Here's a Thought: Nathaniel's Top 100 MLB Prospects: #40-31
This is part seven of 10 in my top 100 prospects series.
If you'd like to read other entries in this series, you can check them out below:
If you don't want to read the series, and just want to read this article, here's the series intro, to get you caught up to speed (if you've read the intro before, just skip to the next slide):
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 40-31.
#40: Trayvon Robinson
The complete package of tools, this 2005 10th-rounder is hitting .305/.361/.494 in High-A as a 21-year-old.
A switch-hitter, Robinson offers a quality bat from both sides of the plate. He also has excellent speed (31 steals), which translates into plus defense in center.
Robinson's 98 strikeouts need to come down for him to realize his full potential, but he has better plate discipline than a lot of raw speed guys.
Robinson could become a switch-hitting version of Mike Cameron even if he doesn't make a ton of progress with the strikeouts.
If he does make progress with the strikeouts, he could be more like a switch-hitting Torii Hunter.
#39: Austin Jackson
Jackson is something of a further-along, right-handed version of Robinson. He's hitting .318/.384/.442 in Triple-A at age 22.
Jackson's a line-drive hitter who rips a lot of singles and doubles. He has decent plate discipline and power, but he doesn't project to hit a ton of homers in the major leagues. Offensively, he's actually somewhat analogous to Derek Jeter.
Also like Jeter, Jackson has average speed, but uses it well on the bases, as he's 17-for-18 in steals this year.
The one issue with Jackson is his defense. It's not end-of-career-Bernie Williams-level bad, but it's only average. He would be a plus guy in right field, but his mediocre power would leave him just league-average at that position.
Wherever he plays in the outfield, Jackson should be a .300/.375/.450 bat with 25 steals per year.
#38: Casey Kelly
Organization: Red Sox
Level: High-A as a pitcher/Rookie as a shortstop
I have no idea what to do with Kelly. If he was just a pitcher, he'd rank a bit higher, maybe around 25; if he was a shortstop, he wouldn't rank on the list.
If you don't know about Kelly, he was a first-rounder last year who played both ways in high school. He said he'd only sign as a shortstop, but every team liked him better as a pitcher.
The Red Sox drafted Kelly and offered him a compromise: he'd play shortstop for the rest of 2008, and then he'd split his time between pitcher and shortstop until it became clear statistically which one he was better at.
He accepted the deal and is now something of a guinea pig for giving two-way stars a look at both hitting and pitching in pro ball.
Kelly struggled in Rookie ball at short last year, and then dominated hitters at Low-A and High-A this year. As a pitcher, he's ready for Double-A at age 20.
Kelly is currently in extended spring training still gearing up for the switch to short. He'll be getting game action at short somewhere low in the system any day now.
As a pitcher, Kelly throws a low-90s fastball with Greg Maddux-movement on it. He backs it up with a big curve and workable changeup. He has excellent command of his pitches.
As a shortstop, Kelly's a nice defender with severe pitch recognition issues.
Kelly the pitcher could be the next Roy Halladay. Kelly the shortstop could be the next Bobby Crosby. I'd take an ace over a utility infielder, thank you very much.
The risk is that Kelly forces the Red Sox to put him at short, or that this experiment goes horribly wrong in some way. If he just sticks to pitching, Kelly will rank even higher.
#37: Carlos Triunfel
Already debuting at Double-A a month after his 19th birthday, Triunfel was a top-10-worthy prospect in my book entering the year.
Then, he fractured his fibula in the second game of 2009 and most likely ended his season. The lost development time pushes him down to this still-excellent spot.
Triunfel is a similar hitter to Jackson: he combines excellent contact skills with average plate discipline and power. He also follows Jackson in terms of speed and defense. Triunfel doesn't have great speed, but uses what he has effectively, and stole 30 bases last year.
He's got a great arm, but iffy range and reactions threaten to move him off shortstop to second or third.
