|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. *Mark Teixeira, 3b, Tulsa (Rangers)|
|2. *Jesse Foppert, rhp, Shreveport (Giants)|
|3. *Todd Linden, of, Shreveport (Giants)|
|4. *Rafael Soriano, rhp, San Antonio (Mariners)|
|5. *Francisco Rodriguez, rhp, Arkansas (Angels)|
|6. *Kirk Saarloos, rhp, Round Rock (Astros)|
|7. *Mike Gosling, lhp, El Paso (Diamondbacks)|
|8. *Rich Harden, rhp, Midland (Athletics)|
|9. Ben Kozlowski, lhp, Tulsa (Rangers)|
|10.* Bobby Jenks, rhp, Arkansas (Angels)|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Colby Rasmus, of, Springfield Cardinals|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 175 Age: 21 Drafted: Cardinals '05 (1)|
|Rasmus came into the season as the top prospect in the Cardinals organization, and he simply bolstered that status as a 20-year-old in Double-A for the first time. He was a constant in center field and in the heart of the Springfield lineup all season, showing confidence that belied his age. He also won a semifinal playoff game against Tulsa with an extra-inning homer.|
Rasmus is a legitimate five-tool player who has the power to bat in the middle of the order (he led the TL with 29 homers and 69 extra-base hits) and also has the skills to bat leadoff if necessary (he topped the league with 93 runs and walked 70 times). He batted first, second and third for Springfield most of the season and should be able to slot into the big league lineup wherever the Cardinals need him.
He also was the best defensive outfielder in the league, a legitimate center fielder with good range and a strong, accurate arm. He was streaky at the plate but his defense never slumped.
|2.||Chase Headley, 3b, San Antonio Missions (Padres)|
|B-T: B-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Drafted: Padres '05 (2)|
|Headley raised his profile significantly after leading San Antonio to the league title and winning MVP honors. He was an easy choice, considering he paced the TL in batting (.330), on-base percentage (.437) and slugging (.580).|
Headley brings an outstanding approach to both sides of the plate, as evidenced by his 1.107 OPS against lefthanders and his .987 mark against righties. He aggressively jumps on mistakes and drives them, and he'll take a walk if pitchers won't challenge him. In the first game of the league championship series, Springfield walked him four times after he hit a solo homer in the first inning.
"The only way to try to get him out is to give him nothing to hit," Cardinals manager Pop Warner said. "You don't want him to beat you."
Headley also made progress with his defense at third base. He showed average range, an accurate arm and the ability to charge in on bunts.
|3.||Nick Adenhart, rhp, Arkansas Travelers (Angels)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 190 Age: 21 Drafted: Angels '04 (14)|
|Adenhart held his own in his first Double-A experience at age 20, finishing fifth in the league with a 3.65 ERA, but inconsistency with his delivery and command kept him from dominating as his stuff might dictate. He finished third in the league in strikeouts, but he also finished fifth in the league in walks.|
He has top-of-the-rotation stuff when everything works, throwing a plus fastball in the mid-90s, along with a curveball and changeup that can be above-average pitches at times. At his best he commands all three pitches and works to both sides of the plate. Arkansas coaches worked to smooth his delivery, particularly with his lower half, to make that happen more regularly.
Adenhart tried to be too fine with his pitches at times this season, leading to higher pitch counts. His coaches tried to encourage him to pitch more to contact.
|4.||Greg Reynolds, rhp, Tulsa Drillers (Rockies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-7 Wt.: 225 Age: 22 Drafted: Rockies '06 (1)|
|Reynolds overmatched hitters as much as any pitcher in the league this season, his first full year after the Rockies gave him a $3.25 million bonus as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2006 draft. The problem was that he made just eight starts before undergoing arthroscopic shoulder surgery in August. Doctors found no significant damage and he's expected to be back at full health in spring training.|
Managers and scouts were impressed by Reynolds' power stuff, which includes a fastball that peaked in the mid-90s and a curveball that was a plus pitch at times, along with a good changeup. He also throws a heavy ball and induced a lot of ground balls. He doesn't rack up a lot of strikeouts, but he doesn't allow hitters to make hard contact either.
