2010 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit: Top 45 Prospects
Stephen Strasburg is the undisputed best pitching prospect in the game.
This season, there are a whopping 18 players returning from our 2009 rankings, while only 17 graduated to the major leagues. Five players slipped out of the rankings, which represents the same number as last year. There are just 27 newcomers to the list this season, one less than we had last year when we ranked just 40 prospects in total.
By the way, many will take issue with Stephen Strasburg only ranking third here, and that’s not to say I’m not high on him, but I tend to slightly devalue pitching prospects just because so much more can go wrong along the way.
Finally, note that I originally had Ryan Westmoreland slotted in at No. 39, but recent brain surgery has knocked him off track. Thankfully, the procedure was a success, but he now has bigger things to worry about besides baseball.
Last year rankings are in parenthesis.
1. Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (3): Heyward was already one of the game’s top prospects heading into 2009, but his performance and rapid ascension in the minors leaves him as the number one prospect in baseball. He’s a tremendous batting prospect, called by one NL scout perhaps the best offensive prospect he’s seen in the last 15 years. No wonder the Braves didn’t bother to bring back Garret Anderson — obviously, they wanted to clear the decks for Heyward. This 20-year-old is big, strong and athletic and has almost no weaknesses in his game. He has great power, decent speed and is a great contact hitter, earning recognition as Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year in 2009. Heyward started the season at High-A, smacking 10 homers in just 49 games before getting promoted to Double-A where he was even more productive, flashing a bit of speed as well. He went 4-for-11 in a late-season trial at Triple-A. With his superb batting eye, Heyward won the RF job out of Spring Training and should soon be a major factor in Atlanta. In fact, he’s an excellent NL ROY candidate. He’s that good, and, yes, he’s that ready.
2. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants (18): Posey entered 2009 with all of 10 games of professional experience. By the end of the season, he was in the majors. With that kind of polish and easy ascension through the system, I honestly thought the Giants would let Bengie Molina leave as a free agent this offseason. But Molina is back, and that means the team really wants Posey to get more seasoning at Triple-A, where in addition to catching, he’ll get some experience at 1B. It’s a good call, as over the years, we’ve seen so many offensively-gifted catchers rushed to the majors only to struggle at the plate as they learn the toughest defensive position on the field. There aren’t many Joe Mauers out there. Having said that, the 23-year-old Posey looks about as safe a bet is there to live up to the hype. He’s a tremendous batting prospect who should be capable of batting around .290 to .300 with a hell of a lot of doubles and high teens to 20 homers (maybe more as he fills out).
3. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Washington Nationals (NR): The Nats waited until the last minute to sign Strasburg, but something tells me they will be glad they did decide to get him under contract. The 21-year-old made his pro debut in the AFL, racking up a very impressive 10.9 K/9. He has great control, amazing ratios and off-the-charts strikeout potential. Strasburg, who had an incredible career at San Diego State, reaching triple digits with his heater on occasion, will spend the first couple of months at Double-A, but he’s so advanced that you can expect to see him in the Nat rotation before the All-Star break.
4. Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): We originally expected Carl Crawford to be dealt this offseason to make room for Jennings, but for now, Crawford will stay put. Make no mistake, though; the 23-year-old Jennings is ready to take Crawford’s place and with the Rays under pressure to reduce payroll, it will be shocking if Crawford isn’t traded by the deadline. The 23-year-old Jennings, a 10th rounder in 2006 is all about speed: he’s swiped 134 bases in 311 professional games. Power is his weak link, but with a .457 career slugging percentage, he’s got some pop in his stick. The thing that impresses me most about Jennings is his great batting eye – ideal for a future lead-off man. His short, quick stroke is capable of producing line drives from line to line. He’s only had 114 at-bats above Double-A, but judging by a .325 BA and 910 OPS at Triple-A, this kid is ready. All he needs is a spot to play, and once Crawford is moved, he’ll have that. When the Crawford trade talks begin in earnest, get ready to scoop Jennings off the wire pronto.
5. Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins (26): Scouts rave about the power potential of this 20-year-old man child (he’s 6’5″, 240 already). And while he’s raw still, he’s already spent plenty of time terrorizing minor league pitchers (in 2008, he was second in the minors with 39 bombs; last year, he mashed another 28 between High-A and Double-A). Stanton is a fantastic athlete, and perhaps the best power prospect in the game, but he needs serious work on his contact rates. I love the fact he recorded a .390 OBP at High-A, but the .311 mark he had at Double-A suggests he still has work to do, and he’ll have to master this level before moving on to Triple-A. We expect Stanton to be ready just in time for the Marlins to open their new park.
