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2004 Draft Report Cards: NL Central

By Jim Callis
November 4, 2004


CHICAGO CUBS

Best Pro Debut: LHP Jerry Blevins (17) made the short-season Northwest League all-star team after going 6-1, 1.62 with five saves and 42 strikeouts in 33 innings. He owns an 89-91 mph fastball and a fringy slider.

Best Athlete: 2B Eric Patterson (8) has a variety of tools, including 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale and some power--sometimes too much for his own good. He signed for $300,000, the equivalent of mid-fourth-round money.

Best Pure Hitter: C Mark Reed's (3) batting skills are similar to those of his older brother Jeremy, who led the minors in hitting in 2003 and ended 2004 in the majors with the Mariners. If he can't stick behind the plate, he should hit enough to man a corner infield or outfield spot.

Best Raw Power: 1B Ryan Norwood (9) has the most present power, but OF Alfred Joseph (15) could surpass him in time.

Fastest Runner: OF Gerald Miller (50) is slightly faster than Patterson. OF Adrian Ortiz (5), who didn't sign, may have been the fastest player in the entire draft.

Best Defensive Player: OF Sam Fuld (10) runs well and possesses tremendous instincts. A shoulder injury kept him from making his pro debut this summer.

Best Fastball: The Cubs saw RHP Grant Johnson (2) work at 92-97 mph in his next-to-last outing for Notre Dame. Before that, they saw him throw 92-94 mph in five straight appearances, evidence he's making a full recovery from labrum surgery that sidelined him for all of 2003.

Best Breaking Ball: Chicago is delighted with RHP Sean Gallagher (12). He has a strong build, a good curveball and a fastball that tops out at 92 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: Reed isn't the only Cubs draftee with big league connections. Patterson's older brother Corey is Chicago's center fielder. OF Eli Iorg's (14) father Garth and uncle Dane played in the majors. His brother Issac plays in the Braves system, while another brother, Cale, was the Devil Rays' 16th-round pick in June. RHP Micah Owings (19)'s brother Jon Mark signed with the Braves as a 17th-rounder. RHP Casey Erickson's (25) uncle Roger pitched in the majors, while his brother Corey spent 2004 in the Cardinals system. Iorg, Owings and Erickson didn't sign, though the Cubs control the rights to Erickson, the top high school prospect in Illinois, as a draft-and-follow.

Closest To The Majors: Johnson signed late for $1.26 million, the first-round money he was destined for before his shoulder injury. He could start his pro career in high Class A.

Best Late-Round Pick: Gallagher, who was considered a tough sign if he didn't go in the first three rounds. Also keep an eye on 3B Russ Canzler (30), who has some pop.

The One Who Got Away: The Cubs thought they could sign Ortiz, one of the draft's fastest players, fairly easily. They soon learned that he was set on going to Pepperdine. Owings, who has transferred from Georgia Tech to Tulane, is one of college baseball's best two-way players. RHP Kenn Kasparek (41) had a chance to go in the first round thanks to his 6-foot-9 frame and a 92-93 mph fastball he showed in 2003. After a bad spring, he plummeted and is attending Texas.

Assessment: Chicago believes Johnson represents the first-rounder they forfeited as compensation for signing LaTroy Hawkins. Reed and Patterson add some position-player depth to a pitching-heavy system.


CINCINNATI REDS

Best Pro Debut: C Craig Tatum (3) was a Rookie-level Pioneer League all-star, but he batted just .221-2-21. He stood out more on defense, leading the league by throwing out 36 percent of basestealers. The best numbers belonged to RHP Jared Sanders (14), who went 4-1, 2.00 with five saves as Tatum's batterymate. Sanders' best pitch is a solid-average fastball.

Best Athlete: OF B.J. Szymanski (1) was the best athlete and five-tool talent among college players in the draft. He's a 6-foot-5, 215-pound switch-hitter with plus tools across the board. Also a wide receiver, he ranks ninth on Princeton's all-time receiving list and led the Ivy League by averaging 18.7 yards per catch in 2003.

Best Pure Hitter: Szymanski's swing looks almost identical from both sides of the plate.

Best Raw Power: Szymanski can take the best fastballs out of the park. He homered against White Sox supplemental first-rounder Tyler Lumsden to end his 2003 season, then blasted the first pitch he saw in 2004—a 94-mph heater from No. 2 overall pick Justin Verlander—for another longball.

Fastest Runner: Szymanski, OF Cody Strait (12) and OF/INF Drew Anderson (13) all can cover 60 yards in about 6.5 seconds. Szymanski wasn't at full speed in his pro debut because he had a quadriceps injury.

