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March 14, 2010

Future Shock

Future Top Dogs, AL

by Kevin Goldstein

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One of the most frequent questions I get, be it via e-mail, chats, or the comment sections in the articles, is which player on [insert team here] has the best shot at moving into the Top 101. That's a much different question from who is the best prospect not in the Top 101, as the focus needs to move solely to growth potential. Building on last year's "Future Top Dogs" series, let's keep that category in this year's version, while also taking an honest list at last year's prognostications.

Baltimore Orioles

How'd I Do in 2009?: Good. While worrying about both Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz losing eligibility (it was close), I still had Matusz as the 5-2 favorite to be their top prospect, which he was, while also predicting some new prospects arriving via trade.
The Incumbent:
Matusz likely loses his prospect eligibility after one more big-league start.
Other Possibilities:
Will third baseman Josh Bell stay down on the farm all year? If not, it could be a wide-open race for the top spot, with Jake Arrieta (also a risk to lose his eligibility) and lefty ground-ball machine Zach Britton also entering the fray.
Trade Bait:
This is still a rebuilding year, so you could see all kinds of veterans flipped in July, like Kevin Millwood, Miguel Tejada, and Garrett Atkins.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101:
Power righty Brandon Erbe has been on the list before, and he has the arm to get there again.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
2010 third overall pick: 3-2
Josh Bell: 10-1
Jake Arrieta: 10-1
Zach Britton: 20-1
Brandon Erbe: 25-1
Matt Hobgood: 33-1

Boston Red Sox

How'd I Do in 2009?: I nailed Casey Kelly finding far more success on the mound, while also identifying Ryan Westmoreland as a big breakout candidate. Unfortunately, I also had Lars Anderson as the overwhelming favorite to stay as the top prospect, and he responded with one of the most disappointing seasons in the minors last year.
The Incumbent:
Ryan Westmoreland's full-season debut was to be among the most anticipated in baseball but that is now on hold as he is scheduled to undergo brain surgery Tuesday.
Other Possibilities:
With Westmoreland's status unknown at this points, Kelly would be next in line, though his ceiling falls short of superstar. Others aren't going to get there.
Trade Bait:
Outfield depth could make advanced players like Josh Reddick and Ryan Kalish available in July, while Michael Bowden and Junichi Tazawa are starters at Triple-A with no clear path.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101:
If shortstop Jose Iglesias hits enough just to get universal projections as an everyday player, he's in for sure, as his glove is really that special.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Ryan Westmoreland: No Line
Casey Kelly: 4-1
Ryan Kalish: 15-1
Jose Iglesias: 30-1
Anthony Rizzo: 50-1

Chicago White Sox

How'd I Do in 2009?: I said the only way Gordon Beckham wouldn't be the top prospect was if he got to the big leagues in quick fashion, while also taking up Cuban third baseman (now at first) Dayan Viciedo as the likely top prospect if that were to happen.
The Incumbent:
The biggest out-of-nowhere performer in 2009, righty Dan Hudson, will likely begin the year at Triple-A in order to get consistent work, but he's just as likely to lose prospect eligibility quickly.
Other Possibilities:
Jared Mitchell, their 2009 first-round pick, certainly has the tools to break out, but he will miss the season after suffering a torn tendon in his left ankle on Friday that will require surgery. Tyler Flowers could be there if his power comes back and he doesn't get an extended big-league look.
Trade Bait:
It's hard not to be in the weak American League Central race, but the White Sox don't have a lot of talent to move should they need help. The good news here is that they have one of baseball's more creative GMs in Ken Williams.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101:
Jordon Danks has always had the tools, but rarely the numbers one expects, while fellow outfielder Trayce Thompson might have an even higher upside the Mitchell, yet is among the riskiest players in the minors.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
2010 13thoverall pick: 3-1
Jared Mitchell: Scratched
Tyler Flowers: 7-1
Jordan Danks: 10-1
Dan Hudson: 15-1
Dayan Viciedo: 30-1
Trayce Thompson: 100-1