6. Brian Matusz, LHP, Baltimore Orioles (25): After making his pro debut last year in the AFL, Matusz made a mockery of the minors. He breezed through High-A and then was even more dominant at Double-A. The O’s called him up, and he more than held his own, going 5-2 and showing immediate progress. Armed with three or four plus pitches, Matusz has tremendous potential as a strikeout pitcher, and many see him as a top five prospect – a distinction he just missed out on for our purposes. He had some problems with long balls with the O’s (six in 44 2/3 IP), but given that he allowed just seven in 113 IP in the minors, I don’t foresee this being an issue going forward. Matusz has to be considered a favourite to take home AL ROY honours this season.
7. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants (4): This 20-year-old southpaw has simply made a mockery of the minors, chalking up a 1.65 ERA in his two professional seasons. Bumgarner, 6’4”, succeeds by limiting baserunners with an excellent fastball, a curve and slider that keep getting better and a changeup that also has potential. I’ve already wondered why the hell the Giants didn’t just hand him the fifth starter job, but he’ll start the season at Triple-A. Regardless, Bumgarner’s ceiling is a top of the rotation lefty – the kind of asset everyone drools over. While he only averaged 5.8 Ks/9 at Double-A, the fact that he fanned 10 batters in 10 IP in his MLB debut last fall tells me that accumulating strikeouts won’t be a challenge for this kid.
8. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Texas Rangers (6): This former Braves farmhand has emerged as a consensus top 10 prospect. He does an amazing job of limiting power (how about zero extra-base hits allowed in 47 at-bats against major league righties?) and more than held his own in a swingman role in Triple-A. But when Feliz was filthy good in 20 games out of the Ranger bullpen, he really opened a lot of people’s eyes. Armed with a triple-digit heater, Feliz got a chance to earn the fifth starter job in Texas this spring, but will start the year as a late-inning reliever.
9. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates (20): Making his pro debut at High-A last season, Alvarez was very productive, although he struggled to hit for a high average. However, he really turned it on after a promotion to Double-A, showing great power and batting average – a fantastic sign for a youngster making his first foray beyond Class-A. The Pirates are keeping the hot corner open for Alvarez, asking newcomer Akinori Iwamura – a natural third baseman – to shift over to the keystone corner. That tells me that this power hitting prospect will soon be major league ready. The Vanderbilt product probably needs another half year of seasoning to work on making better contact, but it won’t be long before Alvarez arrives in the Steel City.
10. Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers (NR): This Venezuelan lefty is not yet 19, yet he’s already made five starts at Double-A. Signed by the Rangers in 2007, Perez has done a great job limiting long balls and he showed nice progress with his control last year, dominating A-Ball along the way. Given his age, the intangibles and smarts he brings to the table are very impressive indeed, so you better keep your eye on Perez, likely to be a factor in the bigs by 2011.
11. Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees (NR): The heir apparent to Jorge Posada (assuming he stays at catcher), the 20-year-old Montero has compiled a .325 career average in three seasons since signing out of Venezuela. He’s a tremendous batting prospect, but like most catchers, has no speed. Montero dominated at High-A, batting .365 with a 989 OPS before turning in a fine half season at Double-A (nine homers, 10 doubles, 909 OPS in 44 games). A big kid at 6’4”, 225, Montero should arrive in New York no later than 2012, and while he’s not as strong with the glove as he is with the bat, his catching skills are improving. Long term, he may need to shift away from the dish, but with his hitting prowess, Montero could always become a 1B or DH anyways – he’s that skilled offensively.
12. Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians (39): We took some heat for ranking Santana as low as we did on our 2010 Catcher Cheat Sheet, but the fact is we still find it hard to believe he’ll be a major factor this season. Yes, he has tremendous potential as a productive offensive catcher and yes, he should get a chance to take over the catching gig for the Tribe later this season, but young backstops that have an immediate offensive impact are few and far between. I love Santana’s patience and with his power and batting average potential shown at Double-A, he’s an excellent keeper league prospect. But betting on him having much value in 2010 is a mistake.
13. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (NR): After being drafted in fourth round in 2005, Hellickson was someone we originally identified as a pitcher that keeper league owners needed to watch in 2006. As we are wont to do, we were bang on, as this now 22-year-old is poised on the edge of the majors. Armed with superb command, Hellickson is also a great strikeout pitcher (11 K/9 in his first taste of Triple-A). He had some problems with the long ball in his first taste of Double-A in 2008, but this wasn’t an issue at all last year as he proved nearly unhittable at this level, before continuing to excel at Triple-A thanks to some very sharp control. Hellickson has been moved through the Ray system at a methodical rate, but he definitely looks ready for his first crack at The Show, and will likely get that chance by mid-season.
14. Alcides Escobar, SS, Milwaukee Brewers (27): Escobar has come a long way in recent years, shedding his reputation as a defensive-only shortstop by showing tremendous improvement at that plate. That development continued last season when, in his first try at Triple-A, Escobar improved his base stealing skills and cut down on his strikeouts. He did a strong enough job in a late-season look in Milwaukee that the Brewers felt they could deal away J.J. Hardy to clear the job for the rookie. Root canal slowed Escobar down earlier this spring, but now that his dental issues are resolved nothing will slow this kid down on the basepaths.
15. Justin Smoak, 1B, Texas Rangers (24): Smoak was a big star in college, breaking Hank Small’s South Carolina record for career home runs. A very patient switch-hitter, Smoak’s first full season was a mixed bag. He had no problem at Double-A, but struggled to adjust to Triple-A, suggesting he could use another year of seasoning before taking over first base in Texas. Chris Davis currently is the man at first for the Rangers, but his penchant for whiffing has definitely opened the door for Smoak, so it won’t be long now. Smoak has no speed, but is a superb defender and has drawn comparisons to two of the pre-eminent switch-hitters of our time – Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones.
16. Chris Carter, 1B, Oakland A’s (NR): We think enough of Carter that we put him on our 2010 First Baseman Rankings, and he lived up to the promise by crushing the ball in the early going this spring before getting farmed out. The question is, will he get the chance to help the A’s this season? While the future looks bright for Oakland, the team likely isn’t going to compete this year, so it may not want to start Carter’s service clock just yet. Carter wasn’t considered a top prospect out of high school, hence he lasted until the 15th round in 2005 before getting plucked by the White Sox. Two years later, he was dealt to the D-Backs straight up for Carlos Quentin, and then just two weeks later, ‘Zona flipped him in a package for Dan Haren. The 23-year-old has tremendous power potential and draws plenty of walks (his .435 OBP at Double-A must have made Billy Beane wet his pants), but he struggles to make contact, making him a bit of an Adam Dunn type. Carter had a dominant season at Double-A (1011 OPS), and didn’t look overmatched in a 54 at-bat stint at Triple-A. Expect to see him in Oakland at some point this year and when he arrives, Fantasy owners in need of pop better pay attention to this kid.
17. Wade Davis, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays (28): We gave you the heads up that Davis could get the call last September and hopefully you heeded our advice, as he looked very sharp in his first taste of the majors. One of the system’s top young arms, Davis has been waiting for his chance, and it looks like it has arrived this year, as he’ll break camp with the fifth starter job despite a less than stellar spring. He really stepped up his strikeouts while also improving his control at Triple-A last season, putting up double-digit wins while maintaining a decent ERA. But how about the three-to-one ratio he enjoyed with the Rays? This 24-year-old can bring it, dialing his heater up to 96 mph, and while I expect some bumps in the road, Davis has great long-term potential.
18. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks (22): We expect Parker to miss the entire 2010 campaign in the wake of Tommy John surgery, however, I’ve heard one report suggest he could be ready this summer. Either way, this is pretty much going to be a lost season for the D-Backs’ top prospect. Armed with a wide arsenal of pitches, including a big-time fastball, curve, slider and changeup, Parker has the potential to rack up plenty of Ks, but he does tend to allow his share of baserunners. He absolutely dominated at High-A last year before quickly getting promoted to Double-A, where he held his own before the injury.
19. Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF, Seattle Mariners (NR): Ackley first popped onto on radar back in February 2008 after a phenomenal sophomore season at North Carolina. Well, his junior season was even better, as he flashed more power en route to a video game like 1280 OPS that earned him All-American honours. Ackley was taken with the second overall pick in 2009 and was perhaps the best pure hitter to come out of last year’s draft. He made his pro debut in the AFL, batting a robust .315 in 20 games. He’s expected to develop into a high average hitter with modest pop and decent speed. I can see this recently turned 22-year-old topping out as a .325-20 HR-20 SB player. Ackley will play second base at Double-A to start the season, but it won’t be long at all before he’s knocking on the door at Safeco.
