Wednesday, February 20, 2008

2008 Top 10 Hitting Prospects

When I sat down to make this list, I wanted to combine hitter potential with actual current development levels, which means that I had to go against popular beliefs with some of my choices. But if my list looked just like every other list then why bother making one? Anyways, here it is...

1. Evan Longoria
A lot of lists have either Longoria or Jay Bruce at the top, and I have to go with Longoria here. He’s a more complete hitter right now than Bruce and can handle the hot corner at third. I would take him over Alex Gordon, and I think he compares very well to Mark Teixeira and Frank Thomas, with a slightly higher strikeout rate. I think he could easily top 30 home runs in the next couple of years with the Rays, and he has the power to hit 40 or more once he settles in. Tampa Bay is a low stress environment for a young player just starting out, and with a line-up that already features Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena I think Longoria will blend right in.

2. Jay Bruce
I am hesitant to put Bruce so high on my list simply because his plate discipline isn’t as good as it should be, but he proved that he could be successful at AAA at a very young age, and that has to be taken into account. His work ethic is solid and he’ll be in a Reds line-up that should spare him too much responsibility too soon, so I think he could be a mid-summer call up with solid early production. His power numbers are comparable to Longoria’s, but his strikeout rate is worse than Delmon Young’s and almost as bad as Brandon Wood’s, so expect some growing pains.

3. Daric Barton
By now I can hear several of you wondering out loud what I’ve been smoking, but stick with me for just a second. Barton is perhaps one of the most advanced hitters to come through the minors in a while, and should easily nail down a starting job with the Athletics this spring. He reminds me of J.D. Drew with a little less power, which might scare some people off, but both Drew and Barton are on-base machines. Barton won’t put up flashy numbers, and it might take him a few years before he breaks 25 homeruns, but he’s an excellent hitter that should have a very good early career. His recent power surge (4 HRs in 82 plate appearances with the Oakland Athletics) might be a sign of things to come. Hitting out of the #2 spot, Barton will see a lot more good pitches that he can pull down the right field line.

4. Steve Pearce
Here’s where I’m sure I’m going to lose a few of you. If Pearce played for anyone but the Pirates he would be a lot higher on this year’s various prospect lists, and as it stands it looks like the Pirates don’t even want to play him. He’s better than Hunter Pence and Jason Bay at the plate, and should be a nice summer surprise. He has 30-35 home run potential on the low side and will hit for solid average. I like him a lot and hope he gets a shot at an outfield position sometime soon. If he has a good spring I don’t think the Pirates can afford to hold him back much longer.

5. Colby Rasmus
Rasmus is young, plays good defense and compares well to Larry Walker. His power isn’t as developed as Jay Bruce’s, but Rasmus will put up some 30+ home run season in St. Louis, while hitting in the .270-.290 range. For his sake I hope Cardinals fans don’t expect too much too son from him, but he will eventually become a very good all-around player with extra power.

6. Chris Marrero
Travis Snider gets all the love, but Marrero is already a better hitter at a younger age. He has 40+ home run power right now that could develop even further as he grows, and he has a very good approach at the plate. Pencil in plenty of opportunity to play early and often for the Nationals and you’ve got a recipe for a very good hitter.

7. Chris Davis
Davis is another very much over-looked hitter simply because he plays for the Rangers, and not some popular east coast team. A lot of prospect lists have shied away from him, claiming that he’s a one-tool player, but when that one tool is 50+ home run power, I don’t think you can justify overlooking Davis. His recent success at AA has convinced a lot of people –especially the Rangers—that Davis is for real and destined for great things. He compares very well to David Ortiz and Chris Young, and I think he’ll be just as good at the plate as Rasmus, if not better. He’ll post an early OPS of .825-.850, and reach the 40 home run mark within 1,500 plate appearances. Playing in Texas and in the American League should help his power numbers, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him jack 50+ home runs in his late 20’s. Davis' teammate Taylor Teagarden is also a very good hitter worth keeping an eye on.


8. Fernando Martinez
Though Martinez gets credit for having a lot of projectable skills like power and speed, I think he’ll make a solid major league player even if those skills never fully develop. As it stands, I think he’ll hit 20+ home runs early in his career and top 30 home runs in his mid-20’s, and he has a nice plate approach for such a young age. Any power he adds beyond that is icing on the cake, and I think he could become as good of a hitter as B.J. Upton or Carlos Lee in the future. The Mets are sold on him and as their only current noteworthy prospect Martinez should have an outfield spot reserved for him in the coming years. He won't live up to the New York hype machine, but he'll still be a very good player. I would like to see him exhibit more speed in the future, but like I said before, it's not an absolute must.


9. Hank Conger
If you think switch hitting catchers are hard to come by, try finding a switch hitting catcher that has .300/30 home run potential. They don’t come often, so I think Hank Conger deserves to be on this list. With a season in the California league up next, I think Conger will fully establish himself as one of the best prospects out there.

10. Carlos Gonzalez
Coming up with the #10 player is hard to do because I’m not sure who to leave off the list. There are a lot of good, young hitters out there, but I think Gonzalez has earned the #10 spot. He has 30+ home run potential and should see plenty of playing time in Oakland. He has much more plate discipline than Cameron Maybin, and compares very well to guys like Carlos Beltran and Alfonso Soriano.


silentcombustion said...

I think your a bit to high on Longoria, especially with the 40 HR comment. Anyways just thought I would post the following

Player A: 486 AB - 72BB/113K - 29 HR - .325/.427/.588
Player B: 486AB - 52BB/101K - 27 HR - .298/.380/.516

Anyways you might of guessed by now but these are Gordon's and Longoria's stats at AA. Both players had certain advantages, Gordon in a more friendly hitters league and Longoria had time in High A before he went to AA (Gordon didnt have this luxury). So this not to say Longoria isnt or wont be better, but I tend to think most people forget just how good Gordon's numbers were and focus more on his stats last year.

Adam said...

Thanks for the comment. I think you make some good observation and I can't argue with the fact that Gordon and Longoria are very similar hitters EXCEPT for the fact that Gordon posted his numbers as a 22 year old, and Longoria posted his numbers as a 20-21 year old.
If you only consider Longoria's AA numbers as a 21 year old, and compare those to Gordon's, you get the following:


381 AB - 51 BB/ 81 K - 21 HR - 21 2B - .307/.403/.528

486 AB - 52 BB/ 101 K - 27 HR - 39 2B - .298/.380/.516

If you take into consideration park factors, Gordon gets about 24 HRs and 35 2Bs, and Longoria gets somewhere around 29 HRs and 23 2Bs.

What does that all mean? Longoria had essentially more homeruns in a lot fewer at-bats and had a much better contact capacity at a younger age than Gordon. I agree that some other factors such as time at A ball could be considered, but Longoria is simply a better, more powerful hitter with a much higher ceiling. Playing for the Rays will only enhance those differences between him and Gordon, who has the misfortune of playing in Kansas City surrounded by very little talent.

Adam said...

Oops, those park factor numbers aren't correct. Longoria would have about 26 homeruns with 17 2Bs, while Gordon would have about 30 homeruns with 43 2Bs. I'm not sure what happened there, but I messed up those numbers.

So, really Longoria didn't quite match Gordon's numbers in terms or power, but I think when you consider the age difference, Longoria is still the better hitter.