2004 Draft Report Cards: NL East
By Jim Callis
Best Pro Debut: Primarily an outfielder at Louisiana State, J.C. Holt (3) moved to second base after signing, the first time he played regularly there since 2002. He had no trouble making the transition--or the Rookie-level Appalachian League all-star team after he hit .321 with 17 steals.
Best Athlete: RHP James Parr (4) was a two-way star on the La Cueva High (Albuquerque) team that won 58 straight games. On the day before the draft, he won the home-run derby at the All-American Baseball Game, a national event whose derby contestants included sluggers SS/3B Eric Campbell (2) and OF Jon Mark Owings (17), fellow Braves draftees.
Best Pure Hitter: Holt won the 2003 Cape Cod League batting title at .388, the highest average in the nation's premier summer college league since 1990. He hit .350 in three seasons at Louisiana State, finishing second in the Southeastern Conference batting race at .393 during the spring.
Best Raw Power: Campbell, Owings and OF Adam Parliament (26) all can drive balls great distances. Campbell already has drawn comparisons to power-hitting infielders such as Jeff Kent and Matt Williams.
Fastest Runner: Holt gets from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.0 seconds. He won Louisiana state high school titles in the 100 meters, 200 meters and triple jump.
Best Defensive Player: C Clint Sammons (6) earned raves for his ability to handle pitching staffs at Georgia, which made a surprise run to the College World Series, and at Danville, which finished second in the Appy League playoffs.
Best Fastball: Though he's just 6 feet tall and pitched at 85-87 mph at times during the spring, Parr usually pitches in the low 90s and tops out at 95 mph. LHP Trae Wiggins (7) also can reach 95, but not as consistently.
Best Breaking Ball: Parr's curveball.
Most Intriguing Background: Owings' older brother Micah was considered a second- or third-round talent, though he slipped to the 19th round (Cubs) because of signability. LHP Brady Endl's (10) two-way skills earned him NCAA Division III player-of-the-year honors. He hit .411-18-63 and went 10-2, 2.34 on the mound, and capped his year by being named D-III academic all-American of the year as well.
Closest To The Majors: Holt, though the Braves aren't exactly hurting at second base with Marcus Giles. Holt and Sammons were the only Division I college players Atlanta took in the first 10 rounds.
Best Late-Round Pick: The Braves signed LHP Tyler Wilson (21) and Parliament after watching them star in a summer tournament in suburban Atlanta. Wilson consistently pitched at 90-91 mph and showed an intriguing curveball. Of Parliament, Braves scouting director Roy Clark says, "We call him Canseco."
The One Who Got Away: The Braves have an affinity for homestate products, but they weren't able to steer SS Brad Emaus (18), their highest unsigned pick, away from attending Tulane. He has a solid bat and average tools across the board.
Assessment: The Braves were limited as their first pick didn't come until the 71st overall choice. They compensated in part with a strong crop of draft-and-follows that included athletic OF Brandon Jones (24 in 2003), hard-hitting OF Mark Jurich (13 in 2003) and hard-throwing LHP Jonny Venters (30 in 2003).
Best Pro Debut: No longer splitting time between pitching and DHing like he did at Long Beach State, LHP Jason Vargas (2) excelled. He went 5-2, 2.09 in 11 starts and worked the first seven innings of a combined no-hitter in his second outing after a promotion to low Class A.
Best Athlete: OF Jamar Walton (4) was an all-Virginia performer in baseball, basketball and football. He has the best combination of power and speed among Marlins draftees, though he'd lose a race to OF Greg Burns (3), another quality athlete and one of the fastest players in the draft.
Best Pure Hitter: 3B Brad McCann (6) has an advanced approach and a natural feel for hitting, as might be expected for someone whose father Howard is a former college coach (Marshall). 1B Nathan Messner (18) used a short stroke to hit .310 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
Best Raw Power: Playing high school ball in White Salmon, Wash. (pop. 1,861), OF Brandon Verley (15) was relatively unknown until he started unleashing tape-measure shots last spring. INF/OF Brett Carroll (10) hit six homers at short-season Jamestown, including a 420-foot blast.
Fastest Runner: Burns and OF Joe Pietro (9) are both 80 runners on the 20-80 scouting scale. Burns does it a little easier, gliding 60 yards in 6.4 seconds and getting from the left side of the plate to first in 3.6 seconds on a drag bunt. Pietro has more of a churning style but he goes down the line from the left side in less than 4.0 seconds. Walton has 70 speed.
Best Defensive Player: C Brad Davis (5) played first base and right field at Long Beach State in 2003 because Todd Jennings, who became a second-round pick of the Giants, was behind the plate. Davis is very athletic and has solid catch-and-throw skills. He also has a chance to hit.
Best Fastball: Vargas usually pitches at 91-94 mph, slightly harder than LHP Taylor Tankersley (1), who works at 90-93.
Best Breaking Ball: The Marlins drafted Tankersley ahead of Vargas because he has a better breaking ball. Tankersley's hard slider is the best breaking pitch in this draft crop.
