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top 100 prospects in baseball


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from dayn perry/ foxsports.com

100. David Aardsma, RHP, Giants, Age: 22

 

Aardsma was a first-rounder in 2003. Drafted out of Rice (22nd overall), he signed in time to pitch only 18.1 innings in the Cal League. But over that 18.1-inning span he struck out 28 walked eight and posted a sparkling 1.96 ERA. His college numbers were only reasonably strong, but the Giants' scouts loved him, and the organization sees him as their closer of the future. He'll need further seasoning, but he's on the fast track. As soon as Robb Nen steps aside, he'll begin getting the save opps for San Fran. ETA: Late 2004.

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99. Adam LaRoche, 1B, Braves, Age: 24

 

In 2000, the Braves drafted LaRoche with their 29th-round pick out of a Florida junior college. He had a strong showing in the rookie-level Appalachian League and turned more heads when he put up impressive numbers at Myrtle Beach, the toughest park for hitters in all the minors. However, that came only after repeating the circuit. That was the case again at AA-Greenville; he thrived only after getting a second look at the league. LaRoche has passable plate discipline and some gap power, but his offensive skill set isn't impressive for a first baseman. There's a decent shot he'll wind up platooning with Julio Franco in Atlanta next season. ETA: 2004.

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98. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Red Sox, Age: 20

 

The Sox signed Ramirez out of the Dominican in 2000. In 2001, he began destroying the rookie and short-season circuits, and he kept it up through 2002. This past season, however, his numbers took a dive in the Sally League, so that's dropped his stock a bit. Still, it's far too soon to write him off. His defense is reasonably strong, and it's hard to ignore the numbers he put up in his first two seasons. It's troubling that he struggled in Low-A, but he deserves the benefit of the doubt for now. He'll need to recapture the power stroke he showed in 2002. ETA: 2006.

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97. Graham Koonce, 1B, A's, Age: 28

 

Koonce is obviously too old to be an elite prospect, but he's fashioned himself into an accomplished hitter. He's always had solid command of the strike zone, but in the last three seasons he's developed an impressive power stroke (including 34 homers last season at AAA-Sacramento). At 28, his ceiling is severely limited, but last season he probably could've out-produced a baker's dozen major league first basemen. Scott Hatteberg, for instance. He'd be a great fit for a team in need of league-average or better production at first. ETA: 2004.

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96. Charlie Zink, RHP, Red Sox, Age: 24

 

Novelty act or legit prospect? A little of both, but mostly the latter. Zink, perhaps the only knuckleballer presently toiling in the minors, hasn't posted impressive numbers, but when compared to other knuckleball artists throughout history, he stacks up nicely. He does have a career 3.26 ERA and has succeeded as high as the Eastern League. But what's perhaps most in his favor is that he's in an organization that's open-minded enough to give him a shot when he's ready. He'll never win any Cy Youngs, but don't be surprised if he cobbles together a very lengthy major league career. ETA: 2005.

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95. Daric Barton, C, Cardinals, Age: 18

 

Barton was the Cards' top pick of the 2003 draft. Although history is replete with high-school catchers who never accomplished anything in the majors, Barton is off to a nice start. Playing in the rookie-level Appalachian League, Barton didn't show much power, but did hit .294 and, most promisingly, drew 37 walks in 170 at bats. The organization thinks the power will come, and a .424 SLG isn't terrible for an 18-year-old hitting with wood for the first time. Right now, it's his plate discipline that's most impressive. That'll serve him well as he climbs through the system. He's already a better prospect that Yadier Molina, who's ahead of him in the Cardinals' catching queue. If the power comes in the higher levels, he'll vault up the rankings. ETA: Late 2006.

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94. Xavier Paul, OF, Dodgers, Age: 18

 

Paul, a fourth-rounder in last year's draft, was one of the pleasant surprises of the draft for the Dodgers. A high-schooler from Slidell, Louisiana, Paul impressed scouts with his bat speed and contact abilities, and he justified their faith by performing well in the rookie-level Pioneer League. At Ogden, he hit .307, posted a strong walk rate, showed speed on the bases and also smacked 28 extra-base hits in 264 at bats. He's raw, but the skills are definitely there. ETA: 2007.

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93. Nick Swisher, OF, A's, Age: 23

 

Moneyball readers will also recognize the name of Swisher, whom the A's were giddy to select with the 16th overall pick of the 2002 draft. Despite their enthusiasm, Swisher hasn't developed as planned. He had a strong half-season in the Cal League in '03 but looked overmatched at AA-Midland in the second half. He has good plate discipline, but his power is questionable and many observers doubt that he'll be able to play center field at the highest level. Obviously, playing an outfield corner will reduce his value. His failure to hit in the high minors and suspect defensive skills mean he's more hype than performance at this point. ETA: 2005.

