Tuesday, January 15, 2006
Top 20 IMPACT ROOKIES
The time has come to start thinking about the 2008 season. I am ready for spring training to start, and we're only about a month away from that. Today, I am going to post my Top 20 Impact Rookies for 2008. You would think this would be an easy list to develop. But it really wasn't. Sure, coming up with a list of the Top 100 prospects is not difficult. There are plenty of options. However, when you factor in the 'impact in 2008' portion of the criteria, it does become more difficult. Which prospects are far enough along that they could contribute to the big club in 2008? Which prospects are not blocked at the big league level, and have a position in which to make an impact.
There were several players that just missed eligibility because they had too many plate appearances in 2007. There are others who are just a little too young or need another year to develop. Some are blocked at the big league level. Hopefully you will learn a little about some players outside of the Twins system. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me or leave Comments below.
SethSpeaks Top 20 2008 Impact Rookies - Hitters
#20 – Chase Headley – 3B - San Diego Padres – 23
The 2nd round pick of the Padres in 2005, Headley had a monster 2007 season at AA San Antonio. Clearly he has a very strong plate discipline and has shown that consistently throughout his career. In Hi-A in 2006, he hit .292 with a .390 on-base percentage. In 2007, he hit a great .330 and got on base an incredible .437. He also has some pop in his bat. In 2006, he had 45 extra base hits. In 2007, he had 38 doubles, five triples and 20 home runs. He ended the season with 18 big league at bats. There is just one reason that Headley is this far down the list, and that is because of the 2nd half of Kevin Kouzmanoff's season. Kouz will likely be the team's starter and Headley will take his skills to AAA, but maybe not for long! The unfortunate thing is that it is hard to put up great offensive numbers in San Diego. That makes the on-base skills even more important.
#19 – Carlos Gonzalez – OF - Oakland A's – 22
The Diamondbacks sure gave up a lot to acquire Dan Haren, but the key to that deal was certainly Carlos Gonzalez. When it comes to upside, the Venezuelan lefty may have as much ceiling as anyone on this list. Last year, he spent most of the season at age 21 at AA. He hit .286/.330/.476 with 33 doubles, three triples and 16 home runs. Very solid numbers, especially considering his age. I think that many people think that Gonzalez will take a corner position in Oakland because of their rebuilding strategy. However, his numbers simply weren't dominant enough to tell me that he couldn't use most of another season in the minor leagues. There have always been questions about his attitude and effort and the A's already have Travis Buck and Ryan Sweeney ready to take over a couple of outfield positions. If he does make the roster out of training camp, he could be a force.
#18 – Brandon Wood – 3B – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 22
Wood took a step backwards in 2007, but in reality, it was through steps forward. The 2005 minor league home run champ officially moved over to 3B last year and moved up to AAA. He was moved up and down between the Angels and AAA so many times without much big league playing time that I can't help but think it hurt his development. As a 22 year old in AAA, he hit .272/.338/.497 with 27 doubles and 23 home runs. He had just five hits (1 homer) in 33 big league at bats. Now, his upside is some tremendous power. However, part of this list is about opportunity and I can't help but wonder what the Angels are thinking with him. The OF is packed, so Chone Figgins will play the majority of 3B. Howie Kendrick is at 2B. Casey Kotchman is at 1B. DH will likely be covered by an OF. The only open position is Wood's old position, SS. In my mind, that job should go to Erick Aybar. He is more than ready to play. He is a better all-around hitter than Wood and much better defensively. So, I just don't know how much opportunity Wood will get with the big league team.
#17 – Brandon Jones – OF - Atlanta Braves – 24
Brandon Jones was the Braves 24th round pick in 2003 out of Tallahassee Community College. He has slowly worked his way up the farm system. In 2006, he split the season between Hi-A and AA and showed some good on-base skills. He also showed a little bit of power, hitting 14 homers between the two teams. 2007 was a breakout year for Jones. He returned to Mississippi for 94 AA games. He hit .293/.368/.507 with 21 doubles, 6 triples and 15 homers. He moved up to AAA where he hit .300/.3363/.453 with 12 doubles and five homes in 44 games. He hit just .158 in 19 big league at bats in September. With Andruw Jones gone and the Braves left field situation always uncertain, there will be outfield at bats available. The acquisition of Mark Kotsay hurts some of his potential 2008 impact. However, I think we know that Kotsay will miss some time at some point. Jones appears nearly ready and could be turning a corner.
