2008 MLB Organizational Talent Rankings
TAMPA BAY RAYS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 3
State Of The System: It hasn't translated into a winning season at the major league level—yet—but the Rays have ranked No. 1 on this list for two straight years. They've made the most of their early first-round picks, hitting on the likes of OF B.J. Upton, 3B Evan Longoria and LHP David Price, but they've also scored on less-touted players in later rounds, such as LHP Jake McGee, RHP Wade Davis, SS Reid Brignac and OF Desmond Jennings. Though they haven't been nearly as productive internationally, that may change as they did field a Dominican Summer League team again and opened a Venezuelan academy in 2007.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann could crack the big league rotation this season, and Jeremy Hellickson is on the verge of a breakout. There's a lot of depth behind that trio, with Chris Mason, Alex Cobb, Josh Butler, Nick Barnese, Heath Rollins, Mitch Talbot and Will Kline. Rollins tied for the minor league lead with 17 wins last year, while Mason topped the Double-A Southern League with 15 victories and a 2.57 ERA.
Prepare For Takeoff: Hellickson. The Rays like to bring their high school pitchers along slowly, so Hellickson has advanced only as far as low Class A after three pro seasons. But he was the hottest pitcher in the South Atlantic League down the stretch in 2007, and this year should be his coming-out party.
At A Crossroads: 3B/1B Joel Guzman. He ranked fifth on our Top 100 Prospects list entering the 2005 season, but his power and his energy have disappeared. He batted just .242/.281/.408 while repeating Triple-A, and he has no chance to unseat Evan Longoria at third base or Carlos Pena at first.
BOSTON RED SOX
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 10
State Of The System: Unlike in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series last year with plenty of contributions from homegrown players. More help is on the way, as RHP Clay Buchholz and OF Jacoby Ellsbury are ready for full-time duty and RHP Justin Masterson and SS Jed Lowrie could join them at midseason. Boston's willingness to invest in the draft and in the foreign market have the lower levels of the system teeming with talent as well. The Red Sox' No. 2 ranking is their highest ever.
Best-Stocked Position: Outfielders. Ellsbury already is a World Series hero. Ryan Kalish might prove to be a better pure hitter in the long run, and Josh Reddick isn't far behind those two. Brandon Moss is blocked in Boston, but he could start for several teams. Jason Place, a 2006 first-round pick, has the best combination of power and speed in the system.
Prepare For Takeoff: SS Will Middlebrooks. Because he signed late and had shoulder tendinitis, he has yet to make his pro debut. He's a big-bodied athlete at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, and Boston thinks he moves well enough to stay at short. He could move to third base, where he would draw comparisons to Scott Rolen.
At A Crossroads: RHP Craig Hansen. The Red Sox handed him a $4.4 million big league contract in the 2005 draft because he was supposed to be big league-ready, but he has a 6.59 ERA in 42 appearances with Boston, none last year. The club thinks he's could turn the corner after an improved second half in 2007 and surgery to correct sleep apnea, but he has struggled to maintain his release point this spring.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 19
State Of The System: No team has four blue-chip prospects ready for the majors to match the Reds' quartet of OF Jay Bruce, RHPs Homer Bailey and Johnny Cueto and 1B Joey Votto. Scouting director Chris Buckley's two drafts appear to be two of the deepest in the club's recent history, with intriguing first-rounders (OF Drew Stubbs, C Devin Mesoraco) and late-rounders (RHP Josh Roenicke, SS Chris Valaika). The Reds tried to reinvigorate their Dominican operations in 2004, with Cueto and 3B Juan Francisco the highlights of their efforts.
Best-Stocked Position: Third basemen. Todd Frazier, a supplemental first-rounder last June, is at shortstop for now but will move to the hot corner, where he'll have more than enough bat. Francisco led the low Class A Midwest League with 25 homers last year, while Brandon Waring topped the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 20 in his pro debut. Neftali Soto mirrors Frazier as another 2007 draftee (third round) and a slugging shortstop destined for third base. Adam Rosales hit 13 homers in a half-season in Double-A.
Prepare For Takeoff: Roenicke. Initially a wide receiver and then an outfielder at UCLA, Roenicke reached Double-A and posted a 0.95 ERA at the end of his first full pro season. With a mid-90s fastball and a hard splitter that features cutter action, he has opened a lot of eyes in big league camp.
At A Crossroads: OF Chris Dickerson. The Reds are loaded with big league outfield options, so Dickerson is going to have to show more than the best athleticism in the system to earn a spot. He's a career .255 hitter with 587 strikeouts in 525 pro games.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 14
State Of The System: In the last year, no system has improved as much as the Rangers', which sat at No. 28 on this list in 2007. Texas had a massive influx of talent via trades (SS Elvis Andrus, RHP Neftali Feliz and three others for Mark Teixeira; OF Engel Beltre and two others for Eric Gagne) and the draft (RHPs Blake Beavan, Michael Main and Neil Ramirez, plus OF Julio Borbon). 1B Chris Davis and C Taylor Teagarden had breakout years, with 63 homers between them, while RHP Eric Hurley reached Triple-A at age 21.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. No team has more high-ceiling young pitching than the Rangers. Feliz, Main, Beavan, Ramirez, Fabio Castillo and Wilmer Font (the last two are products of Texas' Latin American program) all can exceed 95 mph. Omar Poveda and Tommy Hunter (another 2007 draftee) have more polish and could move quickly in 2008.
