Click Here To Visit Our Sponsor
Baseball America Online - News

Page Not Found - BaseballAmerica.com

The page you are looking for does not exist or has moved

Sorry, the page you're looking for is either like Sidd Finch and does not exist, or like Josh Hamilton and has moved. Where would you like to go instead?

BaseballAmerica.com Home

The latest news from our top sections:

Majors, Minors, Stats, Draft, College, High School, International or Viewpoint

 
2004 Top 20 Prospects: Appalachian League
Complete Index of League Top 20s

By Will Kimmey
September 21, 2004


Chat Transcript: Will Kimmey took your Appy League questions

FIVE YEARS AGO
1. Josh Hamilton, of, Princeton (Devil Rays)
2. *Wilson Betemit, ss, Danville (Braves)
3. B.J. Garbe, of, Elizabethton (Twins)
4. *Colby Lewis, rhp, Pulaski (Rangers)
5. Rick Elder, 1b/of, Bluefield (Orioles)
6. Ryan Dittfurth, rhp, Pulaski (Rangers)
7. *Carl Crawford, of, Princeton (Devil Rays)
8. Cody Nowlin, of, Pulaski (Rangers)
9. Juan Salas, ss, Princeton (Devil Rays)
10. Angel Caraballo, rhp, Bristol (White Sox)

* Played in the majors
For seven of the 10 organizations with teams in the Rookie-level Appalachian League, the clubs serve as their entry-level U.S. affiliate. So more than the normal complement of college-aged players traveled the Appy trails this year after a stricter visa application process limited the number of available Latin players, a demographic that normally dominates the league.

"Definitely, we saw some kids that should have been playing in short-season A somewhere," Bluefield manager Gary Kendall said.

Managers agreed the older composition raised the level of play and made the standout performances of the younger players all the more impressive. No one caused more gasps than Greeneville outfielder Mitch Einertson. A fifth-round pick in June, Einertson tied Joy Gritts' 1960 league record with 24 home runs.

"Coming out of high school and hitting over 20 home runs is almost impossible to do," Burlington manager Rouglas Odor said. "Manny Ramirez, when he was here, he hit 19 home runs and had 63 RBIs."

Einerston also led the league in RBIs (67) and slugging percentage (.692) while batting .308. He went homerless in his last five regular-season games and failed to pass Gritts, but Einerston hit two longballs during Greeneville's championship series win against Danville and then cranked another in his first game after a promotion to the short-season New York-Penn League.

1. MITCH EINERTSON, of, Greeneville Astros
Age: 18 Ht: 5-10 Wt: 178 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Astros '04 (5)

AB:227
R:53
H:70
2B:15
3B:0
HR:24
RBI:67
BB:32
SO:70
SB:4
CS:4
AVG:.308
OBP:.415
SLG:.692
Einertson's quick, powerful stroke generated pop to all fields and league-wide acclaim. Power will be Einertson's ticket to the majors, but he also has a balanced swing, a willingness to draw walks and the ability to adapt to pitchers' varying plans of attack. He did strike out a lot (70 times in 63 games), but that's an acceptable tradeoff for his homers.

"What's amazing to me is everybody knows who he is and what he does now and are trying to pitch him different," Greeneville manager Tim Bogar said. "But he's making the adjustments."

Einertson gets good jumps on balls, but might not have the speed to play center field at the major league level. His average to plus arm strength will allow him to play in right field if necessary. The Astros also might try him at second base during instructional league.

2. FRANCISCO HERNANDEZ, c, Bristol White Sox
Age: 18 Ht: 5-9 Wt: 160 B-T: B-R Drafted/Signed: White Sox FA '02 (Dominican Republic)

AB:181
R:32
H:59
2B:13
3B:1
HR:5
RBI:30
BB:13
SO:32
SB:0
CS:0
AVG:.326
OBP:.372
SLG:.492
Few catchers put forth better defensive showings than Hernandez, who displayed a knack for handling pitchers and calling games that belied his 18 years of age. He also receives and blocks balls well.

Hernandez needs to work on his transfer and release, but his arm is strong enough to control the running game despite those inefficiencies. He ranked second among Appy regulars by erasing 33 percent of basestealers.

Hernandez' abilities at the plate make his ability to play behind it even more appealing. He began the year batting eighth in Bristol's lineup and finished in the No. 3 holeand also second in the league batting race at .326. He crushes pitches thrown in the strike zone and sometimes will chase after bad offerings, but often makes adjustments in his next at-bat.

