This year’s State Of The Systems features some new
categories, so before we get going, some explanation.
- 2007 Rookies: Simple enough: what first-year
players will contribute in the big leagues this year.
- Minor League Road Trip: A common question I
get via e-mail goes something like this: “I live in [minor league
town], who should I look for?” For each team I’ll identify two
full-season affiliates that should have compelling squads. Keep in
mind that this is a research-driven hypothesis, and that spring
performances, injuries and organizational needs can mean certain players
don’t end up where expected.
- Pivotal Season: For this category, I’ll identify
one player who is at a crossroads in his young career.
- I Like Him Better Than Most/Don’t Believe The Hype:
Last year’s selections have already been reviewed, and I think overall, I
did pretty well here; they’re always among the most popular, so they
- Pedroia/Clippard Award: Named after Red Sox
infielder Dustin and Yankees right-hander Tyler, this is the player who
fans of that team tend to overrate by going on statistics alone.
- Jackson/Griffin Award: In the interest of
fairness, this award goes to the player who is the opposite. The tools
are certainly there, but where is the performance? The award is named
after two of the all-time tools busts in draft history: outfielder
Jeff(Philles first round, 1989) and triple-digit flamethrower
Colt(Royals first round, 2001).
- Get Your Bags Ready: When the trade deadline comes
down, prospects are always part of the discussion. Who could be
available? Who do teams want? Who’s a likely candidate to be moved
because he’s blocked?
- 2007 Rookies: It’s a veteran team, and it’s going
to stay that way. Top prospects Ryan Sweeney and Josh Fields
are blocked, with Brian Anderson likely getting the first shot at
center field, though he will be on a short leash. For now, the team isn’t
moving Fields to the outfield, meaning both he and Sweeney will return to
Triple-A. Knuckleballer Charlie Haeger seems a lock to make the
team, and even has an outside chance at the fifth-starter job, though the
team is still hoping for a miracle from Phillies flame-out Gavin Floyd.
Acquired in the Brandon McCarthy trade, lefty John Danks is
the team’s top prospect, but would be best served by some more time in
Triple-A, though he’s definitely the long-term answer in the rotation.
Also acquired from Texas, Nick Masset should stick in the bullpen; while his stats are uninspiring, his scouting reports are glowing,
especially the ones on his short stints as a reliever.
- Minor League Road Trip: Assuming Fields and
Sweeney fail to break camp with the team, Triple-A Charlotte is the place
to see the future. What was a rotation loaded with minor-league veterans
last year becomes prospect-laden with Danks and 2005 first-round pick
Lanceleading the way, possibly joined by the end of the year by 2006 first-rounder
Kyleand re-acquired lefty Gio Gonzalez.
- Pivotal Season: After a breakout campaign in 2005,
everything fell apart for left-hander Ray Liotta last year: he
found himself back in High-A with a composite 5.89 ERA in 28 games.
At 24, it’s now or never.
- I Like Him Better Than Most: Righty Oneli Perez
began 2006 in Low-A, finished in Double-A and had an ERA under 1.00 at all
three stops, finishing with an 0.81 mark in 77.2 innings while giving up
just 46 hits and whiffing 91. He’s an almost-sidearmer who could struggle
against lefties, but with expanded pitching staffs in the minors, there’s
room for a ROOGY these days.
- Don’t Believe The Hype: Pitching in Double-A as a
20-year-old, Gio Gonzalez struck out over a batter per inning, so
there’s some good stuff there. At the same time, he has major control
issues, and his lanky, sub-six-foot frame leaves many wondering if he has
the durability to start in the big leagues.
- Pedroia/Clippard Award: Broadway’s 2.74 ERA last
year is impressive, but Birmingham is a pitchers’ park, his strikeout rate
was mediocre, and so is his stuff.
- Jackson/Griffin Award: Right-hander Adam Russell
has Jeff Juden‘s size (6-8, 250) and velocity (consistently sitting
at 93-96 mph), and about as much success with it thanks to a lack of
movement and an inability to find a consistent breaking ball.
- Get Your Bags Ready?: They’re not moving Fields,
and Joe Crede is locked in at third base until 2008. One of them
is going to move on to a different organization eventually, maybe even by the trade deadline. If
things are going well in the standings, Fields is their top trading chip,
and Kenny Williams likes to deal.
