Friday July 25, 2003
TWINS (And other baseball) THOUGHTS
Top Prospect Update
Every spring, Baseball America comes out with its Top 10 Prospects for each organization. In addition, they rank the Top 100 Prospects in all of baseball, regardless of team. The rankings are done in a way that they project who the best major leaguers will be, not who had the best minor league seasons.
In Moneyball, the Baseball America rankings came under some fire though. Baseball America projects prospects. The Oakland A’s use statistics, especially On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage and Walk/Strikeout Ratios. That’s why Jeremy Brown has become such a household name!
Sometimes these rankings prove correct, other times, they’re not even close. Let’s look quickly at the Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects from 5 years ago (1998) and 10 years ago (1993) and see how they did.
1993 Top 10 Prospects
1.) Chipper Jones, SS, Braves – I would say this was a Very Good Selection!
2.) Brien Taylor, LHP, Yankees - Got in a bar fight, hurt his arm, and never threw again!
3.) Cliff Floyd, OF, Expos - I’d say it’s a pretty good pick!
4.) Carlos Delgado, C, Blue Jays - Definitely a good pick! He’s a leading candidate for AL MVP this year.
5.) Tim Salmon, OF, Angels - Very solid career! Injuries have held him back. Hard to believe he’s never made an All-Star team.
6.) Wil Cordero, SS, Expos - Never reached the hype to warrant this ranking, but he’s not terrible.
7.) Todd Van Poppel, RHP, A’s - Brought up too quickly, never reached the “potential” envisioned for him!
8.) Jason Bere, RHP, White Sox - Has had his moments, but too many injuries.
9.) Allen Watson, LHP, Cardinals - Injuries derailed his career. Pitched very little in the big leagues.
10.) Tyrone Hill, LHP, Brewers - Very similar to Watson. Injuries meant little pitching in The Show.
Others - 12.) Dmitri Young, 13.) Manny Ramirez, 20.) Javy Lopez, 38.) Mike Piazza, 44.) Derek Jeter, 47.) Shawn Green, 62.) Pedro Martinez, 95.) Bobby Abreu, 97.) Bret Boone.
1998 Top 10 Prospects
1.) Ben Grieve, OF, A’s - Solid with the A’s, but disappointing since going to Tampa.
2.) Paul Konerko, 1B/3B, Dodgers - Came on for 3 solid years for the White Sox, disappointing this year.
3.) Adrian Beltre, 3B, Dodgers - “Potential” is still the word with him. He’s been decent, but never this great!
4.) Kerry Wood, RHP, Cubs - Very good pick! Injuries cost him over a year, but he’s back again, and was an All-Star this season!
5.) Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Pirates - 2001 was great. He’s very good, and now he’s a Cub!
6.) Matt White, RHP, Devil Rays - Bonus Baby for D-Rays, has done nothing!
7.) Kris Benson, RHP, Pirates - 1996 #1 pick, was very good before Tommy John surgery. He’s back now, but nowhere near 100%.
8.) Travis Lee, 1B, Diamondbacks - Another Bonus Baby Twins fans are more than familiar with. He was OK for one year in Philly! Released after they signed Thome. Now in Tampa.
9.) Carl Pavano, RHP, Expos - has had moments, but nothing spectacular. Now in Florida.
10.) Miguel Tejada, SS, A’s - 2002 AL MVP. Struggling this year, but is a solid performer.
Others - 11.) Todd Helton, 25.) Eric Milton, 30.) Eric Chavez, 36.) Troy Glaus, 38.) Roy Halladay, 56.) Magglio Ordonez, 64.) Lance Berkman.
So, what can we learn from these Prospects lists? It’s a crap shoot. To rank these classes of prospects by their Top 10 representatives probably wouldn’t be fair. In 1993, three of the top 10 became All-Stars, six, maybe seven, could be said to have made a contribution to their major league clubs. From 1998, 3 have been All-Stars and 9 can be said to have contributed to the major league club. In each list, some ‘better’ major league players were ranked below some of the others though.
