The Top 100 MLB Prospects 2010: Intro and Honorable Mentions


Welcome to the September 9, 2010 edition of This Week in Prospects!

With the minor league regular seasons over, it’s time to start looking at what we learned this year, and where the top guys are situated relative to each other. Thus, starting with this week, I’m using this column space to unveil my post-2010 season Top 100 MLB Prospects.

The next ten weeks, I’ll be putting up ten prospect profiles per week, as always, except now they’ll be prospects 100-91, 90-81, and so on.

So, next week, tune in to see prospects 100-91!

What am I doing this week, then, you ask? Well, two things. First, I want to sort of introduce how I go about compiling this list, and some things to keep in mind the next ten weeks as you read.

Second, we’ll look at some players who just missed the list.

Introduction

This is the third year I’ve done a Top 100 Prospects list of sorts. In 2008 and 2009, I did lists on Bleacher Report.

I got into prospect stuff around 2006, so taking up a Top 100 list just two years after I started following prospects was a bad idea. That resulted in some really horrific choices like Angel Villalona at #1, Jesse English at #30, Ryan Royster at #22, and way, WAY too many A’s prospects (yay, homer bias!).

On the other hand, I was in on Jeanmar Gomez, Michael Brantley, and a few others before most, and I correctly didn’t get all bent out of shape about Jay Bruce, ranking him 24th when most had him first.

In 2009, I tightened up the way I look at things, stopped picking a billion prospects from my favorite team, and churned out a much better list. I look pretty damn good in retrospect for putting Travis Wood, Jordan Lyles, Mike Leake, Matt Moore, Dan Hudson, and Michael Pineda in my top 30.

That said, I had some terrible misses there as well, like Chris Tillman second and Dexter Carter 30th (he didn’t even make my Padres Top 100 a year later).

The 2010 list will no doubt follow suit in holding up well in places and sagging in others, but we’re talking about prospects here—it happens. I just want to say right from the beginning that, hey, I’m human, and I don’t expect this list to come out perfectly.

I’m not afraid to go out on a limb, even now that I’m a bit more seasoned in prospect analysis. Sure, I wouldn’t do something as egregious as ranking Jesse English 30th in 2008, but I can guarantee there are players on this year’s list you’ve never heard of. Most do appear close to the back of the list, though. Last year also featured me picking Martin Perez third overall, Jason Knapp sixth, and Jaff Decker and Manny Banuelos at 11 and 12. Nobody else had any of them nearly that high. I remain high on those four players, and they’ll likely appear higher here than in most places again, I’m sure.

The way I go about compiling this list is pretty simple.

1.)    Look around the minors for anybody who seems like Top 100 material.

2.)    Compile a list of those players and pick the top 100.

3.)    Rank those 100.

Nothing too complex about that, huh?

This year, I wound up with 145 prospects on my list, and I had to cut 45. I’ll share those 45 with you in a minute, but I want to emphasize something first.

They aren’t necessarily prospects 101-145.

Some guys, when I was scouring the minors, just didn’t quite seem good enough for the Top 100. Others would have an attribute or two that would really jump out, and make me think “Hmm…okay, I’ll add him to the list, and deal with him later.” Then, when I’d get to picking the top 100, it would be obvious that several of the players were nowhere near the others in quality—they just had one big attribute and that was about it.

So, don’t treat it as prospects 101-145. Treat it as “45 Interesting Players Who Didn’t Make Nathaniel’s Top 100.”

Going off of that, I’d also like to point out something about the future Top 100 installments. There are really two components to the rankings:

1.)    How good is Player X?

2.)    How does he compare to the other 99?

What I’m really interested in here is that first part. Unfortunately, because these are rankings, most people look more at the second part, which is the more difficult part for me.

For example, take my ranking of Knapp sixth last year. Most people didn’t like that. But the reason I ranked him that high was because he was a righty with mid-90’s heat, two solid offspeed offerings, and he was getting a ridiculous strikeout rate while being very young for his level.

Is that worthy of being sixth? I thought it was; many didn’t. But I really don’t care whether that’s better than, say, Desmond Jennings’ skillset (I ranked him eighth last year), and I really don’t care to argue whether Knapp is better than Jennings.

