I'm not an East Coast guy and never will be.
But I do have a pretty decent eye for young talent, and the AL "Beast" is right up there with any division with the number of blue-chip prospects just biding their time for a chance to prove themselves.
The Adrian Gonzalez trade sent some darn good prospects west to San Diego (my favorite city) while the Matt Garza swap funneled some right back east to the division.
Hopefully, no one will trade any more prospects before I finish writing this.
You may or may not agree with the players I've chosen or where I've slotted them. The only thing that really matters is what the players do when they get their shot. At that point all of this ranking becomes irrelevant. Some of these players could even prove me right or wrong this season.
I look forward to seeing how it all turns out.
One final note: Several players were purposely left off the list for one reason or another. I didn't have enough information on Josh Sale to accurately gauge where he might fit in this ranking. Also, Anthony Ranaudo was left off because we have yet to see him healthy and pitching in pro ball.
Alex Colome has it.
He has the skills to be a successful major league starting pitcher. Now all he has to do is put it all together. Stupidly enough, he is only the Rays' fifth best pitching prospect. He would be No. 1 or 2 for a lot of teams.
Last season Colome put up some solid numbers. His ERA was a bit high at 3.89, but he struck out 126 in 118 IP. His biggest problem was that he gave up 14 HR. If he could cut that down, it would make him that much better.
Look for him to build on last years' numbers and take that next step to Double-A.
Justin O'Conner is so young that this was my only choice for a picture of him, but he is an advanced hitter for an 18-year-old.
His stint in rookie ball was unimpressive, unless you consider he changed positions from SS to C, which is even more difficult than it sounds.
Coming out of high school, scouts differed on his position. Some viewed him as a P, while others considered him a SS, a C or even 3B.
He has an extremely strong arm (35% CS), but lacks range on the infield. That was one reason for his switch behind the plate.
O'Conner's experience as a pitcher could make the transition to C a bit easier as far as his thought processes and handling a pitching staff.
He has a short stroke and raw power to all fields. He is clearly still learning the nuances of catching, but he seems committed to it and has the athletic ability to make the transition.
Look for his batting numbers to greatly improve this year as he won't have to be so focused on learning everything about the catching position.
With the lack of good hitting catchers today, O'Conner could find himself fast-tracked to Tampa if he can prove his catching to be at least average.
I'll be honest. I don't see anything that really jumps out at me from Stewart's stat sheet. It seems clear that the Blue Jays aren't really sure where he belongs, either.
The majority of his innings had come in a relief role until last year. The Jays decided to "demote" him to Double-A and give him 26 starts. He was not impressive.
As a reliever, his ERA's in 2008 and 2009 were 1.09 and 1.89, respectively. Last year as a starter, it went up to 3.63. His future is in the bullpen and the sooner the Blue Jays realize that, the better off Stewart and the team will be.
Stewart has two good pitches—a fastball and a slider—that would be ideal for a prominent bullpen role. There is always a need for guys like that especially if they can be consistent.
I have little reason to believe Stewart wouldn't excel in that role.
While not much jumps out at you on paper, Jose Iglesias will have a very nice career in the majors.
He doesn't have the flash of a lot of other prospects, but he has the intangibles.
Iglesias has a line-drive swing and should hit for a high average (.295 in 2010). His power to the gaps could still develop as well.
His defense should get you to take notice right from the start, and it will carry him a long way. He just turned 21 and has had only one partial season in the minors.
He needs to improve his plate discipline to bring his somewhat meager OBP (.339) up. He should be one of those players that won't necessarily fill the stat sheet, but will prove invaluable to a successful major league club.
That's one simple word to describe Aaron Sanchez. He's just 18 now and got his very first taste of professional baseball at age 17.
He won't be the first or the last youngster on this list. I try not to discriminate based on age. Isn't that against the law anyway?
I'll be honest. Sanchez' numbers from 2010 are a bit odd. He had an ERA of 2.16, which is obviously pretty darn good. On the other hand, his WHIP was 1.600.
He did maintain a phenomenal strikeout rate of 13.3/9. He also had a tendency to induce a lot of ground balls, which is good no matter where you're pitching.
