2011 MLB Predictions: When Will Top MLB Prospects Reach the Majors?
June 4th, 2002.
That was the date that Kansas City Royals minor-league slugger Kila Ka'aihue was drafted. Little did he know at the time that nearly 1,000 minor league games, nearly 5,000 at-bats, and 154 homers wouldn't be enough to secure his spot on an Opening Day roster.
Ka'aihue has yet to get his chance to stick with the Royals big-league club, despite two cups of coffee, one in 2008 and the other last season.
June 9th, 2009.
That's the date the Atlanta Braves tabbed lefty Mike Minor with their first pick, and the 7th overall, in that year's draft. A little more than one year passed before Minor found himself making his big-league debut with the Braves, and now Minor is a serious competitor for the fifth starting spot in Atlanta's rotation.
What's the difference between the two players?
Well, a few things are to blame for Minor getting his chance to stick, and Ka'aihue not being given the same luxury.
First, their age. Minor was drafted out of college, and was already 21 when the Braves tabbed him in the first-round. Ka'aihue was drafted as an 18-year-old and spent his first three seasons below High-A ball.
Second, need. Minor was able to rise so quickly through the Braves system because he not only pitched well, but also because as the Braves' season wound down, injuries depleted their roster and rotation, allowing Minor to rise even quicker and ascend to a rotation spot to end the year. The Royals, on the other hand, have preferred veterans to inexperienced minor-leaguers, and have, for the most part, had another talented (somewhat) player occupying first base and DH.
Third, organizational philosophy. For a few seasons now, the Braves have shown the willingness to promote their prospects aggressively, giving them the chance to test themselves regularly against the best available competition. The Royals have done so to a similar extent, but have also allowed most of their prospects to make a gradual progression through their system. Ka'aihue, for example, played at every Kansas City affiliate in his time with the organization.
And last but not least, prospect status. Minor was tabbed as one of the most polished lefties to come out of the draft in years, in 2009. Everyone knew he wasn't going to be pitching in the minors for that long. Ka'aihue was drafted in Round 15, basically a flier on a player who would need a ton of minor-league seasoning. Minor has ranked in Baseball America's top-100 twice in two seasons now. Ka'aihue has zero appearances in nine opportunities.
All of these factors come into play when deciding when and where a top prospect should make his big-league debut. And even more factors have to be considered when deciding when a top player should be advanced to the majors for good.
With that in mind, here are the top-35 prospects in the game, according to MiLB.com's 2011 preseason rankings, and my estimated time of arrival (long-term) for them in the big-leagues.
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
You know Trout is good if he is consistently ranked ahead of Bryce "the LeBron James of baseball" Harper.
It might have something to do with the fact that he has amazing speed (56 steals in 131 games last season), a sensational ability to hit for average (career .344 hitter), burgeoning power (10 HR and 58 RBI in 2010), and an incredible eye at the plate (95-to-119 career BB-to-K rate).
Trout is the crown jewel of the Angels system, and he's a relatively quick mover. He played all of 2010 as an 18-year-old, and this year he'll be 19 and spend the majority of his season in Double-A.
If he continues to show all of his tools consistently in 2011, he could be up in Anaheim by the end of 2012.
My guess is the Angels will give him his first shot then, and he'll become a outfield regular by 2013.
2. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays
Hellickson showed that he was more than capable of holding his own in the big leagues, winning four games in his first 10 appearances, including six out of the bullpen.
He posted a 33-to-8 K-to-BB ratio in 36.1 innings and finished the year with a 3.47 ERA, on top of the sensational season he had for the Rays Triple-A affiliate (12-3, 2.72 ERA, 127 K in 119.1 IP).
Hellickson appeared destined to follow a path similar to David Price, who served his time in the minors because there wasn't any room in the big-league rotation. That plan changed, however, when the Rays traded Matt Garza to the Cubs for some minor-league prospects. That opened up a door for the 23-year-old right-hander, and from all accounts, the job appears to be his.
With above-average velocity and great stuff, Hellickson shouldn't have any problem showing the same effectiveness he did in 2010.
3. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals
Harper was the darling of the 2010 draft and the Nats swooped in and made him their second consecutive number-one overall pick.
Now the clock is ticking, and if you believe Harper, who has set an ETA of late 2011, it won't be ticking for that long.
Granted, Harper will likely move fast through the minors. He's an incredibly advanced hitter with possibly the best power in the minor leagues. But, he is still just 18 years old, and hasn't had a sniff of pro ball.
Harper is going to start the 2011 season in the South Atlantic League and the Nats will most likely let his progression in all aspects of his game determine how quickly he moves.
I think he'll take a more conservative climb through the minors, culminating in a late 2012 call-up, with him becoming a lineup fixture by 2013.
4. Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Whether you think Brown is destined for the Hall of Fame, like some fans seem to think, this much is sure: he will be the Phillies' Opening Day outfielder.
The coaching staff has pretty much conceded that fact.
Now, it's Brown's task to make Philly fans forget all about Jayson Werth, who despite his quirks, was one of the Phils best players over the past three seasons.
Brown has all the tools, including great power, solid speed and a good eye at the plate. He's also an exceptional fielder and a great athlete.
Given time, he'll iron out the kinks in his swing and should emerge as one of the top N.L. Rookie of the Year candidates.
5. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners
ETA: late 2011
Despite a really rough start to the 2010 season, Ackley rebounded in a big way and fought his way up to Triple-A in his first professional season, proving everyone correct that he was the most polished bat in the 2009 MLB Draft.
Combining excellent hitting skills and technique with a great eye at the plate (75-to-79 BB-to-K ratio), Ackley is close to being a five-tool talent. His speed is decent and his defensive ability, whether it's at second base or in the outfield, is at least average and will only get better as he gets more reps at his position.
The Mariners are hurting for big-name, high-ceiling players, and they should see two of them graduate to the big leagues in 2011, starting with Michael Pineda and ending with Ackley in September.
6. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Filling a variety of roles, Chapman blazed through the minors in just one season, posting ridiculous strikeout numbers and ridiculously low opponents' averages.
He got the call to the big leagues in August and blew everyone away, including the radar guns, throwing the fastest pitch ever recorded. He finished his short stint with 19 strikeouts in 13 innings and a 2.03 ERA in 15 appearances.
Chapman performed well enough to earn praise from Dusty Baker, who insists that the 22-year-old fireballer will be a part of the Reds Opening Day roster and could fill a variety or roles for the big-league squad if need requires it.
7. Mike Moustakas, 3B, Kansas City Royals
ETA: late 2011
The "Moose" had a fantastic season in 2010 and has primed himself for a run at the majors in late 2011.
The former second-overall pick bashed his way through Double- and Triple-A last season, racking up 41 doubles, 36 homers, 94 runs and 124 RBI in only 118 games. He also only struck out 67 times in 534 at-bats, showing consistent ability to make solid contact.
Moose used to just be thought of as a power guy, but his hitting ability really improved in 2010. He hit .347 in 66 contests in Double-A, and then hovered around .300 for his last 52 games in Triple-A.
And while Moustakas isn't he most graceful at third base (back-to-back 20-plus error seasons), he's at least experienced enough there to make the regular plays and throws.
Moustakas will start the year in Triple-A, but the way he's hitting these days, he won't be there for long.
8. Eric Hosmer, 1B/OF, Kansas City Royals
Hosmer is another talented Royals hitter, who would probably rank No. 1 in most other organizations.
Instead, he's had to settle for playing second fiddle to Moustakas, but that doesn't mean he hasn't quietly been putting up amazing numbers.
Hosmer blew through High-A and Double-A last season, posting averages above .300 at both stops. He finished the season with a .338 average, 43 doubles, nine triples, 20 homers and 86 RBI. He too, posted an incredible BB-to-K ratio, and even showed some sneaky speed on the basepaths (14 steals).
Even if Hosmer doesn't start the season in Triple-A, that's where he'll spend the bulk of his 2010 season with a chance for a late-season call-up.