So, what I want to do is take a look at Baseball America’s 2003 Top 20 Prospects and discuss how their 2003 seasons are going. To truly evaluate Baseball America’s success, we’ll have to wait at least five, and maybe even ten years, to be fair.
2003 Top 20 Prospects -
1.) Mark Teixeira, 3B, Rangers - Made the Rangers’ opening day roster and really struggled out of the gate. He wasn’t getting consistent playing time and really didn’t have a position. Hank Blalock was doing so well at 3B. Rafael Palmiero either plays 1B or DH. So, to get Texeira’s bat in the lineup, he has played 3B, 1B, DH, and even in the OF. Now he’s getting consistent playing time and really contributing well. His numbers are .260/.343/.474, with 14 doubles, 14 home runs and 45 RBI.
2.) Rocco Baldelli, OF, Devil Rays - Wasn’t even on the Top 100 List in 2002, Baldelli was the Baseball America Player of the Year in 2002 and climbed to this spot. And he’s proving worthy of that lofty position. Sure, he’s slowed down from the near-.350 clip he was on much of the first half of the season, but he’s still playing well (.304/.334/.445). He’s added 20 doubles, 7 triples, 7 home runs and 45 RBIs… and 18 stolen bases. Comparisons to Joe Dimaggio probably aren’t fair, but physically, the resemblance is there.
3.) Jose Reyes, SS, Mets - The 19 year old started the season at AAA Norfolk. In 42 games there, he hit just .269/.333/.356 with 26 stolen bases. The Mets mess and need to change their plans allowed them to call him up to the big leagues. In 35 games now with the big club, Reyes is playing a decent shortstop. So far, he’s hitting just .267/.277/.363. Like Baldelli, Reyes apparently does not like to walk, with just 3 walks in 138 plate appearances. He did hit a grand slam in his first week with the Mets.
4.) Joe Mauer, C, Twins - I think we all know plenty about Joe Mauer, the #1 catching prospect in baseball. He was taken ahead of Mark Prior in the 2001 draft. Hasn’t hit for power yet. But, let’s just look at his numbers this year. He started the season and played in 63 games at High-Class A Ft. Myers and hit .336/.400/.413, with 26 walks and 24 strikeouts. He and JD Durbin were called up to AA New Britain in mid-June. In 31 games there to date, Mauer is hitting .351/.407/.495. There he has 8 walks and 9 strikeouts. He’s a star in the making! He played in this year’s Futures Game. He probably will again next year, and could be in Minnesota by the end of next year, if not sooner!
5.) Jesse Foppert, RHP, Giants - Foppert only has been a pitcher for a couple of years after being drafted as a first baseman. He did start the season at AAA Fresno and pitched in just one game, 5 innings, before being called up to the Giants. In the big leagues, Foppert has certainly had ups and downs, but for the most part has done alright. His record is 6-8, and he has an ERA of 5.53. In 84 innings, he has struck out 81 batters. The problems so far are the 54 walks, and the 13 home runs, he has given up. With Kurt Ainsworth and Jerome Williams, the Giants have the makings of a dominant, young pitching staff.
6.) Jose Contreras, RHP, Yankees - A refugee from Cuba, Contreras was signed to a 4 year, $32 million contract. He did make the Yankees bullpen coming out of spring, but he struggled mightily. There was an argument between Joe Torre and George Steinbrenner as to whether or not to send him to AAA. Well, long story short, he eventually did get to AAA, and in 3 starts at Columbus, Contreras went 2-0, with a 1.20 ERA. He came back to the big leagues and was in the starting rotation. His numbers in 10 games, 2 starts, were 3-1, with a 4.62 ERA. In 25 innings, he has 26 strikeouts. Unfortunately, Contreras developed arm problems and has been on the disabled list for a couple months.
7.) Brandon Phillips, 2B, Indians - Given the 2B job right out of spring training, Phillips has struggled the whole season. He played in 88 games for the Indians and accumulated 300 at bats. But, his average was at just .210, with an OP% of .242 and a SLG% of .307. He had 15 doubles and 4 home runs. Last week, Phillips was finally sent back to AAA Buffalo, after the demotion had been rumored for over a month! In 6 games down in Buffalo, Phillips is just 3 for 18, but the demotion is probably the best thing for him. He’ll be able to go back there and play all the time. When he comes back, and even next year, he’ll be more ready!
