Top 50 Prospects: July Checkup (Part One)

Now that we’re into the second-half of the season, it’s time to check in on my top 50 prospects to see how they’re doing in 2004. Today I’ll look at the top 25 and tomorrow I’ll cover prospects 26-50.

The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (1-25)
The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (26-50)
Top 50 Prospects: April Checkup (Part One)
Top 50 Prospects: April Checkup (Part Two)

1) Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins

When he’s been on the field for the Twins, Joe Mauer has been about as good as anyone could possibly have dreamed of. He’s hitting .308/.369/.570 and his defense (39% caught stealing) and game management (3.36 CERA) have been excellent. The bad news is that he’s been on the field for just 35 games thus far and is currently on the disabled list for the second time this season as a result of a knee injury he sustained in his second major-league game. Mauer is expected back in August, but the injuries have not only taken away any chances of winning the Rookie of the Year, they’ve cast some serious doubts over his long-term ability to be an everyday catcher.

.308/.369/.570 with 17 RBIs and 18 runs in 35 MLB games

2) B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Devil Rays

With Mauer in the majors, B.J. Upton has taken over as the #1 prospect in baseball. Upton started this season at Double-A Montgomery and hit .327/.407/.471 in 29 games, before being promoted to Triple-A Durham. He’s hit .308/.410/.520 in 65 games there, giving him a combined batting average of .313, along with 14 homers, 22 doubles, 55 walks, 20 stolen bases, 50 RBIs and 82 runs scored. He’s the total package, he’s dominating in the high minors, and he doesn’t turn 20 years old until the end of August.

.327/.407/.471 with 15 RBIs and 21 runs in 29 AA games; .308/.410/.520 with 35 RBIs and 61 runs in 65 AAA games

3) Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee Brewers

So far at least, Rickie Weeks has been the biggest disappointment of any prospect in my top 50. One of the great college hitters of all-time, Weeks did very well in a brief stint as a pro last year, but has struggled playing at Double-A Huntsville this season, hitting just .260/.373/.397 in 92 games. He’s doing a great job getting on base, with 39 walks and 23 hit by pitches, but his batting average, Isolated Power (.137) and baserunning (7-for-16 on stolen bases) have been sub par.

.260/.373/.397 with 33 RBIs and 50 runs in 92 AAA games

4) Jeremy Reed, Seattle Mariners

Jeremy Reed is another top prospect who has had a disappointing season, hitting .275/.357/.420 at Triple-A Charlotte before being traded to the Mariners in the Freddy Garcia deal. Since becoming a Mariner, Reed has hit .275/.337/.440 in 23 games at Triple-A Tacoma. Reed is continuing to do a great job controlling the strike zone (45 walks, 43 strikeouts) and he’s hitting for reasonable power (.150 IsoP), but his batting average is way down from last season, when he hit a combined .373 between Single-A and Double-A.

.275/.353/.425 with 51 RBIs and 62 runs in 96 AAA games

5) Andy Marte, Atlanta Braves

After very solid seasons at Single-A in 2002 and 2003, Andy Marte moved up to Double-A this season and is having a great year. He’s maintained his batting average (.287 this season after .285 last year and .281 in 2002) and has improved both his power and plate discipline. Marte, who missed about a month with an injury, is currently sporting a .291 Isolated Power, which is just huge (Adam Dunn has a .291 IsoP for the Reds this year). The Braves have Chipper Jones playing third base again right now, but I’d be shocked if Marte isn’t manning the hot corner in Atlanta at some point next year.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

.287/.373/.578 with 42 RBIs and 34 runs in 67 AA games

6) Bobby Crosby, Oakland A’s

After a very slow start (.200/.269/.383 in April), Bobby Crosby has turned things around to put together a very impressive rookie season. He hasn’t quite been Miguel Tejada, but he’s been close enough, and for a fraction of the cost. Crosby, who has to be considered the leading AL Rookie of the Year candidate right now, is hitting .270/.337/.475 and is on pace for 25 homers and 35 doubles. From 2001-2003, Tejada hit .285/.339/.485 for the A’s, averaging 30 homers and 34 doubles.

.270/.337/.475 with 43 RBIs and 47 runs in 91 MLB games

7) Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies

Because of a sore left elbow, Cole Hamels‘ season didn’t start until the end of May. He then made four starts, pitching a total of 16 innings with a 1.13 ERA, before having to be shut down again. He hasn’t pitched since June 4, and there’s a chance he won’t return to the mound this year, although the Phillies have said they expect him to return sometime in August.

1-0 with a 1.13 ERA and 24-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16.0 A innings

8) Scott Kazmir, New York Mets

Scott Kazmir‘s season started off very rough and he missed nearly all of May with an injury, but he’s done extremely well since returning to the mound. Kazmir posted a 3.42 ERA in 50 innings at Single-A, before being promoted to Double-A Binghamton this month. He is 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA in four starts there thus far. Overall for the year, he has a 2.84 ERA in 76 innings pitched, along with an 80-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .248 opponent’s batting average.

