2005 WTNY April 75 (Part Two)
We'll jump right into the list today. If you have any questions about the format, please refer to yesterday's entry. Enjoy...
26. Kyle Davies- SP- Atlanta Braves (AAA)
Atlanta has received good production from their rotation this year, but don't be surprised if Kyle Davies replaces Horacio Ramirez before long. Davies is pitching very well in the International League, and has all the tools to be a third (maybe second) starter in the Majors.
27. Ryan Howard- 1B- Philadelphia Phillies (AAA)
It's possible that Jim Thome's injury will give Ryan Howard enough room to establish himself, possibly getting included in a trade during midseason. Howard has proved he has power and is walking at great levels, now the strikeouts and lack of athleticism are the only flaws we can cite.
28. Ian Kinsler- 2B- Texas Rangers (AAA)
Another player that should be up before long, because I keep expecting Alfonso Soriano to get traded. Jamey Newberg wondered aloud how someone with such a good Spring Training could be having such an average start to the season, but Kinsler is starting to come around with the bat. This guy is not going to be fantastic, but he'll be a solid player for 15 seasons, in my opinion.
29. Michael Aubrey- 1B- Cleveland Indians (AA)
Another player I will admit to having overrated before the season is Aubrey, another player in the Sean Casey mold. Aubrey did not walk enough this April, and since I doubt he will ever slug .500 in the Majors, something close to a .400 OBP will be important.
30. Jeff Niemann- SP- Tampa Bay Devil Rays (A+)
This is a conservative placement for Niemann, who I think could very well turn out to be the best player drafted in 2004. While the MLB scouting service said last year that Niemann would be "quick to the ML level," I disagree. If I were the Devil Rays I would be extremely conservative with Jeff, giving him all of this year and most of next year in the minors. The 6-9 rightie has some control issues that need to be fixed in the California or Southern Leagues, not in the Majors. Still, given that flaw, Niemann's ceiling is insanely high. He already is in possession of four good pitches, including a fastball that he can really dial up when needed. He'll likely move up to the Southern League at some point, where Chuck Lamar really should keep him for the rest of the year.
31. Anthony Reyes- SP- St. Louis Cardinals (AAA)
Dan Haren was extremely well thought of by the St. Louis organization, who used him prominently in the playoffs last year. The addition of Mark Mulder, and the emergence of Anthony Reyes allowed for Haren's exit. Reyes has bounced back from injuries flawlessly, and is proof that we have a LONG way to go to being able to decipher college statistics.
32. Brian McCann- C- Atlanta Braves (AA)
Man, don't the Braves teach their players what a base on balls is? McCann has his flaws -- those walks and some sketchy defense -- but he will almost certainly be an improvement over Johnny Estrada (c. 2005) when he arrives in 2007. Power like this behind the plate is rare, and again, credit must be given for this organization's ability to find talent.
33. Justin Verlander- SP- Detroit Tigers (A+)
I thought he was a reach being drafted second, I even had him behind Townsend, but it shows why I'm not working for a Major League team. Verlander's transition to professional ball has started extremely well, and he might be up for a promotion sooner rather than later. The Major League scouting service calls him a "franchise type pitcher," and with Jeremy Bonderman, Dave Dambrowski's job has gotten a little safer.
34. Jon Papelbon- SP- Boston Red Sox (AA)
I don't know if the Red Sox pitching prospects are only pitching to Brave prospects, but they aren't walking anyone. I predicted before the season that Papelbon and Lester would be the breakout combination of the year, and while I still like Lester, I may have chosen the wrong person to team with Papelbon. The only thing to criticize Papelbon for are those home runs, but Jon should move to Pawtucket soon.
35. Adam Miller- SP- Cleveland Indians (DL)
Miller is back throwing after a brief scare in which I thought he might be gone for the season. He probably won't be back until summer, but Miller still has the potential to rank this highly on this list. I'm still disappointed he got hurt, but that's what happens to pitching prospects.
36. Franklin Gutierrez- OF- Cleveland Indians (AAA)
I really thought Cleveland was going to have a very good offense this year, as they had depth at every position. Not so much. Gutierrez has seen the likelihood of a future job in Jacobs Field rise this year, and he should be playing alongside Grady Sizemore in short order.
37. Felix Pie- OF- Chicago Cubs (AA)
Well, I said this had to be the year those tools started to result in production, and he is doing it this year. Pie is running wild in the Southern League, as well as spraying extra-base hits all over the place. Pie has risen to the top spot in the Cub system, and still profiles to be their leadoff hitter in short time.
