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Top 50 MLB Players Age 25 Or Under

 Top 50 MLB Players Age 25 Or Under
topic by kyhoopsgoat - 12-01-2011, 10:53 PM - Boxden > BX SportsCenter



Justin Upton, who finished fourth in the NL MVP voting, is just scratching the surface of his talent.

In September, my colleague Bill Simmons, (who has his own site to play with now) suggested to me on his podcast that I rank the top 50 MLB players age 25 and under for 2012. Listeners were enthusiastic about the idea, so here it is.

This ranking only includes players who have lost their Rookie of the Year eligibility, but were born on or after July 1, 1986. (That's the cut-off for a player's seasonal age.) That means that rising prospects (such as Bryce Harper) are not represented on this list -- they will be ranked in our annual Prospect Rankings, coming in mid-January.

I've ranked these players with an eye towards their peak rather than short-term value, and without regard to contracts, service time, or scheduled free agency. Therefore, you will see some players on here who were good in 2011 ranked below players who weren't so good, an indication that I like the next six years (roughly) from the second group more than I like the next six years from the first. It's subjective, and I even left off players I really like because I ran out of room. Thanks to all of you who've been asking for this list for the last two months -- I hope it meets your expectations.

Note: Ages listed are as of Dec. 1, 2011.

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1
Justin Upton
RF
24

Analysis: Upton was an MVP candidate for most of the season until Matt Kemp pulled away in September (and the voters went all retro by deciding the MVP had to be on a playoff team, d'oh). He still has a significant amount of upside left as he continues to get stronger and to refine his approach at the plate. His walk rate slipped in 2011, but he dramatically increased his contact rate, and traded some ground balls (and double plays) for fly balls (and doubles and homers). He's a five-tool player who would probably play center on some clubs, with several 30-homer seasons ahead of him; a .310/.400/.570 peak isn't out of the question.

2
Andrew McCutchen
CF
25

Analysis: McCutchen was headed for stardom in fits and starts before 2011, when he showed improvement across the board, posting career bests in walks and home runs while also having his best defensive year in center. He saw more pitches per plate appearance in 2011, but was also more aggressive when behind in the count; improving in the latter situations would be one key to producing a few monster seasons over the next five years.

He has some of the best wrist acceleration in the game, producing hard line-drive contact and 20-25 home runs in a park that k!lls right-handed power. He doesn't have the offensive upside of Upton and is slightly older, but adds more defensive value and could explode if he gets to a park better suited to his bat.

3
Mike Stanton
RF
22

Analysis: Stanton was the third-youngest regular in the National League in 2011, yet finished fifth in the circuit in home runs while playing in a home park that was never friendly to the longball. He has crazy raw power and it has translated to games from the moment he got into pro ball, which is when the Marlins cleaned up his swing to help him keep his strikeout rate under control.

He's not much of a runner but is otherwise athletic for his size, playing an above-average right field with a solid arm. The improvement in his approach over the past few years coupled with his youth and his enormous power make him a threat to win MVP awards in a couple of seasons.

4
Buster Posey
C
24

Analysis: I'm a$suming that Posey remains a catcher after the leg injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season and probably k!lled the Giants' season as well, given that they often couldn't find eight competent hitters to fill out a lineup.

Posey can hit, get on base, catch, and throw, and is good for double-digit homers, which is extremely valuable at a position where some teams are left with the choice between an elastic net and Jeff Mathis. If his leg recovers physically, Posey can catch again and probably stay back there into at least his late 20s, after which he could move to any of a number of positions where his bat would still be valuable.

5
Clayton Kershaw
LHP
23

Analysis: He's the most valuable young pitcher in baseball and is coming off a tremendous 2011 season where he ripped through major league hitters (and the Giants) en route to leading the NL in strikeouts, while dropping his walk rate by more than half over 2009.

He combines a plus fastball, an out-pitch slider, an above-average slower curveball that he's set aside in favor of the slider, and solid-average changeup with that newfound control for a package that is extremely tough to hit for both left- and right-handed hitters. Kershaw's arm works well, he has a strong build and frame, and the Dodgers have handled him carefully, finally letting him loose this year as his walk rate plummeted. I can't guarantee any pitcher will stay healthy, but I like Kershaw's odds to do so, and to put up a few more seasons like 2011 along the way.

