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2010 Top 20 Rookies

Our predictions of the top rookies for 2010





These are Baseball America's Top 20 Rookies for 2010, based on the player's ceiling and projected performance for 2010, as well as his opportunity for major league playing time. Rankings are by the Baseball America staff, while the writeups were done by Matt Eddy.

1 Jason Heyward,  Braves OF
Age: 20

Best Case: Starting corner outfielder who contributes offensively, defensively and on the bases for a contender. He could duplicate the best attributes of recent 20-year-old rookies like Miguel Cabrera and Justin Upton.
Worst Case: An extended DL stay. Heyward has missed more than 50 games to injuries in the past two seasons, and then had his Arizona Fall League assignment cut short after four games.
Competition: Melky Cabrera, Matt Diaz and Eric Hinske.
2 Neftali Feliz, Rangers RHP
Age: 21
Best Case: He sticks in the rotation all season, while keeping his pitch counts in check, steering clear of free passes and leading all rookies in strikeouts.
Worst Case: A lack of command and/or stamina could land him in the bullpen. In 13 Triple-A starts last season Feliz sported a 55-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.0), compared with a 59-to-11 (5.4) mark over 47 total relief innings.
Competition:Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Tommy Hunter, Brandon McCarthy and/or Matt Harrison.
3 Brian Matusz, Orioles LHP
Age: 23
Best Case: He commands his fastball, curve and change while contributing 180 innings as a No. 3 starter. If he adds a few ticks to his fastball, he could be Brett Anderson redux.
Worst Case: A dozen matchups with the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East could have a tangible effect on Matusz's ERA and home run rate. But barring injury, he's a safe bet to stick. That's disheartening news for opposing lefthanded batters, who in 163 matchups last season batted just .174/.236/.329.
Competition: Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez, Jason Berken and/or Koji Uehara.
4 Desmond Jennings, Rays OF
Age: 23
Best Case: After a couple of months of Triple-A seasoning, he teams with Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton to form the supersonic outfield. He can do everything Andrew McCutchen can do, maybe better. Check that career .391 on-base percentage and 82 percent success rate on the bases.
Worst Case: Injuries could cut into his productivity, as they did when Jennings missed the final month of 2007 and played in just 24 games in 2008.
Competition: Matt Joyce, Gabe Kapler and Fernando Perez.
5 Michael Taylor, Athletics OF
Age: 24
Best Case: Free of the Phillies' crowded outfield, Taylor begins in Sacramento but quickly pushes aside the Oakland corner outfield incumbents. Scary thought: He says he's only recently crafted his immense body mass into muscle.
Worst Case: Big league pitchers find a way to tie up the 6-foot-6, 250-pound Taylor and his power doesn't play. But those odds are long. If you count the home run he hit last winter in the Mexican Pacific League, Taylor has clubbed an even 40 in the past two seasons.
Competition: Travis Buck, Gabe Gross and Ryan Sweeney.
6 Alcides Escobar, Brewers SS
Age: 23
Best Case: Sterling defense, above-average speed and occasional offense help Brewers quickly forget about the traded J.J. Hardy.
Worst Case: He contributes on defense, but his bat proves not ready for prime time, and Escobar takes up permanent residence in eight hole. Even with Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun, can the Brewers carry both Escobar and Carlos Gomez if neither hits?
Competition: Unopposed. Craig Counsell and Luis Cruz are safety nets.
7 Wade Davis, Rays RHP
Age: 24
Best Case: His September to remember (3.72 ERA, 36 strikeouts in 36 innings) following his sixth minor league season is a sign of things to come, and Davis holds down a rotation spot all year, doing a fair impression of Jeff Niemann last year.
Worst Case: His command isn't quite fine enough to match his sterling ratios from the high minors, and the lack of a reliable third offering points to a future in the bullpen.
Competition: Andy Sonnanstine or Jeremy Hellickson.
8 Stephen Strasburg, Nationals RHP
Age: 21
Best Case: The 2009 draft's top overall pick forces his way to the big leagues by the end of May and pitches well, following the precedent set by top college righthanders Mark Prior (19 games started for Cubs in 2002) and Tim Lincecum (24 GS for Giants in 2007).
Worst Case: He makes most of his starts for Harrisburg and Syracuse.
Competition: Lofty expectations. In reality, the Nationals have only two starters—Jason Marquis and John Lannan—who made even 20 starts last season.
9 Madison Bumgarner, Giants LHP
Age: 20
Best Case: He helps the Giants transition from another tall, lanky lefty, Randy Johnson, and Bumgarner's exquisite fastball command and natural deception allow him log 160-plus effective innings.
Worst Case: His sub-2.00 ERA as a pro proves to be a mirage when he doesn't recover his full fastball velocity and big league batters tee off on his heater and inconsistent secondary offerings.
Competition: Surprisingly little. Joe Martinez finished last season in the bullpen, and veteran Todd Wellemeyer, a non-roster invitee, has had exactly one good big league season.
