Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Midseason Top 150 Propsects

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Up this week is the Midseason Top 150 Prospects article. Only those prospects currently in the minors and with future rookie eligibility still intact qualify for the list below. Also, I'm not including any 2007 draftees. Writeups are included for the top 75.

One notable exception to the rules is the case of Homer Bailey. He's not listed since it's guaranteed that he'll be brought right back to the majors next week. Kevin Slowey doesn't have that guarantee, so he is back in the rankings. There's a listing of where Bailey and some other ineligible prospects would have ranked at the end of the column.

Because of midseason promotions and the lack of draftees, this list isn't nearly as strong as the one from the preseason. Therefore, anyone not moving up has seen his stock drop and the guys ranked in the 125-150 range will have to show more over the rest of the year to have any hope of appearing on the preseason list in 2008.

2007 Midseason Top 150 Prospects

1. Justin Upton - OF Diamondbacks - DOB: 08/25/87 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: 2006 #8, mid-2006 #7, 2007 #7

.341/.433/.540, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 28/19 K/BB, 9 SB in 126 AB for Single-A Visalia
.302/.376/.531, 8 HR, 35 RBI, 41/20 K/BB, 7 SB in 192 AB for Double-A Mobile

With the preseason top five all graduating to the majors, this is definitely a weak top 150 at the top. Still, Upton is a very legitimate No. 1. In fact, I'd rank him over both Delmon Young and Alex Gordon if they were still eligible. It was a clear sign that big things were on the way when Upton hit .290/.361/.613 with two homers in 31 at-bats for the Diamondbacks this spring. He's picked up nearly 200 points of OPS from where he was a year ago in the Midwest League, and the converted shortstop has looked like he could last in center, though that doesn't figure to happen with Chris Young ahead of him. It's still a long shot, but because of the way he's progressed, it's possible the Diamondbacks will try him in left field during the second half of the season. He could be a .300 hitter and 30-homer guy by the end of the decade and an MVP candidate in his best years.

2. Jay Bruce - OF Reds - DOB: 04/03/87 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: 2006 #130, mid-2006 #23, 2007 #8

.325/.379/.586, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 67/24 K/BB, 4 SB in 268 AB for Single-A Sarasota
.333/.405/.652, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 20/8 K/BB, 2 SB in 66 AB for Double-A Chattanooga

Bruce doesn't have quite as much defensive value as Cameron Maybin or Andrew McCutchen, but his power potential gets him rated the highest of the three high school outfielders taken consecutively in the 2005 draft. Bruce projects as a 35-homer guy from the left side of the plate. While it likely will be a couple of years before he's ready to hold his own versus left-handers, he should hit for average against righties. Bruce is still getting most of his time now in center field, but he figures to settle in as an above average defender in right in the majors. He could be a candidate to join the Cincinnati outfield before the end of next year, depending on what happens with Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. Growing pains are likely, but he should be an All-Star in time.

3. Adam Jones - OF Mariners - DOB: 08/01/85 - ETA: Aug. 2007
Previous rankings: mid-2005 #111, 2006 #48, mid-2006 #25, 2007 #37

.309/.377/.585, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 86/28 K/BB, 5 SB in 340 AB for Triple-A Tacoma

There was little reason to think Jones was ready to succeed when the Mariners tried to make him their center fielder last year, but he'd probably be just fine now, even if he still has some things to work on. For starters, he's striking out more than once per game. Also, he's a poor basestealer for someone with above average speed. The pluses are obvious. Jones has really blossomed as a power hitter at age 21 and now seems likely to have some 30-homer seasons in the majors. His transition from shortstop to center field has gone as well as the Mariners could have hoped, which will present the team with an interesting decision to make at some point. Ichiro is the better defender now, but he might not be in the long-term, so it's possible he could move back to right to make room for the youngster. Jones has plenty of arm strength if the club instead wants to put him in right, and it's possible he'll push Raul Ibanez to the bench later this month.

4. Clay Buchholz - RHP Red Sox - DOB: 08/14/84 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #122, 2007 #45

7-2, 1.77 ERA, 55 H, 116/22 K/BB in 86 2/3 IP for Double-A Portland

With more than twice as many strikeouts as hits allowed in Double-A this year, Buchholz has the best case as the top pitching prospect in the minors. His control isn't quite as good as the 5:1 K:BB ratio suggests, but he is very good at putting his offspeed pitches where he wants them. It's fastball command that can sometimes be a problem for him. He won't be able to overpower major league hitters quite like he has his opponents in the Eastern League, so he'll need to improve in that area in order to help the Red Sox next year. There's a slight chance that the Red Sox will break him in as a reliever down the stretch, just like they did with Jonathan Papelbon in 2005. However, they're concerned enough about his workload that they might prefer he be shut down after the minor league season ends. A debut in the first half of 2008 seems likely. He projects as a long-term No. 2.

5. Evan Longoria - 3B Devil Rays - DOB: 10/07/85 - ETA: Sept. 2007
Previous rankings: 2007 #19

.301/.396/.522, 18 HR, 61 RBI, 63/43 K/BB, 3 SB in 316 AB for Double-A Montgomery

The first hitter taken in the 2006 draft has met expectations, hitting 36 homers in 564 at-bats since selected third overall. He walked just once in 105 at-bats after getting moved up to Double-A last year, but his on-base skills are back in evidence this year. Longoria projects as a 30-homer guy in the majors, and it looks like he'll be able to remain at third base for at least the first half of his career. He likely will struggle to hit for average initially and he'll probably fall a little short of being a true All-Star, but he's going to an above average regular for a long time. He might debut this September and win a starting job next spring.

