"Now, what is this site about, how Joe Torre ruined pitchers' arms? Is that it?"
-Michael Kay, August 18, 2009

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Keith Law's top 100 prospects

Keith Law posted his top 100 prospects on ESPN today. Although we can only see Nos. 1-25 for free (I know I'm not subscribing to Insider), River Ave. Blues posted the Yankees who made the list, so thanks to them.

Austin Jackson (No. 46), Jesus Montero (No. 83) and Andrew Brackman (No. 95) were the Yankees named. Dellin Betances was one of the 10 prospects who narrowly missed the top 100.

Orioles' catcher Matt Wieters came in at No. 1.


Mattingly23 said...

ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Ranking the top prospects (Nos. 26-50)

By Keith Law
Scouts Inc.

Law's complete top 100: 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100

# = player's age as of April 1, 2009; UR = unranked; IE = ineligible

26 Tim Alderson RHP San Francisco Giants
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (San Jose) 59 20
Alderson was one of only two high school pitchers from the 2007 draft to start the year in high-A -- Rick Porcello was the other -- and he had the added challenge of pitching in the hitter-friendly California League, although San Jose is itself a pitcher's park within that circuit. He spent the entire year there at age 19 and was outstanding, ending the season on a six-start run where he walked one batter over 37 innings while fanning 28.

He sits with a solid-average fastball at 90-94 mph with the promise of more velocity in the future, and his hard curveball is already plus, with tight rotation and a late two-plane break. With Bumgarner making so much progress with his secondary stuff, he's passed Alderson for a couple of reasons. One is Alderson's funky delivery; he lands on a slightly stiff front leg, and to get the ball to his glove side, he ends up throwing across his body due to a low arm slot. His changeup really hasn't progressed through one year in pro ball, leaving him vulnerable to lefties.

The delivery works, so the Giants aren't likely to alter it; if the changeup improves at all with use, his plus-plus command and out-pitch breaking ball give him the upside of a No. 2 or 3 starter.

27 Matt LaPorta 1B Cleveland Indians
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Huntsville) 37 24
LaPorta is what he is (or what you thought he was, if you thought about him at all before this sentence): a slow, patient slugger, stuck at first base, whose power and on-base skills will make him a productive middle-of-the-order hitter and who is ready for the majors now.

LaPorta's power is prodigious, and he gets very good extension through the ball; he's strong enough to power the ball out the other way but can get too pull-conscious. His swing is a little long, but he hasn't had trouble making contact through Double-A, fanning in just 19 percent of his plate appearances in pro ball.

To the extent that he continues that, he can be more than just a three-true-outcomes player and would elevate himself from "above-average regular" to "potential star."
28 Brian Matusz LHP Baltimore Orioles
TOP '08 LEVEL: N/A IE 22
Though Matusz's only pro experience to date came in the Arizona Fall League because he signed late, he's the type of pitcher who can move very quickly through the minors because of his plus secondary stuff, the likes of which many A-ball hitters only see in nightmares.

Matusz throws the kitchen sink at hitters, and none of his pitches is below-average. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 94; it's straight, but he'll cut it in the upper 80s for a different look. He throws and commands an 11/5 (1/7 if you prefer, since he's left-handed) curveball with very tight rotation; it breaks downward very late, so a left-handed hitter thinks it's going to be inside only to find himself directed benchward after a called third strike. He has excellent arm speed on his changeup and the pitch has both tumble and fading action.

So why isn't Matusz higher on this list? One reason is the lack of pro experience, which means we have very little idea of his timetable beyond projecting his stuff. The other is his fastball; the velocity is fine, but it's straight, and he has to spot it well or rely more heavily on his secondary stuff, an approach that can work but has some drawbacks, like the increased stress on an elbow from throwing a lot of breaking balls.

His arm action is short and he keeps his pitching elbow low, and the Orioles have cleaned him up -- keeping him more upright through his delivery -- since he signed, so I'm optimistic that he can handle a lifetime of pitching a little bit backwards and develop into a No. 1 or 2 starter.
29 Cameron Maybin OF Florida Marlins
TOP '08 LEVEL: MLB 13 21
Maybin still has huge upside and youth on his side, but his problems making contact aren't going away with experience, even after Florida slowed him down and let him spend an entire year at one level.

Maybin has plus raw power, and when he makes contact the ball takes off. The problem is with the frequency of his contact: He has a long and inconsistent swing with a tendency to glide, and struck out in 27 percent of his plate appearances in Double-A an increase from his rate in 2007. He hit a robust .375 on balls in play in Double-A, but only .277 overall.

When Maybin gets a fastball or mediocre offspeed pitch, he's dangerous. But he can be beaten with better offspeed stuff or by a pitcher who can expand the zone on him. These aren't uncommon problems, but for Maybin, they're not dissipating over time.

He may turn out to be more of a Mike Cameron type of player: low average and contact rates, but power, speed and plus defense, with a better arm than Cameron's. Cameron has been a good and valuable (if underappreciated) player for a decade now, so that's a good outcome for Maybin, but if his pitch recognition improves -- which is still possible since he turns 22 in April -- he has the potential to be much more.
30 Dexter Fowler CF Colorado Rockies
Fowler was one of the top players to just miss my list last year due to concerns about his swing. He has always been a plus defender in center with good speed. He showed patience as soon as he reached pro ball, but he had swing issues from both sides of the plate; it's not surprising that he had issues from the left side, since he's only been switch-hitting since instructional league in 2004, but he was leaking badly as a right-handed hitter as well.

The Rockies have done a great job cleaning up both swings -- he keeps his weight back much better now than he did as recently as late 2007, and he does a better job keeping his hands inside the ball when he's hitting left-handed. He's still obviously more comfortable hitting right-handed, but the improvement on both sides is a great sign, and he shows above-average power from the left side when he gets his arms extended on balls out over the plate.

Fowler's a plus runner -- albeit a below-average base stealer -- and covers a lot of ground in center. He gets good marks for makeup and work ethic, and given the strides he's already made, there's reason to expect further improvement.
31 Mike Stanton OF Florida Marlins
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Greensboro) UR 20
Stanton's raw power is probably the best in the minors -- comfortably a 70 on the 20-80 scale, and that's present power, not future. Stanton was a mess as a high school hitter, but Florida's coaching staff overhauled his swing in his first instructional league after the 2007 season, and the results have been … well, stunning.

Stanton hit 39 homers as a true 18-year-old in the Sally league, and he improved as he went along: He had 10 home runs at the end of May, and then hit 29 the rest of the way over 333 plate appearances, a rate of 52 homers per 600 PA (roughly a full major-league season).

Stanton is a big kid with long limbs, and his swing does get very long, leading to a lot of strikeouts and a reasonable expectation that he's going to be a three-true-outcomes hitter (walks, strikeouts and home runs). He's played some center, but he's going to end up in a corner, probably right field but possibly first base. As long as he continues to make enough contact, the power will carry him to the majors.
32 Jose Tabata OF Pittsburgh Pirates
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Altoona) 21 20
Your guess is as good as mine at this point. Tabata can hit, and for most of his pro career, he has hit, with a career .296/.366/.401 line up through Double-A. Almost all came before his 20th birthday. But Tabata took the first few months of 2008 off, at least mentally; he showed up at the ballpark, but his attitude was horrible -- failing to run out ground balls, not working at-bats and earning a suspension for throwing a tantrum on the field after a call went against him.

I'm sure Yankee fans who saw him play or followed his 0-fers in the box scores were absolutely galled to see him go to the Pirates and turn the jets back on, as he hit .348/.402/.562 with 11 extra-base hits (he had just 12 in four months with the Yankees) and eight stolen bases in just 22 games. That's the Jose Tabata who was in my top 10 two years ago: a teenager who showed he could hit against older competition in full-season ball.

When Tabata feels like it, he can hit. He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and recognizes pitches well, so he squares balls up well and doesn't swing and miss that often. (Even during his off year in Trenton this past season, he only struck out in 15 percent of his plate appearances.) He has above-average power, but it hasn't shown up in games other than his tiny sample with Altoona. He can run, and does it well, going 18-for-20 in steals over all of 2008.

The Pirates have returned him to center field for now, but the presence of Andrew McCutchen makes it unlikely that Tabata will play there in the majors; he has the range and plus arm to be an asset in right. Where he goes from here is up to him. He could end up in the top 10 again next offseason if he plays hard all year in 2009, and he's indicated to Pirates' brass that he realizes he needs to grow up. If not, he'll just keep dropping until he's off the list entirely.
33 Wade Davis RHP Tampa Bay Rays
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Durham) 15 24
Davis' stock slipped a little this year with a mid-summer lull where his velocity was down and he changed his own approach, throwing too many two-seamers and ignoring his own destiny as a power pitcher. He did recover the lost velocity and improved his pitch selection in the second half of the season, carrying it through a promotion to Triple-A in July.

