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Power, speed push Linden to front of Cape class

By Jim Callis

Todd Linden
Todd Linden
Photo: Ken Babbitt

CHATHAM, Mass.—The consensus among Cape Cod League managers is the talent in the league wasn't quite up to its usual standards this summer. Some thought it was just a down cycle, while others believe major league teams have signed so many high school prospects, they have depleted the pool of available college players.

Freshmen often struggle on the Cape because they're drained after making it through the long college season for the first time. But seven of the best 14 prospects this summer had just completed their first year of college, including three of the top four.

Here's a summary of the Cape players with the best futures, compiled by talking to managers and scouts:

1. Todd Linden, of, Chatham (Washington). Linden is a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate. He runs well and packs a lot of athleticism into his 6-foot-2, 218-pound frame. Brewster manager Dave Lawn said no one on the Cape could turn around a good fastball like Linden. "He's a stud, as close to a five-tool player in the league that there is," Chatham manager John Schiffner said. "The only thing that isn't major league average is his arm, and he's doing long toss to work on that."

2. Bob Brownlie, rhp, Falmouth (Rutgers). Different managers liked different things about Brownlie, but they all loved him. His curveball drew some raves as the best breaking pitch in his league. His fastball consistently arrived in the low 90s and was touching 94 at the end of the summer. His changeup was much improved. And he can throw all three pitches for strikes. Scouts voted Brownlie the winner of the Cape's official outstanding pro prospect award, and he led the league in strikeouts.

3. Tyler Parker, c, Wareham (Georgia Tech). Parker played primarily first base as a freshman, in deference to Yellow Jackets junior catcher Bryan Prince. Now Georgia Tech has a dilemma, because Prince didn't sign and Parker emerged as easily the top catcher on the Cape. His work behind the plate drew universal praise, and Wareham manager Mike Roberts said Parker had the best overall package of catching skills since B.J. Surhoff, the 1985 No. 1 overall draft pick whom Roberts coached at North Carolina. Parker also offers some power, though he'll have to tighten his swing a little.

4. Brian Stavisky, of, Hyannis (Notre Dame). Stavisky and Linden were considered the two best hitting prospects in the league. Stavisky hit line drives all summer and wasn't fazed by the quality breaking and offspeed pitches he saw. At 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, he'll gain more over-the-fence power with experience. He runs well for a big man but his arm will need significant improvement if he's to play even left field as a pro.

5. Chris Young, rhp, Chatham (Princeton). Young's delivery is exceptionally polished for a 6-foot-10 pitcher, especially considering that he plays both basketball and baseball for the Tigers. Schiffner said Young improved his fastball (which hit 91 mph), slider and command this summer. Roberts thought Young had the best chance of any Cape pitcher to dominate in the major leagues. A third-round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Young is expected to return to Princeton for his junior year.

6. Jason Cooper, of, Yarmouth-Dennis (Stanford). After rarely playing as a freshman on a loaded Cardinal team, the 1999 second-round pick had the most power on the Cape and showcased it by winning the home run contest at the league all-star game. Cooper has a looping, uppercut swing that will need a lot of work before he'll hit for average. He has a good body (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) and athleticism, though his arm will make him a left fielder as a pro.

7. Preston Larrison, rhp, Falmouth (Evansville). Larrison missed three weeks with a tender elbow, so he didn't get a lot of exposure. Those who saw him thought he might have had the Cape's best pure arm. Larrison touched 95 mph while also showing a nice changeup and an inconsistent slider.

8. Chad Clark, rhp, Brewster (Southern California). Clark threw at 88-90 mph for most of the summer, but at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds he'll throw much harder. His changeup is solid, his curveball is improved and he's pretty smooth for such a big pitcher. The Trojans ought to be pretty good in 2001, considering Clark probably won't crack their conference rotation of Rik Currier, Mark Prior and Anthony Reyes.

9. Wyatt Allen, rhp, Orleans (Tennessee). Allen missed the first few weeks of the season with a minor arm problem, but left an impression on the few teams that saw him. Once healthy, he threw 93-94 mph consistently and also flashed a good curveball. Orleans manager Don Norris thought Allen had the best arm on the Cape.

10. Steve Kelly, rhp, Orleans (Georgia Tech). Kelly offers a nice combination of polish and stuff. He has a 91-93 mph fastball that bores in on righthanded hitters, and has a nifty changeup as well. His biggest need at this point is to improve his curveball. He tied for the Cape lead with seven victories.

11. Rhett Parrott, rhp, Wareham (Georgia Tech). Roberts tabbed Parrott as a possible first-round pick in the 2001 draft. He has a live 92-93 mph fastball he isn't afraid to throw inside. Both his slider and curveball are average pitches. Parrott will need to refine his changeup and command.

12. Doc Brooks, of, Falmouth (Georgia). Bourne manager Mike Rikard couldn't believe some teams still tried to overpower Brooks with fastballs. In two years on the Cape, Brooks has punished all who have dared. He has a lot of power, though he could shorten his swing. His arm and speed are decent, but he's still settling into left field after moving from catcher.

13. Mike Fontenot, 2b, Wareham (Louisiana State). Though he's just 5-foot-8, Fontenot is wiry strong at 180 pounds and is no pushover at the plate. One manager called him "a white Joe Morgan," and Roberts said, "He's the type who can not pick up a bat for three months, then get up on Christmas Day and get a hit." Fontenot runs well and plays solid defense. He'll be eligible for the 2001 draft as a sophomore.

