Monday, January 23, 2006

Twins Thoughts





Good Morning! So, Kobe scored 81 points (on 46 shots) last night against Toronto. Nice work! I'm sure your teammates are proud! Speaking of proud, how about NDSU beating #15 Wisconsin 63-55 in Madison on Saturday. The Indians traded OF Coco Crisp to the Boston Red Sox for Andy Marte and Guillermo Mota. (contingent on the Indians making a deal for an outfielder, presumably the Phillies Jason Michaels.) Good deal for both teams, although Crisp has proven to be the real deal. He will take over for Johnny Damon as the Sox starting CF and likely leadoff hitter.


The time has come to start thinking about the 2006 season. I am ready for spring training to start, and we're less than a month away from that. This week, I am going to begin my Fantasy Perspectives series. Normally, I do the rookies and prospects last, but I am going to be switching up the order a little bit this year. Today, I am going to start with the Top 20 Impact Rookies for 2006. 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 2006' portion of the criteria, it does become more difficult. Which prospects are far enough along that they could contribute to the big club in 2006? 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 for this list because they played too much in 2005. Guys like Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit and OF Chris Duffy, Rockies 2B Omar Quintanilla, Braves catcher Brian McCann and Dodgers catcher Dionner Navarro all played too much in 2005. BJ Upton did not play in the big leagues at all in 2005, but he lost his rookie status in 2004. 



SethSpeaks Top 20 2006 Impact Rookies - Hitters


#20 Howie Kendrick 2B - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 22

One of my favorite prospects to follow in 2005, Kendrick seemed to have at least two hits almost every game. He was the Angels 10th round pick in 2002 out of St. Johns River Community College. In the Midwest League in 2004, he hit .367/.398/.576 with 24 doubles, six triples, 10 homers and 49 RBI. He also stole 15 bases. He started 2005 with the team's High Class A team in Rancho Cucomunga. In 63 games, he hit .384/.421/.638 with 23 doubles, six triples, 12 homers, 47 RBI and 12 stolen bases. He was promoted to AA Arkansas for the final 46 games. He hit .342/.382/.579 with 20 doubles, two triples, seven homers, 42 RBI and 12 stolen bases. Oh, and in the AFL, he his .380/.405/.60 with ten doubles, five homers and 17 RBI. No, he doesn't walk much at all, which normally doesn't bode well. But when a guy can just flat-out hit the way Kendrick can, you take your chances. I think Kendrick will be a star! But when? Well, Adam Kennedy is in the final year of his contract, so for sure by 2007. However, Kendrick was added to the 40 man roster, and Adam Kennedy is not one to remain healthy for extended periods of time. So Kendrick could deliver for the Angels in 2006.     


#19 Hanley Ramirez SS - Florida Marlins 22

Ramirez came to the Marlins from the Boston Red Sox with others in exchange for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell. Ramirez had been the Red Sox top prospect since he started playing full-season minor league ball in 2002 in Low A and rookie league ball. In 2004, he hit .310 both in the Florida State League and at AA Portland. He stayed at AA in 2005 and hit .271/.335/.385 with 21 doubles, 7 homers and 6 RBI in 122 games. Not bad numbers, especially for a 21 year old. However, I have never fully understood the fascination with him. It is all about the tools. He is long and lanky and the belief is that as he fills out and gets stronger, his hitting and power will improve and he will become more of a force. To this point, he has not put it together yet. I can see the Marlins wanting to start him out at AAA and giving him some time there so as not to rush him (and also to keep his arbitration time back!).   


#18 Andy Marte 3B Cleveland Indians - 22

Yesterday, the Indians sent Coco Crisp to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for Guillermo Mota and Andy Marte. It is the second time this offseason that Marte has been traded after going from the Braves to the Sox for Edgar Renterria. Marte is another guy who, if this list was Top Prospects for the future, would be much higher, but this is for 2006 impact. Now, the Indians do have Aaron Boone through this season and he is their 3B. However, he could get hurt, or, he could really struggle to start the season, the way he did in 2005, and Marte could be ready. Marte is an interesting prospect because so much of his value has come from being so much younger than his competition. He has put up decent, but not earth-shattering numbers at each of his stops. In 2004 at the age of 20, he hit .269 with 29 doubles and 22 homers at AA. Last year, at 21, he played at AAA and hit .275 with 25 doubles and 20 homers. He also got 57 at bats over 24 games with the Braves (hit .140). But, he has consistently shown power, and he has developed a very good ability to get on-base. The last two years, his Isolated Discipline has been very near 1.00.     

