WTNYSeptember 08, 2004
System Rankings, ALC edition
By Bryan Smith

And finally, I have a computer. Its great to be on-line today, catching up on everything Ive missed in the last couple of weeks. So, Ill be back to a thrice-a-week schedule, starting today.

Someone finally called me on my bluff. I did the AL West prospect rankings a few weeks back, and then proceeded to take a break. But dont worry, I havent forgotten about it. Today Ill get back on the horse, and profile the American League Central. The division isnt exactly chock-full-o-prospects, and none of the teams have fantastic depth.

Ill lead off with the team-by-team breakdowns, and remember, it goes best system to worst. At the end,

Minnesota Twins
1. Jason Kubel
2. J.D. Durbin
3. Jesse Crain
4. Scott Baker
5. Francisco Liriano
6. Jason Bartlett
7. Glen Perkins
8. Justin Jones
9. Alex Romero
10. Scott Tyler

Terry Ryan doesnt use the sabermetric approach to drafting that some would love, but he gets it done. While sometimes picks like B.J. Garbe and Denard Span turn out terrible, no team has received more production from their system in recent years. With a limited budget, the Twins cant afford the system going dry.

Dont worry. Not only do the Twins have a fantastic scouting department, but their own depth builds more depth. Joe Mauers quick ascent to the Majors allowed the trade of A.J. Pierzynski, netting not only Joe Nathan, but Francisco Liriano as well. Justin Morneau was behind the Doug Mientkiewicz trade, scoring the Twins the talented Justin Jones. Finally, the #6 prospect on this list was acquired for Brian Buchanon, just another outfielder in a then-loaded system.

Jason Kubel will allow the Twins to pull that same move again. Expect the Twins to trade Jacque Jones this winter, allowing an outfield of Lew Ford, Torii Hunter, and Kubel, with Shannon Stewart at DH. Jason Bartlett allows the Twins to let Guzman walk, saving money for the inevitable re-signing of Brad Radke. And next year, J.D. Durbin will begin to fortify what was a weak rotation in 2004.

Finally, let me point two things. First of all, Glen Perkins ranks up there with Thomas Diamond as having the best debuts after being chosen in the draft. The University of Minnesota alum was pushed to the Midwest League, where he sparkled in nine starts. The rest of the draft went well, with no one even touching Perkins territory. And lastly, let me introduce Alex Romero. A switch-hitting Venezuelan outfielder, Romero has more walks than strikeouts since signing in 2001. While power isnt his strong suit, his 2004 line in the Florida State League (.292/.387/.405) is very similar to Kubels at the same age (.298/.361/.400). My 2005 sleeper pick of the yearAlex Romero.

Cleveland Indians
1. Michael Aubrey
2. Franklin Gutierrez
3. Adam Miller
4. Ryan Garko
5. Andrew Brown
6. Brad Snyder
7. Fausto Carmona
8. Ryan Goleski
9. Jeremy Sowers
10. Dan Cevette

What was recently the games most powerful system is suffering a bit of a dry spell, though still showing signs of life. The 2001 draft, where Cleveland loaded up on pitchers Dan Denham, J.D. Martin, Jake Dittler, has gone terribly. Solid prospects like Carmona and Fernando Cabrera have fallen apart. But, the 2003 draft has come as a solace for 2001, with Shapiro drafting Aubrey, Snyder and Adam Miller. Hes made some solid trades, and is busily trying to fill the few holes left on his Major League roster.

One of those will be Ryan Garko, who exploded on the prospect map this season. Garko is very similar to Matt LeCroy, a fringe catcher with fantastic power. I meant be tempted to say Josh Phelps, who the Indians just acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays. Garko will be ready for the 2006 season, but Aubrey and Hafner will be filling the 1B/DH roles. While he might slate in as a platoon player/back up catcher for awhile, a smart organization will pluck Garko out of this system very soon. Hes not Ryan Howard-type trade bait, but hes good.

Chicago White Sox
1. Brandon McCarthy
2. Brian Anderson
3. Chris Young
4. Kris Honel
5. Ryan Sweeney
6. Josh Fields
7. Orionny Lopez
8. Francisco Hernandez
9. Gio Gonzalez
10. Antoin Gray

When Ken Williams traded Jeremy Reed to acquire Freddy Garcia, I looked to the Sox system and saw nothing. Brian Anderson was putting together a nice season in the Carolina League, but Kris Honel was hurt and Ryan Sweeney had fallen on his face. What was once ranked Baseball Americas top system was decimated, possibly last in the Majors. And then the Brandon McCarthy show beganit hasnt stopped yet.

