1. Delmon Young, of: Devil Rays (AAA)
Following the Delmon Young press conference, I had decided Young would not be my top prospect at the midseason mark. It would be my way of not just indicting his bad showing of make-up, but his low walk and home run totals in AAA as well. Then I saw Young for the first time, the night of his first home run, and my mind was changed. The power is going to come, I promise. He's hitting .375 with seven extra-base hits and just 11 strikeouts in 19 games since returning. Minor league baseball has no better player.
2. Alex Gordon, 3b: Royals (AA)
Like I said, Young was not my first prospect three weeks ago, Gordon was. And if I had stayed with that decision, it would have been defensible. Gordon represents the best bet for success in the minor leagues; he has no discernible flaw. He's going to hit for average, a lot of power, draw plenty of walks, play steady defense, and steal enough bases to make his fantasy owners giddy. Suddenly his four figure baseball card is looking like a sound investment, no?
3. Howie Kendrick, 2b: Angels (AAA)
4. Brandon Wood, ss: Angels (AA)
Wood has done little for this order to be flip-flopped, continuing on a path to success after a ridiculous 2005. But this season it's Kendrick to take the full step forward, catapulting himself past Wood and into the top five.
Kendrick, I've said before, is a player with limited potential value. In other words, his ceiling has a roof. Confined by his own stature, there is a limit to the power Kendrick can develop in relation to Wood. However, Kendrick is nearly guaranteed to hit for a better average than Wood.
The ranking of these two players is a simple test of risk vs. reward. Kendrick offers no risk, but his reward is limited in comparison to Wood, whose ceiling is highest among current prospects.
5. Justin Upton, of: Diamondbacks (A-)
Watching Upton in person, the top overall pick from last year exudes an aura that doesn't usually follow teenagers. The aura was first evident in Spring Training, when Upton's build and bat were enough to hold his own in big league camp. He shined on the national stage, saving what some would call his best Cactus League game for a contest against the White Sox on WGN. Now far from the big stage, Upton is struggling a bit, but in seeing him, it's obvious there is more than the numbers tell us. Upton will come around, if not at the pace I thought, and when he does, sparks will fly.
6. Stephen Drew, ss: Diamondbacks (AAA)
If Drew began the season in the Arizona batting order, it would have surprised no one had he separated himself from the NL Rookie of the Year pack. Instead, the Diamondbacks chose the cautious route with their young shortstop, maintaining another year of mediocrity from the position for the betterment of their future. Good decision. Drew has progressed as expected in AAA, and he is on the right timetable to make a splash next season. A gifted offensive player, Drew has even more to show than what he has since signing in pro baseball.
7. Billy Butler, of: Royals (AA)
I have always believed in Butler's bat, and on Sunday, his performance in the Futures Game showed why this is a good idea. Butler is as good a hitter for his age as it gets, he's polished and powerful. His play in the field is a work in progress, but it's improving, even at a Carlos Lee-type rate. The most concerning blip on Butler's radar is a drastic home/road split that favors his time in Wichita. For all we know, it's nothing, but it's also worth keeping notice. Butler is going to hit in the Majors, and with Gordon, Dayton Moore's long-term vision is beginning to come in better focus.
8. Cameron Maybin, of: Tigers (A-)
There have been a lot of positives about Cameron Maybin's season, his full season debut. Any teenager holding his own in such a difficult league is worthy of praise. Maybin has also been lucky, striking out at a percentage too high to keep his batting line as high as it is. a true five-tool player, the North Carolina outfielder is far more raw than he has shown this season. But underneath it all, the Tigers - who landed the top rated player in the 2006 draft - may have landed the top player in 2005.
9. Phil Hughes, sp: Yankees (AA)
10. Homer Bailey, sp: Reds (AA)
Bailey was not an oversight in my listing of the top pitching prospects weeks ago, I told someone after that article that Bailey wouldn't rank high for me until he showed "consistent dominance." So, upon promotion, Bailey decided to go off, and currently has a 17 inning scoreless streak going at Double-A. He has earned his status as the game's 1A pitching prospect, especially after a dominating performance in Sunday's Futures Game.
Hughes was not as good on Sunday, but his stuff was solid, and you could see the makings of a very good player. Unlike Bailey he won't always necessarily amaze a scout, but his polish is pretty unique for a player his age. It's a good sign that Hughes has already turned a corner in AA, and at this pace, he should be up to New York at some point next season.
11. Jay Bruce, of: Reds (A-)
Earlier in the season, I did a study on teenage hitters in the Midwest League. Needless to say, the list of success stories was a short one; the expectation level for this group is (as a result) low. The type of season that Jay Bruce is having so far is unprecedented. Bruce is hitting for power at rates that even Prince Fielder did not at such an age. And he's doing so with a decent-enough strikeout rate. On the shortlist of people that wouldn't surprise me to be atop this list in a year.
12. Troy Tulowitzki, ss: Rockies (AA)
The best combination of offensive and pure shortstop ability on this list. Drew isn't a bad defender, but neither his range or arm can match Tulo up the middle. While Troy is not the same caliber hitter, he is in the ballpark. Tulowitzki offers good power for a middle infielder, and he has the patience learned from three big program collegiate years. Tulowitzki's problem is a strikeout rate that is too high, his one drawback from being complete as a hitter.
