March 20, 2007

Top 50 Prospects of 2007: 1-10

Previous Top 50 Prospects of 2007: 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50.

Below you'll find the final installment of my fifth annual ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, which is not to be confused with the team-specific "Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007" series that I completed last month. I began publishing my prospect rankings back in 2003 at the Baseball Primer site that has since become Baseball Think Factory, and the 2004, 2005, and 2006 versions can all be found at The Hardball Times.

These rankings reflect my feeling about each player's long-term chances for (and degree of) success in the major leagues and are by no means authoritative, because I'm no more an expert on prospects than anyone else who follows them closely. You'll likely find that my rankings lean more heavily towards older, established prospects than many other rankings, and a further explanation of what I base the rankings on can be found in the introduction to last year's series.

10. Tim Lincecum | San Francisco Giants | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: Right

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2006 A- 2 2 0.00 4.0 1 0 10 1
A+ 6 6 1.95 27.2 13 3 48 12

A diminutive right-hander with a unique delivery, Tim Lincecum fell to the Giants with the No. 10 pick in last June's draft despite leading college baseball in strikeouts. He destroyed the low minors after signing, combining to whiff 58 batters in 31 innings while holding opponents to a .127 batting average, and his mid-90s fastball caused a stir this spring. He has skeptics, but others make a compelling case for Lincecum's delivery as an asset and there's no denying his potential for overpowering hitters.

9. Yovani Gallardo | Milwaukee Brewers | SP | Age: 21 | Throws: Right

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2004 RK 6 6 0.47 19.1 14 0 23 4
2005 A- 26 18 2.74 121.1 100 5 110 51
2006 A+ 13 13 2.09 77.2 54 4 103 23
AA 13 13 1.63 77.1 50 2 85 28

A second-round pick out of a Texas high school in 2004, Yovani Gallardo pitched very well in the low minors during his first two pro seasons and then put together an amazing year between Single-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old in 2006. Making 13 starts at each level, Gallardo led the minor leagues with 188 strikeouts, posted a 1.86 ERA in 156 innings, held opponents to a .192 batting average, and used his ground-ball tendencies to serve up just six homers.

8. Matt Garza | Minnesota Twins | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: Right

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2005 RK 4 4 3.66 19.2 14 3 25 6
A- 10 10 3.54 56.0 53 5 64 15
2006 A+ 8 8 1.42 44.1 27 3 53 11
AA 10 10 2.51 57.1 40 2 68 14
AAA 5 5 1.85 34.0 20 1 33 7
MLB 10 9 5.76 50.0 62 6 38 23

A 2005 first-round pick out of Fresno State who emerged as an elite prospect last year, much was made of Matt Garza's struggles with the Twins. However, Garza seemed fatigued at the end of what was his first full season and posted a solid 4.75 ERA over 47.1 innings after an ugly debut. Before that he had a 1.99 ERA and 154-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 135.2 innings blitzing through three levels, holding opponents to a .179 batting average. A No. 3 starter now and a potential ace down the road.

7. Adam Miller | Cleveland Indians | SP | Age: 22 | Throws: Right

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2004 A- 19 19 3.36 91.0 79 7 106 28
A+ 8 8 2.08 43.1 29 1 46 12
2005 A- 3 3 5.06 10.2 17 0 6 4
A+ 12 12 4.83 59.2 76 5 45 17
2006 AA 26 24 2.75 153.2 129 9 157 43

The 31st overall pick in the 2003 draft, Adam Miller put together a strong 2004 season before an elbow injury limited him to 70.1 mediocre innings in 2005. He came back strong in 2006 as a 21-year-old at Double-A, posting a 2.75 ERA and 157-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 153.2 innings. Armed with a fastball-slider combination that produces tons of ground balls, Miller held opponents to a .226 batting average and nine homers. After impressing the Indians this spring, his time at Triple-A could be brief.

6. Andy LaRoche | Los Angeles Dodgers | 3B | Age: 23 | Bats: Right

YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
2004 A- 244 .283 .375 .525 13 33 29 30
A+ 219 .237 .295 .434 10 23 17 42
2005 A+ 249 .333 .380 .651 21 36 19 38
AA 227 .273 .367 .445 9 21 32 54
2006 AA 230 .309 .419 .483 9 22 41 32
AAA 202 .322 .400 .550 10 25 25 32

Son of former two-time All-Star pitcher Dave LaRoche and brother of current Pirates first baseman Adam LaRoche, Andy LaRoche first made a name for himself by hitting .305 with 30 homers between Single-A and Double-A in 2005. He followed that up by hitting .315 with 19 homers between Double-A and Triple-A while playing through a torn labrum, posting a fantastic 64-to-66 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 117 games. Considered a solid defensive third baseman, LaRoche's all-around game is without flaw.

