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Top 100 Prospects: NL Hitters
published December 28, 2004
by David Luciani

In the first part of this series, we explained exactly what these lists are (and just as importantly, are not) and looked at the top 100 prospects who were in the American League at the end of the 2004 season.  This time out, in part two of four, we look at the top 100 hitting prospects from the NL at the end of 2004.  Something happened this winter that's never happened in all the years I've been publishing lists.  That is, a top five player actually changed leagues since the end of the season.  It happened too late in the publishing of the AL List to do a full revision of the way we publish them but it absolutely convinced me that next year, we'll change the format of the lists so that instead of listing a player in whichever league he finished the season, we'll update it to reflect player movement right up to the day the lists get published and perhaps even after, go back to lists to keep them updated as that would certainly be more useful.  I'm in the unusual position of publishing the top NL prospect here as a player who has just moved to the American League in the past week (in the Mark Mulder trade), which is, as I say, something that's never happened before.  Of course, I already mentioned that I'm unlikely to wait another year to post a new list as it's obvious for other reasons we need more frequent and dynamic prospect lists.

Please do check back to part one of the series for some important notes about how a player can even qualify for these lists, how the lists come together and so on.

TOP 100 NL HITTING PROSPECTS

1. DARIC BARTON, C, ST. LOUIS:  On the AL lists I said that Ryan Barko, among catching prospects, was the "best in the AL as of the end of 2004" and while that statement is true, there's a new name in the AL now as I mentioned above.  I've been publishing these prospect lists for almost fifteen years and never in the history of publishing them has the top prospect changed leagues, until now and that's Daric Barton, who was just traded a week ago to Oakland in the Mark Mulder deal.  In Barton, you have a player who will one day hit 30 home runs, walk at a league-leading pace, hit .300 and rarely strike out.  This, of course, may all happen seven or eight years from now but it will happen.  I also suspect that he will one day be the highest-paid player in baseball, for what that's worth.

2. BRIAN DOPIRAK, 1B, CHICAGO CUBS:  One of the toughest decisions I made in terms of these lists was deciding where Dopirak belonged and I first mentioned him in late 2004 as a guy to go out and get if your league was asleep.  He had a tremendous 2004 season at Single-A Lansing, hitting .307 with 39 home runs and 120 RBI and while his defense has been questioned, such shortcomings usually won't keep a first baseman away from the majors.  I expect that Dopirak has, in his future, a league-leading season for home runs and he's more powerful than even Barton.  In fact, if I had to answer the question "Which current minor league hitter will have the most home runs in a single big league season in his future?" the answer would be Dopirak.  He'll also be in his prime about three years sooner than Barton, even though they're closer than that in age.  Think 2010 as being about when he'll be at the peak of his career.

3. DAVID WRIGHT, 3B, NEW YORK METS:  Like most prospects, he's not going to have his best seasons immediately after arriving and it might surprise readers that I've slightly downgraded his eventual best expectation from 40+ HR territory to something closer to 30 (with 40+ double ability) but he is going to be extremely productive, will eventually be a consistent .300 hitter who walks 75-80 times a season and his prime years will be as soon or sooner than any other top ten prospect.

4. IAN STEWART, 3B, COLORADO:  A former first round pick, he had an unbelievable season for a 19 year old, hitting .319 with 30 home runs and 19 steals for Single-A Asheville in 2004 and while there's never a guarantee of where a prospect will eventually end up organization-wise (see Daric Barton), if he landed in Colorado for his big league career, he would get a big boost to his already-high ceiling.  There's a wider margin of error for Stewart than the three ahead of him here but I still think 30-35 home runs in his prime will be a given and he's going to be an 80-90 walk type who steals 10 bases a season and keeps his average maybe in the .280s or .290s but not at batting title levels, at least not typically.

5. LASTINGS MILLEDGE, OF, NEW YORK METS:  Milledge had some personal problems that caused him to go later in the 2003 draft than most expected and we haven't seen much of him yet at Single-A or better, having played just 87 games total at Single-A or higher in his career.   He strikes me as an eventual 30+ home run type with 20-25 stolen base potential and a good but not great batting average over his career.

6. JEREMY HERMIDA, OF, FLORIDA:  Another former first round pick who makes the top ten, Hermida will one day be a 20-30 home run guy who won't hit for a huge average but will have a long career as a reliable medium level power hitter.  I know I'm not as high on him as some others and while he makes #6 here, I'm not expecting a batting title in his future.

