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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
Organization Hitters Pitchers Average
Indians 23.351 23.182 23.266
Cardinals 23.344 24.000 23.355
Cubs 24.098 23.266 23.365
Twins 24.092 23.320 24.023
Red Sox 23.244 24.180 24.029
Braves 24.288 23.161 24.042
Rangers 24.243 23.259 24.068
Angels 24.176 23.333 24.072
Diamondbacks 24.075 24.111 24.093
Padres 24.036 24.162 24.099
Tigers 24.139 24.060 24.100
Royals 24.048 24.208 24.128
Mariners 24.014 24.346 24.180
Yankees 24.058 24.317 24.188
Reds 24.107 24.295 24.201
Orioles 24.184 24.300 24.242
Astros 24.269 24.231 24.250
Brewers 24.234 24.269 24.251
White Sox 24.181 24.337 24.259
Pirates 24.204 24.360 24.282
Giants 24.171 25.038 24.287
Athletics 24.175 25.062 24.301
Mets 24.281 24.332 24.306
Blue Jays 24.220 25.032 24.309
Rockies 25.041 24.270 24.338
Rays 25.146 24.166 24.339
Marlins 25.038 24.335 25.004
Nationals 25.097 24.302 25.017
Dodgers 25.092 25.037 25.065
Phillies 25.242 25.028 25.135
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.

    With Baseball America in the midst of rating prospects, I'm curious about how much character issues impact your rankings. I'm thinking more of negative circumstances, but positive circumstances could be a consideration as well. The two players I'm wondering specifically about are Mariners righthander Josh Lueke and Cubs righthander Jay Jackson. I don't want to question what Lueke did or how it played out in the legal system, but does that impact where you'll rank him on your Mariners list? As for Jackson, after an incident in 2009, there seem to be questions about his coachability. Will that play into how you rate him on your Cubs list?

    James Wu
    Frederick, Md.

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.

    The Braves currently have four shortstop prospects in their system who intrigue me: Mycal Jones, Matt Lipka, Tyler Pastornicky and Edward Salcedo. What do you think of them, and who has the best chance of replacing Alex Gonzalez in 2012?

    Ryan Spillmann

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.

    With the Athletics picking 18th in the 2011 draft, will they get a better prospect that Michael Choice, their No. 10 overall selection in 2010? Who are some of the position players who might be available when Oakland picks? Any worthy third basemen?

    Dale Carriger
    San Francisco

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.

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