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Tuesday, February 1, 2005
Top 10 prospects for 2005

By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com

Top 10 hitters
1) Andy Marte, 3B, Atlanta
If you don't count Joe Mauer as a rookie anymore, then there's no real consensus right now about the best hitting prospect in baseball. My pick, Marte, will probably surprise some people. But I really like his youth, power potential and improvement at each level.

Editor's note
This is John Sickels' final Down on the Farm column for ESPN.com.

You can continue to read John's coverage of minor league baseball through the following:

  • The Baseball Prospect Book 2005 is now available and can be ordered at Johnsickels.com.

  • A daily weblog called MinorLeagueBall.com will be operational in about two weeks. The free site will feature daily updates along with news and analysis about minor league players from Sickels.

  • The John Sickels Baseball Newsletter starts up again on Feb. 20. This is a subscription e-mail product, and can be ordered at Johnsickels.com.
  • 2) Joel Guzman, SS, Los Angeles

    Guzman reminds me of Miguel Cabrera at the same stage, and you can make a case that he belongs in the No. 1. Guzman made big progress last year, but still has to answer questions about his defense. So did Cabrera.

    3) Ian Stewart, 3B, Colorado

    Everyone loved his bat in high school, but there were questions about his glove. The Rockies felt his glove would play well at third, and it looks like they were right. His defense has been good, and mixing that with an excellent bat gives the Rockies their next big star.

    4) Delmon Young, OF, Tampa Bay
    Many people rate him at No. 1, but I want to see what he does at higher levels before bumping him up those last three slots. His plate discipline is quite erratic. But he has all the tools, and a bit of additional refinement will make him a pure seven-skill player.

    5) Daric Barton, C, Oakland
    Probably the best overall hitter in the minor leagues, with a tremendous combination of power and contact ability. Only his questionable defense and likely position switch keep him below the other guys.

    6) Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee
    Although he didn't dominate in 2004 the way he did in 2003, he was only 20 years old and playing in Double-A. He still projects as a more complete hitter than his father.

    7) Casey Kotchman, 1B, Anaheim
    I remain very high on his hitting ability, but the injuries are getting worrisome. You can make a case that I'm rating him too high here, but I want to give him one more year.

    8) Dallas McPherson, 3B, Anaheim
    Will replace Troy Glaus at third base. Expect plenty of power, but also a lot of strikeouts. If he can keep his defense in order and post a decent batting average, he is a good rookie of the year candidate.

    9) Carlos Quentin, OF, Arizona
    I think he will spike more home run power in 2005, while maintaining a strong batting average and on-base percentage. His defense is underrated. Only real concern is health: he gets hurt a lot.

    10) Jeremy Reed, OF, Seattle
    He's not quite as good as he showed in 2003 (or in his 18-game trial with the Mariners), but is better than he showed in '04. A projection: he'll hit .287 with eight homers, 19 steals, and a .351 OBP. Reed eventually will have seasons hitting over .300.

    Top 10 pitchers
    1) Felix Hernandez, RHP, Seattle
    The best combination of stuff, projection, youth, command, and statistics in the minor leagues. A potential ace, no question -- if he can stay healthy.

    2) Adam Miller, RHP, Cleveland

    Not far behind Hernandez. Throws very hard, throws strikes and posts impressive numbers. Ranks behind Hernandez only because he hasn't reached Double-A yet.

    3) Jeff Francis, LHP, Colorado

    Best lefty prospect in the game, with above-average stuff and excellent command. Unfortunately, he pitches for the Rockies, so adjust his fantasy value accordingly.

    4) Chad Billingsley, RHP, Los Angeles

    Isn't as physically projectable as Hernandez, and doesn't quite have Miller's command. But you're still talking about a guy who posted a 2.98 ERA in Double-A, one year out of high school.

    5) Scott Kazmir, LHP, Tampa Bay

    Has better pure stuff than Francis, but will need to throw strikes more consistently. Could be a dominating starter if he sharpens his command, or perhaps a power reliever down the road.

    6) Jesse Crain, RHP, Minnesota

    No question that he is ready for a major league job. Projects as a dominating closer, but stuck behind Joe Nathan for now.

    7) Dan Meyer, LHP, Oakland

    Rookie of the year candidate. Throws hard, throws strikes, could end up being comparable to Mark Mulder.

    8) Huston Street, RHP, Oakland
    Like Crain, he will be a fine closer eventually, but his status going into spring training is not guaranteed. Should move quickly in any event.

    9) Gavin Floyd, RHP, Philadelphia
    I like him a lot in the medium and long terms, but better command will be a must if he wants to repeat the 3.49 ERA he posted last September for the Phillies.

    10) Matt Cain, RHP, San Francisco

    Like the other young right-handers on this list, he throws hard and dominates the game when his command is sharp. Worrisome 2003 elbow problems did not recur in '04, but caution is still warranted in the short run.

    Postscript: I want to personally thank everyone who has read Down on the Farm over the years. Thank you.