Most Intriguing Background: McCann's brother Brian also has a baseball connection, as he's a top catching prospect in the Braves system. C John Parker Wilson (19) was a Parade all-American quarterback who's now playing football at Alabama. OF Ted Ledbetter (23) was the NAIA player of the year after hitting .504-20-90 at Oklahoma City. But after going 2-for-9 in three pro games, he abruptly retired. LHP Parrish Castor (31) had a 20-strikeout game for St. Anselm (N.H.) in May. RHP Aaron Easton (29) is 6-foot-10 and originally attended college on a partial Nordic skiing scholarship.
Closest To The Majors: Tankersley and Vargas should be neck and neck on their way to Pro Player Stadium.
Best Late-Round Pick: Messner. Verley's power could be a steal in the 15th round.
The One Who Got Away: The Marlins signed their first 16 picks, but unsuccessfully tried to persuade Wilson to give up football. His power, arm and athleticism were enticing.
Assessment: With Tankersley and Vargas joining fast-rising Scott Olsen in the system, Florida's rotation could have a decidedly lefty look in a few years. The Marlins also maintained their usual focus on athleticism and speed.
Best Pro Debut: RHPs David Trahan (11) and Ben Cox (19), setup men at short-season Vermont. Trahan used his solid fastball-slider combination to go 3-2, 2.59 with 47 strikeouts in 49 innings. Cox, who has more power to his fastball (up to 95 mph) and slider (up to 83), went 2-0, 2.97 with 38 whiffs in 33 innings.
Best Athlete: SS Ian Desmond (3), whose best tool is his plus-plus arm. OF Duron Legrande (10) was a wide receiver at Division III Averett (Va.) before transferring to North Carolina A&T. RHP Andy Gale (43) had NHL potential as a physical 6-foot-6, 220-pound hockey defenseman.
Best Pure Hitter: OF Marvin Lowrance (7) batted .289-3-20 at Vermont. He was the only Expos draftee to hit better than .228 in his pro debut.
Best Raw Power: Lowrance has a lot of pop, but it currently shows up more in batting practice than it does in games. 3B Leonard Davis (8) also has good power.
Fastest Runner: Legrande needs just 4.05 seconds to get to first base from the left side of the plate.
Best Defensive Player: C Erick San Pedro (2) can do it all behind the plate. He has a strong arm, receives and blocks balls well, and has the leadership to run a pitching staff. Desmond and C Devin Ivany (6) are athletic defenders.
Best Fastball: LHP Bill Bray (1), RHP Collin Balester (4) and Cox all top out at 95 mph. Balester has the most projection remaining, because he's 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds and is the lone high schooler in that group.
Best Breaking Ball: Bray has a hard 82-85 mph slider that rates as a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale at times. The Expos also like RHP Greg Bunn's (5) true 12-6 curveball.
Most Intriguing Background: Gale's father Rich pitched in the majors. Unsigned SS Steven Hornostaj's (24) brother Aaron is an infielder in the Giants system.
Closest To The Majors: Bray, the second straight college reliever drafted in the first round by Montreal. Unlike Chad Cordero, who quickly made the big league bullpen, Bray will get the opportunity to advance as a starter.
Best Late-Round Pick: Cox didn't go higher because his command was erratic at Lamar during the spring. RHP Chris Lugo (28) pitched all summer at age 17, showing an 87-91 mph fastball and an intriguing curveball. He went 2-1, 1.67 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The One Who Got Away: LHP Mike Wlodarczyk (15) couldn't crack Boston College's rotation during the spring, but he broke out in the Cape Cod League during the summer. He kept the ball down and threw four pitches for strikes, including an 88-90 mph fastball with running action. The Expos made a run at him but couldn’t sign him. Gale was a potential first-round pick before a lackluster spring, and he decided to go to North Carolina.
Assessment: Like many things with the Expos, this draft suffered because of Major League Baseball's neglectful ownership of the franchise. With just 11 full-time scouts and a limited budget, Montreal is at a disadvantage. Scouting director Dana Brown has done an admirable job holding his department together during the last three years.
NEW YORK METS
Best Pro Debut: RHP Gaby Hernandez (3) was named the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League's top pitching prospect and won the ERA title, going 4-3, 1.03 with a 64-12 K-BB ratio in 53 innings. SS Sean Henry (20) made the GCL all-star team after hitting .282-4-30 with 10 steals. RHP Michael Devaney (23) used a three-pitch mix to go 5-0, 1.95 at short-season Brooklyn.
Best Athlete: Henry runs well and has more pop than expected from a 5-foot-10, 155-pounder. He has arm strength as well, though his throws need to be more accurate and he may have to move to another position. OF Brahiam Maldonado (10) has all-around tools and was a top youth basketball player in Puerto Rico.
Best Pure Hitter: 1B Mike Carp (9) has a nice line-drive stroke from the left side of the plate. He batted .267-4-26 in the GCL. Henry also shows promise.
