We’ve reached the beginning (or maybe the end) of the top 100 list. These are the best of the best, the future all-stars, award winners, etc. Who will be the next Pujols or Santana? My guess is one of these guys.
1. Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP-Bos) Technically a rookie, Matsuzaka is the early favorite to win the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, MVP, and the 2008 Presidential Election. Matsuzaka is somewhat of an unknown. It remains uncertain how many different pitches he throws and whether one of those pitchers is the mystical gyroball, or simply a fantastic changeup. He can throw in the mid-90s with a two-seamer and a four-seamer, but Matsuzaka lives off his offspeed pitches: a slider, curveball, forkball, and a change-up. Although he’s in the toughest division in baseball, Matsuzaka knows how to pitch, and shouldn’t have too much of a problem adjusting. The charismatic Matsuzaka recognizes the pressure that’s been put on him by the Red Sox, as well as the entire country of Japan. He thrives under pressure, has a desire to be great, and knows that he is expected to be the ace of this Red Sox staff for the next six years.
2. Alex Gordon (3B-KC) The second overall pick in 2005, Gordon has dominated in the minor leagues. He is a five-tool player with excellent power, plate discipline, and foot speed. His weakness may be his defense, but the Royals have been impressed by how he has improved at the hot corner. The Royals have already named Gordon their opening day third baseman, and he could fight Matsuzaka for Rookie of the Year honors. The obvious expectation for Royal fans is that Gordon will be another George Brett. Although such comparisons may be a bit premature, Royal fans should have an incredible player in Gordon as the new cornerstone of their franchise.
3. Delmon Young (OF-TB) Speaking of potential Rookie of the Year candidates, the Devil Rays deliberately kept Young underneath the rookie qualifications threshold so he would have a chance of earning the prestigious award in 2007. His early season explosion towards a minor league umpire netted Young a fifty game suspension that can best be described as a learning experience. He has produced ever since, and he is slated to be the Devil Rays starting right fielder in 2007. Young does not have the best plate discipline, but does just about everything else well. He can hit for contact, power and steal bases. He is also above average defensively.
4. Philip Hughes (SP-NYA) Despite the injuries to members of the Yankee rotation, Hughes will start the season in Triple-A. Although he is only 20, Hughes will be called up at some point this season where he can showcase his mid-90s four-seam fastball, high-80s two-seamer, and his deadly curveball. His change-up is a work in progress, and the hope is that he can work on it for a few months in the minors before throwing it against Major League hitters.
5. Homer Bailey (SP-Cin) Another 20-year-old future ace, Bailey truly emerged in 2006. He throws in the mid- to high-90s with above average control. His 12-to-6 curveball is also an above average pitch. Like Hughes, Bailey’s third best pitch is his change-up, and Bailey’s offering may be a little more refined. Like Hughes, he will probably start the season in Triple-A but should see time in Cincinnati before the end of the year.
6. Yovani Gallardo (SP-Mil) Only a few months older than Bailey and Hughes, Yovani Gallardo is often not ranked as high as the other two pitchers. Gallardo throws in the low- to mid-90s, with a curveball, slider and change-up. He does a great job of changing speeds by taking a little off each of his four offerings. Additionally, he’s not afraid to change his arm angle to provide hitters with a different look. Like Bailey and Hughes, Gallardo will probably start in Triple-A with a call up during the season being inevitable.
7. Brandon Wood (SS-Ana) Some people were surprised that Wood would not be taking over for third base due to the injury to Chone Figgins. The Angels would like to see Wood cut down on his strikeouts, but a power hitter of his caliber will always strikeout. Wood had 71 extra base hits last year in Double-A, and the most common comparison is to Troy Glaus. He will begin the season in Triple-A, and could get called up later on in the season.
8. Tim Lincecum (SP-SF) The miniature strikeout artist was considered one of the top talents in the 2006 draft. Lincecum throws a mid-90s fastball, a 12-to-6 curveball, an above average change-up, and a hard slider. In his professional debut across short season and Low-A, Lincecum struck out 58 batters in 32 innings. Many scouts view Lincecum as a top notch closer, but the Giants are committed to trying him out as a starter first.
9. Matt Garza (SP-Min) A little older than some of his top 10 counterparts, Garza is still young in his own right at 23. His mid- to high-90s fastball is his best pitch, but he also throws a curveball, slider, and change-up. Although he struggled in his first stint in the majors, he excelled across three levels last season, and may win the #5 spot in the Twins rotation out of Spring Training
10. Billy Butler (OF-KC) Part of a top-heavy Royals farm system, Billy Butler could be as dangerous a hitter as Alex Gordon. He doesn’t have quite the same plate discipline or speed as Gordon, but the two of them should be bright spots in the Royals lineup for years to come. He probably will not make the team out of Spring Training, but should be up to Kansas City by midseason.
In case you missed any of the earlier installments of prospects lists, here they are:
Tim Grassey is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Tim in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of HangingWScottCooper.
Questions or comments for Tim? Post them in the Cafe Forums!
Want to write for the Cafe? Check out the Cafe's Pencil & Paper section!