2005 Top 20 Prospects: Pioneer LeagueComplete Index of League Top 20s
By Alan Matthews
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In past years, the Rookie-level Pioneer League was home to scores of top draft picks making their professional debuts. The 2005 crop, however, was more experienced and less promising, especially on the mound.
"Last year's pitching compared to this year's was night and day," Great Falls manager John Orton said. "There were some guys with some arm strength this year, but there weren't guys with good breaking balls and throwing to both sides of the plate, except about five guys."
Orem and Helena, who played for the league championship, dominated the list of the league’s best 20 best prospects with nine selections between them. It could be a case of the rich getting richer, as the parent clubs of the two teams, the Angels and Brewers, were ranked as the most talent-filled organizations by Baseball America the last two years.
The Brewers sent each of the first five picks from their 2005 draft class to Helena, and that group and a strong supporting cast of position players formed a club that won both halves in the Southern Division. Third baseman Ryan Braun, Milwaukee's first-rounder, played as advertised but was promoted so quickly that he didn't have enough plate appearances to qualify for this list.
Billings got a boost in August with the addition of the Reds' top two choices, first-round outfielder Jay Bruce and second-round lefty Travis Wood. Bruce impressed enough in 17 games to rank atop our Pioneer League Top 20, while Wood would have followed close behind him had he not fallen two-thirds of an inning shy of qualifying.