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Marlins Prospects

Moderator: Mike Berardino compiled the Marlins top 10 list, and will discuss the organization at 3 p.m. ET.

 Q:  Beth from Winnetka, Ill. asks:
What's your take on the Bartolo Colon sweepstakes? Is he going to be a Marlin, a Red Sox, an Expo? When and for whom does he get traded? And if the Marlins were really giving up Brad Penny, Adrian Gonzalez, Don Levinski and Blaine Neal, wasn't that too much? I don't see the Marlins contending even if they got Colon.
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Hi Beth. How are things in Winnetka? I now believe, despite the Marlins' pessimistic public comments, there's more than a 5050 chance Colon pitches in South Florida next season. Don't believe reports that the three teams (Reds as well) have agreed on the player package, however. I think that is still being ironed out. Supposedly, the pitcher Omar Minaya really wants to get from the Marlins is reliever Tim Spooneybarger, but they have no intention of letting him go. They view him as a strong eighth-inning option who could close in the not-too-distant future. The reported foursome would seem a high price for a pitcher who can walk in a year, but remember, there are health questions about three of those four (all but Neal). Gonzalez just got the cast off his right wrist after December surgery and won't be a full go until mid-March or so.

 Q:  Keith Hess from Berwick, PA asks:
Does Justin Wayne have a shot at making the Marlins out of Spring Training and do you see him as a potiental starter or middle relief pitcher?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: The Marlins really like Wayne and were impressed by his September audition in the big leagues. His intelligence and repertoire make him a strong candidate to open the year in the big league rotation. In fact, Jeff Torborg said recently that he views WayneMichael Tejera as the likely No. 5 starter, with Carl Pavano opening camp in the No. 4 slot. That's if the Marlins don't add another starting option in the meantime. Worst case, Wayne is the first callup for the rotation once something opens up. Don't see him being used in relief. He's purely a starter and needs more innings to keep developing.

 Q:  Dean The Dream Minutolo from Miami, FL asks:
What are the chances of former high draft picks Donnie Bridges, Geoff Geotz, and Omar Ortiz bouncing back from horrible years at AA? And do you see them advancing to AAA in 2003 or back to AA? Thanks and Holla!
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Donnie Bridges is no longer in the organization after flopping in a brief audition. Goetz still needs to prove he can stay healthy. His stock has plummeted and I'm not sure he'll ever make the majors. Ortiz showed some signs once Double-A pitching coach Tom Signore moved him to relief, but he's still too erratic and immature to project as a big-leaguer at this point. Goetz and Ortiz almost certainly go back to Double-A, which is now in Carolina instead of Portland.

 Q:  MoonDoggieMarlinsFan from Portland,ME asks:
Any chance of Dontrelle Willis getting a look-see in Spring Training? Where do you see him starting the 2003 Campaign?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Dontrelle Willis will be handled very carefully after a late-season health scare in his throwing arm. It was nothing serious but I wouldn't be surprised to see him open the year back at Jupiter, then moved to Carolina after a month or two. Basically, I think he was doing his Jobe exercises incorrectly and simply had to sharpen his between-starts routine. His future remains very, very bright.

 Q:  Keno Leighty from Vancouver, WA asks:
Good afternoon Mike. My question is reguarding Florida's SS and 2B outlook. Who projects as their best hitters in each of these positions? Thanks.
 A: 

Mike Berardino: SS Josh Wilson just missed a second straight appearance in the Top 10. He showed improved gap power at Jupiter and is drawing comparisons from Marlins officials to a young Jay Bell. Jesus Medrano, who has showed the ability to control the strike zone at Double-A, is their best offensive 2B prospect.

 Q:  Disgruntled Cubbie Fan from Chicago, IL asks:
Why did the Cubs give up on Willis??? And we wonder why we haven't won a World Series in how many years?? Great move for FL, bad move for the Cubbies!!!!
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Hey, the Cubs had to give up SOMETHING to get a closer and mid-rotation starter on the eve of Opening Day. The other three pieces the Marlins got in that deal -- Julian Tavarez, Ryan Jorgensen and Jose Cueto -- weren't all that spectacular. Plus, Willis was ranked No. 21 last winter in a deep Cubs farm system. He sat behind three other lefties, so it's not like the Cubs were giving up their premier prospect from the left side. Give the Marlins credit for good scouting and Willis credit for continuing to work to get strong and add velocity. He told me last summer he added about 4-5 mph between the end of the 2001 season and last year.

