Brett Lawrie of the Toronto Blue Jays hits his first career home run on August 7, 2011. Lawrie has been canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, and is regarded as an incarnation of Krishna by Hindus worldwide. Chuck Norris fears him. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Here is a review of my PRE-SEASON Top 50 Hitting Prospects list for 2011. THIS IS THE PRE-SEASON LIST. IT IS NOT A NEW LIST.
As we discussed last week with the review of the 2007 list, it takes at least four or five years before we can tell how a list truly panned out. However, I always review the previous year's list in each book, and it is the best way to start off the process for 2012.
Reviewing Top 50 Hitting Prospects for 2011
1) Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals, Grade A: Hit .318/.423/.554 with 14 homers and 19 steals in Low-A, then .256/.329/.395 with seven steals in Double-A, at age 18. Still the best overall prospect in baseball with this very impressive debut.
2) Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies, Grade A: Hit .261/.391/.370 with 12 steals in Triple-A, then.245/.333/.394 in 184 major league at-bats. He'll be fine, he just needs to play.
3) Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees, Grade A: Hit .288/.348/.467 in Triple-A, then .328/.406/.590 for the Yankees in September. He's clearly ready for a major league job offensively, and should be the next great Yankee slugger.
4) Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels, Grade A: Hit .326/.414/.544 with 33 steals in Double-A, then .220/.281/.390 in 123 major league at-bats. He was rushed a bit at age 20, but all the markers of stardom are still here.
6) Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals, Grade A: Hit .439/.535/.582 in a month of Triple-A, brushing aside Kila Ka'aihue, then hit .293/.334/.465 with 11 steals and 19 homers in the majors. All systems go.
7) Wil Myers, C-OF, Kansas City Royals, Grade A: Hit .254/.353/.393 with 52 walks in 354 at-bats in Double-A. Did not meet expectations in power department, but was young for the level at 20 and was nagged by injuries. Still a top prospect.
8) Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves, Grade A-: Hit .282/.346/.448 with 21 homers, 32 doubles, 53 walks, 142 strikeouts in 571 major league at-bats. Obviously a successful rookie year and should continue to improve.
9) Manny Machado, SS, Baltimore Orioles, Grade A-: Hit .276/.376/.483 in Low-A then .245/.308/.384 in High-A, overall .257/.335/.421 with 11 homers, 11 steals. Good plate discipline, just needs more experience and a season of full health.
10) Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners, Grade A-: Hit .303/.421/.487 in Triple-A, then .273/.348/.417 with 40 walks in 333 major league at-bats. I expect he'll be an on-base machine with decent power.
11) Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants, Grade A-: Couldn't hold Opening Day job and ended up back in Triple-A (.320/.461/.528), then moved back up to the majors and hit .225/.306/.412 overall with nine homers in 187 at-bats. I expect he'll be fine.
12) Brett Lawrie, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays, Grade B+: Mashed with the bat, .347/.414/.647 in Triple-A, then .293/.373/.580 with seven steals in 43 major league games. Also adapted rapidly to new position at third base and performed quite well. Superstar in the making. Regarded as an incarnation of Krishna by Hindus world-wide. Chuck Norris fears him. The Most Interesting Man in the World buys him drinks.
13) Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays, Grade B+: Hit .275/.374/.456 with 17 steals in 89 Triple-A games, then .259/.356/.449 with 10 homers and 20 steals in 63 major league games. No problems here, does everything well except hit for a high batting average, and that could still happen.
14) Brett Jackson, OF, Chicago Cubs, Grade B+: Hit .256/.373/.443 in Double-A, .297/.388/.551 in Triple-A, combined for 20 homers, 21 steals, 73 walks. Main risk is high strikeout rate, but has broad skill base.
15) Devon Mesoraco, C, Cincinnati Reds, Grade B+: Hit .289/.371/.484 with 15 homers in Triple-A, .180/.226/.360 in 18 major league games. Inside track for the catching job.
