The 2011 Seasons of the Top 10 Prospects

Late last year, I unveiled my post-2010 Top 100 Prospects list.

Obviously, my list isn’t the definitive list of prospects, especially since it’s now nine months old, but I thought that now’s a good time to check back on how the top ten players from it are performing. Have any of them faltered?

#1.) Mike Trout, Angels CF

Trout certainly seems to be justifying his #1 ranking. Just 19, he’s hitting .327/.415/.614 in Double-A and looks like he’s nearly ready for MLB. The striking thing with Trout’s game is that he has no weaknesses–his K/BB (18/14) is solid, so he makes good contact and takes walks, he’s got power, he runs well, and plays an important defensive position.

#2.) Julio Teheran, Braves RHP

I wrote about Teheran’s MLB debut last week; while he wasn’t dominant, he showed all kinds of fantastic stuff, and is a few refinements away from MLB success at age 20. With a 1.80 ERA, no homers allowed, and a 25/8 K/BB in 30 Triple-A innings, he’s close to mastery of the minors, and if a long-term rotation spot opens up at some point in 2011, I wouldn’t be surprised if he filled it admirably.

#3.) Jordan Lyles, Astros RHP

I caught plenty of flak for having Lyles up here, and it looked bad after he struggled for the first three starts of the season. However, he then followed that up with a three-start stretch with the following line: 19 IP, 13 H, 2 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 20 K. His last start was a step in the wrong direction, but Lyles, like Teheran, is a 20-year-old in Triple-A. And for all the talk of him not having much “stuff,” his strikeout rate is very close to Teheran’s as well (31 in 38 IP, compared to 25 in 30 IP for Teheran). He could be ready at midseason.

#4.) Michael Pineda, Mariners RHP

Pineda’s easily the hardest-throwing starting pitcher (non-DL division) in the majors, with a fastball that averages a full mph higher than second-place Justin Verlander. AL hitters haven’t been able to catch up to the heater with any consistency this year, as the 22-year-old rookie has a well-deserved 2.84 ERA and has struck out over a batter per inning. Long considered his worst pitch, his slider has been very effective as well. Pineda relentlessly pounds the zone, too, getting first-pitch strikes 73.7% percent of the time. Get ahead of batters this often with stuff this good, and the rest will take care of itself.

#5.) Martin Perez, Rangers LHP

Perez’s moderately disappointing 2010 only bumped him from 3rd to 5th on my list, as I was banking on a rebound in 2011–after all, he spent 2010 as a 19-year-old in Double-A. Repeating the level has helped a lot (2.73 ERA). While he still walks too many batters (18 in 33 IP), Perez gets strikeouts (32) and groundballs (1.81 G/F ratio), and his three plus pitches give him a chance to be an ace. The fact that he’s still walking this many batters after 35 Double-A starts, though, is concerning–if he doesn’t show improvement there soon, his stock will fall.

#6.) Manny Banuelos, Yankees LHP

Like Perez, Banuelos is a 20-year-old lefty in Double-A whose excellent ERA (2.77) has belied a mediocre K/BB (20/13 in 26 IP). He’s being brought along slowly, though, as he had blister issues to open the season, and he hasn’t been allowed to surpass five innings in any of his starts, none of which have seen him allow over three earned runs. Perhaps his stock is falling a bit as well, but unlike Perez, Banuelos was brilliant last year and has the injury excuse for 2011, so he gets a mulligan for his erratic command thus far.

#7.) Wil Myers, Royals OF

Yet another 20-year-old in Double-A, Myers has been fine (.284/.357/.392), but his performance certainly doesn’t reflect his #7 ranking, and is a huge drop from the .346/.453/.512 line he had in High-A last year. Furthermore, his move from catcher to outfield diminishes his defensive value (I ranked him before the position switch was announced last year), so his stock is probably down somewhat. Myers’ K/BB has improved from April to May, however, and he remains an excellent prospect–we probably just need to re-calibrate expectations once we have his Double-A performance and defensive abilities in perspective.

#8.) Jeremy Hellickson, Rays RHP

Like Pineda, Hellickson’s in the majors. Unlike Pineda, he hasn’t been particularly stellar, with a 4.38 FIP and 27/17 K/BB. Hellickson’s velocity is down from 2010, and his heater’s been hit around; he also has seen his signature command take a nosedive, walking over four batters per nine innings. Hellickson, unlike the seven prospects above him on this list, isn’t on that young of a track–he’s just getting his first significant experience at age 24. If he can’t adjust, he may just wind up being a third starter, which would be disappointing.

#9.) Bryce Harper, Nationals OF

What can I say that hasn’t been said?

#10.) Matt Moore, Rays LHP

Moore isn’t as young for Double-A as the other arms above him, but he isn’t 22 yet, and he’s tearing up the level more than the others, with a 48/10 K/BB in 35 1/3 frames. He’s allowed six homers after allowing just seven in all of 2010, but that’s probably just statistical noise. Moore remains one of the top pitching prospects in the minors, and may be the top lefty prospect in all of baseball right now.

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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