See also: Top 100 Prospects
See also: Top Prospects By Position
Before we say goodbye to the Top 100 Prospects for another year, let’s take one final look at the best of the best, this time with an eye toward on-field performance in 2008. While ranking players based solely on one season’s minor league performance makes little sense, it can reinforce aspects of their scouting reports—or even provide insight into areas where perhaps those reports don’t do the player justice.
Presented here are the 46 position players who made the Top 100 while also accumulating at least 300 plate appearances in full-season ball. One exception was made, for Taylor Teagarden, who fell a mere 14 plate appearances shy of qualifying. Only statistics compiled in full-season leagues count here, and in the cases of Fernando Martinez and Colby Rasmus, their time in the low minors while rehabbing from injuries is not reflected in the totals. In all other cases, a player’s cumulative minor league stat line is used.
Rather than publish an indecipherable blob of players, we’ve broken them into three categories based on their projected big league roles. Those categories: corner players (first base, third base, left field, right field), middle of the diamond players (second base, shortstop, center field) and catchers. These three pools collect players who face similar, though certainly not identical, offensive demands. Because this is not intended as a strict ranking, players are listed alphabetically, with commentary and other triviality following each of the three charts.
An asterisk (*) denotes a lefthanded hitter; a (#) denotes a switch-hitter; the number in parentheses is the player’s rank in the Top 100 Prospects; LVL is simply the classification at which the player spent the most time in ’08; and AG is the player’s age as of April 1, 2009.
The data presented is raw, and not adjusted for league or home park, though extreme or interesting cases are often noted in the commentary. A rundown of the statistical categories: PA represents plate appearances, while AVG, OBP and SLG are self-explanatory.
CT is contact rate, or the percentage of at-bats in which the batter put the ball in play, i.e. didn’t strike out. This helps scale a batter’s strikeout total, rather than simply focus on large numbers. The top five: Chris Carter, 156; Travis Snider, 154; Mike Stanton, 153; Greg Halman, 142; and Cameron Maybin, 124.
ISO is isolated power, which measures a player’s raw power in terms of extra bases (beyond first base) per at-bat. In this case, triples are counted merely as doubles because a player’s raw speed is often the only difference between the two hit types, and we’ll account for speed elsewhere. A player’s handedness also factors into the hitting of triples, as lefthanded batters more frequently pull the ball with power to right and right-center field, where the outfielders’ long throw to third can facilitate the taking of three bases.
SPD is speed score, a metric that credits players for their success in the following categories: stolen base attempts and success rates, runs scored as a percentage of times on base, the frequency of triples hit and the infrequency of grounding into double plays.
BBK is simply walks-to-strikeouts ratio, with intentional walks removed because they don’t (necessarily) reflect skill on the part of the batter.
To get a feel for each group’s strengths and weaknesses, here are the 2008 averages for each of the player pools:
|NOTHING AVERAGE ABOUT IT • 2008 RATES FOR QUALIFYING PROSPECTS|
|Corner||1B, 3B, LF, RF||21||10,632||.295||.372||.491||78%||.189||5.2||0.48|
|Middle||2B, SS, CF||16||7,659||.292||.363||.436||80%||.131||7.2||0.51|
Two things are clear. First,
the 2008 season really was the Year of the Catcher. Top 100 backstops
outperformed corner players in every hitting category and trailed
middle players only in the expected areas of speed and contact ability.
Secondly, the averages above illustrate what we intuitively feel to be
true about corner players versus middle players. The former group hits
for appreciably more power, while the latter group runs much better and
shows marginal advantages in contact ability and batting eye.