6
Starlin Castro
SS
21

Analysis: Castro is an extremely gifted hitter, leading the NL in hits (and at-bats) despite being the youngest regular in the circuit, and is going to come into more power over the next few years as he fills out.

He has outstanding hand-eye coordination and the bat control you'd expect from that, keeping his hands inside the ball well and adjusting to off-speed pitches like a big-league veteran. He's an average runner at best and not a high-percentage basestealer, so he'll either have to improve his reads or stop making so many attempts.

The biggest issue for Castro is that his lower half is already slow, and if he gets thicker and slows down further, it'll guarantee he moves off short and could in theory keep him from second base as well, although his arm is strong enough to play anywhere on the field. He's likely to keep posting .300 averages and should end up with 20-plus homers and slugging percentages around .500, perhaps even better if he can work on getting into better counts.

7
Eric Hosmer
1B
22

Analysis: Hosmer had a solid big league debut in 2011 as the American League's youngest regular, but it only represents a fraction of what he's capable of producing. He's very strong and has great hip rotation to produce power to all fields, and showed great pitch recognition on his way up the Royals' system before an early promotion in May.

The surprise of his year on offense was that he didn't get walks as often as he did in the minors, which could be just a young player making adjustments, or commensurate with a team philosophy that doesn't value getting on base. Hosmer's an agile first baseman with a plus arm (he was up to 94 as a pitcher in high school) who'd probably be fine in right field, although the Royals show no inclination to move him. His ceiling is an Adrian Gonzalez-type of player, adding value through average, walks, power, and defense, but with a little more speed as well.

8
Stephen Strasburg
RHP
23

Analysis: He has three plus pitches and one of the fastest-accelerating arms I have ever seen. In his brief time back in the majors in September, he looked like his stuff was all the way back, but it could be a year or more until his command returns to where it was before his elbow gave out, and the Nationals will likely hold down his workload for at least 2012.

If we knew he'd stay healthy, he'd be closer to the top of the list, but pitchers who experience the kind of sudden velocity spike Strasburg did after high school don't have great track records of extended health. Let's hope Strasburg, whose arm works well and has a reputation for working hard on maintaining his conditioning, is the exception.

9
Madison Bumgarner
LHP
22

Analysis: Two years ago, Bumgarner looked like a potential bust, as his velocity disappeared during the second half of 2009 with no apparent explanation, and he didn't get it all back until after the start of the 2010 season. Whatever the reason was -- and we still don't know, although it barely matters at this point -- his velocity is back, as is the plus slider that he didn't even learn until his senior year of high school.

Bumgarner's arm action is a little long, and he comes around at a low slot. However, he gets his hand up to give the slider a little tilt, and combined with a velocity close to that of his fastball, the offering is tough to hit. Throw in plus control -- he only walked six left-handed batters all year -- and he's a hidden ace, unknown only because he pitches behind two other aces in San Francisco's stacked rotation.

10
Brett Lawrie
3B
21

Analysis: He may not hit like he did in 2011 for a full season (.953 OPS in 171 PAs), but his first taste of the majors was pretty impressive for a 21-year-old coming off a hand injury and jumping into baseball's toughest division.

Lawrie had a big off-season before 2011, changing organizations and agents, and concerns about his coachability disappeared. With Toronto, he showed he can murd3r a fastball, added value on the bases (he's a plus runner despite his muscular build), and played a surprisingly strong third base. He's going to see a lot more off-speed stuff in 2012, and will have to improve his recognition of and/or ability to hit those pitches. But the ceiling here just keeps going up, and a peak with a .400 OBP, 30-plus homers, and 20-plus steals is within reach, with above-average or better defense at third.

11
Mike Trout
CF
20

Analysis: Trout was the top prospect in baseball coming into 2011, and only misses repeating that title by a few days of service time that disqualify him from rookie status in 2012.

Irregular playing time in Anaheim didn't help his performance, and we saw glimpses that reminded us just how young he is. Trout has explosive speed that plays on both sides of the ball, and if Peter Bourjos wasn't there the Angels would still have a plus defender in center in Trout.

At the plate, Trout has an outstanding approach, but became impatient in the big leagues, chasing off-speed stuff out of the zone when he fell behind in the count. Given how patient he was in the minors, I'm chalking that up to his youth and the Angels' philosophy at the time. Given a few years of development in the big leagues, Trout will rank among the league leaders in OBP and provide plus defense anywhere he plays in the outfield, with the chance to steal 50 or more bases each year.

