Are you sure there are only 30 teams in baseball? Has anybody really sat down and counted?
The Brewers are one of my favourite organizations in baseball; they just always seem to make good decisions. With a large amount of top young talent in the majors as well as, as you’ll see shortly, a significant amount of minor league talent, the Brewers seem to have solidified themselves as long-term contendors.
1. RHSP Jeremy Jeffress
Who?: Despite some flaws, one of the best pure arms in the minors. Jeffress has had his problems both off and on the field: He has been suspended for marijuana use off the field, while having his issues with erratic pitching on the mound. Jeffress has walked 121 batters in 214.1 minor league innings (12.8%), including 34 in 48 July/August innings this year after a promising start. Despite all this, Jeffress is a 20-year-old who can hit the high-90s accompanied by a sharp curve.
Projection: I believe that you can count all the pitchers in the minors with true ace potential on one hand; Jeffress belongs on that list.
2. C Jonathon Lucroy
Who?: An offense-first catcher who can hold his own defensively. Lucroy showed an excellent plate approach to go with good power on his way to a .900 OPS in High-A and an .850 OPS in AA this year. (15.4 K%, 10.6 BB%, 20 HR). He’s not a Buster Posey or Bryan Anderson defensively, but he’s improved to the point where he’ll certainly stay at catcher (provided he’s not blocked by Angel Salome), even to the point where you could stretch to call him an above-average defender.
Projection: Did I already use my Jason Varitek comparison? There aren’t a whole lot of guys to choose from at catcher. He’s certainly got the .280/.360/.450+ potential you rarely see at catcher.
I’m hungry, sleep deprived and I have a fever. This could be a fun one.
I make no secret of the fact that I’m not a big fan of the Dodgers organization. It’s always been my stance that there is no organization with a greater aptitude for wasting talent, yet at the same time showing a great aptitude for acquiring that talent. (Regarding prospects, not veterans). That probably won’t change in the near future, as early rumblings suggest that Colletti will still be with the Dodgers come 2009.
Oh yeah, they have some decent enough prospects, as we’ve come to expect, although I’m very happy that Kershaw has graduated because he was always extremely hard to rank. I’m not happy that I only realized that after I did his writeup. Let’s get on with it.
1. LHSP Scott Elbert
Who?: Hopefully a nice comeback story. After being plagued by injuries the last couple of years, Elbert was stuck in the bullpen to limit his innings. He had his inconsistencies, but he also showed some of the old dominance and got stronger as the season went on. The arm is still special when it’s in one piece, so a healthy Elbert would be a very formidable prospect!
Projection: Because of his two very plus pitches the idea of Elbert as a reliever is intriguing, but only as a back-up plan. He’s a nice starting prospect, but because of his continued control issues his ceiling suffers - let’s call him a #3.
2. RHSP Josh Lindblom
Who?: After dominating as a closer in his last year of college, the Dodgers got the bright idea to move Lindblom back into the rotation, where he had previously struggled. Well, let me just say - great idea! Lindblom has a power repertoire inlcluding a 92-95 FB, a slider and a splitter, and he used that repertoire to dominate in his first pro action. He ate up Low-A ball to the tune of 33 K and 4 BB in 29 innings, even getting in a (good) start at AA before the end of the season.
Projection: Big, power repertoire, good command. What’s not to like? It won’t be that long before he’s putting up Low-4 ERAs in the majors.
Sorry for the lack of posts this week, but I just moved into my dorm and I’ve literally had trouble finding time to eat and sleep, let alone blog.
My lord, it’s not that easy to find prospects in this system. It’s not nearly as barren as a year ago - a draft that I ranked among the top ten in baseball as well as the emergence of Brian Bogusevic helps - but there’s just no depth whatsoever. The top of the system is good enough that the top 5 looks pretty decent, but I couldn’t find a good #6 if you put a gun to my head.
1. RHSP Jordan Lyles
Who?: One of my favourite high school pitchers in the draft - although perhaps that’s not saying a whole lot. Lyles is very athletic - he was a star in baseball, football and basketball in high school. Lyles is far from a finished product, but not in the ways you’d imagine. Lyles already has excellent command of his fastball, change and breaking ball, but it’s his velocity and movement that have yet to be very refined. Lyles came in and cut up the rookie league, striking out 30.8% of hitters while walking only 4.8%. He should be a very interesting prospect to watch next year.