I dont know what to make of McCarthy, whether he is the next Black Jack or simply a right-handed Joe Kennedy. Hell, he could be another Jon Rauch. The White Sox are sure trying to make him that, pitching him in excess of 170 innings this year. Plain and simple, that should be illegal. Tell him nice season, and to shut it down until the AFL, where he can get his extra 25 innings. But dont send him to AA, cmon. Didnt you learn something from Rauch, and now Honel?

What I also dont understand is taking Orionny Lopez and Ryan Rodriguez, enjoying modest seasons in the Sally League, and promoting them to AAA. Hopefully someone could explain this to me, because I cant understand why anyone would challenge a 21-year-old this much. Doesnt the scouting director know anything in excess is bad?

And like I did with the Twins, let me close with a comment on the draft, and then a sleeper. Gio Gonzalez, a southpaw from Florida, should also be chalked up for having a stellar debut. Josh Fields was decent in the Carolina League, but Gonzalez absolutely dominated short-season league, and should be ready for full-season ball next year. My sleeper? Francisco Hernandez. The 18-year-old, switch-hitting catcher, was promoted to the Sally League late after a .326/.372/.492 line in Bristol. Its too early to start calling anyone the next Victor Martinez, but just keep your eye on Hernandez.

Kansas City Royals
1. Justin Huber
2. Denny Bautista
3. Ruben Gotay
4. Mark Teahen
5. Donnie Murphy
6. Billy Butler
7. Chris Lubanski
8. Mitch Maier
9. Dusty Hughes
10. Jason Kaanoi

Riddle me this: how in the Hell could the Royals have received more for Jose Bautista and Jason Grimsley than Carlos Beltran? Easy answer: Jim Duquette and the puppets running Baltimore. While Mark Teahen is a nice prospect, his slow development rate pales in comparison to Justin Huber and Denny Bautista. They also have to love how strong Ruben Gotay has come on, earning himself a job for 2005.

Down the list, I want to point on Donnie Murphy, who Baseball America recently likened to Marcus Giles. I always loved the Atlanta 2B, so for some reason this comparison rubbed me the wrong way. I asked myself, what was Marcus Giles doing as a 21-year-old? Answer: hitting .326 with 54 walks and a .513 slugging in the Carolina League. Murphy is also in the CL, but hitting .255/.325/.406. This isnt to say he isnt a prospect, just that hes no Giles.

While Ive talked about impressive performances from Thomas Diamond, Glen Perkins or Gio Gonzalez, a hitter has yet to come up. UntilBilly Butler. Another Floridian, Butler was touted with big power out of high school, similar to Midwest League MVP Brian Dopirak. On the opposite side of the diamond, Butler dominated the Arizona League, hitting .373/.488/.596 in 260 at-bats. First Zack Greinke came from Florida, then Butler. I think the Royals might be parking their scouting department there. Hey, it worked for Atlanta only one state up.

Detroit Tigers
1. Curtis Granderson
2. Tony Giarratano
3. Ryan Raburn
4. Kyle Sleeth
5. Kenny Baugh
6. Kody Kirkland
7. Justin Verlander
8. Preston Larrison
9. David Espinosa
10. Jay Sborz

Last and least are the Detroit Tigers, whose horrendous depth forced me to place them here. While I like both Granderson and Giarratano, both locks for top 50 spots, nothing else is too fantastic. Raburn should be the 2006 second basemen, and Sleeth could break out at any point. Kenny Baugh has always been a favorite of mine, and I still think he could turn into something special. Kody Kirklands full-season debut wasnt beautiful, but a little more contact could go a long way.

While I summarized #1-6 that quick, I want to talk about #8, David Espinosa. The 23rd overall pick in the 2000 draft, Espinosa was terrible for the Cincinnati Reds before being traded for Brian Moehler. Moved off shortstop, the switch-hitting centerfielder enjoyed a solid season in AA. While only batting .264, Espinosa had 80 walks, 20 steals, and matched his previous career home run total with 19. Oh yeah, and hes still 22. A little more contact, and the Tigers walked right into a blue-chip prospect.