6. Cameron Maybin - OF Tigers - DOB: 04/04/87 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: 2006 #79, mid-2006 #36, 2007 #18

.303/.396/.466, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 76/41 K/BB, 23 SB in 264 AB for Single-A Lakeland

It's too bad he had to skip the Futures Game with a shoulder injury. That Maybin has fanned 192 times in 649 minor league at-bats is a real cause of concern, but it's the only flaw in his game. The 2005 first-round pick is a terrific defensive center fielder with emerging power. His speed helps him maintain a quality average despite all of the strikeouts. When he gets the ball into the air, he shows power to all fields, an indication that he could hit 30 homers in the majors someday. Perhaps the on-base skills won't be there to make him a superstar, but he could be half of a fun one-two punch with Curtis Granderson at the top of the order in 2009. Granderson will likely move to a corner to make room for him.

7. Daric Barton - 1B Athletics - DOB: 08/16/85 - ETA: April 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2004 #102, 2005 #23, mid-2005 #3, 2006 #4, mid-2006 #10, 2007 #20

.321/.405/.483, 6 HR, 49 RBI, 38/43 K/BB, 2 SB in 321 AB for Triple-A Sacramento

Even when he was struggling, it was just so important to remember how young Barton was. The 21-year-old scuffled to begin the year after injuries limited him to 152 at-bats in 2006, but he upped his OPS from 620 in April to 869 in May and 1157 in June. The power hasn't come yet, and he might not be a 20-homer guy until he enters his prime in 2011-2012. However, his on-base ability could make him a useful player for the A's as soon as next year and he's likely to have a long run as an above average regular. The A's have tried the converted catcher at third base from time to time this year, but first base figures to be his long-term position. He could make Dan Johnson expendable this winter.

8. Fernando Martinez - OF Mets - DOB: 10/10/88 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #80, 2007 #10

.271/.336/.377, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 51/20 K/BB, 3 SB in 236 AB for Double-A Binghamton

Martinez is currently on the DL with a hand injury, but he's hitting at least as well as should have been expected after the Mets got ridiculously aggressive and pushed him up to Double-A to begin the season. Martinez batted .333/.389/.505 in 192 AB in low-A and .193/.254/.387 in 119 AB in high-A as a 17-year-old last year. The power is sure to come in time, and he already has a pretty good feel for hitting, rarely embarrassing himself on outside breaking balls. Martinez is likely to end up in right field and should be well above average there. He may not arrive as quickly as the Mets hope, but he'll likely be a .300 hitter with 25- or 30-home run ability in time.

9. Clayton Kershaw - LHP Dodgers - DOB: 03/19/88 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: 2007 #40

7-3, 2.12 ERA, 50 H, 103/41 K/BB in 76 1/3 IP for low Single-A Great Lakes

While he has a long road ahead of him, Kershaw, the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, possesses the most upside of any pitcher in the minors. The 6-foot-3 left-hander throws 93-94 mph and can fan both lefties and righties with his curve. His changeup should be a third plus pitch by the time he reaches the majors. Kershaw can have difficulty throwing strikes. He had a 54/5 K/BB ratio in 37 innings after being drafted last year, but he's struggling to finish hitters quickly this season. It's not a major concern going forward. Kershaw isn't a particularly big injury risk for someone his age. If he remains healthy, it wouldn't come as a shock to see him pitch his way from the FSL to the majors next season.

10. Brandon Wood - 3B/SS Angels - DOB: 03/02/85 - ETA: April 2008
Previous rankings: 2005 #149, mid 2005 #13, 2006 #3, mid-2006 #2, 2007 #6

.264/.345/.476, 15 HR, 52 RBI, 78/38 K/BB, 8 SB in 307 AB for Triple-A Salt Lake
.091/.091/.091, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 5/0 K/BB, 0 SB in 11 AB for Los Angeles (AL)

While his place near the top of the rankings is secure, Wood has been a real disappointment this year. He's just not going to be able to hit for average in the majors while striking out as much as he does. Wood has legitimate 30-homer power and is capable of being an average defensive shortstop or a very good third baseman, so he's going to be a long-term regular. However, it could be years before he develops into a major asset. It's possible he'll spend most of his career as a .250-.260 hitter and .330 OBP guy. He'll be a fine fantasy infielder anyway, but at this point, maybe the Angels shouldn't be so resistant to giving him up if it would mean adding a big piece this year.

11. Colby Rasmus - OF Cardinals - DOB: 08/11/86 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: 2006 #135, mid-2006 #47, 2007 #27

.258/.354/.513, 16 HR, 52 RBI, 64/39 K/BB, 12 SB in 302 AB for Double-A Springfield

Rasmus figured to struggle some when the Cardinals decided to start him off in Double-A after he hit .254/.351/.404 following his promotion to the FSL last year. However, since a slow start in April, he's been one of the Texas League's best players. He currently ranks sixth in the league in OPS and tied for second in homers. Rasmus is penciled in as the Cardinals' 2009 center fielder, but he's now a legitimate option to step in next year if Jim Edmonds continues to spend time on the DL. He's also a possibility to start over Juan Encarnacion in right. Rasmus' left-handed swing will generate 25- or 30-homer power, and he's solid enough against southpaws that he should prove to be capable of hitting .280-.300 with a quality OBP. He's someone for Cardinals fans to get excited about.

