The Top 100 MLB Prospects 2010: #10-1

At long last, we’ve reached the culmination of my Top 100 Prospects List of 2010. I hope you enjoy this installment, and that you’ve enjoyed the others up to this point.

And without further ado…

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
#20-11

#10.) Matt Moore, LHP, Rays (High-A)—Moore has just about everything you’d want in a pitcher: he’s a durable lefthander with velocity and two plus offspeed offerings. Astonishingly, even with all that going for him from a scouting perspective, he manages to post even more impressive stats than one would expect, as he continues to strike out approximately 13 batters per nine innings at every level; he hasn’t dropped off at all as he’s moved up the ladder. After struggling to throw strikes in 2009, he reined in his control this year. Moore may let us know what a young Barry Zito could have done if he could hit the mid-90’s.

#9.) Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals—I’m taking the slightly conservative route with the much-hyped first overall pick in last year’s draft, waiting to see him crush minor league pitching before elevating him into the top five. There’s little question his raw power is second to none, and Harper should be able to contribute some of everything else. How much non-power-based production he’s able to provide will determine if he’ll be a true MVP-level hitter or just an Adam Dunn-esque masher.

#8.) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays—Hellickson gets the nod over Moore for two reasons: 1) he’s already succeeded in the majors and 2) his polish makes him more of a sure bet regardless of level. Given his nearly-unmatched command, it’s easy to forget Hellickson’s got some nasty stuff, too, headlined by a huge changeup and a fastball in the 91-94 range. He should be an ace-level pitcher for the next decade, barring injury.

#7.) Wil Myers, C, Royals (High-A)—Myers currently has all sorts of trouble catching the baseball, but he’s got a good arm and good athleticism for a catcher, so scouts remain open to the possibility he can catch. Everyone knows he’ll hit—he just mashed .346/.453/.512 in a pitcher’s park in a pitcher’s league against competition usually three or four years older than he. Even if he can’t stick at catcher, Myers has Harper-esque upside as an outfielder, and if he can stay behind the plate, greatness seems inevitable.

#6.) Manny Banuelos, LHP, Yankees (AA)—I ranked this little lefty twelfth last year when seemingly nobody was on him, and he’s done nothing to disprove my confidence. Banuelos shook off an April appendectomy to add four K/9 in High-A, posting a simply ridiculous 1.71 FIP at age 19. He then capped off the year with three impressive Double-A starts. He’s not physically imposing, but Banuelos is no soft-tosser, touching 95 and mixing in a devastating change and solid curve. Injuries are always a concern with sub-6’0” pitchers, but if Banuelos can keep his arm together, he should be a great one.

#5.) Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers (AA)—Let’s not overreact to Perez’s 5.96 ERA this year—he was 19 in Double-A, his FIP (at 4.24) was far better, and he still managed to strike out over a batter per inning. Perez’s control did suffer, but his high BABIP and low strand rate were largely out of his control, so it’s tough to dock the guy points for that. Perez is similar to Banuelos, except he’s slightly bigger and his curve, not his changeup, is his go-to offspeed pitch. He ranks above Banuelos because he was pitching a level higher at the same age. They’re the two best lefty prospects in the minors right now.

#4.) Michael Pineda, RHP, Mariners (AAA)—Pineda’s another guy who cracked my top 20 and virtually nobody else’s last year, but he finally stayed healthy and continued to show Hellickson-esque command in 2010, rocketing him up prospect lists. Who wouldn’t take a guy with a 76/17 K/BB in 62 1/3 Triple-A innings at age 21? Pineda’s a huge, beefy righty who has less in the way of power stuff than one would think, with a low-90’s fastball, an out-pitch changeup, and iffy breaking stuff, but that’s plenty if you know where the ball’s going every time—just ask 1990’s Braves fans.

#3.) Jordan Lyles, RHP, Astros (AAA)—Pitching in Triple-A at age 19 is a remarkable feat. Lyles got there in August and acquitted himself just fine in six starts after tearing up the Texas League. He lacks the big strikeout numbers of the other pitchers here in the top ten, but he’s been on such an accelerated timetable that it’s tough to know what his talent level is relative to everyone around him. Lyles has five or six good pitches in his arsenal already, so once he settles into the majors and figures out what works there, we could see him add some whiffs.

#2.) Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves (AA)—Teheran’s in that same class of 1991-born pitchers who reached Double-A in 2010, along with Banuelos and Perez, and he beats out both of them here because he’s better on paper than Banuelos and he posted far better numbers than Perez in 2010. He’s armed with easy mid-90’s heat and a deadly changeup, and his curveball is making rapid strides as well. High-A hitters had absolutely no chance, and although his control took a Perez-esque slide in Double-A, he still managed a 3.30 FIP at that level. Teheran’s fairly obviously the #1 pitching prospect in baseball—it’s not really that close.

#1.) Mike Trout, OF, Angels (High-A)—Trout hit .362/.454/.526 with 45 steals in 81 games in full-season ball at age 18. That’s pretty much all I need to say about him. Promoted to High-A before his 19th birthday, Trout continued to hit well, and if he keeps hitting like this he could see the majors before he turns 20 on August 7. Trout has just about every skill you’d want—he plays a good center field, hits for excellent averages, has extremely good speed, and possesses plus power potential. He even has an advanced batting eye. There’s no better prospect in baseball right now.

OTHER NOTES:

I realize I left Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown off the list, which seems outrageous at face value—many evaluators have him ahead of Trout. My omission of Brown has nothing to do with me disliking him (I don’t); rather, it’s a technicality. I made this list in August, at the end of the minor league season, so I left Brown off, thinking he would get the requisite number of major league at-bats to lose his prospect status since he was promoted to Philadelphia in midsummer. Ultimately, he didn’t reach that threshold, so he’s still eligible. Had I known that, I probably would have put him third, between Teheran and Lyles.

On a more apologetic note, I’m really wondering how I didn’t put Jacob Turner on the list. The young Tigers righty has all the attributes I’m looking for—young for his level, plus stats, plus stuff—so when I happened across his numbers the other day doing research, I was astonished I didn’t consider him. I’m not sure what happened there; perhaps I simply missed taking note of his name when looking through the giant database that is minorleaguebaseball.com. So, apologies to Tigers fans on that one—Turner definitely has ace potential and is an impressive prospect.

I don’t think I made any other unintentional omissions like that, but if you’re wondering about anyone else, feel free to let me know.

Tags: Bryce Harper Jeremy Hellickson Jordan Lyles Julio Teheran Manny Banuelos Martin Perez Matt Moore Michael Pineda Mike Trout Wil Myers

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