Jim Callis solicited the opinions of scouts, whose comments appear below. They helped us break down the tools of Nick Johnson and Carlos Pena on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 20 is poor, 50 represents major league average and 80 is outstanding. The numbers we use represent the potential each prospect is likely to realize. Ages are as of Opening Day.
This was the closest of the five matchups. Not only were scouts equally divided on whether Johnson or Pena was the better player, they also were split on who was the better pure hitter, the better power hitter and the better defender. About all that is certain is that Johnson has a superior grasp of the strike zone, while Pena is more athletic. While we put Pena ahead of Johnson on the top 100 because he produced more in 2001, more than one scout pointed out that Pena is a hot-and-cold player who salvaged his season last year with a hot final month. After hitting .257 with 16 homers and 51 walks through July, he batted .375 with seven homers and 29 walks afterward.
"Its Pena. He has more adjustability with the bat. He probably doesnt have more raw power, but he has more usable power. He can adjust to pitches in a difficult spot, while Nick has more of a grooved swing. Carlos will take a breaking ball away and adjust."
"That is tough. The way I would break them down, assuming Johnson is healthy and all that is behind him, I think hell be the best power guy of the two. I think Pena is the best pure hitter. Id lean toward Johnson over Pena because hes a little more of the prototype first baseman you want in the middle of a lineup. Theyre both very good defensively. Theyre so close. But if you held my hand to the fire and made me bet on the 35-home run guy down the road, Id say Johnson."
"I probably like Pena a little bit better because of his athleticism. I think Johnson is a pretty good athlete, and I like the style he hits, how he uses the whole field, and hes light around the bag. I just like Pena a little more. Johnson has pull power. Pena has gap power. Both are going to have enough power to play the position."
"We would take Nick Johnson over Carlos Pena. I dont know if we have the same feel on Penas bat that some other people do. We see him as an average-producing first baseman. The other guy has more of a chance to be an impact guy. With Carlos, its an issue of overall contact. He has a lot of strikeouts. Some of those numbers he put up are a little bit fluff. He drives in a lot of runs in 13-3 games. Im not sure hes a guy who can carry a club."
"Id probably go with Pena. Nick Johnson might be more of a pure hitter, but Pena might bring a little more power to the table. Pena is a little bit better defensively at first base. Pena might give you a little more versatility."
"I think Nick is going to hit a little bit more at this stage. Hes a little bit more pure with the bat and hes always had the big on-base percentage, and I like that combo. Carlos is still pretty streaky. He had a good year in Triple-A, but he put up most of those numbers in one month."
"Id take Pena. I think hes more of a run-producing guy. Hes more of a sure bet than a brute slugger. But theyre both very, very good."
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