|FIRST & THIRD BASEMEN, LEFT & RIGHT FIELDERS|
|Player, Pos, Org, Top 100||LVL||AG||PA||AVG||OBP||SLG||CT||ISO||SPD||BBK|
|*Lars Anderson, 1b, Bos (17)||HiA||21||521||.317||.417||.517||76%||.198||2.7||0.68|
|Kyle Blanks, 1b, SD (50)||AA||22||565||.325||.404||.514||82%||.179||4.0||0.57|
|*Dominic Brown, of, Phi (48)||LoA||21||516||.291||.382||.417||84%||.119||5.7||0.83|
|Chris Carter, 1b, Oak (76)||HiA||22||596||.259||.361||.569||69%||.302||5.0||0.48|
|Aaron Cunningham, of, Oak (55)||AA||22||490||.329||.400||.532||74%||.189||7.0||0.44|
|Matt Dominguez, 3b, Fla (64)||LoA||19||381||.296||.354||.499||80%||.203||1.8||0.41|
|Todd Frazier, 3b, Cin (60)||HiA||23||541||.291||.368||.485||77%||.188||5.1||0.47|
|*Freddie Freeman, 1b, Atl (87)||LoA||19||540||.316||.378||.521||83%||.191||4.7||0.54|
|*Mat Gamel, 3b, Mil (34)||AA||23||595||.325||.392||.531||77%||.193||5.2||0.43|
|*Jason Heyward, of, Atl (5)||LoA||19||533||.316||.381||.473||83%||.144||6.8||0.62|
|*Andrew Lambo, of, LAD (49)||LoA||20||556||.295||.351||.482||77%||.181||3.7||0.34|
|Matt LaPorta, of, Cle (27)||AA||24||433||.279||.386||.539||79%||.254||3.1||0.60|
|*Fernando Martinez, of, NYM (30)||AA||20||385||.287||.340||.432||79%||.134||5.3||0.34|
|*Logan Morrison, 1b, Fla (18)||HiA||21||555||.332||.402||.494||84%||.160||3.5||0.64|
|*Mike Moustakas, 3b, KC (13)||LoA||20||549||.272||.337||.468||83%||.190||4.4||0.45|
|*Michael Saunders, of, Sea (65)||AA||22||394||.277||.357||.461||72%||.172||6.2||0.39|
|*Travis Snider, of, Tor (6)||AA||21||559||.275||.358||.480||68%||.205||3.0||0.40|
|Mike Stanton, of, Fla (16)||LoA||19||540||.293||.381||.611||67%||.312||4.0||0.33|
|Jose Tabata, of, Pit (75)||AA||20||429||.272||.339||.368||83%||.091||5.8||0.51|
|Angel Villalona, 1b, SF (44)||LoA||18||500||.263||.312||.435||75%||.172||2.1||0.13|
|*Nick Weglarz, of, Cle (58)||HiA||21||454||.272||.396||.432||79%||.147||5.7||0.86|
CONTACT RATE: Because they’re expected to hit for power, corner players generally focus on swinging big—even if the end result is big hack, no contact—and collectively they had the lowest contact rate of the three groups. Exceptions to the rule include high-contact hitters Dominic Brown, Logan Morrison, Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and Mike Moustakas. But aside from their lefthandedness, the other common trait they share is their level of play—all five spent the entirety of ’08 in A-ball. Level of play did nothing to aid Mike Stanton or Chris Carter in making contact, as they finished last and third-from-last in contact rate. Rounding out the bottom five: Travis Snider, Michael Saunders and Aaron Cunningham, a trio that at least concentrated their efforts in Double-A and Triple-A.
ISOLATED POWER: We flagged Mike Stanton and Chris Carter above for their low contact rates; now we reward them for their raw power. Neither slugger managed to hit .300 on the year, but both crossed the .300 line in terms of isolated power, a feat achieved by no other player ranked among the Top 100 Prospects. Sure, favorable hitting conditions aided in their effort, but to illustrate the impressiveness of that figure, consider that no big leaguer registered a .300 ISO last season, though Albert Pujols, Ryan Ludwick and Ryan Howard came very close. Completing the top five are Matt LaPorta, Travis Snider and Matt Dominguez, though that last name comes with the caveat that he batted .246/.296/.392 away from Greensboro’s NewBridge Bank Park. Lars Anderson trailed Dominguez by a mere five points, and while he played in the California League for half the year, he at least managed to bat .286/.371/.468 away from Lancaster’s Clear Channel Stadium. Bringing up the rear are a pair of 20-year-old international talents at Double-A (Jose Tabata, Fernando Martinez) and a trio of lefty-swinging, discipline-oriented high school bats in A-ball (Dominic Brown, Jason Heyward, Nick Weglarz).
SPEED SCORE: Speed ranks dead last at all four corner positions on the five-tools priority list (Page 8 in your ’09 Prospect Handbook), so having a corner guy who can run probably should be viewed as a bonus. If that’s the case, feel free to award bonus points to Aaron Cunningham, whose 7.0 speed score would have ranked him in the middle of the pack among middle-of-the-diamond players. Jason Heyward and Michael Saunders were the only others to surpass the 6.0 mark. Not surprisingly, Cunningham and Saunders have center-field roots, as do Jose Tabata (fourth) and Dominic Brown (fifth), though the gene is a bit more recessive. Potential base-cloggers of the future: Matt Dominguez (zero triples, zero steals), Angel Villalona, Lars Anderson, Travis Snider and Matt LaPorta. As a quintet, this group managed three triples (two by LaPorta) and seven stolen bases (three by Snider) in 563 games last season.