Prepare For Takeoff: LHP Matt Harrison. Another piece of the Teixeira deal, Harrison took a step back last year, coming down with minor shoulder trouble and getting hit harder than ever before. He didn't pitch for the Rangers until the Arizona Fall League, where he again showed feel for four pitches. Don't be surprised if he cracks the Texas rotation at midseason.
At A Crossroads: SS Joaquin Arias. The Rangers chose Arias over Robinson Cano as the second player in the Alex Rodriguez trade and felt good about it until Arias slumped in 2006 and lost almost all of 2007 to a shoulder injury and surgery. With Michael Young and Andrus ahead of him, Arias no longer is Texas' shortstop of the future.
NEW YORK YANKEES
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 13
State Of The System: The Yankees continued their commitment to development in 2007, spending more money on the draft ($8.04 million) than any other club, remaining aggressive in Latin America (spending $1.1 million on Dominican outfielder Kevin DeLeon) and declining to ante up in a trade for Johan Santana. The strength of the system is pitching, and the best arms are all being counted on in New York (Joba Chamberlain, Ian Kennedy) or at least expected to contribute (Alan Horne, Jeff Marquez, Ross Ohlendorf) this season. OF Austin Jackson and Jose Tabata are further away but are clearly the top two position players in a system still building depth in that regard.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. Chamberlain may have taken the American League by storm as a reliever, but he's a No. 1 starter in the making. Kennedy doesn't have the same kind of stuff, but he has an uncanny feel for pitching. Horne and Marquez are waiting in the wings, and Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances have huge ceilings if they can regain full health.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Mark Melancon. One of several Yankees pitching prospects on the mend after Tommy John surgery, he has pitched just eight innings since signing for $600,000 in 2006. But he's finally 100 percent again and he has the stuff and makeup to once day succeed Mariano Rivera as New York's closer.
At A Crossroads: 3B Marcos Vechionacci. Long regarded as one of the system's best position prospects, he has seen his bat and power stall for three straight years in Class A. He's still just 21 and a strong athlete, but he needs to deliver on his promise.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 1
State Of The System: The Dodgers have gotten more bang for their buck in the draft than any club this decade. Youngsters such as Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, James Loney and Russell Martin have made their presence felt in Los Angeles the last two years. Several more are on the verge, led by 3B Andy LaRoche, who was in line to win a starting job if not for a spring-training injury. Clayton Kershaw, baseball's best lefty prospect, could force his way to the majors this year at age 20.
Best-Stocked Position: Third basemen. Once the Dodgers give him a chance, LaRoche should be their third baseman for years to come. But he'll face challengers, including sweet-swinging Blake DeWitt and sluggers Pedro Baez and Josh Bell. Baez, signed last year out of the Dominican Republic, may have the highest ceiling, but he's raw and just 20.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Bryan Morris. He had Tommy John surgery months after signing for $1.325 million as a first-round pick in 2006. He looked good in instructional league last fall and should be back throwing his trademark hammer curveball this season.
At A Crossroads: 2B/OF Preston Mattingly. The son of Don and a supplemental first-round pick in 2006, he had a disastrous first full pro season. He batted .210/251/.297 and was erratic in the field. If he doesn't show dramatic improvement in 2008, it's hard to envision him ever doing much in the major leagues.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 7
State Of The System: Sixteen of the 25 players on the Rockies' World Series roster were homegrown, a mix of first-round picks (Jeff Francis, Troy Tulowitzki), late-round gems (Brad Hawpe, Matt Holliday) and Latin American signees (Manny Corpas, Franklin Morales, Ubaldo Jimenez). The farm system remains strong with a similar blend of talent: first-rounders (3B Ian Stewart, RHP Greg Reynolds), late-rounders (OF Dexter Fowler, RHP Brandon Hynick) and Latins (SS Hector Gomez, RHP Pedro Strop). Few teams have been as effective in all areas of player development as Colorado, the 2007 Organization of the Year, and the franchise's front-office stability is a major reason.
Best-Stocked Position: Shortstops. Though the Rockies are in great shape at the major league level with Tulowitzki, they have several other options working their way through the system. Gomez was a South Atlantic League all-star as a 19-year-old last season, and may have better pure tools than Tulowitzki. Former first-round choice Chris Nelson got his career back on track and stands out more with his bat. Helder Velazquez and Jonathan Herrera have ability as well.
Prepare For Takeoff: C Michael McKenry. Though he combined for 27 homers between low Class A and Hawaii Winter Baseball last year, he somehow managed to avoid attention. That should change if he continues to hit in 2008, and he garnered attention from scouts with his catching and throwing this spring.
At A Crossroads: 1B Joe Koshansky. Hitting .295 with 21 homers in the high altitude of Triple-A Colorado Springs is not a good season, and he looked overmatched in a brief September callup. He'll be 26 this season and isn't going to unseat Todd Helton, so Koshansky needs to re-establish some value and hope for a trade.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 6
State Of The System: When the Braves checked in at No. 15 last year, it ended an amazing 15-year streak in which they never ranked lower than seventh. Despite trading five young players to the Rangers for Mark Teixeira, Atlanta has climbed back into the Top 10 again. Getting RHP Jair Jurrjens and OF Gorkys Hernandez in the Edgar Renteria deal helped, but the Braves rebuilt mostly through the draft. They've loaded up on outfielders and lefthanders and were among the best teams at working the draft-and-follow process (LHP Cole Rohrbough, OF Brandon Jones, RHP Tommy Hanson).
