The order of this list was finalized on October 1. Put some thought into it, wanted to get it out before any of the big publications. Part of my order will mesh pretty well with consensus, and there's some players that might look out of place. But, hey it would be boring if we all thought the exact same thing. So here goes.
1. Wil Myers, C - The best up-the-middle talent the Royals have brought through the system since Carlos Beltran more than a decade ago. Myers' ticket is the bat, where a patient approach and the ability to scald the ball to all fields pays off in strong dividends. After a terrific campaign in Burlington, Myers was promoted to Wilmington where he was even better as the youngest position player in the league. The defense behind the plate often comes under scrutiny, but he showed sufficient improvement behind the plate and has strong support from higher ups in the organization.
2. Eric Hosmer, 1B - The best hitter in the minor leagues, Hosmer has answered just about every question heaped upon him after a disappointing first campaign. He can hit, he can take walks, he rarely strikes out, and he's quickly proving he can hit the ball out of the ballpark. I'd personally like to see him tried in RF, if anything just to increase his versatility during interleague play, but also the chance that he could stick out there in a full time role. Whatever the defensive home is, Hosmer has a chance to be one of the better offensive players in baseball. Easy to see Hosmer getting a shot at the Triple-A roster next spring.
3. Mike Moustakas, 3B - He was 2010's home run champ in the minors, forgetting the fact that he missed 15 games to open the season. Moustakas is one of the minors' most powerful hitters, and forget the word projectable, he puts into game situations now. Mike is a big dude, thick lower half, leading to questions about the defense. I see a quick enough first step to make it work at 3B, and of course there's the plus-plus arm. Though he has similarly good contact skills for a power hitter, Mike ranks behind Hosmer due to his lack of patience at the plate. This improved in 2010, but it could still use more refining, which will ultimately lead to a return trip to AAA to open the 2011 season.
4. John Lamb, LHP - I'd like to start by saying these next four are extremely close in ranking, really jumbled these guys around before settling on a final spot for each. Eventually, Lamb took this spot thanks to his stuff, command, youth, and injury-free history. Lamb spots his low-90's fastball and pairs it with a terrific changeup, while the curveball continues to flash good things.
5. Mike Montgomery, LHP - Montgomery, thanks to his slightly better fastball, which was 92-95 in his final start, has slightly more upside than Lamb. But I can't forget the injury, and I don't understand why my intuitive feeling is just a little bit worse. Repertoire reminds me a little of Cole Hamels, and if he can come anywhere near that...
6. Chris Dwyer, LHP - Dwyer is another guy with TOR upside, and he was really putting it together before a back injury shut him down for the last month of the season. Command will never be a strength for him, but he's a guy with three plus pitches and a workhorse build.
7. Danny Duffy, LHP - The last of the lefties here is Duffy, and this was the guy I struggled with ranking the most. I fiddled with him at #4, but finally settled on the #7 spot for him. There's no doubt for me that Duffy is the closest to the Majors, which was a factor in thinking about him higher. He's a guy I can't wait to see in Omaha next spring, which is where I think he'll end up at.
8. Aaron Crow, RHP - I still believe. Stuff is still electric, the word is he was sitting 95 with a wipeout slider late in the season with Wilmington. Guy just needs to throw strikes, which was a problem more often than not when he was with Northwest Arkansas. Should get a retry there in 2011, with a chance to move quick if things start coming together.
9. Christian Colon, SS - Finished on a strong note, not easy to jump from college ball to a tough hitter's park in Wilmington. He'll get every opportunity to stay at shortstop, especially with no viable alternative ahead of him except for a guy who was out with Tommy John this year.
10. David Lough, OF - Second half of the season saved him, and then some. Somewhere around the middle of the season, Lough decided it'd be a good idea to be more patient at the plate, and that he was. The bat is quick to the ball, generating pull power, which resulted in double digit triples and home runs. Defensively, I'd still like to see him get more of a chance in CF, but he'd be outstanding in a corner.
