Former Tar Heel Dustin Ackley could man second base in Seattle this year.
The 2011 RotoRob MLB Draft Kit surges forward today with the final part of our Top 50 Prospects. So while you wonder if Jake Peavy can ever be good again, let’s examine the top 10 prospects in the game.
Here are the previous parts of our Top 50 prospects:
Last year’s rankings in parentheses.
10. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners (19): Ackley caught our attention in the AFL, and the former Tar Heel is as pure a hitter as you’ll see. He’s got a shot to win a job out of Spring Training, but more realistically, Ackley will arrive in Seattle around mid-season. But judging by his first professional season during which he actually improved his numbers after being promoted to Triple-A, it won’t take Ackley long to adjust to MLB pitchers. This kid has future star and batting champion written all over him.
9. Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays (4): Jennings made his big-league debut as a September call-up last year, and while he didn’t exactly tear the cover off the ball, he showed enough that the Rays kept him around for the ALCS. This speed merchant has become the top hitting prospect in a Tampa system that continues to overflow with talent. And after enjoying a solid season at Triple-A, he looks like he’s finally ready to replace Carl Crawford and he’s being given every opportunity to win a job this spring. Expect a boatload of steals, with decent extra-base pop and a respectable BA. In other words, expect Carl Crawford Lite.
8. Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (26): Brown is someone we recommended for a waiver wire pickup when it looked like Jayson Werth would be dealt at the trade deadline. Well, Werth is gone now, so Brown is ready for prime time (well, as soon as his broken hand heals, that is). Okay, so he didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his first taste of the majors, but then again, he really didn’t get much of a chance, did he? But with almost 1,600 minor league at-bats under his belt (during which he’s hit .296 and slugged .464), it’s clear that Brown’s apprenticeship is done. I really like the fact that he cut his strikeout numbers last season, and it paid dividends with a .346 BA at Triple-A. He also took a step forward in the power department, leading me to believe that Brown is capable of becoming a 20-homer/30-steal man as a major league.
7. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals (38): Moustakas has enjoyed some All-Star calibre seasons in the minors, but last year he took it to a whole new level, making an absolute mockery of Double-A before moving up to Triple-A, where he didn’t skip many beats. Clearly, he’s close – very close – to be ready to hit the bigs. Expect to see Moustakas in Kansas City by mid-season, and while he may experience a few growing pains, I can see him developing into a .290 hitter with 35-homer power in time.
6. Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees (11): We were so bullish on Montero that we recommended him as a speculative waiver wire pick last August. While he never did see any action with New York last year, there’s no doubt he’s ready for his first taste of the Show after a very productive season at Triple-A. Yes, there have been questions about his ability to catch at the big league level, but those in the know suggest that’s not the case at all. At any rate, Montero will fight for a roster spot this spring, but realistically the Yanks won’t give him one until he’s ready to take newcomer Russell Martin’s job. However, he could gain some valuable big league experience for a few weeks as Martin’s backup given that Francisco Cervelli is out for at least a month, and all indications are that the kid will get his chance. But as for the starting job? Well, a catcher that records an 870 OPS at Triple-A – at the tender age of 20 – won’t be denied for long.
5. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays (13): Hellickson was so impressive last season that the Rays felt they could deal away Matt Garza to open a rotation spot for him. Hellickson is a small righty, and that somewhat worries me as far as his durability goes, but despite not having stuff that scouts drool over, he has excelled throughout his professional career. In his first 10 big-league starts, all he did was go 4-0, while holding opponents to a fine .232 BAA. Hellickson’s performance at Triple-A last year proved he has nothing more to gain from pitching in the minors, so the time is now for him to make an impact at the next level. This youngster is a solid choice to be the top rookie in the American League this season.
4. Julio Teheran, SP, Atlanta Braves (NR): Teheran showed flashes in 2009, but last season he enjoyed a major breakout, putting himself at the head of a yet another deep and talented stable of Brave pitching prospects. Some consider him a top two prospect and the best pitching prospect in the game, but I’d like to see a bit more that the 40 IP he’s thrown above Class-A before moving Teheran up this list any more. Still, it’s hard not to marvel at his 2010 season. He showed impeccable command at Class-A, enjoyed solid hit rates after a promotion to High-A and didn’t experience much of an increase in WHIP after moving to Double-A. Teheran can bring his fastball in the mid 90s and his changeup is devastatingly good. Again, I’m anxious to see how he fares in a full season against higher-level opponents, but there’s no denying that Teheran has arrived as a top-tier pitching prospect.
3. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels (NR): This exciting prospect was flying under the radar somewhat before 2010 despite the fact that he was the 25th overall pick in 2009. But after a season in which he tore through two levels of A-ball, some consider Trout the best prospect in the game. I’m not prepared to go that far, especially since he has yet to play a lick of Double-A, but it’s clear that Trout deserves a seat at the table. This 19-year-old outfielder (he spent virtually the entire 2010 season as an 18-year-old), flashed almost across-the-board skills last year, and even power – his weakest link – is something he showed to an extent (.526 slugging at Class-A). But speed and average are Trout’s calling cards; he hit over .360 at Class-A with 45 steals in 81 games while displaying an advanced strike zone judgment. Yes, he slowed down somewhat after moving to High-A, but Trout still hit .306 with 11 steals in 50 games at the higher level. This kid has it all, and he’s coming fast, perhaps as soon as 2012. And for what it’s worth, the Angels have had great success with outfielders named after fish, if Tim Salmon’s brilliant career with the Halos means anything.
2. Aroldis Chapman, RP/SP, Cincinnati Reds (33): In Chapman’s first season in the Reds’ organization, he definitely proved he can throw the ball by hitters, averaging almost 12 Ks/9 while splitting time between the Triple-A Louisville rotation and pen and then upping that to almost 13 Ks/9 during his time in the Cincy bullpen. If nothing else, this talented flamethrower certainly got the tongues wagging with his radar gun exploits. There was some thought that Chapman would compete for a rotation spot this spring, but GM Wal Jocketty recently scuttled that, saying that the young Cuban would spend the entire year as a reliever. Could he be closing by season’s end? It’s a gamble Fantasy owners would be wise to take, because even as a set-up man Chapman will rack up enough strikeouts to generate value for your team.
1. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals (NR): The fact that last year’s No. 1 overall pick has yet to play a single minor league regular season game yet is atop every single prospect list speaks volumes about his talent. But the 18-year-old left scouts drooling with his AFL performance, prompting most to believe that by 2012 he’ll arrive in Washington and immediately inject some major pop into the Nats’ lineup. Some scouts have gone as far as suggesting that by age 17, Harper showed more talent than either Ken Griffey, Jr. or Alex Rodriguez did at that age, and considering that these two were was among the more hyped prospects of all-time, that’s some mind-blowing praise. Okay, so Harper has been moved from catcher, but that will only help both his short-term prognosis, in terms of how fast he gets to the Show, and his long-term outlook, because he won’t have to deal with the physical beating that goes along with donning the tools of ignorance. We only caught of glimpse of Harper in the AFL, but even in those mere 35 at-bats he made a statement – that the future will arrive soon.