BATTING EYE: The ability to work counts in one’s favor and then identify and put a good swing on pitches to drive is a crucial skill for corner players, who must shoulder the load of being situational and selective hitters both. Opposing pitchers tend to work middle-of-the-order batters more carefully, i.e. out of the strike zone, so the virtue of restraint cannot be stressed enough. As with contact rate, the top walk-to-strikeout ratios belong to A-ball batters—again, they’re all lefties—in order Nick Weglarz, Dominic Brown, Lars Anderson (half-year in Double-A), Logan Morrison and Jason Heyward. Flipping the list: Angel Villalona (with a .13 mark that ranks dead last among Top 100 Prospects), Mike Stanton, Andrew Lambo, Fernando Martinez and Michael Saunders.
POWER/SPEED THREAT: Aaron Cunningham ranked third among corner players with 15 stolen bases, but combined with 17 home runs, it was enough to register the top power-speed number (16). Todd Frazier (19 HR, 12 SB) finished a strong second, but keep an eye on the still-developing Dominic Brown (9 HR, 22 SB) and Jason Heyward (11 HR, 15 SB).
ADVENTURES IN FIELDING: To err is to be a Brewers third base prospect. (Even Alexander Pope would concede this point had he not, you know, died in 1744.) Ryan Braun redefined what it means to be an error-prone third baseman (.895 fielding percentage) as a big league rookie in ’07, but Mat Gamel is no slouch in this department. He committed 32 errors in ’08 to lead all Top 100 Prospects (actually, it tied him with shortstop Elvis Andrus), but one can see a glimpse of improvement when considering his total from 2007: 53. However, his Double-A fielding percentage of .918 still registers well below the major league average for third basemen, which has exceeded .950 in each of the past five years. Chris Carter spent more than half the season at first base and in right field, but 14 errors in 41 games at third pushed his error total to 26, good for second place. Part-time shortstops Todd Frazier and Mike Moustakas were next with 22 and 17 errors, while Angel Villalona’s 15 errors ranked fifth—and tops among pure first basemen. On the flip side, Fernando Martinez went error-free in ’08, but in just 83 Double-A games. As luck would have it, he was credited with one miscue during his four-game rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League.
TWICE THE PAIN: Jose Tabata’s combination of speed (18 steals) and playing time (just 101 games) nonetheless resulted in 18 grounded into double plays, tops in this group. Being a contact-oriented righthanded batter as well as a groundball hitter probably have something to do with that total. Lars Anderson (16), Kyle Blanks (16) and Andre Lambo (14) were next. As reflected in the speed scores above, Michael Saunders (3) and Aaron Cunningham (4) were the best at avoiding the twin killing. They also excelled at not putting the ball in play.
YOUNG MAN/OLD MAN: Angel Villalona (born: Aug. 13, 1990) will spend the bulk of the ’09 season playing as an 18-year-old in high Class A. He held the bonus record ($2.1 million from the Giants in ’06) for an amateur signed out of the Dominican Republic until the Giants signed outfielder Rafael Rodriguez for $2.55 million last July. Matt LaPorta (born: Jan. 8, 1985) signed for an even $2 million as the ’07 draft’s seventh overall pick. He signed as a 22-year-old senior, so after just two pro seasons, he’s already 24. The good news is that he’s just about big league ready.
FIRST-ROUND PICKS: Mike Moustakas (second overall, 2007), Matt LaPorta (seventh, 2007), Matt Dominguez (12th, 2007), Travis Snider (14th, 2006) and Jason Heyward (14th, 2007). Todd Frazier went in the ’07 draft’s supplemental first round.
LOW DRAFT POSITION: The Padres infamously took Matt Bush with the No. 1 overall pick in ’04, but 42nd-rounder Kyle Blanks has morphed into the top talent from that dreary draft class. The Marlins hit big with ’05 22nd-rounder Logan Morrison, the Florida State League’s MVP last season. Of course, Blanks and Morrison both signed as draft-and-follows, leaving Dominic Brown, a 20th-round selection in ’06, as the lowest draft pick to sign in the same summer.
HEAVIEST/LIGHTEST PLAYER: At 6-foot-6 and (at least) 280 pounds, Kyle Blanks is both the tallest and heaviest player in this pool, with Travis Snider and Nick Weglarz (both listed at 245 pounds) the only real challengers. Matt Dominguez is listed at 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, making him the lightest, while Aaron Cunningham, Jose Tabata and Snider are credited with standing 5-foot-11.
ORGANIZATION NO. 1 PROSPECTS: Lars Anderson (Red Sox), Kyle Blanks (Padres), Dominic Brown (Phillies), Andrew Lambo (Dodgers), Fernando Martinez (Mets), Mike Moustakas (Royals) and Travis Snider (Blue Jays).
