Last year, I got an extremely positive response to my article "The Top 102 Prospects Who Have Yet To Play in MLB."
I decided that it was time to do something similar, and rate the top 100 prospects this year.
Before we begin, a few notes:
These prospects aren't ranked purely statistically and they are not ranked purely on scouting reports. They are ranked based on both. If you'd like to read more on how I believe one should evaluate prospects, read this.
Also, I can never keep track of who has rookie eligibility in the majors, so I made this list entirely of players who did not debut in the majors before July 15, 2009. If someone debuts after that, however (like Mat Latos), they will still be included.
I'm a bit hazy on 2009 draftees, so just because your team's first-rounder isn't on the list doesn't mean they shouldn't be. I feel like I only have good enough knowledge of about 50 or so draftees this year, and a lot of them are the A's draftees. So don't take offense, Padres fans, when you see Donavan Tate's not on the list.
Speaking of Tate, I only ranked players who have signed or are projected to sign. "Tough signs" like Tate and Matt Purke were excluded. I did, however, rank Stephen Strasburg, just because the hype on him is so huge.
I can also guarantee that pretty much everyone in the minors was considered. I made sure to carefully look at anyone performing well or rated well. If a prospect doesn't appear on this list, I can certainly tell you why.
I hope you like the rankings. Leave any questions or comments you have for me—I'll be more than happy to respond.
Let's take a look at prospects 100-91.
If you'd like to read other entries in this series, you can check them out below:
You'll notice pretty quickly that I don't have many underperformers on this list. If a player has such a long way to go that he's not performing, he's a project, not a prospect.
That said, Anthony Hewitt is just so ridiculously talented, I had to squeeze him in at the end of the list.
Hewitt's upside is really the best player in baseball.
His downside is never getting past A-ball.
A power-speed guy, Hewitt has 40-40 potential, but severe contact issues and defensive lapses make him below-average in the New York-Penn League. While he has an unbelievably long way to go before he's MLB-ready, Hewitt's raw talent is so incredible that he merits this spot for now.
McAllister's just 21, and he's got an ERA around 2 across three levels in the past two years. A big righty, he's a groundball guy with a fastball in the low-90's and three quality offspeed pitches.
McAllister could get to the majors by the end of 2010. If you want a player comparison, think Chris Volstad of the Marlins, who made a big splash last year.
Johnson is similar to McAllister, which is why he's ranked right next to him.
There are really three main differences with them: McAllister's fastball has more sink, McAllister gets more grounders, and Johnson gets more strikeouts.
Johnson had some homer issues in the Cal League (hey, who doesn't?), but his flyball tendencies should play just fine in L.A. He's known for his intensity on the mound, and would be a huge relief prospect if starting doesn't pan out.
With command of a good four-pitch arsenal, Johnson could be an excellent third starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley someday.
Alonso is probably the first name so far you'd "expect" to see on a top 100 list, and he's often ranked much higher than this; for example, BP's Kevin Goldstein had him at No. 35 entering the year.
Why am I not as high on Alonso as many others?
His power hasn't really showed up in the minors, as he's hit .289/.367/.462 in his minor league career. He put up a nice High-A line this year (which, at age 22, he should), but then struggled after a promotion to Double-A and is now on the DL.
Alonso is a nice first baseman with good contact and defense and excellent plate discipline, but with a power ceiling that looks more in the 15-25 HR range than the 30-40 he was thought to have coming out of college, his upside is more James Loney than Mark Teixeira.
I usually don't rank relievers very high. You'll see two more in this list, and very few in the remaining ninety prospects.
Henry Rodriguez is so dominant out of the bullpen that he forces his way on.
A righty with a triple-digit fastball, Rodriguez could challenge Joel Zumaya for the title of hardest thrower in the majors when he comes up.
Really, these are the only numbers you need to know: 45 K in 25 1/3 innings in his Triple-A debut at age 22.
Rodriguez has control issues and needs to come up with a second pitch, but you don't blow this many hitters away without having a ton of potential.
Ranked #81 on Goldstein's list entering the season, Freeman's seen his stock go way up as he's reached Double-A at age 19 and is hitting well there.