38. Chuck Tiffany- SP- Los Angeles Dodgers (A+)
I was a bit worried that my ranking of him (higher than most outlets) was a little too much, but Tiffany is proving that the way he ended last season was not a fluke. Tiffany is another great arm in a loaded Los Angeles system, and should be also make the traditional great Dodger Vero Beach to Jacksonville move soon.
39. Shin-Soo Choo- OF- Seattle Mariners (AAA/MLB)
Choo was included on this list because even though he is currently in the Major Leagues, Mike Hargrove is not going to use him enough for Choo to lose his prospect eligibility. Jeff Shaw recently asked me why I liked Choo more than Jeremy Reed, and while I don't have an answer, it is all intuition. Choo does it all, and now the only worry is whether Choo will hit enough for a corner spot.
40. Gio Gonzalez- SP- Chicago White Sox (A-)
With Johan Santana's recent fame, I have no doubt people will start getting compared to him right and left. Gonzalez is not the pitcher Santana is, but his breaking ball might be just as good. This was a steal at 38, though it is still too early to predict anything.
41. Merkin Valdez- SP- San Francisco Giants (AA)
Sort of the Felix Pie of pitchers, as Valdez always shows enough to stay on prospect lists, but never as much as we would have hoped. In the worst, Valdez is going to be the Giants answer in the bullpen. At best, he'll have a Pie-like breakout on the mound. But I can certainly tell you that 2.08 ERA will not stay with him considering those peripherals.
42. Nick Markakis- OF- Baltimore Orioles (AA)
I consider Markakis one of my prized prospects, as he is another that I am completely using intuition on. There is a chance that Markakis is not going to hit for the power that a right fielder must, but remember that he started last year quite poorly, so a 2004-like improvement will make this ranking valid.
43. Eric Duncan- 3B- New York Yankees (AA)
Ugly. The Yankees were pretty aggressive moving Duncan up to the Eastern League this year, and Duncan is showing how unready he is. Still considering his youth, discipline and immense power potential, he remains the Yankees top prospect.
44. Ervin Santana- SP- Anaheim Angels (AA)
Well it's nice to see Santana back and pitching well again, but that K/BB has to improve. His electric arm of old gives promise, but we need to see the numbers of old to be sold that Santana is back.
45. Brian Dopirak- 1B- Chicago Cubs (A+)
Well, not really the month I was hoping for from the player I deemed the Cubs top prospect before the season. He isn't striking out that much this season, and despite his home run numbers being far from overwhelming, his ISO is enough at .181. Dopirak simply must walk more, though I guess this rate is helpful when verifying those Richie Sexson comparisons.
46. Jeff Mathis- C- Anaheim Angels (AAA)
Guess who's back? Suddenly those theories of the Texas League being so touch on catchers are looking to be correct, as Mathis has come out of the gate swinging. He started well last season too, so it's a little early to be putting Mathis back in our top fifteens. He does have that type of talent, and will make Angel fans forget about Ben Molina quick if and when he gets the opportunity.
47. Sergio Santos- SS- Arizona Diamondbacks (AAA)
Well, this is just not good. A .167 average, a .189 average with balls in play, and 22 strikeouts? Even if Royce Clayton is completely done, Santos is just not ready to take over. His ISO and walk rates are intriguing, but Santos is showing his youth out of the blocks this year.
48. Dan Johnson- 1B- Oakland Athletics (AAA)
Johnson is not exactly making me look like a genius, as I have chastised the Oakland organization time and again for playing Scott Hatteberg over him. Johnson is showing great BB/K and ISO rates, so all he needs now is to get that batting average up. He might not win the PCL MVP again, but it's a safe bet that OPS will get over .800.
49. Angel Guzman- SP- Chicago Cubs (ST)
Since Guzman has not really done anything of note since Spring Training, I'll just share with you now what I wrote then:
...Despite not having a strong build at all, Guzman has enormously long legs for a pitcher. His fastball was not the power sinker I had heard, as he both didn't cause grounders nor keep the ball low in the zone. He certainly favors the pitch, throwing seven in his first eight pitches. I was most impressed by Guzman's curve, which he showed control of throughout the game. He looks like the rare talent that can succeed without a great third pitch, as his change was absent for most of the game.
50. Dustin Pedroia- 2B- Boston Red Sox (AA)
This guy is going to play in the Majors. I guarantee it. His ceiling isn't very high -- a .919 OPS will never be touched -- but he is going to play. I really believe Boston will play have Varitek, Renteria, Pedoria and Hanley Ramirez as their players up the middle by 2007. This guy is good.
