As this season gets to its mid-way point, I thought it might be worth taking another look back at the class of 2008, and how perceptions of their relative ranks has changed and continues to change based on their major league performance. The players listed are listed in the rank order that we put them in after the 2008 season.
1, Evan Longoria- you could set a metronome by his performance so far, with an OPS consistently between .850 and .900 which is of course very, very good. Given his age, this is exactly the type of guy that the "age 27 with experience" theory is built for, although we are used to his perforning at the present level, there is absolutely no reason why he doesn't have time to step it up another notch or two. His placement at #1 has been the one constant in this group.
2. Jay Bruce- Drew some votes, coming in 4th, in the vote we took near the end of 2009 for the most dissapointing player in this class. This is definitely a case where the day you take the vote matters, he had a very strong last week, and the dissapointing .718 OPS I referered to in the poll was actually at .773 when the season ended a week later. Numbers are up a bit more this season but with somewhat higher strikeouts this seems to be more a case of better BABIP than anything else. Probably would drop him a bit, on a do over of these rankings but certainly not very far.
3. Clayton Kershaw- If you were to drop Bruce to 3rd, it might be because you were putting Kershaw up to #2. Still not a totally finished product, but has already established himself as an elite pitcher.
4. Geovanny Soto- He has been whipsawing us on what we think of him since he first stepped on a major league field. Not among the very top prospects going into his rookie year, he had an excellent rookie year, resulting in this placement. Fell off a cliff his second year, leading us, at the end of 2009, to vote him the single most overrated player in the ranks we had done at the end of 2008. Now he is having a season that is a pretty good immitation of his rookie year, OPS up .147 points from last year. Who is this guy anyway?
5. Joba Chamberlain- Fifth among most dissapointing players in the vote at the end of last year and this one hasn't come back to bite us. Although he still manages to strikeout more than a batter an inning, barely treading water in middle relief is not where we collectively thought he would be at this point.
6. Chris Davis- Third in the most dissapointing vote last year, it would have been much worse if not for the fact that he was back in the majors at that point and seemingly doing well. Back in the minors now, his 343/390/543 triple slash in OKC certainly holds out hope for his future which may get started if he is is included in a mid-season deal by the Rangers for pitching or other help. He could definitely use a change of organization at this point.
7. Joey Votto- Third in the voting last year for most under-rated, he is having another truly outstanding MVP type seaon and would move up, at least to #3 I would think in a re-vote.. Came up a few years older than some of these guys but thats just quibbling given what he has done on the field.
8. Jair Jurrjens- Barely on the radar as a prospect his strong rookie year led us to rank him 8th and an even better second year led us to vote him as second most under-ranked at that #8 position. Didn't perform well in the first month of the season and just back from a long dl stint, probably deserving of an incomplete as a grade for his 2010 season at this point.
9. Alexei Ramirez- Has settled in as a steady if un-spectacular everyday shortstop for the White Sox. Probably about where he should be.
10. Clay Buchholz- Has looked a lot more like the guy we had rated in the top few prospects overall going into his rookie season than the #10 guy we saw at the end of 2009, although he clearly has been somewhat lucky this season. Could certainly see moving him up some.
11. Max Scherzer- Mildly dissapointing compared to last year but not that bad. Probably in the right ballpark at #11.
12. Johnny Cueto- Differences from last year are relatively small, but all in the right direction.
13 Jacoby Ellsbury- given how little he has played this year not much more to say about him.
14. Paplo Sandoval- Very interesting to contrast him with Geovanny Soto. Last year we voted him the most underrated player on this list based on an excellent 2009. This year his OPS is down more than 200 points. We might have been closer to right about Sandoval and Soto after 2008 than we were after 2009, or they may just keep on see-sawing.
15. Chris Volstad- A little better than last season. Not too much to complain about considering where he was ranked.
16. Jed Lowrie- reportedly rehabbing, but in a revote would be a footnote at best and certainly not in the top 20.
17. Jeff Clement- In triple A and doing okay but approaching age 27 without having established himself is not good.
18.Joey Devine- Another guy hit by the injury bug.
19. Denard Span- Fourth in the voting for most under-ranked at the end of last season, he has fallen off a bit with the bat but his continuing everyday role for the Twins has to be ranked as a lot more than was expected from him.
A few others not in the top 20 but in the class of 2008 were
Carlos Gonzalez- His poor 2008 kept him off the list but he has been much better since then and would of course rank well up in the top 20 now.
Chase Headley- continues to hold an everyday job, but the 674 OPS so far this season says maybe not forever.
Brandon Wood- Honorable mention after 2008. still trying to establish himself and unless something changes it may never happen for him.
David Murphy- Honorable mention after 2008. Seems to have a long career ahead of him as a fourth outfielder
Mike Aviles- never seriously considered for top 20 after 2008, he offers batting average but little else as his offensive game, but nonetheless has been getting regular playing time, albeit from the Royals.
Nick Blackburn- last year's surface level success seemed unsustainable, and his performance so far this year certainly makes that look like that is the case.
Hiroki Kuroda- Going on his third pretty good year as a starter has definitely been worth something but showing some decline from last year and at age 35 is in a totally different place in his career from the rest of these guys.
Aramando Galarraga- Didn't get any support for top 20 after 2008 but got his 15 minutes of fame in the near pefect/perfect game. Doing okay as a starter but small sample size and jury is still out.
Ryan Sweeney- playing regularly but not vulnerable to being displaced by rookies
Brad Ziegler- crazy scoreless streak to begin career nearly forgotten. Solidy middle reliever though.
All in all a pretty good class. Maybe three guys with some HOF possiblities (Longoria, Kershaw, Votto) although way too soon to say if that will really come to pass. Lots of guys in the 10-20 group have fallend by the wayside. Carlos Gonzalez probably the most notable outside the top 20. I'm still struck by how Soto and Sandoval have criss crossed and probably criss crossed back as their performances have fluctuated.