Baseball America will release its opinion of Tampa Bay's top 10 prospects Wednesday. Here's my list, admittedly without much thought and even less expertise. Mine will be top heavy -- more from the high levels of the organization -- because those are the players I'm more familiar with.
1. RF Delmon Young -- He didn't lose his rookie status, so he'll be on BA's list, and he's an early favorite for 2007 AL Rookie of the Year. He's been the top talent in the minors for two straight years.
2. RHP Mitch Talbot -- He simply dominated after joining the Biscuits in a midseason trade with the Astros. Talbot was electrifying in the playoffs: two five-hit shutouts.
3. SS Reid Brignac -- I'll be honest, after seeing Brignac for a few weeks, I wondered if he had the arm strength to stay at shortstop. Every throw just didn't look terribly impressive, though he got the out. Two or three plays later made me reconsider that. I've realized he was fooling me. He has the bat, though he didn't show 20-home run power once he arrived here.
4. RHP Jeff Niemann -- Niemann stayed healthy this year with the Biscuits and didn't miss a start after joining the team at midseason. He piles up pitches quickly, which keeps him from working deep into games. Niemann missed his last few appearances in the Arizona Fall League after some shoulder tightness.
5. 3B Evan Longoria -- Longoria took the minors by storm after being picked in the first round of the June draft. He's scheduled to be back in Montgomery to start next year, but don't expect him to stay long if he keeps raking.
6. RHP Jeremy Hellickson -- He has put up good numbers every year, but he's also yet to reach a full-season league. The Rays have been terribly careful with this kid.
7. RHP Wade Davis -- He put up good numbers in the hitter haven that is the California League.
8. OF Elijah Dukes -- Dukes could easily be second on this list if only his baseball talents were judged. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Immensely talented, but his conduct remains a question. One of the better moves the Rays made this year -- and they made plenty of good moves -- was in January. They extended their player development contract with the Durham Bulls through 2008. Had they waited, Tampa Bay would have been searching for a new Class AAA affiliate because of the 2006 team. It was mainly Dukes, some Delmon and a little B.J. Upton that caused problems.
9. RHP Juan Salas -- Salas made his big-league debut late this season, barely two years after first taking the mound. I'm still curious about his age -- he's either 27 or 29, depending on where you look.
10. C Shawn Riggans -- Riggans also reached the big leagues this year. He's answered injury questions the last two seasons.
11. RHP Andy Sonnanstine -- He may not highly valued around baseball because his radar readings aren't eye-popping. Sonnanstine does one thing: win. A Niemann-Sonnanstine-Talbot rotation was quite effective with the Biscuits.
12. RHP Jason Hammel -- I'm probably undervalueing Hammel because he was 0-6 with a 7.77 ERA in nine starts with the Rays this year. He still counts as a rookie because he threw only 44 innings.
13. 1B Wes Bankston -- It wasn't a good year for Bankston. First, the Rays tried to make him a third baseman and sent him to Montgomery. He could have been a first baseman at Durham to start the year. Second, he suffered an oblique injury that cost him 40 games. Third, he had an ankle injury that ended his time in the Arizona Fall League.
I'll stop at 13 because I'm tired. Here are the others that I was considering (in no particular order).
LHP Jeff Ridgway
2B Elliot Johnson
RF Justin Ruggiano
LHP Brian Henderson
RF Shaun Cumberland
C John Jaso
LHP James Houser
RHP Chris Mason
LHP Mike Wlodarczyk
LHP Jake McGee
I'm sure I'm missing somebody.