Top 25 prospectsposted: Monday, January 29, 2007 | Print Entry
I'm pleased to present the first annual Scouts Inc. top baseball prospects list. Given the late start we got on pro coverage last year, this list is short, with the top 25 prospects ranked and another 10 who merited consideration listed alphabetically afterward.
Here are a few notes to explain where the rankings came from.:
Both ability (tools) and performance count. The closer the prospect is to the majors, the more important his performance becomes.
Players must still have rookie eligibility to qualify.
Players with little or no pro experience, or only experience in a complex or rookie league, don't make the cut. Andrew Miller and Luke Hochevar would both be candidates for this list if I chose to include them, but I'd rather see how players really adjust to the pro game before ranking them against players with full-season experience. For example: Clayton Kershaw was outstanding in the Gulf Coast League this summer -- but he was facing mostly 18-year-olds who were swinging wood bats regularly for the first time.
I also excluded Japanese players. Even though they're rookies, they're not "prospects" in any conventional sense of the term, especially since they have already played in a major league.
As always, proximity to the majors counts. The list is largely populated by players with at least some Double-A experience, and of the A-ballers on the list, only Cameron Maybin looks like he won't move that quickly. To put it another way, if you're still in A-ball, you need to have superstar potential to rate highly in these rankings.
With that in mind, here's a quick rundown of the top prospects in the minors.
1. Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals
A complete hitter with a chance to be an above-average glove at a skill position. Ready for the majors now, and the leading non-Japanese contender for Rookie of the Year if he makes the big club in April.
2. Delmon Young, RF, Devil Rays
More raw talent than Gordon, but problems with his patience and his temper push him to No. 2. It would still be a huge upset if he doesn't become a big star, hitting for average and power with good defense.
3. Chris Young, CF, Diamondbacks
Power-walks-strikeouts. Probably a 50-55 bat at his peak, but for a center fielder, this is a star-caliber bat.
4. Philip Hughes, RHP, Yankees
Hughes vs. Homer Bailey is a toss-up. Hughes is more polished, with outstanding control, and he ends up higher because he has more probability than Bailey, who has the ceiling.
5. Homer Bailey, RHP, Reds
If it all clicks for him, he's a No. 1 starter, one of the only such candidates in the minors. Lots of power in a classic Texas workhorse build.
6. Fernando Martinez, CF, Mets
Martinez doesn't look or carry himself like a teenager, and he had no trouble against Double-A and Triple-A pitchers in the Arizona Fall League. A plus glove in center, as well.
7. Adam Miller, RHP, Cleveland
Plus-plus fastball, holds his velocity deep into games, plus slider and plus command. Could use a solid third pitch, and has some minor delivery issues to work out, but he's a potential No. 1, as well.
8. Brandon Wood, SS, Angels
Swings and misses an awful lot, but even if he ends up at third base, this kind of power is tough to ignore -- and if he stays at shortstop, he's a star.
9. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates
Jumped two levels to Double-A at age 19 and didn't miss a beat. Legit center fielder who can fly, already hitting for plus power and controlling the strike zone, too. He and Martinez are the two early leaders for the No. 1 spot next winter.
10. Jose Tabata, CF/RF, Yankees
A teenager in a full-season league who showed nascent power, excellent hand-eye coordination and good pitch selection. Ranks below Martinez because he probably won't be a center fielder long term and because Martinez reached high-A and performed well.
11. Yovani Gallardo, RHP, Brewers
Good-sized kid with 90-93 fastball and a hard 12-to-6 curve in the upper 70s, as well as good control. Here's hoping he avoids the arm problems that have derailed almost every other Brewers pitching prospect of this decade.
12. Billy Butler, LF, Royals
Can hit, and hit for power, but shouldn't be allowed within 15 feet of a glove.
13. Evan Longoria, 3B, Devil Rays
Lower ceiling than a lot of guys on this list, but at worst he's a high-contact, high-OBP hitter with moderate power. Should be a defensive asset.
14. Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers
As opposed to Longoria, Braun can hit and has more power. But he is a liability at third and will end up in left (or, if the Brewers are willing to take a risk, in center).
15. Cameron Maybin, CF, Tigers
More tools than Home Depot, but lacks the polish of Fernando Martinez or the discipline of Jose Tabata. With development, he could easily be one of the top three or four prospects in the game next winter.
16. Tim Lincecum, RHP, Giants
Could probably pitch in the majors now as a reliever, putting up stat lines reminiscent of Mitch Williams' better years. Devastating high fastball/hammer-curve combination, with one of the crazier deliveries you'll ever see.
