With the regular season over, we now have the draft order for 2011. Here's how the first round looks right now, though it will change when free-agent compensation picks come into play:
|1. Pirates (57-105)||18. Athletics (81-81)|
|2. Mariners (61-101)||19. Tigers (81-81)|
|3. Diamondbacks (65-97)||20. Rockies (83-79)|
|4. Orioles (66-96)||21. Blue Jays (85-77)|
|5. Royals (67-95)||22. Cardinals (86-76)|
|6. Nationals (69-93)||23. White Sox (88-74)|
|7. Diamondbacks (for Barret Loux)||24. Red Sox (89-73)|
|8. Indians (69-93)||25. Padres (90-72)|
|9. Cubs (75-87)||26. Rangers (90-72)|
|10. Padres (for Karsten Whitson)||27. Reds (91-71)|
|11. Astros (76-86)||28. Braves (91-71)|
|12. Brewers (77-85)||29. Giants (92-70)|
|13. Mets (79-83)||30. Twins (94-68)|
|14. Marlins (80-82)||31. Yankees (95-67)|
|15. Brewers (for Dylan Covey)||32. Rays (96-66)|
|16. Dodgers (80-82)||33. Phillies (97-65)|
|17. Angels (80-82)|
I suppose I have to offer my postseason prognostications. I'm picking the Rays to beat the Phillies in a rematch of the 2008 World Series. I picked Tampa Bay to win the 2010 World Series three years ago , and I'd be a fool to contradict what might be my best prediction ever.
As for the Division Series, I see the Rays beating the Rangers in four games and the Yankees outlasting the Twins in five in the American League, with the Phillies sweeping the Reds and the Giants getting past the Braves in five games in the National League.
We're in the midst of unveiling our minor league Top 20 Prospects lists, so today's questions will focus on those.
Hell hath no fury like a Mets fan scorned. Or something like that. We've heard from plenty of Mets fans since our SAL Top 20 came out last Thursday and Flores wasn't included.
Flores played half the season at Savannah, batting .278/.342/.433 at age 18 and as the fourth-youngest regular in the league. He was on some of the earlier versions of the list, but after Bill Ballew talked to more scouts and managers while putting together the Top 20, Flores wound up just missing out.
Flores' bat is obviously his best tool, but SAL observers knocked the rest of his game. He's not going to stay at shortstop, and some scouts questioned whether he'd be able to play third base because he has below-average speed and agility. There were concerns about him giving less than full effort at times. Flores spent last year in the SAL as well—he ranked 10th on last year's Top 20—and it's possible that SAL observers expected more improvement out of him this year.
Should Flores' offensive potential outweighed the rest of his game and landed him on the SAL Top 20? When it comes to evaluating prospects, especially at the lower levels of the minors where they have a lot of projection remaining, there are few sure things. You could certainly make a case for Flores versus several players on the list, just as you could make a case for taking those players over him, as we did.
In contrast to our organization rankings and overall Top 100 Prospects list, our minor league Top 20s factor in league context. They're a narrower look at how a player performed in that league, and scouts and managers in one circuit can view a player differently than others who see him elsewhere. Flores is a perfect case in point, because when our Florida State League Top 20 comes out on Wednesday, he'll rank 10th.
FSL observers dwelled on Flores' bat speed and ability to make hard contact more than his shortcomings. They too worried that he might wind up at first base, but they believed more in his offensive promise and didn't have any concerns about how hard he played.
As for Marte, he wasn't particularly close to making the SAL Top 20. He showed improvement while repeating the league at age 19 and he still has impressive bat speed and raw power, but he has a long swing and isn't going to stick at third base. He's a prospect, but he just wasn't good enough for a Top 20 in a strong 14-team league.
I've been doing our MWL list since 2000, and this year was the toughest because the talent was as deep as ever and the league expanded to 16 teams for the first time. I considered Krol but ultimately didn't rank him. In a normal-sized league, he would have found a spot.
However, I don't have any qualms about where I ranked those guys. Miller had the best stuff in the league and has one of the best fastballs in the minors. His 94-98 mph velocity is only part of what makes his heater special, as the life on the pitch might be more impressive and he throws it with ease. He made significant progress with a curveball that will give him a second plus pitch, and his changeup should be a solid third offering. While he was inconsistent in the first half, he was dominant throughout the second half and the playoffs.
I like Skaggs, who would have ranked in the top five in many years I've covered the MWL—but not this one. Though he has a chance to have three quality pitches, none of them will be as good as Miller's fastball and Miller might wind up with a superior breaking ball as well. Skaggs has a little more polish to him right now, but not significantly more than Miller.
Krol pitched very well in the MWL and during a brief stint in high Class A, but I doubt even the Athletics would trade Miller to get Krol. His fastball ranges from 84-87 mph at times to 86-89 to others and occasionally touches 90. There's not much if any projection left in his 6-foot-1, 190-pound frame, so he's going to have a below-average fastball. His curveball and changeup are potential plus pitches and he has good command, but he doesn't have the ceiling that Miller or Skaggs do.
Miller has a chance to become a true No. 1 starter, while Skaggs' ceiling is as a No. 2 or 3 and Krol's is as a No. 4 or 5. Miller's present and future stuff is better than that of the two lefties, and while low Class A stats aren't tremendously meaningful, he also performed very well down the stretch. The order in which to rank the three pitchers was very obvious to me.
The good news for Josh is that since he asked his question, the Orioles finally broke through with outfielder Xavier Avery making the Carolina League Top 20. The bad news is that on all the Top 20s, Baltimore has just four prospects mentioned, tying the Athletics for the lowest total among all organizations.
While the number of Top 20 prospects isn't the most scientific way to measure the quality of a farm system, it still is indicative of the system's strength. The Orioles are in a transitional phase in the minor leagues after graduating top prospects Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and Matt Wieters and several complementary players to Baltimore in recent years. They're trying to replenish their system and much of their talent should be concentrated in the lower minors, but they got shut out of Top 20s there.
At the same time, the Orioles have invested heavily in the draft the last two years, and their depth is better than the top 20s might indicate. We ranked their system the eighth-best in baseball entering 2010, and while they'll slide to the middle of the pack in the next ratings, the bottom hasn't fallen out.
Schoop was eligible for our list in the Rookie-level Appy League, where he hit .316/.372/.459. Despite those numbers, league observers didn't love his swing and weren't sure how much he'd hit at higher levels. They did like his instincts and quick first step at shortstop.