20. Casey Kelly, RHP, Boston Red Sox (NR): When Kelly was taken by the Red Sox in the first round in 2008, he had options. Lots of options. Originally selected as a shortstop, he was a two-way talent that could be converted to the mound. Or, Kelly could have opted to pursue a football career as a star quarterback. It turns out he struggled offensively as a hitter, so the Sox have had him concentrating on pitching since midway through the 2009 season, and so far the results suggest this 20-year-old is going to move fast. He dominated A-Ball and was very solid at High-A, and while Kelly doesn’t overpower hitters, he’s so polished that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him reach Boston sometime in 2011, especially after his fine spring showing.
21. Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers (35): We’ve already expressed our concerns about his strikeout totals, but Jackson continues to progress through the minors and is now ready to take on the bigs. He was supposed to be the Yankee CF of the future, but landed in Detroit in the three-team deal that sent Curtis Granderson to the Yankees. Jackson is blessed with great speed, and he hit .300 with decent productivity in his first try at Triple-A, although I’d like to see more walks from a player who has been given the lead-off job in Detroit. Athletic and driven to succeed, Jackson will likely struggle to maintain consistency as a rookie this season, but he has a very bright future in Motown.
22. Starlin Castro, SS, Chicago Cubs (NR): Castro burst out of nowhere last year and is now knocking on the door of the majors. After a huge 2009 campaign between High-A and Double-A, he’ll start this season at Triple-A, but the Cubs won’t hesitate to let Castro take over Ryan Theriot’s or Mike Fontenot’s job should the situation be warranted at some point in 2010. Signed out of the Dominican Republic, Castro just turned 20 last week and he’s already a great hitting prospect and excellent contact hitter. I’d like to see him become more patient, but so far, his aggressive approach has stead him well. Castro is small, but quite speedy, so it’s only fitting he’s on the fast track to Wrigley.
23. Fernando Martinez, OF, New York Mets (29): It seems like we’ve been hearing about Martinez for freaking ever, yet he’s still just 21. He’s been extremely injury prone throughout his career and last year was no different, which meant he fit in perfectly with the walking wounded that was the Mets team in 2009. Martinez is a solid batting prospect, but like many youngsters, patience is not his strong suit. In his abbreviated 2009, he looked very strong in his first taste of Triple-A, making it to the majors, where he struggled for 29 games. Martinez’s upside is massive – all that’s missing from a run of All-Star-calibre seasons is good health. He’s tearing it up this spring, so again, hopes spring eternal, but it sounds like the Mets have him ticketed for Triple-A, which has many people shaking their heads.
24. Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins (NR): We like the Twins top prospect, but have already established that he’s still a ways off from helping the major league club. After missing a good chunk of 2009, Hicks is expected to start the season back at Class-A Beloit, but he should reach High-A by mid-season, assuming he can stay healthy and improve upon last year’s showing. A very patient hitter, Hicks was taken 14th overall by the Twins in 2008 after a high school career during which he was highly scouted. The 20-year-old’s extra-base pop and speed slipped last season, but we’ll give him a mulligan because of the time he missed. Hicks has been compared to Adam Jones, but obviously he has some work to do before he reaches that level.
25. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays (NR): Drabek was one of the keys to the Roy Halladay deal, and as such the Jays will be under some pressure to rush him to the Show as the fans will need to see what the team got for Doc. However, while he is close to major league-ready, moving the 22-year-old righty too quickly would be a mistake, especially if Toronto isn’t in competition this year. The Phillies’ first rounder in 2006 showed great strikeout potential last year, fanning 10.8 per nine innings at High-A, and he has really addressed the gopheritis he dealt with in 2007 before his Tommy John procedure. Drabek looked excellent at High-A, earning a trip to the Futures Game last year, before a promotion to Double-A, where he continued to look strong. The Phils were reluctant to part with former Cy Young winner Doug Drabek’s boy, but finally relented when it became a dealbreaker for the Jays.
26. Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (NR): Brown was one of the prospects the Jays really wanted when Halladay was being shopped around at trade deadline last year, but the Phils held him, even when they finally did land Doc in the offseason. Philly, already overflowing with talented players, must be stoked it kept Brown, as he’s crushing the ball this spring. The 22-year-old, taken in the 20th round in 2006, is an all-around talent, but has serious speed. He was excellent at High-A last year, swiping plenty of bases and then was very productive upon his promotion to Double-A. Expect Brown to land in Philadelphia by next season, perhaps even later this year if he starts the year at Triple-A.
27. Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners (NR): Saunders just missed our top 40 a year ago, but he’s forced his way onto the list year after an excellent half-season at Triple-A where he showed tremendous extra-base pop. This highly-touted prospect didn’t make the team out of Spring Training, a bit of a disappointment after he saw 46 games of action in Seattle last year, but he should be back by mid-season at the latest. Saunders, 23, was the Mariners’ 11th round pick in 2004 and has shown very nice speed and solid power, but he needs to work on his contact rates. Once this 6’4” Canadian cuts down on his strikeouts a bit, he’ll be a serious force in the majors, with .280, 20-homer, 25-steal potential.
28. Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Philadelphia Phillies (NR): Aumont, 21, was the top Canadian prospect in the 2007 draft, and a couple of seasons after Seattle took him 11th overall, he was part of the package of fine prospects it gave up to land Cliff Lee this offseason. He was strictly a reliever last year and Aumont did a good job of keeping runners off base at High-A, while averaging better than a strikeout per inning. And while he improved his homer rate at Double-A, he did struggle to adjust to this level. At 6’7”, 225, this behemoth of a man looks like a closer waiting to happen, but Philly wants him to become a starter again. He should arrive in Philly in about two years, although that timetable will be shortened if he stays in the pen.
29. Michael Taylor, OF, Oakland A’s (NR): Taylor was yet another solid prospect in the Phillies organization, but with Brown already knocking on the door, Philly could afford to package Taylor up in the Halladay deal. He’s since been dealt by the Jays to Oakland for Brett Wallace. Taylor, 24, was the Phils’ fifth rounder in 2007, and he’s a solid power prospect, smacking 15 dingers in 86 games at Double-A last year. He’s also shown nice improvements in his patience, which was previously a weak spot for him and something he’s definitely need in the A’s organization. He’s been sent down to the farm by Oakland, but the athletic outfielder will be back soon, probably by mid-season as he’s already shown he can hold his own in a 30-game stint at Triple-A.
30. Jake Arrieta, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (NR): Matusz gets all the attention, but Arrieta isn’t far behind his more hyped organizational mate. In fact, given the abundance of fine young pitching prospects in the system, the Orioles may be on the cusp of going back to their roots – old schoolers will remember that this team prided itself on superb staffs through the ‘60s and ‘70s. Arrieta, 24, was the team’s fifth rounder in 2007 and thanks to a 97 mph heater, he’s shown big-time strikeout potential, whiffing 10.7/9 at Double-A. He was moved up to Triple-A and held his own, but will need to cut his hit rate before he’s ready for the Show. Arrieta is extremely aggressive, but his secondary stuff needs a bit of refinement.
31. Jenrry Mejia, RHP, New York Mets (NR): The fact that Mejia is in competition for a job with the Mets (and looks like he’ll break camp with a bullpen role) even though he’s only made 10 starts above A-Ball speaks to the 20-year-old Dominican’s great promise. Unfortunately, it also speaks to the state of the Met staff, but that’s another story. Mejia was very successful at limiting baserunners at High-A, earning a promotion to Double-A where he struggled to adjust, yet still fanned 9.5 per 9 – a great sign. He’s small (6’0”), but can bring the heat, a trait that shot him up the prospect ranks extremely quickly last year.
32. Brett Wallace, 3B, Toronto Blue Jays (33): Wallace is yet another prospect on our list that’s been dealt twice already. Previously one of the top prospects in the Cardinal system, Wallace was the key component of the deal that sent Matt Holliday from Oakland to St. Louis. This offseason, the A’s sent him to Toronto for Taylor (our No. 29 prospect). Wallace is a fine hitting prospect, having compiled a lifetime BA of almost .300 in his two pro seasons. Speed, especially, and power are not his calling cards, however. He did okay at Double-A and held his own at Triple-A last year, and while some don’t even consider him among the top 25 position player prospects in the game, I see him in the top 20. Think .300 with high teens, maybe 20 homers as his upside. Wallace could wind up at first base, and that would hurt his Fantasy value given the proliferation of big boppers at that position.
33. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds (NR): As of this writing, we’re still waiting to hear if Chapman had secured the fifth starter job for the Reds, but it would be a surprise if he doesn’t get the gig. Signed as a free agent out of Cuba, Chapman is a tall (6’4”) lefty who can bring serious heat, pitching comfortably in the 93-to-95 mph range, often reaching 97-98, and occasionally touching 100 mph. However, he’ll need to develop a third pitch to reach his potential as a No. 1 starter.
34. Donavan Tate, OF, San Diego Padres (NR): Tate was one of the top draft prospects in the 2009 draft, so it was no surprise when the Padres plucked him third overall last year. Unfortunately, he seems to be a bit injury prone. Hernia surgery in August prohibited him from making his pro debut last season, and then he suffered a broken jaw courtesy of an ATV accident this winter. Now, his pro debut will be delayed once again thanks to a shoulder injury, although thankfully it’s quite minor. The 19-year-old is a gifted multi-sport athlete and he’s super fast with a strong arm. Tate is a five-tool talent who has good at-bats and should be an average power hitter in time.
35. Josh Bell, 3B, Baltimore Orioles (NR): Bell arrived in Baltimore mid-season last year as part of the package that the Orioles received from the Dodgers for George Sherrill. In B-More, he’s another piece of the picture that is suddenly rife with young talent, and based on his breakout campaign last year, Bell has clearly established himself as the third baseman of the future in Charm City. Taken in the fourth round in 2005, this 23-year-old is a solid hitting prospect, as evidenced by his .296 mark at Double-A Chattanooga, followed by a .289 BA when he shifted over to Double-A Bowie after the trade. Making contact has been an issue, but last year Bell took great strides in reducing his strikeout totals. He’s been farmed out to Triple-A and is now knocking on the door of the majors (Miguel Tejada, may I suggest you look over your shoulder?), so you can expect his first appearance by September, if not earlier.
36. Christian Friedrich, LHP, Colorado Rockies (NR): Back in August, we thought that Friedrich might have been the best pitcher in the minors last season. The numbers certainly bear that out, as he tore through A-Ball, averaging a ridiculous 13.1 Ks/9 before continuing to excel at High-A. The 22-year-old, taken 25th overall in 2008 out of Eastern Kentucky, has quickly established himself as a future rotation candidate (possibly even as soon as September) in Colorado, which is building a superb collection of young arms. Friedrich mostly throws in the 90-91 mph range, but can dial it up to 94 at times.
37. Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves (NR): After a three-year run as the ace of the Vanderbilt staff, Minor was taken by the Braves in the first round last year. The 22-year-old has fine mechanics and succeeds by limiting baserunners, as he does not possess an overpowering fastball. His secondary stuff, however, is strong, especially his hard slider. After signing, Minor overpowered Class-A hitters in his four starts, so he’s probably ready to move up to High-A and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s knocking on the door of Triple-A by season’s end.
38. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals (10): Moustakas was a top 10 prospect on our 2009 list, but after a down season, he’s slipped significantly. Clearly, he’s still a long ways from becoming an All-Star, never mind a major leaguer of any calibre. The good news is he still ranks among the top 40 prospects in the game, so don’t you dare give up on him. He has excellent power potential thanks to superior bat speed, although his power numbers slid at High-A. He also really needs to work on his patience, as this was an area that really suffered in 2009. This season will tell us much about whether Moustakas is going to remain a key part of the Royals’ future or whether he’s headed for bust city.
39. Yonder Alonso, 1B, Cincinnati Reds (30): The Reds must be stoked that they didn’t have to include him in the deal to land Scott Rolen, as this power hitting prospect has a chance to be part of a resurgence in Cincy. Alonso is blocked at first base by Joey Votto, so the Reds have been trying him in left field (as well as right field and third base) this spring, a move which will expedite his road to the majors. He slipped a bit in the rankings this year, but that was mostly because he missed about half the season with a broken hamate. There was nothing wrong with his performance, as Alonso was excellent at High-A and then came around nicely after a slow start at Double-A. He’s an advanced hitter who should move quickly if healthy and will soon be an RBI machine in the middle of the Reds’ order.
