The 31st Team, 2004 Edition
By Jim Callis
March 9, 2004
Detailed Scouting Reports
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We provide 900 scouting reports on baseball's brightest prospects in our annual Prospect Handbook, and we always have a few extras that don't make the final edition. Players get bumped because of trades, injuries or decisions to change their careers (this means you, Drew Henson), among other reasons.
Below are 24 players who got written up yet wound up on the cutting-room floor. They're listed alphabetically rather than being ranked in any particular order. It's a good bet that some of these prospects will make a bigger name for themselves in 2004. After all, last year's 31st Team included Jake Dittler, Jason Dubois, Jody Gerut and Don Murphy.
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Jose Aponte, of, Marlins
Born: Jan. 4, 1983. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 160. Bats: L. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Venezuela by Marlins, Feb. 11, 2000.
Signed at age 17 by scout Miguel Garcia of the previous Marlins administration, Aponte has made steady improvement through three pro seasons. He reached full-season ball for the first time last June and looked promising in his two months in low Class A. Aponte can play all three outfield spots and shows good ability in center. He has above-average speed and regularly runs from the left side of the plate to first base in 4.1 seconds. He puts the ball in play, bunts with ease and moves the ball around. He could stand to draw a few more walks, however, if he's to become a classic leadoff man. His frame, game and energy have inspired some comparisons to Timo Perez. For his size, Aponte has surprising pop. He projects to hit for average and could show gap power at the higher levels as he continues to gain strength. He must improve his baserunning instincts, as he has yet to convert his raw speed into stolen bases. His makeup and work ethic are good. He likely will return to low Class A to begin 2004.
Jordan Belcher, of, Reds
Born: Feb. 17, 1984. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Augusta (Ga.) Christian HS. Career Transactions: Selected by Reds in 41st round of 2003 draft; signed June 8, 2003.
For all its changes in recent years, the Reds scouting department consistently has used amateur tryout camps as much as any club. Georgia-based area scout Steve Kring, who tabbed Gookie Dawkins and DeWayne Wise in 1997, first identified Belcher as a prospect when he appeared at a tryout camp as a 15-year-old, and followed Belcher through high school. Virtually unknown, Belcher wasn't seen by most clubs or the Major League Scouting Bureau. The Reds had extensive video of Belcher and invited him to a predraft workout in Cincinnati, where he was impressive. He had no interest in being a draft-and-follow, and appeared headed for a scholarship at South Carolina-Aiken before the Reds swayed him with 10th-round money. Belcher fell one home run short of tying his league's home run record in high school, where he was also a basketball standout as well as a scratch golfer. On the diamond, he employs an efficient, compact swing that keeps his bat in the zone for a long time. He shows a good feel for hitting with two strikes and driving breaking balls to the opposite field. He has a solid average arm, and topped out at 92 mph as a closer in high school. Projected as a corner outfielder, Belcher may begin 2004 in low Class A.
Eddie Bonine, rhp, Padres
Born: June 6, 1981. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: University of Nevada. Career Transactions: Selected by Padres in 23rd round of 2003 draft; signed June 9, 2003.
A 23rd-rounder in 2003, Bonine made the biggest impression among San Diego's most recent class of college pitching draftees, a group that also includes much higher picks in the injured Tim Stauffer (first round), lefthander Daniel Moore (second) and righty Clark Girardeau (7th), plus righty sleepers in Chuck Bechtel (15th), Greg Conden (18th) and Ryan Klatt (38th). Bonine spent two years at Glendale (Ariz.) CC and one each at Washington State and Nevada, where his father Ed pitched before topping out in Triple-A in the Astros system. Eddie had a 5-6, 5.84 ERA as a senior last spring, explaining why he lasted until the second day of the draft. After he turned pro, a couple of bad outings had his ERA sitting at 6.27 in early August before he finished with a flourish, allowing just one earned run in his final 14 2/3 innings. His stuff is very intriguing. Bonine throws multiple versions of a knuckleball, one a typical knuckler that dances and a harder version with more of a splitter action. He also has a solid-average fastball that touches the low 90s, and he aggressively attacks the strike zone. The Padres saw enough to consider moving him to the rotation in 2004. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, he has the strong, durable frame to handle the assignment. He'll need to refine his changeup. Bonine will open the season in low Class A.
