Believe it or not, despite a batting average over .300, albeit in a truncated Major League demonstration, slick-fielding shortstop Alcides Escobar actually fell three spots from 2009's list.
This drop also came after Escobar won the batting title in the Venezuela League this winter. Escobar practically sprayed the ball all over South America while posting a .393 batting average. He added an on-base percentage of .440, which was good for fifth in the league.
Add in his 16 steals (third in the league), and it becomes quite evident that Escobar was busy displaying all of his tools this winter.
This offseason, Doug Melvin cleared the way for Escobar to seize the starting shortstop job when J.J. Hardy was traded to the Minnesota Twins for new starting centerfielder Carlos Gomez.
Hardy had a terrible season in 2009, even earning a demotion to the minors for a brief stay. The end result was Hardy being jettisoned to Milwaukee's interleague "regional" rival and Escobar assuming the role of the Next Big Thing.
By all accounts a stellar defender, Escobar's bat definitely took longer to be considered ready for the big leagues. In fact, some people still don't think it's quite ready and that Escobar may only accumulate a .260/.300/.350 type of line.
Let's just say I hope those naysayers out there have a decent recipe for crow.
Prediction: Obviously, Escobar will be filled in as position No. 6 on manager Ken Macha's Opening Day lineup card. Where he'll hit in the order is a bit of a mystery for now, however.
With the teammates that make up the rest of the order, Escobar really has the chance to be hitting in one of four spots in the order to begin 2010. Those spots are two, six, seven, or eight.
I personally believe that Escobar will eventually settle in to either one or two, but that might take some time, especially given Macha's propensity for letting young guys gain experience by batting lower in the lineup.
Escobar's best chance to start the year off in the two-hole would be to follow the Casey McGehee blueprint of tearing the cover off the ball all spring long. Even still, I expect Macha to slot Escobar in at No. 7 to begin the regular season.
As far as his long-term prospects? Shortstop is the latest rockstar position in the majors, and Escobar could fit right in with the game's best if he reaches the potential that scout after scout has seen in him.
Do I see Escobar's No. 21 hanging underneath the track of Miller Park's retractable roof next to Nos. 19 and 4?
Not yet, but winning a Rookie of the Year Award in 2010 would be a good way to begin changing my mind.