#16 – Cameron Maybin – OF – Florida Marlins - 20
If this list was about best prospects alone, Maybin would be right there at the top of the list. But this list is about impact in 2008. Maybin came to the Marlins in the Winter Meetings trade between Florida and Detroit that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Motor City. The Tigers definitely rushed Maybin last year. Maybe part of the reason was how bad Craig Monroe was. Maybin began the season in the Florida State League where he hit. .304/.393/.486 with 14 doubles and 10 homers in 83 games. He also stole 25 bases. He was moved up to AA where in just six games he hit .400/.538/1.050 with a double, four homers and eight RBI. That earned him a call up to the Tigers where he got 49 at bats in 24 games. He hit just .143/.208/.265 with three doubles, a homer (off of Roger Clemens) and two RBI in limited time. Maybin clearly has the skill athletically and physically. I have been most impressed with him when hearing him in interviews. The guy just gets it, and he is going to be a special player. The only reason he is this far down the list is because I have to wonder if it wouldn't be best for him to spend more time in AAA, if not even AA. The Marlins are rebuilding and they may simply throw him out to the wolves right away.
#15 – Ben Francisco – OF – Cleveland Indians - 26
Left field appears to be the one position that Cleveland needs to figure out in spring training. Francisco will compete with David Dellucci and Jason Michaels for playing time in the OF with Grady Sizemore and Franklyn Gutierrez. Francisco is the guy who edged out Rochester's Jose Morales for the International League batting title in 2007. He was the team's 5th round draft pick out of UCLA in 2002. In 2006 at AAA Buffalo, he hit .278/.345/.454 with 32 doubles and 17 homers in 134 games. Last year for the team, he hit .318/.382/.496 with 27 doubles and 12 homers in his 95 games. He also spent time with Cleveland. He got 62 at bats in 25 games. He hit .274/.303/.500 with five doubles and three homers. The one concern would be his three walks to 19 strikeouts. However, you also have to factor in the reality that Francisco will be helping a team that will be competing for the playoffs, so his impact could be felt quite strongly.
#14 – Wladimir Balentien – OF - Seattle Mariners – 23
Opportunity is one means to creating an impact. Necessity is another. Balentien is out of options and must remain with the Mariners all of next season or else potentially lost. He chose a good time in 2007 to have his breakout season. At AAA, he hit .291/.362/.509 with 24 doubles and 24 homers. He also stole 15 bases. Most importantly, he dropped his K rate. He struck out 105 times in 477 at bats. Still not great and doesn't bode real well for his big league success. However, it is a great improvement over 2006 when he struck out 140 times in 444 AA at bats, or 2005 when he struck out 160 times in 492 at bats. He has good power, having hit 25, 22 and 24 homers in the past three years. He was called up to the Mariners at the end of last season. He went 2-3 with a double, a homer, a sacrifice fly and four RBI in three games. He should get some playing time in LF with Raul Ibanez and get occasional DH at bats with Jose Vidro. If Adam Jones is traded, then Balentien has a really good chance of getting a lot of playing time in RF.
#13 – Joey Votto – 1B - Cincinnati Reds – 24
Maybe it is because he is a Canadian first basemen, but Joey Votto has to be on this list. The second round pick in 2002 from Toronto has done nothing but hit at each level of his progression through the Reds system He has only once hit below .294 at any level in the past four years. He hit .256 but still hit 17 homers. In 2006 at AA, he hit .319/.408/.547 with 46 doubles, 22 homers, 77 RBI and even 23 steals. This season at AAA, he hit .294/.381/.478 with 21 doubles, 22 homers, 92 RBI and 17 steals. He got 84 at bats with the Reds and hit .321/.360/.548 with 7 doubles and four homers. Remember that he will play his home games in Cincinnati, so his impressive minor league power numbers should be just the starting ground for what to expect. The only problem is that the Reds have Scott Hatteberg at 1B and Adam Dunn in LF. Votto is probably a better hitter than both of them, but will have to earn everything he gets. He will. It's just a matter of when.