5. Homer Bailey | Cincinnati Reds | SP | Age: 21 | Throws: Right

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2004 RK 6 3 4.38 12.1 14 0 9 3
2005 A- 28 21 4.43 103.2 89 5 125 62
2006 A+ 13 13 3.31 70.2 49 6 79 22
AA 13 13 1.59 68.0 50 1 77 28

The seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft out of a Texas high school, Homer Bailey began last season dominating hitters at high Single-A and then stepped it up a notch beyond that following a midseason promotion to Double-A. A 20-year-old facing much older competition, Bailey went 7-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 77-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 68 innings. There was talk of Bailey possibly joining the Reds in September and again this spring, but he'll begin the year in the minors to gain a little more polish.

4. Delmon Young | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | RF | Age: 21 | Bats: Right

YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
2004 A- 513 .320 .386 .536 25 56 53 120
2005 AA 330 .336 .386 .582 20 37 25 66
AAA 228 .285 .303 .447 6 22 4 33
2006 AAA 342 .316 .341 .474 8 34 15 65
MLB 126 .317 .336 .476 3 13 1 24

The No. 1 pick in the 2003 draft, Delmon Young hit .326 with 45 homers and 78 walks in his first 215 games while reaching Double-A as a 19-year-old, but has since seen his power and plate discipline decline. Young continued to hit well after a promotion to Triple-A in mid-2005, batting .306 over a 168-game stretch that includes a month in the majors, but managed just 17 homers and 20 walks during that span. He's still bound for stardom, but might be a different type of hitter than he initially appeared.

3. Chris Young | Arizona Diamondbacks | CF | Age: 23 | Bats: Right

YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
2004 A- 465 .262 .365 .505 24 60 66 145
2005 AA 466 .277 .377 .545 26 70 70 129
2006 AAA 402 .276 .363 .532 21 57 52 71
MLB 70 .243 .308 .386 2 6 6 12

The most underrated elite prospect in baseball, Chris Young is an outstanding defensive center fielder with big-time power, speed, and plate discipline. With 275 strikeouts between 2004 and 2005 his main weakness had been making consistent contact, but Young made huge strides in that department last season, striking out a total of 83 times in 472 at-bats between Triple-A and Arizona. The clear favorite for NL Rookie of the Year, Young is capable of a 20-20 season right out of the gates.

2. Philip Hughes | New York Yankees | SP | Age: 21 | Throws: Right

YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
2005 A- 12 12 1.97 68.2 46 1 72 16
A+ 5 4 3.06 17.2 8 0 21 4
2006 A+ 5 5 1.80 30.0 19 0 30 2
AA 21 21 2.25 116.0 73 5 138 32

Taken in the first round of the 2004 draft out of a California high school, Philip Hughes has emerged as the consensus top pitching prospect in baseball thanks to electric stuff and impeccable numbers. After thoroughly dominating the low minors to begin his pro career, Hughes made the leap to Double-A as a 20-year-old, posting a 2.25 ERA, .179 opponent's batting average, and 138-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 116 innings. An extreme ground-ball pitcher, Hughes is a near-perfect pitching prospect.

1. Alex Gordon | Kansas City Royals | 3B | Age: 23 | Bats: Left

YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
2006 AA 486 .325 .427 .588 29 69 72 113

After winning the Golden Spikes Award during his final season at Nebraska, Alex Gordon went No. 2 overall in the 2005 draft behind Justin Upton. He jumped all the way to Double-A for his pro debut and filled the stat sheet by hitting .325 with 29 homers, 69 total extra-base hits, 72 walks, and 22 steals in 130 games. With Mark Teahen moving to right field, Gordon is expected to begin the season as the Royals' starting third baseman and is an obvious frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year.


