Revisiting the Top 60: 31-35

With the minor league season completed, RC is busy putting together this year's Top 60 prospect list, which should be released in mid-December. First, however, it is useful to take a look back at last year's Top 60 prospects. Who took a step forward? Who took a step back? Who should have been ranked higher? Today we take a look at prospects 31-35 on last year's list.

35. Mario Lisson, SS

2009 Clubs: NW Arkansas Naturals, Omaha Royals

Stats (combined)
AB: 475
BA: .227
OBP: .283
SLG: .373
HR: 14
2B: 27
3B: 0
BB: 33
SO: 118
SB: 11
CS: 7

The 2009 season was the second consecutive disappointing campaign for Lisson, who turned 25 in May. Repeating the Double-A level, the shortstop got off to a dreadful start with the bat, hitting just .206/.287/.279 in 136 at bats for the Naturals. The Royals gave him a change of scenery in late May, promoting him to Triple-A, and he fared a little better there, but he still finished with a relatively disappointing line of .236/.282/.410 in 339 at bats for Omaha. After stealing 31 bases in 37 attempts in 2008, Lisson was successful on just 11 of 18 attempts in 2009.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Lisson still has a few tools that keep him interesting. He's an excellent defensive infielder, and his size can generate good power. His stolen base totals in the past were always more a function of his baserunning ability than his speed, but he still runs well for a big man. However, his bat has clearly not developed as the Royals hoped. Lisson is currently on the Royals' 40-man roster, and it will be interesting to see if that remains the case throughout the offseason. He is unlikely to reappear on this year's Top 60.

34. Devon Lowery, RHP

2009 Clubs: Injured - Did not play

Lowery missed the entire 2009 season, and when the Royals decided to bump him from the 40-man roster, he elected to become a free agent.

33. Jose Duarte, OF

2009 Club: NW Arkansas Naturals, Omaha Royals

Stats (combined)
AB: 381
BA: .239
OBP: .329
SLG: .328
HR: 4
2B: 14
3B: 4
BB: 52
SO: 75
SB: 19
CS: 11

Like Lisson, Duarte began the season repeating Double-A, and he also failed to show much progress with the bat. He was promoted to Omaha in early May after injuries at the big league and Triple-A levels created a need, but he was back with the Naturals by June. Overall, his Double-A stats in 2009 were very similar to his 2008 performance, although he was a little more successful at getting on base (.342 OBP).

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Duarte is a gifted outfielder with an outstanding arm, but at this point, it seems unlikely that his bat will develop enough to yield him a look at the big league level. He appears to have stalled at the Double-A level, and he has clearly been passed in the system by outfielders like Jarrod Dyson and David Lough. Duarte will not appear on this year's Top 60.

32. Brian McFall, OF

2009 Club: NW Arkansas Naturals

AB: 204
BA: .250
OBP: .335
SLG: .417
HR: 7
2B: 13
3B: 0
BB: 19
SO: 57
SB: 3
CS: 1

McFall was reassigned to NW Arkansas to begin the season, and he played 59 games before an injury ended his season in June. While healthy, McFall was on pace to finish with roughly the same stats he put up in 2008 for the Naturals, although his power production fell slightly. The 2009 season figured to be McFall's last best chance to establish himself as a legitimate power prospect in the Royals' system, but unfortunately his injury robbed him of that opportunity.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
Because he was drafted in 2003, McFall became a free agent after the season. He still possesses tremendous raw power, and it seems likely that he'll land somewhere, but we don't expect the Royals to retain him.

31. Kurt Mertins, IF

2009 Club: NW Arkansas Naturals

AB: 495
BA: .275
OBP: .332
SLG: .366
HR: 2
2B: 23
3B: 8
BB: 41
SO: 107
SB: 11
CS: 10

Unlike some of his teammates, Mertins avoided a big drop-off from his 2008 numbers in Wilmington despite his promotion to Double-A. Indeed, the versatile 23-year-old infielder had a solid season at the plate, hitting .275/.332/.366 with 33 extra base hits in 495 at bats. While he's not spectacular with the glove, he continued playing solid defense at both second base and third base.

Reflection on 2008 Ranking
When he was drafted in 2006, he looked like he might struggle to hit his way out of a wet paper bag. Over the last few years, Mertins has gotten consistently stronger as he's progressed through the system, and although his strikeout rate is a concern, he's positioned himself as one of the top utility prospects in the system. He should remain in the middle of this year's Top 60 and perhaps even jump a few spots.

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