Ask BA

According to research done by our own Matt Eddy, Rangers shortstop Jurickson Profar is the 12th player since 2000 to make consecutive Baseball America Minor League All-Star Teams. The others: Lyle Overbay (2001-02), Dallas McPherson (2003-04), Delmon Young (2004-05), Howie Kendrick (2005-06), Jay Bruce (2006-07), Madison Bumgarner (2008-09), Jason Heyward (2008-09), Jeremy Hellickson (2009-10), Matt Moore (2010-11), Julio Teheran (2010-11) and Mike Trout (2010-11).

    How would you rank the elite prospects of the last five years against each other? Focusing only on prospect status prior to exhausting it, and not using hindsight based on subsequent performance, who has been the best of the best?

    Matt Bartman
    West Chester, Pa.

To keep myself honest, I’m limiting myself to prospects I ranked in the top three of my personal Top 50 Prospects list in our annual Prospect Handbooks. My evaluations hold up pretty well, though I was taken aback to see that I ranked Clay Buchholz and Joba Chamberlain ahead of Evan Longoria and Clayton Kershaw in 2008.

Here’s how I’d stack up the best of the best from the past five years:

1. Stephen Strasburg, rhp, Nationals
Could have gone straight to the big leagues after signing.
2. Mike Trout, of, Angels
Ranked No. 1 on my list in 2011 and 2012.
3. Bryce Harper, of, Nationals
The most hyped prospect in baseball history, and for good reason.
4. Jason Heyward, of, Braves
Has reclaimed his mojo after a disappointing 2011 season.
5. David Price, lhp, Rays
Was a postseason hero 14 months after signing.
6. Matt Wieters, c, Orioles
“Joe Mauer with power” hasn’t hit for average but does everything else.
7. Matt Moore, lhp, Rays
Nearly won three minor league strikeout titles in a row.
8. Jesus Montero, c, Yankees/Mariners
Won’t stay behind the plate, but he’ll hit for power and average.
9. Mike Stanton, of, Marlins
His power is in the same class as Harper’s.
10. Jay Bruce, of, Reds
The No. 1 prospect in a relatively mediocre 2008 crop.

    Did any pitcher from this year's draft class have a better debut than Twins righthander J.O. Berrios? Does he have top-of-the-rotation upside?

    Dustin Metzger
    Roanoke, Va.

Berrios introduced himself to pro hitters by going 3-0, 1.17 in 31 innings, giving up just 15 hits and posting a 49-4 K-BB ratio between two Rookie-level affiliates. That’s a smashing debut, but I wouldn’t put him ahead of Cardinals first-rounder Michael Wacha (0.86 ERA, 21 IP, 8 H, 40-4 K-BB while reaching Double-A) and Royals second-rounder Sam Selman (5-4, 2.09, 60 IP, 45 H, 89-22 K-BB in the Rookie-level Pioneer League, which is usually death to pitchers).

The Twins made Berrios the highest-drafted Puerto Rican pitcher ever when they selected him 32nd overall, and he does have the look of a frontline starter. He has a plus fastball that has hit 98 mph, a hard slider and a promising changeup. Additionally, he has better command than most high school pitchers, and while he’s not big at 6 feet tall, he’s strong and should be durable enough to handle the rigors of working every fifth day.

    His defense at third base has been outstanding, especially considering he'd barely played the position in the minors. But will the Orioles' Manny Machado hit enough and with enough power to make an impact at the hot corner?  

    Kevin Mercer
    Baltimore

Machado had played all of two games at third base as a pro before the Orioles summoned the 20-year-old in August to plug a gaping defensive hole. He has done exactly that, according to the defensive metrics at Fangraphs.com. Fangraphs estimates that Machado has saved Baltimore four runs in his 35 starts, while all of the team’s other third basemen have cost them 14 runs with their glovework.

Machado has the range and arm to play shortstop, and the only question is whether the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder eventually will grow too big for the position. J.J. Hardy is signed through 2014, so Machado figures to open 2013 as the Orioles’ third baseman. I wouldn’t worry about his bat, because that’s what got him drafted third overall in the 2010 draft.

Though he’s just 20 and had only 820 pro at-bats—none above Double-A—Machado has held his own in the midst of a pennant race, hitting .267/.281/.450. He still needs to tighten his strike zone, but his discipline wasn’t an issue in the minors, and he has shown plenty of pop. He profiles as a plus hitter with plus power and should be an all-star at either shortstop or third base.

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