12
Jason Heyward
RF
22

Analysis: This was a lost year for Heyward, whose swing was a disaster all season, probably a hangover from the shoulder problem that first cropped up in 2010. To compensate, he altered his swing so that his first movement sends his hands -- and the bat -- down at the ball, producing groundballs at a scary rate so that his power doesn't play.

His patience remained intact, and he's still a plus defender in right. But that swing change meant he wasn't driving balls, especially not fastballs, and dragged down his entire offensive line. Heyward is still very young -- just three NL qualifiers were younger in 2011 -- and if he can get his swing back to where it was at the start of 2010, he can still become an MVP candidate with high OBPs and 25-30 homers a year.

13
Cameron Maybin
CF
24

Analysis: Maybin's tremendous 2011 was partly obscured by Petco Park, a graveyard for hitters where Maybin hit just .231 with only two of his nine homers. On the road he hit .294/.349/.457, and of course played plus defense everywhere, quite critical given Petco's large outfield.

Maybin still has his holes at the plate; his swing gets long, and he'll chase the slider all day, hitting just .178/.219/.264 in plate appearances that ended with a slider (per Bloomberg Sports). At 24, he's still just the seventh-youngest qualifier in the NL last year, and finally has a full-time job he doesn't have to worry about losing. Even with the tough park, he'll grow into 20-homer power to go with the speed and plus defense.

14
Dustin Ackley
2B
23

Analysis: In 90 games in the majors, Ackley was one of the most valuable rookies in the American League despite faltering in September in his second (and longest) pro season in which he tallied more than 700 plate appearances.

He's always had a simple, smooth swing and the hand-eye coordination to make a lot of contact, but started keeping his weight back better in 2010, which raises his power projection to the 15-20 home range. (Safeco Field is a pitcher's park overall, but primarily depresses right-handed power.)

One scout who saw him shortly before and after his callup said his defense changed like someone had "flipped a switch," from looking like he'd have to move to left in Triple-A to having a chance to be an average defender in the big leagues. Even if that's all he is on defense, a second baseman who projects to hit .300 with a solid OBP, 20 homers, and 20-30 steals is a very valuable property.

15
Desmond Jennings
OF
25

Analysis: Prior to this year, Jennings had never played in more than 132 games in a season due to a variey of injuries. He finally stayed healthy in 2011 and shined in his first extended big league stint. (Although staying healthy for a full season might have led to fatigue that caused him to hit .160/.258/.245 in September.) Even with that final month, Jennings hit 22 homers, drew 76 walks and stole 37 bases in 585 plate appearances across Triple-A and the majors, while playing above-average defense in center (in Triple-A) and left (in the majors).

He keeps his weight back well with solid hip rotation for average to above-average power to go along with his quick bat and strong plate discipline. His ability to adjust to soft stuff away was particularly impressive. He's not far from his ceiling -- a solid-average glove, OBP in the high .300s, 20-25 homers, and 30-40 steals.


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26 comments for "Top 50 MLB Players Age 25 Or Under"


 12-01-2011, 10:54 PMaway - #2
kyhoopsgoat 331 heat pts331

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16
Logan Morrison
LF/1B
24

Analysis: Morrison hit .291/.395/.480 in full-season ball in the minors, including time recovering from a broken wrist, then put up a similar line with a little less power in 2010 in the majors.

He has very quick hands, so he can wait on the ball before committing, and generates big power with his lower half. He didn't hit for the same average in 2011, but had a foot injury early in the year that explains at least part of it, and being jerked around by ownership didn't help either, including a punitive demotion that triggered an ongoing grievance.

Morrison has outstanding plate discipline, plus power, and will play at least an average first base if he ever gets the chance. He's a future star, and if the Marlins are too concerned with showing him who's boss to notice, they should give him a chance to succeed somewhere else.

17
Brett Anderson
LHP
23

Analysis: Anderson was hurt in 2010, tried to rehab and pitch around it, still wasn't himself in 2011, and finally succumbed in July, having Tommy John surgery that will keep him out for much of 2012. But when healthy, he is among the game's most promising young starters, and only turns 24 in February, giving him plenty of time to recover from the surgery and est@blish himself among the American League's elite.

