WTNYMay 03, 2005
2005 WTNY April 75 (Part One)
By Bryan Smith

With a month of baseball and all of Spring Training having happened since my last prospect rankings, I think it's time to look where my rankings currently stand. The unveiling of this list will see the graduation of all players that should lose prospect eligiblity soon, and will feature 2004 draftees for the first time. Today I will present my top 25 players, while tomorrow we will go through 26-75 in a quicker format.

For each player I have given their April numbers, with a bit of an unusual stat line. For hitters, the line is as follows:

H/AB (AVG), BB/K (OBP), 2B-3B-HR (SLG); SB/ATT

While a bit odd, this will help me greatly when compiling prospect splits at season's end. For pitchers, the line should be read:

W-L, H/IP, ER (ERA), K/BB, HR

Please note that this list will have little turnover, as I realize not too much faith can be put in Opening month statistics. This is more reflective of any changes of feeling I've had recently, along with dealing with any injuries that have happened since the last list. Enjoy...

1. Delmon Young- OF- Tampa Bay Devil Rays (AA)

It was going to take a lot for Delmon to lose his spot atop my list, as I truly believe this is one of the game's next superstars. Tampa Bay was aggressive with their former top choice, moving the 20-year-old to AA to start the season. Young has taken the transition well, and is also walking and stealing bases at better levels than last season. He still has things to work on, like less strikeouts and more consistent power, but this is a kid that should factor into the Devil Rays 2006 plans. Tampa Bay has a number of things to do soon, such as deciding where B.J. Upton factors into future plans. What they do know, however, is that Carl Crawford and Delmon Young will be their corner outfielders for quite some time.

April Numbers: 24/85 (.282), 10/24 (.364), 1-1-4 (.459); 9/11

2. Felix Hernandez- SP- Seattle Mariners (AAA)

Again, this was not about to change, as Delmon and Felix are heads above the rest of the minor league crowd. Felix has been fine, but not fantastic, thus far in the PCL season. Rather than dissect his numbers, I found this first-hand account to be the most telling of where the King is at (from Devin of Lookout Landing):

Hernandez, obviously already flustered, then started to get a bit wild as he stuggled to get his curve and changeup across the plate...Hernandez was hitting 96 MPH consistently with his fastball and somewhere between 81-83 MPH with the curve, he also threw a 69 MPH changeup. Wicked. After the first, he had hitters absolutely flailing at that nasty curve...

April Numbers: 3-2, 28/29, 8ER (2.48 ERA), 28/15, 1

3. Andy Marte- 3B- Atlanta Braves (AAA)

Overall a pretty solid month for Marte, who saw his rate numbers dragged down by an eight-day slump. From April 19 to the 28th Marte went just 5-for-36, which is the reason his numbers look pretty low. But when you dig deeper you see that besides those games he was 18/41, and he still has an ISoD of .089 and ISO of .184. I still believe the Braves are best suited with Chipper Jones and Ryan Langerhans on their outfield corners, with Andy Marte at third. I was hoping that Marte would come out of the gate red-hot, proving that breakout people have been calling for would be in 2005. He hasn't, and it is beginning to look more and more like Marte might just turn into a solid, but not spectacular, third baseman.

April Numbers: 23/87 (.264), 9/22 (.333), 4-0-4 (.448); 0/0

4. Ian Stewart- 3B- Colorado Rockies (A+)

I'll admit to having underrated Stewart in my last rankings, where he did not rank in the top five. After further thought, even despite his hurt hamstring, I'm willing to say that Stewart is the game's fourth-best prospect. His hitting skills are ridiculously advanced for his age, and it looks like he'll stay at the hot corner. Add all that up, mix in Coors Field, and you have some silly good numbers. Hey, Todd Helton might steal a plaque with that resume.

April Numbers: Injured

5. Prince Fielder- 1B- Milwaukee Brewers (AAA)

OK, so his numbers don't look that good, and his Spring Training was pretty bad after his red-hot start. But this guy gives me a feeling of future dominance, it just seems as if his hitting skills are Frank Thomas-like. Fielder's walking and striking out are both at appropriate levels this season, so all he needs are a few more balls to leave the yard to be set. Lyle Overbay is doing fine at the Major League level, so there is no hurry, but Fielder still figures to push Lyle out by the break.

