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March 17, 2010

Future Shock

Future Top Dogs, NL

by Kevin Goldstein

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One of the most frequent questions I get, be it via e-mail, chats, or the comment sections in the articles, is which player on (insert team here) has the best shot at moving into the Top 101. That's a much different question from who is the best prospect not in the Top 101, as the focus need to move solely to growth potential. Building on last year's "Future Top Dogs" series, let's keep that category in this year's version, while also taking an honest look at last year's prognostications.

Arizona Diamondbacks

How'd I Do in 2009? I nailed Jarrod Parker as an overwhelming favorite (5-3) to repeat as the best prospect, and even with Tommy John surgery he was a no-brainer to sit atop the list once again. Gerardo Parra was given the best chance at moving into the Top 101. Instead, he just moved to the big leagues.
The Incumbent: Parker isn’t likely to show up in a box score all year after Tommy John surgery, but in this system, that might not affect his ranking too much.
Other Possibilities: Loaded with early 2009 draft picks, the system has plenty of potential breakout players, but few have the kind of upside to end up ahead of whomever Arizona drafts sixth overall in June.
Trade Bait: Buyers or sellers come July? Not even Arizona knows that. If they want to buy, there's not much to shop with, and if things go south, there might be a minor market for reliever Chad Qualls or a lefty bat like Adam LaRoche.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Many thought 2009 first-rounder Bobby Borchering was the best pure high school hitter in the draft.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Jarrod Parker: 5-2
Sixth overall pick in 2010: 5-2
Bobby Borchering: 12-1
Chris Owens: 20-1
Keon Broxton: 50-1

Atlanta Braves

How'd I Do in 2009? I had Jason Heyward as the strong favorite to be top prospect at the end of the year, but that's not exactly some brilliant feat of prognostication. I had Julio Teheran moving into the Top 101, which he did.
The Incumbent: Heyward has spent the first half of spring training showing everyone that his minor-league career is over.
Other Possibilities: While Freddie Freeman might seem like an obvious choice, few teams can match what the Braves offer when it comes to high-end young arms. Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and Randall Delgado could all move up.
Trade Bait: The Braves have a deep system, and they could be using it at the deadline to boost their wild-card chances.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Catcher Christian Bethancourt is a highly advanced defender for his age with true plus power potential.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Julio Teheran: 4-1
Arodys Vizcaino: 4-1
Freddie Freeman: 4-1
Randall Delgado: 10-1
Christian Bethancourt: 20-1

Chicago Cubs

How'd I Do in 2009? Josh Vitters was the best prospect by a mile entering the year, and Andrew Cashner was an easy choice to move up. That's all well and good, but making no mention of shortstop Starlin Castro looks like a glaring omission.
The Incumbent: Vitters could reach Double-A by midseason, and while there's been some talk of getting their other five-star prospect, Castro, to the big leagues, 2011 remains a more realistic timetable.
Other Possibilities: Castro's been the talk of camp so far this spring, while Hak-Ju Lee and Brett Jackson both have the tools for explosive full-season debuts.
Trade Bait: The Cubs seem to be on a downswing at the big-league level, but that doesn't mean there will be no deals; with general manager Jim Hendry's job on the line, desperate times could call for desperate measures. Plus, they're in no position to rebuild thanks to Hendry's ability to hand out no-trade clauses like they're chalky candy hearts on Valentine's Day.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101:There's a sizable drop-off from those already in the Top 101 to the rest of the system. Righty Jay Jackson's pure stuff rates only a tick or two behind Cashner's.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Josh Vitters: 3-1
Starlin Castro: 4-1
Brett Jackson: 6-1
Hak-Ju Lee: 10-1
Andrew Cashner: 15-1

Cincinnati Reds

How'd I Do in 2009? Just a disaster. Inserted as a 2-1 favorite, first baseman Yonder Alonso combined injuries with uninspiring scouting reports to fall a bit down the list. Meanwhile, breakout candidate Neftali Soto's stock plunged after a poor showing both offensively and defensively in the Florida State League. Then again, nobody could have predicted Aroldis Chapman landing in Cincinnati of all places.
The Incumbent: Chapman has been every bit as good as advertised so far this spring, but minor-league time is in his best interest, as the Reds want to get him adjusted to life as a professional baseball player as much as they want him to work on his secondary stuff.
Other Possibilities: Mike Leake, a 2009 first-rounder, is a highly polished product who could succeed in the upper levels in his first full year. There are still some high-upside outfielders with Yorman Rodriguez and Juan Duran, while they also draft 12th in June. 
Trade Bait: The Reds are slowly returning to respectability, but it's hard to see them sacrificing their future for a 2010 post-season run. Starters Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo could generate some mid-season interest.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Rodriguez has better tools than anyone in the system.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Aroldis Chapman: 3-1
Mike Leake: 4-1
12th overall pick in 2010: 6-1
Yonder Alonso: 15-1
Todd Frazier: 20-1
Yorman Rodriguez: 25-1

