Arizona Diamondbacks Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Mark Gonzales
1. Alex Cintron, ss
Age: 22. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HS--Puerto Rico, 1997 (36th round). Signed by: Arnold Cochran.
Background: Cintron gives the Diamondbacks system hope amid the criticism it has received for all of the top draft picks who havent panned out. He has steadily improved in each of his past three seasons, earning league all-star honors in the last two. He has become a more determined player since batting .200 in Rookie ball in 1997 after coming out of a Puerto Rico high school as a 36th-round pick.
Strengths: Theres nothing to dislike about Cintrons physical talents. Hes a capable switch-hitter who has batted better than .300 in each of the past two seasons and was among the batting leaders in Puerto Rico this winter. Hes tall for a shortstop, yet possesses exceptional range at a demanding position. Durability isnt a question, as he has played a total 253 games over the past two seasons. He also has a tremendous desire to learn and improve. Cintron could be Arizonas shortstop of the future, yet he had no qualms about playing third base in Puerto Rico because big leaguers Alex Cora and Luis Lopez were at shortstop and second base, respectively.
Weaknesses: Theres no masking Cintrons 32 errors last summer. He simply needs to become more consistent. Hell offset a dazzling defensive play with a throwing error on a routine play. Despite his range, hes not a blazing baserunner. Any comparisons to Nomar Garciaparra and Derek Jeter are premature because Cintron has hit just 10 professional homers in four years. Despite his high batting averages, his on-base percentages have been mediocre because he rarely walks.
The Future: If Cintron had a year of Triple-A experience under his belt, the Diamondbacks might have traded Tony Womack this winter in an effort to strengthen their team in other areas. Its a tribute to Cintrons potential that Arizona hasnt made him yet another of its prospects included in a deal for an established veteran. If he continues to improve, hell be in line for a September callup. Cintron was added to the 40-man roster this winter, so hell get an opportunity to impress new manager Bob Brenly this spring. Should he establish himself as a big league regular, it would be a shot in the arm for a 1997 Diamondbacks draft that has been largely unsuccessful.
2. Jack Cust, of/1b
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSFlemington, N.J., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Dave May.
Background: Cust has mashed the ball in four years as a pro, batting a combined .315-66-280 with 335 walks in 378 games. The Diamondbacks wisely let Cust play the entire 2000 season at Double-A El Paso, where he ranked fourth in the Texas League in runs and on-base percentage (.440).
Strengths: Cust has the most power of any prospect in the organization. His lefthanded uppercut swings have drawn comparisons to the Brewers Geoff Jenkins and Jeromy Burnitz. Cust enhances his offensive ability with his willingness to take a walk, which means he doesnt help pitchers by getting himself out.
Weaknesses: Unfortunately for the Diamondbacks, Cust may be better suited for the American League. A former first baseman, he has moved to the outfield and shown very little defensively. His big swing makes him susceptible to strikeouts.
The Future: Cust irked the Diamondbacks by leaving his Dominican League team after just three weeks. He could have used the time to work on his planned switch from left to right field. The team was encouraged that Cust was getting better reads on fly balls in right. Should he improve there, he could reach Arizona by the end of 2001.
3. Luis Terrero, of
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 183. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Junior Noboa.
Background: The Diamondbacks were upset but not heartbroken when they lost Abraham Nunez to the Marlins in 1999, completing the Matt Mantei trade. Thats because they still had Terrero, a legitimate five-tool player and one of Latin American coordinator Junior Noboas top finds. Terrero made two exceptional defensive plays in the Hall of Fame game last July.
Strengths: Terreros Cooperstown performance reinforced his ability to play exceptional defense in either center or right field because he has quality range and arm strength. He has stolen 55 bases over the past two seasons, and he might hit for power as he gets stronger and advances through the system.
Weaknesses: Terrero has a long swing and has averaged more than a strikeout per game as a pro, unacceptable for someone who hasnt produced many home runs. Arizona believes hell become a more disciplined hitter and less susceptible to outside breaking pitches.
The Future: A solid year at Class A would put Terrrero back on track after he spent most of the last two seasons at Rookie-level Missoula. His progress would be a big lift in the wake of Nunez departure.
4. John Patterson, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSOrange, Texas, 1996 (1st round). Signed by: Ray Corbett.
Background: Everyone in the organization noticed something was wrong last spring when Pattersons fastball was clocked at just 90 mph. It took another month before doctors discovered a torn ligament. The Diamondbacks decided he needed Tommy John surgery after seeking several medical opinions. They have a lot invested in Patterson, who received a $6.075 million bonus as an amateur free agent out of high school.
Strengths: Before his injury, Pattersons 96 mph fastball was only his second-best pitch. When healthy, he throws a knee-buckling curve that he disguises well thanks to his smooth mechanics. Patterson has 399 strikeouts in 351 pro innings, a tribute to the command of his fastball and curve.
Weaknesses: The rehabilitation period has given Patterson time to assess why he has gone 18-29 as a pro. He needs to trust his stuff and not give in to hitters. He hasnt hit a batter since 1998, a sign that hes letting opponents get too comfortable.
The Future: If all goes well, Patterson could return to Triple-A by mid-May. The Diamondbacks expect to bring back their entire 2000 rotation, so theres no urgency to rush him.
5. Jerry Gil, ss
Age: 18. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 183. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1999. Signed by: Junior Noboa.
Background: Score another one for Latin American coordinator Junior Noboa. Everyone in the organization raves about Gil. They dont care that he batted .225 in Rookie ball in his pro debut. They merely want him to get acclimated to playing in the United States and get experience, with the results coming later.
Strengths: Gil has the range and arm strength to play shortstop, and he needs little polish because of his smooth footwork. Hes so good defensively that he could push Alex Cintron to second base should both reach the majors. His size gives him good offensive potential, and the Diamondbacks adore his dedication to the game.