14. Drew Meyer, ss, Chatham (South Carolina). Meyer looked tired after his freshman season, but his tools were evident. His above-average speed and arm are his best tools. Schiffner dismissed talk some scouts project him as a pro center fielder, saying that Meyer is a very good defensive shortstop.

15. Paul O'Toole, c, Brewster (Notre Dame). Lawn said no player raised his stock more on the Cape this summer than O'Toole. His arm strength isn't quite average yet and he's still raw behind the plate, but he's intriguing because he's a catcher with a nice lefthanded bat. He must continue to improve his defense and lose some weight.

16. Josh Brey, lhp, Bourne (Liberty). A 6-foot lefthander, Brey drew comparisons to former Cape star Billy Wagner, though he doesn't throw nearly as hard. Brey got the ball to the plate in the low 90s before tiring by the end of the summer, and he also has an average breaking pitch.

17. Ben Crockett, rhp, Wareham (Harvard). Crockett lacks an outstanding pitch but managers loved the way he works hitters. He has an average fastball, an average breaking ball and an improving changeup, and he can throw all three for strikes to both sides of the plate. He missed some time on the Cape with a tender elbow but still finished third in strikeouts.

18. Taft Cable, rhp, Orleans (UNC Greensboro). Some managers would put Cable much higher on this list, and he did shut down Team USA with 2 2/3 scoreless innings. The Cape saves leader, Cable goes right after hitters with his fastball, which tops out in the low 90s but lacks movement. He still needs an effective second pitch, and spent the summer working on a forkball.

19. Greg Porter, 3b, Wareham (Texas A&M). Porter stayed just two weeks on the Cape before joining the Aggies' football team, for which he plays wide receiver. He's a huge (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), lefthanded hitter with 30-homer potential, a strong arm and good speed. If he can stay at third base rather than first, that's another plus. Roberts called him the best athlete in the league.

20. Ryan Theriot, ss, Wareham (Louisiana State). Theriot is just 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, but managers praised his ability to lead a team in the field and catalyze an offense. He has a strong arm and very good speed, and he bolstered his offense by learning to switch-hit this summer. He needs to refine his throwing mechanics and get stronger.

21. Ryan Gloger, lhp, Brewster (Stanford). Gloger barely pitched for the Cardinal because his velocity plunged and the team had more polished options. He consistently threw 86-88 mph on the Cape but projects to throw harder because he's 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds. His changeup already is effective and his curveball was nasty at times.

22. Kevin Howard, 3b, Wareham (Miami). Baseball America's 2000 Freshman of the Year has solid tools and a quick bat, but he also has some work to do. He needs to get stronger to develop more home run power, and also could stand to improve his throwing and speed.

23. David Bush, rhp, Chatham (Wake Forest). Opinion was divided on Bush. Some managers loved the velocity (90-93 mph) and movement on his fastball, as well as his power breaking ball. Others though he was more of a one-pitch guy with a straight fastball.

24. Chad Tracy, 1b, Orleans (East Carolina). Tracy had one of the sweetest swings in the league. Now he must add some muscle to his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame so he can develop the over-the-fence power for first base. He played some third for Orleans but still projects as a first baseman.

25. Tanner Eriksen, rhp, Chatham (Southern California). Eriksen's command was so shaky that he pitched just 6 1/3 innings for the Trojans as a redshirt sophomore, posting a 25.58 ERA. But he also has a great body (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), fastball (it touches 95 mph) and second pitch (a wicked curve), which is why the Diamondbacks drafted him in the ninth round in June. It's all about command for Eriksen, who threw strikes on the Cape and worked seven scoreless innings in his lone start—in front of an Arizona scout.

26. Erick Threets, lhp, Cotuit (Modesto, Calif., JC). Threets was set to attend Louisiana State before signing in August with the Giants as a seventh-round pick. He's big (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and can throw in the low 90s with life. One manager thought Threets would pick up even more velocity once he scraps his slide-step delivery.

27. Brian Sager, rhp, Cotuit (Stanford). Once projected as one of the top picks for the 2001 draft, Sager endured a baffling summer, possibly because rumors that he'll transfer swirled about him. Only rarely did he flash the low-90s fastball with life that scouts covet. Some teams never saw him reach 90 mph, though at 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds he had one of the more projectable bodies on the Cape.

28. Kevin Youkilis, 3b, Bourne (Cincinnati). At 6-foot-1 and 220 pounds, Youkilis doesn't have a classic pro body. But he can play third base and he can hit with authority despite an unorthodox stance. He led the Cape in on-base percentage and managers also praised his makeup.

29. Daylon Holt, of, Cotuit (Texas A&M). Holt signed late in the summer with Oakland as a third-round pick, two rounds lower than where he was expected to go at the outset of the college season. More than one manager said Holt played as if he were disappointed by his draft status, though no one could deny his power to all fields or his arm strength.

30. Adam Stern, of, Harwich (Nebraska). Though Stern doesn't have an overwhelming physical presence at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, he gets the job done at the top of the order. He sprays line drives everywhere, gets on base and knows how to steal bases with above-average speed. He also is a capable center fielder.

Jim Callis is executive editor for Baseball America. You can contact him by sending e-mail to jimcallis@baseballamerica.com.

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