7. GEORGE KOTTARAS, C, SAN DIEGO:  Easily one of the least known top prospects I'll list, Kottaras doesn't so much have fantasy upside as I expect he's going to have a memorable career as a consistent player who hits 10-20 home runs a year with 85-90 walks over many seasons, for ten or fifteen years maybe.  Twenty years from now, there will be catchers much lower ranked here who had markedly better single seasons but I believe Kottaras will be better remembered as having the more productive career than these others.  If your interest is a player's single best season more than his career, Kottaras is one of those rare prospects where I'll tell you he is not your man.  In terms of the career I project, he's going to have a good one.

8. IAN BLADERGROEN, 1B, NEW YORK METS:  The Mets continue their domination of this year's top ten list with their third player in the top eight.  Bladergroen had his 2004 season cut in half last year when he required wrist surgery in early July.  Up until that point, he was having a strong season, hitting .342 with 13 home runs and 74 RBI over just 72 games at Single-A Capital City and before the injury, most had expected he would soon be moving up to a more competitive level.  Bladergroen projects as a .280s type who will average 20-30 home runs a year when he is fully established.

9. CARLOS QUENTIN, OF, ARIZONA:  Quentin has suffered through multiple extended injuries already in his young career and whether that will prove to be a long-term trend is unclear.  In his favor, he's likely to move up the minor league ladder quickly and he has still underrated 20-25 home run power potential.  I don't expect him to end up as much more than a .260s-.270s hitter for the long haul but the power and production will be there.  He looks to me to be an eventual #5 hitter who will get plenty of RBI opportunities one day.

10. JOEY VOTTO, 1B, CINCINNATI:  Admittedly, I know less about him than any of the nine ranked ahead of him here but analysis of his minor league statistical performance yields several thresholds he's passed that are rare for such an unknown, much like happened when we listed Jason Kubel a few years ago here.  Like Kubel, Votto's appearance in the top ten is not so much his surface statistical performance but a deeper statistical analysis of his apparent skill set, which tells us he appears to be a hitter who, when he reaches his prime, will be a .270s type with 20-25 home run power and 90 walk ability.  If that combination proves to be correct, he belongs here at #10, especially given how young he is (21).

The best of the rest...

11. BRIAN MCCANN, C, ATLANTA

12. GARRETT ATKINS, 3B, COLORADO

13. FERNANDO VALENZUELA, 1B, SAN DIEGO:  No, his name isn't a typographical error.  Perhaps Fernando-mania will hit San Diego one day.

14. JARROD SALTALAMACCHIA, C, ATLANTA

15. JEFF FRANCOEUER, OF, ATLANTA

16. JON BENICK, 1B, PITTSBURGH

17. MATTHEW KEMP, OF,  LOS ANGELES

18. KEVIN COLLINS, OF, CHICAGO CUBS

19. PRINCE FIELDER, 1B, MILWAUKEE:  Last year's #1 "falls" to #19 this year, which still makes him a huge prospect and puts him ahead of more than 99% of the minor league baseball population.  Like I mentioned in part one of this series, it's not so much that a player necessarily goes down from a year earlier as much as others step up to get more noticed, relatively speaking.  Regardless, a what decline in his prospects is real rather than relative is because I'm downgrading his power ceiling a bit to the lower end of what I once said (I was thinking 30-50 home run power where now I'm thinking a more specific 30-35 typical home run peak) and his walk ability, which can be key to player actually sticking around in the majors once he's there, gets reduced from a league-leading type prime to something more like a still respectable 65-75 walks a season.  The rest of the numbers are still where I thought they would be when I listed him as the top prospect in this space last year.