What I’m interested in here is each prospect themselves. I’d rather have the “Is Knapp a potential ace?” debate than the “Knapp vs. Player X” debate. Many of these prospects are so close together skillwise, and it’s so tough to measure them up against each other, that quibbling over one guy being a spot or two higher than another is pretty ridiculous.

The same goes for these 45 players (who, I swear, I’m about to list; hang in there). I know that Brewers fans don’t want to hear Brett Lawrie isn’t in the Top 100, and Giants fans will be annoyed at my failure to rank Zack Wheeler, but if we agree on Lawrie and Wheeler’s potential anyway, who cares what the number next to their name is?

Anyway, here are the 45 guys on my list who missed the top 100. I didn’t actually rank them against each other (since they aren’t 101-145, what’s the point?), so they’re just in alphabetical order here:

2010 Top 100 Prospect Honorable Mentions

Yonder Alonso, 1B, Reds—A nice bat—he hit .296/.355/.470 in Triple-A, and really came on after the All-Star Break once he was healthy. Still, he’s a 23-year-old first baseman who only has 24 homers the past two years combined, so I have to wonder if he’ll ever be more than a decent starter at the position. That’s not that big of a slight—you really have to slug to be an above-average offensive 1B, after all.

Nick Barnese, RHP, Rays (High-A)—A nice sinkerballer with an 100/26 K/BB this year at age 21. Barnese isn’t really overpowering, though, so he’s probably ultimately just a nice fourth starter.

Andrew Bellatti, RHP, Rays (Rookie)—Bellatti had a big June and July, with a 44/6 K/BB, before fading badly down the stretch to post the sort of numbers that would probably make you wonder what the hell he’s doing on a list like this. This is what happens when you compile names in mid-August—some of the short-season guys have two bad weeks and make you look stupid. Still, Bellatti’s a nice young arm who has a good three-pitch mix and plus command.

Joe Benson, OF, Twins (AA)—A plus defender in right field, Benson slugged .527 in Double-A at age 22, but he whiffed 115 times in 102 games while walking just 39 times. That’s got to improve if he’s going to be an impact player.

Jesse Biddle, LHP, Phillies (Short-season-A)—Biddle, 18, is a power lefty who dominated Rookie ball (41/9 K/BB in 33 1/3 innings), before walking 11 in 11 frames in short-season. The 27th overall pick in this year’s draft, he’s an exciting prospect, but the slip-up in Williamsport keeps him away from serious Top 100 consideration this early in his career.

Adrian Cardenas, INF, Athletics (AAA)—Cardenas finally figured out Triple-A after the All-Star Break, hitting .313/.362/.385 after struggling there in late 2009 and early 2010. Still, he doesn’t show much power and fits best defensively at third, making him a sort of lefty-hitting Chone Figgins with less speed. Nice, but not Top 100.

Matt Carpenter, 3B, Cardinals (AA)—Hit .316/.412/.488 this year in Double-A, but lacks premium power and is already 24.

Darrell Ceciliani, OF, Mets (Short-season-A)—Hit .351/.410/.531, which is great, but struck out 56 times in 68 games. That wouldn’t seem to hold up a .351 average, and Ceciliani’s lackluster 2009 backs up the fact that he probably isn’t going to keep putting up Ichiro-esque averages. Too many questions here to be in the Top 100.

Tim Collins, LHP, Royals (AAA)—The only reliever I considered at all, Collins is fantastic at what he does, but I see him as more of a Mike Stanton-esque shutdown lefty middle guy than the sort of unstoppable force that would put him on the Top 100. He’s going to be great—the question here is more about putting relievers in the Top 100 in the first place, which I seem to be more against every year.

Casey Crosby, LHP, Tigers (Rookie)—Missed essentially all of 2010 with major arm problems after a huge 2009. A complete wild-card, but if he comes back healthy, refer to my #28 ranking from last year.

Danny Duffy, LHP, Royals (AA)—After retiring from baseball, Duffy came back at midseason and continued to pitch well. He was possibly the toughest player on the list to leave off, because 21-year-olds who can handle Double-A easily don’t grow on trees. Still, the weirdness surrounding his departure and comeback, as well as stuff that wasn’t considered great in the first place, knocks him down to right below the top 100.

