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February 22, 2004

Prospectus Roundtable

Top 50 Prospects, Part II

by Baseball Prospectus

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Baseball Prospectus Top 40 Prospects lists:
2003
2002
2001

Baseball Prospectus Top 40 Prospects Roundtables:
2003 Part II
2003 Part I
2001

Baseball Prospectus Top 40 Prospects Reviews:
2000 Part VII
2000 Part VI
2000 Part V
2000 Part IV
2000 Part III
2000 Part II
2000 Part I
1999 Part VII
1999 Part VI
1999 Part V
1999 Part IV
1999 Part III
1999 Part II
1999 Part I

In preparing the annual top prospect list for Baseball Prospectus 2004, BP authors participated in the annual extended roundtable discussion of baseball's top prospects. The ranking and review process balanced translated statistics, scouting reports, and injury reports with the strong personal opinions of BP's finest…all with the goal of putting together the "best damn prospect list the world has ever seen." In Part II today we continue the discussion of the top prospects with shortstops, third basemen, and outfielders. Parts III and IV will run Monday, and Tuesday. You can click here to read Part I.

We'll also unveil the final list Tuesday, with the Top 50 prospects (we've expanded from prior years' Top 40) revealed. Rany Jazayerli will be along to discuss the Top 50 list and the process that went into compiling it in Tuesday night's Chat.

THIRD BASEMEN

The order of third basemen and all other positions listed in the Roundtable are preliminary rankings. Birthdates for every player as well as his age as of 6/30/04 are included at each position.

Rany Jazayerli: This position is marked by a pair of Top 10 talents, and little else:

 
Andy Marte        10/21/83        20 years,  8 months
David Wright      12/20/82        21 years,  6 months
(big gap)
Dallas McPherson  07/23/80        23 years, 11 months
(gap)
Edwin Encarnacion 01/07/83        21 years,  5 months
Kevin Youkilis    03/15/79        25 years,  3 months
Chad Tracy        05/22/80        24 years,  1 month
(gap)
Brendan Harris    08/26/80        23 years, 10 months
Garrett Atkins     12/12/79        24 years,  6 months
 
 

Wright or Marte, Marte or Wright. I love 'em both. I've put Andy Marte ahead for the moment, because of the 10-month age difference and because scouts seem to like him a lot more, but I really feel strongly that David Wright's as complete a prospect as there is in the game. I'd love to hear comments comparing the two, and Nate, I'd love to see what their PECOTA comps look like.

Nobody else is that impressive. Dallas McPherson put up some serious numbers last year, and while some of that was in The Hangar in Rancho Cucamonga, he hit .314/.426/.569 in Arkansas. He doesn't have a great defensive reputation, but it's not terrible either, and he clearly outhit everyone else on this list.

I don't know if anyone else deserves Top 50 consideration. I know people love the Greek God of Walks, but he hit .165/.295/.248 in Triple-A, over a 32-game sample. Of course, his full-season OBP was still .446, so...

Chad Tracy hit .324 and his defense took a big step forward, but he doesn't do much more than hit singles, and it was Tucson. I respect that he's had two good seasons in a row, but he was in El Paso in 2002, so I'm not sure that means anything either. And as much as I hyped him a year ago, I have to concede that Brendan Harris may not be quite as good as I thought he was. But he's still a better prospect than almost anyone gives him credit for.

Nate Silver:


Dallas McPherson
Age 23
5-Year EqAs: .250, .267, .279, .283, .304
5-Year WARP:  0.5,  1.1,  1.4,  1.6,  2.3

Noteworthy Comparables: Jim Thome, Eric Hinske, Lee Stevens

McPherson draws some favorable comparables, and might make for a reasonable big league regular as soon as next season. He's got the power/walks combo that we like, but also runs well enough that I don't know that you can call him an "old player's skills" guy (the comparables I've listed above don't really reflect it, but there are some more athletic names, like Cliff Floyd, further down his list). The more I look him over, the more I like him. McPherson's a guy that I think we can put our weight behind.


