This list would have been more balanced had the White Sox and Tigers not traded away a large amount of their respective farms in offseason trades. The Twins brought in some young players, but none who qualify for Top 5 status, in my opinion. (As an aside, a guy like Kevin Slowey or Carlos Gomez of the Twins didn’t qualify because they are no longer considered rookies by Major League Baseball).
1. Adam Miller, RHP, Cleveland: Yes, I know he’s had injury problems and needs to stay healthy. He’s also still got one of the best arms in the Minors. He could break through in a bullpen role to start the year.
2. Rick Porcello, RHP, Detroit: He hasn’t thrown a competitive professional pitch yet, but there is much excitement about his right arm, especially since he’s more or less the farm now.
3. Mike Moustakas, SS, Kansas City: Simply, the kid can just flat-out hit. I can’t wait to see what he does in his first full season. He’s at short for now, but he won’t stay there long-term.
4. Luke Hochevar, RHP, Kansas City: The 2006 No. 1 overall pick has top of the rotation-type stuff, but will start the 2008 season in the bullpen. Don’t expect that to last, though.
5. Chuck Lofgren, LHP, Cleveland: A lefty with arm strength and good stuff, he just needs to refine some command issues. Look for things to click for him in 2008 and he’ll pass up some of the softer-tossing lefties in the organization.
Others of note: Of the prospects the Twins got from the Mets, RHP Deolis Guerra rates the highest; the White Sox have a couple of pitchers who could help soon in Jack Egbert and Lance Broadway, both right-handers.
This is an exciting division for prospects, with the top three all coming from the first round of the 2005 draft.
1. Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati: He’s the No. 1 prospect in baseball, not just according to me, but most who do these kinds of rankings. I hope that Dusty Baker actually lets him play CF to start the year, but I also know that may not be realistic.
2. Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis: There’s a reason the Cardinals dealt Jim Edmonds away. Rasmus is very close to being ready. He’ll get a long look for the CF job on Opening Day, but even if he starts the year in Triple-A, he won’t be there long.
3. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh: That 2005 draft class that featured HS talents Justin Upton, Cameron Maybin, Bruce and Rasmus also produced McCutchen. He started slowly last year, but came on strong and has the makings of a five-tooler who can flat out play center. Whoever starts the year in center for the Pirates may not finish it there because of him.
4. Homer Bailey, RHP, Cincinnati: Pay no heed to his early stats from last year. Look instead at his September starts. You’ll see the real Homer Bailey, the one who’s got ace potential, in 2008.
5. Josh Vitters, 3B, Chicago: Another 2007 draftee to make these lists (see Porcello and Moustakas above). His summer debut deserves a mulligan. With a full offseason to prepare, he’ll hit the ground running in ’08.
Others of note: The aforementioned Cueto, who sometimes gets lost in Homer Bailey’s shadow; fellow Reds 1B Joey Votto, who should be their starter at that position, but you have to wonder if veteran-lover Dusty Baker will allow it; Brewers OF Matt LaPorta, the 2007 draftee who could start this year all the way up in Double-A and Brewers SS Alcides Escobar, who’ll play the 2008 season at age 21 in Triple-A.