12. Max Scherzer - RHP Diamondbacks - DOB: 07/27/84 - ETA: Sept. 2007
Previous rankings: none

2-0, 0.53 ERA, 5 H, 30/2 K/BB in 17 IP for Single-A Visalia
1-2, 3.68 ERA, 20 H, 26/9 K/BB in 22 IP for Double-A Mobile

The Diamondbacks barely beat the deadline to ink Scherzer, the 11th overall pick in the 2006 draft, before the May 31 deadline, giving him a major league contract worth $4.3 million. It's looks like a move that could pay off as soon as August or September. Some viewed Scherzer as a long-term reliever during his days at Mizzou, but he currently projects as a No. 2 starter. Scherzer throws 93-95 mph and possesses a plus slider. His changeup lags well behind his top two pitches, so developing it will be a priority for Arizona. If given the chance, Scherzer could step into the team's bullpen next month and provide quite a boost. Ideally, he wouldn't be needed as a starter until next May or June.

13. Jose Tabata - OF Yankees - DOB: 08/12/88 - ETA: 2010
Previous rankings: 2006 #136, mid-2006 #18, 2007 #17

.312/.378/.395, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 54/26 K/BB, 13 SB in 314 AB for Single-A Tampa

Tabata's numbers remain far less than awe-inspiring, but he's just so young and yet so solid. His line this year closely resembles that from 2006, when he hit .298/.377/.420 for low-A Charleston. The one big concern is injuries. The Yankees have been tight-lipped when it's come to his problems, but Baseball America reported that he's seen five specialists over the last year to correct a cyst problem in his wrist. Tabata's ability to make contact and above average speed could make him a batting champ in the majors someday. Ideally, he'd be a No. 3 hitter capable of 20 homers and 40 doubles per year. Injuries may play a role in preventing him from reaching his ceiling, but considering his youth, some short-term setbacks would hardly doom him.

14. Adam Miller - RHP Indians - DOB: 11/26/84 - ETA: Aug. 2007
Previous rankings: mid-2004 #101, 2005 #8, mid-2005 #26, 2006 #35, mid-2006 #31, 2007 #22

4-2, 3.51 ERA, 46 H, 48/17 K/BB in 51 1/3 IP for Triple-A Buffalo

Miller looked like one of the Indians' five best starters in spring training, but the team gave little thought to carrying him and still went to Fausto Carmona as the replacement when Cliff Lee got hurt. That worked out well, of course, and Miller ended up injuring a finger after opening the season with a 2.45 ERA and a 39/14 K/BB ratio in 44 IP for Buffalo. After a six-week absence, Miller was brought back as a reliever, as the Indians want to find out whether he can aid their pen in the second half. The early returns haven't been promising, as he's allowed eight runs in his last two appearances, but he's still essentially rehabbing. With a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, a hard slider and a changeup that makes him very effective against lefties, he has about as much upside as any pitcher in the majors. His elbow problems from 2005 remain a source of concern, but he could prove to be a top starter for the Indians as soon as next year.

15. Jacoby Ellsbury - OF Red Sox - DOB: 09/11/83 - ETA: April 2008
Previous rankings: 2006 #138, mid-2006 #67, 2007 #42

.452/.518/.644, 0 HR, 13 RBI, 7/6 K/BB, 8 SB in 73 AB for Double-A Portland
.286/.361/.380, 1 HR, 14 RBI, 26/23 K/BB, 23 SB in 213 AB for Triple-A Pawtucket
.375/.444/.438, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 0/2 K/BB, 1 SB in 16 AB for Boston

The left-handed-hitting Ellsbury isn't really the new Johnny Damon, but he could prove to be nearly as valuable of a player, partly because he'll be a better defender. If only he had a better arm, he could be a Gold Glove candidate someday. On offense, he's a true leadoff hitter. He might be good for 10 homers per year, but most of his extra-base hits will be doubles. The majority of his value will come in the form of a .280-.300 average and .360-.370 OBP. The Red Sox may trade Coco Crisp this winter if Ellsbury turns in a big second half in Triple-A.

16. Eric Hurley - RHP Rangers - DOB: 09/17/85 - ETA: April 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #56, 2007 #44

7-2, 3.25 ERA, 71 H, 76/27 K/BB in 88 2/3 IP for Double-A Frisco
1-2, 4.32 ERA, 14 H, 17/7 K/BB in 16 2/3 IP for Triple-A Oklahoma

The new hope for the Texas rotation, Hurley shows very good command of a 90-93 mph fastball and a plus slider. His changeup ranks behind his other offerings, but that hasn't stopped him from holding left-handed hitters to a .205 average this year. One problem that will be amplified by the conditions in Arlington is that he's rather homer-prone. He should be a legit No. 3 anyway or maybe a No. 2 in a bigger ballpark. Under other circumstances, Hurley would be a candidate to contribute this year. The Rangers, though, won't have a lot to play for in the second half and should be content to hold off on promoting him until early next year.

17. Andy LaRoche - 3B Dodgers - DOB: 09/13/83 - ETA: April 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2005 #17, 2006 #26, mid-2006 #17, 2007 #13

.273/.367/.441, 5 HR, 16 RBI, 19/24 K/BB, 2 SB for Triple-A Las Vegas
.211/.436/.263, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 5/15 K/BB, 1 SB in 38 AB for Los Angeles (NL)

LaRoche has had a rather turbulent year. Given a chance to unseat Wilson Betemit in spring training, he suddenly became ridiculously error-prone and also faltered offensively. The defense got better in the minors, but the offense didn't. Still, Betemit's poor showing got LaRoche to the majors on May 6 and he suddenly became the new Eddie Yost, walking 15 times in 38 at-bats. The Dodgers, though, didn't appreciate the OBP and decided to go with Tony Abreu instead. Since returning to Triple-A on June 1, LaRoche has raised his OPS from 676 to 808. However, he did miss time with soreness in his left shoulder, which he originally hurt last year. It might be that the shoulder is responsible for the decline in his power numbers. He hasn't resembled a future 30-homer guy lately, though he still might have that kind of potential down the road. Fortunately, he could be a solid regular while hitting 15-20 homers per year. He should be ready for the job next season.

