Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects
By John Manuel
Roy Halladay and Vernon Wells, who ranked No. 1 on the Jays Top 10 Prospects lists for a combined five years, emerged as franchise cornerstones. Halladay led the AL in innings and won 19 games while Wells played a Gold Glove-caliber center field and drove in 100 runs.
Eric Hinske won BAs Rookie of the Year award, while fellow rookies Orlando Hudson, Josh Phelps, Mark Hendrickson, Justin Miller and Pete Walker all made contributions. The club found a new direction under Carlos Tosca, who replaced Buck Martinez and led the Jays to a 58-51 record.
BA rated the organizations 2002 draft as the best in the game, and first-year general manager J.P. Ricciardi made some fine moves, such as acquiring Hinske from the Athletics and dumping Raul Mondesis contract on the Yankees.
"Looking back from November to now I think were going in the right direction," Ricciardi said late in the season. "Were walking. Were not running. We may start walking a little bit faster."
Ricciardis next move was to supplement the roster with six-year free-agent signings, a hallmark of his tenure with the As. That was followed by another trade with Oakland, getting Corey Lidle for the rotation for a couple of marginal prospects.
For all Torontos potential, though, things could also go wrong in a hurry. Ricciardi is still a young GM and must find a way to move first baseman Carlos Delgado, whose contract eats up more than 20 percent of the Jays projected payroll. He also must bring together his organization, part of which was alienated by the firing of several longtime scouts and minor league coaches in the offseason.
Also, the graduation of talent to the majors has left the Blue Jays with holes atop the minor league depth chart. Toronto still has future big leaguers in the pipeline, but finding a surefire impact player is difficult.
Finally, the Blue Jays dont have a lot of money to spend any longer. The club lost an estimated $55 million in 2002. As the Canadian dollar remains weak against its American counterpart, Torontos financial picture remains murky at best. So Ricciardi and the Jays need to develop young, cheap talent more than ever.
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSLudowici, Ga., 2000 (1st round
supplemental). Signed by: Joe Siers.
Background: The Blue Jays have a history of success when drafting high school righthanders in the first round, and McGowan is starting to fit the bill. The record includes Steve Karsay (1990), Chris Carpenter (1993) and current Toronto ace Roy Halladay (1995). McGowan was a supplemental pick for the loss of free agent Graeme Lloyd, a trade the Jays would make every time. A standout basketball player as well as a shortstop and pitcher, McGowan helped Long County High to the Georgia state playoffs three years in a row and became the most decorated pitcher from south Georgia since Joey Hamilton. He struggled out of the gates in 2002 but started to right himself with a dominating 11-strikeout, five-inning outing at Savannah with hundreds of friends and family on hand to watch.
Strengths: When McGowan is on, he has front-of-the-rotation stuff. His fastball is the best in the organization; its heavy and reaches anywhere from 92-97 mph. More important for a young pitcher, McGowan has become more consistent with his fastball command. A true power pitcher, he throws a power curve with 11-to-7 break from a three-quarters release point, and he showed better control of the pitch in 2002. The combination helped him lead the low Class A South Atlantic League in strikeouts. A good fielder, he has an athletic pitchers body and his arm works well.
Weaknesses: McGowans changeup remains a work in progress, and he has yet to dominate his competition. He struggled with command and consistency of his delivery early in the season, when he tended to overstride. It resulted in too many pitches up in the strike zone and a 5.43 ERA through May. As with most young pitchers, his biggest need is innings and experience.
The Future: McGowan has stepped to the front of the Blue Jays line of young power arms, because of injuries to Francisco Rosario and Tracy Thorpe, his stuff, and his experience edge compared to Brandon League. Pitching on the same staff with Rosario and Thorpe at Charleston provided a positive, competitive atmosphere for McGowan, but hell make the next step to Class A Dunedin without them. His third pro year was his first in a full-season league, and the Jays will continue taking it slow with him.
Click here for prospects 2-10.
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