Posted on: January 22, 2008 8:06 am
Edited on: January 22, 2008 8:28 am

Top First Basemen Under 23

The list starts to get a bit odd here. First base has become the place to put players who can't really move. Very few players are actually first base prospects, they just end up there when they can't handle third, catcher, left, etc. Take Albert Pujols. He came up as a third baseman, but was eventually moved over to first. At first, he's actually one of the better athletes playing the position. At third, he was a liability. Ryan Braun would be a first baseman right now if not for Prince Fielder. Matt LaPorta would be one of the top first base prospects in the majors, if he wasn't a Brewers prospect and going to be forced to play right (most likely) or get traded.

The top 1b prospect under 23 fits this same profile. I mentioned him in my catchers entry, because he's a converted catcher who couldn't quite cut it at the position.

Unfortunately, the top 3 young first basemen are all ineligible for this list: 1) Prince Fielder, Brewers, 2) James Loney, Dodgers, and 3) Joey Votto, Reds, in that order. Power is one of the later tools to develop, and it's not optional for a first baseman like it can be at other positions.

1) Daric Barton, Athletics, 8/16/1985, 22

Barton was drafted in the first round by the Cardinals, as a catcher. He couldn't stick at that position, unfortunately, as he'd be by far the #1 hitting prospect at that position. Regardless, he looks very promising and completely fits the A's profile of high OBP players. He had a good, not great, season in AAA, but was amazing in his September call up. Something in between should be expected for 2008, assuming the A's give him the first base job (here's a hint: they should).

Barton's an example of Beane's good trading. The Cardinals look somewhat foolish now for their deal--Dan Haren, Kiko Calero (a useful but not stellar middle reliever) and Barton as the PTBNL for Mark Mulder. Mulder gave the Cardinals one good season before breaking down--a season that was not quite as good as Haren's season in the same year. Haren gave the A's two very good and one great season before being himself turned into Carlos Gonzalez (who in turn made Nick Swisher expendible), and six other players whose names we may not know today, but undoubtedly will hear about soon.

ML Stats: 72 AB .347/.429/.639, 4 HR, 8 RBI

2) Chris Marrero, Nationals, 7/2/1988, 19

When a player is listed as a 1b/of as a prospect, you might as well drop off the "/of" from his list of eligible positions. If there's question as to his skill in covering the outfield, he won't last there long. That said, his power is not in question. As an 18 year old, he managed to hit 23 hr in A-ball (14 in low-A, 9 in hi-A). He's not walking enough, which is of some concern, but his strikeouts aren't completely out of line. If he develops a little plate discipline, he'll be excellent.

A ball stats: 477 AB .275/.338/.484 23 HR, 88 RBI

3) Lars Anderson, Red Sox, 9/25/1987, 20

What? But he plays the outfield! Yes, he sure does. He's already a below average runner, though, and he's going to continue to thicken as he approaches 25, and will eventually need to play 1b (in my opinion). His bat will play there--his power is tremendous, and his swing, even now, is not bad for Fenway. The worst thing about him as a prospect is the team he plays for!

A ball stats: 493 AB .292/.393/.446, 11 HR, 78 RBI
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 21, 2008 12:04 pm

Top Catchers Under 23

On we go to the position prospects!  I plan to post these blogs in position order (1 - starting pitcher, 2 - catcher, 3 - first base, 4 - second base, 5 - third base, 6 - shortstop, 7 - left field, 8 - center field, 9 - right field), followed by relief pitchers.


The choices here, under 23, become very limited if I'd like anyone with any major league service time to start for me.  Catchers are notoriously slow to develop, because they have so much to learn behind the plate.  Their bat tends to lag in comparison.

1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rangers, May 2, 1985 (22)

Fortunately for our team, Salty doesn't turn 23 until May, so he meets our April 1 cutoff date.  The Braves never would have traded him had they not already had Brian McCann performing so well in the majors (McCann himself will be 24 this season).  There are questions as to whether he'll be the top catcher on this team in two or three years, but for now he's by far the best option to start and play regularly for this squad.  He's got a lot of power potential and for a young player he does a nice job of managing pitchers.

ML Stats: 308 AB, .251/.310/.422, 91 OPS+, 11 HR, 33 RBI

2. Matt Wieters, Orioles, May 21, 1986 (21)

The Orioles got an absolute steal in Wieters in the draft.  He should not have been available at the 5th overall spot, but the Pirates drafted far too conservatively and passed up a player who, by all accounts, is excellent both offensively and defensively.  He has a tremendous arm, having touched 96 mph as a closer.  He's been compared to Charles Johnson defensively.  He's got power and plate discipline, but has some kinks to work out of his swing.  He'll be ready to play in the majors by 2009, but our team will need someone to step in as the backup catcher until then.

