The WTNY Top 5
5. Dallas McPherson- 3B- Anaheim Angels- 24
In the last two seasons, Dallas McPherson has not given us a lot of reason to doubt him. Over the four minor league stints he?s had at levels in two years (CL, Texas, Texas again, PCL), never has he hit below .300. Only once was the OBP below .400, the slugging under .600, and the OPS not at 1.000. In fact, 100 at-bats in AA in 2003, his 2002 Midwest League performance, and his Freshman year at the Citadel were the only times since high school he?s been below 1.000. Doubting his bat at this point is silly.
But while you would call his numbers unprecedented, there are a few concerns with Dallas. First of all, Anaheim has some great hitter?s parks between low-A and the Majors, which no doubt helped Dallas in both 2003 and 2004. So even though his slugging percentages have been right around what Adam Dunn?s were in 2001, they probably will be a bit lower. Still, the two profile to be similar players, as long as McPherson doesn?t abandon the walk.
And abandon it he did when reaching AAA last year, as he walked just 23 times in 259 at-bats. This will not satisfy the Angels, who are looking for a ceiling around .300/.400/.600 from their new third basemen. Getting that back on track should be both the organization and Dallas? goal for the spring, since McPherson has big shoes to fill in Troy Glaus.
Mike Scioscia is going to have to accept a few things about his third basemen this year. First of all, he?s going to strikeout?a lot. Second, his defense is a far cry from what Troy Glaus offered in his prime, and signiciantly closer to Chone Figgins? offerings in the playoffs. And third, that Dallas is going to tear the cover off the ball, making the Angels decision to let Glaus go the right one.
4. Adam Miller- SP- Cleveland Indians- 20
Miller was what a lot of first-round picks have been over the years: Texan high schooler with a big arm. But unlike Colt Griffins of summer?s past, Miller combined power and control into a dominating combination in 2004. As we watch bonus baby failure after failure, we have to appreciate the findings made by a Mark Shapiro or Logan White.
A lot can be said for ? considering the length of a first full season ? a good start and a good finish. This is what Miller did in 2004, as we compare his beginning and end with his middle:
Time GS IP H BB K ERA HR
B+E 16 85.2 53 24 98 1.58 2
MID 13 61.0 62 21 68 4.28 6
I should note that this includes the Carolina League playoffs, where against his best competition, he dominated. To me, the B+E line is most reminiscent of the way in which Jeff Francis closed out his 2003 season, prompting his inclusion in my 2004 preseason top fifty. And needless to say, that also happened in the Carolina League. The rest, in Francis? case, is history.
But this is a case where statistics alone did not contribute to Miller?s placement. While his control is evident in his numbers, the degree of his power is not. We also saw that in the article I linked to this weekend, Miller hit 101 mph on the gun this year, which is about 8 mph faster than it was upon being drafted.
There was a lot of thinking that went into my selection of the game?s second-best pitching prospect, but I have landed on Miller. Not only did he have one of the best 2004s of any pitcher, but his numbers, youth and projectability hint that there is more to come.
3. Andy Marte- 3B- Atlanta Braves- 21
For his time in the Braves organization, Marte has been an extremely consistent player. His slugging percentages, when weighing in Myrtle Beach?s horrible park factor, become fairly even. His on-base percentage has stayed consistent the last two years, and his yearly averages aren?t too far from each other. Marte is as consistent as they come, likely showing us what kind of player he profiles to be in the Majors. His average will likely be around .280, and his slugging has a ceiling in the .500s.
The question in my mind, is what about his OBP. If you split his season into two halves, pre-injury and post-injury (they come within 15 at-bats of eachother), he?s still consistent. His average in the first half was .264, and then .274 in the second half. His slugging went from .527 to .522. The big difference? His OBPs (estimated, but wrong by a few hundredths if anything), as in the first half it was just .335, and in the second .394. Where his OBP heads in the future will decide how good a player he becomes.
Everyone cites Miguel Cabrera as a comp to Marte, even John Scheurholz, but I don?t see it. Cabrera was simply a bit more raw than Marte at the same ages, never seeing the doubles go over the fence in the minors like Andy did in 2004, and never walking as much. Marte does not have Miguel?s upside, which is not a fault on him, just me saying that I don?t think the huge breakout season that has been predicted again and again will happen. Marte should stay extremely solid, and end up more like Carlos Lee (an ex-3B) than Cabrera.