Cleveland Indians

How'd I Do in 2009?: Nailed Carlos Santana as the big favorite (5-2) to rank as the top prospect, but my other big bet was on Nick Weglarz, who moved backward. Hector Rondon was identified as a breakout candidate, and he finished just short of the Top 101.
The Incumbent: Santana begins the year at Triple-A, but he has an excellent shot at just mashing his way to the big leagues and learning the subtleties of catching on the job.
Other Possibilities: Lonnie Chisenhall turned out to be a great find in the 2009 draft, and if he can pass the Double-A test, he's your best bet at the top spot should Santana lose eligibility. Alex White, their 2009 first-round pick, is fantastic when he's on; he's just not on enough. Huge velocity arms like Jason Knapp and Nick Hagadone always have a shot, although Knapp has some shoulder issues to overcome.
Trade Bait: The Indians are probably still in the acquisition mode of rebuilding, so you could see more prospects come in if the Tribe parts with Kerry Wood or Jhonny Peralta.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Rondon just missed this year, and could stil get there. Dominican outfielder Abner Abreu is a deep, deep sleeper with loads of raw power.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Carlos Santana: 3-1
2010 fifth overall pick: 3-1
Lonnie Chisenhall: 8-1
Alex White: 12-1
Nick Hagadone: 15-1
Hector Rondon: 30-1

Detroit Tigers

How'd I Do in 2009?: Excellent. I called for a return to form for Casey Crosby coming off Tommy John surgery, and gave Crosby and their top 2009 pick (which became Jacob Turner) an overwhelming chance to rank 1-2, which they did with plenty of room to spare.
The Incumbent:
Turner is already creating a ton of buzz this spring by striking out the side against the Yankees this week, including first baseman Mark Teixeira.
Other Possibilities: It's almost guaranteed to be Turner or Crosby.
Trade Bait: If the Tigers struggle early, they're loaded with expiring deals and could do a lot to bring some depth back to this system in July.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: A sixth-round pick who got a first-round bonus, shortstop Daniel Fields has the tools to meet those high expectations.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Jacob Turner 2-1
Casey Crosby: 5-2
Daniel Fields: 30-1

Kansas City Royals

How'd I Do in 2009?: Poorly, by making Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas the overwhelming favorites to end up as the top prospect, and not even listing eventual top prospect, Mike Montgomery, in the odds.
The Incumbent: Montgomery should be at Double-A as some point in the season, and there's little reason to expect anything but continued success there.
Other Possibilities: There's some kind of outside chance that Hosmer is 'fixed' after LASIK surgery, while 2009 first-rounder Aaron Crow has the best pure stuff in the system. Wil Myers can get there if he keeps hitting, and there are still plenty of Moustakas believers, This one is more wide open than one thinks, and they also pick fourth in the draft, further confusing the situation.
Trade Bait: They might make some decent additions at the break by finding a taker for David DeJesus. Juan Cruz could be a desirable bullpen commodity as well.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Everyone is saying the right things about Hosmer so far this year, and he was the third overall pick in 2008 for a reason, but the jury is still out.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
2010 fourth overall pick: 3-1
Mike Montgomery: 4-1
Aaron Crow: 5-1
Wil Myers: 10-1
Mike Moustakas: 12-1
Eric Hosmer: 20-1

Los Angeles Angels

How'd I Do in 2009?: I had Jordan Walden as the favorite to stay as the top prospect, but injuries are hard to predict, unless we get Will Carroll's system adapted to the minors. After that, things look good, as I had 'Any 2009 draftee' at 6-1, and nailed Trevor Reckling as most likely to move into the Top 101.
The Incumbent: Mike Trout is the top prospect, but it's hardly by a landslide. We'll know much more after his full-season debut.
Other Possibilities: If Hank Conger can stay at catcher, he's always a factor, and don't rule out a return to form for Walden. Young fireballer Fabio Martinez has explosive potential.
Trade Bait: Most are predicting a down year for the Angels, so it's hard to say which way they'll go here. If things go south, they don't have much in the way of expiring contracts.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: After returning from Tommy John surgery, 2007 top pick Jon Bachanov showed big stuff and impressive command and control, leaving many to think he's ready for a breakout.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Mike Trout: 4-1
Hank Conger: 5-1
Jordan Walden: 6-1
Fabio Martinez: 10-1
Any 2010 Draftee: 12-1
Trevor Reckling: 15-1
Jon Bachanov: 30-1
Randall Grichuk: 40-1 

