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2004 Draft Report Cards: AL West

By Jim Callis
November 2, 2004


ANAHEIM ANGELS

Best Pro Debut: 3B/DH Andre Toussaint (13) made the Rookie-level Pioneer League all-star team by hitting .289-12-52. His bat is legitimate, though he still has to prove he can play the hot corner.

Best Athlete: After hitting .310 in the Rookie-level Arizona League, OF D.T. McDowell (20) surprised the Angels by leaving to play football at Troy State, where he's the No. 2 quarterback as a true freshman. Anaheim expects he'll return to baseball. Physically gifted 3B Matt Moore (22) hasn't played competitive baseball since he was a high school junior in 2001, instead spending two years as a UCLA quarterback. OF Tyler Johnson (12) was a running back/linebacker who turned down a Tulsa football scholarship to turn pro.

Best Pure Hitter: Most teams saw him as a possible first-rounder as a pitcher, but the Angels liked 3B Mark Trumbo's (18) bat even more than his arm. They signed him for $1.425 million, a draft record for his round.

Best Raw Power: The day before he signed, Trumbo drilled two balls off the rocks in left-center field at Angel Stadium during batting practice.

Fastest Runner: Johnson and McDowell have above-average speed.

Best Defensive Player: SS Hainley Statia (9), a Curacao native who had his pro debut delayed by visa issues. C/OF David Hernandez (19) and C Ben Johnson (23) are also good defenders.

Best Fastball: Trumbo threw 96 mph the day before he signed, but he won't take the mound again. RHP Jered Weaver (1), who probably won't sign until the spring, has excellent command of a fastball that sits at 91-92 mph and touches 95. RHP Bill Layman (7) also peaks at 95, as did RHP Nick Adenhart (14) before he blew out his elbow in May.

Best Breaking Ball: Adenhart was a sure first-round pick before he required Tommy John surgery, and even that didn't deter the Angels from signing him for $710,000. When he was healthy, he showed one of the best curveballs in the draft.

Most Intriguing Background: Weaver's brother Jeff was a Tigers first-rounder in 1998 and pitches for the Dodgers. In addition to all the football players mentioned earlier, unsigned OF Patrick White (4) is a redshirt freshman quarterback at West Virginia. 3B Brooks Shankle's (32) father Jimmy is a former head baseball coach at Abilene Christian and Texas San-Antonio. San Jacinto (Texas) JC RHP Stephen Marek (40), a draft-and-follow who has hit 95 mph this fall, was the most outstanding pitcher at the 2004 Junior College World Series. RHP Alan Horne (30), a high school batterymate of Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, was a 2001 first-round pick of the Indians.

Closest To The Majors: Once he signs, Weaver should need little minor league time before he's ready.

Best Late-Round Pick: Trumbo and Adenhart are the most obvious, but Johnson, McDowell and RHP Bobby Cassevah (34) also had early-round talent and signed after being considered unsignable.

The One Who Got Away: White, the highest-drafted high school player not to sign in 2004, told the Angels he would sign but changed his mind after the draft. RHP Erik Davis (47) could become a first-rounder after three years at Stanford.

Assessment: Eddie Bane wasn't afraid to gamble in his first draft as Angels scouting director. He took Weaver, the draft's top-rated prospect, with the No. 12 pick after other teams passed because of his reported desire for an eight-figure deal. Anaheim also got the equivalent of two extra first-rounders in Trumbo and, if he returns to health, Adenhart.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Best Pro Debut: RHP Huston Street (1), a major part of Texas' College World Series championship in 2002, won another title at Triple-A Sacramento. He earned two saves and made five scoreless appearances in the Pacific Coast League playoffs, capping a 1-1, 1.38 regular season. They were too old for the Rookie-level Arizona League, but 3B Wes Long (29) and RHP Connor Robertson (31) made the all-star team. Long hit .345 with an AZL-best 17 doubles, while Robertson went 2-2, 0.92 with a league-high 13 saves.

Best Athlete: OF Richie Robnett (1) has above-average offensive potential and average speed. Street's athleticism allowed him to fill in at third base for the Longhorns in 2003. Robertson set Birmingham-Southern's career home run record with 60 and pitched just six innings for the Panthers before 2004.

