Could 2010 actually be the Year of the Prospect?

We’ve spent so much time trying to determine if 2010 is the Year of the Pitcher or the Year of the Walk-off that we may have missed the real story line of this season in Major League Baseball altogether: It’s the Year of the Prospect.

Heck, if it sounds better, we can even call it the Year of the Future. Personally, that a puts the year into an esoteric construct that, frankly, seems a bit scary. How can the here-and-now be the year of the future? Has baseball developed some sort of space-time continuum that we didn’t know about?

The Year of the Prospect seems a lot safer. But I digress.

Domonic Brown is the latest super prospect to be called up to the big club.
Domonic Brown is the latest super prospect to be called up to the big club.

Of the top 20 pre-season prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100, 14 of them have been called up to the majors already this season. The latest? Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown, who had his MLB debut Wednesday night and promptly went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. He also got a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd before his first at-bat. Brown was recently tabbed as Baseball America’s top prospect at the mid-way point of the season. Part of the reason was because of his outstanding .327 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI in 93 games in the minors this season. Brown also had an OPS of .980, and his batting average actually improved to .346 in his 28 games in Class AAA.

The real reason, however, that Brown was listed as the top prospect in baseball at the mid-way point? Eight of the 14 guys ahead of him have already been called up. Make no mistake, Brown’s call-up is a huge deal for Phillies fans, who now have the benefit of watching the future in the midst of a pennant race. Hey, maybe the present can be the future after all.

It seems that way for the Braves, too. Jason Heyward earned his way into the Atlanta outfield in spring training and earned a spot on the All-Star team after a fantastic first half. The 20-year old is batting .273 with an OPS of .845 (and an OPS+ of 128). He has 48 RBI and 30 extra-base hits on the season, including 11 home runs, and that includes a stint on the DL this season. Since Heyward’s first game back from the DL earlier this month, he has raised his batting average 26 points, albeit despite a drop in his power numbers. Still, with his team in first place by 3.5 games, the future is, and has been, now for Heyward.

It seems ridiculous to have a "Year of the Prospect" discussion and be five graphs in without mentioning Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg, despite recent injury concerns that had him miss a start and get stuck on the bench for 10 days, has exceeded the Nationals’ expectations. Most importantly, the buzz around Strasburg has done something nobody else has been able to do in Washington: fill seats.

Stephen Strasburg has lived up the hype.
Stephen Strasburg has lived up the hype.

The pitching phenom is 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA in nine games this season. He has 75 strikeouts to just 15 walks in 54.1 innings. That’s a 12.4 strikeout per nine-inning ratio compared to just 2.5 BB/9, which is just … awesome, especially for a rookie.

The best thing about some of these prospects is that they don’t seem to be your run-of-the-mill first-round call-ups (does that sentence break some sort of hyphen record?). Heyward is the future. So is Brown. Strasburg is the franchise in Washington (and, by the way, his teammate Drew Storen – ranked 92nd on BA’s list – is no slouch himself). Mike Stanton is the "next great" superstar in Florida. Buster Posey supplanted a Molina in San Francisco, and he’s not even the best catching prospect to come up this year. Carlos Santana already has begun his own era in Cleveland.

The list is way deeper than just those names, too. Starlin Castro, Ike Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Wade Davis, Mike Leake, Austin Jackson and Mat Gamel are just some of the players on the top 100 list to not only be productive in the majors already, but also be on their way to becoming outright stars and, in some cases, franchise saviors. There’s a real, legit case to be made that 2010 is all about the prospects … or the future … or the prospects of a successful future.

You can read/listen to more from Dan Levy at OntheDLpodcast.com and follow him on Twitter @onthedlpodcast

We’ve spent so much time trying to determine if 2010 is the Year of the Pitcher or the Year of the Walk-off that we may have missed the real story line of this season in Major League Baseball altogether: It’s the Year of the Prospect.

Heck, if it sounds better, we can even call it the Year of the Future. Personally, that a puts the year into an esoteric construct that, frankly, seems a bit scary. How can the here-and-now be the year of the future? Has baseball developed some sort of space-time continuum that we didn’t know about?

The Year of the Prospect seems a lot safer. But I digress.

Domonic Brown is the latest super prospect to be called up to the big club.
Domonic Brown is the latest super prospect to be called up to the big club.

Of the top 20 pre-season prospects in Baseball America’s Top 100, 14 of them have been called up to the majors already this season. The latest? Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown, who had his MLB debut Wednesday night and promptly went 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored. He also got a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd before his first at-bat. Brown was recently tabbed as Baseball America’s top prospect at the mid-way point of the season. Part of the reason was because of his outstanding .327 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI in 93 games in the minors this season. Brown also had an OPS of .980, and his batting average actually improved to .346 in his 28 games in Class AAA.

The real reason, however, that Brown was listed as the top prospect in baseball at the mid-way point? Eight of the 14 guys ahead of him have already been called up. Make no mistake, Brown’s call-up is a huge deal for Phillies fans, who now have the benefit of watching the future in the midst of a pennant race. Hey, maybe the present can be the future after all.

It seems that way for the Braves, too. Jason Heyward earned his way into the Atlanta outfield in spring training and earned a spot on the All-Star team after a fantastic first half. The 20-year old is batting .273 with an OPS of .845 (and an OPS+ of 128). He has 48 RBI and 30 extra-base hits on the season, including 11 home runs, and that includes a stint on the DL this season. Since Heyward’s first game back from the DL earlier this month, he has raised his batting average 26 points, albeit despite a drop in his power numbers. Still, with his team in first place by 3.5 games, the future is, and has been, now for Heyward.

It seems ridiculous to have a "Year of the Prospect" discussion and be five graphs in without mentioning Stephen Strasburg. Strasburg, despite recent injury concerns that had him miss a start and get stuck on the bench for 10 days, has exceeded the Nationals’ expectations. Most importantly, the buzz around Strasburg has done something nobody else has been able to do in Washington: fill seats.

Stephen Strasburg has lived up the hype.
Stephen Strasburg has lived up the hype.

The pitching phenom is 5-2 with a 2.32 ERA in nine games this season. He has 75 strikeouts to just 15 walks in 54.1 innings. That’s a 12.4 strikeout per nine-inning ratio compared to just 2.5 BB/9, which is just … awesome, especially for a rookie.

The best thing about some of these prospects is that they don’t seem to be your run-of-the-mill first-round call-ups (does that sentence break some sort of hyphen record?). Heyward is the future. So is Brown. Strasburg is the franchise in Washington (and, by the way, his teammate Drew Storen – ranked 92nd on BA’s list – is no slouch himself). Mike Stanton is the "next great" superstar in Florida. Buster Posey supplanted a Molina in San Francisco, and he’s not even the best catching prospect to come up this year. Carlos Santana already has begun his own era in Cleveland.

The list is way deeper than just those names, too. Starlin Castro, Ike Davis, Pedro Alvarez, Wade Davis, Mike Leake, Austin Jackson and Mat Gamel are just some of the players on the top 100 list to not only be productive in the majors already, but also be on their way to becoming outright stars and, in some cases, franchise saviors. There’s a real, legit case to be made that 2010 is all about the prospects … or the future … or the prospects of a successful future.

You can read/listen to more from Dan Levy at OntheDLpodcast.com and follow him on Twitter @onthedlpodcast

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