11. Brett Eibner, OF - Raw, but loaded with upside. Plenty of power, plenty of athleticism to help him roam the outfield, and of course a great arm. Might take more time than other college players, but wait could pay off.
12. Johnny Giavotella, 2B - He hits, he has a terrific approach, the questions are on the other side of the ball. Some see it as a problem, some don't. Guess we'll see.
13. Everett Teaford, LHP - OK, this is going to be the controversial ranking here. He's 26 and has done almost nothing of note before this year. But at some point, he started striking guys out this year. It was 6.32 K's per 9 before 2010. This season, it was 10.2 K's per 9. What changed then? He started throwing a lot harder. A lot harder. Low 90's and touching 96, as opposed to only 87-89 before. And that helps his offspeed pitches play up too. Of course, there is a little natural skepticism here. You wonder how, over time, his body will react to the mechanical changes that he credits for the increase in velocity. You wonder if he'll come back to spring training next year reverting back to old habits. He might be even higher on this list if it weren't for these concerns. I think there is some starter potential here, and that's why Teaford is above the next guy on this list. He'll get a chance to make the ML rotation next spring according to the GM, though AAA is more likely.
14. Tim Collins, LHP - Acquired through trade midseason, Collins is not a big guy but the stuff is explosive. He's posted huge strikeout numbers everywhere he has gone, and the stuff agrees -- a fastball that touches 94 and a hard biting curve. Should get a shot at the ML roster in 2011.
15. Louis Coleman, RHP - Resilient arm, not quite the strikeouts numbers as Collins, but delivers fewer free passes, too. Also will get a shot at the ML roster after a few good months in Omaha.
16. Yordano Ventura, RHP - Raw, really far from helping the ML team, but the upside is far too great to ignore. Was in the mid-to-upper 90's deep into starts with a pair of promising offspeed pitches.
17. Cheslor Cuthbert, 3B - Another guy who is far away, but shows the tools of a guy who could explode. Hitting approach is raw, as expected, but Cuthbert has a ton of power for a kid his age. Also shows the skills to stick at 3B.
18. Will Smith, LHP - Mishandled with the Angels, but showed why he was thought of as a prospect after being received in a trade mid-July. After ~50 exceptional innings in Wilmington, Smith threw a couple good games in the playoffs for Northwest Arkansas. The stuff isn't exceptional, but three average pitches and command of them has a chance to be a #4.
19. Tim Melville, RHP - Increasingly frustrating pitcher to follow, Melville hasn't done much to build upon his first-round pedigree coming out of the draft in 2008. He hasn't been terrible, just nothing particularly good. The fastball velocity is still plus, and his two offspeed pitches show the can be good, but are very inconsistent. Missing a month due to injury didn't help his cause. Whether he repeats High-A or goes to Northwest Arkansas will probably depend on how he looks in spring training.
20. Salvador Perez, C - Strong defensive catcher with increasingly attractive offensive potential. Has shown more power each year as a pro. Actually hit much better at home in Wilmington than he did on the road. Will need to continue to improve approach at the plate as he doesn't draw many walks, though to his credit very rarely strikes out.
Just Missing -
Jeff Bianchi, SS - Had him at #20 for a while. Not sure how much to ding him for missing season with Tommy John. Strong defender at both middle infield spots with hitting ability, speed, and a little pop.
Buddy Baumann, LHP - Strong K numbers in High-A first year out of college. Was 90-93 early on in season, but that was in bullpen. Want a number for when he was in the rotation before ranking higher.
Jarrod Dyson, CF - The defense in CF is seriously spectacular, but doubts if he'll hit even a little still there.
Tyler Sample, RHP - Some like him more, but I need to see some improvement, even a little, in showing that he knows where the strike zone is.
Noel Arguelles, LHP - Assuming this dude is alive still. The reports on him were too strong to completely ignore right now.