April Numbers: 19/79 (.241), 15/15 (.375), 3-0-2 (.354); 1/2

6. Matt Cain- SP- San Francisco Giants (AAA)

I guess this is payback for ranking Cain behind Chad Billingsley on my last list, as Matt has come out of the blocks dominating this season. San Francisco was agressive in promoting Cain to AAA after an up-and-down half season in Norwich last year, but hindsight is validating the move. It was not too long ago that prospect lists were filled with stud Giant pitching prospects -- Williams, Foppert and Ainsworth -- and San Fran fans will tell you they haven't seen much come from that. Cain is the best of the group, and has looked better in the PCL than King Felix. A little work on control is all that is preventing Cain from being the Dontrelle Willis (c. 2003) boost the Giants need to stay afloat in the NL West.

April Numbers: 3-0, 10/25.2, 4ER (1.75 ERA), 29/11, 3

7. Hanley Ramirez- SS- Boston Red Sox (AA)

Recently, I have decided that Hanley Ramirez had jumped over Joel Guzman as my top shortstop prospects. I like the fluid nature in which Ramirez plays the game, his rounded skillset, his propensity for contact. Guzman's size is a bit of a concern, as are his struggles with hitting a curve. Hanley might not be able to stick at shortstop with the signing of the player he has long been compared to, but there is no question that he will be getting regular playing time soon. I mentioned to Randy Booth at Over the Monster that with Johnny Damon a free agent after this season, the Red Sox might want to consider moving Hanley to center sooner rather than later.

April Numbers: 22/75 (.293), 4/12 (.346), 2-5-0 (.453); 4/6

8. Carlos Quentin- OF- Arizona Diamondbacks (AAA)

His numbers are flawless. In fact, it is quite hard to cite flaws since he has started playing professional baseball. I wonder how much Arizona's slew of great hitter's parks in the minors have helped this, so Quentin will be a good test study for sure. What he will also be is the Arizona Diamondbacks 2006 right fielder. He's going to hit, he's going to get on base, and he's going to become a fan favorite in Phoenix. Jeremy Deloney had it right telling me I underrated this guy in January, that's for sure.

April Numbers: 22/63 (.349), 17/10 (.500), 4-0-4 (.603); 4/4

9. Jeff Francoeur- OF- Atlanta Braves (AA)

The walks are getting concerning. I mean, this is a guy that in April has walked in about 3% of his plate apperances, and had the exact same struggles in the AFL. Superstars don't walk this little, so I'm a little wary about forecasting Francoeur's ceiling. I love the power, and sincerely believe he is a future 30-HR threat in the Majors. But, how valuable is that with an OBP that will, at best, be .340? What if it's .307? Everything else looks good right now, but the Braves need to get this kid taking more pitches...soon.

April Numbers: 26/95 (.274), 3/21 (.307), 10-0-3 (.474); 5/6

10. Casey Kotchman- 1B- L.A. Angels (AAA)

How does this happen? A guy hits all his life, dominates this level last year, and starts the year this cold? Sure his BABIP is about .220 this season, but three extra-base hits? Could he be a victim of being too selective? All valid questions. It could be noted that Mark Grace struggled in AAA at the age of 24, though the Cubs called him up anyway. That's who Kotchman is currently looking like, as I now more than ever believe he will never develop Will Clark power. I think it's safe to say the Angels will take any power at this point.

April Numbers: 15/78 (.192), 18/11 (.357), 3-0-0 (.231); 0/1

11. Rickie Weeks- 2B- Milwaukee Brewers (AAA)

He isn't going to hit four triples every month, and his BB/K ratio is pretty absurd right now. But, Weeks is doing just about everything else right. His BABIP is extremely high right now, around .350, so a slump on the way could be projected. This is not a good sign for a guy hitting .265, and it shows he needs to work on contact considerably. But power this good up the middle doesn't come around much, so the Brewers are willing to work with him. Like Prince his arrival might be a little delayed, but the two will be Milwaukee's right side by the end of the year. And yes, Weeks does have Gary Sheffield power potential.

April Numbers: 22/83 (.265), 6/26 (.337), 3-4-3 (.506); 4/5

12. Jeremy Hermida- OF- Florida Marlins (AA)

Before the season the question was whether Hermida would hit for power or just be the next Florida leadoff hitter. The answer: the power has come. I can't say no one saw it coming, as Dave Cameron said in an interview with me, "Get him out of the Florida State League and add a few more pounds and he's going to take off." Consider Hermida lifted off, as he has fixed every flaw on his scouting report besides a high number of whiffs. This is a guy who this season projects to walk more than 100 times and hit about 40 homers. Juan Pierre should hear the footsteps coming, as should the outfielders in front of Hermida on this prospect list.

