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April 7, 2009

Future Shock

Future Top Dogs, AL

by Kevin Goldstein

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Prospecting is all about the future, so let's look deep into the coming year and try to figure out who might be topping next year's prospect lists in their respective organizations, as well as who could be moving up, down, or even out, beginning today with the American League.

Baltimore Orioles

The Incumbent: Matt Wieters begins the season in Triple-A, but he won't be there for long. Instead of topping the prospect lists next year, there will be discussions of where he ranks among the top catchers in the big leagues.
Other Possibilities: This is where things get interesting. The number two and three prospects in the system are starters Chris Tillman and Brian Matusz, but will their timetable be accelerated since the current rotation includes guys like Alfredo Simon and Adam Eaton?
Trade Bait: There's really no scenario that has Baltimore competing in the American League East, so we're likely looking at additions to the system as opposed to subtractions.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: One of the big names in the Miguel Tejada deal, lefty Troy Patton was a bottom of the Top 100 type before labrum surgery cost him all of the 2008 season. With a return to form, he could be back.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Brian Matusz: 5-2
Chris Tillman: 4-1
2009 first-round pick (5th overall): 5-1
Jake Arrieta: 10-1

Boston Red Sox

The Incumbent: First baseman Lars Anderson begins the year at Double-A Portland, and is lined up for an opportunity in Boston in 2010 rather than this year.
Other Possibilities: The Red Sox were busy in last year's draft, signing high-ceiling athletes to over-slot bonuses. That gives them a number of breakout candidates, but none is bigger than Ryan Westmoreland, whose 2009 season will be delayed by shoulder surgery.
Trade Bait: Anderson is close to untouchable, but one has to wonder if starter Michael Bowden could be available in a deal that involved a star in return, as the Red Sox have few prospects at the upper levels that are of interest to other teams.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: 2008 first-round pick Casey Kelly could find far more success on the mound than he did at the plate during his pro debut. A big first half at Low-A Greenville could move him to pitching permanently, and he was among the top arms in last year's draft.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Lars Anderson: 4-3
Casey Kelly: 15-1
Michael Bowden: 18-1
Daniel Bard: 20-1
Ryan Westmoreland: 25-1
Michael Almanzar: 30-1

Chicago White Sox

The Incumbent: Gordon Beckham, the 2008 first-round pick, blew away scouts and his own team this spring. He begins the year at Double-A Birmingham, but nobody is ruling out some big-league time as early as this year. That's almost the only way he'll avoid being #1 this winter.
Other Possibilities: Like Beckham, 2007 first-round pick Aaron Poreda made a run at a big-league role before being sent out. Cuban import Dayan Viciedo has enormous potential, and a Double-A assignment for a 20-year-old with no pro experience shows how much confidence the organization has in him.
Trade Bait: General Manager Kenny Williams rarely shies away from trades, but their top prospects will likely be off the table, and the system falls off quickly from there. Outfielder John Shelby III has a well-rounded set of tools and might be an attractive commodity in a second-tier trade should the White Sox compete.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Viciedo came into the spring in shape after looking downright fat last year. He could rocket up prospect lists with a good spring.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Gordon Beckham: 4-3
Dayan Viciedo: 9-1
Aaron Poreda: 12-1

Cleveland Indians

The Incumbent: Outfielder Matt LaPorta struggled last year after coming over to the organization as the biggest part of the CC Sabathia trade, but he begins the year at Triple-A and could provide a second-half infusion of offense for a team expected to contend for a division title.
Other Possibilities: Catcher Carlos Santana has both the ability to hit for average and improving defensive skills, while he lines up for a job in 2010. Outfielder Nick Weglarz has youth, power, and patience all on his side. Righty Adam Miller is always a contender when he's healthy, which is almost never, so scratch that notion.
Trade Bait: The Indians are loaded with left fielders, first basemen, and DH types, so any of their players like Weglarz, Beau Mills, or even Wes Hodges (who has struggled at third base) could be dealt as the Tribe would be trading from a position of strength.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Right-hander Hector Rondon is good now and has a great deal of projection.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Carlos Santana: 5-2
Matt LaPorta: 3-1
Nick Weglarz: 6-1
Beau Mills: 20-1
Hector Rondon: 30-1

