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12/05/08 10:00 AM EST

Top 50 Prospects: Behind the numbers

Teenagers well-represented among Minor Leagues' brightest

MLB.com's Top 50 Prospects list is now out in its entirety. It would be easy to just sit back and leisurely enjoy it. But what would the fun be in that?

It's usually more interesting to look beneath the surface. There are many ways to dissect our Top 50 list, but feel free to use this as a guide, starting with age.

Average age:
21 years, 3 months
Oldest player:
James McDonald (No. 45) -- 24 years, 1 month
Youngest player:
Angel Villalona (No. 48) -- 18 years, 3 months

Aside from Villalona, there are several other top prospects who have yet to celebrate their 20th birthday. The highest ranked teen is Jason Heyward (No. 3), who'll turn 20 next August. Rick Porcello is right behind him at No. 4 and will be a teenager for a little while longer -- his birthday comes at the end of December. The other teens are Matt Dominguez (49), Jesus Montero (40), Freddie Freeman (38), Phillippe Aumont (33), Carlos Triunfel (30), Eric Hosmer (29), Mike Stanton (26) and Tim Beckham (22).

And that doesn't count Jarrod Parker (19), who just turned 20 at the end of November. Excluding him, that's 11 teenagers in the Top 50. There were eight on last year's list.

Positional breakdown: Gotta love those arms

A year ago, 23 of the Top 50 Prospects were pitchers. It's down this time around, but only by one -- a total of 22 make their living on the mound. Here's the breakdown by position:

  • Catcher: 4
  • First base: 6
  • Second base: 0
  • Shortstop: 4
  • Third base: 4
  • Outfield: 10
  • Right-handed pitchers: 16
  • Left-handed pitchers: 6

There are several players on this year's list who can play more than one position. There's Matt LaPorta (14), who is largely an outfielder these days but played first in the Olympics. Triunfel (30) is still a shortstop, but he's spent time at other positions and may ultimately be better suited as a third baseman.

Lefty-righty split

There are 28 hitters on the list, with right-handed batters slightly outnumbering the lefties.

  • Left-handed hitters: 11
  • Right-handed hitters: 15
  • Switch-hitters: 2

In the top 10, there are six offensive players. Three hit left-handed: Heyward, Travis Snider (7) and Colby Rasmus (10). Two hit right-handed: Cameron Maybin (5) and Alcides Escobar (8). Matt Wieters (2) is the lone switch-hitter in the top 10. The Top 50's other switch-hitter is Dexter Fowler at No. 15. Right-handed hitters have an edge in the top half of the list, with 10 represented in the top 30, compared to seven who hit solely from the left side.

Team competition

Who has the best system? This isn't the most scientific measurement, but is it really surprising that the Rays are at the top of the list? That information should make other AL East hopefuls slightly uncomfortable.

  • Rays: 4
  • Orioles: 4
  • Braves: 3
  • Brewers: 3
  • Giants: 3
  • Marlins: 3
  • Rangers: 3
  • Athletics: 2
  • Cardinals: 2
  • Dodgers: 2
  • Indians: 2
  • Mariners: 2
  • Phillies: 2
  • Royals: 2
  • Yankees: 2
  • Angels: 1
  • Blue Jays: 1
  • Cubs: 1
  • D-backs: 1
  • Mets: 1
  • Padres: 1
  • Pirates: 1
  • Red Sox: 1
  • Reds: 1
  • Rockies: 1
  • Tigers: 1
  • Astros: 0
  • Nationals: 0
  • Twins: 0
  • White Sox: 0

Perhaps the Orioles aren't so uncomfortable -- once a system lacking in elite talent, Baltimore has four prospects in the Top 50. The Astros and Twins were shut out for the second straight year, despite Minnesota's reputation for developing home-grown talent. The Twins still do that; they just haven't had elite impact players emerge in a while. Twenty-six teams feature at least one Top 50 prospect.

Just missed the cut

It's always interesting to see who just missed cracking the Top 50. There are usually some pretty good names there. Last year's No. 51 was Jason Heyward, who now stands at No. 3. Brett Anderson, this year's No. 13, was down at 52 a year ago. Being in this next group of 10 may not get the attention the main list draws, but these are all players worth watching.

  • 51. Justin Smoak, 1B, Rangers
  • 52. Logan Morrison, OF/1B, Marlins
  • 53. Daniel Cortes, RHP, Royals
  • 54. Jordan Walden, RHP, Angels
  • 55. Ivan DeJesus, SS, Dodgers
  • 56. Aaron Poreda, LHP, White Sox
  • 57. Brett Cecil, LHP, Blue Jays
  • 58. J.P. Arencibia, C, Blue Jays
  • 59. Tim Alderson, RHP, Giants
  • 60. Aaron Hicks, OF, Twins

International flavor

The game is decidedly global these days, but our Top 50 Prospects list is less so. Some of it may have to do with the fact that the scouts we polled are a little more Draft-focused.

  • United States: 41
  • Venezuela: 4
  • Dominican Republic: 4
  • Canada: 1

This leads to the same conclusion as in the past: one of these days a separate list, derived from polling international and Latin American scouting directors, should be done.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.