Best Defensive Player: Paul Janish (5) makes playing shortstop look easy. He made just four errors in 57 games at Rice, then only eight in 66 games in the Pioneer League. He's not speedy, but his instincts and quick first step give him plenty of range. His strong arm has been clocked as high as 93 mph, and the Owls would have given him a chance to pitch had he returned to school. Tatum's arm strength also is well above average.

Best Fastball: RHP Homer Bailey (1), BA's High School Player of the Year, consistently throws 92-97 mph. That's a tick ahead of fellow high school RHP Rafael Gonzalez (4), who can hit 93-96 at his best. Two more high school arms, LHP Phillippe Valiquette (7) and RHP Terrell Young (10), both peaked at 94 mph during the spring.

Best Breaking Ball: Bailey has a decidedly nasty curveball to go with his wicked fastball.

Most Intriguing Background: Unsigned RHP Dylan Moseley's (33) older brother Dustin was a Reds supplemental first-round pick in 2000 and reached Triple-A in 2004. 1B Brandon Roberts' (45) father Leon played 11 seasons in the majors and is a roving hitting instructor for Cincinnati.

Closest To The Majors: Bailey and Gonzalez have the stuff to advance rapidly, but if Janish continues to make progress with the bat he should beat them to the big leagues.

Best Late-Round Pick: When he throws strikes, Young's fastball-curveball combination is very difficult to hit. 3B Brad Key (48) is a sleeper with some pop in his bat.

The One Who Got Away: RHP Jason Urquidez (11) is the only player whom the Reds made a run at and failed to land. Urquidez, who likes to mix his pitches and arm slots, returned to Arizona State.

Assessment: A few weeks before the draft, the Reds couldn't have expected to get Bailey with the seventh overall pick and Szymanski with the 48th. Those two may have more upside than any other prospects in the system.


HOUSTON ASTROS

Best Pro Debut: OF Mitch Einertson (5) tied a 44-year-old Rookie-level Appalachian League home run record with 24. He was named MVP and topped the league in extra-base hits (39), RBIs (67) and slugging (.692) while hitting .308. He also homered twice in the playoffs and again in his first game after a promotion to the short-season New York-Penn League. SS Ben Zobrist (6) was old for the NY-P at 23, but he did lead the league in hitting (.339) and on-base percentage (.438).

Best Athlete: Zobrist is a switch-hitter with average tools across the board. OF Hunter Pence (2) is a gangly 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but he's a pretty good athlete and played a solid center field in his pro debut. OF Jordan Parraz (3) was the highest unsigned draft-and-follow from 2003, failing to sign with the Phillies as a sixth-rounder—after they took him as a pitcher.

Best Pure Hitter: Pence was a surprise second-round pick, but his hitting ability was obvious. He batted .395 at Texas-Arlington to win the Southland Conference batting title during the spring, then hit .296 with eight homers in the NY-P.

Best Raw Power: Despite Einertson's exploits, the Astros say he doesn't have the most pop in their draft class. That honor belongs to C Lou Santangelo (4). Parraz and Pence also possess a lot of power.

Fastest Runner: OF Luke Barganier (30) goes from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.05 seconds.

Best Defensive Player: C J.R. Towles' (20) catch-and-throw skills stand out in an organization that lost a big chunk of its catching depth when it included John Buck in the Carlos Beltran trade.

Best Fastball: RHP Chad Reineke's (13) fastball received a boost when he moved to the bullpen last spring at Miami (Ohio). He now throws 89-94 mph.

Best Breaking Ball: LHP Troy Patton (9) had one of the best curveballs in the draft, and hitters can't sit on it because he also has a low-90s fastball. He signed for $550,000, easily the highest bonus in 2004's ninth round.

Most Intriguing Background: RHP Jared Brite (26) was a punter and placekicker at Kansas State. He signed with the Astros, but a pre-existing elbow injury led them to void his contract. RHP Garrett Murdy (16) was the NCAA Division II 2004 player of the year after leading that level in wins (14-1,1.88) and strikeouts (158 in 115 innings) for Texas A&M-Kingsville.

Closest To The Majors: Pence or Zobrist. Patton, who had a 1.93 ERA at Rookie-level Greeneville, is advanced for a high school lefty.

Best Late-Round Pick: Reineke or Towles. Towles also has some power to go with his defensive ability.

The One Who Got Away: The Astros signed their top 17 picks but couldn't get RHP Jared Clark (19) to turn pro rather than attending Cal State Fullerton. Clark, who has an 89-91 mph fastball, also could see time as an outfielder for the Titans.

Assessment: Houston reassigned scouting director David Lakey after this draft, but he did well for not having a first-round pick. The system had been thin in position players, a weakness addressed with the first five choices—Pence, Parraz, Santangelo, Einertson and Zobrist.


