Among the annual exercises undertaken by Baseball America this time of the year is the ranking of the game's top 100 prospects, a three-headed effort by co-editors-in-chief Will Lingo and John Manuel and executive editor Jim Callis, each of whom submits a personal top 50 list that gets published in the BA Prospect Handbook, which has apparently been finalized and sent off to the printer for production. Tonight Manuel has revealed the first 20 of his own top 50 prospects list.
Of Manuel's top 20 prospects in baseball, 13 players are the lone representatives of their organizations.
Two are Rays (OF Desmond Jennings [number 4] and RHP Jeremy Hellickson [number 15]). Two are Giants (C Buster Posey [number 9] and LHP Madison Bumgarner [number 10]).
Three are Rangers:
8. Neftali Feliz, rhp, Rangers
WHY HE'S HERE: Feliz has one of baseball's quickest, most electric arms, and showed it off when he first was called up to the major leagues last August.
WHAT HE'LL BE: The big question with Feliz is his ultimate role. Before tiring down the stretch last year, Feliz showed he could be an impact relief arm, and his feel for his secondary stuff comes and goes. The Rangers see that easy upper-90s gas, though, and see a starter.
WHEN HE ARRIVES: Feliz is expected to break camp in 2010 in Texas' rotation. It might take a while for him to truly arrive as a starter, as was the case for flamethrowers such as Edwin Jackson and A.J. Burnett.
12. Justin Smoak, 1b, Rangers
WHY HE'S HERE: A switch-hitter from the South, Smoak looks a bit like Chipper Jones at the plate with his stance and mannerisms. He has a chance to hit like Jones, too, with consistency, polish and power.
WHAT HE'LL BE: Smoak doesn't quite have Mark Teixeira's explosive power, but he's a similar-caliber hitter and defender. He just needs to add a bit of polish and figure out how to turn on inside pitches.
WHEN HE ARRIVES: With Hank Blalock out of the picture, the first-base job is open in Texas. While Smoak has competition (especially if the Rangers add Mike Lowell from the Red Sox to play first), he should become the full-time first sacker by 2011.
20. Martin Perez, lhp, Rangers
WHY HE'S HERE: The third Ranger on the list, Perez has a delivery and repertoire that draw comparisons to Johan Santana. That may not be fair to Perez, but as an 18-year-old, he was the best pitcher in the South Atlantic League, and his compact delivery is a near-duplicate of Santana's.
WHAT HE'LL BE: Well, have we mentioned Santana? There's just a long way for Perez to go from A-ball to the majors, and his workload has been handled very carefully so far.
WHEN HE ARRIVES: Let's give Perez a couple of years to let his low-90s fastball that touches 96, plus changeup and plus curveball time to incubate. He should be on this list at least two more times.
Happy Holidays, Rangers fans.
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(c) Jamey Newberg
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