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April 5, 2011

Future Shock

Prospect Preview: NL Central

by Kevin Goldstein

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Chicago Cubs
How'd I do in 2010?: Of the five players given odds, three were not eligible for the this year's list; shortstop Starlin Castro (4-1) and right-hander Andrew Cashner (15-1) both saw their big-league timetables accelerated, while shortstop Hak-Ju Lee (10-1) went to the Rays in the Matt Garza deal. The eventual top prospect, outfielder Brett Jackson, got decent odds at (6-1), but the player with the best odds, third baseman Josh Vitters (3-1), saw his stock dip significantly.

The Incumbent: Jackson starts the year at Triple-A Iowa, and if he simply performs up to expectations, chances are good that he'll get enough big-league at-bats to lose prospect status.

Other Possibilities: After Jackson, plenty of the Cubs' best prospects are now Rays property, so the race to be next year's top prospect could be wide open if Jackson graduates. Surprising 2010 first-round pick Hayden Simpson will make his pro debut in the Low-A Peoria rotation, and speaking of the draft, the Cubs pick ninth in June. Of top prospects likely to still be available, power right Trey McNutt is suddenly the best bet.

Trade Bait: The Cubs are unlikely to compete in the Central and are loaded with overpaid veterans they'd love to dump to a desperate team in July. Getting rid of third baseman Aramis Ramirez, right-hander Carlos Zambrano (who is signed through 2012), and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome will be top priorities.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Vitters fell out this year, but it's still hard to hate him based solely on the bat speed. If he can curb his habit of swinging at any pitch in the same county as he is, there is still a chance he could rebound.

The Extreme Long Shot: Picked up from Atlanta for Derrek Lee, right-hander Robinson Lopez could out-pitch Simpson at Peoria thanks to well above-average velocity and developing secondary pitches.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Ninth overall pick in June: 4-1
Brett Jackson: 4-1
Trey McNutt: 4-1
Josh Vitters: 12-1
Hayden Simpson: 15-1
Robinson Lopez: 30-1

Cincinnati Reds
How'd I do in 2010?: The top two odds went to lefty Aroldis Chapman (3-1) and righty Mike Leake (4-1), and when Leake shocked many by making the big-league squad out of spring training, Chapman became the overwhelming favorite. As it turned out, the odds came with very good reason.

The Incumbent: Chapman's arguably historic velocity landed him in the majors for the stretch run and the playoffs, and unless he needs a rehab outing, he'll likely never see the minors again.

Other Possibilities: The Reds' second- and third-best prospects, catcher Devin Mesoraco and second baseman Billy Hamilton, didn't even have odds entering the season. It's hard to project Mesoraco in 2011, as Ramon Hernandez and Ryan Hanigan are a good major-league combo, and one is left wondering what will happen if Mesaraco is slugging .575 at Triple-A in June.

Trade Bait: The Reds are going to be in the playoff hunt, and depth at catcher always makes for an attractive trade partner. There are also plenty of other blocked prospects that are nearly major league-ready, like first baseman Yonder Alonso and corner infielder Juan Francisco.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Rodriguez is still just 18 years old, is absolutely loaded with tools, and makes his full-season debut at Low-A Dayton this year.

The Extreme Long Shot: Teenage infielder Ronald Torreyes has an outstanding bat, but he's still probably a year away from playing in a full-season league, which hurts his chances.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Billy Hamilton: 5-2
Devin Mesoraco: 4-1
Yasmani Grandal: 8-1
Yorman Rodriguez: 15-1

Houston Astros
How'd I do in 2010?: Not so well, as right-hander Jordan Lyles, who reached Triple-A at 19 and was an easy choice for first overall, actually entered the year with the fourth-best odds (6-1). The eventual eighth overall pick, Delino DeShields, was given top chances at 3-1, while shortstop Jio Mier (4-1) collapsed offensively.

The Incumbent: Lyles returns to Triple-A to begin the year, but a rebuilding Astros squad should get him 50 major-league innings this year. It's hard to see a ceiling higher than a third starter in him, but at the same time, a fourth starter is the floor.

Other Possibilities: DeShields' 2011 season got off to a shaky start with a DUI arrest, but that shouldn't effect his full-season debut. If you can find another player with even a shot at becoming a traditional top prospect, you need therapy. The 11th overall pick should be a good player, but the Astros rarely take advantage of players that drop due to bonus demands.

Trade Bait: The Astros got rid of most of their costly veterans last year; it's doubtful they can find somebody desperate enough to take on Carlos Lee and his $18.5 million salary in 2012.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Mike Foltynewicz, a 2010 first-round pick, has size and power stuff coming from the right side. He also has plenty of projectability, so there's a non-zero chance for a breakout.