18. Andrew McCutchen - OF Pirates - DOB: 10/10/86 - ETA: July 2008
Previous rankings: 2006 #87, mid-2006 #64, 2007 #25

.238/.303/.350, 5 HR, 36 RBI, 60/29 K/BB, 11 SB in 323 AB for Double-A Altoona

The Pirates moved McCutchen up from low-A ball to Altoona for the playoff push last season and saw him hit.308/.379/.474 in 20 games. As a result, the team kept him there this year, while fellow 2005 first-round picks Upton, Bruce and Maybin all started off in high-A ball. If the Pirates had it to do over again, they probably would had McCutchen join them. McCutchen hasn't been overmatched since a .189 month of April, but neither has he excelled at any point. Still, he remains a lock to become the Pirates' long-term center fielder. McCutchen will offer plenty of defense and speed. He'll likely hit 20 homers per year at his peak. The on-base ability may not be there to make him an elite leadoff hitter, but he'll be quite a step up from Chris Duffy, probably by the end of next season.

19. Joba Chamberlain - RHP Yankees - DOB: 09/23/85 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: 2007 #130

4-0, 2.03 ERA, 25 H, 51/11 K/BB in 40 IP for Single-A Tampa
3-1, 2.60 ERA, 20 H, 48/11 K/BB in 27 2/3 IP for Double-A Trenton

The Yankees gambled a bit when they took Chamberlain 41st overall in the 2006 draft and were rewarded when he blossomed into one of the top power pitchers in the minors this season. Chamberlain had arm problems in his final year at Nebraska and he's battled weight issues for several years, so there's still plenty that could go wrong here. However, Chamberlain has top-of-the-rotation ability. He can reach the high-90s with his fastball and his slider is a big-time weapon. A plus changeup could potentially make him an ace someday. As is, he still looks like a No. 2 or No. 3. He's on track to reach the Bronx in mid-2008.

20. Joey Votto - 1B Reds - DOB: 09/10/83 - ETA: July 2007
Previous rankings: mid-2004 #144, 2005 #105, mid-2005 #130, 2006 ---, mid-2006 #63, 2007 #48

.315/.412/.482, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 66/50 K/BB, 10 SB in 305 AB for Triple-A Louisville

Since both Adam Dunn and Scott Hatteberg are candidates to be traded, Votto, who was drafted out of Canada in the second round five years ago, should be making his last appearance in the rankings. Votto offers 25-homer potential from the left side of the plate. Southpaws give him problems, so he could spend his first couple of years in the majors as a platoon player. He's capable of hitting .270-.280 with a quality OBP against right-handers right now. Votto is a natural first baseman, but he's been playing some left field this season just in case he's needed there. Ideally, he'd get to play first base right away after his promotion. His proximity to the majors and short-term upside make him a top fantasy prospect.

21. Gio Gonzalez - LHP White Sox - DOB: 09/19/85 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2005 #81, 2006 #84, mid-2006 #62, 2007 #78

6-4, 3.10 ERA, 80 H, 115/36 K/BB in 95 2/3 IP for Double-A Birmingham

It's hard to figure out what Gonzalez is still doing at Double-A, considering that he spent all of 2006 at the level, but the White Sox might decide to go ahead and promote him from there right to the majors at some point. What's really impressive about Gonzalez's season is the way he's actually increased his strikeout rate while also getting more groundball outs. He's allowed just eight homers this season after giving up 24 in 154 2/3 innings last year. Gonzalez throws in the low-90s and has a hard curveball that will result in plenty of strikeouts in the majors. His changeup is an improved third pitch. Mediocre command will likely hold him back for his first couple of years in the majors, but if he can stay healthy, it's possible he'll be one of the AL's better left-handers someday.

22. Nick Adenhart - RHP Angels - DOB: 08/24/86 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #21, 2007 #21

6-2, 3.33 ERA, 94 H, 67/39 K/BB in 94 2/3 IP for Double-A Arkansas

Adenhart, who was bumped up to Double-A this year after just nine starts in high-A ball last season, has had a roller-coaster season. He posted a 0.80 ERA in five starts in April, a 9.37 ERA in his first four outings to begin May and now a 3.02 ERA in seven starts since. His walk rate is well up from last year, but that's mostly from his struggles during May. Adenhart possesses No. 2-starter stuff. He throws 91-94 mph and both his curveball and changeup are plus pitches. The Angels could have need of him not too far into 2008.

23. Reid Brignac - SS Devil Rays - DOB: 01/16/86 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #83, 2007 #31

.254/.305/.425, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 52/27 K/BB, 10 SB in 339 AB for Double-A Montgomery

Brignac hit .326/.382/.557 at Single-A Visalia last season and then .300/.355/.473 in 28 games after moving up to Double-A. Unfortunately, the production hasn't been there so far this season. He batted only .216 in May and .219 in June before bouncing back recently (he has three homers in his last four games). It's Brignac's bat that's supposed to be his strength. He no longer figures to change positions anytime soon, but he is rather error-prone and he doesn't offer more than average range. Odds are that he'll spend the latter portion of his career as a third baseman. The Rays, though, would like to make him their shortstop as soon as next year. He has 25-homer power. He'll probably never sport great OBPs, but he should be a quality regular anyway. It now looks like he'll need to at least begin 2008 in the minors, with Brendan Harris likely holding on to the starting job in April.