NEW DANCE PARTNERS: The White Sox drafted both Aaron Cunningham (sixth round) and Chris Carter (15th) in 2005 and subsequently traded them both to the Diamondbacks in separate 2007 trades. Cunningham yielded them second baseman Danny Richar, who later turned into Ken Griffey Jr., while Carter was swapped for ’08 MVP candidate Carlos Quentin. Cunningham and Carter then jumped to the Athletics in the D’backs’ December 2007 trade for Dan Haren . . . The Yankees signed Jose Tabata out of Venezuela for $550,000 in ’05, but after a lackluster .248/.320/.310 performance for Double-A Trenton last year—not to mention a troubling hand injury and a disciplinary suspension—the Yankees made him the centerpiece of their trade with the Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte . . . The Indians targeted Matt LaPorta when they traded reigning Cy Young award winner C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers.
LUCKY NUMBERS: 14—Travis Snider and Jason Heyward were 14th overall picks in successive drafts in 2006 and 2007 . . . 2—The number of college players (Matt LaPorta, Todd Frazier) in the sample . . . 5—The number of California high school kids from the ’07 draft to make the cut: Matt Dominguez, Freddie Freeman, Andrew Lambo, Mike Moustakas and Mike Stanton—and Dominguez and Moustakas were teammates at Chatsworth High.
|SECOND BASEMEN, SHORTSTOPS & CENTER FIELDERS|
|Player, Pos, Org, Top
|Elvis Andrus, ss, Tex (37)||AA||20||535||.295||.350||.367||81%||.068||6.7||0.42|
|*Reid Brignac, ss, TB (78)||AAA||23||386||.250||.299||.412||74%||.156||4.3||0.25|
|*Adrian Cardenas, 2b, Oak (74)||HiA||21||469||.296||.364||.399||84%||.088||7.1||0.62|
|Jason Donald, ss, Phi (69)||AA||24||414||.307||.391||.497||76%||.180||5.8||0.53|
|Alcides Escobar, ss, Mil (19)||AA||22||597||.328||.363||.434||85%||.097||6.9||0.38|
|#Dexter Fowler, cf, Col (15)||AA||23||505||.335||.431||.515||79%||.181||8.1||0.69|
|Greg Halman, cf, Sea (57)||HiA||21||538||.272||.326||.528||71%||.246||8.0||0.20|
|Gorkys Hernandez, cf, Atl (62)||HiA||21||467||.264||.348||.387||81%||.123||7.8||0.59|
|Austin Jackson, cf, NYY (36)||AA||22||584||.285||.354||.419||78%||.135||5.9||0.47|
|Cameron Maybin, cf, Fla (8)||AA||22||459||.277||.375||.456||68%||.179||8.8||0.48|
|Andrew McCutchen, cf, Pit (33)||AAA||22||590||.283||.372||.398||83%||.115||5.3||0.77|
|*Gerardo Parra, cf, Ari (88)||AA||21||526||.286||.358||.416||86%||.108||7.6||0.68|
|*Colby Rasmus, cf, StL (3)||AAA||22||387||.251||.346||.396||78%||.145||4.7||0.64|
|*Ben Revere, cf, Min (59)||LoA||20||374||.379||.433||.497||91%||.118||9.4||0.81|
|*Jordan Schafer, cf, Atl (42)||AA||22||349||.269||.378||.471||70%||.202||7.6||0.55|
|Carlos Triunfel, 2b, Sea (89)||HiA||19||479||.287||.336||.406||88%||.110||7.0||0.58|
CONTACT RATE: Not surprisingly, three of the minors’ better contact hitters—Ben Revere, Carlos Triunfel and Gerardo Parra—top this list. Not only did Revere lead all minor leaguers in average, but he also ranked as the 12th-most difficult batter to strike out. Triunfel and Parra lack the same gaudy production, but their hand-eye coordination still is impressive given that both are quite young for their levels of competition. Alcides Escobar and Adrian Cardenas round out the top five contact hitters. Time lost to injury cost Cameron Maybin the strikeout crown among middle of the diamond players (Greg Halman’s 142 take that honor), but his 124 whiffs in 390 at-bats do give him a 68 percent contact rate, lower than any player here save for Mike Stanton and Taylor Teagarden. Jordan Schafer, Greg Halman, Reid Brignac and Jason Donald have more than power-hitting proclivities in common; they also brandished below-average contact rates in ’08.
