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Disappointing 2011 Prospects: AL East

Prospect ranking season is just around the corner here at FanGraphs. Starting at the end of October, the annual Top 10 Prospect lists will be back for a third year. While I work feverishly to whittle down those lists behind the scenes, let’s have a look back at the 2011 Top 10 lists and see which prospects disappointed in each organization, starting with the American League East.

New York Yankees
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Slade Heathcott, OF

Had I included RHP Andrew Brackman on my Top 10 list, he most certainly would have been listed here; thankfully I resisted temptation. Despite his horrendous season, the Yankees organization has to be pretty happy with the development of its other key prospects in 2011; few players saw their values decrease. Having to pick one from my list, I settled on Heathcott. The outfielder was drafted out of a Texas high school with a less-than-stellar reputation and a well-documented difficult past. The year started off well for Heathcott but then there was a brawl incited by the Yankees prospect and then a shoulder injury that wiped out the remainder of his season. The 2012 season will be a big one for Heathcott as he definitely has the tools to be a star.

Boston Red Sox
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Drake Britton

The Red Sox’s Top 10 list took a big hit in 2011 with a number of prospects losing value, although a number of other players stepped up to fill the void. Command issues have always been a demon for Britton and things imploded in 2011. He left his fastball up in the zone more often, which resulted in fewer ground outs and more home runs. On the plus side, the southpaw held left-handed batters to a .226 batting average and his overall strikeout rate sat at 8.20 K/9. If we look at his FIP vs his ERA – 4.85 vs 6.91 – it appears as though he also had some bad luck tossed into the mix.

Tampa Bay Rays
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Justin O’Conner

The Rays organization appears to be snake bitten when it comes to developing catchers. Neither Justin O’Conner nor Jake DePew (an over-slot signee) has shown much with the bat since being drafted in 2010. And before them came Luke Bailey and Jake Jefferies. O’Conner was considered a pretty good prep athlete and was expected to really shine behind the dish. Repeating Rookie Ball in 2011, his bat took a huge step backward with a strikeout rate of 39.6 K%. His triple-slash line was a horrendously-bad .157/.234/.354 in 197 plate appearances. The big question now is: Do you rip off the ‘tools of ignorance’ and hope that it jumpstarts the bat?

Toronto Blue Jays
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Asher Wojciechowski

Because I’m focusing on prospects that still have their rookie eligibility, I’m not going to talk about Kyle Drabek here but he’s certainly worthy of having a light shined on him. Instead, I’ll focus on Asher Wojciechowski. It was fairly well known at the time of the 2010 draft that this right-hander was a little more raw than a lot of college pitchers being looked at for the first and supplemental rounds. With an aggressive assignment to high-A ball in 2011, Wojciechowski’s main weakness was exposed: A lack of reliable secondary pitches. He learned quickly that you cannot survive on a fastball alone. He’ll likely continue to pitch out of the starting rotation in 2012, but the pitcher’s future likely lies in the bullpen (hopefully in high-leverage situations).

Baltimore Orioles
FanGraphs 2011 Top 10 Prospects
Decreased Value: Dan Klein

It was not a great year in the big leagues or at the minor league level for the Orioles organization. When he was drafted in 2010, Dan Klein was supposed to be a fast-moving reliever who would be one of the first players from the draft class to reach the Majors. And things started off well for the right-hander in 2011. He dominated the competition in high-A ball (12.06 K/9 rate in 15.2 IP) before moving up to double-A. He pitched just 16.2 innings there – with much success again – before something went terribly wrong in his shoulder. Klein suffered a SLAP tear in his right labrum and had August surgery to repair the damage. It remains to be seen when, or if, he returns from this injury, which is one of (if not THE) worst injuries a pitcher can sustain.

Up Next: The AL Central