April Numbers: 20/73 (.274), 20/19 (.436), 4-0-8 (.658); 2/2

13. Joel Guzman- SS- Los Angeles Dodgers (AA)

Unlike the other huge Dodger breakout of 2004, Adrian Beltre, Joel Guzman is proving that he is for real. Still, all of his flaws still apply, which include size too big for the shortstop position, too many strikeouts, poor recognition of curveballs. It is much more likely that Guzman is going to replace Jose Valentin at third than Cesar Izturis up the middle, as many predicted when the Dodgers let Beltre walk. Whether Guzman turns into the next Beltre or the next Valentin remains to be seen, but I will say that I am far more bearish on Guzman than most.

April Numbers: 23/80 (.288), 10/25 (.366), 5-1-4 (.525); 2/3

14. Lastings Milledge- OF- New York Mets (A+)

As I type his ranking, I just keep having to remind myself, "Sample size, sample size, sample size." Milledge has such high potential, but by the same token, such high room for bust. Milledge is currently on the shelf with a bum left wrist, an injury we have seen sap power out of players for a season. Even if he doesn't hit for a ton of power this season, New York could still work with him on selectivity, as walking in 6% of PA and striking out in 30% is not acceptable.

April Numbers: 11/51 (.216), 3/15 (.298), 2-0-1 (.314); 4/6

15. Chad Billingsley- SP- Los Angeles Dodgers (AA)

When I wrote about Billingsley a couple weeks ago, I talked about why the Kerry Wood comparisons make some sense. Chad has a dominating two-pitch arsenal that helps him rack up strikeouts, but doesn't have the control to ever have a good WHIP on his resume. Wood naysayers will tell you that it is quite possible to look dominant on the mound while spending years throwing more than pitching. Billingsley has some serious control and mechanical issues to climb before becoming a star, but like any good pitching prospect, has a future somewhere, on some staff.

April Numbers: 1-1, 16/22.2, 11ER (4.37 ERA), 25/11, 0

16. Yusmeiro Petit- SP- New York Mets (AA)

The cloud of smoke that the Scott Kazmir trade and its aftereffects caused have been lifted, and now Petit's true colors are shining like never before. Petit has been lucky that the unforgiving New York media has had a pair of Binghamton pitchers to watch, and one with quite the pedigree. While Floyd Bannister's son is another that got off to a Brad Thompson-like start, it is Petit that remains the better prospect. Yusmeiro has it all: good control, deception, and a knowledge of changing speeds. There are questions about his stuff and about his ceiling, but Yusmeiro should be fine. Think Livan Hernandez (c. 2005, not 1997), and remain the Mets fans of that team ERA.

April Numbers: 0-2, 15/20.1, 6ER (2.66 ERA), 23/2, 2

17. Thomas Diamond- SP- Texas Rangers (A+)

First on my list of 2005 draftees is Thomas Diamond, which is probably surprising for all those Niemann and Butler lovers out there. One of the reasons is that Diamond has an extensive track record now, since he signed with the Rangers out of New Orleans and started pitching so fast. Diamond has a 2.51 ERA in more than 70 professional innings, with 97 strikeouts and just 22 walks. I keep finding things to fall in love with this guy for, and MLB's scouting service liked him too:

Good pitcher's build, similar to Roger Clemens...Solid delivery, good extension on release. Fastball explodes late in zone...Curveball has big, 12-6 break...Excellent movement and deception to change up.

With a little improvement on his slider, Diamond has all the makings of solving the Rangers' rotation woes. He'll beat John Danks to the Majors, and also profiles to be a better pitcher. Not a lot to dislike here.

April Numbers: 3-0, 19/25.2, 9ER (3.16 ERA), 29/9, 2

18. Conor Jackson- 1B- Arizona Diamondbacks (AAA)

Like Quentin, I'm curious how these insane minor league numbers are going to translate when Jackson actually faces Major League pitching. And insane they are. Jackson just keeps hitting doubles, and has only struck out three times in almost ninety plate appearances. His move to first base is pretty official, meaning that Shawn Green will be the man left out in Arizona in a year's time, assuming Luis Gonzalez does not retire. Jackson should be called up before Quentin to relieve Chad Tracy, who could very well interest any team in need of a third baseman.

