Manny Machado Tops List Of Almost Prospects

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CHICAGO—Manny Machado should have figured prominently in our Orioles prospect list, and perhaps been the cover boy for our American League East Top 10 Prospects lists.

When 2012 began, there was absolutely no reason to think that Machado would play in the majors this season, let alone exhaust his prospect eligibility. The Orioles had no prayer of contending, while Machado was a 19-year-old who batted .245/.308/.384 in low Class A during the second half of 2011.

Then the Orioles started overachieving and never stopped, even as continual defensive follies at third base threatened to undermine their magical season. So Baltimore summoned Machado to play the hot corner in early August, even though he had just two games of pro experience at the position. He played every inning of the Orioles' final 51 games and their six postseason contests, providing everything the club could have hoped for offensively and defensively.

Machado stands out the most on our list of youngsters who haven't spent more than a half-season in the majors but accrued enough playing time to lose their prospect eligibility. Consider this a Top 10 of prospects who just missed qualifying for our Top 10 Prospect lists.

1. Manny Machado, 3b, Orioles: Because he's a power-hitting shortstop from South Florida, Machado can't dodge Alex Rodriguez comparisons. Though that's a bit much, he hit .262/.294/.445 in his age-19 big league season, while A-Rod batted .232/.264/.408. Machado has plus tools across the board save for his speed, and while he'd rank behind Dylan Bundy on our Baltimore Top 10, he'd be the best No. 2 prospect on any list.

2. Matt Harvey, rhp, Mets: Hitters can't try to sit on Harvey's 92-98 mph fastball, because if they do then he can just make them look silly with his hard curveball, power slider or cutter. He averaged 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in the majors, breaking Tom Seaver's club record with 11 whiffs in his big league debut. Harvey vs. Zack Wheeler as New York's top prospect would have been an interesting debate, with the vote here going to Harvey.

3. Andrelton Simmons, ss, Braves: Simmons had a fastball clocked at 98 mph at Western Oklahoma State JC, but he wanted to play shortstop in pro ball. Good call. He won the high Class A Carolina League batting title (.311) in his first full pro season and claimed Atlanta's shortstop job by June of his second. He's a terrific defender who continues to exceed offensive expectations.

4. Will Middlebrooks, 3b, Red Sox: Middlebrooks divided his time between football, hitting and pitching in high school. Since becoming a full-time position player, he steadily has improved each year, making a quantum leap this season by slamming nine homers in 24 Triple-A games before pushing Kevin Youkilis out of Boston. Middlebrooks could stand to improve his plate discipline, but he has the power and defensive ability to star at third base.

5. Yasmani Grandal, c, Padres: The next guy on this list made Grandal expendable in Cincinnati, so the Reds used him in the Mat Latos trade last December. Grandal controls the strike zone and has solid power, which he showed by homering from both sides of the plate in his first major league start. While he may not be more than an average defender, his bat could make him an all-star.

6. Devin Mesoraco, c, Reds:
Mesoraco looked ready to play regularly for Cincinnati, but he hit just .212/.288/.352 and threw out only 20 percent of basestealers before falling to third on the Reds' depth chart. He still has more raw power than Grandal, however, and could prove to be a better defender.

7. Anthony Gose, of, Blue Jays: Gose is a rare player with three 70 tools on the 20-80 scouting scale. His speed, center-field defense and arm strength are exhilarating, though they're not going to matter much if he can't make more consistent contact. Time is still on his side at age 21, but he's a career .264/.341/.393 hitter in the minors and fanned 59 times in 166 big league at-bats.

8. Jean Segura, ss, Brewers: The best prospect among the three Milwaukee acquired from the Angels in the Zack Greinke trade in July, Segura offers more home run and stolen base potential than most shortstops. If his heavy-legged frame eventually pushes him to second or third base, he has enough offense to profile at either position.

9. Starling Marte, of, Pirates: He fits best in center field, though that's not an option with Andrew McCutchen in Pittsburgh. If he can develop more patience at the plate, Marte has the hitting ability and speed to be a quality leadoff hitter. He also has the tools to play anywhere in the outfield.

10. Garrett Richards, rhp, Angels: Richards spent time in the rotation and bullpen for Los Angeles this season, and he has the power stuff to be an asset in either role. With a four-seam fastball that hits 99 mph and a slider that pushes 90, he has a ceiling of a No. 2-3 starter or a closer.