There’s no science so inexact as the projection of baseball talent. We know this because Brad Komminsk was not, alas, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. (He made it on the second try — ha, ha.) We know this because the young man Sports Illustrated proclaimed “The Natural” in 2005 was deemed substandard, though not by SI, in 2009.
Still, it’s worth noting that Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has posted his list of the top 20 players for the next decade on ESPN.com’s Insiders (link requires registration), and one of the 20 hasn’t yet had a big-league at-bat. Yes, at No. 13, it’s Jason Heyward, the Braves’ right-fielder-in-waiting. Writes Goldstein:
“The top position player prospect in the game, Heyward has a chance at opening 2010 in the big leagues, and even if that doesn’t work out, he’ll be in Atlanta well before he can legally drink to celebrate his accomplishment. A potential ‘face of the franchise’-level talent, Heyward hits for average, hits for power, draws walks and even runs a bit. He could be Dale Murphy, V2.”
And then, at No. 17, comes another young Brave. (No, not Greg Norton.) Of Tommy Hanson, Goldstein writes:
“Had the Braves opened the 2009 season with Hanson in the rotation (which would have been the right decision), we’d be talking about your reigning National League rookie of the year. Instead, we’re talking about one of the circuit’s best young arms. The only thing keeping him from ranking higher is that some scouts and execs feel his ceiling is “a consistent 15-18 game winner” as opposed to ‘a true ace.’ “
Me, I’m thinking that if you win 18 games every year, that might make you a true ace. But maybe BP has higher standards than ol’ MB here. At any rate, I present the entire Top 20 for your perusal:
OK, that’s the good news. Here’s the bad: Among the honorable mentions are two former Braves prospects — Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz, both now of Texas, both exported to import Mark Teixeira, who stayed a year. Ah, well. Live and learn.