Doug's post has inspired me. My list is in (very early) rough draft form, but here's some stuff I've been thinking about...
Everyone's top three is likely to be some combination of Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore, and Desmond Jennings. Mine would be in that order, but for the most part, those three are your top tier. #4 is where it gets really interesting. I think it's between the three Alexes: Torres, Cobb, and Colome.
Cobb had probably the best 2010 statline, and he's actually gotten better as he's moved up through the system. But his fastball is the weakest of the three, and his best pitch is his change-up, but it's unorthodox so it's tougher to project. Basically, it's not like a true change-up, like Hellickson or James Shields throws. Theirs is deceptive because a) they release it with the same arm speed and angle as their fastball, b) the pitch naturally drops because of c) the lack of velocity gets hitters out in front. But Cobb's change-up is missing element C. His fastball is roughly 90-92, while the change-up is in the neighborhood of 85. It's been a very effective pitch, but with a small velocity difference, will better hitters be able to adjust? It's hard to say. Other than that, his rate stats are fantastic, and even with worse stuff relative to Torres/Colome, he's in the conversation.
Torres and Colome are the prototypical top prospects in that they have live fastballs. Colome probably throws a bit harder, while Torres has better secondary stuff. Their K/9 numbers were a wash (9.5 for Torres, 9.3 for Colome) while Colome showed better control. Then again, Torres is roughly a year older than Colome, but pitched two levels higher in 2010. They both have higher upside than Cobb but there are more question marks and "needs to improve" for both.
So which way am I leaning? I really don't know. When I first drew it up, I had Cobb at #4, but then I started to like Torres more, and Colome's turn is probably coming up. I do think it's limited to those three, because I echo Doug's thoughts on Jake McGee. His fastball might be plus-plus, but is his secondary stuff good enough to pitch in the rotation? I don't think so. Generally starters need three pitches, perhaps two if they're both plus or better. McGee's curveball is decent, but not good enough to the point he can rely on that and his fastball only. And his change-up, which still needs some refinement, is something he'd have the luxury of scrapping in the bullpen. Ultimately I think McGee's ceiling is either an elite, dominant reliever or an above-average starter. Given the Rays pitching situation, I think he's a good bet for the bullpen long-term.
The biggest challenge further down the list is figuring out how much to knock down the 2009 draft class that a lot of people were excited about and frankly didn't perform well in 2010. Luke Bailey, Todd Glaesmann, Jeff Malm, and Kevin James all got over-slot bonuses to sign, but the three hitters each had OPSes in the .600s while James pitched just 8.2 ineffective innings because of injury. Obviously it's only one year of rookie ball and nobody's writing them off, but what's the proper way to compare those guys to the 2010 class, particularly to Josh Sale, Drew Vettleson, Ryan Brett, Justin O'Conner and Ian Kendall?
Sale, to me, is the Rays second-best hitting prospect behind Desmond Jennings. That statement should come as no surprise to anyone who read my draft stuff. I think he has such great upside as a hitter (and present skills to boot) that the fact he isn't great in the field or on the bases isn't a big deal. Speaking of hitting prospects, the challenge with them is that virtually all the players with the highest ceilings played in short-season ball in 2010, and they're so far away that it's tough to judge. Obviously there's Jennings near the top, then... who? Doug brought up Ty Morrison vs. Tim Beckham and I think I agree with him about having Morrison higher. He's not an ideal prospect, particularly in the strikeout department, but his season line doesn't do him justice because he improved a lot after a poor start. Doug's post also didn't mention Morrison's best tool, his speed: He stole 58 bases and was caught 10 times, an 85% success rate.
Beckham and Tyler Bortnick are two other full-season hitters in the top 30 mix, and that might be it. How do you measure the Cuban guys, Leslie Anderson and J.J. Ruiz? I don't think Leslie Anderson really qualifies for this type of list. If he starts the 2011 season with the Rays, it'll be in his age-29 season. Akinori Iwamura was 28 when he debuted with the Rays in 2007, and while Japan and Cuba are different stories, Iwamura wasn't a "prospect" at all, and I see Anderson sort of the same way. JJ Ruiz is sort of right on the fence, he'll be 26 when the season gets under way.
After those guys though, all the talent seemed to be in the lower levels. A lot of them will be back in short-season ball for 2011: Bailey, Malm, Glaesmann, Sale, Vettleson, Brett, O'Conner, Hector Guevara, Juniel Querecuto, and Cesar Perez (the last three being international signings who underwhelmed stats-wise in their States debut). Derek Dietrich will make a full-season affiliate for 2011 after playing at Hudson Valley, and Cody Rogers is due for a promotion from low-A. But we're already into guys who are far from locks for the list.
In regards to players like Stephen Vogt and Henry Wrigley, I like to invoke the Ryan Royster clause which is basically: Don't over-react to guys who came out of (relatively) nowhere to post big seasons. In other words, I want to see you do it again before I commit. This is really a personal preference thing, and what makes the list so difficult. How on Earth do you compare a guy like Vogt to a guy like Jeff Malm?
And then pitchers get thrown into the mix. What do you do with Jesse Hahn and Albert Suarez (and throw in personal cheeseball Matt Bush for me), who have great upside, but are coming back from Tommy John surgery? And then relief pitchers?
Doug mentioned in his post that the 2008 has been disappointing, but it could ultimately bear fruit from rounds 23, 24, and 25. Neil Schenk, Marquis Fleming, and Josh Satow, who all helped to make the Charlotte bullpen so good in 2010, were taken in consecutive rounds in 2008. The statlines are all tremendous, but given that they're definitely limited to the bullpen, are they in the mix for top 30?
Here's a little sneak preview of how I see the top four "tiers" of the system (Tier 1 would be ranked higher than tier 2, and so on. Players within tiers are not ranked and are listed alphabetically. Generally the tiers are the top are smaller than the ones further down the list):
Like I said, these are the three cream of the crop guys.
Also talked a bunch about these three. The Three Alexes might even get blown up into it's own long individual post, so stay tuned for that.
The tiers start to expand a bit here. Whereas hardly any lists would have any of the Alexes in the same mix as the tier 1 guys, it's easy to see a list where, for instance Jake McGee would be a tier 2. Again, these tiers are just a rough sort of ranking based on my personal preference.
And this is where it really gets all bunched up. Also where the tiers themselves become jumbled, because I could probably stick a bunch of "tier 5" guys here and they'd fit right in for someone else's list.
Like Doug, I may come back with some more thoughts later, or we may combine ours into a different sort of posting format.