This is part nine of 10 in my top 100 prospects series.
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 20-11.
One of the minors' best all-around hitters, Morrison profiles as a .300/.420/.520 hitter with plus defense at first.
Morrison has some of the best plate discipline in the minors, with a 22/37 K/BB ratio in 38 Double-A games. He's a legitimate 120-walk, 80-strikeout candidate. His power isn't quite game-breaking, but he should hit 20-30 homers per season.
Morrison could be the next Adrian Gonzalez, and Florida's stadium is easier to hit in than San Diego's.
Pineda is a physical specimen and is intimidating on the mound. He's got great command of a fastball-change-slider combo, and throws inside a lot, backing hitters off the plate.
Improving the slider will be key for Pineda, as he needs it to catch up to the devastating low-90s tailing fastball and deceptive high-70s changeup.
He'd be an excellent closer or mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starter even without the slider, but if it improves, he could be almost as good as Felix Hernandez.
Posey is the quintessential above-average-at-everything player. That wouldn't rank him this high if he wasn't a catcher. He profiles as a .290/.370/.460 sort of hitter with plus speed and catcher defense.
Posey's biggest problem is his lack of one incredible talent: he's just very good all-around.
The lack of one big talent may make him somewhat underrated for his whole career, but he'll be a very good, All-Star caliber player for years. He should take over as the Giants' catcher next spring.
Cardenas beats out Chris Carter (No. 24) and Michel Ynoa (No. 35) for the title of best prospect on my favorite team.
Cardenas has incredible ability to square up the ball, and is hitting .355/.423/.481 in Double-A at age 21.
A doubles hitter, Cardenas projects to hit 15-20 homers per year and looks to be a .315/.390/.475 sort of hitter.
Defensively, Cardenas has spent time at second, short, and third. It's likely he'll ultimately wind up at third, where he is a good defender. He's a fringe player at the other two infield spots.
Friedrich owns perhaps the minors' best curveball. He backs it up with a low-90s fastball, cutter, slider, and changeup. The fastball has good movement and rates as a plus pitch, while the other three pitches are average.
Friedrich has absolutely dominated both A-ball levels in his first full season after being a first-round pick last year.
For a comparison, imagine if Barry Zito threw a bit harder and didn't go downhill after 2002. Friedrich could be that scary.
Nobody in the minors has better command than Hellickson, who can post absurd walk rates like four BB in 76 2/3 innings last year in High-A.
A classic four-pitch guy, Hellickson has a low-90s fastball, curve, slider, and change. The curve is his best pitch, and the fastball and changeup are close behind. The slider is average.
Even though he throws a very high percentage of pitches in the zone, Hellickson gets plenty of swings and misses (9.85 K/9).
In a worst case scenario, he becomes a solid No. 3 in the Kevin Slowey/Joe Blanton mold.
In a best-case scenario, he becomes an ace in the Curt Schilling mold.
Matusz is a left-handed Hellickson. They throw basically the same pitches, are the same age, are at the same level, and have excellent command. You can literally take Hellickson's scouting report and give it to Matusz.
Matusz ranks one spot higher because he has less pro experience, so he's risen faster, and because lefty aces are harder to find than righty ones.
Who knew the Nationals had a top 15-caliber prospect not named Strasburg?
Well, Norris is hitting .316/.416/.579 at Low-A at age 20. He has 21 homers, 22 doubles, and 53 walks in 90 games.
And he's a catcher.
Defensively, Norris controls the running game very well, but struggles at the other aspects of catching, largely because he didn't catch much before turning pro.
Catchers who hit this well and control the running game don't come along very often. If Norris is anything close to adequate behind the plate, he'll be a huge impact player.
Yankees prospects always seem to get way too much hype because, well, they're Yankees prospects and the Yankees get a ton of attention.
Yet nobody seems to know about Banuelos, who turned 18 less than a month before the 2009 season started, and then went out and dominated Low-A.
Banuelos is a little lefty, but his size belies his stuff. He works off a low-90s fastball with a lot of run and sink, and works in an average curve and fringe-average changeup. Both off-speed pitches are rapidly improving.
All of Banuelos' pitches play up because he spots them well, and his command is advanced far beyond his age. The sink on his fastball gives him some ground ball ability and helps him keep the ball in the park—he's only allowed three homers all season.
I don't talk about things like "poise" and "intangibles" much, but Banuelos is said to have off-the-charts makeup and poise to supplement his excellent pitching ability.
You don't see pitchers this young and this advanced very often, and if Banuelos' off-speed pitches keep improving, he could be truly incredible.
Decker is a similar type of hitter to Logan Morrison. He's hitting .295/.448/.527 in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League at age 19, and he has more walks than strikeouts.
Decker should hit .300 in the majors someday, draw a ton of walks, and hit 20-25 homers per season. He ranks ahead of Morrison by nine spots because he plays a more challenging defensive position (right field). Decker's range in right is nothing special, but he's got a cannon arm.
Decker could be the next Bobby Abreu.