Minnesota Twins

How'd I Do in 2009?: I set nearly even odds at outfielder Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere sitting at the top spot, and they finished 1-2. I also nailed Angel Morales as a potential Top 101 guy, but also put Shooter Hunt, who fell apart mechanically, in the same group.
The Incumbent: Hicks has crazy tools, but they have to show up more in games during his second full season for him to hold onto the title.
Other Possibilities: Revere has been scintillating so far this spring, and there's always Dominican stud Miguel Sano looming on the horizon.
Trade Bait: The Twins certainly should compete in the American League Central, but that doesn't mean they'll make a big move at the deadline, as they're more of the minor trade-type.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Morales just missed the most recent list, but he was one of the best hitters in the Midwest League during the second half of 2009.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Aaron Hicks: 3-1
Ben Revere: 3-1
Miguel Sano: 4-1
Angel Morales: 40-1
Kyle Gibson: 50-1
Wilson Ramos: 75-1

New York Yankees

How'd I Do in 2009?: I set Montero as the overwhelming favorite to be the best, but that wasn't very hard, and things go downhill from there, with Dellin Betances and Andrew Brackman also getting good odds. Little known coming into the year, Arodys Vizcaino, now with the Braves, was given breakout potential.
The Incumbent: Montero is the only Top 101 prospect in the system, and it's hard to see a scenario where he gets 130 at-bats with the Yankees this year.
Other Possibilities: If it's not Montero, it's a wide open race. The Yankees have a lot of young talent with plenty of promise but little in the way of a pedigree.
Trade Bait: The Yankees have the prospects to make moves come July, just not a big one without including Montero, which seems unlikely.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: The Yankees’ 2009 first-round pick, Slade Heathcott, offers easy Top 101 tools; he just needs to perform now.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Jesus Montero: 4-3
Slade Heathcott: 20-1
Manny Banuelos: 25-1
Any 2010 Draftee: 30-1
Kelvin DeLeon: 40-1
Austin Romine: 50-1
Gary Sanchez: 60-1

Oakland Athletics

How'd I Do in 2009?: Not so good. Placed as the overwhelming favorite to repeat at the top spot, Michael Ynoa instead never took the mound, and taking Rashun Dixon as a potential Top 101 player is just a plain bad call. At least I had Chris Carter as having the best chance of surpassing Ynoa.
The Incumbent: Carter is the clear top prospect at this point, but he'll likely hit the big leagues at some point in 2010, likely early enough to lose eligibility.
Other Possibilities: Outfielder Michael Taylor is in the same boat as Carter, with no immediate big-league opportunity, but the ability to hit his way to the big leagues. Ynoa could still be fantastic, and Grant Green has his share of supporters.
Trade Bait: The A's are likely still in talent accumulation mode, with Ben Sheets and Mark Ellis being likely targets should the team decide to get aggressive come June.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Catcher Max Stassi has above-average abilities both at the plate and behind it, a rare combination for a high school product.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Michael Ynoa: 5-1
2010 10th overall pick: 5-1
Chris Carter: 5-1
Michael Taylor: 5-1
Grant Green: 12-1
Max Stassi: 18-1  

Seattle Mariners

How'd I Do in 2009?: I made the second overall pick the overwhelming favorite to end up as the top prospect, and Dustin Ackley ended up being a no-brainer. On the flip-side, righty Juan Ramirez was identified as a potential mover, but he moved in the wrong direction before going to Philadelphia in the Cliff Lee deal.
The Incumbent: The only fear for Ackley not repeating would be too much big-league time, but learning a new position (second base), makes 2011 a more likely timetable for big-league permanence.
Other Possibilities: If it's not Ackley, it's wide open, as second-best prospect Michael Saunders is just eight at-bats away from losing eligibility. Gabriel Noriega is your next best bet, but that doesn't make him a good one.
Trade Bait: Expected to compete, the Mariners will likely be looking for some offensive help at mid-season, but it's hard to find much on the farm that teams might want. Could Saunders be their best chip?
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Dominican teenager Guillermo Pimentel has massive raw power, and he could move up if he lives up to expectations in the complex league.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Dustin Ackley: 6-5
Gabriel Noriega: 20-1
Guillermo Pimentel: 30-1
Nick Franklin: 40-1
Maikel Cleto: 100-1

