Top 40 Prospects Roundtable
Rany Jazayerli: OK. Some responses...
Jonah Keri: First of all, Patterson suffered from an elbow injury, not
shoulder injury. Big, huge, massive, enormous difference. When really smart
people who know what they're talking about keep saying over and over that a torn
labrum is a death sentence (have fun drafting
in roto, Keith S.), TJ is eminently manageable if done correctly. I don't think
the injury risk is that enormous, and the guy's a great pitcher who'll be the
ace of that staff when the Twin Towers move to Florida to wear funny pants.
Since we're voting for a People's Choice at No. 40, I'll take Patterson.
- I have no particular attachment to Michael Restovich. He goes.
- I must confess to being surprised for the support of Casey Kotchman,
but not because he's not deserving. I just figured this was the sort of crowd
that would wait to get excited about a kid who just spent the year in the
Midwest League (and was out half the year at that). I planned to put Kotchman
on the list anyway, but balked at the end because there were already six first
basemen on the list. I have no problem with adding him to the list. Frankly,
in terms of their profile Kotchman and Adrian Gonzalez are as similar as
two prospects can be.
- Brad Hawpe can mash, to the point where I don't think it matters that
much that the Rockies don't have a position for him. On the other hand, he
turns 24 in June and hasn't reached Double-A yet. I could be persuaded to
demote him to HM (especially if listed in combination with Jack Cust, who
is still rookie-eligible).
- I reluctantly left Cliff Lee off the list, in part because his stat
line gives me bad vibes - top prospects really shouldn't give up 20 HRs in 146
innings in the minors. That said, the rest of his performance is excellent, he
has the stuff to back up the numbers, and I just realized that Dontrelle
Willis is the only southpaw in the Top 40. We'll try to make room for him.
- I'm well aware that Baldelli didn't draw a single walk in 23 Triple-A games,
yada yada yada. But he just turned 21 this September, and age is such a huge
factor for hitters that he has to get bonus points for that. I'm comfortable
knocking him down a few spots.
- I can see the case for James Loney, but in general I'm reluctant to
put any high schooler on the list after just two months of pro experience. Yes,
Prince Fielder is on HM, but he's a more high-risk, high-reward guy with
enough power that he could bang 40 homers in a minor league season and make
everyone take notice. Plus, Prince is a lot more interesting to write about,
and on the HM list, that is relevant.
- If the itinerant Ranger expert says to knock off
I'm not going to argue.
- Can someone feed me more information on Jimmy Journell? He's worth
considering, but I'm trying to limit the pitchers on the list as much as
possible. We had 14 last year, and that was too many.
Joey Thurston gets compared an awful lot to
for a guy that just posted a .257 EqA at age 22. Grudz didn't reach that plateau
until he was 26, and has exceeded a .257 EqA just twice in his career. I know
Thurston's game is batting average (and will play in a park that kills it), but
he's young and has a job waiting for him. This counts for something. Depending
on how the rest of the list changes, he may get booted.
- Why does everyone hate Bobby Jenks? I know his raw numbers don't match up
to other starters, but that's almost entirely a function of his control. He's
v2.0, and like Neugebauer, his upside is such that if he doesn't make the list,
I'll lie awake at night worrying that he'll put it all together and make us look
like idiots. We'll make him the token No. 40 guy if you want
(hey, it worked for Brian Lawrence),
but I really want Jenks on the list.
- Is everyone really that high on Shin-Soo Choo? His numbers are excellent
for a 20-year-old, but again, there's the four-levels-from-the-majors factor to
- John Patterson
is a tough, tough call. I like him a lot, actually, and did consider him for
the list. Coming back from TJ surgery, he's got potential to rebound more, but
he's also a proven injury waiting to happen. I think he's worthy of HM, at
- Maybe Contreras doesn't deserve the No. 3 ranking...but basing that on the
history of Cuban refugees is disingenuous. The only Cuban pitcher who had
anything close to Contreras' reputation was El Duque,
and he was pretty damn good for a few years.
