Ask BA

It’s Top 100 Prospects Week at Baseball America. We unveiled the latest edition of the Top 100 yesterday, and today Matt Eddy presented some intriguing statistical analysis of the game’s best hitting prospectsPremium and pitching prospectsPremium. Be sure to check that out.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday chatting about the Top 100, and I’ll get to some more Top 100 questions below. If you want to run some more by me, send them to and don’t forget to include your full name and hometown.

We also break down the Top 100 by position, by organization and in a few other ways. One list that didn’t run in the issue because of space reasons (and thus not on the website) is the rounds the 86 drafted players were selected in:

Draft Rounds For Top 100 Players
No. Round
44 First
10 Supplemental first
9 Second
7 Third
4 Fourth
2 Fifth, Fifteenth
1 Eighth, Ninth, Sixteenth, Twenty-second,Twenty-third,
Twenty-seventh, Thirty-first, Thirty-ninth

    Devil Rays outfielder Delmon Young was No. 1 on the 2006 Top 100 but has dropped to No. 3 in 2007. I would attribute most of that to the arrival of Red Sox righthander Daisuke Matsuzaka and the emergence of Royals third baseman Alex Gordon, and not to Young slipping. But who’s a better prospect, Delmon Young in 2006 or Delmon Young in 2007? In other words, is it possible he’s even better now even though he’s slipped two spots in the overall rankings?

    Jeff Brien

Jeff’s assumption about Young’s slight dip from No. 1 to No. 3 is correct. Though he’s an established star in the Japanese major leagues, MLB considers Matsuzaka a rookie and we consider him a prospect until he exceeds 50 big league innings. I think he’s one of the top 10 pitchers in the world, and that’s good enough for the top spot. Gordon and Young are comparable hitters, and I’d give Gordon the slimmest of edges because he hits lefthanded (Young is a righty) and plays a more scarce position (third base vs. right field).

From a tools and performance standpoint, Young still looks like the same future superstar that he did a year ago. His 11 homers were a career low, but his power potential remains undeniable. He improved his performance in Triple-A compared to 2005, and put up combined .316/.339/.474 numbers between that level and the majors’"at age 20.

The one area where Young took a hit last year, obviously, was his makeup. He threw his bat after a called third strike and hit an umpire, drawing a 50-game suspension. He later criticized the Devil Rays for delaying his arrival to the majors, and generally came off as petulant. However, the Rays believe he’ll mature as he gets older, and they don’t believe his behavior is a long-term concern.

    There’s a possibility that all three of the Athletics’ Top 100 Prospects’"outfielder Travis Buck (No. 50), first baseman Daric Barton (No. 67) and catcher Kurt Suzuki (No. 89)’"will play for Oakland at some point this year. If they use up their prospect eligibility, will the A’s have anyone on the 2008 list? Or will they be shut out like the Padres were this year? Please say it ain’t so! Isn’t outfielder Matt Sulentic at least on the Top 100 radar?

    Robert Wood
    Modesto, Calif.

Since 2000, the Athletics have acquired a lot of talent through the draft, landing Rich Harden (2000); Bobby Crosby, Jeremy Bonderman, Neal Cotts and Dan Johnson (2001); Nick Swisher, Joe Blanton and Mark Teahen (2002); Andre Ethier (2003); and Huston Street (2004). But all of those players have graduated to the major leagues, and Oakland’s drafts haven’t been as deep in recent years. As a result, the farm system isn’t as bountiful as it once was.

If Buck, Barton and Suzuki aren’t eligible for the 2008 list, I do think Sulentic at least will crack the Top 100. We discussed him for this year’s list, as he raked in high school (winning the Dallas-area triple crown at .654-20-59, then batting .354 as one of the youngest regulars in the short-season Northwest League). A third-round pick in June, he’s not the biggest (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) or most athletic player, and he may be limited to left field or second base, but I love his bat.

Another strong Oakland candidate for the 2008 Top 100 is outfielder Javier Herrera. He ranked No. 68 in 2005 and No. 74 in 2006 before missing all of last season when he hurt his elbow in spring training and required Tommy John surgery. He has five-tool potential, though he needs to do a better job of controlling the strike zone.

    Two high school players, each with identical talent. One goes pro, the other goes to a top college program. Which one makes the major leagues first?

    David Waters
    Tacoma, Wash.

The player who turned pro out of high school would beat his counterpart who attended college by a year or so.

When I was working on a College Vs. Pro feature back in 1990, I did some research on 1981-84 draftees. On average, the high school players who reached the majors required roughly 1½ years longer to get there than the collegians who made it to the top. Of course, the high schoolers generally began their pro careers three years earlier.

I asked someone who did a similar and more recent study for a big league team, and he got the same results. He focused on players who had significant careers, and he found that the collegians in that group spent 2-3 years in the minors, compared to 3-4½ for the high schoolers.

" February 23 Ask BA