Click here for Bryan Smith's 2006 list of Top Prospects and here for 2005.
By Bryan Smith, Special to SI.com
This is part four of a five-part series on the top 75 prospects in professional baseball.
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.
30. Nick Adenhart, 20, SP, Los Angeles Angels 2006 Stats (Class A-/A+): 2.56 ERA, 135H/158.1IP, 145K/42BB
A sure-fire first round prospect as a high school senior, Adenhart blew out his elbow before the draft and seemed sure to head to North Carolina. Instead, the Angels picked him in the 14th round and signed him to a discount contract and rehabilitated his arm. Adenhart is now healthy, has displayed great control of a low-90s two-seamer with sink and throws two plus-offspeed pitches. The Angels project him to blossom into an ace in the near future.
In 2001, the Brewers used their second round pick on shortstop J.J. Hardy. In 2002, their first choice was famed teenager Prince Fielder, a first baseman. In 2003, the team nabbed second base standout Rickie Weeks with their top pick. In 2005, the powerful third baseman Braun rounded out a future Brewers' infield of homegrown talent.
28. Colby Rasmus, 20, CF, St. Louis Cardinals 2006 Stats (A-/A+): .288/.364/.470, 28 SB in 496 AB
If there was ever a season for a teen-age star to be lost in the shuffle at A-ball, it was 2006. Six other teen-age outfielders who excelled at Low-A are ranked higher on this list. Rasmus possesses a polish that few have at his level, a refinement that extends to his offensive approach, baserunning and defense. In his first 12 games of 2006, Rasmus hit just 8-for-49 with 14 strikeouts. After that, before a promotion to the Florida State League, Rasmus batted .339 with 41 strikeouts in 66 games. The Cardinals want Jim Edmonds to hang on two more seasons, hoping their center-field position goes from one sweet left-handed swinger to another.
If Pelfrey pans out, people will point to him as an example of why a pitching prospect needs the backbone of a plus-fastball to succeed. If he fails and falls short of expectations, pundits will analyze his secondary stuff as his inevitable downfall. Since starring at Wichita State, Pelfrey has been able to succeed with the velocity, control and movement of his fastball and little else. His two-seamer is a deadly pitch, but big league hitters soon will learn to wait on the other 25 percent of his arsenal, and Pelfrey's adjustments will determine his career.
No one drafts better than Twins scouting director Mike Radcliffe, but not even he could have foreseen Garza's rapid rise in 2006. The Fresno State star pitched at four levels during the season, starting at A-ball and ending by touching the 50-inning mark in the majors. Garza has improved in each season since posting a 9.55 ERA in 40 innings as a college freshman, slowly tightening his rock-solid, four-pitch arsenal. Still, to have a career beyond that of a No. 3 starter, Garza will need more than just pitch diversity, as each of his offerings could stand to add more life.
After a full season in the minor leagues, it had appeared the Mariners made a mistake with Jones. Their top pick in the 2003 draft, Jones was slugging under .400 as a shortstop. However, maturation was around the corner for Jones, and since coming out of his shell early in 2005, the Mariners have pushed him hard. This push included an ugly cup of coffee with the Mariners in July, when Jones showed his inability to hit a breaking pitch. Still, his Triple-A season was fantastic and still underrated.
His fastball hits the low-to-mid 90s with very good control and plenty of sink. Gallardo is also an intelligent pitcher, with pitching ability to match any high-ceiling prospect in the minor leagues. Throw in some secondary stuff with showings of brilliance, and Gallardo should be starring in Milwaukee by season's end.