#17 Anderson Hernandez 2B - New York Mets 23

2005 was a breakout year for Hernandez. He started the season at AA Binghamton and in 66 games there, he hit .326/.360/.462 with 14 doubles and seven homers. He moved up to AAA Norfolk where in 66 games, he hit .303/.354/.379 with six doubles, four triples and two homers. Combined, he had 35 stolen bases. He also went 1-18 in six games with the Mets in September. Now, I would like to rank Hernandez much higher. Fact is, he should be the Mets starting 2B. However, they have been unable to trade Kaz Matsui to this point, and because of his massive contract, he will likely be given every chance to start. Also, the team signed Bret Boone to a minor league deal with a spring invite. So, although Hernandez may be most deserving, the Mets are a veteran team who will most likely not go with a rookie at 2B. However, at some point during the season, I think he will be given a shot. 

#16 Conor Jackson 1B Arizona Diamondbacks - 23

Jackson was the Diamondbacks first round pick in 2003 (19th overall) out of the University of California. His junior year there, his OPS was 1.213. He signed quickly and played in 68 games for Yakima, hitting .319 with 35 doubles and six homers. In 2004, he split the season between Hi-A and AA ball hitting over .300 at each stop. He also showed great plate discipline and his power really developed. He started 2005 at AAA Tucson. In 93 games, he his .354/.457/.553 with 38 doubles, 8 homers and 73 RBI. He walked 69 times with just 32 strikeouts. He was called up to Arizona and got 85 at bats in 40 games. He hit .200 with a .403 on-base percentage. He also hit two homers. The Diamondbacks traded Troy Glaus to the Blue Jays and will likely move Chad Tracy back to 3B. Tony Clark could play some 1B after a career year in 2005, but I think Conor Jackson could get more time at 1B.


#15 Jeff Mathis C Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 22

When the Twins took Joe Mauer with the #1 overall pick in the 2001 draft out of high school, some people wanted to put Mathis, taken 33rd overall also out of high school, in the same category. Well, Mauer has separated himself from Mathis, but Mathis is still considered a very solid prospect. After 2003, Mathis was considered a huge prospect, but after he hit just .223 in 2004 at AA, some began to sour on him. But even so, the Angels moved him up to AAA in 2005 and he did very well. In 112 games, he his .276/.340/.499 with 26 doubles, 21 homers and 71 RBI. He even got into five games with the Angels. The team turned the catching duties over to Jose Molina, leaving Mathis is an option for a backup role. If Mathis is able to play well in limited time early in the season, his playing time could increase as the season progresses.


#14 Dan Uggla 2B - Florida Marlins 25

Dan Uggla was one of the big names found in the Arizona Fall League when he hit .304 with 15 extra-base hits. Uggla was taken by the Marlins in the Rule V draft from the Arizona Diamondbacks and has a real chance at significant playing time with the Marlins this year. Uggla was the D-Backs 11th round pick in 2001 out of the University of Memphis. Some college players enter minor league ball and rush through the low levels of the minor leagues. Uggla did not. It took him until 2004 to finally hit well at Class A ball. He ended 2004 in AA, and spent all of 2005 there as well. This year, he hit .297/.378/.502 with 33 doubles, 21 homers and 87 RBI. He also stole 15 bases. The Marlins did sign veteran defensive whiz Pokey Reese to compete for the 2B job. Uggla is not known for his defense, so there may be a scenario in which Uggla will start and Reese comes in as a late inning defensive substitution.      


