WTNYJuly 12, 2006
2006 WTNY Midseason 75
By Bryan Smith

Without a question, this is a sandwich prospect year for pitching prospects. On the way out is one of the best classes ever, on the way in is a draft that seemed to only boast pitchers. Yesterday, in the unveiling of my prospect list, just three pitchers made the first tier, which encompassed 23 players.

Today, in the second and final part of this installment, you will read about more pitchers than hitters. In all, 42 hitters made the list, against 33 pitchers. While this seems fairly even, the lack of top-flight pitching prospects leaves the two groups on different levels. While the likes of Andrew Miller and Brad Lincoln should help even things this winter, this is truly the season where TINSTAPP holds the most water.

Five Diamondbacks made the top tier yesterday, and one more player from the organization will be discussed today. This gives the club the minors' premier farm system, and should make Mike Rizzo the top GM prospect on the market. Who else has constructed good systems and future job prospects? Read on, for the rest of my midseason top 75, to find out...

24. Colby Rasmus, of: Cardinals (A+)

I've reached a summer record of most minor league games seen in person this year, and I maintain Rasmus is the sweetest swing I have encountered. His ceiling is lower than the other freakish outfielders in his class, but Rasmus does everything with ease.

25. Joel Guzman, of/3b: Dodgers (AAA)

Slips out of the first tier because he hasn't taken the step forward that many others in the organization have. Guzman has a good future in baseball, but I believe his best development route would be the Major League school of hard knocks with a bad organization that could afford waiting him out.

26. Scott Elbert, lhsp: Dodgers (AA)

In contrast, Elbert has taken that step forward this season. Currently the best southpaw in the minor leagues, Elbert has electric stuff, as control is the only thing holding him back from elite status.

27. Yovani Gallardo, sp: Brewers (AA)

One of the season's best success stories, Gallardo offers excellent pitchability for a 20-year-old. The only question is whether his stuff will be enough to hang near the top of a rotation.

28. Humberto Sanchez, sp: Tigers (AAA)

For me, Sanchez was among the most impressive in the Futures Game, even if he showed the nation how large he really is. If Jim Leyland is serious about a 6-man rotation in the second half, Sanchez' presence in the Majors shouldn't slow Detroit down.

29. Dustin Pedroia, 2b: Red Sox (AAA)

After a slow start, Pedroia has come on strong, and appears ready for the Major Leagues. He'll get his chance in 2007, and should be a solid regular in the middle infield for years to come.

30. Matt Garza, sp: Twins (AA)

Garza's name this high on the list is testament to Mike Radcliffe, the game's best scouting director. Garza has slowed a bit in AA, but his dominance in AA showed big-time potential.

31. Jason Hirsh, sp: Astros (AAA)

Free Jason Hirsh!

32. Reid Brignac, ss: Devil Rays (A+)

The best success story of my breakout picks, Brignac has brought the power stick to Visalia. His high error total creates a questionable future, and we still need to see this away from the Pacific.

33. Brandon Erbe, sp: Orioles (A-)

In many ways, the Jay Bruce of the pitching class, as I would not be surprised (in the slightest), if Erbe is the top-ranked pitching prospect in a year. For now, we have to hope his arm doesn't break down even amidst the Orioles enviable coddling.

34. John Danks, lhsp: Rangers (AAA)

Another slow starter in the higher levels, Danks only slides a bit on my prospect list. Southpaw starters with high ceilings are a rare commodity, so the Rangers will execute a lot of patience with the one-time first rounder.

35. Felix Pie, of: Cubs (AAA)

This is the beginning of a freefall if Pie doesn't pick things up. The tools are all there, but since May 1, any type of performance has not. Things need to change in the second half.

36. Fernando Martinez, of: Mets (A-)

Like Tabata yesterday, I'm too scared to put him both any lower or any higher. Immensely talented, evaluating Martinez properly will be difficult until he has a long bill of health.

37. Micah Owings, sp: Diamondbacks (AAA)

Owings provides a lot of polish and has flown through the Arizona system. A late-season cup of coffee will complete a whirlwind two-year run for Owings.