MILWAUKEE BREWERS

Best Pro Debut: 2B Steve Sollmann (10) batted .364, stole 23 bases and led the Rookie-level Pioneer League with 99 hits. OF Josh Brady (19) batted .363/.433/.646 in the same league. RHP Mark Rogers' (1) numbers weren't as gaudy—he went 0-3, 4.73 with 35 strikeouts in 27 innings—but he rated as the top pitching prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League.

Best Athlete: Rogers, Maine's first-ever high school first-rounder, had the talent to pursue a career in the NHL. He was all-state as a pitcher, a hockey forward and a soccer midfielder. RHP Yovani Gallardo (2) also was a soccer standout as a Texas high schooler. Among the position players, OF Stephen Chapman (6) is the best athlete.

Best Pure Hitter: Sollman or Brady. Sollman has tremendous discipline (52 walks, 30 strikeouts in his pro debut), while Brady has a compact, efficient stroke. C Angel Salome (5), the first hitter drafted by Milwaukee, looked very good instructional league. He hurt the hamate bone in his left wrist during a postdraft minicamp, requiring surgery and contributing to his .235 average in the AZL.

Best Raw Power: 1B Grant Richardson (14) homered 11 times in his pro debut, including six in 28 games at low Class A Beloit.

Fastest Runner: The quickest player signed by Milwaukee was draft-and-follow Hasan Rasheed (26 in 2003). Rasheed has 70 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, while Chapman tops the Brewers' 2004 draft class with 60 wheels.

Best Defensive Player: Salome has well above-average arm strength. His receiving skills aren't as advanced, but with his hands and work ethic, he'll be fine.

Best Fastball: Rogers hit 98 mph as an amateur and after a long summer he still was pitching at 91-94 in instructional league. Gallardo, who had 25 strikeouts in an 11-inning high school game in March, tops out at 96. So does RHP Josh Wahpepah (3), who also features electric sink.

Best Breaking Ball: Rogers' curveball. RHP Josh Baker (4) has the top slider.

Most Intriguing Background: It's all relative with Baker. His father Johnny was an NFL linebacker, his uncle Frank was a big league infielder and his brother Jacob was an outfielder in the Royals system. Baker's brother-in-law is Lance Berkman. Unsigned RHP Ty Pryor's (27) uncle Greg played in the majors. Wahpepah is a full-blooded Native American.

Closest To The Majors: Baker was Milwaukee's only four-year college draftee in the first eight rounds.

Best Late-Round Pick: RHP Alexandre Periard (16), one of a draft-high seven Canadians selected by Milwaukee, projected as a top-five-rounds pick, but perhaps teams stayed away knowing that his pro debut would be delayed because of baseball's visa crunch. Periard, who didn't turn 17 until a week after the draft, is athletic and shows a 90-91 mph sinker and a promising curveball.

The One Who Got Away: RHP Sean Morgan (25) had one of the better sliders in the draft. As a strong student with a scholarship from Tulane, he was next to impossible to sign.

Assessment: The Brewers' rejuvenated system is loaded with impact position players, so they made a conscious decision to draft some arms for balance. Several teams coveted Rogers early in the first round, and LHP Brandon Parillo (8) was a nice addition to the righthanders Milwaukee took with its first four picks.


PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Best Pro Debut: 2B/OF Jermel Lomack (14) hit .283 and led the short-season New York-Penn League with 29 steals. RHP Eric Ridener (8) used his sinker/slider combination to post a 1.53 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 35 innings in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he held hitters to a .134 average. C Neil Walker (1) got his career off to a good start, batting a combined .276-4-27 between the GCL and NY-P.

Best Athlete: OF A.J. Johnson (6) has raw power, arm strength and speed. RHP Joe Bauserman (4) was a top quarterback recruit of Ohio State. A star wide receiver and defensive back in high school, Walker is a good athlete for a catcher.

Best Pure Hitter: 3B Eddie Prasch (3) has an effortless lefthanded swing, though he batted just .220 in the GCL. SS Brian Bixler (2) rebounded from a disastrous .120 Cape Cod League performance in 2003 to finish second in the NCAA Division I batting race with a .453 average for Eastern Michigan during the spring. He hit .276 in the NY-P.

Best Raw Power: Walker has a strong 6-foot-2, 205-pound build and a fluid uppercut swing from both sides of the plate.

Fastest Runner: Lomack's 6.4-second speed in the 60-yard dash enabled him to succeed on 88 percent of his NY-P steal attempts.