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92. Jeremy Brown, C, A's, Age: 24

 

Brown, a supplemental first-rounder in 2002, was one of the supporting cast members of last year's bestseller Moneyball. He had an impressive season in the Cal League in 2002, but that was a fairly accommodating environment for hitters. This past season at AA-Midland, he showed excellent plate discipline and posted a .388 on-base percentage; however, his power disappeared. He plays a key position and has a great concept of the strike zone, but his lack of power and age reduce his stock. At this point, he projects as a quality back-up catcher at the highest level. ETA: Late 2004.

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91. Adam Loewen, LHP, Orioles, Age: 19

 

Loewen was drafted out of a Florida junior college in 2002 with the fourth overall pick. He signed almost a year later as a draft-and-follow. In 2002, he was arguably the best lefty available, and his signing was a serious boon to the Orioles, who may have the best crop of lefty prospects in the game today. He has a solid fastball and an incredible curve that draws comparisons to Barry Zito. He saw only limited action this past season in the NY-Penn League, but he was impressive over that span. Until he pitches more at the professional level, it's hard to justify ranking him much higher, but he's a good bet to zoom up the rankings next season. ETA: Late 2006.

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90. Lou Palmisano, C, Brewers, Age: 21

 

Although the Brewers selected Palmisano in 2003 as a draft-and-follow out of Broward County CC in Florida, he signed quickly and had time for a strong season in the Pioneer League. Perhaps "strong" is an understatement: 174 at bats, .391 AVG/.458 OBP/.592 SLG. He's obviously off to a fine start, and he plays a key defensive position. He'll need to prove himself at the higher levels, but so far so good. And, of course, a great baseball name. ETA: Late 2006.

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89. Josh Stevens, RHP, Red Sox, Age: 24

 

Sure, Stevens is a bit of journeyman, but he's also proved himself at every stop. Drafted by the Blue Jays in 1997, he's spent time in the Yankees' system and in the Independent Leagues. Stevens has emerged as a control artist with excellent command, which is why the Red Sox signed him prior to the 2003 season. This past season, his strikeout rate had dropped a bit at AA-Portland, but his control was incredible (Only 19 unintentional walks in 154.1 innings). What's more is that Stevens' career strikeout-to-walk ratio is an outstanding 4.9. His hit rate has always been high relative to his strikeout numbers, so that's a source of concern. But the Sox may have a diamond in the rough on their hands. He was left exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but no one chose him. ETA: Late 2004.

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88. Kyle Sleeth, RHP, Tigers, Age: 22

 

Detroit drafted Sleeth out of Wake Forest last June with the third overall pick. He signed too late to pitch in 2003, but he's a promising arm for sure. Sleeth has a good pitcher's body, and scouts love his stuff. He's seasoned and ready to progress through the system on the fast track. He's ranked low because he's yet to throw a pitch as a professional, but he has front-of-the-rotation potential in an organization that sorely needs him. ETA: 2006.

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87. Sergio Santos, SS, Diamondbacks, Age: 20

 

Arizona selected Santos with the 27th overall pick of the 2002 draft. Plucked out of a Southern California high school, Santos is a big-bodied shortstop who some scouts think won't be able to stick at the position. That remains to be seen. He had a nice short-season debut in the Pioneer League, and this past season at Lancaster in the Cal League he showed solid on-base skills, although his power numbers dropped. Even so, he was young for the league. Lancaster is kind to hitters, but his performance was still fairly promising on balance. He's a projection ranking at this point, but his plate discipline and positional value mean he could become a special player in years to come. ETA: Late 2005.

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86. Ryan Shealy, 1B, Rockies, Age: 24

 

Shealy's not young for a prospect, but he can hit. The Rox selected him in 2002 out of the University of Florida with an 11th-round pick. He hasn't played above the Cal League, but his career numbers are unassailable: .327 AVG/.437 OBP/.598 SLG. He hits for average, draws walks and has 33 homers in 572 career at bats. Because of his age and level, his ceiling is limited, but he could be a starter at the highest level by age 26. He's a hitter; it's just a matter of opportunity at this point. ETA: 2005.

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85. Erik Bedard, LHP, Orioles, Age: 24

 

When healthy, Bedard is one of the best lefty pitching prospects in all of baseball. Bu therein lies the catch: he's rarely been healthy. He had shoulder problems in 2001, and then he underwent Tommy John surgery last year. He pitched only 19.1 innings this past season, but he does have a fine record of performance behind him. He has good velocity on his fastball, and his curve is tremendous. It remains to be seen whether his stuff comes back once he's fully healthy. If it were just his elbow, then there'd be cause for optimism. But his history of elbow and shoulder problems in tandem is quite troubling. Time will tell. He's had success as high as Double A, so at least he's a known quantity when healthy. ETA: Late 2004.

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84. Ryan Hannaman, LHP, Orioles, Age: 22

 

Hannaman came to the Orioles from the Giants as part of the Sidney Ponson swap. A strong season in the Sally League in 2002 garnered him some attention, and last season he looked good while splitting time between the Cal and Carolina Leagues. He has great strikeout potential, but he needs to improve his control and do a better job of preventing homers. He's a project for the O's, but he does have potential. ETA: 2005.

