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New York Mets:
1999 Top 10

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New York Mets Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By David Rawnsley

1. Alex Escobar, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 185
Signed: Venezuela, 1995  Signed by: Gregorio Machado

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Julio Valera, rhp
1991 Anthony Young, rhp
1992 Todd Hundley, c
1993 Bobby Jones, rhp
1994 Bill Pulsipher, lhp
1995 Bill Pulsipher, lhp
1996 Paul Wilson, rhp
1997 Jay Payton, of
1998 Grant Roberts, rhp
1999 Alex Escobar, of

Background: After a dominating year in 1998 as a 19-year-old in the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he hit 27 home runs in 416 at-bats and stole 49 bases, Escobar looked like one of the bright young stars of the game. A solid 1998-99 Venezuelan League season solidified his potential. But 1999 was a wasted year. Escobar missed the first half of the season rehabilitating a lower back injury, then separated his left shoulder during his first game back with high Class A St. Lucie. He later had surgery on the shoulder. True to his potential, Escobar hit a home run on the swing that resulted in his shoulder injury. Factoring in hamstring and other muscle problems that have dogged Escobar, he has played in just 176 minor league games in four seasons.

Strengths: Escobar grades out above-average in every tool. His power/speed combination is especially intriguing. The ball jumps off his bat to all fields. Even if he were to lose his above-average speed on the bases to age and injuries, he still could become a middle-of-the-order force. Throw in the fact that Escobar is a pure center fielder with a right fielder’s arm strength and you know why he remains the Mets’ best prospect despite playing just four games in ’99.

Weaknesses: Mets officials raised the names of Mariners shortstop Carlos Guillen and Rangers center fielder Ruben Mateo in discussing Escobar’s injury problems. All three are highly athletic, tightly wound players who have had injuries to various parts of their bodies. Escobar’s injuries, especially given that his shoulder problem was with his non-throwing shoulder, aren’t the type that should affect his game, but they do hurt his development by depriving him of at-bats and repetitions in the field. Escobar especially needs to work on his strike-zone judgement.

The Future: Escobar is working with a personal trainer on a daily basis during the offseason. Expect the Mets to be conservative in advancing the 21-year-old Escobar until he proves he is capable of playing every day. He was added to the 40-man roster this winter, though, so his clock on reaching the big leagues has started.

1999 Club           AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
GCL Mets (R)       .375    8   1   3   2   0   0    1   1   2   0
St. Lucie (A)      .667    3   1   2   0   0   1    3   1   1   1

2. Pat Strange, RHP
Age: 19  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-5  Wt: 240
Drafted: HS--Springfield, Mass., 1998 (2nd round)  Signed by: Bob Lavallee

Background: Strange was regarded as a potential first-round pick entering his senior year of high school, but his velocity dropped and his stock slipped. Despite a cold-weather background and just 19 Rookie-level innings in 1998, the Mets thought Strange was mature enough to handle full-season Class A in ’99.

Strengths: Strange has an 89-94 mph fastball and has shown the ability to paint the corners with the pitch. He also has exceptional athletic ability and the rare knack of adding velocity during a game.

Weaknesses: Though Strange’s mechanics are consistent, his back-arching overhand delivery may put too much stress on his arm. Strange’s curve and changeup are progressing.

The Future: Strange’s scouting report resembles that of Marlins prospect Brad Penny. Both have big bodies and intense approaches, and both rely on command of their plus fastballs. The Mets will be patient with Strange in terms of innings and advancement.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Capital City (A) 12  5  2.63  28  21   2   1  154 138  29 113

3. Grant Roberts, RHP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 205
Drafted: HS--El Cajon, Calif., 1995 (11th round)  Signed by: Jim Woodward

Background: Roberts was ranked as the Mets’ top prospect prior to the 1998 season, after he had run up a 22-5 record over three teenage years in the low minors. Elbow surgery limited him to 72 innings in ’98, but he finished 1999 strong and had a successful Arizona Fall League season.

Strengths: Roberts has plus stuff across the board. He has a 93-94 mph fastball with late, sinking life. His complementary pitches include a plus slider and an effective curveball.

Weaknesses: At times, Roberts will work at a laborious pace. In the AFL, where pitchers are on a strict time limit between pitches, he found his rhythm. Roberts must maintain his leverage during his delivery, as sometimes he will drop down on his slider and create stress on his elbow.

