The Top 25 Prospects In The American League

Malcolm HamiltonContributor IAugust 23, 2009

FORT LAUDERDALE, FL - FEBRUARY 23: Chris Tillman #8 of the Baltimore Orioles poses during photo day at the Orioles spring training complex on February 23, 2009 in Ft. lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Now that the trade deadline and signing deadline have passed, it's time for another prospect rankings list. Using the Baseball America rules, players who have pitched 50 major league innings or have 130 major league at bats are ineligible for this list. 

Here is the list for the American league.


1. Chris Tillman, SP, Baltimore Orioles—Tillman was the final piece of that great Eric Bedard deal for the Orioles that netted George Sherrill and Adam Jones for Baltimore as well. 

Despite Jones’ excellent play at the major league level, Tillman still represents the most star potential that the Orioles received in that deal. He just needs to translate it to production in the big leagues. 

This season, the Orioles have been committed to playing their young players, demonstrated by call-ups of outfielder Nolan Reimold, catcher Matt Wieters, and pitchers Tillman and Brian Matusz. 

While it is unrealistic to not expect Tillman to have some growing pains, expect this future ace to figure it out real soon and be a thorn in powerful New York and Boston sides for years to come. 

2. Neftali Feliz, SP, Texas Rangers—Many would argue that Feliz belongs at the top of this list, but uncertainty about his eventual role in the majors forces him down to the number two spot. 

Many people believe that Feliz won’t be able to take the brunt of being a top-of-the-line starter, and profiles better as a flame-throwing reliever. 

The Rangers will give him every opportunity to prove himself as a starter. With Texas being competitive this year, they called up Feliz to shore up their bullpen for the stretch run. 

In four-and-two-thirds major league relief innings, Feliz has struck out eight batters with a 1.93 ERA.  Look for Feliz to finish this year as a reliever, but to be sent back down to the minors in 2010 so he can work his way back to the Rangers as a starter

3. Brian Matusz, SP, Baltimore Orioles—Matusz is yet another member of the long list of very promising young Orioles’ players. 

Matusz came up at the same time as Tillman as part of the Orioles new “let the kids play” mentality to fortify their rotation. 

Matusz was absolutely dominant in the minors this season, posting a combined 1.91 ERA at two levels. He has struggled thus far in the majors but two starts is a very small sample size to judge him by. 

Matusz has flown up the organizational ladder after being the fourth overall selection in the 2008 draft. Look for him to be the left-handed compliment to the right-handed Tillman in Baltimore’s rotation for the next decade.

4. Justin Smoak, 1B, Texas Rangers—Smoak comes in as the first hitter on this list, with still only Baltimore and Texas having been represented. Smoak, 22, was the 11th overall pick in the 2008 draft, but was the third first baseman chosen behind Eric Hosmer and Yonder Alonso. 

Smoak has been promoted very aggressively and is currently muddling his way through triple A. Despite some struggles with the bat this year, Smoak remains excellent defensively and is still very highly regarded by the Rangers front office. 

In fact, at the trade deadline this year, teams like Toronto and Cleveland were asking for Smoak in return for one of their highly regarded commodities, Halladay, Lee or Martinez. 

One of the main reasons that the Rangers weren’t active at the deadline was that they could not bear to part with Justin Smoak. With no long term first baseman presently with the big league club, Smoak should get his chance to lock down the position at the start of the 2010 season. 

5. Carlos Santana, C, Cleveland Indians and 6.  Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees—There’s a pretty sizeable drop off after the first four guys on this list. Position scarcity and upside give Santana and Montero the next two spots. 

Santana, 23, was famously acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers for Casey Blake. That deal sparked a shift in how deadline deals were done. In this case the seller, the Indians, covered a portion of Blake’s salary, and were given a better prospect in return. 

Santana is still relatively raw but projects to have huge power, especially with his position of catcher. In double A this season, Santana has hit 20 home runs with an OBP of .412. 

Despite being stuck behind Kelly Shoppach and newly acquired Lou Marson on the organizational ladder, Santana will definitely be the Indians starting catcher once he is ready. 

Montero was significantly lower on this list at the start of the season, but through his stellar play he has quickly risen up boards within the Yankees organization and around the league.  Montero is only 19 but has already risen to the double A level, hitting a combined .337 with 17 home runs. 

