Top 100 Midseason Update




THE NEW TOP 25

For the purposes of this list, we used three rules: Players had to be rookie-eligible (sorry, B.J. Upton); they had to be in the minor leagues at the time of the major league All-Star Game (oh, unlucky, Mike Pelfrey); and no 2006 draft picks (wear it, Evan Longoria). The graduation of top pitching prospects such as Pelfrey to the major leagues has left the upper levels of the minors picked clean of elite pitching prospects. Double-A is as far as some 2004 prep draftees have gotten, and a trio of such pitchers looks like the best of the best in the minors on the mound. But at least nine hitters seem here like better bets to be impact big league bats, or at least sure bets to be steady regulars.

Midseason Top 25 Prospects

Rank.Player, Pos.OrganizationStats (Current Level)In Brief
1.Stephen Drew, ssDiamondbacks.285/.340/.463 (AAA)The safest bet with elite tools at an elite position.
2.Delmon Young, ofDevil Rays.355/.376/.461 (AAA)We'll shut up and let you play if you will.
3.Brandon Wood, ssAngels.290/.377/.946 (AAA)Move to third, K's (109 in 87 games) only negatives.
4.Justin Upton, ofDiamondbacks.278/.348/.426 (Lo A)Not bad, but not up to expectations.
5.Alex Gordon, 3bRoyals.295/.400/.497 (AA)Probably should be the Royals' No. 3 hitter.
6.Lastings Milledge, ofMets.289/.415/.469 (AAA)He'll be better off for his big league experience.
7.Billy Butler, ofRoyals.322/.381/.480 (AA)Probably should be the Royals' No. 4 hitter.
8.Troy Tulowitzki, ssRockies.285/.361/.482 (AA)Longish swing puts better glove behind Drew, Wood.
9.Howie Kendrick, 2bAngels.369/.409/.627 (AAA)Give him time in majors and he'll hit there, too.
10.Homer Bailey, rhpReds 6-5, 2.67 (AA)Best Reds pitching prospect since Mario Soto?
11.Philip Hughes, rhpYankees 7-6, 2.47 (AA)More polish than Bailey, but less fastball.
12.Cameron Maybin, ofTigers .313/.410/.464 (Lo A)Youngest U.S. Futures Gamer only needs time.
13.Carlos Gonzalez, ofDiamondbacks .315/.368/.567 (Hi A)Supreme talent has emerged as elite hitter.
14.Scott Elbert, lhp Dodgers 6-5, 2.33 (AA)Power stuff now coupled with improved pitchability.
15.Jay Bruce, ofReds.322/.388/.581 (Lo A)Not far behind Upton/Maybin duo in Midwest League.
16.Jose Tabata, ofYankees.321/.395/.454 (Lo A)We know he'll hit, so how high is his ceiling?
17.Chris Young, ofDiamondbacks.271/.359/.508 (AAA)Would be in the majors if still with White Sox.
18.Jason Hirsh, rhpAstros10-2, 2.28 (AAA)Pitches downhill effectively from 6-foot-8 frame.
19.Andy Marte, 3bIndians.271/.333/.464 (AAA)Getting back on track after whirlwind offseason.
20.Nick Adenhart, rhpAngels11-2, 2.13 (Hi A)Healthy elbow has produced stuff and numbers.
21.Carlos Quentin, ofDiamondbacks.298/.426/.498 (AAA)Does more than rack up HBPs, but those are nice too.
22.Adam Loewen, lhp Orioles6-2, 2.28 (AAA)Late-bloomer profile: tall, Northern and lefthanded.
23.Ryan Braun, 3bBrewers.274/.343/.453 (AA)Not in the Gordon/Wood category, but not far off.
24.Matt Garza, rhpTwins11-3, 2.04 (AA)Minors' most dominant pitcher in first half of 2006.
25.Yovani Gallardo, rhpBrewers6-4, 1.68 (AA)Minors' most dominant pitcher--other than Garza.

Just missing the cut: Elvis Andrus, ss, Braves; Reid Brignac, ss, Devil Rays; Travis Buck, of, Athletics; Trevor Crowe, of, Indians; Jacoby Ellsbury, of, Red Sox; Brandon Erbe, rhp, Orioles; Andrew McCutchen, of, Pirates; Adam Miller, rhp, Indians; Anibal Sanchez, rhp, Marlins; Humberto Sanchez, rhp, Tigers; Kevin Slowey, rhp, Twins; Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies; Donald Veal, lhp,  Cubs; Joey Votto, 1b,  Reds.

ELITE TOOLS ENOUGH?

A catch-all title for a group that needs no introduction to prospect watchers. As most of these players received signing bonuses upward of $500,000, this group has star tools. It also has a diverse set of problems.