Sanchez should get a full year's work at Single-A in 2011. I have a feeling his numbers won't be "odd" this year, but just plain sick.
Britton, a 23rd-round draft pick in 2007, has emerged as a solid prospect.
Even though he's already been in the Red Sox organization for three seasons, 2010 was the first time he had any type of consistent workload, starting 21 games. In those 21 games, he didn't disappoint.
He finished the season with a 2.97 ERA and struck out 78 in 75.2 innings. His biggest area of improvement came with his walks. In 2010 he only allowed 2.7 BB/9, while in 2009 it was 5.4 BB/9. He cut it in half.
As he gets more innings in 2011, we shall see if he'll continue as a starter or if the Sox contemplate a move to the bullpen.
This guy has been so good, I'm not sure why his name hasn't been right up there with all the other Yankees' pitching prospects.
If you haven't heard of him, please take some notes. He'll be making some noise in New York sooner rather than later.
Instead of giving you his stats from a really good 2010 season, I want you to see just how good he's been over five minor league seasons.
78 G (59 GS), 3.16 ERA, 353 IP, 317 H, 62 BB, 348 K, 1.074 WHIP
Only 62 walks in 353 innings or 1.6 BB/9. That's absurd. A WHIP like that over a five-year period is practically unprecedented.
I wouldn't want to be the rest of the AL East when he takes it every five days.
Arencibia is at the older end of the prospect continuum at age 25, but he still has plenty to offer.
He played in 11 games for the Jays in 2010 following a huge season at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he hit 32 bombs with a .986 OPS.
This guy almost never walks leading to a poor OBP. That doesn't bode well when he'll be seeing AL East pitching each and every night.
Another issue with Arencibia is his defense. His opponent CS percentage has gone down each of the last three seasons.
Just try throwing out Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner. I don't see it happening too often from his arm.
At the very least, his bat should buy him some at-bats at DH. A move to 1B in the near future could be another possibility.
As with most of the Rays pitching prospects, McGee has been quite good in the minors. His 2010 season was especially impressive, even though he made 20 starts. It looks as if his place for the Rays' will be in their bullpen.
With all the other Rays' starting pitchers on this list alone, the place he will be able to have an impact this season is out of the pen.
The Rays' have a ton of confidence in him, and it looks as if they will be installing him as their closer. Now THAT impresses me.
Closing out games in Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park is a tall order.
Good thing McGee is 6' 3".
There isn't a lot of data as of yet on this guy. I'd spell his last name, but it would probably take me an hour to write this blurb. He was drafted 41st overall in the 2010 draft and has prototypical size and obviously had a successful college career.
The only pro numbers we have to go by are three starts in the New York-Penn League.
12 IP, 0.75 ERA, 6 H, 4 BB, 0.833 WHIP
I probably like this guy better than a lot of people. Maybe it's my fondness for names spelled like that. I'm not sure. I am really looking forward to following his progress this summer.
Yes, another Tampa Bay pitcher on this list.
How in the world do they keep finding pitchers that are actually good?
It seems like they are one of the only teams that consistently finds pitchers that pan out.
Enny Romero is on this list for a reason. He is really good.
He started his pro career at age 17. Last season between the Rookie league and Low-A, he put up some very nice numbers.
14 GS, 1.94 ERA, 74.1 IP, 52 H, 19 BB, 76 K, 0.955 WHIP and 4.0 K/BB
His numbers are so good, I want to throw up. Maybe one of our teams will be lucky enough to trade for him someday.
The Blue Jays are stocked with catching prospects. The youngest of the group, Carlos Perez, may be the best all-around player.
He began his career at the age of 17, and by 19, he had already played in 167 games in the Blue Jays' organization.
So far, he carries a .299 career BA, but that's leaving out the best part. He doesn't strike out. He has only struck out 92 times in 698 PA.
His slugging isn't quite where you'd like it just yet, but he is only 20.
It's rare to find a catcher at his age that is as good as he is defensively. So far, he has a CS of 38 percent. It's very good, but I'm sure he'll tell you there is always room for improvement.