Although injuries effectively ended Montero’s 2009 season last week, he remains the heir apparent to Jorge Posada in New York.

7. Matt Laporta, OF, Cleveland Indians—Laporta comes in at the seven spot as the first outfielder on this list. He also heads a group of three players, including Brett Walace and Austin Jackson, that are virtually interchangeable on this list. 

Laporta wins out due to straight upside. While with Milwaukee, Laporta was viewed as one of the top prospects in baseball as a first year, rookie league player. 

While his star has certainly fallen a bit since being dealt to Cleveland in the C.C. Sabathia deal at the trade deadline in 2008, that great potential is still there.  Cleveland’s outfield is crowded with Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo locked in as regulars and with promising youngsters Nick Weglarz and Trevor Crowe at his heels. 

However, the Indians cleared some space by dealing Ben Francisco to Philadelphia and are merely biding their time until that spot is taken by Laporta.

8. Brett Wallace, 3B, Oakland Athletics—Wallace was the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft and at 22 he is still very young. 

Wallace was dominant in his professional debut in 2008, but was then moved too quickly in 2009 and did not quite live up to the lofty expectations. 

Once considered the Cardinals third baseman of the future, the DeRosa acquisition lessened his importance in the Cardinals’ front office. As a result, St. Louis turned around and included Wallace in a package to get Matt Holliday from the Oakland A’s. 

Wallace gives the A’s their first legitimate power hitting prospect since Jason Giambi.  The current A’s offense is dreadful and Wallace could come up and play either corner infield position or DH, as no one is firmly entrenched in those positions. 

Wallace is still only a year removed from college ball and already in triple A, so patience might be what it takes for him to realize his potential.  However, don’t be surprised to see Wallace get a cup of coffee in September and in the starting lineup on opening day.

9. Austin Jackson, OF, New York Yankees—Jackson is viewed by the Yankees faithful as the heir apparent to a position that hasn’t had a consistent starter since Bernie Williams. 

Jackson, an eighth round pick in 2005, has been developed and promoted cautiously by Yankees management and it appears to have payed off. Now, at triple A, Jackson’s numbers won’t wow anyone, but he has the skills to be an above average defensive and offensive center fielder for a team that would accept nothing less. 

With great speed and decent power, Jackson has the potential to be a 10 homer, 30 steal guy at the major league level. Look for Jackson to make his debut in New Yankees Stadium at the start of the 2010 season and to be patrolling center field for the Yankees for years to come.

10. Tim Beckham, SS, Tampa Bay Rays—Beckham was the first overall pick in the 2008 draft, selected out of high school by Tampa Bay. At 19, Beckham is still very young, and while he hasn’t been bad so far in his professional career, he hasn’t been very good either. 

Beckham has hit .270 at single A ball this season with little power and little speed. 

While Tampa Bay is certainly not panicking yet, Beckham needs to start producing in order to justify his selection ahead of players like Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Gordon Beckham and Justin Smoak.

11. Wade Davis, SP, Tampa Bay Rays—Davis is yet another in the long line of young players that have either reached the majors or are on the verge in Tampa Bay.  Davis lacks the exciting upside of Tillman or Feliz but he has produced at every level of the minors and projects as a very good starter at the major league level. 

Davis has proven all he can in the minors and has been at triple A Durham for over a year. The starting rotation was a supposed strength for the Rays at the start of the year, but struggles from Scott Kazmir and David Price might move along Davis’ progression. 

Either way, expect Davis to be in the rotation by opening day 2010.

12. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals and 13.  Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals—Few have been bigger disappointments this season than Moustakas and Hosmer.  Both top three overall picks, Moustakas and Hosmer were expected to harness their raw power and jump up to the next level this season. 

However they only have a combined 19 home runs and neither player has progressed beyond single A ball. 

Moustakas has been the better of the two, accounting for 13 of those home runs, but has still struggled with a .297 OBP. 

Hosmer, on the other hand, is hitting .238 with only six home runs. 

Don’t panic yet Royals fans. Moustakas is only 20, while Hosmer is 19. Both still represent the future of the Royals’ organization and will be looked to by upper management to finish 2009 strong and have bounce back years in 2010. 

Don’t expect their struggles to last for long.

