Marlins Prospects 2-10
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Drafted: HSCoppell, Texas, 2000 (2nd round). Signed by: Bob Laurie.
Background: After signing late for a $2.027 million bonus in 2000, Stokes worked hard to make a transition to left field in 2001 but was waylaid by back and hamstring problems. He exploded last year, leading the low Class A Midwest League in batting and homers, and the entire minor leagues in slugging, despite a painful cyst on his left wrist.
Strengths: He could lean on his massive power, but Stokes wants to be a complete player. He hits to all fields and shows a good understanding of the strike zone and pitchers tactics. He runs out pop flies like a super-sized David Eckstein. He has worked hard on his defense, and while he will never be nimble, wont hurt a club at first base.
Weaknesses: After fighting through injuries the last two years, Stokes durability is in question. His arm is average at best and his speed is below-average, though not bad for his size.
The Future: Stokes had wrist surgery, which included a bone graft, but should be ready for spring training. Hell probably start 2003 in high Class A. Adrian Gonzalez superior defense makes it likely Stokes will play left field when both are big league regulars, perhaps in 2005.
3. Adrian Gonzalez, 1b
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190. Drafted: HSChula Vista, Calif., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: David Finley.
Background: Signability played a large part in Gonzalez selection as the No. 1 pick in 2000, but his performance has quieted the skeptics and justified his $3 million bonus. Older brother Edgar is a third baseman in the Devil Rays system. Their father David was a first baseman in Mexican semipro leagues into his early 40s.
Strengths: Gonzalez skipped high Class A and thrived after overcoming a slow start at Double-A Portland. He uses the whole field, fills the gaps, enjoys RBI situations and projects to add more power down the road. Comparisons to a young Rafael Palmeiro appear apt. Gonzalez also has Gold Glove potential with soft hands, plus range and a daring nature.
Weaknesses: Gonzalez may have been too power-conscious at the start of 2002, uncharacteristically getting himself out by expanding his zone. His speed is below-average. He made 16 errors last year, most of them due to poor concentration.
The Future: With the emergence of Stokes, Gonzalez has competition to be the Marlins future first baseman. Hes ticketed for Triple-A Albuquerque, though he may miss the start of spring training after he had surgery to repair torn cartilage in his wrist in December.
4. Dontrelle Willis, lhp
Age: 20. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSAlameda, Calif., 2000 (8th round). Signed by: Steve Hinton (Cubs).
Background: Willis was the key player in the spring trade that sent Matt Clement and Antonio Alfonseca to the Cubs. His stock rocketed as he dominated two Class A leagues. He was shut down with a bruised triceps, but he threw on the side at instructional league without incident.
Strengths: Willis creates excellent deception with an unorthodox delivery he says he learned from his mother as a child. Throwing from a low three-quarters arm slot, he induces lots of groundballs and awkward swings. His improved fastball tops out at 93 mph, and he can cut it and sink it. He added depth to his slurvy breaking ball and gets sink out of his changeup as well. His command is excellent and he rarely leaves balls up in the zone.
Weaknesses: Willis slider tends to flatten out and his changeup is inconsistent. He must pitch inside to righthanders more effectively. After his injury, Willis learned he wasnt doing his shoulder exercises correctly. His delivery can be violent and his fielding must improve.
The Future: After opening eyes throughout his new organization, Willis figures to return to high Class A to start 2003.
5. Jeremy Hermida, of
Age: 18. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSMarietta, Ga., 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Joel Smith.
Background: The Marlins were ecstatic when Hermida was available 11th overall last June. Rated the best pure high school hitter available, he signed for $2.0125 million. A natural righthanded hitter, Hermida was converted into a lefty at age 4 by his father. Hermida has practiced with a wood bat since he was 13 and counts former big leaguer Terry Harper among his tutors.
Strengths: Some scouts called Hermida the best high school hitter since Eric Chavez. Others compared his body type to a young Andy Van Slyke. Marlins assistant general manager Jim Fleming sees a young Paul ONeill, while Hermida identifies more with Shawn Green. He has a smooth, quick stroke and excellent instincts. His speed and right-field arm are average. He loves to play and has a great disposition.
Weaknesses: Hermida jumps at pitches from time to time. He must grow into his power, though the Marlins fully expect that to come.
The Future: After a standout debut at short-season Jamestown, Hermida figures to begin 2003 at Floridas new low Class A Greensboro affiliate. His success will dictate how quickly he moves.
6. Don Levinski, rhp
Age: 20. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSWeimar, Texas, 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Dennis Cardoza (Expos).
Background: Levinski came south from Montreal along with Justin Wayne in the Cliff Floyd trade. In his final start with the Expos, Levinskis velocity dropped into the mid-80s and an MRI later revealed a slight rotator-cuff tear. The Marlins opted to keep him in the deal and subsequent tests showed a strain rather than a tear.
Strengths: After being shut down for the final month of 2002, Levinski threw a handful of bullpens at instructional league and was healthy. His heavy sinker arrives at 88-93 mph with hard, late life. When hes in a groove, he can almost get by with his fastball alone. He also features a power curve and a solid changeup. He has a sound delivery that he repeats with ease. He has a quiet personality but is competitive and confident.
Weaknesses: Walks have been a concern as Levinski learns to command his darting arsenal. After last years health scare, hell need to prove he can stay in the rotation for a full season. He also must use his changeup more often.
The Future: Having dominated the Midwest League for four months, Levinski will probably open 2003 at Jupiter. His maturity and repertoire make him a candidate to move quickly.