8.) Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees - He has played in all 100 Yankees games this season. After a very slow start, Matsui has really come on in the last couple of months. Matsui was a starter in the All-Star game this month, primarily due to the Japanese voting, but let’s take a look at his numbers. He’s somehow quietly having a very solid year! He’s hitting .300/.357/.450. VERY strong numbers, especially for a player adjusting to a new league, while adjusting to a new lifestyle. He has hit 31 doubles, and has 10 home runs and 70 RBI!
9.) Gavin Floyd, RHP, Phillies - The #5 pick in the 2001 draft (behind Mauer, Prior, Brazelton and Teixeira), Floyd is definitely a top pitching prospect. He was one of the pitchers most talked about at the Futures Game. He has spent this whole season with the Clearwater Phillies, their High-Class A affiliate. He has started 14 of the 17 games he’s pitched in there. He’s 7-5, with a 2.56 ERA. In 105 innings, he has 90 strikeouts and 35 walks.
10.) Francisco Rodriguez, RHP, Angels - K-Rod burst onto the scene in last year’s playoffs, helping (along with Brendan Donnelly, Ben Weber, and Troy Percival in that bullpen) the Angels to the World Series title. With huge expectations coming into the year, Rodriguez really struggled at the beginning of the season. But, his stuff is too good, and so his numbers have dropped drastically in the last couple of months. In 36 games in relief, Rodriguez has a 5-2 record, with a 3.04 ERA. In 53 1/3 innings, he has struck out 52 hitters.
11.) Scott Kazmir, LHP, Mets - Kazmir was a first round draft pick in 2002. He would have been a top 5 pick, but his signability was in question. The Mets are being very cautious with him, keeping him under a very strict pitch count in Low-Class A. So far this year, he has made 18 starts. His record is 4-4, with an ERA of just 2.36. Most impressively, in 76 1/3 innings, he has 105 strikeouts and just 28 walks.
12.) Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Marlins - Peter Gammons calls him Monster Miguel. He is a big-time hitting prospect. He started the year at AA Carolina and played 69 games there. There he hit .365/.429/.609, with 29 doubles, 10 home runs and 59 RBI. The Marlins had him skip AAA, and because of the presence of All-Star 3B Mike Lowell, have Miguel Cabrera playing in the OF, learning the OF at the big-league level. In 28 games so far with the Marlins, Cabrera is hitting .232/.294/.495 with 7 doubles. Yesterday, Cabrera hit his 5th home run.
13.) Casey Kotchman, 1B, Angels – Another product of the 2001 draft, Baseball America has recently ranked Kotchman as the #1 1B prospect in the minor leagues (because Justin Morneau got called up). He is known as a sweet swinging hitter, much like Joe Mauer. The only problem Kotchman has had is health. Back problems ailed him in high school. He had wrist problems his first two minor league seasons. And, this year, his hamstring tore, so he’s again missed playing time. He played 28 games at High-Class A Rancho Cucamonga and hit .330/.424/.510, with 6 doubles and 4 home runs in 100 at bats.
14.) Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins - Morneau was probably the top hitting prospect in all of baseball when he was called up to the Twins in early June. At AA New Britain, he hit .329/.384/.620 with 3 doubles and 6 home runs in just 79 at bats in 20 games. He was quickly called up to AAA Rochester and continued to mash the ball. There, he played in 37 games and hit .297/.377/.623, with 6 doubles and 13 home runs. At that time, the Twins had no choice but to call him up and put him into their every day lineup. And that was the case for awhile, but as I have written about too much, Morneau is getting way too much bench time for a top prospect and should either play, or be sent to AAA where he can play. Morneau has 83 at bats in 29 games. He is currently hitting .241/.300/.373, with 2 doubles, 3 homers and 12 RBI.