16) Yonder Alonso, 1B, Cincinnati Reds, Grade B+: Hit .296/.374/.486 in Triple-A, then .330/.398/.545 in 88 major league at-bats. Can't complain here, just needs a job.
17) Gary Sanchez, C, New York Yankees, Grade B+: Hit .256/.335/.485 with 17 homers in Low-A at age 18. Very young, loads of power, strikes out more than once per game but overall an impressive campaign.
18) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Philadelphia Phillies, Grade B+: Hit .284/.387/.413 in the Florida State League, then .333/.405/.512 in the friendlier California League following trade to Houston. Scouting reports remain positive and he's just 20.
19) Jurickson Profar, SS, Texas Rangers, Grade B+: Hit .286/.390/.493 with 12 homers, 65 walks, 23 steals in 430 at-bats in Low-A at age 18. Stock way up, and it was pretty high to begin with.
20) Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Cleveland Indians, Grade B+: Hit .267/.353/.431 in Triple-A, then .255/.284/.415 with eight walks, 49 strikeouts in 212 major league at-bats. He's got some zone issues to work on, but I still expect him to be a solid regular, though not a star.
21) Billy Hamilton, 2B-SS, Cincinnati Reds, Grade B+: Hit .278/.340/.360 with 52 walks, 133 strikeouts, and an incredible 103 steals in 550 at-bats in Low-A. Raw, but likely the fastest man in professional baseball and he knows how to use it.
23) Yasmani Grandal, C, Cincinnati Reds, Grade B+: Hit .296/.410/.510 in High-A, then .301/.360/.474 in Double-A. Power, patience, good glove. If Mesoraco doesn't seize the Cincy catching job, Grandal will.
24) Jason Kipnis, 2B, Cleveland Indians, Grade B+: Hit .280/.362/.484 in Triple-A, then .272/.333/.507 in 136 major league at-bats. Unusual power for a middle infielder. I like him a lot.
25) Derek Norris, C, Washington Nationals, Grade B+: Hit .210/.367/.446, 20 homers, 77 walks in Double-A . Still just 22. Defense is gradually improving. New Mickey Tettleton?
26) Nick Franklin, SS, Seattle Mariners, Grade B: Limited to 88 games by injuries, hit .275/.356/.411 in High-A, .325/.371/.482 in 21 games in Double-A. I still believe in him. Stole 18 bases.
27) Grant Green, SS, Oakland Athletics, Grade B: Hit .291/.343/.408 in Double-A, nine homers, 39 walks, 119 strikeouts in 530 at-bats. Converted to outfield, which increases the pressure on his bat. Stock down.
28) Wilin Rosario, C, Colorado Rockies, Grade B: Hit .249/.284/.457 with 21 homers in Double-A, .204/.228/.463 in 54 major league at-bats. Power looks good, but plate discipline is becoming a significant problem. Still young at 22.
29) Jean Segura, 2B, Los Angeles Angels, Grade B: Conversion to shortstop was going OK until season aborted by injury. Hit .281/.337/.422 with 18 steals in 44 games in High-A.
30) Jaff Decker, OF, San Diego Padres, Grade B: Hit .236/.373/.417 with 19 homers, 103 walks, 145 strikeouts in 496 at-bats in Double-A. Loads of walks but too patient.
31) Chris Carter, 1B-OF, Oakland Athletics, Grade B: Hit .274/.366/.530 with 18 homers, 42 walks, 85 strikeouts in 75 games in Triple-A, then .136/.174/.136 with 20 strikeouts in 44 major league at-bats. Contact problems threatening his career.
32) Dee Gordon, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers, Grade B: Hit .333/.373/.410 with 30 steals in 70 games in Triple-A, then .304/.325/.362 with 24 steals in 56 games in the majors. Still rather raw but making progress, could use more patience.
33) Brent Morel, 3B, Chicago White Sox, Grade B: Hit .245/.287/.366 with 10 homers, 22 walks, 57 strikeouts in 413 major league at-bats. Capable of better, could sneak up on us in a year or two.
