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Ranking Brent Lillibridge

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In light of the recent trade that brought us Mike Gonzalez and shortstop prospect Brent Lillibridge we have a bit of housekeeping to do. Specifically, where does this new guy Lillibridge fit into our prospect rankings. If you remember back to a month and a half ago we came up with the Talking Chop top 25 Braves prospects - it was a community effort in which many of you participated, and the results fell well in line with what many of the experts think with one or two exceptions. The guy we traded away, Jamie Romak, fell just short of the top-25 at number 26.

First off, let's take a look at what several prospect experts say about Brent Lillibridge. Here is John Sickles take on Lilli, whom he ranked the third best prospect in the Pirates organization:

Sickels is very high on this kid, loving all his five tools. Here are some excerpts from Baseball America's Chris Kline's take on Lillibridge:

We caught up with a veteran American League scout to give us the lowdown on just what kind of upside the Braves received in the 23-year-old shortstop:

"This guy is a poor man's Brian Roberts . . . very exciting player with boundless energy and good speed, reactions, and instincts.

That's probably all I can quote from BA without getting into too much trouble, but I like the comparison to Brian Roberts a lot. Here's a guy in Roberts who we were trying to get this off-season in exchange for LaRoche (and may have even had a deal done but for Peter Angelos stepping in and quashing it). So in addition to picking up an extremely valuable left-hander for our bullpen we also added a guy who in less than a year could become one of the other players we coveted.

The BA article goes on to say how Lilli isn't a pure burner on the base paths, but that his stolen bases are achieved with "instincts and feel." His defense and the 34 errors he committed last year also seem to be a result of him trying to do too much with balls that most shortstops wouldn't be able to get to - that reminds me a lot of a young Rafael Furcal. If you have a BA subscription, definitely check out the article which calls Lillibridge a "sure-fire major leaguer." The BA organizational prospect rankings for Pittsburgh are not out yet, so we don't know where they would rank him (perhaps the book version of the prospect lists will add Lilli to the Braves rankings).

Over at Baseball Prospectus, prospect guru Kevin Goldstein had this to say about Lillibridge while ranking him the third best prospect in the Bucs organization:

3. Brent Lillibridge, ss
DOB: 9/18/83
Height/Weight: 5-11/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Draft: 4th round, 2005, University of Washington
What he did in 2006: .299/.414/.522 at Low A (333 PA); .313/.426/.423 at High A (252 PA)
The Good: Underrated prospect has no real weaknesses in his game. Very good defensive shortstop with above-average range, hands and arm. Solid hitting skills augmented by very high walk rate, surprising pop and excellent base-stealing abilities.
The Bad: Power he showed at High-A (two HRs in 201 ABs) is closer to reality than Low-A line (11 HRs in 274 ABs), though he projects to hit 10-12 annually in the big leagues. Can get out of control defensively at times, leading to stupid errors.
The Irrelevant: Lillibridge ended the year with an 11-game hitting streak in which he went 18-for-41 (.439) with eight walks and 12 runs scored.
In a Perfect World, He Becomes: An above-average starting shortstop.
Gap Between What He Is Now, And What He Can Be: Average - One of the minor leagues' hidden gems, Lillibridge might be ready for Double-A. His biggest obstacle to the big leagues isn't Jack Wilson, it's Jack Wilson's contract.

Well, substitute Jack Wilson and Jack Wilson's contract with Edgar Renteria and Edgar Renteria's contract. But, I don't think the Braves have any hang-ups about moving Lilli to second base - and most people think he would be able to handle it.

So, where does he rank in our system and our rankings? Take a look at our previous rankings and discuss and determine where he ranks in the Atlanta system. I'm also putting a poll up which will probably be how we determine where he goes, unless there are some overly compelling arguments. I'm still tossing about where to rank him myself, but I'm leaning towards saying he's ahead of Campbell, but not Salty.