I just mentioned in the comments today about how I get irrationally excited about prospects in all sports (except basketball). Every year I do my NFL Draft preview that focuses on which defensive back I’m obsessed with. Last year: Patrick Peterson. 2010: Joe Haden. Spoiler Alert 2012: Morris Claiborne. As you can see, my recent track record with DBs is unparalleled. No one picks sure-thing corners like me. Unfortunately, in other sports it’s not as easy to hone in on future stars. Those pesky four, five levels of minor league baseball have a way of turning 1st rounders into insurance salesman. I’d argue that nothing is more exciting than a baseball prospect. That you never really know just cranks up the intrigue.
The Phillies haven’t had a real phenom in camp since Dom Brown two years ago. Remember the day he hit two homers and then was sent back to Minor League camp? That’s buzz. Nothing has come of it since, not really, but those were some fun days fantasizing about Dom Brown going 30/30 for the next decade. Before that, you probably have to go back to Cole Hamels and his obscenely low and laughable Minor League ERA (1.43) to find a Phillie that would be on this list. There will be no Phillies this year, which means I’ll be a lot higher on these guys until they start costing the Phillies games.
I don’t have anything to document my record of picking baseball prospects. I was a little early (like 8 years) on Josh Hamilton. Mark Kotsay never quite lived up to my expectations. Same with Jacque Jones. Remember that guy? Billy Koch? Obsessed with Billy Koch. Todd Walker? Infatuated. Anyway, those are some blasts from the past. Let’s take a look at this year. I’ll probably draft all these guys for my fantasy baseball team, and then they’ll all be back in AAA by Mid-May.
1. Bryce Harper–Nats. Where is my first Bryce Harper story of the Spring? I know he named his puppy “Swag,” I know he was rooting for the Yankees in the playoffs, but what’s new, Bryce? Sometime this Spring a pitcher “getting some work in” is going to leave a fastball there for Bryce and he’ll hit it about 450 feet. This will create about 48 hours of hysteria and speculation, followed by an eventual landing spot in AAA. At least, that’s what I hope. I want some more time with the uber-idiot prospect before he’s competing directly against the Phillies.
2. Brett Lawrie–Blue Jays. Lawrie hit .293 with 9 homers and 25 RBI in 150 ABs for the Blue Jays last year. Project that out to a full season and we’re looking at 30/100 at 3b–a position that seems to be in massive decline. I would kill for the Phillies to have Brett Lawrie. He’s going to be in the Blue Jays’ lineup, it’s just a question of how quickly he develops. Obviously, I’m ready for him to start his perennial All-Star run this season. Lawrie is my favorite Canadian since Larry Walker.
3. Eric Hosmer–Royals. Hosmer was hitting .436 when the Royals called him up last year. Tee-hee. Seriously? .436? Where do I sign? The Royals are so non-threatening, and have been down for so long that I’m actually rooting for them to turn it around a little bit. They might be my 2nd favorite team. Hosmer hit .293 with 19 homers after his call-up, mostly in anonymity. For this year, I’m thinking Will Clark with more power. In a snake draft, I’d gleefully take Hosmer in the 2nd round and then finish in dead-last.
4. Addison Reed–White Sox. What is it about starting pitchers that get shifted to the bullpen and gain velocity? Reed shifted to the closer’s role and started touching high 90s. Pretty much everyone who throws in the high-90s I become obsessed with, so there’s no surprise here. Reed could become Chicago’s closer this year or he could totally implode and you’ll never hear from him again.
5. Mike Moustakas–Royals. Moustakas runs about 5′ 11″, 220. He plays 3B. He’s a converted shortstop. Once considered a better prospect than Hosmer, Moustakas got passed by last year, but I think a little less attention will serve him well. He struggled with the Royals during his call-up last year, hitting .263, but his 2010 Minor League line was .322/36/124. That’s pretty serious.
6. Dustin Ackley–Seattle. Ackley played over half a season with the Mariners last year, but no one pays any attention to Seattle, so I’m still including him. He only hit .273, but there’s this perception that Ackley is a hitting savant that will eventually start collecting batting titles. He’s like Todd Walker-lite. I love second baseman with moderate power numbers. But, let’s be honest, there’s only one Todd Walker. The guy once hit .345 at Salt Lake City, and as we know from Bull Durham–that’s a career. In any league.
7. Mike Trout–Angels. Apparently Mike Trout is about the fastest living human who doesn’t run track. That’s the impression I get. I’m all about taking one exceptional skill and blowing it out of proportion. Trout struggled in 40 games with the Angels last year and faces a crowded outfield in camp, but eventually he’ll break through and you’ll start seeing him running around the bases with a stopwatch graphic. At least, that’s how I see it playing out.
8. Yoenis Cespedes–A’s. I’m slightly cooled on Cespedes. In part, because the Phillies didn’t get him. Can we still trade Victorino for him? Also, it’s since come to my attention that the real hitting phenom in Cuba is Jose Abreu. If that guy was available, he’d be at the top of the list. His numbers in the Cuban league make Cespedes look pedestrian. But, I don’t want to turn my back on Cespedes, mostly because if he turns out, I want to rub it in everyone’s face.
9. Gerrit Cole–Pirates. Much like the Royals, I feel for the Pirates. Don’t you want my pity, Pittsburgh? Doesn’t that feel nice? Basically, I’m offended by the team the Pirates put onto their immaculate yard. Some signs of improvement for Pittsburgh, but they haven’t had a prospect really go through the roof yet. It could be Cole, with his 100 mph heat, it could be Jameson Taillon, but hopefully some help is on the way soon for Pittsburgh.
10. Bubba Starling–Royals. One for the more distant future. Obviously, another Royal. Starling was drafted last year, and doesn’t have a professional at-bat, but he’s still ranked as the 24th best prospect by Baseball America. Starling was a two (maybe three?)-sport phenom in high school. Another one of my weak points. He was set to play QB for Nebraska before the Royals dropped a pile of cash on him. Throws 95, freakish raw power, I think that about covers it.