"He has a very good swing from both sides," Kendall said. "He's very aggressive, but he has very good barrel accuracy."

3. KYLE WALDROP, rhp, Elizabethton Twins
Age: 18 Ht: 6-5 Wt: 205 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Twins '04 (1)

W:2
L:0
ERA:3.24
G:4
SV:0
IP:25.0
H:21
HR:1
BB:3
SO:25
AVG:.221
Waldrop made just four Appy League starts after making seven in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, where he was that league's No. 4 prospect. He signed for $1 million as a first-round pick and impressed by recording at least six strikeouts in each one as he narrowly qualified for this list.

The 6-foot-5 righthander threw three pitches for strikes: an 89-91 mph fastball, a tight breaking ball with bite and a solid changeup. Waldrop's secondary pitches lag behind his fastball for now, but all should be at least average.

"He's going to be somebody to look out for," Bogar said. "He really knows how to pitch. A lot of 18-year-olds are just throwing it up there hoping they don't hit it. He has a plan."

Waldrop also demonstrated the poise and work ethic of an older player, right down to precise record-keeping and good penmanship when charting teammates' pitches.

4. REID BRIGNAC, ss, Princeton Devil Rays
Age: 18 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 180 B-T: L-R Drafted/Signed: Devil Rays '04 (2)

AB:97
R:16
H:35
2B:4
3B:2
HR:1
RBI:25
BB:9
SO:10
SB:2
CS:1
AVG:.361
OBP:.413
SLG:.474
Just 18, Brignac announced himself to the league with a home run and five RBIs in his debut. He didn't homer again, but showed an advanced approach for a player fresh out of high school. He should add power as he fills out.

Brignac goes after pitches early in the count and can be pull-oriented, but he shortens his swing with two strikes and hit well against both lefthanders and righthanders. He makes good use of his hands and owns a fluid stroke.

"He got eight hits in three games against us and basically beat us singlehandedly with five hits in one night," Bristol manager Jerry Hairston said. "He's a wiry-type guy with a line-drive swing, but he can take you deep if he gets the right pitch."

Brignac displays good actions defensively. His arm rates above average, though it played average as he tired near the end of the year. The presence of B.J. Upton at shortstop in Tampa Bay and the likelihood that Brignac will outgrow the position mean that he'll probably move to third base in the future.

5. GIO GONZALEZ, lhp, Bristol White Sox
Age: 19 Ht: 5-11 Wt: 180 B-T: R-L Drafted/Signed: White Sox '04 (1)

W:1
L:2
ERA:2.25
G:7
SV:0
IP:24.0
H:17
HR:0
BB:8
SO:36
AVG:.198
Gonzalez stopped briefly in the Appy League before moving up to the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he continued to succeed despite being 18. No opposing manager was sad to see him go, not when he showed a fastball that reached 92-93 mph with good movement and a sharp, slurvy breaking ball to complement it.

Gonzalez' feel for pitching was as important to his success as his repertoire. He sometimes fell victim to trying to be too fine early in the count, but often was able to work out of bad counts because of his two plus pitches.

"He's ahead of his years pitching-wise," Bogar said. "He's got a good idea of what he's doing out there. He can locate well and has the kind of stuff to back it up."

6. TREVOR PLOUFFE, ss, Elizabethton Twins
Age: 18 Ht: 6-1 Wt: 175 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Twins '04 (1)

AB:237
R:29
H:67
2B:7
3B:2
HR:4
RBI:28
BB:19
SO:34
SB:3
CS:1
AVG:.283
OBP:.340
SLG:.380
The second of two Twins first-rounders on this list, Plouffe showed smooth shortstop actions that reminded some managers of former Twin Greg Gagne. He displayed good hands, an above-average arm and excelled at charging balls and fielding those to his right because of his quickness.

Plouffe also showed the aptitude and attitude to respond to instruction. He still needs to work on his first-step quickness and positioning.

Offensively, Plouffe authored a 17-game hitting streak and demonstrated a fluid swing. He uses the whole field and is patient at the plate, though his swing gets long at times.

"He's a special guy," Elizabethton manager Ray Smith said. "During the 16 years I've been in this league, I've seen only a handful of top shortstop prospects, and he's one of them."