Colorado Rockies

How'd I Do in 2009? While putting Jhoulys Chacin and Wilin Rosario as the favorites did not work out, at least I called the 11th pick (which turned into Tyler Matzek) a "dark horse," while also giving eventually top prospect Christian Friedrich a slugger's chance at 40-1. Michael McKenry was named as a potential mover, instead he just treaded water.
The Incumbent: One of the breakout players of 2009, Friedrich likely begins the year at Double-A, with a big-league debut at some point in the season.
Other Possibilities: Matzek has more velocity than Friedrich, and arguably a higher upside. Rosario remains the rare catcher with above-average potential both offensively and behind the plate.
Trade Bait: Expected to contend, the Rockies could be busy in July, and they have some pitching depth to dangle.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Rex Brothers has the kind of velocity rarely found in left-handers.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Christian Friedrich: 7-3
Tyler Matzek: 7-3
Wilin Rosario: 12-1

Florida Marlins

How'd I Do in 2009? I saw it as a three-way race between Mike Stanton, Matt Dominguez, and Logan Morrison, but there was plenty of separation 12 months later, as Stanton is one of the best prospects in the game, Morrison is in the Top 50, and Dominguez is more of a three-star type. Sean West was given the best shot at moving forward, and while he didn't pitch especially well,just getting to the big leagues should classify that one as a good call.
The Incumbent: The best pure power hitting prospect in the game, Stanton should still be eligible next year, with a September callup being his likely best bet. Still, any top prospect has the potential to accelerate any timetable.
Other Possibilities: Morrison is fighting for the big-league first base job this spring, and scouts are saying he's a better option than Gaby Sanchez. In a scenario where both Stanton and Morrison get to the majors, the race to be the top prospect is wide open.
Trade Bait: Does the much-rumored Dan Uggla deal finally happen?
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: With a bit more offense, Dominguez could move back on the list. Last year's GCL breakout, Marcell Ozuna, is a nice sleeper choice.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Mike Stanton: 2-1
Logan Morrison: 5-2

Houston Astros

How'd I Do in 2009? Jason Castro was given the best odds to be the top prospect at 2-1, but he ended up getting just passed by 2009 first-round pick Jio Mier. Right-handers Jordan Lyles and Ross Seaton were given the best shots at moving up, and Lyles just missed the Top 101.
The Incumbent: Mier's full-season debut is one of the more anticipated ones after a pro debut that included the expected plus defense to go with some surprising offensive abilities.
Other Possibilities: The eighth pick in the draft could finally give Houston a five-star prospect, but Mier and Lyles both have upside.
Trade Bait: The Astros are a bad, old team that desperately needs to rebuild. Would they consider offers for Lance Berkman? His bat would be a great fit for some American League teams.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Houston is deciding if Lyles is ready for Double-A in order to avoid pitching at Lancaster; either location would be a significant challenge.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Eighth overall pick in 2010: 3-1
Jio Mier: 4-1
Jason Castro: 5-1
Jordan Lyles: 6-1

Los Angeles Dodgers

How'd I Do in 2009? Ethan Martin, a 2008 first-rounder, was given the best odds as the incumbent, but I'm happy to see I gave odds (10-1) to shortstop Dee Gordon based solely on his tools. Reliever Josh Lindblom was given the most moving potential, but it's hard to say just how far he moved, as his scouting reports vary wildly.
The Incumbent: Gordon was last year's Midwest League co-MVP, and he's lined up to put up even bigger numbers with a move to the California League.
Other Possibilities: Chris Withrow was finally healthy last year and started pumping out serious gas. More consistency from Martin could put the righty back into contention as well.
Trade Bait: Not the loaded system of days of yesteryear, but there's still enough talent here for the Dodgers to be aggressive at the deadline.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Aaron Miller, a 2009 draftee, had an impressive pro debut. Converted catcher Kenley Jansen was throwing as hard as nearly anyone in Arizona, and he could be an interesting sleeper to move up the list.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Dee Gordon: 3-1
Chris Withrow: 4-1
Ethan Martin: 5-1
Aaron Miller: 15-1
Kenley Jansen: 50-1