He'll touch 94 when healthy with a knockout slider (that he throws a lot -- not ideal for the elbow) and solid-average curve and changeup, and has the command and feel you'd expect from the son of a pitching coach. Only health really holds him back from pitching at or near the top of a rotation.

18
Alex Avila
C
24

Analysis: Avila received some down-ballot MVP votes this year, and deservedly so, as a good defensive catcher who produced at a level that would have profiled at first base, hitting for average, getting on base, and showing average power.

Avila would have made the big leagues even without the offense as a plus receiver who has thrown out just under a third of opposing runners the last two years. He was given more playing time this and showed more patience at the plate. His only real weakness is that he remains susceptible to good breaking stuff from left-handers. I think he can hold this level for several years, which would keep him on MVP ballots, but he doesn't have the upside of some of the younger guys ahead of him on this list.

(By the way, if you're looking for Matt Wieters, he turns 26 in May, which disqualifies him from this list.)

19
Pablo Sandoval
3B
25

Analysis: It looks like 2010 was the outlier year, although given Sandoval's allergy to the walk, his down years in batting average on balls in play will always be magnified because his OBP will become unacceptably low.

A switch-hitter, Sandoval comes from the "see ball, hit ball" school of batting; he's a star from the left side who's passable right-handed, and he's improved his defense at third base to the point where we're at least not putting him on the express bus across the diamond. (I've seen some defensive metrics that indicated Sandoval had plus defense this year at third. Forgive my skepticism, but I'd like to see another year of that before buying it.) He'll madden fans with some of his short at bats, but he can repeat his 2011 season a few times over the next half-dozen years.

20
Michael Pineda
RHP
22

Analysis: Pineda had an outstanding rookie year, boosted by a friendly ballpark and good defense, throwing primarily two pitches -- a plus fastball and very sharp slider -- although his velocity started to slide as the summer went on. He has the size and stuff to continue to pitch as he did in 2011, but improving his changeup, really a show-me offering with virtually no action on it right now, would help him get to ace level.

(And if you're looking for Felix Hernandez, he turns 26 in April, which means he just misses the cut even though it seems like he's been around forever.)

21
Elvis Andrus
SS
23

Analysis: Andrus is a tremendous defensive shortstop with a quick, slashing stroke that produces a lot of contact, but much of it on the ground. He's already among the most valuable shortstops in the game because of his glove and the fact that he's not a zero with the stick.

But how much ceiling remains for Andrus? Is he likely to develop anything more than grade-40 power (on the 20-80 scouting scale) or produce more than 50 extra-base hits in a full season? Could he boost his walk rate to 70-80 per year when pitchers know he's not likely to drive the ball? It's more likely that he holds his value going forward than takes a significant step forward, leaving him a very good player rather than an elite one.

22
Jay Bruce
RF
24

Analysis: Bruce has substantial power, shows patience, and plays an above-average right field, so for him, the difference between being an above-average player and a star will come down to his contact rates and his batting average on balls in play.

He's very strong in both his upper and lower halves and gets good hip rotation, producing power to all fields, but his swing is so ferocious that the cost of his power is more swings and misses. Bruce has improved against left-handed pitchers but is still much weaker than he is against right-handers, which may limit his ceiling slightly. Still, he's a threat to hit 40 homers a year at his peak with enough walks to keep his OBP up even in the years when he hits .260.

23
Brandon Belt
RF
23

Analysis: At some point, maybe when the Giants have gone two or three weeks without scoring, you'd like to think San Francisco will wise up and just give Belt regular playing time, because even with some adjustments ahead of him, he could be the third-best hitter in their lineup.

Belt has a balanced swing, excellent hip rotation and weight transfer that bodes well for future power; his eye is good, but he needs to improve his two-strike approach, as his passivity in those situations hurts his production and isn't helping him stay in the lineup. Long-term, he looks like he'll get on base and hit for power with at least a high-.200s batting average and above-average defense at first.

24
Jaime Garcia
LHP
25

Analysis: Garcia improved on his strong 2010 season by cutting his walk rate by about a third while maintaining his excellent ground ball rate and solid-but-unspectacular strikeout rate. The three things a pitcher can do to help himself the most are miss bats, avoid walks, and keep the ball on the ground, and Garcia does two of those things well and is more than adequate in the third.