Best-Stocked Position: Outfielders. Atlanta may be unsettled in the outfield at the major league level, but not for long. Jordan Schafer and Brandon Jones should arrive in the next year, while Midwest League MVP Hernandez is advanced for a 20-year-old. Jason Heyward, a steal with the 14th pick in last year's draft, has the bat and athleticism to jump on the fast track as well. Cody Johnson, a 2006 first-rounder, led the Appalachian League with 17 homers last summer.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Julio Teheran. The best pitcher on the international market last summer, he signed for $850,000 out of Colombia. He has the best pure arm of any foreign amateur since Felix Hernandez, showing a 94-95 mph fastball and quality secondary pitches at age 17.
At A Crossroads: 3B Eric Campbell. After sharing the MVP award in the Appalachian League in 2005 and encoring with a home run title in the South Atlantic League, he bottomed out in 2007. He was bothered by a broken thumb and other injuries, and put little effort into his rehab. The Braves sent him home in August and want to see a better performance and attitude in 2008.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 17
State Of The System: The A's have promoted a lot of talent to the majors, but they haven't drafted exceptionally since the Moneyball crop of 2002 and haven't been effective in Latin America, either. The result was one of baseball's thinnest systems—until Oakland decided to go all-in on a rebuilding project this offseason. Trading Dan Haren and Nick Swisher netted four Top 100 prospects: OF Carlos Gonzalez, LHPs Gio Gonzalez and Brett Anderson and RHP Fautino de los Santos. Before those deals, the top prospect was yet another trade acquisition (1B Daric Barton), and they're going to have to find frontliners on their own if the makeover is going to work.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. De los Santos is the best of the group, but this is one commodity Oakland has been able to sign and develop. Its three best homegrown prospects are all righties: Trevor Cahill and James Simmons (their top picks in the last two drafts) and Henry Rodriguez (by far their best recent Latin signee). Andrew Bailey, a sixth-rounder in 2006, is one of their best later picks in recent drafts.
Prepare For Takeoff: OF Grant Desme. He was pushing his way toward the first round before he broke a bone in his wrist last spring, allowing Oakland to snag him in the second round. He has above-average power and is one of the best athletes in the system, and he should be back to full strength after missing instructional league with a shoulder injury.
At A Crossroads: SS Cliff Pennington. He had a solid pro debut after the A's made him a first-round pick in 2005, but he has batted a soft .249 ever since and hasn't looked like the same player.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 28
State Of The System: Last on this list a year ago, the Nationals made a huge leap thanks largely to an impressive draft. Washington was one of four clubs to hand out three million-dollar bonuses (LHPs Ross Detwiler, Josh Smoker and Jack McGeary) and spent a club-record $7.9 million. OF Michael Burgess and RHP Jordan Zimmermann give the Nats five 2007 draftees among their Top 10 Prospects. Three holdovers had impressive seasons as well: 1B/OF Chris Marrero, RHP Collin Balester and OF Justin Maxwell.
Best-Stocked Position: Lefthanded starters. Detwiler became the first 2007 draftee to appear in the majors when he made a September relief appearance, and it may not be too long before he joins the rotation for good. Smoker would have been a mid-first-rounder if not for a late-spring slump. McGeary, thought to be unsignable away from a commitment to Stanford, could be an even bigger coup as a sixth-rounder. John Lannan was a pleasant surprise, jumping from high Class A to the majors and holding his own in Washington.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Adam Carr. He hit 34 homers and threw just five innings in two years at Oklahoma State, yet the Nationals saw him as a pitcher. He has displayed a mid-90s fastball while posting a 2.08 ERA in two seasons, and if he can maintain his slider and command, he'll join the big league bullpen this year.
At A Crossroads: OF/3B Kory Casto. Washington's most advanced prospect entering 2007, he floundered in a pair of short big league trials and never got his bat going again in Triple-A. Ryan Zimmerman blocks him at third base, and trades for Elijah Dukes, Lastings Milledge and Wily Mo Pena have crowded the outfield.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 2
State Of The System: Promotions have thinned out a once-formidable system, which ranked in the top five in each of the previous five years. Los Angeles still can boast of four Top 100 Prospects, however, in 3B/SS Brandon Wood, RHPs Nick Adenhart and Jordan Walden, and C Hank Conger. The Angels shelled out $1 million to land Walden as a draft-and-follow last spring, then were unusually conservative. They have a solid group of complementary players, but they may need to get aggressive going after talent again.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. Though Adenhart blew out his elbow in high school, the Angels gave him $710,000 as a 14th-round pick and watched him quickly return to full health a year later. Walden, Sean O'Sullivan (who has won two ERA titles in two pro seasons) and Stephen Marek were all draft-and-follows. Nick Green's changeup is an out pitch. Promising Young-Il Jung and Mason Tobin should make their full-season debuts this year.
Prepare For Takeoff: OF Peter Bourjos. An unusual finger injury held him back last year, but the son of ex-big leaguer Chris Bourjos showed enough to make the Angels think he could eventually succeed Torii Hunter. Manager Mike Scioscia called him the fastest player in major or minor league camp this spring, and he offers average power and arm strength as well.
At A Crossroads: RHP Trevor Bell. He flashes enough stuff to show why he went in the supplemental first round in 2005, and he throws strikes. But his stuff hasn't improved as projected and he has been hittable. If that doesn't change in 2008, he'll be in for a rough year in the hitter's haven that is the California League.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 15 (tie)
State Of The System: After three lean years, both the major league club and the system improved in Bill Bavasi's fourth season as Mariners GM. Seattle has stopped giving away first-round picks as free-agent compensation and, not surprisingly, has drafted better. Two of Bob Fontaine's first-round picks, C Jeff Clement and RHP Phillippe Aumont, are the franchise's two best prospects, while the third (Brandon Morrow) went almost directly to the majors. The Mariners remain as committed to the global market as anyone, and Dominican SS Carlos Triunfel and Nicaraguan RHP Juan Ramirez are their latest international phenoms.