The Future: The Mets rotation is old and lacking in power arms, giving Roberts an opportunity in 2000. If he gets off to a fast and healthy start, Roberts could repeat the kind of year Octavio Dotel had in ‘99.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Binghamton (AA)   7  6  4.87  23  23   0   0  131 135  49  94
Norfolk (AAA)     2  1  4.50   5   5   0   0   28  32  11  30

4. Brian Cole, OF
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-9  Wt: 172
Drafted: Navarro (Texas) JC, 1998 (18th round)  Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt

Background: Cole was Baseball America’s Junior College Player of the Year in 1998 but was overlooked until the 18th round, largely because of his size. He has kept his all-star status intact in the Appalachian League in ’98 and the South Atlantic League in ’99.

Strengths: Cole has excellent speed, having run the 60-yard dash in 6.4 seconds. He has the first-step quickness and athletic ability to steal bases. But Cole isn’t a slap-and-run hitter. He has good bat speed and the pop to turn on inside pitches.

Weaknesses: After playing left field the first half of the ’99 season, Cole moved to center. His arm is below-average, but the Mets hope he can use his speed and aggressiveness in center. In order to be a top-notch leadoff hitter, he’ll have to develop a better sense of the strike zone.

The Future: Cole was drafted 17 rounds after fellow Texas college product Jason Tyner but has better raw tools, especially offensively. Cole was two steps behind Tyner this year, but that gap may close quickly in 2000.

1999 Club          AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Capital City (A)  .316  500  97 158  41   4  18   71  37  77  50

5. Enrique Cruz, SS
Age: 18  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 175
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998  Signed by: Eddy Toledo

Background: Cruz’ father played professional baseball and is active in youth baseball in the Dominican Republic, so Cruz is well schooled in baseball fundamentals. The Mets gave Cruz an organizational record $400,000 bonus for a foreign player late in 1998.

Strengths: Though he has smooth, polished actions at shortstop and above-average arm strength, Cruz’ best tools are with the bat. He has an easy, tension-free stroke with good extension and power potential. He already shows command of the strike zone and a penchant for hitting the ball hard to the opposite field.

Weaknesses: The Mets will keep Cruz at shortstop for as long as possible before moving him to third base. Cruz’ first-step quickness is only fair by middle-infield standards, and he’s still growing.

The Future: The Mets like the idea of an offensive middle infielder, but while Cruz’ physical development is a plus for his offensive potential, it will likely move him off shortstop in one to two years.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
GCL Mets (R)     .306  183  34  56  14   2   4   24  28  41   0

6. Lesli Brea, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 170
Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996  Signed by: Ramon de los Santo (Mariners)

Background: Brea was acquired from the Mariners last offseason for major league outfielder Butch Huskey. He ranked second among Florida State League starters with 10.14 strikeouts per nine innings. In 224 career minor league innings, he has 284 strikeouts. He continued that trend with 29 strikeouts in 19 California Fall League innings.

Strengths: Brea has two power pitches, a 94-96 mph fastball and a hard slider that he throws in the mid-80s. The Mets moved him into a starting role in 1999 in order to give him more innings to work on his command. The results were encouraging and he moved back to the bullpen this fall.

Weaknesses: Until he learns to locate his pitches, Brea will continue to produce statistics like his 1-7 FSL record or his 6.98 ERA in the CFL. He has no real offspeed pitch, which further defines his future role.

The Future: Mets fans now have Armando Benitez and eventually could see Brea blowing hitters off the plate. For the time being, they can afford to be patient with Brea.

1999 Club        W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
St. Lucie (A)    1  7  3.73  32  18   0   3  121  95  68 136

Jorge Toca, OF/1B
Age: 28  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 190
Signed: Cuba, 1998  Signed by: Omar Minaya

Background: Technically, Toca should not be on a prospect list because of his age. His birthday is July 1, 1971, not 1975 as reported. The Cuban defector played in the Cuban League beginning in 1989 and lived at baseball academies with teammate Rey Ordonez as a teenager.

Strengths: Toca has excellent bat speed and could have above-average power. In Cuba, he was a line-drive hitter and he has carried those skills over to wood bats. Toca played left field most of 1999 but his best defensive position is at first base.

