Reviewing the Top Prospects: AL East

Entering 2010, FanGraphs posted Top 10 prospect lists for all 30 MLB organizations. And it’s been a great year for rookies, which means there are going to be a lot of changes in the Top 10 lists for 2011. Before we tackle that beast after the season, though, we’re taking a look at how each club’s No. 1 prospect has fared in 2010. Today, we’re starting with the American League East division.

The New York Yankees

Jesus Montero | Catcher
2010 Level: Triple-A
Age: 20

It’s been a tumultuous season for Montero, who didn’t hit above .250 in a month until June and was almost traded out of the organization. Despite all the drama, Montero remains in pinstripes and that’s a very good thing for the organization. Still just 20, the catcher has held his own at triple-A given his age. He’s currently hitting .286/.359/.493 in 371 at-bats. He’s shown power potential (.208 ISO) against much more advanced pitching while keeping his strikeout rate in check for a power hitter (19.9 K%). Montero’s defense continues to be a work-in-progress (14 passed balls, 23% caught stealing) but time is still on his side. Value: Down Slightly

The Tampa Bay Rays

Desmond Jennings | Outfielder
2010 Level: Triple-A
Age: 23

A late start to the 2010 season, due to an injury, hampered Jennings’ overall impact this year. He’s had an OK – but not great – season at triple-A as a 23 year old. The outfielder is currently hitting .285/.358/.415 in 340 at-bats. He’s been quite successful on the base paths (31 for 33) but his power has not developed as hoped (.129 ISO – his lowest rate since ’06). Jennings has probably been passed by pitcher Jeremy Hellickson as the club’s No. 1 prospect, but the outfielder should still make Carl Crawford or B.J. Upton expendable during the off-season. He still has a little ways to go before he’s a high-impact player. Value: Even

The Boston Red Sox

Casey Kelly | Right-Handed Pitcher
2010 Level: Double-A
Age: 20

It hasn’t been a good year to be a Red Sox prospect. Prospect lists flipped back and forth between Kelly and Ryan Westmoreland as the club’s No. 1 prospect but the latter player underwent brain surgery while the former struggled to adjust to double-A. Given that 2010 was Kelly’s first time committing to pitching full-time (after spending his prep career and first pro season as a two-way player), perhaps Boston was a little too aggressive with the 20-year-old hurler. The right-hander currently has a 5.31 ERA (4.03 FIP) through 21 starts and has seen his walk rate (3.32 BB/9) more than double over last season. Kelly has been quite hittable (11.18 H/9) but he’s also been the victim of a high BABIP (.366). The ’08 draft pick probably needs to repeat double-A in 2011 and it would be nice to see him get his ground-ball rate (currently 45%) back up over 50%, as it was in 2009. Value: Down Slightly

The Toronto Blue Jays

Brett Wallace | First Baseman
2010 Level: Triple-A/MLB
Age: 23

Obtained from Oakland in the off-season during the Roy Halladay dealings, Wallace has now joined his fourth organization since turning pro in 2008. The first baseman was sent from Toronto to Houston (via Philadephia) during the July traded deadline dealings in exchange for raw, but athletic, outfielder Anthony Gose. The move was a bit of a head-scratcher but the Jays organization is openly gambling on potential. Wallace was having an OK season at triple-A prior to the trade. Playing in a very offense-favorable environment, he hit .301/.359/.509 in 385 at-bats. His power output was a little disappointing considering his environment (.208 ISO), and so too was his walk rate (6.4 BB%). After the trade, which saw him land in Houston, Wallace has hit .294/.385/.353 in 34 MLB at-bats. The loss of Wallace to Houston has left pitcher Kyle Drabek – who was also picked up in the Halladay deal – as Toronto’s No. 1 prospect. Value: Down Slightly

The Baltimore Orioles

Brian Matusz | Left-Handed Pitcher
2010 Level: MLB
Age: 23

One of my early favorites for Rookie of the Year in the AL, Matusz has gone through some growing pains in 2010. His ERA currently sits at 5.08 (4.76 FIP) and he’s been an extreme fly-ball pitcher, as witnessed by his ground-ball rate of just 35.9%. Matusz’ four-pitch repertoire has helped him keep things together reasonable well for his rookie season but a lack of fastball command – as well as an inconsistent changeup – has hampered his development. Because he had limited time in the minors (19 career starts), the lefty is learning to pitch at the MLB level so there will probably be some bumps in the road in 2011, as well. Value: Even

Up Next: The NL West

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Kelly and Wallace have both slipped more then Montero

Jake R
Jake R

I would argue that Montero’s value has risen this year. He has answered some of the questions about his defense and is starting to look like he at least has a real shot of being a big league catcher. And, although he struggled offensively in the first half, He is 20 and in AAA, made the adjustments, and is the hitter we all knew he was so far in the second half. If he stays hot through the end of the season, he has to remain in the conversation for the best prospect in the game.

Kelly and Wallace have both slipped modestly. Wallace probably slipped the most, with long term questions about his power reinforced and, with his defense, he needs the power to be anything more than an average 1B. Kelly’s season is much like Montero’s first half without the second half surge. He’s far too young for his level to be overly concerned about his struggles. I still have confidence he would be dominant if in High-A this season and that, if he had not been challenged so aggressively, people would not be doubting his prospect stock. More so than moving his stock down, he’s treaded water, but is drifting toward the edge of a precipice. If he struggles in a repeat of AA next year, his prospect status will nosedive rather quickly.

In other news for prospects mentioned in the system, although Westmoreland’s diagnosis and surgery clearly are negatives for the Boston farm system, his recovery, although under the radar, has been nothing short of spectacular. He’s already participating, in a limited capacity, in baseball activities and his new goal is to be ready to participate in Fall Instrux (capacity to be determined). I’m not saying he’s back to being the player he was. But, he remains well ahead of schedule in his recovery. And, that can’t be anything but a good thing.


If Montero has answered any questions about his defense he has done so in the negative. He’s allowed an astronomical amount of SBs (86 SB in 88 games! leading the league by a wide margin) with a poor CS% – and on top of that 14 passed balls and 6 errors.

Was the question: “Are you definitely a 1B/DH and not a catcher?” If so… sure… he’s answered that, alright.

I’m not sure where people are getting the idea he has improved dramatically on defense. I saw a quote or two citing some improvement in May… and its been steep downhill since then. Anyone have a link/source?