Well, this is it. The final piece of my Rays prospect series. The final edition focuses on the future, namely, what will next year's Top 25 prospect list look like. I'll take a crack at that, along with a little side comment on each. Any player from last year's list you don't see will be explained briefly at the bottom. All of this follows the jump.
Well, here is what I think next year's list will look like. Bear in mind, that I don't really know college prospects outside of the first round, so I won't be projecting those, the best I can do for you is who I think will fall to us in the first round, and I'm saying that that will probably be Daniel Bard. So without further adieu, here is my projection of next year's Top 25.
1. RHP Daniel Bard:
Comment-His most recent start gives only a glimpse into his talent, and with Andrew Miller locked into one of the top two spots, and Max Scherzer looking like the occupant of the other, Bard falls to No. 3 and the Rays.
2. RHP Wade Davis:
Comment-With Young and Bankston ineligible, and Davis moving up to a full season league, he will get a chance to show his potential, and it will be a large potential at that.
3. RHP Jeff Niemann:
Comment-The only thing keeping Niemann from No. 1 or No. 2 is his injuries, and I believe that about four months of him showcasing his talent is enough to warrant a No. 3 ranking. If he gets injured again? Well, let's hope he doesn't.
4. SS Reid Brignac:
Comment-Hitter + California League. 'Nuff said.
Comment-What did Tiffany do to deserve a bump down two notches? Well, I do think he will have a hard time in the Southern League, but the influx of better talent was the main cause for this.
6. OF Elijah Dukes:
Comment-This is a borderline pick. Dukes probably will get the September callup, but the question is, 'will he surpass rookie standards?'. If the answer is yes, of course, he goes off of the list. But the Rays have been conservative in promoting him before, so I think he is still eligible come next season.
7. RHP Chris Mason:
Comment-The only reason I didn't put Mason higher this year was because of sample size. I will have no such excuse next year, and Mason will do nothing less in a full season league.
8. LHP Jake McGee:
Comment-Like Mason, McGee's problem was sample size. Expect him to torch MWL hitting next year, and get up to No. 8.
9. C John Jaso:
Comment-Switch-hitting catchers don't grow in masses, especially good-hitting ones. And that is just what Jaso will be coming out of the California League.
10. RHP Andy Sonnanstine:
Comment-Sonnanstine will struggle as more advanced hitters pick up on his stuff, but he won't struggle that much.
Comment-Even though I rarely rank players with small sample sizes like those in short season leagues this high, I really do think Hellickson will break out in Hudson Valley, on a Wade Davis-like binge.
12. OF John Matulia:
Comment-Matulia has an outside shot of breaking into a full season league, but even if he doesn't, his tools will do the talking and warrant a huge jump.
13. 3B Chris Nowak:
Comment-Some people didn't even have Nowak on their Top 25 this round, but a strong Cal League season will get people's attention.
14. RHP Matt Walker:
Comment-Ignore last year's ERA, this guy has some huge talent, and he will prove it to his doubters in the pitcher-friendly New York-Penn League.
15. OF Francisco Leandro:
Comment-Despite his successful short stint in the Cal League last year, expect Leandro to be back there, and that means big numbers. And he shouldn't be too bad when bumped up to Montgomery either.
16. LHP Jon Barratt:
Comment-Barratt will still struggle in the California League, but not as bad, and he will be moved along at some point, to the pitcher-friendly Southern League. And that will be enough for him to remain at No. 16.
17. OF Andrew Lopez:
Comment-I stand by my decision to excuse Lopez from this year's list. He had good numbers in a half-season sample, with that sample coming in the Appy League, but I will get on the bandwagon for a good season in Hudson Valley.
18. LHP James Houser:
Comment-Houser will struggle enough in the California League to get him dumped eight spots, but like Barratt, the talent is there, and it is enough to keep him in the Top 20.
19. OF Shaun Cumberland:
Comment-Based simply upon my scouting of him at instructs, this is an impressive hitter with good extra base power and blazing speed. And it will show up in the stats next year thanks to....you guessed it....the California League.
20. RHP Derek Feldkamp:
Comment-Wolverines represent! The only closer within the DRO to make this list, Feldkamp can also start, he did so at Michigan, and will express his talent in the MWL by blowing away opposing hitters and preserving M-Ray wins.
21. OF Fernando Perez:
Comment-Perez is another young speedster with some tools going for him, and he will join to onslaught of stat-padders in the California League next season.
22. OF Patrick Breen:
Comment-Another hot-hitting outfielder from the M-Rays going west. It is really getting tiring repeating this. From now on, I think I'll just say 'California League'.
23. OF Garrett Groce:
Comment-After Groce was the only hitter at all on that Hudson Valley team, he will show over a full season why it wasn't just his surroundings that made him look good.
24. RHP Wade Townsend:
Comment-Wait a sec, how could someone, coming off of a completely lost season in which he didn't pitch at all, and whose only pitching track record was a piss-poor 2005, make the 2007 list? Well, on the hope that this will be a fresh start for him, with no more injuries and a lot of talent. The lovers, the dreamers, and me? Maybe, but I've got a hunch.
25. RHP Mike Wlodarczyk:
Comment-This is the guy who, in my opinion, outperformed pitchers ahead of him like Jake McGee, Wade Davis, and Matt Walker to win the 2005 Short Season Leagues Pitcher of the Year Award. So he is, quite simply, underrated. Maybe he will get some respect after a good year in the MWL.
Who Dropped Out and Why
A list of the players who I feel will drop out of the prospect list between 2006 and 2007, and why.
1. RF Delmon Young:
2. 1B Wes Bankston:
4. RHP Jason Hammel:
12. RHP Jamie Shields:
14. LHP Chris Seddon:
19. C Shawn Riggans:
24. LHP Brandon Mann:
Reason-Mann and Lavergne's reasons go hand in hand. While they are both decent prospects, the California League will chew them up and spit them out. If the Cal League could do it to solid B level prospect Jon Barratt, what makes you think Mann and Lavergne will be spared?
25. LHP Jarrad Lavergne:
Summary-The list suffers great turnover in the Top 5 going into next year, but not necessarily for the worse. The departure of Delmon Young means that while this list is as good as the one last year, it is more evenly spread out, with no true "dominant" prospect. Personally, I think this is better. You are given a much greater success rate if you can turn out many good prospects instead of a few great ones. As expected, the main reason for turnover is major league departures. The biggest risers were Jeremy Hellickson and John Matulia, who each rose nine spots, Jake McGee and Francisco Leandro, who rose seven, and newcomers to the list Daniel Bard, Andrew Lopez, Shaun Cumberland, Derek Feldkamp, Fernando Perez, Patrick Breen, Wade Townsend, and Mike Wlodarczyk.
The biggest drops, besides the ones who dropped off for eligibility were those who completely dropped off altogether, Brandon Mann and Jarrad Lavergne, and no one even came close to the dropoff of James Houser, who plummeted seven hole spots. The California League will do that to you, and is the reason for all three major dropoffs. But time will give us the vindication or big fat "Rejected" stamp, and we will look back in a year to see how close my version of the 2007 list came to reality. In the meantime, sound off and tell us what you think next year's list will look like.