38. Daric Barton, 1b/dh: Athletics (DL)

Like Jason Kubel last year, we can't really penalize Barton too much for getting injured. His early season struggles were worrisome, but only a real cynic would have soured on his bat already.

39. Nolan Reimold, of: Orioles (A+)

The rare raw college player, Reimold has a long way to go before he reaches his ceiling. However, he's shown a bit of everything in Frederick, leaving Orioles fans salivating.

40. Eric Hurley, sp: Rangers (A+)

It has been an awesome season for Hurley, pitching well across the board in the Cal League. His stuff is fantastic, and if he receives a late-summer promotion, don't be surprised if his ERA increases.

41. Edinson Volquez, sp: Rangers (AAA)

This is a cautious ranking, as Volquez has earned this position, I just don't have a lot of confidence in it. When I close my eyes and try to envision his career, I foresee a middle reliever every time.

42. Adam Miller, sp: Indians (AA)

Miller will have a hard time ever meeting the expectations laid out for him after flashing so much potential in the 2004 season. However, this season has been a step in the right direction for the Indians star righthander.

43. Trevor Crowe, of: Indians (A+)

Right behind Miller on the Indians prospect list is Crowe, who has shown a lot of skills in a lot of different areas this season. His walk rate is particularly exciting, as he could develop into an invaluable asset alongside Grady Sizemore. Perhaps he'll be the player everyone thought Franklin Gutierrez could be.

44. Hunter Pence, of: Astros (AA)

At some point, you have to give a guy credit if he continues to have success, despite the naysayers not going away. Pence has legitimate power, and is going to have some success in the Major Leagues. However, there's a gray line between some success and consistent success, and thanks to his BB/K rate, I can't see which side he's on quite yet.

45. Gio Gonzalez, lhsp: Phillies (AA)

Another cautious ranking, as I'm beginning to worry if Gonzalez is injured. Since June 1 the southpaw has an ERA north of 6, and has allowed home runs in each start. If the breaking ball isn't as crisp, is something wrong with the arm?

46. Eric Campbell, 3b: Braves (A-)

Doesn't receive the hype he should, as Campbell has hit for a fantastic amount of power in his full-season debut. While he doesn't quite walk enough yet, his great contact rate leaves all the makings for a future All-Star hitter.

47. Ryan Braun, 3b, Brewers (AA)

Braun seems to be among the minors most hot-and-cold hitters, especially when the third baseman reaches new levels. A future dynamite fantasy option, Braun has continued to impress after a promotion to Huntsville.

48. Andrew McCutchen, of: Pirates (A-)

My concern after seeing McCutchen is that he's just too skinny to ever develop good power. But for now, he can fly with the best of them, and with refinement should be a weapon in centerfield and at the top of a batting order.

49. Chuck Lofgren, lhsp: Indians (A+)

Athletic and polished, Lofgren has done even better than I could have imagined in March. The southpaw thrives on good pitchability, but also has the stuff to thrive at higher levels.

50. Wade Davis, sp: Devil Rays (A-)

A popular breakout candidate that I never backed, Davis has been fantastic in the Midwest League this season. The righthander has slowed down since a fantastic start, but he has the power stuff to move in a hurry.

51. Ricky Romero, lhsp: Blue Jays (AA)

The Blue Jays stayed cautious and allowed Romero to debut late, but he made up for lost time, dominating the Florida State League. He has struggled a bit in two AA starts, but Romero is not making the Blue Jays regret taking the safe route last June.

52. Adam Lind, of: Blue Jays (AA)

Just as I expected, Lind has seen many of his 2005 doubles clear the fence this season. A talented power hitter, I'm curious where his patience went since last season. A better walk rate the only improvement he needs to make offensively.

53. Troy Patton, lhsp: Astros (A+)

Patton moves up slowly in this list, basically staying stagnant with a season that falls short of some expectations. He has still showed a lot of the maturity that draws such high praise, but also has been hit harder at the new level. His next jump, the big one, will go a long way in determining the truth to his profile.

54. Kevin Slowey, sp: Twins (AA)

Put your guns down, people. Slowey has had an amazing season, even a historic one, but he just isn't the caliber of the guys in front of him. His continued success in the Eastern League is a good sign, but I don't see the ceiling that other people do with Slowey. However, another half like this one went, and he'll undoubtedly break the top 50.

