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April 7, 2010

Future Shock

The Top 101 Prospects Update, Part 1

by Kevin Goldstein

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1. Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals

Opening Day: Double-A Harrisburg. Strasburg will make his official professional debut on Sunday, April 11 at Altoona.

2. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves

Opening Day: Atlanta Braves. No prospect in the game has bigger hype at this point, even Strasburg. Expectations should be tempered for a 20-year-old, but he's still the odds-on favorite for National League Rookie of the Year honors.

3. Neftali Feliz, RHP, Rangers

Opening Day: Texas Rangers. Feliz made one start early in the spring, and had some struggles overall, but struck out the side in one of most recent appearances while touching 101 mph. He's back in the bullpen, but it's still not necessarily his long-term role.

4. Jesus Montero, C, Yankees

Opening Day: Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He's staying at catcher for now, but the bat is so advanced, one has to wonder if the glove has any chance of keeping up.

5. Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins

Opening Day: Double-A Jacksonville. Stanton did nothing this spring to hurt his stock; he just has more work to do. With his kind of power, it's easy to forget how young he is.

6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates

Opening Day: Triple-A Indianapolis. Alvarez had an outstanding spring at the plate, and looked to be in much better physical shape, creating more optimism concerning his ability to stay at third base.

7. Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays

Opening Day: Triple-A Durham. A sprained wrist hampered him this spring, and he'll miss the first few days of the regular season. The good news is that he's hitting off a tee and there are no long-term concerns.

8. Carlos Santana, C, Indians

Opening Day: Triple-A Columbus. The bat is ready, the defensive tools are there, but he just needs more work behind the plate. Lou Marson is in the big leagues as a placeholder at this point.

9. Buster Posey, C, Giants

Opening Day: Triple-A Fresno. I've given up trying to understand what the Giants are doing here.

10. Aroldis Chapman, LHP, Reds

Opening Day: Triple-A Louisville. He was better than expected this spring, and therefore closer to the big leagues.

11. Chris Carter, 1b, Athletics

Opening Day: Triple-A Sacramento: Part of the best 3-4 punch in a minor-league lineup, along with 20th-best prospect Michael Taylor.

12. Dustin Ackley, OF/2B, Mariners

Opening Day: Double-A West Tenn. Ackley had a tough spring, going just 3-for-19 with a triple. Was it a small sample size, or was he distracted by a new position?

13. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays

Opening Day: Triple-A Durham. Hellickson could be up in the major leagues quickly if Wade Davis struggles in the fifth starter role.

14. Ryan Westmoreland, OF, Red Sox

Opening Day: Medical leave. By all accounts, Westmoreland's surgery to correct a cavernous malformation in his brain went well, but figuring out when he'll return to baseball is obviously not the top priority at this time.

15. Martin Perez, LHP, Rangers

Opening Day: Double-A Frisco. Teenagers at the upper levels are rare finds, but Perez's stuff and poise are both mature well beyond his years.

16. Kyle Drabek, RHP, Blue Jays

Opening Day: Double-A New Hampshire. Drabek has better stuff than anyone in the current Blue Jays rotation. You'll see him in the big leagues this year.

17. Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers

Opening Day: Triple-A Oklahoma City. He’s currently a bit blocked, but he has the ability to force his way into the big leagues with a good start.

18. Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles

Opening Day: Baltimore Orioles. He’s my pick for American League Rookie of the Year honors. He had a tremendous spring.

19. Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers

Opening Day: Milwaukee Brewers. Overshadowed among NL rookies by Heyward, Escobar should play stellar defense while holding his own with the bat. Basically, he is this year's Elvis Andrus, but a maybe a better pure hitter.

20. Michael Taylor, OF, Athletics

Opening Day: Triple-A Sacramento. The Oakland outfield situation is crowded, but none of them have the upside of Taylor.

21. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, Giants

Opening Day: Triple-A Fresno. Bumgarner was expected to earn the fifth starter job this spring in the major leagues, but his velocity remains down in upper-80s, and there are plenty of causes for concern here.

22. Christian Friedrich, LHP, Rockies

Opening Day: Double-A Tulsa. There’s no reason he can't dominate here like he did at both A-ball stops last season. If he does, he gets a big-league look at some point.

23. Tyler Matzek, LHP, Rockies

Opening Day: Extended spring training. He’s expected to join Low-A Asheville by May, once his arm is more stretched out and the weather is more consistent.

24. Domonic Brown, OF, Phillies

Opening Day: Double-A Reading. The tools are incredible, but many are still waiting for the statistical explosion, as his career minor-league OPS is still south of .800.

25. Jacob Turner, RHP, Tigers

Opening Day: Low-A West Michigan. One of the more impressive performers this spring, Turner has yet to make official debut, but he struck out the side against the Yankees in March, including All-Star Mark Teixeira.

