25. Aaron Bates: (1B) Bates has seen his power production hit the floor since ascending from the lower levels of the system, but I look for that to change going forward. He has tremendous power and has adjusted his swing and has paid the price during the growing pains portion of his rebirth. However, his plate discipline has actually improved and his power numbers figure to follow suit.
Bates is probably never going to develop into a reliable everyday player, but he certainly can be a top-flight part-time player and a feared pinch-hitter. That doesn't sound like the makings of a Top-30 prospect in a vacuum, but any player I can comfortable project into a contributor at the MLB level belongs on such a list.
He has already enjoyed his first cup of coffee with the big club, and it will not be his last. From everything being said and written about Bates, he is a very well thought of player in the organization and might well have a future in it once his playing days are finished.
24. Ryan Dent: (SS) Dent looks ever bit the part. Frankly, if I were to rank the players based upon the "eye test" during workouts, he would easily be in the Top-10. However, his production and overall development as a baseball player have yet to match his pure ability. The problem I have in assessing him is that I can't tell if his shortcomings are of the nature or nurture variety.
For example, he has tremendous range in the field at shortstop, but sometimes despite getting to a difficult ball with ease, he is unable to throw out base runners. Is that a function of a relatively weak arm, or is it due to weak mechanics in quickly setting himself to make a strong throw? Every SS at this level looks to have at least a very good arm on routine groundballs requiring "pitch and catch" throws. True arm strength shows itself through throws from tough angles on the move.
In any event, he has excellent speed, and though he could use more patience at the plate, his general approach is quite solid.
23. Will Middlebrooks: (3B) Middlebrooks is a young man who has arguably the most important characteristic one would hope to find in a baseball prospect, quick wrists. Both at the plate and in the field, the fluidity with which his wrists snap makes him a special prospect.
My first impression of him last year in Lowell was that he was over thinking the game, which is generally an unfair criticism for a kid learning the game on the professional level, because all that we observers ever talk about is plate discipline, approach, etc. However, he might be best served by a very basic, "See ball, hit ball," approach at the plate.
He is so physically gifted and his swing is so natural that I feel he will maximize his skills by letting his instincts be his guide. I have really high hopes for this young man.
22. Ryan Lavarnway: (C) Lavarnway is a former NCAA batting champ, and he is obviously a cerebral player having played at Yale. Not to over play the Ivy League intelligence angle, but it is impossible to ignore just how well he understands everything that happens between the pitcher's mound and home plate, both offensively and defensively.
In all honesty, when I see Lavarnway play, I can't help but think of what a terrific first baseman he is going to be someday. That is probably unfair at this stage, but he looks a touch out-of-place behind the plate at times, but he is also a natural leader from behind the dish.
The proverbial sky is the limit for this kid as a hitter. He has great power, but he is also a kid who will eventually also hit for average. From an offensive standpoint, he is a Top-10 prospect. In fact, if he were just a DH at this point, it would be hard to justify a No. 22 ranking.
21. Alex Wilson: (RHP) Wilson is another prospect who possesses enough talent to be a Top-15 prospect, but he has a history of arm issues, including the dreaded Tommy John surgery.
Wilson would have great success at the minor league levels right now if he stuck to his fastball (low-90's) and slider. However, his goal is to get to the bigs, so his work on his curveball and changeup is a great idea. I worry that working too hard at developing both pitches will slow his progress overall, and could lead to confidence issues.
His work ethic seems to be very strong, as he came back from the TJ surgery in excellent shape and ready to get after it.