The Top 100 MLB Prospects 2010: #20-11

Getting close now, huh?

It’s time for the ninth installment of my Top 100 Prospect List, as we look at ten guys who could develop into superstars. There’s lots of diversity in this set of ten, including three catchers, several upper-minors and MLB players, and three guys who haven’t even seen full-season ball yet.

Let’s get it rollin’!

Previous installments in the Top 100 Prospect List:

Intro/Honorable mentions (please read this if you haven’t)
#100-91
#90-81
#80-71
#70-61
#60-51
#50-41
#40-31
#30-21

#20.) Jesus Montero, C, Yankees (AAA)—Montero failed to replicate his stunning 2009 numbers after moving up a level to Triple-A, but shook off a slow start to hit a more-than-respectable .289/.353/.517 at age 20. He added some walks and power this year, which is a good sign. Montero is one of the best offensive prospects in the minors, and his MLB-readiness also helps him out on a list like this. However, it’s well-documented that he’s not a plus defensively and may need to move to first base or DH, where his bat would be less spectacular. After all, only 14 batters in all of MLB get to DH on any given night, so you better hit if you’re going to stick there. Montero should hit plenty well enough to play anywhere, but the looming defensive issues, combined with his slightly worse 2010 production, drop him out of the top ten, where I had him last year.

#19.) Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (AAA)—Belt was a 2009 5th-rounder who was looked at as a sort of plus defensive 1B Doug Mientkiewicz type. After one year, it looks like he pairs that excellent defense with one of the most potent bats in the minors. Dropped straight into High-A for his first pro experience, the 22-year-old hit a whopping .381/.491/.626. Double-A pitching also struggled with Belt, who promptly hit .337/.413/.623 after being promoted. He continued to hit well in Triple-A late in the year (.229/.393/.563). With his 23-homer season, Belt showed a lot more pop than anyone expected, and he took a ton of walks while keeping his strikeout level reasonable. He even stole 22 bases. Belt could be the rare first baseman who contributes in all facets of the game—think Derrek Lee in his prime.

#18.) Gary Sanchez, C, Yankees (Short-season-A)—At the tender age of 17 (even this late in the offseason, he hasn’t turned 18 yet), Sanchez bashed his way to a .353/.419/.597 line in Rookie ball, and even turned in a respectable .278/.322/.426 in a late New-York/Penn League cameo. While he’s much less proven than Montero due to his age and level, Sanchez is considered by far the superior defender, and there’s little doubt he’ll stick behind the plate long-term. It’s a bit of a risk to rank such a young and unproven player this high, but Sanchez has a huge ceiling.

#17.) Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds (AAA)—A high 2007 first-rounder, Mesoraco was pretty much written off by the beginning of the 2010 season, as he had just hit .228/.311/.381 in High-A, and had never slugged above .400 or posted a .312+ OBP in his three-year career. What a difference a year makes, I suppose. Mesoraco improved his conditioning and got in better shape, and voila, he suddenly looked like the tools-laden stud he was supposed to be, showing good catcher defense and bashing his way through three levels much like Belt. Mesoraco gets the slight edge over Belt here because he plays a tougher position.

#16.) Miguel Sano, 3B, Twins (Rookie)—Sano, like Sanchez, is so young that just about anything can go wrong with him. Still, he was given a huge bonus as the crown jewel of the 2009 Latin American market, and promptly went out and hit .307/.379/.491 across two Rookie ball levels just a month after turning 17. Sano has light-tower power, but does need to refine his approach, which is still fairly raw. Still, he’s well ahead of his age—consider that he could struggle for five straight years and still be just 22—and his ceiling is enormous.

#15.) Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals (AA)—I jumped on the “Hosmer is overrated!” bandwagon right as he was drafted, and felt very good about that as he struggled to a .241/.334/.361 line last year. Whoops—he turned around and bashed the lights out in 2010, hitting .354/.429/.545 in High-A and .313/.365/.615 in Double-A, all before turning 21. Hosmer tightened up his strike zone a lot this year—how’s 66 K in 137 G for a power guy?—but still ripped 72 extra-base hits and showed an increased home run stroke in Double-A. He’s also a solid defender at first, and should be a true offensive force.

#14.) Mike Minor, LHP, Braves—Another guy who I never believed in is Minor, who a lot of people wrote off as an overdraft thanks to mediocre stuff. Whoops again—by the end of his first full pro season, the lefty had racked up 40 2/3 impressive big league innings, striking out 43 while walking only 11. His minor league stats were just as good as you’d think for someone with that sort of big league production, but most importantly, Minor showed off more stuff than expected, with a fastball that averages about 91 and a killer changeup. There’s a bit of Johan Santana here, and Minor is now object lesson #2 (the first being Ricky Romero) that maybe we shouldn’t completely write off polished college pitchers with “mediocre stuff” before we actually see what they can do.

#13.) Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (AAA)—Lots jumped off the Moustakas bandwagon after a putrid .250/.297/.421 2009, but he came out swinging in 2010, hitting .347/.413/.687 in Double-A. His old plate discipline issues resurfaced in Triple-A, but he’s already shown he can rebound from that, and it’s hard to call his .564 Omaha slugging percentage a disappointment. Moustakas’ 36-homer output was an emphatic reminder as to why he was 2007’s 2nd overall pick—he could be an MVP-level star.

#12.) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pirates—Like Moustakas, Taillon’s another #2 overall pick—it’s just that he’s from this season. The huge high school righty has yet to make his pro debut, but he’s got a bigtime fastball and two stellar breaking pitches. Were it not for mega-prospect Bryce Harper, Taillon could have easily been the first overall pick thanks to his true ace-level ceiling.