Andy Marte
Age 20
5-Year EqAs: .226, .231, .249, .261, .278
5-Year WARP: -0.3,  0.0,  0.7,  1.0,  2.3

Noteworthy Comparables: Brooks Robinson, Adrian Beltre, Joe Crede

PECOTA thinks he'll be good, but will take a little bit of time to get there. See further comments under David Wright.


David Wright
Age 21
5-Year EqAs: .227, .244, .261, .262, .276
5-Year WARP: -0.3,  0.3,  0.9,  1.0,  1.6

Noteworthy Comparables: Bill Russell, Adam Morrissey, Aramis Ramirez

Marte and Wright project similarly, with some names common to both comparables lists. I think Marte has to get the nod because he's a year younger. Still, one of the things I've tried to emphasize here is that, say, a 20-year old who posts a .230 EqA is *not* a lock to post a .300 EqA at age 27; there are a lot of players who have had seasons like Marte's or Wright's, and have not amounted to very much. Not the majority of players, but a considerable minority.

Another way of putting this is that I think it's possible that we've been giving too much credit to players who are very young, simply because they're very young.

 

Edwin Encarnacion
Age 21
5-Year EqAs: .228, .239, .253, .256, .271
5-Year WARP: -0.1,  0.2,  0.8,  1.0,  1.8

Noteworthy Comparables: Brooks Robinson, Joe Crede, Dave Kelton

There's really very little to distinguish Edwin Encarnacion from Marte or Wright, though I'm a little bit concerned that his numbers didn't hold up when he moved up to Double-A.


Brendan Harris
Age 23
5-Year EqAs: .260, .269, .275, .272, .272
5-Year WARP:  1.2,  1.4,  1.7,  1.6,  1.8

Noteworthy Comparables: Jeff Blauser, Jay Bell, Fernando Tatis

He had a down year, but PECOTA still likes him pretty well. Dave Cameron brought up the Jay Bell parallel independently of having seen PECOTA, and that works pretty well for me.


Garrett Atkins
Age 24
5-Year EqAs: .258, .273, .275, .270, .276
5-Year WARP:  1.1,  1.4,  1.5,  1.4,  1.3

Noteworthy Comparables: Bill Robinson, Kevin Elster, Steve Buechele

In the same boat as Brendan Harris, perhaps with a little bit more upside in the power department since he's a bigger dude. I don't know that Garrett Atkins is going to hit enough to be a regular if he can't stick at third base, however.


Kevin Youkilis
Age 25
5-Year EqAs: .248, .262, .272, .266, .273
5-Year WARP:  0.5,  0.7,  0.8,  0.7,  0.9

Noteworthy Comparables: Rick Leach, Pat Tabler, Mike Epstein

I discussed in the previous set of comments about how I have some concerns about players who draw a lot of walks, but don't do other things particularly well. Even considering Youkilis' entire set of comparables, you can count the All-Star appearances on one hand. It looks like he'll make a reasonable big league regular, and he's a hard player to forecast in a lot of ways, but he's not going to post a .464 OBP in Fenway any time soon.


Chad Tracy
Age 24
5-Year EqAs: .248, .260, .263, .259, .257
5-Year WARP:  0.6,  0.9,  1.0,  1.0,  0.9

Noteworthy Comparables: Clay Dalrymple, Dave Hansen, Jose Vidro

Another year came and went without Tracy displaying improvement in his secondary numbers. There are a couple of high-upside names on his comp list, but most are uninspiring.

Joe Sheehan: I'll pile on. McPherson belongs based on performance and ability.

I'd like to see us have Encarnacion on the list, mostly because he seems to be flying under the radar and could be in Cincinnati by Labor Day.

Adam Katz: About Youkilis--I know he's a Moneyball character and has a catchy nickname and I'd love to see him succeed...but he's not a Top-50 prospect--I know he probably won't make the cut anyway. He's relatively old, sucked in a small sample size in Triple-A, has never shown any power and from what I've read won't play 3B in the majors. High OBP/low SLG 1B/DH types generally make careers out of pinch-hitting. His ceiling is to be a fatter version of Dave Magadan, and I hope I'm wrong, but putting him in the top 50 would be a mistake.