Projection: He definitely has #2 potential. I’d like to see him pitch a full season of Low-A ball next year.
2. C Jason Castro
Who?: Not Justin Smoak, that’s for sure. This draft has had it’s share of blunders. Washington’s bungling of the negotiations with Crow, Cole’s change of heart to refusing to sign and especially the Hosmer/Alvarez situation have emerged as the biggest stories of this year. Another one that should be tacked on to the list is the Astros passing on Smoak - who I feel was the best prospect in the draft for Castro. Obviously, as he’s ranked this high, I feel Castro is a fine prospect in his own right. He has a very good plate approach, pretty good defense and enough power to get by. His biggest flaw - he’s not Justin Smoak.
Projection: How’s Jason Varitek for a comp?
The Marlins have a pretty good farm system, but it has its holes. Of course, Cameron Maybin is a great flagbearer, but beyond him there is just a mix of either low-ceiling or high-risk types. However, this system could be on the brink of a significant facelift, as there are rumblings of yet another offseason Marlins firesale.
1. CF Cameron Maybin
Who?: One of the premier prospects in baseball. Maybin has always had top-shelf tools. He has great bat speed, plus speed with a lot of raw power and he’s a great defender. For the most part, the production has been there as well. He has excellent patience (161 walks in 1289 career minor league PA) and has had shown pretty good in-game power for someone who just turned 21 this April. The question mark that Maybin has always faced is: STRIKEOUTS. Maybin struck out 116 times in 445 PA in 2006, 91 times in 385 PA last year and started this year with 72 strikeouts in 229 April/May PA. Since then Maybin has made some strides, with a not great but much improved 51 K in 224 PA. (Maybin has missed some time with a back injury and, of all things, a spider bite).
Projection: Maybin could easily become a .300/.400/.500 CF with great defense. He’d need to cut back on the strikeouts, though.
2. OF Michael Stanton
Who?: Did somebody say strikeouts? Stanton has struck out in 28.9% of his PA this year. A number like that in Low-A would often cause me to completely disregard a prospect - so why is Stanton ranked #2 here with a high spot reserved for him in next year’s Pre-Season Top 100? He might be the #1 power prospect in baseball. As an 18-year-old - 18! - Stanton has hit 39 HR this year. Remarkable. 18 and 39 - why would you need to look past those two numbers?
Projection: Ceiling… how about Sammy Sosa? Be warned that with a prospect like this, there’s a lot of Jose Hernandez and Russell Branyan on the way to that, though - as Brandon Wood fans are aware.
The Rockies have been one of the most up-and-down teams in the last few years. They’ve gone from laughingstock to story of the year to the significant disappointment they’ve been this year. In contrast, the minor league system has been consistently… good. Not great, but good.
1. RHSP Jhoulys Chacin
Who?: Chacin is one of my favourite prospects, and a member of the group of top up-and-coming pitching prospects that I have a bit of a man-crush on. Chacin had somewhat surprising success at Low-A this year; he was a 2004 international signing who didn’t debut until 2007 and had not been a factor in Rockies prospect lists. (Unranked out of 11 ranked prospects and 3 Honourable Mentions by BP; unranked in Baseball America’s Top 10 Rockies prospects). To reward him for his success, the Rockies put the 20-year-old prospect through a little trial-by-fire by sending him to the California League. How did he respond? By pitching even better. His K% rose from 21.9% to 23.5%, his BB% fell from 6.7% to 4.5% and he has a 60 GB%. He throws a fastball that hangs around 94 MPH and (obviously) has a lot of sink, plus two breaking balls and a change, all of which rank as above-average.
Projection: Chien-Ming Wang with more Ks; #2 guy, or at worst a #3.
2. LHSP Christian Friedrich
Who?: The Rockies’ 2008 first round pick, my #1 ranked pitcher, and 8th overall on my value board. Friedrich dominated from day 1 in College, totaling 327 K in 245.1 IP. He dominates mainly on the strength of a mid-90s FB (as a lefty!) and a devastating, plus-plus hard curve. He’ll mix in a hard slider and a change, but he’s a FB/curve guy mainly. As expected, he’s stepped in and dominated in his minor league debut with 59 K and 13 BB in 43 IP. The only big knock on Friedrich is inconsistent command. (69 BB in 163.1 IP in his last two years of college).
Projection: Anywhere from a #2-4 pitcher. Obviously, from my high ranking of him, I lean towards the former.