Marcos Carvajal, rhp, Dodgers
Born: Aug. 19, 1984. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 175. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Venezuela by Dodgers, Sept. 26, 2000.
Carvajal is the brightest prospect among the deep group of hard throwers the Dodgers have signed out of Latin America in recent years. Jose "Jumbo" Diaz watched his velocity plummet from the upper 90s to the 80s last year before he was shut down with an arm injury. Agustin Montero is armed with mid-90s heat, but his command is a concern. Jose Obispo is just surfacing with his 93 mph heat and hammer breaking ball. At 98 mph, Carvajal's electric fastball is a tick higher than Montero's. He regularly fires mid-90s smoke and doesnít sacrifice hard run and sink. Carvajal improved his slider in 2003, but it still needs more consistency. He also has to display better command and mound presence, which he'll need to avoid big innings if he's to pitch in the back of a bullpen. His faults can be cured with experience and maturity. Carvajal worked on all aspects of pitching at the Dodgers' academy in Venezuela during the offseason. Though he projects as a reliever, Carvajal needs to start piling up some innings as he prepares to make his full-season debut in low Class A this year.
Matt Childers, rhp, Brewers
Born: Dec. 3, 1978. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 190. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Westside HS, Augusta, Ga. Career Transactions: Selected by Brewers in ninth round of 1997 draft; signed June 6, 1997.
After years of scuffling in the Brewers system and being outpitched by his brother Jason, whose stuff is less impressive, Childers turned a corner when he was made a full-time reliever last season. His combined 2.43 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A was less than half his previous career mark of 5.04. Childers' best pitch is a fastball in the low to mid-90s. He also throws a decent curveball and an improved changeup. He also has a perfect pitcher's physique. Childers throws a fair amount of strikes, but he doesn't always locate his pitches well in the strike zone, and that's when he gets hit. He must maintain his focus when he's on the mound. This is a make-or-break year for Childers, who's out of minor league options.
Chad Chop, of/1b, Expos
Born: March 21, 1980. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 210. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Vanguard (Calif.) University. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in sixth round of 2002 draft; signed June 8, 2002.
Jerry Owens isn't the only former Golden State Athletic Conference player of the year in the Expos organization. Chop won the award in 2002 at tiny Vanguard (Calif.) University. Area scout Tony Arango unexpectedly discovered Chop when he went to see Azusa Pacific pitcher Nick Padilla face Vanguard that spring. Chop had fallen through the cracks. More of a prospect as a pitcher in high school, he tore a groin muscle as a senior and teams backed off him. He led San Diego State in batting as a freshman in 1999, but transferred to Vanguard in 2001 because he wanted to pursue his Christian faith. After hitting .416 and .395 in two seasons at Vanguard, Chop hit .322 to finish fourth in the South Atlantic League batting race in his first full season as a pro. He's very balanced at the plate and whistles the bat through the strike zone. A line-drive hitter, he needs to develop more power and patience to play regularly in the big leagues. His baserunning and defensive ability are merely adequate, and he has a below-average arm. Chop will be 24 this season, so the Expos will probably try to get him to Double-A at some point during 2004.
Alvin Colina, c, Rockies
Born: Dec. 26, 1981. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Venezuela by Rockies, Sept. 22, 1998.
Colina is a product of the ties the Rockies developed in Venezuela thanks to Andres Galarraga, their original first baseman. Sent home at midseason in 2002 after a scuffle with a coach in low Class A, Colina returned last year and reaffirmed his status as a prospect. He has the tools to become a quality catcher, with a plus arm, soft hands and good blocking ability. He threw out 32 percent of basestealers in 2003. He speaks English fluently, which helps him to call games and run a pitching staff. Colina shows plus power potential but he's too pull-conscious, which has held him back offensively. His defense will be big league ready before his offense. Colina will be brought along slowly and step up to high Class A in 2004.