#13 Delmon Young OF - Tampa Bay Devil Rays 20

If this was a list of the Top 20 prospects in baseball, trying to predict who will be the best player down the road, Delmon Young would be the easy choice for #1 overall. However, this particular list is for the 2006 season contribution. The Devil Rays do have a strong outfield right now with Carl Crawford, Rocco Baldelli, Joey Gathright and Jonny Gomes in place. However, if Aubrey Huff and Joey Gathright get traded, Gomes can move to DH and Young can play in RF. Delmon Young is the younger brother of the Tigers Dmitri Young. Delmon was named Baseball America's 2005 Minor League Player of the Year. He started the year by playing in 84 games at AA Montgomery where he hit .336/.386/.582 with 13 doubles, four triples, 20 homers and 71 RBI. He also stole 25 bases. He then moved up to AAA Durham where he played in 52 more games. He hit .285/.303/.447 with 13 doubles, three triples, six homers and 28 RBI. The lone concern with Young at this point is with his plate discipline, especially after his performance at AAA. In 234 plate appearances at the level, he walked an astonishingly low four times. That said, Young is about ready. I would guess that he will start the season at AAA, but he could be up to the D-Rays by June or July for good. I also think that once he comes up, he could have a Ryan Howard-type affect on the league.     


#12 Andre Ethier OF - Los Angeles Dodgers 23

If there was a definition of an Oakland A's guy, I thought it was found in Andre Ethier. He was the team's 2nd round pick in 2003 out of Arizona State. He is a good hitter who puts together some very quality at bats. He hits for some doubles power, but he has the potential to hit more home runs. In 2005, he played in 131 games at Class AA Midland. He hit .319/.385/.497 with 30 doubles, 18 triples and 80 RBI. But then this offseason, the A's traded the prospect to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Most impressively, he was traded for two big league players. The A's got Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez for Ethier. Now, the Dodgers outfield currently stands with Jayson Werth and Jose Cruz in LF, Kenny Lofton in CF and JD Drew in RF. It would appear difficult for Ethier to make the roster, and I really don't expect him to out of spring training. However, all four of those outfielders have injury histories, and should any need to miss significant time, I would expect Ethier to be the first called up.     


#11 Carlos Quentin OF - Arizona Diamondbacks 23

Quentin was the Diamondbacks top pick in 2003 (29th overall) out of Stanford. He has done nothing but hit since then! In 2004, in 65 games at Class A Lancaster, he hit .310/.428/.562 with 14 doubles, 15 homers and 51 RBI. (he walked 25 times, but was hit by a pitch 27 times!) He moved up to AA El Paso for the final 60 games and hit .357/.443/.533 with 19 doubles, 6 homers and 38 RBI. Again, he walked 18 times and was hit by a pitch 16 times). In 2005, he spent the entire season at AAA Tucson and hit .301/.422/.520 with 28 doubles, 21 homers and 89 RBI. He had 72 walks, 71 strikeouts and 28 HBPs! The Diamondbacks had Luis Gonzalez, who they were unable to trade this offseason, in left field and Shawn Green in right field. For some reason, the team decided to sign free agent Eric Byrnes to a deal for more than two million dollars. Carlos Quentin is ready for an opportunity, and hopefully he will get it in 2006.    


#10 Josh Willingham C - Florida Marlins 26

Another Marlin, Willingham is probably ready for the big leagues now. The team's 17th round pick in 2000 out of the University of North Alabama, Willingham has slowly worked his way up the system. He has shown a few things consistently though. He can hit for some power, and he has an excellent approach at the plate. That can be best shown by looking at his 2004 stats and Class AA Carolina. In 112 games, he hit .289 with 24 homer runs and a .447 on base percentage. Last year at AAA Albuquerque, he his .324 with 19 homers and a .455 on-base percentage. Even in just 56 plate appearances over the last two years, he has a .250 batting average with a .357 OBP. I would guess that he will be the team's #1 catcher, but with the Marlins boasting so many young players, it is hard to predict how much time he will get in 2006.     


#9 Josh Barfield 2B - San Diego Padres 23

We have already had a big leaguer's brother on the list. here is the first of two sons of big leaguers on our list. Josh Barfield was the Padres 4th round pick in 2001 out of high school. He became a big-time prospect in 2003 when he played at Class A Lake Elsinore. In 137 games, he his .337/.389/.530 with 46 doubles, 16 homers and 128 RBI. He also stole 16 bases. He struggled with AA in 2004. His average dropped to just .248. Even with the struggles, he had 28 doubles, 18 homers and 90 RBI. It was enough to move him up to AAA last year when he returned to prospect status. In 137 games, he hit .310/.370/.450 with 25 doubles, 15 homers and 72 RBI. In the offseason, the Padres traded Mark Loretta to the Red Sox. They have brought in a couple of veteran 2B such as Mark Bellhorn to compete with Barfield for the 2B job. His father Jesse was a power-hitting outfielder who hit more than 20 homers in six of his 12 big league seasons. He hit 40 homers once. I see Josh as more of a doubles hitter who should hit for a better batting average (Jesse hit over .263 just three times). Assuming that the Padres will bat him 7th, he should be just fine in 2006.              