Young had the minors' ugliest incident this season, his bat-tossing brain cramp in Pawtucket that merited a 50-game suspension and a taint on his career. He's clearly a No. 1 talent--a 20-year-old hitting .355/.376/.461 in Triple-A with right-field tools--but his temper and lack of respect for the game have many questioning whether he'll reach his ceiling. "You see it in every sport," a professional scout said at the Futures Game. "Character will damage a player in all aspects because eventually, in one way or another, it will keep him off the field."

Upton, Guzman and Gonzalez all have star tools as well. Yet scouts have criticized all three for not giving consistent effort this season. Guzman's reaction to his demotion to Las Vegas after a brief big league promotion did not ingratiate him to the new Dodgers regime, nor will it help him land the Dodgers more talent in a trade. Upton and Gonzalez both have been criticized for not playing hard and for their sense of entitlement at an early age. One scout reported having a hard time grading Gonzalez as a runner because he doesn't run hard consistently. Both have unquestioned tools, but neither has dominated this season, lending credence to the talk that they haven't put forth their best effort.

The rest of the group's difficulties focus on performance. Stewart and Marte, once considered elite prospects, have both been average this year, with sub-.800 on-base plus slugging numbers. Saltalamacchia is battling a wrist problem (wrist injuries also dogged Stewart in 2005) and just not hitting, while Rogers has run hot and cold during a 1-2, 5.07 season. His 96 strikeouts in 71 innings (a minors-best 12.17 strikeouts per nine innings) show his upside, but he also has 53 walks. Pie simply hasn't made any progress in controlling the strike zone and is getting dominated by upper-level pitchers (.240 average since May 1). Pawelek showed up for spring training out of shape and was pitching in relief in short-season ball, not the profile of a top prospect in his first full season.

1.Delmon Young, ofDevil Rays
2.Justin Upton, ofDiamondbacks
14.Andy Marte, 3bIndians
16.Ian Stewart, 3bRockies
18.Jarrod Saltalamacchia, cBraves
26.Joel Guzman, 3b/ofDodgers
27.Felix Pie, ofCubs
32.Carlos Gonzalez, ofDiamondbacks
44.Mark Rogers, rhpBrewers
85.Mark Pawelek, lhp Cubs


ON COURSE

It's steady as she goes for this group, performing up to expectations. Several, such as Anibal Sanchez (Marlins) and Dustin Nippert (Diamondbacks), have gotten big league cups of coffee, but none were in the majors at the all-star break. Several of these players appear poised for a second-half breakout, such as Danks, who has earned a promotion to Triple-A, and position changers such as Jones (shortstop to center field) and DeWitt (third base to second).

3.Brandon Wood, ssAngels
5.Stephen Drew, ssDiamondbacks
12.Howie Kendrick, 2bAngels
13.Alex Gordon, 3bRoyals
20.Carlos Quentin, ofDiamondbacks
23.Chris Young, ofDiamondbacks
25.Troy Tulowitzki, ssRockies
40.Anibal Sanchez, rhpMarlins
47.Adam Miller, rhpIndians
50.Andrew McCutchen, ofPirates
56.Edinson Volquez, rhpRangers
59.John Danks, lhp Rangers
61.Elvis Andrus, ssBraves
62.Troy Patton, lhp Astros
64.Adam Jones, ofMariners
67.Dustin Nippert, rhpDiamondbacks
72.Thomas Diamond, rhpRangers
73.Gio Gonzalez, lhp Phillies
77.Dustin Pedroia, 2b/ssRed Sox
82.Blake DeWitt, 2b/3bDodgers
84.Justin Huber, 1b Royals
87.Ricky Romero, lhp Blue Jays
97.Chris Volstad, rhpMarlins


GRADUATION DAZE

And we thought 2005 was the year of the rookie. More than one-third of our preseason Top 100 Prospects list (36 players) has moved up, and most have been major league in every sense of their performances. This bionic group has been bigger, faster and stronger than last year's rookie crop, producing perhaps the majors' best pitcher (Franciso Liriano), hardest-throwing starter (Justin Verlander) and reliever (Joel Zumaya), best closer (Jonathan Papelbon) and one of the best young sluggers (Prince Fielder).

4.Jeremy Hermida, ofMarlins
6.Francisco Liriano, lhp Twins
7.Chad Billingsley, rhpDodgers
8.Justin Verlander, rhpTigers
9.Lastings Milledge, ofMets
10.Matt Cain, rhpGiants
11.Prince Fielder, 1b Brewers
15.Ryan Zimmerman, 3bNationals
17.Conor Jackson, 1b Diamondbacks
21.Nick Markakis, ofOrioles
22.Jon Lester, lhp Red Sox
24.Bobby Jenks, rhpWhite Sox
30.Hanley Ramirez, ssMarlins
34.Scott Olsen, lhp Marlins
35.Joel Zumaya, rhpTigers
36.Mike Pelfrey, rhpMets
37.Jonathan Papelbon, rhpRed Sox
41.Anthony Reyes, rhpCardinals
42.Russell Martin, cDodgers
46.Erick Aybar, ssAngels
51.Brian Anderson, ofWhite Sox
53.Jeremy Sowers, lhp Indians
54.Craig Hansen, rhpRed Sox
57.Jered Weaver, rhpAngels
58.Jason Kubel, ofTwins
63.Jonathan Broxton, rhpDodgers
66.Kenji Johjima, cMariners
68.Cole Hamels, lhp Phillies
69.Yusmeiro Petit, rhpMarlins
78.Kendry Morales, 1b Angels
80.Josh Johnson, rhpMarlins
89.Andre Ethier, ofDodgers
94.Ronny Cedeno, ssCubs
95.Tom Gorzelanny, lhp Pirates
96.Matt Kemp, ofDodgers
98.Chuck James, lhpBraves