March 18, 2007

The House That Blog Built

I'm the type of guy who laughs at the people who get upset over talking about a no-hitter while it's going on, so I'm perfectly willing to make this announcement despite the presence of a potential jinx. Things aren't quite official just yet--there's still an inspection to conduct this afternoon and a closing to sit through--but barring a last-minute change that would make me reconsider the whole talking-during-a-no-hitter thing, I'm now the proud owner of a beautiful 2,020-square foot home.

A busy weekend filled with paperwork and negotiating kept me from producing actual written content for today, but in the absence of that I do have some nice pictures to share. In the interest of space and combating boredom I'll leave the bathrooms, dining room, utility room, and deck off the tour, but here's a room-by-room look at the place (furniture not included) ...

Front:


Living room (13 x 14):


Kitchen (9 x 18):


Family room (14 x 14):


Master bedroom (17 x 16):


Second bedroom (11 x 13):


Amusement room (23 x 12):


Patio (16 x 17):


All that and it'll only take me until May 1, 2037 to pay it off! In the meantime, if you have suggestions regarding painting, furniture, and DirecTV installation, drop me an e-mail or a note in the comments section.


March 15, 2007

Link-O-Rama

  • Not only did I order one of these fantastic shirts, I gave strong consideration to buying a couple dozen of them, throwing out the rest of my wardrobe, and wearing a different one each day, Inspector Gadget-style.
  • Over at Yahoo! Sports, Jeff Passan celebrates Johan Santana's 28th birthday with a look at the best pitcher in the world.
  • Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star may be the only sports columnist in the entire world who no one has ever said a bad word about regarding his writing or personality, and now he's blogging. It has quickly become one of my daily stops.
  • One of the topics I often write about here is the newspaper industry's decline, and it usually follows the same pattern. First, I'll link to some new evidence of the decline, such as falling readership, decreased revenue, layoffs, and prominent writers leaving for more promising online jobs, all of which have been happening plenty of late. Then, a few print-media veterans will pop up in the comments section to assure everyone that I'm overreacting.

    It's an amusing back-and-forth, because that refusal to read the rapidly increasing writing on the wall represents one of the reasons that the newspaper industry is declining in the first place. This week's evidence--which someone in the comments section will surely inform me means absolutely nothing--is that 24 staffers at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have accepted a buyout following the newspaper's recent sale.

    That total represents seven percent of the newspaper's staff and includes several well-known names, among them long-time Timberwolves beat writer Steve Aschburner. Reporter Darlene Prois, who worked at the Star Tribune for 30 years, explained why she accepted the buyout offer by saying, "It's pretty uncertain here right now." I'm pretty sure Prois was referring specifically to the Star Tribune, rather than the newspaper industry as a whole, but she's right in either case.

  • On a related note, a couple weeks ago in this space I relayed a tip that I received reporting that Jason Williams, the Twins beat writer from the St. Paul Pioneer Press, would be leaving his post this month for a job with MLB.com and graduate school. Continuing this particular source's streak of accuracy, Williams did indeed leave the Pioneer Press this week, announcing the news with a brief farewell message on the newspaper's spring-training blog.

    The source was also right about Williams' replacement, Kelsie Smith, who previously covered the Red Sox at the Boston Globe. My thoughts on Williams' work are well documented, so I won't rehash them, but needless to say that I'm looking forward to a new voice reporting on the Twins. I know nothing of Smith, but everyone starts with a clean slate in my book and I'm hopeful that she'll win me over in much the same way Joe Christensen did after joining the Star Tribune last season.

  • Just like I figured he would, Dan Barreiro has taken to blogging like a fish to water. My personal favorites are Nos. 2, 5, 24-26, and 39.
  • It's possible that I found this note from Gregg Rosenthal's Rotoworld blog highly amusing solely because it involves my boss and my colleague/friend, but here it is anyway:
    I get married in less than two months, and we have the most last-minute wedding possible. ... I'm the editor-in-chief of our football magazine, which is impossibly due on the week directly after the NFL Draft. Coincidentally, that's also the week of my wedding. I also move in two weeks.

    Throw in the regular news, the videos (check out the 8 baseball previews we're taping this week by the way), and there's a pretty good chance I'm going to flip out or spontaeously self-destruct by May. Our GM Rick Cordella said he's putting me on the 'busts' list of employees for 2007. That hurts.