1-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 51-to-22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 50.0 A innings; 2-1 with a 1.73 ERA and 29-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 26 AA innings

9) Jeff Mathis, Anaheim Angels

Jeff Mathis got off to a nice start at Double-A Arkansas, hitting .293 with a .494 slugging percentage through the end of May. He’s been ice cold since then though, hitting just .224 in June and .147 in July. For the year, his numbers are respectable but disappointing. He has shown good power, with a .180 IsoP and 31 extra-base hits in 317 at-bats, and he’s walking a ton (43 walks in 88 games), but he is having a tough time making contact (strikeouts in 25.2% of his at-bats) and isn’t getting enough singles to drop.

.243/.338/.423 with 42 RBIs and 45 runs in 88 AA games

10) Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

Prince Fielder has had an up-and-down year at Double-A Huntsville. He started off hot, hitting .306 with a .597 slugging percentage in April, but then hit just .231 and .235 in May and June. He’s bounced back in a big way this month, hitting .319 with a .542 slugging percentage. For the year, his batting average (.266) is below where you’d like to see it, but he’s hitting for plenty of power (.200 IsoP), drawing walks (.098 IsoD) and even stealing some bases (9-for-14).

.266/.364/.466 with 57 RBIs and 55 runs in 94 AA games

11) Edwin Jackson, Los Angeles Dodgers

After being talked about as a potential member of the Dodgers’ rotation coming out of spring training, Edwin Jackson ended up starting the year at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he struggled. He had a 5.29 ERA in 78.1 innings there, striking out just 64 batters, handing out 41 walks, and allowing batters to hit .277 off him. Despite his struggles, the Dodgers called him up and he made three starts with a 3.86 ERA for them before going on the disabled list with a strained forearm.

6-4 with a 5.29 ERA and 64-to-41 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 78.1 AAA innings; 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA and 6-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.2 innings

12) Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins

Justin Morneau began this season at Triple-A Rochester, where he hit .306/.377/.615 with 22 homers and 23 doubles in 72 games. Between all that bashing of International League pitching, Morneau made a brief appearance with the Twins, hitting .292/.370/.542 in seven games before being sent back down. Then, a couple weeks ago, with Doug Mientkiewicz on the disabled list, the Twins called Morneau back up again. He’s hit .264/.278/.491, doing enough to take the everyday first base job away from Mientkiewicz, which, if the rumors are true, will lead to Mientkiewicz being traded.

.306/.377/.615 with 63 RBIs and 51 runs in 72 AAA games; .273/.309/.506 with 15 RBIs and 10 runs in 19 MLB games

13) Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals

After six starts at Triple-A Omaha, in which Zack Greinke had a 2.51 ERA in 28.2 innings, the Royals decided he was ready for the big leagues. In his 12 starts with Kansas City, Greinke has shown flashes of brilliance along with a tendency to serve up quite a few long balls. He has continued to have excellent control, with just 11 non-intentional walks in 71.2 innings, but his low minor-league strikeout rates have also continued, with just 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He has also served up 14 homers on the year, including 11 in his last 45.2 innings. From what I’ve seen of him, I think he looks closer to the next Brad Radke than the next Greg Maddux, but he doesn’t turn 21 until late October, so that’s still pretty damn good.

1-1 with a 2.51 ERA and 23-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28.2 AAA innings; 2-8 with a 4.77 ERA and 47-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 71.2 MLB innings

14) Casey Kotchman, Anaheim Angels

Casey Kotchman started this year at Double-A Arkansas and tore up the Texas League, hitting .368/.438/.544 in 28 games. Then, in early May, when Darin Erstad went on the disabled list, the Angels called Kotchman up to the majors and he hit .218/.286/.277 in 28 games before being sent back down, this time to Triple-A. Since arriving at Triple-A, Kotchman has hit .293/.349/.453, but has played just one time since June 29 because of injuries.

.368/.438/.544 with 18 RBIs and 19 runs in 28 AA games; .293/.349/.453 with 16 RBIs and 10 runs in 19 AAA games; .218/.286/.277 with 14 RBIs and 7 runs in 28 MLB games

15) Joe Blanton, Oakland A’s

After a phenomenal 2003 season split between Single-A and Double-A, Joe Blanton has simply been “okay” in 2004. Pitching at Triple-A Sacramento, Blanton has gone 7-6 with a 4.43 ERA in 130 innings, along with a 93-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The ERA and strikeout rate aren’t where you’d like to see them, and Blanton has struggled over the last two months, posting a 5.61 ERA since the end of May.

7-6 with a 4.43 ERA and 93-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 130.0 AAA innings

16) David Wright, New York Mets

David Wright has probably been the most talked about prospect of 2004. Wright began the year at Double-A Binghamton, hitting .363/.467/.619 in 60 games, before being promoted to Triple-A Norfolk. He batted .298/.388/.579 in 31 games there, before being called up to the Mets late this month. Wright hit for a big batting average for the first time in his career this season and showed a ton of power. He’s one of the top prospects in baseball.

