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Top 10 lists don't have room for every prospect

by Jim Callis
February 13, 2006

CHICAGO--One of fans' great misconceptions (and there are a few) with our organization Top 10 Prospects lists is that we are disparaging anyone who doesn't make the cut. You wouldn't believe some of the emails we get or some of the blog posts that our decisions inspire.

In reality, there isn't much difference between Prospect No. 10 vs. No. 11 or No. 12. Systems deep in talent have many more than 10 worthwhile prospects. Timing matters, too, as December trades that included Chris Young and Andre Ethier made Top 10 Prospects of White Sox righthander Sean Tracey and Athletics catcher Kurt Suzuki.

Below is my annual all-star team of American League prospects who couldn't quite make our Top 10s. Six of the 11 players entered pro ball via the 2005 draft. Last year's group included Rangers outfielder Jason Botts and Twins lefthander Glen Perkins and shortstop Trevor Plouffe, who have graduated to full Top 10 status.

John Jaso, c, Devil Rays. Jaso didn't get much of a chance to show what he could do behind the plate in 2005 because he had rotator-cuff problems, but he did continue to prove he can hit. He batted .307-14-50 in 332 at-bats and he also threw out 36 percent of basestealers with a bum shoulder.

Mark Trumbo, 1b, Angels. The third baseman on this list a year ago, Trumbo made his pro debut at first base and showed off his massive power potential with 10 homers in the Rookie-level Pioneer League. Most clubs viewed him as a borderline first-round talent as a pitcher, but the Angels liked his bat enough to give him $1.425 million as an 18th-round pick in 2004.

Chris Getz, 2b, White Sox. Getz is a tremendous contact hitter who struck out just 47 times in three seasons at Michigan and 12 times in his pro debut last summer. He hits for average, draws walks and has the speed to steal bases. He also has Gold Glove potential at second base and enough arm strength to handle shortstop when needed.

Johnny Whittleman, 3b, Rangers. Some scouts like Texas' second- (Whittleman) and third-round (Taylor Teagarden) picks last June better than its first-rounder, John Mayberry Jr. Whittleman's bat already is drawing comparisons to Hank Blalock's. If Blalock stays with the Rangers long term, Whittleman might move to second base.

Paul Kelly, ss, Twins. Though he was clocked at 95 mph last spring, Kelly wasn't the hardest thrower at Flower Mound (Texas) High‹Athletics second-rounder Craig Italiano repeatedly hit 98. Taken with the pick after Italiano, Kelly became a full-time shortstop because he has all five tools desired at that position.

John Drennen, lf, Indians. One of six Rancho Bernardo High (San Diego) products to go in the first or supplemental first round since 1995, Drennen is a much better pure hitter than his .238 pro debut at Rookie-level Burlington would indicate. He finished strong and should produce for both power and average. Currently a center fielder, he likely will wind up in left.

Jeff Fiorentino, cf, Orioles. When Baltimore promoted him from high Class A in May, Fiorentino became the first position player from the 2004 draft to reach the majors. He wasn't ready, but he has the bat and athleticism to return soon. The since-fired scouting staff that drafted Fiorentino wanted to try him behind the plate, an intriguing possibility but one the current administration doesn't plan on pursuing.

Richie Robnett, rf, Athletics. Robnett batted just .243 with 151 strikeouts in 2005, his first full pro season, but once he recovered from hamstring problems and made some necessary adjustments, he homered 14 times in his final 60 games. More than just a power hitter, he has average or better tools across the board and just needs some time to refine his game.

Jacob McGee, lhp, Devil Rays. Tampa Bay has a better farm system than many realize, with several promising young pitchers on the rise. McGee has a curveball that breaks so much that lower-level minor league umpires have trouble calling it for strikes, and he backs it up with a solid-average fastball and a developing changeup.

Michael Bowden, rhp, Red Sox. Area scouts in Illinois absolutely loved Bowden, who showed a plus fastball and a power curveball outing after outing last spring. His delivery is a bit unorthdox and knocked him down into the supplemental first round, but he repeats it well and has a strong, durable frame.

J. Brent Cox, rp, Yankees. New York fans howled when the Yankees passed on local product Craig Hansen, who was already close to big league ready, in the first round last June. But New York did just fine by taking one of the draft's best athletes, C.J. Henry, and getting another polished college reliever in Cox in the second round. He led NCAA Division I with 19 saves last year, including the College World Series clincher for Texas, and has the slider and moxie to possibly help the Yankees in 2006.

You can contact Jim Callis by sending e-mail to jimcallis@baseballamerica.com.