10 Justin Smoak, Rangers 1B
Age: 23
Best Case: His burst of power from last fall (nine home runs for Team USA at the World Cup) carries him to a starting role in Arlington before the all-star break—whatever the fortunes of incumbent Chris Davis.
Worst Case: Davis holds down first base and Vladimir Guerrero clicks as DH, relegating Smoak to  September callup after a full season at Triple-A Oklahoma City. He's not yet on the 40-man roster, after all.
Competition: Davis and Guerrero.
11 Logan Morrison, Marlins 1B
Age: 22
Best Case: He follows Chris Coghlan's lead and forces his way into the Marlins' righty-heavy lineup by mashing at New Orleans. He has superior offensive potential than last year's NL rookie of the year.
Worst Case: Fellow rookie Gaby Sanchez wins the job outright, and the Marlins take a cautious approach with Morrison because he missed two months last season with a thumb injury.
Competition: Sanchez and possibly Jorge Cantu.
12 Austin Jackson, Tigers OF
Age: 23
Best Case: He reins in the strikeouts and hits for average while playing strong defense in center field, serving as a reasonable low-cost alternative to the traded Curtis Granderson.
Worst Case: The Tigers have to wait 'til next year for Jackson's athleticism to translate into offensive results.
Competition: Unopposed. Clete Thomas and Casper Wells would be stretched as regulars.
13 Drew Storen, Nationals RHP
Age:22
Best Case: Echoing the rise of Chad Cordero with the Expos in 2004, Storen goes from first-round pick to big league closer in a year. Including the Arizona Fall League, he notched a ridiculous 62-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his debut.
Worst Case: Big league batters turn around his straight fastball for home runs, but Storen's range of weaponry suits him in a seventh- or eighth-inning role, complementing import Matt Capps.
Competition: Capps saved 27 games for the Pirates last year, albeit with a 5.80 ERA.
14 Carlos Santana, Indians C
Age: 23
Best Case: He wins the starting gig from fellow rookie Lou Marson, showing the trademark power, patience and feel for hitting that has led to MVPs in successive years in the California and Eastern leagues.
Worst Case: His long swing doesn't play during his big league debut, and Santana's lack of polish on defense translates into a summer school session in Columbus.
Competition: Marson and the ageless Mike Redmond.
15 Michael Brantley, Indians OF
Age: 22
Best Case: He wins a large share of the left field job because of his virtues as a top-of-the-order hitter who can make things happen on the bases.
Worst Case: A lack of power and desire for righthanded balance prompts Cleveland to turn to Matt LaPorta or perhaps Shelley Duncan or Austin Kearns, a pair of minor league free agent signs.
Competition: LaPorta, Trevor Crowe and Jordan Brown.
16 Dan Hudson, White Sox RHP
Age: 23
Best Case: He wins the No. 5 starter job out of spring training, completing his rapid ascent, and complements a veteran staff featuring Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks and Gavin Floyd. A bullpen role also is possible.
Worst Case: Hudson begins in Triple-A and gets off to a poor start, while Freddy Garcia thrives, making him the odd man out in Chicago.
Competition: Garcia.
17 Scott Sizemore, Tigers 2B
Age: 25
Best Case: Fully recovered from the broken ankle he sustained in the Arizona Fall League, he provides steady if unspectacular production for a second baseman.
Worst Case: Sizemore's recovery from a broken ankle hits a snag. Or his lack of a standout tool lands him back in Toledo while the Tigers punt offense for defense at the keystone.
Competition: Unopposed after the free agent loss of Placido Polanco. Fallback options include Ramon Santiago and Brent Dlugach.
18 Carlos Carrasco, Indians RHP
Age: 23
Best Case: Anxious to have something to show for the trade of Cliff Lee to the Phillies, Cleveland sticks with Carrasco all season and he pitches more like the Columbus version (5-1, 3.19 in six starts) than the Lehigh Valley one (6-9, 5.18 in 20 starts).
Worst Case: The breaking ball doesn't break and he continues to get rocked like he did last September (0-4, 8.87 with six homers and 11 walks in 22 innings).
Competition: Justin Masterson, David Huff, Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers and/or Mitch Talbot.
19 Pedro Alvarez, Pirates 3B
Age: 23
Best Case: He pushes aside Andy LaRoche before the all-star break and finishes among the rookie leaders for home runs, RBIs and walks. Limited defensive range suggests a best-case career path more along the lines of Ryan Braun than Evan Longoria.
Worst Case: Too many strikeouts and/or a step forward by incumbent LaRoche translates to a long summer in Indianapolis. But that scenario doesn't seem likely given that Alvarez reached Double-A and batted .288/.378/.535 with 27 home runs, 95 RBIs and 71 walks in his pro debut last year.
Competition: LaRoche.
20 Buster Posey, Giants C
Age: 23
Best Case: He continues hitting as he did last year, while shoring up his receiving to the point where he's ready to take over as starter by June.
Worst Case: Posey takes longer than expected to refine his catching technique at Fresno, and/or the Giants' power pitching staff prefers throwing to the veteran Bengie Molina, who was retained on a one-year deal.
Competition: Molina.