OpinionMarch 7, 2007

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2007 Top Prospects: 31-40

By Tim Grassey

A look at prospects 31-40 reveals some potential impact outfielders. There are also some international free agents and 2006 draft picks who round out this batch of ten prospects.

31. Jose Tabata (OF-NYA) An international free agent out of Venezuela, Tabata was signed by the Yankees in 2005 for $550,000. Tabata is an excellent contact hitter, has decent speed, and a strong throwing arm. Although he has shown reasonable plate discipline, scouts believe that it will not translate well to the higher levels. He turns 19 in August, but he is talented enough that he could reach New York by the end of 2008.

32.Jason Hirsh (SP-Col) The prize prospect in the Jason Jennings trade, Hirsh dominated Double-A in 2005 and continued his excellence at Triple-A in 2006. He logged 45 innings in the majors last season, keeping him under the 50 innings cap for rookie eligibility. Hirsh throws a low-90s fastball, a slider, and a change-up, while having above-average control of all three pitches. He should earn a spot in Colorado’s rotation out of Spring Training.

33. Hunter Pence (OF-Hou) An .890 OPS last season in Double-A saw Pence and the Astros salivating at the Major League opportunities he will see in 2007. Pence has decent plate discipline and excellent power, but he does struggle with breaking pitches and could probably use a few months in Triple-A. Expect him to be a big league regular by 2008.

34. Adam Lind (OF-Tor) Lind’s bat is going to keep him in the lineup; unfortunately, he does not particularly excel at any defensive position. He played in the outfield, but will likely be an all-bat, no-glove first baseman/left fielder. Lyle Overbay just signed a long term deal, so Lind probably will not see much time at first this season, but his power bat could platoon with Reed Johnson in left. In time, he will probably take over for Frank Thomas as the Blue Jays designated hitter. Lind can use the whole field, which makes him a very dangerous hitter. One cause for concern is his lack of plate discipline, but his batting average may stay high enough to make that easier to overlook.

35. Jeff Niemann (SP-TB) Injuries have hampered Niemann throughout his career: arthroscopic elbow surgery, a groin strain, and shoulder tenderness. When he is healthy, the 6’9” right-hander is an imposing figure on the mound. He can paint the corners with a mid-90s fastball that is complemented by a hard slider, curveball, and change-up. He should start the season in Triple-A Durham, and is the closest to the majors among legitimate Devil Rays pitching prospects. They will need him to stay healthy so that he and Scott Kazmir can form a potent 1-2 punch.

36. James Loney (1B-LA) In 2006 Loney dominated Triple-A and held his own while filling in for Nomar Garciaparra. He actually projects to be a similar to Garciaparra at the plate: high average, below average plate discipline, and probably more of a doubles hitter than a home-run hitter. Loney will see some time in the majors this season, but like last year, he is blocked by Garciaparra. Grady Little has long been a proponent of giving the youngsters playing time though, so he should get a decent amount of plate appearances this season.

37. Elijah Dukes (OF-TB) You all know the story: On talent alone, Dukes is a top 10 prospect, and possibly better than Delmon Young. The off-the-field issues for himself and his family however, have led many to question whether he will be able to stick at the Major League level. The Durham Bulls (Triple-A) reached a point last season where they told the Devil Rays management that Dukes was not welcome back, and recommended a trade of the problematic outfielder. On the field, Dukes is a 5-tool talent. He should get 400 at bats this season for the Devil Rays while roaming the outfield and first base. If he can keep his head on straight, it is not out of the question to see production of .300/.400/.450.

38. Josh Fields (3B-ChA) A former quarterback at Oklahoma State, the White Sox steered Fields to the diamond, where he is a solid hitter, with average plate discipline and above average power. He is blocked by Joe Crede at the Major League level, but trade rumors have swirled around Crede for the last few years. Fields will probably begin the season at Triple-A. If he continues to excel there, look for Crede to be dealt midseason with Fields taking over.

39. Carlos Carrasco (SP-Phi) Carrasco turned some heads this year in Single-A with a no-hitter, a 12-6 record, a 2.26 ERA, and a trip to the All-Star Futures game – not bad for an eighteen-year-old. He was signed out of Venezuela in 2003 and his youth will allow the Phillies to be patient with him; however, his dominance at such a young age may force the Phillies to push him up the minor league ranks. He complements his low-90s fastball with a decent curveball, and an excellent change-up, though he can struggle overall with his control at times. Probably at least two years away, Carrasco likely will not see the majors until 2009.

40. Travis Snider (OF-Tor) Like fellow Blue Jays prospect Adam Lind, Snyder faces defensive problems, though he may have a better chance of developing into a serviceable outfielder because he is five years younger than Lind. Snyder was taken in the first round of the 2006 draft and dominated the Rookie leagues, hitting .325/.412/.567. One of the better offensive prospects in the 2006 draft, Snyder could be a real impact bat for the Blue Jays, but it probably will not be for at least three more years.

In case you missed any of the earlier installments of prospects lists, here they are:

41 through 50
51 through 60
61 through 70
71 through 80
81 through 90
91 through 100

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.
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