With MLB.com's Top 50 Prospect list now fully revealed, it's time to let the debate start. That is, after all, why prospect rankings are done in the first place.
Was Mike Trout the correct top prospect or should phenom Bryce Harper hold the No. 1 position? Was there the right mix of bats and arms, of high-ceiling guys far from the big leagues and those about to make their mark? The only thing certain about this, and every Top 50, is that people will have something to say about it.
This is far from a scientific process. Even the scouts who were polled for this list -- and there were more than 20 -- bring some subjectivity to their insights.
To be eligible for the Top 50 list, a player must simply have rookie eligibility. To qualify for rookie status, a player must not have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues or accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the 25-player-limit period, excluding time on the disabled list or in military service
Each scout was asked to anonymously provide his own top 30 prospects list. An AP poll-type format was used. If, say, a scout put Mike Trout in the top spot (nine of them did), Trout would get 30 points, 29 points for the second prospect, and on down to one point for the 30th prospect on each list. The more scouts involved, the more thorough the list, but there's no avoiding having some opinion form the overall rankings.
Undoubtedly, readers will have plenty of them. Bring them to the chat on Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET for a lively discussion of who is and isn't on the list. For now, though, here's a deeper look at the Top 50 to whet the appetite.
The top five from last year's list all have moved on to bigger and better things. Buster Posey (No. 4) and Jason Heyward (No. 1) finished first and second in the National League Rookie of the Year Award vote. No. 7 Neftali Feliz won AL honors. With the one requirement for consideration being rookie eligibility, a total of 19 players graduated from last year's Top 50 list up to the big leagues.
They're not the only players not making an appearance from year to the next. Eight players dropped off because of injury, illness or performance, or some combination of the three. Combined, there's a grand total of 23 new names on this year's Top 50.
If picking a "best farm system" was based solely on which organization had the most Top 50 players, the Royals would win hands down. The six prospects they have on this year's list ties an MLB.com Top 50 Prospects record, shared by the 2004 Angels as well as the '06 Dodgers and D-backs. The Rays lost two players from last year's list but quickly replaced them with two more.
There is a grand total of 26 teams represented in this year's Top 50, with 14 of them having one prospect apiece. The Mets, Marlins, Brewers and A's are the four teams without a representative. Two of the Top 50 -- Jake Odorizzi (No. 37) and Chris Archer (No. 47)-- were dealt in two of the bigger offseason trades for Major League aces -- and thus changed organizations. The beneficiaries, of course, were the two teams at the top of this list. Brett Lawrie (No. 28) was traded from Milwaukee to Toronto, leaving the Brewers without a player on the list.
Pitching is always in high demand and always in high quantity on the annual Top 50 list. A year ago, there were 20 pitchers on the list. Two years ago, it was 22. The year before that, it was 23. The 2011 list tips the scales a little more, up to 25. The complete breakdown looks like this:
Top 50 by team
The number of Top 50 Prospects per MLB organization:
ATL, CIN, COL, NYY, SEA, TOR
BAL, MIN, PHI, TEX
ARI, BOS, CHC, CLE, CWS, DET, HOU LAA, LAD, PIT, SD, SF, STL, WAS
Right-handed pitchers: 14
Left-handed pitchers: 11
First basemen: 5
Third basemen: 2
Second basemen: 2
The disclaimer that always comes with this breakdown is that it's certainly not set in stone. Players, particuarly ones in the Minors, often change position. So there's a good chance that once these 50 establish themselves in the big leagues, it might be at a different position than where they are listed. It already looks like the Blue Jays will take a look at Brett Lawrie (No. 28) at third, and the Royals plan to move Wil Myers (No. 16) to the outfield. A couple of the shortstops could one day make the move to third if they get too big (e.g., No. 24 Manny Machado) or to second (e.g., No. 38 Nick Franklin) if their skill sets works better at that spot.
The list is split right in half, 25 pitchers and 25 hitters. That's a change of five in the direction of pitching, compared to last year's rankings. Last year, the lefties had the slight edge. On this list, the right-handed hitters have the advantage as they did in 2009.
The Top 10 has seven hitters in it. Atop the list, Trout is a right-handed hitter. So is Jesus Montero at No. 9. The other five are all left-handed: Harper (No. 3), Domonic Brown (No. 4), Dustin Ackley (No. 5), Mike Moustakas (No. 7) and Eric Hosmer (No. 8) and are all left-handed hitters. The two switch-hitters on the list are at Nos. 38 and 39, Franklin and Aaron Hicks.
Just missed the cut
Not making the Top 50 isn't necessarily a bad thing. A year ago, Trout was in this group of 10 on the outside looking in, and now look at him. Others in the 51-60 range last year were Freddie Freeman (17), Mike Minor (21), Tyler Matzek (33) and Lonnie Chisenhall (36). So, obviously, this is still a list worth tracking.
Over the years, these rankings have been a little on the Draft-centric side, meaning that the large majority of the prospects are ones who were born in the United States. That's the case again this year, with two more U.S.-born players on the list than there were a year ago.