Skip to main content
jump to navigation
The Official Site of Minor League Baseball
Below is an advertisement.
11/30/2007 9:00 AM ET
Breaking down the Top 50 Prospects
Tampa Bay's system remains stocked full of blue-chip names
Evan Longoria was one of five Tampa Bay prospects ranked in this year's Top 50 Prospects list. (Durham Bulls)

ADVERTISEMENT

Anytime a new top prospect ranking comes out, it's hard to resist the temptation to examine it more closely. Go ahead, that's what it's there for. Turn it upside down, slice it up, take whatever you want from it.

Perhaps this little guide can be of some service. There are so many ways the Top 50 list can be dissected, it's difficult to know where to start. So let's begin, somewhat arbitrarily, with age. Try these numbers on for size:

Average age:
21 years, 8 months
Oldest player:
Radhames Liz (No. 45) -- 24 years, 5 months
Youngest player:
Carlos Triunfel (No. 48) -- 17 years, 8 months

Triunfel is not the only teenager on the list. Fellow shortstop Elvis Andrus (38) won't turn 20 until next August. Fernando Martinez (17) outdoes him, with his 20th coming in October. Travis Snider (15) is a touch older. His 20th birthday is in February. Josh Vitters (30), Mike Moustakas (22) and Rick Porcello (14) were all high schoolers taken in the 2007 draft. Clayton Kershaw, at No. 4, is the highest-ranked teen (his birthday is in March).

Positional breakdown: Pitching, pitching, pitching

It's one of those odd things about baseball. Everyone says you can never have enough pitching. Yet there are some who believe there's no such thing as a pitching prospect because of all that can go wrong on the climb to the big leagues. Even with that in mind, it's usually young pitchers who are dangled as the best trade bait. Go figure. On this list, 23 of the 50 players make their living on the mound. Here's a more detailed breakdown:

  • Catcher: 2
  • First base: 1
  • Second base: 1
  • Shortstop: 5
  • Third base: 6
  • Outfield: 12
  • Right-handed pitchers: 16
  • Left-handed pitchers: 7

It's easy to extrapolate too much from these numbers. Yes, it is a great time for young pitching in today's game, but take it with a grain of salt. Not every one of the 23 on the list is guaranteed to make a lasting impact in the big leagues. There always is a lack of second basemen on these lists, but a lot of that is because so often, big-league second basemen are guys who played elsewhere (short, third) in the Minors. Probably the most surprising number is the one first baseman (Joey Votto). Remember when that used to be the position for top hitters?

Lefty-righty split
There are 27 hitters on the list. Talk about parity:

  • Left-handed hitters: 12
  • Right-handed hitters: 12
  • Switch-hitters: 3

There doesn't seem to be much advantage for either in the top 10. Sure, No. 1 Jay Bruce swings from the left side and so does No. 7 Colby Rasmus. But Evan Longoria (2), Cameron Maybin (3) and Andrew McCutchen (8) are all right-handed hitters. There are more lefties in the top half of the list, with Jacoby Ellsbury (13), Travis Snider (15), Fernando Martinez (17), Mike Moustakas (22) and Carlos Gonzalez (23) all in the top 25, while Brandon Wood is the lone righty in that group. Matt Wieters, at No. 21, is the top ranked switch-hitter.

Team competition
Who has bragging rights for the best system? It should come as no surprise that it's that team in Florida:

  • Devil Rays: 5
  • Reds: 4
  • Rockies: 3
  • Yankees: 3
  • Dodgers: 3
  • Brewers: 2
  • Mariners: 2
  • Rangers: 2
  • Red Sox: 2
  • Orioles: 2
  • Angels: 2
  • Nationals: 2
  • Diamondbacks: 2
  • Cubs: 2
  • Royals: 2
  • Padres: 2
  • Tigers: 2
  • Pirates: 1
  • Phillies: 1
  • White Sox: 1
  • Mets: 1
  • Cardinals: 1
  • Marlins: 1
  • Indians: 1
  • Blue Jays: 1

A total of 25 teams grabbed at least one spot in the top 50. Five teams -- the A's, Astros, Braves, Giants and Twins -- were shut out this time around. What's interesting about that list is that some of those teams are known for robust farm systems. Sometimes, it's the luck of the draw. Just how good are the Rays' prospects? Four of the five were in the top 20.

Just missed the cut
With all the debate around the top 50 -- who got in and who didn't -- it's only fair to point out who just missed making the cut. After all, being considered prospect No. 51-60 in all of baseball is nothing to sneeze at:

  • 51. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves
  • 52. Brett Anderson, LHP, Diamondbacks
  • 53. Gorkys Hernandez, OF, Braves
  • 54. Jeff Niemann, RHP, Rays
  • 55. Daric Barton, 1B, A's
  • 56. Michael Bowden, RHP, Red Sox
  • 57. Ryan Tucker, RHP, Marlins
  • 58. Chuck Lofgren, LHP, Indians
  • 59. Wladimir Balentien, OF, Mariners
  • 60. Justin Maxwell, OF, Nationals

International flavor
With all of the talk about the globalization of the game, this list is decidedly United States-centric. Some of that is because, more often than not, the scouts polled are a little more draft-focused. Here's how the numbers played out:

  • United States: 40
  • Venezuela: 5
  • Dominican Republic: 4
  • Canada: 1

This can lead to one of two conclusions. 1. While the game is getting more and more international, the top prospects right now are from the United States. 2. There's a need to do a separate list of international prospects, generated by polling international and Latin American scouting directors. Hmmm, an idea is forming...

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.