26. Aaron Hicks, of, Twins

Opening Day: Low-A Beloit. The Twins are notoriously cautious with their prospects, so Hicks will repeat at Low-A, looking to build on his .251/.353/.382 showing of last year.

27. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers

Opening Day: Double-A Chattanooga. Gordon spent nearly all of the offseason in Arizona working on his strength and conditioning, and it looks like it paid off, as one of the biggest surprises among the Top 50 is that Gordon will make a two-level jump to the upper levels of the farm system to start this season.

28. Derek Norris, C, Nationals

Opening Day: High-A Potomac. There is little question that he'll hit. His developmental focus this year will be defense.

29. Donovan Tate, OF, Padres

Opening Day: Extended spring training. Tate's brief pro career has been filled with injures, and it continued late in March when he strained his shoulder diving for a ball. There is no timetable for his return, and there was always a chance he would start in a short-season league in June anyway.

30. Casey Kelly, RHP, Red Sox

Opening Day: Double-A Portland. As if his 2009 performance wasn't impressive enough, could there be more growth now that the distraction of also playing shortstop is no longer a factor?

31. Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs

Opening Day: High-A Daytona. Healthy to begin the year, a repeat of last year's first half will get him to Double-A quickly.

32. Casey Crosby, LHP, Tigers

Opening Day: High-A Lakeland. This power lefty made impressive return last year from Tommy John surgery, but he has already been scratched from his first start this season with elbow soreness.

33. Julio Teheran, RHP, Braves

Opening Day: Low-A Rome. Teheran leads one of the better staffs in the low minors, and he could be poised for a breakout now that the training wheels are off.

34. Wade Davis, RHP, Rays

Opening Day: Tampa Bay Rays. Davis was named the fifth starter, but he didn't exactly 'win' the job, as his performances in spring training were erratic. Some still think he could work better out of the bullpen.

35. Miguel Sano, SS, Twins

Opening Day: Extended spring training. Sano doesn't turn 17 until May, so don't expect anything more than some Gulf Coast League action this summer.

36. Mike Montgomery, LHP, Royals

Opening Day: High-A Wilmington. Some thought he would be pushed to Double-A to begin the year, and he should certainly get there at some point.

37. Starlin Castro, SS, Cubs

Opening Day: Double-A Tennessee. He was probably the best shortstop for the Cubs this spring at any level, but Chicago doesn't want to rush things after learning tough lessons from Felix Pie and Corey Patterson.

38. Shelby Miller, RHP, Cardinals

Opening Day:Low-A Quad Cities. Miller earned rave reviews from scouts during his brief showing in big-league camp, and he will battle with Turner for claim to being the top arm in the Midwest League.

39. Josh Bell, 3B, Orioles

Opening Day: Triple-A Norfolk. In line for a September call-up at the very least, Bell is lined up to man the hot corner in Baltimore on Opening Day in 2011.

40. Chris Withrow, RHP, Dodgers

Opening Day: Double-A Chattanooga. One of the talks of the Dodgers' camp this spring, Withrow could probably help the major-league bullpen right now, but they'll stick to his starter development.

41. Matt Moore, LHP, Rays

Opening Day: High-A Charlotte. If he can harness his command and control, he's an elite-level lefty.

42. Alex Colome, LHP, Rays

Opening Day: Low-A Bowling Green. He will be making one of the more highly anticipated full-season debuts among pitching prospects. Scouts thought he was among the New York-Penn League's best arm in the last few years.

43. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians

Opening Day: Double-A Akron. Chisenhall had a good camp, including a home run off the Reds' Homer Bailey in last weekend's major-league exhibition games. The Indians hope he's their third baseman next year.

44. Brett Wallace, 1B, Blue Jays

Opening Day: Triple-A Las Vegas. The Jays would like to get him up to the major leagues at some point to show the fans some of what they got in return for Halladay. He'll be good, but will he be great?

45. Arodys Vizcaino, RHP, Braves

Opening Day: Low-A Rome. He exceeded expectations in Braves' camp with overall stuff and poise; he could become household name by the end of the year.

46. Ben Revere, OF, Twins

Opening Day: Double-A New Britain. Revere made an excellent showing in spring training, and there is no reason his game should struggle at the upper levels.

47. Simon Castro, RHP, Padres

Opening Day: Double-A San Antonio. The two-level jump isn't designed to keep him out of the pinball machines of the California League. The Padres' brass genuinely thinks he's ready.

48. Jennry Mejia, RHP, Mets

Opening Day: New York Mets. Mejia earned a spot in the big-league bullpen, and while he'll help there, his future is as a starter and he needs to develop.

49. Austin Jackson, of, Tigers

Opening Day: Detroit Tigers. Expected to be the big-league center fielder, Jackson certainly earned the job with a big spring.

50. Logan Morrison, 1B, Marlins

 Opening Day: Triple-A New Orleans. Clearly outperformed by Gaby Sanchez this spring in losing out on the starting job with the major-league club, Morrison remains the first baseman of the future for Florida.    

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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