The Extreme Long Shot: Last year's top prospect prospect, Jio Mier, hit just .235/.323/.314 in 2010 but finished the year strong and remains a very good defensive prospect with tools.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Delino DeShields: 3-1
Jordan Lyles: 3-1
11th overall pick in June: 5-1
Mike Foltynewicz: 16-1

Milwaukee Brewers
How'd I do in 2010?: Horrible, but how could I predict that the team would sell the farm for Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum after failing to sign their first-round pick? Brett Lawrie entered the year with the best odds at 5-2, and he would have been their best prospect by a country mile without the trade.

The Incumbent: Mark Rogers, a 2004 first-round pick, will likely lose prospect eligibility by the end of the year. As it has been throughout his career, if he's healthy, he should be good, but there is still plenty of debate about his arm's ability to hold up as a starter.

Other Possibilities: The Brewers are the only team without a Top 101 prospect, so nearly any current player in the system is a long shot. Right-hander Cody Scarpetta was impressive this spring, and the team has the 12th and 15th picks in the first round of the draft.

Trade Bait: The Brewers have already made their moves. If they need to shore up the major-league roster for a playoff run, they just don't have the chips to do anything dramatic.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Scarpetta could improve his stock with a good showing at the upper levels, and it will be interesting to see what scouts make of diminutive infielder Scooter Gennett if he hits in the Florida State League.

The Extreme Long Shot: A 10th-round pick in 2009, catcher Tyler Roberts has big-time raw power and a good arm, which at times can be enough to be a good catching prospect.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
12th overall pick in June: 5-2
15th overall pick in June: 3-1
Cody Scarpetta: 6-1
Scooter Gennett: 15-1
Kentrail Davis: 40-1

Pittsburgh Pirates
How'd I do in 2010?: Nailed it, but it was pretty easy. The second overall pick, which turned into Jameson Taillon, was given 3-2 odds, and he easily became the team's top prospect the moment he signed. Catcher Tony Sanchez (8-1) was given the second-best chance, and despite an injury-plagued 2010 season, he remains their top position prospect.

The Incumbent: Taillon will begin the year in extended spring training, but will get inserted to the rotation at Low-A West Virginia once the weather warms up. He's arguably the best high school right-hander since Josh Beckett (1999), and expectations are through the roof.

Other Possibilities: Normally, it would be difficult to see anyone passing up Taillon, but in one of the best drafts in recent memory, the Pirates have the first pick, and they're willing to spend.

Trade Bait: The club is still trying to trade Ryan Doumit, and the team is hoping that a strong first half from one-year first-base fix Lyle Overbay could net some prospects come July.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Former Dodgers first-round pick Bryan Morris had a bounce-back year in 2010, and a second year of touching 96 mph to go with quality breaking balls could do wonders for his stuff.

The Extreme Long Shot: Left-hander Colton Cain has a power build, power stuff, and will finally make his full-season debut at Low-A West Virginia after signing for more than $1 million as an eighth-round pick in 2009

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Jameson Taillon: 2-1
First overall pick in the draft: 2-1
The field: 100,000-1

St. Louis Cardinals
How'd I do in 2010?: Right-hander Shelby Miller entered the year as the overwhelming favorite (6-5). He was the best pitcher in the Midwest Legaue and easily maintained the top spot. The 25th pick in the draft was given 40-1 odds, and the Cardinals got better than that slot with third baseman Zack Cox, but he's not in Miller's stratosphere.

The Incumbent: While there was some talk of Miller moving to Double-A to start the year, he's at High-A Palm Beach for now. The combination of Miller's stuff and a very friendly place to pitch could result in impressive numbers, which could get him to the Texas League by the break.

Other Possibilities: While there is a lot of hype around Dominican fireballer Carlos Martinez, he's still nowhere close to Miller, and will begin the year in extended spring training. Barring an unforeseen injury or surprising rise to the big leagues, nobody is going to touch Miller here.

Trade Bait: The Cardinals have some power bullpen arms like Eduardo Sanchez and Adam Reifer to interest teams in July, and the progress of Cox could put third baseman Matt Carpenter on the block as one of those prospects in the middle.

Best Chance to Move into the Top 101: Martinez has upper-90s heat, and he could move up following his stateside debut.

The Extreme Long Shot: Outfielder Oscar Taveres has hitting ability to go with plus power and will begin the year at Low-A Quad Cities despite not turning 19 until June.