.363/.467/.619 with 40 RBIs and 44 runs in 60 AA games; .298/.388/.579 with 17 RBIs and 18 runs in 31 AAA games; .167/.200/.333 with 1 RBI and 3 runs in 6 MLB games

17) Alexis Rios, Toronto Blue Jays

Because of Toronto’s injury problems this season, Alexis Rios‘ major-league career began a little sooner than most expected. He got the call to the big leagues at the end of May, despite hitting just .259/.292/.373 in 46 games at Triple-A Syracuse. Rios started very slow for the Blue Jays, hitting only .180 through his first 50 at-bats. Since then, he has batted .336, bringing his season totals up to .296/.340/.417.

.259/.292/.373 with 23 RBIs and 14 runs in 46 AAA games; .296/.340/.417 with 10 RBIs and 32 runs in 53 MLB games

18) Dioner Navarro, New York Yankees

The Yankees’ biggest trading chip coming into this season, Dioner Navarro has had a so-so year thus far. He started out at Double-A Trenton and hit for a solid batting average (.271) and walked quite a bit (31 non-intentional walks in 70 games), but didn’t hit for any power. After slugging .469 with a .148 IsoP between Single-A and Double-A last season, Navarro slugged just .369 with a .098 IsoP at Trenton. He then moved up to Triple-A, where he’s struggled even more in 16 games thus far. Still, if the Yankees make a big trade this year, I’m betting Navarro will be a part of it.

.271/.354/.369 with 29 RBIs and 32 runs in 70 AA games; .200/.292/.327 with 8 RBIs and 4 runs in 16 AAA games

19) Jason Bay, Pittsburgh Pirates

It took a long time for Jason Bay‘s 2004 season to get started, as he missed all of April with a shoulder injury. Once he got on the field, Bay has been spectacular, batting .309/.377/.613 in 60 games. If Bay hadn’t missed so much time with injuries, he’d be running away with the NL Rookie of the Year right now. For his major-league career, Bay has hit .302/.391/.586 with 17 homers and 24 doubles in 326 plate appearances.

.309/.377/.613 with 44 RBIs and 34 runs in 60 MLB games

20) Ervin Santana, Anaheim Angels

Ervin Santana has started just eight games at Double-A Arkansas this year because of injuries. A bum shoulder kept him out of action until the middle of June, and he was shut down again about a month later, after throwing 43.2 innings with a 3.30 ERA.

2-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 48-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 43.2 AA innings

21) Ryan Wagner, Cincinnati Reds

After dominating in the big leagues after being drafted in the first round by the Reds last season, Ryan Wagner has struggled mightily this year. Wagner was absolutely dreadful in April, with an 11.25 ERA in eight innings. He turned it around a little in May, but the Reds sent him to the minors on May 31. Wagner went 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in 16.2 innings at Triple-A, before being called back to the Reds a couple weeks ago.

1-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 19-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16.2 AAA innings; 2-1 with a 6.48 ERA and 15-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25.0 MLB innings

22) Grady Sizemore, Cleveland Indians

After hitting .292/.361/.442 in 95 games at Triple-A Buffalo to start the year, Grady Sizemore got the call to the big leagues this month and has been Cleveland’s starting centerfielder since July 22. Sizemore has hit .294/.455/.588 in his first eight big-league games, smacking a homer and two doubles in 17 at-bats. He’ll be getting on base in front of Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner for many years to come.

.292/.361/.442 with 49 RBIs and 68 runs in 95 AAA games; .294/.455/.588 with 5 RBIs and 2 runs in 8 MLB games

23) Dallas McPherson, Anaheim Angels

Dallas McPherson is putting together perhaps the best offensive season of any top prospect this year. He started the year at Double-A Arkansas, hitting .321/.404/.660 in 68 games. Since being promoted to Triple-A Salt Lake, McPherson has hit .311/.357/.755 in 27 games. Combined between the two levels, McPherson has a .318 batting average with 31 homers, 23 doubles, 10 triples, 97 RBIs and a .688 slugging percentage in 95 games.

.321/.404/.660 with 69 RBIs and 53 runs in 68 AA games; .311/.357/.755 with 28 RBIs and 25 runs in 27 AAA games

24) John Maine, Baltimore Orioles

After going 13-4 with a 2.27 ERA between two levels of Single-A last season, John Maine started this year at Double-A Bowie and went 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in five starts. He then moved up to Triple-A Ottawa, where he had a 4.26 ERA in 76 innings. The Orioles called him up earlier this month to make a start against the Twins, and Maine lasted just 3.2 innings before getting yanked after allowing four runs off seven hits and three walks.

4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 34-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 28.0 AA innings; 4-5 with a 4.26 ERA and 70-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 76.0 AAA innings; 0-1 with a 9.82 ERA and 1-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 3.2 MLB innings

25) Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners

The youngest player in my top 50, Felix Hernandez went 9-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 92 innings at Single-A to start this season. He was promoted to Double-A San Antonio recently and is now attempting to do something amazing — dominate the Texas League at 18 years old. In four starts there so far, Hernandez is 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA in 20.2 innings. I now consider King Felix the best pitching prospect in baseball.

9-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 114-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 92.0 A innings; 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA and 19-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 20.2 AA innings

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