Davis sits 92-95 with two good breaking balls, a hard downer curveball and a sharp slider with good tilt in the mid-80s. His changeup has improved but still is below-average, and he has a tendency to pitch around lefties rather than go after them, which could be the result of a lack of confidence in the changeup.

Like a lot of young power guys, his command and control lag behind his stuff, and he wasn't challenged enough at lower levels to have to improve them. A good half-year or more in Triple-A should help, and the Rays are fortunate enough to have the depth to allow Davis to develop on his own schedule.
34 Angel Villalona 1B San Francisco Giants
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Augusta) 20 18
It may be unfair to drop Villalona this far, given his youth, but we do have more insight now into just how raw of a prospect he is. Villalona played almost all of 2008 at age 17, and was the youngest player in the full-season Sally League, where he showed plenty of power but also demonstrated problems with pitch recognition that aren't going to go away if he's just pushed up the ladder.

Villalona can murder a fastball or any mistake in his hitting zone, but he struggles with anything soft and away and with better off-speed stuff. Once he's behind in the count, he's not coming back. He drew just 15 unintentional walks this year in exactly 500 plate appearances (but was walked intentionally three times, so he was clearly feared). He's not all-or-nothing, as he has a pretty wide hitting zone and can adjust a little bit to some breaking balls.

The Giants have already moved him to first base -- no small task -- and conditioning will always be a concern, as he's thick-bodied already and was not in great shape for spring training in 2008. He would just now be entering his senior spring if he had been born in the U.S., and yet already has a year and a half under his belt in pro ball, so we can't evaluate him by the same standards we might use for other hitters.

The upside is still there and is tremendous -- four- or five-hole hitter, lots of power, probably never a good OBP -- but it's going to take some time.
35 Jarrod Parker RHP Arizona Diamondbacks
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (South Bend) 36 20
Parker continues to look like one of the best picks in the first round of 2007, one that right now appears to have been historically deep in teenaged arms.

Parker has grown since high school, so questions about his height should be gone, as he's a legit 6-foot-1 and has filled out as well. He'll still sit 94-95 and bump 98, but it's the four-pitch mix that sets him apart from other flamethrowers, especially as his changeup has come on -- not a pitch he needed often in high school -- and will even flash above-average. The slider remains his out pitch with hard, late tilt.

He's a great athlete with good feel for pitching given his age and relative inexperience, and he commands all four pitches he throws. His main weakness is that his fastball lacks movement, and he's likely to be a fly ball pitcher headed toward a big-league park that converts fly balls into home runs with alarming regularity.

He heads to the Cal League in 2009, which should be a good test of his fastball command and ability to mix his pitches to avoid having hitters sit on the heat.
36 Gordon Beckham SS Chicago White Sox
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Kannapolis) IE 22
Beckham doesn't always do it pretty, but it seems to work for him, as he has incredible instincts, enough that the "ballplayer" label might be more than just a cliché for him.

Beckham's first move at the plate is down and slightly back, a hitch that makes it harder for him to catch up to better fastballs or adjust at the last second to an off-speed pitch, but he manages because of very quick wrists. He also helps himself by cheating a little on his front side.

His natural range at shortstop is a little limited, but good game awareness helps him overcome that, as he positions himself extremely well, and his hands and arm are fine for the position. He could handle second base, but he should be allowed to stay at short until it becomes absolutely necessary to move him.

He's the anti-Alexei Ramirez: Beckham's feel for the game makes his tools play up, and he's much more substance than flash.
37 Martin Perez LHP Texas Rangers
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Spokane) UR 17
Perez signed with Texas in late 2007 for more thana half-million dollars, and didn't make his pro debut until 2008 when he went to the advanced short-season Northwest League shortly after turning 17. Perez earns a lot of comparisons to another Venezuelan lefty, Johan Santana, as well as physical comparisons to Ron Guidry.

He already has a solid-average fastball and plus curveball with good depth, with excellent command of both pitches, something unusual in a pitcher his age. He's quite thin but has room to fill out and his fastball should end up in the low 90s, if not a little better, while his changeup projects as plus, although it's below-average right now as he lacks feel for it.

Like all shorter pitchers (shorter being a relative term, as Perez is close to 6-feet tall), he has to work to generate downhill plane, but a little more velocity wouldn't hurt either. He won't turn 18 until April 4, so he may be a one-level-per-year guy in the short term, but he has the feel for pitching and the chance for three above-average pitches that would make him shoot up the system.
38 Pedro Alvarez 3B/1B Pittsburgh Pirates
TOP '08 LEVEL: N/A IE 21
Alvarez needs to consider hiring a publicist, as just about every story about him over the past seven months has been unflattering, from the minor scandal when he and his agent, Scott Boras, called the Pirates out for violating the terms of the CBA and then settled for a $250,000 dollar increase in Alvarez's signing bonus to recent reports that he was out of shape in the Pirates' mini-camp and is already experiencing tendinitis in his knees. Conditioning has always been an issue for Alvarez dating back to his freshman summer with Team USA, and it's the main reason he's likely to end up at first base.

At the plate, Alvarez is strong and has a high-effort swing that produces big power and lots of hard contact, mostly to right and right-center, but he has struggled with left-handers. In general, he didn't make enough contact in the SEC after coming back from a broken hamate (hand) bone. His setup, with an extremely wide base that doesn't give him much chance to adjust to offspeed stuff, isn't helping, but it's fixable. Plus, you can't teach the kind of raw power Alvarez has.

The bonus kerfuffle cost him any chance to play in 2008, even in winter ball, so all we have now are year-old scouting reports and questions about his conditioning and commitment. He could be in the top 10 next year with a full, healthy season in which he addresses concerns about his ability to make contact.
39 Elvis Andrus SS Texas Rangers
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Frisco) 31 20
Andrus had more than 1,550 plate appearances in full-season leagues before his 20th birthday, and 2008 was his best year yet in a career that's been more about tools and promise than performance. Andrus' only tool that doesn't project as plus is his power, which could end up as average because he makes such hard contact but isn't likely to surpass that.

He does everything else easily: he's got an easy swing, using the whole field and working the count well for someone who doesn't take many walks; he's a plus runner; he has a strong, accurate arm and throws effortlessly; and he's a plus defender at short with a lot of range (something Texas hasn't exactly had over there for a few years) and fast hands.

He's been so young for everywhere he's played that he hasn't had a chance to develop fully as a hitter, but it's a testament to his skill set that he has survived, and even performed well this year in Double-A with a .295 average and .350 OBP. He's penciled in as Texas' starting shortstop this year because of his defense, but if the line for 2009 is an OPS of .700, I'd take the under.

Down the road, once he's old enough to stay up past the seventh inning, he should be a top-of-the-order hitter, hitting for average and getting on base while adding value with his speed.
40 Chris Tillman RHP Baltimore Orioles
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Bowie) UR 20
Tillman just missed the cut last year -- he would have been in the next five names -- but took a big step forward this year that makes the un-ranking last year look pretty light.

He really looks the part of a front-of-the-rotation big-league pitcher -- 6-5, 200 pounds, wiry-strong with room to fill out. He's still working out a few kinks on the mound, but the present package is promising. He'll reach 93 with his fastball and sit 90-91, but can add and subtract with it, and gets good life and tail on the pitch. He has a sharp out-pitch curveball with great depth; it looks harder than 74-77 mph, but that is its velocity, buoyed by the tight rotation Tillman gets on the pitch. His changeup has good tumble, but he doesn't have great feel for it, and overall his command is below average.

If he improves his ability to locate the fastball and adds velocity as he fills out, he's a potential No. 2 starter, at least.
41 Jordan Walden RHP Los Angeles Angels
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Rancho Cucamonga) 79 21
Walden spent the whole year in full-season ball, finishing in a tough park in the Cal League. He established himself as the Angels' top prospect in a year when the system had some disappointments.