- 2007 Rookies: Very few pure rookies, but plenty of
young talent as guys like third baseman Andy Marte and left-hander
Jeremyspend their first full year in the big leagues. The bullpen
could features legitimate rookies like lefty Juan Lara and
right-hander Edward Mujica. Top prospect
reach the big leagues by mid-season with a strong start at Triple-A.
- Minor League Road Trip: As with the White Sox,
Triple-A is the place to be. The Buffalo outfield will probably consist
of three Top 10 Prospects in (from left to right) Trevor Crowe,
Brian Snyder. Miller will front a rotation that could
Rafael Perezand Fausto Carmona, while intriguing
power lefty Tony Sipp is the likely closer.
- Pivotal Season: Since being drafted in the first
round out of Ball State in 2003, Snyder has consistently teased the
organization with his tools, and frustrated with his lofty strikeout totals.
Another 150+ strikeout season with a sub-800 OPS will having him
teetering on the line between prospect and Quad-A slugger.
- I Like Him Better Than Most: 2006 second-round pick
Josh Rodriguezisn’t really a shortstop, but he could end up as an
offensive-minded second baseman who provides above-average power for the
- Don’t Believe The Hype: 2006 first-rounder
Davidhas below-average velocity and relies primarily on commanding the
strike zone and keeping hitters off balance with his very good changeup.
His ceiling is limited.
- Pedroia/Clippard Award: Southpaw Scott Lewis
led the minor leagues with a 1.48 ERA last year, but he’s yet to have the
reins taken off when it comes to pitch counts and his finesse-only style
will catch up to him as he moves up.
- Jackson/Griffin Award: Snyder has plus power,
speed, and arm strength, but if he can’t make more contact, it’s just not
going to matter.
- Get Your Bags Ready?: The way things are going, it
looks like the Tribe might be more likely to trade veterans in order to
make room for prospects, as opposed to moving prospects for established
talent. Jake Westbrook could be attractive to some teams while
making room in the rotation for Miller.
- 2007 Rookies: Nope, that was last year, as
Justinand Joel Zumaya helped carry the team to the American
League title. Rule 5 pick
Ed Campusanohas looked solid in camp
and has a good chance to stick as a situational reliever.
- Minor League Road Trip: Double-A Erie should
have 2006 first-round pick
Andrew Millerfronting the
rotation, and whispers are that uber-prospect Cameron Maybin could
skip a level and join him there. The infield should have
Jeff Larrishand Kodyon the corners as well, with righty Jair Jurrjens
lining up behind Miller.
- Pivotal Season: Kirkland hit 22 home runs last year
at Erie, but everything else about his season was a nightmare, from the
.217 average to the 24 errors, to the 157 strikeouts. Turning 24 in June
and returning to Double-A, he should be further along in
translating his tools to performance.
- I Like Him Better Than Most: Campusano was one of
the better Rule 5 picks in December. In the end, he’ll be more than
just a LOOGY, as his plus-fastball/plus-slider combination makes him
equally effective against hitters from both sides.
- Don’t Believe The Hype: Righty Dallas Trahern
led the Florida State League with four complete games while finishing
fourth with a 3.30 ERA, but while his sinker generates a truckload of
ground balls, how much faith can one have on a guy with a strikeout rate
of 5.35 per nine innings at High-A?
- Pedroia/Clippard Award: Shortstop
Michaelhit .278/.386/.501 at Low-A West Michigan last year,
finishing among the Midwest League’s top five in walks, total bases and
slugging. So what’s the problem? Well, he was 24 years old in the
Midwest League and isn’t really a shortstop.
- Jackson/Griffin Award: Righty
Eulogio de la Cruzcan hit triple-digits with his fastball and has an outstanding curve. So
why doesn’t he dominate? Scouts are baffled as well, but command problems
are the primary issue, as is often the case.
- Get Your Bags Ready?: If the Tigers make another
run at the playoffs, outfielder Brent Clevlen is the one hitter
teams will be asking about, and Maybin’s rapid rise could make him
expendable. With a young, talented and full rotation, arms like De La
Cruz and righty Jordan Tata could also draw some interest.
- 2007 Rookies: Hey, they got Alex Gordon,
what else do you want? Gordon should be an immediate impact player, and
is the best bet to be the Royals’ representative at the All-Star game.
Rule 5 selection Joakim Soria should have no problem earning a
bullpen job and no problem being a decent reliever, while power arm
Ryanis also fighting for a relief role in spring training.
