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April 8, 2009

Future Shock

Future Top Dogs, NL

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 National League. The American League version is here.

Arizona Diamondbacks

The Incumbent: Last year Jarrod Parker fell just below expectations, but he was still pretty damned good. The California League will provide a much bigger challenge than the Midwest League.
Other Possibilities: Not a whole hell of a lot; guys like Daniel Schlereth or Gerardo Parra would need to take major steps forward to pass Parker. Scouts have had very positive things to say about Parra this spring, so with some added power, he could move up. Back-to-back picks at 16 and 17 in June shouldn't be much of a factor.
Trade Bait: It's a bad system, but a crowded outfield situation could make Parra their most expendable prospect.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: He's been discussed often here, but again, it's Parra, who could return to the list after just missing this year's version.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Jarrod Parker: 5-3
Gerardo Parra: 6-1
Daniel Schlereth: 8-1
2009 Draft Pick: 15-1

Atlanta Braves

The Incumbent: Outfielder Jason Heyward was one of the talks of spring training, getting a much longer big-league look than most players headed for High-A, and more than holding his own.
Other Possibilities: Jordan Schafer won the center-field job this spring, and Tommy Hanson will likely be in the rotation by the All-Star break, which takes away Heyward's strongest competitors. First baseman Freddie Freeman has a great bat, but is nowhere near as dynamic as Heyward, while young Latin arms Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado are packed with potential. The seventh pick in the draft has an outside chance.
Trade Bait: While it would take a blockbuster, Schafer's big jump does slightly cloud the future of Gorkys Hernandez. As per usual, the Braves are loaded with young arms.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Teheran. Last year's injuries may have just delayed his coming-out party by a year.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Jason Heyward: 3-2
Freddie Freeman: 10-1
2009 first-round pick (7th overall): 10-1
Gorkys Hernandez: 15-1
Julio Teheran: 18-1

Chicago Cubs

The Incumbent: Sidetracked by a hand injury in 2008, the Cubs think that third baseman Josh Vitters may be poised for a breakout at Low-A Peoria.
Other Possibilities: None on the horizon. Maybe 2008 first-round pick Andrew Cashner starts pounding the strike zone, or a signability type falls to them at the end of the first round.
Trade Bait: This is an impending nightmare. If injuries or poor performances necessitate a move, they only have enough chips to play somewhere like the Poker Palace, as opposed to the Bellagio.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Cashner really does have an outstanding arm, but moving him to a starting role seems a little risky, and he already had an injury setback at the end of spring training.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Josh Vitters: 5-4
Andrew Cashner: 15-1
Miracle find at the end of the first round: 30-1

Cincinnati Reds

The Incumbent: 2008 first-round pick Yonder Alonso profiles as a classic middle-of-the-order first baseman, and the Reds have enough confidence in his abilities to assign him to Double-A Carolina.
Other Possibilities: It would take a collapse by Alonso for him to get passed up, as other top prospects in the system like Todd Frazier and Chris Valaika are very good, but lack classic top-prospect ceilings. Neftali Soto could have that kind of promise, but he also has plenty of holes in his game, while young Latin American outfielders Yorman Rodrigez and Juan Duran are probably a year away from getting enough playing time for a full evaluation.
Trade Bait: While the Reds are on an upswing, it's hard to see them contending this year.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Neftali Soto's bat garners raves from scouts, and he could get there with enough defensive improvement to convince them that he can stay at first base.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Yonder Alonso: 2-1
Drew Stubbs: 10-1
Neftali Soto: 10-1
Todd Frazier: 12-1
Juan Duran or Yorman Rodriguez parlay: 20-1

Colorado Rockies

The Incumbent: Dexter Fowler saw his timetable accelerated dramatically with a big-league job to begin the year.
Other Possibilities: Righty Jhoulys Chacin begins the year in Double-A and could be lined up for a rotation job a year from now, while catcher Wilin Rosario is one of the best prospects who nobody seems to talk about. The 11th overall pick in the draft in June could be the dark horse.
Trade Bait: They're unlikely to make any deals during the season, unless they're for prospects, as opposed to dealing any away.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Catcher Michael McKenry has outstanding defensive skills, and he could move up lists dramatically by proving that last year's power surge was more than a California League mirage.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Jhoulys Chacin: 2-1
Wilin Rosario: 3-1
2009 first-round pick (11th overall): 11-1
Christian Friedrich: 40-1

