Top 15 Outfield Prospects

 

In looking for elite outfield prospects, several factors come into play but first you must determine which position the player is most likely to play.  Credit is given to those who have the skills to play center, meaning good range and a decent arm.  In right field, having a great arm is important.  For left field it is basically if you can hit you can play.  After determining the players best profiled position you can then compare their skills to that position and determine their prospect level.  Finding a player who can hit like a left fielder, throw like a right fielder, and have the skills to play center is like hitting the lottery.  Very few players ever meet all those criteria but there are some that come close.  Here are the best outfielders in the minors this year.

 

1. Delmon Young - Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

19

Low A

513

.320

26

5

25

53

120

.386

.536

 

Delmon is the best outfield prospect in the game and possibly the best prospect in all of baseball.  Drafted first overall by the Devil Rays in 2003, he didn't sign in time to play that year.  He made a big splash though in his debut last season, hitting .320 with 25 home runs.

 

As a hitter Delmon is nearly the complete package.  He already hits for power and average.  He has shown decent discipline at the plate drawing 53 walks last season.  He did strike out 120 times which is not out of line for a power hitter but could be reduced.

 

In right field Young is a big body but he still moves pretty well giving him adequate range. His arm strength is excellent but he could stand to be a bit more accurate. Young still has to improve his routes to the ball but that should improve with experience.

 

Delmon has a prodigious bat that will carry him to the big leagues.  He is still growing and will need to watch that he doesn't grow too large to play the field, much like his brother Dmitri.  If he can cut down on the strikeouts a bit and continue to improve in the field he has a chance to be the best right fielder in the game.

 

2. Jeff Francoeur - Atlanta Braves

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

21 AA 76 .197 2 0 3 0 14 .197 .342

Hi A

334

.293

26

0

15

22

70

.346

.506

 

Jeff heads the next crop of stars heading for Atlanta.  A center fielder before last season, his move to right takes a little luster from his package but his tools are all there.  Scouts love Jeff because he displays all the skills necessary to be a star.

 

In the field, Francoeur is smooth and capable of playing any outfield position.  He has great range for right field and a strong arm.  He also showed the ability to read hitters and be in the right position to make plays.

 

As with any outfielder, the defense may get you to the show but the bat will make you a star.  With that in mind, Jeff is destined to be a star.  As good as he is defensively, he is even better with the bat.  He has quick hands that allow him to generate good bat speed.  He also makes solid contact and projects to hit 30+ homers annually.  If Jeff has a weakness it would be his plate discipline.  This should improve in time but could be used against him by more polished pitchers.

 

It takes more that tools to succeed in the Majors.  A player must learn how to translate those tools into production.  If Jeff is able to do that, he will have a bright future.

 

3. Carlos Quentin - Arizona Diamondbacks

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

AA

210

.357

19

0

6

18

23

.443

.533

Hi A

242

.310

14

1

15

25

33

.428

.562

 

Carlos was selected by the Diamondbacks in the first round, 29th overall, in 2003 but did not play that year.  When he made his debut last season, he hit the ground running.   Hitting a combined .332 with 21 home runs between Hi A and AA, he established himself as one of the premier talents in the minors.

 

As a hitter, there is not much to dislike.  Carlos has already shown he can hit for average and power.  He also doesnít swing and miss too often, as evident of only 56 strikeouts in 452 at bats.   His walk rate might be a tick low but nothing to worry about yet.

 

Defensively Carlos is excellent, showing good range and smooth actions while his arm is returning to its pre Tommy John strength.

 

Carlos has the tools to be an All Star right fielder.  He will need to show that his first season wasnít a fluke as pitchers now know what he can do. 

 

4. Jason Kubel - Minnesota Twins

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

Majors

60 .300 2 0 2 6 9 .358 .433
AAA 350 .343 28 0 16 34 40 .398 .560

AA

138

.377

14

4

6

19

19

.453

.667

 

Hitting successfully at every stop since being drafted in 2000, Jason took it to a new level in 2004.  He dominated both AA and AAA and hit .300 in the Majors, proving his bat was ready for the Show. 

 

Jason uses his quick hands to make consistent contact and to generate good power to all fields. He also shows a pretty good eye at the plate that should get better with more experience.  These abilities should allow him to continue to hit for average in the Majors.     

 

In right field, Kubel has a strong enough arm for the position but not much else.  He doesn't run very well which leads to limited range and a below average overall rating.

