- Keith Law, ESPN Insider
Typically when we get into May, I'll start looking at reranking the top 25 prospects in the minors because we've had a number of players graduate off the list into the big leagues, but oddly enough, no one in my top 10 is in the majors at the moment, so the top of the rankings isn't going to change much. The group from 11-21 includes current big leaguers Zach Britton, Jeremy Hellickson, Kyle Drabek, Aroldis Chapman and Michael Pineda, plus Brandon Belt, who isn't in the majors anymore but probably should be. So we'll have some movement, but in the meantime, here's a run through that top 10 with a look at their performances to date (in what is absolutely a sample too small to lead us to any serious conclusions).
1. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels: Just 19 years old in Double-A, Trout got off to a tremendous start, blunted slightly by a 1-for-14 run over his last four games, bringing his season line down to .268/.342/.535 -- still phenomenal for a player his age just two levels short of the big leagues. I wouldn't be surprised to see him debut by the end of the year or make their Opening Day roster in 2012.
2. Bryce Harper, CF/RF, Washington: Harper's regular-season debut has gone swimmingly, with a .329/.424/.671 line in the low-A Sally League, where he's the circuit's youngest player at 18 years old. He's been fine against lefties but has murdered right-handed pitchers, hitting .383/.500/.809 against them in 58 PA. Most impressive in the small sample so far is the modest strikeout rate, since he did have contact problems against off-speed stuff in the AFL last year. I wrote in a chat last week that I thought Harper could end the year in Double-A if an interim stint in Potomac goes well, and don't expect him to stay in Hagerstown for more than about half the year.
3. Domonic Brown, RF, Philadelphia: A broken hamate bone ruined his spring training (which wasn't going well anyway after some genius "fixed" his swing), and after a brief rehab stint in Clearwater, he rejoined the Triple-A Lehigh Valley club, going 1-for-5 in his first game at that level Monday night. These injuries tend to reduce a player's power output for at least a year, so don't be surprised if Brown's production is affected even though he's fully recovered.
4. Jesus Montero, C/DH, New York Yankees: Montero didn't draw his first walk of the season until May 1, when he drew two, but he's hit for plenty of average with a .373/.384/.470 line. I'm not concerned about the walk rate, since he has a history of getting on base and showing good plate discipline, but the modest power output is a little more surprising. He's probably not coming up anytime soon unless he's traded or Jorge Posada gets hurt.
5. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City: Hitting .422/.505/.544 so far in Triple-A, Hosmer is destroying left-handed pitching (he's left-handed, so this is significant) with a .483/.545/.724 split line. With more walks than strikeouts, he's even stolen three bases in as many attempts. It seems like he's going to force the Royals to call him up sooner rather than later, and I'd be shocked if he wasn't in the big leagues by July 1, even though he won't turn 22 until October.
6. Julio Teheran, RHP, Atlanta: Five starts so far with a 1.80 ERA, 25 whiffs and 8 walks in 30 innings, although he's been particularly good in his three most recent outings (19 strikeouts, 2 walks, 20.1 innings), increasing his strikes/pitches ratio to just a shade under 70 percent. His big league arrival is more a question of Atlanta's other rotation options, as they're quite deep in the rotation and could really use a center fielder who gets on base or a manager who can set a logical lineup.
7. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle: The first non-injury-related slow start on the list, Ackley's at just .212/.345/.303 through 24 games for Tacoma (he's 2-for-4 with a double in Monday's game as I write this). Ackley was very impressive in spring training against better-quality pitching, and he started slowly last year as well, so I'm not that concerned and still expect that we'll see him at some point in June or July.
8. Wil Myers, RF, Kansas City: At the time that I ranked him, I was aware that the Royals were probably going to move him out from behind the plate, but I liked his bat enough to stuff him in the top 10. The right-handed Myers is off to a modest start in Northwest Arkansas, a great hitters' park that particularly favors left-handed bats, hitting .261/.300/.435. He's young for the league at 20 and can easily spend the entire year there while remaining on track to debut in late 2012.
9. Shelby Miller, RHP, St. Louis: Pitching in high-A Palm Beach, Miller has punched out 42 and walked 13 in 28 innings across four starts, although that line is skewed by one awful outing in which he walked seven (with four wild pitches and a hit batsman) in 4.1 innings. In the other four starts, he has a 38-6 K-BB ratio in 23.2 innings, commensurate with the quality of his stuff and the high ranking here. The Cardinals seem disinclined to move him quickly and the apparent resurgence of Kyle Lohse has quieted calls for them to fast-track Miller anyway. I'd expect a late 2012 or early 2013 debut.
10. Aaron Hicks, CF, Minnesota: Hitting a miserable .205/.303/.277 in high-A at age 21, and there's no way I can slice that up to make it more palatable. Hicks has top-10 tools and I cut him slack on his performance because he's young and still has that upside, but even I can't overlook that stat line if it persists all year.
Plenty of prospects further down my preseason top 100 are off to great starts, but here are three who are poised to move up when I update the rankings in a few weeks:
38. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, San Diego: Just 21 years old and in Triple-A Tucson (a good hitters' park), Rizzo went into Monday night's game hitting .389/.458/.716 with seven bombs. He's not walking a ton (eight unintentionals in 105 PA) and missed a year earlier in his career with Hodgkin's lymphoma, so I'm expecting San Diego to take it slowly with him ... unless he's still slugging .700-plus in late June.
46. Jaff Decker, RF, San Diego: Double-A San Antonio is a brutal place to hit, but Decker hasn't had any trouble, rolling out to a .299/.440/.701 line through Monday night's games and playing a very capable left field. He's not a classic tools prospect, but he's been on a tear since the beginning of last June, with 24 homers and a .418 OBP in that span, covering almost 400 PA.
49. Hak-Ju Lee, SS, Tampa Bay: I've seen the mania that Sam Fuld has caused in Tampa Bay, but with all due respect to the little guy, the centerpiece of that trade was Lee, the Rays' shortstop of the future. He's played just 15 games so far (after injury), but even with the move up to high-A has started out hitting .410/.486/.623, showing patience and extra-base ability, although some of that is probably the result of speed rather than raw power. He's done most of that damage against right-handed pitchers, and 15 games is a pretty meaningless sample, but I do see Lee having four tools ending up above-average to plus.
Keith Law takes an early-season look at his Top 25 prospects. Thus far, of the guys who cracked the top 10, there are no glaring voids in terms of performance. And at the top, two gifted players are still ahead of schedule.