Gulf Coast League Top 20 Prospects
By Allan Simpson
It was more difficult than normal this year as the league featured two first-round choices--neither of whom distinguished themselves--and managers provided a wide difference of opinion on the top prospects in two of the three divisions.
Managers in the four-team Northern Division, however, were in agreement on the best talent in their grouping. The top three prospects in the GCL this year come from the North, which produced the league-champion Yankees.
Petty made a cameo appearance in the league a year ago after being Detroit's second-round pick in 2000. He led the league with a 1.11 ERA in his return.
"He really learned how to pitch this year," Yankees manager Derek Shelton said. "He worked both sides of the plate and knew exactly what pitch to throw in each situation. He was very polished for the Gulf Coast League."
"He's got great command for a young pitcher," Phillies manager Roly DeArmas added. "He knew what to do even when he didn't have his best stuff."
Petty shows the makings of three solid pitches. His fastball normally ranges from 87-89 mph, touches 90-91 and has excellent sinking action. His changeup also moves extremely well, while his curveball acts more like a hard slider.
The Ohio native may not have returned to the GCL had the Tigers not chosen to bring him back slowly from an injury in extended spring training. It proved to be an excellent learning experience.
"He was head and shoulders the best pitcher in this division," Tigers manager Howard Bushong said.
2 ANDERSON HERNANDEZ, ss
"He's a small kid," Royals manager Lino Garcia said, "but he's fluid and athletic, has a great arm and range and usually puts the ball in play."
"He's a big league shortstop already," DeArmas said. "He makes all the plays."
3 BRONSON SARDINHA, ss
Without hesitation, managers said the lefthanded-hitting Sardinha was the best hitting prospect in the league. He has an outstanding swing and the ball jumps off his bat.
The Yankees will keep Sardinha at shortstop for the time being, but it's expected he'll move to third base or even the outfield because he lacks the fluid actions and lateral movement desired for the position. The organization also is deep in shortstops.
"His bat will play anywhere," Shelton said.
4 MANNY DELCARMEN, rhp
"He's poised, he's confident and he's got a very high ceiling," Rangers manager Carlos Subero said.
Delcarmen's fastball normally was clocked from 92-93 mph and reached 95 mph on occasion. He complemented it with an above-average curveball.
5 CARLOS DURAN, of
A leadoff hitter, Duran puts the ball in play effectively but has work to do despite batting .304. His plate discipline could stand some improvement, as could his strength.
"He needs to drive the ball better," Expos manager Dave Dangler said. "If the ball's away, he's just a slap hitter."
6 JOSH THIGPEN, rhp
The big righthander pitched aggressively with a fastball that was clocked as high as 96 mph. He's also a talented athlete who was all-state in baseball, basketball and football as an Alabama high schooler.
"He's got great velocity, arm action and makeup," Reds manager Edgar Caceres said. "And he's going to get bigger."
7 VICTOR DIAZ, 2b
"He reminds you a lot of Carlos Baerga," Dangler said. "He's a fundamentally sound hitter, but he needs to find a position."
Dodgers manager Juan Bustabad defended his player's ability at second base, though he said Diaz needs to make the routine plays better.
8 EZEQUIEL ASTACIO, rhp
Astacio has above-average velocity (90-92 mph) and movement on his fastball, and his changeup showed improvement. He's also projectable at 6-foot-3 and 194 pounds.
9 GONZALO LOPEZ, rhp
"He's got three sound pitches, including a 92-94 mph fastball," Albert said. "Everything he throws is easy."
"He's not overpowering," Bustabad said, "but he throws lots of strikes and he goes right at you."
10 ALAN MOYE, of
"He's got power and he can go get the ball in center field," Orioles manager Jesus Alfaro said. "He hasn't learned to pull balls consistently yet, but his bat is his most advanced tool. He made solid contact three out of every four times against us."
"The only question mark he has might be his arm," Caceres said. "He throws from a three-quarters angle. He needs to learn to throw from over the top. But he's a kid who catches on quick. He makes adjustments well."
11 CARLOS RODRIGUEZ, ss
"He has all the actions to be an outstanding shortstop," DeArmas said. "He's got more power than Anderson Hernandez and drives the ball better. He just needs to get stronger."
12 MATT COOPER, 1b
"He knows how to hit," Alfaro said. "He stays back on curveballs well and you can't throw a fastball by him. He's got very quick wrists. He can pull anything. He had the best power in the league, by far."
Two managers, however, wondered whether Cooper's pop was legitimate. One questioned whether he had enough power for his position, while another wondered if he'd be as effective against better pitching.
13 KOLE STRAYHORN, rhp
Albert thought he was the best pitcher in the Eastern Division. "He's got a great arm, great breaking ball and great makeup," Albert said. "And he's very aggressive."
Dangler liked Strayhorn's arm but was worried about his maximum-effort delivery and fear he'll get hurt down the road.
14 BRYAN BASS, ss
He drew a lot of support from Alfaro and Caceres, two former big league middle infielders. Both like Bass' shortstop actions, particularly his quick hands, first-step quickness and strong, accurate arm. They also think he'll hit.
"I like the way he makes quick adjustments at the plate," Alfaro said. "He should have power to all fields."
Bass spent just 21 games in the GCL before being promoted to the Appalachian League, where he hit .324.
15 JUAN GONZALEZ, 3b
He earned all-star honors at third base, though he played every infield position as well as the outfield. Gonzalez' greatest strength, managers say, is his versatility. He has a solid feel for the game and does the little things well, enabling him to adapt to a number of positions.
"He'd be the best defensive player on his team at any position," Bushong said. "He excels wherever he plays. He's got the range to be a middle infielder and the arm strength to play on the left side."
16 JOSE DOMINGUEZ, rhp
He has a good, clean delivery and was clocked consistently at 93-94 mph. He touched 96 and offset his fastball with excellent deception on his changeup. At least one manager, though, felt Dominguez was too power-oriented.
17 ALLEN BAXTER, rhp
"I really like the way the ball comes out of his hand," Deeble said. "He's big and strong, has a good feel for a breaking ball and changeup, and his fastball tops out at 94."
18 JOSH BURRUS, ss
"He struggled but he was never overmatched at the plate," Albert said. "He's got great bat speed and can hit a fastball. I have no doubt he'll hit down the line."
There was more concern was Burrus' longterm future at shortstop. Every Eastern Division manager projected Burrus as a future third baseman or left fielder, though none had any doubt his bat will play at those positions.
"He doesn't have outstanding infield actions," Dangler said. "He fields it OK, but he doesn't have the smooth catch-and-release mechanics you look for. His arm strength is adequate."
19 ALEX SANTA, of
"He had to be the most improved player in the league," Shelton said. "I saw him in extended spring training and never thought he'd have the year he had."
Santa still has a way to go with the bat after striking out 52 times in 179 at-bats. He's mostly a slash-and-run artist, but bunts well and has a little pop.
20 ELVIN ANDUJAR, of
"He had the best bat speed of any player in the league and was one of the most improved players, from extended spring training to the end of the Gulf Coast season," Subero said. "He showed a lot of improvement in all phases of his game."
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