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BA Top 20 MIdWest League.

1. Aaron Hicks, of, Beloit (Twins)
2. Dee Gordon, ss, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
3. Josh Vitters, 3b, Peoria (Cubs)
4. Brett Lawrie, 2b, Wisconsin (Brewers)
5. Mike Montgomery, lhp, Burlington (Royals)
6. Casey Crosby, lhp, West Michigan (Tigers)
7. Simon Castro, rhp, Fort Wayne (Padres)
8. Jaff Decker, of, Fort Wayne (Padres)
9. Cody Scarpetta, rhp, Wisconsin (Brewers)
10. Ethan Martin, rhp, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
11. Tim Melville, rhp, Burlington (Royals)
12. Eric Hosmer, 1b, Burlington (Royals)
13. A.J. Pollock, of, South Bend (Diamondbacks)
14. Wily Peralta, rhp, Wisconsin (Brewers)
15. James Darnell, 3b, Fort Wayne (Padres)
16. Chris Archer, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)
17. Kyle Russell, of, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
18. Grant Desme, of, Kane County (Athletics)
19. Pedro Figueroa, lhp, Kane County (Athletics)
20. Chris Carpenter, rhp, Peoria (Cubs)

Dee Gordon at number two is very nice indeed. It is where I predicted several days ago. Martin at 10 is solid.  Russell at 17 is about right.  No Aaron Miller so I expect he did not pitch enough innings. We will ask in the chat.

2.Dee Gordon, ss, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 150. Drafted: Seminole (Fla.) CC, 2008 (4).
A transcript mixup left Gordon ineligible to play in the spring before the 2008 draft, but the Dodgers learned about him because his father Tom, the big league all-star, tipped off Los Angeles farm director DeJon Watson, a former teammate in the Royals system. Smaller but just as athletic as Hicks, Gordon is still raw yet hit .301 in his first full season and stole a league-high 73 bases.

"He's just touching what he can do," South Bend manager Mark Haley said. "He's got a lot more in the tank. He's just learning to play the game."

Gordon crowds the plate and is a free swinger, but he consistently barrels balls and drills liners to the opposite field. He's working on drawing walks and bunting so he can get on base more to take advantage of his top-of-the-line speed. He's still learning to steal bases after topping the minors by getting caught 25 times. More than a slap hitter, he should have decent pop once he gets stronger.

A defensive work in progress as well, Gordon led MWL shortstop with 34 errors. He needs to charge more balls and keep his elbow up on his throws. With good actions, plus range and a solid arm, he has the tools to stay at shortstop, and it's also easy to envision him as an above-average defender in center field.
10. Ethan Martin, rhp, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Hs—Toccoa, Ga., 2008 (1).
The first high school pitcher drafted in 2008, Martin tweaked his knee during a postdraft minicamp, delaying his pro debut until this spring. He has an electric arm but is still figuring out how to use it, no surprise considering that he was more highly regarded as a third baseman until his senior season.

Martin has an explosive 93-95 mph fastball that touches 97. His heater features good sink at times and cuts in on lefties at others, though it also flattens out on him. He'll spin some hard, nasty curveballs, though he struggles to throw his breaking ball for strikes. His changeup is less refined, and his long arm action in back has some scouts wondering if he's destined to be a power reliever.
17.Kyle Russell, of, Great Lakes (Dodgers)
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 195. Drafted: Texas, 2008 (3).
Russell shared MVP honors with Gordon after leading the league in homers (26), RBIs (102), extra-base hits (72) and slugging (.545). He also paced the MWL with 180 strikeouts, the second-highest total in the minors.

In other words, he was the same old Kyle Russell. In high school and while setting home run records at the University of Texas, he always was a streaky boom-or-bust hitter. He has the size, strength and leverage to drive balls great distances, but he also has a long stroke, a pull-conscious approach and little discipline. He'll draw walks but won't tone down his swing with two strikes.

Russell isn't a one-dimensional player however. He has good speed and athleticism for his size, and he plays a solid right field with a plus arm. Gabella compared him to Russell Branyan, and scouts who saw him in the MWL gave him a chance to be a platoon player or a regular in the majors.