Best-Stocked Position: Wladimir Balentien (Curacao) and Carlos Peguero (Dominican) have prodigious raw power. Michael Saunders (Canada) and Greg Halman (Netherlands) are more well-rounded but also have pop. The M's best American outfielders are 2007 draftees Danny Carroll and Denny Almonte.
Prepare For Takeoff: Peguero. He hit nine homers in 79 games last year while recovering from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow, but he has the strength and the favorable hitting environment (at high Class A High Desert) to multiply that number in 2008.
At A Crossroads: C Rob Johnson. He's an athletic catcher with all-around tools, but the Mariners rushed him to Triple-A two years ago only to have him share time behind the plate and waste time as a DH. He doesn't seem to have a big league role with Kenji Johjima in the majors and Clement looking for an opportunity.
SAN DIEGO PADRES
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 30
State Of The System: After terrible drafts in 2003 and 2004, the Padres are bouncing back. Their last three efforts have produced most of the system's best prospects, including the top five: 3B/OF Chase Headley, 2B/OF Matt Antonelli, RHPs Matt Latos and Drew Miller and LHP Wade LeBlanc. GM Kevin Towers is also a master at making trades big and small, and last year he turned fading Scott Linebrink into three pitchers, including LHP Steve Garrison and RHP Will Inman.
Best-Stocked Position: Lefthanded starters. LeBlanc, Nick Schmidt (out for 2008 following Tommy John surgery), Cory Luebke and Cesar Ramos all were selected in the first two rounds of the last three drafts. All four, and Garrison as well, have good command of average stuff. That fits the blueprint Grady Fuson looks for.
Prepare For Takeoff: 3B/2B Rayner Contreras. He still needs to add weight to his skinny frame, but he makes consistent hard contract and drills line drives to all fields. He could be in for a big year in the hitter-friendly California League.
At A Crossroads: RHP Jared Wells. He was one of the system's top prospects before posting a 7.26 ERA in Triple-A over the last two years. He had some success after moving to the bullpen last June, but he still needs to improve his slider and pitch down in the zone.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 15 (tie)
State Of The System: The Orioles have drafted better in three years under scouting director Joe Jordan, and last year they spent $7.1 million to sign a pair of Scott Boras clients, C Matt Wieters and RHP Jake Arrieta. New president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail started a full-scale rebuilding effort, trading Erik Bedard and Miguel Tejada for nine young players this offseason, including RHP Chris Tillman and LHP Troy Patton.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. Tillman, Radhames Liz, Arrieta, Chorye Spoone, Pedro Beato and Brandon Erbe all have live arms. They all are more overpowering than polished at this point, and Baltimore's ability to teach them command will determine how much value they ultimately have. Tim Bascom and David Hernandez are two more righties to watch.
Prepare For Takeoff: Arrieta. He slipped to the fifth round because of signability and an inconsistent spring. The Orioles believe they can straighten him out with some minor mechanical adjustments, and if they're right, they could have a frontline starter.
At A Crossroads: OF Kieron Pope. He has solid tools across the board, highlighted by above-average power. But he has yet to make it to a full-season league after three years in pro ball, and he has batted just .238/.308/.367. A shoulder injury slowed him last year, but even so, he has to start producing.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 5
State Of The System: The Johan Santana trade may not have pleased Twins fans, but at least it added talent (OF Carlos Gomez and RHPs Deolis Guerra, Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber) to a system that has started to slip after ranking no lower than eighth from 2002-07. First-round picks such as OF Denard Span, 3B Matt Moses and SS Trevor Plouffe haven't panned out, nor has a draft bonanza in 2004 (five picks before the second round). The Twins' best homegrown product is RHP Nick Blackburn, a draft-and-follow from 2001.
Best-Stocked Position: Outfielders, particularly center fielders. Gomez is now the system's top position player and the likely choice to replace Torii Hunter in center. Plan B is another trade acquisition, Jason Pridie, who came over in the Matt Garza-Delmon Young deal. Span has outperformed both in spring training, displaying more plate discipline in big league camp than he has in the minors. Joe Benson, a second-round choice in 2006, and Ben Revere, a surprise first-rounder last year, join Gomez as having the highest ceilings among the system's position players.
Prepare For Takeoff: 3B Deibinson Romero. His power came on last season and stands out in a system of line-drive hitters. He also has speed and athleticism, and he projects as an above-average defender.
At A Crossroads: RHP Kyle Waldrop. A first-round pick in 2004 based on projection, Waldrop's stuff has never picked up as Minnesota expected. He hasn't missed many bats and got hammered when he reached Double-A last year, going 3-6, 5.34 in 11 starts.
ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 27
State Of The System: Though the Cardinals system still hasn't climbed into the upper half, its No. 16 ranking still represents its loftiest mark this decade. After years of fueling contenders by trading youngsters for veterans, coupled with inconsistent drafting, St. Louis has recommitted to building from within. Almost all of the franchise's top prospects have come from the last three drafts—mot notably, OF Colby Rasmus, RHP Chris Perez and C Bryan Anderson—and the Cardinals are bolstering their Latin American operations as well.
Best-Stocked Position: Outfielders. Colby Rasmus is one of the top prospects in baseball and the organization's best since the days of Rick Ankiel and J.D. Drew. Brian Barton could prove to be one of the better Rule 5 picks in recent years. John Jay has batted .304 with a .373 on-base percentage in two pro seasons. Joe Mather exploded for 31 homers in 2007 after never topping 17 in six previous pro seasons.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Clayton Mortensen. A supplemental first-round pick last June, he has a sinker/slider combination that allows him to throw strikes and generate a ton of groundballs. He shows promise as both a starter or a reliever, and the Cardinals will keep him in the rotation for now. He'll probably begin the year in Double-A and could finish it in the majors.