David Cameron: Others to consider: Corey Hart

Should be higher: Edwin Encarnacion

Should be lower: Dallas McPherson

Likely position switch: Dallas McPherson

I've been Andy Marte's biggest supporter for 2 years now, and I won't stop now. He's a top-10 talent. I'm also a giant fan of David Wright, but I'm more certain that Marte is going to hit for power. Wright's a more complete player, but in the not-dominant-at-anything kind of way. These two remind me of Kearns and Dunn coming up, with Marte playing Dunn and Wright playing Kearns. I took Kearns' side then, mainly due to defense, but I'm taking Marte's side now. Both are great, but Marte is slightly greater.

Joe's dead on with Encarnacion. The debacle of starting him in Double-A kept his hype down, but he's got a lot of abilities. He's definitely a tools guy, but has a decent idea of the strike zone, and can absolutely pound a fastball. He's got work to do on breaking balls, and I don't think he'll ever be a high-OBP guy, but I think he can be the 1999 version of Tony Batista.

McPherson's bat shouldn't be much of a question, but unless they trade Troy Glaus (or Glaus' shoulder doesn't heal, forcing a position switch), he's going to right field. The McPherson switch might happen in spring training. It might happen at the All-Star break. They might hold off until instructional league next fall. But it is near certain that he's going to RF. He probably could handle 3B, but they want his bat in the line-up quicker, and his cannon arm gets him profiled as the prototypical right fielder. I think he's going to hit, but he loses a bit of WARP thanks to the impending move.

I don't think Youkilis, Tracy, or Harris should make the list.

I threw Corey Hart's name out there because I don't think we can ignore a guy who could get significant playing time next year and flash some real power. His plate discipline is terrible and won't improve, and he's probably bound for right field eventually as well, but he could hit .270/.320/.470 in Milwaukee next year. Long term, I'm not a huge fan, but he deserves at least a mention in the discussion.

SHORTSTOPS

Rany:


B.J. Upton        08/21/84      19 years, 10 months
(gap?)
Kazuo Matsui      10/23/75      28 years,  8 months
(gap?)
J.J. Hardy        08/19/82      21 years, 10 months
Bobby Crosby      01/12/80      24 years,  5 months
(gap)
Khalil Greene     10/21/79      24 years,  8 months
Russ Adams        08/30/80      23 years, 10 months
 
 

B.J. Upton doesn't hit many homers yet, and he made 56 errors in 122 games, but come on. The guy was in Double-A before his 19th birthday, and he had 44 extra-base hits (and 73 walks). He's Top 10, maybe Top 5.

I have no idea where to slot Kaz Matsui, but based on what Ichiro and Hideki did, I think it's fair to say that he'll be one of the 10 best shortstops in the game this year. He'll probably slot in around 10-15.

J.J. Hardy is clearly ahead of the other three guys based on age. I always think of Bobby Crosby, Khalil Greene, and Russ Adams together, probably because Greene and Adams were picked back-to-back in 2002, Crosby in 2001, and they're all Moneyball-ish picks as college shortstops that were drafted in the first round more for their bats than their gloves. Given that they're all roughly the same age, I think Crosby's the best of the three given his numbers this year.

I know the Jays wanted Greene and had to settle for Adams, but a year later it's tough to tell who got the better player. Greene was a bit disappointing this year. He's shown more power, Adams has the better plate discipline, and frankly I might just list them back-to-back for nostalgia's sake. Any thoughts on who's the better of the pair, let me know. I do think all six of these guys are Top 50 material.

