Reviewing the Top Prospects: NL Central

Entering 2010, FanGraphs posted Top 10 prospect lists for all 30 MLB organizations. And it’s been a great year for rookies, which means there are going to be a lot of changes in the Top 10 lists for 2011. Before we tackle that beast after the season, though, we’re taking a look at how each club’s No. 1 prospect has fared in 2010. Today, we’re looking at the National League Central division.

Previously, we looked at:
The American League East
The National League West
The American League Central

The Milwaukee Brewers

Alcides Escobar | Shortstop
2010 Level: MLB
Age: 23

It’s been a disappointing offensive season for Escobar, who currently has a wOBA of just .282. His triple-slash line stands at .247/.298/.344 in 453 at-bats. The shortstop’s offensive game historically centers around hitting for average and stealing bases. Along with the sub-.250 average, Escobar has just 10 steals. Whoops. Because he has little or no power (.097 ISO), the 23-year-old needs to get on-base and use his legs if he’s going to have any offensive value whatsoever. Defensively, Escobar has a reputation for being a very good fielder but his UZR rating has been fairly modest throughout his MLB career so far.

The Cincinnati Reds

Yonder Alonso | First Baseman
2010 Level: Double-A/Triple-A
Age: 23

Alonso started the year in double-A but moved up to triple-A after 31 games. He’s played pretty well at the senior level and posted a triple-slash line of .296/.355/.470 in 406 at-bats. The first baseman had a .175 ISO rate, and that power rating is a tad shy for a prototypical first baseman but it’s along the lines of what we should expect from Alonso. After posting outstanding walk rates for much of his career, this former first round pick’s rate dropped below 10% for the first time in three years. With MLB incumbent first baseman Joey Votto having a MVP-type season, the organization has given Alonso some time in the outfield but it’s a stretch.

The Chicago Cubs

Andrew Cashner | Pitcher
2010 Level: Double-A/Triple-A/MLB
Age: 24

The Cubs organization has made some interesting choices with its pitching prospects this season. Cashner opened the year in the starting rotation and was very good. The club then abruptly switched him to the bullpen (a role he held in college) and called him up to the Majors where he’s posted a 5.52 FIP in 43 relief appearances. Cashner has had a real problem finding the plate while coming out of the bullpen and currently has a walk rate of 5.19 BB/9. He’s also been prone to the home-run ball (1.45 HR/9), which was not an issue in the minors at all. Cashner still holds a lot of promise as his fastball is sitting around 96 mph with good sink. He just needs to command it better.

The Houston Astros

Jason Castro | Catcher
2010 Level: Triple-A/MLB
Age: 23

When it comes to catching prospects, the Astros organization seems snake-bitten when it comes to MLB performances. After J.R. Towles washed out (again), the club turned to former No. 1 pick Castro, but he’s struggled mightily with the bat and currently has a wOBA of just .264. His triple-slash line sits at .209/.291/.294 in 163 at-bats. On the plus side, he’s hit the ball with some authority (22.0 LD%) and he’s taking his fair share of free passes (10.4 BB%). With a .254 BABIP, his luck is sure to turn around to some degree. Behind the dish, he’s helping the pitching staff by gunning down base runners (40.0 CS%).

The Pittsburgh Pirates

Pedro Alvarez | Third Baseman
2010 Level: Triple-A/MLB
Age: 23

It’s been a youthful season in Pittsburgh with the graduations of Andrew McCutchen, Jose Tabata, and Alvarez. The third baseman has shown some warts this season despite providing decent power (.180 ISO). Alvarez currently has a strikeout rate of 36.8 K%, which is not going to get it done at the MLB level. His triple-slash line currently sits at .241/.319/.421 in 266 at-bats. Youth is still on his side, but his value is taking another hit… this time on defense. Alvarez, who has as negative UZR and a poor fielding reputation, will most certainly be moving to first base in the near future.

The St. Louis Cardinals

Lance Lynn | Starting Pitcher
2010 Level: Triple-A
Age: 23

Last year, I avoided including 2009 draft picks on the 2010 Top 10 lists (which is a practice that will be abandoned for 2011). As such, Lynn was at the top of the list rather than Shelby Miller. Lynn went on to have a modest 2010 season by posting a 4.43 FIP in 164.0 triple-A innings. Clearly, he’s durable but Lynn is more of a workhorse No. 3 or 4 starter than an ace. He typically produces a respectable strikeout rate (7.74 K/9 in 2010) along with a good ground-ball rate, although it dipped to 44% this season. Lynn could sneak onto the back-end of the Cardinals’ starting rotation in 2011 and is a good complement to the likes of Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, and Jaime Garcia.

Up Next: The American League West

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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I could have sworn Castro was the Cubs #1 spec universally going into the season.