13. Andy Marte, 3b: Indians (AAA)
Things were a struggle for Marte much into the season; he was drawing poor reviews and his numbers followed. Marte was a mess; Atlanta and Boston could not have appeared smarter. While it's too early to say Marte has turned a corner, he's done enough to salvage his status as a first tier prospect. We continue to hope that Marte will eventually mold into a superstar, turn his promising young seasons into a star-studded future. Such a breakout may never happen, but color me surprised if Marte doesn't still build a solid career.
14. Carlos Quentin, of: Diamondbacks (AAA)
At this point, the fact that Quentin has not been given an extended trial in the big leagues is discouraging. In the winter, we asked what would by so wrong about Andy Marte to make two (good) organizations trade him. Now, Quentin is bringing up similar questions. Why are the D-Backs so reluctant to give Quentin the keys? At this point, the outfielder has shown patience (while continuing his high HBP totals), a very good contact rate and gap power. Quentin has polish all over his bat, and soon, teams will have to truly investigate what Arizona's asking price is on their #3 prospect.
15. Elijah Dukes, of: Devil Rays (AAA)
It's both a good and a bad sign when the only flaw in a prospect's resume is make-up. We can now say definitively that the Devil Rays did not assign enough value towards make up, but how important is it? The future of Dukes will go a long way in answering this question, he's truly a player whose progress will only be hindered by himself. I won't be surprised if Dukes ends up the best player on this list; I won't be surprised if he is a complete bust. With Elijah Dukes, only the middle would be a surprise.
16. Chris Young, of: Diamondbacks (AAA)
Undervalued before the 2005 season, I thought Young started to become overvalued this winter. He hit for power well, steals bases and plays very good defense, but batting average is a substantial limiting factor. With that being said, Young has struck out in just 18.3% of his at-bats this season, a very positive number. Look for Young's .282 BABIP to improve in the second half, and with it, his batting average. While we'd like it for Young to be showing more on the bases to call him a five tool talent, giving him credit for the "Hitting for Contact" tool is a big step in the right direction.
17. Andy LaRoche, 3b: Dodgers (AAA)
Three straight Bryan Smith pre-2005 breakout selections, sweet! LaRoche answered a lot of questions this season when he turned his Southern League struggles from last season around, looking like a much more complete player. While in AA, the third baseman walked in about 15% of his plate appearances, rarely struck out, and showed some of the power he had in Vero Beach a year before. I wouldn't be surprised if LaRoche struggles a bit as a rookie in 2007, and in the same league as David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman he might not make many All-Star teams, but he's a big chip in the Dodgers reconstruction.
18. Adam Jones, of: Mariners (AAA)
19. Jeff Clement, c: Mariners (AAA)
From a fantasy perspective, Jeff Clement is the Mariners best prospect. The list of power-hitting catchers at the Major League level is a short one, and a list Clement should be adding his name to by 2008. Despite his struggles coming back from injury in AAA, Clement has given the Mariners a lot of reason for optimism about their future backstop logjam. Given how quickly Clement should rise towards the top of any fantasy catcher list, keeper leaguers should have Clement ranked higher.
From a baseball standpoint, Jones is the better prospect. On the bases and in the field, Jones is superior. He brings a unique degree of athleticism to the game - his transition to the outfield has gone seamlessly. And if Jones joins Choo and Ichiro in a Major League outfield, it's quite possible baseball will have never seen three stronger arms in the same outfield. At the plate, Jones has improved as the season has progressed, showing more patience and better contact skills.
Jones shouldn't be a superstar on the Seattle Mariners, but he'll be a good one for a long time.
20. Carlos Gonzalez, of: Diamondbacks (A+)
The Diamondbacks have five prospects ranked higher than the top prospect of 19 organizations. Now really, is there any doubting that (scouting director) Mike Rizzo deserves a GM job somewhere? Gonzalez is not the best bet for success (Quentin) or player with the highest ceiling (Upton) in the organization, but he scores well in both categories. After hitting for solid power in the Midwest League last year, his huge slugging numbers in Lancaster should not come as a surprise. Gonzalez is better than the player he was last year, and not quite the player his numbers suggest currently. But with a few more walks and less strikeouts, the latter could very well change.
21. Jose Tabata, of: Yankees (A-)
Volatility. It scares me. If Tabata flames out, I look too quick to pull the trigger. But any lower, and you look stupid when he becomes a star. For now, his standing towards the back of the first tier will have to do, but it's a long way between now and 2009. Tabata has shown a solid contact rate, good doubles power, solid patience and good baserunning in his full season debut. And he's 17. Or is it, "But he's 17"?
22. Ian Stewart, 3b: Rockies (AA)
As you can tell, with his performance this season, I have dropped Felix Pie from the first tier. Ian Stewart, I have to say, is on the verge of getting the same treatment. While the third baseman is not posting Pie-type numbers in the Texas League, he has been pedestrian. For only so long can pedestrian be good enough. Eventually, we'll have to see that Stewart is going to turn those 26 doubles into home runs, and that he might be able to hit for average. For now, the hope of 2004 lingers enough to keep him in the top 25.
23. Nick Adenhart, sp: Angels (A+)
In a lot of ways, Adenhart is similar to Phil Hughes, a good blend of stuff and serious polish. Adenhart, for three months, has pitched far older than his age and level indicates. While he hasn't posted the double-digit-type K/9 numbers that many pitching prospects ranked higher and lower than him have, Adenhart offers poise that very few in the minors have ... for his age, only Hughes is close. The minor leagues continue to offer success story after success story for the Angels, who have quite the stable of young pitchers in Jered Weaver, Jose Arredondo and Adenhart to go with their accomplished pitching veterans.
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.
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