Personally, I'd be a lot less comfortable putting Reyes - who might be
Antonio Perez II, for all we know, complete with the doctored birth
certificate - or Phillips, who has positional questions, at No. 3 instead of
- Matsui is clearly the best hitter on the list based on present performance,
and probably on future potential as well. But while I have no problems with
putting established foreign talent on the list, I really would prefer to reserve
the No. 1 spot for a traditional prospect if possible. In the long run, whether
Matsui is No. 1 or No. 2 will mean little when someone evaluates the list in
five years. But in the present, I think it's important, when someone asks who
the BP No. 1 prospect is, to get an answer that actually jibes with their notion
of a "prospect." If Mark Teixeira wasn't eligible, that would be
tougher to justify, but thankfully he is. And in the long run, I'd take my
chances on Teixeira anyway.
- I'm middle-of-the-road with respect to Drew Henson. I don't think he's got
star potential anymore, but at the same time I think that people who rail about
how horrible a player is tend to ignore the fact that he held his own in
Triple-A at age 22. The problem, as Clay pointed out, is that he hasn't
improved one whit from age 19 to age 22, which is a very weird phenomenon. I'd
love to put him on HM, if only because I think that would make him an HM
selection every year we've put out a list, but realistically I think he falls a
little short of that designation.
Also, didn't get your thoughts on two guys mentioned by the group:
Regarding Harrisburg's HR totals--in addition to
one year there. I wouldn't ignore the HR issues, but I'd downplay it a bit.
- Hanley Ramirez, who's got lots of potential but still seems too high;
- K-Rod. I know you love him, and obviously you'll take the comments by
myself and Chris with a grain of anti-reliever bias salt, but really, if you're
going to be biased against any subgroup on a prospects list, relief pitchers
seems like a nifty place to start. If it's my list, I don't know if I even put
him in the top 40, to be honest. Since it's not my list, I vote for somewhere
out of the top 20 at least.
And if you don't want to drop Jenks, I'd take David Wright over
Jayson Werth in
the Top 40, even though Werth's obviously a lot closer to the bigs.
Gary Huckabay: Regarding Jenks: control matters. Throw four balls, and
the batter goes to first base. And just to clarify--you're stating that being
Nike Neugebauer v2.0 is a reason for inclusion on a Top 40 list?
I don't think Patterson's a tough call at all. I think he's clearly deserving
of a high spot.
And with regard to Badelli, I've put an 'X' next to every single player I'd
trade him for, without thinking twice:
X Aaron Heilman, SP, New York (NL)
Justin Huber, C, New York (NL)
X Scott Hairston, 2B, Arizona
Kurt Ainsworth, SP, San Francisco
X Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Florida
Brendan Harris, 3B, Chicago (NL)
X Joe Borchard, CF, Chicago (AL)
X Jason Arnold, SP, Toronto
Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Florida
X Casey Kotchman, 1B, Anaheim
X Cliff Lee, SP, Cleveland
X Khalil Greene, SS, San Diego
Clint Nageotte, SP, Seattle
Juan Rivera, LF, New York (AL)
Jayson Werth, OF, Toronto
Bobby Jenks, SP, Anaheim
Joey Thurston, 2B, Los Angeles
X Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota
Dontrelle Willis, SP, Florida
The People's Choice (David Wright, anyone?)
And that doesn't include the honorable mentions. Outfielders who don't walk and
don't even display massive power to go with "toolsiness" just don't do
it for me. I don't even really understand why Baldelli is involved in this
Clay Davenport: If you were willing to go with Hanley Ramirez among
hitters, you could probably consider Scott Kazmir for another lefty slot.
Granted, he barely pitched after signing, but he totally rocked when he
did. You might throw an HM to a couple of lefties (Bedard and Claussen) who
would have been here without injury too.