At the beginning of the year, the Reds certainly ranked among the best farm systems in baseball. The system is still quite respectable, as you’ll see, but it no longer has the same luster as it had at the beginning of the season. Oh well, I guess that’s the kind of thing you expect to happen when you have four top 40 prospects graduate to the majors.
1. 1B Yonder Alonso
Who?: A leading member of a very memorable class of sluggers in this year’s draft. You could certainly argue that Alonso possessed the best bat of anybody in this draft, although I prefer Smoak. Alonso’s tremendous BB totals in college certainly suggest that he has the best discipline of any hitter in this draft. He’ll also mix in the good power and bad defense that were the hallmarks of the 2008 draft.
Projection: A huge OBP type guy with good power, perhaps somewhere between Bobby Abreu and Jason Giambi.
2. INF Todd Frazier
Who?: After beating up on lower-level competition for a while, Frazier has hit a slight snag at High-A. Nothing terrible, but not great either. Frazier’s not going to be a guy who’ll even put up a .900 OPS (in all likelihood), but he’s got a solid bat. He makes ok contact, has decent patience, and pretty good power. The biggest question is his defense, and even moreso, what position he’ll be defending. He’s actually spent the majority of his time at SS, but don’t get your hopes up on that, he is NOT a shortstop. Frazier as a 3B is a pretty good prospect; Frazier as a 1B or LF is kind of borderline.
Projection: Probably something like a .270/.350/.450 type. Read more
This is one ranking I was really dreading - a team without a single prospect in my Top 100. The Cubs could certainly be in the lead in the race for “worst farm system in baseball”. Real slim pickin’s here.
1. RHP Jeff Samardzija
Who?: A really, really bizarre revelation. Samardzija signed a big-money deal with the Cubs to lure him away from football, and since then he’s been a monumental bust. Before being promoted to AAA this year, Samardzija had a career 126 Ks, 98 BB, 270 H and 24 HR allowed in 247.2 IP. Scouts and statheads alike just about gave up on him - then he was promoted to AAA, where he reminded people just why he had been given a $10m deal. He had 40 K and 16 BB in 37.1 IP, leading to a major league promotion where he has been quite dominant as a reliever. He throws a really really hard fastball and a really really hard slider, mostly. He mixes in a change as well.
Projection: Samardzija has enough potential as a starter that he’s likely to be given a chance there, but he could definitely also have a future as an ace reliever. What a unique career path this guy has.
2. RHSP Aaron Shafer
Who?: The Cubs’ second round pick this year. He’s mostly a control/pitchability college type, throwing a high-80s/low-90s sinking FB with a plus CU and a breaking ball. These types of pitchers are supposed to succeed at the low levels, and he has. The real questions will be answered around AA or so.
Projection: Back-of-the-rotation starter.
Have the Braves EVER not had a good farm system? The fact that this team has so consistently finished near the top of the standings (and thus at the bottom of the draft) and maintained a consistent flow of talent from the minors to the majors… why, it just brings a tear to my eye. Let’s take a look at this year’s crop of Braves prospect goodness.
1. RF Jason Heyward
Who?: When Heyward was set to be drafted in 2007, I thought “that guy reminds me a lot of Travis Snider”… maybe I shouldn’t have said that, since he’s Snider’s opposite in just about every facet of the game, but the good news is that Heyward has already surpassed Snider on my prospect rankings. Heyward makes excellent contact (14.4%) and has a good walk rate (9.7%), but hasn’t been hitting for HR power yet - only 11 HR in 116 games. That’s really, really something that you shouldn’t worry about in the slightest. He just turned 19 2 weeks ago, he’s 6′4″ 220, has 44 XBH this year, a ton of raw power, and a sexy swing that seems destined to hit for 30 HR annually. You’d think it must stop there, but nah - he’s a good defender too!
Projection: A perennial all-star OF who can consistently hit .300 with a good OBP, 30 HR and 15 SB.
2. CF Jordan Schafer
Who?: Schafer may have been the most streaky prospect in baseball this year. Don’t believe me?
Told you. That doesn’t even tell the whole story, as he’s been even more volatile week-to-week. His inconsistency is due to the one real red flag on him, a rather alarming strikeout rate which currently sits at 26.3%. If that slid even 5%, he could definitely be among the elite prospects in the game. Still, he’s 21 and has a ton of talent. He has tremendous patience, plus power potential and is among the best defensive OF prospects in the game.
