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: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSRaleigh, N.C., 1999 (1st round). Signed by:Mark McKnight.
Background:The No. 1 overall pick in 1999 and the South Atlantic League co-MVP in 2000, Hamilton had a lost season in 2001. A series of injuries that began with a car accident during spring training and continued with ailments to his back and legs cost him most of the campaign. After jumping past high Class A Bakersfield, Hamilton hit just .180 at Double-A Orlando in April before being sidelined. He tried to make up for lost time in the Arizona Fall League, only to have a sore shoulder slow him down during the first week. Then a recurring lower back strain shelved him for the remainder of the winter. In a rare bit of good news, he didnt require surgery.
Strengths:A five-tool player, Hamilton is expected to excel in all phases of the game. He has outstanding power potential with great leverage, a quick swing and an ideal body at 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds. Despite his large frame and size 19 feet, Hamilton has good speed and is graceful in the outfield. A pitcher in high school who attracted interest from several teams for his 94 mph fastball, he has a plus arm that will enable him to play either right or center.
Weaknesses:All the potential in the world doesnt mean anything if a player cant remain on the field. Before last years injury woes, Hamilton hurt his right knee in June 2000 and missed most of that seasons second half. Despite his unquestioned ability, he needs to fine-tune all aspects of his game. That was obvious last April, when Hamilton failed to show patience while Southern League hurlers fed him a steady diet of offspeed pitches. He needs to work deeper into counts and stay back on pitches in order to maximize his power.
The Future:Tampa Bay was guilty of pushing Hamilton too fast last spring. The team flirted with the thought of having Hamilton jump all the way from low Class A to the big leagues, only to watch him fall victim to a lack of activity in between his various ailments. The Rays learned their lesson and want nothing more in 2002 than to see Hamilton stay healthy. While he should reach the majors in the not-too-distant future, he should spend most of this year sharpening his skills in Double-A.
2. Carl Crawford, of
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSHouston, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by:Doug Gassaway.
Background:Crawford was one of the youngest players in Double-A last year. After leading the South Atlantic League in hits and stolen bases in 2000, Crawford skipped high Class A and overcame initial struggles to rank third in the Southern League in steals and fifth in hits. He continued to blossom with a fast start in the Arizona Fall League before joining Team USA in World Cup competition.
Strengths:A potential four-tool player, Crawford is a pure athlete who had basketball and football scholarship offers from big-time colleges. He has great speed, quick wrists and a good idea of how to hit. His superior work ethic rivals that of any player in the system, and hes considered the Devil Rays most coachable prospect.
Weaknesses:Crawfords arm is his lone below-average tool. His baseball instincts, such as taking the correct routes on fly balls, should get better with experience. His pitch recognition and ability to work counts need improvement, and his swing could use some refinement.
The Future:The temptation for a player developing as quickly as Crawford would be to give him a taste of the big leagues. Tampa Bay, however, is scheduled to send Crawford to Triple-A Durham in 2002.
3. Dewon Brazelton, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: Middle Tennessee State, 2001 (1st round). Signed by:Skip Bundy.
Background:The No. 3 overall pick in the 2001 draft, Brazelton spent most of the summer haggling over his signing bonus. He agreed to a $4.2 million deal in late August that included a September callup, though he didnt pitch. Brazelton set a Team USA record with a 0.65 ERA in 2000 and finished third in NCAA Division I with a 1.42 ERA last spring.
Strengths:Brazeltons fastball sat on 95 mph during instructional league. He had the best changeup in the 2001 draft crop, and he added depth to his breaking ball during his one-month apprenticeship in Tampa. He also showed a good feel for mixing his pitches. He has a long and loose body, isnt afraid to challenge hitters and works both sides of the plate.
Weaknesses:Brazelton simply needs experience against top-notch hitters. His curveball could use some more fine-tuning before hell be a legitimate three-pitch pitcher.
The Future:The Rays believe Brazelton has the ability and maturity to reach the big leagues quickly. His showing in spring training will determine whether he makes his debut in Double-A or Triple-A, and he could climb the mound at Tropicana Field at some point in 2002.
4. Jesus Colome, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by:Angel Eusebio (Athletics).
Background:Acquired from the Athletics in a July 2000 trade for two relievers, Colome bounced between Triple-A Durham and the major leagues last year. While he struggled in 13 International League outings, he was one of Tampa Bays more consistent relievers, limiting hitters to a .208 average.
Strengths:Colomes fastball touches triple digits and has above-average movement. He has an easy throwing motion that reminds scouts of Mariano Rivera. His slider is effective against righthanders, and big league lefties batted just .186 against him. The Rays were impressed with the way Colome increased his intensity with runners in scoring position.
Weaknesses:Colome needs more consistency with his pitches and better overall command. His changeup comes and goes, causing him to lose confidence in it and allowing hitters to sit on his hard stuff.
The Future:Colome could become an overpowering closer, though either Esteban Yan or Travis Phelps is expected to finish games for Tampa Bay in 2002. Just 21, Colome needs to establish himself as a situational reliever before he can be trusted in save situations.
5. Rocco Baldelli, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 183. Drafted: HSWarwick, R.I., 2000 (1st round). Signed by:Matt Dodd.
Background:Drafted sixth overall in 2000, Baldelli turned down major college scholarships in three different sports to sign for $2.25 million. Despite battling minor back and hand injuries last year at low Class A Charleston, Baldelli ranked second on the team in triples, home runs and stolen bases.
Strengths:Baldelli impresses scouts with his instincts for the game. He has great quickness and runs the 60-yard dash in 6.38 seconds. His maturing body is starting to add strength, and he could develop above-average power. The Rays envision Baldelli as a pure center fielder capable of hitting in the middle of the lineup.