At A Crossroads: SS Tyler Greene. A first-round pick who signed for $1.1 million in 2005, he has batted just .233 above low Class A. His defense is in question as well, and he may have lost a step after knee surgery last July. A move to third base could be in his future.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 11
State Of The System: Before the Marlins acquired OF Cameron Maybin in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis trade, they had no true blue-chip prospect. The five pitchers they selected in the first and sandwich rounds of the 2005 draft are progressing in less than spectacular fashion, though Florida still hopes to build around RHPs Chris Volstad and Ryan Tucker and LHPs Aaron Thompson and Sean West. The Marlins have tried to focus on position players in the last two drafts, netting 2B Chris Coghlan and 3B Matt Dominguez.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. Volstad, 2007 first-rounder Brett Sinkbeil and Tucker pitched together at high Class A Jupiter last year, will reunite at Double-A Carolina this season and could hit Florida together in 2009. Gaby Hernandez could beat them to the majors by a few months. Dallas Trahern was another piece of the Cabrera/Willis trade, while Hector Correa averaged 12.7 strikeouts per nine innings in the New York-Penn League last year.
Prepare For Takeoff: 1B Logan Morrison. Morrison has a promising bat, showing the ability to hit for both power and average. He hit 24 homers in his first full pro season, and though he's just 20, he could be jumping on to the fast track.
At A Crossroads: RHP Jacob Marceaux. Of the five pitchers Florida grabbed at the top of the 2005 draft, Marceaux has been the most frustrating. He'll flash a plus fastball and curve, but not with any kind of consistency. He moved to the bullpen last year, yet still posted a 5.22 ERA while repeating high Class A.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 12
State Of The System: The Cubs haven't signed a position player who blossomed into an all-star for them since Joe Girardi 22 years ago, but they hope that's on the verge of changing with 3B Josh Vitters, C Geovany Soto and OF Tyler Colvin. OF Kosuke Fukudome, a Japanese veteran, has all-star potential as well. Scouting director Tim Wilken's two drafts for Chicago have added depth at the lower levels, and GM Jim Hendry has shown a knack for adding quality arms (RHPs Jose Ceda and Kevin Hart) in stealth trades.
Best-Stocked Position: Catchers. Soto led the minors in slugging percentage (.652) and batting average by a catcher (.353) last year, then hit .389 during a September callup. Josh Donaldson, a sandwich-round pick last June, hit .335/.460/.590 in his pro debut. Welington Castillo is the best defensive catcher in the system, while converted infielder Steve Clevenger batted .340 in his first year behind the plate.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Robert Hernandez. He threw strikes and held his own in low Class A last season as an 18-year-old, and as he gets stronger, he could have two plus pitches in his fastball and changeup. A breaking ball will be the key to his development.
At A Crossroads: LHP Mark Pawelek. His stuff and his mechanics have regressed since the Cubs handed him $1.75 million as the 20th overall pick in the 2005 draft. A lack of conditioning and a broken non-throwing arm have limited him to 125 innings in three seasons. Chicago saw progress in instructional league but is still waiting for real progress in games that count.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 9
State Of The System: While the Indians were tying for the major league lead with 96 victories in 2007, their farm system took a step back. Several of their best prospects either got injured (RHP Adam Miller, LHP Tony Sipp, since-departed OF Brian Barton) or regressed (LHP Chuck Lofgren, OFs Trevor Crowe and John Drennen). Interestingly, Cleveland acquired as much of its young big league nucleus via trades as it did through the draft or international signings.
Best-Stocked Position: Lefthanded starters. Lofgren has won 29 games over the past two seasons, and though he struggled at times in Double-A last year, he also learned how to pitch without his best stuff. Aaron Laffey started 2007 in Double-A and finished it by winning four of nine starts in the majors. Before he came down with a sore elbow, David Huff showed poise, command the ability to rush through the system. Scott Lewis continued to get hitters out with finesse, and the Tribe added two more southpaws in 15th-round steal Chris Jones and draft-and-follow Ryan Miller.
Prepare For Takeoff: OF Nick Weglarz. He hasn't been as hyped as some of Cleveland's recent outfield prospects, but he slammed 23 homers in low Class A at age 19 and looks like the Tribe's left fielder of the future. He hit three homers in three days to lead Canada to an Olympic berth in a mid-March tournament in Taipei.
At A Crossroads: OF Trevor Crowe. Once considered comparable to fellow 2005 first-rounder Jacoby Ellsbury, Crowe has batted just .253 with modest power in Double-A the last two seasons. He won't move Grady Sizemore out of center field, and that kind of offense won't cut it on a corner.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 8
State Of The System: This ranking doesn't do justice to how productive the Diamondbacks system has been, especially in the last year. Arizona graduated OFs Justin Upton and Chris Young, RHP Micah Owings, 3B Mark Reynolds and RHP Tony Pena to a National League West championship club, and dealt five prospects (led by OF Carlos Gonzalez and LHP Brett Anderson) to get Dan Haren in the offseason. The system won't provide much help in the short-term beyond RHP Max Scherzer, but the big league club doesn't really need it.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters, and the best of them all joined the organization in 2007. Jarrod Parker, Wes Roemer and Barry Enright all arrived in the first two rounds of the draft, and no pitcher available had a more electric arm than Parker. On the same day the Diamondbacks emptied their system to get Haren, they also acquired Billy Buckner and Juan Gutierrez in smaller deals for Alberto Callaspo and Jose Valverde. Brooks Brown was Arizona's best holdover, reaching Double-A and pitching well there in his first full pro season.