17. Josh Fields, 3B, White Sox
Offensively, there's not much of a drop-off (if any) from Joe Crede to Fields right now. For a player with limited baseball experience coming out of school, Fields has advanced very quickly and shown better strike-zone command than you typically see in multisport guys. I think there's quite a bit of growth left here, given his background.
18. Adam Jones, CF, Mariners
Jones is just a few weeks older than Delmon Young and outhit him in Triple-A this year. He's still raw in center and overaggressive at the plate, but he projects as an above-average bat and glove given some more development time.
19. Adam Lind, LF, Blue Jays
Classic left-handed swing, with good power potential as he fills out. Like Fields, he gets bonus points for being ready to play in the majors right now.
20. Carlos Gonzalez, RF, Diamondbacks
Easy power, good athlete, zero patience. Makes the list on ability, but with as much flameout risk as anyone else in the top 25.
21. Reid Brignac, SS, Devil Rays
Only thing keeping him out of the top 10-15 is his position. His defense improved this year, but he's still erratic, and the Rays do not have a good track record at improving the defense of their prospects.
22. Matt Garza, RHP, Twins
Great arm who raced through the minors and may be forced into a major league role a bit before he's ready.
23. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies
Good range in the field, a 70 arm and plus power? I'll take two.
24. John Danks, LHP, White Sox
Has some fastball command issues to work out, but he's very close to the majors, more so than any of the pitchers on the honorable-mention list below.
25. Andy LaRoche, 3B, Dodgers
Plus bat, plus plate discipline, average power and not a great athlete. Should be an above-average third baseman in the bigs.
Nick Adenhart, RHP, Angels
Ability matches that of the top guys on the list above, but he hasn't proven it at upper levels, and he'll need to show he can handle larger workloads as he gets further away from 2004 ligament replacement surgery.
Jay Bruce, RF, Reds
I'm probably the low man on Bruce, for a couple of reasons. One is that he's already consigned to right field. A bigger one is that, at this point, he's a pull-oriented, fastball hitter who really struggles against left-handed pitchers and against righties with good off-speed stuff (especially changeups). He's a good athlete with good pull power and plus speed, but 2006 wasn't a good step forward for him.
Clay Buchholz, RHP, Red Sox
Outstanding fastball/curve combo, but he was a bit old for low-A, making his dominance at that level less impressive. Should spend all or most of 2007 in Double-A.
Elijah Dukes, OF, Devil Rays
If he would stop trying to unseat Milton Bradley as the Angriest Man in Baseball, he'd be on the list above. Catch him on the right day, and he'll show a 70 bat and 60-70 power. The most impressive thing I saw in the AFL this year was when Dukes (a right-handed hitter) swung at a ball that was off the outside corner and jerked it over the left-field fence.
Brandon Erbe, RHP, Orioles
Still mostly just a live arm, but made some progress with his slider. Control is a tick below average, and his fastball command comes and goes.
Phil Humber, RHP, and Mike Pelfrey, RHP, Mets
Pelfrey misses the cut until he has a breaking ball he can really use, while Humber's continued arm troubles (he was shut down again in the AFL, supposedly as a precautionary measure) keep him off the list.
Eric Hurley, RHP, Rangers
Still some projection here, but he's already working with two plus pitches, and he survived the Cal League. Better long-term prospect than Danks, but Danks gets the nod because he's nearly ready.
Chuck Lofgren, LHP, Indians
Tall lefty with an average fastball and a plus changeup. Equally effective against left- and right-handed batters in 2006. I'd like to see a better breaking ball before he cracks the top 20-25.
Felix Pie, CF, Cubs
Ability is still there, but the power he flashed in 2005 wasn't apparent in 2006.
Colby Rasmus, CF, Cardinals
Made my first rough cut at 25, but LaRoche's proximity to the majors won out. Just needs development time.
Justin Upton, CF, Diamondbacks
I imagine this will be the most controversial placement. Upton's tools grade out at or just below Maybin's, but he didn't perform at the level of the A-ball teens on the list above (even playing in the best hitters' park of the bunch), and while it may not be fair, brother B.J. is now four years out and still hasn't established himself in the majors.
One other name to keep an eye on is Atlanta shortstop Elvis Andrus, whose performance in 2006 was nothing special but who is already a good defensive shortstop, has good bat control and was the second-youngest player in full-season ball this year (Fernando Martinez is about six weeks younger than Andrus). He's not one of the 40 or 50 best prospects in baseball yet, but as a legit shortstop with the tools to hit, he's a sleeper and the kind of prospect who can go from nowhere to the top half of a list like this in one year.