WTNYJuly 31, 2004
Dealt
By Bryan Smith

Below are the twenty prospects included in deals during the last two days. I'll have more tomorrow on the lot, but I wanted to get their names, and new teams, out there first:

- Bartolome Fortunato (Mets)
- Scott Kazmir (Devil Rays)
- Joselo Diaz (Devil Rays)
- Alfredo Simon (San Francisco)
- Jon Huber (Mariners)
- Justin Huber (Royals)
- Matt Peterson (Pittsburgh)
- Jeff Keppinger (New York)
- Josh Hancock (Reds)
- Anderson Machado (Reds)
- Brad Correll (Phillies)
- Matt Merricks (Dodgers)
- Travis Chick (Padres)
- Koyie Hill (Diamondbacks)
- Bill Murphy (Diamondbacks)
- Reggie Abercrombie (Diamondbacks)
- Henri Stanley (Dodgers)
- Justin Jones (Twins)
- Brendan Harris (Expos)
- Matt Murton (Cubs)

I still think the Braves have the game's best farm system, but my guess is I'd put the D-Rays at #2. Check back tomorrow for more.

WTNYJuly 28, 2004
Tidying Up
By Bryan Smith

In case you missed it, the product of all my prospect rankings is in the post below. I haven’t responded to any comments in the last week, all in an effort for this article. Now, it will return to the old format, when I try to respond to each comment quickly and thoroughly. Thank you very much for your input throughout my rankings, my readers were the sole reason to go from ranking 40 prospect to 100.

Today’s article is somewhat of a notes piece, with the focus on answering the questions that have recently been posed to me. After that, I will give updates on a few graduated prospects and a look back to March. But first, time for some...

Reader Mail Part 1: When 100 is Just Too Small

Richie asks: Hey great job on the rankings, just wanted to know where Matt Peterson of the Mets would rank. He's been pretty good at AA, dominating at times but wild others.

Matt Peterson is a very interesting case, but I can assure you that he would fall into the top 110. The former Big 10 hurler has met every challenge the Mets have posed, with one noticeable flaw: not a ton of strikeouts. Yes, I know studies have discounted the importance of the minor league K/9 rate, but if most of the prospects on this list are better, it’s hard to ignore.

But, let me say, if Peterson keeps the ERA down and the strikeouts low, my opinion of him may change. There have been many pitchers succeed without a lot of K’s, it is just too early to judge if Matt Peterson can be one of those guys. What is more worrisome than the K/9 is the K/BB, sitting at a pedestrian 2.00 this season. Also, after giving up only 4 HR in 2003, Peterson has allowed 11 in just over 100 innings this season. Remember, it’s the peripherals, not the ERA that makes a prospect. But, don’t rule Peterson out as a top prospect, I’m sure not.

JH asks: Ok, now I see that you consciously left Lopez off the list...so I guess my question now would be why?

Followed by Paul: I have to agree that the continued omission of Jose Lopez appears just obstinate at this point. Perhaps some explanation on your prospect philosophy would help (only high upside). It seems to me that Lopez is a near lock to have a starting job next year in Seattle and should be a regular for a long time to come. I'll grant that he doesn't project as a certain All-Star, but he does fairly project to be an above-average major league infielder and that should place him safely above the likes of Mark "call me Randa, if I'm lucky" Teahen.

If I’ll admit anything, I’ll say that Jose Lopez is a better middle infield prospect than Alberto Callaspo, who I mistakenly ranked 100. Jose’s omission was the product of being a bit short-sighted, something I’ll try to improve with each ranking. But, in my opinion, Jose Lopez is no better than the #100.

Why is that? Jose Lopez is a third basemen, as his defense has proved throughout the minors. And while his offensive power numbers are nice, I just don’t know if he projects to hit enough for a third basemen. Purely contact hitters can fall victim to some pretty bad luck, and I’m not convinced Lopez isn’t the hitter we saw last year. His patience is ever-so-slowly improving, but a .331 OBP still isn’t acceptable. You have to love the power, though ever reaching his current .496 slugging isn’t likely in the Majors, especially at Safeco.

I’m sorry Lopez fans, I just don’t see the potential here. Maybe another Jose Valentin, or just another bench player with some pop.

Reader Mail Part 2: On the Verge

Fabian comments: ...It's nice to see Melky Cabrera get some attention. While I think he will develop more home run power, I don't think he will have that much. From the times I've seen him play he doesn't seem to have the body-type or swing of a guy who will give you very good home run numbers. I think he will be a very good leadoff or number two hitter though. Also, the reason I think you don't hear him hyped is that the entire Yankee OF will have their contracts run out over the next two years so he might be the rare Yankee prospect to get a shot.

First, it will be smart to mention that I have not seen Melky Cabrera play baseball. In fact, there is a very minute number of prospects I have witnessed, so my opinion is strictly based off word of mouth and statistics. With that being said, I do think that Cabrera may develop power in the upcoming seasons.

As an 19-year-old in 1987, Bernie Williams split an injury-shortened season between the short-season NYPL and the Florida State League. Though his season only amassed 164 at-bats, Williams only had 7 extra-base hits, all doubles. His age 20 season, 1988, was spent in the A-ball Carolina League, where Williams hit .335. His Isolated Power jumped from about .042 in 1987 to .152 in 1988. While his overall numbers would take a hit in 1989 (AA and AAA), Williams would again see a rise in Isolated Power. Finally, in 1992, Williams would graduate to the Major Leagues with a career .173 ISO.

Cabrera, also a switch-hitting centerfielder, has split this season between the Midwest League and the Florida State League. Cabrera hit better in the Midwest League, but the FSL has given Cabrera a boost in Isolated Power. Nineteen extra-base hits in 171 low-A at-bats gave Cabrera a .462 slugging, in other words a .129 ISO. Though he’s hitting only .295 with Tampa, Cabrera’s .438 ISO is a Williams-esque .148.

But, there are differences between the two. Williams stole at least 18 bases in every minor league season, while Cabrera only has 10 this season. Bernie’s plate discipline was superb in the minors, where he finished with 412 walks against 454 strikeouts. This is good for a 1.10 K/BB rate, while Cabrera’s 54/31 mark this season works out to be 1.74.

I really like the Cabrera-Williams comparison, and will keep an eye on that in the coming years. Fabian is right, the Yankees will have some holes in the outfield coming soon, and as of right now I expect Melky Cabrera to fill one of them.

OFF asks: Probably not top 100 worthy, but I was wondering what do you think of Met third-baseman Aarom Baldiris [307/385/389]? Lack of power is a concern but I fully expect him to go crazy next year once he reaches the hitter-friendly EL. Obviously he'll have to switch positions if he's ever going to play in Flushing, but a move to 2b can only help his prospect status. I may be alone on this one, but I think he could be Fonzie-lite.

First of all, you read it right, the kid’s name is Aarom Baldiris. As Avkash Patel pointed out to me, the third basemen announced it before this season, though it was news to me last week.

After breaking out of his shell a bit last year in the Sally League, Baldiris is up to his old tricks with a frustrating .082 Isolated Slugging Percentage. His patience and contact skills are superb, but a third basemen simply can’t be successful with a SLG below .400. OFF pointed out Edgardo Alfonzo, who I’m not convinced is a great comp to Baldiris.

Alfonzo’s Florida State League season came in 1998, when Fonzie was just 19 years old. The then-third basemen hit .294 that season, and walked 57 times in 494 at-bats. His low .409 slugging was a bit concerning considering his position, but there had been worse seen than a .115 ISO. In 1994, Alfonzo would hit .293 in the Eastern League, though his .460 slugging would give him a huge boost in ISO. His fantastic ’94 season would earn him an everyday job in 1995, at the tender age of 21.

Baldiris is 21-years-old right now. He’s not playing everyday in the Majors, instead he’s in the midst of Fonzie’s age 19 season. But despite being two years older, his ISO is about 26% less than Alfonzo’s was in the FSL. His plate discipline is just as good, but his defense and speed weren’t like Edgardo’s in his hey-day. The idea of moving a third basemen with 17 errors in 94 games to the middle infield does not sound like a good one, even if Baldiris can’t hit enough to stay at the hot corner.

Baldiris is blocked by two great players, Wright and Reyes, which should put him on the trade block for the Mets. He fits in somewhere behind Matt Peterson as the Mets’ ninth or tenth prospect, which gives him decent value. I think he’ll end up in a different organization, though I don’t think Baldiris will ever be anything special.

Reader Mail Part 3: East Coast Depth (or lack thereof)

Dave responds: So, if I remember correctly, that's two Red Sox in the entire list of 100, right? And they're not even quality prospects? Brendan Moss was low 70s, as I recall. Sigh. At least we have Youkilis. Yay.

You recall correctly Dave, as Brandon Moss (#70) and Abe Alvarez (#72) were the only two Red Sox prospects to make this list. Before Theo Epstein’s tenure began, the Red Sox farm system was disastrous. Dan Duquette loved trading from the minors, and Mike Port did not have the time to fix the problem. Bringing in a philosophy similar to that in Moneyball, though not as extreme, Theo has helped to slowly build was might be a respected farm system.

After Youkilis, there really isn’t a lot in the higher levels. Readers of this site know how much I like Alvarez, who earned a spot start against Baltimore last week. And despite struggles this year, it’s a little early to rule out Kelly Shoppach as a prospect. Brandon Moss was mentioned, and his status is rising steadily as his great numbers stay consistent. Another good low-level prospect is Hanley Ramirez, who has put himself back on the map after doing well in short-season ball. Finally, Sally Leaguer Jeremy West has pretty good numbers at the first base position, and should be Moss’ Bash Brother for the next few years.

Furthermore, the Red Sox have had some great output from their draft, as well as their most recent Caribbean signing. The club’s first three picks, Dustin Pedroia, Andrew Dobies and Tommy Hottovy have all gotten off to great starts. Pedroia, often unfairly compared to David Eckstein, is hitting .406/.486/.594 through his first 8 games. Dobies has a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings, during which he’s struck out 16 and walked one. Hottovy, a closer at Wichita State, has yet to give up a run in 10 innings this year, allowing five hits and no walks. Finally, expensive sign Luis Soto has a .261 ISO in 88 at-bats, despite concerns about his defense and plate discipline.

There is more on the way Dave, and this organization should be top 15 before too long.

OFF also asked: I was wondering what do you think of Brett Harper? He's a little bit too old for the league, but a 1.000 OPS in the FSL is pretty impressive.

A 45th round selection, Brett Harper entered the year with a career .094 ISO in 607 at-bats. The 23-year-old has broke out with St. Lucie this year, hitting .350/.440/.564 before being promoted. He’s played just five games in the Eastern League, but already has three extra-base hits.

Harper is undoubtedly a better prospect than Craig Brazell, a player that caught the eye of many Mets’ fans after last season. If AA is not too much a test, Harper can no longer be considered old for his league, and could be considered a real prospect. I would probably rank him a little over Baldiris at this point, and I think of him as a poor man’s Michael Aubrey, without the great defense.

Thanks for the questions, please leave any more in the comments. And now, it’s time for...

Ex-Prospect Updates

In today’s first edition of EPU, we will detail the rise of hitters Justin Morneau, Grady Sizemore, Alexis Rios and David Wright. Also, the poor performances of Abe Alvarez and Travis Blackley demand looks as well.

Of these six, Morneau has highest bragging rights, as his good play has led to Doug Mientkiewicz’s upcoming trade. Morneau’s 0-5 series opener against Chicago ended what had been a nine-game hitting streak, during which he had three home runs, and hit .333 in 39 at-bats. Morneau’s season numbers are up to .278/.316/.528, proving that his recall to the Major Leagues had been much overdue. The Canadian will surely not be playing in the Olympics, as the Twins have every intention to give him an everyday job in the second half. With a few more walks, Morneau will become far and away the best Twins’ hitter...he might be anyway.

After beginning his Major League career 0/4, Grady Sizemore has reached base in each of his last six games, raising his line to .294/.455/.588. The high slugging is due to a July 25 home run, when Sizemore went yard on former top prospect Zack Greinke, who demands an upcoming article himself. Grady has taken the Indians centerfield job by storm, a position he isn't likely to relinquish anytime soon.

Still looking for his first career home run is Alexis Rios, who isn’t exactly living up to the Dave Winfield comparison I gave him before the season. But the 6-6 outfielder isn’t doing too shabby, hitting .346/.384/.519 in the month of June. Alexis passed the 50-game mark over the weekend, and doesn’t appear to be looking back. The Blue Jays will give Rios no competition for playing time next year, when they expect the 23-year-old to start hitting a few more home runs.

David Wright, ranked second in my midseason list, is struggling the most of the three, hitting .167 through his first 24 at-bats. But things looked to be improving on Monday, when Wright hit his first career home run off Expos’ starter John Patterson. Wright, the youngest of the bunch, should have the slowest transition to the Majors. But, this should not prevent the Mets from trading Ty Wigginton, who saw his trade value jump with an early-July hot streak.

I already mentioned that Abe Alvarez was given a spot start last week, though I didn’t say how badly it went. Alvarez went five innings, allowing eight hits and five walks before being taken out with 95 pitches. Home runs by Miguel Tejada and Melvin Mora helped contribute to Abe’s five earned runs, but I think it’s too early for Red Sox nation to cut bait on Alvarez. He was pushed a little fast this year, though I hope Alvarez is at least allowed to give Bronson Arroyo some competition next Spring.

Travis Blackley was ranked 25th in my preliminary rankings, but his Major League pitching thus far has indicated it should be worse. Through five starts, Blackley has a 10.38 ERA, thanks to allowing eight home runs and 20 walks in 21.2 innings. I just can’t understand this, because it doesn’t correlate with what Travis has done in the past. Seattle likely won’t keep running Blackley out there, but I hope they help fix this problem before his confidence is too trashed.

Finally, a look back...

Lastly, I wanted to point a few things I wrote on March 5, in a piece entitiled “Break Out! Version 3.” In an attempt to identify potential minor league breakout candidates I wrote these tidbits...


ATLANTA: Jake Stevens (LHP): In the third round of last June’s draft, the Braves made a typical choice. A left-handed Southern starter with a good body and good stuff. Like Dan Meyer and Marty McBride before him, Stevens already possesses two good pitches, and a third is on the way. The Braves do great work with needy young starters, and I expect the same from Stevens this year.
...
BOSTON: Abe Alvarez (LHP): For some reason, I trust Dirtbags. Long Beach State has a fine baseball pedigree, producing talent ranging from Jason Giambi to Jered Weaver. Lost in the Weaver hype last year was Abe Alvarez, the southpaw that Theo spent his first ever second-round pick on. Alvarez lacks the ‘stuff’ that scouts love, but he always gets the job done. The New York-Pennsylvania league was a joke, as Alvarez didn’t allow a run in nineteen innings. The team will likely push Alvarez, who could end up in AA this season.
...
CHICAGO: Bobby Brownlie (RHP): Already somewhat of a prospect, I am under the belief that Brownlie is ready to explode. Had it not been for arm fatigueness, Brownlie was a lock for a top five pick, instead dropping more than twenty choices to the Chicago Cubs. Brownlie has one of the better curveballs in the minor leagues, and also changes speeds pretty well. He’s an injury concern, but the Cubs gave him the last month of the season off, he’d been playing for eight months straight. Brownlie could catapult threw Cubs’ rankings this year, don’t be surprised if he ends up #1 next year.
...
COLORADO: Jeff Francis (LHP): I talked about Francis when I put him in my top 50, and I’ll talk about him again. He is a prospect right now, but underrated by many. I’m under the belief that Francis will be a top ten pitching prospect in baseball next year, he offered the whole package in high-A last year. Francis was 10-1, 1.06 in his last thirteen starts, and is a dominating force on the mound. His future isn’t that bright due to Coors Field, but I expect Francis to be larger than Chin-Hui Tsao at this time next year.
...
HOUSTON: Fernando Nieve (RHP): I hate praising Houston, but not many teams have been better at recognizing the small market for small pitchers. Nieve is not tall, but instead has sensational movement on his fastball. His peripheral numbers were much better than his ERA last season, and Nieve could break out big in high Class A this year.

I don’t mean to toot my horn too much, but it’s cool to look back, ain’t it? I should mention I also wrote about Jeff Allison (currently in drug treatment), Jason Cooper (hitting .238 in AA), and Lorenzo Scott (hitting .183 in SS ball). But, I was just going for one.

Hope you enjoyed today’s piece, come back next Monday for more.

Baseball BeatJuly 26, 2004
Abstracts From The Abstracts
By Rich Lederer

Part Four: 1980 Baseball Abstract

The 4th Annual Edition by Bill James was expanded from 120 pages in 1979 to 200 in 1980. The book, which is bound for the first time, features a mustard-yellow cover with artwork of an ape contemplating a baseball. The drawing is discretely signed by James's wife, "SMcCarthy80". It is a takeoff on Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker," and it looks curiously like the logo for the Baseball Think Factory.

According to Rodin, The Thinker was originally meant to be Dante in front of The Gates of Hell, pondering his great poem. In explaining his equation, The Thinker = the Poet = the Creator, Rodin wrote "the fertile thought slowly elaborates itself within his brain. He is no longer a dreamer, he is a creator."

Like Rodin, James was way ahead of his time. Both Rodin and James are rare artists whose works demand repeated visits and study -- precisely the reason behind these reviews.

James wrote a "Dear Reader" letter (which once again can be found on the opening page of the book) for the third consecutive year.

A year ago I wrote in this letter that what I do does not have a name and cannot be explained in a sentence or two. Well, now I have given it a name: Sabermetrics, the first part to honor the acronym of the Society for American Baseball Research, the second part to indicate measurement. Sabermetrics is the mathematical and statistical analysis of baseball records.

In a ten-page essay entitled "The Elephant Gun," James boasts that The Baseball Abstract has "reverentially avoided rating people" because "a rating is a form of an opinion" and "it takes a certain amount of gall to charge money for them." However, in the next paragraph, he tells us "these reservations...have been superseded" by the Value Approximation Method, which he believes to be "worthy of special consideration." James, who mentions that "modesty was never my strong suit" in his opening letter, says his rating sytem "is potentially the most powerful analytic weapon that the game of baseball has ever had at its disposal."

The Value Approximation Method evaluates records, and not ballplayers, and as such it lacks any knowledge of timing, clutch hitting, base-running judgment, mental lapses, leadership ability, wining spirit, or throwing to the right base. But if the method evaluates talent without regard to deeper insights, it also evaluates talent without regard to favoritism, press clippings, self-promotion, over-exposure or a lack of exposure, or any of the other greater forms of ignorance. It is perhaps not such a bad trade. It is just the facts, reduced into a spare adjective and the adjective into a number, stated, weighted, and approximated in the simplest possible form.

James provides "platoon statistics" (batting records vs. left- and right-handed pitchers) and a Player Ratings Section for the first time in the four Abstracts. He ranks the players by league at each position using their "current established value" and attaches comments.

In the latter, James calls Johnny Bench "the greatest catcher in baseball history," yet a quick look at The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract shows that he rates Yogi Berra ahead of one of the main cogs in the Big Red Machine. I wonder what Berra did during the past two dozen years that moved him ahead of Bench?

James labels Mike Schmidt as "the best defensive player in baseball at his position," projects that the Philly slugger will hit 400-450 home runs in his career, and says that he hopes Schmidt "doesn't get left out of the Hall of Fame because of his batting average." On the same page, James writes "if any active player is to challenge either Maris or Aaron, (Bob Horner) is likely to be the man." Horner hit a career-high 35 HR the following season and finished his career with a total of 218 four baggers.

James also missed badly on Mike Ivie, calling him "a potential MVP if given 550 AB to cut loose" and proclaiming that the San Francisco first baseman "just might be the best hitter in baseball right now." Ivie was out of baseball four years later, having hit a grand total of 18 HR since James sang his praises.

With respect to players' chances of being inducted into Cooperstown one day, James tells us that Dave Parker is "virtually a certain Hall of Famer" and Jim Rice "has virtually qualified for the Hall of Fame already." As to Steve Garvey, James writes "I don't believe there is anyone who has 200 hits in five seperate (sic) seasons, is eligible for the Hall of Fame and isn't in." For the record, Garvey had his sixth and final such season in 1980 -- two more 200-hit seasons that anyone else not in Cooperstown.

Under Bobby Grich's and Dave Winfield's comments, James informs his readers that he would have voted for them for the MVP Award in 1979. James compares Grich with his teammate Don Baylor, the MVP winner that year, "If you were building a ballclub, which would you rather have--a DH who hits .296 with 36 HR, or a fine defensive second baseman who hits .294 with 30? It wouldn't be a tough pick for me."

James introduces the "Power/Speed Number" in his commentary on Bobby Bonds. He writes "it is so crafted that a player who does well in both home runs and stolen bases will rate high, and his rating is determined by the balance of the two as well as by the total."

2 ( HR x SB )
HR + SB

When discussing Bruce Sutter, James counted how many times each reliever was used under what circumstances and determined that the Chicago Cub ace entered the game only 26 times in the ninth inning out of 62 total appearances and 13 times when the score was tied or his team was behind in the score.

Speaking of relief pitchers, James writes a terrific piece on George Bamberger, then the manager of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Bamberger does not develop the bullpen. In all his years in the majors he has never had anything resembling an ace reliever. The Orioles top relievers starting in 1968 posted save totals of 11, 16, 13, 11, 8, 9, 12, 8, 10, and 9. When Bamberger left and Weaver was on his own, he immediately traded for an ace reliever, and the man (Don Stanhouse) posted 24 and 21 saves in two years...The Brewers, meanwhile, are just like the Orioles were--a lot of complete games, very few saves. The top reliever in '78 was McClure with 9; in '79 it was Castro with 6. Bamberger, quite simply, is not interested in having an ace reliever.

It's not that he has had bad bullpens. What he has is 3-out specialists who pitch 50 innings a year with 2.25 ERA's.

James also points out that Bamberger's pitchers "throw strikes" and proceeds to back up his claim by saying that the 1979 Brewers staff had the second-lowest walk total by an A.L. team since 1919.

Interestingly, James analyzes other managers--including Whitey Herzog, Tommy Lasorda, Gene Mauch, Chuck Tanner, Earl Weaver, and Dick Williams -- and their styles and tendencies in more detail than ever before. James says Herzog, who was fired after the 1979 season, "gave away too many games by staying with a starter who just wasn't getting the job done." He calls Lasorda and Tanner "butt-patters" and describes Williams' theory of managing as identifying "the best young talent in the system, and get it in the lineup immediately."

James compares and contrasts Mauch with Weaver, mentioning that "both platoon extensively;" Weaver "doesn't like to bunt," Mauch "bunts more than any other manager;" Weaver "uses pinch hitters a lot," Mauch "uses them obsessively;" Weaver "likes power hitters" while Mauch "builds around high-average men;" Mauch "believes strongly in the one-man bullpen," Weaver "has never had a bullpen workhorse;" Mauch is "engaging and analytical," Weaver is "intense and emotional;" both managers "make very cautious use of the stolen base" and both "make limited use of the intentional walk, a decision which I strongly endorse."

