Montreal Expos Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Michael Levesque
1. Donnie Bridges, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HS--Hattiesburg, Miss., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Greg Evans.
Background: Bridges was the first of eight selections the Expos had before the start of the second round in the 1997 draft as compensation for the loss of Moises Alou and Mel Rojas to free agency, and the failure to sign 1996 first-rounder John Patterson. After two undistinguished years, Bridges began to assert himself as a prospect in 1999 and continued his rise last season. After starting 2000 at high Class A Jupiter, he was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where Eastern League managers selected him as the circuits No. 3 prospect. He started 30 games between the two levels and showed the makings of a workhorse, ranking second overall in the minors with 201 total innings. His 16 wins were one off the minor league lead. Bridges pitched briefly in the Arizona Fall League but the Expos wisely sent him home after two outings.
Strengths: Bridges is a big, strong power pitcher with a full assortment of above-average pitches. Though he has the stuff to blow hitters away, his ability to throw with command and purpose to both sides of the plate may be more impressive. He has an easy delivery and throws a consistent 94-95 mph fastball with late movement. He complements it with a devastating 80-82 mph power curve that gets good spin and bite, and an improving 75-78 mph changeup. Expos officials praise Bridges for his pitchability, bulldog makeup and intelligence. Bridges also can wield the bat quite well for a pitcher, as his five pinch-hit at-bats would attest.
Weaknesses: Bridges made huge strides in the control department last year, but still needs to continue to improve the command of his changeup, which he has a habit of overthrowing at times. Like most young pitchers, he needs to be more consistent from start to start. Pitching more than 200 innings at age 21 isnt the best way to prepare for a long career, though Bridges wasnt responsible for how he was used.
The Future: The Expos are hoping their pitching staff at the major league level returns to health so Bridges can receive a full season at Triple-A Ottawa before he vies for a spot in Montreal. He projects to be an innings eater at the front of a rotation.
2. Brandon Phillips, ss
Age: 19. B-T: B-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSStone Mountain, Ga., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Darryl Monroe.
Background: Phillips comes from a family of athletes. His mother was a basketball star at Shaw University in North Carolina, where she met his father, a running back on the football team. Brandons older brother Jamil played in the Rangers system and his sister Porsha is a nationally ranked junior sprinter. Brandon has been compared to a young Barry Larkin.
Strengths: Phillips is a high-ceiling middle infielder with a live, athletic body. Hes an above-average shortstop with soft hands, solid range, plus arm strength and superior lateral movement. Hes a line-drive hitter with plenty of bat speed. He projects to hit with above-average power for his position. Phillips is an average runner with good baserunning skills. The Expos speak highly of his intelligence.
Weaknesses: Phillips still needs to refine his skills. He routinely makes the spectacular play, but his youth sometimes shows up in the field and he loses concentration. Hes prone to not squaring up on his throws, causing throwing errors.
The Future: The Expos have an abundance of slick-fielding shortstops, but hes their long-term answer. Hell begin the 2001 season at high A Jupiter and a quick ascent is a distinct possibility.
3. Brad Wilkerson, of
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Florida, 1998 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Mark Leavitt.
Background: One of the top two-way players in NCAA history, Wilkerson struggled when he made his pro debut at the Double-A level in 1999. He returned there and flourished in 2000, earning a promotion to Triple-A and ranking second in the minors with a combined 47 doubles. He finished the season in Sydney as the center fielder on the U.S. Olympic team.
Strengths: Wilkerson has the classic tools of a right fielder. He has a smooth, compact swing from the left side, with outstanding bat speed and extension that should enable him to hit with above-average power. Hes disciplined at the plate. Hes a solid corner outfielder with a strong arm and average speed.
Weaknesses: Wilkersons troubles two years ago were a blessing in disguise. He realized he needed to improve and entered 2000 in much better physical condition. He lacks the speed to play center as a pro.
The Future: With right field blocked by Vladimir Guerrero, Wilkerson seems bound for left or even first base in Montreal. Offseason shoulder surgery will push the start of his season back, costing him a chance to win a job with a strong spring.
4. Josh Girdley, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSJasper, Texas, 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Dennis Cardosa.
Background: Girdley gained national notoriety when he stuck out 29 batters in a 10-inning game in high school in 1999. The Expos have seen no need to rush him, keeping him in short-season leagues for two years. He dominated the New York-Penn League last year and was named the circuits No. 3 prospect.
Strengths: Girdley has a projectable body with long arms and legs. He comes at batters with three above-average pitches: a 92-93 mph fastball with late life, a curveball that has a tight downward rotation, and a changeup that he throws with excellent arm speed. His mechanics are smooth and effortless, which gives him the potential for plus command, and he does an outstanding job of repeating his delivery.
Weaknesses: Girdley is physically immature and needs to add weight and strength. Expos officials rave about the way he competes but would like to see him pitch inside more. He missed instructional league with a double hernia but should be fine by spring training.
The Future: Girdley projects as a frontline starter. Hell get his first taste of full-season ball in 2001 with Montreals new low Class A Clinton affiliate.
5. Justin Wayne, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Stanford, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: John Hughes.
Background: Wayne became the first native Hawaiian selected in the first round of the draft when the Expos grabbed him fifth overall. An All-American at Stanford, where he set school records for single-season victories and career strikeouts, he lost the College World Series championship game in relief against Louisiana State. Wayne, whose brother Hawkeye pitches in the Mariners system, signed for a team-record $2.95 million bonus.
Strengths: Wayne is a polished pitcher with a smooth delivery and four solid pitches. His fastball is more notable for its movement than its 88-92 mph velocity, and his slider is his best pitch. He has a plus changeup and solid curveball, and he can command all of his pitches. The Expos cant say enough about his intelligence and makeup.