14. Mike Montgomery, SP, Kansas City Royals—Big fireballing lefties don’t come around very often, but that is exactly what Montgomery is. He has absolutely filthy stuff including a 95 mph fastball.

Montgomery, signed for $1 million out of the supplemental first round of the 2008 draft, has performed very well but has built himself a reputation for being arrogant and having a short fuse. 

In fact, he was kicked off his high school basketball team for having too many technicals. 

However, Montgomery also possesses unparalleled competitive fire and as a result has dominated at two levels of the minors this year. Look for Montgomery to humble himself and calm down as he matures and become a excellent pitcher in the majors.

15. Casey Crosby, SP, Detroit Tigers—Crosby is a really intriguing prospect and is probably the biggest mover and shaker on this list since the start of the season. 

Crosby has been ridiculous this season, striking out 117 batters in 104 innings, while maintaining a 2.41 ERA. In fact, over his last 10 games, Crosby has an 0.78 ERA, throwing seven shutouts and two no-hitters in that span.

Crosby is the crown jewel of a talent starved Tigers’ system and his continued development will help to define how an aging Detroit club will fare in the future.

16. Jason Knapp, SP, Cleveland Indians—In three deadline deals this season, the Indians acquired nine talented young players that they hope can turn their fortunes around in upcoming years. 

The player with the most talent and potential from this group is righthander Jason Knapp. Knapp will be joined by several of the other players acquired in those deals later on this list.

Knapp has electric stuff but has somewhat struggled to harness it. He is believed to have 100 mph upside on his fastball and has struck out a ridiculous 118 batters in 91 innings. 

Knapp is still just 18 and will learn to pitch instead of just throw as he progresses through the Indians system.

17. Ben Revere, OF, Minnesota Twins—Revere led the minors in batting average in 2008, hitting an astounding .379.  He has come back down to earth in 2009, but is still hitting .303 at advanced class A. 

Revere is probably the Twins best prospect but is competing in a crowded system for outfielders. Revere will have to compete with Aaron Hicks, Rene Tosoni, Joe Benson and Angle Morales—and the guys already in the majors—for playing time. 

Revere will travel as far as his bat can take him as he projects as a really good BA player.  With little power and decent defense, Revere will have to rely on his speed to help him in the outfield and on the base paths. 

A weak Twins system is relying on Revere to utilize his speed and his bat to give the organization a future star.

18. Martin Perez, SP, Texas Rangers—Perez represents the third cog in the Rangers’ future dynamic rotation, joining Derek Holland and Neftali Feliz. 

Perez is 18 years old and has already reached double A, with most players at that level being in their early 20's. “The Venezuelan Gator” was signed for $580,000 as a 16-year-old and has moved very quickly through the Rangers system. 

Perez has a 2.31 ERA and has struck out 105 batters in 93 innings. The Rangers have promoted him very aggressively thus far, so don’t be surprised if you see a 19-year-old Perez in the big leagues next year.

19. Matt Moore, SP, Tampa Bay Rays—Moore has been very impressive this season and many could argue that he belongs higher up on this list.  I believe that this is an appropriate place for him until he proves that he can maintain this elite level of play for more than one season. 

The big lefty has been dominating single A ball this year, striking out 156 batters in only 110 innings.  Moore has a 2.68 ERA on the year, but has been even better lately, going 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA in his last 10 starts. 

Moore is still only 20 so he won’t be in Tampa Bay any time soon, but once he gets there, the Rays will have the distinct advantage of having two dynamic and talented young lefties in Moore and David Price.

20. Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays—Jennings was one of the Rays top prospects going into the 2008 season, but poor play definitely soured the organization on him. 

Under pressure to perform this year, Jennings responded with a big bounce-back season thus far. 

Jennings has one unbelievable tool—speed—and he has utilized it well in his rise through the minors. Jennings is an excellent fielder and a real danger on the base paths. 

This season Jennings has 45 stolen bases while only being caught 7 times. 

The issue with him has always been whether his bat would play at a major league level.  Jennings has answered those questions this year, hitting .316 with a surprising 10 home runs. 

With Pat Burrell, Matt Joyce and Gabe Gross not being the answer for the Rays in right field, it shouldn’t be too long until Jennings joins Crawford and Upton in the fastest outfield in the league.