Betances, a Bronx native, is an imposing presence at 6'8".
I'd kind of like to see him and Andrew Brackman go one-on-one out on the basketball court.
It has to be a lifelong dream of his to step on the mound at Yankee Stadium and throw that first pitch.
Betances just dominated his competition during the 2010 season. Between High-A and Double-A, he put up some staggering numbers:
17 GS, 2.11 ERA, 85.1 IP, 53 H, 22 BB, 108 K, 0.879 WHIP
The ONLY reason I do not have him higher on this list is that his previous seasons did not show that kind of dominance. If he has a similar season in 2011, he'll jump to the top of the list.
Okay, if you want people to call you Deck, you'd better be able pound anyone that makes fun of you.
In this case, I don't think you need to worry about that. McGuire is big, strong and looks like a beast.
He has good command of three pitches and rarely hurts himself giving up walks.
Even though he has those three pitches, none of the three is a consistent "out" pitch. He needs to develop one of them as his go-to pitch when he needs a big out.
The odds are he won't become anyone's ace down the line, but he should be a consistent and successful starter somewhere in the middle of the rotation.
If he is able to develop one of those pitches, the sky could be the limit.
Yes, Manny Banuelos almost qualifies as a member of the Lollipop Guild.
If I could pitch like him, it certainly wouldn't matter to me.
He's a youngster still (19), so maybe he's not done growing.
Okay, all kidding aside, the guy is like a velociraptor. He's small, but he won't hesitate to tear your heart out.
He started pitching in the Yankees' organization at the age of 17, so 2010 was already his third year in pro ball. He started 15 games at three different levels. Overall, Banuelos finished with a 2.51 ERA, 85 K in 64.2 IP and a WHIP of 1.222.
The Yankees have been careful with him as far as the number of IP. They should let him loose this year to pitch deeper into games. I'm very interested to see if he can take his game to another level.
These Rays' front office people are downright amazing. Not only do they draft amazingly well, but they can pull off trades like the one for Chris Archer.
They gave up Matt Garza who I love, but Archer immediately becomes a top 10 prospect in the AL East.
By my count, the Rays have seven of the top 25 prospects. That's just ludicrous.
Now that Archer is in Tampa, there will be no need to rush him to the majors.
He was flat-out dominant in 2010 as the Cubs' Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He finished the season at 15-3 with an ERA of 2.34.
The only real negative to his game is his spotty command, but he did improve over the previous two years.
Archer has a solid three-pitch repertoire, which is unusual for a pitcher his age. That certainly bodes well for his future.
I see him splitting this year between Double-A and Triple-A and most of the year in 2012 in Triple-A. That's when I expect him to be ready to make a real splash.
Sanchez is one of two Yankees catchers to make this list. Even though he is the lower ranked of the two, he is the better "true" catcher in that he is very good defensively.
He just turned 18 in December, so he's still a baby, so to speak.
In 47 games last season at age 17, Sanchez hit .329 with .393 OBP and .936 OPS. Not bad for basically what amounts to a high school senior.
He seems to have just about everything you might want in a catcher. We'll see how he develops, but purely as a prospect, the sky is the limit.
Brett Lawrie was drafted as a catcher by the Milwaukee Brewers and was moved to second base, partly at his own request. He was the top prospect in the organization and was moved along quickly through the system.
And then, he was a Blue Jay.
In a rare transaction the Blue Jays traded SP Shaun Marcum to the Brewers for Lawrie straight-up.
Last season Lawrie was a 20-year-old starting at 2B at Double-A Huntsville in the Southern League. He was one of the younger players in the league and more than held his own.
He pounded out 60 XBH including 36 2B and 16 3B as well as 30 SB.
He still needs work on his plate discipline, and he's a work in progress defensively committing 25 errors. He could end up as a corner OF.
A couple character issues have come up with Lawrie. Reportedly he got into a fight with one of his teammates in the clubhouse, and he posted some "party" pictures online that were not flattering, to say the least.
He's still a bit immature, but he's got talent oozing out of him.