Detroit Tigers

The Incumbent: Despite having only 24 starts at High-A on his resume, top prospect Rick Porcello was arguably the best pitcher in camp and won the fifth starter's slot. There's a chance he'll pitch his way back into the minors, but even in the worst-case scenario he should still get 50 innings in.
Other Possibilities: The second option would probably be 2008 first-round pick Ryan Perry, but he went and made the big-league roster as well. That leaves shortstop Cale Iorg, a perfectly fine prospect, but nowhere close to what one normally expects from the top-ranked position. With the Tigers picking ninth overall in a bad draft, that will be no guarantee as far as what they get there either.
Trade Bait: To make trades, one needs prospects, and the Tigers really don't have a lot of them.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Don't forget about big lefty Casey Crosby. The 2007 draftee missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he was the talk of the instructional league on the basis of his mid-90s velocity.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
2009 first-round pick (9th overall): 5-2
Casey Crosby: 3-1
Cale Iorg: 8-1
Ryan Perry: 15-1
Rick Porcello: 20-1

Kansas City Royals

The Incumbent: After getting selected as the Royals' 2008 first-round pick, Eric Hosmer begins the year at Low-A Burlington in what will be one of the most followed full-season debuts in the game.
Other Possibilities: Third baseman Mike Moustakas was the Midwest League's best hitter during the second half of the season, and is basically Hosmer with less size and athleticism. Those two are so head-and-shoulders above the rest of the talent in the organization that there really are no other options.
Trade Bait: The Royals are early in their long-term plan, so it's unlikely that they'll be dealing prospects this summer. If they end up competing, they do have a plethora of solid young arms.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: After suffering from a case of senioritis last spring, righty Tim Melville signed for a $1.25 million bonus and looked to be back to form in the instructional league.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Eric Hosmer: 2-1
Mike Moustakas: 5-2
Tim Melville: 25-1

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Incumbent: Jordan Walden has the best arm in the system, and he could become a household name if he can stay healthy all year.
Other Possibilities: Injuries forced second-ranked prospect Nick Adenhart into the big-league rotation, and the good news is that he looked much improved this spring. If Hank Conger can catch for a full season, he's always a possibility, but overall, this system ain't what it used to be.
Trade Bait: While on paper it looks as if the Angles have little to trade, they do have plenty of guys in prospect limbo, like Brandon Wood and Sean Rodriguez, whose big-league readiness could make them attractive targets.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Ultra-athletic left-hander Trevor Reckling came out of nowhere to be the organization's best pitcher at the lower levels. Proving that he can handle the California League would do wonders for his stock.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Jordan Walden: 4-1
Hank Conger: 5-1
Any 2009 draftee: 6-1
Trevor Reckling: 10-1
Will Smith: 15-1
Manuarys Correa: 20-1
Nick Adenhart: 30-1
Luis Jimenez: 40-1

Minnesota Twins

The Incumbent: Although 2007 first-rounder Ben Revere isn't going to have any power growth in the Florida State League, he sure can hit.
Other Possibilities: Experts go back and forth between the two center fielders in the system-Revere and 2008 first-round pick Aaron Hicks, who surprisingly is not on the Opening Day roster at Low-A Beloit (though neither was Revere last year). Outfielder Angel Morales has jaw-dropping power, while catcher Wilson Ramos is a guy who scouts have been expecting a breakout from for a couple of years now.
Trade Bait: The Twins' system doesn't have the depth it once had, especially in terms of position players. There are several second-tier starters at Double- and Triple-A who could generate minor interest.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Morales and Ramos are both good candidates, as is Shooter Hunt, who looked like a top 15 pick in last year's draft before a late-season slump.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Ben Revere: 2-1
Aaron Hicks: 5-2
Angel Morales: 20-1

New York Yankees

The Incumbent: Catcher Jesus Montero will be among the youngest regulars in the Florida State League, but everyone already knows that he can hit, and far more attention will be paid to his defense, which will still require significant improvement if he's to stay behind the plate in the long term.
Other Possibilities: Austin Jackson is a good second choice, but with the big-league center-field situation in flux, there's a chance he might get to the big leagues and exhaust his eligibility at some point this summer. Young pitchers Dellin Betances and Arodys Vizcaino both have breakout potential, while Andrew Brackman is always a possibility for a major step forward, though that's been the case for the last five years.
Trade Bait: Always one of the busier players at the trade deadline, the Yankees will have to find the right trade partner to get a deal done, as they have plenty of young talent, but not much in the major league-ready department.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: All Betances needs is a healthy season.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Jesus Montero: 3-1
Dellin Betances: 5-1
Andrew Brackman: 7-1
Arodys Vizcaino: 8-1
Austin Jackson: 10-1
Austin Romine: 15-1

Oakland Athletics

The Incumbent: Seen by some as the best Dominican amateur arm-possibly ever-Michael Ynoa will likely not see more than a few starts in the Arizona Summer League.
Other Possibilities: If Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson stick in their current big-league roster spots, it will be difficult for anyone else to pass Ynoa. Chris Carter could make a run if he can maintain his power surge at Double-A.
Trade Bait: Are the A's rebuilding for the long term, or are they competing this year? If the answer is the latter, they have plenty of talent to deal, but will they want to do so in the name of sacrificing what could be an even brighter future?
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Any number of guys, really. Outfielder Rashun Dixon is loaded with tools and might be one of the better sleepers around for "moving into the Top 100".