Todd Deininger, rhp, White Sox
Born: Sept. 4, 1981. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Texas A&M. Career Transactions: Selected by White Sox in ninth round of 2002 draft; signed June 9, 2002.
There's nothing White Sox fans like better than sticking it to the Cubs. They've got a chance with Deininger, a native of nearby Joliet who opted to attend Texas A&M after the Cubs picked him in 1999's fifth round. He showed a lightning-quick arm and a 94-95 mph fastball in the Cape Cod League in 2001 but didn't look as good with the Aggies. Deininger has pitched well as a pro and was turned into a starter last June. His fastball sits more in the low 90s these days, but it's tough to hit because it has so much life. Its movement also makes it difficult for Deininger to command at times. He also throws a hard slider. He'll have to refine his command and his changeup to stay in the rotation. The Sox hope Brian Miller and Deininger can do for high Class A Winston-Salem this year what Kris Honel and Ryan Wing did in 2003.
Lenny Dinardo, lhp, Red Sox
Born: Sept. 19, 1979. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Stetson University. Career Transactions: Selected by Mets in third round of 2001 draft; signed July 14, 2001 . . . Selected by Red Sox from Mets in Rule 5 major league draft, Dec. 15, 2003.
The Red Sox spent most of the winter trolling for a second lefthanded reliever to pitch behind Alan Embree in their big league bullpen. They added six southpaw options, including Dinardo via the major league Rule 5 draft in December. His career has ridden a roller coaster over the last four years. In 2000, he went 21-1 between Stetson and Team USA, establishing himself as a possible first-round pick for 2001. But that year his velocity dipped from the high 80s to the mid-80s, dropping him to the third round. He had a solid pro debut that summer, struggled in his first full pro season in 2002, then had a big 2003. Between high Class A and Double-A, he limited opponents to a .219 average and four homers while posting a 129-27 strikeout-walk ratio in 125 innings. Dinardo continued to show fine control in the Arizona Fall League, with 27 whiffs and three walks in 18 innings, though he was hit harder. His numbers are more impressive than his stuff. Dinardo's fastball sits at 82-83 mph and he usually goes after hitters with cutter after cutter. His changeup is his best pitch, but he doesn't throw it enough and it doesn't have enough separation from his fastball. He needs to turn his two-seam fastball, curveball or changeup into a reliable second pitch. Because he's so cutter-happy, he's much more effective against righties than lefties. Dinardo locates his pitches well and isn't afraid to bust hitters inside despite his lack of velocity. He has a chance to become a big league middle reliever, but he's unlikely to make the Red Sox out of spring training. If he doesn't stick on the 25-man roster, Boston will have to put him through waivers and offer him back to the Mets for half his $50,000 draft price before being allowed to send Dinardo to the minors.
Clemente Doble, rhp, Phillies
Born: Jan. 23, 1982. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Dominican Republic by Phillies, Oct. 16, 2000.
Doble reminds the Phillies of Elizardo Ramirez with his Dominican heritage, long lanky limbs and solid command. However, he's more than a year older than Ramirez and three levels behind him. Doble is still fairly raw and needs to repeat his delivery better to gain consistency on his pitches. He has a good body and his arm works fine, allowing his fastball to register at 90-92 mph. His curveball and changeup range from below average to average. Doble's feel for pitching and knack for keeping the ball around the plate are his biggest strengths. He was a bit nervous after jumping to high Class A for his final start of the year, allowing three walks over four innings. He figures to fight for a spot in the rotation there or a step below at low Class A in 2004.
Drew Henson, NFL quarterback
Born: Feb. 13, 1980. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Brighton (Mich.) HS. Career Transactions: Selected by Yankees in third round of 1998 draft; signed July 24, 1998 . . . Traded by Yankees with OF Jackson Melian, LHP Ed Yarnall and RHP Brian Reith to Reds for LHP Denny Neagle and OF Mike Frank, July 12, 2000 . . . Traded by Reds with OF Michael Coleman to Yankees for OF Wily Mo Pena, March 20, 2001 . . . Released, Feb. 5, 2004.