April Numbers: 29/74 (.392), 13/3 (.472), 9-1-1 (.581); 0/0

19. Brandon McCarthy- SP- Chicago White Sox (AAA)

Well, I wondered how the curveball would do after leaving the Arizona atmosphere, and the answer is not too well. McCarthy has given up five home runs in the International League this season, and I would be willing to gamble at least three of them have been hanging curveballs. McCarthy has still pitched very well when considering his K/BB and age, but I think the White Sox expected a little more after his Spring Training. With the rotation dominating it looks like McCarthy will not be pushed too hard this year, a good thing for a kid who might get tired early because of that March. McCarthy is similar to a right-handed Barry Zito, though he has better control than the former Cy Young winner. Brandon will be in Chicago full-time in 2006, as trading him from the organization would be far worse than Jeremy Reed.

April Numbers: 2-2, 25/29.2, 14ER (4.25 ERA), 40/9, 5

20. Brian Anderson- OF- Chicago White Sox (AAA)

That's because Reed had a fellow outfield prospect nipping at his heels in Brian Anderson. While Jermaine Dye continues to stink it up in Chicago, the White Sox are an injury away from calling the Wildcat to the Windy City. Anderson has it all, a disciplined high, solid contact skills, and has shown newfound power this year. He has the ability to play any outfield position, so he could undoubtedly get a chance next year. He is the player Shin-Soo Choo, trying to top Reed, wants to be.

April Numbers: 26/80 (.325), 8/24 (.389), 8-1-4 (.600); 0/0

21. Hayden Penn- SP- Baltimore Orioles (AA)

Like that, in a blink of five starts, Hayden Penn comes from nowhere and grabs hold of the Oriole top prospect spot. Penn was third at some point this offseason, behind Markakis and Majewski, but has had a red-hot debut to thank for dusting the pair of outfielders. 40 strikeouts in less than 30 innings? This is because Penn now has three above-average pitches in a mid-90s fastball, a much-improved fantastic change up, and a solid curve. Throw in a little control and youth in the Eastern League, and you can understand why the bandwagon keeps growing.

April Numbers: 2-1, 21/29, 5ER (1.55 ERA), 40/6, 0

22. John Danks- SP- Texas Rangers (A+)

With the emergence of Ian Kinsler last year and Thomas Diamond this season, John Danks is kind of flying under the radar a bit in Dallas. While I'm always a little wary of Danks after being quite underwhelmed by his performance in the Futures Game, I realize that he's far better than what he showed in the game. In fact, he is the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball right now. It was going to take a damn good high school player to make Grady Fuson spend seven figures on, and Danks was that player in 2003. Texas is really waiting for Danks and Diamond to come take hold of a rotation that is the only thing holding the club back from perennial playoff visits.

April Numbers: 1-1, 17/20.2, 4ER (1.74 ERA), 19/5, 0

23. Daric Barton- 1B- Oakland Athletics (A+)

Of all of my comments in my January rankings, my comments about Barton drew the most criticism. It remains to be seen whether the numbers I cited (half the season he was the minors best hitter, the other half he was awful) mean anything, but his early numbers have been quite poor. I still really like Barton and can truly understand the comparisons that have been made to Carlos Delgado. With all that being said, big things were expected from Barton this year, hitting in the minors easiest league. Given his age and having the duties of learning a new position we can forgive his early struggles, but that ISO really needs a rise in May.

April Numbers: 19/78 (.244), 13/11 (.362), 2-0-2 (.346); 0/0

24. Billy Butler- 3B- Kansas City Royals (A+)

Give the Kansas City scouting team some credit, they are relentless. In 2001, the team drafted high school fireballer Colt Griffin in the first round, but still had the guts to draft another high school pitcher in 2002 (Greinke). Despite the bust that is Chris Lubanski being a wasted 2003 first-round choice, the club went back into the high school hitter department in 2004. The key when realizing why Greinke and Butler are looking like successes is that both are cerebral players, with huge upsides. Butler is a great talent as a hitter, with good contact skills, a disciplined eye and huge power. His one real flaw is a lack of athleticism which hurts his defense at the hot corner. While the precedent of moving from third to first isn't full of names, Butler does have some similarities to a right-handed Jim Thome. I think Kansas City fans could live with that.

April Numbers: 30/85 (.353), 12/17 (.433), 5-0-7 (.659); 0/0

25. Scott Olsen- SP- Florida Marlins (AA)

Of all the better prospects in baseball, few players have flown under my radar more than Scott Olsen. A good start to this season, combined with some graduations and injuries have made Olsen the second-best southpaw prospect in baseball. His control looks very good this year, and Olsen does not give up home runs. A.J. Burnett is going to command a lot of money this offseason, and the Marlins will need an effective pitcher to fill his void. Olsen looks to be it.

April Numbers: 3-0, 24/27.2, 8ER (2.60 ERA), 35/7, 1

Back tomorrow with prospects 26-75, please leave any feelings below.