He doesn't have an ideal delivery and he did miss most of 2009 with Tommy John surgery, but the Cards have been cautious with him since then and if healthy he should hold this level of performance through the rest of his team-friendly four-year deal.

25
Mat Latos
RHP
23

Analysis: Latos started slowly in 2011 after a heavy workload the year before, but was back to his old self in the second half; he only allowed more than three runs in one of his last 17 starts, and never allowed more than four runs in any start after April. His velocity was down early in the year, but he was hitting 95-plus again in September; if he can hold that for a full year, along with the plus slider and average change, he's a fringe No. 1 starter.

26
Neftali Feliz
RHP
23

Analysis: Feliz's move to the rotation in 2012 is the right step for the Rangers and for him, as he was miscast as a closer just because he threw hard. Feliz can hold that velocity deep into games and has the changeup needed to get left-handed hitters out as a starter.

He'll have to refine both breaking balls and get over whatever caused his control to melt in 2011 (4.3 BB/9), but both issues, especially the control, should improve with more repetitions. There's risk here that he can't hold up or doesn't develop, but he has No. 1 or 2 starter upside if he does.

27
Wilson Ramos
C
24

Analysis: Ramos, who was in the news for unfortunate reasons earlier this offseason when he was kidnapped while playing winter ball in Venezuela, had a great, largely unnoticed rookie season for the Nationals, helping on both sides of the ball. He's a solid receiver with a strong arm and consistently high caught-stealing rates (43 percent across his minor-league career, 32 percent in the majors in 2011).

At the plate, he was never a big power hitter in the minors, but has good loft in his swing and a very strong front side that helps him drive the ball effectively, so even his 2011 power breakout probably isn't a ceiling. He may never post a high OBP, but a catcher who hits 20 homers with plus defense and an OBP in the .340 range is a borderline All-Star.

28
Trevor Cahill
RHP
23

Analysis: Cahill had consistent peripherals the last two years despite a slight decline in fastball velocity; he has tremendous life on the pitch, generating lots of ground balls, but has trouble keeping it in the zone and doesn't miss enough bats to compensate. He's here more for upside than present performance, as he's currently league average or so. But one more grade in command would probably push him to No. 2 starter status, given how good his raw stuff is.

29
Freddie Freeman
1B
22

Analysis: Freeman had a solid debut season, showing power a little earlier than expected, but lacks the impact ceiling of the corner bats further up this list. He projects to hit for solid averages with not quite enough walks and 20-25 home runs; his most likely path to stardom would be to exceed those power projections, but despite his size his current swing doesn't foreshadow 30-homer power. He looks above-average around the bag, although the major advanced defensive metrics rated his defense poorly this year, which is likely a fluke.

30
Derek Holland
LHP
25

Analysis: We've seen all sides of Holland across the last two postseasons, and he remained volatile this year from start to start while flashing signs of the frontline pitcher he still can become.

He threw a little harder this year and located the fastball better, while his changeup has been replaced as his best secondary pitch by an improved slider; he still has good arm speed on the changeup but not much action, and he doesn't have great deception on it. He does have a plus fastball and above-average slider, making him de@th on left-handed hitters, and if he can keep that changeup down more consistently (his main problem with the changeup is the long ball), he still has No. 2 starter potential.
 12-01-2011, 10:55 PMaway - #3
kyhoopsgoat 331 heat pts331

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31
Zach Britton
LHP
23

Analysis: It wasn't a great debut season, he was probably promoted to the big leagues about a half-season ahead of schedule. Plus, he's one of the only Oriole pitching prospects who didn't lose his stuff and/or get hurt, so if we're grading on a bell curve he gets the gold star. Britton is a true sinker/slider lefty whose low-90s sinker actually produces ground balls and whose slider is sharp enough to miss bats. He needs to work on his command of both pitches and on setting hitters up more effectively, but has No. 2 starter upside if he doesn't succumb to Oriolepitcheritis.

32
Austin Jackson
CF
24

Analysis: Jackson is a very solid player who's miscast as a leadoff guy; he's a good athlete who provides above-average to plus defense in center, and could grow into average power in time. His approach isn't great, and his recognition of off-speed stuff is shaky enough that I don't foresee him becoming a solid OBP guy who could hit atop a lineup, but he makes a good complementary player further down in the lineup who earns his pay with his glove as well.