34) Nick Castellanos, 3B, Detroit Tigers, Grade B: Overcame slow start to hit .312/.367/.436 in Low-A. Homers disappointing with just seven but hit 36 doubles, just 19 years old.
35) Tony Sanchez, C, Pittsburgh Pirates, Grade B: Disappointing in Double-A, hit .241/.340/.318, threw out 22% of runners. I expected better. Stock down.
36) Aaron Hicks, OF, Minnesota Twins, Grade B: Hit .242/.354/.368 with 78 walks, 17 steals in High-A. Excellent tools, gets on base, but power remains missing. Not sure what to make of him at this point.
37) Miguel Sano, 3B, Minnesota Twins, Grade B: Hit .292/.352/.637 with 20 homers in 66 games in rookie ball, with 77 strikeouts. Contact might preclude a high batting average, but he has enormous power and is just 18 years old.
38) Danny Espinosa, SS-2B, Washington Nationals, Grade B: Hit .236/.323/.414 with 21 homers, 17 steals, 166 strikeouts in 573 major league at-bats. Very useful power/speed combo, just don't expect a good batting average.
39) Jerry Sands, OF-1B, Los Angeles Dodgers, Grade B: Hit .278/.344/.586 with 29 homers in 94 Triple-A games, .253/.338/.389 in 198 major league at-bats. He showed some signs of life and I think he will improve.
40) Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies, Grade B: Hit .298/.349/.487 with 20 homers, 47 walks, 53 strikeouts in 517 at-bats in High-A. Defense improving. I expect a big breakout in 2012. Stock up.
41) Trayvon Robinson, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers, Grade B: Hit .289/.374/.552 with 26 homers in Triple-A, traded to Mariners, hit .210/.250/.336 in the majors with serious contact issues (61 strikeouts in 143 at-bats). Boosted power at expense of contact.
42) Josh Sale, OF, Tampa Bay Rays, Grade B: High school star from 2010 draft was surprisingly weak in rookie ball, hitting just .210/.289/.346 in the Appy League. No one is giving up yet but stock down.
43) Michael Choice, OF, Oakland Athletics, Grade B: Hit .285/.376/.542 with 30 homers, 61 walks, 134 strikeouts in California League. Love the power, but contact could be problematic.
44) Jose Iglesias, SS, Boston Red Sox, Grade B: Hit .235/.285/.269 in 357 at-bats in Triple-A. Red Sox propaganda says he will hit, but I don't see any evidence of it, and no matter how good his glove is, he's got to do better than this. Turns 22 in January.
45) Anthony Rizzo, 1B, San Diego Padres, Grade B: Killed Triple-A pitching at friendly Tucson (.331/.404/.652) but couldn't bring this to the majors (.141/.281/.242). Will get more chances.
46) Brett Eibner, OF, Kansas City Royals, Grade B: Injury-plagued season in Low-A, hit .213/.340/.408 with 12 homers, 48 walks, 90 strikeouts in 272 at-bats. Power/walks look good, but big-time contact issues.
47) Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay Rays, Grade B: Hit .318/.389/.443 in High-A, .190/.272/.310 in 100 at-bats in Double-A. Glove and speed look good, will have to prove he can hit better pitching, but just 21 years old for 2012.
48) Matt Lipka, SS-2B, Atlanta Braves, Grade B: Hit .247/.305/.304 with 28 steals, 42 walks, 83 strikeouts in 530 at-bats in Low-A. Lack of power is a significant concern here, but young at age 19.
49) Christian Colon, SS-2B, Kansas City Royals, Grade B: Hit .257/.325/.342 with 17 steals, 46 walks, 51 strikeouts in 491 at-bats in Double-A. Steady defense. Disappointing season, but low strikeout rate is marker of possible improvement to come.
50) Carlos Perez, C, Toronto Blue Jays, Grade B: Hit .256/.320/.355 in Low-A, bat stagnated, and even defense slipped, but was just 20 years old. Still has time but stock down.