#12 – Andy LaRoche – 3B - Los Angeles Dodgers – 24
Andy LaRoche is a name that I wish the Twins would have gone after more this offseason. He can hit and he can also play defense. He is a big time power prospect, and yet, something isn't quite right. The Dodgers have the aged Nomar Garciaparra as their 3B and they have been in several other rumors for 3B this offseason. I can't help but wonder why LaRoche isn't just being given the job. He was the team's 39th round pick in 2003. He is the brother of Pirates 1B Adam LaRoche and the son of former big league pitcher Dave LaRoche. In 2006, he hit .322/.400/.550 with 32 doubles and 17 homers in 55 games at AAA. He went back there in 2007 and hit .309/.399/.589 with 18 doubles and 18 homers. He even got 93 at bats in 35 games with the Dodgers. He hit just .226, but he got on base 36.5% of the time. He had 20 walks to go with 24 strikeouts. He is ready and he will have an impact. The Dodgers just need to clear the way.
#11 – Ryan Sweeney – OF - Oakland A's – 22
Sometimes getting to the big leagues too quick is a negative thing. Sweeney has been a solid prospect since the White Sox took him with their 2nd round pick in 2003 out of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He played the 2006 season at AAA and got 35 at bats with the White Sox. He went back to AAA in 2007 and got 45 at bats with the White Sox. He is really yet to distinguish himself at the big league level, but it is important to remember that he is still just 22 years old. He came to the A's as part of the deal that sent Nick Swisher to the White Sox. There are outfield openings for the A's and I think the he will take a big step forward simply by getting more time. He won't hit over .300 and he likely won't hit more than 15 homers, but he will do a little bit of everything.
#10 – Ian Stewart – 3B/2B - Colorado Rockies – 22
Ian Stewart became a big time prospect since he was taken with the 10th overall pick in 2003. His first full season he hit .319/.398/.594 with 31 doubles and 30 home runs. He has not duplicated those numbers as he has moved up the system but despite hitting closer to .270, he has done a great job of getting on base and had at least 56 extra base hits. In 2007 at AAA, he hit .304/.379/.478 with 23 doubles and 15 homers. He was promoted late to the Rockies where he hit .209 with a four doubles and a home in 43 at bats. He is a 3B by nature, but Garrett Atkins remains the Rockies starter there. The Rockies really only have one open position, and that is at second base. Another prospect, Jayson Nix is one option there. Colorado also recently signed Marcus Giles to a minor league deal. But based on potential, Stewart is the best choice there, and if he does get the job and consistent playing time, he will hit and hitting in Colorado rarely hurts!
#9 – Steve Pearce – 1B/OF - Pittsburgh Pirates – 24
The Twins selected Pearce with their 45th round pick in 2003, but he decided to go to college instead. It was a good choice as the Pirates took him with their 8th pick in 2005 out of South Carolina. After playing A ball in 2005 and 2006, Pearce dominated all four levels he played at in 2007. He hit .347/.412/.867 with four doubles and 11 homers in 19 games at A ball. He moved up to AA and played in 81 games there. He hit .334/.400/.586 with 27 doubles and 14 homers. He moved up to AAA for 34 games and hit .320/.366/.557 with nine doubles and six homers. He came up to the Pirates late in the season and in 23 games, he hit .294/.342/.397 with five doubles. Although he has been a 1B much of his career, he played RF most of his time with the Pirates. Adam LaRoche will be at 1B most of the time, so Pearce will compete with Xavier Nady for the right field job.
#8 – Daric Barton – 1B – Oakland A's - 22
Barton was the 1st round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals in 2003. He came over to the A's along with Dan Haren and Kiko Calero in the Mark Mulder trade. (Can we call that Billy Beane's AJ Pierzynski trade?)He began the season at AAA where he hit .293/.389/.438 with 38 doubles, five triples, nine homes and 70 RBI. He came up to the A's and played in 18 games. He hit .347/.429/.639 with nine doubles and four homers. He struck out 11 times and walked ten times, but that was the first time since his short-season 2003 season. He had been a catcher earlier in his career, but people knew he would not end up there. 1B is his for the A's going into the season and he should thrive with it. He won't hit for huge home runs totals that would be expected from a 1B, but he will hit just fine.