Best Raw Power: OF Caleb Stewart (22) went deep five times in 25 games in low Class A. He played at Kentucky, as did the area scout who signed him, Rod Henderson.
Fastest Runner: OF B.J. Suggs (27) can fly down the line, getting from the left side of the plate to first base in 3.95 seconds. He's still learning how to use his speed.
Best Defensive Player: C Aaron Hathaway (4) is athletic for his position and has the arm to shut down the running game. He led the short-season New York-Penn League by throwing out 39 percent of basestealers.
Best Fastball: The Mets still expect to sign RHP Philip Humber (1), the third overall pick, but it might not happen until spring training. He hit 97 mph while at Rice, a tick ahead of RHP Matt Durkin (2). Hernandez has the best command of his fastball, and he already touches 94 mph with sinking, riding action at age 18.
Best Breaking Ball: New York ranked Humber's 12-to-6 curveball as the best breaking pitch in the entire draft. Among the players already under contract, RHP Scott Hyde (7) has a hard slider.
Most Intriguing Background: 1B/DH Jim Burt Jr.'s (19) father was a Pro Bowl defensive lineman who won Super Bowls with the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. Hyde was MVP of the NCAA Division III World Series after pitching George Fox (Ore.) to the championship.
Closest To The Majors: Once he signs, Humber may not need much more than a year before he's ready to help the Mets.
Best Late-Round Pick: The Mets are pleased with Henry, Stewart, Devaney and RHP Mike Swindell (29). Swindell has an average fastball and a plus curveball.
The One Who Got Away: RHP Brad Meyers (14) should become a premium draft pick after three years at Loyola Marymount. He's projectable at 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds and already can touch 92-93 mph with his sinker.
Assessment: After trading their two most advanced pitching prospects in ill-advised midseason deals, the Mets at least can take solace in adding Humber, Durkin and Hernandez. The pitchers in this crop are much more impressive than the position players.
Best Pro Debut: 1B Buck Shaw (21) tied for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League home run title with eight. Scouts thought OF Greg Golson (1) would have to make adjustments to hit in pro ball, but the Phillies left him alone and were pleased when he batted .295 with 12 steals in the GCL.
Best Athlete: Golson is easily the best athlete in the system. His speed is his most obvious tool, but he doesn't have a weakness. He has the bat speed, hand-eye coordination and strength to hit for power and average, plus the range for center field and the arm strength for right.
Best Pure Hitter: OF Sean Gamble (6) hit better with wood bats at short-season Batavia (.304) and in the Cape Cod League (.319) than he did with aluminum in three years at Auburn (.290). His short stroke is conducive to contact but doesn’t generate much power.
Best Raw Power: OF Curt Miaso (42) doesn't show it in games yet, but his home run potential has been compared to that of fellow Chaparral High (Scottsdale, Ariz.) product Paul Konerko. 1B Carl Galloway (11) holds the career home run record at Biola (Calif.) with 45, two more than SS/3B Sam Orr (8), who holds the season mark with 24. Shaw also deserves mention.
Fastest Runner: One of the quickest players in the draft, Golson gets down the line from the right side in 3.83 seconds.
Best Defensive Player: Not only does Golson have tremendous speed, but he also makes good reads and takes direct routes in center field. He has the tools to become a Gold Glover. C Jason Jaramillo (2), easily the system's best catching prospect, is solid behind the plate. Philadelphia drafted him in the 39th round out of high school in 2001.
Best Fastball: RHP Andy Baldwin (5) pitches at 91-92 mph and can touch 94. RHP Joe Bisenius (12) can get his fastball to 93 and run it down and in on righthanders.
Best Breaking Ball: Baldwin's slider is better than LHP J.A. Happ's (3) curveball.
Most Intriguing Background: The Phillies drafted 1B Matt Johnson (50) as a tribute to his perseverance. After getting cancer and having his left leg amputated below the knee as a sophomore, Johnson made it back to play football and baseball at his Omaha high school. Baldwin's uncle John Hiller, Gamble's father Oscar, unsigned RHP Alex McEnaney's (34) father Will and unsigned SS Andrew Romine's (36) dad Kevin all played in the majors. SS John Hardy's (7) cousin J.J. is a top shortstop prospect in the Brewers system.
Closest To The Majors: Jaramillo all-around skills give him the edge over Happ's deceptive arsenal.
Best Late-Round Pick: Miaso plummeted in the draft because of his commitment to Arizona State. Besides his bat, his right-field play and makeup are also assets.
The One Who Got Away: LHP James Adkins (13, now at Tennessee), Romine (Arizona State), 3B Steve Marquardt (37, Washington State) and RHP Aaron Brown (46, Houston) all would have been much higher picks had they been signable.
Assessment: With their system short on athletes and catchers, the Phillies took Golson and Jaramillo. Happ and Baldwin give Philadelphia a pair of interesting pitchers.
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