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Prospects Could Come Back to Haunt Old Squads

By Jim Callis

CHICAGO–The Astros, Cubs and Giants all improved themselves significantly with deadline trades, while the Phillies settled for minor adjustments and the Twins remained in neutral.

We like to look ahead, however. Rather than dwell on the impact of the deals on the 2001 playoff races, we’ll spotlight the best younger players included. Though no Drew Hensons were involved this year, plenty of talented players should be heard from in the future.

1. Bruce Chen, lhp, Mets (age 24). For the cost of superfluous relievers Turk Wendell and Dennis Cook, New York got Chen and lefthander Adam Walker from the Phillies. Atlanta’s top-rated prospect entering the 1998 and 1999 seasons, Chen has won with intelligence and command. He doesn’t have a 90 mph fastball and he struggled in Philadelphia this year, but Chen is a potential No. 2 starter.

2. Jose Ortiz, 2b, Rockies (24). When the Royals traded Jermaine Dye to the Athletics, they would’ve been better keeping it as a two-team deal. Instead Kansas City sent the three Oakland prospects it received to the Rockies for Neifi Perez. Ortiz, the 2000 Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP, was the best of those A’s farmhands. He was a preseason American League rookie of the year favorite but hurt his calf and lost his job to Frank Menechino. That doesn’t take away from Ortiz’ promise as a 20/20 middle infielder who won’t need help from Coors Field to reach those totals. Ortiz would rank ahead of Chen if he were a lock to stay at second base, but his defense isn’t the best.

3. Ruben Quevedo, rhp, Brewers (22). To add David Weathers to its bullpen, the Cubs surrendered Quevedo. If Chicago needs another starter this year, that trade could prove costly. Quevedo was 9-5, 2.99 at Triple-A Iowa and led the PCL with 150 strikeouts in 142 innings. He has a live arm and is doing a much better job of keeping the ball down in the strike zone, which he didn’t do when he got hammered last summer in the majors.

4. Milton Bradley, of, Indians (23). From a pure tools standpoint, Bradley is the top player on this list. Physically, there’s nothing he can’t do. The question is whether he’ll make the most of his ability, as his temper and inconsistent hustle have been problems in the past. He could bat either first or third depending on how he develops, though he must improve his plate discipline. Cleveland picked him up in a prospect-for-prospect trade with the Expos for righthander Zach Day, and could use Bradley to replace Kenny Lofton in center next year.

5. Tony McKnight, rhp, Pirates (24). McKnight pitched well in limited trials with the Astros but had been surpassed by young arms such as Wade Miller, Roy Oswalt and Tim Redding. That made it easier for Houston to send him to Pittsburgh for Mike Williams. McKnight shows three plus pitches at times, and some scouts compare him to Ron Darling. He’ll move immediately into the Bucs rotation, where he’ll soon be joined by . . .

6. Ryan Vogelsong, rhp, Pirates (24). Giants manager Dusty Baker called Vogelsong untouchable less than a week before he was sent to Pittsburgh as part of a package for Jason Schmidt and John Vander Wal. Vogelsong had one of the best arms in the San Francisco system and has pitched well in Triple-A this season. He still needs to work on his control and secondary pitches.

7. Zach Day, rhp, Expos (23). Montreal acquired more useful pitching than any team at the deadline, with Day the best of the group. Part of the package the Yankees paid for David Justice in 2000, he has recovered from rotator-cuff surgery two years ago. Day gets outs with a low-90s sinker, and the pitching-starved Indians may rue dealing him.

8. Nick Bierbrodt, lhp, Devil Rays (23). Tampa Bay’s prime motivation in trading Albie Lopez to the Diamondbacks was to jettison salary, but Bierbrodt is a decent southpaw who allowed only one run over six innings in his first Devil Rays start. The first-ever draft pick in Arizona history, Bierbrodt has shaken off elbow and ribcage problems from last year to again throw in the low 90s and show a big league curve.

9. Roberto Miniel, rhp, Cubs (21). While it was a bit curious to see Chicago sacrifice Quevedo in the Weathers trade, it was equally intriguing to see Milwaukee throw back a legitimate prospect in Miniel. Signed out of the Dominican Republic by noted international scout Epy Guerrero, Miniel is projectable at 6-foot-4 and 160 pounds, and he already has a plus fastball. In his first extended shot at full-season ball, he was 4-6, 4.08 with a 117-27 strikeout-walk ratio in 104 innings at low Class A Beloit.

10. Rich Rundles, lhp, Expos (20). In exchange for Ugueth Urbina, the Red Sox sent Tomo Ohka and Rundles to Montreal. Ohka is more of a known quantity while Rundles didn’t make Baseball America’s 2001 Prospect Handbook, but Rundles has the brighter future. He keeps his two-seam fastball down in the strike zone, making batters pound it into the ground. He’s still far from ready, though his 7-6, 2.43 record and 94-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 115 innings at low Class A Augusta looked pretty.

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

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