    I haven't said this to Gregg, because apparently I'd rather be a jerk publicly, but I think it says an awful lot about the power of women that someone who's more football-obsessed than anyone I've ever met could possibly agree to get married in the few days between the NFL draft and the due date for the football magazine he's editing. I'm sure I'd agree to something similar (or worse) if put into the same situation, but since that's in no danger of happening any time soon I can safely mock Gregg.

  • If you want to watch some of those "eight baseball previews" Gregg taped this week--along with Tiffany Simons as co-host and Yours Truly as a call-in guest--the starting pitcher, relief pitcher, first base, and second base versions have been posted on NBCSports.com.
  • Making fun of a pre-wedding Rosenthal is fun, but let's just be honest: Elisha Cuthbert is no longer even the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com and still hangs out with the wrong people, but if she asked me to I'd probably sign away my baseball-watching rights for life and maybe even start following hockey.
  • My favorite video of the week masterfully combines the genius of Michael Gary Scott and Cornell Iral Haynes Jr., plus plenty of appearances by one of the leading OFGoAG.com candidates.
  • When Patrick Reusse isn't wasting space in the Star Tribune with weird columns attacking bloggers, he can still write some nice pieces on topics like the similarities between Brad Radke and Kevin Slowey or David Winfree's odd rise through the Twins' system.
  • One of the most difficult aspects of giving up my involvement with The Hardball Times as part of my contract with NBCSports.com is that I'm no longer able to write the annual Twins preview, but Will Young stepped in and predictably did an excellent job. If you can't live without a Twins preview written by me, check out the Deadspin version.
  • Speaking of NBCSports.com, they (or am I allowed to say "we" now that they sign my paycheck?) recently entered into a content-sharing partnership with SI.com, which while somewhat confusing to me at this point certainly has the potential to be good. I'm a big fan of what SI.com has done over the past couple years to bring in talented writers from the online world who may not have been big-time names, such as Jon Weisman and Alex Belth, and I find myself heading there more and more of late.

    Here's what SI Digital president Jeff Price had to say about the partnership:

    The speed and depth of SI.com content and the broadband video power of NBCSports.com is a unique combination of resources that enhances the user experience for fans on both sites. Building a strong relationship that leverages NBC Sports powerful video storytelling ability furthers our efforts to partner with the best brands in sports.

    Here's what NBC Sports senior vice president Perkins Miller (whom I've actually met!) had to say:

    From our live pre-game programming for Notre Dame and the NHL, to our wrap-up shows for football and golf, NBCSports.com has been on the forefront of original broadband sports programming. With SI.com's world-class writing and photography, married with our Rotoworld fantasy news, NBCSports.com users will have a richer, more informative visit than ever before.

    Like I said, I'm not sure exactly what that all means, but it sounds interesting, I respect what SI.com has done, and I love the fact that Rotoworld is prominently involved in the plans.

  • I did a double-take after reading the following note in an article about the Twins' young pitchers by MLB.com's Kelly Thesier:
    There has been a lot of concern voiced outside the organization about the lack of experience for some of these young arms, but the Twins don't see any reason to hesitate using these young starters right away.

    OK, let me get this straight. The Twins may end up spending about $9 million on the veteran trio of Carlos Silva, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson, who went a combined 26-36 with a 5.84 ERA last year. Despite that, Thesier is suggesting that they "don't see any reason to hesitate using these young starters right away." Really, they don't see any reason? Is there another explanation for the rotation being filled with veterans coming off horrible seasons instead of, you know, those young starters?

    The kicker, of course, is that Thesier further suggests that the "concern ... about the lack of experience for some of these young arms" is coming from "outside the organization." Really, people outside the organization are the ones who're hesitant to hand things over to the young guys? I guess all those outsiders forced Terry Ryan to re-sign Silva for $4 million, hand Ortiz $3.1 million, and bring in Ponson. The Twins trust the young guys, but these silly outsiders love the veterans! I'm glad that's settled.

    (I think Thesier has improved a tremendous amount since she first took over the Twins beat at MLB.com last season and given some of the things I've written about her work she was exceptionally friendly to me when we met at the Winter Meetings in December. With that said, I sometimes wonder if her articles are written in some sort of bizarro world that I just haven't discovered yet. On the other hand, she did break the news that Jason Kubel and Jeff Cirillo are likely to platoon at designated hitter.)

