John Manuel and I talked about the youth of the Red Sox farm system in our Nov. 10 podcast. That prompted a listener at STATS to run some data to determine the average age (as of Sept. 1, weighted by plate appearances or innings pitched) for hitters and pitchers on each organization's full-season affiliates in 2010. Below are the results:
|Age Of Full-Season Minor Leaguers, 2010|
|Numbers represent Years.Days. Source: STATS.|
As John and I discussed, the Red Sox did have one of the youngest farm systems, but a lot of these results surprised me. The Indians and Cardinals have drafted a lot of college players in recent years, yet had the two youngest systems. The Phillies, who like to stock up on raw, projectable high school talent, had the oldest system. Go figure.
Character and makeup do play a part in our rankings, though talent still has to be the overriding factor. Work ethic, intelligence and off-field issues can help or hinder a prospect as he tries to reach his ceiling. At the same time, the hardest-working, smartest, cleanest-living player isn't going to make it if he doesn't have the physical ability.
Lueke is a unique case, however. The Mariners created a firestorm in Seattle when they acquired him as part of the Cliff Lee trade in July. It was common knowledge in the industry that Lueke had been charged with rape and sodomy in a May 2008 incident in which he eventually pleaded no contest to a charge of false imprisonment with violence. Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik contended that he didn't know the extent of Lueke's legal troubles when he made the trade, and the club scapegoated director of pro scouting Carmen Fusco by firing him in September.
With an upper-90s fastball and a hard slider, Lueke has the stuff to pitch in a big league bullpen right now. On pure talent, he'd crack our Mariners Top 10 list, which we'll post online on Dec. 6. But the controversy makes him virtually impossible to promote to Seattle, where the Mariners have prided themselves on working with groups opposing violence toward women. His past also will limit his opportunities elsewhere, so we won't rank him on our Mariners Top 10. He will appear on our Mariners Top 30 in the 2011 Prospect Handbook.
Jackson's situation is entirely different. In July 2009, the Cubs demoted him from Double-A Tennessee to high Class A Daytona after he violated an unspecified team policy. They view the incident as a one-time event and promoted him to Triple-A late that season as a reward for handling the demotion well. He has had no further problems and the violation has no bearing on his current ranking.
My favorite prospect of that group is Lipka, the Braves' top pick (supplemental first round) in June. A star wide receiver in high school, he has plus-plus speed and should hit for average with some pop. Some scouts question whether he'll he has the hands and true actions to stick at shortstop, though his arm and range are fine for the position. The backup plan would be to make him a center fielder.
Pastornicky is the most advanced of those four shortstops and spent the last six weeks of the season in Double-A. He's a fundamentally sound player, no surprise considering that his father Cliff played in the big leagues, with above-average range and speed. The question with Pastornicky is how much he'll hit, because his lack of strength and his contact-oriented approach aren't going to scare big league pitchers.
Jones is more athlete than baseball player, and he doesn't show much offensive or defensive consistency for a 23-year- old. Salcedo has some offensive upside, but he's probably going to outgrow shortstop and he looked overmatched when the Braves sent him to low Class A as an 18-year-old in July.
Don't forget Andrelton Simmons, Atlanta's second-round pick in June. He was one of the best defensive shortstops available in the draft, though what he'll produce at the plate remains in question.
I don't see any of these guys being the answer when Gonzalez's contract expires after the 2011 season. Pastornicky will be the most big league-ready at that point, but he'll also be just 22 and not necessarily prepared to handle major league pitching. The Braves probably will have to look outside the organization to find Gonzalez's immediate successor.
The Athletics very well could get as good or better a prospect than Choice at No. 18 next year, because the 2011 draft is that much deeper than the 2010 draft. Pitchers dominate the top of both our college and high school prospects lists for 2011—they'll both appear in the issue we send to print just before Thankgiving, and online in early December—but there should be plenty of worthwhile position players available when Oakland makes its first-round selection.
Top candidates include college catchers Peter O'Brien (Bethune-Cookman) and Andrew Susac (Oregon State) and high school outfielders Derek Fisher (Cedar Crest HS, Lebanon, Pa.) and Brandon Nimmo (East HS, Cheyenne, Wyo.). The best third-base option figures to be Vanderbilt's Jason Esposito. North Carolina's Levi Michael fits better at second base than at the hot corner, and potential third basemen Nicky Delmonico (Farragut HS, Knoxville) and Javier Baez (Arlington County Day HS, Jacksonville) are going to try to make it as catchers.