Odds to be No. 1 on the Next Top 11:
Shelby Miller: 6-5
Carlos Martinez: 12-1

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

27 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links


If Taillon is 2-1 and the 1st pick is 2-1, then the field has to be 2-1 as well, not 100,000-1, doesn't it? Otherwise you're saying there's basically a 33% chance the Pirates will not have a #1 next year and you'll start your Top 11 with #2.

I know what you're trying to say - it's either Taillon or the 1st pick and a negligible chance for anyone else - but that means both Taillon and the 1st pick are 1-1 (50-50), not 2-1.

I guess I'm being a grouch (despite the fact that your prospect stuff is my favorite part of BP), but I don't see the point of sticking in a bunch of numbers - which give the impression of precision - if there's no real attempt to have the numbers make any sense on their own terms. Your numbers are invariably understated; I don't think there's a single team in a single year since you started posting those odds where all the odds summed up even close to 100%, even where the field is specifically included. This can drive the mathematically inclined (at least those among us with Adrian Monkish tendencies to be bothered by such things) nuts.

Apr 05, 2011 04:21 AM
rating: 0
Brian Kopec

Kevin never gets the odds right.

It's remarked on every time he posts one of these (otherwise excellent!) articles.

Time to get over it.

Apr 05, 2011 05:53 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

As someone posted in an earlier post, you guys never go to the track. 2-1 odds is 50/50, you bet a buck, you get back two. We can get pedantic about it if you'd like, but there's proper math, and then there's the real world.

Apr 05, 2011 08:27 AM
Dave Holgado


Apr 05, 2011 08:36 AM
rating: 2

Actually, the stake is not (should not be) counted in the odds listing. 2-1 odds means you get three back when you bet one. 1-1 is even money. 1-2 would be a -200 fave, betting two to win one (but getting three back).

Apr 06, 2011 02:27 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Should not be is all fine and dandy, but I'm in reality with the odds.

1. Go to Vegas.
2. Find roulette table
3. Note that black (50-50 chance) says "2-1"
4. Bet five dollars
5. Note that when you win, you get 10 back.
6. Realize that's how Vegas style odds work.

Apr 06, 2011 09:47 AM

I think we're definitely in terminology hell here...

1) Go to Sports Book in same casino.
2) Place bet on World Series at 4-1
3) See that $5 ticket is marked "Win $20.00 to Pay $25.00"

(I think in your Roulette example, your $5 stays on the table and they add $10 to it. In the Sports book, they get your $5, so they have to make a point of giving it back in addition to the winnings)

Apr 06, 2011 17:49 PM
rating: 0
Dave Holgado

Again, that's not right. In roulette, when you bet on either black or red, the $10 you win includes the $5 you put down. It's a 2-1 payout, and nearly 2-1 odds. That is, very nearly half of the spaces on the wheel are black, and very nearly half of them are red. The one space that is neither black nor red is the green double-zero, and it's this one space which creates the house's statistical advantage.

Apr 07, 2011 15:02 PM
rating: 0

Okay, so there really is different terminology in use in different bets, even under the same roof, since a Sports Book 2-1 gets you $15 back (your 5 plus 10) while a table 2-1 gets you $10 (your 5, plus 5). No wonder no one can agree on what Kevin is saying...

Apr 07, 2011 17:50 PM
rating: 0

Fair enough. You're right, I never go to the track, so the alternative math you're employing was unknown to me. (And apparently I don't read the comments frequently enough, because I've noticed this for years and never found it mentioned when I did scan the comments. Apparently I've missed plenty.)

But now that I've been clued in to the interpretive guide to the numbers, it's all good.

Apr 06, 2011 04:14 AM
rating: -1
Dave Holgado

Good Lord, man, I cannot believe you persist with this criticism. Especially when you are simply wrong. He's not expressing the odds as a mathematician, but rather, as a racing book. Please, for the love of all things holy, get yourself down to your local OTB. The fella behind the window can explain how horse race odds are expressed for you. 2-1 means 50% chance to win. 1-1 means 100%. Think of it this way, when you place, say, a 1 dollar bet on a 2-1 shot, you have to pay that 1 dollar for a little ticket. When you win, you turn that ticket in, and you get 2 bucks back. The first buck is the buck you paid, and the second one is your winnings. This is why racehorse odds NEVER get down to 1-1. Who would bet on a horse where the best you can do is win your money back?

Sadly, I think it's likely that the above explanation is not going to sink in for you. But I do hope you stop unfairly criticizing Kevin.