 Q:  Unemployed Billie the Marlin from Shreveport, LA asks:
Yo Mike, What is the status of my boy Jason Grilli? I know he had Tommy John Surgery in 2002. What his status for 2003?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: After making just one start last year, Grilli is slowly making his way back. The Marlins hope he'll be ready to pitch at some point in the first half of 2003, but he has fallen well behind many other pitchers in the system. He's 26 now with three career wins in the big leagues. He's a good guy and a hard worker, but there are serious doubts he'll even double that win total at this point.

 Q:  Joe Paterno from State College, PA asks:
Does former Penn Stater and #1 pick Nate Bump have any chance of making the Marlins after posting another "average" year in AA?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: JoePa, what's up? Go after any refs lately? And just how much do you spend annually on Grecian Formula? Come clean, pal. ... Oh, yeah, Nate Bump. Actually, he had a better than average year at Double-A. Good enough to get assigned to the Arizona Fall League. His strikeoutwalk ratio was nearly 31, and he gave up just five homers all year while pitching half the time in a bandbox ballpark. At 26, he's got to get moving, but I'd say his future is brighter than the other guy the Marlins got from San Fran in the Livan Hernandez deal. That would be Grilli.

 Q:  Eric Marinbach from Long Island, NY asks:
With the Marlins sending Kevin Millar to Japan and possibly trading the disgruntled Derrek Lee, does this open up a spot for Adrian Gonzalez?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: I keep hearing and reading references to the Marlins trading D-Lee, but have no idea where it's coming from. Despite his critical comments in July after Cliff Floyd and Ryan Dempster were traded, Lee was a good soldier and isn't going anywhere. He is one of just three bona fide power threats on this team (Mike Lowell and Juan Encarnacion are the others). Lee, like Lowell, won't be a free agent until after the 2004 season. There's no urgency to deal him now or even at midseason. Next winter might be another matter, especially if Gonzalez can overcome offseason wrist surgery and Jason Stokes continues his metoeoric rise. They like Stokes a little better than Gonzalez right now, which is why they apparently are willing to put Gonzalez in a deal for Bart Colon.

 Q:  ContractTheYankees2003 from Jupiter, FL asks:
Hi Mike, We had an awesome year in Jupiter last season!!! Do you see Denny Bautista, Will Smith, Todd Moser and Chip Ambres having a long future with the Florida Marlins in the Major Leagues barring any trades??
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Love your handle. You must have read my story in BA this time a year ago. "Long future with the Marlins"? That's sort of an oxymoron, isn't it? Or just about any other team these days. Will Smith made the Top 10 for the first time and just keeps gaining momentum and admirers. Ambres overhauled his swing at instructional league with the help of hitting coordinator John Mallee and showed real progress in Arizona. Bautista was shut down after just two starts in the Dominican this winter but the Marlins insist it wasn't due to injury. Moser is smart, gangly and left-handed, which means he'll get plenty of chances to work his way up the ladder.

Moderator: While we wait for Mike to return, executive editor Jim Callis will pinch-hit for a while . . .

 Q:  Petey Gammons from Cleveland, OH asks:
Where would have Luis Ugeto be on the Marlins Prospect list if he wasn't a Rule V pick by Seattle last year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hopefully, Mike will be back shortly. Until then, I'll handle a few questions. I did our Mariners list, and Ugueto ranked in the 11-15 range, and I think he'd rank similarly on the Marlins list. He's a plus defender and runner, though his offensive ability is still unproven. Not getting any at-bats as a Rule 5 pick makes his bat that much harder to judge.