Nate:


Kaz Matsui
Age 28
5-Year EqAs: .279, .278, .272, .277, .264
5-Year WARP: 3.7,  3.4,  2.6,  2.6,  1.9

Noteworthy Comparables: Kelly Gruber, Chris Sabo, Phil Garner, Junior Spivey

There's some pessimism surrounding Matsui that I think is unwarranted; Clay Davenport has refined his Japanese translations, making them considerably more conservative, and Matsui still holds up to be a pretty good big league regular. Interesting that his EqA crosses paths with B.J. Upton's in 2008; I don't know how to evaluate that. Personally, I agree with Dave Pease that we shouldn't be listing Japanese players as prospects at all, unless they're of prospect age when they come over.


Bobby Crosby
Age 24
5-Year EqAs: .268, .274, .274, .273, .279
5-Year WARP: 1.8,  1.8,  2.0,  2.0,  1.9

Noteworthy Comparables: Jay Bell, Frank Bolling, Tony Batista

PECOTA doubts that Crosby will be able to maintain a .281 EqA in the major leagues last year, which is how his numbers shook out at Sacramento, but he looks like a very safe bet to be an above-average player for the next six or seven seasons.


B.J. Upton
Age 19
5-Year EqAs:  .222, .230, .239, .249, .264
5-Year WARP: -0.2, -0.1,  0.2,  0.4,  0.8

Noteworthy Comparables: Felipe Lopez, Kelly Johnson, Miguel Cabrera

Yikes. Upton is a player that I thought the system would really like, but it doesn't. Cabrera is listed here as a teaser of sorts; Kelly Johnson is more representative of his comparables list. PECOTA does punish him a little bit for his horrible defensive numbers, but only a little bit. I'm not going to say too much more, because I think he's a good prospect, personally. He either needs to develop power *or* to learn to field his position more effectively, and he's got time. Just don't go calling him the new Derek Jeter just yet.


Khalil Greene
Age 24
5-Year EqAs: .252, .261, .259, .260, .270
5-Year WARP: 1.2,  1.3,  1.3,  1.1,  1.2

Noteworthy Comparables: Kevin Elster, Steve Buechele, Joe Crede

He's sort of a poor man's Bobby Crosby, with less plate discipline and power upside. The comparables capture him pretty well, I think.


Russ Adams
Age 23
5-Year EqAs: .237, .251, .253, .257, .259
5-Year WARP: 0.3,  0.6,  0.8,  0.9,  1.2

Noteworthy Comparables: Toby Harrah, Rance Mulliniks, Max Venable

Upside is limited because he hasn't demonstrated power; I think his prospect status depends on what we think of his fielding.

 

J.J. Hardy
Age 21
5-Year EqAs:  .219, .228, .242, .241, .252
5-Year WARP: -0.5,  0.0,  0.4,  0.3,  0.5

Noteworthy Comparables: Brent Butler, Bobby Valentine, Travis Dawkins

Another player that PECOTA does not care for. As in the case of Alexis Rios, it may not be adjusting properly for the pattern wherein a minor league prospect improves markedly in season N-1.

The shortstop position is one with which I disagree with PECOTA. However, it is worth noting that middle infielders tend to have higher collapse rates than do players at the other positions. I would suggest that Upton should not be #1 overall, though I'm not sure if we were considering that.

David: I really have nothing to add on Matsui, but I'll still argue that he should be behind J.J. Hardy. The seven years difference is good enough for me. I think there would have to be an obvious difference in abilities to make that kind of time up, and I don't see it. I think you could argue that Crosby should be ahead of Matsui as well, though that one is less convincing.

Others to consider: None

Should be higher: J.J. Hardy

Should be lower: Kazuo Matsui

Likely position switch: Russ Adams

I was actually a bit disappointed with Upton's bat when I saw him, but the way he finished, I'll gladly chalk it up to a bad night. His swing is a bit funky, but it doesn't appear to be a problem. He's ridiculously fast and has an arm that scared the crap out of his first baseman every time he threw. I think he may take a few years to reach expectations, and wouldn't be totally stunned if he ended up with an Edgar Renteria-like career. There is definitely potential for more, though. He's top 5 without much hesitation.