Weaknesses: He received his first extensive trial in left field. Toca is still learning the position, but the Mets consider his defense playable in the outfield. He has below-average speed and arm strength.

The Future: Toca has played an enormous amount of baseball in his life and should be ready to prove he’s a big league player at the start of 2000.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Binghamton (AA)  .308  279  60  86  15   1  20   67  32  43   5
Norfolk (AAA)    .335  176  25  59  12   1   5   29   6  23   0
New York         .333    3   0   1   0   0   0    0   0   2   0

8. Jason Tyner, OF
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 170
Drafted: Texas A&M, 1998 (1st round)  Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt

Background: The former college and Team USA star continued his quick progression through the system, reaching Triple-A barely a year after signing. Tyner improved in all his key offensive areas: on-base percentage, extra-base hits and stolen-base percentage.

Strengths: Tyner’s game is all about speed and handling the bat. He has a lithe body and runs with an easy glide. He can get down to first base on a bunt in the 3.5-second range. Tyner is primarily a slap hitter to left field, but when pitchers busted him inside in ‘99, he was able to pull the ball more. He uses his speed well in the outfield, especially coming in on balls.

Weaknesses: Tyner has not hit a home run since high school. The Mets would like to see him improve his jumps on the bases. His arm strength is below-average.

The Future: Tyner proved that his narrow but well-refined skills will give him a chance to play regularly in the big leagues. He could be in New York as early as 2000.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Binghamton (AA)  .313  518  91 162  19   5   0   33  62  46  49
Norfolk (AAA)    .000    8   0   0   0   0   0    0   0   5   0

9. Eric Cammack, RHP
Age: 24  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 180
Drafted: Lamar, 1997 (13th round)  Signed by: Dave Lottsfeldt

Background: Cammack has made an art form out of being overlooked. Despite overwhelming minor league numbers, he has rarely been mentioned on prospect lists. But he led all minor league relievers with 13.78 strikeouts per nine innings in ‘99 and has allowed just 83 hits in 164 career minor league innings.

Strengths: With an instinctive ability to close out hitters and an even temperament, Cammack is a natural closer. His delivery is a key to his success. He hides the ball well and hitters say the ball jumps on them.

Weaknesses: Cammack throws four pitches, but none is a strikeout pitch. His fastball is in the 88-91 mph range, and he usually throws his slider to righthanded hitters and his curveball to lefthanded hitters.

The Future: With four usable pitches, it is curious that the Mets have never considered Cammack a potential starter. His command, guile and instincts should get him to the big leagues, but a full shot may not come until 2001.

1999 Club        W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Binghamton (AA)  4  2  2.38  45   0   0  15   57  28  38  83
Norfolk (AAA)    0  0  3.12   9   0   0   4    9   7   1  17

10. Dicky Gonzalez, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 5-11  Wt: 170
Drafted: HS--Bayamon, P.R., 1996 (16th round)  Signed by: Junior Roman

Background: In ‘99, Gonzalez began the evolution from a skinny control pitcher to a well-rounded prospect. He has a middle infielder’s body with strong hips and thighs, and he added upper body strength during the past year.

Strengths: Gonzalez has a loose, fluid arm and sound mechanics. He pitches aggressively with his fastball, which tops out at 92 mph but usually sits around 88-89, and can pitch to hitters’ weaknesses. Gonzalez’ changeup is also a quality pitch.

Weaknesses: Gonzalez throws a curveball and slider, but neither is a hard breaking ball that will buckle hitters’ knees and drive them off the plate. Gonzalez, however, can throw them for consistent strikes at any time in the count.

The Future: With a burst of velocity this summer, Gonzalez went from a soft tosser to a pitcher with plus command of an average fastball. His repertoire and size resemble that of fellow Puerto Rican Ricky Bones.

1999 Club        W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
St. Lucie (A)   14  9  2.83  25  25   3   0  169 156  30 143
Norfolk (AAA)    0  1  2.70   1   1   0   0    7   5   1   3

Rest of the Best:

11. Neal Musser, lhp
12. Robert Stratton, of
13. Scott Stewart, lhp
14. Tyler Walker, rhp
15. Prentice Redman, of

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