 Q:  Jeremy from Two Rivers asks:
I was wondering if you believe Will Smith can eventually have the same success in the majors as he has in the past two years in A-ball. Both years he batted about .300 and seemed to be the best overall athlete on the field. Thanks for answering.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Sure. Smith has an unorthodox stance, but it works for him. He has the potential to hit .300 in the majors, and he could develop more than the 15-homer power he has shown thus far. He makes excellent contact, an extremely positive sign.

 Q:  Joe Dooley from Raleigh asks:
Hypothetical. There is a picher I know that I really really want to make your top 10 list. He is a 23 year old right hander, who is usually in the upper 80's. He throws 4 piches. Last year, he had a 103-64 K-BB ratio. He made 4 stops along the ladder last year, with A ball being the only place he posted an ERA below 4.85. After A ball, he was 5-10 and had a 5.21 ERA in stops at AA, AAA and the big club. Is there any chance he can make the list? It just strikes me as odd that a right handed picher with no out pitch (103 K in 177 IP) and just average control gets paid 3 million dollars as a college draft pick and ranks on an organizational top 10 list. Is he a dime a dozen picher who has prospered from hype, or are his secondary offerings so amazing that he really IS that good and most of his numbers just didn't back him up?
 A: 

Jim Callis: This question is a little confusing, but it appears that you're talking about Justin Wayne. You're taking a very slanted look at his big picture. Wayne doesn't light up radar guns, but he has very good command and pitchability, not ot mention two plus breaking balls and a nifty changeup. That's a good package. Your stats don't all make sense, as he pitched well in Double-A and had his moments in the majors. Harrisburg isn't Class A.

 Q:  Will from Indiana asks:
What do you know about the Marlins 2nd rounder in 2000 Garrett Berger? I know he touched the mid 90s in high school.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Berger blew out his elbow in instructional league in 2001, when he was the Marlins' top pick (second round) and signed for $795,000. He had Tommy John surgery and is working his way back. You have to root for a guy nicknamed "Chunk," don't you?

 Q:  Nathan from Roncalli asks:
If the rumored trade between the Marlins and Expos goes through, where would Adrian Gonzalez and Don Levinski rank among the Expos top 10?
 A: 

Jim Callis: They'd both rank in the Montreal's top three. I'd probably go Gonzalez, Levinski, Clint Everts in that order, but you could argue for just about any combination.

 Q:  Peter Friberg from San Diego, CA asks:
Hermedia wasn't well known until he shined in a HS tourny where scouts were there to see the eventual Braves pick, Francouer. Hermedia then shot up the charts and past Francouer - partly because of Francouer's $$$ demands. How do the two compare now?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Francouer had a very nice debut and is a slightly better prospect than Hermida. He's more athletic, though Hermida isn't a stiff. Hermida is a more advanced hitter and a legitimate first-rounder who was eyed by several teams ahead of the Marlins. He was a good pick.

 Q:  Brendan from Boston asks:
I was surprised by Jason Stokes' effort and advancement this season, what kind of ceiling does he have in the majors and how long before he arrives?
 A: 

Jim Callis: It shouldn't have been a surprise, as Stokes would have been an early first-round pick if not for his bonus demands in 2000, when signability reigned supreme. He was hurt in 2001 and showed what he could do when healthy last year. He has a huge ceiling, and should produce for power and average. He's a monster.

 Q:  dave from CA asks:
what is adrian gonzalez more likely to become a john olerud type or george brett type hitter? if he gets dealt to montreal will he have a shot to win the 1b job out of spring training?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Gonzalez has the potential to be a batting champ like Olerud and Brett, and he could develop more power. He could use another full year in the minors, but who knows what the crazy Expos might do?

 Q:  Mick from Chicago asks:
In the "Prospects to watch" section you mentioned Josh Wilson, Hooper, etc. as possible SS's for the future. Who do you see coming out on top and will he be better than the oft injured and bad attitude laden Alex Gonzalez?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Josh Wilson. He probably won't be a star but should be more dependable than Gonzalez.