Walden's bread and butter is a bowling ball -- he throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball, with tremendous sink, and he'll mix in a four-seamer at 97 when he needs or wants to go up in the zone. He throws mostly fastballs, but does flash an above-average slider that projects as a swing-and-miss pitch when he needs it, but with good ground ball rates and plus control he hasn't reached that point. At worst, he's a mid-rotation innings-eater because he can get ground balls, but he has a chance to become a Brandon Webb-type at the top of the rotation if he continues to improve.
42 Jordan Zimmermann RHP Washington Nationals
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Harrisburg) 83 22
Zimmermann spent most of his first full pro season in Double-A, good for any recent draftee but even more so for a pitcher out of a Division III school, as he is. He's not a potential ace but a very high-probability No. 3 with a chance to be better than that because of his plus command.

Zimmermann is a classic four-pitch pitcher who changes speeds well and commands his stuff, locating his 90-94 mph four-seamer to all parts of the zone. He also keeps the ball down. His best pitch remains his mid-80s slider, short and tight with good tilt, although his curve is tighter now than it was when he was an amateur. Plus, he turns his changeup over well.

He has good feel for pitching, above-average command and average control.
43 Brett Cecil LHP Toronto Blue Jays
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Syracuse) 63 22
Cecil was a dominant closer at the University of Maryland, but the Blue Jays saw his three-pitch mix and starter's build and moved him to the rotation, with outstanding results so far. Cecil reached Triple-A in his first pro season after having little trouble dispatching high-A and Double-A hitters.

He's a four-pitch pitcher with at least two above-average offerings in his boring low-90s fastball and a knockout, late-diving 83-86 mph slider. His curve is solid-average with good depth, while his changeup (the newest of his offerings) has made progress and projects as average, although right now he's better off mixing up his breaking balls to get right-handers out.

His biggest obstacle remains workload, as the Jays continue to build his arm strength to transition him from relief to starting, and his slightly long arm action may not hold up over the long term. If it does, he's a potential No. 2 starter and should be in the Jays' rotation by Labor Day.
44 Mike Moustakas 3B Kansas City Royals
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Burlington) 47 20
Moustakas had an odd year, to say the least: He spent the first half of the season as an awful defensive shortstop who couldn't hit a lick (but was young for his league), and the second half as an offensive machine who was sort of passable at third base.

Moustakas has a great swing, a smooth left-hander's stroke with good plate coverage and hard line-drive contact. He has intermittent power; his swing doesn't have great loft, and he needs to get his arms extended to really drive the ball, but it is in there when he gets the opportunity to use it. Physically, Moustakas offers no projection; he's 6-0, around 200 pounds or slightly more, and already thickset, with below-average speed.

He was never going to stay at short, and he may not stay at third, where he was improved but still has a lot of work to do on reading balls and improving reaction times. It has been said before, by me and others, that Moustakas should be behind the plate. He has a 65-70 arm, has a catcher's body, and caught a little bit in high school. The Royals have no catching prospects of note, and any questions about Moustakas' power become irrelevant if he's catching, because his bat will be plus back there at 15 homers a year or 30. As a catcher, he'd be top 20-25 overall.
45 Alcides Escobar SS Milwaukee Brewers
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Huntsville) UR 22
Milwaukee's Double-A Huntsville team had several hitting prospects who put up absurd numbers in what has historically been a neutral park, even though they don't project as stars in the big leagues. Escobar is the most gifted of the group, with two others appearing further down the list.

He has excellent bat speed as well as foot speed, going home to first in 4.0-4.1 seconds, although I've seen him dog it at 4.36 seconds (which would still be a good run time for a lot of hitters). He makes solid contact, especially on fastballs, and showed a little more power this year, although he's not likely to ever be more than fringe-average in that department.

Beyond his speed, his main calling card is plus-plus defense; he has good range and reads the ball well off the bat, and his athleticism translates into quick movements and turns in the field. Aside from the lack of power, his main flaw is a lack of patience and pitch recognition; although his walk rate nearly doubled this year, it's still poor, and he relies more on plate coverage than plate discipline, which will limit his ability to help a team at the top of a lineup. His bat speed allows him to make up for some of these deficiencies, but he'll have to hit .300 to be an offensive asset in the majors.
46 Austin Jackson CF New York Yankees
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Trenton) 24 22
Jackson's star has dimmed over the past year or so, as an expected breakout hasn't come. He's shown that he takes a while to adjust to each new level or challenge. He's still a great athlete, but it's not translating into baseball skills as quickly as hoped.

Jackson's tools grade out as more or less average across the board, with nothing standing out as plus except for the possibility that he'll become an above-average hitter (for average, that is). He had good speed but is, at best, a 55 runner now, although he has good instincts on the bases. He has gap power and can jerk a ball over the fence to left, but doesn't project as more than a 15-20 homer guy unless he fills out substantially.

He's solid in center field with a good arm, but probably isn't a Gold Glove candidate. Because he lacks a major weakness, he's still a valuable prospect, and he'll play all of 2009 at age 22, so he has room for growth. It's just hard to see the ceiling that appeared to be there a year or two ago.
47 Jeremy Hellickson RHP Tampa Bay Rays
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Montgomery) 75 21
Hellickson needed to improve one of his offspeed pitches to raise his ceiling beyond that of a No. 4 or No. 5 starter, and he did, as his changeup was significantly better this year. He tightened his curveball as well. Hellickson has always had good fastball command and his control, always above-average, is now plus-plus: He issued just 19 unintentional walks in 152 innings this year while striking out 162.

His fastball is solid average, touching 94 but sitting 91-92, and he's using a cut fastball to keep hitters off of the straight four-seamer, but he remains homer-prone and probably always will be because of the combination of average velocity and little movement on the heater.

A pitcher needs to do two of three things to be successful in the majors: miss bats, avoid walks and keep the ball in the park. Hellickson looks like he'll be able to do the first two, so even if he ends up a 30-plus homer per year pitcher, he'll be valuable.
48 Jason Donald SS Philadelphia Phillies
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Reading) UR 24
Donald has no star potential, but he's major-league ready and could be a solid-average shortstop in 2009 if he had the opportunity.

He's a line-drive hitter who uses the whole field well and has good patience, although he can open up a little early and get on top of the ball or swing over it entirely. He has a little loft in his swing but will probably max out around 15-20 homers barring a major increase in strength. His arm is average for short, he gets good reads on ground balls, and is very good on the double play both as a shortstop and on the pivot as a second baseman.

The Phillies' system has players with more upside, like Dominic Brown and Michael Taylor, but Donald's ability to play in the majors right now makes him a valuable property, both to the Phillies if they ask him to fill in for Chase Utley and to other clubs if the Phillies decide to trade him.
49 Jeremy Jeffress RHP Milwaukee Brewers
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Huntsville) UR 21
Jeffress seems to have finally decided that baseball is indeed important, although a holdover a drug suspension from '07 limited him to 19 regular-season starts in 2008.

Jeffress has been clocked as high as 99 even late in starts; early in the Arizona Fall League he was sitting 92-96 and touched 98, with outstanding downhill plane on the pitch that should help him generate some ground balls. His secondary stuff remains below-average; he'll flash an 11-5 curveball with tight rotation, then will throw four that are softer and slower, maybe hanging one along the way.

He has good arm speed on his changeup, but the pitch lacks action. Jeffress' arm is, as you might imagine, very quick through his delivery, but he slows himself down slightly as he drifts off the rubber, finishing with a good long stride to maximize his velocity and bring his release point closer to the hitter.

He left the AFL early for precautionary reasons after suffering from a "tired arm" and dropping to 89-90 in his final outing, but if he's healthy and can stay out of trouble for a full year, he has a chance to be in the top 20 next January.
50 Daryl Jones OF St. Louis Cardinals
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Springfield) UR 21
Jones is an incredible athlete who has developed rather quickly into a very good, if not outstanding, prospect.

He was -- to be kind -- atrocious in 2007, hitting just .217/.304/.296 in the Midwest League, then had offseason LASIK surgery and started to see the ball better, making more contact and showing better pitch recognition. He even carried his success forward to Double-A after a late-season promotion. Jones' only below-average tool is his arm; he's a plus runner, covers a lot of ground in center, has a good swing and shows line-drive power now with the promise of more to come.

He still has some mechanical kinks to work out in his swing -- in particular, he tends to glide and often leaves his hands far enough back that he starts to bar his front arm. His youth, his athleticism and his relative lack of baseball experience give him more chance to improve than most Double-A prospects have.

Law's complete top 100: 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100

Keith Law, formerly the special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, is the senior baseball analyst for Scouts Inc.


Mattingly23 said...

ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Ranking the top prospects (Nos. 51-75)

By Keith Law
Scouts Inc.

