Yes, I know we are in the heart of the Big Ten season, but if I write too many times consecutively about Gopher basketball I start to have heart palpitations mixed with a deep depression, and since I already took every pill in the house (uppers, downers, hallucinagins, antidepressants and sexual performance enhancers all in play) after the Indiana loss, my only possible solace here is to turn to Twins talk. Since it's not even February yet, optimism can reign supreme. Maybe. Until June, at least.
Keith Law of ESPN.com put out his list of the top 100 prospects in baseball, and I'm going to go ahead and give a few comments about those players of which I am knowledgeable enough to speak, and a few that I'm probably not. Full list is at that link right there above. If you still have your little heart set on reading about the Gophers, the preview of the Ohio State game is in the post directly below this one. [SPOILER: I bet they lose.].
The interesting people, in reverse order:
97. Miguel Sano, SS, Twins. You remember this guy, he's the supposed 16 year old from the Dominican the Twins signed this summer when they shockingly opened up the wallet. He signed too late last year so there really isn't any way to evaluate him against professional pitching, but he's supposed to have all the tools. He projects to end up becoming a 3b, which means he'll probably be ready to take over just as Danny Valencia is leaving to sign a 7-year, $140-million contract with the Yankees.
91. Jose Iglesias, SS, Red Sox. I mostly just included him because being given that name must have sucked something fierce. Also, Law says he could end up as an "Adam Everett" at worst. Dude, that's pretty bad. I wouldn't be using that as a positive argument.
90. Jake Arrieta, SP, Orioles. He finished last year in triple-A and is already 23, so there's a good chance he'll be in the bigs this year. The Orioles are actually quietly starting to move back in the right direction after many, many, many years of spending stupidly and making really dumb decisions. They have a nice lineup this year, and a good number of young arms. If everything works out, they might end up challenging for second in the division sometime in the next ten years.
89. Kyle Gibson, SP, Twins. Above average command and control, three good pitches, a lot of groundballs, and a 93 mph heater - sounds like a prototypical Twins pitcher, except this one was projected to be the 10-12th pick in the draft. The Twins stole him at 22 due to a stress fracture in his arm, but all indications are he's back to normal. And hopefully not like the Liriano back-to-normal, but a real back-to-normal.
87. Aaron Crow, SP, Royals. Could be a Greinke-level monster once he gets to the bigs. I'm hoping the Royals do something really stupid and end up trading him for like, Alfonso Soriano or something just to get him out of the Twins' division.
73. Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets. I think this guy has been on the list for about five years now, but has yet to make any real progress due to constant injuries. He was the top prospect in the Mets system at one point, but, as Phil Humber, Carlos Gomez, Deolis Guerra, and Kevin Mulvey have shown us, that doesn't necessarily mean squat.
72. Mike Leake, SP, Reds. I don't think this is Kelly's dad, since they spell their last name's differently and he'd be far too old at this point.
70. Austin Jackson, OF, Yankees. If this name rings a bell it's probably because at one point his name was being bandied about in the Johan discussion all those many years ago, when we were still optimistic that we would end up getting more than two seasons of great center field defense and a whole bunch of flailing about at the plate out of the best pitcher of the 00s. Well, now he's in the Tigers' system, coming over for Curtis Granderson. At 23 and with five years in the minors, it's probably now or never.
58. Tyler Flowers, C, White Sox. Coming soon to a Twins' game near you. He might start the year in the minors, but he'll be in the majors at some point and might even end up starting by the end of the year. His last two seasons he's OPSed .939 and .921 at AAA and A+ ball, although his defense is subpar at this point.
57. Jose Tabata, OF, Pirates. This is the main guy the Pirates picked up in the Damaso Marte/Xavier Nady trade with the Yankees, so it would be pretty sweet if he ends up being good. Plus, I'm still rooting for the Pirates. I think they're starting to do some smart things, and this would be a big step in the right direction - and it's starting get late on his clock, so a good year this year would be a nice start.
54. Alcides Escobar, SS, Brewers. This is why they traded J.J. Hardy. He should be in the bigs this year, so we'll see if that works out for them. Well, it pretty much already will when Carlos Gomez turns into the next Tim Raines, but we'll see how the SS part works out.