This was our review of the team.  If you do not have a Baseball America subscription and you 'd like me to ask a question for you, put it in the comments and I'll post it for you under the name of TrueBlueLa. If it is a stupid question I won't ask it since it will be asked under our umbrella. Because unlike teachers TrueBlueLA is not trying to improve the self confidence of our members and we know there are stupid questions.  Like "Does having a vagina slow down Manny's bat speed". 

The ranking is important because of  those players who get ranked we can get some insight on them from the detailed report that BA presents on anyone who makes the top 20. The Loons have plenty of candidates in Dee Gordon (Player of the year in 2010), Kyle Russell, Aaron Miller, Ethan Martin, Nathan Eovaldi, Jon-Michael Redding, and Tony Delmonico.

The BA top 20 is something we aspire our prospects to make and when they do we are proud of them, while if they don't, we simply figure the scouts don't respect our prospects enough. Previous top 20 Prospects:

Great Lake Loons A Ball - MidWestLeague

2008 - Number 7, Andrew Lambo

2007 - Number 1, Clayton Kershaw

             Number 9, Josh Bell

Columbus Catfish A Ball - South Atlantic

2006 - Nobody - and nobody deserved it

2005 - Number 1, Scott Elbert

             Number 7, Blake DeWitt

I found this comment in the 2005 BA Chat interesting:

Blake Dewitt from Los Angeles asks:
Why is Blake Dewitt at #7? He was nothing spectactular this season, almost a pretty average season. why are you so high on him?

John Manuel: I saw Dewitt in high school at a Perfect Game event and remember coming away unimpressed. It sounds like this is what happens when you see the guy once or twice. If you see him over an extended period, as league managers did, you come away impressed with how he constantly gets better, with how he makes adjustments, with how he competes and doesnt' give at-bats away . . . he's a baseball player with tools, and his best tool is the game's most important tool, the bat. He's going to hit. That's why I'm high on him.

To put that quote into perspective. In 2005 Travis Denker was 19 and played 2nd base. Blake DeWitt was 19 and played 3rd base. Denker had a .973 OPS over 200 points higher then DeWitt and yet Denker was left off the top 20 list. The reasons were his defense and his size. Meaning he was to lousy at defense to remain at 2nd and to small to become an outfielder because his athletic skills were limited. In the end they were right on Denker as he topped out as a AAA player with no position. How DeWitt ends up is still up in the air. Maybe he goes no higher then Denker did but my expectations are that DeWitt will either be a starting major leaguer player or at worse a utility player.

Upto to now you could say they had not made any glaring omission but that would all change in 2004 when a plethora of Columbus Catfish players made the top 20 list but the best player of them all was neglected. It would start a run of several years of no respect for this player and continues to this day based on a column written earlier this week.

2004 - Number Six - Chuck Tiffany

             Number Nine - Andy LaRoche

             Number Nineteen - Chin-Lung Hu

From the 2004 Chat:

 Bobby from Colombus asks: Hey John, any consideration for OF Matt Kemp on the Top 20 list? I thought that the Columbus staff was full of prospects. 

A:        John Manuel: Columbus was full of prospects. Frankly, I could have done a Top 10 just on Columbus. I'd go Tiffany, LaRoche, Hu, Milons, X. Paul, Kemp (that's a tough call between those guys), Pimentel, Marcos Carvajal, Mike Nixon and Tony (Etanislau) Abreu. Really, you could go deeper. Quite an assemblage of talent.

That assembly of talent as a group has not done much so far. Tiffany blew his arm out, LaRoche is trying to become a mediocre 3rd baseman, Hu is trying to become Juan Castro, Milons was traded and is done, X Paul still has a shot as a major league outfielder, maybe at worse a platoon player, Pimentel-Carvajal-Nixon are all gone. Abreu wil try to be the Arizona starting 2nd baseman next year. This group is all about Matt Kemp and they ignored him. Back in 2004 the scouts all ignored his skills. Called his home runs a product of his home park, said he couldn't play center field, said his swing was long, said his speed will disappear as he got older and bigger. Man they missed this one, so if they miss one of your favorites today, just remember what they thought of Matt Kemp five years ago.

Here are the statistics for that 2004 Columbus team.

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