55. Thomas Diamond, sp: Rangers (AA)

Losing your control at an age as old as Diamond is not, not, not a good thing. Diamond has shown improvement recently, but a half like he's had is worthy of the slide on this list that he's received.

56. Joey Votto, 1b: Reds (AA)

I was told a couple years ago by an industry executive that Votto would break out in 2005. It appears my information was a year early, as Votto has been fantastic this season, making Adam Dunn's non-move to 1B look genius. He should be manning the corner in Cincy by Opening Day 2008, at the latest.

57. Ubaldo Jimenez, sp: Rockies (AAA)

Big breakout first half, spotty record in the past, stuff that remains filthy and unrefined. Jimenez could go both directions, but the most likely destination remains a successful bullpen role.

58. Sean West, lhsp: Marlins (A-)

Pitching on a historic staff in Greensboro this summer, West has emerged as the best blend of stuff and pitchability of the rotation's four first rounders. Aaron Thompson can't match West's stuff, Ryan Tucker doesn't have anywhere near the pitchability. Chris Volstad is an anomaly; West is the best.

59. Neil Walker, c: Pirates (A+)

Dropping him this far is less an indictment of Walker's first half, and more an indictment of my winter ranking: it was too high. I took some late excitement about his power potential and pushed Walker to 44, which was setting the bar of expectations too high. His current performance is way below that, however, and he'll need to bounce back from his injury problems in a big way during the second half.

60. Scott Mathieson, sp: Phillies (AA)

Just like Humberto, Mathieson has continued upon a successful winter stint to pitch very well this season. His stuff really isn't in Sanchez' vicinity, but Mathieson looks like he definitely isn't far from being a #2/3 starter in the Majors. If so, even this ranking is too low.

61. George Kottaras, c: Padres (AA)

Has continued to improve after a 2005 season in which he turned heads but also showed flaws. Kottaras has the patience and gap power to succeed in PETCO, and he should be behind the plate for a long time. I'm coming around as a believer.

62. Jose Arredondo, sp: Angels (AA)

One of the most interesting stories on this list, Arredondo was an infielder just two seasons ago. While Carlos Marmol had a similar track catapult him to the big leagues, Arredondo is making his own push for Majors. Already on the 40-man, and as surprising as this is, a September call-up would no longer be too shocking.

63. Jacob Magee, lhsp: Devil Rays (A-)

The better statistic half of the D-Rays' low-level aces, Magee doesn't quite have the stuff of Wade Davis. However, his strikeout rate and handedness are both huge pluses, and Magee could take off with another good half-season.

64. Josh Fields, 3b: White Sox (AAA)

Fields has improved by leaps of bounds this year, showing one of the better power strokes in the minor leagues. Fields, however, has a lot of trouble making contact, and will need to continue to post high BABIP rates to succeed. His currently level is unsustainable, but if moved to left field, Fields can still be a valuable part of the White Sox in the near and long-term future.

65. Radhammes Liz, sp: Orioles (A+)

His statistics are amazing, consistently, but his age is damning. Liz has the fastball to move up the ladder, but the Orioles have been stubborn about promoting him. The time is now to see if Liz has a future beyond the bullpen.

66. Mike Bowden, sp: Red Sox (A-)
67. Clay Buchholz, sp: Red Sox (A-)

These two are extremely similar; picking between them is nothing more than intuition. I'm going with Bowden, who is younger and has been a bit better since struggling early in the season. Both are good prospects, and the Red Sox probably wouldn't mind if all their top prospects had clones.

68. Gaby Hernandez, sp: Marlins (A+)

Hernandez has continued to pitch like a solid middle-rotation guy this season, which means the Marlins got what they paid for. Actually, more ... we can all agree Lo Duca is overrated, no? Hernandez is just another pitching prospect in this organization, but whether they trade him or add him onto their young staff, he's definitely a valued commodity.

69. James Loney, 1b: Dodgers (AAA)

It's been a long road back for Loney, who has been fantastic in the PCL this season. He's great defensively, and his contact skills are as good as it gets. But his lack of power is worrisome, not just with a future in Dodger Stadium, but a future in the Major Leagues.

