The minor league season has seen some ups and downs, some boons and busts, some epic successes and monumental failures. OK, so we know one season does not a prospect make (or break). But let's look at the minor league season in summary, and who made strides, and who took a step back heading into 2011. Once again, this list is not meant to be comprehensive, and players do not appear in any particular order.
1. Mike Moustakas, 3B, KC - In 2009, Moustakas couldn't buy a hit. He batted .250/.297/.421 with 16 home runs and 86 RBI for High-A Wilmington. Not exactly sparking numbers for the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 draft. This season has been completely different. Between Double-A and Triple-A, Moustakas is batting .324/.371/.636 with 36 home runs and 123 RBI. With Alex Gordon moved to the outfield, Moustakas enters 2011 as the prime candidate to take over the Royals starting third-base job.
2. Jordan Lyles, P, HOU - Lyles skipped High-A altogether and started 2010 with Double-A Corpus Christi, perhaps a risky move by the 'Stros with their prized 19-year-old prospect. Lyles showed he was up to the challenge, though, posting a 3.12 ERA and 115:35 K:BB ratio in 127 innings. He's been beat up a bit in six starts in Triple-A so far, but the fact remains that Lyles has a shot to make the Astros rotation in 2011 as a 20-year-old.
3. Wil Myers, C, KC - Myers has shown impeccable plate discipline for a 19-year-old, drawing almost as many walks (85) as strikeouts (94) between Low-A and High-A. Did we mention he hit .346 after his promotion to High-A Wilmington? With 14 home runs, 83 RBI and a .934 OPS, Myers can flat-out hit. He may end up moving out from behind the plate, but regardless, he enters 2011 as one of the best hitting prospects in the game.
4. Matthew Moore, P, TB - Moore has 208 strikeouts for High-A Charlotte. Yes, you read that correctly. It marks the first time since 2002 at any level that any minor-league pitcher has fanned 200-plus batters. While Jeremy Hellickson looks like the real deal and a likely 2011 staple in the Rays' rotation, and Jacob McGee will make his case in Triple-A in 2011, it is Moore who might have the upside to surpass them both.
5. Michael Pineda, P, SEA - Perhaps no prospect made a bigger jump than Pineda did this season, coming from relative anonymity to the precipice of the majors. Pineda tossed just 47.1 innings last season battling injury, but grabbed headlines in 2010 with a 2.22 ERA and 78:17 K:BB ratio in 77 innings before being promoted to Triple-A. Although he was eventually shut down due to an innings limit, Pineda had two double-digit strikeout games at Triple-A. With the Seattle rotation in flux behind Felix Hernandez, Pineda has a chance to win a job out of camp in 2011 for the M's.
6. Julio Teheran, P, ATL - With apologies to Lyles, Moore and Pineda, Teheran is my pick for the best pitching prospect in baseball. Between three levels this season, the 19-year-old posted a 2.98 ERA and 159:40 K:BB ratio in 142.2 innings. Opposing batters are hitting .208 against him. All in all, Teheran will come into 2011 as a polished 20-year-old with a chance to make an impact by year's end.
1. Kyle Gibson, P, MIN
2. Eric Hosmer, 1B, KC
3. Mike Montgomery, P, KC
4. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B, CLE
5. Jesus Montero, C, NYY
6. Mike Trout, OF, ANA
7. Zach Britton, P, BAL
8. John Lamb, P, KC
9. Nick Franklin, SS, SEA
10. Dellin Betances, P, NYY
1. Josh Vitters, 3B, CHI - Vitters had one of the most disappointing 2010 campaigns for any prospect expected to make the "leap." The 21-year-old hit .247/.312/.405 with 10 home runs and 39 RBI through 91 games between High-A and Double-A before a premature ending to his season due to a broken middle finger. His plate discipline was borderline horrific, as he drew just 21 walks in 316 at-bats. While Vitters is still young, his star has definitely taken a hit due to his abysmal 2010 season. However, one only has to look at Mike Moustakas to see how quickly that can turn back around.
2. Aaron Crow, P, KC - The Kansas City farm system saw the ascension of many prospects this season, include pitchers Mike Montgomery and John Lamb, but Crow was not among that group. The No. 12 overall pick in the 2009 draft started out in Double-A and was simply dreadful, posting a 5.66 ERA and 90:59 K:BB ratio in 119.1 innings. He was eventually demoted to High-A, and while his strikeout-to-walk ratio has been superb (53:6), he has been catching a bit too much of the plate, as the 23-year-old righty has a bloated 5.93 ERA in his time with the Blue Rocks. When so much has gone right for KC in the minors this season, Crow remains left behind for now.
3. Tanner Scheppers, P, TEX - Scheppers still has a live arm with future closer potential, but he went from being a surefire midseason call-up to not even seeing the majors in 2010. He was moved from the bullpen, to the starting rotation, and then back to the bullpen. Since being put back into the pen, Scheppers has a 10.57 ERA, and opposing batters are hitting .371 against him. With Neftali Feliz manning the closer's role, it's hard to see Scheppers being anything more than a set-up man for Texas, severely diminishing his fantasy value.
4. Phillippe Aumont, P, PHI - Coming over from Seattle in the Cliff Lee deal, Aumont has been anything but special for the Phillies. He was demoted to High-A after posting a 7.43 ERA and 38:38 K:BB ratio in 49.2 innings at Double-A. He pitched a few games out of the bullpen, then was moved back to the rotation at High-A Clearwater. Still, success has eluded the 21-year-old even in Clearwater, as Aumont has a 4.48 ERA and 77:42 K:BB ratio in 72.1 innings. The 6-7 righty still has a big frame and strikeout potential, but he needs to get his command under control if he is to put himself back on the prospect map.
5. Martin Perez, P, TEX - I still love Perez's long-term outlook, and the left-hander will only be 20 at the start of the 2011 campaign. However, few would consider his 2010 season with Double-A Frisco a rousing success. After showing outstanding control in 2009, Perez lost his location this year, posting a 101:50 K:BB ratio in 99.2 innings. He was also eminently hittable with a 5.96 ERA for the RoughRiders. Again, Perez is still young and has the ability to turn things around; however, he didn't exactly have a Jordan Lyles-like ascension this year.
6. Michael Taylor, OF, OAK - If you would have asked me at the start of 2010 if Taylor would make his ML debut this season, I would have just about guaranteed it. Instead, Taylor struggled making contact and saw his power zapped, batting .272/.348/.392 with six home runs and 78 RBI. The A's aren't exactly bursting with talent in the outfield, making the 24-year-old's lack of a call-up even more intriguing. We're not ready to give up on Taylor yet due to the dearth of talent in the Oakland outfield, but clearly Taylor needs to start 2011 with a bang or risk becoming an afterthought.