51. Robinson Cano- 2B- New York Yankees (AAA)
Time to give this kid his due. While the Yankees recent freak-out might make Cano extinct from the May list (his eligibility could be gone soon), now is the time to acknowledge just how well things have gone for him this year. Cano doesn't walk enough and reports on his defense aren't great, but he is a fantastic improvement over Tony Womack. If the Yankees truly are committed to getting younger, Cano is a good start.
52. Dan Meyer- SP- Oakland Athletics (AAA)
The things I have heard hint toward injury, which would explain why Meyer's velocity has decreased since last year. I still love this kid, a leftie with four solid pitches, and think the A's did get enough for Tim Hudson. But Meyer needs to start turning things around soon, as his hits, strikeouts, ERA, walks and home runs are all not good enough right now. That's a lot.
53. Tim Stauffer- SP- San Diego Padres (AAA)
I really like Stauffer, and have since he outpitched reports at the Futures Game, and I think the Padres could use his arm soon. Stauffer may have been my Rookie of the Year choice had he started the year in San Diego, and I think he'll be an effective Jon Lieber-type pitcher when all is said and done.
54. Curtis Granderson- OF- Detroit Tigers (AAA)
Erie is where hitters go to become famous, a place where Mike Rivera can hit double-digit home run numbers. Granderson has not really faded in Toledo like I thought he might, meaning that if his defense is good enough to play center, he should be the answer in Comerica Field soon.
55. Jon Lester- SP- Boston Red Sox (AA)
I entered the year with the highest of hopes for Lester to break out, but he has been the last of Red Sox prospects to do so. Lester's peripherals look pretty solid (bad HR rate), so his ERA should come down soon. Remember that last year his season started poorly as well, so my hopes remain high that Lester still breaks out this year.
56. Zach Duke- SP- Pittsburgh Pirates (AAA)
He won't be winning any ERA titles this year, but Zach Duke should continue to pitch effectively, and guarantee himself a spot in the Pirates 2006 rotation. I've heard him compared to a left-handed Jason Marquis, which means that he should spent the next few years underachieving in the back end of the Pittsburgh rotation.
57. Jose Capellan- SP- Milwaukee Brewers (AAA)
Well this isn't working. Over Spring Training it became obvious that Capellan is not going to be able to succeed with just one pitch, which is a bit of a problem. Expect his move to the bullpen to be fairly soon, because I truly don't think Capellan has success in the rotation.
58. Edwin Encarnacion- 3B- Cincinnati Reds (AAA)
The Joe Randa signing pretty much sent a message to Edwin Encarnacion that any hopes of playing for the Reds in 2005 should be disregarded. Encarnacion is still young for the International League, so he will spend this year refining his skills at AAA. He has done a pretty good job this year, as he is hitting for power, drawing walks, and has a respecatable average. Encarnacion's only concern should be Randa becoming a fan favorite in Cincinnati this season.
59. Mike Hinckley- SP- Washington Nationals (DL)
Hinckley was getting some publicity in Spring Training, when it looked like he might take a rotation spot. That didn't happen, but it might after the All-Star break when Hinckley returns and Jim Bowden gets dealing. John Patterson and Hinckley are certainly a good place to start when building a young rotation, not to mention the others currently pitching in Washington.
60. Jake Stevens- SP- Atlanta Braves (A+)
Stevens has played pretty horrible this season, making me wonder if my thoughts on him before the season were a little overhyped. Jake was great in Rome last season, but to have such poor numbers at Myrtle Beach is pretty depressing. He's in danger of having Chuck James pass him sooner than later.
61. Jason Kubel- OF/DH- Minnesota Twins (DL)
We know that Kubel will not be playing this season, but he has the hitting skills to stay on this list. We will have to wait and see how bad the knee really is, but even the hitter we saw in 2004 is good enough to succeed in the DH spot.
62. Howie Kendrick- 2B- Anaheim Angels (A+)
Kendrick has been golden this season, pretty much doing nothing wrong in the early going. While Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo underwhelm in AA, Kendrick and Wood are outperforming them a level down. Again, here is what I said about Kendrick in Spring Training:
Kendrick was dynamite in the Midwest League last year, and I was impressed with both his lateral movement at second and the pop in his bat.
