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March 29, 2011

Future Shock

Prospect Preview: AL West

by Kevin Goldstein

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Los Angeles Angels
How'd I do in 2010?: Last year's Angels Top 11 was one of the few to have outfielder Mike Trout listed as the top prospect, and he was the slight favorite (4-1) over catcher Hank Conger (5-1) and right-hander Jordan Walden (6-1), both of whom are in this year's Top 11. The only miss was infielder Jean Segura, who did not make the previous year's Top 15.

The Incumbent: While Trout is among the most exciting prospects in the game, he's also only 19 years old. I'd say there's no need to rush him, but he's currently scheduled to skip a level and begin the year at Double-A Arkansas. Still, he's young, he's not on the 40-man roster, and even a September look is hardly guaranteed, so his prospect status should be safe.

Other Possibilities: Trout is easily among the best prospects in baseball, so there are few scenarios in which he could lose his status as the top prospect in the system. The only fringe candidate is second-baseman-turned-shortstop Jean Segura, who could put up some huge numbers in the California League.

Trade Bait: If the Angels remain competitive, they'll likely dangle a young power arm like Garret Richards or Fabio Martinez in an attempt to bolster their chances. If they end up in a dumping mode, they don't have much flexibility, although there could be some interest in Bobby Abreu.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Richards has the body and the stuff to move up, but his inconsistency is baffling.

The Extreme Long Shot: First-round pick Chavez Clarke is an exciting outfielder with plenty of power and speed, but it's hard to see him figuring everything out in his first full year.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Mike Trout: 6-5
Jean Segura: 12-1
Kaleb Cowart: 75-1

Oakland Athletics
How'd I do in 2010?: There was no favorite, as right-hander Michael Ynoa, first baseman Chris Carter, outfielder Michael Taylor, and the eventual 10th overall pick were listed at 5-1. Carter and that eventual pick, Michael Choice, finished as the top prospect and third-best prospect, respectively, while Grant Green proved to deserve better odds than 12-1.

The Incumbent: Carter got mysteriously blocked by the signings of Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham, but if he can build on his strong second half from last year at Triple-A Sacramento while getting more comfortable in the outfield, he should easily get the 60 big-league at-bats he needs to lose prospect eligibility.

Other Possibilities: Green is on a 2012 timetable, so he's a safe bet to be a candidate, but no prospect in Oakland generated more buzz this spring than Choice, who could put up some big numbers at High-A Stockton if he makes more contact.

Trade Bait: The A's could be buyers or sellers at the break, so this is hard to project. Willingham, Crisp, and infielder Mark Ellis could all have value if Oakland struggles in the first half, but if Oakland makes a run at the playoffs, potential trade partners will be eyeing their significant stock of young, high-ceiling talent.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Second baseman Jemile Weeks is seemingly always one healthy season away from moving up prospect lists, while 2010 draftee Yordy Cabrera was very impressive in last year's instructional league and, despite his size, will at least get a shot to stick at shortstop.

The Extreme Long Shot: Aaron Shipman, a third-round pick in 2010, is very, very raw, but he's also very, very fast and potentially an impact defender.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Grant Green: 3-1
Michael Choice: 3-1
Jemile Weeks: 6-1
Yordy Cabrera: 15-1
Ian Krol: 20-1

Seattle Mariners
How'd I do in 2010?: Second baseman Dustin Ackley was the can't-miss favorite at 6-5, and yet he missed; he finished second behind righty Michael Pineda, who didn't even receive odds. At least shortstop Nick Franklin (40-1) and outfielder Guillermo Pimentel (30-1) were listed.

The Incumbent: Pineda has made the Opening Day rotation, so he's all but gone from any prospect list. He was excellent this spring and showed much improved secondary offerings, leaving many to think he's not only ready for the majors, but ready to be an above-average starter.

Other Possibilities: With both Pineda and Ackley both hitting the big leagues, the Mariners don't have an obvious future top prospect. The second overall pick in a fantastic 2011 draft should take care of that. Infielder Nick Franklin led the Midwest League in home runs last year and will be playing in High Desert, so mammoth power numbers are a distinct possibility.

Trade Bait: The Mariners won't have a big-name player available in July, but they'll certainly have valuable players with expiring contracts to deal, including bats like Jack Cust, gloves like Jack Wilson, and perhaps hurler Erik Bedard if he turns his strong spring into a solid first half.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Taijuan Walker, a 2010 draftee, is a classic high-ceiling/high-risk arm who could rocket into the Top 101 with ease or be completely forgotten about by the end of the year. He's big, long, tremendously athletic, and very raw.

The Extreme Long Shot: Korean catcher Ji-Man Choi had a monster pro debut in the complex leagues, and he could move up if he proves it's for real and improves behind the plate.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Second overall pick in June: 6-5
Nick Franklin: 10-1
Guillermo Pimentel: 25-1
Taijuan Walker: 75-1

Texas Rangers
How'd I do in 2010?: Despite some struggles at Double-A, left-hander Martin Perez remained the top prospect after receiving strong odds (5-2) to repeat. The next two players, Justin Smoak (3-1) and Michael Main (15-1), were dealt for mid-season improvements.

The Incumbent: Perez received a mulligan for an inconsistent-at-best showing last year at Double-A, but he'll have to be good more often, and he's expected to return to Frisco. He doesn't turn 20 until next week, and the talent is still there, but scouts won't be as patient if he struggles again. On the positive side, the talent also provides for a breakout possibility, and considering the Rangers rotation, it's not unfeasible to see him getting a September look (or more), should the good version of Perez become the norm.

Other Possibilities: Shortstop Jurickson Profar will make his much-anticipated full-season debut in 2011, but as good as he is, he's not the kind of talent expected to put up monster numbers. Engel Beltre is always a slight breakout possibility, but this could be a wide-open race, as the Rangers have to wait until the 33rd selection to draft in June.

Trade Bait: The Rangers are far more likely to be buyers than sellers, and they definitely have the young pitching to get something done.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Beltre has a shot to return to the list, while left-hander Robbie Erlin could make his debut there with another strong season, despite the fact that he depends more on command than stuff.

The Extreme Long Shot: Righty David Perez was one of the most impressive arms in the Dominican Summer League last year, and could make a move now that he's in the States.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Martin Perez: 2-1
Jurickson Profar: 5-1
Engel Beltre: 10-1
Robbie Erlin: 12-1
Tanner Scheppers: 25-1

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

Related Content:  Michael Choice,  The Who,  Buyers,  Top Prospect

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