Anaheim Prospects 2-10
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSSeminole, Fla., 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Donny Rowland.
Background: The son of longtime Angels scout and minor league manager Tom Kotchman, Casey shot straight to the top of this list a year ago. After he led Seminole High to a No. 1 national ranking, the Angels popped him with the 13th overall pick.
Strengths: Kotchman is from the same classic mold as Will Clark and Mark Grace. He doesnt have the same picturesque stroke, but Kotchman combines rhythm and timing with bat speed and explosive contact. He has plenty of gap power now and projects to hit for above-average home run power as he matures. He has mastered the strike zone, and while theres some effort to his stroke, he rarely swings and misses. Hes equally outstanding on defense.
Weaknesses: Kotchman played in just 10 games for low Class A Cedar Rapids after June, and has had each of his first two seasons cut short by wrist injuries. It shouldnt be a long-term concern, but he needs to prove his durability over the course of a full season.
The Future: Kotchman returned to the Cedar Rapids lineup in time for the Midwest League playoffs and showed no ill effects by hitting .389. If healthy, he could be batting third in the Angels lineup by 2005.
3. Bobby Jenks, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 225. Drafted: HSSpirit Lake, Idaho, 2000 (5th round). Signed by: Jack Uhey.
Background: After an encouraging stint in big league spring training, Jenks was suspended for team violations at midseason. Subsequently demoted from Double-A Arkansas to extended spring training, he worked hard and finished 2002 by leading the Arizona Fall League in strikeouts for the second straight season.
Strengths: With an overpowering fastball that has hit 102 mph, Jenks is on the verge of harnessing his explosive stuff. He works in the mid- to upper 90s and added a two-seamer in the AFL. His power curveball is among the best breaking pitches in the minors, and he gained the confidence to throw it for strikes in Arizona. His arm action is clean and effortless.
Weaknesses: Jenks needs consistency on and off the field. He has to establish a rhythm on the mound and repeat his delivery. He has a feel for his changeup, but doesnt trust it enough to throw it for strikes.
The Future: Jenks will return to Double-A if he can build off his fall success in spring training. Scouts compare his dominant repertoire and frame to a young Curt Schilling. If he doesnt develop command, his stuff might allow him to become a closer.
4. Jeff Mathis, c
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSMarianna, Fla., 2001 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Tom Kotchman/Hank Sargent.
Background: Mathis grabbed scouts attention as fellow 2001 first-rounder Alan Hornes personal catcher in high school. Mathis spent most of his time between shortstop and the mound, hitting .506 while posting a 0.95 ERA. The Angels considered him with the 13th overall pick, where they snagged Casey Kotchman, and signed Mathis for $850,000.
Strengths: Mathis strong hands and plus bat speed allow him to drive the ball with power into the gaps, and eventually will produce home runs. Hes a premium athlete with an aggressive nature and above-average tools behind the plate. He already shows advanced receiving skills, a plus arm and a quick release. One scout said Mathis makeup is off the charts.
Weaknesses: Mathis needs minor adjustments at the plate in pitch recognition and situational hitting. Freak injuriesa broken hand in 2001 and broken cheekbone in 2002ended his first two pro years, and he was worn down during the last month of his first full season.
The Future: Mathis offers a unique combination of tools for a catcher and has the potential to be a two-way asset. He should move up the ladder rapidly alongside Kotchman.
5. Johan Santana, rhp
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 2000. Signed by: Clay Daniel.
Background: Santana has grown two inches and added 20 pounds since signing for $700,000and hes getting bigger. After leading the Rookie-level Arizona League in strikeouts in 2001, he finished third in the Midwest League last year. Licey manager and Red Sox advance scout Dave Jauss called Santana the best young prospect in the Dominican League.
Strengths: The ball screams out of Santanas hand, coming in as high as 98 mph. He pitches in the mid-90s and flirts with the upper 90s. He made progress with his plus slider last season and has the makings of an above-average changeup. With the help of pitching instructors Howie Gershberg and Mike Butcher, Santana eliminated the head jerk in his delivery.
Weaknesses: Santana has good control, filling the strike zone with three quality pitches, and needs to fine-tune his command to move the ball to different quadrants. He occasionally tips his changeup by slowing his arm speed.
The Future: Similar to a young Ramon Martinez, Santana has frontline stuff and a projectable pichers frame. Hell head Class A Rancho Cucamongas rotation at the start of 2003.
6. Dallas McPherson, 3b
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 230. Drafted: The Citadel, 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Marc Russo.
Background: In the Angels evaluation system, only three points separated McPherson from 2001 first-rounders Casey Kotchman and Jeff Mathis. Anaheim considered all of them with the No. 13 pick and managed to land all three. Several teams also coveted McPherson as a pitcher because he showed mid-90s velocity in the Cape Cod League.
Strengths: Theres tremendous violence in McPhersons swing, which generates the best raw power in the system. Hell develop more game power as he harnesses his stroke, and he has shown improvement in that regard. Content to go to the opposite field in college, hes now pulling pitches with more authority. At third base, he sports an above-average arm and soft hands.
Weaknesses: McPherson didnt play third base much in college, and it showed in 2002. He has to improve his footwork and square up to take advantage of his arm strength, but they are subtle adjustments.
The Future: Some scouts think McPherson is headed for first base or right field, and with Troy Glaus locked up at the hot corner, that would make sense. He could find himself in Double-A by the end of 2003 and knocking on the door in Anaheim in 2004.