INJURY CONCERNS

Some injuries have just sapped players' strength or taken away development time. Some make you wonder if these players will ever regain the skills necessary to be impact big leaguers, such as Sanders' injury-related hitting woes, or Niemann's inability to stay in a rotation.

19.Andy LaRoche, 3bDodgers Shoulder
28.Daric Barton, 1b AthleticsShoulder
33.Jeff Clement, cMarinersKnee
43.Neil Walker, cPiratesWrist
65.Marcus Sanders, ss/2bGiantsShoulder/Thumb
70.Jeff Niemann, rhpDevil RaysShoulder
74.Javier Herrera, ofAthleticsElbow
81.Hayden Penn, rhpOriolesAppendicitis
88.Cesar Carrillo, rhpPadresElbow


MOVIN' ON UP

Many young players just needed to establish themselves a bit more to move up our prospect list, or just needed others in front of them to graduate. Butler has established his bona fides as one of the minors' most polished hitters, giving further evidence of his ability at the Futures Game, where he earned MVP honors. His defense also has improved, to the point where he's no longer referred to as a definite future DH. Bailey and Hughes have emerged as two of the best pitching prospects in the game and candidates to help their major league teams sooner than later. Elbert was emerging from a Dodgers system thinned by graduations as its best prospect still in the minors.

29.Billy Butler, ofRoyals
31.Cameron Maybin, ofTigers
38.Homer Bailey, rhpReds
39.Philip Hughes, rhpYankees
45.Adam Loewen, lhp Orioles
49.Ryan Braun, 3bBrewers
52.Jason Hirsh, rhpAstros
55.Scott Elbert, lhp Dodgers
76.Jay Bruce, ofReds
90.Nick Adenhart, rhpAngels


SHRINKAGE

Some of these guys just haven't had great years, and some have not answered the questions scouts had about them, prompting more questions about their ability to be big league regulars. Mathis' failure in the major leagues (.103 in 12 games) and Pennington's inability to hit (.203/.302/.277) have come as the biggest surprises. Some of them might even still be top 100 worthy by season's end, but our ardor has cooled somewhat.

48.Dustin McGowan, rhpBlue Jays
60.Jeff Mathis, cAngels
71.Brad Snyder, ofIndians
75.Matt Moses, 3bTwins
79.Jason Hammel, rhpDevil Rays
83.Cliff Pennington, ssAthletics
86.Eric Duncan, 1b Yankees
91.Glen Perkins, lhp Twins
92.Ryan Sweeney, ofWhite Sox
93.Anthony Lerew, rhpBraves
100.Anthony Swarzak, rhpTwins


ON THE RADAR

Often, players just need at-bats or innings for their tools to translate into premium performance. Some, such as the hard-throwing Albers (maturity) or former College World Series hero Humber (Tommy John surgery), have had the talent but needed to get on the field consistently to prove their ability. Others such as Buck, Gallagher and Iannetta, have raised their games, surpassing previous projections. These players have definitely moved into top 100 consideration, with some likely to jump to the very top of the list.

Player, PositionTeam
Matt Albers, rhpAstros
Jose Arredondo, rhpAngels
Reid Brignac, ssDevil Rays
Travis Buck, ofAthletics
Trevor Crowe, ofIndians
Jacoby Ellsbury, ofRed Sox
Brandon Erbe, rhpOrioles
Josh Fields, 3bWhite Sox
Matt Garza, rhpTwins
Philip Humber, rhpMets
Sean Gallagher, rhpCubs
Yovani Gallardo, rhpBrewers
Matt Harrison, lhp Braves
Chris Iannetta, cRockies
Ubaldo Jimenez, rhpRockies
George Kottaras, cPaders
Radhames Liz, rhpOrioles
Chuck Lofgren, lhp Indians
Franklin Morales, lhp Rockies
Hunter Pence, ofAstros
Colby Rasmus, ofCardinals
Jo-Jo Reyes, lhp Braves
Humberto Sanchez, rhpTigers
Kevin Slowey, rhpTwins
Jose Tabata, ofYankees
Donald Veal, lhp Cubs
Joey Votto, 1b Reds
Sean West, lhp Marlins