Earl Weaver may be the only manager in the majors today -- Stengel was another -- who uses complex platooning. What I mean by that is that in addition to "simple platooning" along the left/right axis, he alternates players according to several other features, using home run hitters more in home run parks and against HR-vulnerable pitchers, using "defensive" and "offensive" platoons when the circumstances call for it, putting more speed in the lineup when he think he can run, and, of course, batting Mark Belanger second against a pitcher that he thinks Belanger can hit.

Thinking of Garvey, James asks "what causes one player to draw more attention than he should, another less" and lists three "obvious" factors:

1. Players who play in New York and Los Angeles tend to draw more attention than players in small towns.

2. Players on a championship team tend to catch the public eye quicker than players on also-rans.

3. Players who have charisma or who cater to the press tend to make the endorsement circle sooner than those who don't.

James also lists two "arguable" factors:

1. White players may tend to be adopted by the public somewhat more readily than black players.

2. A player who plays in circumstances which emphasize his particular talents will tend to be overrated, because the public takes the statistics as gospel truth, rather than as the product of man and circumstances, as they really are.

Finally, James lists three factors in what he calls the "statisticians corner":

1. Players who happen to excel in those few statistical categories which are understood by the widest public sector tend to be over-rated. Batting average is probably the most over-rated, or perhaps I should say over-recognized, category...The most ignored category, as I've said, is batter's walks, probably for the simple reason that it is not included on a bubble gum card. Low-average power hitters tend to be under-rated in comparison with high-average singles hitters.

2. Players who make their primary contribution to a team through defense tend to be under-rated, the reason being that the assessment of defensive performance in statistics is to some degree unreliable and to a much larger degree beyond the public's comprehension.

3. A player who does one thing well, or who does a comparatively few things well, will acquire more recognition than a well-balanced player who lacks a specialty.

James writes "if you fed a computer this data and asked it to pick the perfect over-rated player, you would get--Steve Garvey:

  • Plays in Los Angeles.
  • Has played for championship teams.
  • Is a television personality.
  • Is White.
  • Is very well suited to his home park.
  • His strengths are exactly the three 'scoreboard' statistics.
  • He is an offensive player with very little defensive value.
  • He does very few things well, but does them very well."

    Among James' various essays is one entitled, "What Does It Take? Discerning the De Facto Standards of the Hall of Fame."

    Understand, I am not in the least talking about what Hall of Fame standards should be. I am talking about what they are. De Facto standards, inferred from a study of who has made it and who hasn't.

    Of note, James takes a couple of potshots at Earnshaw Cook. In discussing outsiders vs. insiders, James writes, "We shouldn't be arrogant about it, as Earnshaw Cook was in Percentage Baseball, a book that virtually assumed that all managers are idiots and nobody but a mathematics professor could really understand the game." Twenty-seven pages later, James, when unveiling his original Pythagorean Theory, writes "I had one formula which I used since I was a teen-ager in the 60's, Dallas Adams has one, Pete Palmer has one, Earnshaw Cook had one (although, like most of his ideas, it didn't work very well.)"

    James adds an Appendix for the first time in the Abstract's history, offering definitions, explanations, and formulas for runs created, isolated power, consistency ratio, defensive efficiency, and the value approximation method.

    In addition, James provides an Index (which is nothing more than a table of contents) and an Acknowledgements section on the last page of the book. He thanks his "beloved wife, Susan McCarthy, without whom there might possibly have been a first Abstract, but most certainly not a second, third, or fourth," Walt Campbell for "heavy statistical help," as well as Dallas Adams and Dan Okrent, "two friends among the many who have supported and encouraged me."

    Next up: 1981 Baseball Abstract

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

  • WTNYJuly 25, 2004
    Final 'Midseason' 100
    By Bryan Smith

    A reader in a previous post suggested putting all 100 together, and while a little tedious, I agreed. So, below are my top 100 prospects in baseball. Please note that this list denies access to any player with Major League experience before the 2004 All-Star Break, save Rickie Weeks.

    On Wednesday, I will get to the mailbag that I have promised. This will include questions about Matt Peterson, Jonathan Broxton, Melky Cabrera, Jose Lopez, Aaron Baldiris, Brett Harper, and the Red Sox system depth. Please, leave any other at the end of this post. Thanks!

    1. B.J. Upton- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- SS

    There really is no question about this one. Upton is everything you want in a premium prospect: hes young, advanced, plays a premium position, has plate discipline and power. He can steal a base, and when he gets focused, can field. The last comment will no doubt be debated by some, but Wait Til Next Year correspondent Daniel Feinstein assures me that highlight reel plays come as often as errors with this kid. Upton will reach the Majors by years end, and the Devil Rays slow advancement to a legitimate team will take a huge growth.

    2. David Wright- New York Mets- 3B

    No player has vaulted himself so far forward as David Wright has since the end of the 2003 season. A great Arizona Fall League put Wright into the top five for third base prospects, and his insane .363/.467/.619 line in AA makes him the top. Like the man in front of him, Wright has all the tools, but the most amazing fact is that he already has 48 extra-base hits, 47 walks and 22 stolen bases. Wright will be changing the scope of the Mets lineup by August, and comparisons to Scott Rolen and Howard Johnson are still valid.

    3. Felix Hernandez- Seattle Mariners- SP

    King Felix made great impressions in a brief stint as a 17-year-old last season, and nothing has changed this year. Seattle thought moving Hernandez to high-A would be a challenge, similar to what Bill Bavasi had done with players like Greg Miller in Los Angeles, but Hernandez was more than enough for California League hitters. Hernandez struck out 114 batters in just 92 innings, while only allowing 85 hits, five home runs and 26 walks. His first start in the Texas League was impressive, but the Mariners might think about shutting Hernandez down the closer he gets to 150 innings. Waiting until mid-2005 for his debut would be a smart move.

    4. Dallas McPherson- Anaheim Angels- 3B

    I admit, I didnt buy much into the McPherson hype before the season, remembering it was a huge hot streak that made his numbers last year, as opposed to a consistent hot streak. That all changed this year, and McPherson has already earned a promotion to AAA following his 20 home runs and 1.064 OPS in the Texas League. Hes off to a hot start at Salt Lake, hitting five homers in his first ten games. McPherson will help replace Troy Glaus for the rest of the year, and also make him expendable in 2005.

    5. Andy Marte- Atlanta Braves- 3B

    I said before the season that Marte was likely to have a catastrophic rise to the Majors similar to Miguel Cabrera in 2003, but a severe ankle sprain has prevented that from becoming truth. His numbers werent jaw-dropping before the injury, but a .237 ISO is enough for me. Marte is still only twenty years old, and it is probable that Marte and Chipper Jones will make up the 2005 Braves corners.

    6. Grady Sizemore- Cleveland Indians- OF

    Dont be thrown by Gradys numbers, they are among the most deceiving in the minor leagues. A bad wrist hindered his numbers for April and May, but a June average near .400 took the overall line to .306/.372/.462. Sure, these arent bad numbers, but my argument is they are hardly indicative of where Sizemore stands as a player. He profiles to be a perennial .300 hitter, and with the Indians weakest position being centerfield, his path is clear as day.

    7. Jeff Francis- Colorado Rockies- SP

    There is nothing Im more proud of about my first prospect ranking than putting Jeff Francis in the top fifty. This was an extremely controversial choice, but the way Francis finished the season convinced me that he was primed to break out. And that he has done, so much so that if the season ended today, Francis would have the Texas League pitching triple crown. Twelve wins, 2.11 ERA, 133 strikeouts. When you consider hes only walked 22 in 106.2 innings, you might think hes perfect. But like any other prospect, he doesnt come without flaws. Francis has allowed nine home runs this year, and his future currently stands to be in Coors Field, which does more than a little to his projectability.

    8. Prince Fielder- Milwaukee Brewers- 1B

    Another controversial choice here, as Fielders .801 OPS is well below others on this list. But remember, Prince is still just a baby in prospect terms, and hes doing this well for a guy in the Southern League. Cecils son has lost weight, but has also slipped considerably since a red-hot April. Fielder still has a .192 ISO, plays a decent first base, and should hit thirty home runs before 2004 ends. Hell also take a little longer than expected, not debuting until 2006, or becoming a permanent mainstay until 2007. Thats a recurring trend around a lot of the Brewer prospects, a system that has taken a bit of a hurt this year.

    9. Jeff Mathis- Anaheim Angels- C

    This may be a little high for Mathis, but the top ranked catcher gets a little boost in my mind. Mathis has slowly become a very good defensive catcher, and while Angel pitchers might miss Bengie Molina, Jeffs bat will make them forget quickly. His .788 OPS is hardly anything to brag about, but he has an ISO of .176 and is on pace for about 70 walks. Few teams can put their catchers towards the middle of the order, but it wont be long before that luxury is available to the Angels. Mathis will need one more year in the minors, but I really believe hes ready.

    10. Scott Kazmir- New York Mets- SP

    Trust me, Im being generous ranking Kazmir this high, as everytime he pitches, I think the inevitable move to the bullpen is coming the next day. Hes been hurt most of this season, but since coming back has hardly dominated the Florida State League that we thought he mastered a year ago. Maybe Kazmir will be able to turn into Billy Wagner, but I find it hard to believe hell make it as a starting pitcher. For now, we wait, amazed that a southpaw so small can generate such hard power on his pitches. Kazmir needs to turn his season around in the second half, or his ranking wont be so generous the next time.

    11. Franklin Gutierrez- Cleveland Indians- OF

    Sure, Gutierrez is hardly hitting home runs like he did last season, but I wouldnt count those kind of numbers out in the future. Gutierrez hit so well in AA this season that he was recently moved up to the International League, though it appears his immediate future is blocked by the Indians outfield of Lawton-Sizemore-Gerut. Gutierrez still managed 30 extra-base hits in 249 Eastern League at-bats, and while only five were home runs, Id expect more to start going over the fence soon. I have only two real complaints about Franklin: first, his stolen base numbers are down significantly this year, and he also doesnt walk enough yet, not even on pace to reach 50 walks.

    12. Matt Cain- San Francisco Giants- SP

    With Cain, the numbers speak for themselves. I can try to justify my pick by telling you that Cain mixes a mid-90s fastball with one of the games best curveballs, or I can just give his California League numbers: 7-1, 1.86 ERA, 58H, 17BB, and 89K in just 72.2 IP. The dominance has continued since being moved up to the Texas League, where Cain has allowed just five earned runs in his first four starts, good for a 1.88 ERA. San Francisco could use some rotation depth, so Cain will be given a shot as early as next Spring Training.

    13. Dan Meyer- Atlanta Braves- SP

    More astounding numbers come from the top Atlanta pitching prospect, a compliment considering that as many as six Brave pitching prospects made good arguments for this list. Meyer, who doesnt throw spectacularly hard, was the Southern League ace in the first half, with a WHIP below 1.00 and a K/BB above seven. He struck out 86 batters in sixty-five innings, proving that he can mix control with good stuff like few other players can boast. His ceiling may not be as high as the previous four pitchers, but of the group, Im most sure Meyer will reach his.

    14. Jeff Francoeur- Atlanta Braves- OF

    Yes, the Braves are back to having the games best minor league system. Francoeur, their former first round pick, is having a great season in a park not exactly fit for hitting. Hes the best of the three high-A outfield prospects youll see in the top twenty, merely based on potential. He already has 36 extra-base hits, giving him an ISO of .209. He walks about as much as Franklin Gutierrez does, numbers we hope improve as he goes up the ladder. Andruw Jones is rumored to be on the trade block, and if he goes, Francoeur will eventually replace him in centerfield. But as the Cubs have learned with Corey Pattersons slow development, there is simply no reason to rush him.

    15. Clint Everts- Montreal Expos- SP

    Expos first round picks are not always justifiable, but Everts is an exception to the rule. After not pitching much last year, Everts has exploded to the tune of a 1.99 ERA. Last years top pick, Delmon Young, referred to him as the best pitcher he had faced yet. Everts has only given up three homers this year, and his K/BB is well over five. Ive heard great things about his breaking ball, and there is no question that he is the jewel of a rather dry Expos system.

    16. Michael Aubrey- Cleveland Indians- 1B

    Its possible that if the Indians had the first pick in last years draft, they still would have selected Michael Aubrey. After a fantastic college career, the Indians though high-A would be a good destination this year. They were wrong. Aubrey tore up the Carolina League, walking more than he struck out, and showing enough power to give him a .988 OPS. Aubrey was promoted to AA after only 60 games, a fantastic compliment for a position player a year removed from college. The Eastern League has proven to be a challenge, but I have no doubt that with one more years work, the Indians will have a new first basemen in 2006.

    17. Gavin Floyd- Philadelphia Phillies- SP

    No one has ever questioned the curveball of Gavin Floyd. But the Phillies, worried their prized right-hander might fall in love with the pitch, set quotas on just how often he could throw it. This is my explanation for why his numbers have never been that good, until this year. By the looks of him numbers, I would guess the right-hander can throw the curve whenever he pleases now, helping him to land a 2.86 ERA. His strikeout numbers, only 74 in 92 innings, are still a bit concerning, but his low H/9 and HR/9 numbers combat that quite nicely.

    18. Delmon Young- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- OF

    More than any other player on this list, this choice was made due to projectability rather than a deserving ranking based on their numbers. Youngs .334 OBP would be laughed at by some players on this list, but considering his age, an ISO just below .200 is fantastic. Youngs power is immense, and his second half will determine if he makes it higher than 28 (and I think he will) when my end of year rankings come out. Young likely wont be a D-Ray until 2008, but who knows, maybe hell have Josh Hamilton to join him by then.

    19. Merkin Valdez- San Francisco Giants- SP

    After an early season injury, El Mago started to justify the hype he garnered all of last season. Formerly Manuel Mateo, Valdez was traded from the Braves, and the deal keeps paying dividends for San Francisco. Valdez joined Matt Cain in San Jose for awhile, forming the top 1-2 combination in the minor leagues. Valdez has recently been promoted to AAA, after walking only five in the 33.2 innings he pitched in the California League. Valdez also mixes in pinpoint control, a trait that should serve him well as he beats Cain to the Majors.

    20. Jeremy Hermida- Florida Marlins- OF

    Of Francoeur, Pie and Hermida, there is no question who is the most polished. Hermida has the best eye, the best ability to make contact, the cleanest defense, and the best baserunning. His stolen base numbers are down this year, but ending up with thirty stolen bases still isnt out of the question. Power is not his defining trait, but Hermidas .494 SLG more than holds his own for players on this list. My guess is that Hermida will follow Juan Pierre as the Marlins leadoff hitter, proving to be one of the best in the business.

    21. Cole Hamels- Philadelphia Phillies- SP

    I ranked B.J. Upton first on this list for a reason. I think hes going to be an All-Star, bringing back the numbers that A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar touted in their hey-days. So, when reading Upton say that Cole Hamels was the best pitcher he had faced, I was shocked. Hamels, when healthy, has control of one of the games best change ups, and it wont be long before that reaches the Major Leagues. Problem is, Hamels has only made four starts this season, and no matter how well they have gone, we cant get a great read of where hes at. This is my riskiest ranking, but instincts will allow him to round out my top ten.

    22. Jeff Salazar- Colorado Rockies- OF

    Last year it was Jeremy Reed that appeared out of nowhere, rising from Long Beach State all the way to hitting .400 in a second half promotion to AA. This year it has been another left-handed hitting corner outfielder that has surprised us with his contact and discipline at high-A. Salazar, formerly an Oklahoma State Cowboy, has now become the best Rockie position prospect, and for good reason. Salazar has a .347 average, more runs than games and more walks than strikeouts. He has 40 extra-base hits, and seventeen stolen bases, in only nineteen attempts. He looks perfect, much like Reed did last year, but Im going to try to learn my lesson and wait before thrusting him into my top ten.

    23. Jose Capellan- Atlanta Braves- SP

    The fourth Brave in the top 25 is Capellan, a hard-throwing right-hander that made a mockery of high-A hitters before a promotion. Capellan, who can hit 100 mph on a radar gun, allowed only 27 hits and 11 walks in 46.1 innings at Myrtle Beach before rising to the Southern League. Capellan has stayed relatively consistent in terms of ERA and K/9 since the promotion, striking out 40 in 33.1 innings with a 2.70 ERA. There is still a possibility that Capellan will end up in the bullpen, hes the kind that often turns into a closer, but first the Braves are going to have for Jose to slow down.

    24. Felix Pie- Chicago Cubs- OF

    Pies story is a good one, a small Dominican boy who walked into tryouts with no hype, and walked out with a contract. The Cubs continue to thank their lucky stars, as Pie has continued from where he left off last year. Still a little raw, its near impossible to conceive what kind of player Felix will turn into. His raw power is still just that, but its the great speed and defense that lands Pie on this list. Common thought is that an outfield of Patterson, Pie and Ryan Harvey will be in Wrigley shortly after Sosas retirement, but Ill have to see that to believe it. One thing I do believe, is that Felix Pie is going to become one darn good ballplayer, whether he develops the power or not.

    25. Conor Jackson- Arizona Diamondbacks- OF

    Doubles machine. This is what Jackson was last year after being chosen by the Diamondbacks in the draft. He was one of three corner college players chosen by the Diamondbacks, a group that Baseball America has called the Tres Amigos. Jackson is the better prospect of Carlos Quentin and Jamie DAntona, thanks in large part to his amazing numbers this season. Before a promotion to AA, Jackson hit .345/.438/.562 in 258 at-bats. The slugging has decreased a bit since moving to the Texas League, but Jacksons eye looks unbeatable, as his OBP is .476 after ten AA games. Jackson plays left field, and it wont be long before the Diamondbacks firesale allows the team to trade icon Luis Gonzalez, Jacksons lone roadblock.

    26. Jeremy Reed- Seattle Mariners- OF

    The aforementioned Reed has slowed down this year, and the fact that scouts have yet to buy into the sabermatricians dream led to Reeds trade from the Chicago White Sox organization. Mariner bloggers have been more than pleased to land Reed, who has 38 walks against 34 strikeouts so far this year. Reeds contact skills have diminished a bit this year, though I look for his average to pick up a bit in the Pacific Coast League. Reeds power numbers have increased this year, giving more hope that hell be able to have the numbers that corner outfielders should have. Next year Seattle will put Raul Ibanez at first base, and Reed will have every opportunity in the world to take over in left field.

    27. Ervin Santana- Anaheim Angels- SP

    Like many of the pitchers on this list, Santana was hurt to start the season, but has been dynamite since returning to the minor leagues. Ervin was sent back to the Texas League, where he finished out his 2003 season, and has been the Travelers ace through his first eight starts. I admitted in my WTNY 50 that I didnt buy into the Santana hype much, but his numbers support the claims that people as respected as Peter Gammons have made.

    28. Jeff Baker- Colorado Rockies- 3B

    Taken alongside Jeff Francis in the draft, Bakers breakout has been clouded by Francis AA greatness. But dont forget Baker, who joins Ian Stewart and Jeff Salazar in one of the best three position player combinations in the minor leagues. His OPS is also over 1.000, thanks to 30 home run power and a great batting eye. Hes very prone to strikeouts, there is no doubt that total will reach 100 (if not 120) by seasons close. Also, Baker has already made 20 errors at the hot corner, and while I dont have a report on him, my guess is last years first round pick Stewart will force a move at some point. The idea of having Helton, Stewart, Baker and Salazar on the corners just might be enough for Dan ODowd to hang onto his job a little longer.

    29. Tim Stauffer- San Diego Padres- SP

    I didnt like this pick by the Padres last year, thinking Stauffers numbers were hardly good enough to deserve a top five selection. But Stauffer has proven differently, as he is currently pitching in the Pacific Coast League, his third league of the season. While the Padres have drawn much criticism for their handling of the top pick this year, give the team some credit for identifying Stauffer last year. The right-hander had a 1.78 ERA in the California League after six starts, and a 2.63 ERA in eight Southern League starts. His peripheral numbers arent great, but the guy can pitch, and hell undoubtedly be the first starting pitcher chosen last year to make the Majors this September.

    30. Ian Kinsler- Texas Rangers- SS

    A lot of the people on this list I could have envisioned breaking out before the season started, but not Kinsler. According to Baseball America, the former University of Missouri shortstop was chosen based on his defense, not his bat. But it was the bat that convinced Ranger brass that the former 17th round choice could handle a move from the Midwest League, to the Texas League. After hitting .400 as a Clinton Lumberking, Kinslers OPS is again above 1.000 through his first seventeen games as a Roughrider. Texas infield is pretty blocked, but moving Soriano to center and Michael Young to second would be a great idea to make room for their new gem.

    31. Ian Stewart- Colorado Rockies- 3B

    The tenth pick in last years frat, Stewart has already displayed the most power from the 2003 draft. That kind of raw power, mixed with the thin air of Colorado, just might produce some freakish results. Stewart has more upside than Jeff Salazar and Jeff Baker, with a lot less polish. Ian will surely force Baker to pick up another glove, perhaps learning the art of left field. Stewarts Sally League numbers are excellent, but just that, low-A numbers. I always try to take it with a grain of salt, but if he tops thirty home runs, that may not be an option.

    32. Joe Blanton- Oakland Athletics- SP

    Like I said with Delmon Young, Blanton doesnt necessarily have the numbers to hang with other guys on this list. His ERA is nearing 4.00, and (gasp!) hes allowed more hits than innings pitched. This is danger territory, but Im intrigued by good control, and the ability to keep the ball out of the park, even in the Pacific Coast League. His top 40 selection is also due to the fact that even without Rick Peterson, I trust the As ability to develop pitchers. Billy Beane loved this guy out of Kentucky, and hell definitely be one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year in 2005.

    33. Angel Guzman- Chicago Cubs- SP

    Another pitcher rehabbing from injury, youll likely be taken back after reading Guzmans rehab numbers from the Florida State League. The Cubs, who have done a good job handling sore arms of late, sent Guzman to the FSL to keep that arm warm an extra few months upon his return. While the top prospects 4.20 ERA is anything but amazing considering he was repeating the level, its his peripherals that astound me. In thirty innings, the right-hander allowed 27 hits, struck out 40, and walked zero. Once again, Guzman had a 40/0 K/BB in high-A, before being moved up to the Southern League. His high ERA tells me that his pitchability isnt great, but expectations are still sky-high for the Cubs Angel.

    34. Justin Huber- New York Mets- C

    Being a catcher is great for a prospect, because you dont have to have the numbers that most hitting prospects carry. Huber has slumped recently of late, but his season line of .272/.408/.460 is fantastic for a catching prospect. Hubers defense is a bit lacking, but the Mets will concede that when considering his power and plate discipline. The Australian still must improve all facets of his game to stay on this list, because a poor second half will not only make him drop, but will cause a drop clear off the list.

    35. Jason Kubel- Minnesota Twins- OF

    Think Jeremy Reed 2003, without the plate discipline. Instead, Kubel has fantastic contact skills that led to a .377 average in the Eastern League before being promoted to AAA. Being an outfielder in the Twins organization is a death penalty, but Kubels 41 extra-base hits gives Terry Ryan one great piece of trade bait. This is another player on the list I forecast will drop by years end, but for now, I gotta give the kid his due.