ISOLATED POWER: Like speed for corner players, power is something of a luxury when it comes to middle-of-the-diamond players. In fact, it rates fifth (out of the five tools) for the big league shortstop profile, fourth for the typical center fielder and third for the average second baseman. As such, an incredible .246 isolated power figure (coupled with his center field acumen and foot speed) drives much of Greg Halman’s value. His 29 home runs trailed only Mike Stanton and Chris Carter, who both clubbed 39. Jordan Schafer also topped the .200 mark, doing so in the tough Southern League after shaking off the attendant rust that comes with missing the first 50 games of the season. Dexter Fowler’s all-around improvement in ’08 was highlighted by increased power output (.181 ISO). Jason Donald and Cameron Maybin handily exceeded positional averages and did so in the Eastern and Southern leagues. Not too shabby. Glove-first shortstops Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar finished last and third-from-last in isolated power, which isn’t nearly as surprising as Adrian Cardenas’ poor showing. Perhaps an early-season back injury that forced him to the disabled list took some of his power with it. Two of the contact kings—Carlos Triunfel and Gerardo Parra—showed their youth with their below-average power output.
SPEED SCORE: Ten triples, 44 stolen bases and just one double play propelled Ben Revere to the top of the speed score charts. Cameron Maybin finished just off the pace, with his eight triples (most by a righthanded batter among the Top 100 Prospects), four double plays and 21-for-28 showing on the bases. Athletic center fielders round out the top five: Dexter Fowler, Greg Halman and Gorkys Hernandez, who probably would have fared better if not for a pesky hamstring injury. Speed score is an imperfect metric, which is why fleet center fielders like Colby Rasmus and Andrew McCutchen finished near the bottom. Neither player grounded into many double plays (seven for Rasmus, eight for McCutchen), but a paucity of triples and runs scored—not to mention McCutchen’s abysmal 64 percent stolen base success rate—weighted down their speed scores. In the cases of Reid Brignac, Jason Donald and Austin Jackson, though, speed is not a primary asset—or really even a secondary or tertiary one.
BATTING EYE: If it wasn’t apparent before, then let it be stated here that Ben Revere put a hurtin’ on Midwest League pitchers. In addition to registering the top contact rate and speed score among middle of the diamond players, he also topped the group with a 25-to-31 (.81) unintentional walk-to-strikeout ratio. These are the three core skills he’ll need to carry forward to make it as a big league regular. If you’re a bit stumped as to the favorable rankings for Triple-A center fielders Andrew McCutchen (.770 OPS) and Colby Rasmus (.742 OPS), then look no further than this category. Despite the then-21-year-olds’ occasional struggles against older, more advanced pitchers, their strong batting eyes suggested that they were far from overmatched. Dexter Fowler, Gerardo Parra and Adrian Cardenas also posted above-average marks. Greg Halman warrants accolades for his power and speed, but the same cannot be said for his ability to work opposing pitchers. Halman believes he can hit any pitch with authority, but his unbridled enthusiasm at bat will have to be tempered if he’s to realize his significant ceiling. His walk-to-K ratio of .20 ranked ahead of only Angel Villalona and J.P. Arencibia among Top 100 Prospects. Reid Brignac fared little better than Halman in this department, while Alcides Escobar and Elvis Andrus scrape the bottom of the middle tier.
POWER/SPEED THREAT: No one would confuse Greg Halman with Albert Pujols, not with his decidedly unselective approach. But if he remains a prodigious home run hitter and prolific basestealer, they might begin confusing him with Alfonso Soriano. Halman narrowly missed becoming the minors’ first 30-30 man since Terry Evans in ’06, and his 29 homers and 31 steals gave him a nice, round 30 power-speed number. Cameron Maybin (13 HR, 21 SB), Andrew McCutchen (9 HR, 34 SB) and Colby Rasmus (11 HR, 15 SB) also could register 20-20 seasons at their peaks.
ADVENTURES IN FIELDING: Super rangy shortstops Elvis Andrus (32) and Alcides Escobar (20) ranked first and third in errors committed, but that’s to be expected, given their, well, super ranginess. To the point, Escobar handled more total chances (680) in 125 minor league games last season than all but one big league shortstop—Orlando Cabrera, who handled 730 in 161 games. Furthermore, Escobar’s range factor (assists + putouts / games) of 5.28 bettered any big leaguer’s mark. (Troy Tulowitzki was first at 4.96. For his part, Andrus ranked just ahead of Tulo at 4.97.) Twenty-one of Carlos Triunfel’s 28 errors came while he was stationed at shortstop (.938 fielding percentage); the other seven came at second base (.956). Shortstops Jason Donald (18) and Reid Brignac (12) round out the top five, followed by Gerardo Parra (11) and Ben Revere (10), the only outfielders to record double-digit error totals. Jordan Schafer played error-free ball in 84 games for Double-A Mississippi—though he did make two miscues in 27 games for Navojoa in Mexico this winter. Parra and Gorkys Hernandez led center fielders with 10 assists; Dexter Fowler (8), Greg Halman (7) and Austin Jackson (7) were next.
