Sunday, July 13, 2008

Playing for Keeps: New Top 10 BA Prospects

Heading into the second half of the season, some teams will be looking to add players for a late season push and to make a playoff run. Other teams will being trying to figure out how to reconfigure their roster in order to add more keeper prospects. Which ever mode you’ll be in, you’ll want to know these 10 names – the new top 10 prospect list Baseball America posted this past week. Here are those 10 players and their possible impact this season and beyond.

1. Clayton Kershaw, lhp, 20, Dodgers (AA)
Available to Own: Yes
Owned By: ZOU
Career Numbers: 208.1 IP, 268 K, 2.64 ERA, 1.16 WHIP
Season Numbers: 49.1 IP, 51 K, 2.37 ERA, 1.07 WHIP

Quick Shot: Kershaw dominated as a 19-year-old 163 strikeouts in 122 innings pitched last season – mostly in the Midwest League (A). He has been primarily in the Southern League (AA) this season, but has made eight starts in the big leagues this season (38.2 IP, 33 K, 4.42 ERA, 1.62 WHIP).

Future: Kershaw, like anybody on this list, is expected to have an exceptional big league career. His fantasy prospects are also very high given his exceptional strikeout numbers at such a young age. More time in the big leagues will allowing him to gain better control and become a more effective pitcher. Remember, this kid was in only 20.

Season Stock: Kershaw is difficult piece for the Zou to label. Kershaw may be among his five keepers after this season is over, but Kershaw is probably his best trading piece to a non-contending team in order to pick up much needed offensive help. To add to the issue, Kershaw is not likely to be a player that helps The Zou make it into the playoffs and defend his title. Personally, I think Kershaw is a player to be had for a top infielder or right fielder.

2. David Price, lhp, 22, Rays (AA)
Available to Own: Yes
Owned By: BSI
Career Numbers: 8-0, 60.2 IP, 59 K, 1.63 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Season Numbers: 8-0, 60.2 IP, 59 K, 1.63 ERA, 1.05 WHIP

Quick Shot: Price was the number one overall pick in last year’s June Amateur Draft. He was dominating while at Vanderbilt and hit has carried over into his first full minor league season. While his strikeout rate is not as high as Kershaw’s it is still very strong at nearly one strikeout per inning pitched. Price is expected to be called up to the big leagues in either late-July or August to work out of the Rays bullpen.

Future Stock: Price has the potential to be a one or two starter in a rotation, but will probably not crack the top two for some time with James Shields and Scott Kazmir holding the top two spots in Tampa. The Rays also have starting pitchers Wade Davis, Jeremy Hellickson and Jacob McGee (all three Top 30 prospects) coming up through the system. Still, Price should be a mainstay in the Rays rotation for some time.

Season Stock: Price will carry value as a guy who could pitch on any given day out of the bullpen, strike a lot of people out and not cost sitting relief pitcher due to his starting pitcher eligibility. Price will probably cost more to obtain from the Inoculators because of his current 6-8 record.

3. Matt Wieters, c, 22, Orioles (AA)
Available to Own: No
Owned By: n/a
Career Numbers: .345/.445/.584 with 18 HR in 281 AB
Season Numbers: .345/.445/.584 with 18 HR in 281 AB

Quick Shot: Wieters was drafted by the Orioles last season in the June Draft. He fell to the Orioles because of signability issues and now the Orioles are reaping the benefits. What is impressive about Wieters, ignoring his 1.029 OPS, is he has a 55/52 K/BB ratio. Wieters has also thrown out 25 of 55 would be base stealers and has allowed three passed balls from his catching position.

Future: Wieters is going to be a stud hitter for the Orioles to go along with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts. His ability to hit should also see him getting at bats from the DH spot in the order to keep his bat in the order when he needs some rest. While he isn’t going to maintain a 1.029 OPS over the course of a season, he will certainly provide a ton of power and be a tough out.

Season Stock: Wieters has only had 340 minor league plate appearances in his career with most coming in the Carolina League (HiA). But if he keeps hitting like this, it may be tough for the Orioles to ignore him in September, which means he would be added to the ESPN system. If that happens, expect a mad dash to try to pick him up and for the eventual owner to receive a lot of trade offers in the offseason. With this said, I’d be surprised if he made the big league club out of spring training next year. I think the earliest he sees extended time in the big leagues will be midseason next year.

4. Colby Rasmus, of, 21, Cardinals (AAA)
Available to Own: Yes
Owned By: SPR
Career Numbers: .277/.367/.488 with 63 HR and 72 SB, 21 OF Assists – 19 Errors
Season Numbers: .249/.351/.401 with 11 HR and 13 SB

Quick Shot: Rasmus is a five tool player with potential for greater power and hitting ability. At 21 he still has a ton of development left in his game and his body to become a premier player. This is Rasmus first season in AAA and has just recently hit the DL with a leg injury.

Future: I’m not a scout, but Rasmus has similarities to Carlos Beltran. Though that could be just because he has a ton of tools. Whatever. Anyway, Rasmus is going to be a good player, but he is blocked at the moment by a deep Cardinal outfield (Ankiel, Ludwick and Schumaker). It will be interesting to see what the Cardinals decide to do. At any rate, it makes predicting Rasmus call-up to the big leagues a bit more difficult to predict given that Rasmus really isn’t pounding on the doors at the moment.

Season Stock: His stock for this season is next to nothing. I’d suspect that trading for him from a Cardinals fan would likely be out of the question as well.