#7 – Geovany Soto – C - Chicago Cubs – 24
The Cubs drafted Soto with their 11th round pick in 2001 out of his Puerto Rico high school. He has actually had cups of coffee with the team the past three years. He didn't hit much early in his career and yet he was moved up to AAA for the 2005 season. He hit .253 and .269 in 2005 and 2006 respectively. He showed good plate discipline, but had little power. And then in 2007, he must have had an epiphany. He hit .353/.424/.652 with 31 doubles, 26 homers and 109 RBI. Curious and yet enough to make him the likely Cubs starter this year. On a team that has spent a lot of money, Soto's ability to run a pitching staff and help some with his bat will play an important role in how the Cubs do in the NL Central.
#6 – Jay Bruce – OF - Cincinnati Reds – 20
Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year had his job handed to him when the Reds dealt Josh Hamilton to the Rangers. Well, I guess he could be competing with Ryan Freel for the CF job, but that's like the Twins having Nick Punto compete with Brendan Harris for the 2B job... oh wait, Gardy probably wants Punto in the lineup. Anyway, back to Bruce, the top hitting prospect in baseball. He began the season at Hi-A Sarasota. There, he hit .325/.379/.586 with 27 doubles and 11 homers in 67 games. He moved up to AA and hit .333/.405/.652 with seven doubles and four homers. He then moved up to AAA for the final 50 games. He hit .305/.358/.567 with 12 doubles and 11 homers. The Reds stuck to their plan and did not bring him up to the big leagues. They can't keep him out for long though.
#5 – Justin "JR" Towles – C - Houston Astros – 23
Towles was the Astros 20th round pick in 2004 out of Collin County (TX) Community College after the A's drafted him the two previous years. He spent 2005 and 2006 at Low A and played in a combined 126 games. His rise in 2007 was very rapid. He started by hitting just .200 (with a .339 OBP thanks to nine HBP) in 26 games at Hi-A before being promoted to AA. In 61 games there, he his .324/.435/.551 with 12 doubles and 11 homers. He played 13 games at AAA before being promoted to the Astros. In 14 big league games, he hit .375/.432/.575 with five doubles, a homer and 12 RBI. Of course, two of the doubles, a homer and seven RBI came in just one game. Towles moved up the ladder quickly and I don't know if he is complete big league ready. However, his competition for playing time is likely just Brad Ausmus, so he could get a shot.
#4 – Colby Rasmus – OF - St. Louis Cardinals – 21
I think that Colby Rasmus has as much upside as anyone on this list, much less anyone in the minor leagues. Also, the Cardinals traded Jim Edmonds and let So Taguchi go via free agency. In other words, Rasmus is likely to get the opportunity to play CF for St. Louis right away this season. He was the team's 1st round pick (28th overall) in 2005 out of high school. He split the 2006 season between Low and High A ball affiliates, combining for 16 homers and 27 stolen bases. 2007 didn't start out real well for Rasmus at AA, but as the season progress, he improved dramatically and ended the year hitting .275/.381/.551 with 37 doubles, 3 triples and 29 home runs. He also stole 18 bases. He can play defense, run the bases, hit for some average, hit for power, take a lot of walks. Is there anything that he can't do? He played for Team USA in the Futures Game and was an all-tournament team member during the World Cup last fall. He's a national hero! And remember, it is possible that he will be hitting in front of Albert Pujols which is not a bad place to be.
#3 – Jacoby Ellsbury – OF - Boston Red Sox – 24
Is there anything that Jacoby Ellsbury can't do? He went to Oregon State and was the Red Sox first round pick in 2005 (23rd overall). He split 2006 between Hi-A and AA where he hit for average, got on base, showed some doubles-pop and stole bases while playing good defense. In 2007, he played several games at AA before moving up to AAA. At that level, he hit .298/.360/.380 with 14 doubles, five triples and two homers. He also stole 33 bases in 87 games. He moved up to the Red Sox where he hit .353/.394/.509 with seven doubles, a triple and three homers. He also stole nine bases. He took over the Red Sox centerfield for the World Series. He has been mentioned in rumors with the Twins for Johan Santana. He'd start for the Twins, but he will also start for the Red Sox. He will be their leadoff hitter and CF and one of their key components toward another championship. He is the most ready of all of the young CF prospects right now.
