Tim Lincecum was the story last night, but his oldest scouting report is only five years old. So, here is a scouting report David Rawnsley wrote on Lance Berkman from the Feb. 28, 1999 issue, when Berkman was the Astros No. 1 prospect. . .
Background: After not being drafted out of high school, Lance Berkman rose to prominence at Rice, where he led the NCAA with 41 home runs and 134 RBIs as a junior before joining his hometown organization. He has dominated minor league pitching the same way he dominated college pitching. Barely a year after signing, Berkman was promoted to Triple-A and in his third game at New Orleans, he hit three home runs. He turned the same trick again in the clinching game of the inaugural Triple-A World Series, a feat that carried him to the series MVP award.
Strengths: Berkman has shown just about every offensive skill you would want to find in a run producer. He is a switch-hitter with well-above-average raw power from both sides of the plate. His swing is still quick and compact, enabling him to make consistent contact and maintain a high batting average. Berkman's patience at the palte is extraordinary for a young hitter, and in his first full year he finished fifth in the minor leagues with 97 walks. Defensively, Berkman's conversion to left field from first base has been successful. He gets good jumps on fly balls, has an average left-field arm and is surprisingly sure-handed.
Weaknesses: Berkman is a much stronger hitter from the left side, where he is more patient and benefits from having more at-bats. He played with a sore right ankle throughout much of 1998, which made him more of a front-foot hitter from the right side and took away his power. While Berkman is mobile in the outfield and a good straight-ahead runner, he's primarily a station-to-station runner on the bases.
The Future: The master plan is for Berkman to take over in left field as soon as this season, with Moises Alou moving to right. When this will happen depends on Derek Bell's status. Bell enjoyed the best year of his career last season, but this is the last year of his contract. Even if any trade rumors involving Bell are unfounded, it would not be a surprise if Berkman's production surpassed Bell's to give the already high-powered Astros offense another potent weapon.
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