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2005 Top 20 Rookies

February 25, 2005

TOP LONGSHOTS

Because they’re not quite ready for prime time or are blocked in the big leagues, these five players didn’t make our top 20. But if circumstances change, they could shoot up the rookie charts. Players are listed alphabetically.

Matt Cain, rhp, Giants
He has just 15 Double-A starts and the Giants rotation is set going into the season, but Cain will be ready if called on.

Ryan Howard, 1b, Phillies
Probably the most noted blocked prospect in baseball, Howard’s only real chance for playing time would come through a trade.

Edwin Jackson, rhp, Dodgers
After Jackson’s setbacks last year, the Dodgers are being much more conservative, but a return to form would move him back to L.A.

Casey Kotchman, 1b, Angels
He seems to have nothing left to prove in the minors, but Anaheim handed first base to Darin Erstad.

Andy Marte, 3b, Braves
Unless Chipper Jones goes back to the outfield, Marte also has nowhere to play. Outfielder Jeff Francoeur also bears watching in Atlanta due to its unsettled situation in the outfield corners.

Here’s our preseason ballot for who we think will win our 2005 Rookie of the Year award.

1. Nick Swisher, of, Athletics
Oakland will be counting on a lot of young players this year, but none more than Swisher.

2. Dallas McPherson, 3b, Angels
McPherson will have to produce right away because the Angels are built to win, but he has the bat to do it.

3. Jeremy Reed, of, Mariners
Reed’s combination of offense and defense represent Seattle’s best option in center field going into the season.

4. Chris Burke, 2b, Astros
The quintessential solid-but-not-spectacular rookie candidate, Burke looks like one of the safest bets among this year’s crop.

5. Tadahito Iguchi, 2b, White Sox
Japanese League veteran offers an intriguing mix of power, speed and defense if he can avoid pitfalls in his transition year.

6. Felix Hernandez, rhp, Mariners
Even though he’s still 18 and has just 10 starts above Class A, we think his talent will have him in the big leagues before midseason.

7. Dan Meyer, lhp, Athletics
Of the A’s many young pitching options, Meyer is the most talented and should be ready to contribute.

8. Scott Kazmir, lhp, Devil Rays
He may already be the ace of the Tampa Bay staff.

9. Jason Bartlett, ss, Twins
One of the least heralded rookies with a clear path to a job, Bartlett should be the latest piece successfully plugged in by Minnesota.

10. Jeff Francis, lhp, Rockies
While Coors Field could give him inflated numbers, his total package gives him a good chance to succeed.

11. Garrett Atkins, 3b, Rockies
His defense and power are question marks, but Coors Field is as good for hitters as it is bad for pitchers.

12. J.J. Hardy, ss, Brewers
No one questions his talent, and the job is clearly his to lose, but how will he perform after what was essentially a lost year?

13. Mark Teahen, 3b, Royals
We’re not worried about him beating out Chris Truby, but his production might not equal those ahead of him.

14. Clint Barmes, ss, Rockies
If he builds on his breakout 2004, he’ll give the Rockies their most productive offensive shortstop ever.

15. Gavin Floyd, rhp, Phillies
He might not open the season in the Philadelphia rotation, but he’ll finish it there and put up solid numbers along the way.

16. Russ Adams, ss, Blue Jays
Adams is next in the new generation of shortstops, but will Toronto give him the opportunities to take advantage of his speed?

17. Ben Hendrickson, rhp, Brewers
He got his feet wet last year and was knocked around early, but had a respectable 4.37 ERA in his last four starts.

18. Joe Blanton, rhp, Athletics
There’s concern that big leaguers could punish his average stuff, but his command and tenacity make him more likely to succeed.

19. Jason Dubois, of, Cubs
People keep waiting for the Cubs to make a move that will push Dubois aside, but for now he should be the starter in left field.

20. Huston Street, rhp, Athletics
The otherworldly makeup he showed in college makes it hard to believe he won’t be pitching important innings in Oakland by July.

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