 Q:  Mark L. Peel from Arlington Heights, IL asks:
While he was in the Cubs organization, I kept a close eye on Ryan Jorgensen, the best defensive catcher in the system. His hitting seemed to be developing extremely well until he injured his back shortly after a perhaps premature promotion to Double A in mid-2001. What's his current outlook?
 A: 

Jim Callis: The outlook remains the same. There's little doubt he could be a standout defender in the big leagues, but he hasn't come close to hitting enough to proving he should play every day at that level. My guess is he becomes a major league backup for a few years.

 Q:  Chad Moreau from Augusta, GA asks:
What¹s the biggest problem Jesus Medrano is facing? Does he strike out too much? Thanks Mike
 A: 

Jim Callis: He makes acceptable contact and has good plate discipline. Medrano's biggest weakness is that he's not strong enough to handle good inside fastballs, and he'll see lots of them.

 Q:  Grant Ely from Monroe, LA asks:
How difficult was it to place Cabrera ahead of a guy like Stokes?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Having discussed the list with Mike, I know he really could have gone either way. Either Cabrera or Stokes could have ranked No. 1 in several organizations.

 Q:  Alexander Jones from Watching the Hokas play for asks:
Does Wes Anderson have any baseball life left?
 A: 

Jim Callis: A little, but he's no longer the best Marlins pitching prospect this side of Josh Beckett. Anderson had arthroscopic surgery to repair an 85-percent tear in his labrum and some fraying in his rotator cuff, and he didn't get back on the mound until the end of 2002.

 Q:  Scott Sahr from Saint Louis asks:
What is the orgainizations opinion of Jeremy Hermida? What kind of ceiling does he have? Marlins are gonna be tough in a couple of years and wonder where Hermida fits in...Thanks for the great team chats!
 A: 

Jim Callis: The Marlins love Hermida, whom they were delighted to get with the 11th overall pick after there was talk he could go as high as No. 2. Depending on whom you talk to, Hermida gets compared to Eric Chavez, Andy Van Slyke, Paul O'Neill and Shawn Green. Not bad.

 Q:  Jay Reeder from Iowa asks:
Where do you think Miguel Cabrera and Jason Stokes fit in the top 100 prospects in baseball?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Off the top of my head, in the upper third.

 Q:  Will from Long Island, NY asks:
Is Cabrera the top 3B prospect in the minors today?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nope. That would be Mark Teixeira.

 Q:  Petey Gammons from Cleveland, OH asks:
I hearda rumor that Josh Booty is thinking about going back to baseball during the football off-season. What is the possibility of this and do the Marlins still own his rights?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: OK, I'm back... Haven't heard a thing about Josh Booty and baseball in years. I thought he was progressing decently in football. I believe the Marlins still own his rights and he was simply placed on a retired list. Not sure how much interest they would have if he decided to come back.

 Q:  Kenny A from Two Rivers, WI asks:
Is Brandon Bowe Florida¹s future closer? Do you see any other guys emerging into this role?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: In a word, no. Bowe reestablished himself with a solid season in Double-A and continued to pitch well in Arizona, but he's a middle reliever at best in the majors. Tim Spooneybarger is the closer-in-waiting in the majors, along with Blaine Neal, although the current crew definitely likes Spooney better. Down the road, hard-throwing Ronald Belizario and Victor Prieto could move into the role. Yorman Basardo and Juan Nova are two other names to keep in mind as potential closers.

 Q:  Michael Ferber from Roseville CA asks:
I was very surprised to see Miguel Cabrera as the #1 prospect and just cant see how he has as much potential or ability as Jason Stokes. Cabrera seems to be a big maybe when it comes to big league power and Stokes already has a ton of big league power with an amazing .341 batting average albeit low A ball. Not to mention Stokes was hurt last year and still put up insane numbers on a very poor Kane County team that had no other hitters. I believe Stokes had 15 intentional walks last year. Is Cabrera really that good because his numbers in high A last year were not that hot ? I know he was very young for the (FSL) and the doubles are impressive but I just cant see him anywhere near Jason Stokes in a year or two. I mean Stokes looks like he has a chance to be the next Mark McGwire but with a higher average perhaps ... What do you think ?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: It was a tough call, and there was definitely some support among Marlins officials for Stokes over Cabrera. But it came down to a couple of factors: 1) Cabrera was younger last year and playing (very well) at a higher level. 2) He plays third at a high level as opposed to being just as passable first baseman, as Stokes is. 3) 43 doubles in the Florida State League is pretty impressive and suggests many of those doubles will become homers at the next level. Plus, Stokes is coming off surgery to repair that cyst in his hand. No one knows for sure how he'll respond, although there's no reason to believe it will hinder him next year. With Cabrera, there are no health questions.