Law's complete top 100: 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100

# = player's age as of April 1, 2009; UR = unranked; IE = ineligible

51 Tyler Flowers C Chicago White Sox
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Myrtle Beach) UR 23

Flowers wasn't on anyone's radar screen after a decent offensive year in Rome last year at age 21, since he wasn't young for the Sally League and will never be known for his defense behind the plate. He moved up to the Carolina League this year and hit .288/.427/.494 in a brutal hitter's park in Myrtle Beach, then obliterated Arizona Fall League pitching with a .387/.460/.973 line in 87 plate appearances. If you hit like Flowers hit in front of all of the scouts who go to see the AFL, you're going to get noticed, and Flowers' performance there helped him land in a trade out of Brian McCann's shadow to the White Sox, who did not have a catcher of the future in their organization.

Flowers is, as you might imagine from the stat lines, a thick, strong kid with a good eye at the plate and 55-60 raw power; it's a high-effort swing and he starts with his hands so far back that he has to commit early, so he's going to swing and miss a fair amount in the big leagues. Behind the plate, he's an excellent hitter; he's playable back there but fringe-average is probably his defensive ceiling. As long as he can stay at the position and the White Sox can live with the cost of his glove, his bat is going to be star-caliber because of the low standard at that spot around the majors; otherwise, his bat will play at first base or DH, but he'll be an average overall player or slightly worse.

52 Michael Bowden RHP Boston Red Sox
Bowden is a strike-thrower with average stuff who looks to be about half a year away from contributing to a big-league rotation, but doesn't have ceiling. Bowden's best skill is his control -- he pounds the strike zone and is very aggressive with pretty average stuff. His fastball is fringe-average to average, mostly 88-91 mph; he'll touch 93, but the harder he tries to throw, the straighter it gets. His best pitch is his changeup, which he sells well and has good late tumbling action. His curveball has good depth but it's very vertical, truly 12-6, while his slider is long and slurvy.

As you might imagine from that description of his stuff, he gives up a lot of fly balls and could easily be homer-prone in the big leagues. The saving grace is that he hides the ball well from the hitter. He has a slightly rough straight-over-the-top delivery that makes it harder for him to pitch side-to-side and also explains the mediocre slider. Because he throws so many strikes and has good deception, he projects better than most guys with average stuff, but even so doesn't look like more than a future fourth starter.

53 Michael Inoa RHP Oakland A's
TOP '08 LEVEL: N/A IE 17
Inoa would be a high school senior -- or perhaps junior -- if he had been born in the United States, but instead he's a 17-year-old millionaire and one of the top prospects in the Oakland system. Inoa set a record with his $4.25 million signing bonus on the basis of his tremendous height (he's listed at 6-7) and frame, as well as his current stuff. Inoa will hit 95 and sit in the low 90s with unusually good fastball command for a 16-year-old from any country. His secondary stuff is less advanced, but both his downer curveball and changeup project as plus pitches. He is entirely about projection, because of his age and lack of any pro experience, but the projection here is very, very good given what he already shows and how much room he has for growth as a kid and as a pitcher.

54 Kyle Blanks 1B San Diego Padres
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (San Antonio) 68 22
Blanks is a big human being -- he's listed at 6-6, 270 pounds, and it wouldn't shock me to hear either figure was low. The size means two things: he has a huge strike zone, and he has raw power. Blanks has defied the odds on a guy his size by making contact and hitting for average, reducing his strikeout rate and raising his batting average two straight years despite moving up a level each year; he has good hand-eye coordination and his swing is less long than you'd expect from a 6-6 hitter. He has a simple approach at the plate, but because he doesn't stride into the ball, he doesn't make maximum use of his bulk, and has less raw power than a hitter his size should have. In the field, he's limited to first base but should be no worse than average there; he moves around well and it's obviously hard for anyone this side of Chuck Knoblauch to throw one over his head. His home run output hasn't been bad -- San Antonio's a tough place to hit -- but it should be better; if the Padres can get him to use his whole body better, he'll have a chance to be a star, but it'll probably be somewhere else with Adrian Gonzalez standing in front of him.

55 Wilmer Flores SS New York Mets
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Savannah) UR 17
Flores is, more than anything else, young -- he doesn't turn 18 until the first week of August, and could start the year in a full-season league after finishing with 30 at-bats in Brooklyn. Flores' calling card is his bat -- he has quick wrists and is very short to the ball, squaring very well except on balls toward the bottom of the zone. Flores plays short now but is below-average already, and he'll move to another position as he fills out, probably third base given his arm strength and the fact that his bat will play there. His power potential is an open question. He has some power now because he makes such hard contact and has loft in his finish; if he fills out physically, he should end up with plus power, topping 30 in his best years. Had he been born in the U.S., he'd be a top 10 pick in the upcoming draft.

56 Aaron Hicks OF Minnesota Twins
TOP '08 LEVEL: Rk League (Gulf Coast) IE 18
Hicks was the best two-way prospect in the 2008 Rule 4 draft, sitting 92-95 and hitting 97 repeatedly as a pitcher, but indicated that he wanted to go pro as a position player. At the plate, Hicks is exciting but unpolished. He's a switch-hitter with tremendous bat speed, loading deep but accelerating his wrists and getting plus plate coverage. He's legitimate from both sides of the plate, with more loft in his left-handed swing while he gets his power from his wrists and forearms when swinging right-handed. His pitch recognition was lacking during his high school career, and perhaps it still is, but he drew 26 unintentional walks in a little more than 200 plate appearances in the Gulf Coast League while making plenty of contact. It's not definitive, but it's a start. The Twins have him playing center field, the right spot for a guy with his tools and speed, although his arm will play in right field (duh) if he has to move out of center. This ranking is pretty conservative because of the limited pro experience, but Hicks has explosive talent and the early returns point to stardom as a No. 3 or No. 4 hitter who adds value on defense.

57 Aaron Poreda LHP Chicago White Sox
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Birmingham) 67 22
Poreda was a late first-round pick in 2007 but has zoomed past several college starters taken ahead of him. He's a tall lefty who comes from a slightly below three-quarter angle, but gets on top of the ball with a ton of sink. He'll sit 91-94 for maximum movement, and then dial it up to 95-96 to go up in the zone but still have some life on the pitch. He commands the fastball well and throws strikes with it, but beyond that he's a work-in-progress. He slows his arm for just about any off-speed pitch, primarily using an inconsistent slider that flashes solid-average with late break and decent tilt. His arm is so quick that he may have trouble throwing a consistent changeup, and didn't use it in-game during two relief appearances when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League. Because he throws strikes and gets groundballs, he projects at least as an innings-eater in the middle or back of a rotation, but he needs to find some kind of secondary offering to miss more bats and raise his ceiling.

58 Adam Miller RHP Cleveland Indians
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Buffalo) 26 24
Miller has No. 1 starter stuff, and probably has No. 1 starter command as well, but has thrown a total of 94 innings the past two years because of a torn flexor tendon in his right middle finger that required surgery and ended his 2008 season. Miller has had injury trouble before, missing time in 2003, 2005 and late 2007 because of arm trouble, and it's unlikely that he'll bounce back in 2009 and handle a starter's workload. His stuff would be dominant in a short relief role, and he might stay healthy that way, sitting in the mid-90s with an out-pitch slider that will touch 88 with a hard, late break. At this point, he just needs to stay healthy for a full year, and if the way to do that is in one- and two-innings bursts three times a week, so be it.

59 Christian Friedrich LHP Colorado Rockies
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Asheville) IE 21
Friedrich was one of the top starters in the 2008 draft, sort of a poor man's Brian Matusz, and made his bones with a strong showing in the Cape Cod League in 2007. He has little projection right now, but his stuff is major-league caliber: a solid-average fastball that might end up a 55, a very tight curveball that's almost 12-6 with a last-second downward break, a sharp cutter that he added his junior year and fringy changeup that he often puts away in favor of the cutter. Friedrich's delivery is a little rough, with long arm action and a high slot, which isn't great for command or long-term health, although he made every start in three years at Eastern Kentucky, fanning 327 in 245 innings in a poor conference. Because he wasn't challenged much as an amateur, he hasn't had to refine his command or work on mixing his pitches -- his curveball was too good for that conference -- and he may not hit that wall until Double-A. Once he passes that wall, he should be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the big leagues.