33
Aroldis Chapman
LHP
23

Analysis: He's electric in relief but has a starter's repertoire and some history succeeding in that role before he defected. I've personally clocked Chapman up to 104 mph in one outing, and up to 101 in others, although as a starter he'd probably sit 94-97 or so with an upper-80s slider. I also saw him throw a changeup in spring training of 2010, but he was just fastball-slider in the regular season.

His arm might be the fastest I've ever seen, and he didn't look sharp in the Arizona Fall League before the Reds shut him down with a sore shoulder. If he's healthy enough to start -- a huge question right now -- it's ace stuff with an athletic frame that should hold up, but he's ranked down here because the probability of him reaching his ceiling got a lot lower this fall.

34
Daniel Hudson
RHP
24

Analysis: Hudson and teammate Ian Kennedy had the perfect situation in 2011: Fly ball pitchers working in front of one of the majors' best defensive outfields, with two of those three fielders also on this list. Hudson also reversed course by generating slightly more ground balls than fly balls (excluding line-drives), although the lack of sink on his four-seamer may mean that's a minor fluke. Hudson's arm action is long and stressful and his slider flattens out because of his low arm slot, but as a strike-thrower with good velocity and a surprisingly good changeup, he could have a few more years like 2011 as long as Arizona's defense cooperates.

35
Justin Smoak
1B
24

Analysis: Smoak had a year to forget in 2011, with a thumb injury sapping his power all summer, a broken nose in his first game after a brief layoff to rest the thumb, and most importantly, the loss of his father to cancer in April. He did finish strongly, albeit against the weaker competition of September (.301 batting average), but still projects to be the same hitter he did a year ago. He's a patient, disciplined switch-hitter with above-average to plus power; when he can grip the bat properly, he'll finally develop as so many of us expected him to.

36
Gerardo Parra
LF
24

Analysis: Parra, part of one the majors' best defensive outfields in 2011, has also started to develop with the bat to go along with his strong range and throwing arm, which is playable in right field but moved to left because of Justin Upton.

Parra's hands have always started his swing by moving down toward the ball, generating too many ground balls, but he's gradually traded some of those grounders for harder line drives, at which point his speed can come into play; unless someone tweaks his swing, however, he's not likely to be a 20-homer guy. This glove with a .300 average and a .360-.370 OBP at his peak would be an above-average regular.

37
Rick Porcello
RHP
22

Analysis: Porcello has three full years in the majors now, so it's easy to think of him as older than 23 (which he turns right after Christmas). A big stuff guy who hit 97 in high school, Porcello switched to a two-seamer in the minors to generate more ground balls; he does that well, and rarely walks anyone, but his ceiling his limited by the fact that he no longer misses many bats, and the life on his two-seamer wasn't as good in 2011 as it was in previous years.

If he can't maintain his ground ball rate, he's a back-end starter. If it's a fluke, and he can find a little more oomph on the four-seamer, he could still develop into a solid No. 2 or very good No. 3.

38
Peter Bourjos
CF
24

Analysis: I'll admit, I never saw this kind of offensive year coming from Bourjos -- in the minors he always had poor plate discipline and a lack of power even playing in good hitters' parks.

He doesn't have an ideal approach, and he does tend to collapse his back side, but Bourjos has gotten strong enough to drive the ball to the gaps or occasionally out of the park, and when you play some of the best center field defense in the game, that's more than enough to make you an average or better regular.

39
Jhoulys Chacin
RHP
23

Analysis: I was tempted to dress up for Halloween as a zombie wearing a Rockies cap and call myself Ghoulys Chacin, but I doubt my five-year-old would have gotten it. Chacin is a command righty with a plus changeup and an above-average slider who generates enough ground balls with his two-seamer to survive in Coors Field. His walk total was uncharacteristically high in 2011, but even if he brings that down, in all likelihood he's a solid No. 3 with a small chance to exceed that.

40
Tommy Hanson
RHP
25

Analysis: I'm not quite sure where to put Hanson since his season ended in early August due to shoulder tendinitis that was still present during a rehab outing in late September. He hasn't had surgery or been diagnosed with anything more serious, but shoulder problems are rarely minor.