    36. Daric Barton- St. Louis Cardinals- C

    Boy, Ive never seen a high school kid so advanced in his first full year of professional play. Barton, about a year after being the first Cardinal drafted, is hitting an insane .331/.465/.566 in the Midwest League. Recent slumps have taken the average below .400 and the OBP below .500, but those numbers are the kind that makes someone a top prospect. Ive heard pretty good things about his defense, but an early season injury has forced Barton to only play half of his 40 games behind the plate. Like everyone else here, well have a much better feel for Barton in September, but two thumbs up so far.

    37. John Danks- Texas Rangers- SP

    Im trying to be very hesitant with low-A pitchers this year, considering the early season struggles that Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir have seen. Danks is pretty comparable to the latter, but I just cant see not putting him on my top 40 list. The hard-throwing southpaw ate up the Midwest League in fourteen appearances, thriving off the four-man rotation style format that Grady Fuson uses in the minor leagues. Last years ninth overall selection has a 3.39 ERA in three starts for the Stockton Ports, but barring injury, Danks is probably a better prospect than Kinsler.

    38. Yusmeiro Petit- New York Mets- SP

    Soothsayers have compared Petit to Sid Fernandez, a former Major League pitcher that had fantastic numbers in the minor leagues. The reason this comparison works is Petit, like Fernandez, had unreal numbers in fifteen low-A starts. In 83 innings, Petit allowed only 47 hits and 22 walks, against an insane 122 strikeouts. For those of you scoring at home, thats a WHIP below 1.00, a K/BB above 5.00, and a K/9 nearing 13.50. Petit finds himself below a lot of Met prospects, but if these numbers continue, hell head the list in the winter.

    39. Bobby Brownlie- Chicago Cubs- SP

    Another forecast Im proud of, I saw very good things from Brownlie this season, and he hasnt let me down. Like Tim Stauffer, Brownlie doesnt have great numbers, but I guess the better comparison is Gavin Floyd. Like Floyd, Brownlie has a great curveball that has led to a high HR/9 and low K/9, but a darn good ERA. If Matt Clement leaves Chicago next winter, and thats a very likely scenario, Brownlie will be in a race with Guzman, Ryan Dempster, and many other Cub pitchers for the fifth spot in that vaunted rotation.

    40. Jesse Crain- Minnesota Twins- RP

    Relief prospects are generally overrated, but Crain deserves the hype hes gotten. After rising through three levels last season, Crain has had a home in Rochester this year, appearing in 33 games as the Red Wings closer. But, Crain should be preparing for a move, as the Twins could no doubt use some help in the bullpen towards the end of the year. Crain might not be the immediate closer, but setting up Joe Nathan will be a wonderful way to start what will likely be a great career.

    41. Edwin Encarnacion- Cincinnati Reds- 3B

    An early season injury eliminated Encarnacion from my memory, but watching him in the Futures Game made me realize he should be on the list. After hitting .282/.339/.458 in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old, he spent 2003 hitting .321/.387/.484 in high-A. Encarnacion, once traded for Rob Bell, is back to his old self, with a line of .305/.379/.465 in AA thus far.

    These are fairly consistent lines, considering the ISOs (.176, .163, .160) and his Isolated Patience numbers (.059, .066, .074). At the age of twenty-one, Encarnacion is still young for the Southern League. His defense is said to be good at third, and while he wont be stealing 25 bases like he did in 2002, he runs fairly well. Its safe to say that Encarnacion will solve the Reds hot corner problem before too long, and even more so that he belongs in the top 75.

    42. Joel Guzman- Los Angeles Dodgers- SS

    Looking at Joel Guzmans past numbers, you might be shocked at the year hes having. But ask the Dodgers, who signed him for millions at age 16, and theyll say it was only a matter of time. Its hard to say where Guzman fits in as a prospect, hes always looked overmatched until May of this year. His numbers seem similar to Franklin Gutierrez of 2003, meaning his .530 SLG will evaporate at higher levels. This hardly eliminates him from prospect status, as good contact, fielding and baserunning shortstops are hard to find. Few second halves will have more of a bearing on winter rankings than Guzmans.

    43. Jake Stevens- Atlanta Braves- SP

    Brad Thompson, who will appear later on this list, was hyped more than many minor leaguers ever see with his 50+ IP scoreless streak earlier this season. Jake Stevens didnt get the same attention, but between May 21 and July 10, Stevens didnt give up a run either. In fact, the game that ended in was a five inning start in which the southpaw gave up one run, while striking out eight batters. His numbers have been superior to teammate Chuck James, and given Stevens age, his prospect status is rising.

    44. Rickie Weeks- Milwaukee Brewers- 2B

    Life cant be easy for Rickie Weeks. Now dont get me wrong, Im not making excuses for what has thus far been a sorry season, but his life has been non-stop ever since being chosen second in last years draft. A sensational player at Southern University, Weeks has struggled a bit in the Southern League, with a season line of .253/.369/.379. The Isolated Power is a little bad, but Weeks is a middle infielder, and he does have 25 extra-base hits. Things are going to click in the second half for Rickie Weeks, and I bet hes in my top 30 at seasons end.

    45. Guillermo Quiroz- Toronto Blue Jays- C

    Since falling victim to a collasped lung at the end of last season, Quiroz hasnt had the best health, falling victim to yet another injury this year. It doesnt effect his long-term status, and he should have a fine second half. Kevin Cash, who had been projected to give Quiroz competition for PT, has been terrible for the Jays, basically handing the job to Guillermo. With Alexis Rios, Gabe Gross, and Quiroz projected to be in their lineup next year, and possibly Russ Adams and Aaron Hill as well, the Jays rebuilding can begin right now.

    46. Chris Burke- Houston Astros- 2B

    Is there a dreamier leadoff prospect out there than Chris Burke right now? The Astros will almost surely let Jeff Kent leave in 2005, letting their top prospect take the job up the middle. They are right in believing hes ready for the job, as evidenced by his .325/.403/.507 line in the PCL this year. I dont think the power surge will last in the Majors, but he might get to about 40 doubles some season, which aint bad either. Throw in the fact that he stole 22 bases before being called up, and youve got the 2005 Astros leadoff man.

    47. Kyle Davies- Atlanta Braves- SP

    I asked my friend Brad Dowdy about his thoughts on the three Braves pitchers in this list, and this is what he said of Davies:


    I could argue Davies ahead of Stevens after his two solid outings since being promoted to Double-A as a 20 year old. Everyone in the system has always known he has the stuff, it was just a matter of getting innings under his belt and the old clich of learning how to pitch. Well, this is the season where he put it all together. He didnt even blink when he moved up a level, and I dont see any reason why that wont continue.

    48. Dioner Navarro- New York Yankees- C

    Despite some power struggles this year, its hard to make a claim that someone other than Dioner Navarro is the top Yankees prospect. 2004 numbers explain why hes behind Justin Huber and Daric Barton in terms of catching prospects, though that is very subject to change. In contrast, Navarro is behind Jeff Mathis and Guillermo Quiroz because of potentialparticularly power potential. I like Navarros discipline, I think more of his contact abilities than a .271 average suggests, and have heard him to be an average defender. Power isnt essential for a top 50 prospect, but a better ISO than .098 would be big here.

    49. John Van Benschoten- Pittsburgh Pirates- SP

    After obviously passing the Eastern League test, I was a little worried when John Van Benschoten struggled when reaching AAA. But things have picked up lately (excluding his last start), and John has an ERA sitting right around 4.00. Van Benschoten will have every opportunity in the world to make it with the Pirates, and given the right patience, I think he will. Unless VB has a big August, I doubt theyll call him up, waiting for mid-2005 for his arrival.

    50. Lastings Milledge- New York Mets- OF

    By years end, Milledge could be sitting alongside Delmon Young as two of the best outfield prospects in the game. Milledge has five-tool capabilities that few can match, as seen in his combination of 27 XBH and 16 SB, in just 47 games. Some might be alarmed at the seven errors (high for an OF), but hes young, and easily has the ability for centerfield. But, the problem with Milledge is his plate discipline, seeing as though his BB/K is an abysmal 5/42 this season. Corey Patterson, version 2.0?

    51. Carlos Quentin- Arizona Diamondbacks- OF

    One of the Tres Amigos, Quentin has seperated himself from the third member, Jamie DAntona, with a disgusting performance since their group promotion. Well, hes hit .357/.425/.529, which is very consistent with his California League line of .310/.428/.562. Quentin had Tommy John surgery last offseason, and it hasnt appeared to slow him down one bit. Imagine this lineup card in Arizona coming soon:

    C- Robby Hammock
    1B- Jamie DAntona
    2B- Scott Hairston
    SS- Sergio Santos
    3B- Chad Tracy
    LF- Conor Jackson
    CF- Stephen Drew
    RF- Carlos Quentin

    Jeez, maybe theyll be back in the World Series before we thought!

    52. Josh Anderson- Houston Astros- OF

    While us sabermatricians try to act as scouts by analyzing numbers, it takes a Josh Anderson type to respect the real scouts. In last years draft, Anderson lasted until the fourth round, hardly the spot for a top 50 prospect. This is a situation when power isnt key, when a .101 ISO on a .324 average will more than suffice. Why? At centerfield, Anderson is being groomed for the leadoff spot, where a .402 OBP and nearly fifty steals will pay off. Anderson, currently on the Reed path, should be ready for Houston in 2006, so dont blame him for wanting Carlos Beltran to change addresses.

    53. John Hudgins- Texas Rangers- SP

    This convinced me: Ive never seen a better pitching performance in the minor leagues. Hudgins put every pitch where he wanted it, commanding a fastball that sat around 90 most of the night, mixing in a decent curve, and showing San Antonio hitters as dirty a changeup as those of them who eventually get to the majors might ever see. He dealt. He orchestrated. He was Greg Maddux.

    - Jamey Newberg, Newberg Report (7/2/04)

    54. Mike Hinckley- Montreal Expos- SP

    Think Travis Blackley, without the strikeouts. While Hinckley has decent stuff, its hardly comparable to other guys on this list, but he always gets it done. After a 2.61 ERA in 10 Florida State League starts, Hinckley was moved to Harrisburg, where his ERA is a near-identical 2.58. His K/BB is more than 3.00, and his WHIP is 1.04. In my opinion, this is a time where pure stuff is just not going to win, and Hinckleys pitchability makes him a good prospect.

    55. Chris Seddon- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- SP

    Dan Feinstein, a reader who also owns Montgomery Biscuits season tickets, wrote up this great scouting report on Seddon:

    Seddon pitched against the Greenville Braves here on Thursday night [ed. Note: May 27]. I went to the game. Seddon was much smaller than I expected. He is listed at 63 170, but if I had to guess, I would have pegged him at 60 and even lighter than the program had him. He worked from the third base side of the rubber and used a lot of 12 to 6 breaking curve balls to befuddle the Braves, striking out 12 in 6 innings. His fastball was well targeted, but not too quick.

    56. Robinson Cano- New York Yankees- 2B

    In the comments section, reader Fabian tried to convince me to place Cano in front of Chris Burke. It didnt work, but I thought his argument was definitely good enough to post:

    I dont see how you can have Burke ahead of Cano. Burke is 24 and Cano is 21. Burke has been at AAA all year, and Cano was at AA for the first half before being promoted to AAA a few weeks ago. On the season Burke is hitting .325 with 30 extra base hits and a 33:36 BB:K ratio in 286 at bats. Cano is hitting .306 with 39 extra base hits and a 30:44 strikeout ratio in 337 at bats. Has Burke outperformed Cano? Sure. However, given the HUGE difference in age, I think Cano is easily ahead of Burke. Were it not for Rickie Weeks track record, I would be tempted to call Cano the No. 1 2B prospect in baseball.

    57. John Maine- Baltimore Orioles- SP

    Sort of like John Van Benschoten, in the respect that after posting insane numbers last year, Maine was more than qualified for the International League. Just to test it, the Orioles sent Maine to AA, where he went 4-0 in five starts, allowing 16 hits in 28 innings. It was obvious he was ready for the IL, but during his stay, Maine hasnt been the pitcher of old. A 4.52 ERA and BB/9 upwards of 4.00 are some scary statistics, but the Oriole right-hander has been turning it up lately, so well see how long this good pitching lasts.

    58. Eric Duncan- New York Yankees- 3B

    There is a lot to like about Eric Duncan, who has a Ryan Howard-like block up the line, almost assured of landing in a different organization at some point. Duncan was great in the Midwest League this year, and considering he had 37 extra-base hits and 38 walks in 78 low-A games, expectations are going to start raising about the teenager. But take caution, Duncan also struck out upwards of 80 times, and I have a feeling the FSL might be a little much for him.

    59. Chuck James- Atlanta Braves- SP

    Twenty-two is a bit old for the Sally League, and that was evident in the numbers for Chuck James. Before being moved up to Myrtle Beach, James was 8-2, with a 1.90 ERA, good for third in the league. James walked a bit too many considering his age, something to look for in higher levels. Also concerning is the fact that James has been suspended for much of the last month for unknown reasons. According to No Pepper, the ban was lifted yesterday, and well see if the Braves ever leak out just why this happened.

    60. Adam Loewen- Baltimore Orioles- SP

    I said it when I put him in the top fifty last winter, and Ill say it again, this pick is based solely on potential. But, if Loewen doesnt get his act together soon, hes going to keep falling, right off any prospect list. Im sure people will hassle me with this pick, but just wait and see on this kid, he might jump out and surprise you. By the looks of things, it seems as though the Orioles Major League control problems are falling down to the minors as well.

    61. Josh Banks- Toronto Blue Jays- SP

    Like John Maine, Josh Banks has seen his BB/9 rise at a higher level, and its much of the reason Banks has a 5.77 AA ERA. And like Adam Loewen, if Banks doesnt get his act together, hes gone. But, its hard to ignore that Banks was one of the FSLs best pitchers before getting sent up, largely due to a 7.50 K/BB. Its now below 2.00, and without that, Banks is just another pitcher. This is something to watch in the second half, because the Blue Jays system has taken a bit of a hit since this winter.

    62. Zach Duke- Pittsburgh Pirates- SP

    Ill admit, didnt really know Zach Duke before starting this list, but I sure do now. A southpaw, Duke is the definition of a midseason All-Star, and like Joel Guzman, someone who could rise with a consistent second half. Duke has a Bob Gibson-like 1.39 ERA this year, a WHIP under 1.00, and is on pace to eclipse the 200 strikeout barrier. Maybe its Duke, and not Hinckley, who makes the better Travis Blackley comparison.

    63. Erick Aybar- Anaheim Angels- SS

    A recent power streak, six home runs in six days, has taken Aybars HR total to nine, and his XBH total to 31. Hes leading the California League with not only his .355 average, but also his 38 stolen bases. This is good and all, but Aybar has been caught 27 times, a total that has to lead the minor leagues. Aybar struggles like B.J. Upton does at short, but for the time being, he ranks first of the Angels middle infield trio of Alberto Callaspo, Brandon Wood and Aybar.

    64. Sergio Santos- Arizona Diamondbacks- SS

    Consider this my due for not giving Santos props last year. You have to respect Santos, a 2002 first-round pick, already with 30 extra-base hits. Shortstops with 25 HR power dont come around everyday, so Santos has become the prime Zona prospect. Hes also been iffy at shortstop, and with a growing body, there are concerns on whether he can stay there. I think Stephen Drews defense and rise through the system will determine if Santos moves elsewhere, because he probably has the bat for left field.

    65. Brad Thompson- St. Louis Cardinals- SP

    Ive already touched a bit on Brad Thompson, and his remarkable scoreless streak to start the season. Hes come out of nowhere, and may end up taking a every-fifth-day starting spot before former top prospect Dan Haren. After a 1.76 ERA in AA, Thompson has struggled a bit with the Memphis Redbirds, allowing three home runs in 14.2 innings. A sinkerballer, Thompsons second half will determine whether that streak was a fluke to be forgotten.

    66. Ryan Howard- Philadelphia Phillies- 1B

    Is there a better prospect in minor league baseball thats as blocked as Ryan Howard? While a perfect world wouldnt have the every prospect is trade bait mentality, I can understand if Ed Wade is willing to trade Howard, despite beind on his way to crushing the AA home run record. The power is unbelieveable, and unmatched by any prospects on this list. But, Howard strikes out a lot, and could reach the 150 plateau this year. He reminds me of a modern day Frank Thomas, not the 90s superversion: volatile average, lots o power and walks, and unlike Frank, tons of Ks.

    67. Josh Barfield- San Diego Padres- 2B

    Very susceptible to an irreplaceable drop from my prospect lists in the winter. The 2003 California League MVP, Barfield has been abysmal in the Southern League, with a line of .251/.316/.431. I actually have high hopes, because those numbers are up across the board in the last two weeks, so like Rickie Weeks, Barfield may be prime for a big second half.

    68. Lou Palmisano- Milwaukee Brewers- C

    Sweet Lou has not slowed down since being drafted by the Brewers last season. After taking home a short-season MVP trophy last year, Palmisano is making a strong bid to get his name on the Midwest League ballot with a .301/.383/.398 line. The sub-.100 ISO is always concerning, but as I said with Dioner Navarro, power isnt THAT important for a catcher anyway.

    69. Chad Billingsley- Los Angeles Dodgers- SP

    Logan White likes to ruffle feathers with first round picks, and thats what the team did by choosing Chad Billingsley in the first round last year. Generally considered a second rounder, the Los Angeles scouting team fell in love with Billingsley, and apparently for good reason. Hes been ridicuilous in the Florida State League this year, allowing 61 hits in 85 innings, while striking out 103. The 48 walks are a little high, but consider Chad on the Greg Miller pathhopefully that wont lead to injury.

    70. Brandon Moss- Boston Red Sox- OF

    And finally, a prospect from Beantown. I expect to see the Red Sox system start to improve from the bottom up, and it seems like Brandon Moss will be the first to make that happen. After struggling months after being drafted last year, Moss is in full-breakout mode in the Sally League, where he leads the league with a .366 average. Toss in the 41 walks, 35 extra-base hits and 17 steals, and you got one complete player. MVP! MVP! MVP!

    71. Brian Anderson- Chicago White Sox- OF

    Co-Prospect Ryan Sweeney got all the Chicago buzz this Spring Training, prompting rumors that the 19-year-old might land in AA, blah, blah, blah. But while Sweeney has been overmatched this year, it has been FIRST-round pick, Brian Anderson, that has emerged as the clubs top prospect. Anderson got promoted to AA following a .319/.394/.531 line as a Winston-Salem Warthog, hitting 22 doubles and stealing 10 bases. Anderson will be ready in 2006, when the White Sox are ready to start picking up the scraps that some call Joe Borchard.

    72. Abe Alvarez- Boston Red Sox- SP

    Every ranking I ever make, I gotta have a pick based on my instincts. This winter, I put Jeff Francis in my top 50 and Bobby Brownlie in my top 90, just because I thought they were ready for big years. In my mind, Abe Alvarez may never be a great #1 starter, but hell be a great innings-eater in the background. Alvarez has been unspectacular so far this year, but his H/9 is less than 9.00 and hes got a K/BB of more than 3.00. Maybe Ill be wrong here, but I really think the Red Sox should consider replacing Bronson Arroyo with Abe Alvarez in 2005.

    73. Val Majewski- Baltimore Orioles- OF

    Hes not going to end up in center, watching seven innings of the Futures Game could have told us that. But Majewski, as John Sickels predicted, has broken out this year, becoming the top Oriole position prospect. Majewski is hitting for average (.300), and power (12 HR), all while stealing some bases (10). Hes shooting up the system, and could be ready by mid-2005.

    74. Denny Bautista- Kansas City Royals- SP

    I was taken aback by Bautista at the 2003 Futures Game, where I saw him as the most intimidating pitcher out there. He was last years version of Jose Capellan, and I wont forget that anytime soon. Trading Bautista for Jason Grimsley is grounds for firing, because I think Bautista will turn out to be a good one, whether in the bullpen or the rotation. Hes been fantastic since joining the Royals, what with a 1.61 ERA in four starts, allowing just 18 hits in 28 innings.

    75. James Loney- Los Angeles Dodgers- 1B

    For his sake, I will let James Loney hang on by the thinnest of margins. He could turn into a great player, or he could be a complete bust, of which hell define further with his second half play.

    76. Nick Swisher- Oakland Athletics- OF

    Spoken by Michael Lewis, via an interview given by the guys at Athletics Nation:


    The stats tell you everything you need to know about him. If you look at his walks, it’s insane. He’s 23 YEARS OLD in a league filled with 30-year-old players who’ve spent time in the big leagues. And he’s got like 78 or 80 walks and the next closest guy has 60? How does that happen? It’s freakish. He’s got 16 bombs, who cares that he is hitting .260? Last time I checked, he was like sixth in the league in on-base percentage and that’s at 23 years old. When you go see him and you look at the numbers, what you see when you watch him just confirms the numbers in that he has a really amazing tendency/ability to control his encounters in the batter’s box. He does have a remarkable control over the encounter. He really does have a very, very good eye and just great discipline. He doesn’t mind taking his walks.

    77. Scott Baker- Minnesota Twins- SP

    The reason I love Baseball America? It’s the source where I find guys like Scott Baker, who recently struck out 12 batters in a game, and has given up a ridiculously low 44 hits in 70.1 innings in AA. His peripherals are the type that get turned into a reliever, especially the low average against that Kevin Goldstein recently cited. But, even if Baker ends up being Jesse Crain’s set-up man, the Twins succeeded.

    78. Tony Giarratano- Detroit Tigers- SS

    Despite an inauspicious debut with the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit had enough confidence in their young shortstop to promote him to the Florida State League. This is arguably been the promotion of the year, seeing that Tony has produced a 373/424/470 line there. I do have my concerns, because a .051 Isolated Patience and .097 Isolated Power are both not great numbers. But, a switch-hitting shortstop that runs well (24 SB thus far) and hits for contact has to land in any top 100.

    79. Koyie Hill- Los Angeles Dodgers- C

    Almost every prospect on the Dodgers has a lot of potential, and a lot of concern. The Greg Miller injury shed some light on that fact, which was good for Hill’s ranking in the organization: he’s the most for sure prospect they currently have. His .289/.345/.463 line is nothing special, but he’s succeeded in AAA, a spot where a lot of catching prospects falter. Consistency deserves a prize every once in a while too.

    80. Anthony Lerew- Atlanta Braves- SP

    Yes, you have read right, I have eight Braves in my top 80. The system is undoubtedly tops in the game right now, which should give recognition to the ‘scout only the South’ philosophy the team seems to employ. Lerew is one of my favorite prospects, a player I see putting in my top 50 come next March, and watching him fly to the top. At Myrtle Beach (high-A), Lerew has a 2.52 ERA, 7.56 H/9, 8.13 K/9, and 3.13 K/BB. But, one of my favorite statistics, is the 0.24 HR/9 stat. If you believe Dayn Perry’s work last year that HR/9 is a top forecasting stat, you have to buy into Lerew.

    81. Dan Johnson- Oakland Athletics- 1B

    Another guy you don’t hear a lot about, but all he does is hit. In AAA now, Johnson is far more worthy of a Major League spot than Blanton or Swisher. We talk about the injustice of Justin Morneau not having a job over Doug Mientkiewicz, but what about Johnson and Scott Hatteberg? Johnson is hitting .309/.411/.538 in the Pacific Coast League, all with only 48 strikeouts. If this guy doesn’t have a full-time job next year, than I will personally start a Free Dan Johnson! watch.