Prepare For Takeoff: 3B Clayton Conner. He hit .466 with 13 homers in junior college in the spring, then .310 with 10 more longballs after signing as a draft-and-follow. His power is legitimate and comes to all fields. His defense is more of a question mark, and he could wind up in left field or at first base.
At A Crossroads: RHP Emiliano Fruto. He once ranked as the Mariners' top pitching prospect but since has moved on to the Nationals and the Diamondbacks in trades for Jose Vidro and Wily Mo Pena. Fruto has an array of quality pitches, most notably his fastbll, curveball and changeup, yet he never has shown much command, consistency or competitiveness.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 4
State Of The System: Like the Diamondbacks, the Brewers are reloading after sending waves of young talent to the majors, most recently Ryan Braun and Yovani Gallardo. LHP Manny Parra will help this year and OF Matt LaPorta, a 2007 first-round pick, should be ready in 2009, but most of the talent in this system resides in the lower levels. Milwaukee mines junior colleges as well as any clubs, both with draft picks (3B Mat Gamel) and with draft-and-follows (OF Lorenzo Cain, RHP Rob Bryson), though the latter has been eliminated.
Best-Stocked Position: Outfielders. The Brewers are pleased with how LaPorta is taking to left field after playing first base in college, and they have no questions about his bat. Cole Gillespie is a gap-hitting left fielder, while Cain is an athletic right fielder. Caleb Gindl, another left fielder and an unheralded fifth-round pick last June, won the Pioneer League batting title at .372. In center, Milwaukee's two best prospects are speedsters Darren Ford and Lee Haydel.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP R.J. Seidel. He dropped to the 16th round of the 2006 draft because of signability, and Milwaukee invested $415,000 to buy him out of a commitment to Arkansas. He's a projectable 6-foot-6 athlete, and he's advanced for a teenager after learning from his father Dick, a former pro pitcher.
At A Crossroads: OF Charlie Fermaint. He's one of the top athletes in the system, but outside of batting .364 for a month in the Pioneer League in 2005, he hasn't been productive. He strikes out too much to make good use of his power or speed.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 26
State Of The System: The Phillies built a division winner around homegrown stars Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Brett Myers, Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, but their production slowed down in recent years and they don't have a significant rookie for 2008. Most of their best prospects are pitchers, led by RHP Carlos Carrasco and LHPs Joe Savery and Josh Outman, though 2B Adrian Cardenas has a promising bat.
Best-Stocked Position: Lefthanded starters. Philadephia spent the 19th pick last June on Savery, who lasted that long only because of medical concerns. The last time the Phillies took such a gamble, they came away with Hamels. Outman, who has helped Class A teams win championships the last two years, has the stuff to be a No. 3 starter. J.A. Happ is more of a finesse lefty, and he carved up the lower minors before hitting the wall in Triple-A last year.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Heitor Correa. The Brazilian fared much better in his second season in pro ball, slicing his ERA to 3.74 from 7.83 the year before. He has a 90-93 mph fastball to go with a hard curveball, and he could open the season in low Class A as an 18-year-old.
At A Crossroads: 3B Welinson Baez. The Phillies thought the power and his bat and arm would make him a fine third baseman, but after five seasons in pro ball, he has yet to deliver. Baez has batted just .230 with 315 strikeouts in 247 games in Class A, and he has been an erratic fielder (65 errors the last two years) as well.
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 23
State Of The System: With Barry Bonds gone and a group of past-their-prime veterans remaining, the Giants are in full rebuilding mode. Youth will be served, but it will take some time, as San Francisco has little talent in the upper levels. The Giants' hope for the future centers around 1B Angel Villalona, who's just 17, and four first-round or sandwich picks out of high school in the 2007 draft: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Tim Alderson, OF Wendell Fairley and 2B/SS Nick Noonan.
Best-Stocked Position: Second basemen. Noonan reminds a lot of scouts of Chase Utley, minus the power potential. In two years after San Francisco took him in the Triple-A Rule 5 draft, Eugenio Velez has won an MVP award in the South Atlantic League and a stolen-base crown in the Eastern League. Like Noonan, speedy Emmanuel Burriss has played shortstop, but his arm makes him better suited for second. Travis Denker, acquired for Mark Sweeney last August, has made consistent hard contact throughout his career. Marcus Sanders was once the system's top position prospect, but shoulder problems have stymied his career.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Waldis Joaquin. After missing all of 2006 following Tommy John surgery, Joaquin showed a mid-90s fastball and a power slider in the short-season Northwest League playoffs. The next step will be regaining his command, but the good news is that he'll be at full strength for all of 2008.
At A Crossroads: 1B Travis Ishikawa. He batted just .214/.292/.295 in Double-A last year before hurting his right knee while chasing a foul pop. With Dan Ortemeier ahead of him and Villalona behind him, Ishikawa faces a crucial season at age 24. Even if he comes through, he faces a lot of competition within the organization.
