As promised, here is a more in depth look at the Top 100 Lists of ESPN/Scouts Inc. and Baseball Prospectus. Of course I will start off with the Rays list. Nine Rays made the Top 100 on Scouts Inc. highlighted by: Evan Longoria(1), Desmond Jennings(11), Wade Davis(15), David Price(16) and Jake McGee(26), giving the Rays five out of the top 26 prospects. Rounding out the nine Rays were Reid Brignac (49), Fernando Perez (72), Jeremy Hellickson (75), and John Jaso (78). Not too much to argue with here besides maybe Reid Brignac. Last year's consensus best SS in the minor leagues takes a bit of a hit this year, falling behind Carlos Triunfel (18, Mariners), Elvis Andrus(31, Rangers), and Mike Moustakas (47, Royals). Brignac did take a step back last year offensively, .260/.328/.433, but from most accounts made strides defensively towards becoming a Major League defender as SS. This season will no doubt be a huge year for Brignac, not only to prove his '07 season was a one year slide, but also the addition of Jason Barlett means the Rays now have a legit option at SS for the future besides Brignac. With the lack of a RF prospect one interesting idea would be, if his defense regresses, to move Brignac to Right, where the Rays plan to platoon players this year. Other than that I really don't have many Rays related gripes with Scouts Inc.'s list.
Now on to Baseball Prospectus list of Rays. Again the Rays had a heavy presence at the top, with five of the top 25 prospects headlined by: Evan Longoria (3), David Price (6), Wade Davis (15), Desmond Jennings (18), and Reid Brignac (25). The only other Ray on the top 100 was Jake McGee (40). Obviously there are some discrepancies between the two lists. The most prevalent, in my opinion, is the number of Rays. Scouts Inc. lists nine, but Baseball Prospectus only lists six. Baseball Prospectus completely left off Jeremy Hellickson, Fernando Perez, and John Jaso. I can't understand why. Perez & Jaso should see a lot of action at AAA Durham this year and maybe even get a taste of the big leagues come September. In our recent interview Jim Callis , he said that John Jaso has a chance to be the everyday catcher for the Rays if he can stay healthy. Fernando Perez has an outside chance to crack the Majors this year as the fourth outfielder. If something should happen to Baldelli or Floyd, or most likely both, he could see significant time in a talented Rays outfield. Jeremy Hellickson is still probably two years away and most likely will spend the bulk of his season at High Class A Vero Beach, but he is leader of the next group of arms behind the more advanced Price, McGee, Davis, Niemann, and Talbot.
The rest of the BP Rays list is interesting. Evan Longoria is ranked 3rd behind Jay Bruce (1) and Clay Buchholz (2). I have no problem with Bruce being first. Most people have Bruce and Longoria 1st and 2nd in either order. However, I think this is the first time I've seen Buchholz ranked not only over Longoria, but also Joba Chamberlain who checked in the list at four. I think of it this way, who would I rather have to start a franchise Buchholz or Longoria? I'm taking Longoria all day. I believe the comparisons to David Wright are not only flattering, but very true. If the comparison does pan out then Longoria will be a perennial All Star and MVP candidate. I can't really argue with Desmond Jennings at 18 or Davis at 15. I believe Desmond Jennings is a potential impact player, but I'll see how he does at High A or Double A first before arguing for him to be higher on the list. Davis at 15 is fine and I expect him to be Top 5 or 10 at the least next year. I was very surprised to see Price ranked as high as 6 since he hasn't thrown a professional pitch yet. I've heard all types of projections on Price. One projection early on had him coming in this spring with a chance at the Majors, but most expect him to start at AA Montgomery and quickly rise to the Majors as soon as late August or early September.
The final two on the Baseball Prospectus list are Reid Brignac and Jake McGee. At number 25, Reid Brignac is the second SS on the list behind Moustakas, who most believe is likely not going to be a SS long. The other two SS that were in front of Reid on the Scouts Inc. list, Triunfel and Andrus, check in considerably lower on this list at 55 and 58 respectively. I guess it’s who you ask about Reid Brignac, as there seems to be no consensus to where he belongs. The final Ray on the list is Jake McGee, checking in at 40. The knock on McGee is his lack of a secondary out pitch behind his fastball. I'm interested to see how he progresses this year, where he likely will spend a lot of time at AA Montgomery. If he can develop another one or two above average pitches to round out his arsenal he should be a serious candidate for the top 10 next year. If not, all is not lost with McGee as the Rays maybe able to convert him into a dominate late inning reliever.
That's it for the Rays portion of the lists. I have just a few tidbits on the other names on the two lists. First, Lars Anderson 1B for the Red Sox. Scouts Inc. has him solidly in the top half of their list at 28, while he barely made the Baseball Prospectus list coming in at 100. Again, referring back to our interview with Baseball America's Jim Callis he says, "I think Red Sox first baseman Lars Anderson is going to make a leap forward this year and become recognized as one of the very best hitters in the minors." Like Reid Brignac, I guess it's all about who you ask with Anderson.
Two other names I wanted to look at because of the recent Johan Santana trade were OF's Carlos Gomez and Fernando Martinez. Gomez is the center piece of the deal and is regarded as the Twins CF of the future if the deal is completed. On Scouts Inc, Gomez checks in at 35, but on BP he's in the lower half at 65. Either way, I feel that Gomez as the center piece is way too low for the greatest pitcher on the face of the planet. The other player in the talks surrounding the trade was Fernando Martinez. Martinez is regarded by most, if not all, as the #1 prospect in the Mets system. The big gripe from the Twins supporters was they traded Santana without getting the Mets crown jewel in return. Scouts Inc. has Martinez at 10 while Baseball Prospectus has him just in the lower half at 51. That’s a pretty big difference. Is he a top 10 player or a barely a top 50 player? Martinez has huge power potential and is an above average defender in CF. He started last season at AA Binghamton at age 18....yes I said 18. An injury cut his season short, but even at age 19 in AA he is on the fact track to the Majors, and a big kudos to Omar Minaya for being able to land Santana (potentially) without giving up his blue chipper.
Ok my fingers have officially cramped up and my eyes are bleeding, but there you have our recap of the Top 100 list of Scouts Inc. and Baseball Prospectus. Of course, each writer and analyst has their own criteria and their own judgments, so no list is perfect. Remember, the Rays own Edwin Jackson was once one of the top prospects in baseball and we're still waiting on him to show that he's even an average starter. We respect Keith Law(Scouts Inc.) and Kevin Goldstein(Baseball Prospectus) tremendously and it will be fun to check up on this list in the next few years to see who's made it, who was a bust and who came out of nowhere to became a star. We expect to have another list from Baseball America soon, so I need to recover so we can do this all over again soon.