Hardy's improvement in plate discipline is near historic. Somebody line up a Q&A and drill him on the subject. His power is still several years away, but in his prime, he might be as good as Upton, though less flashy. His defense gets mixed reviews, ranging from great to slightly below average, though the Brewers have no plans on moving him. I'll be curious to see how our metrics rate him after a few years in the majors.

I have a real hard time getting excited about Crosby, Greene, or Adams. All are nice players with flaws who have solid regular careers in front of them. I think you have them in the right order, though. I was pretty sure the Jays would leave Adams at short until they drafted Aaron Hill, who I also like.

There are some interesting players like Sergio Santos, Jose Lopez, Hanley Ramirez, and Kelly Johnson who don't deserve top-50 nods, but I wanted to at least mention.

OUTFIELDERS

Rany: Some good talent here, but there's a huge age variance amongst these prospects, which makes slotting them difficult.

 
Delmon Young        09/14/85        18 years,  9 months
Alexis Rios         02/18/81        23 years,  4 months
(gap)
Grady Sizemore      08/02/82        21 years, 10 months
Jeremy Reed         06/15/81        23 years,  0 months
(gap)
Chris Snelling      12/03/81        22 years,  6 months
Franklin Gutierrez  02/21/83        21 years,  4 months
Jeremy Hermida      01/30/84        20 years,  5 months
(gap)
David DeJesus       12/20/79        24 years,  6 months
Jason Bay           09/20/78        25 years,  9 months
(gap)
Gabe Gross          10/21/79        24 years,  8 months
Terrmel Sledge      03/18/77        27 years,  3 months
(gap)
Steven Smitherman   09/01/78        25 years,  9 months
Shin-Soo Choo       07/13/82        21 years, 11 months
Jeff Francoeur      01/08/84        20 years,  5 months
Matt Diaz           03/03/78        26 years,  3 months
 
 

Yes, Delmon Young. We've never had a high school player make the list the winter after he was drafted, but Young is probably the most polished high school hitter since A-Rod, and my God, he hit .417 in the AFL a month after his 18th birthday (note his birthdate: he was one of the youngest players in his draft class).

Rios hit the ball like crazy in Puerto Rico this past winter. It was a classic case of a tools guy putting all the tools together. His walk rate could use some improvement; methinks his team is working with him on that.

Jeremy Reed had numbers that were so good that frankly, I have trouble accepting them, and I think it's clouding my analysis. He hit .333 in A-ball, .409 in Double-A, drew 70 walks in 131 games, stole 45 bases in 64 attempts, and hit 35 doubles, four triples, 11 homers. So why am I putting him behind Grady Sizemore? I have no idea. Nate, gimme some comps here. Am I justified in being suspicious of Reed's performance?

I may be being stubborn about Chris Snelling's ranking; I could certainly see him moved down behind Franklin Gutierrez. Gutierrez had a poor K/BB ratio, but man, he's got power. He's not far behind a Juan Gonzalez at the same age, granted that JuGo was in the majors by his 21st birthday.

Jeremy Hermida may be a little high, given that he was in low-A ball last year--he'd probably be the least-advanced player on the list. But he's got excellent command of the strike zone for a teenager (80 walks with a .284 average), everyone expects him to develop power, and you've got to love the guy characterized as having "average speed" who swiped 28 bags in 30 attempts.

David DeJesus and Jason Bay are both guys who could make big contributions in 2004, but neither is particularly young. Will, what's the status on Bay's shoulder? The same goes for Terrmel Sledge--can we really justify putting him on the list when he's 27? If his 2003 numbers are for real, probably.

As much as it pains me to admit it, Gabe Gross is on the bubble. He had a good season, but the power just isn't there yet, and he's older than I thought.

The rest of these guys probably will fall just short of the list, but I'm including them in case anyone wants to make a compelling case why they should make it. Matt Diaz is there for comic relief.