#8 Jason Kubel OF Minnesota Twins - 23

Kubel is not just one of the best prospects in baseball, he is one of the most intriguing prospects. He had his monster 2004 season in which he moved from New Britain to Rochester (where he led the International League in batting average) to the Minnesota Twins post season roster. And then came that fateful day in the Arizona Fall League where he shredded his knee. The injury forced him to miss the entire 2005 season. However, he has recently been cleared by team doctors to participate in all baseball activities. When training camp begins in about a month, Kubel will be in the Twins right field competition with Lew Ford and Michael Cuddyer. A case can be made for each. As I have said numerous times, Kubel could be rusty and if he is at all, the team should not hesitate to let him play in Rochester for a month or so. If he does return to his 2004 level of play, he is a definitely candidate for the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year.                      


 #7 Ronny Cedeno SS - Chicago Cubs 22

The Cubs appear ready to hand their starting shortstop job to young Ronny Cedeno. Neifi Perez has said that he is happy being a backup, as long as it is to Cedeno. He put himself on the serious prospect list just last year when he hit .355/.403/.518. He hit just 14 doubles and eight homers. Speed-wise, he stole 11 bases in 14 attempts. He also hit .300 in limited chances (81 at bats in 40 games). It s easy to get excited about a 22 year old who put up those numbers in AAA. However, it is also important to look back at his stats in previous years to see if 2005 is really the type of player that he is. It sure doesn't look like it. His batting averages at four stops between 2001 and 2003 were .196, .218, .213 and .211. Was it simply a case that he was two young for his level in those first few years of his career and now he has put all of his talent together? The Cubs appear to be banking on it. The Twins banked on it with Luis Rivas too, although, he never put up the numbers to support any actual offense.  


#6 Khenji Jojimi C - Seattle Mariners 29

Jojimi is the most recent high profile Japanese export to the Major Leagues. To date, the only one who has not performed at a very high level is the Mets Kaz Matsui. Jojimi has been an All-Star numerous times. He has hit for both power and average, especially the last three years. Last year, he hit .309/.381/.557 with 22 doubles, 24 homers and 57 RBI. The scary part about Jojimi is that he is already 29 years old, and his 2005 season stats were a significant decrease from 2003 and 2004 when he hit over .330 each year with an average of 35 homers. Catchers over 30 tend to drop off quickly. Is it possible that Jojimi has already seen his best days? 


#5 Ian Kinsler 2B - Texas Rangers 23

495 players were drafted before the Rangers selected Ian Kinsler in the 27th round of the 2003 draft out of the University of Missouri. In 2004, he started the season by hitting .402 in 59 games in the Midwest League (Low A). He moved up to AA Frisco and hit .299 with a .401 on-base percentage. Kinsler moved up to AAA Oklahoma in 2005, and moved to 2B from SS where he was Gold-Glove caliber. I remember reading that he had a disappointing 2005 season, but then I looked at his numbers. In 131 games, he hit .274/.348/.464 with 28 doubles, 23 homers and 94 RBI. He also stole 19 bases in 24 attempts. Those numbers should transfer very well into the Texas lineup where he will be replacing Alfonso Soriano.


#4 Jeremy Hermida OF - Florida Marlins 21

I happened to be watching the Marlins August 31st game on ESPN. Late in the game, with the bases loaded, Hermida made his major league debut and launched a line drive over the right field wall for a grand slam. What a great way to start a career! As you've seen above in this list, the Marlins will be using plenty of rookies in 2006, many of which were brought in from other organizations. Hermida was their own #1 pick (11th overall) in 2002. He is a five-tool player and that was evident by his 2005 season at Class AA Carolina. He hit .293 with 29 doubles, two triples, 18 homers and 63 RBI. He stole 23 bases, getting caught just twice. Most impressive was his Isolated Discipline which was .164 which is remarkable (.293 AVG, .457 SLG) He will strike out a lot, but I think he makes up for it with the walks and the power. Hermida should fit into the middle of that revamped Marlins lineup as the team tries to surround and protect Miguel Cabrera.    


