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: New York-Penn League
Complete Index of League Top 20s

By Aaron Fitt
September 23, 2004


Chat Wrap: Aaron Fitt took your New York-Penn League questions

FIVE YEARS AGO
1. *Alex Graman, lhp, Staten Island (Yankees)
2. Terry Byron, rhp, Utica (Marlins)
3. *Tony Alvarez, 3b, Williamsport (Pirates)
4. Chip Ambres, of, Utica (Marlins)
5. Mike Nannini, rhp, Auburn (Astros)
6. David Walling, rhp, Staten Island (Yankees)
7. *J.R. House, c/1b, Williamsport (Pirates)
8. *Nick Green, 2b, Jamestown (Braves)
9. Asdrubal Oropeza, 3b, Jamestown (Braves)
10. Matt McClendon, rhp, Jamestown (Braves)

* Played in the majors

The short-season New York-Penn League was loaded with pitching in 2004, but a position player claimed the mantle of best prospect. There wasn't a manager in the league who questioned the remarkable talent of Brooklyn outfielder Ambiorix Concepcion.

The best player in the league was Tri-City shortstop Ben Zobrist, who led the NY-P in batting (.339) and on-base percentage (.438). But while he might be a safer bet than Concepcion, Zobrist was old for the league at 23, and his year must be viewed with that perspective.

Pitchers dominated the rest of our NY-P Top 10 Prospects list, claiming seven of the other eight spots. Lowell righthander Anibal Sanchez led that contingent, showing no ill effects from the elbow surgery that caused him to miss all of 2003. While Sanchez had the highest ceiling on the Lowell staff, several older and more advanced Spinners pitchers could beat him to the majors.

Jamestown (led by lefties Jason Vargas and Taylor Tankersley) and Staten Island (with righties Jesse Hoover and Jeff Marquez at the forefront) also had impressive pitching depth.

1. AMBIORIX CONCEPCION, of, Brooklyn Cyclones (Mets)
Age: 20 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 180 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Mets FA '00 (Dominican Republic)

AB:259
R:38
H:79
2B:14
3B:3
HR:8
RBI:46
BB:13
SO:54
SB:28
CS:11
AVG:.305
OBP:.338
SLG:.475
As Jamestown manager Benny Castillo put it, "It's Concepcion, then the rest of the league." Two managers compared his strong, wiry, athletic frame to Vladimir Guerrero's.

Concepcion has major five-tool potential. He has a plus arm that's tailor-made for right field and the plus speed to play center and steal bases. He also plays hard and is fast enough to take the extra base if you let him.

Some managers were concerned about Concepcion's swing, saying it was long and had holes in it. But he's still just 20 and already has made considerable improvement after hitting .214-0-19 in the Rookie-level Appalachian League last year, his third as a pro. He hit for average and showed some power in the NY-P.

"He hasn't learned to work the count, but his ability to make the adjustment and wait on breaking balls has already impressed me," Brooklyn manager Tony Tijerina said. "He's starting to fill out his body, and every day he'll win a ballgame with a different tool."

2. ANIBAL SANCHEZ, rhp, Lowell Spinners (Red Sox)
Age: 20 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 180 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Red Sox FA '01 (Venezuela)

W:3
L:4
ERA:1.77
G:15
SV:0
IP:76.1
H:43
HR:3
BB:29
SO:101
AVG:.157
No one knew quite what to expect this season from Sanchez, who had some success in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League in 2001-02 before being sidelined in 2003. Hitters never figured him out, as he easily led the league in ERA (1.77), strikeouts (101 in 76 innings) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.9).

Sanchez relies heavily on his plus fastball, which sits in the mid 90s and has good life through the zone. He commands it to both sides of the plate exceptionally well for such an inexperienced pitcher. He'll need time to refine his secondary offerings, but his changeup is a plus pitch at times and his curveball can become one.