TWICE THE PAIN: A contact- and groundball-oriented batter, Gerardo Parra grounded into the most double plays in this group, with 18. Though he’s a lefthanded batter, his speed rates as average. Elvis Andrus (17), Adrian Cardenas (13) and Greg Halman (12) finished in the running. Remarkably, Ben Revere grounded into just one double play in 83 Midwest League games, despite putting the ball in play in more than 90 percent of his at-bats. Cameron Maybin brought about just four twin killings in 108 games. This group of middle of the diamond players wasn’t especially susceptible to being plunked, as Greg Halman led the way with nine hit by pitches.
YOUNG MAN/OLD MAN: Dominicans Angel Villalona and Carlos Triunfel (born: Feb. 27, 1990) represented two of the top talents on the ’06 international market. Triunfel, who signed for $1.3 million, figures to spend his age-19 season in Double-A. Oldest player honors go to Jason Donald (born: Sept. 4, 1984), a third-round pick out of Arizona by the Phillies in ’06. He batted .307/.391/.497 in 362 at-bats for Double-A Reading last season, and then went on to lead Team USA with a .381 average (8-for-21) in the Beijing Olympics.
FIRST-ROUND PICKS: Cameron Maybin (10th overall, 2005), Andrew McCutchen (11th, 2005), Colby Rasmus (28th, 2005) and Ben Revere (28th, 2007). The Phillies made Adrian Cardenas a supplemental first rounder in ’06, the year he won High School Player of the Year honors.
LOW DRAFT POSITION: With six international players in the middle of the diamond group, the ranks of players to come through the draft winnows to 10, five of whom were first or supplemental first-round picks. Among the other five players, Dexter Fowler fell to the 14th round of the ’04 draft (and signed for $925,000)—but only because he had offers to play baseball at Miami or basketball at Harvard. In reality, he was one of the top 10 high school position players in that draft. Similarly, Austin Jackson lasted until the eighth round of the ’05 draft because of his multi-sport prowess. He signed for $800,000, turning down a full ride to play basketball at George Tech. But neither player would have been drafted that low on merit, so we turn our attention to a pair of third-rounders, Jason Donald (Phillies, 97th overall) and Jordan Schafer (Braves, 107th overall).
HEAVIEST/LIGHTEST PLAYER: Three center fielders check in at 6-foot-4 (Cameron Maybin, Greg Halman and Dexter Fowler), but it’s Maybin, with a listed weight of 205 pounds, who is heaviest. The shortest and lightest player is, of course, the 5-foot-9, 166-pound Ben Revere.
ORGANIZATION NO. 1 PROSPECTS: Alcides Escobar (Brewers), Dexter Fowler (Rockies), Greg Halman (Mariners), Austin Jackson (Yankees), Cameron Maybin (Marlins) and Colby Rasmus (Cardinals).
NEW DANCE PARTNERS: Gorkys Hernandez and Cameron Maybin came into this world as Tigers, but ’07 offseason trades shipped both of them to NL East teams. Detroit first traded Hernandez, following an ’07 MVP campaign in the Midwest League, to the Braves for Edgar Renteria. But considering the uninspired play by Renteria last year, the Tigers may wish they had that one back (especially because Jair Jurrjens also was included in the deal). The Tigers then packaged Maybin in the Winter Meetings trade with the Marlins that netted them Miguel Cabrera, the AL’s home run champ last season. The Braves signed Elvis Andrus out of Venezuela for $600,000 in ’05, then sent him to the Rangers in July ’07 as part of the five-player package for Mark Teixeira. While the price seemed steep at the time, the Phillies probably don’t regret their trade of Adrian Cardenas to the Athletics at least season’s deadline. Acquired in exchange, Joe Blanton went 4-0, 4.20 in 13 starts for Philadelphia, then 2-0, 3.18 in four postseason starts, which included a decisive victory in Game Four of the World Series.