52. Hank Conger, C, Angels. Just wanted to point out that this guy's name is Hank and he's Asian. That's weird.
42. Wilson Ramos, C, Twins. There's no doubt this guy can hit a ton and is a very good catcher as well, as long as he can stay healthy. If the Twins end up not signing Mauer, he's the catcher of the future. If they do, he's going to be a very valuable chip - the kind that could be used to grab some valuable help for a pennant race at the trade deadline. I'm just kidding of course, you know they'll never end up trading him, regardless of what kind of help is available that they would need.
40. Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays. Maybe the key to the Halladay/Lee deal, Drabek has a chance to end up as a top-end pitcher if he can recover all the way from Tommy John surgery. He returned last year and had a very good showing at A and AA ball, so things look good for the kid.
33. Chris Carter, 1B, Athletics. I say first baseman, but it's pretty clear this guy is really more of a DH. There's no doubt he can hit, though. He hit 25 home runs in the minors in 2007, 39 in 2008, and 28 in 2009 (while hitting .329/.422/.570). I would anticipate him starting at AAA, but we should see him in the majors this year - probably taking Jesse Crain deep.
30. Josh Vitters, 3B, Cubs. I just get a kick out of this guy because he just hates to walk. Hates it. In his minor-league career he's just 26 times in 830 pro plate appearances. For reference, that's the same amount of walks Carlos Gomez had in his first year with the Twins, but Gomez had 200 less plate appearances, and nine fewer than Delmon Young had, again in about 200 less at bats. I mean, this guy might very well be insane.
28. Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants. Was a top-5 or top-10 prospect on pretty much everybody's list at the beginning of last year, but has fallen a bit out of favor due to a drop in velocity. Of course, he looked great in his 10 major-league innings last year, posting a 1.80 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP with a nice 9.0 K/9 ratio. Velocity drop or no, those are really impressive numbers for a 19-year old major leaguer. I'm stunned that he's as low as 28th. Stupifyed, really. Like a spell from Ginny Weasley's wand.
25. Zack Britton, SP, Orioles. Just another young O's pitcher like I was talking about before, although he's probably not quite major-league ready just yet.
22. Tyler Matzek, SP, Rockies. I just wanted to mention him here because he's the top prospect in the Rockies' system and the Rocks are my National League team. He's brand spanking new, just picked last year right out of high school, so we have no data to look at, but he's apparently already got four pretty good pitches. Could be the next Jason Marquis - stay tuned.
19. Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins. I feel encouraged by having a Twin in the top 20, even if the team's overall farm system is only ranked 13th overall. Basically the scouting report on this kid is that he's a true five-tool prospect, who, although he has a ways to go to completely realize those tools, has as much potential as anybody, especially for a 19-year old. He's everything we wanted Carlos Gomez to be.
16. Aroldis Chapman, SP, Reds. I smell bust. Way to blow your load on an absolute question mark, Cincinnati. Seriously, you outbid the Yankees for a Cuban. I have a feeling this was kind of like an auction for something you don't really want, but you're sure somebody else wants and you want to keep bidding them up, trying to make them pay more. Then they stop bidding when you're winning, and you're like "oh shit."
17 & 15. Jeremy Hellickson and Wade Davis, SPs, Rays. Just in case you thought the Rays didn't have enough young, potential superstars. Davis cracked the majors last year and looked good in his six starts and should start the year as part of the Rays' rotation, and Hellickson might join him there after having a very good year in AAA in 2009.
13. Neftali Perez, SP, Rangers. The first of three Rangers in the top 13 on this list, and that doesn't even count Elvis Andrus, last season's runner-up for AL Rookie-of-the-Year. Or Nelson Cruz, who made the all-star team in hi second season. Or Chris Davis, who took a step back last year but hit 17 homers in 317 PAs as a rookie two years ago. Or their bunch of young pitching prospects. How did the Rangers suddenly end up looking so promising?
11. Brian Matusz, SP, Orioles. Yet another Oriole pitcher. Should be in the rotation from the get-go this season.
9. Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers. Another Ranger. Should be a better fielding, switch-hitting Billy Butler with more power. I'm already scared.