Weaknesses:The biggest hurdle Baldelli faces is making adjustments with his bat. He gets himself out more often than pitchers do, and he must tighten his strike zone. His arm is his lone tool that isnt considered above-average. Added strength will keep him from wearing down over the season, a problem in 2001
The Future:The Rays say Baldelli is making steady progress. Tampa Bays center fielder of the future (hell push Carl Crawford to left field), hell open 2002 at Bakersfield.
6. Seth McClung, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 235. Drafted: HSLewisburg, W.Va., 1999 (5th round). Signed by:Doug Witt.
Background:A seven-sport athlete in high school who signed for $350,000, McClung saw his second tour of duty in the South Atlantic League last season. He ranked third in the league in strikeouts and held hitters to a .231 average.
Strengths:McClung throws bullets, with a fastball clocked as high as 99 mph. The pitch consistently sat in the 93-95 mph range, and managers rated it as the SALs best heater. He has the makings of a plus curveball. McClung has a power pitchers body, with thick thighs and excellent size. He has given up just six home runs during the past two years and is a good all-around athlete.
Weaknesses:McClung needs to improve his secondary offerings to succeed at higher levels. He worked on a circle changeup during instructional league, learning that it was more effective when he toned it down from 86-90 mph to 82-83. While his command has improved the last two years, he still can do a better job of hitting his spots.
The Future:McClung is still discovering the nuances of pitching. Hes expected to move one spot up the ladder this spring to Bakersfield, though a promotion to Orlando might not be far away.
7. Matt White, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 230. Drafted: HSWaynesboro, Pa., 1996 (1st round). Signed by:Shawn Pender.
Background:Tampa Bay entered the 2001 season expecting White to make a strong push for the rotation. Instead, he faltered in spring training and lost his five decisions in Triple-A because of poor mechanics. His altered delivery was the result of shoulder pain that required arthroscopic surgery on May 31. He didnt pitch again in 2001.
Strengths:White has the tools to be an effective pitcher in the big leagues. He throws a mid-90s fastball with average movement, along with a plus overhand power curve. Hes an intelligent pitcher who has matured in all phases of his game.
Weaknesses:Inconsistent mechanics have been Whites downfall throughout his career. When his delivery gets off track, his entire game can suffer. He also tends to fall in love with his curveball instead of using his fastball to set it up.
The Future:White has yet to provide much of a return on the $10.2 million Tampa Bay invested in him when he was a draft free agent in 1996. The Devil Rays are confident, however, that wont be the case much longer. Hes expected to be close to full strength by Opening Day and could finally reach the big leagues in 2002.
8. Jorge Cantu, ss
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 178. Signed: Mexico, 1998. Signed by:Rudy Santin.
Background:At 19 Cantu was the youngest regular in the Southern League last year, when he reached Double-A in just his third pro season. Content to just survive early in the year, he earned a starting job in the SL all-star game and finished the season on an upswing.
Strengths:Cantu is a steady defender who has a chance to become an offensive shortstop. His tall, lean body, as well as his quick wrists and excellent bat speed, could make him a poor mans Nomar Garciaparra, though he has yet to even approach Garciaparras production. Cantu possesses some of the best hand-eye coordination in the organization.
Weaknesses:Cantu needs to refine his approach at the plate. Hes enamored of his occasional power and tries to drive every pitch rather than settling for making solid contact. His range is no better than average, and his footwork and throwing mechanics need significant improvement if he hopes to remain at short.
The Future:Cantu was slated to play in the Arizona Fall League before a sprained left ankle sidelined him for nearly two months. A promotion to Triple-A is on his immediate agenda.
9. Jason Standridge, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 217. Drafted: HSTrussville, Ala., 1997 (1st round). Signed by:Skip Bundy.
Background:Standridge had a disappointing season in Triple-A yet still reached the major leagues in July. After a stellar showing during spring training, the former Auburn quarterback recruit became tentative after hitting Toledos Tom Evans with a pitch, which led to a bench-clearing brawl that left Standridge with a swollen eye and sore hand.
Strengths:Standridge has a combination of above-average stuff and impeccable makeup as one of the organizations hardest workers. He has a 92-94 mph fastball and a hard, sharp-breaking curveball. He showed amazing confidence and ease in dueling Roger Clemens and the Yankees late last season.
Weaknesses:To succeed in the majors, Standridge must use both sides of the plate and pitch inside. His curveball got much better last year, but he still needs to fine-tune his changeup. He is trying to add a cut fastball to his repertoire.
The Future:The Rays say Standridge is on the verge of success. His game came together late in the regular season and during the Arizona Fall League, and he could win a job in the Opening Day rotation.
10. Delvin James, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 222. Drafted: Nacogdoches, Texas, 1996 (14th round). Signed by:Doug Gassaway.
Background:A former linebacker who maintains his football aggressiveness on the mound, James had an up-and-down season in 2001 while he moved between starting and relieving. He was practically unhittable as a Double-A starter before struggling to find his rhythm in Triple-A.
Strengths:James has one of the strongest arms in the organization. His fastball has been clocked as high as 97 mph and resides in the 93-95 range. He throws a decent changeup with stellar control of all his pitches. James has developed from a raw hurler thanks to his attitude and impeccable work ethic.
Weaknesses:The Rays would like to see James add a breaking ball, particularly a slider, to his repertoire. The extra pitch would give him another weapon to mix, keeping hitters more off balance.
The Future:The Rays havent determined which role James will play in the major leagues. His overpowering fastball, good command and tenacity could make him an ideal closer. His future responsibilities will depend on the needs of the Tampa Bay staff, which is where he could find himself with a solid showing in spring training.
Rest of the Best:
11. Bobby Seay, lhp
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