70. Glen Perkins, lhsp: Twins (AA)

Hasn't been fantastic, but Perkins has been a good incumbent in the New Britain rotation. A hometown Minnesota boy, Perkins might have more value to the Twins than your average #3/4 pitching prospect.

71. Jacobby Ellsbury, of: Red Sox (A+)

I went over his profile recently, but really, the Red Sox are getting a little less this season than what they bargained for last June. However, Ellsbury has still been great defensively and has continued to shown a lot of the skills necessary to be a future leadoff man.

72. Asdrubal Cabrera, mi: Indians (AAA)

I'm preaching patience with the bat here, and wincing in thoughts of how he might produce in the Majors if the Indians allow him to replace Ronnie Belliard at second next season (hint: not good). Cabrera's bat is a long-term project, but his defense is not. It's already a fantastic tool, good enough to move Jhonny Peralta to a new position (in a perfect world). He shouldn't have a full-time job in the Majors next season, but he is going to be good for a long time.

73. Cesar Carrillo, rhp: Padres (DL)

This ranking might be aggressive given his recent injury, but Carrillo was very good before the injury tarnished his first full season. A good rehab program could have Carrillo better than ever. Padres fans are just hoping his rehab program goes better than the Tim Stauffer route.

74. Dustin McGowan, rhp: Blue Jays (AAA)

Will the real Dustin McGowan please stand up?

75. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c: Braves (AA)

I'm not ready to let go, yet. Salty has legitimately improved behind the plate this season, but that can be discounted when reminded how bad he's been with the bat. It's been awful. There was too much talent last year to close the book on him, but the day we can is not far away.


I'm beginning to wonder about Guzman. Not doubt yet. But wonder.

Some of our differences in where guys should be ranked comes from the ways of assesment. Sometimes I think "Who would I rather snatch for my team's farm system?" I think I might take Crowe over Brignac.

I'd bump Pedroia and Owings down slightly. Miller and Pie, down.

For quite some time now I've felt like analysts were trying to pull the wool over people's eyes on Dustin McGowan. I'm not a believer.

Chris Iannetta probably deserved to be on the list. Sean Gallagher is worth a mention. A 20 year old in Double A, last start he struck out 12 from the successful Chattanooga club in 7 IP.

Mark Rogers is improving. I'll not be surprised to see him featured prominently on the next list. A safe bet for your breakout list next year. Fantastic K/9, with his stuff, his struggles have been puzzling. Kevin Whelan and Shane Lindsay have great K/9 ratios though I wouldn't list them here either. Two more who didn't deserve to make the list but should get honorable mentions are Donald Veal and Travis Buck. Will Inman has been interesting.

My pick for next best GM choice - Chris Antonetti.

I'll echo APiNG's comments a little. I was wondering if Chris Iannetta was off the list because you'll think he'll be called up to the Rockies soon =)

Or is it that you are skepitcal about his breakout?

Don't agree with Bowden and Buchholz being top 75, but they are solid pitching prospcts.
I'd rate Jake McGee over Wade Davis... a lefty hitting 93-95 more impressive than a righty hitting 95-97, plus he's outperformed him two years in a row despite being a year younger.
And I can't see much reason to rank Adam Miller over Gio Gonzalez other than trying to justify the overranking of him 2 years ago.

Overall another nice list... you've had the best lists I've seen in terms of blending projectability and production.

I know that you recently went through the Ellsbury/Crowe comparison, but I think the the gap between them is a little closer than you have it. I'm not saying Crowe is a worse prospect, but his BABIP vs LHP (.448) is quite high, and is not a better defender (in CF) than Jacoby. There's no doubt that Crowe has improved, but I'm not quite sold that his current success will last.

Also, I believe Trevor has made it to AA.

I've heard some mixed scouting reports regarding Buchholz's fastball velocity, which has always lead me to rank him lower than Bowden. Some reports say Buchholz starts out at around 90 and increases up to 94/95 in the later innings. Others have said he pitches mostly 88-91. Bowden, who I hear is consistently 91-94, is said to have the higher ceiling both because of age and fb velocity. Both pitchers supposedly have command of at least 3 to 4 pitches.