That said, I disagree with you, Rany, on Jenks. Even when he had translated
walk rates in the 10s, Neugebauer's translated K rates were in the 8s. Jenks has
never cracked 7 outside the AFL. Neugebauer's hit rates were in the 6s and 7s;
Jenks' are 8s and 10s. Despite his 100-mph juice, Jenks has been hittable, and
that's not a good sign.
Other HMs worth mentioning:
- Yes, they are relievers, along with
but Buddy Hernandez and Franklyn German were really, really good
- Kazmir I've already mentioned. John Maine also falls into the
"ridiculously good debut in limited innings" category.
- Unless I've forgotten how seriously he was injured, I wouldn't write off
Seung Song completely.
- Matt Bruback had a nice year, but not enough to push his way onto the list.
Ditto Rob Henkel, Jon Switzer, Julio DePaula, Josh Hall,
Chris Kahrl: Hawpe's a case of opportunity versus talent. I'd drop him
to Honorable Mention, and on the same level, go with the flow to promote
Patterson into the 35-40 range.
As long as we're bashing the Rangers on a similar theme, it's worth asking: have
the Devil Rays been involved with the success of any young player? Does anyone
honestly believe that Lou Piniella will help change this? I wouldn't drop
Baldelli from the list entirely, but hitting in the California League is his
main calling card, and that's not an especially remarkable achievement.
I like Journell a lot more than Jenks, and I'm more than a little ambivalent
about listing Journell.
in particular, came here with a very big rep and a mysterious age, and as the
pedant's pedant who only seeks to strike an appropriately cautionary note, I'll
pedantically repeat my point: Beyond El Duque, no Cuban pitcher has lived up to
his advance billing, and all of them have been touted, unfairly or not.
That said, I think we need to stick with the precedent that I believe Rany
originally fought for so well on behalf of Ichiro; both Godzilla and Contreras
belong on this list.
If anything, I find inventing age issues for Reyes for argument's sake to be
disingenuous, only slightly more so than blaming the victim for Vizquel's
contract extension in Phillips' case.
Is nobody going to the mat for Youkilis because of Rexrode? I'm just curious,
because nobody's making a case for him creeping into the No. 40 slot, which we
usually stock with somebody we like and want to make a point with.
If we're looking for a spare lefty starter for the bottom of the list, we could
do worse than Billy Traber. Among other Tribe hurlers, Jason Davis
and Brian Tallet probably deserve honorable mentions ahead of some of the
A-ball pitchers mentioned here. And Bruback.
RJ: Responding to more comments:
- I see both sides of the Matsui/Contreras argument, but in the end I think we
should leave them in. Aside from the precedent that has been set with Ichiro, I
think we have to acknowledge the fact that our Top 40 lists are a permanent part
of the public record, to be re-read and analyzed by our readers and our
detractors in the future. Baseball America won't be placing them in a separate
list. John Sickels won't. Three years from now, I'd hate for someone to do a
sloppy job of analyzing our lists, and say, "wow, those guys at BP didn't
even include Jose Contreras in their Top 40, and he's won a pair of Cy
Youngs!" I do consider the list a challenge and a competition, and I want
it to reflect the 40 best rookie-eligible players in the world. That includes
Matsui and Contreras.
- I like John Patterson, I think he'll continue to make progress after TJ
surgery, and after much consideration, I think he's Top 40 worthy.
- I must admit: Dontrelle Willis resembles a lot of the Top 40 selections from
years past that, in hindsight, make me cringe. He's a pitcher who has yet to
make it out of A-ball, and unless you're
there are better ways to make use of that slot. We'll pull him to make room for
- My feelings on K-Rod are that he has a substantial amount of experience as a
starting pitcher, and even if he's used in relief it won't be in a 60-70-inning
role, which justifies his ranking. I'm comfortable moving him behind Harden and
- I'll move Hanley Ramirez down a few spots.
- I'll move Rocco Baldelli down more than a few spots.
- Aaron Cook struck out 90 men in 159 IP last year. Even if he wasn't
a Rockie, he doesn't make my Top 100, let alone Top 40.
