Click here for Bryan Smith's 2006 list of Top Prospects and here for 2005.
By Bryan Smith, Special to SI.com
Few players are as highly valued within an organization as its prospects. For the fourth consecutive year, I will rank the top 75 prospects in baseball (and honorable mentions), beginning with Nos. 75-61 and counting down the next five weekdays.
For the purposes of this list, a prospect is a player who played predominantly in the minor leagues last season or was drafted in the 2006 June draft. A player loses eligibility for this list once he surpasses 50 innings pitched or 130 at-bats in the major leagues. Players are judged based on what scouting and statistical reports claim on their potential. Each prospect is presented below with his 2007 baseball age and 2006 statistics.
The Giants pushed Sanchez hard in 2006 following a big season the previous year in Low-A, and Sanchez responded with big showings in starting and relief roles. He looked sharp during a call-up in late May, not allowing a hit in his first eight major league appearances, spanning 7.1 innings. Sanchez has three good offerings, and despite his success in relief, the power southpaw has the early lead on San Francisco's fifth starter spot.
74. Jaime Garcia, 20, LH SP, St. Louis Cardinals 2006 Stats (A-/A+): 3.37 ERA, 151H/155IP, 131K/34BB
A scouting story of yesteryear, the Cardinals swiped Garcia in the 22nd round of the 2005 draft thanks to a scout who remembered his curveball from the Mexican junior national team. A good athlete, Garcia saw a rise in velocity once he stopped hitting, and now has significant life on a low-90s fastball. Between both levels he pitched at and winter league ball, Garcia had a 2.85 groundball-to-flyball ratio in 2006. Strikeouts and groundballs from a southpaw are a sure-fire predictor of future success in my book.
73. Travis Buck, 23, LF, Oakland Athletics 2006 Stats (A+/AA): .320/.385/.521, 11SB in 338 AB
Sooner or later, the word "projection" can no longer follow power. In Buck's case, power has been foretold for years, but the doubles have yet to turn into home runs. At least not at Arizona State with aluminum bats nor during Buck's first full professional season. Oakland is still holding out hope, but we can begin to accept Buck for what he is: a pure doubles hitter who should be drawing comparisons to the Mark Grace subset of players.
72. Jeff Clement, 23, C, Seattle Mariners 2006 Stats (AA/AAA): .263/.334/.382, 0 SB in 304 AB
Most organizations believe in rehabilitation after injury, building a player back to where he had been by getting him acclimated in lower levels. However, when Clement returned from a knee problem that cost him a month of his season, the aggressive Mariners pushed their first-round pick to Class AAA. Clement had merely been competent, not a star, in the Texas League, so it came as little surprise when he then struggled in Tacoma. More concerning, however, was Clement's late-season abandonment of patience, coupled with a .189 showing in the newly-formed Hawaiian Winter League.
The influence pitchers have on balls in play is a Sabermetric topic still being debated, so it's hard to assign the degree luck played on Perkins' successful season. According to The Hardball Times, the average major-league pitcher allows home runs on 11 percent of flyballs (hits and outs) he allows. Perkins was surely well below this figure in the Eastern League, allowing just 11 home runs (none in his final nine starts) while garnering 146 flyball outs. Perkins has good stuff, solid command, and Twin Cities pedigree, but the southpaw could be in line for some regression in 2007.
Erbe is a classic case of a teenage starter in the full-season minor leagues for the first time. For the previous four years, Erbe had been on a spring high school baseball season, a season starting in February or March and ending in May or June. Rarely are teenage pitchers prepared for the grueling, full-season 25-30 start schedule. While the Orioles did a magnificent job of keeping Erbe's workload down, his numbers still suffered during his last 10 starts. His control faded, and over his final 35 innings, Erbe had a 4.67 ERA.