3. JASON VARGAS, lhp, Jamestown Jammers (Marlins)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 215 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Marlins '04 (2)

W:3
L:1
ERA:1.96
G:8
SV:0
IP:41.1
H:35
HR:2
BB:13
SO:41
AVG:.224
Jered Weaver may have overshadowed him at Long Beach State this spring, but Vargas was a two-way star for the 49ers and went in the second round to the Marlins. He gave Sanchez a run for the ERA title before he was promoted late in the year to the low Class A South Atlantic League, where he made three impressive starts.

Vargas is a very polished lefthander who pounds the strike zone with his 92-93 mph fastball, then gets hitters to chase his curveball and changeup out of the zone. His mechanics are sound, giving him very good command, and he's not afraid to challenge hitters.

"He'll be the quickest to the big leagues out of this league," Castillo said. "He's poised, never gets rattled, real professional."

4. TAYLOR TANKERSLEY, lhp, Jamestown Jammers (Marlins)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 225 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Marlins '04 (1)

W:1
L:1
ERA:3.38
G:6
SV:0
IP:26.2
H:21
HR:2
BB:8
SO:32
AVG:.208
The Marlins took Tankersley one round ahead of Vargas in June, and the duo matched each other with quality outings until Vargas' promotion. After working as a swingman at Alabama, Tankersley operated on a strict pitch count at Jamestown that limited his opportunity to pick up wins.

But his stuff was evident. He showed command of a low-90s fastball and a 12-to-6 curveball that already is of major league quality. He's more raw than Vargas, and there are some questions about Tankersley's fiery makeup and antics on the mound.

"He's pretty legit," Mahoning Valley manager Mike Sarbaugh said. "He's got a real good arm, and the one thing that stuck out to me is he has real good command of his pitches. He doesn't walk many and he attacks the zone."

5. BEN ZOBRIST, ss, Tri-City Valley Cats (Astros)
Age: 23 Ht: 6-3 Wt: 200 B-T: B-R Drafted/Signed: Astros '04 (6)

AB:257
R:50
H:87
2B:14
3B:3
HR:4
RBI:45
BB:43
SO:31
SB:15
CS:4
AVG:.339
OBP:.438
SLG:.463
If not for his age, Zobrist might have been at the top of this list. Managers raved about his hitting ability from both sides of the plate, his defense at shortstop, his speed, his work ethic and his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame.

"Zobrist is just such a good, well-rounded player," Hudson Valley manager Dave Howard said. "He's a four-tool guy. He doesn't hit for power but he can hit, he can run, he can steal bases, and he has great instincts. He defended really well against us."

Zobrist has a major league body to go with average range and arm strength for a shortstop, but his size might precipitate a move to third base. His excellent plate discipline and decent gap power should give him enough bat to play at the hot corner.

6. JESSE HOOVER, rhp, Staten Island Yankees
Age: 22 Ht: 6-3 Wt: 210 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Yankees '04 (5)

W:2
L:1
ERA:1.78
G:16
SV:1
IP:55.2
H:28
HR:0
BB:26
SO:90
AVG:.151
Hoover began his college career at Indiana Tech on the junior varsity and went undrafted as a junior in 2003 before exploding this year. He led the NAIA with 14.7 strikeouts per nine innings during the spring, went in the fifth round to the Yankees and continued to overmatch hitters in the NY-P. He averaged 14.6 strikeouts per nine innings (but just missed qualifying for the league lead).

Used as a starter in the second half of the summer, Hoover projects more as a closer. His fastball sat in the mid-90s when he came out of the bullpen, reaching as high as 97 mph.

"Hoover's got a power arm," Howard said. "He can really run it up there. He's got a power breaking pitch that's really consistent, and one of these days it's all going to click. He can be dominating."

Hoover is still more of a thrower than a pitcher, and his arm action scared some observers. But Staten Island manager Tommy John worked with Hoover on polishing his mechanics as well as his curveball and changeup, which is still in its elementary stages.