A healthy Hanson would be in the top dozen names here. He works with four pitches led by a 91-95 mph fastball and a knockout slider, along with good control if not always command. We're just in wait and see mode here.

41
Hank Conger
C
23

Analysis: I would like to think that the regime change in Anaheim means that Conger, who can catch just enough to stay at the position, will get regular playing time behind the plate, because his bat is too valuable to let rot on the bench. However, the Angels' recent trade for Chris Iannetta puts up another barrier for Conger.

Mike Scioscia has used the switch-hitting Conger purely as a right-handed batter, but Conger is a true switch-hitter with patience and modest power from both sides of the plate.

42
Jeremy Hellickson
RHP
24

Analysis: The AL Rookie of the Year won it largely because of performance in basic stats; he got a huge boost from Tampa's defense this year, which resulted in a low batting average on balls in play and thus a low ERA.

That said, I think Hellickson can boost his strikeout rate going forward and rely less on his defense. He's already got the command and the out-pitch changeup, but needs to tighten his curveball, and has a cutter he barely used in 2011. He doesn't have ace ceiling but could easily pitch up to the standard Tampa's defense helped him set this year.

43
Colby Rasmus
OF
25

Analysis: Freed from a situation in St. Louis he's acknowledged was hurting his on-field production, Rasmus was traded to Toronto, got hurt, and didn't exactly produce when he was healthy (.517 OPS in 140 PAs with the Jays).

He has a good eye and a short, simple swing with good leverage to produce power, but his lower half became very busy in 2012, and he struggled getting his front leg down for proper timing. Toronto can afford to be patient, and an athletic outfielder with his kind of plate discipline is rare enough that they were smart to pounce on him when he fell out of favor with the Cardinals.

44
Danny Espinosa
2B
24

Analysis: Espinosa plays a plus second base -- and would almost certainly play an above-average shortstop if the Nats decide they don't want to watch Ian Desmond's OBP go down again -- and has enough raw power to drive a mistake out of the park. He's no OBP star himself, getting a boost from a league-high 19 HBP last year, and tends to hook the ball regardless of which side he's hitting from. That kind of defense plus a spot of offense is still a league-average regular at second, and would look even better if he gets to his natural position at short.

45
Jemile Weeks
2B
24

Analysis: Weeks' ceiling is less about his bat -- he hit about as well as you could have hoped for in his major-league debut -- than his glove. Defense can improve if the player has the physical tools for it, and Weeks is quick and has good hands. If he can get his walk rate back up to where it was for most of his minor league career, he'll be no less than a solid-average regular at second.

46
Ivan Nova
RHP
24

Analysis: Wildly overrated by the "WINS!" crowd -- his 16-4 record probably had something to do with playing for the best offense in the league -- Nova has solid-average control, gets ground balls, and his slider (which he used less often than the curve for some reason) misses some bats. There's enough here that you can see a mid-rotation starter as he matures, just don't be surprised if 2012 fails to live up to the superficial stats he posted in 2011.

47
Brandon Beachy
RHP
25

Analysis: Beachy's stuff doesn't grade out that well, but he has tremendous deception, and he's very effective at getting hitters to swing and miss at his fastball the first couple of times through the lineup.

He pitches up in the zone, making him fly ball-prone, and he racked up high pitch counts in 2011 that kept him from going through lineups a third time. Deception guys often struggle the more they go around a league, so there's probably some regression in his future, but an optimistic forecast on Beachy would have him as a potential No. 3 starter because of the bats he's missed in the past, especially if he junks the slider and throws the curveball instead.

48
Mike Leake
RHP
24

Analysis: Leake is a great athlete with a kitchen-sink a$sortment of pitches led by an upper-80s two-seamer and a cutter at almost the same velocity, so the hitter doesn't know if the pitch is coming at him or tailing away. He throws strikes and gets ground balls while fielding his position well, but doesn't have a single pitch that will induce a ton of strikeouts, limiting his ceiling somewhat.

He was overworked in 2010, hurt his shoulder, and started horribly in 2011, but after a brief demotion was back to his old self, and should be an above-average starter going forward.

49
Craig Kimbrel
RHP
23

Analysis: As good as Kimbrel was in 2011, the problem with ranking any reliever on this list is that modern reliever roles are so rigid that it's hard for a reliever to be worth any more than Kimbrel was last year.