Brad Emaus, INF, Blue Jays (AAA)—I love Emaus’ plate discipline, but that’s his big signature, and he couldn’t quite manage a .400 OBP this year. At age 24, that makes him more of a nice sleeper, maybe a Marco Scutaro 2.0, than the sort of premier stud that goes on the Top 100.

Edwin Escobar, LHP, Giants (Short-season-A)—An 18-year-old who struck out over a batter an inning in the Northwest League, Escobar deserves some looks as a sleeper. But he also walked 40 in 63 innings, a major reason for a pedestrian 4.86 ERA.

Grant Green, SS, Athletics (High-A)—I’m not a fan of the 117/38 K/BB, and nobody seems to like Green’s defense at short. He wasn’t really young for his level, and you have to figure the .318/.363/.520 line will come down once Green leaves the Cal League. There’s talent here, but there are some real flaws too.

Ismael Guillon, LHP, Reds (Rookie)—One of the toughest guys to leave off the list, Guillon is a big, projectable 18-year-old Venezuelan lefty who whiffed 73 batters in 57 innings in the AZL this year. The 23 walks aren’t great, though, and since it’s just his first pro season, Guillon could stand to prove himself a bit more before being put among the elites. He’s a major guy to watch, though.

Brad Hand, LHP, Marlins (High-A)—A 20-year-old lefty who whiffed nearly a batter an inning in High-A, Hand is a nice pitcher who projects as a third starter. He’s pretty much solid-average across the board, both statistically and scouting wise, throwing around 92 with two nice offspeed offerings and posting a 134/49 K/BB. He projects as more of a mid-rotation rock than a shutdown guy, but looks to be a nice commodity for Florida nonetheless.

Ryan Kalish, OF, Red Sox—Mainly left out because it’s likely he’ll use up his rookie eligibility this year. Projects similarly to Hand, in a way, being more of a very solid starter at his position but unlikely to challenge for All-Star appearances.

Erik Komatsu, OF, Brewers (High-A)—I like the .323 average, .412 OBP, and walking seven more times than striking out, and he also stole 28 bases. Scouts don’t like Komatsu’s defense, though, and his power is average at best for a corner outfielder. He also wasn’t young for his level. A nice sleeper with several very well-developed skills, but with too many holes in his game to warrant much consideration here.

Marc Krauss, OF, Diamondbacks (High-A)—Hit .302/.371/.509, but was a 22-year-old defensively challenged Cal Leaguer who struck out over once a game. There are too many indictments there.

Brett Lawrie, 2B, Brewers (AA)—I give Lawrie lots of credit for hanging in at Double-A at age 20. Still, .285/.346/.451 isn’t earth-shattering, and he isn’t considered much of a defender. He has yet to hit .300 or post a .350 OBP in a season, and he’s hit just 21 homers in two seasons while getting caught far too often on the bases. He projects as a nice all-around player, and you have to like his ability to hang in with Southern League pitchers at such a young age, but he reminds me a bit of a middle-infield version of Brett Wallace, a guy whose hype seems to exceed both his tools and his stats.

Jeff Locke, LHP, Pirates (AA)—Locke is similar to Hand—he’s a lefty who turned in a very solid performance and projects to be a third starter. Locke posted a whopping 139/26 K/BB across two levels, but at 22, he wasn’t especially young for a prospect splitting the year between the FSL and Eastern League. Like Hand, Locke isn’t likely to be a star, but could turn into a very solid starting pitcher.

Joe Mahoney, 1B, Orioles (AA)—A huge first baseman who makes a shocking amount of contact for his size, Mahoney hit .319/.378/.545 in Double-A at age 23 and even chipped in eight steals. Still, he doesn’t have a long history of hitting for much power and isn’t the youngest of guys. He’s a very intriguing sleeper, but 52 strong games in Double-A don’t make him a top 100 prospect by themselves.

Jake Marisnick, OF, Blue Jays (Low-A)—An undoubtedly toolsy outfielder, Marisnick turned in a strong performance in Rookie ball before slipping up some in Low-A, which was enough to keep him off the top 100. He stole 23 bases in 69 games and also ripped 20 doubles, but Low-A righties overmatched him. He’s young enough to still deliver on his good potential.

Tyler Matzek, LHP, Rockies (Low-A)—I love Matzek’s stuff, particularly for a 19-year-old, but an 88/62 K/BB in 89 1/3 innings is troubling. The 62 walks, in particular, need to come way down, and he didn’t improve in that area at all as the season wore on. Matzek has ace potential, but the numbers right now are so far removed from that (2.92 ERA notwithstanding) that I’m concerned.