HWB Stats: 106 AB, .283/.364/.415

For the #3 spot, our choices are somewhat limited by our age restriction.  Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks (24), Jeff Clement, Mariners (24), Geovany Soto, Cubs (25), and J.R. Towles, Astros (24) are out.  Even Taylor Teagarden (24) and Bryan Anderson (23) are unavailable.  So who do we have left among our top catching prospects?  Jesus Montero, Yankees, is 18, but not close and may not end up being a catcher (he may end up at 1st).  Hank Conger is a similar story, at 20, although he's more likely to stick behind the plate.

For a comparison of just how difficult it is to fill this position and project it, the top catching prospect a few years ago was a 20 yo by the name of Daric Barton, who's now a first baseman with the Athletics.  Another is Ryan Garko, who most of you should know is a very solid slugger playing for the Indians--at first base.

So, without further ado, the catcher whose potential we completely ruin by rushing him to the majors before he's ready and make him a backup is:

3. Francisco Cervelli, Yankees, March 6, 1986 (22)

Cervelli's not even the top catching prospect on his team (possibly the #3 behind both Jesus Montero and Austin Romine) by most accounts.  He's the only top catching prospect to play at High-A or above, however, that has the potential of holding his own. 

HiA Stats: .279/.383/.397
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 19, 2008 11:55 am
Edited on: January 19, 2008 7:28 pm

Top Starting Pitchers under 23

My next series of blog entries are going to be about composing a "dream team" of the best players under the age of 23 (meaning, under 23, not 23 and under). The cutoff date for 23 is April 1, 2008. If the player turns 23 prior to April 1, 2008, he is ineligible for this team. Why 23? It allows me to focus mostly on prospects, and almost entirely on those players with the highest ceilings who haven't established themselves as major league stars, with a few notable exceptions.

Without further ado, here are my starting pitchers! I will be taking 8 starting pitchers, since their notoriously injured, and I'd use three of them as relievers if all were healthy.

1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners, rhp, April 8, 1986 (21)

It's easy to forget that King Felix, described as the best pitching prospect in the last decade, is only 21. He's two years younger than prospects like Clay Buchholz, and yet he's already pitched 465 major league innings with a 30-25 record and a 110 ERA+. So, when you hear people wondering if he'll reach his potential, remind them that those other prospects out there are already way behind.

ML Stats: 465 IP, 30-25, 3.94 ERA (110 ERA+)

2. Philip Hughes, Yankees, rhp, June 24, 1986 (21)

Hughes is a couple months younger than King Felix, and is one of the youngest pitchers in the majors. He had a rough start to his ML career, but he still had an ERA+ of 100, making him a major league average pitcher during his debut. He'll be quite a bit better than that next year. His injuries last season had nothing to do with his arm, so I don't see them being an issue in 2008.

ML Stats: 72 2/3 IP, 5-3, 4.46 ERA (100 ERA+)

3. Joba Chamberlain, Yankees, rhp, September 23, 1985 (22)

Joba's older than either Hughes or Felix, and has yet to establish himself in the majors to their levels, but he had an amazing run in September. He's the only pitcher on this list whose stuff can challenge Felix's. His performance last year was absurd. 1192 ERA+, with an OPS+ of 17 (both ERA+ and OPS+ are based around 100 being average). He was untouchable. This year we should get to see how he does as an ML starter.

ML Stats: 24 IP, 2-0, 0.38 ERA (1192 ERA+)

4. David Price, Rays, lhp, August 26, 1985 (22)

Price may not belong on this list, in that he's never pitched in the majors. But he's a lefty and he has better stuff than most established lefties (including future teammate Scott Kazmir). He's going to need at least half a year in the minors, but I'd take him over Kazmir or future teammate Jake McGee, so he belongs here.

No Professional Stats (signed too late)

5. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers, rhp, February 27, 1986 (22)

Gallardo's more than just a thrower like most young pitchers with his stuff. He's got polish, rivaling that of Hughes above, but with stuff that's perhaps a shade better than Hughes'. He had a nice debut in the majors next year, and he should be the Brewers' ace for ages above.