7. DAVID HAEHNEL, lhp, Aberdeen Ironbirds (Orioles)
Age: 22 Ht: 6-4 Wt: 185 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Orioles '04 (8)

W:3
L:1
ERA:1.21
G:28
SV:16
IP:37.1
H:23
HR:1
BB:11
SO:61
AVG:.174
Haehnel excelled out of the bullpen in his first two years at Illinois-Chicago, and did so again for Aberdeen after spending the spring as a starter. Though he doesn't have typical closer velocity with a fastball that tops out at 92 mph, he tied for the NY-P lead with 16 saves and fanned 61 in 37 innings.

"I don't know if he's going to become a major league closer or not, but this kid's fastball is the best in the league with the deception and liveliness on it," Tijerina said. "I hope he develops other pitches. Right now he throws a little slider/cutter-type pitch with not very big break."

His changeup can be a plus pitch at times, and if he can come up with an effective breaking ball, it's possible he could return to the rotation. But he looked born to close this year.

8. TONY SIPP, lhp, Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 185 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Indians '04 (45)

W:3
L:1
ERA:3.16
G:10
SV:0
IP:42.2
H:33
HR:5
BB:13
SO:74
AVG:.202
One of the more athletic players in the NY-P, Sipp stole 20 bases this spring at Clemson, where he played in the outfield and worked out of the bullpen. He lasted until the 45th round because of signability concerns, but the Indians signed him for $130,000 after he spent part of the summer in the Cape Cod League.

The rap on Sipp as a college pitcher was that he had very good stuff but never was able to put it all together. He put it together rather nicely for the Scrappers, posting a 74-13 strikeout-walk ratio in 43 innings.

Sipp's live arm generates a low-90s fastball that he's not afraid to locate anywhere in the strike zone. His slider could become a plus pitch, and he has good feel for a changeup.

9. CHRISTIAN LARA, ss, Lowell Spinners, (Red Sox)
Age: 19 Ht: 5-11 Wt: 150 B-T: B-R Drafted/Signed: Red Sox FA '02 (Venezuela)

AB:119
R:21
H:33
2B:3
3B:2
HR:0
RBI:10
BB:24
SO:23
SB:10
CS:5
AVG:.277
OBP:.404
SLG:.336
Boston's player of the year in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2003, Lara is a slick-fielding middle infielder with very good bat control. He's reminiscent of Tigers infielder Omar Infante but has better plate discipline. Lara hit .433 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before his promotion to Lowell.

He'll add some muscle to his frame, but Lara never will be a power hitter. He concentrates instead on making solid contact from both sides of the plate. Managers also appreciated his defense, citing his plus range and average-to-plus arm strength.

"He's going to play in the big leagues," Tri-City manager Greg Langbehn said. "He makes the hard play real easy. There are guys you see for one game, and you just know."

10. JEFF MARQUEZ, rhp, Staten Island Yankees
Age: 19 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 185 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Yankees '04 (1)

W:2
L:4
ERA:2.96
G:11
SV:0
IP:51.2
H:51
HR:2
BB:20
SO:37
AVG:.254
Marquez went from a redshirted walk-on at Sacramento City College in 2003 to a supplemental first-round pick in 2004. His out pitch is a 92-94 mph fastball with heavy sink. His strikeout rate (37 in 52 innings) may not have been eye-popping, but his groundball-flyball ratio (76-33) was.

"He reminds me of a skinny Kevin Brown or Scott Erickson," John said. "This kid's only 6-foot-2, 175, but his ball is hard and the bottom just drops out of it."

Marquez' changeup is a better pitch than his curveball at this point. He still needs to improve both and get more consistent with his fastball command.

11. CURTIS THIGPEN, c, Auburn Doubledays (Blue Jays)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-0 Wt: 190 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Blue Jays '04 (2)

AB:166
R:34
H:50
2B:11
3B:2
HR:7
RBI:29
BB:23
SO:32
SB:1
CS:1
AVG:.301
OBP:.388
SLG:.518
Thigpen didn't play much behind the plate at Texas because the Longhorns also had Taylor Teagarden, the best defensive catcher in college baseball. But the Blue Jays saw enough in Thigpen to draft him in the second round as a catcher.