7. YUBER RODRIGUEZ, of, Pulaski Blue Jays
Age: 20 Ht: 6-1 Wt: 192 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Blue Jays FA '00 (Venezuela)

AB:249
R:49
H:77
2B:15
3B:6
HR:7
RBI:53
BB:28
SO:71
SB:9
CS:3
AVG:.309
OBP:.396
SLG:.502
Pulaski's roster benefited the most from the relaxed age restrictions, as several of its older players enjoyed strong seasons. But Rodriguez' combination of success, physical skills and age (20) won many fans. He showed impressive bat speed and pop, leading the league with six triples while ranking among the top five in hits (77), doubles (15) and RBIs (53).

His .396 on-base percentage notwithstanding, his plate discipline still needs work after he struck out 71 times in 249 at-bats. Rodriguez rated as the top athlete in the Appy League, and his arm strength and speed helped make him one of its best defensive outfielders.

"He showed all five tools against us," Kendall said. "He kind of reminded me of Ruben Rivera, when he was on the way up."

8. BRANDON YARBROUGH, c, Johnson City Cardinals
Age: 19 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 180 B-T: L-R Drafted/Signed: Cardinals '03 (5)

AB:175
R:37
H:57
2B:10
3B:1
HR:6
RBI:33
BB:25
SO:55
SB:3
CS:1
AVG:.326
OBP:.411
SLG:.497
There's no question Yarbrough can hit. There might not have been a better lefthanded swing in the league, as Yarbrough's is short, quick and balanced. He sprays balls to all fields and placed third in hitting (.326) and sixth in on-base percentage (.411) while showing strength and plus power potential.

Yarbrough's future position is less certain. Several Appy managers are former catchers, and not all were sold that he'll continue in their footsteps. He shows solid to above-average arm strength, but he must work on his release and transfer. His receiving and blocking also could use improvement, though those that believe in him feel that will come with more experience.

9. ALEXANDER SMIT, lhp, Elizabethton Twins
Age: 18 Ht: 6-3 Wt: 206 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Twins FA '02 (The Netherlands)

W:1
L:1
ERA:2.54
G:6
SV:0
IP:28.1
H:25
HR:0
BB:10
SO:43
AVG:.243
Smit is "as green as grass" according to one manager, which is expected because he's from Holland and was 18 all season. He has plenty of time to continue filling out his 6-foot-3, 207-pound frame and to stop twisting his wrist and pushing his breaking ball. He needs to develop more consistency with that pitch as well as his changeup.

"I think he's still growing into his body," Kendall said. "He's got a good delivery, a fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s, and his breaking ball has good rotation."

Smit showed glimpses of an impressive future by locating his knuckle-curve and spotting his sinker while throwing seven shutout innings against Johnson City in his final start before joining the Dutch Olympic team.

10. TROY PATTON, lhp, Greeneville Astros
Age: 19 Ht: 6-1 Wt: 185 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Astros '04 (9)

W:2
L:2
ERA:1.93
G:6
SV:0
IP:28.0
H:23
HR:1
BB:5
SO:32
AVG:.215
Patton drew comparisons to fellow 2004 draftee Gonzalez because each is small in stature but big on stuff. Projected to go as early as the second round, Patton dropped to the ninth because of signability questions. He turned pro for $550,000, easily the largest bonus in the ninth round this year.

Patton throws his fastball around 90 mph and works it to both sides of the plate. He aggressively goes after hitters and is especially tough on lefties because of his low three-quarters arm slot.

Patton's curveball was considered one of the best in the draft. He throws two versions of it, and Appy managers thought he'd be better off scrapping the slower, loopier version to concentrate on refining his harder breaking ball. He didn't throw his changeup much in game action, but it was solid in bullpen sessions.

11. MATT FOX, rhp, Elizabethton Twins
Age: 21 Ht: 6-3 Wt: 192 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Twins '04 (1S)

W:2
L:1
ERA:5.40
G:8
SV:0
IP:26.2
H:27
HR:6
BB:8
SO:32
AVG:.257
Fox threw 112 innings as a junior at Central Florida, a workload that more than doubled his previous college experience. Elbow tendinitis and shoulder stiffness cost Fox a few starts, so he never was at his best in the Appy League.

"We're anxious to see what he's going to be when he's right," Smith said. "He topped out at 93-94 and pitched at 90-91, and that was with a tired shoulder."

Fox attacks hitters with excellent command of his fastball and a power slider. Despite the fatigue, his control never wavered and he still managed to record 32 strikeouts in 27 innings despite being knocked around a bit. He's working to hone his changeup, which he rarely used in college but can be an average pitch.