Florida Marlins

The Incumbent: Cameron Maybin is going to be getting Rookie of the Year votes instead of consideration for prospect rankings a year from now.
Other Possibilities: Should be a three-man race between outfielder Mike Stanton, third baseman Matt Dominguez, and first baseman Logan Morrison. All of them need to prove that their surprising 2008 performances weren't flukes.
Trade Bait: Prospects don't cost much. Florida doesn't trade away things that don't cost much.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Now in his second year removed from shoulder surgery, big, big lefty Sean West could be poised for a breakout.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Mike Stanton: 3-1
Matt Dominguez: 3-1
Logan Morrison: 4-1
Sean West: 18-1
Kyle Skipworth: 20-1

Houston Astros

The Incumbent: 2008 first-round pick Jason Castro makes his full-season debut in the high-octane environment of High-A Lancaster.
Other Possibilities: Right-handed teenager Jordan Lyles is loaded with projection, while Brian Bogusevic shocked nearly everyone with his performance after converting from pitcher to outfielder.
Trade Bait: The Astros need young talent, and they don't have much to trade away.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Both Lyles and Ross Seaton are high-ceiling arms that the organization desperately needed before last year's draft.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Jason Castro: 2-1
Jordan Lyles: 5-1
Brian Bogusevic: 7-1
Ross Seaton: 12-1

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Incumbent: 2008 first-rounder Ethan Martin gets a full-season assignment to Low-A Great Lakes, despite having not yet pitched a professional inning due to last year's knee injury.
Other Possibilities: Outfielder Andrew Lambo moves to Double-A, and while he draws wide-ranging reports from scouts, those that like him, love him. Shortstop Devaris Gordon has all the tools in the world but is still quite raw. The dark-horse candidate could be righty Josh Lindblom, who made a shocking run at the big-league roster this spring.
Trade Bait: The Dodgers have a pair of high-ceiling, high-risk third basemen in Pedro Baez and Josh Bell, but a shortage of upper-level talent could hinder them in July talks.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Lindblom, the team's 2008 second-round pick out of Purdue, had scouts buzzing all spring.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Ethan Martin: 3-1
Josh Lindblom: 4-1
Andrew Lambo: 5-1
Devaris Gordon: 10-1
Josh Bell: 15-1

Milwaukee Brewers

The Incumbent: Shortstop Alcides Escobar begins the year at Triple-A Nashville, but there's some chance that he'll be brought back and get enough big-league at-bats to lose his eligibility.
Other Possibilities: Many, as the Brewers have several good prospects but no great ones. Mat Gamel and Brett Lawrie are now both looking like big-time bats with questionable defensive futures now that Lawrie doesn't want to catch anymore. Catcher Angel Salome is one of the best offensive catchers in the minors, while righty Jeremy Jeffress has one of the best fastballs around. This could be a wide-open race.
Trade Bait: After losing their best two starters from 2008, the Brewers are in a semi-rebuilding mode, and will likely not be looking for reinforcements at the deadline.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Supplemental first-round pick Jake Odorizzi oozes projection and is coming off of an impressive pro debut.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Alcides Escobar: 5-1
Brett Lawrie: 5-1
Matt Gamel: 5-1
Jeremy Jeffress: 6-1
Angel Salome: 6-1

New York Mets

The Incumbent: Memo to Fernando Martinez, stay healthy and the world will love you. That said, he's already started the year limited to DH duties due to a sore elbow.
Other Possibilities: Teenagers Wilmer Flores and Jefry Marte comprise one of the most intriguing left sides of an infield down at A-ball. Brad Holt had a monster debut, but it's hard to see him leapfrogging all three players.
Trade Bait: Pure arm-strength guys like Jennry Mejia and Bobby Parnell could generate some interest.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: With more refinement of his secondary stuff, Holt could become more than legitimate.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Fernando Martinez: 5-2
Wilmer Flores: 4-1
Jefry Marte: 10-1
Brad Holt: 10-1

Philadelphia Phillies

The Incumbent: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco begins the year at Triple-A, but the questions remain as to how long he'll be there. There are a number of factors in play here, and he could be up by June, with an equal chance of seeing no more than a few September starts-and retaining his eligibility.
Other Possibilities: Outfielder Michael Taylor had one of the biggest breakouts in the minors last year and could move up if he can prove it was for real. Doug Drabek, their 2006 first-round pick, looked very impressive coming back from Tommy John surgery. Catcher Travis D'Arnaud has plus skills both behind the plate and up at it, while there are any number of high-ceiling tools types like Dominic Brown and even Anthony Hewitt who could make a run.
Trade Bait: With Lou Marson and D'Arnaud, the Phillies have two very good catching prospects who would fetch good value in return.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: To steal Joe Sheehan's concept of "My Guys," Travis D'Arnaud is my guy.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Kyle Drabek: 5-1
Carlos Carrasco: 5-1
Michael Taylor: 6-1
Travis D'Arnaud: 8-1
Dominic Brown: 8-1
Lou Marson: 12-1
Anthony Hewitt: 100-1