Nate:


Jeremy Reed
Age 23
5-Year EqAs: .278, .285, .288, .294, .293
5-Year WARP: 1.4,  1.6,  1.9,  2.1,  2.1

Noteworthy Comparables: Tony Gwynn, Terry Francona, Don Mattingly

PECOTA thinks he's the best outfield prospect in baseball. The dude hit .400 for a couple of months, and he does everything you'd expect to suggest that the batting average is for real, since he runs well and rarely strikes out. He's not a huge power guy, but his secondary average should be good enough to make him a real asset, even at a corner position. I think he's top-five material, perhaps top three.

 

Chris Snelling
Age 22
5-Year EqAs: .263, .278, .281, .291, .292
5-Year WARP: 0.7,  1.1,  1.2,  1.6,  1.7

Noteworthy Comparables: Oscar Gamble, Curt Flood, Rowland Office

He had kind of an odd year, with his plate discipline not holding up very well, and the system likes him better than I do. He has, at various times, displayed a pretty wide range of skills, which I think is a strength.


Franklin Gutierrez
Age 21
5-Year EqAs:  .242, .244, .263, .271, .300
5-Year WARP: -0.2, -0.1,  0.7,  1.2,  3.3

Noteworthy Comparables: Sammy Sosa, Chad Hermansen, Andruw Jones, Corey Patterson

The power/speed combo has a lot of upside, and his comp list includes an interesting mix of very encouraging and relatively discouraging entries.

  

Jason Bay
Age 25
5-Year EqAs: .282, .287, .288, .285, .284
5-Year WARP: 1.3,  1.3,  1.4,  1.3,  1.1

Noteworthy Comparables: Reggie Sanders, Trot Nixon, Glenallen Hill

He had a very good season last year, and PECOTA think he'll make a fine regular, but there aren't any HOF-type players on his comp list. Low risk, medium reward.


David DeJesus
Age 24
5-Year EqAs: .272, .279, .275, .284, .283
5-Year WARP: 1.1,  1.1,  1.2,  1.2,  1.2

Noteworthy Comparables: Bobby Abreu, Marvell Wynne, Dion James

He's got a relatively weird projection--favorable numbers but rather flat growth. The system likes him, but I'm a little bit suspicious since he didn't play a full season last year.

  

Gabe Gross
Age 24
5-Year EqAs: .264, .276, .277, .281, .282
5-Year WARP: 0.5,  0.9,  1.0,  1.1,  1.1

Noteworthy Comparables: Leron Lee, Pete LaCock, Brad Wilkerson

Wilkerson is representative of his comparables--reasonable major league regulars whose WARP lies in their HRs and walks, and who are just athletic enough to avoid being Jeremy Giambi.


Alexis Rios
Age 23
5-Year EqAs: .249, .258, .269, .265, .267
5-Year WARP: 0.4,  0.5,  1.1,  0.8,  1.1

Noteworthy Comparables: Jesus Alou, George Hendrick, Paul Blair

Yes, he's this far down the list...PECOTA isn't taking into account his performance in Puerto Rico. But absent that...he looks like a B+ prospect, not an A+ prospect. Most of his WARP was driven by batting average, and his plate discipline isn't that good. His comparables suggest a major league regular, but not a star.


Grady Sizemore
Age 21
5-Year EqAs:  .236, .253, .263, .273, .279
5-Year WARP: -0.6,  0.0,  0.5,  0.9,  1.1

Noteworthy Comparables: Oscar Gamble, Dee Brown, Peter Bergeron

Sizemore seems to confuse PECOTA a little bit, since he looked like Peter Bergeron in 2001 and 2002 but displayed considerably better power last season. I think we need to proceed cautiously with him; without the power, his upside is limited, and his burnout rate is higher than you'd think. Clay's numbers also don't regard his defense very well.

 

Jeff Francoeur
Age 20
5-Year EqAs:  .222, .231, .242, .264, .297
5-Year WARP: -0.9, -0.5,  0.0,  0.6,  2.4

Noteworthy Comparables: Josh Hamilton, Rocco Baldelli, Vernon Wells

Another power/speed guy, he gets compared to the people you'd expect him to get compared to. PECOTA has big numbers for him in 2008, but that's partially a sample size effect.