Weaknesses: Wayne has a deep repertoire but doesnt have a go-to pitch that strikes fear in the heart of batters. His margin for error isnt as great as that of Bridges or Girdley.
The Future: Though the Expos gave Wayne some time off after his long college season, hes definitely on the fast track. He should get to Double-A this season and could be in Montreal by early 2002.
6. Grady Sizemore, of
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Drafted: HSCascade, Wash., 2000 (3rd round). Signed by: Scott Goldby.
Background: Sizemore was a standout football playerhe rushed for 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior quarterback/running backwho planned to play both baseball and football at Washington before Montreal lured him away with a $2 million bonus.
Strengths: The Expos view Sizemore as a special player. They rave about his athleticism and ability to pick up instruction. He has impressive bat speed, uses the whole field, and has an advanced understanding of the strike zone. He keeps the bat head in the hitting zone a long time and projects to hit with above-average power. He runs a 6.6 60-yard dash and gets good jumps in center field.
Weaknesses: Sizemore has average arm strength and still displays some stiffness in his throwing stroke because of his football background. Montreal officials believe it will smooth out with time. He has trouble catching up to anything up in the strike zone.
The Future: Ranked the No. 8 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season, Sizemore has the ability and makeup to move quickly. The Expos expect him to start 2001 with short-season Vermont but think Clinton is a realistic possibility.
7. Scott Hodges, 3b
Age: 22. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSLexington, Ky., 1997 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Mike Berger.
Background: Hodges is yet another member of Montreals vaunted 1997 draft bonanza who asserted himself as a bona fide prospect last year. He set career highs across the board while earning a spot on Baseball Americas postseason high Class A all-star team.
Strengths: Hodges best tool is his bat, which is one of the best in the system. He has above-average bat speed with quiet hands to the ball when he strides. He has a smooth, level swing with good top-hand extension and follow-though. Hodges is an aggressive hitter with plus power potential. Hes a solid third baseman with an average arm and speed.
Weaknesses: Hodges shortened his stroke in 2000 and abandoned the high leg kick that had triggered his swing. The changes kept his head still and increased his ability to make contact. He still needs to develop physically and work on the mental aspects of his game.
The Future: With Michael Barrett back behind the plate, Hodges appears to be the third baseman of the future. He should begin the 2000 season at Double-A, with a chance for a promotion to Triple-A.
8. T.J. Tucker, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSNew Port Richey, Fla., 1997 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Doug Carpenter.
Background: Tucker began 2000 at Double-A and pitched well in seven starts before a promotion to Montreal. In his second of two starts with the Expos, he left with a strained right forearm. He made one rehab outing with Harrisburg before getting shut down for the season and undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery.
Strengths: Tucker is a big body whos praised for his competitiveness, acumen and feel for pitching. He has outstanding command of a 90-93 mph fastball that has a bit of tail. He supplements his fastball with a nasty 75-78 mph curveball with a 12-to-6 downward break, and a straight changeup.
Weaknesses: Its imperative that Tucker improve both his strength and conditioning. He lacks command with his curveball at times, but its a dominant pitch when he consistently throws it for strikes.
The Future: After pitching well in instructional league, Tucker is expected to be fully healthy and ready to go for spring training. If hes able to get in a full Triple-A season, he should challenge for a spot in the Montreal rotation in 2002.
9. Wilken Ruan, of
Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Arturo DeFreites/Fred Ferreira.
Background: Ruan hit .348 in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 1997, then struggled mightily with the bat in his next two seasons. He emerged in 2000, finishing second in the Class A South Atlantic League in hits and stolen bases.
Strengths: Ruan has a wiry athletic body with well-defined muscles and loose flexible actions. Hes an outstanding center fielder with well above-average flychasing skills and a cannon for an arm. In addition, hes a top-of-the-scale runner with good first-step quickness and keen baserunning ability. At the plate, Ruan has impressive bat speed and sprays line drives from line to line.
Weaknesses: Ruan is aggressive at the plate to a fault. Hes never going to have much powerhe has just two homers in 305 games in the United Statesand needs to concentrate on getting on base. His strike-zone judgment and pitch selection leave a lot to be desired.
The Future: After two seasons in the Sally League, Ruan is ready for high Class A in 2002. The Expos already have a pair of young center fielders in the big leagues in Peter Bergeron and Milton Bradley, so competition awaits Ruan in the future.
10. Luke Lockwood, lhp
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 165. Drafted: HSVictorville, Calif., 1999 (8th round). Signed by: Robby Corsaro.
Background: Lockwood was a standout baseball and football player in high school. He was a two-way star on the diamond, leading his league in homers while dominating on the mound. On the gridiron, he was an all-area quarterback who topped his league in touchdown passes.
Strengths: Lockwood has a lanky athletic frame that projects to get bigger and stronger. His balanced delivery and quick, easy arm action provide the foundation for above-average command. His fastball has good movement and consistently hits 87-90 mph, and he can top out at 91-92 when he needs a little extra. Lockwood also has a nasty curveball with plenty of tilt.
Weaknesses: His circle changeup is still in the early stages of development because he never had to use it much in high school. With work, it can be a plus pitch. Lockwood needs to improve his strength.
The Future: When Expos officials talk about Lockwood, the first word is always "moxie" or "mature." Those traits are the reason theyll challenge him with a full season in the Florida State League at 19.
Rest of the Best:
11. Matt Cepicky, of
Copyright 1998-2001 Baseball America. All rights reserved.|
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.