21. Zach McAllister, SP, New York Yankees—McAllister, a third round pick in 2006, came out of nowhere last season to post a 2.09 ERA in two levels of A ball.  Brushed off as fluke, McAllister has maintained a high level of play this year with a similar 2.13 ERA, this time at the double A level. 

Without any spectacular pitch, McAllister gets by with four solid pitches as well as intelligence and savvy.  A pure ground-ball pitcher, McAllister has only given up three home runs this season, after only surrendering six last season. 

McAllister projects as a top of the rotation starter for the Yankees or a potential attractive trade piece.

22. Lars Anderson, 1B, Boston Red Sox—Anderson has been an unbelievable disappointment this year for a talent starved Red Sox system. Only four months ago, scores of Red Sox faithful were salivating at the prospect of having this guy in the middle of their lineup for years to come. 

A lot has changed in four months. 

After a 2008 season where Anderson hit .317 with a .417 OBP and 18 home runs, ending the year in double A, he failed to come anywhere near those numbers in 2009.  Still in double A, Anderson has struggled to a .239 batting average with a .690 OPS. 

Anderson has also lost any semblance of the power he demonstrated previously, with only eight home runs in 389 at bats. 

He is still only 21 so he still has plenty of time to prove he belongs in the major leagues. How Anderson is able to bounce back from a rough 2009 will show whether he can be successful in the big leagues.

23. Chris Carter, 1B, Oakland Athletics—Carter is only 22 years old, yet has somehow already been traded three times in his short career.  Carter is the star of an A’s system that has been ravaged by promotions. 

Carter was acquired by the A’s from the Diamondbacks in the Dan Haren deal and has quickly made an impression of the front office. The A’s will most certainly not trade him as he is the perfect prospect for a power starved organization. 

The past two years Carter has hit 27 ad 32 home runs, respectively.  This season, Carter has already swatted 23 home runs, while hitting .333 with a .433 OBP. 

Carter and Brett Wallace provide the A’s with their corner infielders of the future and should be the power bats that Oakland has lacked in the lineup for the past several years.

24.    Jermey Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays and 25. Jake Arrieta, SP, Baltimore Orioles—Arrieta and Hellickson are very similar prospects and are thus grouped together on this list. 

They are both the third best pitching prospects in their respective organizations with Arrieta behind Tillman and Matusz, and Hellickson behind Davis and Moore. Both players are mired in triple A, putting up good, but not great numbers. 

Many lists would have these two guys significantly higher, but I personally believe that they are destined to be middle rotation pitchers rather than aces. 

Hellickson has been the better of the two, posting a 3.31 ERA at triple A this season, while Arrieta has a 3.54 ERA over two minor league levels.  Arrieta is 23 and Hellickson is 22 and both should get a chance to help bolster their teams’ rotations at some point in 2010. 

By no means sleep on either of these two players, as they both project as good major leaguers, but when it comes to ace upside, they are lacking.

The Next 25:

26.     Dustin Ackley, 1B, Seattle Mariners

27.     Nick Hagadone, SP, Cleveland Indians

28.     Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins

29.    Michael Inoa, SP, Oakland Athletics

30.    Jacob Turner, SP, Detroit Tigers

31.    Julio Borbon, OF, Texas Rangers

32.    Phillippe Aumont, SP, Seattle Mariners

33.    Carlos Triunfel, SS, Seattle Mariners

34.    Michael Bowden, SP, Boston Red Sox

35.    Tyler Flowers, C, Chicago White Sox

36.    Cody Satterwhite, SP, Detroit Tigers

37.    Michael Saunders, OF, Seattle Mariners

38.    Lonnie Chisenhall, 2B, Cleveland Indians

39.    J.P. Arencibia, C, Toronto Blue Jays

40.    Greg Halman, OF, Seattle Mariners

41.    Carlos Carrasco, SP, Cleveland Indians

42.    Hank Conger, C, Los Angeles Angels

43.    Danny Duffy, SP, Kansas City Royals

44.    Peter Bourjos, OF, Los Angeles Angels

45.    Junichi Tazawa, SP, Boston Red Sox

46.    Aaron Cunningham, OF, Oakland Athletics

47.    Daniel Bard, RP, Boston Red Sox

48.    Nick Barnese, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

49.    Mark Melancon, RP, New York Yankees

50.    Jess Todd, RP, Cleveland Indians



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