Tampa Bay Rays

How'd I Do in 2009?: New top prospect Desmond Jennings was given the third-best odds entering the year, behind righty Wade Davis and 2008 first overall pick Tim Beckham. Matt Moore was identified as the big mover (bingo).
The Incumbent: Jennings will likely start in the minors, especially now that his spring has begun by getting hit in the elbow with a pitch and then tweaking his wrist. He's ready, but where does he play barring a blockbuster deal?
Other Possibilities: Tons. It's hard to find obvious innings for Jeremy Hellickson, while Wade Davis has had some struggles this spring. Beckham still has the tools, and Moore could put up huge numbers in the Florida State League.
Trade Bait: Last year, shortstop Reid Brignac was the most obvious candidate, and that's still the case. Does Crawford move in a game-changer that gives the Rays talent and an opportunity for Jennings?
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Venezuelan righty Wilking Rodriguez has well above-average velocity and fastball command; better secondary pitches could lead to a big step forward.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Desmond Jennings: 3-1
Jeremy Hellickson: 4-1
Wade Davis: 8-1
Alex Colome: 15-1
Matt Moore: 15-1
Tim Beckham: 15-1
Wilking Rodriguez: 40-1

Texas Rangers

How'd I Do in 2009?: I moved Feliz down a bit in the odds, thinking that he'd reach the big leagues as a starter as opposed to a reliever. That left Justin Smoak as the favorite. Martin Perez was designated most likely to reach the Top 101, and he ended up ranked as the second-best lefty in the minors.
The Incumbent:
Feliz's days as a prospect are over.
Other Possibilities:
Smoak creates some difficulties, as his ability to reach the big leagues depend far more on Chris Davis' performance than his own. Perez is the other obvious choice here.
Trade Bait:
For the first time in a long time, the Rangers might be buyers rather than sellers. Unfortunately, we just don't know how much financial flexibility they'll have.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101:
Shortstop Jurickson Profar might be a more obvious choice, but I'll go off the board and take right-hander Michael Main, who had a lost 2009 due to a bizarre medical condition, but was the talk of instructional league and looked to be all the way back.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Martin Perez: 5-2
Justin Smoak: 3-1
Michael Main: 15-1
Tanner Scheppers: 15-1
Jurickson Profar: 20-1
2010 15th overall pick: 40-1

Toronto Blue Jays

How'd I Do in 2009?: Catcher J.P. Arencibia and first baseman David Cooper were given the best odds, but both fell out of the Top 101 this year with poor showings at the upper levels. Given the third-best odds was shortstop Justin Jackson, who was even worse. It was a nightmare all around, just like the Jays' system itself before the Roy Halladay deal.
The Incumbent:
Kyle Drabek is the big prize of the Halladay deal, but trying to predict his eligibility is tough. The Jays are obviously not in the playoff hunt this year, so how much with the new administration want to show off their shiny new toys in order to keep fans interested?
Other Possibilities:
Brett Wallace is in the same situation as Drabek, but he's more obviously in need of a big-league move to get him up. If both get there, catcher Travis D'Arnaud might be your best bet, although the Jays are set to pick 11th in June.
Trade Bait:
Halladay was obviously the big fish, but the team might try to unload Lyle Overbay to make room for Wallace, while they're always looking for a sucker to get Vernon Wells' contract off the books.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101:
I've made no secret of my fandom for D'Arnaud, who had a great second half last year and could be on the verge of something big. Playing in the Florida State League gives me a bit of trepidation.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Brett Wallace: 3-1
Kyle Drabek: 3-1
Travis D'Arnaud: 6-1
2010 11th overall pick: 12-1
J.P. Arencibia: 15-1
Chad Jenkins: 20-1  

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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