#11.) Jason Knapp, RHP, Indians (Low-A)—I ranked Knapp sixth last year, so while you won’t see him this high on most lists, this is actually a demotion from me. It comes mainly because Knapp missed large part of 2010 due to shoulder trouble, and when he did get back, he was pitching in Low-A, the same level he dominated last year, so the big righty didn’t tell us anything new about his abilities. Still, though, Knapp has a fastball/curve/changeup combo that just about anyone would envy, particularly the heater, which runs up near triple digits on occasion. He’ll still be just 20 in 2011, starting the season out in High-A, so it’s not like he isn’t ahead of the age curve despite the injuries. Knapp showed himself to be in fine form when he did get on the hill last year, striking out a whopping 29 batters in 16 Low-A innings late in the season. Few pitchers have more upside.

Topics: Brandon Belt, Devin Mesoraco, Eric Hosmer, Gary Sanchez, Jameson Taillon, Jason Knapp, Jesus Montero, Miguel Sano, Mike Minor, Mike Moustakas

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  • Slade

    Hard to believe you would rank Sanchez ahead of Montero considering he’s only 17 and has just 196 PAs as a pro. Although Jesus’ numbers were down overall he was one of the youngest guys in AAA and posted .351/.396/.684 after the all-star break. Since I’m a Yankee Homer I love them both, but just wanted to point that out.

    Nevertheless I enjoy the blog keep up the good work.

  • John

    I may be a Yankee Homer, but Montero is definetly not 20th. Like the blogger ahead of me said, his second half numbers were phenomenal. He’s been called the best offensive prospect in the minors on many occasions, and as exciting as Gary Sanchez is, I’ve never seen him ranked ahead of montero before. In the Yankee’s system, he’s always ranked 2nd to 5th. I know it’s not easy to balance 100 prospects and I really don’t know that much about orspects outside of the Yanks. But I don’t see how he dropped from 4th last year to 20th, because I don’t think his value really went down at all.

  • ryan

    I still can’t believe you ranked this year’s #2 pick 59 slots higher than last year’s #2 pick, especially when you consider:

    a. Taillon has never pitched an inning of pro ball

    b. He’s 18

    c. He’s the most volatile commodity in baseball, a high school pitching prospect.

    d. Ackley has looked quite spectacular since May.

    e. Ackley is major league ready.

    You must think Jack Z is a friggin’ idiot.

    Other than that, I am enjoying learning about the prospects you favor. Nice work!

  • nick

    1. YOU HAVE JESUS MONTERO RANKED 20TH.
    2. GARY SANCHEZ IS AHEAD OF HIM

    TIME TO FIND A NEW SPORT TO FOLLOW…..OR IS THIS A COMEDY ACT?

    • Wally Fish

      Maybe Nathaniel’s rankings have something to do with the fact that as a ML catcher (as in can actually play the position) Sanchez is more legit. He profiles to have similar power to Montero but also profiles to be a plus defender.

      I suppose you think Baseball America should start following a different sport too because they recently wrote this about Sanchez. “Sanchez has a higher ceiling than anyone in the organization, including Jesus Montero.”

      The only reason you won’t find him ranked ahead of Montero on most lists is that he is further away from the majors.

      • Slade

        I understand Sanchez may have a brighter future behind the plate than Jesus, but being closer to the Majors has to count for something. Just like the guy above me said

        “The only reason you won’t find him ranked ahead of Montero on most lists is that he is further away from the majors”

        That’s bc most lists weigh heavily on that. If Sanchez is this highly regarded wouldn’t the M’s have taken him instead of Montero for Cliff Lee last year?? I know the Yanks would’ve loved that trade. They would’ve done that trade every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

        • Wally Fish

          Slade, you’re absolutely right that most lists put a lot of stock into how close a prospect is to the majors. But not all of them do.

          We all view the various prospects differently, and in the prospect ranking-profiling game bucking the trend or consensus isn’t necessarily a bad thing (as long as you believe in and stand by your rankings and assessments). When you do a top-100 you’re going to have your share of hits and misses no matter what methodology you use.

          I myself prefer Sanchez as a prospect over Montero, but I tend to favor overall talent and upside regardless of what level they’ve reached in the minors. I also prefer guys who can be an asset defensively over those who likely won’t be.

          Regardless of where they are ranked, on this site or anywhere else, the Yankees are in very good shape with both guys in their system.

          • Slade

            I guess agree to disagree… But remember you are taking a kid that is not even 18 yet and has less than 200 professional ABs over a guy who compares pretty strongly to Mike Piazza. Montero is closer and has a much shorter distance to achieve his potential.

            I hope they both turnout for the Yankee fans.

          • Wally Fish

            You are right that Montero is closer and is a safer bet to turn into the player he’s projected to be. Again it is all a matter of which characteristics or traits you assign priority to. My guess is that they are both going to be excellent ML players.

            Since you are a Yankees fan, I’m curious to know where you’d rank Sanchez and Montero (approximately) if you were doing a top-100 list of your own.

          • Slade

            I’ll be honest I don’t know enough about the prospects for other teams to do a top-100. If I did a top 5 for the Yankees it would be:

            Montero
            Manny Banuelos
            Sanchez
            Brackman
            Bettances

            You could use my own argument from above against me and ask why Sanchez is soo high. IMO, Even as a 17 yr old Sanchez is a better bet to me that Brack or Bettances bc of injury concerns and the risk with tall power pitchers.

            I’m not much of a Romine guy. I think he will be a fringey borderline everyday player at catcher, I guess he would be #6.