 Q:  Al from Miami asks:
Which why do u rate Jon Asahina? Is he going to be a pitcher or a hitter?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Asahina was drafted for both his bat and arm but he has concentrated over the last year on the mound. He put up a solid season at Kane County but didn't receive much support for the Top 30 after making it a year ago. His year was cut short by a rotator-cuff injury and there was still debate over whether he should go ahead and have surgery or not.

 Q:  Henkel fan from SD asks:
What are the chances Rob Henkel is their lefty out of the pen this year? who else is he competing with other than Ryan Snare?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Henkel will get a long look this spring in big league camp, as will Snare. While Snare has shown the ability to handle both starting and relieving, Henkel has been a pure starter who has had to overcome bouts of shoulder problems in the past. I think that probably keeps Henkel as a starter in the minors. Other options are slim after Almanza and Tejera. Osvaldo Mairena will get another look but he didn't show much last year or in Mexico this winter (0-2, 5.73 in nine games).

 Q:  Matt Stuebbs from The Woodlands, TX asks:
I saw Ryan Warpinski pitch last spring at Texas A&M. his stuff looked solid and his command at times was incomparable. We heard other coaches around the conference raving about this guy. Can you tell me anything about him? Thanks!
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Warpinski was an eighth-round pick last year, taken just ahead of fellow Aggie Eric Reed. While Reed made the Marlins Top 30, Warpinski wasn't quite there yet, although the Marlins are intrigued by him. He throws 88-91 with good movement and a sweeping slider that needs improvement. He didn't do much at instructional league because of a biceps strain, but he could move quickly now that he has calmed down a sometimes-violent delivery.

 Q:  marcus kilarski from chapel hill, nc asks:
i know josh beckett might not be considered a prospect anymore, but what kind of career do you think he will have. staff ace? cy young winner? or bottom of the rotation?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Josh will still be just 22 on Opening Day, so I think it's a little early to think about jumping off the bandwagon. The raw stuff is there to be dominant at times, but he's got to get this blister problem solved. Nolan Ryan and Al Leiter had the same problem early in their careers, so Josh is in good company there. I remember once predicting that a teenaged Tiger Woods was more likely to win six Masters than none. I'd say the same thing about Josh and the Cy Young.

 Q:  Jesus P Cardiel from El Mirage, Az asks:
What ever happened to Terrence Byron? He had a good 1st year, but I haven't heard much of him since...
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Terry Byron was a second round pick in '99, the Beckett year. He made the top 10 that year on the basis of a sound sinker-change combo, but let his weight go the next year and got hurt. He was released last summer. Not sure where he is now.

 Q:  from asks:
Mike,What do you think of the SS Kevin Hooper who had a 31 game hit streek last year in AAA calgary
 A: 

Mike Berardino: After the Angels won the World Series, everybody is looking for the Next Eckstein. Hooper might be the closest thing out there. He made a strong bid for the top 10 this year before falling off into the mid teens. Defensively, he can make all the plays at short and has a much stronger arm than Eckstein. At the plate, he fouls off tons of pitches and kills you softly with flares just over the infielders' outstretched gloves. In short, Hooper is a winning player and one who should not be underestimated. The problem for now is the Marlins have Andy Fox and Mike Mordecai in utility roles, so there isn't much room yet for Hooper. But there will be ... soon.

