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The top prospects in the deadline deals

By Jim Callis
August 1, 2002

CHICAGO–In terms of the present, the Athletics, Cardinals and Red Sox made out best in all of the wheeling and dealing leading up to the July 31 deadline for trades not requiring waivers. Oakland (Ray Durham, Ted Lilly) and St. Louis (Scott Rolen, Chuck Finley) bolstered their lineups and their rotations, while Boston (Cliff Floyd, Alan Embree, Bobby Howry) picked up the best hitter available and also deepened its bullpen.

But here at Baseball America, we always keep at least one eye on the future. The quality of young players switching addresses was better than usual in 2002, and we might see more moves in August because it should be easier than ever to slide high-priced veterans through waivers. For now, these are the 10 best burgeoning talents acquired in the recent flurry of trades:

1. Brandon Phillips, ss, Indians (age 21). Cleveland fans couldn’t understand why general manager Mark Shapiro would trade Colon, but he realized his club couldn’t re-sign Bartolo Colon after 2003 and wouldn’t contend until 2005. The Indians extracted three blue-chip prospects from Montreal, including a rare five-tool shortstop in Phillips. He’s a potential 20-20 man who may break in at second or third base while Omar Vizquel remains with the Indians.

2. Carlos Pena, 1b, Tigers (24). With Detroit in disarray, GM Dave Dombrowski mirrored Shapiro and turned his team’s ace into three promising minor leaguers. Pena’s star has dimmed with two trades in six months and a growing reputation for not making enough adjustments or contact. But this is the same guy who ranked fifth on BA’s 2002 Top 100 Prospects list, and Pena has the intelligence to figure it all out and produce for both power and average.

3. Jeremy Bonderman, rhp, Tigers (19). If Bonderman hadn’t gotten his general-equivalency diploma and entered the 2001 draft as a high school junior, he’d just be entering pro ball. Instead, he has excelled as a teenager in the high Class A California League, going 7-8, 3.55 with 139 strikeouts in 127 innings. He’s showing a mid-90s fastball and a hard breaking ball every time out. It can’t be made official until the one-year anniversary of his signing on Aug. 22, but he’ll be the player to be named in the Weaver trade.

4. Cliff Lee, lhp, Indians (23). Another component of the Colon trade, Lee may be able to claim his spot in the rotation later this season. With four above-average pitches at times (two- and four-seam fastballs, slider, curveball), he has better stuff than fellow Triple-A Buffalo southpaws Brian Tallet and Billy Traber. Lee’s command keeps improving and hitters still can’t made consistent contact against him.

5. Seung Song, rhp, Expos (22). Depending on the identity of the third unnamed player they’ll receive, Montreal may well have given up more to get Floyd from Florida (Donald Levinski, Justin Wayne and salary dumps) than it got to send him to Boston (Song, Sun-Woo Kim). However, Song is the best prospect in either package, a highly advanced Korean with a low-90s fastball and sometimes-tantalizing curve. His biggest concern is an elbow that was sore and required an MRI–it came back clean–in late June.

6. Donald Levinski, rhp, Marlins (19). Florida decided it couldn’t re-sign pending free agent Floyd and salvaged something by getting Levinski and Wayne. Young pitching prospects are always risky, but Levinski is worth taking a chance on because of his three plus pitches: a mid-90s fastball, a sinker and a slider. Levinski, who was leading the low Class A Midwest League in wins (12-5, 2.59), hadn’t officially joined Florida yet as he awaited the one-year anniversary of his Aug. 4, 2001 signing. Wayne also has some upside, though he’s more of a finesse pitcher.

7. Jason Arnold, rhp, Athletics (23). By brokering the Tigers’ trade of Weaver to the Yankees, creative Oakland GM Billy Beane grabbed Lilly and added two quality prospects in Arnold and outfielder John-Ford Griffin. Known more for his relief exploits in college at Central Florida, Arnold has missed bats as a pro starter, showing a mid-90s fastball and quality slider and changeup.

8. Franklyn German, rhp, Tigers (22). For a team that has blown more leads than any other, the arrival of the Dominican Lee Smith can’t happen soon enough. Yet another piece to the Weaver deal, German made the biggest impression on scouts at the 2002 Futures Game. He throws high-90s gas, backs it up with a nasty splitter and has fanned 166 batters in 114 innings over the last two seasons.

9. Francisco Cruceta, rhp, Indians (21). With Colon, Cleveland traded value for value. With reliable but oft-injured Paul Shuey, the Indians erased $6 million in salary for 2003-04 while also extracting two intriguing arms from the Dodgers in Cruceta and Ricardo Rodriguez. Cruceta made his U.S. debut in April, throwing a no-hitter in his fifth start. He has blown hitters away with his 90-95 mph fastball.

10. Grady Sizemore, of, Indians (20). The third player Cleveland got for Colon, Sizemore turned down a college football scholarship from Washington. His bat speed, foot speed and center-field range are all very impressive, and he should hit for power as he matures and learns to coordinate his swing better. The Indians also added position-player depth with outfielders Ben Broussard (for Russell Branyan) and Luis Garcia (for Finley).

Jim Callis is executive editor for Baseball America. You can contact him by sending e-mail to jimcallis@baseballamerica.com. For more trade analysis, click here.

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