15.) Jason Stokes, 1B, Marlins - Stokes has played the whole season in the High-Class A Florida State League for the Jupiter Hammerheads. He’s hitting .267/.323/.461, with 24 doubles, 13 homers and 73 RBI. He had a cyst removed from his wrist in the offseason, which contributed to his slow start. Since the beginning of June, he has been crushing the ball again, allowing the Marlins to trade 1B Adrian Gonzalez in the Ugueth Urbina deal.
16.) Victor Martinez, C, Indians - Martinez has been a great hitter the last couple of minor league seasons. He is 24 years old, so not as young as most of the players on this list. But, he started the season at AAA Buffalo, and played in 73 games there before being recalled to the Indians. He has now played in 17 games and has 59 at bats for the big club. At this point, he is hitting .220/.270/.254 with 2 doubles. It’s just a small sample, and I’m sure that by year’s end, he’ll have put up some very solid numbers.
17.) Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins - Coming into the season, Cuddyer was one at bat shy of losing his rookie status. After proving last year at the end of the season and in the playoffs that he was able to hit big league pitching, Ron Gardenhire was going to give him the RF job out of spring training. He got less than 73 at bats as the starting RF, before Gardy gave up on him and started Dustan Mohr instead, leaving Cuddyer on the bench. In his time with the Twins, Cuddyer hit .233/.317/.397, with 3 triples and 2 homers. Finally, he was sent down to AAA where he could play consistently. He was hitting well there, .325/.440/.438, before a hamstring injury forced him to Ft. Myers for full-time rehabbing. Hopefully Cuddyer will fully recover from this injury and start playing again soon. When he was sent to AAA, he played 1B, 3B, 2B, LF, RF, and DH.
18.) Adam Wainwright, RHP, Braves - More pitching is coming for the Braves. They lost Tom Glavine, Kevin Millwood and Damion Moss from last season’s rotation. They replaced them with Mike Hampton, Russ Ortiz and Horacio Ramirez. Wainwright projects to be as good as any of them. He has spent this whole season at AA Greenville. He has started 19 games and is 5-7 with a 3.93 ERA. In 100 2/3 innings, Wainwright as struck out 92 hitters.
19.) Hanley Ramirez, SS, Red Sox - Ramirez is very young, and is playing this season at Low-Class A Augusta. He has played in 78 games and is hitting .274/.321/.416, with 18 doubles and 6 homers. He has also swiped 24 bases. In 71 games at SS, he has committed 25 errors though, so he’s got a long way before he reaches the majors.
20.) Jeremy Bonderman, RHP, Tigers - Just 2 years ago, Bonderman went to his Junior prom. Following that school year, he took and passed the GED, and became eligible for the draft because he was already 18 years old. He went in the late 1st round to the Oakland A’s, and a year later was shipped to the Tigers with Carlos Pena. This season, he performed well enough in spring training to make the Tigers opening day roster. The Tigers are bad, so you have to judge his numbers with that in mind. That, and he was playing A ball last year. So far, he has made 19 starts and is 3-14 with a 5.38 ERA. In 105 1/3 innings, he has 78 strikeouts and 32 walks. He is on pace for 22 or 23 losses on the season, but the Tigers have already said they will be careful with his inning count and won’t let him pitch too many, since he is just 20 years old.
So there you have it, a little update on Baseball America’s Top 20 Prospects for 2003. Again, it’s impossible to predict how good these players will be in 5 years. But, I would say that these 20 players are all off to a good start. And, there are plenty of other top prospects that didn’t make the top 20. For example, A’s phenom Rich Harden was #29. Twins OF Michael Restovich was #37. NL All-Star, Dontrelle Willis was ranked #43, one ahead of Padres OF, Xavier Nady, who was a NL Rookie of the Year candidate the first couple of months of the season. He was just sent down the other day to make room for Phil Nevin to come off the DL.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the update. If you have any questions or comments on this, e-mail me and let me know! I hope to do at least one ‘prospect’ report every week or so.
TWINS (and other baseball) THOUGHTS –
Don’t miss tomorrow’s This Week in Baseball, where the Twins Jacque Jones will be the host!!
Well, the Twins home stand is over, and they went 6-2 against 3 of the American League’s best teams (Oakland 4-0, Seattle 1-1, and the Royals 1-1). Coming out of the break, I would have been thrilled had you told me the Twins would go 6-2 in these 8 games.
