The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (Part Three: Notes)

Over the past two days I’ve unveiled my top 50 prospects for 2004. If you missed those articles, you can check them out here:

The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (1-25)

The Top 50 Prospects of 2004 (26-50)

I’ve already received tons of great e-mail questions regarding the list and the prospects who made it and those who didn’t. For those of you who e-mailed me but haven’t heard back, I am planning on doing a “mailbag” column sometime next week, where I can cover a whole bunch of the questions. So, if you’ve got a question about something prospect-related, e-mail it to me and you may find it answered in this space next week.

In the meantime, today’s column is basically devoted to a bunch of notes related to my top 50 list.

First, so you know who we’re talking about, here are the 50 prospects who made the cut:

 1) Joe Mauer            21) Ryan Wagner          41) Franklin Gutierrez
 2) B.J. Upton           22) Grady Sizemore       42) David Bush
 3) Rickie Weeks         23) Dallas McPherson     43) Gavin Floyd
 4) Jeremy Reed          24) John Maine           44) Justin Huber
 5) Andy Marte           25) Felix Hernandez      45) Jose Lopez
 6) Bobby Crosby         26) Dustin McGowan       46) Gabe Gross
 7) Cole Hamels          27) Guillermo Quiroz     47) Jason Stokes
 8) Scott Kazmir         28) Scott Hairston       48) Matt Riley
 9) Jeff Mathis          29) J.J. Hardy           49) Joel Zumaya
10) Prince Fielder       30) Delmon Young         50) Adam LaRoche
11) Edwin Jackson        31) Adam Wainwright
12) Justin Morneau       32) Khalil Greene
13) Zack Greinke         33) Josh Barfield
14) Casey Kotchman       34) Jesse Crain
15) Joe Blanton          35) Michael Aubrey
16) David Wright         36) Travis Blackley
17) Alexis Rios          37) James Loney
18) Dioner Navarro       38) David DeJesus
19) Jason Bay            39) Clint Nageotte
20) Ervin Santana        40) Kevin Youkilis

There are about a million ways to break a list like this down, so let’s touch on a few of them.

By Team:
5: Blue Jays
4: Angels, Mariners
3: Brewers, Dodgers, Mets, Twins
2: A's, Braves, D-Rays, Indians, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Royals
1: Cardinals, D-Backs, Marlins, Pirates, Reds, Red Sox, Tigers, White Sox, Yankees
0: Astros, Cubs, Expos, Giants, Rangers, Rockies

Surprisingly, the Toronto Blue Jays lead all teams, with five players in my top 50. Prior to working on the list, I thought Toronto’s system was strong, but I never would have guessed that they’d have the most players in the top 50. However, Alexis Rios is their highest ranked guy at #17 and Gabe Gross just barely made the cut at #46, so the Blue Jays win on quantity but not necessarily quality.

I would say that the most impressive team in regard to this ranking is Anaheim, which checks in tied for second with four players, all of whom are in the top 25, including Jeff Mathis at #9 and Casey Kotchman at #14.

The amazing thing is that Mathis, Kotchman and Dallas McPherson (#23) were Anaheim’s first three picks in the 2001 draft. Kotchman went #13 overall, Mathis was #33 and McPherson was #57. Joe Mauer, my #1 prospect, was the first pick in that draft, and some guy named Mark Prior went #2.

The Mariners are somewhat similar to Toronto, in that they have four players on the list, but their highest ranked player is Felix Hernandez at #25.

The Brewers are the only team with two players in the top 10 (Rickie Weeks #3, Prince Fielder #10) and they are also tied for fourth with a total of three players. The Dodgers also have three players on the list and would have had four, if Greg Miller hadn’t gone in for surgery a day or so before I finalized the ranking.

The White Sox are the only team with a player in the top 15 and no one else on the list, as the lone Sox representative is Jeremy Reed at #4.

Six teams didn’t have a single prospect in the top 50. Three of those teams – Montreal, Houston, Colorado – also didn’t have a single player in my top 50 last year.

Interestingly, another team with zero players, San Francisco, tied for second last year with a total of four players in the top 50. Of the four, two are now with other teams, one is out for the season after having Tomm John surgery, and another is a member of their starting rotation.

The Dodgers and Blue Jays made the biggest jumps from last year. Los Angeles went from not having anyone on the list to having three prospects, even without Miller. Toronto went from two players to five.

By Position:
Pitcher: 18
Outfield: 8
First Base: 7
Catcher: 5
Shortstop: 5
Third Base: 4
Second Base: 3

There were 16 pitchers and 34 position-players on last year’s list, so I guess 2004 is a good year for pitching.

Of the 18 total pitchers on this year’s list, the only two relievers are Ryan Wagner (#21) and Jesse Crain (#34). Of the 16 starters, four of them are lefties and 12 are righties.

Outfield has the second most prospects, but is still probably under-represented. There are, of course, three times as many outfielders playing in each major league baseball game as there are first basemen or second basemen or…well, you get the idea. I think the biggest reason for the limited number of outfielders, relative to the other positions, is that a lot of major league outfielders are guys who moved there from other spots. It’s sort of like the dumping ground for guys who can hit but don’t have a position. “Stick him in left field!”

Second base is the least represented position (aside from relievers) and that makes sense. Relative to other spots, second is typically the weakest when it comes to prospects. Part of the reason is that it is a place where players from other positions (namely shortstop) are moved.

It also seems to be a place where many guys start out at, but don’t stick. This year’s crop includes two guys, Scott Hairston (#28) and Josh Barfield (#33), who plenty of people think may have to switch positions in the future. Coincidentally enough, if they do move, they may end up in left field.

By Date of Birth:
1978: 1
1979: 7
1980: 5
1981: 7
1982: 11
1983: 11
1984: 6
1985: 1
1986: 1

That looks like a pretty good distribution of ages. You’ve got the outliers (Jason Bay, Delmon Young, Felix Hernandez) and then the rest of the 47 prospects all born between 1979 and 1984, with at least five and no more than 11 each year. 1982 and 1983 tie for the most prospects, which makes sense, since those guys would be (for the most part) 21 and 22 years old right now.

Originally Acquired:
1st Round: 22
Foreign Sign: 9
2nd Round: 6
3rd Round: 4
4th Round: 2
6th Round: 2
5th Round: 1
8th Round: 1
11th Round: 1
22nd Round: 1
29th Round: 1

44% of the list was made up of former first round draft picks, and another 18% came from foreign signings. That leaves only 38% (19 of 50) left for every other round of the draft. In other words, more guys in the top 50 were taken in the first round than in all other rounds combined.

Last year’s list was a little different. It had 19 former first rounders and 13 foreign signings. The lowest drafted player in the top 50 this year is Adam LaRoche, who was taken with the 880th overall pick in the 2000 draft.

The only #1 overall picks on the list are Joe Mauer (2001) and Delmon Young (2003). Some recent #1 picks who didn’t make the list are Bryan Bullington (2002), Adrian Gonzalez (2000) and Josh Hamilton (1999).

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