ML Stats: 110 1/3 IP, 9-5, 3.67 ERA (122 ERA+)

6. Franklin Morales, Rockies, lhp, January 24, 1986 (22)

Morales was impressive in his late season callup and a big part in the Rockies' run to end the season. He'll be the best pitcher in a Rockies uniform next season, and would be our 5th starter on this team for next season (as Price would start the season in the minors)

ML Stats: 39 1/3 IP, 3-2, 3.43 ERA (140 ERA+)

7. Homer Bailey, Reds, rhp, May 3, 1986 (21)

Bailey's the most likely on this list to disappoint, but his stuff at his age is too good to pass up, especially since he'd be a spot starter/reliever on this squad.

ML Stats: 45 1/3 IP, 4-2, 5.76 ERA (81 ERA+)

8. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, lhp, March 19, 1988 (20)

Kershaw's got some work to do in order to reach his ceiling, but he's tantalized with his potential. As a top lefty, he's the type of pitcher that organizations are constantly searching for. It was a tough call between him and McGee, but I believe Kershaw's got the greater potential.

Potential: Jake McGee, Rays, lhp, Aug 6, 1986 (21), Rick Porcello, Tigers, rhp, Dec 27, 1988 (19), John Danks, White Sox, lhp, April 15, 1985 (22), Troy Patton, Orioles, lhp, September 3, 1985 (22)

Ineligible 23 yo, but in order I'd take them if they were eligible:

Matt Cain, Giants, (turned 23 on Oct 1 2007), Tim Lincecum, Giants, (June 15, 2007), Clay Buchholz, Red Sox, (turned 23 on Aug 14, 2007), Ian Kennedy, Yankees , (turned 23 on Dec 19, 2007), Chad Billingsley, Dodgers, (July 29, 2007), Kyle Kendrick, Phillies, (Aug 26, 2007)
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 16, 2008 10:17 am

Top Outfield Prospects

The following outfield prospect rankings are based on two factors: 1) their potential, and 2) the likelihood that they'll reach that potential.  Of these two factors, though, I'll take the potential.  In other words, the 4th outfield prospect that's ready for the majors isn't going to be taken ahead of a likely future all-star that's currently 19. 

By the way, despite his rather iffy major league debut, I'd still take Justin Upton over anyone on this list.

  1. Reds' Outfield Prospect Jay Bruce (CF or RF), 20 yo (will turn 21 around opening day 2008)

    Jay Bruce is amazing, there's no other way to look at it.  He's not supposed to be ready for the majors yet--but he is.  He can play an adequate center field, but likely will end up in right.  His power's still developing, but he hit over .300 with 26 HR at three levels last year.  He may start the season off in AAA, but when he's called up, he's going to be a valuable contributor from day one.  By the age of 23, he should be an all-star. 

    Stat Comparison: Larry Walker
  2. Colby Rasmus (CF), Cardinals, 21, ETA 2009

    Potential fantasy stud, won't be ready for 2008.  He's got great power potential, and should be a 30/20 guy in the pros.  He'll get called up at some point next year, but he won't be a full-time starter until 2009.

    Stat Comparison: Curtis Granderson
  3. Matt LaPorta (LF), Brewers, 22, ETA 2009

    2009 may be a stretch, but holy cow can this guy hit.  I'd rank him higher if Ryan Braun hadn't been moved from 3b to LF.  Now with Braun in left and Fielder at first, where does LaPorta play?  Mike Cameron would look like Kelly Leak (Bad News Bears) trying to make up for their lack of range. 

    Stat Comparison: Prince Fielder

  4. Cameron Maybin, Marlins, 20, ETA 2009

    If it weren't for Maybin's shoulder injury (shoulder injuries scare me), he'd rank higher on this list.  He and Rasmus have similar skills, but I'd take Maybin over Rasmus most any day, if both were healthy.  If the Marlins bring him up in 2008, they'll be rushing him.  He's not ready yet.

    Stat Comparison:  .300/20 HR/40 SB, I'm not sure who that is, but whoever it is, I'd take it.
  5. Jacoby Ellsbury (CF), Red Sox, 24, ETA 2008

    Ellsbury has tremendous speed and range, and will make a very nice center fielder.  He should play gold-glove calibur defense and be a spark plug at the top of the order for years to come--everything the Red Sox hoped for when they acquired Coco Crisp.  He won't ever hit for much power (10-15 HR that they've projected feels like a stretch to me), but regardless will be a great player at the top of the order.

    Stat Comparison: Johnny Damon
  6. Adam Jones, Mariners (CF), 22, ETA 2008

    Jones has the power potential to hit 30 HR, and has an awesome arm (he was a pitcher w/ a 90mph fastball).  He'll eventually wind up in right, imo, but his bat will play there.

