Brent Lillibridge, SS, Atlanta Braves
There's a huge drop-off both in value for this season and value over the long-term, between Maybin and the rest of the players listed here starting now. While there are other prospects in the NL East who rank higher than the rest of these players, none of them are ready to contribute in 2008. And of the prospects that follow in this section, Lillibridge likely will not be as valuable as most them if they all reach their ceilings, as he doesn't have a lot of projecting left. But this is not to say that he's not a very good player, on the contrary. And for 2008, he's number two on this list because he's likely to see the most action without causing actual negative value to your team.
Lillibridge's skill set is that of the prototypical lead-off shortstop– great speed, doubles power and a fairly good batting eye, with an average hovering around the low .270's. All of his batting skills rate at moderate. His defense is very sound and he will stick at shortstop for his career and likely be considered one of the better ones in the majors. This is what he projects at, and he's essentially already there, which is what makes him unique versus these other players, as most are far from realizing their ceilings.
Where the issues come in is with Lillibridge viewing himself as something other than this. While he makes solid contact and has learned to drive the ball with more authority, he hurts his overall batting average by attempting to hit the home run rather than drive the ball to the open parts of the park, and use his natural speed to manufacture extra-base hits. This was manifested more in an on base percentage hit, hidden in his slugging gains.
There is room for Lillibridge to be better in the long run as a complete player, in reality, above just about every shortstop prospect out there. Certainly he has all the makings of a great defensive shortstop with game changing speed and on base ability. Whether or not he realizes this is what's left of his projection remains to be seen, and has a large impact on his role for the next few seasons. As it stands for 2008, he likely begins the season at Triple-A Richmond and is promoted once he begins playing to his actual strengths rather than his own perceived ones. His promotion will likely put him in a reserve role and as a pinch runner, with the chance to flourish at shortstop if he hits well.
161 AB, .266 BA, 4 HR, 29 R, 14 RBI, 13 SBRoss Detwiler, LHP, Washington Nationals
The sixth-overall pick in last year's draft, Ross Detwiler
has all the makings of Washington's future ace. Plain and simple, the kid has electric stuff with three plus pitches to work with. Detwiler starred for Team USA in 2006, and only because of poor run support on lesser known Southwest Missouri State was Detwiler not the most heralded college pitcher of last year (and maybe because of a little guy named David Price
). Add to that he was the first 2007 draftee to make it to the majors, and you can understand why many in Washington are extremely excited.
Detwiler has a ton of projection and an absolutely devastating curve. The left-hander also throws a plus fastball that sits at 90-93 mph and can hit 96. He also has a changeup that is a third plus pitch at times. Combine that with above average command, and you have the perfect mix for a truly dominating pitcher. While Detwiler still needs to add strength, there's little doubt he'll be able to do that to his 6'5" frame.
His professional numbers are so small as to make any assumptions about them would be somewhat improper, but they sure do look good. If we look at his 2007 season at Southwest Missouri State, while we still get an incomplete picture, we can pick out his pitching metrics independent of his team defense. Over 89 innings, he compiled a 2.89 command rate and an 11.2 dominance rate! His 3.84 control rate leaves a little to be desired, and this will likely be the major thing he needs to work on next season in order to be successful.
Detwiler will likely start 2008 at Double-A Harrisburg, but if he improves on his 2007 gains, and gets his control rate down, it's more than likely he will get a mid-season call-up. Washington's rotation has some severe injury concerns so an early call certainly is possible (which would move him up to second on this list), but whenever he gets there, it's likely he starts. His stuff would project well in the Nationals bullpen though, so if he's needed, he could also end up in middle relief. There is a possibility that Detwiler's numbers go up from these projections based upon the rotation's health, or lack thereof.
98 IP, 5 W, 89 K, 3.80 ERA, 1.45 WHIP