 Q:  MIKE from BATON RAUGE,LA asks:
I SEE THE PROPOSED TRADE FOR COLON INCLUDES PENNY,NEAL ,GONZALES, AND LEVINSKY. SINCE THE MONTREAL PEOPLE HAVE TAKEN OVER IN THE LAST YEAR, IT SEEMS THE HEIRARCY IS NOT AS HIGH ON NEAL AS THE OLD MARLINS REGIME. AFTER HIS PERFORMANCE IN SEPT. YOU WOULD THINK HIS STOCK WOULD HAVE RISEN. IT SEEMS HE HAS THE STUFF AND MENTALITY TO BE A CLOSER. WHATS YOUR TAKE ON HIM?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: I still like Blaine Neal as a prospect and future closer, though it appears it probably won't happen with the Marlins. His stuff isn't completely overpowering and he might be too laidback for some Marlins staffers, but I still see him having a long and productive big-league career.

 Q:  Alex Dachis from Calgary asks:
What do you think the future of outfielder Aberaham Nunez?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Nunez was one of the many Dominican players who aged overnight last spring. For that reason and because of his struggles commanding the strike zone, he's probably no more than a fourth OF in the big leagues at this point. He might surprise, might develop into a late-blooming Danny Bautista type. But for now, the bloom is off the rose.

 Q:  Stalby348291@marlins.fan.com from St Petersburg asks:
We always hear about the strength's on a player and rarely hear about the weaknesses. What is the knock on Chip Ambres?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: There aren't many knocks on Ambres, who is a quality person and legit prospect. Mainly it's just that he probably won't hit for much power, won't steal many bases considering his plus speed and has progressed slowly to this point. But he's picking up steam.

 Q:  david sampson from miami asks:
If Josh Willingham can make the transition to catcher does he jump into the top ten. His bat is unquestioned. Also, who are the other catchers to look out for down the road?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: There's no "P" in your name, David, but thanks for the question anyway. Willingham is definitely on the rise, but he'll have to prove he can handle catching everyday and not just for a couple of weeks at instructional league. Not much in the way of young catching in this organization, other than Ryan Jorgensen, which is a big part of the reason for Josh's position switch to begin with.

 Q:  Jerry from Massachusetts asks:
Do you think the Marlins will give one of the young guys (Spooneybarger or Neal) a chance to close this year, or will they stick with Looper andor Nunez all year?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: The job is Looper's until he proves he can't handle it. He can't be a free agent until after 2004, so Spooneybarger could have a long apprenticeship. If Looper struggles, though, the Marlins won't hesitate to use Spooneybarger in the role. They are very, very high on him.

 Q:  Chris O'Connor from Cranston, RI asks:
After seeing Cabrera a few times, It seems almost scarey how good this guy could be. I know he is tops on the list of prospects but does his upside semm as great as I think it could be? A Soriano type.
 A: 

Mike Berardino: He's different from Soriano in several ways. Speed isn't much a part of his game and he'll take a few more walks, although he needs to improve in that area. I've heard comparisons to a young Galarraga. Soft hands and a body that must be watched for softness as well.

 Q:  brian from florida asks:
How do you rank Jim Fleming as a scouting director. Given the fact that 3 of the top 6 of the vaunted Indians prospects were his drafts it seems as though he is doing a quality job. Also, his 2001 class with Karp, Levinski, and Hinckley looks very solid. With this in mind who are the sleepers from his '02 draft.
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Jim Fleming did some excellent work in running drafts for the Expos and (last year) the Marlins over the last five years. He has passed the baton to longtime friend Stan Meek, but Jim will retain a hand in future drafts. For Marlins fans, that's good news. Sleepers? Eric Reed (9) had them buzzing at instructional league with his Ichiro Lite game. Josh Johnson and Scott Olson showed plenty on the mound as well in the early going. Fleming told me that for makeup purposes, this was his best overall draft.

 Q:  Steve Liddell from Orlando,Fl asks:
How good is Ulysses Powell?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Can't be sure because no one has seen him play on these shores yet, but Marlins international scouting czar Fred Ferreira compares him to a young Vladi Guerrero. And Fred should know, since he signed Vladi as a 16-year-old kid. Powel (one 'L') won't make the Top 30 this year, but if he's as good as they say, he could push for the top 15 next year.