63. Brandon Wood- SS- Anaheim Angels (A+)
This is as good a middle infield as you will find in the minors, as Brandon Wood is showing why he was a first-round pick in 2003. While his power numbers must be taken in context of the league he plays in, this kind of power is rare for a shortstop. I would like to see a few more walks to completely be sold on Brandon's talent, but he has been dynamite this season.
64. Andy LaRoche- 3B- Los Angeles Dodgers (A+)
LaRoche actually started the season quite poorly, raising his average to .250 on April 15. Since then he has gone on a tear in which he hit five homers in two weeks, and rose his average eighty points. LaRoche continues to show that he has more power than his brother, while also taking some of Adam's good skills. A few more walks and LaRoche might become an elite prospect.
65. Fernando Nieve- SP- Houston Astros (AA)
Way, way back on March 5, 2004, I named Fernando Nieve as one of my breakout prospects for the 2004 season. I was wrong. He would actually pitch mediocre last year, but it looks like this season will be when he puts his name on the map. To prove you that I'm not lying, this is what I wrote fourteen months ago:
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.
66. Elijah Dukes- OF- Tampa Bay Devil Rays (AA)
From a 2004 breakout prediction to a 2005 one, Elijah Dukes is looking like he is overcoming complaints about his attitude and just playing baseball. It's not real easy to outperform the top prospect in baseball, but Dukes has looked better than Delmon so far this season. What is Tampa going to do with all these outfielders?
67. J.D. Durbin- SP- Minnesota Twins (AAA)
Another player who I'm not quite ready to take off the top 75 list, but if he gives me this performance for another month, he's gone. The Twins called up Scott Baker when Juan Rincon got suspended, but my guess is that Durbin would make a better reliever, and Baker a better starter at this point. Durbin is similar to Jose Capellan, and time will tell if both end up relievers in the end.
68. Kurt Suzuki- C- Oakland Athletics (A+)
This is not a guy accustomed to failure, and he stint of constant success has continued this year. Suzuki hits well, walks a lot, and plays solid defense. The A's have spent a lot of early picks on catchers the last few years, but I sincerely believe that Suzuki will be the best and end up replacing Jason Kendall down the line.
69. Brandon Moss- OF- Boston Red Sox (AA)
The Red Sox answer to Eric Duncan so far this season has been Brandon Moss, who was brought up to AA when he really hadn't had enough time to prove he really did master the FSL. Moss in retrospect could have been drastically overrated, but I want to give it another month before I rush to any judgments.
70. Cole Hamels- SP- Philadelphia Phillies (DL)
This guy has attitude problems. He has little experience. But nonetheless, Cole Hamels remains on this list on potential alone. His change up and motion were both great before he got hurt, and I for one can't wait to see what he has in his tank when he gets back.
71. Anibal Sanchez- SP- Boston Red Sox (A+)
Another player that I must stress sample size with, but this is one beginning that I just can't ignore. Remember that Angel Guzman had these type of numbers during his rehab stint last year in the FSL, so Sanchez might have a comparable in Guzman. I'll wait another month to see whether this was for real or not, but Boston is having a huge rise up organizational rankings after one month.
72. J.D. Martin- SP- Cleveland Indians (AA)
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball America mentioned that Martin had added a cutter this season, and that might help explain some of why Martin is playing so well this season. The former first-round selection is making teams wonder why they didn't pick him in the Rule 5 draft this past December when they had a chance. This Indian system suddenly has a lot of pitching, so the Jeremy Guthrie bust can now be swallowed a little easier.
73. Eddy Martinez-Esteve- OF- San Francisco Giants (A+)
He's not very athletic, and he's going to make every flyball an adventure in left. But man oh man, EME has some serious hitting talent. There is nothing wrong with his offensive skillset, and this might just be the guy given the responsibility of replacing Barry Bonds when he retires.
74. Matt Moses- 3B- Minnesota Twins (A+)
Like Martin, Moses is a first-round pick that did not live up to expectations last season. But now that his back injury is behind him, Moses is hitting in Fort Myers like few before him have. If he goes through the system fast, Moses could just solve Aaron Gleeman's woes of having Luis Rivas up the middle: Moses to the hot corner, Cuddyer to second. I can already see the Twin fans salivating...
75. Josh Fields- 3B- Chicago White Sox (AA)
Last on my list is a choice solely based on intuition in my ongoing quest to rank White Sox prospects over Ryan Sweeney. Josh Fields has all the athleticism in the world, and even has shown some good discipline so far this season. Fields has a ton to work on, but also has some immense potential.