Shin-Soo Choo
Age 21
5-Year EqAs:  .230, .245, .253, .264, .274
5-Year WARP: -0.9, -0.3,  0.0,  0.4,  0.7

Noteworthy Comparables: Gene Stephens, Clete Boyer, Nathan Haynes

See comment on Hermida below.


Jeremy Hermida
Age 20
5-Year EqAs:  .212, .224, .236, .241, .263
5-Year WARP: -1.6, -1.2, -0.7, -0.5, 0.2

Noteworthy Comparables: Grady Sizemore, Ryan Langerhans, B.J. Garbe

OK, I'm being a little bit unfair. There are a couple of more favorable comparables, like Austin Kearns, further down his list. But most of his comps did not amount to anything, and PECOTA thinks that the preliminary ranking that Rany suggested for him was considerably too high. Yes, all those walks are nice, but minor leaguers who only draw walks, and do little else, do not tend to develop very well. He's a big guy, and his power might come...or it might not...it is certainly far from a foregone conclusion that it will come. I just think there's only so far we can go with a corner outfielder who slugged an untranslated .393 in the Sally League.


Steven Smitherman
Age 25
5-Year EqAs: .260, .269, .281, .280, .281
5-Year WARP: 0.4,  0.6,  0.8,  0.7,  0.7

Noteworthy Comparables: Wes Helms, Eduardo Perez, Kevin Mench

Not going to be a star, but PECOTA sees the potential for some additional growth.


Terrmel Sledge
Age 27
5-Year EqAs: .269, .270, .270, .263, .261
5-Year WARP: 0.7,  0.6,  0.5,  0.3,  0.2

Noteworthy Comparables: John Lowenstein, Dwight Smith, Kevin Koslofski

I'm not sure if you can call him a prospect or not; he's 27, and as you'd expect, PECOTA thinks he's already as good as he's going to get. I'm also not sure that he's a center fielder.

 

Matt Diaz
Age 26
5-Year EqAs: .260, .264, .264, .271, .264
5-Year WARP: 0.7, 0.6, 0.4, 0.7, 0.4

Noteworthy Comparables: Aaron Rowand, Alex Ochoa, Jeffrey Hammonds

Different set of skills, but in the same category as Sledge. He had a nice year, but I don't know that it makes him a prospect. PECOTA likes another Devil Ray outfielder, Jonny Gomes, a little bit better.

Recommendations: PECOTA has registered some pretty strong opinions across the board here. I think we're making a considerable mistake if we list, say, Grady Sizemore ahead of Jeremy Reed, or Jeremy Hermida ahead of Jason Bay. I think it may be missing a little bit on Rios since he developed so rapidly last year, but at the same time, I don't think he's going to be an instant star.

David: After reading all my comments, I realize I suggest moving just about everyone down, which can't really be done, but does sum up how much I don't really like this group of outfield prospects.

Others to consider: Brad Nelson, J.J. Davis

Should be higher: Jeff Francoeur, Franklin Gutierrez, Gabe Gross

Should be lower: Delmon Young, Chris Snelling (pains me to say it)

Likely position switch: Grady Sizemore (CF to LF), David DeJesus (CF to LF), Jeremy Reed (CF to RF/LF)

I can't justify having Young at the top of this list. We simply don't have any idea about his ability to hit a breaking ball or adjust to good off-speed pitches. His plate discipline is questionable at best, and no one projects him as a defensive asset in right field. There are too many unknowns. If he played a premium defensive position, you might be able to make a case that he was a special prospect, but he's a corner outfielder, and the only way he lives up to this if he hits like a Hall of Famer during his career. You simply can't project that type of ability based on scouting reports and 50 at-bats in the near-worthless Arizona Fall League.

While it certainly seems that Rios has found his power stroke down in Puerto Rico, winter league stats have to be taken with giant handfuls of salt. His plate discipline went to crap after the first month last year, and he's going to have to hit for a really high average to be a star. If we think the power improvement is for real, he's probably the best of a weak class, but I still have reservations.