Best Pure Hitter: OF Danny Putnam (1) is the most advanced, though he batted just .237-9-30 in a pro debut spent mostly in low Class A. Robnett isn't as developed but has tremendous hand-eye coordination. C Kurt Suzuki (2), who hit .413 and drove in the 2004 CWS-winning run for Cal State Fullerton, has the best approach.

Best Raw Power: Robnett's exceptional bat speed should give him the most power in time. The biggest threat at the moment is C Landon Powell (1).

Fastest Runner: OF Andre Piper-Jordan (28) has plus speed. He entered college as a wide receiver at Eastern Washington but transferred to Everett (Wash.) CC so he'd be eligible for the 2004 draft.

Best Defensive Player: Either Powell or Suzuki could be Oakland's long-term answer behind the plate. Powell has better catch-and-throw skills, while Suzuki has more agility.

Best Fastball: Street pitched at 88-92 mph last spring while battling a groin injury, but he was healthy and touched 93-94 mph all summer. His sink and command make his fastball play better than its velocity.

Best Breaking Ball: Street's slider is his out pitch. LHP Dallas Braden's (24) screwball enabled him to strike out 63 batters in 42 pro innings.

Most Intriguing Background: RHP Jason Windsor (3) was the MVP of the 2004 CWS. Robertson was MVP of the 2001 NAIA World Series—because of his bat. Unsigned LHP Drew Saberhagen's (38) father Bret won two Cy Young Awards. RHP Ryan Webb's (4) dad Hank also pitched in the majors. Unsigned RHP Matt Cassel (36) was a tight end on Southern California's 2003 football national champion. Street's father James quarterbacked Texas to the 1969 national football title and starred in baseball. OF Nick Blasi's (12) cousin Blake plays in the Cardinals system.

Closest To The Majors: Street could open 2005 in Oakland's bullpen.

Best Late-Round Pick: Braden, whose fastball jumped from 85-87 mph at Texas Tech to 88-90 in his pro debut.

The One Who Got Away: OF Jeremy Slayden (18), the A's highest unsigned pick, might have been a first-round pick had a torn rotator cuff not ruined his junior season at Georgia Tech. The A's hoped to evaluate him in summer ball, but he wasn't healthy enough to play.

Assessment: Oakland's interest in Putnam and Street was well known, but the A's were able to wait until the supplemental first round to get them. That freed them to spend their earlier choices on Powell and Robnett, who were more coveted by other clubs.


SEATTLE MARINERS

Best Pro Debut: Did SS Matt Tuiasosopo (3) let the pressure of a $2.29 million bonus—a record for his round—get to him? Absolutely not. He started his summer by hitting .412/.528/.721 with four homers and 12 RBIs in 20 games in the Rookie-level Arizona League, where he was rated the No. 1 prospect. Then he moved up to the short-season Northwest League and held his own against much older competition.

Best Athlete: Tuiasosopo surpassed the old third-round bonus mark of $2 million jointly held by Drew Henson and Grady Sizemore. All three were big-time quarterback recruits, and Tuiasosopo was headed to Washington had he not signed. His bat, power and arm are all plus tools, and his makeup is also well above average. The only real question is whether he can stick at shortstop.

Best Pure Hitter: Tuiasosopo.

Best Raw Power: Tuiasosopo. OF/1B Marshall Hubbard (8) also has some pop.

Fastest Runner: OFs Jermaine Brock (6) and Sebastien Boucher (7) both have speed that rates at least a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale.

Best Defensive Player: C Rob Johnson (4) is an athletic backstop with solid catch-and-throw skills. The Mariners were looking for catching and were glad to grab him. Brock chases balls down easily in center field. SS/2B Jeff Dominguez has good actions but needs more polish.

Best Fastball: RHP Mark Lowe (5) took the 2003 season off at Texas-San Antonio to focus on his mechanics. His work paid off, as he pitched in the low 90s during the spring and peaked at 97 mph after signing. RHP Mumbo Rivera (21) surprised the Mariners with his stuff after signing. His fastball sat in the low 90s and touched 94 mph.

Best Breaking Ball: Rivera's curveball also stands out. Another late-round choice, RHP Aaron Trolia (27) has a good slider.

