In the final segment of the BluGrass Baseball Top Prospects series I’ll give you my personal top 10 prospects of both Kentucky schools’ alumni and Kentucky minor leaguers. We’ll do this Letterman style with a countdown from 10 to one of each list.
Top 10 Prospects (Kentucky Alumni)
- #10) RHP Chaz Roe — Colorado Rockies — Roe’s star has dimmed slightly since the Rockies selected him with the 32nd pick in the 2005 draft. Roe had a significant hitch in his delivery coming out of high school that scared many scouts. Following a strong season in 2007 at high A Modesto Roe was ranked the 10th best prospect in the Rockies system by Baseball America. He struggled between Modesto and Tulsa in 2008, but has rebounded in 2009 with a 3-2 record, 3.08 ERA in 11 starts at Tulsa. Opponents are batting only .208 against Roe.
- #9) 3B Chris Dominguez — Oakland Athletics —Dominguez is the first 2009 draft pick to appear on this list and does so because of his plus power. BA said his combination of power, speed and arm strength was as intimidating as any player’s in the draft. Dominguez’s chief weakness is his ability to hit breaking balls and he’ll have to prove that he can adjust to professional pitching. So far, so good for Dominguez with a .293 average, seven home runs and 19 RBI in his first 19 professional games.
- #8) RHP Trystan Magnuson — Toronto Blue Jays — Magnuson bottomed out during Toronto’s experiment in converting him to a starter after he closed at Louisville. Trystan was 0-9 with a 5.40 ERA in 24 starts in 2008, but he has excelled since moving back to the bullpen in 2009. Magnuson is old (24) for the high A Florida State League, but opponents have been no match for him in the pen. With a 4-0 record, 2.98 ERA and .246 opponents batting average Magnuson could be in line for a promotion soon.
- #7) LHP James Paxton — Toronto Blue Jays — Paxton hasn’t pitched in a single professional game; he hasn’t even signed his contract. If we assume he does sign with the Jays before the August deadline Paxton ranks this high on the top prospects list based solely on his high ceiling. He was one of the youngest juniors in the country (21), is left handed, and has thrown as hard as 97 mph. That combination could be lethal if he lives up to his talent in professional ball.
- #6) OF Collin Cowgill — Arizona Diamondbacks — You can’t start a professional career much better than Cowgill did in 2008. He finished the season as the short-season Northwest League leader in home runs with 11. The interesting part of that statistic is he only played in 20 games in the league. At 5’9 Collin will always have to outperform his stature. If he reaches his potential he could be a second or third place hitter with a high on-base percentage and above-average power. Collin has been on the DL for high A Visalia since June 15.
- #5) OF John Shelby — Chicago White Sox — Shelby has struggled in 2009 at AA Birmingham with a .237 average, seven home runs and 38 RBI in 87 games. Despite the struggles Shelby still represents one of the best power/speed combinations in the White Sox’s organization. His 17 stolen bases this season show his speed hasn’t suffered any. If Shelby can adjust to more advanced pitching he could turn into a plus defender in the outfield who could bat near the top of a major league lineup.
- #4) 1B Ryan Strieby — Detroit Tigers — No Kentucky minor leaguer has been more consistent than Strieby. Ryan has improved his batting average, home run and RBI totals in each season of his professional career. While he has moved up the minor leagues Strieby has only improved and 2009 might be his best season yet with a .305 batting average, 17 home runs and 53 RBI in 76 games for AA Erie. Strieby has been an all-star in each of the last three seasons and could become a middle of the lineup power/RBI threat for Detroit.
- #3) LHP Robbie Ross — Texas Rangers — Ross signed too late to make his professional debut in 2008, but the he has lived up to his second-round hype in 2009. Through seven starts for short-season Spokane, Ross is 3-1 with a 2.29 ERA. In 35.1 innings Ross has 48 strikeouts and just 8 walks. Opponents are batting just .231 against Ross. Robbie is still young (20) and will be given every chance to move quickly up the Rangers’ farm system. Ross featured a mid-90s fastball and impressive secondary pitches coming out of Lexington Christian Academy and could develop into a front of the rotation left-handed starting pitcher.
- #2) OF Ben Revere — Minnesota Twins — When you lead the minor leagues with a .379 batting average and flirt with .400 for much of the season, rankings like this one come your way. Revere has cooled a little in 2009 but is still holding his own with a .312 batting average at high A Fort Meyers. The Lexington Catholic product has blazing speed as evidenced by his 33 steals in 89 games this season. Ben almost never strikes out (just 33 in 343 at-bats in 2009) and has all the tools to develop into an all-star lead-off hitter in the future.
- # 1) LHP Christian Friedrich — Colorado Rockies — With bookends Roe and Friedrich, the Rockies are the second organization with two prospects represented on this list. Christian is an EKU alum with the best curveball in the Rockies’ system according to Baseball America. Friedrich also features a low 90s fastball and a slider and changeup. He has been lights out in 2009 with a 5-3 record and 2.11 ERA between low A Asheville and high A Modesto. BA highlighted his sometimes spotty control as Friedrich’s principle weakness, but with 96 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 76.2 innings Friedrich has figured that out.
Hit the jump for the top ten prospects currently playing for Kentucky minor league teams.