#3 Prince Fielder 1B - Milwaukee Brewers 21

The 7th overall pick in the 2002 draft, Prince Fielder has the pedigree to be a big-time power hitter. His father Cecil twice led the American League in home runs. Unlike his father, Prince is actually a solid all-around hitter. Will he hit .300? He has in the minor leagues, and hit .291 at AAA in 2005 as a 21 year old. And power? Absolutely. Last year, he hit 28 homers and AAA and two in the major leagues. The Brewers think so highly of him that they traded Lyle Overbay to the Blue Jays. Brewers fans have been patient with their team's plan the last few years, knowing they have developed one of the better farm systems in the big leagues. Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder will comprise the right side of Milwaukee's infield for a long time.  


#2 Brian Anderson OF - Chicago White Sox 23

When the White Sox traded Aaron Rowand to the Phillies for Jim Thome, they essentially handed Brian Anderson a starting job. Since then, they have traded fellow outfield prospect Chris Young to the D-Backs for Javier Vazquez meaning the Anderson will be given an extended look. In 34 at bats with the White Sox in 2005, he hit just .176, but we can't look at that. He did hit two home runs, in the same game, against the Mariners Felix Hernandez. In 118 games at AAA, he hit .295/.360/.469 with 24 doubles, 16 homers and 57 RBI. He is not a base stealer, but has the speed to play CF. The lone negative in Anderson's game appears to be with strikeouts. In 118 games at AAA, he struck out 115 times. But again, he will get a chance to play every day. Although I don't see him as an All-Star, he will be very solid, possibly matching Aaron Rowand's numbers.      


#1 Ryan Zimmerman 3B - Washington Nationals 21

What a year 2005 was for Ryan Zimmerman! After a junior season at the University of Virginia in which he hit .393/.469/.581 with 18 doubles, four triples, six homers and 59 RBI, Zimmerman was taken by the Nationals with the 4th overall. He signed very quickly and reported to Class A Savannah where he had eight hits (5 extra base hits) in 17 at bats. He moved up to AA Harrisburg where he hit .326 in 63 games. He showed power with 20 doubles and nine homers. That Nationals called him up for September and let him play in 20 games. He hit .397 (23-58) with 20 doubles. That was the Nationals plan right at the  draft and they let it be known. This offseason, they sent 3B Vinny Castilla to the Padres to clear room for Zimmerman as their every day 3B. Zimmerman seems to be the full package. Solid defense to go with being an 'average' hitter with good power.   


In no particular order, here are other 2006 rookies who could have an impact on their teams this year. Remember, the Rookie of the Year frequently goes to someone out of the blue, so it could very easily be someone not even on this list.  

  • Eric Reed - OF - Florida Marlins - Another possible rookie starter for the Marlins.

  • George Kottaras - C - San Diego Padres - offensive catcher reached AA in 2005.

  • Guillermo Quiroz - C - Toronto Blue Jays - Likely backup, depending on if the Jays acquire Bengie Molina.

  • Brandon Wood - SS - Angels - probably still another year away after a HUGE 2006 season.

  • Kendry Morales - 1B - Angels - Cuban defector with big contract. When will he DH for the Angels? Soon!

  • Billy Butler - OF - Kansas City Royals - big-time hitter, probably a year away.

  • Alex Gordon - 3B - Kansas City Royals - 'Husker 3B was taken #2 overall, ahead of Zimmerman, and could move quickly.

  • Stephen Drew - SS - Arizona Diamondbacks - will move up the system very quickly. I expect him by September.

  • Lastings Milledge - OF - New York Mets - if he were with another team, I would have him high on the list! Amazing talent! LF in '07?

  • Ian Stewart - 3B - Colorado Rockies - big hitter, but Garrett Atkins likely did enough in 2006 for Rockies to remain patient.

  • Joel Guzman - SS - Los Angeles Dodgers - solid at AA, but with all the Dodgers F/A signings, where does he fit?

  • Felix Pie - OF - Chicago Cubs - With the trade for Juan Pierre and the signing of Jacque Jones, what happens with Pie?

That is it! The SethSpeaks Top 20 Impact Rookies for the 2006 season. Do you have any thoughts, let me know. E-mail me.

My plan is to come back tomorrow with a look at the Top 20 Impact Rookie pitchers, a list the Twins fans may be interested in seeing.




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