My question is what have you heard about Buchholz or have you seen him pitch? Statistically they are twins, but I'm very curious to know if most scouts would agree with the stats.

Nice list!

What are your thoughts on Justin Huber? Has he fallen from prospect status?

You are right that both (Buchholz and Bowden), statistically, are somewhat similar. Both have much greater success at home. The difference between the two is Bowden seems to struggle with runners on base and is dominant, otherwise. Buchholz is the opposite.

Great list!! Being a Reds fan, I'm curious to know if Ward,Wood & Cueto where close to making your top 75?

Where would Gorzelanny and/or Eveland have been if they hadn't been called up? They have both dominated AAA at relatively young ages and have good stuff for lefties.

I dig the list. I see Ellsbury made it, and was wondering how close Brett Gardner came to the top 75, given the similarities in their performances, age, and style of play.

Anyone know anything about Waldis Joaquin of the Giants' organization? Is there a good reason why he hasn't pitched this year?

Great list!!!

Look forward to seeing future top 75 players like Evan Longoria and Drew Stubbs shortly!!!

I am surprised that Elvis Andrus did not squeak in .... and Salty at #75 (how the mighty have fallen) ... I may have replaced him with Max Ramirez for good measure!!! LOL

How is Elbert so high? He's good, but rumor has it he only has two pitches. His third (a change, I believe), is bad, from what I've heard. Sure, he's young and could develop it, but I don't think an SP prospect with only two pitches should be that high - especially considering the fact that his third pitch isn't even average.

Andrus could be good... but he's not hitting that well. I think prospect lists would go downhill if you just listed every 17 year old who holds his own.

That's one of my least favorite type of hyped prospects - say, the 20 year in Double A who is simply holding his own. Past examples I've pointed out (which only apply to some years of their career) are Joaquin Arias and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Off the top of my head, the best example I can think of this year is Matt Tuiasosopo. He's "holding his own" but wow, he's only 20 and already in Double A. That's not going to buy you a spot on my list until the numbers get there. The same more or less goes for Andrus, at least to me.

I already took a shot at Adam Miller but I'll do it again - he's coasting on past accolades it seems, and Baseball America seems more than willing to continually renew very high spots for Miller based on not a whole lot. I've said it before but it's worth repeating, I remember a few years ago when Adam Miller and Edwin Jackson were two of the top three pitching prospects in baseball. Everything you read about Miller suggested a marvel - fantastic fastball, and a slider that was absolute death. Fast forward to now and a K/9 under 9 doesn't do it when even guys who get hit fairly hard (Mark Rogers, among others) have kept their K/9 significantly higher. It's just a humbling reminder that no pitching prospect is too good to really fall.

Great list! Glad to see Colby Rasmus rated so highly.

I'm curious, did the Cardinals' Jamie Garcia come close to making the list? His combo of youth, results, and lefthandedness is looking pretty good.

Brignac by far over Crowe and its not even close!!!

I don't agree but I don't feel as strongly as you do. I could see either one ending up as the better player to be sure. I can fully understand why people would go with Brignac. He's a great prospect. But I wouldn't choose him.

Jeff Niemann is finally pitching and seemingly healthy and he gets dropped off the list? Doesn't make too much sense to me.

Otherwise, I'd say it's a pretty good list.

His numbers this year are unremarkable and last year not much to write about. With that kind of inactivity it's impossible to include him on the list.

I don't see anything wrong with Jeff Niemann's numbers: 27 IP, 8BB, 32k. He just came back from a long lay-off and hasn't pitched much in AA before. I think you could make a very good case for him being on this list. The same can be said for Angel Guzman, although he's pitched in the majors this year.

There's a pretty large leap from "Not anything wrong with those numbers" to "Top 75 Prospect" numbers. His numbers are okay now, they were eh, okay before, no big deal at all. To put it another way, if you didn't know he was a top draft pick no one would think anything of it at all.

Angel Guzman I put in the same category as the Royals' Denny Bautista. Everyone talks up how they've got #1 starter stuff, but the results are uniformly disappointing and will continue to be so, I imagine.

Anyone with Niemann's stuff and respectable numbers deserves to be on the list especially when he was just 63rd on the list in January after being limited to 30 injury-riddled, inconsistent innings.