I heard somewhere recently that the Rays are considering having Jennings start the season in Triple-A. I only have one word in response to that...why?
There is absolutely nothing more this kid can learn in the minors. It's possible whoever said that was a member of the Pirates front office because as we all know, they don't have a clue.
The powers that be in Tampa are smarter than that.
Desmond Jennings is a couple of things. He is bona fide run-scorer, and he is real pest on the bases as he almost never gets caught stealing. He hits for a high average, doesn't strike out much and has a stellar OBP.
He's finally going to get his turn to show the AL East exactly what he can do. He's not Carl Crawford, but he is darn good.
Before I say anything else, I want to say that putting Machado this high may be a bit of a stretch. After all, he has only played in a total nine games in Rookie ball and Low-A combined.
Those games were all played at the age of 17.
It's obvious to see this guy is a really good hitter and should hit for a high average.
He is also probably the best defensive infielder in the organization, the Orioles included. That's not a stretch.
On top of those two important skills, it's easy to see that Machado is going to be something really special.
Ready or not, AL East, here Kyle Drabek comes.
All signs point to Drabek being a fixture at the back end of the Blue Jays starting rotation from day one of the 2011 season.
They didn't trade Shaun Marcum to let Drabek sit in Triple-A. Eventually he should find himself at the top of the rotation.
Over the past two seasons, Drabek has logged 320 innings pitched. That stat will get Drabek labeled as a workhorse, but I believe he's much more than that.
Even though he walks a few more hitters than you would like, he is able to limit the number of hits allowed.
If he can develop a consistently good third pitch, it is possible he can become the Blue Jays' staff ace.
Zach is ready for the big time. I have absolutely no doubt about that. I can't see a way that Britton will not be in the Orioles' starting rotation come Opening Day 2011.
Britton has thrown over 140 IP in three separate seasons in the minors.
He's a horse and he's durable. He's not really a strikeout pitcher, but he gets people out regardless.
He's shown very good command of his pitches and induces ground balls at a high rate, which is extremely beneficial when pitching in Camden Yards.
As a left-hander, he matches up especially well against the Red Sox line-up. He's probably the first Orioles pitcher I can say that about since Mike Mussina. YES! Mussina pitched for Baltimore.
If you didn't know that, you're probably too young to drink.
He's only 21, but he has moved steadily up the ladder in the Yankee's system.
By signing Russell Martin, New York's front office is clearly saying they do not believe Montero is ready for the big time, yet.
I'm sure they see what most everyone else sees, and he will be in the Bronx sooner rather than later.
His batting average and OBP went down last year at Triple-A, but I expect those numbers to come right back up to his career minor league numbers of .314 BA and .371 OBP.
The biggest question surrounding Montero is where he's going to play. He's a catcher at the moment, but many scouts would characterize his skills behind the as average at best.
So far in his minor league career, he has only had a CS of 23 percent. That will only go down when he is promoted. Some think his best bets are 1B or a corner OF spot.
Jeremy Hellickson got a fabulous late Christmas present from the Rays.
Trading Matt Garza basically assures Hellickson a spot in the Rays' starting rotation.
The funny thing is that the Rays also got back Chris Archer from the Cubs, who immediately becomes a top-10 prospect in the division as well.
There is nothing more for Hellickson to prove anywhere but in the majors. He made his time on the farm look easy.
He will be tested game in and game out in the East, however. I believe he is up for that challenge. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do against the very best MLB has to offer.
I was this close to not making him No. 1.
Then I looked at his ridiculous numbers again. He belongs right here where he is. I have absolutely no doubt about that.
He's 21 and won't be rushed to the majors like Archer and all the rest. They have no need to rush anyone.
If Moore keeps pitching like he has, he'll in effect rush himself to Tampa.
Okay, take a look at last seasons numbers at High-A Charlotte in the Florida State League:
144.2 IP, 109 H, 61 BB, 208 K, 1.177 WHIP
His numbers the previous season were similar. He should start the 2011 season in Double-A with a possible promotion to Triple-A by season's end.
If you're a hitter in the AL East, you should already be scouting Moore. He's that good.