  • If you're a Padres fan or simply like good writing, check out friend of AG.com Geoff Young's self-published Ducksnorts 2007 Baseball Annual.
  • Here's an interview with my favorite new musical artist of 2006, James Morrison, who's coming to Minnesota at the end of the month as part of his new U.S. tour. Anyone know anything about the 400 Bar in Minneapolis? Would a dorky baseball blogger be wildly out of place watching a British guy sing there?
  • If you haven't yet checked out the first four installments of my Top 50 Prospects of 2007 series, here they are: 11-20, 21-30, 31-40, 41-50. The final installment, covering the top 10 prospects in baseball, will be posted here early next week (along with, hopefully, some relatively big news about where I'll be living soon).

  • March 14, 2007

    Plug Day & A Possible Meet-Up

    Someone going by the name "aweb" left the following comment here the other day:
    What's the point of keeping the personal blog going if you aren't going to link to stuff you have on other sites? I know some have complained about that, but I hereby complain that you don't link to articles you have written for other spots enough. As long as you keep producing stuff here, I think you should be more free with links to yourself.

    The "point of keeping the personal blog going" is that I write thousands of words here every week that don't appear anywhere else--most of them about the Twins, non-sports topics, or my personal life--but I understand the basic point he's trying to make and have heard plenty of similar comments in the past when I haven't linked to something I've done elsewhere. Of course, when I do link to stuff I've done at other places, I get complaints about self-promotion.

    For the most part, I avoid linking to my work at Rotoworld.com and NBCSports.com, because I assume that the majority of the people reading AG.com are aware that I appear on those sites--whether in writing or on video--on a regular basis. In fact, during the baseball and football seasons I essentially write for those sites every day. On the other hand, it does bother me that people who enjoy my work might not see all of it because I'm not doing a thorough enough job telling them where to find it.

    So, at the risk of boring and angering many of you, here are some links to recent, non-AG.com work I've done:

  • I wrote the Minnesota Twins installment of the ongoing, team-by-team season preview over at the world-famous Deadspin, which is one of the few sites that I make sure to check multiple times per day. Deadspin has about a billion daily readers and Will Leitch was kind enough to write an article for The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2007, so I was happy to oblige when he asked if I'd pen the Twins preview.

    If you decide to read it, keep in mind that it was written for a non-Minnesota audience that isn't nearly as obsessed with the Twins (or baseball in general) as the people who read AG.com on a regular basis, so the information is pretty basic and there's not a whole lot of analysis. I did touch on a couple things that I haven't written about here much in the past (while admittedly lapsing into a Jim Souhan-like shtick at times) and I'm especially proud of the article's conclusion, which wraps everything up nicely.

  • I managed to get Jason Kubel pictured prominently on the front page of Rotoworld for most of the day yesterday, because he's featured in my new fantasy draft strategy column. In addition to Kubel, the column also includes Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Rondell White, Alexi Casilla, and Glen Perkins, so it's worth reading for Twins fans even if you're not into fantasy baseball and have absolutely zero use for a list of "AL-only sleepers."
  • Part of the reason you're not reading a more substantial blog entry right now is that I've spent much of this week taping "Fantasy Fix" episodes for NBCSports.com. With Opening Day fast approaching, the show is doing position-by-position fantasy previews. So far they've posted the videos for starting pitchers and relief pitchers, and the remaining positions should be available for consumption within the next few days.

    The show is hosted out of New York by the capable and charming duo of Tiffany Simons and Gregg Rosenthal, and my segments are strictly of the call-in variety, so you won't be able to catch a glimpse of my post-surgery ear. However, you can hear my never-ending quest to spread the word about Johan Santana's greatness while staring at a goofy headshot of me. Or you can just look at Tiffany (or Gregg, if that's what you're into). Either way.

  • Finally, Will Young and John Bonnes are planning to meet up at Joe Senser's in Bloomington at around 3:15 this afternoon to watch the first-round NCAA tournament games. I'm hoping to attend as well, although I'm making no promises because it depends upon how smoothly this morning's video shoots go and how much work I can get done before then. And yes, I realize this is awfully short notice for those of you who work "real" jobs.

    I'm not 100 percent certain that I'll be able to show up, but if I am able to make it I'll a) bring my gross-looking right ear along for everyone to gawk at, and b) gladly buy a beer for any AG.com reader who stops by. Plus, watching the tournament with an obsessed George Washington alum and the Twins Geek probably beats hanging out with me anyway, free beer or not. So yeah ... hopefully I'll see a few of you there this afternoon. (If you're planning to show up, drop me a note in the comments section.)