12. JUAN GUTIERREZ, rhp, Greeneville Astros
Age: 21 Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Astros FA '00 (Venezuela)

W:8
L:2
ERA:3.70
G:13
SV:0
IP:65.2
H:74
HR:4
BB:30
SO:59
AVG:.290
Gutierrez was one of the older (21) and more physically mature players (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) players in the league. He pitched like it, tying for the Appy lead with eight wins. A full-time starter for the first time, he was able to maintain his 90-96 mph fastball for six or seven innings per outing.

Gutierrez uses a big-breaking curveball as a strikeout pitch, though mechanical inconsistency made him primarily a fastball pitcher early in the season. He also features a solid changeup but needs to use it more, and he must be careful not to let his body get too soft.

"He's as poised as anyone I've ever seen at this level," Bogar said. "It doesn't matter if he's giving it up or pitching well."

13. JORDAN PARRAZ, of, Greeneville Astros
Age: 19 Ht: 6-3 Wt: 212 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Astros '04 (3)

AB:180
R:35
H:44
2B:6
3B:5
HR:4
RBI:21
BB:24
SO:44
SB:9
CS:5
AVG:.244
OBP:.349
SLG:.400
The earliest selection (sixth round) among 2003-04 draft-and-follows, Parraz turned down the Phillies after a year at the Community College of Southern Nevada and signed with the Astros for $400,000 as a third-rounder. After he hit .198 in his first 28 games as a pro, he became extremely frustrated.

"We have a 30-day rule in the organization," Bogar said. "We don't touch guys during that time so we can see what kind of player they are. But he came to us and said, 'I can't do anything right. Can you help me?' "

The Greeneville staff suggested a few adjustments--chiefly how he held his hands in his batting stance so he could catch up to fastballs better--and Parraz jumped to .295 over the final 25 games. "We saw him early and late," Smith said, "and he looked like a completely different guy."

Parraz shows average power and the ability to hit for a decent average once he starts controlling the strike zone better. He's an excellent athlete who runs well and shows great instincts and a high-energy approach. He gets great jumps in the outfield, where he can play all three positions, and has a plus arm that should become more accurate when he refines his mechanics.

14. VAN POPE, 3b, Danville Braves
Age: 20 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 200 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Braves '04 (5)

AB:233
R:39
H:63
2B:18
3B:2
HR:5
RBI:39
BB:11
SO:44
SB:5
CS:1
AVG:.270
OBP:.333
SLG:.429
Like Parraz, Pope displayed impressive physical skills but needs to smooth out his raw talents. He's a first-ball fastball hitter with tremendous strength and power to all fields. Overaggression can be a problem, especially with breaking balls, though he can put a charge into an offspeed pitch when he gets hold of it.

Pope possesses the agility, range and arm strength for third base, along with the body type. "He's built like a brick wall," Smith said. Pope plays an adequate third base and should become more fluid with his hands and feet as he gains experience.

15. FRANK MATA, rhp, Elizabethton Twins
Age: 20 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 168 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Twins FA '02 (Venezuela)

W:2
L:2
ERA:3.73
G:26
SV:13
IP:31.1
H:22
HR:1
BB:6
SO:39
AVG:.193
Mata and Greeneville's Enyelbert Soto tied for the league lead with 13 saves. The difference was that Soto worked in the upper 80s while Mata touched 95-96 mph a few times every outing. He pitched at 92-93 and peaked at 97 with excellent life.

Mata also employs a hard, late-breaking slider that he's not afraid to throw in 3-1 and 3-2 counts. A former starter, he'll even show a changeup but really doesn't need to. He gave up seven earned runs in 1 2/3 innings in his lone start of the summer, compared to six in 25 games (1.82 ERA) in relief.

16. J.C. HOLT, 2b, Danville Braves
Age: 21 Ht: 5-10 Wt: 172 B-T: L-R Drafted/Signed: Braves '04 (3)

AB:209
R:38
H:67
2B:15
3B:0
HR:1
RBI:21
BB:18
SO:34
SB:17
CS:5
AVG:.321
OBP:.377
SLG:.407
Holt's transition from college outfielder to pro second baseman wasn't completely seamless, but he showed some aptitude. Holt, who played second as a freshman at Louisiana State, makes all the routine plays and moves well to his left. He must improve on getting to balls up the middle, knowing when to charge grounders and turning double plays.

Holt's offensive game has translated nicely from college. He controls the bat well, uses a short line-drive stroke and hits balls from gap to gap. His plus speed plays a grade higher because of his baserunning skills and instincts.