60 Carlos Carrasco RHP Philadelphia Phillies
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Lehigh Valley) 53 22
Carrasco will give you a different impression depending on when you see him. He can look like a bona fide No. 2 starter in the big leagues, and he can look like a raw thrower without an average secondary pitch. He also missed time in July with what may have been a sore shoulder, and may have been his own pique over hearing his name in trade talks. Carrasco pitches at 90-91 and will touch 94, with fringe-average command but good control. His secondary stuff varies; the mid-80s changeup will show plus, and he has some feel for it, but it's not consistent. His breaking ball is improving but still below average. His velocity is pretty easy and he had successful year overall. If everything clicks, he's a No. 3 starter, maybe slightly better if the curveball improves, but right now he doesn't have a clear swing-and-miss pitch for big-league hitters.

61 Nick Weglarz LF/1B Cleveland Indians
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Kinston) 62 21
Weglarz is one of the most disciplined hitters in the minors -- he's drawn three fewer walks than Lars Anderson the past two years in more than 100 fewer plate appearances -- and only his uncertain power potential keeps him out of the top quarter of this list. He also has better raw power than this year's performance would indicate, and projects to have 30-homer power down the road, but he's had trouble keeping his lower half involved, and while he has good bat speed he's not strong enough to just jerk the ball out of the park. He has improved in left field to the point where he's playable and could end up average, although he'll never be plus and could eventually drift back to first base. The physical potential for power is there, and he'll play this entire year at 21, probably starting in Double-A, so there's still time left on the clock for him to develop it.

62 Nick Adenhart RHP Los Angeles Angels
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Salt Lake) 23 22
On second thought, perhaps that promotion to Triple-A was a little premature. Adenhart's performance this year was so far out of whack with the caliber of his stuff and his previous performances that it's tempting to dismiss it entirely as a fluke borne of a hitter's park in a division full of hitter's parks in a higher-offense league, and that environment can not have helped matters. But Adenhart's ability to miss bats was a problem in 2007 and really killed him in the PCL; the question is why he has so much trouble when he has a potential out pitch in a two-plane curveball with good depth. He commands both the curve and his two-seamer, 89-92 mph with good tail, and although his changeup is dead straight, he was better against left-handed hitters this year than right. He has a history of throwing strikes and a pitch that should miss bats, and he's only 22 years old, so it's too early to give up on him, but his ceiling looks much lower now than it did last January.

63 Ben Revere CF Minnesota Twins
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Beloit) UR 20
Revere was a surprise first-round pick in 2007, receiving the lowest bonus of the round, a figure well below the commissioner's office's slot recommendation for that pick, but he's off to a roaring start to his pro career. After a month in extended spring training, he went to the Midwest League, as he was old for a high school product (he turned 19 a month before he was drafted), and hit .413/.463/.565 in the first half before cooling off to hit .340/.398/.417 after the break. Revere's best tool is actually his speed, as he's a plus runner and covers a lot of ground in center for that reason alone. But he also has shown he can make a ton of contact with a hard, slashing stroke despite a high setup and late trigger. He's strong for his size (5-9), but isn't ever going to hit for power between that and the flat plane of his swing, so he'll need to improve his ability to work the count as he moves up the ladder and sees his batting averages come down to earth. With his combination of speed and contact, he has a chance to become an impact leadoff man if he can keep his OBPs up, with the potential for plus defense in center if he improves his reads.

64 Michael Main RHP Texas Rangers
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Clinton) 46 20
Main missed about half the year with a strained oblique muscle that cost him some development time, but he pitched very well in the Midwest League after his return and should at least end 2009 in high-A. Main is an outstanding athlete who was also a top prospect as a center fielder in high school, but his mid-90s fastball made him a first-rounder as a pitcher. He sat in the low to mid-90s this year, not quite as hard as he'd throw in high school but still comfortably plus, with an above-average curveball with a hard downward break. His changeup continues to improve and he projects to have three average or better pitches by the time he reaches the majors. Aside from the lack of development time, Main's only real drawback is his height -- he's right around 6-feet tall, so he has to work to get downhill plane on his fastball. He was an extreme fly ball pitcher this year, so the evidence says he still has work to do in that regard. He has good command, fields his position extremely well and doesn't walk batters, so he has a lot going for him even if he does end up struggling a little with the longball.

65 Freddie Freeman OF Atlanta Braves
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Rome) UR 19
Freeman has come a long way since high school, when his swing was very long and his approach at the plate was undisciplined; a number of teams had him rated higher as a pitcher than as a position player. Signed by the same Atlanta scout who found Tommy Hanson in the 22nd round, Freeman has blossomed in Atlanta's farm system, shortening his swing somewhat and making a lot of hard contact with good doubles power. His approach still isn't patient, but the slight shortening of his swing means he makes more contact and can drive the ball well to right field; he projects to have 55 power, perhaps more in a best-case scenario, although I think he's going to struggle to maintain high contact rates and hit for power at the same time. He's a well below-average runner and is stuck at first base despite his plus arm, although he should be an above-average fielder at the position, and even if he ends up a 20-25 homer guy with plenty of doubles and a high average, he'll be an asset.

66 David Huff LHP Cleveland Indians
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Buffalo) UR 24
Huff came out of UCLA as a soft-tossing left-hander with a good changeup and not much else to recommend him, but he has improved across the board and is now ready to step into Cleveland's rotation as soon as they need him. Huff will sit 89-92 now and touch 94, and he still has an excellent changeup. He throws both a slider and a curve, with the slider now showing solid-average, but the curveball has a chance to become at least fringe-average although its slow rotation means it probably won't be plus. He repeats his delivery very well and has an advanced feel for pitching. Because of that and the presence of a plus pitch, he has a good chance to adjust well to the big leagues when he gets the call sometime in 2009.

67 Jordan Schafer OF Atlanta Braves
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Mississippi) 27 22
Schafer's 2008 was ruined when he was busted for ordering HGH, and only a torrid August saved his season from being a complete washout. Schafer is a great athlete, strong, well-built, with some speed. He's always had swing issues at the plate, including a deep load that leaves him out in front of a lot of off-speed pitches, as well as an excessive pull orientation as he tries too hard to hit the ball out. That said, he showed improved pitch recognition this year and was more willing to use the whole field; against right-handers, he hit .311/.418/.568 in his three months on the field, which is both promising and would indicate he's not that far off. He does not see the ball well at all from left-handers, and it's possible that he'll end up a platoon player who's outstanding at hitting righties while offering plus defense in center with a 55-60 arm. The deficiency against lefties could diminish with more reps against them, which makes the 50-game suspension all the more damaging, but at 22 he has plenty of time to make himself into an above-average everyday center fielder.

68 James McDonald RHP Los Angeles Dodgers
TOP '08 LEVEL: MLB 52 24

McDonald continues to miss bats despite his lack of a big fastball. His velocity is just average and he'll often sit at only 88-89, but a plus-plus change and an above-average slow curveball have fooled minor-league hitters since McDonald returned to the mound full-time in 2006.

He'll pitch backwards when needed but is aggressive -- perhaps too much so -- with the fastball, which lacks movement, resulting in a lot of fly balls. His command and control are both above average. While this can often be overblown, he's a "competitor" -- meaning (at least to me) that he goes after hitters rather than trying to work around them. He'll have to modify his pitching plan in the majors, using his off-speed stuff earlier and even in hitters' counts, or else he risks giving up enough home runs to overcome everything else he does well.

69 Matt Latos RHP San Diego Padres
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Fort Wayne) UR 21
Latos is another candidate to shoot up this list next year, assuming he stays healthy. He made just seven appearances in the first four months of the season because of an oblique strain that didn't heal until he took six weeks off to rest it from mid-June until the end of July. After that, he ripped through five rehab-like outings in the Arizona Rookie League and then moved up to the Northwest League and fanned 23 men in 17.1 innings across three starts. Latos is 6-5 and strong. He gets good downhill plane on his 90-95 mph fastball, sitting mostly 92-93, with a solid-average curveball with good depth and two-plane break. His changeup, a nonfactor in junior college, has improved in his limited pro experience and projects now as future-average. He could develop into a true No. 1 starter with improved command and fewer trips to the DL.

70 Taylor Teagarden C Texas Rangers
TOP '08 LEVEL: MLB 40 25
Teagarden struggled badly in his minor-league time this past year, only some of which is attributable to a deep bone bruise to his wrist that he suffered in March, but redeemed himself slightly in a brief big-league callup. Teagarden was known as an amateur as a great catch-and-throw guy with a questionable bat. He blew out his elbow and missed almost all of what would have been his first full pro season, then came back in 2007 and hit for average and power, only to regress badly this year, struggling to make contact and failing to hit for power when he did. Now he looks more like a great defensive catcher with a chance to hit, but a limited amount of time to prove that he's not a backup. He does have raw power and a good solid base at the plate, but it doesn't matter how good everything looks mechanically if you're not recognizing pitches enough to make contact more than two-thirds of the time.