    UPDATE: The good news is that I'm dangerously close to buying a house. The bad news is that I probably won't be able to make it to Senser's today. But like I said, go hang out with Will and John anyway. Feel free to say bad things about me to them behind my back, since my ear is already bleeding anyway.


  • March 12, 2007

    Top 50 Prospects of 2007: 11-20

    Previous Top 50 Prospects of 2007: 21-30, 31-40, 41-50.

    Below you'll find the fourth installment of my fifth annual ranking of the top 50 prospects in baseball, which is not to be confused with the team-specific "Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007" series that I completed last month. I began publishing my prospect rankings back in 2003 at the Baseball Primer site that has since become Baseball Think Factory, and the 2004, 2005, and 2006 versions can all be found at The Hardball Times.

    These rankings reflect my feeling about each player's long-term chances for (and degree of) success in the major leagues and are by no means authoritative, because I'm no more an expert on prospects than anyone else who follows them closely. You'll likely find that my rankings lean more heavily towards older, established prospects than many other rankings, and a further explanation of what I base the rankings on can be found in the introduction to last year's series.

    20. Adam Jones | Seattle Mariners | CF | Age: 21 | Bats: Right

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2004 A- 510 .267 .314 .404 11 41 33 124
    2005 A+ 271 .295 .374 .494 8 33 29 64
    AA 228 .298 .365 .461 7 20 22 48
    2006 AAA 380 .287 .345 .484 16 39 28 78
    MLB 74 .216 .237 .311 1 5 2 22

    The 37th overall pick in the 2003 draft, Adam Jones began his pro career as a shortstop before shifting to center field last season. Though still rough around the edges, he's reportedly made great strides and has the skills to be a Gold Glover. Jones also has the potential to be an impact bat, although his numbers thus far have been merely good thanks in large part to the Mariners pushing their prospects more aggressively than other organizations, including calling an unprepared Jones up at the age of 20.

    19. Troy Tulowitzki | Colorado Rockies | SS | Age: 22 | Bats: Right

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2005 A+ 94 .266 .343 .457 4 10 9 18
    2006 AA 423 .291 .370 .473 13 49 46 71
    MLB 96 .240 .318 .292 1 3 10 25

    After three years as Long Beach State's starting shortstop, the Rockies grabbed Troy Tulowitzki with the No. 7 pick in the 2005 draft and moved him quickly through the system. Tulowitzki began his first full season at Double-A, hitting .291/.370/.473 in 104 games before getting the call up to Colorado in August. He struggled in 25 games there and is battling Clint Barmes for the starting job this spring, but is without question the Rockies' long-term answer at shortstop. He should be solid, but unspectacular.

    18. Luke Hochevar | Kansas City Royals | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: Right

    YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
    2006 A- 4 4 1.17 15.1 8 2 16 2

    After going 15-3 with a 2.26 ERA in his final season at Tennessee, Luke Hochevar fell to the Dodgers with the 40th pick in the 2005 draft because his signability was in question. He failed to reach an agreement and re-entered the draft last June after playing in an independent league, going No. 1 overall to the Royals. The whole thing cost Hochevar some development time, but he gained about $2 million, blew away Single-A hitters after signing, and should be in the majors by midseason anyway.

    17. Brandon Wood | Los Angeles Angels | 3B | Age: 22 | Bats: Right

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2004 A- 478 .251 .322 .404 11 46 46 117
    2005 A+ 536 .321 .383 .672 43 98 48 128
    2006 AA 453 .276 .355 .552 25 71 54 149

    The recent move from shortstop to third base lessens Brandon Wood's long-term stock, but offense remains his primary asset. After busting out with a record-breaking season at high Single-A in 2005, Wood followed it up by hitting .276/.355/.552 in 118 games at Double-A last year. His huge strikeout totals are a major concern and may keep him from posting good batting averages, but slugging third basemen with mediocre on-base percentages still have plenty of value.

