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March 25, 2011

Future Shock

Prospect Preview: AL East

by Kevin Goldstein

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Baltimore Orioles

How'd I Do In 2010: Quite well, by making the No. 2 pick in the draft the overwhelming (3-2) favorite, which turned out to be shortstop Manny Machado. Putting lefty Zach Britton behind Josh Bell and Jake Arrieta seems foolish in hindsight, as his secondary offerings took a big step forward and he should spend a significant amount of 2011 in the big leagues.

The Incumbent: Machado doesn't turn 19 until July and is going to likely spend the entire year at Low-A Delmarva, so he could be the favorite for some time. He doesn't have a below-average tool and could develop into a shortstop with well above-average offense for the position and at least average glove work.

Other Possibilities: Assuming Britton is no longer technically a prospect by the All-Star break, there really are no other candidates currently in the system that profile as anything close to number one prospects. The good news is that they'll surely add an outstanding prospect with the fourth overall pick in June.

Trade Bait: The Orioles could be very busy come July, restocking a very shallow system by dealing any number of potential free agents brought in on one-year deals, notably Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero and J.J. Hardy.

Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Outfielder Xavier Avery certainly has the tools to be a top flight prospect, but despite some strides in the right direction last year, he remains far more athlete than ballplayer.

The Extreme Long Shot: First baseman Joe Mahoney is the size of a professional wrestler and put up big numbers last year, and could get some consideration with a healthy and equally productive year at the upper levels.

Odds To Be No. 1 On The Next Top 11:

Manny Machado: 2-1
Fourth overall pick in June: 3-2
Xavier Avery: 50-1

Boston Red Sox

How'd I Do In 2010: While shortstop Jose Iglesias was a long shot at 30-1, he's also the only player on last year's list to even be eligible, as outfielder Ryan Westmoreland (late scratch) is still recovering from brain surgery, righty Casey Kelly (4-1) and first baseman Anthony Rizzo (50-1) are now Padres, and outfielder Ryan Kalish (15-1) accumulated too many big-league at-bats to keep his prospect status.

The Incumbent: Iglesias is lined up more for a 2012 big-league job, but getting some time with Boston this year is hardly out of the question. He's the best defensive player in the minors, and his bat was a surprise.

Other Possibilities: A combination of trades and poor performances have left the system suddenly lacking in depth, leaving right-hander Anthony Ranaudo as the only player with a realistic shot to usurp Iglesias' slot in the top spot. After a horrible spring at LSU, Ranaudo impressed in the Cape Cod League, but for now he's the kind of prospect with an equal shot at seeing his stock soar or plummet.

Trade Bait: Kalish and Josh Reddick remain the kind of outfielders who could possibly start for lesser teams, but they're blocked in Boston. Lars Anderson also has no path in-house with the Adrian Gonzalez acquisition, but he'll need to rebound from a rough 2010 season.

Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Used sparingly as he returned from Tommy John surgery, the Red Sox will now take the brakes off lefty Drake Britton this year, and he has rare velocity for a southpaw.

The Extreme Long Shot: 2010 fourth-round pick Garin Cecchini has an outstanding hit tool, and some numbers to go with the tools should help his cause.

Odds To Be No. 1 On The Next Top 11:

Jose Iglesias: 2-1
Anthony Ranaudo: 3-1
Drake Britton: 25-1
Some crazy draft pick who falls to the Red Sox and gets a ton of cash: 40-1

New York Yankees

How'd I Do In 2010: Catcher Jesus Montero (4-3) was the no-brainer, so I got that right, but it wasn't a very big challenge. Lefty Manuel Banuelos (25-1) has the third-best odds, but right-hander Dellin Betances was nowhere to be seen.

The Incumbent: One way are another, Montero will likely get at least 130 at-bats in the big leagues; whether that's with the Yankees or somebody else remains to be seen. He remains a well below-average defender behind the plate, but it's not like Russell Martin provides a lot of competition.

Other Possibilities: This is where things get tough. Banuelos and Bentances where both marvelous at times this spring, and while 2012 is a more realistic timetable for the pair, the team's need to win, combined with plenty of holes in the big league stuff could lead to earlier that expected opportunities. Of the four Yankees on the Top 101 prospects list, 18-year-old catcher Gary Sanchez is the only one guaranteed to spend the entire year in the minors.