    Stat Comparison: Mike Cameron

  7. Travis Snider, RF, Blue Jays, ETA 2010

    Snider has tremendous power, and looks to be a stud in the middle of Toronto's lineup for years to come.

  8. Jose Tabata, RF, 19, Yankees, ETA 2010

    Tabata had some of his power sapped by a hamate bone injury in 2007.  He has tremendous potential though, and showed a lot of character in fighting through the injury. 

    Stat Comparison: Too early to tell
  9. Andrew McCutcheon (CF), Pirates, 20, ETA 2009/2010

    The hope of the Pirates system, McCutcheon had a rough 2007.  At present, it looks like he won't develop the necessary power.  He will make a nice leadoff hitter and center fielder, but may never put up flashy enough numbers to be an all-star.  His plate discipline took a nose dive in 2007, with an OBP around .330.  For a leadoff hitter, that's not going to get it done.  He'll have plenty of chances, but he needs at least one more year in AAA (and really, should be in AA, not AAA).  For the sake of Pirates fans, I hope he gets it. 
    Stat Comparison: The best comparison I can think of is Randy Winn, which won't make Pirates fans happy.

  10. Fernando Martinez, Mets, 19, ETA 2011

    The Mets like to rush their top prospects, and Martinez is no exception.  He was overmatched in AA, and isn't showing the refinement you'd like to see.  Then again, he should have been in A ball last year. 
    Stat Comparison: Too early to tell.
  11. Carlos Gonzalez, Athletics, 22, ETA 2009

    Gonzalez may deserve to be higher on this list, but his lack of hustle reminds me too much of J.D. Drew.  He's got everything you'd want in a player, but doesn't seem to play with the passion to ever make the most of it.
Honorable Mention: Austin Jackson, CF, Yankees; Jordan Schafer, CF, Braves
Category: MLB
Posted on: January 15, 2008 9:55 pm

Prospect Questions

Now that we have blogs, we have a good vehicle for this.  If anyone has any questions about any prospects, post them as a comment.  Depending on the question, I'll either reply to the comment, or post a new blog entry about it! 

My 8 baseball america prospect handbooks should arrive this week.  I'll have some fun new material to review, to see how people thought about various prospects on their way up.
Category: MLB
Tags: MLB, Prospects
Posted on: January 15, 2008 8:42 pm

A Ray of Hope

I originally posted this in the MLB forum, but wanted to repeat it here, now that we have Blogs! 

The Rays are so loaded in the minor leagues it's just sickening.  Here's a "what if their prospects were all ready right now, and they actually kept some of the good players already in the majors".
Here's their team.

1. Desmond Jennings, CF, (LoA, 21)
.315/.401/.465, 45 SB (75% success rate)

2. B.J. Upton, RF (ML, 22)
.300/.386/.508, 24 HR, 22 SB (73% success rate)

3. Evan Longoria, 3B (AAA, 21)
.300/.402/.520 26 HR

4. Carlos Pena, 1B (ML, 29)
.282/.411/.627, 46 HR

5. Rocco Baldelli, DH (ML, 25)
.302/.339/.502, 16 HR
(Using a CF as a DH?  Yes, that's how good the other three guys are--who can all also play CF.  He'd be a 4th OF, but play mostly DH since he's always hurt.  These are his stats from 2006, where he only had 300 ab.)

6. Carl Crawford, LF (ML, 25)
.315/.355/.466, 50 SB (83%)

7.  John Jaso, C (AA, 23)

8. Reid Brignac, SS (AA, 21)
.260/.328/.433, 17 HR

9. Akinori Iwamura, 2B (ML, 28)

That's an incredible lineup, and only two of the guys (who will be 29 and 30 next season) will be over the age of 26.  There's no way they all player at the same time.

The pitching staff will be just as good.

1. Scott Kazmir, LHP (ML, 23)
13-9, 3.48 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

2. Matt Garza, RHP (ML, 23)
5-7, 3.69 ERA, 1.54 WHIP

3. David Price, LHP (College, 21)

4. Jake McGee, LHP (AA, 20)
8-6, 3.15 ERA, 1.12 WHIP

5. Wade Davis, RHP (AA, 21)
10-3, 2.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP

6. Jamie Shields, RHP (ML, 25)
12-8, 3.85 ERA, 1.11 WHIP

There isn't just one Ace in this batch, there are four potential aces, and Wade Davis is no slouch.  And that's not all--they have Jeff Neimann and Jeremy Hellickson both as top prospects. 

These guys are seriously loaded.
Category: MLB
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