – a move to center has been considered, but it just may be that Brewer is raw at all facets of the game, and just needs more time. Brewer showed no power last year, and very, very little hitting ability, he did however, steal 34 bases. Red flags surround Brewer, but he may just need time to refine his tools, he certainly has the name to be a Brewer… get it!

13. Cutter Dykstra OF/2B Age: 19 MLL: R

Dykstra played shortstop in high school, but is going to play either second, or in the outfield in the majors – assuming he makes it there. Dykstra has some power, and has the ability to hit for average (although he hit .271 in limited 2008 playing time after being drafted in June). Cutter has plus speed, which leads to considerable range, as well as helping him on the base paths. His range would allow him to cover center, but only if his average to below-average arm does not hinder him. Dykstra also has an advanced batter’s eye. Overall he is a solid prospect, and is probably better than his #13 ranking, the players ahead of him, are just older, Cutter could easily see a big rise next season, after a full season of pro ball.

14. Erik Komatsu OF Age: 21 MLL: R

Do you know what I like? Guys who hit .321/.394 (BA/OBP), while slugging 11 homeruns in 277 ABs, and keeping his K:BB ratio under 2:1 – it also helps when he steals 8 bases in that many ABs. I am interested to see what he does over the course of a full season in A ball, and so should you.

15. Bobby Bramhall LHSP Age: 23 MLL: A+

Bramhall is a left-handed pitcher who had a great 2008 season. In 111 innings he struck out 106, while posting a 2.51 ERA and limited opposing batters to an average of .222. We will all get a better read on him next season in AA.

Strengths: The Brewers have one of the most talented farm systems of any organization. Their position players are particularly impressive. They have a lot of depth in the outfield, and at catcher – their biggest need at the major league level. They also possess one of the few players with the potential to become an ace one day. They had a great 2008 draft taking a player with tremendous upside in Lawrie, and an advanced high school pitcher in Odorizzi. Cutter Dykstra could also start in the majors.

Weaknesses: Ummm… pitching depth. I mentioned three, 3, yes, only three pitching prospects among their top 15, and the two listed in the top ten are three or more years away from being effective in the major leagues. Otherwise their top 15 are phenomenal.

Next Up: I finally look to finish off the NL Central with the Pirates, and Cardinals
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or