Breaking down the Top 50 Prospects
Pitchers, premium position players make grade in 2010
MLB.com's Top 50 Prospect list is now public for all to see. Let the opinions fly. Should the game's top prospect be Braves outfielder Jason Heyward or Nationals fireballer Stephen Strasburg? From No. 1 all the way down to Jaff Decker at No. 50, there's no question people will want to debate the who, what and why of this ranking.
That is why, after all, MLB.com does a Top 50 Prospect list annually. Lists like these are far from objective. Even if scores of scouts are polled, as was the case for this list, opinions will be very varied. Sure, consensus can be found on who the top names should be, but the order of the names and who is or isn't on the list always gets people excited.
While perusing the list and either nodding in agreement or grimacing in dismay, there are two things you can do. One is to send in your own personal Top 10 list. MLB.com will compile all the votes and put out a Fans' Top Prospect Ranking.
The other thing you can do is to just take a look at who is on the list below, from what position they play to what organization and country they hail from.
Who's got the best system, at least in terms of Top 50 talent? It shouldn't surprise most that the Rays and Rangers stand atop this team-by-team list. Who they're joined by might make a few raise an eyebrow, though.
The Royals' Draft-aggressive philosophy the past few years is clearly paying off, at least in terms of prospects within the system. The White Sox, who often use prospects to deal for big league parts, were shut out for the second straight year. Twenty-six teams feature at least one Top 50 prospect.
Positional breakdown: An arms race
Pitching is always a hot commodity. Ask any team official and the answer will always be, "You can never have enough pitching." Being able to develop your own arms is always a plus and it certainly seems like scouts appreciated the young pitching making its way up to the big leagues, with 20 of the 50 making their living on the mound. Premium positions also did quite well. Here's the breakdown by position:
2010 Top 50 Prospects
Right-handed pitchers: 15
Left-handed pitchers: 5
First base: 4
Third base: 4
Second base: 2
This, as always is a fluid breakdown. Dustin Ackley (15), for instance, is being counted as a second baseman because that's where he'll begin playing for now. Fellow second baseman Brett Lawrie (26) might not end up there when all is said and done. Conversely, there might be a shortstop who moves over to second base at some point in time. Brett Wallace (16) is listed as a third baseman, where he's played much of his pro career, but it looks like the Blue Jays will move him to first. Catching is always hard to develop and some of the backstops might end up at first or even in the outfield when all is said and done.
There are 30 hitters on the list -- up two from last year's rankings, by the way -- with left-handed batters just barely outnumbering those who hit from the right side of the plate (it was the other way around a year ago).
Left-handed hitters: 14
Right-handed hitters: 13
The Top 10 has six hitters in it. Heyward (1) and Pedro Alvarez (8) hit left-handed. Mike Stanton (3), Buster Posey, (4) and Desmond Jennings (6) are right-handed hitters. Justin Smoak (9) is the lone switch-hitter in the Top 10, though he is joined in the Top 50 by fellow switch-hitters Carlos Santana (11) and Aaron Hicks (29).
Just missed the cut
It's always interesting to see who just missed cracking the Top 50. There are usually some pretty good names there. Last year's No. 51, for instance, was Smoak. Logan Morrison and Hicks were also in the 51-60 range a year ago. Being in this next group of 10 may not get the attention the main list draws, but these are all players worth watching.
51. Tyler Matzek, LHP, COL
52. Jennry Mejia, RHP, NYM
53. Mike Leake, RHP, CIN
54. Casey Crosby, LHP, DET
55. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE
56. Nick Hagadone, LHP, CLE
57. Mike Trout, OF, LAA
58. Mike Minor, LHP, ATL
59. Freddie Freeman, 1B, ATL
60. Derek Norris, C, WAS
Every year, a vow is made to make this list more global in favor, or at least that a separate list made by polling international and Latin American scouting directors should be done. It's a baby step, but this year's list does have four fewer U.S. players on it than last year's version.
United States: 37
Dominican Republic: 4
There are also more countries represented this year, up to six from last year's four. Thanks go to Julio Teheran (34) of Colombia and Yonder Alonso (30) and Jose Iglesias (45) from Cuba.
(Editor's note: To be eligible for the Top 50 list, players must have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service.)
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.