20. JOEL GUZMAN, SS, LOS ANGELES

21. TAGG BOZIED, 1B, SAN DIEGO

22. CONOR JACKSON, OF, ARIZONA

23. ALEZ FRAZIER, OF, ARIZONA

24. JOSH KROEGER, OF, ARIZONA

25. CODY HAERTHER, OF, ST. LOUIS

26. WILLY TAVAREZ, OF, HOUSTON

27. LUIS JIMENEZ, 1B, LOS ANGELES

28. MAICER IZTURIS, SS, WASHINGTON

29. BRETT HARPER, 1B, NEW YORK METS

30. NATE SCHIERHOLTZ, 3B, SAN FRANCISCO

31. JACOB FOX, C, CHICAGO CUBS

32. VICTOR DIAZ, OF, NEW YORK METS

33. DELWYN YOUNG, 2B, LOS ANGELES

34. JEFF KEPPINGER, 2B, NEW YORK METS

35. BRAD ELDRED, 1B, PITTSBURGH

36. BILL MCCARTHY, OF, ATLANTA

37. RYAN SHEALY, 1B, COLORADO

38. HUMBERTO QUINTERO, C, SAN DIEGO

39. JORDAN CZARNIECKI, OF, COLORADO

40. LOU PALMISANO, C, MILWAUKEE

41. JEFFREY BAKER, 3B, COLORADO

42. RYAN HARVEY, OF, NEW YORK METS

43. JONATAHAN ZERINGUE, OF, ARIZONA

44. SHAWN BOWMAN, 3B, NEW YORK METS

45. TONY MCQUADE, OF, CHICAGO CUBS

46. ANDY MARTE, 3B, ATLANTA

47. BRENDAN RYAN, SS, ST. LOUIS

48. RYAN LANGERHANS, OF, ATLANTA

49. VINNY ROTTINO, OF, MILWAUKEE

50. ALBERTO GARCIA, 3B, CHICAGO CUBS

51. MATT MURTON, OF, CHICAGO CUBS

52. ANDY LAROCHE, 3B, LOS ANGELES

53. ANDY SCHUTZENHOFER, 1B, ST. LOUIS

54. MICHAEL BOURN, OF, PHILADELPHIA

55. JARRETT HOFFPAUIR, 2B, ST. LOUIS

56. CHRIS BURKE, 2B, HOUSTON

57. NOOCHIE VARNER, OF, ARIZONA

58. BRANDON SING, 1B, CHICAGO CUBS

59. MARTIN PRADO, 2B, ATLANTA

60. PAUL MCANULTY, OF, SAN DIEGO

61. ANDREW WILSON, 1B, NEW YORK METS

62. MATT DRYER, 3B, ST. LOUIS

63. TONY BLANCO, OF, CINCINNATI

64. EDWIN ENCARNACION, 3B, CINCINNATI

65. WILLY AYBAR, 2B, LOS ANGELES

66. ADAM BOEVE, OF, PITTSBURGH

67. RAJAI DAVIS, OF, PITTSBURGH

68. MIGUEL MONTERO, C, ARIZONA

69. TOMMY WHITEMAN, SS, HOUSTON

70. MICAH HOFFPAUIR, 1B, CHICAGO CUBS

71. KEVIN HOWARD, 2B, CINCINNATI

72. CHRIS SNYDER, C, ARIZONA

73. BRIAN SPROUT, OF, LOS ANGELES

74. CHICO CORTEZ, C, PHILADELPHIA

75. JAKE BLALOCK, OF, PHILADELPHIA

76. RUSSELL MARTIN, C, LOS ANGELES

77. ADAM STERN, OF, ATLANTA

78. ANGEL MOLINA, OF, FLORIDA

79. JUSTIN HUMPHRIES, 1B, HOUSTON

80. RYAN HANIGAN, C, CINCINNATI

81. GEOVANY SOTO, C, CHICAGO CUBS

82. CHRIS DUNCAN, 1B, ST. LOUIS

83. RYAN BARTHELEMY, 1B, PHILADELPHIA

84. KORY CASTO, 3B, WASHINGTON

85. MATT ESQUIVEL, OF, ATLANTA

86. JAMAR HILL, OF, NEW YORK METS

87. XAVIER PAUL, OF, LOS ANGELES

88. AAROM BALDIRIS, 3B, NEW YORK METS

89. JOSH PRESSLEY, 1B, NEW YORK METS

90. FELIX PIE, OF, CHICAGO CUBS

91. MICHAEL COCKRELL, 3B, PITTSBURGH

92. JIMMY ROHAN, 1B, LOS ANGELES

93. BRYAN HANSEN, 1B, PHILADELPHIA

94. COREY MYERS, C, ARIZONA

95. RYAN HOWARD, 1B, PHILADELPHIA

96. RYAN BLAKE, C, FLORIDA

96. JERRY OWENS, OF, WASHINGTON

97. ARCHI JANSEN, OF, ATLANTA

98. ADAM SEUSS, OF, NEW YORK METS

99. BRENDAN HARRIS, 2B, WASHINGTON

100. DREW MACIAS, OF, SAN DIEGO

 

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