Carolina League Top 20 Prospects
By Dave Utnik
He walked out of spring training prior to the 2000 season and filed a lawsuit through his agent in an attempt to become a free agent. Eventually, the Braves struck a deal without going to court and Betemit returned from a half-season layoff to become Atlantas top-rated prospect.
Betemit didnt do anything to lessen his status this year. In his first full professional season, Betemit showed the rest of the baseball world why the Braves refused to let him go. Despite making a difficult jump from the short-season New York-Penn League to high Class A (and eventually the big leagues), Betemit was a near-unanimous choice as the Carolina Leagues No. 1 prospect.
In a league typically dominated by pitching stars, Betemit was the one position player who truly stood out. Managers also named him the leagues best defensive shortstop, best infield arm and most exciting player.
"He was the best athlete in the league," Wilmington manager Jeff Garber said. "He has the ability to be a five-tool player."
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Braves)
Betemit is a switch-hitter who can produce for average and power. Its what he can do with the glove, however, that makes league managers believe he will be a success in the major leagues. Betemit has all the tools to win a Gold Glove at shortstop: size, arm strength and outstanding range.
He made so much progress with Myrtle Beach that Pelicans manager Brian Snitker envisioned him being part a regular of the Atlanta infield within the next two seasons. With Rafael Furcal at shortstop and Marcus Giles at second base, Betemit could fit in at third base, pushing Chipper Jones to the outfield permanently.
"Hes going to elevate his game wherever hes at," Snitker said. "Obviously, the tools are there."
Salem manager Dave Collins likened Betemit to another Carolina League all-star shortstop: Tony Fernandez, who earned that honor in 1981--a year before Betemit was born. Fernandez went on to win four Gold Gloves with the Blue Jays.
Betemit needs to make some minor adjustments, such as drawing more walks and cutting down on his errors, but no one doubted hell become a star.
2 JIMMY JOURNELL, rhp
At the University of Illinois and last summer at short-season New Jersey, Journells success came in relief. The Cardinals envisioned him as a big league closer, but his path to St. Louis may have been altered a bit following a 14-win season as a starter.
Journell had one of the leagues premier fastballs. He complements that mid-90s offering with a nice slider. All of his pitches have life.
"Anybody who throws as hard as he does will be in the big leagues quickly," Snitker said.
3 ANGEL BERROA, ss
Hes regarded primarily for his defensive prowess. He has outstanding range and a strong, accurate throwing arm. After making 54 errors at high Class A Visalia last year, Berroas consistency improved in 2001. He made more of the routine plays and dazzled managers by coming up with many of the difficult ones.
They also liked Berroas ability to hit for average and gap power, plus to steal an occasional base. His main weakness is his lack of strike-zone discipline.
"Hes a tough out," Collins said. "You can put him in a lot of different places in the lineup."
4 RYAN KIBLER, rhp
Winston-Salem manager Wally Backman said Kiblers sinker was the best in the league by far. Kibler complements it with a quality changeup and an unflappable demeanor. He also works effectively on both sides of the plate.
Put that package together, and its easy to see why Kibler reached Double-A before he turned 21. Hes still developing a consistent breaking pitch.
5 CHRIS NARVESON, lhp
He has command of four pitches: a low-90s fastball, a slider, curveball and changeup. Narvesons stuff isnt as good as Ankiels, though its superior to Bud Smiths. If Ankiel can recover from his control difficulties, the St. Louis rotation could be loaded with lefties in the near future.
Narveson also impressed managers with his confidence. His season ended when the Cardinals shut him down as a precaution when he suffered a slight tear in his elbow in mid-July.
6 BRETT EVERT, rhp
Backman called Evert a 20-year-old kid with a big league arm. He was the best starter on a Pelicans staff that also featured Top 20 Prospects Jung Bong and Trey Hodges, the Carolina League co-pitcher of the year. Evert showed a 91-95 mph fastball, plus curveball and satisfactory changeup.
"Hes the total package," Snitker said. "Theres more in there than youre even seeing now."
The only downside was a shoulder strain that ended Everts season in early July.
7 BOBBY BRADLEY, rhp
When hes 100 percent physically, Bradley has the ability to dominate. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs and is capable of reaching 92 mph. Yet its his sharp-breaking curveball that always has been his out pitch. Its one of the best curves in the minors, though he may rely on it too much, to the detriment of his elbow.
"Theres no question about his competitiveness. Hell never have a problem with that part of the game," Lynchburg pitching coach Blaine Beatty said. "There are still some things he needs to achieve and learn, but he has so many things to offer."
8 JIMMY GOBBLE, lhp
With a curveball that already is regarded as the organizations best, a low-90s fastball and quality changeup, Gobble rarely looked like a teenager on the mound. He finished second in the ERA race and third in strikeouts while limiting opponents to a .226 average.