Milwaukee Brewers

How'd I Do in 2009? Alcides Escobar and Brett Lawrie were given equal odds of finishing the year at the top, and they ended up 1-2. Righty Jake Odorizzi was named as a potential breakthrough candidate, but he was held back in extended spring training and then didn't pitch as well as one normally expects for a top pick spending his second year in a short-season league.
The Incumbent: Escobar barely qualified for this year's list as-is, and he’s now expected to be the Brewers’ Opening Day shortstop.
Other Possibilities: Lawrie's full-season debut last year was good, but still a bit below expectations. Wily Peralta is one of those young power arms that could move up, while the 14th overall pick in June could also enter the picture.
Trade Bait: The mostly likely scenario has the Brewers standing pat in 2010.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Peralta has the best pure arm in the system. Scouts have wide-ranging opinions on 2009 draftee Kentrail Davis, but those that like him really like him.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Brett Lawrie: 5-2
14th overall pick in 2010: 3-1
Wily Peralta: 12-1
Kentrail Davis: 25-1

New York Mets

How'd I Do in 2009? Outfielder Fernando Martinez was the favorite to repeat, with this year's top prospect, power righty Jenrry Mejia, not even getting odds. Brad Holt was given breakout potential, but his steps forward in 2009 were small.
The Incumbent: Mejia has been good enough this spring that there are some whispers about getting him to the big leagues as a reliever, though, as of now, that remains a long shot.
Other Possibilities: Wilmer Flores could still break through, but the seventh overall pick in the draft should be the favorite here if the Mets finally spend big money in June.
Trade Bait: It's hard to see the Mets competing for a playoff spot in 2010, but with general manager Omar Minaya looking for some job security, don't rule out a silly move.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: If outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis can prove that his second-half offensive explosion in 2009 was the real deal, he could rocket up the charts.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Seventh overall pick in 2010: 3-1
Jenrry Mejia: 3-1
Wilmer Flores: 7-1
Ike Davis: 10-1
Kirk Nieuwenhuis: 30-1

Philadelphia Phillies

How'd I Do in 2009? I said it was a wide-open race, and while I had outfielder Domonic Brown tied for fourth-best odds at 8-1, none of the players ahead of him are in the system any more after the Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay deals. Catcher Travis d'Arnaud was a breakout candidate, which he is again this year, only with Toronto.
The Incumbent: Brown will begin the year at Double-A, but it's hard too see him getting much time in Philadelphia this year no matter his performance, due to the big-league club's outfield depth.
Other Possibilities: While the system has a number of raw athletes, none of them seem like potential top prospects after Brown, leaving Phillippe Aumount as the next-best bet, but not an especially good one.
Trade Bait: The Phillies already traded away much of their system to acquire Halladay, so they're hardly gun-shy; they just don't have a whole lot of bullets left.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Pick a tools guy, any tools guy. Some think Anthony Gose could develop pop down the line, while others think Jiwan James has better raw tools than Brown. Lots of explosive possibilities here, and it just takes one.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Domonic Brown: 3-2
Phillippe Aumont: 5-1
Anthony Gose: 30-1
Jiwan James: 60-1
Domingo Santana: 75-1
Anthony Hewitt: 250-1

Pittsburgh Pirates

How'd I Do in 2009? At 6-5, Pedro Alvarez had some of the best odds on the board, and after a slow start, he did not disappoint. I had a big miss on the breakout side, as Robbie Grossman still has tools, but also has way too much swing-and-miss in his game.
The Incumbent: While hardly svelte, Alvarez showed up to camp in better condition than last year, and he should be up by the All-Star break, if not earlier. He's arguably the Pirates' best hitter right now.
Other Possibilities: The Pirates pick second overall, and while they'll be unlikely to dance with Bryce Harper, don't expect a Tony Sanchez-esque surprise either.
Trade Bait: The Pirates are running out of guys to dump on an annual basis. Maybe Octavio Dotel could generate some action if he pitches well out of the bullpen.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: The Pirates spent a considerable amount of over-slot money on high-ceiling arms in the 2009 draft, so one should step forward. I'm in the minority here, but my bet is on Colton Cain, though he had off-season back surgery that will dealy the strat to his season. No position player in the system matches the all-around tools of outfielder Starling Marte.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Second overall pick in 2010: 3-2
Tony Sanchez: 8-1
Starling Marte: 10-1
Jose Tabata: 25-1