The reason why I'm not high on him yet is really the same reason that I "underrate" Alonso: Freeman doesn't show a whole lot of power for a first baseman.
If he never develops it, the best case scenario is a Mark Grace/Lyle Overbay/James Loney sort of player: a helpful contributor but not a star at first.
High-average, low-power first basemen have a pretty high attrition rate (percentage of not panning out) as well: Daric Barton, Bryan Byrne, and Jordan Brown are three recent examples of this sort of player hitting a wall at some point (usually Triple-A).
Freeman should still be a useful player, but if Barton's career is any indication (and Barton is a very good comparison for Freeman), Freeman is no sure thing. If he develops more power, he could be a star, but if he doesn't, he could be in more trouble than you might think.
Organization: Blue Jays
I may have to write an article about Collins sometime, because stories don't get much better than his.
He had a dominant high school career but went undrafted because he's a 5'6" pitcher.
He was going to go to college, but Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi, who happened to be from Collins' hometown, set up a workout. Collins dazzled the Jays, got signed, and has dominated ever since.
He's still only 19, but Collins, usually facing much older High-A hitters, has struck out 79 batters in 52 1/3 innings.
Collins is a two-pitch fastball-curve guy. His fastball goes around 90, and the curve is plus. His size and delivery make his pitches jump on hitters, who just don't see average velocity from a guy that small very often.
With great command and competitive fire, Collins should at least become the game's best lefty specialist. He could also be a (pre-injury) B.J. Ryan-like closer: although Collins is a foot shorter than Ryan, their velocities are similar, they both have plus breaking balls, and both get a lot of deception from their deliveries.
I said with Hewitt that I don't rate high-upside, zero-performance guys very highly. Another sort of player I don't rate highly is a player old for his levels.
Again, there's an exception to every rule, and Tommy Everidge is the exception to this one.
OK, this is the one time I'm being biased because he's my favorite player. And hey, any time I can work that awesome picture of Everidge into an article, I'm going to do it.
But hear me out on Everidge.
Everidge, 26, never even reached Triple-A until a month and a half ago, despite putting in 3 1/2 good years between High-A and Double-A.
I wrote an article over at OaklandClubhouse.com about how Everidge could be a big league platoon weapon right now (in May 2009), even while he was in Double-A.
But even I didn't expect what would happen when Everidge was finally promoted to Triple-A.
Everidge was hitting .306/.380/.489 at Double-A, but has hit a whopping .338/.387/.588 in Triple-A thus far, including .441/.472/.765 against lefties. The lefty-mashing is a career-long trend, so Wes Helms' career is a reasonable approximation of Everidge's downside.
He's not a defensive asset (although he can play first and third), but Everidge is a big platoon weapon at the very least and a .280/.350/.520 everyday first baseman at best. Since he's big-league-ready right now, he also carries less downside than almost any other prospect on this list.
Ceda entered the year as the best relief prospect in the minors (at least in my opinion), but he's missed the entire year with shoulder surgery. He'll be back next spring.
A generic excellent closer, Ceda's a huge guy with a huge fastball-slider combination. He touches 100 with the fastball. He's got the standard big, hard-throwing prospect problems: command is an issue, and obviously his history of shoulder problems isn't very good.
For a comparison, think Jose Valverde.
Bet you've never heard of this guy.
Anundsen wasn't even ranked in Milwaukee's top 30 prospects entering the year, but his performance has been exceptional.
Anundsen is 8-4 with a 1.85 ERA. He's thrown 87 1/3 innings, walked 26, and struck out 83.
He's allowed zero homers, and he's only 21.
Anundsen is a sinker guy who throws in the high-80's, but the pitch has so much movement on it that hitters just pound it into the ground. He also has a tailing four-seamer that can get him into the 90's if he needs it.
His out pitch is an excellent slider, and he's got a quality curve and change as well.
While it's difficult to project Anundsen as a star, his four-pitch arsenal and groundball ability should give him a long career as a No. 2 or No. 4 starter.
If he picks up his old velocity (he threw 90-93 in high school), Anundsen could be the next Brandon Webb. Even if he doesn't, he should be a quality mid-rotation starter who keeps the ball in the park.