Most Intriguing Background: Tuiasosopo is just the latest member of his family to leave his mark on the Seattle sporting scene. His father Manu (with the NFL's Seahawks) and older brothers Marques and Zach (at Washington) all played football in the city. His sister Leslie starred in volleyball for the Huskies and currently serves as an assistant volleyball coach for them. 2B Jack Arroyo's (18) father Rudy and unsigned LHP James Russell's (37) dad Jeff played in the majors.

Closest To The Majors: Lowe or Johnson.

Best Late-Round Pick: LHP Steve Uhlmansiek (12) and Rivera. Uhlmansiek was the top prospect in Kansas until he blew his elbow out and needed Tommy John surgery. Area scout Mark Lummus did a good job monitoring Uhlmansiek's signability, and the pitcher should be able to regain his 88-92 mph sinker and plus changeup.

The One Who Got Away: Seattle would have loved to add another strong defensive catcher in J.P. Arencibia (17), but he decided to go to Tennessee.

Assessment: The Mariners should regret surrendering their top two picks to sign free agents Eddie Guardado and Raul Ibanez, but they compensated with the bold signing of Tuiasosopo. Once he's healthy, Uhlmansiek could be another steal.


TEXAS RANGERS

Best Pro Debut: LHP Clint Brannon (34) set a short-season Northwest League ERA record (0.59) and had a 58-14 K-BB ratio in 61 innings. He did it with a combination of a mid-80s sinker and a slider. RHP Thomas Diamond (1) was more overpowering, with a 2.15 ERA and a 68-13 K-BB ratio in 46 innings, mostly in low Class A. OF K.C. Herren (2) was a Rookie-level Arizona League all-star after batting .297-0-21, while C Mike Nickeas (5) earned similar recognition in the NWL for hitting .288-10-55. 3B Travis Metcalf (11) led the NWL with 37 extra-base hits, and 2B Tug Hulett (14) topped the league with a .444 on-base percentage.

Best Athlete: Washington recruited Herren for baseball and invited him to try out for its football team as a running back/defensive back. OF Brandon Boggs (4) is a switch-hitter with a lot of similarities to Jay Payton, who preceded him at Georgia Tech.

Best Pure Hitter: Herren.

Best Raw Power: OF Ben Harrison (7), 1B Jim Fasano (9) and Metcalf all have plus power. Metcalf hit 15 NWL homers after setting a Kansas record with 18 during the spring.

Fastest Runner: SS Luis Rodriguez (33) has above-average raw speed but it hasn't translated on the bases yet.

Best Defensive Player: Nickeas has average arm strength, good hands and decent game-calling skills.

Best Fastball: Diamond maintained his velocity all year, never wavering from the mid-90s. RHP Eric Hurley (1) threw 92-95 in high school but was tired and wasn't as overpowering as a pro. RHP Jarrad Burcie (16) has a max-effort delivery that allowed him to reach 95 out of the bullpen.

Best Breaking Ball: Hurley's slider is a potential out pitch. Diamond flashes a plus slider at times.

Most Intriguing Background: Wolfson High (Jacksonville, Fla.) products Hurley and Royals 3B Billy Butler became the fifth prep teammates to go in the first round of the same draft. INF Wally Backman Jr.'s (30) father was a 1977 Mets first-round pick. Two other Rangers draftees are also relatives of former big league infielders—Hulett, son of Tim; and 1B Freddy Thon (18), nephew of Dickie. Freddy's father Frankie scouts for the Rangers.

Closest To The Majors: Diamond already has proven that low Class A hitters are no match for him, and Texas obviously needs pitching reinforcements.

Best Late-Round Pick: RHP Marc Cornell (19) got some play as the possible No. 1 overall pick in 2003, then got sidetracked by persistent shoulder problems that ruined his 2004 season as well. If he returns to full health, the Rangers will have a pitcher capable of throwing 93-97 mph.

The One Who Got Away: OF Justin Maxwell (10) went back to Maryland after a snakebitten 2004 season. A potential first-rounder, he broke his right forearm during preseason drills and never got into a game. The Rangers wanted to evaluate him in the Cape Cod League, but a pitch broke his right hand early in the summer.

Assessment: The Rangers hope they can plug some of their pitching holes with Diamond, Hurley and 6-foot-7 RHP Michael Schlact (3). Grady Fuson no longer will run future Rangers drafts after losing out in a front-office power play, but new scouting director Ron Hopkins worked closely with Fuson and should be able to carry on.

 
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