All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don’t get too worried about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get out of the top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you are looking for.
1) David Price, LHP, Grade A: Best pitching prospect in baseball, has everything you want.
2) Wade Davis, RHP, Grade B+: Should be ready sometime in 2009. Could be a Gil Meche type.
3) Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Grade B+: Excellent combination of command with solid stuff.
4) Tim Beckham, SS, Grade B+: Not great performance, but very young. I’m cutting him slack.
5) Desmond Jennings, OF, Grade B: I like him, power in doubt, hopefully shoulder will be OK.
6) Jeff Niemann, RHP, Grade B-: Nothing left to prove in minors. Should be solid but not great.
7) Nick Barnese, RHP, Grade B-: Following the Davis/Hellickson path. Breakout possible in ’09.
8) Jake Jefferies, C, Grade B-: I’m very impressed with his contact hitting skills. Power??
9) Matt Moore, LHP, Grade B-: Impressive lefty with plus stuff, another breakout candidate.
10) Reid Brignac, SS, Grade C+: Bat slipped while glove improved. Still young, could rebound.
11) John Jaso, C, Grade C+: Gets on base, flashes power, defense acceptable, needs a chance.
12) Jacob McGee, LHP, Grade C+: Would be B+ if not for Tommy John surgery.
13) Eduardo Morlan, RHP, Grade C+: I still like him, though shoulder is a concern.
14) Fernando Perez, OF, Grade C+: Very fast, a bit of pop, good glove, high K-rate a worry.
15) Mitch Talbot, RHP, Grade C+: Average stuff, throws strikes, could be an effective swingman.
16) Heath Rollins, RHP, Grade C+: Could be a lot like Talbot. Throws strikes, good stat record.
17) Reid Fronk, OF, Grade C+: Need to see at higher levels. Like the power, walk rate in Sally.
18) Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Grade C+: Just getting started, fits into Rays pitching program well.
19) Emeel Salem, OF, Grade C+: Very fast, polished hitter, should move up fast if healthy.
20) Albert Suarez, RHP, Grade C+: Heavy sinker, must refine breaking stuff. 2010 breakthrough?
Others include Alex Cobb, Jason Corder, Joseph Cruz, Neal Frontz, Justin Garcia, Glenn Gibson, Matt Gorgen, Austin Hinkle, James Houser, Rhyne Hughs, Keyong Kang, Chris Mason, Ty Morrison, Chris Nowak, Ryan Reid, Ryan Royster, Justin Ruggiano, and Mike Sheridan.
If there is someone else that you really think should be included, make your case. I always miss someone. Space is limited and some of the players above will probably get cut if I have to add someone else.
SYSTEM IN BRIEF:
The farm system has thinned out a bit but remains impressive overall, and particularly rich in pitching. I like the way the Rays handle high school pitchers, usually starting them off in rookie ball, then moving them to the New York-Penn League their second year, then into full-season ball in their third season. They could use some additional hitting depth, which is the main weakness I see right now.
Next up is the Arizona Diamondbacks
Full reports on all these players and over 1,000 others can be found in the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book. The book ships January 31st, but we love pre-orders!! Order early and order often!