"He showed poise for a 19-year-old," Garber said. "He has the ability to develop three above-average pitches and use them at the big league level."
9 JASON YOUNG, rhp
"Hes one of the few pitchers in the league who has such good control that he can get by with throwing his fastball 80 percent of the time," Collins said. "What I like other than his ability is he has a warriors mentality. Hes not afraid out there."
10 VICTOR MARTINEZ, c
Martinez won the MVP award and batting title. He also has gap power and decent plate discipline, and he was much improved after batting a weak .217 in 26 Carolina League games in 2000.
But it was his work behind the plate that managers wanted to talk about. They named him the leagues best defensive catcher, praising his game-calling ability and his strong, accurate arm.
"He might be the best all-around catcher Ive seen in this league," said Snitker, who has managed the Pelicans since their inception in 1999.
11 KEN HARVEY, 1b
It took a right toe injury to finally get him out, as he missed most of 2000. He returned to ravage Carolina League pitching so thoroughly that he was promoted to Double-A in mid-May. His wide-open stance allows him to turn on inside pitches, making him a threat to all fields.
"He was the purest hitter in the league," Garber said. "He has the ability to hit to all fields with power."
Harveys strikeout-walk ratio deteriorated significantly after his promotion, a flaw hell need to address. His bat will have to carry him because hes stiff at first base and is better suited to DH.
12 ED ROGERS, ss
He already is considered Baltimores shortstop of the future. With the best arm, range and hands among Orioles infield prospects, hell force major leaguer Brian Roberts to second base or a utility role in a year or two.
"He plays a very smooth shortstop," Garber said. "With his short swing, he has a chance to hit for a high average at the major league level."
To do so, Rogers will have to show more patience. He walked just 20 times in 521 plate appearances between the two levels.
13 BLAKE WILLIAMS, rhp
Williams went from short-season ball to high Class A, and theres no question hes talented enough to pitch in the major leagues. When he gets there depends on how quickly he comes back from Tommy John surgery.
Managers rated his slurve the best breaking ball in the Carolina League. Williams complements that pitch with a mid-90s fastball and a changeup.
"Hes got a good arm and a good breaking ball," Cannons manager Joe Cunningham said. "What it boils down to is being consistent with his pitches."
14 ALEX HERRERA, lhp
This summer, however, Herrera stood out. A rare power level, he reached 95 mph with his fastball while his slider was untouchable at times. He struck out 12.5 batters per nine innings and held opponents to a .171 average. After a promotion to Double-A, he continued to pitch well.
He threw mostly in middle relief in order to get him consistent innings. Hes working on making his delivery and command more consistent.
15 JUNG BONG, lhp
After going 4-5, 5.23 in the first two months, Bong went 9-4, 1.97 the rest of the way.
"He was our most improved pitcher this season," Snitker said. "He struggled a little bit in April and May, but he really came around. His command got better, his breaking ball improved and his fastball had some life on it."
16 ERIK BEDARD, lhp
Bedards best pitch is a low-90s fastball that he keeps down in the strike zone. He also has a hard breaking ball and a changeup.
A sore shoulder cost him two months in the middle of the season, but Bedard returned to help Frederick earn a wild-card berth. He permitted just eight runs in his final 69 innings, which also included 97 strikeouts.
17 SHANE WALLACE, lhp
He has a low-90s fastball, nice velocity for a lefthander who still cant drink legally. He also mixes in curveballs, sliders and changeups to keep hitters guessing.
"Hes a lefty who is smart beyond his years," Garber said. "He changes speeds and showed the ability to work the ball in the zone."
18 TREY HODGES, rhp
He shared pitcher-of-the-year honors with Journell after leading the league in victories and finishing third in ERA. Most of Hodges success was the result of getting ahead in the count. He made that a priority at Louisiana State, where he was named MVP of the 2000 College World Series, and walked just 18 batters in a league-high 173 innings in his first full year as a pro.
Hodges isnt just a soft tosser who relies on finesse and command. He has a solid fastball to go with his slider.
19 BRIAN TALLET, lhp
Pitching in big games for college baseballs premier program prepared Tallet for success in professional baseball. Despite just 16 innings of previous pro experience, he led the league in strikeouts.
Tallet has a lot going for him. Hes lefthanded and he has size (6-foot-7). He also has good stuff, featuring a low-90s fastball, a slider and a changeup.
20 COVELLI CRISP, of
Crisp batted a combined .256 in his first pro season before challenging the Cannons record for hits in a season and settling for leading the Carolina League. Snitker said Crisp had the best hands among hitters in the circuit.
A switch-hitter, Crisp batted in the leadoff spot for most of the year and did a good job of getting on base and running once he got there. He also has enough power to bat lower in the lineup.
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