24. Wade Davis - RHP Devil Rays - DOB: 09/07/85 - ETA: Aug. 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #79, 2007 #83

3-0, 1.84 ERA, 54 H, 88/21 K/BB in 78 1/3 IP for Single-A Vero Beach
3-0, 1.75 ERA, 22 H, 23/4 K/BB in 25 2/3 IP for Double-A Montgomery

The Rays finally accelerated Davis' timetable a bit when they promoted him to Double-A last month. The 2004 third-round pick didn't get to pitch in full-season ball until 2006 and wasn't given a midseason bump then even though he deserved one. Davis can rush it to the plate at 93-96 mph, and concentrating on his curveball at the expense of his slider hasn't hurt his strikeout rate. He needs to keep working on his changeup, which just doesn't have as much action as it should. Still, he does help himself by being able to throw it for strikes. He should have a future as a workhorse No. 3 starter.

25. Ryan Sweeney - OF White Sox - DOB: 02/20/85 - ETA: April 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2004 #124, 2005 #80, mid-2005 #94, 2006 #85, mid-2006 #52, 2007 #23

.285/.355/.404, 5 HR, 28 RBI, 49/29 K/BB, 5 SB in 260 AB for Triple-A Charlotte
.200/.265/.333, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 5/4 K/BB, 0 SB in 45 AB for Chicago (AL)

Always one of the youngest players at his level, Sweeney struggled to put up quality numbers until he hit .296/.350/.452 with 13 homers for Charlotte as a 21-year-old in 2006. It figured that he'd only get better this year. That hasn't a happened, but the 2003 second-round pick still looks like the heir to Jermaine Dye's job in right field. Sweeney makes a lot of solid contact and has plenty of time to develop 25-homer power. He's capable of playing center field now and still might get a long look there from the White Sox. However, his future is as a very good defender in right. Maybe he won't be an above average regular before 2010, but I don't doubt he'll get there eventually.

26. Chase Headley - 3B Padres - DOB: 05/09/84 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: none

.350/.443/.627, 14 HR, 50 RBI, 62/42 K/BB, 1 SB in 260 AB for Double-A San Antonio
.176/.300/.235, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4/2 K/BB, 0 SB in 17 AB for San Diego

Headley, a 2005 second-round pick out of Tennessee, has taken as much of a leap forward as any hitter in the minors this season. With a .282/.382/.431 line in his first 1 ½ pro seasons, Headley faced big questions about whether he'd hit for enough power to be a major league third baseman. As a result, he added muscle over the winter, and he immediately started driving the ball with more authority. Especially promising is that he's doing it from both sides of the plate, as he has a 1060 OPS as a left-handed hitter and a 1096 OPS as a righty. Headley is the Padres' best bait should the team need to land a big bat at the deadline. If he's kept, he could push Kevin Kouzmanoff to left field in 2008. He isn't much more than an average defender at third, but that still makes him an upgrade over Kouz.

27. Jake McGee - LHP Devil Rays - DOB: 08/06/86 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #114, 2007 #91

5-3, 2.97 ERA, 70 H, 119/28 K/BB in 94 IP for Single-A Vero Beach

Davis' promotion to Double-A broke up the pairing with McGee for the first time since both were drafted in 2004. They'll likely be reunited soon enough, probably first in Double-A and eventually in the Tampa Bay rotation by 2009. McGee has the greater upside of the two, though he's also the bigger injury risk. Using a very good low-90s fastball and an outstanding curveball, McGee has allowed only eight hits to left-handed hitters this season. He just needs a better changeup in order to fulfill his potential. I do worry about his arm, but he's managed to avoid problems so far.

28. Carlos Triunfel - SS Mariners - DOB: 02/27/90 - ETA: 2011
Previous rankings: none

.273/.231/.273, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 1/0 K/BB, 0 SB in 11 AB for Rookie AZL Mariners
.309/.342/.388, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 23/5 K/BB, 4 SB in 152 AB for low Single-A Wisconsin
.353/.389/.412, 0 HR, 1 RBI, 1/1 K/BB, 0 SB in 17 AB for Single-A High Desert

It seems completely ridiculous to me that the Mariners think having the 17-year-old Triunfel in the California League right now is the best thing for his future, but perhaps it won't set him back. It's obvious already that the native of the Dominican Republic is an elite talent. A broken thumb cost him a month and ended his time in the Midwest League, as he was promoted to High Desert after a brief rehab assignment in the Arizona League. Triunfel doesn't have any power yet, but he makes tons of contact and he could be good for 25 or 30 homers per year someday. Of course, he's incredibly raw. He's walked just six times all year and he's been thrown out on nine of his 13 steal attempts. In another organization, he might be able to make it as a shortstop with a strong work ethic. The Mariners, though, could stick him at third base someday. Why they're rushing him when they're set throughout the infield for the foreseeable future is anyone's guess. However, he looks like a special enough talent to handle it.

29. Carlos Carrasco - RHP Phillies - DOB: 03/21/87 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: 2007 #93

6-2, 2.84 ERA, 49 H, 53/22 K/BB in 69 2/3 IP for Single-A Clearwater
3-0, 3.48 ERA, 15 H, 14/12 K/BB in 20 2/3 IP for Double-A Reading

The lack of a strikeout breaking ball hasn't prevented Carrasco from holding hitters to a .199 average this season. That's because he has nice movement on his 91-94 mph fastball and one of the top changeups in the minors. An improved curveball would give him top-of-the-rotation potential, and he still looks plenty good enough to succeed as is. The Phillies could choose to hurry him to the majors next month if they're still in contention.