5. Jason Heyward, of, 19, Braves (LoA)
Available to Own: No
Owned By: n/a
Career Numbers: .326/.391/.478 with 9 HR and 15 SB
Season Numbers: .329/.396/.476 with 8 HR and 14 SB

Quick Shot: Heyward had just 43 at bats last season in two separate rookie leagues before entering this season. In his first season in the South Atlantic League (A) he is putting strong numbers. He ranks 13th in OPS so far this season.

Future: Heyward’s value comes in his age (18) and his body (6’4”, 220). As his body fills out he should develop more power than he already has now to go along with his good feel for the strike zone. He’s probably a few years away from the big leagues.

Season Stock: None until about 2010.

6. Cameron Maybin, of, 21, Marlins (AA)
Available to Own: Yes
Owned By: FA
Career Numbers: .296/.385/.479 with 35 HR, 17 3B and 69 SB
Season Numbers: .265/.357/.461 with 12 HR, 6 3B and 17 SB

Quick Shot: Maybin is a tremendous talent that was rushed to the big leagues last season in Detroit (promoted from A+ to MLB by Detroit). Maybin has a rare combination of power and speed that will make him very valuable. The downside is he has huge strikeout issues (99 K in 306 AB in AA this season). He will have to reduce that before Florida calls him up to the bigs.

Future: Maybin will likely spend all season in the minors. The earliest I see him coming up is midseason next year, but I don’t think that will happen. Maybin is still just 21-years-old.

Season Stock: Maybin will likely not be a September call-up, but it is not entirely out of the question. He probably is a bit of a risk to keep, but he is available to pick up if you are desperate for options.

7. Matt LaPorta, of, 23, Indians (AA)
Available to Own: No
Owned By: n/a
Career Numbers: .296/.393/.607 with 33 HR and 1.000 OPS
Season Numbers: .292/.401/.575 with 21 HR and a 67/45 K/BB ratio

Quick Shot: LaPorta has tons of power and a decent feel for the strike zone. He is an average defender and doesn’t have a lot of speed. Still, the kid can rake.

Future: LaPorta is very close to being big league ready. His numbers dictate he could handle a jump to AAA today if that is what Cleveland decided to do. It would not be surprising of he was given a September call-up given how he’s playing this season. An outfield with both him and Grady Sizemore in it has insane potential. Add in a healthy Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner and things are looking up in Cleveland.

Season Stock: Given LaPorta’s power he could make things interesting for a contending team if he is called up in September. LaPorta is another one of those guys who may not make the club out of Spring Training next year, but I think he has a better shot than Maybin or Wieters.

8. Rick Porcello, rhp, 19, Tigers (HiA)
Available to Own: No
Owned By: n/a
Career Numbers: 90 IP, 49 K, 2.60 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
Season Numbers: 90 IP, 49 K, 2.60 ERA, 1.18 WHIP

Quick Shot: Porcello is very young (19) and has a ton of upside. This is his first full season in pro ball and he’s doing it in the Florida State League (HiA). Porcello will strikeout more batters as his control improves and he gets a better feel for pitching in the pros.

Future: At he age of 19 and standing at 6’5”, 200 the future is very bright for him. He has the ability to develop three “plus” pitches (Fastball, Curveball, Changeup) and has a decent slider. He’s already toping out at 94 mph on his fastball and has good life to it. He’s going to be REALLY good and was a steal for the Tigers at 23 overall in last year’s draft. Put him in with Detroit’s massive stadium and strong lineup and he’s going to be tough to beat.

Season Stock: He won’t see the bigs until 2010 at the earliest.

9. Andrew McCutchen, of, 21, Pirates (AAA)
Available to Own: Yes
Owned By: FA
Career Numbers: .284/.361/.418 with 85 SB
Season Numbers: .282/.371/.405 with 8 HR and 24 SB

Quick Shot: McCutchen is a toolsy player with very good speed. At 5’11”, 175 there is not a lot of room to grow, limiting his power potential. But McCutchen is expected to develop more power than he has now. McCutchen has a decent arm and can cover a lot of ground in centerfield.

Future: McCutchen should bring lots of run production to the Pirate lineup. This is his first full year in AAA but he has more than 400 at bats at the AAA level. Expect a September call up with McCutchen and a possible Opening Day start next season. This plan could be accelerated if Jason Bay is traded by the deadline.

Season Stock: McCutchen probably won’t have a lot of impact this season but he could be a nice player to have next season. He’d be worth trading for if you need keeper prospects and has added value because of his ability to steal bases and score runs.

10. Travis Snider, of, 20, Blue Jays (AA)
Available to Own: Yes
Owned By: FA
Career Numbers:.299/.370/.514 with 45 HR – 296 K, 114 BB
Season Numbers: .266/.336/.471 with 18 HR

Quick Shot: Snider has a tremendous about of power that should translate to the majors. He does have a massive strikeout problem (120 K in 350 AB – 35 BB). This is going to have to be fixed before he can move up to the big leagues.

Future: Snider has a serious shot at being an Opening Day starter next season in either the OF or DH role. There was some talk he may be called up after the All-Star break as a result of Vernon Wells injury. Either way, he is not too far away from the big leagues.

Season Stock: Once he’s called up Snider will provide a lot of pop to a team willing to deal with his strikeouts. Snider is a bit of a risky keeper if he doesn’t fix his strikeout problem soon.

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