71 Angel Salome C Milwaukee Brewers
Salome is an all-or-nothing prospect -- if he can't catch, he can't play anywhere else on the diamond and would have to DH, which is a tough way to break into the majors. (Ask Billy Butler how it's working out for him.) Salome is a physical specimen … just not in the way you think. He's generously listed at 5-foot-7 (he's probably shorter) and is generously listed at 195 pounds (he's almost certainly heavier), which would make him David Eckstein plus about 30 pounds. The one thing we know about Salome is that he can hit; even though he's way in the bucket, he's strong enough to drive the ball in all parts of the zone, even showing power to the opposite field. His pitch recognition is solid but he lacks patience, although his small stature gives him a strike zone that you could put in a thimble. Behind the plate, he has a plus arm, but his catching is well below-average; he doesn't move well or receive well, and while he's improved since signing, he may never be better than fringe-average, and it's no better than 50/50 that he remains a catcher. His bat would likely play at DH, but his value takes a huge hit if he can't play a skill position.

72 Chris Nelson 2B Colorado Rockies
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Tulsa) 77 23
Nelson had a breakout 2007 season that seemed to reestablish him as a prospect, only to follow it up with an awful 2008 that, it turns out, was marred by a broken hamate bone. Nelson tried to play through it without telling the Rockies that he was hurt, and only gave in and got it fixed after hitting .229/.298/.349 over the first two months of the season. He still wasn't right in the five weeks after his return, although he did hit .321/.392/.595 in the Arizona Fall League, showing power and patience and making more contact. Nelson is a good athlete with very quick wrists and good bat speed, and he has more power than you'd expect from a 5-foot-11, 175-pound hitter (although I think that he's filled out since that weigh-in). Assuming that the poor regular-season performance was largely a function of the hamate injury, his main problem now is finding a position; he's a natural shortstop, but because that's Troy Tulowitzki's job, he played second base in the AFL and struggled even on routine plays. He still has just 29 games of pro experience at second, so it's early. Despite his tough 2008, I'm convinced that his bat will play at second or even in center field.

73 Matt Dominguez 3B Florida Marlins
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Greensboro) 54 19
Dominguez's season got off to a rough start when he contracted mononucleosis, but once he started playing on May 20 he hit like he hadn't missed any time. Dominguez has good bat speed and makes a ton of contact, although he can drift through his swing rather than staying back and using his lower half for maximum power. He also showed this year that plate discipline is a weakness, chasing a lot of balls off the outside corner that he's going to have to learn to avoid. One other concern is that he was terrible away from the hitter-friendly Greensboro park, hitting .246/.296/.392 away from home. In the field, Dominguez has outstanding hands and a plus arm, and should be a plus defender -- grade 65 or 70 -- at third base in the majors. He's going to have to show better discipline at the plate and use his legs for power to reach his ceiling as a hitter.

74 Jhoulys Chacin RHP Colorado Rockies
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Modesto) UR 21
Chacin will pitch this year at just 21 years old, but already has shown excellent feel for pitching and average command. His fastball is solid-average now and will occasionally flash plus, but he'll probably settle in pitching at 90-92; it has good sink and generates a ton of groundballs. His best pitch is his changeup, which he goes to against both left- and right-handed hitters, although like all of his secondary offerings it's inconsistent. His curveball projects as average, but right now he doesn't use it often and it's only made small progress since he signed. His arm is quick and works well, but he's very long in the back and stiff as he comes around his body. The feel, command, and presence of an out pitch are all huge positives, but he has to stay healthy and make more progress with the breaking ball.

75 Daniel Schlereth LHP Arizona Diamondbacks
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (South Bend) IE 22
If Schlereth is healthy this spring, he'll get to the big leagues this year, because he has now stuff, and his history of arm trouble means that the Diamondbacks will be motivated to start extracting value from him sooner rather than later. Schlereth has two plus-plus pitches in a mid-90s fastball that will touch 97 and a nasty slider with a long, hard break that can get left- and right-handed hitters out. His delivery is max-effort with terrible recoil, and he's already had Tommy John surgery and then had more arm soreness after he was drafted last June. Nothing is certain when it comes to pitchers getting hurt, but Schlereth is higher-risk than most in that department; the good news is that because his stuff is just toxic to hitters, it will be fun while it lasts.

Law's complete top 100: 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100

Keith Law, formerly the special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, is the senior baseball analyst for Scouts Inc.


Mattingly23 said...

ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Thursday, January 22, 2009
Ranking the top prospects (Nos. 76-100)

By Keith Law
Scouts Inc.

Law's complete top 100: 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100

# = player's age as of April 1, 2009; UR = unranked; IE = ineligible

76 Yonder Alonso 1B Cincinnati Reds
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Sarasota) IE 21

Alonso was a surprise pick by the Reds at No. 7 this year, since they already had Joey Votto (No. 56 on last year's top 100) at first base with under a year of service, and the two are similar players. Alonso is strong and slow-footed with a very good approach at the plate, at least against right-handers; he has good balance and centers the ball well, using his upper body to generate power to right field. He was very patient, almost passive, in college and in the Cape Cod League, but showed a little more aggressiveness in a stint in the Hawaiian Winter League. He's adequate at first but unlikely to be plus; slow feet and hard hands are tough to overcome even if you have good instincts and are willing to get after the ball, as with Alonso. His main flaw as a player is a longtime dislike of left-handed pitching, which continued even in Hawaii, where he had an over 200-point platoon split. A first baseman who murders right-handed pitching but is only so-so against left-handers still has plenty of value; Carlos Delgado has never been terribly fond of southpaws and is going to end up causing some serious Hall of Fame debates when he reaches the ballot. The question for Alonso is whether his allergy to lefties will get worse as he faces better ones in pro ball, or whether he can make the adjustments to avoid becoming a strict platoon player.

77 Max Ramirez C Texas Rangers

If Ramirez can catch -- stop me if you've heard this before -- he's a potential star, or at least an above-average regular. Ramirez doesn't do it pretty at the plate, with a lot of excess movement and a deep, low load; he almost throws the bat at the ball and yet he hits for average and power with very good plate discipline. That last part seems to be key, as he doesn't throw his bat at balls he can't hit hard. The Rangers have tightened him up slightly and improved his bat control while getting him to use his strength to drive the ball better, but their efforts with him behind the plate haven't yielded the same progress. He'll never be better than fringe-average overall; he has an average arm, but his footwork is messy and his release is slow. The Rangers are full of catching options and could move him to first base, where he's less valuable but his bat should still play.

78 Reid Brignac SS Tampa Bay Rays
TOP '08 LEVEL: MLB 49 23

That's two disappointing years in a row for Brignac, this one more disappointing than the last, and 2009 is a make-or-break year for him as a prospect. Brignac has improved at shortstop to the point where he should be a plus defender, showing good range and a plus arm, but at the plate he's regressed with each of his past two promotions. He's way too aggressive at the plate, chasing balls out of the zone and refusing to put himself into hitters' counts. His swing has always been a little long because of his high setup, and he tends to rotate his hips early and open up his front side during his swing. On the bright side, he'll return to Triple-A this year after turning 23 last week, so he has youth on his side. The Rays aren't motivated to rush him with shortstop and second base currently filled in the big leagues. Another bad year will probably doom Brignac to utility-infielder status.

79 Andrew Lambo OF Los Angeles Dodgers
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Jacksonville) UR 20

Lambo is unusually strong for his age and has a good idea of what he's doing at the plate. He played most of the year at 19 in the low-Class A Midwest League, making contact, showing good doubles power, and -- most impressive of all -- raking against lefties, something very few left-handed hitters in their first full pro seasons can do. He should hit for more power with age but can cut his swing off at its finish, and has some loop length at the start of his swing that could lead to more swings and misses down the line. His approach at the plate hasn't yielded a big walk total, but he does work the count and shows zone awareness even if he doesn't show patience. He's a below-average runner and will likely settle in as a mediocre-glove corner outfielder, so his bat will have to carry him.