30. Neil Walker - 3B Pirates - DOB: 09/10/85 - ETA: Aug. 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2005 #129, 2006 #114, mid-2006 #107, 2007 #105

.291/.356/.503, 12 HR, 47 RBI, 52/33 K/BB, 7 SB in 306 AB for Double-A Altoona

How much it has to do with the move from catcher is anyone's guess, but Walker has suddenly began to fulfill his offensive potential this season after opening the year with a career .286/.324/.428 line. Not only is the 2004 first-round pick showing major league power, but he's improved his walk rate from dismal to average. Walker has always made steady contact, and he could be a .300 hitter in the majors. On defense, he's still learning how to play third base, but he should be major leaguer ready with the glove and with the bat by the latter part of 2008.

31. Luke Hochevar - RHP Royals - DOB: 09/15/83 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: 2007 #38

3-6, 4.69 ERA, 110 H, 94/26 K/BB in 94 IP for Double-A Wichita

Hochevar isn't a bust yet, but the Royals should regret bypassing Tim Lincecum and Kershaw to draft him first overall last year. Hochevar, who battled shoulder soreness after being assigned to the Arizona Fall League last October, hasn't displayed much more than No. 3- or No. 4-starter stuff in Double-A. He's typically throwing 90-92 mph, which is down a bit from where he was when he was drafted. His curveball remains a strikeout pitch, but if he's not throwing his fastball by many hitters, he's going to give up a lot of homers once he reaches the majors. He'll slide quite a bit on the 2008 list unless he can take it back up a notch. It's only going to get more difficult now that he's been moved up to Triple-A.

32. Jeff Niemann - RHP Devil Rays - DOB: 02/28/83 - ETA: Sept. 2007
Previous rankings: 2005 #60, mid-2005 #74, 2006 #83, mid-2006 #49, 2007 #53

9-5, 3.75 ERA, 101 H, 93/39 K/BB in 98 1/3 IP for Triple-A Durham

Niemann, the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft, has already set a new career high for innings this season. The 6-foot-9 right-hander underwent elbow surgery while at Rice and battled shoulder problems throughout his pro career until finally beating back the injury bug this season. Niemann displays No. 2-starter ability. He can throw in the mid-90s, and his slider is a true strikeout pitch. His changeup isn't as impressive, which is why left-handers are hitting .293 against him in Triple-A. I thought a healthy Niemann could be up for good by the All-Star break this year, but the Rays have been right to take it slow. He'll get a look in August or September, but he's probably a year away from having much in the way of fantasy value.

33. Johnny Cueto - RHP Reds - DOB: 02/15/86 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: none

4-5, 3.33 ERA, 72 H, 72/21 K/BB in 78 1/3 IP for Single-A Sarasota
2-0, 0.47 ERA, 11 H, 27/4 K/BB in 19 IP for Double-A Chattanooga
1-0, 3.60 ERA, 5 H, 6/0 K/BB in 5 IP for Triple-A Louisville

Cueto didn't make the preseason Top 150, though as the Reds' No. 6 prospect, he was one of the top five cuts. It was the likelihood of injury that hurt him then and still costs him a few spots now. Cueto can throw in the mid-90s and sits comfortably at 93 mph. His slider is a top-notch No. 2 pitch, and he's made a lot of progress with his changeup on his way to striking out more than a batter an inning this year. Because he stands just 5-foot-10, there's some thought that he might end up in the pen. However, that's only going to happen if arm problems strike. He's showing No. 2-starter upside.

34. Jeff Clement - C Mariners - DOB: 08/21/83 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: 2006 #63, mid-2006 #43, 2007 #58

.274/.366/.517, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 54/39 K/BB, 0 SB in 296 AB for Triple-A Tacoma

Clement struggled after being rushed to Triple-A following just 59 at-bats in Double-A last year, hitting .257/.321/.347 in 245 at-bats. This year has gone much better after a shaky start. He has 13 homers since the beginning of May and he's drubbed left-handers for a .329/.421/.707 line. It makes one wonder how much better off the Mariners would be with a DH platoon of Ben Broussard and Clement down the stretch. They'd probably go to Adam Jones first, though. Already set at catcher for another year and a half, the Mariners could part with Clement, the third overall pick in the 2005 draft, in order to land a big name this summer. Clement is merely adequate on defense and some teams might prefer him as a first baseman. He won't hit for big averages, but he could have some 30-homer seasons.

35. Michael Bowden - RHP Red Sox - DOB: 09/09/86 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: 2007 #97

2-0, 1.37 ERA, 35 H, 46/8 K/BB in 46 IP for Single-A Lancaster
3-4, 5.11 ERA, 53 H, 39/23 K/BB in 49 1/3 IP for Double-A Portland

Lancaster has a history of chewing up and spitting out pitching prospects, so much so that the Red Sox got extra aggressive with Buchholz and had him open the season at Portland. Bowden, though, started off at Lancaster and had no problem at all with the ridiculous conditions. Double-A has proven to the tougher test for him, as he's battled control problems for the first time. Bowden throws in the low-90s and has an excellent curveball. He needs a better changeup or he's going to give up a lot of homers to left-handed hitters. Assuming there are no arm woes causing his command troubles, he should begin to adjust to Double-A any week now. He projects as a No. 3.

36. Franklin Morales - LHP Rockies - DOB: 01/24/86 - ETA: Sept. 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #81, 2007 #67

0-4, 4.05 ERA, 58 H, 56/33 K/BB in 66 2/3 IP for Double-A Tulsa

Morales has one of the top arms in the minors. He can throw 93-96 mph and both his curveball and changeup should develop into plus offerings. If he can become a true pitcher before he goes down with an injury, he could be an outstanding complement to Jeff Francis at the top of Colorado's rotation. His command will likely improve as he gets more innings. Holding him back this year was a strained hamstring that cost him most of May. He seemed to be moving in the right direction before the injury, but he's walked 26 in 39 2/3 innings since. Even in a best-case scenario, he's a year away.