    16. Andrew Miller | Detroit Tigers | SP | Age: 22 | Throws: Left

    YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
    2006 A+ 3 0 0.00 5.0 2 0 9 1
    MLB 8 0 6.10 10.1 8 0 6 10

    Considered by many to be the top player in last June's draft coming out of North Carolina, Andrew Miller dropped to the Tigers with the No. 6 pick due to his bonus demands. He eventually received over $5 million in guaranteed money and was called up in August as part of the deal. A 6-foot-6 left-hander with a mid-90s fastball, Miller struggled to find the plate out of the Tigers' bullpen, but his long-term home is at the top of the rotation. He'll begin this year in the minors, but should see Detroit by August.

    15. Evan Longoria | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | 3B | Age: 21 | Bats: Right

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2006 A- 33 .424 .487 .879 4 6 5 5
    A+ 110 .327 .402 .618 8 16 13 19
    AA 105 .267 .266 .486 6 11 1 20

    Considered one of the few top-notch hitters in last June's draft after batting .353/.468/.602 at Long Beach State, Evan Longoria went third overall and blitzed through the minors, hitting .315/.360/.597 in 62 games between low Single-A, high Single-A, and Double-A. Drawing just one walk while striking out 20 times at Double-A is concerning, but Longoria had a strong strikeout-to-walk ratio in college and at both levels of Single-A. He looks likely to reach Tampa Bay by midseason, probably at third base.

    14. Reid Brignac | Tampa Bay Devil Rays | SS | Age: 21 | Bats: Left

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2004 RK 97 .361 .413 .474 1 7 9 10
    2005 A- 512 .264 .319 .416 15 46 40 131
    2006 A+ 411 .326 .382 .557 21 50 35 82
    AA 110 .300 .355 .473 3 11 7 31

    A second-round pick in 2004, Reid Brignac hit .361 in rookie-ball, struggled at low Single-A in 2005, and broke out with a huge season between Single-A and Double-A last year. He won the California League MVP before hitting .300 after a late-season promotion, combining to bat .321/.376/.539 with 24 homers in 128 games as a 20-year-old. There's some question about whether he can remain at shortstop long term, but Brignac's glove has reportedly improved and his bat fits anywhere.

    13. Mike Pelfrey | New York Mets | SP | Age: 23 | Throws: Right

    YEAR LV G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
    2006 A+ 4 4 1.64 22.0 17 1 26 2
    AA 12 12 2.71 66.1 60 2 77 26
    AAA 2 2 2.25 8.0 4 1 6 5
    MLB 4 4 5.48 21.1 25 1 13 12

    Mike Pelfrey finished his amazing three-year run at Wichita State by going 12-3 with a 1.93 ERA in 2005, but high bonus demands allowed the Mets to snatch him up with No. 9 pick. Pelfrey has since shown why he was widely considered the top pitching talent available, making his big-league debut midway through his first pro season. He struggled with the Mets, but posted a 2.43 ERA and 109-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 96 minor-league innings, and should be in New York for good by midseason.

    12. Andrew McCutchen | Pittsburgh Pirates | CF | Age: 20 | Bats: Right

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2005 RK 158 .297 .411 .430 2 14 29 24
    RK 52 .346 .443 .442 0 4 8 6
    2006 A- 453 .291 .356 .446 14 38 42 91
    AA 78 .308 .379 .474 3 7 8 20

    Justin Upton, Fernando Martinez, and Cameron Maybin get far more attention among 20-and-under center-field prospects, but Andrew McCutchen is one step ahead of them while offering a similar set of impressive all-around skills. Not only has McCutchen done well in the low minors--hitting .297 with 16 homers, 56 total extra-base hits, 39 steals, and 79 walks in 172 games between rookie-ball and low Single-A--he also hit .308/.379/.474 in 20 games at Double-A as a 19-year-old.

    11. Billy Butler | Kansas City Royals | LF | Age: 21 | Bats: Right

    YEAR LV AB AVG OBP SLG HR XBH BB SO
    2004 RK 260 .373 .488 .596 10 35 57 63
    2005 A+ 379 .348 .419 .636 25 57 42 80
    AA 112 .313 .353 .527 5 14 7 18
    2006 AA 477 .331 .388 .499 15 49 41 67

    Based on hitting alone Billy Butler is one of the elite prospects in baseball, but his complete lack of defensive value drops him in these rankings. Originally a third baseman when the Royals made him the 14th overall pick in the 2004 draft, Butler is currently a left fielder and will likely end up at designated hitter. A .344 hitter in 314 pro games who turns 21 years old next month, Butler combines huge power potential with good strike-zone control and has a chance to become an all-around offensive monster.


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