9. Jesus Montero, C/DH, New York Yankees
If Montero were at least serviceable behind the plate, he would have been New York's starting catcher headed into this season.
Instead, he's pretty much regarded as one of the worst defensive catchers in the system, which means he'll have to settle for splitting time between catcher, first base and DH in 2011. But, at least he should be doing all of that with the the big-league club, who is surprisingly sold on a homegrown player.
It helps that Montero has one of the best bats in the minors, one that has racked up three consecutive 17-plus home runs, 70-plus RBI seasons. He's also shown an incredible ability to hit for a high average, posting a .314 career average in over 1,500 minor league at-bats.
He also has great plate discipline and a solid batting eye.
Montero should start and finish the season in the big leagues. The only question will be about what his long-term position with the club should be.
10. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta Braves
Teheran is arguably the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues.
He combines mid-to-high 90s heat with two sensational secondary offerings. He also gets results.
Last season, the diminutive (6'2" 150 lbs) right-hander blew through Braves affiliates, pitching across three levels, posting impressive numbers everywhere he went. He ended the season as one of the youngest pitchers in Double-A, striking out 38 in 40 innings and posting a 3.38 ERA in seven starts.
Teheran should begin 2011 back in Double-A, but will most likely split time between Mississippi and Gwinnett, with an outside chance at making his big-league debut in late September.
Whatever the path, he should be on target to lock down a rotation spot by 2012.
11. Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays
Despite playing very little, and playing, for the most part, very poorly, Jennings got in some invaluable playing experience last season as the Rays tried to wrap up an A.L. East crown.
That should benefit him as he looks to challenge for an outfield spot on the Rays 2011 Opening Day roster. His path got a little more challenging when the Rays inked Johnny Damon to a deal last week, but he is a legitimate five-tool player and Damon will play the entire 2011 season at 37 years old, so something tells me Jennings will get plenty of chances in 2011.
With two injury-prone outfielders in Damon and Manny Ramirez, I think Jennings will probably get his chance around mid-season and he'll show enough to stick around for the remainder of the season.
Jennings has great speed, a solid bat and excellent plate discipline.
He's a franchise cornerstone that just might make Rays fans forget all about Carl Crawford.
12. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Toronto Blue Jays
Drabek looked solid in three late-season starts for the Blue Jays, striking out 12 in 17 innings and posting a 4.76 ERA.
Those numbers look even better when you consider that two of those games came against Toronto's division rivals, Baltimore and New York. Drabek was saddled with the loss in all three games, but in each he gave up only three runs and got very little run support from his own offense.
He should get multiple chances for revenge as he will most likely pitch the majority of the 2011 season in the majors. He's currently in a four-way battle for one of two rotation spots that's still open for the Jays, meaning he's a good bet to break camp with the big-league club.
Even if he doesn't he's only a phone call away, and with the rate that pitchers succumb to injury, he'll get his chance soon enough.
13. Michael Pineda, RHP, Seattle Mariners
Many were surprised that the M's didn't give Pineda a chance late last season.
After all, the 22-year-old had hands down the best season of any pitcher in their system, posting an 11-4 record, a 3.36 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 139.1 innings. He did his damage over two levels, ending the year in Triple-A and priming himself for a run at a rotation spot in 2011.
The Mariners have no shortage of potential candidates for their vacant rotation spots, but Pineda definitely offers the most intrigue, not to mention the highest ceiling.
He's big (6'5" 245 lbs), throws hard (mid-90s) and has proven himself as a dominant presence in the minors.
Even if he doesn't break camp with the M's, he'll be up for good at some point during the 2011 season.
14. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Kansas City Royals
ETA: late 2012
Montgomery has arguably the highest ceiling of any of the Royals talented quintet of pitching prospects.
The lanky lefty throws in the low-to-mid 90s and compliments the pitch with an above-average changeup. The combination of the two pitches has been enough to dominate hitters at each level he's pitched.
In 2010, he split time between High-A and Double-A, with a short hiatus due to injury. He went a combined 7-5 with a 2.61 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 93.1 innings.
