Our AL Just-Missed Top 10 Prospect All-Stars
CHICAGO—We say this all the time, but it bears repeating: Just because we don't put a player on his organization's Top 10 Prospects list, that doesn't mean he lacks talent or we don't respect his abilities.
In many cases, it's simple math. There are only 10 spots on a Top 10, and the deeper the farm system, the more likely a quality prospect doesn't make the cut.
That's why we have the Prospect Handbook, which has Top 30s for every organization—and makes a fine holiday gift, if you're looking for ideas for the baseball fan on your list. And that's also why we annually use this space to highlight the best players who fall short of Top 10s.
Our first edition of American League not-quite-Top-10 all-stars included Josh Hamilton, who sat out the 2003 season on personal leave. The No.1 overall pick in the 1999 draft, he eventually beat his drug addiction and won the AL MVP award in 2010.
Other AL prospects mentioned over the years include several big leaguers, most notably John Jaso and Howie Kendrick, and prospects on the rise, such as 2010 minor league home run king Mark Trumbo. Last year's group featured Red Sox shortstop Yamaico Navarro and Tigers righthander Robbie Weinhardt, who jumped to the majors in 2010, as well as Angels second baseman Jean Segura, Rangers outfielder Engel Beltre and Twins righthander Adrian Salcedo, who made Top 10s this time around.
Of the 11 players on this year's squad, eight come from teams in the AL East, which not only is baseball's toughest division but also features the best collection of farm systems. Two more belong to the Royals, who have more talent than any organization.
Luke Bailey, c, Rays:
Bailey also made this list last year, when Tommy John surgery knocked him out of the first round of the draft. Healthy in 2010, he regained his arm strength and showed good hands and agility behind the plate. He also has plus raw power, though he'll have to tighten his strike zone.
Lars Anderson, 1b, Red Sox:
Anderson ranked as Boston's No. 1 prospect after the 2008 season. Though his star has dimmed since because he has yet to add loft to his swing or solve lefthanders, he did post a .839 OPS in the second half in Triple-A and made his big league debut at age 22.
Oscar Tejeda, 2b, Red Sox:
Tejeda made this team as a shortstop after 2008 but didn't break out until he stayed healthy and moved to second base in 2010. He's an offensive-minded player with bat speed and a knack for making hard contact, and he also offers quick hands and a strong arm in the field.
Cheslor Cuthbert, 3b, Royals:
He gets overshadowed in baseball's best farm system, but Cuthbert has plenty of upside. He held his own as a 17-year-old against older Rookie-ball competition last season, and he projects to hit for average with plus power while providing decent defense.
Adeiny Hechavarria, ss, Blue Jays:
After signing a $10 million big league contract in April, Hechavarria didn't exactly light up the minors, hitting .242/.272/.333. He still showed everything scouts want to see defensively in a shortstop, and he can unlock his offensive potential if he gets stronger and more patient.
Eric Thames, lf, Blue Jays:
Recovered from quadriceps problems that dogged him in 2008 and 2009, Thames showed off his plus lefthanded power last season, smacking 27 homers in Double-A. He's an all-bat guy who draws a good amount of walks and can become an average defender.
Eddie Rosario, cf, Twins:
Scouts rated Rosario the best pure hitter available in Puerto Rico this year, and Minnesota grabbed him in the fourth round of the draft. He also has average power, plus speed and a solid arm. He could outgrow center field as he fills out and move to right.
Kolbrin Vitek, rf, Red Sox:
After Boston drafted him 20th overall in June, Vitek made his pro debut at third base but profiles better as a right fielder. He has average or better tools across the board, highlighted by his pure hitting ability, and may have enough range to give center field a try.
Enny Romero, lhp, Rays:
Romero is just what Tampa Bay's opponents don't want to see—another Rays power lefthander. He led the Rookie-level Appalachian League with a 1.95 ERA last summer, thanks to a 92-96 mph fastball and a tight 12-to-6 curveball. He's only 19 and has projection remaining.
Brett Marshall, rhp, Yankees:
Marshall blew out his elbow in his first full pro season in 2009, but Tommy John surgery has restored his fastball. He has a very lively 89-94 mph two-seamer and a four-seamer that reaches 97. His slider and changeup are coming along nicely.
Tim Collins, rp, Royals:
Signed as a nondrafted free agent three years ago, Collins was traded twice last summer, from the Blue Jays to the Braves to the Royals. He doesn't look the part at 5-foot-7 and 155 pounds, but he has a 90-95 mph fastball with good life and a curveball and changeup that are plus pitches at times.