 

The biggest concern for Jason is a serious knee injury he sustained in the Arizona Fall League requiring surgery.  He was slated to start in right for the Twins but now might not play at all in 2005. If he can come back to his pre injury form he could be a future batting champ.  

 

5. Nick Swisher - Oakland Athletics

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

24

Majors

60 .250 4 0 2 8 11 .352 .417

AAA

443

.269

28

2

29

103

109

.406

.537

 

Money Ball.  That is what Swisher is know for more than his ability. He was Oaklandís first pick in the well documented 2002 draft.  Though Oakland's philosophy was to take low risk players, Swisher would likely have been a first round pick anyway. 

 

Swisher's plate discipline and power are what intrigued Oakland the most and last season, he didnít disappoint.  Swisher hit 29 home runs and walked 103 times in 443 AAA at bats.  On the down side of that, he only hit .269 which might be a concern.  It must be noted that Swisher did play most of the season with a injured thumb that required off season surgery. 

 

Nick played often in center where he was decent but is likely to play right field in the majors.  He is also a gifted first baseman and it is thought he would play gold glove caliber defense if he is ever moved there.

 

To make it in the Majors, Swisher will need to improve his average and produce the same power and patience he showed in the minors.  He projects to play at or near All Star level for many seasons.

 

6. Jeremy Hermida - Florida Marlins

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

21

Hi A

340

.297

17

1

10

42

73

.377

.441

 

Another right fielder in this list, Jeremy has made a steady progression through the minors since being drafted 11th overall in the 2002 draft.  The top prospect in the Marlins system, he compares favorably to the top outfielders on this list and has 5 tool potential.

 

His smooth stroke from the left side of the plate and his good plate discipline are an indicator of great things to come.  So far, Jeremy has shown only gap power and scouts are mixed on what his future power potential might be.  As he gets stronger and advances to higher levels, his power potential will be more clearly seen.  

 

To be a star, Jeremy has several things to work on.  First he will need to improve defensively where his routes and his throwing accuracy need work.  Second, he will need to prove that he can be healthy for an entire season as he has yet to do that in the minors.  Jeremy has the package, if it all comes together, to be one of the elite players in the Majors.

 

7. Lastings Milledge - New York Mets

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

20

Hi A

81

.235

6

2

2

9

21

.319

.432

Low A

261

.337

22

1

13

17

53

.399

.579

 

Lastings is a scouts dream because he has all the tools to be an elite center fielder.  Drafted by the Mets out of high school in 2003, he has already mastered low A and has seen time in Hi A.   

 

With the bat, Lastings can compare to almost any hitter in the minors.  He has tremendous bat speed that he uses it to generate power and produce a high average.  His lone weakness might be his over aggressiveness at the plate where he struck out 75 times in 343 at bats last season.

 

In the field, Millege has shown the ability to play center in the Bigs. His speed, range and arm all rate the best in the system.  The only reason he wonít play center will be if Carlos Beltran still patrols there when he is ready.

 

Just 19 years old to start the season, Lastings will be in Hi A where he will again face older competition.  If he can maintain his progress and all his tools continue to grow, he has a chance to win gold gloves, batting titles and MVPs.

 

 

8. Jeremy Reed - Seattle Mariners

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

23 Majors 58 .397 4 0 0 7 4 .470 .466

AAA

509

.289

24

6

13

59

56

.363

.515

 

The key component in the trade that sent Freddy Garcia to the White Sox, Jeremy is in line to be the opening day center fielder for the Mariners.  He has shown good range in the minors but he might not have enough for the spacious Seattle outfield.  His arm is decent but be a tad under par for the position however that could still improve.

 

Reed's bat is what holds him back.  He has shown the ability to make contact and to draw walks which should allow him to be productive.  His power projection is weak though it could improve as he builds strength. 

 

If Jeremy proves he can handle center at Safeco Field, his ability to get on base and his speed once he is there will make him productive.  

 

9. Felix Pie - Chicago Cubs

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

20

Hi A

431

.297

18

10

8

39

116

.358

.441

 

Signed by the Cubs at age 16 in 2001, Pie has been a work in progress.  He has all the tools to be a star but has yet to put it all together.  Despite being so raw and always being one of the youngest players in his league, Pie has produced.  He has always hit for average and has shown flashes of power to come to go along with his good speed..

 

For Felix the sky is the limit but he has a long ways to go.  Defensively he will need to improve on his routes in center.  He also will need to improve his plate discipline and his base stealing.  Pie mostly needs experience to improve and at age 20 he has plenty of time. 