- Is everyone comfortable with a first-year high school draftee making the
list? If so, I'm comfortable using the People's Choice spot on James Loney.
- I ordinarily like using fiat instead of force when it comes to deciding on
this list, but I'm stubborn on Jenks. I fully realize the risk involved with
him, and I've moved him down to No. 40 on the list as a sign that he makes the
list as much to generate controversy as anything else. But I also feel he
deserves the spot on merit. If nothing else, he makes for a very intriguing
Michael Wolverton: I have a last question about Jerome Williams's
placement, although it may be too late to make a difference on the list. I
assume that Williams' main selling point--pretty much his only selling point--is
his age. Presumably a pitcher who struck out seven batters per 9 innings in
Triple-A without exceptional control would be marginal to even get an honorable
mention if he were a year or two older (say, Foppert's age).
Is the difference between 20 and 22 a big deal with pitchers? For whoever has
minor league data: Who are the last few pitchers to hold their own (not
dominate) in Triple-A at age 20, and what happened to them? I don't know the
answer to this, but my intuition is that those two years make less of a
difference to pitchers than they do to hitters. If nothing else, the increased
injury risk might offset whatever developmental advances we could expect. And
Williams did throw a lot of innings this year, and finished it with elbow
Keith Woolner: Here are all the 20-year old pitchers with 100+ IP in a
season for a single team at Triple-A that I have from Clay's database:
NAME AGE YEAR TEA LG IP H HR BB SO RA
--------------- --- ----- --- --- ------ ---- ---- ---- ---- -----
MARTINEZ,PEDRO 20 1992 ABQ PCL 125.3 104 10 57 124 4.09
GORECKI,RICK 20 1994 ABQ PCL 103.0 119 11 60 73 5.68
PETT,JOSE 20 1996 SYR INT 109.7 134 10 42 50 6.65
HALLADAY,ROY 20 1997 SYR INT 125.7 132 13 53 64 5.30
QUEVEDO,RUBEN 20 1999 RIC INT 105.7 112 26 34 98 5.53
ANDERSON,RYAN 20 2000 TAC PCL 104.0 83 8 55 146 4.41
GARLAND,JON 20 2000 CHR INT 103.7 99 3 32 63 2.43
ZAMBRANO,CARLOS 20 2001 IOW PCL 150.7 124 9 68 155 4.36
WILLIAMS,JEROME 20 2002 FRE PCL 160.7 140 16 50 130 4.26
Mat Olkin: Interesting list. Throw out the two birthday frauds, and you
have two aces, a No. 3 starter, and three career-ending injuries (plus
Baseball Prospectus Home
RJ: I do want to critique my own list a bit, now that I've written most
of the player comments and have a little more information about the players.
Here's a list of the tweaks that have been made since the last draft, and the
rationale behind them:
- James Loney fractured his wrist at the end of the season, and while
he's expected to recover, wrist injuries linger. Given my original reservations
with a first-year high schooler, let's move him to HM but no higher.
- Wilson Betemit had a lost year, but he just turned 21. I still can't
believe that he really was underage when the Braves signed him - according to
his new birth date, he was 14 1/2 (!) when he signed, and played in the GCL at
15 - but I don't think the Braves would have been penalized if there wasn't good
reason to believe that he was underage. Not many 20-year-olds can hit .245 in
Triple-A and have it called a disappointment. Let's move him into the Top 40,
and we'll move him move up eight more spots, given that what looked like an
awful season was more like an awful three months: He battled some injuries in
the first half, and after hitting .198 during that time, hit .292 during the
second half of the season.
- I'm flip-flopping Brandon Phillips and Victor Martinez, on the
basis of Phillips having to make a positional switch and Martinez's superior
- K-Rod drops a few spots, although those of you who think that Franklyn
German is comparable need to remember one thing: 41 Ks in 24.1 major league
innings, most of those against playoff teams. That's the highest single-season
K/IP ratio in history for anyone with more than 10 IP. I moved K-Rod down
though, and got him out of the Top 20.