Reynolds' makeup was just as impressive as his stuff. "For a guy in his first professional season, his preparation and attitude surprised me," Tulsa manager Stu Cole said.
|5.||Luke Hochevar, rhp, Wichita Wranglers (Royals)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 205 Age: 23 Drafted: Royals '06 (1)|
|On a team that lacked both talent (Wichita's 56-84 record was the worst in the league) and fans (the team drew a league-worst 113,368 in its last season before moving to Springdale, Ark.), Hochevar stood out with his potential top-of-the-rotation stuff.|
He'll always be under the microscope, both because he was the No. 1 overall pick in 2006 after holding out from the 2005 draft and because he's one of the few Royals pitching prospects with premium stuff. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s with good late movement, and his curveball, slider and changeup all were good pitches at times.
"His whole repertoire makes him," Cole said. "There's not one devastating pitch."
Yet managers said his results didn't seem to match his stuff, particularly early in the season. Some said it seemed at times he was trying to get everyone out himself and overthrew, though he pitched with more confidence later in the season.
|6.||Matt Antonelli, 2b, San Antonio Missions (Padres)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190 Age: 22 Drafted: Padres '06 (1)|
|Antonelli came up from high Class A in July and provided a spark for San Antonio in the second half, batting leadoff and playing solid defense at second base in his first full pro season. Drafted as a third baseman, he moved to second this season and drew comparisons to Craig Biggio and Mark Grudzielanek for his steady play.|
League observers didn't predict stardom for Antonelli, but almost everyone expected him to step in at second base in San Diego as soon as next season and be there for years. He has a good approach at the plate and showed not only a willingness to take a walk, but also the ability to put a charge in the ball when he gets his pitch. He has a quick bat and can drive the ball from gap to gap.
Antonelli also impressed with his defense at second base in spite of his inexperience. His range and actions are fine, and he has plenty of arm for the position. He sat back on balls and his angles were off on some plays, but those things should improve with experience, and he should be good at turning double plays in time.
|7.||Franklin Morales, lhp, Tulsa Drillers (Rockies)|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 180 Age: 21 Signed: Rockies '02|
|Morales spent all of 2006 in Class A, then jumped from Double-A in the first half of this season to Triple-A and then the big leagues by the end of the year. He piled up 93 strikeouts in 113 minor league innings, but also 58 walks, emphasizing his power stuff as well as the work he still has to do with his command.|
Morales brings pure power from the left side, with a fastball that sits at 93-94 mph, a hard curveball and an improving changeup. To get the most out of his ability, though, he'll need to improve his focus and preparation for each start, as well as learn how to attack hitters.
Most TL observers expected Morales' command to improve as he matures. And if he doesn't develop into a frontline starter, Morales has the stuff to pitch in the back of a bullpen.
"He was all over the place in his first start, but he looked much better after that," Warner said. "By the end of his time in the league, he was throwing offspeed pitches behind in the count for strikes."
|8.||Eric Hurley, rhp, Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 195 Age: 21 Drafted: Rangers '04 (1)|
|After finishing last season in Frisco, Hurley returned for another half-season of Double-A experience before he moved up to Triple-A in June. He ranked among the league leaders in most pitching categories at the time of his departure.|
Hurley's power sinker left a definite impression, and most managers thought he could be successful just working off his two- and four-seam fastballs. He operates in the low 90s and backs up his fastball with a slider and changeup. All his pitches show late life, and he commands them most of the time.
"Righthanded hitters just wanted to give up against his sinker," Corpus Christi manager Dave Clark said. "He has a good slider, too, but he didn't have to use it in this league."
|9.||Troy Patton, lhp, Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros)|
|B-T: B-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: Astros '04 (9)|
|Like Hurley, Patton returned to the Texas League after getting a handful of starts there at the end of 2006. And like Hurley, he moved on to Triple-A at midseason, though Patton kept it going and made his major league debut at the end of August. He was shut down in September with shoulder tenderness, but doctors found no structural problems and Patton should be able to compete for a big league job in the spring.|
Patton is more of a mid-rotation starter than the pitchers who rank ahead of him on this list. He makes up for stuff that may be a tick behind the others' with a fierce competitive spirit and deceptive delivery. He works in the low 90s most of the time, with a slider and changeup that he used more effectively in his later starts.
Patton hides the ball well, turning his back on hitters a little bit and throwing from almost a low three-quarters slot. His pitches get on hitters quick. "There are not a whole lot of balls squared up on him," Clark said.
|10.||J.R. Towles, c, Corpus Christi Hooks (Astros)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 195 Age: 23 Drafted: Astros '04 (20)|
|The Astros always recognized Towles' all-around ability, but they never got enough of an opportunity to see it on the field. After injuries limited him to 165 games in his first 2 1/2 pro seasons, he stayed healthy all year in 2007 and jumped from high Class A all the way to the big leagues, earning a September callup. He came to Corpus Christi in May and immediately took command of the pitching staff, showing above-average ability both at the plate and behind it. |
Towles is athletic for a catcher, has a good idea of the strike zone and a little pop in his bat, earning comparisons to the young Jason Kendall. He has good catch-and-throw skills but he'll have to improve his control of the running game. He threw out just 21 percent of basestealers in the TL.