Pittsburgh Pirates

The Incumbent: Pedro Alvarez showed up to spring training in shape and raking. He starts the year at High-A, and could be in the majors by September, but he's more lined up for a 2010 role.
Other Possibilities: It's hard to imagine any possibility of someone surpassing Alvarez. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen had an outstanding spring training and begins the year in Triple-A, but he's more likely to lose prospect eligibility than Alvarez. Jose Tabata had to deal with something of a circus this spring, but he really can hit. The fourth overall pick in the draft also has an outside shot.
Trade Bait: The Pirates are slowly getting better, but they're certainly not going to contend yet.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: A sixth-round pick last June who signed for $1 million, outfielder Robbie Grossman has impressive tools.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Pedro Alvarez: 6-5
Andrew McCuthen: 12-1
2009 first-round pick (4th overall): 20-1
Jose Tabata: 40-1

St. Louis Cardinals

The Incumbent: Colby Rasmus broke camp in the big leagues, and his status as a prospect is almost assuredly over.
Other Possibilities: First-round 2008 pick Brett Wallace becomes the overwhelming favorite as one of the better offensive prospects around. Outfielder Daryl Jones' tools and right-hander Jess Todd's polish give them extreme outside chances.
Trade Bait: Jones makes a complicated outfield future that much more complex.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Todd got strong reviews this spring, and while he lacks true impact potential, he looks like a potential innings-eater and maybe a bit more.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Brett Wallace: 5-4
Darryl Jones: 12-1
Jess Todd: 25-1

San Diego Padres

The Incumbent: Mat Latos had an injury-plagued 2008 season and a rough spring, but his kind of upside is still hard to find in this system.
Other Possibilities: First baseman Kyle Blanks had an outstanding spring, and might become an even better prospect if he can handle left field. Outfielder Kellen Kulbacki could make an impression if he's capable of repeating last year's breakout at Double-A. Adys Portillo has a chance to blow everyone away this summer.
Trade Bait: The team isn't going to contend, and the system could certainly use an upgrade should the opportunity arise.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Blanks for sure, but don't forget about outfielder Jaff Decker, an on-base machine who will see his full-season debut delayed by a concussion that he suffered last week.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Mat Latos: 4-1
Kyle Blanks: 6-1
Kellen Kulbacki: 8-1
Adys Portillo: 12-1
Jaff Decker: 15-1
Allan Dykstra: 18-1
Cedric Hunter: 20-1

San Francisco Giants

The Incumbent: Expected to make a two-level jump to Double-A this year, righty Madison Bumgarner will instead start at High-A San Jose. He created some late-spring buzz by striking out Manny Ramirez in an exhibition contest.
Other Possibilities: As good as Bumgarner is, and he enters the season as the best pitcher not named David Price, there is some competition here, in particular from 2008 first-round pick Buster Posey. Angel Villalona always has breakout potential, but for him to pass both would be an extreme long shot.
Trade Bait: It's a top-heavy system with very little depth, but that probably won't be an issue this year.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Infielder Nick Noonan has outstanding athleticism, a season of adjustments under his belt, and he could be primed for a big year at High-A San Jose.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Madison Bumgarner: 2-1
Buster Posey: 3-1
Angel Villalona: 15-1
2009 first-round pick (6th overall): 30-1

Washington Nationals

The Incumbent: Right-hander Jordan Zimmerman's scouting reports improved throughout last year, and they were even better this spring. He's not only in the big-league rotation, he's their best pitcher.
Other Possibilities: Who are we kidding? The team is going to draft Stephen Strasburg, so there are no other possibilities... unless he signs quickly, goes straight to the big leagues and gets over 50 innings, thus basically never becoming an eligible prospect. I just don't think that's going to happen, though. In the interest of being fair to the rest of the system, Michael Burgess has power, patience, and the ability to raise his stock if he can make contact more consistently.
Trade Bait: If the Nationals are trading away prospects at the deadline, we have bigger things to worry about, as the earth will likely have reversed it axis.
Best Chance To Move Into The Top 100: Left-hander Jack McGeary could take off after abandoning his full-time commitment to Stanford for a full-time commitment to pitching.

Odds to be #1 in 2009:
Stephen Strasburg: 500-499
Any other carbon-based life form: 500-1

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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