Comments

Just seeing what you thought about the kid in Pittsburgh, Brad Eldred who has i believe 12 jacks this spring.

Also, Corey Patterson's younger brother also got off to a great start, what kind of future do you see out of him?

Is Barfield or Weeks ever going to put all of their tools to use? Or are they headed down bust road.

Eldred will be a fringe 75 guy. His power is crazy, with 17 of his first 26 hits going for extra bases. But I don't like his BB/K numbers, and plenty of hitters have had huge power numbers in the minors before him.

Eric Patterson has looked fantastic, but mind you he's only been playing for a month, and is a college player in low-A. I love his speed and discipline, and think he could definitely be in line for the Cubs 2B job a ways down the line. But still way too early to tell.

As far as Barfield and Weeks go, I have two very different opinions on both. I love Weeks and see a huge ceiling for him, while Barfield hasn't been good since the California League. Sending him to AAA this season was a mistake by San Diego, and one they should consider fixing if his struggles continue.

Obviously, I'm waiting for some reference to Robinson Cano or some other Yankee prospect.

Penn's fastball is average? He was hitting the upper 90s in his last start

Fabian,
Really, come back tomorrow because the Yankees are not completely shut out of my list.

Tyler,
Seems like the reports I had on Penn were wrong. You are right that he likes to work in the mid-90s, which has helped make his change so good. Thanks for pointing that out.

Just wondering how close Kyle Davies is to this list. He's on fire in AAA right now.

Also, I'm in a 12 man head-to-head fantasy league, each team has 6 minor league spots. I have: Delmon Young, Ian Stewart, Joel Guzman, Chad Billingsley, Edwin Jackson and Robinson Cano. I had Braves C Brian McCann but dropped him for Cano when he got called up last night. Just I get McCann back, pick up Dopirak, Adam Miller or should I hang on to Cano and see how he pans out?

Here is Oriole's Hangout recap of Hayden Penn's last game

Recap: 20-year-old Hayden Penns change-up wasnt working on Friday night, but his fastball sure was, as he struck out 10 in seven innings as Bowie (10-12) downed the Reading Phillies 3-2.
Readings first four hits came off of Penn change ups, a pitch that many describe as his best.

Yeah I left it up. I didnt make it too hard for them, said Penn. But everything works off your fastball. If I can get it in and out, it will be effective.

His change up is his best pitch, said veteran catcher Brandon Marsters. He has to use it to make his fastball effective and he was throwing the fastball past them.

His command of the fastball got better and better as the game went on and so did his curveball, said Baysox pitching coach Larry McCall. We got him up to100 pitches; which is what we want to do with all of our starters now.

Penn took the Eastern League lead in strikeouts. He now has 40 Ks in 29 innings of work. In the first inning Penn got oohs and ahs from the crowd of 2,489 when the stadium radar gun showed his first two fastballs at 96 and 97 MPH and one pitch in the first inning at 101 MPH. However the guns in the stands had him topping out at 95. Penn finished allowing one run on seven hits with a walk. His ERA is now at 1.55.

Bryan:

Do you think that Anderson or McCarthy will get to play on the South Side this September?

As a Brewer fan, I certainly hope Fielder isn't displacing Overbay by the break! I would be surprised if Fielder is up for good by the all-star break in 2006, to be honest.

Likewise, there's no way Weeks is starting 2B for the Brewers in 2005 unless injuries make them truly desperate. He'll be a September call-up for sure - he was last year - but again they have no reason to rush these guys to the majors.

Stainy,
I think the decision comes down to McCann and Cano, and it is kind of a coin flip. If when they are playing doesn't matter to you, I would go for McCann because of the power that comes from his position.

Michael,
Both will be up in September for sure. McCarthy could be the first arm up if a rotation member gets hurt, so he might be before then.

Tom,
Alright, maybe predicting midseason full-time gigs is a little risky, but I definitely believe that Fielder has the first base job next year. Weeks has more potential to play this year, since Spivey sucks. Increased contact and better defense.

Could anyone give a good breakdown on Matt Cain's stuff. Does he have ace potential realistically, or is he going to be more of a 2 or a 3 when his ceiling is reached. What would be a comparrision to a major leaguer?

Unless someone offers something tremendous for Overbay this coming winter, I maintain they won't rush Prince.

As for Weeks playing this year, if Spivey continues to blow (no reason to believe he won't) they'll just continue to start Bill Hall at 2B, for better or worse, as they have been lately with Spivey's struggles.