Apr 05, 2011 08:35 AM
rating: 0

Horse odds get below even money all the time, like with extreme favorites who are 2/5 ... betting $5 to win $2 ($7 payoff, $5 stake plus $2 winnings). Your explanation is flawed, and while Kevin has the right to post any numbers he wants (and they don't have to make real sense), I'd prefer that his rabid supporters not defend those numbers with inconsistent, poorly thought out or flat-out wrong logic.

Apr 06, 2011 02:33 AM
rating: -1
Dave Holgado

Dude. That's a 7-5 odds you just described. Just go to a racetrack, okay? 2-5 odds do not exist at the racetrack.

I'm not sure that anything I've written in this thread has even required "logic," so I'm not sure how it could have been "flat-out wrong" logic. It's just, you know... having lived in the world and observed actual real world things. Better use of one's time, perhaps, than criticizing folks who choose to communicate with others with some degree of social intelligence.

I also don't think I've ever been accused of being a rabid supporter of Kevin, though I do happen to be a big fan.

Apr 07, 2011 14:55 PM
rating: -1

Field: 100,000-1. Now that sums things up with a bit of humor. Kudos!

Apr 05, 2011 06:52 AM
rating: 0

As a five star prospect with massive potential, Stetson Allie must be shorter than 100,000-1, you would have thought.

Apr 05, 2011 07:38 AM
rating: 5

Yes, I would take a dollar on those odds.

Apr 05, 2011 08:20 AM
rating: 2
G. Guest

From what I can tell, the proper surname spelling of the Cardinal's long shot Oscar is Taveras. Above, the final vowel is shown as 'e'. I'm not normally the typo police, but in this case, it helps folks find the player.

Apr 05, 2011 07:09 AM
rating: 0

Given that Kevin is both setting the odds and then doing the top 11 lists, I'm wondering how much of this is just reinforcing his own biases. For example in the similar article last year he didn't even list Chris Archer or Trey McNutt as potential top guys for Chicago. So when the Chicago list comes out he has Brett Jackson #1 while Both Baseball America and Law have Archer ranked ahead of him.

Apr 05, 2011 08:05 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I've forgotten about these long before I rank, trust me.

Apr 05, 2011 08:31 AM

The biggest surprise is no Ariel Ovando for Houston. I mean, it's not like that organization has many guys who can match his ceiling.

Apr 05, 2011 08:34 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

He's only going to play some short-season ball, and it's going to take a huge step forward there for him to get to No. 1. Plenty of concerns about that swing.

Apr 05, 2011 08:56 AM

no odds for Szczur? any thoughts on his chances?

Apr 05, 2011 09:01 AM
rating: 0

In somewhat related news, (from Mark Topkin) #Rays SS prospect Hak-Ju Lee expected to miss first 10-14 days of Class A Stone Crabs season due to chicken pox.


Now THAT's something you rarely see in an injury database.

Apr 05, 2011 09:13 AM
rating: 3

It's amazing the cherry-picking criticism on here sometimes. He doesn't set the odds correctly ... he has a rankings bias based on a fun article he did 11 months prior. Man, people need to get a grip.
No, respected scout or writer is ever going to change a ranking based on a fun prediction they did.
It's almost like people are scouring sportsbooks to bet on these odds. Jeez.
Let's stick to baseball and leave the petty, condescending crap alone.

Apr 05, 2011 09:51 AM
rating: 5

tschritter--I would just respond to you, but my browser won't let me do that. I, too, am curious about what Kevin thinks of Szczur. He seems to be one of the prospects that gets wildly different rankings. Baseball America had him seventh for the Cubs (noting that he had the most upside of any position player) even before he gave up football. Diamond Futures had him sixth, but after committing to baseball fulltime. Kevin and Sickels, however, did not have him in their top 20's at all. The Cubs sure seem high on him, as they gave him $1.5 million and did it in a way (releasing and resigning) that means they have to put him on the 40-man roster or expose him to the Rule 5 draft next winter (which means he'll be on the 40-man unless the Cubs enjoy giving away $1.5 million).

I am bullish on him, and would have put him as the extreme long shot, given his limited baseball background but good hitting ability and great athleticism. I think he just needs the time devoted to baseball to shine. Well that, and another vowel or two.

Apr 05, 2011 10:43 AM
rating: 0
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I guess I don't see the good hitting ability. If he didn't play football, he wouldn't have suddenly been a first round pick, and there were plenty of questions about his hitting ability in college and I know one scout who thought his swing needed a complete re-working. The tools and athleticism are unquestionably there, but we need way more data to figure out if he can really hit.

Apr 05, 2011 10:50 AM

What about Tyrell Jenkins, you had him ranked over Martinez?

Apr 05, 2011 15:15 PM
rating: 0
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