Triunfel ranks above Jackson because he's two years younger and just one year developmentally behind.
#36: Tim Alderson
Another Halladay type, Alderson is a towering righthander with precise command of all four of his pitches. He throws a 91-97 mph cutter, an 88-92 mph sinker, a big, Halladay-esque curve, and a decent change.
Like Halladay, Alderson has the stuff to get plenty of strikeouts, but his strikeout rate isn't great because he pitches to contact. He's a smart pitcher who has a plan on the mound.
While pitchers of this type usually end up in the Aaron Harang/Chris Volstad "very good, not quite great" category, every once in a while, one becomes Halladay.
I'm not saying Alderson will, but there is a chance.
#35: Michel Ynoa
How high can you rank a 17-year-old who's never thrown a professional pitch?
I toyed with the idea of thrusting Ynoa into the top 10 or 20, but we really have to see what his celebrated stuff actually translates to in pro ball.
Ynoa has unbelievably advanced command of five very good pitches, and scouts describe his talent as "historic."
As an A's fan, I can't wait for him to get into some games. If he has success early on, he'll be a top 5 prospect.
#34: Logan Forsythe
Here's a name you probably haven't heard before.
Forsythe was ranked the 11th-best prospect in a weak Padres system by Baseball America coming into 2009.
Then he went out and hit .319/.454/.495 across two levels.
Forsythe has arguably the best plate approach in the minors, with 72 walks and 65 strikeouts. He hits for a good average and has 20 HR power.
Forsythe has good speed and is a very good defender at third. He's capable of playing first, second, and the outfield as well.
Forsythe could become a Dustin Pedroia-esque second baseman or a Kevin Youkilis-esque third baseman. He'll be a .300/.400/.480 hitter with plus defense and versatility, and that's extremely valuable.
#33: Michael Saunders
This Canadian outfielder was pegged as a "tweener" coming into the season, meaning that his high-average, decent-power bat fit best in center, but his okay outfield glove fit best in right. It's the same potential issue I was talking about with Austin Jackson, and it often forces players to become fourth outfielders.
Saunders put those doubts to rest, however, by showing increased power at Triple-A this year, hitting .319/.379/.549.
Saunders reminds me a lot of Nate McLouth. He can play center, but fits best in a corner, and has a nice, well-rounded offensive game that should lead to a few All-Star appearances.
Like McLouth, Saunders added unexpected power, and it's that power that allows him to be a starter in right field. He'll need to continue to hit at least 20 homers a season to be a real plus in right, but if he continues this power streak, he could be a special player.
#32: Cody Johnson
Nobody in the minors has more power than Johnson. Yes, Jonathan Gaston is the one minor leaguer with more homers than he, but Gaston plays in the best hitter's park in the best hitter's league in baseball, while Johnson plays in the most pitcher-friendly park in baseball.
To put it in perspective, Johnson broke the Myrtle Beach single-season home run record this year IN ONLY 87 GAMES.
He broke the single season record in only 60 percent of a season.
Johnson strikes out a lot (115 K), but draws a fair amount of walks as well. He's a passable left fielder or first baseman but nothing special defensively.
Johnson is only 20 and should be the next Adam Dunn, with perhaps even more power.
#31: Ryan Strieby
Another power guy, Strieby is a much more complete hitter than Johnson, and aside from hitting the ball over the fence, he's better at everything.
Strieby could be a .300 hitter with 35-40 homers in the majors. His strikeout rate is very good for someone with his power, and he'll likely never strike out 130 times in a season in the majors. He also has 80-100 walk potential.
Like Johnson, Strieby offers little aside from his hitting. He's not a bad first baseman, but he's nothing special, and his speed is mediocre.
In a worst-case scenario, Strieby winds up with a Nick Johnson-level bat.
In a best-case scenario, he becomes a right-handed Jason Giambi. Remember, Giambi was a .300 hitter in Oakland before he went to New York.