 

10. Conor Jackson - Arizona Diamondbacks

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22 AA 226 .301 13 2 6 24 36 .367 .456

Hi A

258

.345

19

2

11

45

36

.438

.562

 

Jackson was also selected in the first round of the 2003 draft, 19th overall, by the Diamondbacks.  Like Carlos Quentin, Jackson has proven himself an excellent hitter.  He has hit above .300 at every stop in the minors and reached AA in only his second season.

 

Conor has an excellent eye and makes solid contact when he swings.  He projects to hit for power and already hits for average.  His walk rates suggest that he will be able to continue to hit as he advances.

Jacksonís big weakness is that he canít field.  He has little range in left field and a poor arm.  Ultimately Jackson will probably end up at first base but his hitting will still be able to carry him there.

 

11. Franklin Gutierrez - Cleveland Indians

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

AAA

27

.148

1

0

1

1

11

.179

.296

AA

262

.302

24

2

5

23

77

.372

.466

 

A very promising prospect acquired by from the Dodgers in the Milton Bradley trade, Gutierrez is a key block in Cleveland's rebuilding project.  He projects to be average or above in every aspect of his game.

 

At the plate, he is already makes good contact and has shown power potential for better than 30 home runs in the Bigs. He will need to improve his plate discipline a bit to reach that potential.  

 

In the field he has shown the range and speed to play center and the arm to play right.  He has the potential to be a gold glover at either position.

 

After having surgery on his left elbow in 2004 there are some questions to be answered.  He will need to show that it didn't affect his power and that it won't be a recurring problem in the future.

 

12. Brian Anderson - Chicago White Sox

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

23

AA

185

.270

9

3

4

19

30

.346

.416

Hi A

254

.319

22

4

8

29

44

.394

.531

 

Anderson doesn't have one tool that stands out as exceptional but he is able to do everything well.  He has shown the ability to make consistent contact and to draw walks.  His arm is good enough to play any position and he has enough speed to play center.

 

Brian just needs a little more experience against better pitchers and show that he can make adjustments at the higher levels. 

13. Shin-soo Choo - Seattle Mariners

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

22

AA

517

.315

17

7

15

56

97

.382

.462

 

Signed out if of Korea in 2000, Choo is another example of the Mariners development strategy of signing foreign players paying off.  Choo has continually improved as he advanced through the system and is about ready to make his Major League debut.  Still a bit raw, the tools are there for him to be a solid player.  

 

Choo needs to improve his outfield play and his throwing accuracy.  At the plate he needs to cut down strikeouts and find more ways of getting on base and using his speed. 

14. Curtis Granderson - Detroit Tigers

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

24 Majors 25 .240 1 1 0 3 8 .321 .360

AA

462

.303

19

8

21

80

95

.407

.515

 

The best position prospect in a weak Tigers system, Granderson should help break the trend of top prospects falling short of expectations.  He has shown the ability to hit since college and should continue to hit in the majors.  

 

He has shown excellent plate discipline, drawing 80 walks last season, and surprising power with 21 home runs. Defensively he has improved enough to be a legitimate option in center and should be the everyday center fielder by mid season.  While he will probably never hit massive home runs, Granderson should be a very productive hitter in the Bigs.

15. Dave Krynzel - Milwaukee Brewers

Age

2004 level

at-bats

ave

2b

3b

hr

bb

so

obp

slg

23 Majors 41 .220 1 0 0 3 15 .319 .244

AAA

257

.276

10

4

6

20

65

.332

.416

 

Dave took a step backwards the last few seasons with injuries playing a role.  When healthy, speed is his best asset and it allows him to be an excellent center fielder.  His bat is what is holding him back.  Since he will likely never hit for much power, Dave will need to find a way to get on base more often to be productive.  He will be given the chance to be Milwaukee's starting center fielder this spring      

 

Honorable Mention (listed alphabetically)

 

Joey Gathright - Devil Rays

Ryan Harvey - Cubs

Javier Herrera  - Athletics

Fred Lewis - Giants

Nick Markakis - Orioles

Kendry Morales - Angels

Brandon Moss - Red Sox

Ryan Sweeney - White Sox

 

Top 5 Most Likely to Play Center

 

1. Dave Krynzel

2. Lastings Milledge

3. Jeremy Reed

4. Brian Anderson

5. Felix Pie

 

Top 5 Power Potential

 

1. Delmon Young

2. Jeff Francoeur

3. Nick Swisher

4. Lastings Milledge

5. Franklin Gutierrez

 

 

Top prospects by position