"He's a tough out," Odor said. "He makes a lot of contact and finds a way to get on. He has the ability to steal 30 to 40 bases in a full season."

17. JAVIER CASTILLO, ss, Bristol White Sox
Age: 21 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 185 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: White Sox FA '02 (Pananma)

AB:207
R:40
H:56
2B:8
3B:1
HR:6
RBI:35
BB:30
SO:58
SB:3
CS:2
AVG:.271
OBP:.372
SLG:.406
Castillo has a big, strong build at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds but plays a smooth shortstop despite his size. There's a chance he could outgrow the position, but the White Sox won't move him to third base until it's necessary.

"You can see a lot of potential in him," Hairston said. "He's big, strong and has some pop. He's got good range for a big guy and shows a good arm for a shortstop."

Castillo reminded some managers of fellow Panamanian Carlos Lee for his strength and power potential at the plate. Like Lee, controlling the strike zone will be the key to Castillo's progression. He's a little shaky against breaking balls, but shows the ability to at least foul them off until he gets a pitch he can handle better.

18. JUAN VALDES, of, Burlington Indians
Age: 19 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 150 B-T: B-R Drafted/Signed: Mariners '04 (3)

AB:135
R:24
H:36
2B:4
3B:4
HR:1
RBI:5
BB:17
SO:27
SB:21
CS:3
AVG:.267
OBP:.357
SLG:.378
A cousin of Astros outfielder Carlos Beltran, Valdes possesses a similar skill set, especially defensively. Few cover more ground in center field, though his arm strength might be a tick below average. His pure speed and baserunning instincts placed him atop the league in steals and triples before he was promoted to the Sally League.

The biggest question for Valdes comes at the plate. He's a slap hitter who must make more consistent contact and improve his bunting to fit at the top of an order. He also needs to add strength and improve his plate discipline.

"He can go get 'em as good as anyone I've ever seen," Nelson said. "He killed us in the outfield. Defense and baserunning-wise, he could play in the big leagues right now. There's no telling what he could do if he's hitting, but he's got a long road to hoe there."

19. JOSE DELGADO, 2b, Johnson City Cardinals
Age: 21 Ht: 5-9 Wt: 180 B-T: B-R Drafted/Signed: Cardinals '04 (24)

AB:216
R:47
H:60
2B:9
3B:5
HR:3
RBI:28
BB:53
SO:65
SB:17
CS:4
AVG:.278
OBP:.431
SLG:.407
Juan Lucena led the league in batting at .332, but Delgado, his double-play partner, ranked first in on-base percentage (.431) and projects to be a better hitter in the long run. Delgado also tied for second in triples (five) and fourth in steals (17) because of his foot speed and instincts, attributes that should make him an igniter out of the leadoff spot.

Delgado could become a tougher out if he shortened his swing a bit to cut down his strikeouts and make better use of his speed by putting more balls in play. The switch-hitter also might consider batting exclusively lefthanded, as he hit .312 from that side compared to .194 righthanded.

Delgado makes all the plays at second base and turns the double play well. His arm is fine at second base but precludes a switch to shortstop.

20. DEACON BURNS, of/dh, Elizabethton Twins
Age: 21 Ht: 5-8 Wt: 185 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Twins '04 (26)

AB:255
R:49
H:80
2B:20
3B:4
HR:12
RBI:49
BB:18
SO:53
SB:9
CS:2
AVG:.314
OBP:.368
SLG:.565
Burns' attacking style at the plate allowed him to lead the league in hits (80) and doubles (20) while placing in the top five in several other categories. The former Northern State (S.D.) running back packs a muscular 185 pounds onto his 5-foot-8 frame and resembles a young Kirby Puckett. He hits to all fields and shows power but tends to hack at nearly everything.

"When Mr. Doubleday invented the rules, he gave you three strikes," Smith said, "and Deacon uses all of his."

Burns exudes energy and is a smart player, but those attributes aren't enough to overcome his below-average defensive skills. He played both outfield corners and spent a lot of time at DH. His defensive limitations, raw tools and relatively advanced age (21) limit his ceiling, but his bat could carry him to the majors.

Page Not Found - BaseballAmerica.com

The page you are looking for does not exist or has moved

Sorry, the page you're looking for is either like Sidd Finch and does not exist, or like Josh Hamilton and has moved. Where would you like to go instead?

BaseballAmerica.com Home

The latest news from our top sections:

Majors, Minors, Stats, Draft, College, High School, International or Viewpoint