Trade Bait: Is Montero the catcher of the future, or the best trade chip in the game? The Yankees have plenty of young, unproven but high-upside talent than could be of interest to teams in July, as well as a number of big league arms at the upper levels like David Phelps and D.J. Mitchell who might not fit into their plans.

Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Right-hander Brett Marshall made an impressive return from Tommy John surgery in 2010, and continued to show advancement following the season. Small but athletic, he already has two plus pitches and is pitching in Tampa.

The Extreme Long Shot: Outfielder Melky Mesa has above-average speed and raw power, and earned a number of impressive reports this spring. He'll begin the year at Double-A, but needs to harness his approach to make the necessary steps forward.

Odds To Be No. 1 On The Next Top 11:

Manny Banuelos: 3-1
Gary Sanchez: 3-1
Dellin Betances: 4-1
Jesus Montero: 18-1

Tampa Bay Rays

How'd I Do In 2010: Outfielder Desmond Jennings (3-1), and righty Jeremy Hellickson (4-1) were the big favorites there, and Hellickson ended up number one after Jennings slipped a bit. Strikeout artist Matt Moore (15-1) should have been much higher, and 2008 No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham (15-1) shouldn't have gotten odds.

The Incumbent: The Rays traded Matt Garza to make room for Hellickson in the rotation, and there's every reason to believe that he'll not only be a suitable replacement, but an upgrade. He's not exactly sexy on a pure stuff level, but his touch and pitchability is off the charts.

Other Possibilities: Hellickson is off the board, and while he won't break camp in the big leagues, it's easy to see Jennings getting the 109 at-bats necessary to lose official prospect status. That leaves Moore as the overwhelming favorite, unless one of their 2010 draftees blows up, or recently acquired Chris Archer starts throwing more strikes.

Trade Bait: While the system isn't as star-studded as in the past, it is deep, especially with pitching. After Moore, upper-level starters like righties Joe Cruz and Alex Cobb could generate interest.

Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Right-hander Alex Colome still has a big arm, but his secondary offerings have yet to develop as expected. He still could put up some big numbers in the Florida State League.

The Extreme Long Shot: 2010 first-round pick Josh Sale is a bat-only prospect, but he can flat-out hit, and adds significant raw power.

Odds To Be No. 1 On The Next Top 11:

Matt Moore: 2-1
Chris Archer: 4-1
Alex Colome: 8-1
Josh Sale: 15-1
Desmond Jennings: 25-1

Toronto Blue Jays

How'd I Do In 2010: Equal odds (3-1) were given to right-hander Kyle Drabek and first baseman Brett Wallace, but only one was a Blue Jay at the end of the year, and Drabek was even better than expected. Despite a poor 2009 season, J.P. Arencibia was given 15-1 odds, and ended up No. 2 on this year's list.

The Incumbent: Drabek will spend 2011 in the big leagues, and could be one of Toronto's better starters this year, and that's before bringing up the mulitple All-Star game appearances forecasted for his future. Both his fastball and curve are well above-average offerings, as his Tommy John surgery early in his career forced him to learn how to pitch.

Other Possibilities: Now a third baseman, Brett Lawrie is the best bet, but there is still some shot of him getting big-league time beyond a September look. While 2010 first-round pick Deck McGuire was a safe pick, he could move quickly through the system. Ultra-toolsy outfielder Anthony Gose always has some kind of non-zero shot at finally clicking.

Trade Bait: The Blue Jays don't have any big names to toss on the market at mid-season, but veteran bats like Juan Rivera always garner interest.

Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Catcher Travis d'Arnaud was waylaid by back problems in 2010, but he still has the tools to be a plus defender with well above-average offense for the position.

The Extreme Long Shot: Supplemental first-round pick Aaron Sanchez is the very definition of a projectable right-hander, and has a ceiling that ranks with that of any arm in the system other than Drabek's.

Odds To Be No. 1 On The Next Top 11:

Brett Lawrie: 5-2
Travis d'Arnaud: 5-1
Deck McGwire: 6-1
Carlos Perez: 10-1
Anthony Gose: 16-1
Aaron Sanchez: 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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