Injury and stamina have to be considered when thinking about the kind of impact Montgomery will make as a big-leaguer. He has yet to pitch more than 110 innings as a pro and hasn't shown the ability to pitch deep into games.
Staying healthy and building his stamina will be keys to his 2011 season, and if he continues to pitch well, the Royals could find a use for him sometime during the 2012 season.
15. Jacob Turner, RHP, Detroit Tigers
Like Rick Porcello before him, the Tigers have been very aggressive with former first-round pick Jacob Turner.
He's only 19 years old and has already pitched his way through Low- and High-A, and will most likely spend the majority of the 2011 season in Double-A.
It's not like he hasn't earned it with his performance though. In 24 combined outings last season, Turner went 6-5 with a 3.28 ERA and a 102-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 115.1 innings. He was particularly hard to hit in High-A, allowing only 53 hits in 61.1 innings.
Like most top-notch pitching prospects, Turner features mid-to-high 90s heat and compliments it with a potential above-average curveball. He's still working on a changeup, and that pitch will be crucial to his development at the upper levels of the minors.
There's an outside chance that Turner makes his debut late this season, but I think the Tigers will cool their jets on him and allow him to progress more slowly than Porcello.
16. Wil Myers, OF, Kansas City Royals
ETA: late 2012
The Royals removed the biggest obstacle in Myers path to the majors when they decided last fall to move the one-time catcher to the outfield to speed up his path to K.C.
Now a full-time corner outfielder, Myers can let his bat decide when he makes his debut, and if he continues to perform like he did last season he'll be in the big leagues in no time.
Myers was one of the top hitters in the minors last season, hitting .346 as a 19-year-old in High-A ball. He finished the season with a combined .315 average, 37 doubles, 14 homers and 83 RBI. His approach at the plate was excellent and it showed in his 85-to-94 BB-to-K ratio.
Moving Myers to the outfield, where just about everyone thinks he has the athletic ability to be above average defensively, will allow Myers to concentrate on hitting, and just imagine what he can do now that he doesn't have to worry about calling pitches, planning a game and getting up off his knees 100-plus times per game.
Myers should spend the majority of his 2011 season at Double-A.
17. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freeman is the best all-around first baseman in the minor leagues, but he won't hold that title much longer.
The 21-year-old is penciled in as the Braves Opening Day first baseman, joining Jason Heyward in the big leagues and forming one of the most impressive young cornerstone duos in the big leagues.
Not only does Freeman have a great bat (.301 career average), decent power (18 HR in 2008 and 2010) and solid plate discipline, but he's also arguably the best defensive first baseman in the minors.
He has great footwork around the bag, a great arm and very soft hands.
He should be a Gold Glove winner at first in no time, and could easily take home the 2011 N.L. Rookie of the Year award.
18) Jameson Taillon, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Taillon was the number-two overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft, and could move very quickly considering he was a high school pick.
The big right-hander has excellent stuff, including a mid-to-high 90s fastball and two potential above-average pitches in his curveball and slider.
He didn't get the chance to pitch last season since he signed so late, but he could be on the fast track in 2011.
Still, it's important to remember that Taillon is pitching in the Pirates system and they've shown a propensity to destroy pitching prospects careers. I don't think they'll be able to do it with an arm as talented as Taillon, but they can probably slow his progress enough to delay his debut until 2014.
19. Zach Britton, LHP, Baltimore Orioles
Britton looked likely to lock down a rotation spot for Baltimore before their late offseason splurging brought them Justin Duchscherer.
Now, Britton looks resigned to starting the year in Triple-A, along with former top prospect Chris Tillman and a bunch of other no-name veterans.
The Orioles might not advance as much young talent as they did last year, and you can see evidence in the fact that they've stockpiled veterans in Triple-A at just about every position. If anyone has a chance to break through, though, it's Britton, who's mid-90s heat with tons of sink and devastating slider give him one of the best one-two pitch combos in the minor leagues.
The O's might be wise to try Britton out in the bullpen if they experience any late-inning issues (like they usually do), since their rotation appears to be full of very young, very talented pitchers.
