16. Dennis Raben, 26, A+. 2.7 WAR .292/.362/.579 with 31 HR and 4 SB
As a twenty-two year old, Raben hit .356/.413/.681 in a quarter season in the Cal League, playing his home games in High Desert. He struck out over a quarter of the time, but man, the power. He returned the following year, and hit almost as well in partial playing time, though the high deserts winds undoubtedly helped many of the longballs leave the park. Injuries cropped up, eventually requiring surgery on both knees, and he never did make it out of High A before slipping through the cracks and into the independent ball ranks.
At twenty-six, he returned to the California League for a fourth season after the Halos signed him mid-season and slammed 31 long balls over four months of work, ten of them in his new pitching-friendly home. Baseball Prospectus’ algorithms handicaps that park so severely that they sum up Raben’s contributions last year as 5.1 WAR, but that seems excessive to me. At any rate, he’s too old for us to take the numbers seriously, but if he does it again in the high minors, then the Halos may suddenly have a nice platoon bat on their hands. Throughout his college and early pro days, Raben hovered at the margins of legit blue-chip prospect status, and was drafted in the second round, but injuries and poorly timed performance dips robbed him of opportunities to climb the latter. He does have plenty power though, and in his early 20’s folks were excited about his approach. Last year might not be all he has in the tank, and if he can capitalize now, he might wind up one of the better story lines of 2015.
I think just talked myself into putting him on my top 20 list. Is that nuts?