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) Carlos Santana, C, Grade B+: His future could look a lot like Victor Martinez’s past.
2) Matt LaPorta, 1B-OF, Grade B+: Plate discipline slippage after trade is a bit worrisome, but small sample and past track record keeps me confident at this point.
3) Adam Miller, RHP, Grade B: Grade A arm, Grade C health record. I think he will be better off in relief.
4) Beau Mills, 1B, Grade B: Another power bat with impressive home run upside. Not sure how they will fit all these guys into the lineup.
5) Hector Rondon, RHP, Grade B: Good arm, good stats, not sure why he isn’t ranked more highly by other sources.
6) Lonnie Chisenhall, SS, Grade B-: Promising and projectable bat. Questions about home run power and probable move to third base preclude higher grade right now.
7) Nick Weglarz, OF, Grade B-: Excellent strike zone judgment, power should continue to grow. Bad defense an issue.
8) David Huff, LHP, Grade B-: Successful finesse lefty type, Jamie Moyer upside, but could struggle like Sowers.
9) Carlos Rivero, SS, Grade B-: I buy into the second half improvement. Want to see more home run power, and faces move to third base.
10) Scott Lewis, LHP, Grade C+: Similar to Huff, perhaps not quite as much stuff.
11) Michael Brantley, OF-1B, Grade C+: Love the combination of walks, speed, and very low strikeout rate. Lack of power precludes higher grade but he should be useful.
12) Kelvin De La Cruz, LHP, Grade C+: Projectable lefty made good progress in ’08, but command still worrisome.
13) Wes Hodges, 3B, Grade C+: A solid bat, but glove at third base has slipped and he may not hit enough for first.
14) Matt McBride, C-OF, Grade C+: Very interesting bat, good plate discipline with power potential, a sleeper for ’09.
15) Luis Valbuena, 2B, Grade C+: Solid middle infielder acquired from Mariners. Some pop and speed.
16) John Meloan, RHP, Grade C+: I think he fits better in the pen than in the rotation. Needs to sharpen command.
17) Zach Putnam, RHP, Grade C+: Personal favorite from the 2008 draft. Very good arm, a good hitter too, does he start or relieve?
18) Trevor Crowe, OF, Grade C+: Made some progress after poor 2007. Could be solid fourth outfielder.
19) Rob Bryson, RHP, Grade C+: Intriguing power arm acquired in Sabathia deal. A bit under the radar but I like him.
20) Chen-Chang Lee, RHP, Grade C+: Sidearm guy signed out of
21) Cord Phelps, 2B, Grade C+: Polished Stanford product, some pop in bat, needs to improve glove.
22) Bryce Stowell, RHP, Grade C+: 2008 draftee signed too late to play, but looked great in summer ball, could be sleeper for ’09.
Others: Abner Abreu, 3B; Eric Berger, LHP; John Drennen, OF; Tim Fedroff, OF; Chris Gimenez, C; Jared Goedert, 3B; Trey Haley, RHP; T.J. House, LHP; Chuck Lofgren, LHP; Carlos Moncrief, RHP; Josh Rodriguez, INF; Jeremie Tice, 3B; Josh Tomlin, RHP; Neil Wagner, RHP; Steven Wright, RHP.
As usual, don’t sweat so much about where the Grade C+/C types rank exactly on this list. After I get past the top 10 I don’t worry so much about exact placement, since I’m trying to concentrate on the book right now. Some of the Grade C guys could be C+ in the book, and vice versa.
SYSTEM IN BRIEF
Trades have helped restore some depth to the top of the system. I love Santana and I think his breakthrough was for real. I’m not sure how they are going to jam LaPorta, Weglarz, Mills, and Hodges onto the same roster, since all of them will probably end up at first base eventually. Someone will end up as trade bait obviously. Chisenhall and Rivero are third base candidates more than shortstops in the long run but both have strong bats.
On the pitching side, you’ve got a couple of finesse lefties in Huff and Lewis ready for major league trials. Power arms Miller and Meloan can help in the pen. I prefer them as relievers due to Miller’s durability problems and Meloan’s command backslide in ’08. There are several other arms at the lower levels like Rondon and De La Cruz who have a ton of potential but will need more development time. I also like several of the 2008 pitching draftees. Putnam, Stowell, and Berger are nice college selections, but projectable high-upside high school arms like Haley and House are also interesting, if further away.
Full reports on these players and over 1,000 others can be found in the 22009 Baseball Prospect Book. Pre-order for January 31st shipping now!