He'll get the chance to make his debut in 2011, but won't be able to stick until 2012.
20. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals
ETA: late 2012
The Cardinals took a very unusual route with Miller in 2010. Instead of letting him pitch through his issues, they gave him a break and sent him back down for more instruction.
When he came back, he was a new pitcher, the one the Cards thought they were getting with their 2009 first-round pick. He finished the year with a 3.62 ERA in Low-A ball, and 140 strikeouts (and only 30 walks) in 104.1 innings.
His strikeout rate of 12.1 per nine innings was one of the tops in the minors.
Now that Miller has sharpened his already advanced feel for pitching he could be a fast mover for St. Louis.
He will probably be with the club for next year's spring training and could make his debut sometime during the 2012 season.
21. Mike Minor, LHP, Atlanta Braves
Minor made his big-league debut a little more than one year after being drafted by the Braves in the first-round in 2009.
Now, he's challenging for the final spot in the Braves rotation. If he doesn't win the battle, he'll start the season at Triple-A, and will be the first call for a pretty deep Braves rotation.
Minor is easily the most seasoned arm in the Braves system, and thanks to his increased velocity during the 2010 season, he now has front of the rotation potential. It's hard to imagine him holding that kind of spot down with the kind of arms Atlanta has shooting through it's own system, but Minor would make an excellent number three or four starter, and could arguably be the best of that breed in three-to-five seasons.
Minor throws in the low 90s and features at least three secondary pitches, all of which have at least average Major League potential.
22. Casey Kelly, RHP, San Diego Padres
ETA: late 2012
The Red Sox no doubt aided Casey Kelly's development by shipping him off to San Diego, where he might actually get a chance to compete for a rotation spot sometime in the future with his new organization.
Kelly would have had to scratch and claw his way for a chance in Boston, where they rotation is notoriously hard to crack, despite prospect status.
Now, the right-hander has moved on to sunnier lands, where his low-to-mid 90s heat and potential above-average curveball will make Padres fans drool.
He also throws a pretty good changeup, and could start his San Diego prospect career in Double-A, where he ended the 2010 season with Boston. He did struggle in 21 Double-A starts, so the Padres will no doubt try not to rush him. After all, Kelly is only 21-years-old.
Kelly has the chance, assuming he pitches well in his first season with his new club, to make his big-league debut sometime during the 2012 season.
23. Martin Perez, LHP, Texas Rangers
ETA: late 2012
Perez, while labeled one of the top lefty pitchers in the minors, hasn't really looked all that impressive in a few seasons now.
Perez is still only 19 years old, though, and has already reached Double-A, which is impressive in itself, nevermind the fact that he pitched to a 5.96 ERA in 2010.
He throws in the mid 90s and has potential above-average pitches in his curveball and changeup, but his command is spotty at best. His walk rate took a steep jump during last season, and those who once-upon-a-time saw Johan Santana comparisons in Perez are now reconsidering their stances.
Perez still offers tons of upside, though.
If he can clean up his mechanics and improve his command, he'll be right back in the top pitching prospects discussion.
My guess is the Rangers will eventually move him to a bullpen to get him to the majors quicker, and where he can have a Neftali Feliz type impact.
Look for him sometime in 2012.
24. Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles
When the O's tabbed Machado as the No. 3 overall pick in 2010, many felt he was likely to be the first high school position player to reach the majors.
And while that may be true, it's going to be hard enough for Machado, who most view as a legitimate five-tool shortstop, to reach the bigs in a timely fashion, even without all of the added expectations.
He certainly looked as good as advertised in late-season cameos in short-season ball, but Machado is a shortstop, and shortstops regularly struggle to climb the ladder at a quick pace.
If anyone can do it, though, it's the young Miami native, who is above average at his position, featuring a rocket arm and smooth movements. His footwork still needs some fine-tuning, but he looks like he should be able to remain at shortstop for the entirety of his time in the minors.
Machado's bat is considered advanced for a high-schooler so that should help move him along a little bit faster, but realistically, I don't see him making his debut for at least another four seasons.