Angel Morales, OF, Twins (High-A)—Morales held his own at age 20 across two A-ball levels, and has a lot of tools, but like Lawrie, his stats don’t really jump out at you, particularly a .349 slugging percentage in High-A. He also struck out over once per game. Essentially, he’s in a similar spot as Marisnick, except he’s a level higher and a year older.

Brett Oberholtzer, LHP, Braves (High-A)—Another one of these mid-rotation lefty types, Oberholtzer walked just 18 batters in 112 2/3 High-A innings while striking out 107, and he was pretty young for the level. He’s not really a power pitcher, though, so you have to wonder if he can keep the strikeouts up, which is why he projects as more of a mid-rotation guy than an ace.

Rafael Ortega, OF, Rockies (Rookie)—A .363/.416/.509 line is extremely impressive, and Ortega chipped in 22 steals in 69 games. He falls into a similar boat as Ceciliani, though—with 42 strikeouts, there’s no way he’s going to keep hitting above .350 like this, which makes him more of a .300/.350/.450 player with good speed and defense. At age 19, that’s nice, and he’s certainly a sleeper, but not a top 100 guy.

Ryan Ortiz, C, Athletics (High-A)—Ortiz missed a lot of the year with injury problems, but managed to hit .277/.394/.479 when he was on the field. Not bad for a 22-year-old catcher, especially one who throws out over 30% of opposing basestealers consistently. However, it’s the Cal League (although he does play at the closest thing to a pitcher’s park in the league), and Ortiz is a 22-year-old who didn’t crack a .900 OPS. The injury problems also aren’t exactly good. He could certainly be a big league starter, but isn’t a top 100 guy.

Jarrod Parker, RHP, Diamondbacks—Falls in the same boat as Crosby, since he missed all of 2010 after arm surgery. He was 66th on my list last year, so if he’s healthy, he should be good.

Brad Peacock, RHP, Nationals (AA)—Peacock was dominant in High-A (118/23 K/BB in 103 innings), but saw his performance crumble in Double-A (30/22 K/BB in 38 innings. The deterioration in his command is a big issue, as he really can’t afford to be walking guys. He’s a nice prospect, but that’s enough of a warning flag, along with stuff that’s decent but not exceptional, to keep him off the top 100.

Carlos Perez, C, Blue Jays (Short-season-A)—One of the easiest guys to dismiss from my list, Perez is a catcher with nice plate discipline and a good arm, but he hit .298/.396/.438 and had some passed-ball issues, so he’s not really a knockout prospect. He’s more of a nice sleeper.

Cord Phelps, 2B, Indians (AAA)—Hit .317/.386/.506 in AAA at age 23, which is nice, particularly in combination with his solid defense. However, Phelps doesn’t walk all that much, doesn’t hit too many homers, and didn’t play very well in Double-A early in the year. I feel confident in saying he could be a well-above-average second-base starter, but there’s not enough about him that stands out to quite get him into the top 100.

Neil Ramirez, RHP, Rangers (Low-A)—Ramirez struck out a batter per inning in Low-A and generally threw strikes, but he’s another one of these guys with good-not-great numbers across the board, and at age 21, it’s not like he was way young for the level. Yet another third-starter type who just misses the cut.

Matt Rizzotti, 1B, Phillies (AAA)—Just killed FSL and Eastern League pitching, but hit a wall in Triple-A, batting just .200/.308/.267 in 17 late-season games. That, his age (24), poor defense, and uninteresting pre-2010 performance keep him off the list, but Rizzotti’s .343/.430/.555 line across three levels this year was still very good.

Enny Romero, LHP, Rays (Short-season-A)—Had a tremendous year down in Rookie ball, with 72 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 69 innings before throwing five one-hit innings in a one-start audition in the NYPL. At 19, it was nice—but there’s just not enough of a track record here for Romero to quite make it on the list.

Cody Scarpetta, RHP, Brewers (High-A)—Gosh, Brewers fans probably hate me for leaving both Lawrie and Scarpetta off, but you can’t please all the people all the time. I actually really like Scarpetta, who whiffed 142 batters in 128 innings this year, but he also walked 67, and there always seem to be rumblings about his conditioning and injury issues. He’s got a chance to be a #2 someday, but there’s quite a bit he’ll need to do to get to that level.