When Henson left his football career behind in 2001 for a six-year, $17 million major league contract, he was on the fast track to stardom. Despite splitting his time between football at the University of Michigan and baseball, Henson looked like he belonged at every level until he got to Triple-A. It was hard to argue with his production in his first three seasons (34 doubles, 23 homers in 600 at-bats), but his confidence was killed by his lack of success in three years at Columbus. With the Yankees' blessing, he walked away from the last three years and $12 million of his contract in February in order to pursue NFL opportunities. He once projected as a potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft, and the Houston Texans took him in the sixth round in 2003. Several teams have interest in him as a quarterback, and he's expected to work a sign-and-trade deal before the NFL draft in April. In his last two seasons in the Yankees system, Henson showed flashes of plus power and hit 70 doubles. As one Yankees scout said, "If you go see him at 5 o'clock, he crushes the ball. He hits line drives that can hurt people in the outfield." Unfortunately for Henson, batting practice didn't extend to the game and his weaknesses were becoming obvious. He seemed to have lost some of his natural athleticism and fluidity. He didnít have great bat speed, his swing was long and he lacked discipline, allowing pitchers to exploit his holes with ease. He still mashed fastballs down, but he had become a zone hitter who struggled with breaking balls. Henson regressed defensively, too, and there was some sentiment among Yankees officials that he should move to left field.
Bobby Korecky, rhp, Twins
Born: Sept. 16, 1979. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: University of Michigan. Career Transactions: Selected by Phillies in 19th round of 2002 draft; signed June 18, 2002 . . . Traded by Phillies to Twins, Dec. 17, 2003, completing deal in which Phillies received LHP Eric Milton and Twins received RHP Carlos Silva and INF Nick Punto, Dec. 3. 2003.
Korecky's 80 hits as a senior at Saline High in 1998 are a Michigan state record, but he wasn't drafted out of high school and focused more on pitching at the University of Michigan. The Phillies spotted him while scouting Wolverines lefthander Rich Hill, whom they drafted in the fourth round in 2002 but didn't sign, and selected Korecky, a three-time all-Big Ten Conference selection, 15 rounds later. He has emerged as a capable closer, leading the high Class A Florida State League and the Phillies organization in saves in 2003, and the Twins took him as the player to be named later in the Eric Milton trade. Korecky has the right makeup to come out of the bullpen. He throws an average fastball at 88-90 mph and tops out at 93. He stays around the plate and challenges hitters by working all four quadrants of the strike zone. His three-quarters arm slot helps his two-plane, sweeping breaking ball, and he also has a changeup that's just a show-me pitch. Korecky doesn't have great stuff but likes taking the ball in tough situations. He projects as a setup guy or middle reliever, and he'll pitch in Double-A this season.
Chris Mabeus, rhp, Rangers
Born: Feb. 11, 1979. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) College. Career Transactions: Selected by Athletics in 13th round of 2001 draft; signed June 15, 2001 . . . Selected by Rangers from Athletics in Rule 5 major league draft, Dec. 15, 2003.
Rangers assistant general manager Grady Fuson drafted Mabeus out of Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) for the Athletics in 2001, and was reunited with him in December when Texas took him from Oakland in the major league Rule 5 draft. The Rangers will have to keep Mabeus on their 25-man roster all season, or else put him through waivers and offer him back to the A's for half his $50,000 draft price. Entering 2003, the thought of Mabeus beginning 2004 in the majors would have been very farfetched. He had a breakthrough last season, as his fastball moved up to 92-93 mph and he became more effective with his splitter. His control also improved markedly. Mabeus was more hittable after a midseason promotion to Double-A, so jumping to the majors may be a tall order. He doesn't control the running game well, surrendering nine steals in as many attempts last year.
Josh McKinley, c/2b, Expos
Born: Sept. 14, 1979. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 200. Bats: B. Throws: R. School: Malvern (Pa.) Prep. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in first round (11th overall) of 1998 draft; signed June 3, 1998.