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83. Jesus Silva, RHP, Diamondbacks, Age: 21

 

Silva was signed by the Snakes in 1999 as a non-drafted free agent out of Venezuela. He's a youngster who pitched fairly well at Double-A El Paso, a hitter's paradise, despite being much younger than his peer group. Silva posted excellent numbers in the low minors and, because of his young age, projects well. Oddly, the Diamondbacks left him exposed in the December Rule 5 Draft, but he wasn't selected. ETA: 2005.

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82. Corey Hart, 3B, Brewers, Age: 21

 

Hart is a tall, lanky type who's not really suited to third base, and eventually he may be moved to first or an outfield corner. In the low minors he hit for average, drew a few walks and showed a tremendous power stroke. At Double-A Huntsville this past season, he more than held his own despite being young for the loop. Particularly encouraging is that in his first taste of the high minors, he whacked 40 doubles while playing half his games in a pitcher's park. He's a career .300 hitter with projectable power. To become an elite prospect, he'll need to improve his plate discipline. Still, he's got some impressive skills. ETA: Late 2005.

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81. Gavin Floyd, RHP, Phillies, Age: 20

 

Floyd, the Phils' first pick of the 2001 draft, is a favorite of the scouts. He throws a hard fastball and changes speeds well. His curve is arguably the best in the low minors. He's still working on his change, but he's got plenty of time. Floyd's performance to date has been solid, if not overwhelming. He struggles at times with his control, and this season at high-A Clearwater, his numbers dipped a bit. The Florida State League is generally a pitcher's circuit, but even so, Floyd saw a notable decline in his strikeout rate. His stuff is beyond reproach, and I think eventually the stats will reflect that. Right now, however, the numbers just don't justify granting him elite status. At this juncture, he's overrated in most circles. ETA: 2006.

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80. Jason Arnold, RHP, Blue Jays, Age: 24

 

Arnold came to the Jays as part of a four-way trade with the A's, Reds and D-Backs in late 2002. Although Arnold has been traded three times before he's pitched even an inning in the majors, he is a fairly polished arm with decent command skills. Arnold has posted strong K rates and shown solid control throughout the minors. Until this year at least. After his early-season promotion to AAA-Syracuse, Arnold's command suffered, and he coughed up homers at career-high rates. Supposedly, his ran into mechanical problems. He's also in an organization that will handle him carefully and work to correct his mechanics, but his been passed by Dustin McGowan in the organizational pitching queue. Arnold will be back in Triple-A in 2004 with much to prove. ETA: Late 2004.

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79. Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Red Sox, Age: 24

 

Youkilis, another player centerpieced in Moneyball, has posted unspeakably good walk rates at every stop, and this past season is no exception (86 BB in 312 AB at AA-Portland). He didn't hit after a late-season promotion to Triple-A, so he'll be back in the International League in 2004.

 

Scouts don't like his body, and there's some real doubt as to whether he'll be able hit for power at the highest level. He is, however, an on-base machine, and he's in an organization that appreciates the skills he does have. David Magadan isn't a bad comparison for Youkilis -- a highly useful player but not a star. ETA: Late 2004.

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78. Chris Shelton, 1B/C, Tigers, Age: 23

 

Shelton, a former Pirates farmhand, was selected by Detroit with the first overall pick of the Rule 5 draft in December. He's logged only 132 plate appearances above High-A, but in the low minors he was highly, highly impressive. He shows patience at the plate, hits for power and is a career .332 hitter.

 

There's some question as to whether he'll be able to stick at catcher; the Pirates this year had him slated for work at third and in left. He'll be on the Detroit roster as a third catcher and pinch hitter.

 

Given his lack of exposure the high minors, he'll likely struggle at the highest level in the upcoming season. But going forward he's an excellent pick by an organization that sorely needs him. ETA: 2004.

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77. Chad Tracy, 3B, Diamondbacks, Age: 23

 

The Snakes chose Tracy in the seventh round of the 2001 draft out of East Carolina. So far, he's displayed an excellent ability to hit for average (a .333 career hitter in the minors). He doesn't post good walk rates or show a tremendous amount of raw power, and that means to be valuable he'll need to continue hitting for a high average. Another point against him is that he's played in mostly hitter's parks for his entire career.

 

His doubles rate has picked up since he hit Double-A in 2002, which may portend of a power spike. His upside is probably as an above-average starting third baseman in the majors, but he'll never be an All-Star. ETA: Late 2004

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76. Vito Chiaravolloti, 1B, Blue Jays, Age: 23

 

Chiaravolloti, a Richmond product, was a 15th-round find for the Jays in 2003. He's only season action in the short-season NY-Penn League, but what a season it was. Vito hit .351, drew 47 walks against 228 at bats and slugged a whopping .605. It's way too early to get overly excited about him, but those are some very impressive numbers. He's also not young, but call this a gut-feeling grade. He has much to prove in the higher levels, but, if nothing else, he's got the name for stardom. ETA: 2006.

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