#2 – Kosuke Fukodome – OF - Chicago Cubs – 30
Can a 30 year old really be a prospect? In this case, with the rules of major league baseball, the answer is yes. Fukodome was the star hitter for Japan during the World Baseball Classic a year ago. He had the same impact on that tournament that Dice-K did. Fukodome was the first draft pick of the Chunichi Dragons in 1999. Because of injury, he played in just 81 games last year. He hit .294/.443/.520 with 22 doubles and 13 homers. In 2006, he hit .351/.438/.653 with 47 doubles and 31 homers. That is the type of impact that the Cubs are hoping for. Personally, I think you can drop those numbers to something like .300/.390/.480, but that would be a pretty strong first season. And again, he will have an impact on a team that should compete for a division title.
#1 – Evan Longoria – 3B - Tampa Bay Rays – 22
Longoria was the Rays first round pick in 2006 out of Long Beach State. Yes, he's a Dirtbag! After signing, he played eight games of Low A ball, then 26 games at Hi-A. He was moved up for the final 28 games of the AA season. There, he hit just .267/.266/.486 and people were wondering if he had lost his plate discipline. Well, he began the 2007 at AA again. This time, he hit .307/.403/.528 with 21 doubles and 21 homers. The walks returned! He moved up to AAA for the final 31 games and hit .269/.398/.490 with eight doubles and five homers. Longoria is ready and the Rays know it. The team will shift Akinori Iwamura to 2B, and BJ Upton will move to CF full time to clear the space for Longoria. Defensively, he is alleged to be in the same category as Ryan Zimmerman. If he can come into the league and have that kind of affect, he will warrant this #1 spot.
Here are the names of a few guys who missed rookie limitation for at bats (130) and will not be rookies in 2008.
Kurt Suzuki - C - Oakland A's -
Curtis Thigpen - C - Toronto Blue Jays
Brendan Ryan - SS - St. Louis Cardinals
Justin Upton - OF - Arizona Diamondbacks
Felix Pie - OF - Chicago Cubs
Josh Fields - OF/3B - Chicago White Sox
Danny Richar - 2B - Chicago White Sox
Travis Metcalf - 3B - Texas Rangers
Other would-be rookies were also considered but did not make the Top 20. Of course, the Rookie of the Year or other top rookies are not always the obvious ones. Here are a couple more guys who are worth watching.
Josh Anderson - OF - Atlanta Braves
Scott Moore - 3B - Baltimore Orioles - They would love to rid themselves of Melvin Mora to let Moore play.
Nolan Reimold - OF - Baltimore Orioles - probably a year away.
Eric Patterson - 2B - Chicago Cubs - Corey's brother is certainly ready, and yet the Cubs are looking at Brian Roberts, so not sure on opportunity.
Jason Pridie - OF - Minnesota Twins - hey, if the Twins decide to keep Johan, Pridie could play a lot of CF.
Sean Rodriguez - SS - LA Angels of Anaheim - good hitter who did well in AFL.
Reid Brignac - SS - Tampa Bay Rays - Bartlett arrival allows Rays to be patient.
Matt Antonelli - 2B - San Diego Padres - One year deal for Tadahito Iguchi gives him another year of development.
Jordan Schafer - OF - Atlanta Braves - He's young, he's incredibly talented. He's close, but he only ended the season at Hi-A, so he's a good year away.
That is it! The SethSpeaks Top 20 Impact Rookies for the 2008season. Do you have any thoughts, let me know. E-mail me.
The plan is to come back at some point in the next week with a look at the Top 20 Impact Rookie pitchers, so be sure to check back from time to time.
And on that note, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found some things that were worth reading and found the Prospect countdown enjoyable. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
Back to Archives Home