- Minor League Road Trip: Let’s forget about
the big-name prospects for a bit, as guys like Billy Butler,
Luke, Chris Lubanski and Mitch Maier could all be
shuffling teams quite a bit this year. The more intriguing roster might be at Low Class A Burlington. While these guys are mostly high-risk players who offer
little in the way of guarantees, players like left-hander Brent Fisher;
Jeff Bianchi, Chris McConnelland Jason Taylor;
Joe Dickersonand Derrick Robinsongive the
Bees more prospects than they have had in years.
- Pivotal Season: A million-dollar bonus baby as a
draft-and-follow, right-hander Luis Cota has been a massive disappointment
since signing, culminating with a 7.09 ERA at the not-so-friendly confines
of High Desert last year. The bad news: he’s returning to High-A.
The good news: the Royals moved their affiliate to Wilmington in the
- I Like Him Better Than Most: Lefty
Dannyis a Tommy John survivor who held his own at High Desert with three average pitches and decent command. He’s one to watch at Double-A
this year and could work his way into the back of the rotation by 2008.
- Don’t Believe The Hype: Acquired from the White Sox
for Mike MacDougal, righty Tyler Lumsden is a big-bodied
lefty with excellent velocity, but the stats just don’t match the stuff,
especially when it comes to missing bats.
- Pedroia/Clippard Award: First baseman
Justinsaw his production slip in 2006 along with his opportunity, and
despite a patient approach and good hitting skills, he’s probably just
short of being an everyday player there.
- Jackson/Griffin Award: Robinson, a fourth-round
pick last June out of a Florida high school is an absolute burner who also
features a little bit of pop, but he’s incredibly raw and needs to greatly
improve his approach and contact ability to improve his stock.
- Get Your Bags Ready?: The Royals won’t be in a
position to shore up the big-league team at mid-season. If anything,
they’ll be adding prospects, not trading for them.
- 2007 Rookies: Nothing on the offensive side of
things, and very little in pitching. Matt Garza and
Glenare competing for rotation jobs, but the team is leaning
towards beginning the year with Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz
in the rotation for reasons apparent only to them. Garza’s
mysterious neck pain and headaches this spring aren’t helping matters,
either. Once a highly regarded arm, righty J.D. Durbin is out of
options and could land a bullpen job.
- Minor League Road Trip: Provided the big-league club breaks camp with a veteran rotation, the staff at Triple-A
Rochester will be impressive with Garza, Perkins and Kevin Slowey,
who arguably has the best command in the minors. The lineup will open
with the one-two punch of former first-round pick Denard Span and
second baseman of the future Alexi Casilla.
- Pivotal Season: Other than a solid half-season at
High-A Fort Myers in 2005, third baseman Matt Moses had done
little to justify his selection in 2003’s first round, collapsing at
Double-A last year with a .249/.303/.386 season while his defense
continued a disturbing downward slide.
- I Like Him Better Than Most: Dutch lefty
Alexanderhad his fair share of struggles over the last few years, but
thrived with a late-season move to the rotation at Low-A Beloit last
season, with a 2.43 ERA in 13 starts and more than twice as many
strikeouts (98) than hits allowed (44) in 74 innings. The 2007 season in
the Florida State League could be his coming-out party.
- Don’t Believe The Hype: Not that I don’t like
Slowey: I like him plenty. However, his 1.88 ERA and 151-to-22
strikeout-to-walk ratio puts him among the best pitchers in the minors on
a statistical level, and he’s just not that good. It’s all about command
for Slowey, and he’s likely an effective number-three or number-four starter in
the end, as opposed to any kind of star.
- Pedroia/Clippard Award: First baseman Erik Lis
led the Midwest League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging
in 2006, but as a polished college first baseman playing in the Midwest
League, what else was he supposed to do? He’s a bad defensive player
without a big power ceiling, and he’s well behind the standard development
- Jackson/Griffin Award: Span is the best athlete in
the system and an instinctual, graceful center fielder…but he’s also a
.280 hitter with few secondary skills who has yet to
figure out how to turn his blazing speed into an offensive asset.
- Get Your Bags Ready?: The Twins system is highly
lopsided in the favor of pitching, and any number of young, Latin American
power arms like Eduardo Morlan,
Yohan Pinoand Oswaldocould be available if the Twins look to make a deadline move.