37. Ian Stewart - 3B Rockies - DOB: 04/05/85 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: 2004 #98, mid-2004 #29, 2005 #7, mid-2005 #11, 2006 #20, mid-2006 #27, 2007 #50

.299/.382/.480, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 66/40 K/BB, 5 SB in 304 AB for Triple-A Colorado Springs

Had Stewart's season progressed differently, the Rockies might have been more motivated to trade Garrett Atkins when the Angels came calling. Stewart, however, got off to a very slow start before finally taking off. By month, he's posted OPSs of 741, 828, 950 and now 1026 so far in July. Seven of his 11 homers were hit during June. Stewart could force the Rockies to deal Atkins or Todd Helton with a big second half in Colorado Springs. A move to right field has also been considered in the past, but Brad Hawpe is proving to be a keeper. Stewart no longer looks like the potential star he seemed to be two years ago, but he'll probably be a solid regular after a period of adjustment.

38. Chuck Lofgren - LHP Indians - DOB: 01/29/86 - ETA: Aug. 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #69, 2007 #46

8-5, 4.18 ERA, 89 H, 90/38 K/BB in 88 1/3 IP for Double-A Akron
0-1, 10.80 ERA, 7 H, 7/3 K/BB in 5 IP for Triple-A Buffalo

With his velocity fluctuating, Lofgren hasn't been able to come close to matching his 2.32 ERA from 2006. His fastball is still good enough for a left-hander, but he's not throwing it by as many hitters. Making that more of a problem is that he's always been a flyball pitcher. Lofgren's plus changeup will help him get to the majors and stay there. However, if he's going to be a No. 2 starter, it'd help it hit 92-93 mph on the gun more consistently. He also needs to improve his curveball. It seems less likely now that he'll break into the majors during the first half of next year.

39. Wladimir Balentien - OF Mariners - DOB: 07/02/84 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: none

.328/.397/.596, 20 HR, 66 RBI, 67/39 K/BB, 13 SB in 329 AB for Triple-A Tacoma

Balentien's power was never in doubt, but up until this year, it didn't look like he had the on-base skills to be an above average regular. He hit .291 in high-A ball in 2005, but that came with a 160/33 K/BB ratio in 492 AB. In Double-A last year, he slumped mightily over the final month to finish at .230, though he did improve to 140/70 K/BB ratio in 444 at-bats. This year, he's kept some of the gains in his walk rate and really cut back on the strikeouts. It seems like a legitimate step forward, so he might join Ichiro and Jones in Seattle's outfield by mid-2008. Balentien could hit 40 homers in the majors someday. There's still reason for skepticism regarding his ability to hit for average, and having both him and Richie Sexson in the same lineup might prove hard to stomach at times. Still, it could be an awesome combination if both are ever on at the same time.

40. Matt Harrison - LHP Braves - DOB: 08/16/85 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #92, 2007 #49

5-4, 3.23 ERA, 97 H, 61/28 K/BB in 97 2/3 IP for Double-A Mississippi

Harrison should prove to be an innings-eating No. 3 starter for the Braves in time. The 6-foot-5 left-hander complements an average fastball with a couple of plus pitches in his curveball and changeup. He's polished enough that he might have been a better choice to fill in for John Smoltz this month than Jo-Jo Reyes. The Braves, though, would prefer to keep him in the minors all year and have him battle for a rotation spot next spring.

41. Billy Rowell - 3B Orioles - DOB: 09/10/88 - ETA: 2010
Previous rankings: 2007 #57

.279/.353/.416, 3 HR, 28 RBI, 49/17 K/BB, 3 SB in 154 AB for low Single-A Delmarva

Rowell didn't make his season debut until May 23 because of a strained oblique and hasn't exactly been on fire since. Still, his was one of the most promising bats from the 2006 draft. The ninth overall selection has a left-handed stroke that promises 25- or 30-homer power, and he'll likely hit for a high average once he settles in. It's just too bad that he'll probably end up at first base rather than third. If the Orioles can land Mark Teixeira in a trade or through free agency, then maybe an outfield corner will be a possibility. Rowell should have the at-bat to carry any position. If he happens to improve enough to stay at third base, then he could be an All-Star someday.

42. Troy Patton - LHP Astros - DOB: 09/03/85 - ETA: May 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2005 #39, 2006 #55, mid-2006 #45, 2007 #47

6-6, 2.99 ERA, 96 H, 68/33 K/BB in 102 1/3 IP for Double-A Corpus Christi
1-0, 1.29 ERA, 4 H, 2/0 K/BB in 7 IP for Triple-A Round Rock

Patton just got bumped up to Triple-A for the first time and is probably the top candidate to get a look next time the Astros need a starter, assuming the team still hasn't given up on 2007. Still, his ceiling isn't as high as it appeared to be a couple of years ago. Patton works in the low-90s less frequently now. He's typically throwing 88-91 mph, making strikeouts more difficult for him to come by. His curveball remains a strong second pitch, but neither his changeup nor his slider measures up. Barring the rediscovery of some velocity or his command going from good to excellent, he might not be more than a third or fourth starter.

43. Travis Snider - OF Blue Jays - DOB: 02/02/88 - ETA: 2010
Previous rankings: 2007 #71

.313/.382/.509, 7 HR, 56 RBI, 71/32 K/BB, 3 SB in 275 AB for low Single-A Lansing

Snider, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 245 pounds, has been compared to Matt Stairs since before he was drafted. He currently projects as the superior hitter of the two, though time will tell whether he'll be able to hang on as a legitimate outfield option as long as Stairs has. That he's dropped about 20 pounds from his listed weight helps his chances. His bat might be major league ready by the time he's 22 in 2010.