The big question with Andy will be his position, now that Scheurholz has committed to keeping Chipper at third. This is a decision I disagree with, since I think Marte is a better third basemen than Jones, and has less experience in the outfield than him. But, it?s hard to go against this organization?s decisions, and I think you?ll see Andy split time at the hot corner and left field this year. In 2006, you should be seeing a Marte-Jones-Francoeur outfield.
In conclusion, Marte is an extremely great talent destined for many an All-Star game. He is a streaky player that always ends up with similar numbers. What will change Marte from solid to great will be his walks, and his consistency in selectivity. Either way, he?ll make his presence felt?soon.
2. Felix Hernandez- SP- Seattle Mariners- 19
In twenty years, when I look back on this list, I see myself thinking only two things about my selection of Felix as second overall. Furious for not choosing him first, or nodding that while TINSTAPP is extreme, it has a good point. This is to say that the only thing holding back Hernandez from greatness is a right arm that will throw about 400 professional innings before turning 20.
There?s nothing to dislike about Hernandez stuff-wise. From watching him in the Futures Game, I can tell you that he throws a fastball as well as anyone in the minors, and his curve would already be one of the 15 or so best in the Major Leagues. Furthermore, Jim Callis of Baseball America (no link, sorry) reported that Felix has a slider that has yet to be debuted. With that, Felix could take off even more, reaching unprecedented levels if his arm doesn?t fall off.
What impressed me most this season was King Felix?s (as coined by U.S.S. Mariner) ability to adjust to a level. In his first nine California League starts, Felix had a 3.59 ERA, 48 hits in 47.2 innings with 53 strikeouts, 14 walks, and five home runs allowed. In his last seven: 1.61 ERA, 37 hits in 50.1 innings, 61 strikeouts, twelve walks and zero homers. This works for the Texas League too, his first four AA starts: 4.79 ERA, 21 hits in 20.2 innings, nineteen strikeouts, nine walks and three home runs. And in his last six, Felix had a 2.45 ERA, allowing just 26 hits in 36.2 innings with thirty-nine strikeouts, twelve walks and zero home runs. That, my friends, is impressive.
Equally impressive is Seattle?s decision to not allow Felix to pitch in the Venezuelan League this winter. They realize the talent they have, and are not going to risk his right arm after numerous problems with that in the organization. The fifth starter spot in Seattle is wide-open, and if Felix doesn?t grab it in Spring Training, he should have it before the All-Star Break. The marketing potential of Ichiro and Felix in the future likely makes that Mariner department tickle, as they should be the top two in that regard in the game soon.
1. Delmon Young- OF- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- 19
Young didn?t hit for the power that Ian Stewart did. He didn?t hit for the average that Jason Kubel had at much higher levels. And he definitely does not have the polish at the plate we see from Casey Kotchman. But for me, there was little thought in choosing who to crown my 2005 preseason top prospect.
Tampa Bay has begun to witness the flux of young studs in this organization, both with the September call-up of the aforementioned Scott Kazmir, and my midseason top prospect, B.J. Upton. But unlike the talented shortstop, there is no ceiling for Young?s offensive potential. We have all heard the Albert Belle comparison, but in my mind, Delmon is far the better player than Joey Belle was.
How can I be singing such praise for a player not yet out of low-A? More so, one that has yet to even master the strike zone? My answer to that, is Young has showed the knack to improve, despite already being a good player. His August numbers:
AB BA SLG W K
103 .437 .786 20 22
Most intriguing for me is not the average or the power, both of which will come and go. But for a player that walked just once in April to show that type of improvement is fantastic. Delmon has not gone four games without a walk since mid-July, during a span in which he went 7/19.
Unlike the walks, the strikeouts aren?t going anywhere. In each month of play, Delmon struck out in 20-265 of his at-bats. He profiles to do so in excess of 100 times per season in the Major Leagues, a figure that would be offset by 80-100 walks.
And even when Young was bad, he was not bad. His worst monthly average was a modest .262 in April. In fact, only once all season did Young go three games without a hit, a feat no matter the number. To house that type of consistency, and still have nine hitting streaks in excess of six games is fantastic. And that doesn?t even mention his six-game, multi-hit streak in mid-August.
Overall, there are little flaws in Delmon?s resume. He has confidence and a Major League pedigree. He makes consistent contact, and shows ridiculous power. Toss in enough speed to be a threat and solid right field play, and you?ve got baseball?s best prospect.