Whenever you look over a Top Prospects list, there's always a good chance that you'll see at least a few players that despite not having out performed numerous other prospects, are still considered "one of the best" out there. Often times, a lack of significant production by these players is overlooked because the guy is "a 5-tool player with a limitless ceiling" and of course he reminds scouts of a young Ted Williams/Ken Griffey Jr./Albert Pujols or whoever else they can come up with (scouts say some really inane things). If the prospect in question doesn't hit for power or lacks plate discipline, you can usually find some comment about how he has a really projectable body or shows lots of promises during certain at-bats. Some scouts rely too much on small sample sizes and think that just because a guy had a good night that he'll be able to reproduce those results every night.
Anyways, what I'm getting at is that there are a lot of prospects that get noticed simply because scouts like what they see, even if it means the scout has to ignore other things that should not be overlooked. Take Cameron Maybin for instance, who was called up to the big leagues after an official in the Tigers organization saw him hit a few home runs in AA ball. Maybin got called up that very same week to the major league club and went on to have a very depressing pro debut before being shipped off to the Florida Marlins. I'm a big fan of getting young players to the majors and letting them experience baseball at the highest appropriate level, but it was ridiculous to think that moving Maybin up so early was appropriate on any terms. In the case of Maybin, we have a young player that played well at age appropriate levels for two years in a row, but really hasn't performed at a level that justifies giving him a starting position on a major league team. He is definitely a solid hitter, and he has speed and some power to go with it, but he's no where near ready for major league pitching and he could just as easily fade away into obscurity as develop into an everyday big league center fielder. Before I get into this much deeper, let's look at his stats.
You can tell that Maybin has promise, and he'll develop into a solid hitter if things go right, but he isn't there yet. His numbers are good, but they aren't unusual for a young power hitter playing at those levels at 19 or 20 years old, and it's obvious that he still needs time to polish his plate approach and make the most of his at-bats. He strikes out a little too much, and a full 300 at-bats at AA would have given him a great opportunity to improve on his BB/K rate. But instead, Maybin struck out 21 times in 49 at-bats with the Tigers and ended the year with an average of .143. To add a little perspective to this argument, I'll give you player stats from some 20 year old hitters that were a little more developed than Maybin.
Other than Pujols, each of the above hitters went on to play a full year at AAA ball, and then struggled in the majors until the age of 23 or 24 years old. If we assume that Maybin continues to start for the Marlins, he'll have about 3 years of ineptitude in the majors before we see him put together a full productive season. By then he might be able to maintain an average above .300 and he might hit 25 or 26 home runs, and that's certainly something to look forward to, but I would argue that in the meantime he should have a few more chances to work on his plate discipline and approach in the minors.
So, in conclusion, the next 2-3 years of Maybin's professional career will most certainly be dictated by what level he plays at. I'm not down on him as a player, but he's at least 2 full seasons away from being major league ready. In the prime of his career he'll be good for a .315 average and 30 to 35 home runs a year with ample steals -- think Alfonso Soriano -- but he could face some very tough times between now and then.