Protectable AL Prospects for 2005
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Whom to keep and whom to redraft 

Take a page from the Yankees, if you can stand to.  Most prospects are best used as trade fodder. If your team has a chance to contend next year, all but the very best prospects are just getting in your way of getting the depth you can use – unless you can trade them for the players you need. However, when their stars dull, it will be too late.


I’m sure you have some guys who had disappointing seasons in the minors. You think they have a great chance of bounding back – and so, therefore, you should hang on to them. You would be half right. Many prospects do bounce back, but it is a red flag. They might stall again before they reach the majors – or more likely stall once they reach there. If it was an injury that held them back, more are likely to follow. You are better off taking your chances with a young unprotected player who has reached the majors, or a prospect who emerged after your last supplemental, or an overlooked veteran. These will all be available in the third phase draft, but will not be available, if you give up those picks for your iffy prospects instead.


Think about all those interesting prospects whom you don’t even have room to list. Tino Martinez is an example of a veteran who wasn’t even drafted in one of my leagues last year until the supplemental round. Relievers such as Betancourt and Takatsu are gems which were snatched well into the third phase. Need an outfielder? Why protect Josh Hamilton all these years when you could have been redrafting Eric Byrnes or Aaron Rowand all that time? At worse, you can draft the real life back-up to one of your regulars with a late third phase pick. That’s more useful (to a contender) than hanging on to someone who likely won’t be worth protecting once he blows his rookie eligibility – whenever that day comes.


A contender should not protect prospects with anything less than a B+ rating – a prospect who will almost certainly have a solid major league career. We just don’t know when or how good he will be, but he has made steady progress towards the majors. The A prospects have stardom predicted. They get an A- if they have too much to prove, yet, or it is not unanimous among the experts that they are headed towards stardom.


If you are determined to have another year of rebuilding, go ahead and reach a little deeper for those B prospects. These players have stumbled a little as I have described above, but will still likely make it as a regular, eventually. Of course, they could turn out to be stars, too, or they could turn out to be middle relievers, bench players, or less.


Going over the prospects currently on the rosters of my two AL perpetual leagues, I’ve picked out the players I consider to be A- or B+ prospects. There were many others in the B to C categories. I listed a few B prospects, if they were likely to play in the majors most of next year. (You should protect those types, too.)


There were no American League prospects to whom I’d give a clean A. There are no prospects as impressive as Mauer, Teixeira, Blalock, Chavez, Glaus were when they were moving up through the minors. The closest would be Felix Hernandez, but, my gosh, he’s a pitcher.  If he starts the year blowing away AAA batters (or spring training batters in late March), I’ll upgrade him. He might be another Harden or Greinke (although, it remains to be seen how well they pan out to be. They’ve just started.)


Delmon Young has everyone drooling. Likely most experts give him an A, but his brother Dmitri was also a first round pick who took much longer than expected to establish himself.


Excluding Hernandez and Young who might be late season call-ups, there were three American League A- prospects who should be contributing most of next year:


Jason Kubel came seemingly out of nowhere. You can’t count on the Twins to give these young hot shots a job, but I think they’ll have to make room for this guy.


Dallas McPherson is stuck behind a talented group of Angels (Troy Glaus in particular), but the way he hits, they will have to find a spot for him.


Jeremy Reed had an awesome skyrocket ride in the minors in 2003. He stalled slightly in AAA for the White Sox, so he was part of the Freddie Garcia trade. Since his call-up with the Mariners, he has exploded on AL West pitchers.


Separating the ready-to-go B+ prospects from keep-on-the-back-burner ones I see:


Russ Adams – currently showing the Jays that he should be their shortstop next year. (Fortunately for them, only Canadians can keep Canada’s only shortstop as a prospect as they have a higher threshold (100 ABs).)


The Twins are due to make the switch to Jason Bartlett as their shortstop.


Nick Swisher came through for Billy Beane with a .406 OBA at Sacramento (PCL). Combined with his .536 slugging, he's certainly a keeper.


The As traded Mark Teahen to the Royals. He is about ready to take over KC’s thirdbase


Another Twin worth keeping for 2005 is Jessie Crain. He should contribute nicely next year. However, he is a reliever. Chances are he won't be protectable for 2006 – unless he’s the Johan Santana of relievers.


Joe Blanton, Travis Blackley, John Maine, and go-go Kyle Denney will likely be pitching for the Athletics’, Mariners’, Orioles’ and Indians’ rotations at some point during the season – assuming Denney’s bullet wound has had no serious damage. I’d be hard pressed to give them B plusses, but they are certainly B prospects who will likely have some success their first couple months in the majors.


Those prospect churning Twins of Minnesota could use a chapter of their own. They alone have two grade B pitching prospects who could be ready-to-go by midseason, if not sooner: Scott Baker and Boof Bonser. They are 7th and 8th in line currently for a spot in the rotation. The free agency departure of Radke, the recovery failure of Mays, the continued decline of Kyle Loshe, or the league completely solving Carlos Silva are all ways Durbin, Baker, and Bonser could be needed in the Twins rotation.


Further down the road:


Hanley Ramirez remains the Red Sox’ top prospect and is well worth keeping.


What do those scouts know? Not as much as the weathermen, I guess. Ian Kinsler didn’t even make the Baseball America’s Rangers’ top 10. He didn’t make John Sickels’ sabremetric oriented Baseball Prospect Book, either. However, Scoresheet managers in each of my leagues were so on top of what was happening in the minors, they scooped him up in the July supplementals. He took a huge leap last year and will likely be in AAA next year. In 2006, expect Soriano to move to the outfield and Young to move back to second base in order to make room for Kinsler.


The next best middle infielder prospect I can find off-had is Aaron Hill, who I couldn’t give higher than a B rating. I couldn’t justify anything higher than B- for Robinson Cano or Adam Morrissey. The latter is more in the ready-to-go group, though, and could win Oakland’s secondbase job against Ellis, Scutaro, or German. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees consider Cano their secondbaseman of the future or mere trade fodder.


Brian Anderson (White Sox) and Michael Aubrey (Indians) have each graduated the single A minors with honors and have spent a half season each in AA. They have fit in with their peers during that time, but need more time to master the league. They may keep their B+s.


The Indians seem to be the A.L. team with the 2nd best record of prospect development these recent years. I’m high enough on pitcher Adam Miller to give him a B+.


Ervin Santana (p - Anaheim org.) and Chris Snelling (of - Seattle org.) can’t stay healthy enough to keep their B+ rankings.


Of the five catching prospects who might have earned a B+ last year, only Kelly Shoppach progressed. A team that needs a catcher could use him. If the Red Sox resign Varitech, however, they won’t be one of those teams. Shoppach is the only one of the five who is possibly ready. Mathis and Navarro still have enough potential to keep their B ratings. Don’t hold your breath for Jeremy Brown or Guillermo Quiroz who drop to C.


Do, however, check back on all your B and C prospects during the year to see if they have turned a corner and deserve a supplemental selection. As the May picks are usually best for filling in unexpected holes, the July picks are best for picking out prospects who have taken a big leap towards stardom. Ian Kinsler was this year’s best example.

John Carter