Tampa Bay Devil Rays Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Bill Ballew
1. Josh Hamilton, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSRaleigh, N.C., 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Mark McKnight.
Background: The No. 1 overall pick in the 1999 draft and the recipient of a $3.96 million signing bonus, Hamilton built on a solid debut season with an impressive campaign at Class A Charleston. He had little difficulty adjusting to the South Atlantic League and was the leagues top prospect by seasons end. Hamilton shared the leagues MVP award with Pirates catcher J.R. House and was voted as the best batting prospect, power prospect, outfield arm and most exciting player in a survey of Sally League managers. He was the youngest player in the Futures Game, where he went 3-for-4. The lone negative was a right knee injury he sustained after a misstep in pursuit of a fly ball. Hamilton missed the last month of the minor league season after having arthroscopic surgery to repair torn cartilage. He recovered in time to participate in instructional league.
Strengths: Hamilton is a rare breed. Hes one of the few players with five legitimate plus tools that continue to improve every time he takes the field. His power is increasing as his 19-year-old body matures. Anyone who saw his over-the-head catch, a la Willie Mays, in the SAL all-star game knows how much ground he covers in center field. His arm, which produced a mid-90s fastball while in high school, is one of the strongest among minor league outfielders. For all his tools, Hamiltons most important trait may be his baseball savvy. His knowledge of how to play the game far exceeds his experience.
Weaknesses: Its hard to find any aspect of Hamiltons game that could be deemed a weakness. Hes sometimes too aggressive at the plate, resulting in 72 strikeouts against 26 walks in 2000. With less than two full seasons of professional experience, Hamilton simply needs to remain healthy and get as many at-bats as possible so he can learn to make adjustments against more talented competition.
The Future: Hamilton showed during instructional league that theres no reason to expect him to be anything less than 100 percent by spring training. He was headed for a promotion at the time of his injury, and chances are hell bypass high Class A Bakersfield and move to Double-A Orlando to open 2001. A promotion to the big leagues could come as soon as 2002.
2. Jason Standridge, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSTrussville, Ala., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Skip Bundy.
Background: After not winning a game his first season and experiencing a rocky road during his second campaign, the former Auburn quarterback recruit has put together two straight solid seasons. Standridge made more progress than any pitcher in the Tampa Bay organization in 2000. He got stronger as the season progressed, going 5-0, 1.80 in August before starting a playoff game in Triple-A.
Strengths: The Devil Rays love Standridges character. Nicknamed The Stallion, hes considered the hardest-working pitcher in the system. He has learned to locate his low- to mid-90s fastball down in the strike zone before retiring hitters with his hard, sharp-breaking curveball. He has matured into an all-around pitcher who has learned from his mistakes.
Weaknesses: Standridge needs to sharpen his overall command. His changeup has improved but isnt quite up to major league standards.
The Future: Standridge is a strong candidate for Durham in 2001. He could move quickly if he makes the necessary progress against Triple-A hitters.
3. Carl Crawford, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSHouston, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Doug Gassaway.
Background: Crawford passed up football at Nebraska or basketball at UCLA. A $1.245 million bonus from the Devil Rays helped him make that decision. Despite limited experience, he has hit better than .300 and ranked among his leagues top 10 prospects in each of his first two seasons. He led the Class A South Atlantic League in hits and stolen bases in 2000.
Strengths: The Devil Rays rave about Crawfords ability to take instruction and put it to use. His enthusiasm is apparent, and he never seems intimidated. His best tool is his world-class speed, which helps him avoid long dry spells at the plate. He has improved his bunting ability, making his speed even more valuable.
Weaknesses: Crawford didnt play much baseball in high school, and his inexperience sometimes shows. He needs more at-bats to gain a better handle on the strike zone and more innings in the field to discover the nuances of playing solid defense. His arm is below average.
The Future: Crawford could bypass high Class A Bakersfield and open the 2001 season in Double-A. The Devil Rays insist he isnt on a timetable. Hell probably push Hamilton to an outfield corner when both are ready for the majors.
4. Aubrey Huff, 3b
Age: 24. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Miami, 1998 (5th round). Signed by: Rudy Santin.
Background: Huff continued his rapid climb through the Devil Rays organization in 2000. After feeling snubbed when he didnt receive an invitation to big league camp, he was voted the Triple-A International Leagues best batting prospect and ranked fifth in the IL in batting average. He received an Aug. 1 promotion to the majors and held his own at the plate.
Strengths: Huffs calling card is his disciplined ability to swing the bat. Immensely confident at the plate, he can drive the ball to all fields with his quick swing. He isnt vulnerable against lefthanders, though he shows more power against righties.
Weaknesses: Though he has shown improvement over the past two years with the glove, Huff needs to continue polishing his abilities at third base. Theres talk that he might be moved back to first base, his college position, in the near future.
The Future: The Devil Rays are satisfied that Huff is ready to compete in the major leagues. If Castilla departsand Tampa Bay would like to unload himHuff will be given the opportunity in spring training to challenge for the starting job at third base.
5. Jesus Colome, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Angel Eusebio (Athletics).
Background: The Devil Rays think they hit the lottery on July 28 when they got Colome from Oakland for relievers Jim Mecir and Todd Belitz. Colome posted a 3.59 ERA at one of the more favorable hitters parks around, Double-A Midlands Christensen Stadium. The Devil Rays shut him down after he had forearm soreness near the end of the season, though he returned in time to participate in instructional league.
Strengths: Colome is a dominating pitcher whose fastball has been clocked as high as 100 mph. When hes in a groove, that pitch can be unhittable. He also throws a hard slider that can be particularly difficult for righthanders to hit.