LUCKY NUMBERS: 28—Colby Rasmus (’05) and Ben Revere (’07) both went 28th overall in the draft . . . 4—The number of Venezuelans (Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar, Gorkys Hernandez, Gerardo Parra) in the middle of the diamond, more than can be found either among corner players (Jose Tabata) or catchers (Jesus Montero, Max Ramirez, Wilson Ramos) . . . 33,000—The signing bonus bestowed on Escobar in ’03, and now he ranks as the Brewers’ top prospect and the 19th-best in the game . . . 2005—The draft that produced prep center field prospects Austin Jackson, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen, Colby Rasmus and Jordan Schafer.
|Player, Pos, Org, Top
|J.P. Arencibia, c, Tor (43)||AA||23||537||.298||.322||.527||80%||.229||1.4||0.16|
|Tyler Flowers, c, CWS (99)||HiA||23||520||.288||.427||.494||75%||.203||3.0||0.94|
|Lou Marson, c, Phi (66)||AA||22||395||.314||.433||.416||78%||.102||2.3||0.94|
|Jesus Montero, c, NYY (38)||LoA||19||569||.326||.376||.491||84%||.164||2.8||0.42|
|Max Ramirez, c, Tex (84)||AA||24||330||.339||.430||.618||75%||.271||3.4||0.58|
|Wilson Ramos, c, Min (71)||HiA||21||500||.288||.346||.434||77%||.142||1.7||0.36|
|#Carlos Santana, c, Cle (26)||HiA||22||568||.326||.431||.568||82%||.231||6.1||1.00|
|Taylor Teagarden, c, Tex (73)||AAA||25||286||.211||.319||.374||67%||.150||4.4||0.44|
|#Matt Wieters, c, Bal (1)||HiA||22||530||.355||.454||.600||83%||.240||2.7||0.97|
RATE: In a year where the average Top 100 catcher out-hit and
out-slugged the average Top 100 corner player, it’s not surprising to
find three catchers—Jesus Montero, Matt
Wieters and Carlos Santana—who hit .325 or
better by virtue of strong contact rates. It couldn’t hurt that Wieters
and Santana are switch-hitters. Taylor Teagarden hit
just .211 in a half-season in the minors, and with his low contact
rate, long swing and patient approach, he’s always going to strike out
a lot. Two other power-hitting catchers—Tyler Flowers
and Max Ramirez—also recorded whiffs in a
at least a quarter of their at-bats.
ISOLATED POWER: While Matt Wieters
and J.P. Arencibia each connected for 27
home runs, Max Ramirez hit 17 of his own, and did so
in 200 fewer plate appearances, making him the isolated power champion
with a .271 mark. Wieters, Carlos Santana and
Arencibia ranked second through fourth, but give Wieters and Arencibia
extra credit for playing in tougher hitting environments, i.e. the
Carolina, Florida State and Eastern leagues. Santana spent 99 games in
the California League. Tyler Flowers’ Arizona Fall
League onslaught (a league-leading 12 home runs and .973 slugging) win
him bonus points toward his Carolina League-suppressed .203 isolated
power figure. Lou Marson still is learning which
pitches he can pull with authority, and coupled with his stay in the
EL, he posted just a .102 isolated power last year. Young
Wilson Ramos, 20 for most of last season, impressed
with a cannon arm, and his 13 FSL home runs are nothing to sneeze at.
Nevertheless, his isolated power ranked next-to-last among this year’s
Top 100 catchers.
SPEED SCORE: Visions of web gems dance through
infielders’ heads whenever the opposing catcher steps to the plate. As
a species, the catcher’s lack of foot speed often buys the defense
ample time to make plays—everything from 5-4-3 double plays
to long throws from the 6-hole. At the big league level, Russell Martin
remains the only consistent basestealing threat among catchers, perhaps
because of his background as a non-catcher. And like Martin,
Carlos Santana cut his teeth playing third base in
the Dodgers system, and though he’s a below-average runner, his 6.1
speed score (mostly a product of 125 runs scored, but also five triples
and 10 steals) laps the field among Top 100 catchers. Wilson
Ramos and J.P. Arencibia race to a virtual
draw to claim the title of most lead-footed catcher. They combined for
two triples (both by Ramos) and zero stolen bases (in one attempt), and
as we’ll see later, they hit into a lot of double plays.
BATTING EYE: Four catchers showed elite batting eyes
last season, compiling (essentially) an equal number of walks and
strikeouts: Carlos Santana, Matt Wieters
(is there anything they can’t do?), Lou Marson
and Tyler Flowers. On the other end of the
spectrum, J.P. Arencibia had nearly twice as many
homers (27) as unintentional walks (16), which is something to monitor
as he moves up.
POWER/SPEED THREAT: Carlos Santana
is the only real threat to go even 10-10 in the big leagues
one day, as his power-speed number registered at 14 by virtue of his 21
homers and 10 steals.
