World Baseball Classic: Ranking The Top 10 Prospects

ORLANDO, Fla.–Though just two ended up playing for the title, it
was the inclusion of big leaguers that made the World Baseball Classic
such an enormous event. However, like international baseball events of
the past, prospects still got a chance to shine.

WBC Futures
The
Classic featured more talent than any baseball tournament ever, and
much of it had yet to reach the major leagues. Baseball America’s
never-ending search for prospects prompted us to talk with scouts about
what players they saw in the WBC who would feel right at home in our
Prospect Handbook. We set a 25-year-old age limit in order to steer
clear of established big leaguers such as Japan’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, a
true No. 1 starter with seven years of service time in the Japan
Leagues.
1. Yulieski Gourriel, 2b, Cuba
Gourriel
lived up to his pre-tournament billing, showing five above-average,
present, major league tools. “If he were available,” one scout said,
“he might get $20 million just to sign right now. He’s in the top 15
major league second basemen right now, and he’s 21.
2. Francisco Liriano, lhp, Dominican Republic (Twins)
Liriano,
22, wasn’t as sharp with his command as he could be, but his fastball
sat at 93-94 mph, complemented by an 87 mph slider and plus changeup.
3. Adam Loewen, lhp, Canada (Orioles)
An
atypical performance for the hard-throwing but raw Loewen, 21: He
topped out in the upper 80s and fought his command in 3 2/3
innings–only it came against an atypical lineup, Team USA’s collection
of all-stars.
4. Chin-Lung Hu, ss, Taiwan (Dodgers)
The 22-year-old ranks 10th in a deep Dodgers system.
5. Brad Harman, ss, Australia (Phillies)
The 20-year-old is the Phillies’ No. 9 prospect.
6. Tony Giarratano, ss, Italy (Tigers)
The 23-year-old is the Tigers’ No. 8 prospect.
7. Frederich Cepeda, of, Cuba
Cepeda,
25, has a fourth-outfielder profile because he has no above-average
tool, but he showed a knack for getting big hits or making big plays.
“You can’t discount what’s inside their heads and in their hearts,” one
scout said of Cuba’s players.
8. Munenori Kawasaki, ss, Japan (Fukuoka)
The
defense played by Asian teams impressed fans and scouts alike, and
Kawasaki made just 11 errors in 133 games in 2004 for the Hawks. He’s
an 80 runner (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) and handles the bat,
though he lacks power.
9. Shairon Martis, rhp, Netherlands (Giants)
Martis
showed solid-average stuff and above-average pitchability for a
teenager in his seven-inning no-hitter against Panama. A scout who saw
it cautioned that Panama played with little energy in the game.
10. Yadier Pedroso, rhp, Cuba
The
6-foot-1, 185-pound 19-year-old showed three average pitches, including
a true late-breaking curve that can be a strikeout pitch.
–JOHN MANUEL

Three
prospects who raised their profile as much as anyone at the Classic
were Italy’s Tony Giarratano, Australia’s Brad Harman and Taiwan’s
Chin-Lung Hu. Though their three teams went a combined 2-7, it was by
no means the fault of this shortstop trio.

Australia was
only able to muster nine hits in their three games; Harman, a Phillies
farmhand, had three of them. That included one of their two extra-base
hits, a double off of the Dominican’s Francisco Liriano. The
20-year-old Harman hit .303-11-58 a low Class A Lakewood last season, a
season made more impressive considering how raw he is.

“Compared
to the American kids of the same age, he has probably played in a
quarter of the games,” one international scout said. “He needs to work
on seeing better quality pitches. He needs to work on seeing and
hitting the breaking ball. Growing up in Australia he didn’t (face) the
guys he saw at the Classic.”

Scouts question whether Harman
has the range to stick at shortstop, and a move to second might be in
his future. But at the Classic he showed enough at shortstop that a
move is not imminent.

Giarratano, on the other hand, has
always been known for his excellent defense. He showed his plus range
and arm at the Classic while also proving to be a spark plug atop
Italy’s lineup. The 23-year-old was 3-for-10 with three walks and
showed an excellent batting eye and bat control as he consistently
fouled off tough pitches and worked deep counts. The Tulane product, a
2003 third-round pick, will likely never hit for much power, but he has
maintained a .370 on-base percentage throughout his minor league career
and reached the big leagues in 2005; he could return for good in 2006.

Hu
was the prospect most American viewers never got to see as his Pool A
games were played in Japan. The Dodgers shortstop has remarkable hands
and range, but there are questions about his bat due to his slight
frame; the 22-year-old is just 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds. His bat was
working at the Classic though as he went 5-for-12 with two doubles
after hitting .313-8-56 at high Class A Vero Beach.

“I know
he hit .300 in the Florida State League, but the bat is going to be the
key with him I think,” said the scout. “He already speaks English and
he’s learned Spanish, so he is a pretty intelligent kid. That is an
effort to come over to a country and learn English, and then all of a
sudden learn Spanish too.”

–MATT MEYERS

CLASSIC CUTS


MLB officials were pleased with the television ratings on ESPN’s
networks for the Classic. The March 20 final attracted 1.8 percent of
all cable viewers; according to the Wall Street Journal, ESPN reported
an average of 1.4 million viewers for live games, and the Team
USA/Mexico second-round game drew 2.5 million-nearly double ESPN’s
average audience for NBA games. Television ratings in Japan were far
higher, with 36 percent of the country catching the semifinal against
Korea according to Japanese media reports.

• Overall attendance finished at 737,112 spectators for 39 games, an average of 18,900.

International | #2006 #International Affairs #World Baseball Classic

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