In the first of a three part series, I defined what makes a prospect. In part two I took a look at the top prospects by organization. In the final installment I will discuss the top ten prospects in all of baseball.
The Outsiders' Top 10 Prospects:
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD – LHP)
As the number-one prospect, you better be bringing something special. You better have put up some spectacular minor league numbers. You better be fairly young and haven’t had any major injuries.
Thus, the Los Angeles Dodgers soon-to-be 20-year-old lefty with a 12.28 K/9 career minor league strikeout rate. While his control has been mediocre, his stuff has been so much better then his competition to this point, it hasn’t really mattered.
As a 20-year old, Clayton should begin the season in Double A and will undoubtedly be apart of the Dodgers rotation at some point in the 2008 season.
2. Evan Longoria (TB – 3B)
Longoria is a youngster who displayed solid pop in his bat for 2007. Most have him as their #1 prospect, which is difficult to debate. Now Longoria is displaying the total package of power and plate discipline, coupled with what is described as “one of the league’s best defenders”.
While it does not appear as though he will make the majors out of Spring Training, I find it difficult to believe he won’t at some point be a factor in my sleeper pick for the American League. Give this kid time, and he will be fighting for MVP and Silver Slugger Awards. Watch out for those Rays.
3. Jay Bruce (Cin – OF)
I spoke about how I am sold on toolsy players with strong plate discipline. Jay Bruce is the definition of this. Add into the fact that he is turning just 21 years of age on Opening Day and has already displayed above average power, Bruce is a guy to watch out for in the coming years.
While he may not get a crack at the majors out of Spring Training (good ol’ Dusty), I think that is for the best. Bruce looks like one of those players that may need time before he comes out and dominates. Although, hitting at Great American Ballpark is not going to stunt his development at all.
4. Clay Buchholz (Bos - RHP)
What an incredible minor league resume! Oh, and he’s left handed? Entering Buchholz’s age-23 season, most consider him to be the best pitching prospect in the game. There is not a whole lot to argue against that except I am favoring Kershaw’s age here.
After having an excellent showing in the majors in 2007, there is a chance Buchholz does not make the Red Sox as a starter entering 2008. I will not hold this against him; in fact, I would suggest this will improve the kid in the long run. Consider that he will not be asked to go deep into games nor be the staff ace for the foreseeable future. Because of this, he will be on strict pitch and inning limits, keeping him fresh and healthy.
5. Colby Rasmus (StL – OF)
Displaying plus power at a young age in a high level of the minors is outstanding; doing so with an incredible walk rate. Did I mention he is an above average fielder and will be St. Louis’ starting center fielder sooner rather then later?
Let us also keep in mind that Rasmus will have the best protection in the majors, which can only help. This 21 year old is going to take the National League by storm, putting up strong numbers from day 1.
6. David Price (TB - LHP)
I am going against my own rule in not allowing a player without any experience to make the list. But I can’t get over how dominant Price was at the collegiate level, combined with him being a lefty.
John Sickels writes that there isn’t anything to not like about Price. I’m going to go out on a limb and state that all the prospect reports rave about the kid. I can see him making a Matt Garza type run through the minors and being a starter in the Rays rotation beginning April 2009. Did I mention to watch out for those Rays?
7. Travis Snider (Tor – OF)
If someone were to pose a debate placing Snider over Rasmus, I would have a difficult time arguing against that. The thing that I feel Rasmus has over Snider is the fact that he is going to make the majors in 2008, whereas Snider will at best be a September call-up. In addition, having Albert Pujols in the lineup is invaluable.
That being said, Snider is going to be great! In Snider’s first professional season he dominated in a way that is very uncommon for a kid coming out of high school. He followed that up by another extraordinary season in 2007. Keep an eye on his strikeouts, as his batting average may not be legit in the higher levels of the minors, but he also has plenty of time to develop.
8. Daric Barton (Oak – 1B)
I’m a fan of Daric Barton, probably more so then anyone outside of Oakland. His power is questionable despite his high doubles totals-although keep in mind, his speed is terrible and he earns each and every one of his doubles. Also, we are speaking of a 21-year old; there is plenty of opportunity for him to develop a little more power and to see some of those doubles fall for home runs.
All that being said, Barton is incredible at the plate. He has a relatively low strikeout rate and can read a ball the second it leaves a pitchers hand. That is a natural skill, not a learned one. Barton should have a top notch rookie season and will benefit from not being pressed into a defensive role.
9. Jose Tabata (NYY – OF)
Most would put the Mets Fernando Martinez if not in this slot, but definitely ahead of Tabata. Tabata is definitely a long ways away but the Yankees will treat him properly and allow him to develop as he should.
That being said, I simply prefer what the kid has done to this point in his career over Martinez. I also like how he is being handled. I believe there is a lot of potential here to become a Bobby Abreu or a healthy Milton Bradley type, whereas I see Martinez sitting in around Mike Cameron. This will be an interesting New York story nonetheless.
10.Jeff Clement (Sea – C)
Clement is getting up there in age and this is the type of, maybe, maybe not pick that keeps me as an amateur. As a 23-year old in his second go around in Tacoma, Seattle’s Triple A affiliate, Clement turned from a nice catching prospect to a top hitting prospect who can also catch. Some question Clement’s abilities behind the plate, but they are good enough. He should start the year in Triple A again, but will be called up at some point in 2008 on his way to a full time job in 2009.
2007, as mentioned, was a breakout season for Clement where he put together the combination of power and plate discipline that he regularly showed at the collegiate level. While he does not project as a high-average hitter, if he can pound 20-plus home runs with a .350 on base percentage, Clement will be among the elite backstops for years to come.
Brandon Heikoop writes for Baseball Digest Daily as well as for his own blog, The Outsiders Look. Questions? Comments? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.