7. Justin Wayne, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Drafted: Stanford, 2000 (1st round). Signed by: John Hughes (Expos).
Background: Wayne is a favorite of Jeffrey Loria, whose Expos drafted him fifth overall in 2000 and gave him a Montreal-record $2.95 million bonus. After being reunited with Loria in the Cliff Floyd trade, Wayne struggled in Triple-A before showing flashes in a five-start September audition in the majors.
Strengths: Wayne pitches at 87-90 mph and keeps hitters off-balance with pinpoint control and an intelligent approach. He throws four pitches for strikes, including a plus curveball, a plus slider and a changeup thats the best in the system. His velocity climbed to 92-93 mph in the majors.
Weaknesses: His slider sometimes gets flat, and Wayne will go for long stretches without trusting his curve. Though hes a fitness nut, he missed a few starts with shoulder tendinitis and needs to get stronger. A perfectionist, he tends to nibble and overanalyze his performance.
The Future: After getting his first taste of the majors, Wayne will get a legitimate shot at making the Florida rotation this spring.
8. Rob Henkel, lhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: UCLA, 2000 (3rd round). Signed by: Steve Minor.
Background: After signing for $650,000 in September 2000, Henkel spent nearly a year fighting a balky shoulder that caused his velocity to drop from 93-95 mph to the low 80s. Having already survived Tommy John surgery, he worked to strengthen the shoulder and saw his velocity climb back up to 88-92 mph. He dominated the Florida State League in 2002 and earned a midseason promotion to Double-A.
Strengths: When hes on, Henkel brandishes a late-breaking knuckle-curve that can be close to unhittable. Combined with a deceptive delivery, his hook is hard for hitters to pick up and makes his fastball work that much better. He did a better job of integrating his changeup last season, giving him three solid weapons for the first time.
Weaknesses: Henkel tends to overanalyze his performance. With his history, the Marlins often gave him a few extra days between starts. His delivery is high-maintenance, he still overthrows at times.
The Future: Henkel figures to return to Double-A but could force his way onto the big league staff in a swing role. His maturity and advanced knowledge mean he wont need much more seasoning.
9. Blaine Neal, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 200. Drafted: HSPennsauken, N.J., 1996 (4th round). Signed by: Will George.
Background: Signed for $350,000, Neal developed slowly because of elbow problems in his first two years as a pro. The Marlins tried him at first base without success and nearly released him after the 1998 season. After arthroscopic surgery to remove several bone spurs and shave down part of a bone to relieve pressure on a nerve, Neal hasnt looked back.
Strengths: Neal employs a fastball that touches 98 mph and stays at 93-95 with late movement. He has a short, tight slider and a strong pitchers frame with wide back muscles. His arm bounces back well and hes a ferocious competitor.
Weaknesses: Neals delivery is somewhat stiff and he overthrows his fastball at times. Theres still some doubt whether Neal projects as a full-fledged closer or a two-inning set-up man.
The Future: If nothing else, Neal got a chance to work on his frequent-flier account last season. He had four separate stints with the Marlins, going back and forth on the shuttle to Calgary. He pitched well at both places, showing enough potential to earn a full shot in a set-up role this year.
10. Will Smith, of
Age: 21. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: HSTucson, AZ., 2000 (6th round). Signed by: David Finley.
Background: Smith set the Arizona high school record for career home runs and seems to be growing into his power at the pro level. Despite an unorthodox stance that has been described as Yastrzemski Lite, he continues to stand conventional wisdom on its head.
Strengths: Forget what Smith does as the ball makes it way to home plate. Once it gets there, his bat almost always is in the correct hitting position. He loves to play and appears to be a born hitter with no holes in his swing. The new Marlins regime challenged him to work on other parts of his game, and he made significant progress in those areas. His arm and speed are average.
Weaknesses: Smith has a tendency to pull off the ball against lefties, but made progress during instructional league after opening his stance. He could draw more walks and needs to get stronger. His arm has improved from below-average, but he remains a so-so corner outfielder at best.
The Future: After cleaning up in his first three seasons, Smith will go to Double-A. If he stays as serious about the rest of his game as he is about his hitting, his swing could raise major league eyebrows in 2004.
Best of the Rest
Marlins assistant general manager Jim Fleming, supervising his fifth straight draft (including four with the Expos), deemed his 2002 effort his best yet. First-rounder Jeremy Hermida is already in the top 10, and several others received consideration.
Second-rounder Robert Andino, a Miami prep shortstop, gave the organization a fifth solid prospect at the position to go with Josh Wilson, Kevin Hooper, Derek Wathan and Wilson Valdez. High school pitchers Josh Johnson (fourth round) and Scott Olson (sixth) came in the middle rounds. Olson joined a stash of quality lefties that includes Dontrelle Willis, Rob Henkel, Ryan Snare, Nate Robertson, Todd Moser and Alexis Sosa. Speed came in the form of ninth-rounder Eric Reed, a center fielder from Texas A&M. He joined fellow speedsters Chip Ambres, Abraham Nunez, Jesus Medrano and Charlie Frazier in the system.
Further away but still intriguing are imports Kenny Berkenbosch (Holland) and Ulysses Powel (Dominican Republic), both signed by international scouting director Fred Ferreira in 2002. He compared Powel to a young Vladimir Guerrero, whom Ferreira landed for the Expos.
Catcher had become a hole in the organization but the Marlins feel good about the acquisition of Ryan Jorgensen, plus the conversion of Josh Willingham during instructional league.
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The Top 10 Prospects lists are based on players' projected long-term worth and on discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of Opening Day 2003.
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