    82. Mike Megrew- Los Angeles Dodgers- SP

    There is undoubtedly projectablity, considering Megrew is a 6-6 southpaw weighing well over 200 pounds. And, one could argue there is polish, considering the 2.97 K/BB rate. While Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley have seemingly received more publicity, keeping an eye on Megrew is a good idea. And the fact that he’s a fifth round choice is another example to file under the “Why do the Dodgers draft so well?” question.

    83. Dave Krynzel- Milwaukee Brewers- OF

    Scott Podsednik has been written about all over the place, but his numbers this year are way off what Doug Melvin was hoping for. Lucky for Milwaukee fans, but there is a better centerfielder waiting in the shadows. Krynzel has been hurt much of the season, but since returning, is now red-hot. The ISO is over .200, but the power has hardly been consistent through the minor leagues. This year, the steals are gone, with only five in 31 games. But, a 20/20 guy in center is better than what Scott Podsednik will provide, especially given Krynzel’s .383 OBP.

    84. Melky Cabrera- New York Yankees- OF

    The Yankees love to hype their prospects, so teams get excited to trade their veterans for a future ‘blue-chipper’. This has seldom come back to hurt the Yankees, so much so that I’m shocked Cabrera hasn’t been hyped. Is this intentional? It’s possible that in Cabrera, the Yankees see a potential replacement for Bernie Williams. I say this because Cabrera is hitting .309 in the Florida State League, after hitting .333 in the Midwest League. He’s a switch-hitter, takes a few walks, and just rakes doubles. Believe me, they won’t stay doubles forever...look at Bernie’s minor league stats. Cabrera won’t be 84 next time you see him, I can almost promise you that.

    85. Ruben Gotay- Kansas City Royals- 2B

    If you make it into the Futures Game, even by route of a weak position, you are a prospect that deserves to be watched. With Gotay and Mark Teahen behind him, the Royals believe that Ken Harvey, Gotay, Berrora and Teahen is their infield of the future. The switch-hitting second basemen might make a splash next year, but still should be in the running for AL Rookie of the Year 2006. With his patience and adequate power, I wouldn’t put it past him quite yet.

    86. Mark Teahen- Kansas City Royals- 3B

    After reading how affixed Allard Baird became on Teahen, I started to believe there really was something to the ex-Moneyball draft selection. He may never develop Giambi-esque power, but the Royals might even take a few years of cheap Joe Randa production. Teahen will never have the SLG he had in 53 AA games again, but he’s a much better player than his .262/.344/.414 AAA line suggests.

    87. Jonathan Broxton- Los Angeles Dodgers- SP

    Another big Dodger, with another big fastball. Broxton, listed at 240 pounds, is pitching well in the Florida State League after turning 20 just a month ago. His low HR/9 (below 1.00), and high K/9 (above 10.00), both suggest a future in the bullpen. Broxton’s ERA is much too high given his performance, something to pay attention to in the final 45 or so games.

    88. Brian Dopirak- Chicago Cubs- 1B

    I still don’t understand how a scout can look at a high school player, and say with certainty that he will hit for power. But whoever said it about Dopirak, and for whatever reasons, was definitely right. You’ve heard about the power numbers of Calvin Pickering and Ryan Howard, but Dopirak’s .606 SLG is something to pay attention to. The Cubs also have to be impressed by the .310 batting average, probably higher than what theat scout had guessed. Dopirak still doesn’t walk enough, strikes out too much, and plays bad defense. But, power is power.

    89. J.D. Durbin- Minnesota Twins- SP

    Again, injuries have stalled Durbin’s development, but he remains on the Twins’ blueprint more than any other Twins hurler, including Jesse Crain. Durbin has very solid numbers across the board in the Eastern League, and looks ready to become a Rochester Red Wing. The Twins need starting pitching like the Texas Rangers do, so there is nothing to indicate that Durbin won’t get his chance in the Twin Cities. And sometimes, opportunity is half the battle.

    90. Brandon Wood- Anaheim Angels- SS

    I guess I’ll never forget it, reading on Baseball America that the Angels’ 2003 first round pick was a high school shortstop named “Dick Wood.” The kid would later ask to be called Brandon, which is like asking Homer Bush to change his name to Carl. But, this didn’t take him off the radar screen, and he’s quickly become the Angels’ second-best middle infield prospect, ranking narrowly behind Erick Aybar. Tremendously bad defense and too many strikeouts hurt his argument to be the top dog. But, if that power remains in higher levels, Wood might be the shortstop position’s top dog...in all the minors.

    91. Jairo Garcia- Oakland Athletics- RP

    Jaw-dropping numbers in low-A are just that: jaw-dropping numbers in low-A. As a challenge, the A’s promoted Garcia to AA, to see if he really was that good. He’s not 0.30 ERA good, but even his Texas League numbers are pretty good. I wasn’t too impressed with him in the Futures Game, and the walks total has been spiking of late, but there is still a lot to like. For example, Garcia is yet to give up a home run this year in more than forty innings of work. He also has 75 strikeouts and only 26 hits allowed this season, so it would be a crime to not call him a prospect.

    92. Joey Votto- Cincinnati Reds- 1B

    It was almost a toss-up between Votto and Dopirak, a pair of 20-year-old first basemen in low levels. But, Votto is definitely behind the Cubs’ prospect, since he doesn’t have a .500 slugging, much less .600. But give Votto some credit, his OBP is .416 this year, making me think he might be the next Dan Johnson...but with a lot more strikeouts. The average seems to be staying consistent, and a .300 average with 80 annual walks is more than deserving of an everyday job.

    93. Fernando Nieve- Houston Astros- SP

    I’ve had my eye on Nieve for awhile, calling him the Astros’ breakout prospect before the season. While he’s still under the radar, Nieve has posted some fantastic numbers in high-A this year. A H/9 under nine, a K/BB over 3.00, and only five home runs allowed in over 100 innings is great. He’s easily the best Astros’ pitching prospect at the moment, beating out Taylor Buchholz by a mile. Keep your eye on this guy, he just can’t keep on this pace with no notice, it’s just not fair.

    94. Andy Sisco- Chicago Cubs- SP

    Plain and simple, it’s nice time to jump ship on Sisco quite yet. In fact, there are very few times when it is alright to jump ship on a 6-9 southpaw, as Mark Hendrickson has proven so far this season. Sisco’s ERA has never been consistent with his numbers, and that remains true this year, though he’s recently lowered the number to 4.13. The walks have to come down, but you gotta love everything else on this kid. If the Cubs have to choose any pitching prospect to hang onto, it might just be this guy, as there is still so much that Sisco can do.

    95. Shin-Soo Choo- Seattle Mariners- OF

    Sometimes, even bad Futures Game performances get you some notice. That’s what happened for Choo, who I had all but forgotten about before his disastrous performance in Houston. The same can’t be said of his season, as his current Texas League line reads .303/.371/.443. Choo can run like Hell, and his 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts tell that his baserunning talents are very strong. An outfield of Jeremy Reed, Choo and Ichiro seem to be in the cards, and while not powerful, they’ll be good at defense and on the bases. How far that gets them remains to be seen, though I don’t think it’s enough to win a division with.

    96. Chris Roberson- Philadelphia Phillies- OF

    Before this season, Roberson had a career .247 batting average, with an Isolated Power of .080. Those hideous numbers have improved this season, as Roberson is hitting .307/.371/.473 in the Florida State League. His baserunning talents that kept him on the prospect radar last year have vanished, and Roberson is still very raw in the field. But if he can cut down the strikeouts, Roberson still has a chance to be a success story...though I wouldn’t bet on it.

    97. Adam Miller- Cleveland Indians- SP

    I don’t know why I’m so biased against Sally League pitchers, but I just can’t buy into their numbers at all. Miller even more so, because his ERA would not be 3.36 if not for a great April. But, mixing good stuff with a K/BB nearing 4.00 is a good sign, though Miller’s timetable seems extremely slow. Given these numbers, why not give Miller the promotion?

    98. Andy LaRoche- Los Angeles Dodgers- 3B

    Despite his brother’s rookie struggles, I won’t let that effect my opinion of Dave LaRoche’s son Andy. I’m also ignoring LaRoche’s first 94 FSL at-bats, which were not up to par with his .283/.375/.525 low-A line. It seems to me that Andy has good patience, good power and good defense, all of which make up a good prospect. It was a toss-up between LaRoche and Hank Blalock’s little brother, who had fairly similar Sally League numbers.

    99. Willy Taveras- Houston Astros- OF

    After being acquired by the Astros in the Rule V draft, Taveras has blossomed over extra tutelage, and was hitting .340 before getting injured. Taveras walks and runs, and that’s it. He strikes out a little too much for a leadoff hitter, and has less power than the tag ‘Juan Pierre lite’ would imply...if that’s possible.

    100. Alberto Callaspo- Anaheim Angels- 2B

    Anaheim has been good on most of their prospect’s timetables, all of those except Callaspo. Alberto was Erick Aybar’s double-play teammate last year, but was promoted to the Texas League, while Aybar moved up one level to the California League. Aybar skyrocketed into the top 75, while Callaspo has dropped to hanging on by his fingernails. He’s flirting with getting kicked out for good, though I have a feeling Callaspo might turn things up a bit in the second half.

    WTNYJuly 22, 2004
    WTNY 'Midseason' 100
    By Bryan Smith

    With this final installment, my prospect ranking is done...for a few months. Despite mixed reviews, it’s been a good time, and one of the most educational experiences of my writing career. I’m never going to attempt to put WTNY alongside Baseball America, but instead putting another view on a largely uncovered area of the baseball world.

    Let me congratulate David Wright and Grady Sizemore on their promotions to the Bigs. Wright was 0-4 in his opener, while Sizmore was just 0-1. Both these guys have extremely bright futures, and their presence in the Majors is long overdue. Hopefully this will give the Mets reason to trade Ty Wigginton to the Pirates for Kris Benson, but we shall see.

    Next Monday, I hope to recap by answering all your questions with a mailbag type of column. So please, drop any question you've had below, and I'll try to get to all of them Monday. And, here we go:

    76. Nick Swisher- Oakland Athletics- OF

    Spoken by Michael Lewis, via an interview given by the guys at Athletics Nation:


    The stats tell you everything you need to know about him. If you look at his walks, it’s insane. He’s 23 YEARS OLD in a league filled with 30-year-old players who’ve spent time in the big leagues. And he’s got like 78 or 80 walks and the next closest guy has 60? How does that happen? It’s freakish. He’s got 16 bombs, who cares that he is hitting .260? Last time I checked, he was like sixth in the league in on-base percentage and that’s at 23 years old. When you go see him and you look at the numbers, what you see when you watch him just confirms the numbers in that he has a really amazing tendency/ability to control his encounters in the batter’s box. He does have a remarkable control over the encounter. He really does have a very, very good eye and just great discipline. He doesn’t mind taking his walks.

    77. Scott Baker- Minnesota Twins- SP

    The reason I love Baseball America? It’s the source where I find guys like Scott Baker, who recently struck out 12 batters in a game, and has given up a ridiculously low 44 hits in 70.1 innings in AA. His peripherals are the type that get turned into a reliever, especially the low average against that Kevin Goldstein recently cited. But, even if Baker ends up being Jesse Crain’s set-up man, the Twins succeeded.

    78. Tony Giarratano- Detroit Tigers- SS

    Despite an inauspicious debut with the West Michigan Whitecaps, Detroit had enough confidence in their young shortstop to promote him to the Florida State League. This is arguably been the promotion of the year, seeing that Tony has produced a 373/424/470 line there. I do have my concerns, because a .051 Isolated Patience and .097 Isolated Power are both not great numbers. But, a switch-hitting shortstop that runs well (24 SB thus far) and hits for contact has to land in any top 100.

    79. Koyie Hill- Los Angeles Dodgers- C

    Almost every prospect on the Dodgers has a lot of potential, and a lot of concern. The Greg Miller injury shed some light on that fact, which was good for Hill’s ranking in the organization: he’s the most for sure prospect they currently have. His .289/.345/.463 line is nothing special, but he’s succeeded in AAA, a spot where a lot of catching prospects falter. Consistency deserves a prize every once in a while too.

    80. Anthony Lerew- Atlanta Braves- SP

    Yes, you have read right, I have eight Braves in my top 80. The system is undoubtedly tops in the game right now, which should give recognition to the ‘scout only the South’ philosophy the team seems to employ. Lerew is one of my favorite prospects, a player I see putting in my top 50 come next March, and watching him fly to the top. At Myrtle Beach (high-A), Lerew has a 2.52 ERA, 7.56 H/9, 8.13 K/9, and 3.13 K/BB. But, one of my favorite statistics, is the 0.24 HR/9 stat. If you believe Dayn Perry’s work last year that HR/9 is a top forecasting stat, you have to buy into Lerew.

    81. Dan Johnson- Oakland Athletics- 1B

    Another guy you don’t hear a lot about, but all he does is hit. In AAA now, Johnson is far more worthy of a Major League spot than Blanton or Swisher. We talk about the injustice of Justin Morneau not having a job over Doug Mientkiewicz, but what about Johnson and Scott Hatteberg? Johnson is hitting .309/.411/.538 in the Pacific Coast League, all with only 48 strikeouts. If this guy doesn’t have a full-time job next year, than I will personally start a Free Dan Johnson! watch.

    82. Mike Megrew- Los Angeles Dodgers- SP

    There is undoubtedly projectablity, considering Megrew is a 6-6 southpaw weighing well over 200 pounds. And, one could argue there is polish, considering the 2.97 K/BB rate. While Jonathan Broxton and Chad Billingsley have seemingly received more publicity, keeping an eye on Megrew is a good idea. And the fact that he’s a fifth round choice is another example to file under the “Why do the Dodgers draft so well?” question.

    83. Dave Krynzel- Milwaukee Brewers- OF

    Scott Podsednik has been written about all over the place, but his numbers this year are way off what Doug Melvin was hoping for. Lucky for Milwaukee fans, but there is a better centerfielder waiting in the shadows. Krynzel has been hurt much of the season, but since returning, is now red-hot. The ISO is over .200, but the power has hardly been consistent through the minor leagues. This year, the steals are gone, with only five in 31 games. But, a 20/20 guy in center is better than what Scott Podsednik will provide, especially given Krynzel’s .383 OBP.

    84. Melky Cabrera- New York Yankees- OF

    The Yankees love to hype their prospects, so teams get excited to trade their veterans for a future ‘blue-chipper’. This has seldom come back to hurt the Yankees, so much so that I’m shocked Cabrera hasn’t been hyped. Is this intentional? It’s possible that in Cabrera, the Yankees see a potential replacement for Bernie Williams. I say this because Cabrera is hitting .309 in the Florida State League, after hitting .333 in the Midwest League. He’s a switch-hitter, takes a few walks, and just rakes doubles. Believe me, they won’t stay doubles forever...look at Bernie’s minor league stats. Cabrera won’t be 84 next time you see him, I can almost promise you that.

    85. Ruben Gotay- Kansas City Royals- 2B

    If you make it into the Futures Game, even by route of a weak position, you are a prospect that deserves to be watched. With Gotay and Mark Teahen behind him, the Royals believe that Ken Harvey, Gotay, Berrora and Teahen is their infield of the future. The switch-hitting second basemen might make a splash next year, but still should be in the running for AL Rookie of the Year 2006. With his patience and adequate power, I wouldn’t put it past him quite yet.

    86. Mark Teahen- Kansas City Royals- 3B

    After reading how affixed Allard Baird became on Teahen, I started to believe there really was something to the ex-Moneyball draft selection. He may never develop Giambi-esque power, but the Royals might even take a few years of cheap Joe Randa production. Teahen will never have the SLG he had in 53 AA games again, but he’s a much better player than his .262/.344/.414 AAA line suggests.

    87. Jonathan Broxton- Los Angeles Dodgers- SP

    Another big Dodger, with another big fastball. Broxton, listed at 240 pounds, is pitching well in the Florida State League after turning 20 just a month ago. His low HR/9 (below 1.00), and high K/9 (above 10.00), both suggest a future in the bullpen. Broxton’s ERA is much too high given his performance, something to pay attention to in the final 45 or so games.

    88. Brian Dopirak- Chicago Cubs- 1B

    I still don’t understand how a scout can look at a high school player, and say with certainty that he will hit for power. But whoever said it about Dopirak, and for whatever reasons, was definitely right. You’ve heard about the power numbers of Calvin Pickering and Ryan Howard, but Dopirak’s .606 SLG is something to pay attention to. The Cubs also have to be impressed by the .310 batting average, probably higher than what theat scout had guessed. Dopirak still doesn’t walk enough, strikes out too much, and plays bad defense. But, power is power.

    89. J.D. Durbin- Minnesota Twins- SP

    Again, injuries have stalled Durbin’s development, but he remains on the Twins’ blueprint more than any other Twins hurler, including Jesse Crain. Durbin has very solid numbers across the board in the Eastern League, and looks ready to become a Rochester Red Wing. The Twins need starting pitching like the Texas Rangers do, so there is nothing to indicate that Durbin won’t get his chance in the Twin Cities. And sometimes, opportunity is half the battle.

    90. Brandon Wood- Anaheim Angels- SS

    I guess I’ll never forget it, reading on Baseball America that the Angels’ 2003 first round pick was a high school shortstop named “Dick Wood.” The kid would later ask to be called Brandon, which is like asking Homer Bush to change his name to Carl. But, this didn’t take him off the radar screen, and he’s quickly become the Angels’ second-best middle infield prospect, ranking narrowly behind Erick Aybar. Tremendously bad defense and too many strikeouts hurt his argument to be the top dog. But, if that power remains in higher levels, Wood might be the shortstop position’s top dog...in all the minors.

    91. Jairo Garcia- Oakland Athletics- RP

    Jaw-dropping numbers in low-A are just that: jaw-dropping numbers in low-A. As a challenge, the A’s promoted Garcia to AA, to see if he really was that good. He’s not 0.30 ERA good, but even his Texas League numbers are pretty good. I wasn’t too impressed with him in the Futures Game, and the walks total has been spiking of late, but there is still a lot to like. For example, Garcia is yet to give up a home run this year in more than forty innings of work. He also has 75 strikeouts and only 26 hits allowed this season, so it would be a crime to not call him a prospect.

    92. Joey Votto- Cincinnati Reds- 1B

    It was almost a toss-up between Votto and Dopirak, a pair of 20-year-old first basemen in low levels. But, Votto is definitely behind the Cubs’ prospect, since he doesn’t have a .500 slugging, much less .600. But give Votto some credit, his OBP is .416 this year, making me think he might be the next Dan Johnson...but with a lot more strikeouts. The average seems to be staying consistent, and a .300 average with 80 annual walks is more than deserving of an everyday job.

    93. Fernando Nieve- Houston Astros- SP

    I’ve had my eye on Nieve for awhile, calling him the Astros’ breakout prospect before the season. While he’s still under the radar, Nieve has posted some fantastic numbers in high-A this year. A H/9 under nine, a K/BB over 3.00, and only five home runs allowed in over 100 innings is great. He’s easily the best Astros’ pitching prospect at the moment, beating out Taylor Buchholz by a mile. Keep your eye on this guy, he just can’t keep on this pace with no notice, it’s just not fair.

    94. Andy Sisco- Chicago Cubs- SP

    Plain and simple, it’s nice time to jump ship on Sisco quite yet. In fact, there are very few times when it is alright to jump ship on a 6-9 southpaw, as Mark Hendrickson has proven so far this season. Sisco’s ERA has never been consistent with his numbers, and that remains true this year, though he’s recently lowered the number to 4.13. The walks have to come down, but you gotta love everything else on this kid. If the Cubs have to choose any pitching prospect to hang onto, it might just be this guy, as there is still so much that Sisco can do.

    95. Shin-Soo Choo- Seattle Mariners- OF

    Sometimes, even bad Futures Game performances get you some notice. That’s what happened for Choo, who I had all but forgotten about before his disastrous performance in Houston. The same can’t be said of his season, as his current Texas League line reads .303/.371/.443. Choo can run like Hell, and his 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts tell that his baserunning talents are very strong. An outfield of Jeremy Reed, Choo and Ichiro seem to be in the cards, and while not powerful, they’ll be good at defense and on the bases. How far that gets them remains to be seen, though I don’t think it’s enough to win a division with.

    96. Chris Roberson- Philadelphia Phillies- OF

    Before this season, Roberson had a career .247 batting average, with an Isolated Power of .080. Those hideous numbers have improved this season, as Roberson is hitting .307/.371/.473 in the Florida State League. His baserunning talents that kept him on the prospect radar last year have vanished, and Roberson is still very raw in the field. But if he can cut down the strikeouts, Roberson still has a chance to be a success story...though I wouldn’t bet on it.

    97. Adam Miller- Cleveland Indians- SP

    I don’t know why I’m so biased against Sally League pitchers, but I just can’t buy into their numbers at all. Miller even more so, because his ERA would not be 3.36 if not for a great April. But, mixing good stuff with a K/BB nearing 4.00 is a good sign, though Miller’s timetable seems extremely slow. Given these numbers, why not give Miller the promotion?

    98. Andy LaRoche- Los Angeles Dodgers- 3B

    Despite his brother’s rookie struggles, I won’t let that effect my opinion of Dave LaRoche’s son Andy. I’m also ignoring LaRoche’s first 94 FSL at-bats, which were not up to par with his .283/.375/.525 low-A line. It seems to me that Andy has good patience, good power and good defense, all of which make up a good prospect. It was a toss-up between LaRoche and Hank Blalock’s little brother, who had fairly similar Sally League numbers.

    99. Willy Taveras- Houston Astros- OF

    After being acquired by the Astros in the Rule V draft, Taveras has blossomed over extra tutelage, and was hitting .340 before getting injured. Taveras walks and runs, and that’s it. He strikes out a little too much for a leadoff hitter, and has less power than the tag ‘Juan Pierre lite’ would imply...if that’s possible.

    100. Alberto Callaspo- Anaheim Angels- 2B

    Anaheim has been good on most of their prospect’s timetables, all of those except Callaspo. Alberto was Erick Aybar’s double-play teammate last year, but was promoted to the Texas League, while Aybar moved up one level to the California League. Aybar skyrocketed into the top 75, while Callaspo has dropped to hanging on by his fingernails. He’s flirting with getting kicked out for good, though I have a feeling Callaspo might turn things up a bit in the second half.

    Remember, drop any questions in the comments, and I will answer all of them on Monday.

    WTNYJuly 19, 2004
    Changes
    By Bryan Smith

    To answer some questions I've had, no, I'm not done. On Thursday, I will present prospects 76-100, rounding out my 'midseason' list. The more and more we get into July, the further we are from the halfway point, but I think it is still fair to keep ranking prospects. After that, I will rank all the Major League organizations, as one reader requested.

    For now, I wanted to clean up the mess around here, take a second to breath. Ranking prospects is a difficult art, one that generates lots of criticism. Most of the time I have an answer for critics, a reason why my list reads how it does. But, this list is not perfect. I can explain why Gabe Gross or Jose Lopez didn't make my list, but I have a harder time explaining Edwin Encarnacion.

