Minor Developments: Top 20 Prospects for ’11

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In concluding 2010 minor league coverage, it’s only fitting to release my 2010 top 20 prospect list. Thanks to all readers who submitted nominations. After evaluating performances and scouting reports over the course of the season, here’s what I’ve come up with.

1. Domonic Brown(notes), OF, Phillies: He was one of the top prospects coming into the season, and not much has changed. His five-tool ability was on display all season in the minors (.327/20/68/17 steals). Should be the opening day right fielder in Philadelphia next spring.

2. Mike Trout, OF, Angels: Exploded on to the scene in 2010, posting a combined line of .341/10/58 with 56 steals, 10 doubles, and 9 triples. Simply put, he’s an outstanding prospect. I have second and third thoughts about not placing him in the top spot.

3. Jeremy Hellickson(notes), P, Rays: He showed glimpses of his top-of-the-rotation form in his stint as a starter, justifying all the hype surrounding him. Expect him to compete for and ultimately lock down a spot in the rotation next spring.

4. Julio Teheran, P, Braves: This may be a bit of an aggressive ranking, but I was that impressed by what this young Braves hurler achieved in 2010. His explosive fastball carried him all the way to Double-A, where he more than held his own (3-2, 3.38 ERA). He reminds me so much of former Braves prospect, and current Rangers closer, Neftali Feliz(notes). A midseason promotion during 2011 is possible.

5. Jesus Montero(notes), C, Yankees: His bat is most likely ready, but where is he going to play? Serious defensive concerns abound, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up long term. If he is ever traded, there is a good chance he ends up at first. He looks to have a 35-plus homer peak power.

6. Desmond Jennings(notes), OF, Rays: Nagging injuries slowed down the Rays top position prospect, but he still turned in a respectable year, earning a cup of September coffee. He’s a true leadoff man, and should have enough strength to drive 10-15 homers out of the park in the majors. If Carl Crawford(notes) departs, Jennings will be right there to fill the void.

7. Mike Moustakas(notes), 3B, Royals: He was an absolute beast in 2010, clubbing 36 homers between Double-A and Triple-A. His plate discipline is still improving, but he’s firmly established himself as the top third base prospect in the minors this season.

8. Martin Perez(notes), P, Rangers: Though he struggled in his full season debut at Double-A (5.96 ERA), his stuff is still outstanding. He has the makings for three plus pitches. He turns 20 next April, so there is still plenty of room for growth both physically and mentally for him. I still really like him despite the ugly numbers.

9. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Royals: After having laser eye surgery before the season, Hosmer blossomed into one of the minors’ best in 2010, posting a line of .338/20/86 with 14 steals between High-A and Double-A. He’ll play in the Arizona Fall League this year and would further improve his prospect stock with a strong showing.

10. Dustin Ackley(notes), 2B, Mariners: His plate discipline is outstanding, as is his overall package of tools. Played his way all the way up to Triple-A this season, and could be in line to earn the second base gig in Seattle out of spring training next year.

11. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals: Despite not taking a single swing as a pro, he belongs on this list based on potential alone. His immense power potential lands him on the list, although he remains a bit of a wild card until he actually produces some results. A move to the outfield (from catcher) suggests he’ll be on the fast track.

12. Michael Pineda(notes), P, Mariners: I developed a bromance for him during the season, tantilzed by his huge fastball and pinpoint control. Health is the main red flag here, and he’ll need to prove he can be counted on for 200 innings per season in the majors. His stuff should land him behind King Felix (Hernandez) in the Mariners rotation in the very near future.

13. Zach Britton(notes), P, Orioles: The man with the turbo sinker lands himself inside the top 15. He also performed solidly in Triple-A upon his promotion (3-4, 2.98 ERA) and should compete for a rotation spot next spring.

14. Wil Myers, C, Royals: I mentioned a few months ago that Royals fans need to be excited, and Myers is the third Kansas City prospect in our top 15. His .346 average upon his promotion to High-A was quite impressive, and the power (14 homers) should continue to develop as he matures. While he may not end up behind the plate over the long haul, his bat will play no matter where he slots in with the Royals.

15. Freddie Freeman(notes), 1B, Braves: A solid year with Triple-A Gwinett (.319/18/87) has him as the early favorite to open 2011 as the Braves starter at first. He should add more power as he continues to mature.

16. Aroldis Chapman(notes), P, Reds: When you can hit 104 MPH on the radar, you’re something special. Add in a huge sweeping slider, and you have a ceiling that may be the highest in all the minor leagues. If he can develop his control, he has legitimate ace upside. If not, you’ve seen what he can do out of the bullpen, making him a candidate to be a dominant closer for years to come.

17. Brett Lawrie, 2B, Brewers: He was solid as a 20-year-old at Double-A Huntsville, posting a line of .285/8/63 with 36 doubles and 13 triples. His 30 steals are also a huge plus, making him a future top of the order hitter for the Brew Crew.

18. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, Indians: His power is effortless, as he showed at the 2010 Futures Game, making him the prototypical power hitting third baseman. His .278/17/84 line was a strong indication of many good things to come.

19. Jameson Taillion, P, Pirates: When young high school pitchers are compared to Josh Beckett(notes), I get a bit excited. Taillon exudes all the makings of an ace, from the big fastball right on down to the plus secondary offerings. Despite not throwing a professional pitch in 2010, he’s one of the few pitchers in the minors with legitimate ace upside.

20. Manny Machado, SS, Orioles: Some have said he’s the most exciting five-tool shortstop since A-Rod, and his brief debut with Aberdeen of the New York-Penn League (.345) certainly excited scouts and prospect rats. As far as upside goes, I’m taking him over established prospects such as Grant Green and Nick Franklin.

Have a prospect question? A player you want to see covered? Send it to MinorDevelopments@yahoo.com.

Rob Steingall is a nationally syndicated fantasy analyst whose work has appeared in newspapers including The Providence Journal.

Updated Friday, Sep 24, 2010