Montreal Expos Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Michael Levesque
1. Brandon Phillips, ss
Age: 20. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Bats: B. Throws: R. Drafted: HSStone Mountain, Ga., 1999 (2nd round). Signed by: Darryl Monroe.
Strengths: Phillips is a potential five-tool player at a premium position. He has a live, athletic body and rare natural ability. Hes an above-average defender at shortstop with soft hands, solid range, superior lateral movement, excellent first-step quickness and a cannon for an arm. He has enough power on his throws to go into the hole and nail runners from short left field. At the plate, he has a line-drive swing and impressive bat speed that projects to produce more power in the future. Phillips uses the whole field, gets deep into counts and has an advanced awareness of the strike zone. He is an average runner with astute baserunning skills.
Weaknesses: Despite Phillips ability to beat teams with his glove, bat or speed, hes still rough around the edges. He made 18 errors in 55 FSL games. Though he cut his errors down to 12 in 67 Double-A contests and was much steadier after his promotion, he still needs to show more consistency with routine plays.
The Future: The Expos have an abundance of slick-fielding shortstops, but Phillips offense separates him from the rest of the pack. Expos officials say he rises to the occasion, so theyll challenge him with a promotion to Triple-A Ottawa, where hell start the 2002 season at age 20. With Orlando Cabrera entrenched in Montreal, Phillips will be given time to develop his skills.
2. Brad Wilkerson, of
Age: 24. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Drafted: Florida, 1998 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Mark Leavitt.
Background: The organizations 2000 minor league player of the year and starting center fielder on the U.S. Olympic team, Wilkerson missed the first month of the 2001 season after surgery on his left shoulder in December. Promoted to Montreal in early July, he struggled mightily and was sent back to Triple-A six weeks later.
Strengths: Wilkerson is the best pure hitter in the system. He has a fluid swing with good extension, impressive plate coverage, opposite-field power and an advanced understanding of the strike zone. He makes adjustments and uses the entire field. Hes a relentless defensive player with an average but accurate arm. He has average speed and keen baserunning skills.
Weaknesses: Wilkersons difficulties in the majors persuaded the Expos to let him go back to using the high leg kick he employed in college. Hes beginning to cover up holes on the inner half of the plate.
The Future: Wilkerson was used sparingly in September after his return from Ottawa. With a good spring, he should be the Expos everyday left fielder in 2002.
3. Grady Sizemore, of
Age: 19. 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 player who had committed to play both baseball and football at Washington before the Expos lured him with a $2 million bonus. He made considerable progress during his first full season, batting .327 over the final two months of the season.
Strengths: Sizemore has a lean, athletic body with loose, flexible actions. He has above-average center fielder range, speed and instinctive flychasing skills. At the plate he has an uncanny understanding of the strike zone and shows advanced pitch recognition. He has a smooth, easy swing with impressive bat speed. He does a good job of staying back with his swing, so he isnt fooled by breaking pitches and changeups.
Weaknesses: Once Sizemore learns to incorporate his lower half into his swing, he projects to hit with plus power to all fields. He has below-average arm strength and needs to improve his throwing mechanics by keeping his front shoulder closed.
The Future: Expos officials are giddy with excitement when they talk about Sizemore. Hell open 2002 with Jupiter and could find himself in Harrisburg by seasons end.
4. Donnie Bridges, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSHattiesburg, Miss., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Greg Evans.
Background: The organizations top prospect last year, Bridges logged just 81 innings as he tried to regain his stuff. Bridges began the season in Triple-A before being shut down with a sore shoulderpossibly the result of working 201 innings in 2000. After he missed two months, he worked his way back to Triple-A in August.
Strengths: When Bridges is right, hes a power starter who locates a 92-94 mph fastball on both sides of the plate. His heater has good sink and tails to the right. He complements it with a biting curveball with late, two-plane break thats a plus pitch at times, as is his changeup. Like his fastball, it sinks and tails.
Weaknesses: Bridges had erratic command in 2001 because his delivery got out of sync. His front side kept flying open, leaving his pitches up and off the plate. He rarely looked comfortable on the mound.
The Future: Bridges will return to Ottawa, where the Expos would like to see him healthy and successful before he vies for a rotation spot.
5. Josh Karp, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210. Drafted: UCLA, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: John Hughes.
Background: Drafted in the eighth round out of high school by the Braves, Karp passed on a seven-figure bonus to attend UCLA. He went 23-7 over three seasons for the Bruins but rarely showed signs of dominance. After a summer-long holdout as the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft, he signed in late September for $2.65 million.
Strengths: Karp has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter if everything comes together. He has a prototype pitchers body to go with a clean, easy arm action, sound mechanics and, at times, three above-average pitches. His arsenal includes a 90-94 mph fastball with exceptional late action at the plate, a tight-breaking curveball with good spin and bite, and an outstanding circle change with late sink.
Weaknesses: Karp relied on his changeup in college, and the Expos would like to see him establish his fastball more in the pro ranks. He needs to improve the command and consistency of his pitches.
The Future: Karp never experienced a lot of success in college but will be put on the fast track. Hell go to big league camp before making his pro debut with one of Montreals Class A affiliates.