Best Defensive Player: Pittsburgh drafted INF Dan Schwartzbauer (41) for his hands and accurate arm. They were pleasantly surprised when he hit .366 in the GCL, though he was old for Rookie ball at 22.

Best Fastball: RHP Jason Quarles (7) batted .397 at Glen Oaks (Mich.) CC in 2003 but couldn't crack Southern's outfield after transferring. Coaches noted his arm strength and moved him to the mound, and he soon was putting 98s on radar guns. He threw 94-96 mph for most of the summer.

Best Breaking Ball: Because he's 6-foot-1 and has a devastating curveball, Quarles is compared to Tom Gordon, and the Pirates say his curve is the pitch that will get him to the majors.

Most Intriguing Background: Walker's father Tom and uncle Chip Lang played in the majors. Johnson was named national junior college player of the year after batting .388-18-88 at Tallahassee (Fla.) CC.

Closest To The Majors: Bixler, who lacks only home run power, or LHP Kyle Bloom (5). Bloom shows three average or better pitches at times.

Best Late-Round Pick: INF Brett Grandstrand (13) and Schwartzbauer both stand out for their defensive versatility. Grandstrand, who hit .268 in the NY-P, has more offensive potential.

The One Who Got Away: Louisiana State-bound 3B J.P. Padron (12) has tremendous raw power, but a sore shoulder contributed to a disappointing spring so he dropped in the draft. Miami (Ohio) C John Slone (15) stood out with his bat and athleticism in the Cape Cod League this summer.

Assessment: Walker, Bixler and Prasch give the Pirates balance in a system known more for its pitching. Quarles is raw but could prove to be a steal.


ST. LOUIS CARDINALS

Best Pro Debut: RHP Chris Lambert (1) was tired and didn't have his best stuff this summer, but he still went 1-1, 2.58 with 46 strikeouts in 38 innings in low Class A. 2B Chris Patrick (37) made the short-season New York-Penn League all-star team after hitting .319-2-28. Sidearming RHP Mike Sillman (21) had a 1.55 ERA and 41-10 K-BB ratio in 29 innings, mostly in the NY-P.

Best Athlete: OF Chad Gabriel (20) is more well-rounded than OF Simon Williams (11). 3B Jake Mullinax (14), like Sillman a lightly regarded pick out of Nebraska, showed a surprising package of tools while hitting .290-3-36 in the NY-P. Lambert was more of a prospect as a hockey defenseman in high school.

Best Pure Hitter: 1B Mike Ferris (2), despite his .199 average in the NY-P. He knows how to work counts, and scouts likened him to Sean Casey and Rafael Palmeiro. Mullinax has more pure hitting ability than the Cardinals realized.

Best Raw Power: Ferris set a Miami (Ohio) record with 21 homers during the spring. He's not pull-conscious and can drive balls out of the park to the opposite field. 1B Billy Becher topped NCAA Division I in homers and RBIs per game in each of the last two seasons. While he was helped by the altitude at New Mexico State, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder has legitimate bat speed and pop. 1B Brett Cooley (34) tied for the Cape Cod League lead with seven homers in 2002, but a torn left hamstring ruined his final two seasons at Houston.

Fastest Runner: Williams and SS Daniel Nelson (13) are above-average runners but not blazers.

Best Defensive Player: SS Matt Shepherd's (8) hands stand out in this draft class.

Best Fastball: Lambert pitched at 90-96 mph at Boston College before dipping to 88-93 as a pro. RHPs Donnie Smith (4), Mike Parisi (9) and Mark Worrell (12) all can hit 93 mph, and all ranked among the NCAA Division I leaders in strikeouts per nine innings. Worrell's heater also features heavy sink.

Best Breaking Ball: Parisi has a hard curve to go with his fastball. Smith has the best slider.

Most Intriguing Background: 2B Jarrett Hoffpauir (6) starred at Southern Mississippi, as did his brother Micah, a first baseman in the Cubs system.

Closest To The Majors: Lambert has a higher ceiling than any of St. Louis' current big league starters.

Best Late-Round Pick: Worrell and Mullinax stand out the most. The Cardinals also like three-pitch RHP Phillip Andersen (23) and scrappy 2B Jose Delgado (24).

The One Who Got Away: St. Louis signed 42 of its 47 picks but couldn't get LHP Buck Cody (7) to leave Texas. He throws three pitches for strikes. SS Cameron Blair (18) decided to return to Texas Tech, then earned recognition as the Alaska League's most valuable player. Scouts compared him to David Eckstein with more pop.

Assessment: With an ownership recently enamored of "Moneyball," the Cardinals drastically switched draft approaches in 2004. No team signed more players or drafted fewer high schoolers: four, with the first not coming until the 27th round.

 
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