He's not raw as a catcher, but his defensive skills do lag behind his offensive game. Thigpen has some pop in his bat and very good pitch recognition. He's versatile enough to play anywhere on the diamond except for center field and shortstop, so he could be a super utilityman if he's not a regular.

"He does a terrific job at the plate," Auburn manager Dennis Holmberg said. "He works the count, has a good approach and he's got a knack for putting a consistent swing on a majority of pitches. He's got a chance to be a good big league catcher."

12. MIKE BUTIA, of, Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 215 B-T: L-R Drafted/Signed: Indians '04 (5)

AB:232
R:32
H:73
2B:17
3B:1
HR:5
RBI:44
BB:24
SO:54
SB:0
CS:1
AVG:.315
OBP:.396
SLG:.461
Butia is a masher who would fit right in with Cleveland's potent offense. He has quick hands and a good approach, allowing him to produce for power and average from the left side of the plate.

"For a big, strong power hitter, his strike-zone recognition is tremendous," an American League scout said. "You rarely see him chase anything out of the zone. He's focused when he gets to the plate, has a very good plan, and he stays with it, and it shows."

The Indians project Butia as a corner outfielder, but he's not particularly athletic and is average at best defensively. His arm is below average, though he does have a quick release.

13. HUNTER PENCE, of, Tri-City Valley Cats (Astros)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Astros '04 (2)

AB:199
R:36
H:59
2B:18
3B:1
HR:8
RBI:37
BB:23
SO:30
SB:3
CS:5
AVG:.296
OBP:.369
SLG:.518
Pence was a surprise second-rounder, going to the Astros with their top pick. But he definitely can hit, stinging the ball to all fields and showing good plate discipline. His swing isn't picturesque, but he sets up well and has an effective trigger.

"He has incredible hand and bat speed, the ability to hit it out anywhere," Langbehn said. "His power to all fields is pretty special."

Though he's gangly, Pence played some center field for Tri-City and was able to run down balls in the gap. He's a sound defender, albeit with a lackluster arm, and probably will wind up in left field.

14. TOMMY HOTTOVY, lhp, Lowell Spinners (Red Sox)
Age: 23 Ht: 6-1 Wt: 195 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Red Sox '04 (4)

W:0
L:1
ERA:0.89
G:14
SV:0
IP:30.1
H:24
HR:0
BB:4
SO:39
AVG:.214
Hottovy should challenge Vargas in the race to be the first player in this NY-P crop to reach the majors. He was one of several polished college lefties on the Lowell staff, joining Randy Beam, Andrew Dobies and R.J. Swindle.

The Red Sox kept Hottovy on a strict pitch count, limiting him to 30 innings in 14 starts, but that was enough to showcase his outstanding command. He's not overpowering with his mid-80s fastball, but he's very deceptive and has a plus curveball. He projects as a reliever, a role that will expedite his arrival in Boston.

"He'll pitch in the big leagues probably by next year," Lowell manager Luis Alicea said. "He's that good. He's smart, has good mechanics and has a lot of things going for him."

15. JONATHAN FULTON, ss, Jamestown Jammers (Marlins)
Age: 20 Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Marlins '03 (3)

AB:252
R:39
H:64
2B:12
3B:5
HR:11
RBI:40
BB:20
SO:82
SB:2
CS:1
AVG:.254
OBP:.312
SLG:.472
The Marlins are still waiting for Fulton, a high-ceiling third-rounder from 2003, to put up numbers worthy of his talent. His strong finish was a cause for optimism, as eight of his 11 homers (tied for second in the league) came after Aug. 4.

Fulton needs to add some bulk to his 6-foot-4 frame, but he already has shown plus power and will only get stronger. He has strong hands and a plus arm, but he figures to outgrow shortstop and move to third base. He has a good work ethic, which will help him make that transition and other necessary adjustments.