Like Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon, Machado will start the 2011 season the Low-A South Atlantic League.
25. Chris Sale, LHP, Chicago White Sox
Sale became the first member of the 2010 draft class to reach the majors, when the White Sox called upon him to bolster their bullpen during their late-season division chase.
The White Sox came up short in their race with the Twins, but came up huge with Sale, who throws in the mid 90s and looked unhittable during his stint as a reliever.
And while both Sale and the organization have expressed interest in sending him back to the minors for seasoning as a starter, which Sale was in college, it's looking more and more likely that he's going to start the season in the big-league bullpen once again.
Sale might eventually go back to starting, but for the time being, his greatest value is as a reliever, and the White Sox are in win-now mode, meaning Sale's career as a starter will have to wait.
26. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Few prospects strung together a better 2010 campaign than Belt, who combined to hit .352 with 23 homers and 112 RBI during his first professional season for the Giants.
Furthermore, Belt rocketed all the way from High-A to Triple-A in one season, and it looks likely that he'll play a large role in San Fran's repeat plans in 2011.
Belt is also a savvy defender at first base, so the Giants shouldn't lose too much there when Belt gets his chance.
He may start the season in Triple-A, but he'll most certainly end it in the majors.
27. Matt Moore, LHP, Tampa Bay Rays
From one of the most impressive statistical campaigns by a hitter (Brandon Belt) to the same by a pitcher (Matt Moore).
Moore put up video game-like numbers in 2010, striking out an absurd 208 batters in only 144.2 innings, posting his fourth consecutive season with a K/9 rate of at least 12.8.
His ERA was solid, as was his opponents' batting average, but it might be a good idea for Moore to start learning how to get outs some way other than via strikeout, because in 2010 it really hurt his ability to pitch deep into games.
He'll start 2011 in Double-A, but given the Rays wealth of talent at starting pitcher, the team should probably give Moore a bit more time to stretch himself out in the minors.
It's just a thought, but with his velocity and unhittability, Moore might make a great reliever, especially for a team that has as much starting depth as any other.
28. Brett Lawrie, 2B/3B, Toronto Blue Jays
ETA: late 2011
The Jays got a franchise cornerstone infielder when they agreed to deal Shaun Marcum to the Brewers.
Now, Brett Lawrie will begin his ascension to the big leagues in a new organization, one starved for offensive firepower now that Vernon Wells is playing out west.
Lawrie's greatest tool is his bat. He has put together back-to-back seasons showcasing his impressive hitting ability, his batting eye, his speed and his developing power.
Furthermore, Lawrie is an exceptional athlete who has switched positions multiple times in his short two-year pro career. He could conceivably play some third base as well as some outfield for Toronto in an effort to get his bat to the majors quicker.
On top of it all, Lawrie is a born-and-bred Canadian from British Columbia. Having a Canadian superstar could do wonders for the Jays.
Lawrie should split time between Double- and Triple-A this season and could see time as a late-season call-up.
29. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks
ETA: late 2012
Parker is spoken of glowingly, something you don't normally expect for a guy who has been away from the field for almost two full years now.
Still, that's a testament to how truly talented Parker is.
He is easily Arizona's top prospect, even with two years gone to recover from Tommy John surgery. He throws easy gas, touching the high 90s and compliments it with two great secondary pitches; a curveball and a slider. His changeup has above-average potential and he was starting to really improve his command of the pitch before his injury.
Parker has looked good in the Instructional League and if he performs well enough in his comeback from TJ, he could have an outside shot at making his debut sometime this season.
My guess, however, is that the D-Backs will take it easy with him, limiting his innings and pitches, making a 2012 debut more likely.
30. Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF, Philadelphia Phillies
Singleton has proven to be one of the best hitters to come out of the 2009 draft class.
An eighth-round pick, the 19-year-old has put up impressive back-to-back seasons for the Phillies, including his most recent run in Low-A ball in 2010.
Singleton showed at least four tools, hitting .290 with 14 homers and 77 RBI and also showed pretty good speed. His plate discipline was excellent, especially considering he played the majority of the season as an 18-year-old.