ADVENTURES IN FIELDING: A full-time catcher for only
two seasons, Carlos Santana led all backstops with
19 errors (plus another one at first base), though it should be noted
that 12 of those miscues were concentrated in the season’s first two
months (51 games). Tyler Flowers committed 12 errors
behind the plate (and another one in his lone appearance at first base)
and J.P. Arencibia had 10 of his own. In the case of
Flowers, he too had minimal experience behind the plate (23 games)
coming into the year, having served primarily as a first baseman in his
first two pro seasons. In terms of throwing out basestealers, check out
Ben Badler’s excellent work on prospects’
caught stealing percentage. I won’t ruin it for you
completely, but among the Top 100 set, Wilson Ramos
ranked first (43.2 percent), Matt Wieters second
(40.2) and Taylor Teagarden third (38.5). The least
efficient? You probably won’t be surprised to find offensive-minded
Max Ramirez (24.7) and Jesus Montero
(24.8) lurking near the bottom. Ben also examined the passed
ball rates for young catchers, which is topped (in a good way) by Ramos, Wieters and Teagarden. Both articles on
prospect catchers’ defensive acumen are recommended reads.
TWICE THE PAIN: It figures that the most double-play
happy member of the Top 100 Prospects would be a catcher, and probably a
righthanded-hitting one. Check and check. Wilson Ramos
led the way with 23, followed by J.P. Arencibia
and Jesus Montero (16 apiece) and
Matt Wieters (15). Tyler Flowers
hit into just eight double plays in 520 plate appearances. No
catcher was plunked more than seven times (Max
Ramirez), perhaps because their pitch recognition is a bit
more keen than non-catchers, who don’t have to cleanly glove (and frame
in the strike zone) baseballs thrown with great velocity and movement.
YOUNG MAN/OLD MAN: Jesus Montero
(born: Nov. 28, 1989), the third member of the ’06
international trio to crack the Top 100, showed precocious hitting and
power-hitting ability in his full-season debut, despite the Venezuelan’s
tender age. Taylor Teagarden (born: Dec. 21, 1983)
has been percolating in the minors for a while, seeing as he signed as a third-round pick after Texas’ College World Series-winning
’05 season, but he missed much of the ’06 season after having Tommy
FIRST-ROUND PICKS: Matt Wieters
(fifth overall, 2007) and J.P. Arencibia (21st,
LOW DRAFT POSITION: Lou Marson
went in the ’04 draft’s fourth round. So if you don’t count
Tyler Flowers’ selection in the 33rd round of the
’05 draft and subsequent signing as a draft-and-follow in ’06, then
Marson is your man.
HEAVIEST/LIGHTEST PLAYER: Tyler Flowers
tips the scales at 245 pounds (and stands 6-foot-4), making
him the heaviest catcher. Though he’s solidly built, the 5-foot-11
Max Ramirez is listed at just 175 pounds. The same
height, Carlos Santana is listed at 188
ORGANIZATION NO. 1 PROSPECTS: Carlos
Santana (Indians) and Matt Wieters
NEW DANCE PARTNERS: Maybe it’s just coincidence, but
the three Top 100 catchers to switch organizations all are converts to
catching. In the midst of what turned out to be an MVP performance in
the California League, Carlos Santana packed his
bags for the Indians organization last July, having
been traded for Casey Blake in a fiscally-motivated deal by
the Dodgers. The Braves waited until after the ’08 season to deal
Tyler Flowers to the White Sox, putting him at the
center of their package
for Javier Vazquez. As was the case with both corner and
middle players, one organization at one time held the keys to a pair of
Top 100 Prospects only to trade them away. This time the organization
in question is the Braves, who drafted Flowers, as noted, and also
signed Max Ramirez as a third baseman out of
Venezuela in ’02. Named Appalachian League co-player of the year in
’05, his first year behind the dish, Ramirez has been traded twice at
the deadline, going from Atlanta to Cleveland for Bob Wickman in ’06 and then
from the Indians
to the Rangers for Kenny Lofton in ’07.
LUCKY NUMBERS: 12—The number of catchers who rank in
our Top 100 Prospects, shattering the previous record of seven that
was last attained in ’08, led by Matt Wieters at No. 12 . . . 77—Height
in inches that’s (6-foot-5) reached by both Matt Wieters
and Joe Mauer, who between them have the distinction of being
named our No.
1 prospect three times (Mauer repeated in ’04 and ’05). And
yes, that is tall for a catcher. Only Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Chris
Stewart and Dusty Ryan were even 6-foot-4 among big league backstops
last season . . . 27—The number of home runs hit by both Wieters and
J.P. Arencibia last season, tops among minor league
catchers. Brian McCann and Geovany Soto tied for the big league lead