If you’ve spent more than five minutes reading this site, you probably know that I rely heavily on Baseball America’s prospect lists. One of the many things I looked at after buying this year’s Prospect Handbook was last year’s Top 30 list for every team – actually, the Top Ten – and where they ended up in 2010. Each of those 300 players fit into one of five categories. In order of frequency:
Deceased: 1 (0.3%) – Nick Adenhart, the Angels’ top preseason prospect, was killed in a car accident in April.
Dropped Out: 14 (4.7%) – Washington’s Esmailyn Gonzalez, a 19-year-old shortstop prospect who was the organization’s 10th best prospect in 2009, turned out to be 23-year-old Carlos Alvarez.
Traded: 28 (9.3%) – The only number one prospect traded in the offseason was New York’s Austin Jackson, who went to Detroit as part of the Curtis Granderson deal. This number does not reflect trades that occurred after Baseball America’s book went to press, such as the Roy Halladay deal.
Majors: 59 (19.7%) – The number one prospects for twelve teams played enough major league ball to lose prospect eligibility.
Re-ranked: 198 (66%) – This is the number of top ten prospects re-ranked anywhere in the top thirty, not just those who earned another spot in the top ten.
The most surprising number to me was the 4.7% that dropped off the list entirely. Like many people, I think of the guys in the top ten as untouchables, guaranteed successes at the major league level. On some level, I always knew that that wasn’t true, but seeing it as an actual number drove the point home. On the other hand, an average of two players from every team spent significant time in the majors.
Saturday night, a 25-year-old man named Mario Felix de Jesus Velete was shot to death in the Dominican Republic. Earlier today, a suspect, 19-year-old Angel Villalona, voluntarily turned himself in to local police. The fact that Villalona is a person of interest in this case is noteworthy because he is a person of interest to this blog, a top Baseball America prospect (#33 in 2008, #44 in 2009) two years running.
Villalona made his professional debut at the age of 16 with the AZL Giants in 2007 before finishing the season with the short-season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes just after his 17th birthday. The next year he moved up to the South Atlantic League and hit seventeen homeruns, earning another promotion, to the California League. He appeared in 74 games for the San Jose Giants this season before his season ended prematurely in July.
According to the AP, “Villalona will appear in court on Monday and could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty” of the murder. If this was the United States, I could see some sort of deal being worked out (depending on the circumstances); not knowing anything about the criminal justice system in the Dominican Republic, however, it’s hard to say what sort of punishment Villalona might actually be facing.
I love brackets.
Obviously, the best time for brackets is March, when college basketball puts on its easily-graphed single-elimination tournament. But Baseball America has put together a pretty decent bracket contest for college baseball’s difficult-to-graph, round-robin/best of three/double elimination June contest.
Since the College World Series is starting very, very soon, head on over to BA and join up. Your guess about who wins is as good as mine.
[Baseball America – College Baseball Bracket Challenge]
You may remember that Brian and I finished the season last year with a meet-up at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Brian had his former boss Tim Wiles take me on an insider’s tour of the archives, and I wrote two articles about the fascinating experience. A short one ran on ESPN: the Magazine’s website, and I sold a much longer one to Baseball America, which was a real thrill for me.
The only problem was, I had no idea when they were going to run it. For a couple of months, I drove down to Barnes and Noble every two weeks to sneak a peek at the new issue, and never saw it, so I started to forget about it, since I’d been paid on acceptance.
This morning, I got curious about it again, so I googled it. Apparently, they ran it online in October. Yeah, I was right on top of that. Still, a major thrill to see my name in there, and I thank Brian and Tim for making it happen. If you have time to read it, here the ol’ thing is.
This offseason, the top two players on Baseball America’s Top 100 Prospects list in 2003 signed contracts that will place them squarely in the middle of basball’s greatest rivalry.
The first player, Mark Teixeira, agreed to an eight-year, $180 million deal with the Yankees. His agent, Scott Boras, negotiated a full no-trade clause and an annual salary of more than $20 million until 2016.
The second player, Rocco Baldelli, became a member of the Red Sox after agreeing to a one-year deal with a base salary of $500,000. Various roster and performance bonuses could gross him as much as $7 million.
Obviously there were many extenuating circumstances that led to each player receiving the contract he did – Teixeira was fortunate enough to be the premiere free agent available at a time when the Yankees were looking to make a big splash, and Baldelli’s health issues in recent years severely limited his value – but I still found it fascinating that within six years, two young men who were once considered the biggest up-and-comers in their profession achieved such different results.
The Tampa Bay Rays made a controversial decision at the end of spring training, sending top prospect Evan Longoria to AAA Durham despite an excellent performance in the Grapefruit League. As various blogs pointed out, the move was likely based not on Longoria’s playing ability, but for financial reasons: keeping him in the minors for even a couple weeks impacted the length of time before he would ultimately be eligible for arbitration, free agency, and all that good stuff.
Doesn’t matter now – the Rays called Longoria up on Saturday to replace infielder Manny Aybar, who heads to the disabled list with a hamstring strain.
Joining Longoria in Florida will be pitching prospect Jeff Niemann. The two were the 2nd and 99th ranked prospects, respectively, by Baseball America. Niemann was the fourth overall pick in the draft in 2004, Longoria went third overall in 2006.
Longoria is expected to make his major league debut tonight when the Rays host the first-place Orioles. Niemann will make the start on Sunday.
He wasn’t quite amazing enough to earn a spot on Eric’s weekly prospect watch, but it might be worth noting that the Red Sox purchased the contract of shortstop Jed Lowrie from Pawtucket today. Lowrie, rated by Baseball America as Boston’s fifth best prospect (Clay Buchholz, Jacoby Ellsbury, Lars Anderson, and Justin Masterson are the names in front of him), takes the place of Mike Lowell, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb.
The fourth of Boston’s five 2005 first round draft picks to reach the majors (Ellsbury, Craig Hansen, and Buchholz came up ahead of him), Lowrie was hitting a robust .160 with an impressive .344 OBP in eight games with the PawSox. He is reasonably lucky to still be a member of the Red Sox organization – his was one of several names included in a possible deal for Johan Santana in the offseason – but he’s still around and will likely make his major league debut in the next few days.
Better enjoy it – while Lowrie is projected as Boston’s shortstop of the future, only a huge performance in the next two weeks will keep him in the majors when Lowell returns.