7. Joe Saunders, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Virginia Tech, 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Chris McAlpin.
Background: Saunders was raw when the Phillies drafted him in the fifth round out of high school, but three years later he emerged as one of the most polished college lefties available. He went 12th overall in June and signed a predraft deal worth $1.825 million.
Strengths: Saunders can spot his 89-94 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, and he adds and subtracts from the velocity. Hes aggressive inside. His best pitch is his changeup, which drops off the table and is thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball. Operating with a sound delivery and repeatable arm action, he has above-average command and action to all three of his offerings.
Weaknesses: If Saunders can improve the consistency of the break on his curveball, he could flash three plus pitches. If his curve doesnt come around, he may toy with a cutter. Because he isnt overpowering, hell have to continue to be fine with his pitchers.
The Future: Saunders is similar to Jarrod Washburn but more advanced at the same stage. He could join a prospect-laden rotation in Rancho Cucamonga and reach Double-A in the second half of 2003.
8. Rich Fischer, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 180. Drafted: San Bernardino Valley (Calif.) JC, 2000 (21st round). Signed by: Tim Corcoran.
Background: Fischer pitched all of 11 innings in junior college, but area scout Tim Corcoran liked his arm strength and action as a shortstop. He was solid in 2001, his first full season on the mound, and led the minors with four shutouts while finishing third in complete games and sixth in strikeouts in 2002.
Strengths: Fischer has made impressive progress. He pitches in the low 90s with severe finish to his fastball, and he tops out at 95 mph. He works with a plus changeup and above-average command, rare for a converted position player. He honed his delivery, improving his curveball life and depth. He uses his aggressive demeanor to go after hitters.
Weaknesses: Fischer occasionally drops his elbow when throwing his curve, causing it to flatten. His arm works free and easy, but the Angels should be cautious with his workload because he wasnt conditioned to throw many innings as an amateur.
The Future: Though theyre deep in pitching and received inquiries about him at the trade deadline, the Angels hung onto Fischer. He has lots of room for growth in velocity and approach.
9. Joe Torres, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSKissimmee, Fla., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Tom Kotchman.
Background: Torres has gone the wrong way since ranking No. 1 on this list after his debut season. He hasnt approached the 96 mph he hit in 2000, though he made strides in 2002 despite pitching without his best stuff.
Strengths: Torres spent most of 2002 at 87-88 mph, touching 91, which forced him to a finesse approach. From a low three-quarters release point and with whip-like arm action, he creates effective arm-side run and sink on his fastball. His curveball has the potential to be a double-plus pitch. He has outstanding work habits.
Weaknesses: Because his delivery went haywire, Torres spent the offseason in yoga classes to gain flexibility. He lost arm speed and extension out front, costing him velocity on his fastball and bite on his curveball. His changeup is slightly below-average.
The Future: Angels scouts were impressed with Torres during offseason workouts and expect him to show up in spring training looking more like the pitcher they signed to a $2.08 million bonus. If things click for him in high Class A, hell catapult his way back into the systems upper echelon.
10. Chris Bootcheck, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Auburn, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Jeff Crane.
Background: Bootcheck, whose father Dan pitched in the Tigers system in the 1970s, started 2002 in Double-A. Despite a subpar performance, he earned a promotion to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he improved under pitching coach Mike Butcher. Bootcheck was at his best in the Pacific Coast League playoffs, fanning 16 in 11 innings.
Strengths: A good athlete, Bootcheck could have played Division I basketball. Hes lean and loose on the mound, with a sound delivery and an arm that works well. He regained some velocity and established a two-seam fastball while tightening his cutter. His fastball touches 94 mph and sits in the 89-92 range.
Weaknesses: Bootcheck fell in love with his changeup after relying heavily on an 86-87 mph darting slider in college, and it cost him some of his aggressiveness. His breaking ball isnt as sharp as it was at Auburn.
The Future: Bootcheck will return to Triple-A, where the Angels hope hell maintain a power mindset while working with Butcher for a full season. Bootcheck could be a solid No. 4 starter in the big leagues.
Best of the Rest
Three of the Angels young guns reportedly have hit triple digits on the radar gun. Beyond Bobby Jenks, Johan Santana and Derrick Turnbow, though, Anaheim has more power pitchers. The Angels have six live arms in the top 10, and three more righthanders just missed. Steven Shell and Rafael Rodriguez are two of the more projectable pitchers in the system, while Turnbow is trying to overcome a broken right arm.
Scouts believe the 20-year-old Shell will work his way up to 92-95 mph from his current 89-93 because of his fluid delivery, lightning-quick arm speed and body control. Still physically immature, Shell has two more potential plus pitches in his spike curveball and changeup. Rodriguez, 18, made his pro debut in 2002 after signing for $780,000. He already has touched 97 mph and could join the 100 mph club as he fills out his 6-foot-1 frame. He also throws a tight, biting slider.
Turnbow hasnt pitched much since coming to the Angels from the Phillies in the 1999 major league Rule 5 draft. He worked just 38 innings in 2000 on the Anaheim roster, and just 34 more in 2001-02. He logged 20 innings in the Arizona Fall League, sitting at 97-98 mph without pain.
Lefthander Jake Woods, 21, doesnt light up radar guns like those guys. Hes built like Terry Mulholland and throws an 87-92 mph fastball, a plus curveball and a promising changeup.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.
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