Kimbrel works with a plus fastball and plus slider, and if Fredi Gonzalez didn't work him to de@th this year (I picture the Atlanta manager tapping his right arm in his sleep just out of habit), he could have another two or three years like 2011 in him.

50
Mike Minor
LHP
23

Analysis: He's not as good as he looked at Triple-A in 2010, but better than Atlanta seemed to think he was in 2011. Minor is probably a solid No. 4, with a chance to be a No. 3, because he's got a good changeup, plus control, and good feel for pitching. On his best nights, he'll show an above-average curveball or hit 93 mph with his heater, but he will pitch with solid-average velocity and will have nights where he gets by on feel and changing speeds.

Other guys I like going forward, just not enough to rank in the top 50: Jose Altuve, Travis Snider, Jon Niese, Ben Revere, Michael Brantley, Jordan Lyles, Jason Kipnis, Mike Moustakas, Andrew Cashner.

 12-01-2011, 10:56 PMonline - #4
Ham Rove 2070 heat pts2070

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Starlin Castro
 12-01-2011, 10:58 PMaway - #5
clenz7621 5 heat pts

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like to see my boy McCutchen in them pinstripes

 12-01-2011, 11:06 PMaway - #6
Shakezula714 1 heat pts

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11
Mike Trout
CF
20
38
Peter Bourjos
CF
24
41
Hank Conger
C
23
 12-01-2011, 11:11 PMaway - #7
Main Event 29 heat pts29

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1
Justin Upton
RF
24

 12-01-2011, 11:23 PMaway - #8
Adam Is BeTTeR 1 heat pts

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Think Kershaw and Lawrie should be a bit higher. Maybin finally coming through, hopefully he can continue.
 12-01-2011, 11:28 PMaway - #9
ThiZZ 148 heat pts148

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why do people make top lists and start the countdown at 1? you're just asking for ni##as to read the top 10 and then stop reading it.. lol
 12-01-2011, 11:32 PMaway - #10
Adam Is BeTTeR 1 heat pts

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Originally Posted by ThiZZ
why do people make top lists and start the countdown at 1? you're just asking for ni##as to read the top 10 and then stop reading it.. lol
Yeah, that #### is stupid. But I guess cause some people are a bit lazy to read through it all, and figured the ones that really do care will read through it regardless. I still read it all.
 12-01-2011, 11:39 PMaway - #11
lilsnatch770|M 92 heat pts92

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Kimbrel at #49? just broke the rookie record for saves
 12-01-2011, 11:44 PMaway - #12
KnicksLost 10 heat pts10

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Kershaw >

Andrew McCutchen >

How the hell did Strasburg make the top 10...I guess its based off potential
 12-02-2011, 06:18 AMaway - #13
DEDOS 100 heat pts100

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Mike Stanton and Lomo
 12-02-2011, 07:52 AMaway - #14
DesertEagle 41 heat pts41

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J-Up is a beast.
 12-02-2011, 08:02 AMaway - #15
YoDoods 14 heat pts14

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No Billy Butler? Really?!
 12-02-2011, 08:04 AMaway - #16
Rique 30 heat pts30

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ike davis gets no love
 12-02-2011, 08:37 AMaway - #17
SacTown|B 17 heat pts17

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Originally Posted by kyhoopsgoat
4
Buster Posey
C
24
Originally Posted by kyhoopsgoat
9
Madison Bumgarner
LHP
22
Originally Posted by kyhoopsgoat
19
Pablo Sandoval
3B
25
Originally Posted by kyhoopsgoat
23
Brandon Belt
RF
23
 12-02-2011, 08:42 AMonline - #18
Cheeze 491 heat pts491

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If Stanton had LoMo's discipline at the plate he would turn out MVPs like crazy. Can't wait till they work with him on his swing more. Kid is gonna be great. LoMo is solid as #### too when the team aint di#kin him around tho.
 12-02-2011, 09:37 AMaway - #19
FlamboyantOne 1 heat pts

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So, Kershaw grabs the CY, and isnt Top 2? LOL
 12-02-2011, 09:45 AMaway - #20
SHootar 22 heat pts22

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good list, but terrible order.


kershaw number 5??? lmao gtfoh he's number 1 or 2.

and kimbrel number 49 is a joke.

few other weird ones.


lawrie and rasmus


hopefully next year we get snyder and alverez on there
 
 


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