Weaknesses: Colome will be a candidate for the major leagues as soon as he improves his changeup. While his velocity is impressive, Colomes fastball is relatively straight. He also tends to get sloppy with his mechanics as he tires during games.
The Future: The Devil Rays see Colome moving rapidly. He should be a starter at Durham in 2001, though many scouts see him becoming a potential Mariano Rivera should he shift to the bullpen.
6. Brent Abernathy, 2b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSAtlanta, 1996 (2nd round). Signed by: Ellis Dungan/Tim Wilken (Blue Jays).
Background: The Blue Jays second-round draft pick in 1996, Abernathy was the key to the trade that sent pitchers Steve Trachsel and Mark Guthrie to Toronto July 31. He spent the entire season in Triple-A before starring at the Olympics, where he batted .385 and led all players with 15 hits and six doubles in nine games.
Strengths: The sum of Abernathys game is greater than the individual parts. Though his tools are modest, he has outstanding baseball instincts and does all the little things that lead to success for both himself and his team. Not flashy but always hustling, hes a true second baseman and an effective No. 2 hitter. Abernathy makes excellent contact that helps him hit for average. Hes also an above-average basestealer.
Weaknesses: Scouts who dont rave about Abernathy say he lacks overall athleticism. Hes steady with the leather, but his footwork at second could use improvement. He also could draw a few more walks.
The Future: The Devil Rays dont see Miguel Cairo or Bobby Smith as their second baseman of the future. Abernathy will have the opportunity to win the starting job in spring training.
7. Matt White, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HSWaynesboro, Pa., 1996 (1st round). Signed by: Shawn Pender.
Background: Inconsistency and a cracked vertebra in his back made White look like a $10.2 million bust during his first three professional seasons. That outlook changed in 2000 when the former loophole free agent experienced his first significant success. He was among the finalists for the U.S. Olympic team but
didnt make the final roster.
Strengths: White showed signs of learning how to pitch in 2000. He displayed more confidence and did a better job of mixing his pitches. He features a fastball in the mid-90s and a plus overhand power curve.
Weaknesses: White has a complex delivery and his mechanics can get untracked, which throws off his entire approach. Even when hes sound, White must work off his fastball instead of relying on his curveball when things get tough. Because his fastball has little movement, he needs to work the corners instead of the middle of the plate.
The Future: White showed added maturity while experiencing success at both the Double-A and Triple-A levels. The Devil Rays would like to see him further establish himself at Durham in 2001.
8. Bobby Seay, lhp
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSSarasota, Fla., 1996 (1st round). Signed by: Matt Kinzer.
Background: For the first time in four seasons as a pro, Seay stayed healthy and got much-needed innings. The recipient of a $3 million bonus as a loophole free agent in 1996, he led Double-A Orlando with a career-high 132 innings before earning a spot in Team USAs bullpen for the Olympics. He made just one appearance, recording two key outs in the opening game against Japan without allowing a baserunner.
Strengths: Seay is a fierce competitor with a bulldog mentality. He throws a low-90s fastball with exceptional movement, as well as an above-average curveball. Hes not afraid to challenge any hitter.
Weaknesses: A lack of maturity continues to be the greatest hurdle for Seay. He appears to let his mind wander on the mound, and needs to display a better grasp of how to use his plus stuff to his advantage. An improved changeup will help him become more effective against better competition.
The Future: With a solid season in Double-A under his belt, Seay should join Standridge, Colome and White at Durham to comprise one of the more promising rotations at the Triple-A level.
9. Rocco Baldelli, of
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSWarwick, R.I., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Matt Dodd.
Background: A superb all-around athlete, Baldelli impressed the Devil Rays with four above-average tools, including his 6.5-second speed in the 60-yard dash. While his production wasnt exceptional in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, the sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft showed the ability to make adjustments.
Strengths: Baldelli possesses all of the natural instincts required to be a standout center fielder. Several members of the Tampa Bay front office say hes the best pure center fielder they have seen. An aggressive defender with plus speed, Baldelli takes the right routes to balls and is flawless in throwing the ball to the correct base. He showed a willingness to work hard as well as a strong desire to improve while at Princeton and during instructional league.
Weaknesses: Baldellis lone tool that isnt above average is his arm. While he has a large frame, he needs to increase his overall strength. The Devil Rays think that as his body matures, hell add considerable power. He also needs to make more consistent contact.
The Future: Baldelli is scheduled to play his first full season in pro ball at Class A Charleston.
10. Travis Harper, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 190. Drafted: James Madison, 1997 (3rd round). Signed by: Shawn Pender.
Background: Harper signed with the Red Sox as a third-round pick in 1997 before the team voided his contract because he had elbow tendinitis. He has been healthy since signing with the Devil Rays and joined their big league rotation in September.
Strengths: Harper has tremendous control of his 92-mph fastball that he uses to pitch on both sides of the plate. Quiet and laid back off the field, hes an intense, intelligent and competitive pitcher who has a solid understanding of what he wants to accomplish on the mound. He showed his resiliency after getting bombed in his major league debut, improving with every outing and blanking the Blue Jays with a two-hit shutout.
Weaknesses: Harper needs to improve his curveball and changeup. Added strength would benefit him over the long haul of the season.
The Future: The Devil Rays believe Harper received a near-perfect taste of the big leagues in 2000. Aided by that experience, he should earn a job in the Tampa Bay rotation this spring.
Rest of the Best:
11. Toby Hall, c
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