- #10) LHP Brad DyDalewicz — Lexington Legends — DyDalewicz is quietly performing up to the standard of his epic name in the Lexington rotation behind more highly touted teammates Jordan Lyles and Ross Seaton. In case you were sleeping on DyDalewicz, he’s also just a teenager starting every five days in the South Atlantic League. Brad is holding opponents to a ridiculous .209 batting average and is 5-4 with a 3.36 ERA in 2009. The lefty has a chance to develop into a mid-rotation starter and join Lyles and Seaton in the Astros rotation of the future.
- #9) LHP Matt Maloney — Louisville Bats — Maloney struggled with a 0-2 record and 6.11 ERA in a short callup to Cincinnati earlier this season, but has done just about all he can at AAA Louisville. Maloney is 7-6 with a 2.51 ERA and 89 strikeouts in 107.2 innings. His 2.51 ERA in fifth lowest in the International League and his 89 strikeouts are sixth most in the league. Maloney could move into the back of the Reds’ rotation next season but should be in line for a callup late in 2009.
- #8) OF Kyeong Kang — Bowling Green Hot Rods — Kang was one of two Bluegrass representatives to the Futures Game in 2009, but his performance at low A Bowling Green has been rather ordinary so far. Kang is batting .271 with three home runs and 23 RBI for Bowling Green this season. Kyeong was the first South Korean ever drafted in the MLB after transferring to an American High School two years before he was eligible for the draft. Kang checked in at #27 on Baseball America’s list of top Tampa prospects prior to the 2009 season.
- #7) RHP Zach Stewart — Louisville Bats — Reds’ closer Fransisco Cordero is rumored to be available with just a few weeks left before the July 31 trade deadline. One reason Cordero has become expendable is the strong performance of reliever Zach Stewart this season. Stewart has already earned two promotions in 2009 and is 4-1 with a 1.62 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 89 innings. Zach worked as a starter in Carolina and Sarasota to begin the season but has appeared only out of the pen in all nine games in Louisville. As a reliever, Stewart has a chance to develop in to a setup man or closer in Cincinnati as early as next season.
- #6) LHP Matt Moore — Bowling Green Hot Rods — After posting a 2-2 record with a 1.66 ERA in 2008, BA said that Moore only needed to prove himself against tougher competition. Moore, a 2007 8th round pick, hasn’t disappointed this season in Bowling Green. The lefty is 6-3 with a 2.77 ERA with 123 strikeouts and 48 walks in 87.2 innings. Moore was also the sixth best prospect in the Rays’ organization according to BA and has the chance to develop into a mid-rotation left-handed starting pitcher. His 123 strikeouts are third most in the minor leagues.
- #5) OF Drew Stubbs — Louisville Bats — Stubbs’ power hasn’t caught up to AAA pitching yet, but his improved batting eye has resulted in a .367 on-base percentage. If Stubbs can improve his .367 slugging percentage he has a chance to slot in to Cincinnati’s outfield next to Jay Bruce in 2010. The Reds have resisted the temptation to call up Stubbs or Louisville teammate Chris Heisey to replaced the injured Bruce in 2009 and the additional AAA seasoning should help both players. If Stubbs can improve his power he can develop in to a middle of the lineup hitter, if not his improved eye and 36 stolen bases in 2009 should make him a threat at the top of the Reds’ lineup.
- #4) OF Chris Heisey — Louisville Bats — Heisey gets the nod ahead of more highly touted teammate Drew Stubbs because of his eye-popping 2009 season. His .339 batting average is eleventh best in the minor leagues. BA chose Heisey as a mid-season minor league all-star and as a member of its “All Surprise Team.” A .339 average, 16 home runs and 56 RBI have Heisey on the verge of a big-league promotion. The Reds will likely leave Heisey at Louisville until at least September, but he forced his way into consideration for a Cincinnati outfield spot for 2010. With a .302 career batting average in the minors Heisey looks up to the challenge.
- #3) RHP Ross Seaton — Lexington Legends — Seaton was the most highly touted of the Lexington pitchers heading into the 2009 season and has done nothing to hurt his considerable hype. Only an outstanding season from Jordan Lyles has bumped Seaton down to three on this list. The fireballer can hit 96 mph on the radar gun and was selected as one of 13 untouchable prospects in the minors by Baseball America’s John Manuel. Seaton is 7-8 with a 2.51 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 100 innings. He’ll have every chance to move up the minors with teammates Lyles and DyDalewicz.
- #2) RHP Jordan Lyles — Lexington Legends — Lexington went from having no more than a couple of future major leaguers on its roster in 2008 to having two of the top 50 prospects in baseball in 2009 in Seaton and Lyles. Lyles’ 121 striekouts are fifth most in the minor leagues. Poor run support has led to a 5-8 record in 2009 with a 3.25 ERA in 18 starts. Jordan has made the Astros look brilliant for selecting him against most prognosticators’ opinions in the first supplemental round in 2008. Lyles should continue to move up the minor leagues, but the Astros wont rush him as he is just 18 in the South Atlantic league.
- #1) SS Tim Beckham — Bowling Green Hot Rods — Our list ends with where the 2008 draft began with number one overall pick Tim Beckham. He’s the complete package at short and should develop into the Rays’ shortstop of the future. Beckham is batting .273 with four home runs and 48 RBI for Bowling Green as a 19-year-old in his first full-season. The Rays are loaded with young talent and have no reason to rush Beckham so he’ll be given every chance to prove himself in the minor leagues. If he fulfills his considerable talent there is no reason not to expect Beckham to end up next to Evan Longoria on the left side of the Rays’ infield for the next decade.