Towles has lots of room for improvement, and the drive to suggest he'll fulfill his potential. He could add more weight and muscle, and he could hit 15-20 home runs a year in the big leagues.
|11.||Chris Perez, rhp, Springfield Cardinals|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 225 Age: 22 Drafted: Cardinals '06 (1S)|
|The Cardinals were looking for a reliever who could move quickly through their organization when they took Perez with a supplemental first-round pick in 2006, and he looked up to the job this season. He won universal acclaim as the best reliever in the league before moving up to Triple-A at the end of July.|
"He could have pitched in the big leagues this year," Clark said.
Perez blew his first save opportunity in Springfield, then converted 27 straight with a 95-mph fastball and a wicked slider. His fastball has good sink, and his slider was an effective weapon against righthanders.
Command is the only issue for Perez going forward. He was able to work his way out of jams in the TL, but he'll have to cut down on his walks to have success in the big leagues.
|12.||Jaime Garcia, lhp, Springfield Cardinals|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 21 Drafted: Cardinals '05 (22)|
|Garcia didn't match his results from 2006, when he exploded onto the prospect scene in his pro debut, but he showed the same quality pitches. He would have rated higher on this list if not for elbow problems that prompted the Cardinals to shut him down in mid-July. Doctors diagnosed the injury as a sprained ligament, and Garcia is expected to be at full strength in spring training.|
Most league observers thought Garcia showed the best pure stuff on the Springfield staff, with two plus pitches in his fastball and curveball. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good life, and his curveball is a legitimate out pitch with power downer action. His changeup remains a work in progress.
In part because his elbow was bothering him, Garcia struggled with his command. He walked 3.9 batters per nine innings, nearly double his 2.0 rate from a year ago.
|13.||Juan Morillo, rhp, Tulsa Drillers (Rockies)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 23 Drafted: Rockies '01|
|Among the group of young arms starting to make an impact in Colorado, Morillo distinguishes himself as the hardest thrower. After spending most of the 2006 season pitching in Tulsa's rotation, he returned to the Drillers and worked exclusively out of the bullpen, the role he seems best suited for.|
Morillo can comfortably throw the ball in the high 90s, and he touched 101 mph this year. His new role allowed him to discard his changeup and focus on his slider, which was much more reliable this season and in turn helped his fastball be even more effective. He also was more consistent in the strike zone while pitching in relief.
The key for Morillo to make the leap to the big leagues and possibly become a closer will come in bringing his best effort and preparation to the ballpark every day. He did a better job of that as a reliever than he did as a starter.
|14.||German Duran, 2b, Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 185 Age: 23 Drafted: Rangers '05 (6)|
|Duran was an afterthought in the Texas system coming into 2007, but he stung the ball all season and ranked among the TL leaders in most offensive categories. He also represented the Rangers on the World team in the Futures Game. |
Scouts and managers see Duran as an offensive second baseman whose overall approach to hitting isn't as polished as Antonelli's, but he offers more power. Duran isn't big but has a strong body and a quick bat, with the ability to put a charge in the ball.
Most managers regarded Duran as a solid second baseman. He's good around the bag and should be able to make the routine plays, with average range and an average arm. His speed is fringe-average.
|15.||Sean Rodriguez, ss, Arkansas (Angels)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 195 Age: 22 Drafted: Angels '03 (3)|
|Rodriguez doesn't offer one overwhelming tool, but his overall package and strong baseball instincts should make him an effective big leaguer. His offensive numbers dipped from 2006, when he led the minors with 291 total bases, but he was still selected as the league's all-star shortstop.|
Power is probably Rodriguez' best tool, as he shows the ability to drive the ball to all fields and could hit 20-25 homers per year in the majors. Some observers think he would be better served shortening his swing and being more of a doubles hitter, however. Though he has a good swing and balance at the plate, he led the league with 132 whiffs, in part because of poor strike-zone recognition.