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 24 (tie)
State Of The System: The Royals have made out well in the first round of the last four drafts, coming away with Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, RHP Luke Hochevar and SS Mike Moustakas. But they still have a long ways to go in their rebuilding, because they haven't had as much success in subsequent rounds. GM Dayton Moore has made acquiring arms a priority since taking over in mid-2006, and it shows—besides Moustakas, the next eight prospects on our Royals Top 10 list are all pitchers.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters, and it's not even close. The two pitchers with frontline potential are Daniel Cortes, whom Moore stole from the White Sox in a deal for Mike MacDougal, and Hochevar. Moore also picked up Julio Pimentel and Blake Johnson in the Elmer Dessens/Odalis Perez trade. Other righties to watch include Blake Wood, Carlos Rosa and 2007 draftees Matt Mitchell, Sam Runion and Keaton Hayenga.
Prepare For Takeoff: SS Jeff Bianchi. The Royals loved his approach when they drafted him in the second round in 2005, and he hit .408 in his pro debut. Shoulder problems hampered him for nearly two years, however, though he hit .330 in the final month of 2007 and then .284 in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Moustakas probably will move to third base or the outfield down the road, so Bianchi still can be Kansas City's shortstop of the future.
At A Crossroads: OF Mitch Maier. A first-round pick in 2003, Maier never has put up big power numbers despite playing in hitter's parks for much of his pro career. He doesn't have a glaring weakness, but he doesn't do anything exceptionally well either. The Royals wouldn't have signed Jose Guillen to a $36 million contract if they thought Maier could be a regular.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 21
State Of The System: Last year marked the first time in GM J.P. Ricciardi's six years at the helm that the Jays didn't focus almost solely on college players in the draft. The more balanced approach was long overdue, as Toronto's system has suffered from the emphasis on college statistical performance over premium tools and high ceilings. The Jays' best prospect is high school OF Travis Snider, and while the 2007 draft was promising (3B Kevin Ahrens, C J.P. Arencibia and LHP Brett Cecil, among others), it will take time for those players to advance through the minors.
Best-Stocked Position: Lefthanded starters. Primarily a reliever in college, Cecil has more than enough stuff to start and ranked as the short-season New York-Penn League's top prospect in his debut. Ricky Romero has struggled in Double-A the last two years, which hasn't eased criticism for the Jays passing up Troy Tulowitzki to draft Romero sixth overall in 2006. David Purcey made huge strides with his command last season before having surgery to remove cysts from his forearm and triceps. Brad Mills and Marc Rzepczynski are two more promising products of the 2007 draft.
Prepare For Takeoff: RHP Kyle Ginley. He had 129 strikeouts in 122 innings in 2007, his first full pro season, thanks to a fastball with plenty of velocity and sink. If he can develop a solid breaking ball, he could be a mid-rotation starter. Otherwise, he'll make an effective setup man.
At A Crossroads: RHP Josh Banks. He throws strikes and never misses a turn in the rotation, but Triple-A and major league batters have found him hittable (.277, 58 homers) the last two years. His fastball lacks life and he doesn't have an effective offspeed pitch, so he's more of an insurance policy than a part of Toronto's future.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 18
State Of The System: The Pirates have endured 15 consecutive losing seasons, one shy of the big league record, and the farm system isn't about to spark an immediate turnaround under new GM Neal Huntington. Pittsburgh passed on more talented players to take more signable LHP Daniel Moskos with the No. 4 overall pick in 2007, and with the exception of OF/1B Steve Pearce (an eighth-rounder in 2005), the Bucs have done little after the first round of the draft. And while they've hit on prospects such as OF Andrew McCutchen and 3B Neil Walker with their top picks, they also have a history of taking pitchers who soon after needed major surgery (Bobby Bradley, Sean Burnett, John Van Benschoten, Bryan Bullington, Brad Lincoln).
Best-Stocked Position: Outfield. If all goes according to plan, McCutchen and Pearce will be manning center and right field in Pittsburgh by 2009. Jamie Romak, part of the Adam LaRoche/Mike Gonzalez trade last January, hit 20 homers in his first season in the organization. Brad Corley is one of the best run producers in the system, while 27-year-old Nyjer Morgan made a positive impression during his September callup. The last two drafts have added Austin McClune, Quincy Latimore and Marcus Davis.
Prepare For Takeoff: SS Brian Friday. A third-rounder last June, he quickly became the best shortstop prospect in the system. He's a potential leadoff man who also provides reliable defense. The Pirates already have taken a brief look at him in big league camp and may jump him to high Class A for his first full pro season.
At A Crossroads: RHP Yoslan Herrera. The previous regime gave the Cuban defector a $1.92 million major league contract, then watched him get rocked in Double-A last year. Herrera pitched in the mid-80s and lacked a consistent secondary pitch. He'll be 27 this season and he needs to show something quickly.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 24 (tie)
State Of The System: The Tigers' draft strategy in recent years is to spend big on their first-round picks without worrying about signability and slotting. That hasn't left them with much depth, but they aren't complaining, because Justin Verlander is one of the game's best young pitchers, and they used Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller to get Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis from the Marlins. They also traded two more quality prospects found in their international program, RHP Jair Jurrjens and OF Gorkys Hernandez, for Edgar Renteria. Detroit's best prospects now are a pair of costly 2007 draft picks, RHP Rick Porcello (his $7 million major league contract tied the record for the largest guarantee ever given a high schooler) and SS Cale Iorg (who got a $1.4975 million bonus in the sixth round).
Best-Stocked Position: Shortstop. Iorg hadn't played in two years while on a Mormon mission, but the Tigers believe he would have blossomed into a first-round pick this spring at Arizona State. Michael Hollimon has provided consistent power and played mostly shortstop in pro ball, though he fits better at second base. Danny Worth, a second-rounder last June, was one of the best defenders in the 2007 draft. Brent Dlugach showed promise during big league camp last year but has not played since last season after shoulder surgery.