8. Dustin Ackley, OF/1B, Mariners. The second-pick in last year's draft, Ackley is the rare position player who is returning from Tommy John surgery - thus the move from the OF to 1B. The Mariners have discussed making him a 2B, which with his combination of hitting for average/hitting for power/plate discipline, would have a very good chance of making him a perennial all-star.
7. Martin Perez, SP, Rangers. The last of the Rangers. I've never even heard of this guy, but I thought I should put him in here since I'm all up on Texas's nuts and everything.
4. Buster Posey, C, Giants. That's either the best name I've ever heard, or the worst name I've ever heard.
3. Carlos Santana, C, Indians. You got the kinda lovin' that can be so smooth, yeah, give me heart, make it real, or else forget about it. (obvious, but I bet you laughed anyway. or smiled at least. I bet you smiled. Come on. It was funnier than Leno. Admit that much you tough-love son of a bitch).
2. Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals. Putting Strasburg second reeks of either contrarianism or an overreaction to his mediocre showing in fall ball. Either way, there's little doubt he's going to be a star. When your downside is as a #2 starter, you know you've got potential. Of course, there's always the ballad of Brien Taylor, if you need a reminder of how potential doens't always = success.
1. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves. I hadn't heard of this dude before, which embarrasses me somewhat, but he ripped the crap out of AA pitching last year, and had a lot of success in a very short AAA stint to close the year. Law says he'll be a star, so I guess we should pay some attention here.
There's the list. There were four notable omissions, or at least there were four names that popped into my head without really thinking about it, so I'll touch on them quickly before I close:
1. Ben Revere, OF, Twins. Depending on who you ask, he's either a future star (John Sickels has him #2 in the system), or nothing more than Juan Pierre (Law's concern). I'm sure you're an idiot who thinks Juan Pierre is good because he's fast and hits right around .300, but that's because you're stupid and I wish I was a GM and you were a GM and then I could trade you Pierre and get way too much for him and you'd feel good about it.
God you're dumb. Anyway, I've seen his absolute upside is Kenny Lofton, which would be pretty good. Let's all hope for that, and not run around trying to make out wiht Juan Pierre, ok?
2. Deolis Guerra, P, Twins. Sigh. The last remaining piece of from the trading of Johan. God I miss him so much. Instead we have this guy. He doesn't make Law's top 10 list for the Twins, and he doesn't make Sickels' top 20. He hasn't posed an ERA under 4.01 in the last three years. FML.
3. Tim Alderson, P, Pirates. Notable because this is who the Giants traded to get Freddy Sanchez. At one point considered a pretty big-time prospect, it seems Alderson has fallen out of favor, ranking #6 on Law's Pirate list and #5 on Sickels' list - not bad, but not as elite as he once was. Prospect in free-fall, or underrated? It's the Pirates, so I'm going to go with the free-fall thing.
4. Scott Sizemore, 2B, Tigers. I actually only know of him because when I learned Polanco might be available I started doing some digging into the fan/blog world of the Tigers and found out most fans were just fine with getting rid of Placido because Sizemore (who I assume is related to either Grady or Tom) was waiting in the wings. He broke his ankle like some kind of girl late in the year last season, but he still ranks #6 on Sickels' list and #5 on Law's of overall Tiger prospects. Expect to be annoyed by him early and often.
So there's your list. Four Twin prospects can't be bad, especially considering the team is fairly young as is. The one major criticism I've seen of the Twins' system is that there isn't much there that is ready right now, but it's in decent shape for future years and I have no problem with that. Of course, if they don't sign Mauer I'll probably just kill myself along with the rest of the state. They all worship him zombie-like, but I can't fault them because he's really just that good (although most of you cretins worship him for the wrong reasons). If there is no signing, short of a trade to Texas for Teagarden, Andrus, Smoak, and Perez, I am pretty sure I'm just going give up and move to either New York or Pittsburgh. At least you know enough to either believe or give up in those states. I'm sick of these games here. It's like taking some broad to the drive in, you don't know what you're getting. I'd rather take the slut or the good-girl, not some middle of road confusing person. I dont' know if you can tell, but I suspect you can, I've been getting progressively drunker as this post has gone on. At this point I've already given up and am trying to figure out ways to trade Mauer and Morneau for more prospects.
"Are you guys ready? We better get going if we're going to stay ahead of the weather."