    I can't explain how Edwin Encarnacion is behind James Loney (#75), or a worse 3B prospect than Eric Duncan (#58). An early season injury eliminated Encarnacion from my memory, but watching him in the Futures Game made me realize he should be on the list. After hitting .282/.339/.458 in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old, he spent 2003 hitting .321/.387/.484 in high-A. Encarnacion, once traded for Rob Bell, is back to his old self, with a line of .305/.379/.465 in AA thus far.

    These are fairly consistent lines, considering the ISOs (.176, .163, .160) and his Isolated Patience numbers (.059, .066, .074). At the age of twenty-one, Encarnacion is still young for the Southern League. His defense is said to be good at third, and while he won't be stealing 25 bases like he did in 2002, he runs fairly well. It's safe to say that Encarnacion will solve the Reds' hot corner problem before too long, and even more so that he belongs in the top 75.

    Also, after further consideration, I have more prospect tweaking that has been decided on. First of all, Delmon Young has been vastly underrated on my list. I now feel that Young is a better outfield prospect than Jeremy Hermida, Felix Pie, Jeff Salazar, Jeremy Reed and Conor Jackson, all of whom were once ranked ahead of him. And in good time, I believe that Young will pass Jeff Francouer, Franklin Gutierrez and Grady Sizemore to be first on the list.

    Injuries to Cole Hamels, and a breakout by Scott Kazmir has led to the decision to flop the two on my list. For the season, Kazmir has only allowed three home runs in 61 innings, and has pitched well in two AA starts. It sounds that Hamels' arm injury was more serious than Kazmir's, which also has a large bearing on the decision. I'm still skeptical that Kazmir will end up in the bullpen, and his second half will be closely watched.

    A little farther down the list, decisions have been made on Chuck James, Lastings Milledge and Carlos Quentin. While James' numbers are impressive, dominating the Sally League at 22 is almost expected. He's just been activated from a questionable suspension, and we'll see how the southpaw fares at high-A Myrtle Beach. Milledge was a top 10 pick in last year's draft, and proved it with a .225 ISO in low-A. While the five walks in 196 at-bats were concerning, power mixed with 16 steals was enough for the Mets to promote Milledge.

    After thinking Conor Jackson was a much better prospect than both Quentin and Jamie D'Antona, Quentin's play has reversed that opinion. Quentin is closing fast, and has hit .393/.464/.583 with the El Paso Diablos of the Texas League. An outfield of Jackson, Drew or Santos, and Quentin is not too far away. Give Joe Garigiola some credit, he's gone all college players of late, and it's quickly transforming his system into one of the game's best.

    With those two moving up, Ryan Howard will also be pushed back a little on the list. Fabian has written in previous comments about how far off I am, and Howard's 112 strikeouts in 89 games prove that. Not only might he break the minor league home run record, but also the strikeout record.

    So, with all those changes, it's time to shut up and unvail my final 75, for comments on all these players, see part one and two:


    1. Upton 39. Brownlie
    2. Wright 40. Crain
    3. Hernandez 41. Encarnacion
    4. McPherson 42. J. Guzman
    5. Marte 43. Stevens
    6. Sizemore 44. Weeks
    7. Francis 45. Quiroz
    8. Fielder 46. Burke
    9. Mathis 47. Davies
    10. Kazmir 48. Navarro
    11. Gutierrez 49. Van Benschoten
    12. Cain 50. Milledge
    13. Meyer 51. Quentin
    14. Francouer 52. J. Anderson
    15. Everts 53. Hudgins
    16. Aubrey 54. Hinckley
    17. Floyd 55. Seddon
    18. Young 56. Cano
    19. Valdez 57. Maine
    20. Hermida 58. Duncan
    21. Hamels 59. James
    22. Salazar 60. Loewen
    23. Capellan 61. Banks
    24. Pie 62. Duke
    25. Jackson 63. Aybar
    26. Reed 64. Santos
    27. Santana 65. Thompson
    28. Baker 66. Howard
    29. Stauffer 67. Barfield
    30. Kinsler 68. Palmisano
    31. Stewart 69. Billingsley
    32. Blanton 70. Moss
    33. A. Guzman 71. B. Anderson
    34. Huber 72. Alvarez
    35. Kubel 73. Majewski
    36. Barton 74. Bautista
    37. Danks 75. Loney
    38. Petit

    Check back on Thursday for installment #3.

    Baseball BeatJuly 18, 2004
    Abstracts From The Abstracts
    By Rich Lederer

    Part Three: 1979 Baseball Abstract

    The 3rd Annual Edition of the Baseball Abstract had the words "By Bill James" on the salmon-color cover for the first time. The book was still held together by three staples. The number of pages increased from 115 from the previous year to 120, but the 1979 version is about half the weight because the text was copied on both sides of the paper for the first time.

    For the second consecutive year, James wrote a "Dear Reader" letter (which graces the opening page of the book), signing it as Editor and Publisher along with a "Copyright Bill James 1979" and "All Rights Reserved" for the first time.

    With a speed which would be considered quick for geologic changes, the Baseball Abstract shows promise of emerging from obscurity. The media is beginning to take note; I never much wanted to be famous, but if somebody offers rich. . .

    . . .You will note, if you read carefully, that I often use mechanical metaphors. I am a mechanic with numbers, tinkering with the records of baseball games to see how the machinery of the baseball offense works. I do not start with the numbers any more than a mechanic starts with a monkey wrench. I start with the game, with the things that I see and the things that people say there. And I ask, "Is it true? Can you validate it? Can you measure it? How does it fit in with the rest of the machinery?" And for those answers, I go to the record books.

    What is remarkable to me is that I have so little company. Baseball keeps copious records, and people talk about them and argue about them and think about them a great deal. Why doesn't anybody use them? Why doesn't anybody say, in the face of this contention or that one, "Prove it. Baseball's got a million records and if that is true you can prove it, so prove it." Why do people argue about which catcher throws best, rather than figure the catchers' records against base-stealers? I really don't know.

    But that, essentially, is what I do. I hope you like it. But if not, your money will be expeditiously [my emphasis] refunded.

    James writes a two-page essay on "The Defensive Record" with a sub-title "A word of explanation." He concludes that "(1) the more important measure of a player's defensive ability is not his fielding average, but his range factor, which is simply the number of plays per game that the fielder makes, and (2) the important measure of a defensive team is the percentage of all balls put into play against it that it can get to and make a play on."

    James attempts to prove his point by stating that the "good defensive teams" based on Defensive Efficiency Record (DER) allowed fewer runs during the 1978 season than "poor defensive teams", whereas there were no clear patterns based on fielding averages. "DER, always, correlates well with W/L Pct."

    The form of the book is very similar to the prior year. James covers the National League East and West, then the American League East and West. Rather than providing tidbits on each team as in the last review, I am going to include James' most interesting commentary irrespective of its place in the book.

    In response to the accuracy of his numbers, James tells his readers that he sells two things, "an approach, a novel way of looking at the statistics which brings out insights you can't get otherwise, and the general truths which emerge from that."

    The general truth is that Richie Hebner hit vastly better last year in Philadelphia than on the road. If it is important to you that difference might have been .324-.239 rather than .327-.236, or that those games started by Randy Jones may have seen only 49 double plays rather than 50, then I suggest you do two things: ask for your money back, and count them yourself. And have fun. . .

    James writes an essay on "Guidry/Rice, A Primer of Stat Analysis" in which he compares the top two finishers in the A.L. MVP voting. James introduces the concept of runs created for the first time (and, in fact, lists the number of runs created for all the regulars along with monthly and season totals as well as home/road splits).

    We begin with the offense. A hitter should be measured by his success in that which he is trying to do, and that which he is trying to do is create runs. It is startling, when you think about it, how much confusion there is about this. I find it remarkable that, in listing offenses, the league offices will list first--meaning best--not the team which has scored the most runs, but the team with the highest team batting average. It should be obvious that the purpose of an offense is not to compile a high batting average.

    ...There are two essential offensive statistics: on-base %, and advancement percentage (Total bases divided by Plate appearances). Other things tend to magnify or minimize the effects of those two; speed maximizes the effect of on-base percentage, timeliness maximizes the effects of advancement percentage.

    James then provides the following formula for runs created:

    (H + W - CS) (TB + .7 SB)
    AB + W + CS

    James proceeds to tell us that "70 is about an 'average' runs created total for a full-time player. 80 is above average, 90 good, 100 or more excellent. These standards generally conform to those of the 'Run' or 'RBI' totals." He provides a table comparing "the results of these formula computations to actual run totals" for every team in the majors.

    Of the 26 teams, 9 estimates are within 1%, 20 are within 3%, 25 within 5%. The big error is on California, and it is caused by an unusual number of HBP--60% more than any other team in the league, and a total over twice the league average.

    A number of runs created formulas were later derived, including the use of hit by pitches and grounded into double plays. The reasons James left out HBP originally is because "there aren't that many of them, the data is hard to come by, and it isn't worth the loss in simplicity", but he advises us to "use your common sense--if you're figuring Ron Hunt, count his HBP as walks." James leaves out GIDP "for the same reason I leave out RBI and runs scored--they are influenced by what the guy in front of you does. There is not an equal spread of opportunity."

    With this information in hand, James calculates that Rice created 148 runs while using up 469 outs vs. 78 runs for an average American Leaguer, concluding that "Rice's superiority to the league average is therefore 70 runs (approximately 9 games)." Guidry, on the other hand, allowed 61 runs in 274 innings whereas an average American League pitcher would have allowed 129 runs over that span, concluding that "Guidry's superiority is therefore 68 runs--and Rice, by two runs, wins the award."

    James admits that "it is, fortunately, not that simple...but there's a limit to how long anybody can think about this at one time, so take a break and I'll get back to the subject on page 83."

    In Guidry/Rice Part II, James reminds his readers that:

    ...we were attempting to compare Rice and Guidry by comparing each to an average player, and calculating how many more runs the MVP candidate had saved or created. The first complication is the substitution level. Is it appropriate, in discussing the player's worth, to compare him to an 'average' player, or to some level below that, a so-called 'replacement level' at which a minor leaguer or the best available fringe player, in case of need, might fill in. It would be a lot easier to use the average, no doubt about it, but a lot better to use the replacement level.

    James also discusses "park illusions," mentioning five effects: (1) dimensions, (2) playing surface, (3) configuration, (4) visibility, and (5) climate. He says "if you add all of those things up, their potential impact on statistics becomes so obvious that the arguments against such things tend to degenerate rapidly."

    James then makes one final adjustment for defense "both ways." He adjusts Guidry's runs saved downward by suggesting that "defense is probably 70% pitching and 30% defensive play," applying .7 factor to his replacement level and park adjusted runs saved total. He adjusts Rice's runs created upward by giving him "credit for 'saving' at least 7 to 10 runs" based on leading A.L. LF in range factor (2.26) "in a park which has a small left-field area and in which, traditionally, left fielders have had low range factors" and his "excellent" fielding average (.989) and assists total (13 in 114 games).

    The conclusion that James reaches is that "it was close and arguable--but Jim Rice was the MVP." I grab my Win Shares book at this point to see if James may have had a change of heart over the years and learn that Rice is credited with 36 (tops in the league) and Guidry with 31 (2nd). Although the inputs have changed, the bottom line is that Rice won out both ways--in James' more primitive attempt 25 years ago and in his more sophisticated and updated analysis.

    Later, in "Guidry/Rice: A Post Script," James volunteers that "the purpose of this essay, of course, was not to put to rest the MVP debate as much as to introduce a variety of analytical theories and techniques that you might not be familiar with." He also discusses timeliness and clutch factor before bringing up Victory-Important RBI, a stat that gives more weight to RBI in winning close games than in blow-outs and no weight whatsoever in defeats. VI-RBI, as James calls it, lacks merit in my mind, and I'm glad it never took hold.

    James also launches the novel idea that "there exists a spectrum of defensive positions, left to right, which goes something like this: first base, left field, right field, third base, center field, second base, shortstop", claiming that "each postion is more difficult to play than the position before it."

    In discussing the fact that Davey Lopes scored "only" 90 runs in 1978, James discloses a "generally accurate format for estimating how many runs a lead-off man will score" as follows: (Times on First x .35) + (Times on Second x .55) + (Triples x .80) + (Home Runs x 1.00). He adds that the discrepancies "can be explained by failings or bonuses from the offense behind them, the players own speed or lack of it, and random deviation from chance."

    In the case of Lopes, James says the discrepancy is due to Bill North batting second. North, whose only extra base hits in his 110 games with the Dodgers that season were his 10 doubles, ranked "dead last in the league in isolated power, meaning that he just never scores a runner from first."

    Moving along, James comments on the "shortage of third basemen in the Hall of Fame", the baddd [his word and spelling] choice of Bob Horner over Ozzie Smith as the Rookie of the Year, and "the nonsensical notion that a pitcher 'wins' or 'loses.'"

    James also observes that "a team that improves dramatically in one season will almost always decline markedly in the next," "the largest element in shutting off the running game is not the catcher's arm...or the pitcher's move...but the pitcher's ability to throw strikes," and that "it is a mistake to try to build the pitching staff first" due to the fact that their careers are "in perpetual danger of coming to an abrupt end."

    Long before any player was ever on pace to draw more than 100 intentional walks in a single season, James noted that "Rod Carew last year once swung at two pitches when he was being intentionally walked, trying to get the pitcher to throw him something he could reach." He writes that "this was once a common strategy", mentioning Cap Anson and King Kelly "did that often." He finishes with "For some reason it isn't done anymore." Hmmm. Paging Barry Bonds, paging Barry Bonds...

    In the section on the Kansas City Royals, James makes the assertion that they "are not the kind of team that traditionally has done well in a short, crucial series."

    A short series favors power hitting, for reasons that I won't get into, and the Royals do not have that much power. They have always had a deep pitching staff with a deep bullpen--but a short series favors a team with outstanding front-line pitching. How often are you going to use your #5 starter in a World Series, anyway? A short series favors a team that runs the bases conservatively--the Royals run them aggressively.

    In view of the recent thinking so heavily influenced by the playoff success of the Anaheim Angels and Florida Marlins, I find the opinions expressed by James 25 years ago quite interesting. Was James wrong? Or are the Angels and Marlins flukes? And what does this say about the Oakland A's approach and the validity of Billy Beane's staunchest critics?

    Next up: 1980 Baseball Abstract

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    WTNYJuly 15, 2004
    WTNY Midseason 75
    By Bryan Smith

    First of all, let me thank everyone for the comments in the last two posts, its been great to get a discussion going. I love knowing there is a place for talk on minor league baseball, and I hope this can become a home for that. While I had planned on following up the top forty with comments on the honorable mention, your interest sparked me to rank further, going down to 75 this week. Response to this will decide whether or not I make a third installment.

    While I love the constructive criticism and differing opinions (rather than the plain, old, this list sucks), I should have laid groundwork for my decisions before unleashing the top forty. This is a midseason ranking list, and like Aaron Gleeman stressed in his ML All-Star picks, you cant overvalue half a season. I took previous performance very seriously, trying to mix 2004 and the past evenly. This explains why Joel Guzman is low, and Josh Barfield isnt gone. I expect a ton of differences this winter, when 2004 gets weighed more heavily.

    And now, lets get to prospects 41-75:

    41. Ian Stewart- Colorado Rockies- 3B

    The tenth pick in last years frat, Stewart has already displayed the most power from the 2003 draft. That kind of raw power, mixed with the thin air of Colorado, just might produce some freakish results. Stewart has more upside than Jeff Salazar and Jeff Baker, with a lot less polish. Ian will surely force Baker to pick up another glove, perhaps learning the art of left field. Stewarts Sally League numbers are excellent, but just that, low-A numbers. I always try to take it with a grain of salt, but if he tops thirty home runs, that may not be an option.

    42. Joel Guzman- Los Angeles Dodgers- SS

    Looking at Joel Guzmans past numbers, you might be shocked at the year hes having. But ask the Dodgers, who signed him for millions at age 16, and theyll say it was only a matter of time. Its hard to say where Guzman fits in as a prospect, hes always looked overmatched until May of this year. His numbers seem similar to Franklin Gutierrez of 2003, meaning his .530 SLG will evaporate at higher levels. This hardly eliminates him from prospect status, as good contact, fielding and baserunning shortstops are hard to find. Few second halves will have more of a bearing on winter rankings than Guzmans.

    43. Jake Stevens- Atlanta Braves- SP

    Brad Thompson, who will appear later on this list, was hyped more than many minor leaguers ever see with his 50+ IP scoreless streak earlier this season. Jake Stevens didnt get the same attention, but between May 21 and July 10, Stevens didnt give up a run either. In fact, the game that ended in was a five inning start in which the southpaw gave up one run, while striking out eight batters. His numbers have been superior to teammate Chuck James, and given Stevens age, his prospect status is rising.

    44. Rickie Weeks- Milwaukee Brewers- 2B

    Life cant be easy for Rickie Weeks. Now dont get me wrong, Im not making excuses for what has thus far been a sorry season, but his life has been non-stop ever since being chosen second in last years draft. A sensational player at Southern University, Weeks has struggled a bit in the Southern League, with a season line of .253/.369/.379. The Isolated Power is a little bad, but Weeks is a middle infielder, and he does have 25 extra-base hits. Things are going to click in the second half for Rickie Weeks, and I bet hes in my top 30 at seasons end.

    45. Guillermo Quiroz- Toronto Blue Jays- C

    Since falling victim to a collasped lung at the end of last season, Quiroz hasnt had the best health, falling victim to yet another injury this year. It doesnt effect his long-term status, and he should have a fine second half. Kevin Cash, who had been projected to give Quiroz competition for PT, has been terrible for the Jays, basically handing the job to Guillermo. With Alexis Rios, Gabe Gross, and Quiroz projected to be in their lineup next year, and possibly Russ Adams and Aaron Hill as well, the Jays rebuilding can begin right now.

    46. Chris Burke- Houston Astros- 2B

    Is there a dreamier leadoff prospect out there than Chris Burke right now? The Astros will almost surely let Jeff Kent leave in 2005, letting their top prospect take the job up the middle. They are right in believing hes ready for the job, as evidenced by his .325/.403/.507 line in the PCL this year. I dont think the power surge will last in the Majors, but he might get to about 40 doubles some season, which aint bad either. Throw in the fact that he stole 22 bases before being called up, and youve got the 2005 Astros leadoff man.

    47. Kyle Davies- Atlanta Braves- SP

    I asked my friend Brad Dowdy about his thoughts on the three Braves pitchers in this list, and this is what he said of Davies:


    I could argue Davies ahead of Stevens after his two solid outings since being promoted to Double-A as a 20 year old. Everyone in the system has always known he has the stuff, it was just a matter of getting innings under his belt and the old clich of "learning how to pitch". Well, this is the season where he put it all together. He didn't even blink when he moved up a level, and I don't see any reason why that won't continue.

    48. Dioner Navarro- New York Yankees- C

    Despite some power struggles this year, its hard to make a claim that someone other than Dioner Navarro is the top Yankees prospect. 2004 numbers explain why hes behind Justin Huber and Daric Barton in terms of catching prospects, though that is very subject to change. In contrast, Navarro is behind Jeff Mathis and Guillermo Quiroz because of potential...particularly power potential. I like Navarros discipline, I think more of his contact abilities than a .271 average suggests, and have heard him to be an average defender. Power isnt essential for a top 50 prospect, but a better ISO than .098 would be big here.

    49. John Van Benschoten- Pittsburgh Pirates- SP

    After obviously passing the Eastern League test, I was a little worried when John Van Benschoten struggled when reaching AAA. But things have picked up lately (excluding his last start), and John has an ERA sitting right around 4.00. Van Benschoten will have every opportunity in the world to make it with the Pirates, and given the right patience, I think he will. Unless VB has a big August, I doubt theyll call him up, waiting for mid-2005 for his arrival.

    50. Ryan Howard- Philadelphia Phillies- 1B

    Is there a better prospect in minor league baseball thats as blocked as Ryan Howard? While a perfect world wouldnt have the every prospect is trade bait mentality, I can understand if Ed Wade is willing to trade Howard, despite beind on his way to crushing the AA home run record. The power is unbelieveable, and unmatched by any prospects on this list. But, Howard strikes out a lot, and could reach the 150 plateau this year. He reminds me of a modern day Frank Thomas, not the 90s superversion: volatile average, lots o power and walks, and unlike Frank, tons of Ks.

    51. Josh Anderson- Houston Astros- OF

    While us sabermatricians try to act as scouts by analyzing numbers, it takes a Josh Anderson type to respect the real scouts. In last years draft, Anderson lasted until the fourth round, hardly the spot for a top 50 prospect. This is a situation when power isnt key, when a .101 ISO on a .324 average will more than suffice. Why? At centerfield, Anderson is being groomed for the leadoff spot, where a .402 OBP and nearly fifty steals will pay off. Anderson, currently on the Reed path, should be ready for Houston in 2006, so dont blame him for wanting Carlos Beltran to change addresses.

    52. Chuck James- Atlanta Braves- SP

    Twenty-two is a bit old for the Sally League, and that was evident in the numbers for Chuck James. Before being moved up to Myrtle Beach, James was 8-2, with a 1.90 ERA, good for third in the league. James walked a bit too many considering his age, something to look for in higher levels. Also concerning is the fact that James has been suspended for much of the last month for unknown reasons. According to No Pepper, the ban was lifted yesterday, and well see if the Braves ever leak out just why this happened.

    53. John Hudgins- Texas Rangers- SP

    This convinced me: "I've never seen a better pitching performance in the minor leagues. Hudgins put every pitch where he wanted it, commanding a fastball that sat around 90 most of the night, mixing in a decent curve, and showing San Antonio hitters as dirty a changeup as those of them who eventually get to the majors might ever see. He dealt. He orchestrated. He was Greg Maddux."

    - Jamey Newberg, Newberg Report (7/2/04)

    54. Mike Hinckley- Montreal Expos- SP

    Think Travis Blackley, without the strikeouts. While Hinckley has decent stuff, its hardly comparable to other guys on this list, but he always gets it done. After a 2.61 ERA in 10 Florida State League starts, Hinckley was moved to Harrisburg, where his ERA is a near-identical 2.58. His K/BB is more than 3.00, and his WHIP is 1.04. In my opinion, this is a time where pure stuff is just not going to win, and Hinckleys pitchability makes him a good prospect.

    55. Chris Seddon- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- SP

    Dan Feinstein, a reader who also owns Montgomery Biscuits season tickets, wrote up this great scouting report on Seddon:


    Seddon pitched against the Greenville Braves here on Thursday night [ed. Note: May 27]. I went to the game. Seddon was much smaller than I expected. He is listed at 6'3" 170, but if I had to guess, I would have pegged him at 6'0" and even lighter than the program had him. He worked from the third base side of the rubber and used a lot of 12 to 6 breaking curve balls to befuddle the Braves, striking out 12 in 6 innings. His fastball was well targeted, but not too quick.