As a first baseman, his movements are kind of shaky, but as an outfielder, Singleton could develop into an above-average big-league starter. He's more likely to get his chance there with Ryan Howard occupying first base anyways.
Singleton will get the bump to High-A ball for 2011, but it seems likely that he'll see some time at Double-A too.
31. Jordan Lyles, RHP, Houston Astros
Lyles has moved incredibly quickly for a high school pitcher taken in 2008.
He rose all the way to Triple-A in 2010, and there were whispers that the Astros wanted to try to get him to make his big-league debut while still a teenager.
That didn't happen, but Lyles will certainly be knocking on the door for a shot in 2011. He'll start the season in Triple-A, where he performed OK, but not great in six late-season starts last year, and if he performs well enough he should get his chance to debut sometime late this season.
Then, considering how weak Houston's rotation is, he should get every chance to join the rotation full-time in 2012.
32. Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees
Sanchez is one of three super-talented catching prospects for the Yankees, along with Jesus Montero and Austin Romine, and while Montero is easily the best hitter of the bunch and Romine is arguably the best defensively, Sanchez has the best package of both skills.
Only 17 years old for the entire 2010 season, Sanchez played well for the Yankees Gulf Coast squad, and then admirably for their Low-A affiliate.
For the season, he hit a combined .329 with eight homers and 43 RBI.
He did strike out 44 times in 173 at-bats, but he's still so young that you can't dwell on negatives like that.
Behind the plate, Sanchez only threw out 19 percent of runners in the GCL, but upped that number to 54 percent when he joined Staten Island.
Sanchez should begin the year back at Staten Island, unless the Yankees feel risky and bump him up to Low-A full-season ball.
Sanchez should be a few seasons behind Romine, who will be a few seasons behind Montero.
33. Tyler Matzek, LHP, Colorado Rockies
ETA: late 2013
Matzek had a very erratic 2010 season, but still managed to come out looking great.
He somehow walked 62 batters in only 89.1 innings, but was incredibly stingy with the base-hits (62) and struck out 88 in the same period. His extra effort resulted in a deceiving 2.92 ERA in 18 starts.
Matzek was arguably the top lefty pitcher available in the 2009 MLB Draft, along with Matt Purke, and he looked pretty advanced pitching in Low-A ball as a 19-year-old.
He'll jump to High-A ball in 2011, with a shot at spending some time in Double-A, as long as he can improve his spotty command, that is.
34, John Lamb, LHP, Kansas City Royals
Lamb is the second-best lefty in the Royals organization, but could arguably be the top prospect in most other organizations.
Lamb's fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s, and he throws both a four- and two-seamer. His changeup is a potential above-average pitch and his curveball has the same potential when he commands it well.
The 20-year-old lefty had a great season in 2010, finishing with a 10-7 record, a 2.38 ERA and 159 strikeouts in 147.2 innings over three levels (A, A+, and AA).
He struggled in Double-A, but that was mostly because his curveball command disappeared, leaving him as a fastball/changeup pitcher who was one of the youngest starting pitchers in the league.
Lamb should head back to Double-A again in 2011, where the Royals will have one of the most stacked minor league rosters in history.
35. Manny Banuelos, RHP, New York Yankees
ETA: late 2012
Banuelos is another tiny (5'10" 155 lbs) fireballer, which is seemingly all the rage these days in the minor leagues.
Banuelos hails from Mexico and in three short seasons has developed into one of the Yankees most prized pitching prospects, along with the other Killer B's, Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances.
Banuelos pitches in the low-to-mid 90s, sometimes touching 97 mph. He compliments his above-average fastball with two impressive secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup, both of which are potential above-average pitches as well.
He didn't necessarily have the best looking 2010 season after returning from having his appendix removed early on, but he still struck out 85 batters in 64.2 innings and posted a 2.51 ERA over three levels, ending with three starts for Double-A Trenton.
The 20-year-old Banuelos will most likely start the 2011 season back in Trenton.
He's shown he's advanced enough to move pretty quickly and he could be in line to make his debut sometime in 2012.