6. Justin Wayne, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Stanford, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: John Hughes.
Background: Wayne pitched well enough at Jupiter to earn a promotion to Double-A after seven starts. The fifth overall selection in the 2000 draft then reeled off eight wins in his final nine decisions.
Strengths: Wayne has good command of four pitches. His two main weapons are an 88-91 mph two-seam fastball that sinks down and in on righthanders, and a deceptive change that does an outstanding job of decelerating bats. He has an average slider with fair tilt and break. Wayne does a good job of using both sides of the plate and getting in on hitters with his fastball.
Weaknesses: Wayne has a 71-75 mph curveball that he seldom uses. It still needs work because it lacks bite and depth, and he has a tendency to drift and cut it off at times. His four-seam fastball generates fringe-average velocity without much effort but lacks movement.
The Future: The Expos planned for Wayne to pitch in the Arizona Fall league, but they decided against it after he came down with a tired arm. Though he doesnt have overwhelming stuff, he has won everywhere he has pitched. That should continue at Triple- A Ottawa in 2002.
7. Rich Rundles, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSDandridge, Tenn., 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Matt Haas (Red Sox).
Background: Though Tomo Ohka also was included and wound up pitching for Montreal, Rundles was the key player in the July deadline deal that saw closer Ugueth Urbina shipped to Boston. After spending two seasons in complex leagues, he ranked third in ERA in the South Atlantic League in 2001.
Strengths: Rundles is a strike-throwing machine. He has the ability to throw with command and purpose to both sides of the plate, inducing grounder after grounder. He has an 86-90 mph two-seam fastball that runs and sinks. It breaks late, as does his curveball. Rundles also owns a plus changeup, a fine feel for pitching and plenty of composure.
Weaknesses: Rundles doesnt have overpowering velocity with his fastball, but he projects to throw harder because of his smooth compact delivery, loose easy arm stroke and projectable body. At times his curve can be consistent.
The Future: Rundles will follow the natural progression and start 2002 with Jupiter. The Expos view him as a potential No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors.
8. Zach Day, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 185. Drafted: HSCincinnati, 1996 (5th round). Signed by: Steve Chandler (Yankees).
Background: Originally drafted by the Yankees, Day is with his third organization in just over a year after coming over to the Expos in a swap with the Indians for outfield prospect Milton Bradley. The Yankees had sent him to Cleveland in 2000 in a package for David Justice. Day has made a complete recovery from 1999 rotator-cuff surgery.
Strengths: Day has a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-94 mph fastball with sink, an 81-83 mph curve with good bite and two-plane break, and a 78-84 mph change with nice arm speed and sink. He has a sound delivery with good rhythm, mixes his pitches well, works ahead in the count and tries to induce early contact. The ball comes out of his hand with ease.
Weaknesses: Day will drift through his balance point and throw across his body from time to time. He sometimes flies open in his delivery, making his control inconsistent.
The Future: Day, who got his first taste of Triple-A after coming to the Expos, will return to Ottawa to polish his game before making a run at a spot in the rotation in 2003.
9. Luke Lockwood, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Drafted: HSVictorville, Calif., 1999 (8th round). Signed by: Robby Corsaro.
Background: Lockwood was the organizations most consistent pitcher in 2001 despite a 5-10 record with low Class A Clinton. He led the Midwest League in complete games and placed second in ERA and innings. He was shut down late in the year, not because of injury but because the Expos didnt want to pile any more innings on him.
Strengths: Lockwood has a lean, wiry, strong body with a whip-like arm action. He does an outstanding job of repeating his delivery, throwing first-pitch strikes and mixing his pitches well to keep hitters off balance. Lockwood pitches inside and commands both sides of the plate with his 86-88 mph two-seamer, which has good downward movement. He has a solid 75-77 mph curveball. His changeup is also an above-average major league pitch.
Weaknesses: Lockwood would rate higher if he threw harder, though hes still young and projectable. He sometimes tips off his changeup by slowing down his arm speed.
The Future: Lockwood is a few years away from getting serious consideration for a big league spot. Hell head to Jupiter in 2002 to continue his climb.
10. Eric Good, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170. Drafted: HSMishawaka, Ind., 1998 (2nd round). Signed by: Dan Freed.
Background: The Expos love lefthanders and have been infatuated with Good since drafting him. After missing the majority of 2000 with a sprained nerve in his elbow, he pitched pain-free in 2001 and would have led the Florida State League in ERA had he not fallen four innings short of qualifying.
Strengths: Good has an effortless arm action, a compact delivery and three plus pitches. His best is a 79-81 mph changeup that he keeps down in the zone with tail and sink. He complements it with an 88-91 mph two-seam fastball and a hard-biting 78-81 mph curveball.
Weaknesses: Good has a tendency to get his fastball up in the zone at times because hell spin off in his delivery and get poor extension on his pitches, something thats correctable. He also needs to show more consistency with his curve. He doesnt stay on top of it, causing it to flatten out and become loopy. He also does a poor job of holding runners.
The Future: In 2002, Good is scheduled to anchor a prospect-laden Harrisburg rotation that also will include prospects Cliff Lee and Phil Seibel.
Rest of the Best:
11. Cliff Lee, lhp
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