    56. Robinson Cano- New York Yankees- 2B

    In the comments section, reader Fabian tried to convince me to place Cano in front of Chris Burke. It didnt work, but I thought his argument was definitely good enough to post:


    I don't see how you can have Burke ahead of Cano. Burke is 24 and Cano is 21. Burke has been at AAA all year, and Cano was at AA for the first half before being promoted to AAA a few weeks ago. On the season Burke is hitting .325 with 30 extra base hits and a 33:36 BB:K ratio in 286 at bats. Cano is hitting .306 with 39 extra base hits and a 30:44 strikeout ratio in 337 at bats. Has Burke outperformed Cano? Sure. However, given the HUGE difference in age, I think Cano is easily ahead of Burke. Were it not for Rickie Weeks' track record, I would be tempted to call Cano the No. 1 2B prospect in baseball.

    57. John Maine- Baltimore Orioles- SP

    Sort of like John Van Benschoten, in the respect that after posting insane numbers last year, Maine was more than qualified for the International League. Just to test it, the Orioles sent Maine to AA, where he went 4-0 in five starts, allowing 16 hits in 28 innings. It was obvious he was ready for the IL, but during his stay, Maine hasnt been the pitcher of old. A 4.52 ERA and BB/9 upwards of 4.00 are some scary statistics, but the Oriole right-hander has been turning it up lately, so well see how long this good pitching lasts.

    58. Eric Duncan- New York Yankees- 3B

    There is a lot to like about Eric Duncan, who has a Ryan Howard-like block up the line, almost assured of landing in a different organization at some point. Duncan was great in the Midwest League this year, and considering he had 37 extra-base hits and 38 walks in 78 low-A games, expectations are going to start raising about the teenager. But take caution, Duncan also struck out upwards of 80 times, and I have a feeling the FSL might be a little much for him.

    59. Lastings Milledge- New York Mets- OF

    By years end, Milledge could be sitting alongside Delmon Young as two of the best outfield prospects in the game. Milledge has five-tool capabilities that few can match, as seen in his combination of 27 XBH and 16 SB, in just 47 games. Some might be alarmed at the seven errors (high for an OF), but hes young, and easily has the ability for centerfield. But, the problem with Milledge is his plate discipline, seeing as though his BB/K is an abysmal 5/42 this season. Corey Patterson, version 2.0?

    60. Adam Loewen- Baltimore Orioles- SP

    I said it when I put him in the top fifty last winter, and Ill say it again, this pick is based solely on potential. But, if Loewen doesnt get his act together soon, hes going to keep falling, right off any prospect list. Im sure people will hassle me with this pick, but just wait and see on this kid, he might jump out and surprise you. By the looks of things, it seems as though the Orioles Major League control problems are falling down to the minors as well.

    61. Josh Banks- Toronto Blue Jays- SP

    Like John Maine, Josh Banks has seen his BB/9 rise at a higher level, and its much of the reason Banks has a 5.77 AA ERA. And like Adam Loewen, if Banks doesnt get his act together, hes gone. But, its hard to ignore that Banks was one of the FSLs best pitchers before getting sent up, largely due to a 7.50 K/BB. Its now below 2.00, and without that, Banks is just another pitcher. This is something to watch in the second half, because the Blue Jays system has taken a bit of a hit since this winter.

    62. Zach Duke- Pittsburgh Pirates- SP

    Ill admit, didnt really know Zach Duke before starting this list, but I sure do now. A southpaw, Duke is the definition of a midseason All-Star, and like Joel Guzman, someone who could rise with a consistent second half. Duke has a Bob Gibson-like 1.39 ERA this year, a WHIP under 1.00, and is on pace to eclipse the 200 strikeout barrier. Maybe its Duke, and not Hinckley, who makes the better Travis Blackley comparison.

    63. Erick Aybar- Anaheim Angels- SS

    A recent power streak, six home runs in six days, has taken Aybars HR total to nine, and his XBH total to 31. Hes leading the California League with not only his .355 average, but also his 38 stolen bases. This is good and all, but Aybar has been caught 27 times, a total that has to lead the minor leagues. Aybar struggles like B.J. Upton does at short, but for the time being, he ranks first of the Angels middle infield trio of Alberto Callaspo, Brandon Wood and Aybar.

    64. Sergio Santos- Arizona Diamondbacks- SS

    Consider this my due for not giving Santos props last year. You have to respect Santos, a 2002 first-round pick, already with 30 extra-base hits. Shortstops with 25 HR power dont come around everyday, so Santos has become the prime Zona prospect. Hes also been iffy at shortstop, and with a growing body, there are concerns on whether he can stay there. I think Stephen Drews defense and rise through the system will determine if Santos moves elsewhere, because he probably has the bat for left field.

    65. Brad Thompson- St. Louis Cardinals- SP

    Ive already touched a bit on Brad Thompson, and his remarkable scoreless streak to start the season. Hes come out of nowhere, and may end up taking a every-fifth-day starting spot before former top prospect Dan Haren. After a 1.76 ERA in AA, Thompson has struggled a bit with the Memphis Redbirds, allowing three home runs in 14.2 innings. A sinkerballer, Thompsons second half will determine whether that streak was a fluke to be forgotten.

    66. Carlos Quentin- Arizona Diamondbacks- OF

    One of the Tres Amigos, Quentin has seperated himself from the third member, Jamie DAntona, with a disgusting performance since their group promotion. Well, hes hit .357/.425/.529, which is very consistent with his California League line of .310/.428/.562. Quentin had Tommy John surgery last offseason, and it hasnt appeared to slow him down one bit. Imagine this lineup card in Arizona coming soon:

    C- Robby Hammock
    1B- Jamie DAntona
    2B- Scott Hairston
    SS- Sergio Santos
    3B- Chad Tracy
    LF- Conor Jackson
    CF- Stephen Drew
    RF- Carlos Quentin

    Jeez, maybe theyll be back in the World Series before we thought!

    67. Josh Barfield- San Diego Padres- 2B

    Very susceptible to an irreplaceable drop from my prospect lists in the winter. The 2003 California League MVP, Barfield has been abysmal in the Southern League, with a line of .251/.316/.431. I actually have high hopes, because those numbers are up across the board in the last two weeks, so like Rickie Weeks, Barfield may be prime for a big second half.

    68. Lou Palmisano- Milwaukee Brewers- C

    Sweet Lou has not slowed down since being drafted by the Brewers last season. After taking home a short-season MVP trophy last year, Palmisano is making a strong bid to get his name on the Midwest League ballot with a .301/.383/.398 line. The sub-.100 ISO is always concerning, but as I said with Dioner Navarro, power isnt THAT important for a catcher anyway.

    69. Chad Billingsley- Los Angeles Dodgers- SP

    Logan White likes to ruffle feathers with first round picks, and thats what the team did by choosing Chad Billingsley in the first round last year. Generally considered a second rounder, the Los Angeles scouting team fell in love with Billingsley, and apparently for good reason. Hes been ridicuilous in the Florida State League this year, allowing 61 hits in 85 innings, while striking out 103. The 48 walks are a little high, but consider Chad on the Greg Miller path...hopefully that wont lead to injury.

    70. Brandon Moss- Boston Red Sox- OF

    And finally, a prospect from Beantown. I expect to see the Red Sox system start to improve from the bottom up, and it seems like Brandon Moss will be the first to make that happen. After struggling months after being drafted last year, Moss is in full-breakout mode in the Sally League, where he leads the league with a .366 average. Toss in the 41 walks, 35 extra-base hits and 17 steals, and you got one complete player. MVP! MVP! MVP!

    71. Brian Anderson- Chicago White Sox- OF

    Co-Prospect Ryan Sweeney got all the Chicago buzz this Spring Training, prompting rumors that the 19-year-old might land in AA, blah, blah, blah. But while Sweeney has been overmatched this year, it has been FIRST-round pick, Brian Anderson, that has emerged as the clubs top prospect. Anderson got promoted to AA following a .319/.394/.531 line as a Winston-Salem Warthog, hitting 22 doubles and stealing 10 bases. Anderson will be ready in 2006, when the White Sox are ready to start picking up the scraps that some call Joe Borchard.

    72. Abe Alvarez- Boston Red Sox- SP

    Every ranking I ever make, I gotta have a pick based on my instincts. This winter, I put Jeff Francis in my top 50 and Bobby Brownlie in my top 90, just because I thought they were ready for big years. In my mind, Abe Alvarez may never be a great #1 starter, but hell be a great innings-eater in the background. Alvarez has been unspectacular so far this year, but his H/9 is less than 9.00 and hes got a K/BB of more than 3.00. Maybe Ill be wrong here, but I really think the Red Sox should consider replacing Bronson Arroyo with Abe Alvarez in 2005.

    73. Val Majewski- Baltimore Orioles- OF

    Hes not going to end up in center, watching seven innings of the Futures Game could have told us that. But Majewski, as John Sickels predicted, has broken out this year, becoming the top Oriole position prospect. Majewski is hitting for average (.300), and power (12 HR), all while stealing some bases (10). Hes shooting up the system, and could be ready by mid-2005.

    74. Denny Bautista- Kansas City Royals- SP

    I was taken aback by Bautista at the 2003 Futures Game, where I saw him as the most intimidating pitcher out there. He was last years version of Jose Capellan, and I wont forget that anytime soon. Trading Bautista for Jason Grimsley is grounds for firing, because I think Bautista will turn out to be a good one, whether in the bullpen or the rotation. Hes been fantastic since joining the Royals, what with a 1.61 ERA in four starts, allowing just 18 hits in 28 innings.

    75. James Loney- Los Angeles Dodgers- 1B

    For his sake, I will let James Loney hang on by the thinnest of margins. He could turn into a great player, or he could be a complete bust, of which hell define further with his second half play.

    Five that missed: Melky Cabrera (NYY), Tom Gorzelanny (PIT), Gabe Gross (TOR), Jonathan Broxton (LA), Chuck Tiffany (LA).

    Leave more comments below, and the next time I check back (probably Monday), Ill have a recap of the top 75.

    WTNYJuly 12, 2004
    Baseball's Crystal Ball
    By Bryan Smith

    The future of baseball, as far as pitching goes, definitely is in good hands.
    - Koyie Hill, Dodgers prospect, to Baseball America

    Despite a deceiving final score, the 2004 Futures Game should forever be remembered as a pitchers duel, as sixteen of the seventeen pitchers escaped without allowing an earned run. Mostly, it was bad defense that helped plate a total of seven runs, as the two squads combined for three costly errors. After jumping out to an early 4-0 lead, the United States barely held on, surrendering three seventh inning runs.

    The short left field porch of Minute Maid Park had little bearing on the game, as the teams combined for only eleven hits, and an even fewer three extra-base hits. Toronto shortstop prospect Aaron Hill hit one of the three, a two-run, go-ahead double that would later earn him the MVP award. But, there is no question the game belonged to the pitchers, who awed hitters and fans alike with their Major League readiness.

    Joe Blanton, perhaps the pitcher closest to the Majors, started on the mound, allowing a walk and a hit in his scoreless inning. Blanton labored a bit, throwing nineteen pitches, what would be the third highest total of the day. Considered the best player from the Moneyball draft, Blanton was uninspiring, throwing mostly fastballs between 91-94 mph, using his mid-70s curve as a set-up pitch more than an out pitch. Justin Morneau was the only big name he faced, causing the equally-ready first basemen to ground into a fielders choice.

    In the bottom half of the inning, my seventh ranked prospect Jeff Francis took the mound for the World team, facing the formidable trio of Chris Burke, B.J. Upton and Dallas McPherson. The Canadian southpaw was up for the challenge, striking out Upton and McPherson to end a 1-2-3 inning. Francis seemed to impress the announcing crew of Tony Gwynn and Peter Gammons more than any other pitcher, showing three Major League pitches in his inning of work. At 6-5, the 23-year-olds 89-91 mph fastball was deceiving on hitters, and he also showcased a high-70s change up and low-80s slider. I was worried that Francis might rely too much on the fastball after throwing it often early, but he retired McPherson on three straight off speed pitches.

    Tim Stauffer, the Padres fourth overall selection last year, threw a 1-2-3 top half of the second inning, showing as much dominance as the man that preceded him. Stauffer seemed the most ready of any pitcher, throwing three pitches in the ten-pitch inning that included strikeouts of Tony Blanco and Jose Cortes. Stauffer was between 90-91 with the fastball, also showing a low-80s change and high-70s, impressive curve. It seemed the United States had the benefit of facing a worse group of hitters, seeing as though none of their starting lineup was a top 40 prospect (Morneau would be), compared to seven for the U.S.

    There was nothing nearly as exciting as watching Felix Hernandez, my top ranked pitching prospect, as he pitched to hitters nearly six years older than him. The 18-year-old seemed to have a strut walking around the mound, showing extreme confidence despite having to face Prince Fielder and David Wright to lead off the inning. Felix led off the inning with a two mid-90s fastballs, though the Milwaukee first basemen took the second one the other way for a single. Hernandez than went to a 82-84 mph, jaw-dropping curveball on three of the next four pitches, eliminating David Wright in quick order. Koyie Hill led off his at-bat taking a Hernandez fastball to second, where Ruben Gotay and Joel Guzman turned an impressive 4-6-3 double play.

    After two innings, the quality of play seemed to drop, as the third inning would host two of the least impressive pitching performances. I had high hopes for John Danks, a 19-year-old Rangers prospect, who would need 33 pitches to escape a bases loaded jam. Danks surely wasnt helped by three questionable plays by David Wright, who I had heard was a dependable fielder. After a rather unimpressive at-bat by Joel Guzman ended in a single, Wright made an error, and ten two plays later tagged out Guzman running to third rather than turning a 5-4-3 double play. Last years ninth overall selection, Danks pitched slower than some reports had him, throwing between 89-92, and showcasing a curveball he left up quite often. Its hard to blame the kid, hes only weeks away from the Midwest League, which hasnt exactly been a prospects paradise this year.

    A Rule V pick last year, Wil Ledezma helped the U.S. break up a scoreless game, though Mariners outfield prospect Shin-Soo Choo is mostly to blame. Ledezma, who some scouts have compared to Johan Santana, showed little else other than a good fastball, giving up singles to Jason Kubel and Burke. With two outs, B.J. Upton popped up to right field, though Choo would lose track of the ball, allowing Kubel and Burke to score before throwing out a confused Upton.

    Clint Everts needed only eight pitches to retire the side, striking out one on a very impressive curve. It seems the Expos top prospect has fallen in love with the pitch, as he threw it on five of his eight pitches. His fastball was only about 86-88, a little too close to his 80 mph curve to be really impressive as he moves up the chain. The same wasnt true by Jose Capellan, the Braves prospect that seemed to dominate his inning despite allowing a hit to Wright. Capellan threw his fastball from 95-98, using it on thirteen of his fifteen total pitches. His curve was rather unimpressive, and though this might depress Braves fans, Capellan reminded me of a younger Kyle Farnsworth.

    Why Bill Murphy made the Futures Game roster I dont know, and despite a two-strikeout, scoreless inning, I still didnt know at innings end. Murphy walked Cubs prospect Felix Pie in his second at-bat, something hes done 53 times in the Southern League so far this season. Still, Murphy threw mostly fastballs, really only trying to use his breaking ball as an out pitch, which worked one of the three times. Also unimpressive was Arnie Munoz, the White Sox southpaw that has struggled since a terrible spot start, that is lucky to have the runs he allowed go as unearned.

    After rising prospect Conor Jackson smoked a double to left field, Jason Kubel reached base for the second time thanks to an Andy Marte error. While not the most gracious call by the scorer, Marte should have made the play moving to his left. Munoz forced Oriole outfielder Val Majewski to hit into a fielders choice before Fernando Valenzuela brought in Yusmeiro Petit to try and close the inning. Petits first batter was Rickie Weeks, last years second pick, that hit an unsuccessful infield fly to third. And then came the Hill at-bat, where Petit hung a curve to see Hill smoke a two-run double to left. Petit wasnt two impressive, throwing only a 89-90 mph fastball, along with an 80-82 mph curveball that he left up a little too much. The numbers were jaw-dropping in the Sally League, sure, but dont be too quick to put him in your top ten, readers.

    Joke. That is what I thought of Brian Bullington, the former first overall pick that pitched the top half of the sixth inning. But, Bullington impressed me, throwing a low-90s sinker and a very good curve that he can throw strikes with. Maybe he will end up in the bullpen, but Bullington did a nice job against Marte, Choo and Jesus Cota.

    El Mago threw the bottom half, throwing one of the easiest mid-90s fastballs that I have ever seen. It didnt look like Valdez was laboring at all, and he also threw a change and curve in his eight pitch stint. After retiring Fielder and Wright, Valdez was taken out to let the fans see Jairo Garcia, the As reliever that just finished storming threw the Midwest League. For a reliever with an ERA under 1.00, I wasnt too blown away by Garcia, although the slider he struck Jeff Mathis on was disgusting. Garcia threw a 94-95 mph fastball, and a slider ten miles per hour slower, throwing one of his three well.

    It seemed a sure bet that after six innings the U.S. would win 4-0, considering they were prepared to throw Matt Cain, Gavin Floyd and Kyle Sleeth at the World to end the game. But, the Americans decided to make things interesting, as Cain loaded the bases before registering an out, putting Gavin Floyd in quite the predicament. A Felix Pie single, Robinson Cano sac, and a wild pitch later, it was a one-run game. But, Floyd would strike out Justin Morneau, and Kyle Sleeth would retire Andy Marte to close out the game.

    Watching a game like this, I grow appreciation for scouts, as it was very difficult to get a good read on the makeup of a hitter. I didnt have a great problem seeing which pitchers I liked and which I didnt, but adding anything to previous position player scouting reports would be difficult for me. But, I thought the pitching was fantastic in the game, and it definitely provides a good glimpse of the future.


    My breakdown of the game will slow down my next prospect ranking (41-75), which should be on the site late Wednesday night. But, for your viewing pleasure, Ill give you a glimpse of the next installment, presenting prospects 41-50 without comment:

    41. Ian Stewart- Colorado Rockies- 3B
    42. Joel Guzman- Los Angeles Dodgers- SS
    43. Jake Stevens- Atlanta Braves- SP
    44. Rickie Weeks- Milwaukee Brewers- 2B
    45. Guillermo Quiroz- Toronto Blue Jays- C
    46. Chris Burke- Houston Astros- 2B
    47. Kyle Davies- Atlanta Braves- SP
    48. Dioner Navarro- New York Yankees- C
    49. John Van Benschoten- Pittsburgh Pirates- SP
    50. Ryan Howard- Philadelphia Phillies- 1B

    Drop any Futures Game comments below, and check back on Thursday for a detailed report of my rankings.

    Baseball BeatJuly 12, 2004
    Abstracts From The Abstracts
    By Rich Lederer

    Part Two: 1978 Baseball Abstract

    Although Bill James made less than $100 selling approximately 70 copies of the 1977 Baseball Abstract, he proceeded to write, compile, and publish a second book. The 1978 Baseball Abstract, which has a celery-green cover, was expanded to 115 pages.

    "The 2nd Annual Edition of Baseball's Most Informative and Imaginative Review" features a Dear Reader letter by Bill James, Editor and Publisher, dated May 30, 1978. The letter is intended to "take the place of the notes (James) used to mail."

    The following is an excerpt of the third paragraph from James' letter:

    I would like to produce here the most complete, detailed, and comprehensive picture of the game of baseball available anywhere--and I would like to avoid repeating anything that has ever been written before. Obviously the two conflict. The book is full of "new" statistics, but the poorest qualification of a statistical category is its newness. Baseball is overrun by statisticians who, working with the ten or fifteen basic categories available anywhere, can spend a book or two multiplying and dividing them in "new" ways. I try to avoid any of that nonsense. Virtually all of my statistics focus on specific areas of performance, previously not measured or poorly measured, and attempt to devise ways to assess player performance in them.

    James thanks his readers, stating that he hopes they enjoy their Abstract "but if you don't, your money will be cheerlessly [my emphasis] refunded".

    Unlike the 1977 Abstract, the information in this book is provided team by team rather than alphabetically by league. James begins with the N.L. East with monthly won-loss records, team age analysis, fielding records, come from behind records, and opposition errors presented in table format on one page.

    James writes notes on each of the teams in what I call a dot, dot, dot format. They are as fun to read today as they were 26 years ago. Here are excerpts on each of the teams with an emphasis given to stats and strategies that weren't widely understood or appreciated at the time:

  • Philadelphia Phillies: "Despite the publicity given to Schmidt and Luzinski's strikeouts, this team strikes out exceptionally seldom for a team with such great power. Their HR/K ratio was easily the best in the league...Schmidt, in particular, has an excellent SO/W ratio--last year 104-122 or 1-1.17, against a league average of 1-1.62. But for some reason, the strikeouts draw attention, while the walks, which are far more important, are ignored...Schmidt's HR/Game ratio is similar to Aaron's, though he will never play enough games to make a run at the record."

  • Pittsburgh Pirates: "Dave Parker's defensive stats are among the most impressive records of the 1977 season. His 26 outfield assists are the most in the majors since 1963. He has as many outfield DP as any other NL team. But even more imposing, Parker led the NL in Putouts as a right fielder--without playing an inning in center field. The last time a non-center fielder led the league in PO was 1947. His range factor of 2.63 is unheard-of for a right fielder...Several Pirate regulars had SB percentages that suggest they shouldn't run quite so often, particularly the departed Al Oliver (13/29 or 45%) and Dave Parker (17/36 or 47%)...The Pirates would be better off if they were 0 for 0."

  • St. Louis Cardinals: "The Cardinals are an exceptionally weak road team, playing at 52-31 in St. Louis, but 31-48 on the road."

  • Chicago Cubs: "Dave Kingman's SO/Walk ratios since he reached the majors are interesting. In his first year as a regular (1972), he walked 51 times and struck out 140, a ratio of 1-2.75, not good but not really all that bad. But since then he has gone to 1-2.98 in '73, 1-3.38 in '74, 1-4.50 in '75, 1-4.82 in '76, and 1-5.11 last year. Not only that, but SO/Walk ratio is the one area of performance in which almost all ballplayers improve over the years, and the league SO/Walk ratio has levelled off since 1972. I think that says more about Kingman's chances of hitting 50 HR than the park he is playing in. Frankly, I don't believe he could hit 50 HR playing in a pay toilet."

  • Montreal Expos: "The Expos front office was kind enough to send me all of the statistical breakdowns you see on the following pages. My thanks."

  • New York Mets: "Although I am impressed with some of the trades the Mets have made in their rebuilding program, I confess I don't understand the deal for Montanez, a fine 30-year-old first baseman. If I were rebuilding a team, first is the last position I would start with, for a very basic reason: They are inevitably going to wind up with either a youngster who can hit but not handle the position he was given, or with two good kids both at the same position. When that happens you have to shift somebody between positions--and when you do that, you have to shift to a less demanding fielding spot. Since first base is the least demanding of the eight positions--you can play it with no arm, bad feet and aching knees--it invariably becomes involved in those shifts."

    After James reviews the N.L. East teams, he inserts a two-page explanation of "what all of these numbers are." James admits that a "well-organized editor would do this at the end of the book, or the beginning...But as I write this, the season is already a month gone, and I've got to get this thing out."