And thats it. But for fun, I decided to also piece together a top-ten prospect list from the AL Central. It reads:

1. Jason Kubel- OF
2. Curtis Granderson- OF
3. Brandon McCarthy- SP
4. Michael Aubrey- 1B
5. Franklin Gutierrez- OF
6. Justin Huber- C
7. Tony Giarratano- SS
8. J.D. Durbin- SP
9. Adam Miller- SP
10. Jesse Crain- RP

And since I didnt give this treatment to the AL West, Im staunchly against media bias, heres their top 10:

1. Felix Hernandez- SP
2. Casey Kotchman- 1B
3. Dallas McPherson- 3B
4. Omar Quintanilla- SS
5. Ian Kinsler- SS
6. Travis Blackley- SP
7. Ervin Santana- SP
8. John Danks- SP
9. Jeremy Reed- OF
10. Jairo Garcia- RP

Last in this system ranking process is a cumulative ranking of the two divisions I have done so far. If youll remember, I put the AL West in the order of: Anaheim, Seattle, Texas, and Oakland. And now, when put together:

1. Anaheim
2. Minnesota
3. Seattle
4. Texas
5. Cleveland
6. Oakland
7. White Sox
8. Kansas City
9. Detroit

Yikes for the AL Central. I should note this piece has been written 11 at-bats into Nick Swishers career, where his OPS is currently over 1.100. Oakland will surely be saving a spot for him in their 2005 outfield, who has a decent chance at leading that team in on-base percentage. But last time I checked, that doesnt win you any Rookie of the Year awards. But hey, Bobby Crosby has that average up to .252

Speaking of debuts, I have a few to mention. Scott Kazmir made his third start, losing to the Detroit Tigers. In five innings, Kazmir allowed four hits, four runs, and walked six. While his seven strikeouts were impressive, Kazmirs strike/total pitches percentage must increase. It did for Jeff Francis, who held San Francisco scoreless for five and one-third innings for his first Major League victory. Gavin Floyd is 1/1 in that department, as he contributed to the current Mets losing streak with a September 3 victory over the Amazins. Floyd scattered four hits and one run in seven innings, and left viewers drooling with his curve. Finally, the aforementioned Jason Kubel will be on the Twins postseason roster, which looks like a good decision after he began his career 2/7 with a double.

Im currently on the sixth page of my Word document, wondering why Im still typing. You probably are too. Ill stop now.

Comments

Brian, sorry to complain, but we have yet to see the AL West young Major Leaguers to go with the AL West prospects.

Great article today though. I love going through your pieces, picking out prospects I've perhaps never heard of before and punching them into Baseball America's player finder to see just who they are, what they're up to and what they're going to be up to in years to come.

Incidentally, I think Jim Duquette runs the Mets! Well, he tries to, and fails miserably. Kazmir, Huber, Peterson and Wigginton for Benson and Zambrano. Oops!

Bryan, do you have any thoughts on Matt Moses, Terry Tiffee (both Twins) and Jeremy Guthrie (Indians)? Were any of the three close to making the top tens?

Can I also assume Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Joe Mauer and Grant Balfour are all illegible for this section of your analysis?

John--
Thanks for the comments. First of all, yes, the five you mentioned have all graduated to the Major Leagues. I wasn't sure about Felix Diaz, so I left him off, he'd by anywhere from 5-7 on the White Sox list.

It's really too early to tell about Moses, who played all of 30 unimpressive games this season. There is no way he breaks that top ten, but definitely has the potential to at some point. Tiffee is sort of the Twins' version of Justin Leone, an old third basemen who puts up solid numbers. He might get a chance next year if the club lets Corey Koskie go, and teamed with Mike Cuddyer, that might not be a bad move.

As for Guthrie, we'll see how the move to bullpen effects things. He's never been able to get over the AAA hump, and it has even effected his game in AA. He still has good stuff, and becoming a reliever might work well. I wanted to wait and see with him, which could of course make me look like an idiot if he turns into Gagne.

Thanks for the responses, Bryan, great stuff.

Bryan--one quick question...where does Shane Costa fit into the Royals rankings?

Everything I've heard seems to indicate thaat huber won't stay behind the plate. The Royals already have a fine defensive catcher in Buck, so I think they will try to move huber to a corner position.