McKinley was taken more for signability than ability when the Expos selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 1998 draft. He played in the Eastern League all-star game and set career highs in almost every offensive category in 2003, when he repeated Double-A at age 23. But he struggled so much defensively at second base that the Expos moved him behind the plate in the offseason. He worked out with minor league field coordinator Doug Sisson in Florida before heading to the Arizona Fall League, where he played a variety of positions. McKinley has physically matured and gained added strength, which resulted in increased power at the plate. He has a compact stroke and average bat speed. At times he pulls off against breaking pitches away, and he has some holes on the inner half, though he has improved in recognizing how pitchers are trying to working him. McKinley has a plus arm, good hands and average speed but lacked the range and footwork to play second base. He could carve out a role as a major league utilityman if he hones his catching skills and continues to hit. Montreal tried to trade McKinley and righthander Seung Song to the Rangers for Juan Gonzalez last summer, but Gonzalez vetoed the deal.
Victor Mendez, of, Tigers
Born: June 28, 1980. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Bats: B. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Dominican Republic by Tigers, July 29, 1998.
In his fifth pro season, Mendez finally made it to a full-season league in 2003. While he didn't hit for average in low Class A, he encouraged the Tigers by hitting the ball with more authority than in the past. He led the Midwest League in triples (11), a testament to his pop and speed. Mendez is a good athlete who runs well, covers a fair amount of ground in center field and has a strong arm. He has gotten stronger and more assertive after previously lacking confidence. Now Mendez has to continue to improve offensively. He draws some walks but must work counts better and make more contact at the plate. He also needs to hone his instincts to become more of a basestealing threat. He'll move up to high Class A this year.
Brandon Powell, 2b, Royals
Born: Aug. 15, 1980. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 185. Bats: L. Throws: R. School: Coastal Carolina University. Career Transactions: Selected by Royals in eighth round of 2003 draft; signed June 5, 2003.
Powell helped lead Coastal Carolina to three straight NCAA Division I playoff bids from 2001-2003, and as a senior last spring he topped the Big South Conference in hits (92) and doubles (22). He stayed all over the leader board in the Rookie-level Arizona League, with top-five finishes in eight offensive categories, including the triples crown (15 in just 52 games). Those three-baggers were more a product of hard-hit balls that found gaps than of speed. His offensive repertoire features a little of everything. Powell can steal a few bases, draw walks, stroke liners up the middle and show occasional pop. He's not a polished infielder, however. He turns the double play well but has poor footwork overall. He's an average defender at best, and his future might be as a utility guy who plays second and third base and the outfield. Because Powell was a fifth-year senior sign for $1,000, it's hard to read much into his success in Rookie ball. The Royals will push him aggressively to get a better feel for his skills, meaning he'll start this year in low Class A and could finish it in high Class A.
Wade Robinson, ss, Astros
Born: Jan. 12, 1981. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 165. Bats: L. Throws: R. School: Louisiana Tech University. Career Transactions: Selected by Astros in 12th round of 2003 draft; signed June 5, 2003.
Another example of the Astros knack for finding promising college senior signs, Robinson wasn't drafted as a junior in 2002 after batting .246 with the first two homers of his Louisiana Tech career. Even when he batted .332 with two more homers for the Bulldogs last spring, the Astros took Robinson in the 12th round purely for his defensive skills. He was everything Houston anticipated defensively, showing the arm strength, soft hands and quick feet to make all the plays at shortstop. But as a bonus, he surpassed expectations at the plate. He hit .306 with gap power, and his all-around performance earned him Tri-City's MVP award. Though Robinson looks wiry and frail, he has some strength and the Astros believe he'll continue to hit. He'll need to embrace the little man's game and improve his ability to bunt, draw walks and get on base. He craves instruction and has great desire, so getting him to make adjustments won't be a problem. He has good speed but won't be a basestealing threat. Based on his early returns, Houston could push Robinson to high Class A in 2004.
Mark Schramek, 3b, Reds
Born: June 2, 1980. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 230. Bats: L. Throws: R. School: University of Texas-San Antonio. Career Transactions: Selected by Reds in first round (40th overall) of 2002 draft; signed Dec. 18, 2002.