80 Chris Perez RHP St. Louis Cardinals

Perez has been tabbed as the Cardinals' closer of the future since he was drafted in 2006, but trouble throwing strikes has held him back, and it doesn't look as if he'll ever have plus control (although stranger things have happened with relievers before). Perez works with two pitches, a mid-90s fastball that will touch 96-97 and a hard slider with good depth in the mid-80s that will flatten out a little and become more cutter-like around 87-88. He tends to lead with his elbow, leaving him under his fastball and hurting his ability to repeat his delivery. His command is fringe-average and his control is below-average, and neither is likely to be better than average in the future, but his stuff is good and he is able to pitch to both sides of the plate with his fastball. That ability to miss bats and control the inner half of the plate should allow him to be a capable setup man or second-tier closer in the future.

81 Nick Hagadone LHP Boston Red Sox
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Greenville) UR 23

Hagadone pitched with an average fastball in college at the University of Washington, then saw it steadily increase in velocity until he was hitting 97 repeatedly in April & when his elbow cried "uncle" and his season ended on a surgeon's table with Tommy John surgery. The operation was successful and Hagadone is expected to make a full recovery, with a return to the minors in April not out of the question. Assuming the stuff comes back, Hagadone is at worst a two-pitch guy who'll sit 92-95 with an above-average slider, which could make him a devastating left-handed reliever (perhaps with even more velo) or a No. 2/3 starter if his command improves or his changeup comes along. Healthy, he would have cracked the top 40 here, but the surgery and the lost development time leave us with a lot of unanswered questions about his future.

82 Kyle Skipworth C Florida Marlins
TOP '08 LEVEL: Rk League (Gulf Coast) IE 19

Skipworth struggled in his pro debut but was one of the top talents in the 2008 Rule 4 draft on the strength of his bat. Skipworth's swing is solid, with a short path to the ball and good balance throughout. He should add power as he fills out, but at the moment is more geared toward making contact, although he struggled to do either at the plate in the Gulf Coast League. He has an above-average arm behind the plate, but has limited catching experience (only two years including this summer) and needs work on his feet and release. He's a good enough athlete to be able to stay behind the plate given time. He was pressing badly early in the Gulf Coast season, and he still has yet to turn 19, so there's plenty of time for him to show the same skill that got him drafted sixth overall in June.

83 Jesus Montero C New York Yankees
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Charleston) UR 19

Montero's a catcher in name only, but his bat is very promising. Montero played the whole year at 18 in the Sally League and had no problem making consistent contact. He has a quick bat and takes a healthy cut, with plus raw power that's around average in-game right now. He extends his arms well for good plate coverage, adjusting well to off-speed stuff so far, but doesn't have much patience and will have to work the count more as the quality of pitching improves. Behind the plate, he has an average arm but his throwing motion is long and it takes forever for him to get from the crouch to his release. He's already enormous for a catcher, listed at 6-4, 225 pounds, and is only going to outgrow the position with time, but his bat will play at first base.

84 Dominic Brown OF Philadelphia Phillies
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Lakewood) UR 21

Brown signed as a 20th-round pick in 2006 for a modest $200,000 bonus -- in part because four years of college wasn't an option academically -- and has developed from athlete into prospect in fairly short order. Brown projects to be above-average in all five tools -- hit, power, run, field, arm -- with power the one with the furthest gap between his present grade (40) and future (60 or 65). He's a plus runner who covers a lot of ground in center, with a plus arm that would play in right if he should ever have to switch. At the plate, he already shows above-average plate discipline and has excellent hand-eye coordination, but mis-times his swing and hits it on the ground far too often for someone with his power potential. He will show raw power in batting practice, and has some physical projection left and should add power as he fills out. He's down here in the rankings because he still has a lot of development ahead of him, but he is top-20 material.

85 Julio Borbon OF Texas Rangers
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Frisco) UR 23

Borbon's power/speed combination in a plus center fielder is exciting in a position that usually offers speed/defense or power but not all three. Borbon sets up high but gets down into hitting position quickly, with good balance through his swing, keeping his bat in the zone long enough to hit for power; when he doesn't get his hands down quickly enough, though, his swing path heads downward and he hits the ball on the ground. He's a plus runner with so-so instincts as a basestealer, but the speed should help him beat out some of those ground balls for hits. He gets good reads in center and his speed helps him cover more ground. Borbon's only major flaw is his arm, fringe-average at best, and he'll have to work with the cutoff man on anything over his head. He's not a potential star, but should be a solid regular in the near future.

86 Mat Gamel 3B Milwaukee Brewers
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Nashville) UR 23

Gamel should hit, but like his Huntsville teammate Angel Salome, he has a serious position question. In fact, his question is more of a statement -- he can't play third, any more than Ryan Braun could and in reality a good bit less than Braun could. Gamel's best attribute is power; he's very strong, particularly in his upper body, although he strides early and bars his front arm and may have trouble making contact when he reaches the majors. This hasn't been a problem to date, and he's strong enough to power through balls even if his timing is a little off. He's a mediocre athlete with a below-average arm and no speed, so he's not likely to be average defensively in left and could end up at first base, where he's going to have to hit for average as well as power to play.

87 Ethan Martin RHP Los Angeles Dodgers
TOP '08 LEVEL: None IE 19

Martin was a first-round prospect as a third baseman after the summer of '07, but came on as a pitcher in his senior spring and that, for now at least, is his baseball destiny. As a pitcher, Martin's stuff is electric, with a fastball that sits 91-95 and could easily end up higher after the Dodgers clean up his delivery. He throws a spike curveball that he doesn't command but that has such hard downward break that minor-league hitters will swing and miss at it even when it's out of the zone. He's a great athlete who needs player development's help to become a potential No. 1 or No. 2 starter; unfortunately for Martin, he required knee surgery in late July that ended his season, so his pro debut won't come until 2009, probably in June after he starts in extended spring training.

88 Gorkys Hernandez OF Atlanta Braves
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Myrtle Beach) 99 21

Hernandez is a very good defensive outfielder whose bat is starting to show progress. Hernandez could play center field in the majors right now with plus range and a plus arm. He's a 60-65 runner who reads pitchers well and has an 83 percent success rate stealing bases in his pro career. Hernandez has some bat speed but often overstrides and struggles to have his bat catch up; he's not likely to end up with plus power but could have average power after he fills out physically. It would appear that he took a step backwards this year, but Myrtle Beach is a brutal hitting environment, and Hernandez hit .282/.352/.411 on the road, showing improved walk and isolated power rates over his park-assisted stats from 2007. If everything clicks, Hernandez could be a leadoff hitter with a good OBP and some power who makes himself an above-average player by virtue of outstanding defense.

89 Drew Stubbs OF Cincinnati Reds
TOP '08 LEVEL: AAA (Louisville) UR 24

Stubbs has been a different player since the middle of 2007, when he started squaring the ball up more consistently and showing the raw power that has always been in his bat but was barely evident when he was an amateur. He will always strike out often because his swing is long and he expands the zone significantly when he gets behind in the count. Stubbs' athleticism shines through on the bases and on defense; he's a 70 runner and a 70 fielder in center with an above-average arm. If everything clicks, he could be Mike Cameron with even more speed, although there's a more probable scenario where he hits less than Cameron but still provides baserunning value and plus defense.

90 Junichi Tazawa RHP Boston Red Sox
TOP '08 LEVEL: Japan (Nippon Oil) IE 22

Tazawa isn't quite big-league ready, but he's fairly close and could start in Double-A and appear in the majors by year-end. His stuff right now is reliever material -- a low-90s fastball and a plus splitter with big bottom -- and his fastball command needs improvement, while his slider is fringe-average at best. He's comfortable spotting his off-speed pitches, but he'll need to command his fastball better in the upper half of the zone, something that has in general been an issue with Japanese pitchers who've moved from their major league to Major League Baseball. Tazawa pitched in an industrial league in Japan rather than their professional system, so he comes to Boston without years in a Japanese pro team's system and the player development ideas that come with it. With improved fastball command and development of the slider (or his curve), he projects as a mid-rotation starter, which would put him toward the middle of this list rather than toward the back.

91 Gerardo Parra OF Arizona Diamondbacks
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Mobile) 82 21

Parra has good hands and takes a short path to the ball, hitting to all fields and making solid adjustments to off-speed stuff. He's a plus glove in a corner outfield spot with a 65-70 arm, and should be at least average in center. As a center fielder, he should be an everyday player because he'll hit for average and get on base, but if he has to move to a corner for any reason, his lack of power will be a problem. He's short to the ball but his swing plane is very flat and he has no loft in it, resulting in a lot of ground balls but not enough power. That's not an easy adjustment to make to a hitter's swing, but it's not impossible, and Parra is strong enough to hit 20 homers in the big leagues if his swing would permit it. The defensive value will get him there regardless.