I like Grady Sizemore, have been saying good things about him for three years, and have seen him several times and been impressed with his swing and approach at the plate. He's added some power, and should turn into a nice player. I'm not sure how high his ceiling is as a corner outfielder though. I still think the Rusty Greer comparison fits, and in that context, I'm not quite sure he should be this high.

Jeremy Reed is a polished version of Grady Sizemore. Better plate discipline, slightly less power, also no real chance to play CF in the big leagues. I can make an argument for either one being ahead of the other, but if pushed, I'd probably give the edge to Sizemore just based on date of birth.

Coming from the guy who convinced Derek to shell out $170 for an authentic Chris Snelling jersey, it pains me to say that I think he's a bit too high. The injuries have robbed him of some necessary development time, and he's not going to be ready to help a major league club until some time in 2005, maybe 2006. He understands the strike zone (he read Moneyball and had some great critiques), but is still a flailing hack himself. He tries to make up for lost time by doing too much, and just keeps costing himself more time. The knee problems aren't supposed to be serious, but they cement him as a left fielder. With gap power and questionable plate discipline, I can't make a good case for him this far up the list.

I think Franklin Gutierrez is one of the rare prospects that we can project as an above-average player even if the plate discipline still sucks when he gets to the majors. His power is legit, and he's got room to add more. He goes the other way already, and the Juan Gonzalez comparisons aren't too terribly far off the mark. In the Dodgers organization, we certainly have to wonder if he'll improve his command of the strike zone, though, and he could just as easily be the next Juan Encarnacion.

As I'm sure everyone could tell from the Prospecting piece I did on him, I'm a huge Jeremy Hermida fan. I know PECOTA doesn't like his low SLG, but I'm sold that he's going to hit for power. The weather in Greensboro was awful this year, and he really picked up after a slow start during April. He's going to be a big-time hitter.

I'd flip DeJesus and Bay if Will gives us the go-ahead on Bay's shoulder. The only advantage DeJesus has is a slight one in plate discipline, and I'm not sold that he has the power to make that matter at the big league level. Both are going to be nice players, but I'd rather have Bay.

I really can't agree with the comment about Gross lacking power. The main concern is his ability to make consistent contact, but I'd move him up four or five spots on this list. I've got him tabbed as a .290/.380/.500 player, and that's quite a bit higher than I have Bay, DeJesus, and Snelling.

I really have nothing to add about Terrmel Sledge, other than that I'm still pissed the M's gave him away for Chris Widger. We all agree he deserved a job in the majors last year, and there's no reason for him to not have one next year. The fact that he still has prospect eligibility isn't his fault.

I think Steve Smitherman is a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. I can't really see a compelling reason for him to be in the top 50.

Shin-Soo Choo is frustrating the M's with his lack of development. His power still hasn't come like they thought it would, and his instincts are in question. He's a liability in the outfield and doesn't put his speed to use. He's got a nice swing, but the expectations of several years ago were probably too high. I can't put him in the top 50 right now either.

Brad Nelson's had cleanup power before the hamate injury, and unless Will tells me otherwise, I expect it to return next year. He already drives the ball to all fields, and when he learns to pull pitches consistently, he'll drill 35-40 homers a year. He probably won't match them in the walk departments, but Richie Sexson/Jim Thome-type power isn't out of the question.

I'm not sure how J.J. Davis got ignored. His power has finally come, and he's probably going to log a good number of ABs in Pittsburgh next year. He won't be a great player, but he can be useful starting next year, and he deserves a spot on the list.

Nate: I agree with Dave that J.J. Davis deserves to be ranked, and he gets a nice PECOTA. Brad Nelson sucks, though, and there are other concerns with him apart from the injury.

Between the two levels where he played, Jeremy Reed posted roughly a .270 EqA last year, while Sizemore was at .240. That's an enormous difference, and saying that they are similar types of players obscures the issue. Ray Durham and Joe Morgan are similar types of players, but Morgan was loads better.

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