 Q:  Louie F from NJ asks:
You mentioned Josh Wilson as a possible future SS of the Marlins. What is his ETA and projections? Thanks...
 A: 

Mike Berardino: He should start out at Double-A this year and could get a September callup in 2004. I could definitely see him as the starting SS for the Marlins in '05, based at what I've seen and heard.

 Q:  baseballdad from wheaton, IL asks:
being a season ticket holder of the Kane county cougars, now affiliate of oakland, I got to know some of the Pitchers on the team. Other than Willis are the Marlins high on any other coougar pitchers?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: First, let me say, I've been to Kane County and see that operation and enjoyed the pork-chop sandwiches and believe the Marlins took a marked step down by leaving there for Greensboro. Kane County is a special place with the host families, packed ballpark and proximity to Chicago. The A's win again. As for those Cougar arms, Belizario made the top 15. Asahina and Baxter have injury questions, but the talent is there. Some in the organization really like Holdzkum, while others aren't so sure about his makeup. That's about it.

 Q:  Tmac from Miami asks:
If you had to pick one hitter and one pitcher to make big steps forward in the next season, who would they be?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Tough to say since my crystal ball has been cracked for years, but based on conversations with Marlins officials I'd go with Josh Willingham as the hitter and Scott Olsen as the pitcher.

 Q:  Jerry from Ft. Launderdale asks:
Say the Marlins pull off the trade for Bartolo Colon this week and actually end up competing for a post-season birth in 2003. Do you see them trading top prospect 1BLF Jason Stokes for major league help during the stretch run or has he become an "untouchable" in trade talks?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Yes, I do think they can compete in 2003 if they get Colon, and maybe even if they don't. The NL East is wide open. As for Stokes, yes, I've been told he is one of four untouchables in the system. The others are Cabrera, Willis and Hermida. They'll talk about everybody else if the price is right.

 Q:  Bill from Norwood, MA asks:
Did the Marlins get a better deal for Floyd than the Expo's did (Song and Kim)?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Based on Pavano's solid showing in the second half and the fact that he and Wayne could open this year in the rotation, I'd have to say yes. Plus, Don Levinski could wind up being the best one of the bunch, Song and Kim included.

 Q:  Henry from St.Louis asks:
What players are the Marlins looking at in the 2003 MLB Draft?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: Marlins pick 16th, so it's a little early to zero in on anybody.

 Q:  Shane Morin from Lewiston, ME asks:
You mentioned the Fish took a step down from Kane County last year. What kind of a step did they make from changing from Portland to Carolina? I am peeved by this move, I loved watching the young Marlins. Have you ever been to Portland? Have fond memories of there, ay? And who is the better pitcher, Josh Beckett or CC Sabathia? Which pitcher will do better in the future? How do you compare these two pitchers with others from the majors? Thanks for answering, if ever you do.
 A: 

Mike Berardino: OK, Shane, I'll stop ignoring your fine questions. Yes, I've been to Portland, and the fan support there was strong as well. The cold weather early in the year was a negative, however, as it was in Kane County. If there are any advantages to leaving those markets for the Tar Heel State, it would be the year-round weather. As for Beckett vs. CC, the Large One has the early lead in that race but I'd still put my money on Beckett in the long run. Josh is in excellent condition and has strong work habits, for starters. Plus, he's never been mugged at 3 a.m., at least not that I know of.

 Q:  Bill from Norwood, MA asks:
If you were GM, would you be trading any of your top prospects for Colon this year?
 A: 

Mike Berardino: I wouldn't touch the primo guys, but depending on how far down the list I could go, sure, I'd take a run at Colon. You have to understand, the Marlins were outdrawn last season by Sacramento, Memphis and Saltillo -- and, for all practical purposes, Montreal. They must do something to get the casual fan back to Pro Player Stadium, and talking about all the kids they have coming in 2005-06 just won't get it done. Colon might. MIGHT. If the Braves were still the Braves, I might be more cautious, but they're not.

Mike Berardino: Have to run now. This was fun. Sorry I couldn't get to all your questions, but glad to see so many BA readers out there thinking about the Marlins in the middle of the winter. Maybe there's hope for this franchise after all. Later.

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