Kyle Seager, 2B, Mariners (High-A)—Seager’s yet another guy with an otherworldly batting average in spite of racking up a few K’s, which is the sort of thing that can happen when you play half your games in High Desert, but not when you play in Safeco Field. He’s a nice high-average hitter with some gap pop, but doesn’t help himself on the bases or in the field. He could wind up as a nice starter in the Kelly Johnson mold, but he could also turn into Tug Hulett, and he has very little chance of becoming an All-Star.

Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals (Rookie)—Hit .322 but struck out 41 times in 53 games, walking just 12. You know the drill. Since he was just 18 and flashed a good power-speed combo (.526 slugging, eight steals), Taveras is a really intriguing sleeper, though.

Matt Thompson, RHP, Rangers (Low-A)—Like his teammate Ramirez, Thompson struck out right around a batter per inning while walking very few men, projecting as a third starter. He’s a bit younger than Ramirez, and has better command, but lacks Ramirez’s power repertoire, so the two wind up grading out fairly similarly.

Alex Torres, LHP, Rays (AA)—Torres is statistically similar to Scarpetta, even though he throws with a different arm, is five inches shorter, and weighs nearly 100 pounds less—he uses a low-90’s heater and a bunch of sharp breaking stuff to whiff well over a batter per inning, but walks a batter every other inning, which really hurts. Again, this sort of pitcher has #2 starter potential, but could wind up being the sort of maddeningly inconsistent type that can’t seem to break out of being an itinerant back-of-the-rotation arm.

Nik Turley, LHP, Yankees (Short-season-A)—I made some bizarre choices for the top 100, but couldn’t bring myself to include Turley, a former 50th (!) round pick with a pedestrian 4.38 ERA and 47/29 K/BB in short-season ball at age 20 this year. I love his potential, since he throws in the low 90’s and snaps off a good curve and changeup, but I simply can’t put him on the list with such mediocre results.

Adam Warren, RHP, Yankees (AA)—The Yankees have, like, a billion pitchers on the top 100, but Warren didn’t quite make the cut. He pitched well this year, but didn’t strike out a batter per inning, and he turned 23 a couple of weeks ago, so he wasn’t very young for his levels. He was one of the tougher guys to leave off, but ultimately falls into the category of “probable #3-upside guys,” which, as you can tell by now, tended to just miss the list.

Alex Wimmers, RHP, Twins (High-A)—Went nuts on the FSL right after being drafted 25th overall and was one of the last cuts. Scouts have questioned his upside, and 15 innings isn’t really enough to get rid of those concerns, but Wimmers looks very good.

Zack Wheeler, RHP, Giants (Low-A)—Like Matzek, this high 2009 draftee just walked too many guys (38 in 58 2/3 frames) for me to think his transition to pro ball was going smoothly. Still, he didn’t allow a homer all year and whiffed 70, so he falls more into the Scarpetta/Torres category of “guys who could be impact starters but have their work cut out for them.”

Michel Ynoa, RHP, Athletics (Rookie)—I still love his upside, but he’s likely going to miss all of 2011 as well, giving him just a handful of innings in his first three years after signing. I just can’t rank that in the top 100—Ynoa’s got to prove he’s healthy and the same guy who earned a $4.25 million bonus first.

Tags: Adam Warren Adrian Cardenas Alex Torres Alex Wimmers Andrew Bellatti Angel Morales Brad Emaus Brad Hand Brad Peacock Brett Lawrie Brett Oberholtzer Carlos Perez Casey Crosby Cody Scarpetta Cord Phelps Danny Duffy Darrell Ceciliani Edwin Escobar Enny Romero Erik Komatsu Grant Green Ismael Guillon Jake Marisnick Jarrod Parker Jeff Locke Jesse Biddle Joe Benson Joe Mahoney Kyle Seager Marc Krauss Matt Carpenter Matt Rizzotti Matt Thompson Michel Ynoa Neil Ramirez Nick Barnese Nik Turley Oscar Taveras Rafael Ortega Ryan Kalish Ryan Ortiz Tim Collins Tyler Matzek Yonder Alonso Zack Wheeler