"When it comes to prospects, no one looks into that crystal ball better than the people at Baseball America. The Prospect Handbook is their crowning achievement." -- Billy Beane.
If it's Beane's opinion, it's worth consideration.
"Properly analyzing and ranking prospects is not an easy job, as any general manager will tell you. But any GM will also tell you that he has a Baseball America Prospect Handbook on his desk." - Pat Gillick, also from the blurbs on the back of the book.
"Tools scouts, including those like Jim Callis who are not employed by MLB, are crazy better than sabermetricians think they are." -- jemanji.
Let's take a quick look at Seattle's Top 10 from three years ago:
=== 1 Adam Jones, CF ===
Had just posted a good, not great, season at AAA. The year following this report he would have a great season at AAA and be traded for Erik Bedard.
Baseball America: Most teams would definitely have made him a pitcher ...
Potential gold-glove CF, could play solid SS in the majors ... Mike Cameron comp defensively and offensively with a string of 20-20 seasons in his future ...
Too aggressive ... K/BB can and will hurt him ... won't walk as much as Cammy ...
Has turned out to be one of the best prospects from his 2003 draft class... figures to start in the OF for years in Seattle.
Three Years On: Mariners were right to move him off the mound.
Turned out to be an average ML center fielder, it looks like. At 23, posted a solid 104 OPS+ season, albeit with a 36/93 EYE. Stealing 10 bases a year and will probably steal 20 at his peak.
Aggressiveness will not kill his career; he's managing it nicely, getting better and EYE will be fine.
A player who is average-solid at 23 has a nice chance to be an impact player at 26-27.
GRADE: You can't ask them to peg a player any better than they pegged Jones.
=== #2 Jeff Clement, C/1B ===
Clement in 2006 hit .257/.321/.347 and the locals were saying he would never be a starting ML player.
Baseball America: Struggles have been understandable considering his circumstances ...
Will hit for plus power and, having shortened his swing, should hit for a solid AVG as well in the majors ...
Seattle likes his defense fine but everybody else disagrees; will probably play a different position in the bigs.
Three Years On: You know the story. Was the centerpiece of a trade that brought two of Pittsburgh's most valuable ML veterans. Still battling to get over the hump.
=== #3 Brandon Morrow, SP ===
In 2006 Morrow had just been drafted, and threw only 16 innings in the low minors before the writeup.
Baseball America: Diabetic condition shouldn't limit his baseball performance...
True power arm who sits mid-90's and has reached 99 mph. More importantly, maintains velocity into the late innings.
Backs up his heat with a mid-80's slider and a hard splitter.
Some teams liked him better as a closer ... needs to improve his feel for pitching ... If his command and change improve, he could make an impact quickly, 2008.
Three Years On: Diabetic condition doesn't limit his baseball performance.
Morrow has in fact maintained his easy velocity into the late innings, and this was one of the many reasons I was flummoxed at the suggestions to use him as a max-effort short man.
"Needs to improve his feel for pitching" is an awesome way to characterize Brandon Morrow, and once he does get that feel, look out.
photo by btats, flikr.com