Prepare For Takeoff: OF Wilkin Ramirez. After missing most of 2004 and 2006, he finally stayed healthy in 2007 following a move from third base to the outfield. He's still just 22, and his plus power could begin to emerge this year in Double-A.
At A Crossroads: OF Brent Clevlen. He provided a spark by hitting .282 with three homers off the big league bench in 2006, but now that looks like more of an aberration than a true indication of his ability. Pitch recognition and plate discipline continue to baffle him, and he hit just .220/.304/.360 in Triple-A last year.
NEW YORK METS
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 20
State Of The System: The Mets have been aggressive with international players such as OF Fernando Martinez and RHP Deolis Guerra, both in terms of spending to sign them and then pushing them through the system. At the same time, they've been conservative in the draft since giving Mike Pelfrey a $5.25 million major league contract in 2005. New York emptied its farm system by trading Guerra, OF Carlos Gomez and RHPs Kevin Mulvey and Philip Humber for Johan Santana, but the move was a no-brainer.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded relievers. The Santana trade left Eddie Kunz and Brant Rustich, both 2007 draft picks, as the system's best prospects behind Martinez. Rustich will give starting a try this year, while Kunz could be on the express route to Shea Stadium that Joe Smith took last year. Steven Clyne, the third college reliever the Mets drafted in the first three rounds last June, also could move quickly. Nick Carr is a starter for now but profiles better as a late-inning weapon out of the bullpen. Major league Rule 5 draft pick Steven Register has been impressive this spring.
Prepare For Takeoff: 3B Danny Murphy. In his first full pro season, he went to high Class A and ranked second in the Florida State League with 143 hits, then followed up with a strong performance in Hawaii Winter Baseball. He projects to hit for power as well, though he'll eventually have to move off the hot corner with David Wright in New York.
At A Crossroads: 1B Mike Carp. The Mets are worried about Carlos Delgado's hip, but there has been no talk of using Carp as a replacement if Delgado goes down. Carp needs to bounce back from a disastrous 2007, when he broke his right ring finger on an errant slide in big league camp and hit just .251 with 11 homers in Double-A once he returned. He also struggled against lefthanders and with his defense.
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 29
State Of The System: The Astros botched the 2007 draft, from giving up a second-round choice for Woody Williams and failing to offer arbitration to three free agents who could have yielded six extra picks, to owner Drayton McLane refusing to compensate by going a penny over slot and misjudging the signability of three of its first six selections. Houston didn't sign a player until the fifth round, a crippling blow to an organization with a flagging system. New GM Ed Wade hasn't helped matters, trading several of the system's best young players to get Miguel Tejada and Jose Valverde in what looks like a vain attempt to contend in 2008.
Best-Stocked Position: Outfielders. Michael Bourn, acquired in the Brad Lidge trade, will take over in center field and atop the lineup. Eli Iorg, Josh Flores and Jordan Parraz are good athletes who are still smoothing out some rough edges. Collin DeLome, the fifth-rounder who as the Astros' top signee out of the 2007 draft, fits the same mold. Mitch Einertson has won MVP awards in the Rookie-level Appalachian and high Class A Carolina leagues. Houston is intrigued by the upside of Yordany Ramirez, signed as a minor league free agent during the offseason. OF Devon Torrence is a two-sport star who spent the fall as a backup wide receiver and punt returner at Ohio State.
Prepare For Takeoff: 3B/1B Chris Johnson. The son of ex-big leaguer Ron Johnson, he was hampered last season by an injured wrist. Now that he's fully healthy again, he should show off power to all fields and could reach Double-A by midseason. With Mike Costanzo dealt in the Tejada trade, Johnson is Houston's unchallenged third baseman of the future.
At A Crossroads: LHP Brian Bogusevic. The Astros' Plan B when the Red Sox took Jacoby Ellsbury right in front of them in the 2005 draft, Bogusevic has gone 12-15, 4.89 in three pro seasons. He lacks a plus pitch, and hitters have no problem teeing off on his fastball, which lacks life. If he doesn't improve on the mound soon, Houston may consider making him a right fielder, because he was a two-way star at Tulane.
CHICAGO WHITE SOX
|Cumulative Ranking, Last Five Years: No. 22
State Of The System: The White Sox were the only team to get shut out on our Top 100 Prospects list, a result of poor drafting, ineffective work on the international front and GM Ken Williams' willingness to trade prospects for veterans. Williams' moves were a major factor in Chicago's 2005 World Series championship, but he continues to deal (trading the system's top two prospects, LHP Gio Gonzalez and RHP Fautino de los Santos, and OF Ryan Sweeney for Nick Swisher) when the team would be better off looking at the future.
Best-Stocked Position: Righthanded starters. Lance Broadway and Jack Egbert are more about finesse than power, but they could crack Chicago's rotation this season. John Ely and Nevin Griffith, both 2007 draftees, represent the organization's increased emphasis on plus stuff over pure pitchability, and Ely is fairly polished as well. Kyle McCulloch, Lucas Harrell, Charlie Haeger and Justin Cassel all could start the year in Double-A or higher and be on call as needed.
Prepare For Takeoff: OF John Shelby Jr.. The White Sox could have challenged him last year but instead left him in low Class A at age 22 so he could make the transition from second base to center field. The son of the former big leaguer John Sr., he hit .301 with 16 homers and 19 steals in his first full pro season.
At A Crossroads: SS Robert Valido. Chicago once thought that Valido could become their first homegrown shortstop since Bucky Dent in 1976, but he hasn't hit the last two years after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2005. He still plays a slick shortstop, but he hit .212/.250/.266 and was demoted to high Class A last year.