Today, Brad Radke pitched great. He gave up a run-scoring triple to Raul Ibanez in the 1st inning. From there, though, he retired the next 17 batters in order, until Ibanez hit a solo home run to tie the game at 2.
Jacque Jones went 3-4, with a homer, and big 2 run double in the 4-run 8th inning for the Twins.
Torii Hunter hit another home run. He has been crushing the ball since the break (and maybe not coincidentally, since I traded him from my fantasy baseball team!).
Justin Morneau actually got to DH against lefty Darrell May. He was 0-4, but it was good that he was in the lineup. Matthew Lecroy was behind the plate catching Radke.
AJ Pierzynski got a big pinch hit single though in the 8th inning.
The Twins now start a 3 game series in Cleveland before an off-day on Monday. It is their last off-day for 3 weeks!
Other Baseball -
How amazing is Barry Bonds? It’s really remarkable what he continues to do. Yesterday, he celebrated his 39th birthday with a walkoff home run in the bottom of the 9th, his 33rd homer of the year. Equally impressive was the defensive play he made the inning before. With Craig Counsell, the go-ahead run, on 2nd base, a single was hit to left. Bonds charged the ball well, and came up throwing to the plate, where Counsell was out on a perfect throw by Bonds. Some time ago, I did a report on Who is the Greatest Hitter of All-Time? I looked at 8 players who are generally considered to be the best. At that time, Barry Bonds finished 4th by my calculations, just above Hank Aaron. (check out the report to see the Top 3!) I think it’s fair to say that now, another ˝ season of Bonds amazing stats later, Bonds would be the clear #4 best all-time hitter. And, the Top 3 are all arguable, because they played during the era when not all of the best players were even allowed to play in the major leagues. Let me just say that Barry Bonds is amazing! I think with all of the media that we have access to, what Bonds is doing is almost being overlooked. What he’s doing is up there with baseball’s all-time greats! He’s a legend that we get to see highlights of every single day!!! We’re pretty lucky!
Has anyone noticed how hot Sammy Sosa has been of late? When he was suspended for using a corked bat, he had just 7 home runs. Sosa yesterday hit his 21st homer of the season. He is another amazing hitter that we should appreciate probably more than we do!
Updating a posting I had a couple of weeks ago, where I mocked the Twins for a ‘big signing’, Kevin Young was released by the Twins a few days ago. He needed to be with his ailing wife, and was only staying with the Twins organization for a month anyway, unless he got called up. The Twins replaced him with Ryan MacGuire, a minor league journeyman.
I also wrote a 2 part article on “Where are the now? (former Twins hitters and pitchers)”. Since the Pittsburgh Pirates traded “All-Star closer” Mike Williams, former Twins pitcher, Mike Lincoln has become the Pirates primary closer. So far, he’s done well. In the last week, Lincoln recorded his first career save, and is now 3 for 3 in save opportunities. He is 1-0, with a 1.26 ERA.
First, I would encourage everyone to check out today’s Twins Geek posting. First, of all, as always, John brings a lot of very interesting Twins things to light. Today, he discusses the Twins horrid starting pitching and other topics. But, he has also posted a poll question regarding how Chris Gomez should be used when Corey Koskie is deemed ready to play. So, be sure to check it out and vote in his poll.
And secondly, check out Aaron’s Baseball Blog. On it, he has links to many really good sites, and categorizes them into groupings. A few weeks ago, I had moved up from the ‘Minor Leagues’ to the ‘Pinch Hitters’. But, I happened to notice that now, he has moved this site from ‘Pinch Hitters’ to ‘Everyday Players’! So, thanks, Aaron! Next up, “Hall of Fame Blogs.” I’m not sure what it’ll take to get to that lofty level, but I’ll sure try! Hey, I’ve moved up two levels in less than two months of writing for this site. I’m happy with that!
Well, that’s what I’ve got for today. If you have any comments on anything, e-mail me your thoughts!
Happy Friday! Have a great and enjoyable weekend!
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