Weaknesses: Gil was a bit overmatched debuting in the United States at age 17. He committed 35 errors and had just 12 extra-base hits and 11 walks, though the Diamondbacks insist they werent disappointed. He just needs experience to work on all facets of his game. Hell continue to get plenty of instruction without being suffocated.
The Future: Hell get plenty of time to develop into the player Arizona envisions. With the more established Cintron well ahead of him on the organizational ladder, theres no reason to hurry Gil.
6. Brad Cresse, c
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Louisiana State, 2000 (5th round). Signed by: Ray Corbett.
Background: If the last name sounds familiar, thats because Cresse is the son of former Dodgers bullpen catcher Mark Cresse. Brad made a name for himself by driving in the winning run in the 2000 College World Series title game, capping a senior season in which he led NCAA Division I with 30 homers and 106 RBIs.
Strengths: Cresse loves to play and made an impressive transition from the college game to the high Class A California League. He even held his own after a late promotion to Double-A. Power is his best tool, and its obvious that hes been around the game for most of his life. His work behind the plate was better than advertised.
Weaknesses: Cresse showed the effects of a long 2000 season during his rough stint in the Arizona Fall League, where he batted .169. He was vulnerable to breaking pitches in the final weeks. Roving catching instructor Ron Hassey will continue to work with Cresses defense.
The Future: Cresse is on the fast track, as evidenced by his start in the Cal League, his jump to Double-A and his placement in the AFL. He probably needs a full year in Double-A, but his future is bright.
7. Jeremy Ward, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Long Beach State, 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: James Keller.
Background: The Diamondbacks kept their eye on Ward even though his stock dropped during his junior year at Long Beach State. He didnt disappoint them as a second-round pick in 1999, vaulting from Class A to Triple-A in less than a half season. But reconstructive elbow surgery shelved him for nearly all of 2000.
Strengths: Former Diamondbacks manager Buck Showalter raved about Ward last spring, and it was easy to see why. Ward showed the fearlessness of a veteran instead of someone in his first major league camp. Before his injury, Ward threw 94 mph and had a sharp slider.
Weaknesses: Ward probably wont return until midseason, and his maximum effort delivery will cause concern. He struggled with his control before the severity of his elbow injury was diagnosed. He also gained extra weight on a thick body during the layoff.
The Future: The Diamondbacks can afford to be patient with Ward, who isnt required to be placed on the 40-man roster yet. He already has received a taste of major league camp and a severe injury, so nothing should faze him. He loves to compete, and Arizonas biggest task may be to keep Ward from rushing back too quickly.
8. Chris Capuano, lhp
Age: 22. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Drafted: Duke, 1999 (8th round). Signed by: Steve Swail.
Background: The Diamondbacks let Capuano complete his studies at Duke after he signed as a junior in 1999. They assigned him to extended spring training after he earned his degree last year, then sent him to Class A South Bend, where he was dazzling. He shared the organizations pitcher-of-the-month award for July, then won it outright in August.
Strengths: The Diamondbacks might have found a late bloomer in Capuano, who now can devote all his time to baseball. He went 10-4 on a 60-78 South Bend team thanks to his great mound presence. His best pitch is his curveball, and he also has a 90-mph fastball, good velocity for a lefthander.
Weaknesses: Capuano can refine his control, but his biggest need is experience. He spent time in instructional league and the Arizona Fall League. He doesnt have overpowering stuff, so he might be as good as hes going to get. Still, the Diamondbacks are anxious to see what Capuano can do in a full professional season.
The Future: With lefthanded starters at a premium, the Diamondbacks might have found themselves a jewel if Capuano can improve his command by devoting more time to baseball.
9. Bret Prinz, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 185. Drafted: Phoenix (Ariz.) JC, 1998 (18th round). Signed by: Louie Medina.
Background: Prinz is a case of local kid making good. He attended Centennial High in Peoria, Ariz., and was drafted out of Phoenix College. He made the transition from starter to sidearm reliever prior to the 2000 season, saving him from being relegated to a mere organizational pitcher.
Strengths: With the help of former minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson and sidearm specialist Brad Clontz, Prinz made a significant improvement to vault into prospect status as a closer. He throws a 94 mph fastball thats murder on righthanded hitters. He quickly developed the mentality to want the ball in a save situation, and his arm proved resilient enough to close.
Weaknesses: Prinz needs to polish his slider as a second pitch. While he throws plenty of strikes, he needs to improve his location because he was fairly hittable last year. That was especially true against lefthanders, who batted .344 off him in Double-A.
The Future: Prinz still has plenty of room for improvement, which is encouraging considering how far hes come along as a closer in his first year. He probably will be the closer at Triple-A Tucson.
10. Jose Valverde, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1997. Signed by: Junior Noboa.
Background: Another one of Junior Noboas finds in the Dominican, Valverde may have closer potential. He struggled at the beginning of 2000 at Class A South Bend, but dominated the competition at Missoula, where he didnt allow a run in 12 appearances.
Strengths: Valverde has an intimidating body and intimidating stuff. He regularly throws in the mid-90s and has touched 98 mph. His slider and splitter can be overpowering as well. He throws with a loose arm action that makes him less susceptible to injury
Weaknesses: Valverdes biggest problem at South Bend was his inability to harness his fastball, which he did a better job of following his demotion. The Diamondbacks would like to see him throw his splitter more often.
The Future: Valverde probably will start 2001 at high Class A Lancaster with the hope he can jump to Double-A by the end of the summer. Once he develops into more of a pitcher than a thrower and becomes more acclimated to the United States, the Diamondbacks believe he could move quickly through the system.
Rest of the Best:
11. Lyle Overbay, 1b
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