Rankings were compiled with the help of three team affiliated Major League scouts, a director of player development, and two AFL players, all of whom were granted anonymity. The final rankings were determined by James Renwick, who covers the AFL for Scout.com. Anyone with more than 130 Major League at bats, or more than 50 Major League innings pitched is disqualified (sorry Matt Murton and Casey Daigle), and anyone with less than 75 AFL at bats, or 20 AFL innings (sorry Jeff Clement and Wade Townsend) is also exempt from the list. So on we go, to the Scout.com AFL Top 25.
|#15||Andre Ethier||OF||Oakland A's|
At the beginning of the AFL season, and frankly right through the end, we would have told you the top A's prospect in the AFL was going to be Daric Barton. But our analysts told us differently.
"Frankly, this is one of those where I wouldn't have talked about it if you were using my name," said our AL scout, "Barton seems like the guy, but his bat looked slow, especially on fastballs inside, and he doesn't really have a position. Ethier just looked so athletic, I'd seen him a couple times this season, and he looks like he's getting bigger. He had decent power numbers this year, but I have a feeling he's going to break out next season and turn into a true power hitter."
Hitting the ball has never been a problem for Ethier, who banged 18 homers and carried a .319 average in Double-A, but there were questions about his long term power potential. For one of our player analysts though, that wasn't even a consideration.
"Look at his swing, it's smooth, fluid. You generate bat speed with a swing like that, and the power will come. He's got the tough part down, and that's hitting the ball on the sweet spot."
He's also a very good outfielder.
"That might be the thing that puts him over the top," our Director of Player Development said, "he's a great right fielder, a strong arm and accurate, and though he's not really fast enough to play center, he gets great jumps on the ball, and could fill in there in a pinch."
|#14||Adam Loewen||LHP||Baltimore Orioles|
Our NL scout called this the worst ranking on the list.
"This is just idiocy to have him this low," he said, clearly not mincing words, "This kid could be a front of the rotation starter as soon as 2007, and will almost certainly be in the bigs in '06. A lefty with a plus fastball, an incredible curveball, and the biggest thing was he showed a lot of improvement with the change up in the AFL."
That change up will be the key. The fastball velocity was down a bit in the AFL, but that's not surprising coming from a kid who'd pitched a lot of innings in 2005, even though most of them were in Junior College and short season leagues. Still he carried an amazing 1.67 ERA in the Arizona Fall League, and that can't be ignored.
There was one dissenter in the group, one of our two players.
"I'm not sure what it was, but you just weren't intimidated by him," our hitter said, "but that could just be part of the package. He doesn't scare you, but even when guys got good swings on him, they didn't seem to hit the ball hard. I don't know, I haven't faced him, but there are a bunch of guys down here I'd be more worried about facing than him."
Expect Loewen to at least get a cup of coffee with the Orioles next year, and if his first half is anything like his time in the AFL, he'll get more than that.
|#13||Andy LaRoche||3B||Los Angeles Dodgers|
Calling him the Dodgers third baseman of the future is about as safe a statement as you can make, and the ceiling on him seems limitless.
"He's got power, he's got a solid glove and great arm. It was like he was born to play third base," our NL scout said, "and he's really well put together in the head. Just enough ego to be successful."
The only real question coming into the AFL was where the power went after a promotion to the Double-A Southern League. After 21 homers at Hi-A Vero Beach, he hit just nine in Double-A, and then went the entire AFL season without a dinger.
Our Director of Player Development had the explanation.
"He'd never seen breaking stuff like he did in the Southern League. And so he changed his approach a little, taking the ball the other way more, staying back. If anything, it's a plus, because as he adjusts to good sliders and change ups, the power will come back, but he's a smart enough hitter to know that making solid contact is better than swinging for the fences."
Another potential rush job, there are some who think this kid was the real reason the Dodgers let Adrian Beltre walk.
"He'll be ready to play everyday by opening day of '07," one player said. What makes him think so? "Because he told me."
|#12||Lastings Milledge||CF/OF||New York Mets|
The general contentious among our experts was that there was no general conscientious.
"A little overrated," our NL Scout said, "Don't get me wrong, he's got five above average tools, but anybody thinking Carlos Beltran is expendable because of this kid is out of their mind."
"There is literally no where to pitch him," one of our players said, "You go inside and he's got quick enough hands to turn on the ball and jerk it down the line. Down and away and he just shoots the ball to the right center field gap. And if you do that, oh boy, it's a triple, because he can just fly."
"He looked a little slow," said our Director of Player Development, "I'm not sure if he was tired, or if that heel thing was worse than he let on, but he never seemed to kick it into overdrive."
"I think he gets bashed sometimes for taking it easy," our other player said, "but he's not taking it easy. In the outfield is where you really see this. He's so fast, and gets such good jumps, that sometimes it looks like he's not trying, even when he just made a play maybe three other guys in the world could make."
One thing is for sure, and that is that Milledge is a pro talent. The Mets had him playing a lot of left field, presumably so he could start alongside Beltran next season. If that's the plan, they could start a rock in right field, and still have plenty of coverage, so the Mets pitching staff just got a whole lot better.
|#11||Glen Perkins||LHP||Minnesota Twins|
As good as Loewen was, it was Perkins who caught the scout's eyes in the AFL.
"That kid knows how to pitch," our AL scout says, "never mind that he's just got great stuff. The thing that really impressed me was that he walked onto the field with a plan, against some of the toughest top to bottom lineups he will ever face, and he executed that plan flawlessly. You could tell there were times when he was tired, or just didn't have his best stuff, but it didn't matter. He knew what would work, and that's what he threw, and that's where he threw it."
Our NL scout agreed, "He's just right where you want a 27 year old pitcher to be, but he's only 22. You don't find that kind of maturity very often, he's like the poster child for pitchers going to college first, and then going pro."
Not that the stuff was bad either.
"I saw him working on that change up," one of our players said, "and I just thought, 'Man, if he starts throwing that, and the slider, where he wants to, it's just going to be unfair."
Perkins doesn't crack the top 10 for one reason and one reason only, he's not even the top lefty in the Twins organization, but after showcasing a 2.53 ERA and striking 39 AFL hitters in 32 innings pitched over the past month and a half, he might be one of the first on this list to see significant time in the big leagues.