- Justin Huber gets knocked down a bunch. He's only 20, but he spent
most of the year in low-A ball, he didn't hit that well, his defense
needs work, and I think I've overrated him because of his Australian heritage.
- Hanley Ramirez drops a lot as well. Gotta be careful with those low-minors
- John Patterson moves up a lot, into the Top 30. I have to admit I have a
real strong feeling about this guy.
- Justin Morneau moves up some. I wasn't aware that he lost 20 pounds
from that nasty "bacterial virus" of his, and yet he still hit 16
homers as a 20-year-old in Double-A.
- After re-thinking the issue, Contreras' complete lack of statistical
evidence that we can appreciate--and the track record of Cuban refugees--makes
me knock him down a peg. He moves down two spots to No. 5. He's still the
highest-rated pitcher on the list.
- When I got to the Brendan Harris write-up and looked at his numbers
carefully, a strange sensation came over me. (Go ahead, Derek--make an Aussie
crack; it's good to get it out of your system.) I checked the numbers, and lo
and behold...well, look it up yourself:
Brendan Harris, 2002 =
There are some differences--notably that Harris was a classification higher than
Pujols--but the raw numbers are eerily similar. Harris is the biggest sleeper
prospect in the game, and I was compelled to move him into our Top 20.
- I axed Dontrelle Willis from the list completely, allowing me to reinstate
Bozied, Nady, and Gautreau to the HM list (after briefly bumping them out in
favor of Todd Linden).
And that's it--official and fit-for framing:
Baseball Prospectus 2003 - Top 40 Prospects List:
- Mark Teixeira, 3B, Texas
- Hideki Matsui, RF, New York (AL)
- Jose Reyes, SS, New York (NL)
- Victor Martinez, C, Cleveland
- Jose Contreras, SP, New York (AL)
- Brandon Phillips, 2B/SS, Cleveland
- Hee Seop Choi, 1B, Chicago (NL)
- Jerome Williams, SP, San Francisco
- Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota
- Chris Snelling, OF, Seattle
- Jason Stokes, 1B, Florida
- Rich Harden, SP, Oakland
- Jesse Foppert, SP, San Francisco
- Marlon Byrd, CF, Philadelphia
- Michael Cuddyer, RF, Minnesota
- Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Seattle
- Aaron Heilman, SP, New York (NL)
- Brendan Harris, 3B, Chicago (NL)
- Kurt Ainsworth, SP, San Francisco
- Travis Hafner, 1B, Cleveland
- Francisco Rodriguez, RP, Anaheim
- Joe Borchard, CF, Chicago (AL)
- Scott Hairston, 2B, Arizona
- Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Florida
- Jason Arnold, SP, Toronto
- John Patterson, SP, Arizona
- Casey Kotchman, 1B, Anaheim
- Rocco Baldelli, OF, Tampa Bay
- Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Florida
- Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota
- Wilson Betemit, SS, Atlanta
- Cliff Lee, SP, Cleveland
- Hanley Ramirez, SS, Boston
- Justin Huber, C, New York (NL)
- Clint Nageotte, SP, Seattle
- Juan Rivera, LF, New York (AL)
- Khalil Greene, SS, San Diego
- Jayson Werth, OF, Toronto
- Joey Thurston, 2B, Los Angeles
- Bobby Jenks, SP, Anaheim
- Bobby Basham, SP, Cincinnati
- Jeremy Bonderman, SP, Detroit
- Bozied/Nady/Gautreau, H, San Diego
- Kevin Cash, C, Toronto
- Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee
- Gavin Floyd, SP, Philadelphia
- Ken Harvey, 1B, Kansas City
- Brad Hawpe/Jack Cust, H, Colorado
- Brandon Larson, 3B, Cincinnati
- Todd Linden, LF, San Francisco
- James Loney, 1B, Los Angeles
- Miguel Olivo, C, Chicago (AL)
- Adam Wainwright, SP, Atlanta
- David Wright, 3B, New York (NL)
- Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Boston