The Reds had signability in mind when they tabbed Schramek in the supplemental first round in 2002, but they also had scouts who regarded him as one of the best bats in the draft. After prolonged contract negotiations that saw Schramek try out with Japan's Orix Blue Wave before signing with the independent Atlantic League's Long Island Ducks, he finally signed in December for $200,000óby far the lowest bonus among the first 50 picks. The Southland Conference's 2002 MVP and defensive player of the year, Schramek wasn't as good in his pro debut after the long layoff. He got off to a decent start in low Class A, but couldn't handle the jump to Double-A and continued to struggle after moving back a step to high Class A. Schramek wasn't quite the polished hitter Reds scouts expected, as he finished seventh in the minors with 155 strikeouts and drew just 33 walks. Some scouts didn't think he had the bat speed to compete at higher levels, and his two-strike approach really suffered when he didn't show the discipline to lay off offspeed stuff in the dirt. He has a plus arm but hasn't moved as well after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in 2001. There's some thought that he might have to shift to first base down the road. At 23, Schramek needs to make more rapid progress than he did last year. He'll probably begin 2004 in high Class A.
Ryan Shealy, 1b, Rockies
Born: Aug. 29, 1979. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 240. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: University of Florida. Career Transactions: Selected by Rockies in 11th round of 2002 draft; signed June 10, 2002.
The Rockies weren't able to sign Shealy as a fifth-rounder out of a Florida high school in 1998, and for the first three years of his college career it didn't appear that they had missed out on much. He had elbow surgery and hit just 16 homers during that time before cranking 23 homers as a senior in 2002. After signing, he went out and won the Rookie-level Pioneer League MVP award with a .368-19-70 performance that included league highs in homers, RBIs, on-base percentage (.497) and slugging (.714). Shealy injured his left knee during a running drill on his first day in minor league camp last year, requiring arthroscopic surgery to repair a slight cartilage tear. Once he regained his health, he resumed hitting for power. Shealy has a clear idea of what he wants to do at the plate. He's at his best when he tries to drive the ball back up the middle. He's strong enough to handle inside pitches and has the discipline to draw walks. He's not very agile and is a liability as a runner and defensively at first base. He has soft hands but doesn't cover much ground around the bag. He'll jump up to Double-A in 2004.
Jamie Shields, rhp, Devil Rays
Born: Dec. 20, 1981. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Hart HS, Newhall, Calif. Career Transactions: Selected by Devil Rays in 16th round of 2000 draft; signed Aug. 17, 2000 . . . On disabled list, April 4-Sept. 10, 2002.
After missing all of the 2002 season with shoulder tendinitis and subsequent surgery, Shields made a solid return last year. He did tire in August, but overall the Devil Rays couldn't have been much happier with his comeback. His best pitch is a low-90s fastball with nice movement, and his straight changeup is a solid average offering. He has a good feel for pitching and a strong makeup. Shields' greatest need is a better breaking ball. He has to tighten the spin on his curveball to succeed against better hitters. Shields also needs to continue to build strength in his shoulder as well as more overall stamina. Though he has been a starter throughout his professional career, Shields projects more as a reliever at higher levels. He'll pitch in Double-A this year.
Steve Stanley, of, Athletics
Born: Dec. 23, 1979. Ht.: 5-8. Wt.: 155. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: University of Notre Dame. Career Transactions: Selected by Athletics in second round of 2002 draft; signed June 25, 2002.
Stanley was a quintessential "Moneyball" draft pick for the Athletics in 2002. Though his tools didn't impress scouts, they loved his college track record, which included consecutive Big East Conference player-of-the-year awards in 2001 and 2002. He also excelled with wood bats, winning the Cape Cod League batting title in 2000 and the Great Lakes League MVP award the following summer. Most teams considered Stanley as a low-round pick, but Oakland took him in the second round and signed him for $200,000, well below slot money. The A's pushed him to Double-A for his first full pro season, and the results were mixed. He did hit .296 and reach base at a .370 clip, a testament to his ability to control the strike zone. But he's a little guy with very little strength at the plate, as evidenced by his .330 slugging percentage. He has plus speed and good instincts on the bases, but he's not a blazer nor much of a basestealing threat. Stanley does a good job of covering the gaps in center field, though his arm is below average. Stanley is an intense overachiever who plays well beyond his skill level because of his superior feel for the game and his drive to achieve, but he doesn't project as more than a fourth or fifth outfielder if he's able to carve a niche for himself in the majors.