    Moving on to the N.L. West...

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: "Davey Lopes holds the major league record for highest stolen base percentage, lifetime (min: 300 attempts)--.808...Ron Cey, a .241 hitter, had a better On-Base Percentage than Steve Garvey, with a .297 mark."

  • Cincinnati Reds: "I still rate (Joe Morgan) the best player in the game. Among Joe's most amazing stats are his GDP. How a #3 hitter with 300 men on first base ahead of him can ground into only 7 double plays over two seasons is just beyond me...George Foster didn't hit 62 HR last year, but he clearly established that it is possible. This is a tough home run park--George hit 31 on the road. Given a 'normal' home park advantage, he would, pressure aside, have hit 65. In Boston or Atlanta, hitting the ball exactly the same way, he would have hit over 70. Maris' record can definitely be broken."

  • Houston Astros: "Almost every Astro pitcher had a better ERA in the Astrodome than on the raod. Joacquim (sic) Andujar had a sharp 2.97 ERA in the dome last year, but was 5.19 on the road."

  • San Francisco Giants: "Two Giant hurlers were among the worst in the league in Opposition Stolen Base rates, Halicki at 1.189 per start and Montefusco at 1.440, second highest in the league. Both were also among the worst in '76, Halicki being #3 with 1.129 and Montefusco #6 with .917...Barr has been the best in that category both seasons, with a .622 mark in '76 and .632 last year."

  • San Diego Padres: "Nobody knows for sure how old Perry is, but it's rumored that when Seaver wrote: 'How I would Pitch to Babe Ruth,' he interveiwed Gaylord for his research."

  • Atlanta Braves: "The Braves unofficial stat sheet last year claims that they allowed 192 Opposition Stolen Bases last year, a bad enough total as it is. But I count 204, most in the league by a whopping 45. It's funny--most of the teams count OSB, but apparently not too carefully. Several teams sent me sheets showing fewer OSB than I counted from the box scores, not one showing more. I don't know who is right, but I got the same league total as the league office."

    On pages 42-51, James provides one of his first essays, entitled "On All These Numbers." He estimates the book contains "some 40,000 statistics" with the bulk "compiled one by one, picked out of box scores" and sorted into groups with titles like "Triples hit by Larry Parrish in July." James laments, "That's a lot of work, folks, and apart from a rather obscure and esoteric chance that I will make some money off of it in a few years, one would wonder what motivates it."

    James evaluates the merits of certain statistics, including month-by-month breakdowns ("surprisingly informative" in his words), team age analysis ("intriguing"), defensive efficiency record ("excellent"), come from behind records ("surprising"), opposition errors ("very puzzling"), opposition stolen base records ("satisfactory"), pitcher run support ("it's there"), pitcher DP support ("very interesting"), attendance by pitchers ("disappointing"), game times ("significant"), three hit games records ("Echh!!"), umpiring statistics ("very tenuous"), isolated power ("correct"), range factors.

    With respect to team age analysis, James admits "there may be more to this than I thought when I made it up." He points out that 10 of the 12 youngest teams in the majors in 1976 improved their records in 1977 and the two that didn't only fell by 1/2 game and two games. Regarding "power percentage," James gladly adopts Branch Rickey's "isolated power" terminology, volunteering that "dragging his name into the argument is always good for a few cheap points."

    Moving on to the A.L. East...

  • New York Yankees: "A number of numerical attacks on Reggie Jackson's status as a superstar have attempted to downgrade him by making statistical inferences which I think are misleading...He is described as a ballplayer who has never hit .300--but that is lilke describing Roberto Clemente as a guy who never hit 30 home runs, or Ty Cobb as a player who never hit 20. The fact remains, Jackson does an awful lot of things well, and most often does them well when his team needs them. His On-Base percentage last year was .378, better than most .300 hitters, and it's a more important statistic. His excellent SB% (.850), GIDP/AB ratio (1/175), and slugging percentage (.550) add up to a hell of a lot more than the eight singles by which he missed .300. But more to the point, Jackson has never played a season in a good hitting ballpark. His three home parks, in Oakland, Baltimore, and New York, are, except for Anaheim, the 3 toughest places to hit in the league. To compare his stats in Yankee (sic) to those of, say, Jim Rice in Fenway, is just ridiculous."

  • Boston Red Sox: "It is difficult to say anything intelligent about the Red Sox without discussing the park they play in. The public perception of this team is that of a heavy hitting outfit with a suspect pitching staff. But the fact is that the heavy-hitting Boston offense, in 81 road games, scored only 365 runs, essentially an average total, while the 'mediocre' Boston pitching and defense limited their opponents to 305 runs on the road, the lowest total in the league. You might want to read that sentence again, because it is surely the most shocking contention in this book."

  • Baltimore Orioles: "I would probably have voted for Eddie Murray for Rookie of the Year, although Mitchell Page had a sensational season for Oakland. But I feel, because of his youth and because of his blazing finish, that Murray will probably have the better career...the word 'superstar' would certainly be premature, but it's a reasonable projection if Murray learns just a little."

  • Detroit Tigers: "Rusty Staub, having led the league in grounding into double plays twice in a row, becomes only the 5th man and the first left-handed batter to accomplish (?) that" [the use of the question mark is James' and not mine].

  • Cleveland Indians: "The American League's answer to the San Francisco Giants--a team mismanaged into perpetual mediocrity. They don't have the patience, or don't understand the necessity, of building for 5 or 6 years at a time, as the Tigers have. They build for a year or two, then they make a big push, win 80 games, and drop back and lose for 3 more years. They haven't put winning seasons back-to-back since 1959."

  • Milwaukee Brewers: "Milwaukee designated hitters last year--in fact, the last two years--have been just awful, batting .217 and .231, with little power (10 HR and 54 RBI in '77, both last in the league). You can't tell me that there isn't a minor league first baseman or outfielder around somewhere who could do a lot better than that." [My note: Is this one of the first references, albeit indirectly, to replacement value?]

  • Toronto Blue Jays: "On the basis of one season, this might be the second-best hitting park in the league. The 'park adjustment factor,' for adjusting offensive totals, was 1.09, not comparable to Boston's 1.34 but higher than Detroit (1.08) or Minnesota (1.06), the next best hitting parks in the league."

    A.L. West...

  • Kansas City: "I confess to being a Royals fan. I'll try not to let it influence my work."

  • Texas Rangers: "The division's best defense in '77, turning .704 of opposition hit balls into outs...I agree with Hunter's decision to lead (Hargrove) off. If this team wins, he just might turn around the trend toward .240 hitting lead-off men who can run."

  • Chicago White Sox: "The worst defensive efficiency record in baseball...Francisco Barrios, who doesn't believe in throwing a pitch the hitter can't look up to, was last in the majors in DP support, with only 11 being turned in his 31 starts."

  • Minnesota Twins: "There is something unusual about the way in which Gene Mauch uses his relievers which causes them to have high victory totals. For one thing, he will always come up with a good one--always has, regardless of what was written about the bullpen before the season started. But since 1972 he has had Mike Marshall (14 wins in '72 and again in '73), Dale Murray (15 wins in '75), Bill Campbell (17 wins in '76), and last year Tom Johnson (16 wins). That's 5 relievers in 6 years with 14 or more victories, while the rest of baseball there have been only 2 with that many. Maybe he brings them in a batter earlier or something."

  • California Angels: "When you acquire any player over 28, you are getting about 40% of a career--and that on the downhill slide. You can do that, perhaps, to fill a hole. But what happens when you try to build a whole team that way? Your replacement-rate goes out of sight. If you've got eight players on a downhill slide, two of them are going to slip and fall--either that, or you're defying the law of averages."

  • Seattle Mariners: "One of the largest surprises that I had in compiling this book was to find that the Kingdome, noted for it's (sic) close fences and artificial turf, is apparently a pitcher's park. The Mariners scored only 303 runs here, 321 on the road, and allowed 417 at home, 438 on the road. There must be a bad hitting background, or perhaps, like Houston's Astrodome, the ball just does not carry well here."

  • Oakland A's: "The A's had all kinds of trouble against left-handers, going 16-34 against them, a .320 W/L Pct compared to .423 against right-handers."

    After James finishes commenting on each of the teams, he writes a 4 1/2 page essay "On Ratings and Records." Regarding ratings, James asks "what constitutes a good one?" and proceeds to evaluate them in four ways:

    1. The first, unstated, law of elementary arithmetic is: never divide A by B unless there is a damn good reason for dividing A by B.

    2. Any system which is never surprising is never interesting. Any system which is consistently surprising is probably wrong.

    3. The final test of any statistic is whether or not it correlates with winning. Since the two sub-categories by which games are won are runs scored and runs prevented, the most valid test of most statistics is their correlation with runs scored and opposition runs.

    4. Any statistic the meaning of which can be expressed in understandable terms in a common English sentence is always to be preferred, other things being equal, to one which cannot.

    In closing, I find the last sentence of James' essay appropriate:

    For the attention of my reader's interest, I'd better stop now.

    Next up: 1979 Baseball Abstract.

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

  • Baseball BeatJuly 10, 2004
    Abstracts From The Abstracts
    By Rich Lederer

    The First in a 12-Part Series: 1977 Baseball Abstract

    I own all of the Baseball Abstracts by Bill James. My 1977-1979 and 1981 books are re-prints and the 1980, 1982-1988 are first editions. I ordered the 1977-1981 books at the same time, and it just happened that the 1980 edition that was sent to me was an original.

    The 1977-1981 Baseball Abstracts are rather crude. The pages of the first three editions were stapled using a plain card stock cover and back page. The 1980 and 1981 books were bound using a textured card stock cover and back page. All five were typed and copied with several noticeable strikeovers, white outs, and handwritten corrections throughout the pages.

    As noted on the inside of the back cover, "The 1977 Baseball Abstract was written and compiled by:

    Bill James
    Box 2150
    Lawrence, Kansas

    Your suggestions and comments concerning the publication are invited."

    Below the Baseball Abstract title on the front cover, it reads "FEATURING 18 CATEGORIES OF STATISTICAL INFORMATION THAT YOU JUST CAN'T FIND ANYWHERE ELSE".

    You turn the baby-blue cover page and, boom, the first page is the beginning of the National League monthly hitting records in alphabetical order, starting with Rob Andrews of the Houston Astros. James writes:

    The first section of this book gives the complete month-by-month playing records of all major leaguers who appeared in 100 or more games in 1976. These records, compiled from the daily box scores carried in the newspapers, provide some interesting insights into the course of the campaign. For example, was Robin Yount, the 21-year-old Milwaukee shortstop, really strong enough to lead the league in games played? Check his monthly batting averages. The records of rookies are particularly interesting. You can "see" Hector Cruz learning to hit major league pitching, watch the league catch up with Jason Thompson. Wonder how Bill Madlock won the batting title? Look him up.

    Flipping to page 18 out of the 68-page book, I look up Yount's stats and his monthly batting averages are listed at .341 for April, .272 May, .269 June, .276 July, .220 August, and .206 September. Yount tied John Mayberry and Rusty Staub for the A.L. lead in games played with 161. The curiosity in me made me look up Mayberry's and Staub's records. Mayberry, who turned 28 that September, "hit" just .175 in the final month of the season. The 32-year-old Staub hit a monthly low of .268 in September, lowering his batting average to 11th in the league at .299.

    Underneath Yount, who is the last player listed, James asks the following trivia question:

    The record for RBI's by two teammates in one season is 347, by Gehrig (184) and Ruth (163) in 1931. But who holds the season record for runs scored by two members of the same team?

    ANSWER (typed upside down at the bottom of the page): The record for runs scored by teammates is also held by Gehrig and Ruth--in the same season! The dynamic duo also scored 312 runs during the 1931 season. Incredibly enough, the Yankees did not win the pennant, finishing 13 1/2 games behind Connie Mack's A's.

    James lists the National and American League monthly leaders in the ten basic stats (G, AB, R, H, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, SB, AVG) on the following page and the monthly team batting records on pages 20-24. He asks a second trivia question at the bottom of page 24.

    Who was the only pitcher ever to lead his league in most strikeouts per nine innings and fewest walks per nine innings in the same year?

    ANSWER: Walter Johnson, which is really to be expected. The trick is that he did it in the worst season of his career--1920. While Johnson had some eye-catching SO-W ratios like 313-76, 303-76, 203-56, and 243-38, the only season in which he--or anyone--led the league in both ratios was 1920, when he was 8-10 with 78 SO and 27 BB in 144 innings.

    James provides the monthly won-lost records of pitchers on pages 25-31. The Cincinnati Reds, who were 102-60 in 1976, had seven pitchers with 11 or more wins, led by Gary Nolan with 15. Randy Jones, the N.L. Cy Young Award winner, was 18-4 at the end of July before sputtering home with a 4-10 record in August and September.

    The next section of the book is on stolen bases. James breaks out "the world's only stolen-bases-against statistics" for catchers and pitchers. "Lacking access to the official records of the games," James "counted stolen bases against pitchers, and catchers, starts." He states "the distortion this creates is minor for catchers, who finish most of their starts, but fairly significant for pitchers."

    In pointing out the importance of the catcher, James notes "there were more bases stolen against the Dodgers in the 54 games that Steve Yeager didn't start than in the 108 that he did." Yeager led the N.L. in stolen bases (51) divided by games starts (108) and was followed by Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, and Bob Boone. Yeager, Bench, Carter, and Boone were generally considered the four-best defensive catchers in the league during that era. In fact, one of the latter three catchers was awarded the N.L. Gold Glove every year from 1968-1982.

    Page 34, which discusses pitcher run support, attendance by pitchers, and fast and slow pitchers based on average game times, isn't listed because the text almost runs off at the bottom (with the last line on the page handwritten). Steve Carlton, who led the majors in run support in 1976 with 6.17 per start, actually was responsible for provoking this study by James when Lefty went 27-10 in 1972 for a team that was 32-87 "when he wasn't on the hill." Bert Blyleven, for what it is worth (wink, wink), had the second-lowest run support in the A.L. at 2.75 runs per game vs. a league average of 4.01.

    With respect to attendance, James concludes that Tom Seaver, despite comments by a New York sportswriter which triggered the study, Mark Fidrych and Jones were the only "pitchers who could definitely be said to be 'draws' in 1976." James also offers "the first actual data I've ever seen on how fast a pitcher works" and determines that "the fastest pitcher in the majors, Jim Kaat, was a staggering 42 minutes faster than the average game started by the slowest, Nelson Briles."

    James then offers the finest writing in his initial book when he delves into fielding statistics over the next 8 1/2 pages.

    ...a fielder's visible fielding range, which is his ability to move to the ball after it is hit, is vastly less important than his invisible fielding range, which is a matter of adjusting his position a step or two before the ball is hit.

    So if we can't tell who the good fielders are accurately from the record books, and we can't tell accurately from watching, how can we tell? We could tell, quite simply, the same way that we tell who the good hitters are--by counting things.

    ...There are a limited number of places to which a baseball can be safely hit. Suppose that we divide the baseball field into 16 sections. An infield hit could just as easily be recorded as a "single 1"...A single that goes between the first baseman and the bag could be recorded as a "single 2" (or double 2 or triple 2, as the case may be). The 3 hole would be between the first baseman and the second baseman, the 4 hole between second and short, the 5 hole between the shortstop and third baseman, the 6 hole between third and the baseline.

    ...It's a very simple system--any scorer would have it memorized in three games. And I sincerely believe that at the end of only one season, the impact of such a system upon the accurate evaluation of talent would be enormous, and enormously to be desired. Shortstops would have as much chance to become superstars as outfielders ("Did you see the season that Mark Belanger had last year? Only 22 hits in the 5 hole in 157 games! What a year...")

    James also suggests we separate "fielding" in the sense of "catching" the ball from "throwing."

    Take, for example, the Royals' third baseman George Brett. Brett in 1976 handled 501 chances, which is a lot, but made 26 errors, which is also a lot. Looking at that record 20 years from now, almost any fan would consider that Brett had good range in the field, but rather bad hands. In point of fact George has excellent hands--as good as anybody's. What he also has is a strong but inaccurate arm. A lot of his throws to first base don't go to the first baseman. Of those 26 errors, I'd bet 20 were on throws. Why not record the fact? Why not separate fielding from throwing. Lumping the two together makes no more sense than lumping together balks and wild pitches.

    ...The same holds for outfielders. Why don't we count how many bases are advanced on fly balls to the outfield? Mickey Rivers gets a lot of bad press for his arm, but how much does it really cost him? How many times last year did a runner tag up and score form third on a fly ball hit to Mickey Rivers? How about Cesar Geronimo? How many did he throw out trying? Or even, how many were in a position to try and didn't?

    ...But because fielding statistics are inadequate, we don't know. So why do we go on using a set of fielding statistics that has been outdated for decades? I'm not arguing for my system but for a system. If we think about it, we can well devise a simple system of fielding statistics that would be complete and informative. It is worth the effort.

    In the next section, James lists every major league pitcher who pitched at least 100 innings in 1976, followed by the number of home runs he gave up per 1000 batters. James states "some pitchers will surrender home runs 15 times as often as others," making the case that a pitcher's tendency to allow HR "is a major part of their pitching record, but mostly an ignored one."

    James proceeds to turn career records into seasonal notations, the first time I can recall seeing statistics expressed per 162 games. The following nine active players in 1976 had averaged 30 or more HR per 162 games:

    Hank Aaron          37
    Dick Allen          33
    Johnny Bench        30
    Reggie Jackson      33
    Dave Kingman        36
    Willie McCovey      35
    Frank Robinson      34
    Mike Schmidt        35
    Willie Stargell     34

    For reasons unknown to me, James spends six pages on a baseball simulation game using a deck of cards. I believe this effort died on the vine as I don't recall reading anything more on this subject in future Abstracts.

    In the last section of the book, James discusses "another almost-new statistic, this one named power percentage" (or what is now more commonly referred as isolated power). "Power percentage is that part of slugging percentage which is accounted for by the extra bases; in simple terms, slugging percentage minus batting average." James informs us that "slugging percentage is a summary statistic, while power percentage is a descriptive statistic that applies to power alone."

    Knowing that a player has a .400 slugging average tells you nothing about what kind of player he is, neither what kind of an average hitter or how much power. He could be a .350 hitter with no power or a .230 hitter with great power.

    Put in its proper context, the 1977 Baseball Abstract is simply a classic.

    By the way, did Hector Cruz ever learn how to hit major league pitching? The journeyman outfielder-third baseman, who hit 13 HR in 1976 and only 26 more the rest of his career, retired in 1982 at the age of 29 with a career batting average of .225.

    Next up: 1978 Baseball Abstract.

    [Additional reader comments and retorts at Baseball Primer.]

    Baseball BeatJuly 06, 2004
    Yankee Doodlin'
    By Rich Lederer

    Over the Fourth of July weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to profile the team with the best record in baseball at the halfway point in the season.

  • Jason Giambi (1B), Derek Jeter (SS), and Alex Rodriguez (3B) were named to the American League All-Star starting lineup on Sunday. These Yankees comprise three-quarters of the A.L. infield. The fourth? None other than former Yankee Alfonso Soriano, who led all players in votes.

    Outfielder Gary Sheffield and relief pitchers Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera were added to the team. If someone had told me before the season started that the Yankees were going to have six players on the All-Star squad--including two pitchers--and not one would be Javier Vazquez, Kevin Brown, or Mike Mussina, I would not have believed them.

  • What has been the key to the Yankees success thus far? How about this little-quoted stat? New York and its opponents have each struck out 488 times thus far. However, the Yankees have walked 360 times vs. just 205 for the opposition. The Bronx Bombers have five players--Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui, Rodriguez, Sheffield, and Bernie Williams--who project to 80+ BB plus Giambi (who is running slightly behind owing to injuries), while only three pitchers--Jose Contreras, Tanyon Sturtze, and Brad Halsey--have allowed at least half a walk per inning. Contreras is the only pitcher among the trio with a meaningful number of innings.

    Jon Lieber has been the stingiest pitcher of all with only six BB in 76 IP (or about one walk per every 13 innings). Babe Adams, Christy Mathewson (twice), Bret Saberhagen, and Cy Young are the only hurlers since 1900 with a better ratio than Lieber among pitchers with 154 or more innings pitched (which is the number that Lieber is currently projected to throw this year). Saberhagen (1994), Bob Tewksbury (1992 and 1993) and Greg Maddux (1997) are the only pitchers in the top 15 since 1933.

    The Bronx Bombers also lead the A.L. in HR with 123. The pitching staff hasn't fared quite as well in this department, ranking sixth in the league with 94. Ranking first in three of the four Rob Neyer's Beane Count stats is usually a good recipe for success, and the Yankees have demonstrated just that with the best winning percentage (.638) in the major leagues.

  • The Yankees' biggest perceived weakness is second base. Although it would be hard to pass up a Bret Boone for the second half of the season, Miguel Cairo has actually been one of the biggest surprises thus far. Cairo's stats (.310/.365/.462) compare favorably to Boone's (.232/.299/.389) even if one adjusts them for ballpark effect. Boone would add HR power to the lineup and some might think a better glove but it should be pointed out that his range factor (4.27) and zone rating (.743) this year are the lowest of his career. By comparison, Cairo's range factor is 5.38 and his zone rating is .748.

  • Earlier this season, Williams became the third Yankee center fielder to accumulate 2000 hits and 250 home runs for his career. In addition to Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle, the other CF in baseball history to post that rare double are Willie Mays, Vada Pinson, Ken Griffey Jr., Duke Snider, Dale Murphy, and Ellis Burks. If Williams can prolong his career and reach 2500 and 300, he would join Mays (and possibly Griffey) as the only CF in that exclusive club. Throw in a batting title, four Gold Gloves, and four World Championships and you have a player who would be difficult to keep out of the Hall of Fame.

  • Rodriguez has stolen 18 bases this year and has been caught just two times. He now has 195 SB for his career with a highly successful stolen base rate of 80%. A-Rod is on pace to hit 41 homers and steal 36 bases. If the All-Star 3B were to reach the 40-40 mark, he would become the first player to do so twice. Jose Canseco (1988) and Barry Bonds (1996) are the only other players to put up a 40-40 season in major league history. Another 40 HR season would also give Alex the Great seven in a row, tying him with Babe Ruth for the most consecutive years of 40 or more homers.

  • What can Jeter do to please his detractors? He makes an outstanding catch a week ago and gets tagged with the label of perhaps owning the two most overrated defensive plays of all time. The guy can't win for losing. How many fans thought he was done when he was hitting .161 with no homers on April 28? Well, since then, Jetes is hitting .316 with 13 HR and is on pace to hit a career-high 26 dingers.

    The Jeter haters will most assuredly point to his defense as a continued flaw even though his range factor (4.75) and zone rating (.860) are a career best, and he is turning two at a personal high rate. In addition, the Yankee captain's fielding percentage is currently his second-highest ever. Better range, more double plays, and fewer errors mixed in with a great play here and there adds up to a possible Gold Glove for the man who always seems to be #2. If you think I've lost my mind, let me point out that no shortstop in baseball has a higher range factor, zone rating, and fielding percentage than Jeter this year. Rich Aurilia, David Eckstein, Pokey Reese, and Jose Valentin rank higher in two of these three areas among A.L. SS but only Aurilia has played in more than 60 games at short thus far.