40. Jose Tabata, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates (NR): If it feels like we’ve been hearing about Tabata for years, it’s because we have – this kid was playing Rookie ball at the age of 16 and is still just 21 years old. Signed out of Venezuela in 2005, Tabata has always been young for the leagues he’s played in, yet he’s compiled a .295 career average in six minor league seasons. The former Yankee farmhand came over to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady deal and is now being counted on to be part of the long-awaited turnaround in Pittsburgh. He was hurt last year, and unable to duplicate his big numbers in Double-A the season before, but he moved up to Triple-A and held his own. Expect Tabata to arrive in Steel City sometime this year, and while he’s a great hitting prospect, those early-career comparisons to Manny Ramirez seem a little overly optimistic at this point. I’m expecting Tabata to be a high average hitter, but Ramirez-like power just isn’t in the cards.
41. Jason Castro, C, Houston Astros (NR): We were bullish on Castro last season, and obviously so are the Astros as the 22-year-old kid was already in competition for the starting job in Houston after just two professional seasons, although he’ll begin the year at Triple-A. It was actually thought that the White Sox would draft Castro, but when Gordon Beckham fell to Chicago, the Astros were able to snatch up the Stanford product. He’s a very patient hitter, but like most catchers is not blessed with any speed. Castro put up huge numbers at High- A and continued to look strong at Double-A, and while he’s coming fast, I’m concerned about the Astros rushing him. I’d like to see him get about 250 at-bats at Triple-A before handing him a starting job in the bigs. I mean, it’s not as if Houston is going anywhere this year.
42. Logan Morrison, 1B, Florida Marlins (NR): We think enough of Morrison to rank him 47th among first basemen for this season, however it’s Gaby Sanchez who has emerged with the first base job in Florida – at least for now. We’re still far more bullish on Morrison’s long-term prospects. The 22-year-old was only taken with the 666th overall pick back in 2005, and he plodded along until 2008, when he enjoyed a breakout season, taking home MVP honours in the FSL. That season put him on the prospect map, but unfortunately an injury-shortened campaign last year prohibited Morrison from enjoying the big season at Double-A that was projected. He’s a great contact hitter and takes a very patient approach and most scouts project him to be an above average left-handed power hitter when he arrives in the Show, something I expect to happen at some point this year.
43. Todd Frazier, OF/2B, Cincinnati Reds (NR): Frazier is an interesting case, as his bat is excellent and he has nice potential as a power hitter, but where will he play on the diamond? Hell, he’s been slotted in all over the field and has even seen some action this spring at shortstop, his primary position in 2008, but a spot he didn’t play at all last year. At any rate, he enjoyed a very big season at Double-A and looked even more impressive in a 16-game run at Triple-A, so we know that – at least offensively – Frazier isn’t far off. He has a strong build, but is not considered very athletic. I could see Frazier winding up as a Mark DeRosa type – a player who sees action all over the field – and that can be extremely valuable from a Fantasy perspective, as owners love versatility.
44. Josh Vitters, 3B, Chicago Cubs (31): As we discussed back in August, Vitters was superb at Class-A, but struggled at High-A. There are high hopes for the third overall pick from 2007 as the Cubs desperately need to break their cycle of failed position prospects from recent years. Vitters could be that man, as he makes up for his lack of patience with excellent contact skills. Of course, he’ll need to show he can master High-A before he moves on to higher levels. Vitters has outstanding bat speed with a power stroke and possesses modest speed.
45. Derek Norris, C, Washington Nationals (NR): Norris has some problems with strikeouts, but he’s so extremely patient that he maintains a solid BA and superb OBP regardless. He’s got Jesus Flores ahead of him (assuming the Nats ever realize that Flores can play), so let’s hope the Nats don’t select catcher Bryce Harper with the first overall pick this June to further muddy the waters for Norris. The 21-year-old Norris was taken in the fourth round in 2007 and he enjoyed a simply superb first half at Class-A (at one point he was on pace for .319-36-114 with 161 hits, 36 doubles, 80 walks and a 1.014 OPS) before cooling in the second half.
Graduating from last year’s top 40 prospect list: Matt Wieters (1), David Price (2), Travis Snider (5), Colby Rasmus (7), Rick Porcello (8), Cameron Maybin (9), Dexter Fowler (11), Andrew McCutchen (12), Tommy Hanson (13), Brett Anderson (14), Trevor Cahill (15), Chris Tillman (19), Matt LaPorta (21), Mat Gamel (32), Derek Holland (34), Elvis Andrus (37) and Gordon Beckham (38).
Dropping off the list this season: Tim Beckham (16), Lars Anderson (17), Eric Hosmer (23), Angel Villalona (36) and Michael Bowden (40).