Brad Thomas, lhp, Twins
Born: Oct. 12, 1977. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 220. Bats: L. Throws: L. Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Dodgers, July 2, 1995 . . . Released by Dodgers, May 9, 1997 . . . Signed by Twins, May 12, 1997.
Nearly 10 years after signing his first pro contract as a 17-year-old Australian, Thomas is out of options and may finally be ready to help the Minnesota pitching staff. The Twins tried to sign him as a 17-year-old out of Australia in 1995, and finally got their hands on him two years later when visa problems forced the Dodgers to release him. Thomas has teased the Twins with overpowering stuff, topping out at 96 mph. He now works at 86-90 mph with his fastball, relying more on sink and tail than pure velocity. He also has a 74 mph three-quarters breaking ball and a changeup that fades. Thomas was bothered by elbow problems in spring training last year, though he avoided surgery to repair a slightly torn ligament that sidelined him for three months. Minnesota officials believe he'll be more effective out of the bullpen, where he may recoup some velocity. He'll get a chance in that role now that Eddie Guardado has departed free agency and Johan Santana has become a full-time starter, leaving J.C. Romero as the only established southpaw in the Twins relief corps. If Thomas doesn't break camp with the big league club, he'll likely be claimed by another team.
Miguel Vega, 3b, Royals
Born: July 31, 1985. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Carmen B. Huyke HS, Arroyo, P.R. Career Transactions: Selected by Royals in fourth round of 2003 draft; signed July 18, 2003.
Some clubs considered taking Vega as a first-round pick in 2003, and the Royals were rumored to be among them. They instead decided to take Mitch Maier with the 30th overall choice, but still got Vega three rounds later. He signed for $375,000 after a brief holdout. Vega shows plenty of raw power and strength, but he must shorten his stroke to make more contact. Though he can crush a fastball, he doesn't recognize breaking balls or control the strike zone well. He doesn't project to hit for a high average. He experimented with switch-hitting during instructional league but it didn't take. Vega has an above-average arm and decent agility for his muscular build, and even shows the ability to get to slow rollers. However, he has trouble setting his feet to make throws and eventually may outgrow third base, forcing a move to right field or first base. Vega was overmatched at times in the Rookie-level Arizona League and became frustrated. He's a candidate to return to Rookie ball after some time in extended spring training to hone his fundamentals in every aspect of the game.
Justin Wayne, rhp, Marlins
Born: April 16, 1979. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Stanford University. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in first round (fifth overall) of 2000 draft; signed July 20, 2000 . . . Traded by Expos with RHP Carl Pavano, LHP Graeme Lloyd, 2B Mike Mordecai and a player to be named to Marlins for OF Cliff Floyd, 2B Wilton Guerrero, RHP Claudio Vargas and cash, July 11, 2002; Marlins acquired RHP Don Levinski to complete trade, Aug. 5, 2002.
After coming to spring training with an outside shot at Florida's No. 5 starter slot, Wayne was hit hard and sent back to Triple-A. Summoned to make two starts on what turned out to be Jeff Torborg's final road trip as manager, Wayne got rocked in both, failing to record a single out in Houston. Despite being a personal favorite of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, who owned the Expos when they made Wayne the fifth overall pick in 2000, he was exiled to Triple-A for the rest of the year. Pitching in the altitude at Albuquerque wasn't easy for Wayne, who has an 87-90 mph fastball and doesn't get many strikeouts. His forte is keeping hitters off balance with pinpoint control and an advanced ability to use all four quadrants of the strike zone. He has a solid slider and curveball, as well as a changeup that just a year ago was considered the best in the Marlins system. A perfectionist, Wayne tends to nibble at times and can be guilty of overanalyzing himself. Though he's a workout fiend, endurance can be a concern. Because he lacks overpowering stuff, he probably has to make the rotation to stick in the majors this year.