    Isn't the purpose of sabermetrics one of objectivity? When it comes to Jeter's defense this year, it is only fair we rid ourselves of the biases and let the facts speak for themselves.

  • WTNYJuly 05, 2004
    WTNY Midseason 40
    By Bryan Smith

    This winter, I tried making a prospect list for the first time. I learned a ton, about mixing statistics with scouting reports, putting hitters and pitchers together, and the volatility of a teenage pitcher. I learned from the injuries of Dustan McGowan and Greg Miller, as well as the breakouts of David Wright and Jeff Francis. I doubt many people pay attention to the Baseball America Prospect Report as well as I do, and slowly but surely, I’m becoming the prospect maven I never thought I’d be.

    With that being said, below are my top forty prospects in the minor leagues. To make a note, I have left off any player that has graced a Major League roster this year (before July 1), eliminating Justin Moreneau, Casey Kotchman, Edwin Jackson and others.

    1. B.J. Upton- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- SS

    There really is no question about this one. Upton is everything you want in a premium prospect: he’s young, advanced, plays a premium position, has plate discipline and power. He can steal a base, and when he gets focused, can field. The last comment will no doubt be debated by some, but Wait ‘Til Next Year correspondent Daniel Feinstein assures me that highlight reel plays come as often as errors with this kid. Upton will reach the Majors by year’s end, and the Devil Rays slow advancement to a legitimate team will take a huge growth.

    2. David Wright- New York Mets- 3B

    No player has vaulted himself so far forward as David Wright has since the end of the 2003 season. A great Arizona Fall League put Wright into the top five for third base prospects, and his insane .363/.467/.619 line in AA makes him the top. Like the man in front of him, Wright has all the tools, but the most amazing fact is that he already has 48 extra-base hits, 47 walks and 22 stolen bases. Wright will be changing the scope of the Mets lineup by August, and comparisons to Scott Rolen and Howard Johnson are still valid.

    3. Dallas McPherson- Anaheim Angels- 3B

    I admit, I didn’t buy much into the McPherson hype before the season, remembering it was a huge hot streak that made his numbers last year, as opposed to a consistent hot streak. That all changed this year, and McPherson has already earned a promotion to AAA following his 20 home runs and 1.064 OPS in the Texas League. He’s off to a hot start at Salt Lake, hitting five homers in his first ten games. McPherson will help replace Troy Glaus for the rest of the year, and also make him expendable in 2005.

    4. Felix Hernandez- Seattle Mariners- SP

    King Felix made great impressions in a brief stint as a 17-year-old last season, and nothing has changed this year. Seattle thought moving Hernandez to high-A would be a challenge, similar to what Bill Bavasi had done with players like Greg Miller in Los Angeles, but Hernandez was more than enough for California League hitters. Hernandez struck out 114 batters in just 92 innings, while only allowing 85 hits, five home runs and 26 walks. His first start in the Texas League was impressive, but the Mariners might think about shutting Hernandez down the closer he gets to 150 innings. Waiting until mid-2005 for his debut would be a smart move.

    5. Andy Marte- Atlanta Braves- 3B

    I said before the season that Marte was likely to have a catastrophic rise to the Majors similar to Miguel Cabrera in 2003, but a severe ankle sprain has prevented that from becoming truth. His numbers weren’t jaw-dropping before the injury, but a .237 ISO is enough for me. Marte is still only twenty years old, and it is probable that Marte and Chipper Jones will make up the 2005 Braves corners.

    6. Grady Sizemore- Cleveland Indians- OF

    Don’t be thrown by Grady’s numbers, they are among the most deceiving in the minor leagues. A bad wrist hindered his numbers for April and May, but a June average near .400 took the overall line to .306/.372/.462. Sure, these aren’t bad numbers, but my argument is they are hardly indicative of where Sizemore stands as a player. He profiles to be a perennial .300 hitter, and with the Indians weakest position being centerfield, his path is clear as day.

    7. Jeff Francis- Colorado Rockies- SP

    There is nothing I’m more proud of about my first prospect ranking than putting Jeff Francis in the top fifty. This was an extremely controversial choice, but the way Francis finished the season convinced me that he was primed to break out. And that he has done, so much so that if the season ended today, Francis would have the Texas League pitching triple crown. Twelve wins, 2.11 ERA, 133 strikeouts. When you consider he’s only walked 22 in 106.2 innings, you might think he’s perfect. But like any other prospect, he doesn’t come without flaws. Francis has allowed nine home runs this year, and his future currently stands to be in Coors Field, which does more than a little to his projectability.

    8. Jeff Mathis- Anaheim Angels- C

    This may be a little high for Mathis, but the top ranked catcher gets a little boost in my mind. Mathis has slowly become a very good defensive catcher, and while Angel pitchers might miss Bengie Molina, Jeff’s bat will make them forget quickly. His .788 OPS is hardly anything to brag about, but he has an ISO of .176 and is on pace for about 70 walks. Few teams can put their catchers towards the middle of the order, but it won’t be long before that luxury is available to the Angels. Mathis will need one more year in the minors, but I really believe he’s ready.

    9. Prince Fielder- Milwaukee Brewers- 1B

    Another controversial choice here, as Fielder’s .801 OPS is well below others on this list. But remember, Prince is still just a baby in prospect terms, and he’s doing this well for a guy in the Southern League. Cecil’s son has lost weight, but has also slipped considerably since a red-hot April. Fielder still has a .192 ISO, plays a decent first base, and should hit thirty home runs before 2004 ends. He’ll also take a little longer than expected, not debuting until 2006, or becoming a permanent mainstay until 2007. That’s a recurring trend around a lot of the Brewer prospects, a system that has taken a bit of a hurt this year.

    10. Cole Hamels- Philadelphia Phillies- SP

    I ranked B.J. Upton first on this list for a reason. I think he’s going to be an All-Star, bringing back the numbers that A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar touted in their hey-days. So, when reading Upton say that Cole Hamels was the best pitcher he had faced, I was shocked. Hamels, when healthy, has control of one of the game’s best change ups, and it won’t be long before that reaches the Major Leagues. Problem is, Hamels has only made four starts this season, and no matter how well they have gone, we can’t get a great read of where he’s at. This is my riskiest ranking, but instincts will allow him to round out my top ten.

    11. Franklin Gutierrez- Cleveland Indians- OF

    Sure, Gutierrez is hardly hitting home runs like he did last season, but I wouldn’t count those kind of numbers out in the future. Gutierrez hit so well in AA this season that he was recently moved up to the International League, though it appears his immediate future is blocked by the Indians outfield of Lawton-Sizemore-Gerut. Gutierrez still managed 30 extra-base hits in 249 Eastern League at-bats, and while only five were home runs, I’d expect more to start going over the fence soon. I have only two real complaints about Franklin: first, his stolen base numbers are down significantly this year, and he also doesn’t walk enough yet, not even on pace to reach 50 walks.

    12. Matt Cain- San Francisco Giants- SP

    With Cain, the numbers speak for themselves. I can try to justify my pick by telling you that Cain mixes a mid-90s fastball with one of the game’s best curveballs, or I can just give his California League numbers: 7-1, 1.86 ERA, 58H, 17BB, and 89K in just 72.2 IP. The dominance has continued since being moved up to the Texas League, where Cain has allowed just five earned runs in his first four starts, good for a 1.88 ERA. San Francisco could use some rotation depth, so Cain will be given a shot as early as next Spring Training.

    13. Dan Meyer- Atlanta Braves- SP

    More astounding numbers come from the top Atlanta pitching prospect, a compliment considering that as many as six Brave pitching prospects made good arguments for this list. Meyer, who doesn’t throw spectacularly hard, was the Southern League ace in the first half, with a WHIP below 1.00 and a K/BB above seven. He struck out 86 batters in sixty-five innings, proving that he can mix control with good stuff like few other players can boast. His ceiling may not be as high as the previous four pitchers, but of the group, I’m most sure Meyer will reach his.

    14. Jeff Francoeur- Atlanta Braves- OF

    Yes, the Braves are back to having the game’s best minor league system. Francoeur, their former first round pick, is having a great season in a park not exactly fit for hitting. He’s the best of the three high-A outfield prospects you’ll see in the top twenty, merely based on potential. He already has 36 extra-base hits, giving him an ISO of .209. He walks about as much as Franklin Gutierrez does, numbers we hope improve as he goes up the ladder. Andruw Jones is rumored to be on the trade block, and if he goes, Francoeur will eventually replace him in centerfield. But as the Cubs have learned with Corey Patterson’s slow development, there is simply no reason to rush him.

    15. Clint Everts- Montreal Expos- SP

    Expos first round picks are not always justifiable, but Everts is an exception to the rule. After not pitching much last year, Everts has exploded to the tune of a 1.99 ERA. Last year’s top pick, Delmon Young, referred to him as the best pitcher he had faced yet. Everts has only given up three homers this year, and his K/BB is well over five. I’ve heard great things about his breaking ball, and there is no question that he is the jewel of a rather dry Expos system.

    16. Michael Aubrey- Cleveland Indians- 1B

    It’s possible that if the Indians had the first pick in last year’s draft, they still would have selected Michael Aubrey. After a fantastic college career, the Indians though high-A would be a good destination this year. They were wrong. Aubrey tore up the Carolina League, walking more than he struck out, and showing enough power to give him a .988 OPS. Aubrey was promoted to AA after only 60 games, a fantastic compliment for a position player a year removed from college. The Eastern League has proven to be a challenge, but I have no doubt that with one more year’s work, the Indians will have a new first basemen in 2006.

    17. Gavin Floyd- Philadelphia Phillies- SP

    No one has ever questioned the curveball of Gavin Floyd. But the Phillies, worried their prized right-hander might fall in love with the pitch, set quotas on just how often he could throw it. This is my explanation for why his numbers have never been that good, until this year. By the looks of him numbers, I would guess the right-hander can throw the curve whenever he pleases now, helping him to land a 2.86 ERA. His strikeout numbers, only 74 in 92 innings, are still a bit concerning, but his low H/9 and HR/9 numbers combat that quite nicely.

    18. Jeremy Hermida- Florida Marlins- OF

    Of Francoeur, Pie and Hermida, there is no question who is the most polished. Hermida has the best eye, the best ability to make contact, the cleanest defense, and the best baserunning. His stolen base numbers are down this year, but ending up with thirty stolen bases still isn’t out of the question. Power is not his defining trait, but Hermida’s .494 SLG more than holds his own for players on this list. My guess is that Hermida will follow Juan Pierre as the Marlins’ leadoff hitter, proving to be one of the best in the business.

    19. Merkin Valdez- San Francisco Giants- SP

    After an early season injury, El Mago started to justify the hype he garnered all of last season. Formerly Manuel Mateo, Valdez was traded from the Braves, and the deal keeps paying dividends for San Francisco. Valdez joined Matt Cain in San Jose for awhile, forming the top 1-2 combination in the minor leagues. Valdez has recently been promoted to AAA, after walking only five in the 33.2 innings he pitched in the California League. Valdez also mixes in pinpoint control, a trait that should serve him well as he beats Cain to the Majors.

    20. Felix Pie- Chicago Cubs- OF

    Pie’s story is a good one, a small Dominican boy who walked into tryouts with no hype, and walked out with a contract. The Cubs continue to thank their lucky stars, as Pie has continued from where he left off last year. Still a little raw, it’s near impossible to conceive what kind of player Felix will turn into. His ‘raw’ power is still just that, but it’s the great speed and defense that lands Pie on this list. Common thought is that an outfield of Patterson, Pie and Ryan Harvey will be in Wrigley shortly after Sosa’s retirement, but I’ll have to see that to believe it. One thing I do believe, is that Felix Pie is going to become one darn good ballplayer, whether he develops the power or not.

    21. Scott Kazmir- New York Mets- SP

    Trust me, I’m being generous ranking Kazmir this high, as everytime he pitches, I think the inevitable move to the bullpen is coming the next day. He’s been hurt most of this season, but since coming back has hardly dominated the Florida State League that we thought he mastered a year ago. Maybe Kazmir will be able to turn into Billy Wagner, but I find it hard to believe he’ll make it as a starting pitcher. For now, we wait, amazed that a southpaw so small can generate such hard power on his pitches. Kazmir needs to turn his season around in the second half, or his ranking won’t be so generous the next time.

    22. Jeff Salazar- Colorado Rockies- OF

    Last year it was Jeremy Reed that appeared out of nowhere, rising from Long Beach State all the way to hitting .400 in a second half promotion to AA. This year it has been another left-handed hitting corner outfielder that has surprised us with his contact and discipline at high-A. Salazar, formerly an Oklahoma State Cowboy, has now become the best Rockie position prospect, and for good reason. Salazar has a .347 average, more runs than games and more walks than strikeouts. He has 40 extra-base hits, and seventeen stolen bases, in only nineteen attempts. He looks perfect, much like Reed did last year, but I’m going to try to learn my lesson and wait before thrusting him into my top ten.

    23. Jose Capellan- Atlanta Braves- SP

    The fourth Brave in the top 25 is Capellan, a hard-throwing right-hander that made a mockery of high-A hitters before a promotion. Capellan, who can hit 100 mph on a radar gun, allowed only 27 hits and 11 walks in 46.1 innings at Myrtle Beach before rising to the Southern League. Capellan has stayed relatively consistent in terms of ERA and K/9 since the promotion, striking out 40 in 33.1 innings with a 2.70 ERA. There is still a possibility that Capellan will end up in the bullpen, he’s the kind that often turns into a closer, but first the Braves are going to have for Jose to slow down.

    24. Jeremy Reed- Seattle Mariners- OF

    The aforementioned Reed has slowed down this year, and the fact that scouts have yet to buy into the sabermatrician’s dream led to Reed’s trade from the Chicago White Sox organization. Mariner bloggers have been more than pleased to land Reed, who has 38 walks against 34 strikeouts so far this year. Reed’s contact skills have diminished a bit this year, though I look for his average to pick up a bit in the Pacific Coast League. Reed’s power numbers have increased this year, giving more hope that he’ll be able to have the numbers that corner outfielders should have. Next year Seattle will put Raul Ibanez at first base, and Reed will have every opportunity in the world to take over in left field.

    25. Travis Blackley- Seattle Mariners- SP

    The back-to-back Mariners may be the most advanced players on this list, seeing as though Reed’s eye is as disciplined as they come, and Blackley is more than ready for the Major Leagues. So ready, in fact, that he was moved up to the Majors this week, beating out the July 1 deadline that I set when making this list. Blackley should be up in Seattle for the rest of the year, and while his K/9 and K/BB numbers aren’t the greatest, his pitchability and curveball are both great attributes. To get back in their rightful spot on top of the AL West, Bill Bavasi is going to have to start from the beginning. They’re off to a good start.

    26. Conor Jackson- Arizona Diamondbacks- OF

    Doubles machine. This is what Jackson was last year after being chosen by the Diamondbacks in the draft. He was one of three corner college players chosen by the Diamondbacks, a group that Baseball America has called the Tres Amigos. Jackson is the better prospect of Carlos Quentin and Jamie D’Antona, thanks in large part to his amazing numbers this season. Before a promotion to AA, Jackson hit .345/.438/.562 in 258 at-bats. The slugging has decreased a bit since moving to the Texas League, but Jackson’s eye looks unbeatable, as his OBP is .476 after ten AA games. Jackson plays left field, and it won’t be long before the Diamondbacks firesale allows the team to trade icon Luis Gonzalez, Jackson’s lone roadblock.

    27. Ervin Santana- Anaheim Angels- SP

    Like many of the pitchers on this list, Santana was hurt to start the season, but has been dynamite since returning to the minor leagues. Ervin was sent back to the Texas League, where he finished out his 2003 season, and has been the Travelers’ ace through his first eight starts. I admitted in my WTNY 50 that I didn’t buy into the Santana hype much, but his numbers support the claims that people as respected as Peter Gammons have made.

    28. Delmon Young- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- OF

    More than any other player on this list, this choice was made due to projectability rather than a deserving ranking based on their numbers. Young’s .334 OBP would be laughed at by some players on this list, but considering his age, an ISO just below .200 is fantastic. Young’s power is immense, and his second half will determine if he makes it higher than 28 (and I think he will) when my end of year rankings come out. Young likely won’t be a D-Ray until 2008, but who knows, maybe he’ll have Josh Hamilton to join him by then.

    29. Tim Stauffer- San Diego Padres- SP

    I didn’t like this pick by the Padres last year, thinking Stauffer’s numbers were hardly good enough to deserve a top five selection. But Stauffer has proven differently, as he is currently pitching in the Pacific Coast League, his third league of the season. While the Padres have drawn much criticism for their handling of the top pick this year, give the team some credit for identifying Stauffer last year. The right-hander had a 1.78 ERA in the California League after six starts, and a 2.63 ERA in eight Southern League starts. His peripheral numbers aren’t great, but the guy can pitch, and he’ll undoubtedly be the first starting pitcher chosen last year to make the Majors this September.

    30. Ian Kinsler- Texas Rangers- SS

    A lot of the people on this list I could have envisioned breaking out before the season started, but not Kinsler. According to Baseball America, the former University of Missouri shortstop was chosen based on his defense, not his bat. But it was the bat that convinced Ranger brass that the former 17th round choice could handle a move from the Midwest League, to the Texas League. After hitting .400 as a Clinton Lumberking, Kinsler’s OPS is again above 1.000 through his first seventeen games as a Roughrider. Texas’ infield is pretty blocked, but moving Soriano to center and Michael Young to second would be a great idea to make room for their new gem.

    31. Jeff Baker- Colorado Rockies- 3B

    Taken alongside Jeff Francis in the draft, Baker’s breakout has been clouded by Francis’ AA greatness. But don’t forget Baker, who joins Ian Stewart and Jeff Salazar in one of the best three position player combinations in the minor leagues. His OPS is also over 1.000, thanks to 30 home run power and a great batting eye. He’s very prone to strikeouts, there is no doubt that total will reach 100 (if not 120) by season’s close. Also, Baker has already made 20 errors at the hot corner, and while I don’t have a report on him, my guess is last year’s first round pick Stewart will force a move at some point. The idea of having Helton, Stewart, Baker and Salazar on the corners just might be enough for Dan O’Dowd to hang onto his job a little longer.

    32. Joe Blanton- Oakland Athletics- SP

    Like I said with Delmon Young, Blanton doesn’t necessarily have the numbers to hang with other guys on this list. His ERA is nearing 4.00, and (gasp!) he’s allowed more hits than innings pitched. This is danger territory, but I’m intrigued by good control, and the ability to keep the ball out of the park, even in the Pacific Coast League. His top 40 selection is also due to the fact that even without Rick Peterson, I trust the A’s ability to develop pitchers. Billy Beane loved this guy out of Kentucky, and he’ll definitely be one of the favorites for Rookie of the Year in 2005.

    33. Angel Guzman- Chicago Cubs- SP

    Another pitcher rehabbing from injury, you’ll likely be taken back after reading Guzman’s rehab numbers from the Florida State League. The Cubs, who have done a good job handling sore arms of late, sent Guzman to the FSL to keep that arm warm an extra few months upon his return. While the top prospect’s 4.20 ERA is anything but amazing considering he was repeating the level, it’s his peripherals that astound me. In thirty innings, the right-hander allowed 27 hits, struck out 40, and walked zero. Once again, Guzman had a 40/0 K/BB in high-A, before being moved up to the Southern League. His high ERA tells me that his pitchability isn’t great, but expectations are still sky-high for the Cubs’ Angel.

    34. Justin Huber- New York Mets- C

    Being a catcher is great for a prospect, because you don’t have to have the numbers that most hitting prospects carry. Huber has slumped recently of late, but his season line of .272/.408/.460 is fantastic for a catching prospect. Huber’s defense is a bit lacking, but the Mets will concede that when considering his power and plate discipline. The Australian still must improve all facets of his game to stay on this list, because a poor second half will not only make him drop, but will cause a drop clear off the list.

    35. Jason Kubel- Minnesota Twins- OF

    Think Jeremy Reed 2003, without the plate discipline. Instead, Kubel has fantastic contact skills that led to a .377 average in the Eastern League before being promoted to AAA. Being an outfielder in the Twins’ organization is a death penalty, but Kubel’s 41 extra-base hits gives Terry Ryan one great piece of trade bait. This is another player on the list I forecast will drop by year’s end, but for now, I gotta give the kid his due.

    36. Daric Barton- St. Louis Cardinals- C

    Boy, I’ve never seen a high school kid so advanced in his first full year of professional play. Barton, about a year after being the first Cardinal drafted, is hitting an insane .331/.465/.566 in the Midwest League. Recent slumps have taken the average below .400 and the OBP below .500, but those numbers are the kind that makes someone a top prospect. I’ve heard pretty good things about his defense, but an early season injury has forced Barton to only play half of his 40 games behind the plate. Like everyone else here, we’ll have a much better feel for Barton in September, but two thumbs up so far.

    37. John Danks- Texas Rangers- SP

    I’m trying to be very hesitant with low-A pitchers this year, considering the early season struggles that Cole Hamels and Scott Kazmir have seen. Danks is pretty comparable to the latter, but I just can’t see not putting him on my top 40 list. The hard-throwing southpaw ate up the Midwest League in fourteen appearances, thriving off the four-man rotation style format that Grady Fuson uses in the minor leagues. Last year’s ninth overall selection has a 3.39 ERA in three starts for the Stockton Ports, but barring injury, Danks is probably a better prospect than Kinsler.

    38. Yusmeiro Petit- New York Mets- SP

    Soothsayers have compared Petit to Sid Fernandez, a former Major League pitcher that had fantastic numbers in the minor leagues. The reason this comparison works is Petit, like Fernandez, had unreal numbers in fifteen low-A starts. In 83 innings, Petit allowed only 47 hits and 22 walks, against an insane 122 strikeouts. For those of you scoring at home, that’s a WHIP below 1.00, a K/BB above 5.00, and a K/9 nearing 13.50. Petit finds himself below a lot of Met prospects, but if these numbers continue, he’ll head the list in the winter.

    39. Bobby Brownlie- Chicago Cubs- SP

    Another forecast I’m proud of, I saw very good things from Brownlie this season, and he hasn’t let me down. Like Tim Stauffer, Brownlie doesn’t have great numbers, but I guess the better comparison is Gavin Floyd. Like Floyd, Brownlie has a great curveball that has led to a high HR/9 and low K/9, but a darn good ERA. If Matt Clement leaves Chicago next winter, and that’s a very likely scenario, Brownlie will be in a race with Guzman, Ryan Dempster, and many other Cub pitchers for the fifth spot in that vaunted rotation.

    40. Jesse Crain- Minnesota Twins- RP

    Relief prospects are generally overrated, but Crain deserves the hype he’s gotten. After rising through three levels last season, Crain has had a home in Rochester this year, appearing in 33 games as the Red Wings’ closer. But, Crain should be preparing for a move, as the Twins could no doubt use some help in the bullpen towards the end of the year. Crain might not be the immediate closer, but setting up Joe Nathan will be a wonderful way to start what will likely be a great career.

    That’s it for now, next time I’ll talk about the people that just missed this list.