16. ARGENIS REYES, of, Mahoning Valley Scrappers (Indians)
Age: 22 Ht: 5-10 Wt: 160 B-T: B-R Drafted/Signed: Indians FA '01 (Dominican Republic)

AB:324
R:53
H:101
2B:11
3B:0
HR:0
RBI:20
BB:15
SO:36
SB:27
CS:9
AVG:.312
OBP:.349
SLG:.346
Reyes has yet to make it to full-season ball in four years as a pro, but he may be worth the wait. Previously a second baseman, he moved to center field early this summer to take better advantage of his plus speed.

A switch-hitter who makes contact, Reyes can become a leadoff man if he learns to draw more walks. He's a slap hitter who won't have much power. But he can wreak havoc on the bases and has the tools to turn into a plus defender.

He can throw, field, run, hit. Theres something about that Reyes kid, Vermont manager Jose Alguacil said. Since the first day I saw the guy, I really liked him.

17. BLAIR JOHNSON, rhp, Williamsport Crosscutters (Pirates)
Age: 20 Ht: 6-4 Wt: 210 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Pirates '02 (2)

W:6
L:1
ERA:2.44
G:14
SV:0
IP:88.2
H:62
HR:2
BB:12
SO:40
AVG:.193
After struggling in the South Atlantic League to start the year, Johnson regained his confidence in the NY-P. He showed better command and a greater willingness to challenge hitters with his 90-92 mph fastball.

Johnson can reach 95 mph, but when he overthrows he sacrifices his control and movement. His slider has the potential to become a plus pitch, and he's working on a changeup. League hitters batted just .193 against him, but he didn't miss many bats with 40 strikeouts in 89 innings.

18. J.A. HAPP, lhp, Batavia Muckdogs (Phillies)
Age: 21 Ht: 6-5 Wt: 205 B-T: L-L Drafted/Signed: Phillies '04 (3)

W:1
L:2
ERA:2.02
G:11
SV:0
IP:35.2
H:22
HR:1
BB:18
SO:37
AVG:.180
Though he's 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds, Happ engineered a strong pro debut more with location and deception than with sheer velocity. His fastball sat in the high 80s and topped out at 92 mph, though he projects to get stronger.

Holmberg compared him to Vargas, noting that Happ is a little sneakier and a little more effortless. His mechanics are solid, so he should be able to cut down on his walk rate. His curveball can be a plus pitch and his changeup is coming along.

19. JAKE MULLINAX, 3b, New Jersey Cardinals
Age: 22 Ht: 6-2 Wt: 195 B-T: R-R Drafted/Signed: Cardinals '04 (14)

AB:224
R:32
H:65
2B:9
3B:4
HR:3
RBI:36
BB:11
SO:52
SB:5
CS:1
AVG:.290
OBP:.336
SLG:.406
Mullinax played second base for Nebraska this spring, but the Cardinals moved him to third base after signing him as a 14th-rounder. He proved to have one of the strongest arms in the league and showed enough power potential to thrive at the hot corner.

He has line drive power, very good balance and good hand speed," New Jersey manager Tom Shields said. "Hes going to have power in the future, I think. Hes surprisingly fast, an average runner.

Mullinax has the arm, range and hands to be at least a solid defender at second or third base. Some observers raised the possibility that he could return to his former position and be a Jeff Kent-style second baseman. He also received high marks for his makeup.

20. JON BARRATT, lhp, Hudson Valley Renegades (Devil Rays)
Age: 19 Ht: 5-9 Wt: 165 B-T: R-L Drafted/Signed: Devil Rays '03 (5)

W:2
L:3
ERA:2.74
G:10
SV:0
IP:42.2
H:38
HR:2
BB:11
SO:50
AVG:.230
As Holmberg put it, there's a lot that comes out of Barratt's small frame. Just 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds, he's not a stereotypical little lefty.

He can pitch into the low 90s with his fastball, and his plus curveball is his bread-and-butter pitch. He has an incredibly quick arm, so he throws with little effort, allowing him to maintain very good command. He has begun to learn a changeup, and he flashed an intriguing splitter in high school.

Barratt also had some arm fatigue late in the season, and his size will always be a concern. Though he started for Hudson Valley, he may not be able to go deep into games, which would mean his future lies in the bullpen.

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