St. Louis Cardinals

How'd I Do in 2009? Brett Wallace was given huge odds (5-4) to repeat, but who could have predicted the Matt Holliday trade or the usually conservative organization going over the slot with the 19th pick to nab Shelby Miller, now their best prospect by a mile? Breakout candidate Jess Todd was moved to the bullpen, and then on to Cleveland in the Mark DeRosa deal.
The Incumbent: The only Cardinal in the Top 101, Miller looked outstanding early in the spring and showed one of the best arms by far in the Midwest League last year.
Other Possibilities: With nobody else in the Top 101, and second-best prospect Jaime Garcia likely reaching the big leagues, it's really Miller or bust unless something wacky happens at the end of the first round.
Trade Bait: The Cardinals will likely look to make some minor improvements down the stretch, but their system leaves them with few options to do so.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: None of the above? This is the least promising system in baseball, as after Miller, it's a lot of non-descript players at the upper levels and very little in the way of ceiling. That only tools bet here is outfielder Adron Chambers, but that's an extreme long shot.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Shelby Miller: 6-5
25th overall pick in 2010: 40-1

San Diego Padres

How'd I Do in 2009? Despite an injury-plagued 2008 season, Mat Latos was given top odds, which would have looked like a stroke of genius had he made one less big-league start. I get my share of flak for pushing high-upside arms up the rankings, but there's a reason for it. Kyle Blanks was given breakout potential, and like Latos, he broke through all the way to the big leagues.
The Incumbent: So far, it has been a frustrating pro career for 2009 first-round pick Donovan Tate, due to a number of minor injuries. Even healthy, though, it would be tough to predict big numbers this year for a player so raw.
Other Possibilities: While the Padres have a single-digit pick (ninth overall) in the draft, they're not going to find someone to match Tate's ceiling. If Simon Castro dominates the California League like he did last year in the Midwest League, the pitcher'll have a shot.
Trade Bait: A struggling San Diego team could jumpstart the rebuilding process during the season, as plenty of solid players have expiring deals, with closer Heath Bell possibly being the largest target. Plus, there are those Adrian Gonzalez rumors that just never go completely away.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: While he struggled in his pro debut, righty Adys Portillo is still a high-ceiling arm who's loaded with projection.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Donovan Tate: 2-1
Ninth overall pick in 2010: 4-1
Simon Castro: 10-1
Adys Portillo: 15-1
Jaff Decker: 20-1
James Darnell: 40-1

San Francisco Giants

How'd I Do in 2009? Madison Bumgarner (2-1) and Buster Posey (3-1) were the only players given realistic odds, and they finished 1-2, although Bumgarner's velocity dip had the two flip-flop in the rankings. Infielder Nick Noonan was a tools-based breakout bet, but he did little in 2009 to translate them into on-the-field performance.
The Incumbent: The Giants made a confusing maneuver by bringing back Bengie Molina to block a big-league ready Posey. Either way, Posey will likely get enough time in the big leagues to lose eligibility.
Other Possibilities: Dead arm, too much off-day throwing, and various other explanations were thrown out concerning Bumgarner's issues, but nothing has explained this spring, as he's rarely touching 90 mph. Zach Wheeler, their 2009 first-round pick, could put up big numbers in his full-season debut.
Trade Bait: Contenders or pretenders? It could go either way.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: If shortstop Ehire Adrianza hits just a little, he could get there, as he's already among the best defensive players in the minors at baseball's most difficult position.

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
Zach Wheeler: 5-2
Madison Bumgarner: 5-1
24th overall pick in 2010: 8-1
Ehire Adrianza: 30-1
Rafael Rodriguez: 40-1
Buster Posey: 50-1

Washington Nationals

How'd I Do in 2009? With Stephen Strasburg given 500-499 odds, this was a no-brainer, but at least I set those odds two months before the draft. Seen as a potential big mover after abandoning his college plans, lefty Jack McGeary instead has slipped all but off the radar.
The Incumbent: The over-under on Strasburg's big-league debut is May 25. Barring a disaster, he'll never be ranked as a prospect again.
Other Possibilities: While it's unlikely that the first overall pick in June will be Bryce Harper, it is likely that the player picked will be the clear top prospect for the Nationals at the end of the year.
Trade Bait: Slugger Adam Dunn and shortstop Cristian Guzman could be trade targets at the deadline.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 101: Outfielder Eury Perez had a huge showing in the Gulf Coast League last year, and he could put up some big numbers in the Sally League. It's a long shot, but righty Juan Jaime has the best pure arm in the system (mortal, non-Strasburg division).

Odds To Be #1 On The Next Top 11:
First overall pick in 2010: 6-5
Derek Norris: 15-1

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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