Rodriguez has been a shortstop so far in his career and shows good defensive actions, but his below-average speed and big frame, as well as organization depth, could push him to second base or the outfield. He'll probably end up as a utility player.
|16.||Felipe Paulino, rhp, Corpus Christi (Astros)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180 Age: 23 Drafted: Astros '01|
|Paulino hadn't played above Class A coming into the season, but he made his major league debut in Houston in September, earning wins in his last two starts. He has the body and the stuff to pitch at the top of a rotation, with a fastball that touches 100 mph and sits at 95-99 mph.|
Paulino has four legitimate pitches, using both a slider and a curveball as well as a changeup. His curveball is probably the best of his complementary pitches, but none of them stand out.
To establish himself in the big league rotation, Paulino will have to improve his command and become more confident with his fastball. His velocity allows him to dominate, but if hitters hit his heater early in games, he tends to shy away from it.
|17.||Bryan Anderson, c, Springfield Cardinals|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 200 Age: 20 Drafted: Cardinals '05 (4)|
|Anderson jumped past high Class A to Springfield this season, and while he drew compliments for his potential with the bat, he raised questions about his long-term ability to stay behind the plate. His value is obviously much greater as a lefthanded-hitting catcher than it would be at first base, where it's not clear he would have enough power for the position.|
Anderson struggled to drive the ball against Double-A pitching, but scouts and managers liked his uppercut swing and think he can consistently hit around .300 with at least gap power. He has good strike-zone recognition and is willing to take a walk.
They're not as sold on his defense. He struggled transferring the ball and wasn't accurate with his throws, erasing just 27 percent of basestealers. He blocks balls well but needs to get quieter in his receiving.
His own manager, Warner, noted that Anderson is just 20 and believes he'll be able to make the necessary improvements to stay at catcher. He also said Anderson made great strides handling a pitching staff and calling games.
|18.||Richie Robnett, of, Midland RockHounds (Athletics)|
|B-T: L-L Ht: 5-10 Wt: 200 Age: 23 Drafted: Athletics '04 (1)|
|Robnett hit just .234 with six homers over the season's first two months before his considerable tools finally started to translate into production. He batted .290 with 12 homers over the final three months, set career highs in several categories and made the TL's postseason all-star team, as he raised his average more than 30 points from the beginning of June.|
Robnett can sting line drives with a short, powerful swing, and he drew comparisons to Cliff Floyd for his ability to drive the ball. He has an all-or-nothing approach and still struggles with pitch recognition, but most managers thought with more at-bats he'll learn to shrink his strike zone and put the ball in play more often.
He also has a good arm and runs well, which translates in the field but not on the basepaths for the Athletics, who run less than any organization. Robnett played all three outfield positions for Midland.
|19.||Josh Geer, rhp, San Antonio Missions (Padres)|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 190 Age: 24 Drafted: Padres '05 (3)|
|He wasn't the prettiest or the most overpowering pitcher in the league this year, but Geer was the most effective, leading the TL in wins (16) and ERA (3.20) and easily taking the league's pitcher of the year award while helping San Antonio to the league title.|
Geer isn't overpowering, but he pounds the strike zone and moves the ball around masterfully. He attacks hitters with two- and four-seam fastballs, a plus changeup and a plus curveball, all of which come with the same arm speed and from the same window.
He changes speeds and pitches to contact, which keeps his pitch counts low and allowed him to pile up 177 total innings (including one July start in Triple-A), which ranked fifth in the minors. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter who will have to hit his spots and keep the ball down.
"You just have to put the radar gun away when he's on the mound," Clark said. "He just competes and makes pitches."
|20.||Joe Mather, of, Springfield Cardinals|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-5 Wt.: 210 Age: 25 Drafted: Cardinals '01 (3)|
|Mather has the potential to be the kind of development story every organization dreams about. He was born in Idaho but played high school ball in Arizona, and the Cardinals made him a third-round pick in 2001 after he hit 17 home runs as a high school senior.|
Mather always flashed raw ability but never showed it in games, and he came into the season as a career .249 hitter with 55 homers in 1,686 at-bats--none above Class A. He showed signs of coming around last year with 16 homers in high Class A, and he hit 18 longballs for Springfield this year before moving up to Triple-A and hitting 13 more.
Mather often pulled off the ball and collapsed his back side in previous seasons, but he showed a consistent stance and approach this season. He's also versatile in the field, and he played both right field and first base this season. He should have enough power for either position.
"To me he's a first baseman who can play in the outfield," Clark said. "But he has big league pop to all fields. The ball sounds different coming off his bat."