92 Jake Arrieta RHP Baltimore Orioles
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Frederick) UR 23

Arrieta sits 90-93 with a solid four-pitch mix -- fastball, slider, curve and changeup -- with the slider the best of the three off-speed offerings but nothing plus; he misses bats by adding and subtracting from the fastball and through his willingness to throw any pitch in any count. He has the reputation, dating back to college, of a command/control guy, but both skills are and have always been below average. If he improves his command and control -- if you don't have an out pitch, you can't walk 51 guys in 113 A-ball innings, period -- he has a chance to be a solid No. 3 or No. 4 starter.

93 Greg Halman OF Seattle Mariners
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (West Tenn) UR 21

Halman, a native of the Netherlands, is the only player on this list born in Europe, and he has been a little lost in translation, as the Dutch language has no word for "slider." Halman was the MVP of the Dutch major league at age 16 and signed with Seattle shortly thereafter. All of the hackneyed phrases for great athletes in baseball -- "physical specimen," "looks good in the uniform" -- apply to Halman, who is tall and strong, has a good build for a hitter, and has room to continue adding muscle since he won't turn 22 until August. His tools are somewhat of a mixed bag -- he has enormous raw power, is an average runner, has an above-average arm and is at least average in center, but the hit tool is the big question. If you throw Halman a fastball, he'll make you regret it. If you throw him any sort of breaking ball, he's in trouble. Halman sets up late with a high, deep load that causes him to bar his front arm, and when you combine that with trouble recognizing off-speed pitches, you get 29 unintentional walks and 142 strikeouts, as Halman posted this year. This is actually an improvement, as he posted a 25/162 ratio in 2007 in 71 fewer plate appearances, and Halman came into pro ball with less experience than a typical U.S.-born prospect would have had, so there are several reasons to be optimistic. If it all comes together, he's a potential fifth or sixth hitter who could hit 35-40 home runs in a full season.

94 Daniel Bard RHP Boston Red Sox
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (Portland) UR 23

Bard fell to the end of the first round in 2006, where the Red Sox gladly picked him up, since a college pitcher with arm strength like Bard's does not typically make it out of the top 10 picks. Unfortunately, Bard's first full pro season was a disaster: In 75 innings as a starter, Bard walked 78 and struck out 47, hitting eight men and throwing 27 wild pitches. He didn't quite have Steve Blass Disease, but it was close. Shifted to the bullpen in Hawaii last winter, Bard has returned himself to prospect status, rediscovering his control while showing more consistency with his breaking ball. Bard comes from a low three-quarters slot and throws a legitimate 95-98 mph with good run and some sink, generating ground balls with the pitch and offsetting it with a mid-80s slider that is fringe-average but at least gives him something else to show to hitters. He has thrown a loopy mid-70s curveball that's slow and that he can't command, but will probably put that pitch in long-term storage with the progress he's made on the slider. The concern about Bard is simple: He's positively passive for a pitcher with power stuff, and when something goes wrong for him, he reacts badly, pitching away from contact instead of challenging hitters to hit a pitch (the fastball) most of them won't sniff. It's a question of maturity on the mound -- the same reason Oakland's Gio Gonzalez isn't on the top 100 -- and Bard has to develop it to become an ace reliever in the majors.

95 Andrew Brackman RHP New York Yankees
TOP '08 LEVEL: Hawaii League 100 23

Brackman returned from Tommy John surgery to pitch in the Hawaiian League this fall, showing the same velocity, 91-97 mph, he had before he hurt his elbow, but below-average command, which is very typical of pitchers who've just had the zipper. He threw a solid-average knuckle-curve in the mid-70s before hurting his arm, but hasn't found his feel for the pitch in his limited action since the surgery, and his changeup was rudimentary even before he got hurt. When he was healthy, Brackman offered the two pitches plus good downhill plane on his fastball -- he's about 6-foot-10 -- and a surprising ability to repeat his delivery, although that went out the window when he hurt his elbow and started trying to compensate for it. His pitching experience was limited, since he also played basketball at N.C. State and didn't give it up until his junior year, but there is significant upside here if he can stay on the mound for most or all of 2009.

96 Jason Castro C Houston Astros
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Tri-City) IE 21

This is how close the Astros came to being shut out of the top 100 entirely. One year after what might be the worst slate in Rule 4 draft history, Houston's system has bottomed out and only their top pick in this June's draft was even a candidate for the global list. Castro has a simple swing geared to maximize contact, with good bat speed and a very good idea of what he's doing at the plate. He should hit for average with plenty of doubles -- he likes to drive the ball to the opposite field -- but probably just average overall power. His defensive tools project as average across the board, although he could use some work on his plate-blocking; his arm is playable and he has good energy behind the plate. There's not much star potential here, but the contact and on-base skills are not common in a catcher and he's likely to move quickly once he gets to full-season ball.

97 Jeff Locke LHP Atlanta Braves
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Rome) UR 21

Locke made a lot of progress this year after two full years of dominating short-season hitters. A projectable lefty from New Hampshire with scant pitching experience in high school -- his senior year in 2006 was unusually rainy, making it hard for him to pitch much and for area scouts to see him -- Locke sits 88-93 and will show an above-average curve and changeup, with surprising feel for pitching for someone who is young and comes from a cold-weather state. His fastball is still his best pitch as he's looking for consistency with his secondary offerings, but the fact they will flash plus is a big positive. He earns some comparisons to Jon Lester, another projectable left-hander who filled out after he was drafted and added velocity, although Lester really broke through when he added a cut fastball to his repertoire. Locke heads to pitcher-friendly Myrtle Beach in 2009, so look for a big improvement in his stats and a lot more national attention.

98 Jay Jackson RHP Chicago Cubs
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Daytona) IE 21

Call this one a hunch. Jackson may end up a starter, but if the Cubs choose to leave him in the pen, he could shoot to the majors this year or early next year. Jackson was the No. 1 starter at Furman last spring while also playing the outfield, leading the Paladins in slugging percentage, and earned notice in the spring with a 91-94 mph fastball and a potential out-pitch slider in the mid-80s with good tilt and a very sharp, late break. The consensus on him before the draft was that he was a reliever in pro ball, which allowed the Cubs to grab him in the ninth round, but that is already looking like grand larceny. Jackson does throw a curve and changeup if he's left in the rotation, but neither is an average pitch and his height (maybe 6-1) means he doesn't get any downhill plane on his fastball, which may make him too homer-prone to be a starter. If he can improve his fastball command just a little bit, however, he has a chance to be a dominant short reliever in the majors.

99 J.P. Arencibia C Toronto Blue Jays
TOP '08 LEVEL: AA (New Hampshire) UR 23

Arencibia is a solid defensive catcher with an average or slightly above-average arm whose value is limited by his impatience at the plate. His calling card as a hitter has become his power; he's strong with a pull-oriented swing and gets his lower half involved, but his hands are a little sloppy and he doesn't have great bat control. His plate discipline is the main problem; he drew just 16 unintentional walks in more than 500 at-bats this year, and while the Blue Jays have tried to get him to show more patience at the plate -- even sending him to the Arizona Fall League specifically to work on it -- it hasn't shown up in games. Arencibia is probably a fringe-average to average regular in the big leagues, although any improvement in his walk rate would make him at least an average regular due to his power.

100 Michael Taylor OF Philadelphia Phillies
TOP '08 LEVEL: A (Clearwater) UR 23

Taylor was one of the best athletes in the 2007 draft -- and that hardly does him justice, as he's a supreme athlete in an NFL sense, not a baseball sense -- but had the ol' Stanford swing that has made scouts less willing to draft hitters from that school than just about any other major college program. The Phillies revamped Taylor's swing from that stiff, funny-looking Stanford approach to a more fluid swing that lets him utilize his lower half and hit for power, with potentially 40-homer power down the road. He's adequate defensively in a corner with an average arm. Taylor is still learning, or perhaps re-learning, the game, but wins raves from the Phillies' player development people for his aptitude and work ethic. Taylor played the year at 22, so he was old for the Sally League and not young for the Florida State League, meaning 2009 will be the first real test of his new swing and approach as he goes to Double-A.

Law's complete top 100: 1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100

Keith Law, formerly the special assistant to the general manager for the Toronto Blue Jays, is the senior baseball analyst for Scouts Inc.


Steve S said...

Surprised Montero is so low, but I get the reasoning. I don't understand however how Daniel Bard is there over Melancon.

I bet guys like Romine, McAllister, and Melancon would be in the 130s range or something.

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