At long last, the AB4AR Top 30 will begin to be unveiled tomorrow. But before I jump in headfirst and open myself up to your criticism for why I didn't put this guy in or why that guy is ranked so low, I figured I'd give you a look inside my mental lab so you know how I came up with my list.
As someone who admittedly doesn't have enough time to devote to following the Minors as I'd like to, I rely heavily on the input of others and the prospect lists of others, namely Mike Axisa of RAB, EJ Fagan of TYA, and Baseball America. I also try to read as many scouting reports and prospect profiles on players as I possibly can, and then I combine all of that with my own set of judging criteria. I tend to put much more weight on consistent production and improvement than tools and potential, as I think guys who have advanced through the system and gotten themselves closer to the show are more of a known commodity and sure thing than lower-level guys. As a result, you'll generally see the bottom 15 of the list heavier on short-season and A-ball guys and the top 15 with more Triple-A guys.
Other things you should know: I have an unhealthy love affair with power relief arms. Guys who are already settled into a relief role can be moved through the system more quickly and, in my opinion, more accurately projected as Major League players. When I see guys come in and start blowing hitters away as a relief pitcher, at any level, I get excited, so be prepared to see a few relievers on the list that you might not have expected. And this one is something that most intelligent baseball fans probably agree with, but I like hitters who already have the ability to take pitches, draw walks, and avoid strikeouts. It shows a more advanced hitting approach, so if you can do it at the low levels it's one less thing you have to learn when you make it to the Majors.
So there you have it. A quick look inside the process that determined this inaugural list. Now that we've covered that, here's a quick look at some of the guys who just missed the cut.
AB4AR Top 30 Honorable Mentions
37) Ryan Pope- RHP- Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
Recently converted to the bullpen after showing some promise as a starter, Pope made his Triple-A debut this year. He had a rough go, but has a combination of solid stuff and decent command that could lead to future success as a late-inning guy if he can harness both of them.
36) Jose Ramirez- RHP- High-A Tampa
Ramirez had a very good debut in 2010, but took a step back this season as he moved up to High-A Tampa. The stuff is there but the command was spotty at best. The good news is he'll be just 22 when the season starts, but a bounce back to his 2010 form is needed to make him a serious prospect.
35) Evan DeLuca- LHP- SS Staten Island
Flashed the stuff to draw interest for Staten Island in 2011, but needs to show some command.
34) Melky Mesa- OF- Double-A Trenton
Your classic "tools" guy, Mesa has never been high on my radar. He'll be 25 years old this year and still in Double-A, and hasn't gotten closer to cutting down on his strikeouts than he was in '06.
33) Evan Rutckyj- RHP- GCL Yankees
See "DeLuca, Evan."
32) Chase Whitley- RHP- Double-A Trenton
He's moved through the system quickly in 2 years, but Whitley hit a bit of a speed bump when he made the jump to Double-A in 2011. As a reliever, though, he should continue to ascend if he can show improvement in 2012.
31) Angelo Gumbs- SS- SS Staten Island
Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft, Gumbs has tools for days, is only 19, and could very well turn into a better shortstop prospect than 1st-round pick Cito Culver. If he continues to put everything together in 2012, there's no reason he can't finish the year in Tampa.
** Check back tomorrow for prospects 30-26 **