44. Deolis Guerra - RHP Mets - DOB: 04/17/89 - ETA: 2010
Previous rankings: 2007 #87

1-5, 4.58 ERA, 54 H, 46/12 K/BB in 57 IP for Single-A St. Lucie

Even taking into account all of the since-promoted prospects, Guerra would have been in the top 30 had this list come out at the end of April. He went on to miss a month with shoulder tendinitis, and he hasn't been quite as effective since. The much-awaited spike in his velocity arrived this spring, as he began regularly working in the 90-94 mph range. Both his changeup and curveball also show plenty of potential. If the shoulder problems were a fluke, Guerra could be a top-of-the-rotation starter someday. Chances are that more arm woes are on the way, however.

45. Chris Marrero - OF Nationals - DOB: 07/02/88 - ETA: 2011
Previous rankings: 2007 #117

.293/.337/.545, 14 HR, 53 RBI, 39/14 K/BB, 0 SB in 222 AB for low Single-A Hagerstown
.296/.374/.481, 2 HR, 14 RBI, 20/10 K/BB, 0 SB in 81 AB for Single-A Potomac

Marrero's power manifested itself even earlier than the Nationals could have hoped for when he hit 14 homers in 57 games in the Sally League. That got him promoted to Potomac before his 19th birthday earlier this month. The Nationals are still trying to settle on Marrero as an outfielder or a first baseman. He played third in high school, but he wasn't going to stay there even if not for the Ryan Zimmerman factor. If he can play close to average defense in left, his bat will get him to the majors. 35 homers per year could be within reach.

46. Scott Elbert - LHP Dodgers - DOB: 05/13/85 - ETA: July 2008
Previous rankings: 2006 #118, mid-2006 #37, 2007 #35

0-1, 3.86 ERA, 6 H, 24/10 K/BB in 14 IP for Double-A Jacksonville

Elbert should be ranked right around where Kershaw is in the top 10, but he went down with a sore shoulder after three starts and eventually underwent season-ending surgery in June to remove scar tissue from around his labrum. That no tears were found, at least according to the Dodgers, qualifies as very good news, and he should be 100 percent for the start of next year. He has No. 2-starter potential with improved command.

47. Will Inman - RHP Brewers - DOB: 02/26/87 - ETA: 2009
Previous rankings: mid-2006 #113, 2007 #73

4-3, 1.72 ERA, 56 H, 98/23 K/BB in 78 2/3 IP for Single-A Brevard County
1-4, 8.06 ERA, 27 H, 25/8 K/BB in 22 1/3 IP for Double-A Huntsville

Sort of the NL's answer to Kevin Slowey, Inman has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the minors over the last couple of years. Double-A has proven to be a hurdle, as he was smoked in his first and third starts at the level. However, he has been better his last two times out. Inman throws 88-91 mph and uses a curve and a changeup. He'll be homer-prone in the majors, but his excellent command should make him a third or fourth starter.

48. Greg Reynolds - RHP Rockies - DOB: 07/03/85 - ETA: July 2008
Previous rankings: 2007 #108

4-1, 1.42 ERA, 32 H, 35/9 K/BB in 50 2/3 IP for Double-A Tulsa

When he's been able to get on the mound, Reynolds has dispatched Texas League hitters with ease. Too bad shoulder problems have limited him to one start since mid-May. The Rockies are still calling his problem tendinitis, though they've offered no timetable for his return. Reynolds, the second overall selection in the 2006 draft, throws in the low-90s and has a couple of solid offspeed pitches in his curveball and changeup. That nothing he throws leads to a lot of strikeouts takes away some of his upside. However, he gets an above average number of grounders, making him a potential No. 3 for Colorado.

49. Carlos Gonzalez - OF Diamondbacks - DOB: 10/17/85 - ETA: Aug. 2008
Previous rankings: mid-2005 #139, 2006 #92, mid-2006 #19, 2007 #34

.256/.296/.438, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 72/19 K/BB, 6 SB in 313 AB for Double-A Mobile

It's easy to see why scouts love him, but Gonzalez just isn't very good yet. Terrific bat speed only takes a prospect so far, and Double-A pitchers have repeatedly exploited flaws in his approach. Left-handers have limited him to a .168/.186/.239 line this season, and his strikeout rate is up for a second straight year. Gonzalez has 30-homer potential, and he does help himself by playing quality defense in right field. If things break right, he could yet prove to be a star. However, I feel I overrated him previously, in part because his numbers were aided by strong environments for offense. He's not going to be major league-ready before 2009.

50. Ian Kennedy - RHP Yankees - DOB: 12/19/84 - ETA: June 2008
Previous rankings: none

6-1, 1.29 ERA, 39 H, 72/22 K/BB in 63 IP for Single-A Tampa
5-1, 2.43 ERA, 21 H, 43/13 K/BB in 37 IP for Double-A Trenton

Kennedy was a disappointment in his junior season at USC, causing him to slip to the Yankees with the 21st selection. The Bombers signed him to the deal he would have gotten had he been drafted a dozen picks higher, and like with Chamberlain, watched him dominate from the very start of this season. Kennedy averages right around 90 mph with his fastball, and neither his changeup nor curveball is a truly dominant pitch. However, he has excellent command and he's far more savvy than the typical 22-year-old. He probably won't be more than a third or fourth starter, but he's a better bet than most pitching prospects to have a long career.

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Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
Email :Matthew Pouliot

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