Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Prospectus Speaks

The immortal Baseball Prospectus has released their edition of FutureShock for the Yankees. Kevin Goldstein ranks the top 10 prospects, separating the premiere from the preliminary. The list looks like this:
Excellent Prospects
1. Philip Hughes, rhp
2. Jose Tabata, rf

Very Good Prospects
3. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
4. Humberto Sanchez, rhp
5. Dellin Betances, rhp

Good Prospects
6. Kevin Whelan, rhp

Average Prospects
7. Tyler Clippard, rhp
8. J. Brent Cox, rhp
9. Ian Kennedy, rhp
10. Alberto Gonzalez, ss
I will not attempt to refute Goldstein's ranking of the top ten, but readers should realize that this ranking is not the be-all-end-all. In my mind, guys like Kennedy and Cox already fall under the "Good" category, but all of the Yankee prospects have the opportunity to move up the rankings. Although Clippard seems doomed to be a mid-level prospect until he is promoted to the Majors and proves otherwise.

The Prospectus then lists the pros, cons, and random insights into what a prospect is or could become. Here's a look at the top three:
1. Philip Hughes, rhp
The Good: The total package, making him the best pitching prospect in the game. His 92-96 mph fastball has good movement to go along with outstanding location, and his hard curveball gives him a second major-league-quality out pitch. His change-up is at least average, and has nice fade and deception. His size is ideal and his mechanics are nearly flawless.
The Bad: 2006 was Hughes' first season with no health problems, and he was treated with kid gloves at the end of the season. He's yet to prove that he can hold up under a full-season workload, although he was as dominant as ever at the end of the year.
The Irrelevant: In the first inning of games, opposing hitters facing Hughes hit .125 (11-for-88) with 34 strikeouts.

2. Jose Tabata, rf
The Good: Plus hitting skills and a mature approach well beyond his years. With outstanding bat speed and excellent hand/eye coordination, Tabata projects through the roof offensively based on what he's already been able to do at such a young age. He's a tick-above-average runner and a solid outfielder with a good arm.
The Bad: While nobody questions Tabata's ability to hit for average down the road, his power projection is a matter of some debate. Some feel that his pure hitting skills are enough to project for plus power, with others are concerned that his smallish frame will limit him to no more than 15-20 home runs annually.
The Irrelevant: In 2006, Tabata hit .261 with the bases empty, and .331 with runners on base.

3. Joba Chamberlain, rhp
The Good: Projected as a top pick early in the college season, injury issues dropped him to the supplemental first round. He's already looking like a draft-day steal. Chamberlain blew away scouts in the Hawaiian Winter League, pumping out mid-90s fastballs and plus sliders. He's a big-bodied power pitcher with the much-desired combination of plus stuff and plus command.
The Bad: Chamberlain at times borders between big-bodied and fat, and conditioning will always be an issue. He needs to improve the arm action on his change-up. He can be guilty at times of falling in love with his fastball, and needs to mix in his secondary pitches more often.
The Irrelevant: Chamberlain is a Native American and a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska.
Interesting that they projected Joba higher than Humberto Sanchez, but I think the twosome is very similar. They are both big-bodied power pitchers who could suffer from weight-problems. They both have had injury problems in their past, spawning GM's reluctance to annoint them (particularly Sanchez) top-level talent. Tabata's batting average with runners-on-base is an intriguing statistic. His ability to raise his game when RBI are up for grabs is a positive sign.

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