Commentary

Finding the next Bautista

Is there an out-of-nowhere superstar lingering at the bottom of the top 500?

Updated: March 21, 2012, 3:11 AM ET
By Dan Szymborski | Baseball Think Factory
Jose BautistaTom Szczerbowski/US PresswireIf someone had done a top 500 before the 2011 season, Bautista might not have even made it.

The bottom 100 of ESPN's top 500 has been released, and as you might guess, there aren't a lot of stars. At least stars who aren't well into the twilight of their careers.

But all is not lost for the also-rans. If you ranked the top 500 going into the 2010 season, you might have found, among the lowest group, a journeyman role player with a little pop named Jose Bautista. Before the 2008 season, the stragglers would have included a former top prospect, demoted to Triple-A Buffalo halfway through his age-28 season thanks to a 6.29 ERA, named Cliff Lee.

Tomorrow's stars will be made up largely of today's future stars, but there's plenty of room for surprises ranging from mild to shocking. What would be truly shocking is if some of baseball's best over the next five to 10 years didn't come completely out of left field, excusing the terrible pun. Let's take a look at some of the second-tier prospects and youngish journeymen who sit in the 401-500 range who still have a chance of really surprising, much like Bautista did in 2010. We'll start from the bottom, with a guy who just happens to be Bautista's teammate.


Travis Snider (No. 475), OF, Toronto Blue Jays

After hitting .301/.338/.466 during a cup-of-coffee stint at age 20 in 2008, 2009 was supposed to be Snider's big breakout. Then 2010. Then 2011. The calendar's turned yet again, and the Jays are still waiting for Snider to force his way into the heart of a solid Jays lineup. While there's a natural inclination to give up on Snider, he just turned 24. ZiPS, for one, has soured considerably on Snider, but on the upside, still thinks he can develop into a Kevin Mitchell-type hitter in the best-case scenario. Mitchell had a better first experience in the majors, but had setbacks of his own, such as repeating Triple-A after a rough season with the Tidewater Tides in 1984. And remember, Mitchell was National League MVP in 1989.


Jerry Sands (No. 474), 1B/OF, Los Angeles Dodgers