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Michael Ynoa: 5-3
Chris Carter: 10-1
Brett Anderson: 18-1
Trevor Cahill: 18-1

Seattle Mariners

The Incumbent: Outfielder Greg Halman fell one home run short of a 30-30 season, but he has a wide range of outcomes due to his poor strike-zone judgment; there's a good chance he'll become even better, and an equally solid chance of his falling off of a cliff.
Other Possibilities: Phillippe Aumont's move to the bullpen is not a positive development. Michael Saunders still has room for improvement in a friendly hitting environment at Triple-A. More importantly, the Mariners draft second overall in June, and while there's no consensus at this time as to who that selection will be, he'll immediately become their top prospect the moment he signs.
Trade Bait: Seattle will be more likely to trade away veterans than prospects.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Righty Juan Carlos Ramirez has a big body, a big fastball, and many scouts think he's just a few refinements away from taking off.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
2009 first-round pick (second overall): 5-3
Greg Halman: 8-1
Phillipe Aumont: 10-1
Juan Carlos Ramirez: 12-1
Michael Saunders: 12-1

Tampa Bay Rays

The Incumbent: Like Wieters, David Price begins the year in Triple-A, but that's not going to last very long.
Other Possibilities: This one could be wide open. Tim Beckham, the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, makes a highly anticipated full-season debut, but he also comes in quite raw. Toolsy outfielder Desmond Jennings just needs to maintain his health, while righty Wade Davis could be the best bet for a major league look. For the first time in franchise history, their first-round pick (30th overall) shouldn't be a factor.
Trade Bait: The Rays were conservative last year on the trade front, but they have lots of talent to deal should they decide to ramp it up. Shortstop Reid Brignac could be the biggest draw.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Burly left-hander Matt Moore has big-time velocity, a plus breaking ball, and the potential for a breakout in his full-season debut.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Tim Beckham: 4-1
Wade Davis: 4-1
Desmond Jennings: 6-1
Reid Brignac: 8-1
Matt Moore: 10-1
Jake McGee: 20-1

Texas Rangers

The Incumbent: Neftali Feliz begins the year in Triple-A; he's better than many current options in the Rangers' rotation, and though getting 50-plus innings in the majors is likely, it's not guaranteed.
Other Possibilities: Justin Smoak is an easy choice here, as one of the top hitters in last year's draft could put up massive numbers in his full-season debut. Righty Derek Holland may get a big-league call before Feliz does, so he's even less likely to be eligible. Ultra-toolsy outfielder Engel Beltre is a fun wild card to dream on.
Trade Bait: While the Rangers have an outside chance of contention, 2010 is a more likely year for them to begin trading prospects and worrying about the now.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Lefty Martin Perez drew comparisons to Scott Kazmir in the Northwest League last year, and he heads up to join a ridiculously talented rotation at Low-A Hickory.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Justin Smoak: 5-2
Engel Beltre: 6-1
Michael Main: 8-1
Martin Perez: 8-1
Neftali Feliz: 10-1
Derek Holland: 12-1

Toronto Blue Jays

The Incumbent: Outfielder Travis Snider goes from the best hitter in the system to the best hitter on the big-league club.
Other Possibilities: The two top competitors are catcher J.P. Arencibia and first baseman David Cooper, with Arencibia getting the edge due to positional scarcity, though there is some chance that he might get to the majors this year. Shortstop Justin Jackson has the tools, but would need to take a massive step forward to contend. Picking 20th overall in the first round, the draft shouldn't be a factor.
Trade Bait: The Blue Jays are in the wrong division for trying to compete, so all of the prospects should stick around.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Jackson is a plus defender at shortstop with a great approach, plus speed, and a little bit of pop in his bat. With better hitting, he could become very interesting.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
J.P. Arencibia: 2-1
David Cooper: 3-1
Justin Jackson: 10-1

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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