Greetings all, and Happy New Year. Welcome back to the Hotpage where I am pleased to start the year by publishing our annual Top 10 prospects, as identified by my annual Top 250 Prospect List. In fact, you can purchase the list, this year as part of our Platinum Package which you can purhase by hitting the link. (The $34.95 price also gets you our projections, and complementary draft software, and a lot of other good stuff.)
Over the years, my list has drawn a lot of praise because my algorithms for finding prospects is a unique tool that looks at power/control/level of play/age for all players. For hitters, walks and strikeouts relative to at-bats are just as significant as they are to pitchers, relative to innings. For the most part, this method reveals the usual suspects (for example, Jesus Montero was #6 last year). To make the list, a minor leaguer has to go at least 70 innings, or hitter at least 200 at-bats, all at High-A or above.
But, there are always a handful of names that rate high on my list before hitting the radar of the more mainstream eyes. In the past Carlos Zambrano (2001, 2002), Daric Barton (2008) and Neftali Feliz (2010) have topped the list, generally (Feliz is an exception) far before reaching top prospect status. And, Michael Stanton ranked #3 last year, with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman ranking ninth and tenth (remember, the list is published no later than February 1 on any given year).
I think that is all, so, without further ado, here are the Top 10 prospects for 2011:
1. Jesus Montero (C, Yankees): Montero, who scored #6 on the list last year, when as a 19-year old he went .337-17-70 split between Trenton and Tampa. In 2010 Montero spent the season at AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with .289-21-75 numbers that included 31 doubles. This gives the young backstop .315-58-251 totals over 380 games, with a pretty good .371 OBP. Due to arrive behind the dish in the Bronx this year.
2. Freddie Freeman (1B, Braves): Freeman scored #10 on the list last year (right behind mate Jason Heyward) giving Atlanta an embarrassment of prospect riches. At just two months older than Montero (Freeman turned 21 last September), Freeman jumped two levels in 2009, going .282-8-58 over 111 games with a .363 OBP. Freeman spent last season at Gwinnett, going .319-18-87 with 35 doubles and a .378 OBP (.363 as a pro) and Freeman goes into spring training as the first sacker in the Atlanta camp.
3. Jordan Lyles (P, Astros): Houston's #1 selection in the 2008 draft, had success at Double-A Corpus Christi , going 7-9, 3.12 over 125 innings. He allowed 127 hits, a number a little high, but also mowed down 115 batters, while allowing just 35 walks. Lyles finished the season at AAA Round Rock as a 19-year old, and though he was knocked around a bit (0-3, 5.19 over 31.2 innings) Lyles continued to miss bats (22 whifs). He is around the plate as the 48 hits at that level suggests, so working the zone will be the goal this year, likely spent at Round Rock.
4. William Myers (C, Royals): The Royals have a lot of interesting youngsters, and Myers is right there. The third round selection of the 2009 draft, Myers began 2010 at Low-A where he went .289-10-45 over 294 at-bats, and then earned the promotion to Wilmington (remember, the first set of numbers do not count towards his ranking) with good. .346-4-38 totals, with 18 doubles. That all adds up to .315-14-83 for the year, not bad for a 19-year old. Oh yes, Myers walked 85 times, to just 94 strikeouts last year for an excellent .425 OBP.
5. Martin Perez (P, Rangers): Perez is a perfect example of a player whose primary stats would never merit a second glance as a propsect, but whose secondary numbers scream for attention. Spending 2010 at Double-AA Frisco, as a 19-year old, Perez went 5-8, with a 5.96 ERA over 24 starts. However, over 99.2 innings, he struck out 101, or better than one per innings. Perez did allow 117 hits, and 50 walks, but he was also generally 2-4 years younger than the hitters he faced. He could be Danny Cabrera, it is true. But, he could also be Tommy Hanson.
6. Mike Moustakas (3B, Royals): Remember those interesting youngsters the Royals have? Well, strap yourself in, starting with their future third sacker. Moustakas, 22, was a first round pick of KC in 2007. Last year he split between AA Northwest Arkansas, where the corner patrolman was .347-21-76 over 66 games, before moving to Triple-A Omaha (.293-15-48 over 52 more games). Moustakas season totals were .332-36-124, with 41 doubles and a decent 34 walks to 66 whiffs. That is a monster year, and Moustakas with be manning something in Kansas City soon.
7. Eric Hosmer (1B, Royals): Royal #2 in a string of three, Hosmer hit the socks off the ball last season, split between High-A Wilmington (.354-7-51 over 67 games), then .313-13-35 over 50 games at AA Northwest Arkansas, for an aggregate .338-20-86, with 43doubles and nine triples. The Royals first round pick in 2008 (third overall) also put up a .406 OBP with 59 walks to 66 whiffs. Expect Hosmer, 21, to start 2011 at Omaha, and about the only thing that will hold him back is the glut of prospects Kansas City already possesses.
8. John Lamb (P, Royals): KC's fifth round pick in 2008, the 19-year old shot through three levels of play in 2010, starting with a 2-3, 1.58 mark in the Midwest League over 40 innings (43 whiffs, 26 hits, 17 walks), then onto High-A Wilmington where he was 6-3, 1.45 over 74.2 more innings. That led to season's end at Northwest Arkansas, where Lamb hit a little bit of a wall with 2-1, 5.45 totals over 33 innings. Lamb's totals for last year were 10-7, 2.38, with a fabulous 159 strikeouts over 147.2 innings. Lamb allowed 122 hits, and 45 walks in a dominant performance.
9. Jaff Decker (OF, Padres): The Pads first round selection in 2008, Decker announced his presence with authority that year at lower levels, going .3443-5-34 over 52 games. The flychaser then spent virtually all of 2009 at Fort Wayne with .299-16-64 numbers with 25 doubles and 85 walks to 92 strikeouts, and that precipitated a promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore in 2010. There the 20-year old went .262-17-58, with 14 doubles, and 47 walks to 80 strikeouts for a .374 OBP.
10. Hank Conger (C, Angels): Though Conger has been around since 2006 (he was a first round pick) he is still just 22 years old. Since 2008 Conger has handled an advancement a season, going .303-13-75 at Rancho Cucagmonga, and then advancing to Double-A Arkansas (.298-11-65) in 2009. Last year Conger honed his chops at AAA Salt Lake where he went .300-11-49, with 26 doubles. All along, the backstop has displayed fine strike zone judgement, culling 152 walks to 243 whiffs (55:58 last year) for a solid .360 minor league OBP.
So, there you have it, some names for now, and hopefully some for tomorrow. Tune in starting in February when the Hotpage returns to its weekly format.