Projection: A CF with GG-caliber defense and perhaps something around a .850 OPS - a very, very good prospect. Read more
This once-proud farm system is not quite up to its old standards. Luckily, it’s not because they’re top prospects have busted, but for all the good reasons. First of all, former highly-ranked prospects like Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, Connor Jackson, Chris Snyder and Miguel Montero are all up producing with the big team. Also, it’s really hard to maintain a top system after you trade away prospects like Brett Anderson (8th overall), Chris Carter (72nd overall), Carlos Gonzalez (graduated to the majors) and Aaron Cunningham (unranked, but good enough to be worth mentioning) for Dan Haren. It’s nice to have a good farm system, but I’m sure that the D-Backs prefer how their former prospects are helping them now.
1. RHSP Max Scherzer
Who?: This system does still have some hope left, led by Max Scherzer. He must be the single biggest riser of the 2008 season; Scherzer went from being unranked in the pre-season list to the being 4th overall and the 2nd overall pitcher at mid-season. What changed? He’s a completely different pitcher! He’s throwing harder with more consistency than he did last season, and with far more confidence. At AA last year, he struck out 23.8% of batters while walking 12.5%. This season, he feels free to pepper the strike zone with a mid-90s FB in combination with an excellent slider with much improved command over last year. He’s made a mockery of AAA hitters, striking out 37.3%, and he even struck out 24.8% in his major league stint. Arizona has been quite cautious with his shoulder, but since returning to the AAA rotation he’s struck out 26 in 18 IP. His future might still be in the bullpen, and if it is his prospect status would obviously take a serious shot, but since he’s gone all Joba on us, he deserves to have a good, long shot as a starter.
Projection: Joba’s not a bad comparison. He certainly has that potential.
2. RHSP Jarrod Parker
Who?: The 9th overall pick last year hasn’t been bad by any stretch of the imagination, but he hasn’t been dominating either. He’s been holding his own with decent strikeout totals (105 in 108.2 IP) and decent command (32 BB), but he’s not as polished as people thought he was. His FB sits around 92-94, touching 95-96, with a mid-80s slider and a change. He’s had issues commanding everything, leading him to get hit around a little more than you’d expect from a guy with this kind of arm pitching in Low-A. (106 H and 8 HR).
Projection: Parker’s far too young and far away from the majors to read too much into this season. You certainly can’t say that he no longer has front-of-the-rotation potential. He does. The only thing that’s changed is that perhaps he’s seen as less likely to reach that ceiling than before this year. Read more
JP Ricciardi has always been criticized for a lack of drafting ability with the Jays - some deserved, some not. The only hitters he’s drafted who are producing in the majors are Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. (Although ‘producing’ may be a bit of a misnomer in Hill’s case this year). That being said, his pitching draftees like Dave Bush, Casey Janssen, Shaun Marcum, David Purcey and Jesse Litsch appear to be doing quite fine. As far as prospects go, there isn’t much depth at all, but there is enough top-end talent to make this roughly a middle-of-the-pack system. (No depth but a lot of top-end talent in the Jays system? What is this world coming to?)
1. OF Travis Snider
Who?: I’ll be honest, my gut said to put Cecil in this spot ahead of Snider. Cecil has been so impressive, and Snider’s strikeout totals so disheartening. Then, I look and see that Snider has walked 60 times this year, or that he has 51 XBH, or I watch him do something like this… then I look at his birthday, and I remember that Snider is a very special bat.
Projection: An MVP-caliber hitter, although he’ll either be a DH or a defensive liability.
2. LHSP Brett Cecil
Who?: Cecil was a bit of an unknown draftee last year, but he came out and had an excellent showing in short-season A-ball, landing him the 79th spot on my pre-season list. This year, Cecil has dominated. In 10.1 A+ IP, 77.2 AA IP, and 18.1 AAA IP, Cecil has combined for 119 K, 35 BB and a 62.2 GB%. Cecil is the rare and valuable pitcher who doesn’t walk many batters, doesn’t allow much contact, and when he allows contact, it’s on the ground. He has a three-pitch repertoire, all at least average, including a decent change, with a 91-94 sinking fastball and his out pitch, a hard slider.
Projection: He’ll certainly be challenging for a rotation spot in Spring Training. He’s likely to be a #3, but he certainly has #2 potential.