Minor League Transactions: Dec. 13-23
Please see Trade Central for more on the prospects involved in December trades, and please see my Twitter timeline for more on some of the players referenced in this installment. […]
The 31st Team, 2005 Edition
Edited by Jim Callis
When we're compiling the 900 scouting reports for the Prospect Handbook, there always are a few that wind up on the cutting-room floor. Players get bumped out of the book because of trades and injuries, because their teams acquire other prospects who move them further down the pecking order or even because they get sold to Japanese clubs or pursue NFL careers.
Below are 37 players who were slated to be in the Handbook at one point but wound up not making the final cut. They're listed alphabetically rather than being ranked in any particular order. Remember, these are not the next-best players after the 900 in the Handbook. Rather, they're a somewhat random collection, with several included from teams that were busy making offseason moves.
If the past is any indication, some of these players will make a name for themselves. Our original installment of what we like to call the 31st Team in 2003 included Jason Dubois, Jody Gerut and Nate Robertson. Last year's version graduated three playersMarcos Carvajal, Ryan Shealy and Miguel Vegato the 2005 Handbook.
Matt Allegra, of, Athletics
Born: July 10, 1981. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Manatee (Fla.) CC. Career Transactions: Selected by Atheltics in 16th round of 1999 draft; signed June 2, 2000. Signed by: Kelly Heath.
The Athletics believed Allegra was primed for a breakout season in 2004, but ankle and knee problems limited him to just 18 games. He has shown an abundance of tools since signing as a draft-and-follow pick in 2000, but he has yet to consistently show them in game situations. Big and strong, he puts on an impressive display in batting practice, and he also is a good athlete with a plus arm in right field. Allegra still has problems with breaking balls and strikes out far too often. His free-swinging ways don't fit well into Oakland's philosophy and the club would like him to be more patient at the plate and pick which pitches he can drive. The A's still think Allegra is on the verge of translating his unquestionable tools into performance, and they've just moved his timetable back a year. He'll begin 2005 at Double-A Midland, where a healthy season will be just as important as a productive one.
Drew Anderson, of, Brewers
Born: June 9, 1981. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 195. Bats: L. Throws: R. School: University of Nebraska. Career Transactions: Selected by Brewers in 24th round of 2003 draft; signed June 5, 2003. Signed by: Harvey Kuenn Jr.
A 24th-round pick who drew little attention at the University of Nebraska, Anderson has topped .300 in each of his two years as a pro. He got better as the 2004 season progressed and was the most improved player on Milwaukee's Beloit clubthough at 23 he was old for low Class A. Anderson didn't play much for the Cornhuskers and is a late bloomer. At the plate, he stays inside the ball well and uses the entire field. To continue to advance through the minors, he'll have to develop more power and plate discipline. He runs well and can steal an occasional base, and he's a solid left fielder. His arm is average at best. Anderson will play at high Class A Brevard County in 2005.
Erold Andrus, of/1b, Yankees
Born: July 16, 1984. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 170. Bats: B. Throws: L. Career Transactions: Signed out of Venezuela by Yankees, July 16, 2000. Signed by: Carlos Rios.
Andrus' first season in the low Class A Midwest League ended after just 35 games when he broke his jaw, but he came back healthy in 2004 and turning in a solid performance. He played all three outfield spots, finishing the season as Battle Creek's everyday center fielder after Melky Cabrera's promotion to high Class A. Andrus has below-average speed and profiles better defensively as an extra outfielder, so he also spent time at first base during instructional league. The rest of his tools are solid. Andrus has a future because he's a smart hitter from both sides of the plate. One Yankees official compared him to David Segui, though with slightly less power. Whether Andrus can develop average power, as Segui did, will determine whether he becomes a 4-A player or a solid big league reserve. He's a savvy baserunner and his average arm should allow for a return to a corner outfield spot if needed. He's scheduled to play primarily first base at high Class A Tampa this year.
Chad Bentz, lhp, Marlins
Born: May 5, 1980. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: L. School: Long Beach State University. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in seventh round of 2001 draft; signed June 10, 2001 . . . Released by Nationals, Dec. 15, 2004 . . . Signed by Marlins, Dec. 18, 2005. Signed by: Robby Corsaro (Expos).
Like Jim Abbott, Bentz didn't let being born without a complete right hand stop him from reaching the major leagues. He didn't pitch well for the Expos last year, in part because he wasn't used regularly. After returning to the minors, he was shut down in August with a nerve problem in his right foot that required surgery. The newly transplanted Nationals released him in mid-December, but the Marlins quickly snapped him up and reunited him with roving minor league pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal, one of Bentz' first coaches as a pro. He relies heavily upon his 91-93 mph fastball and his curveball can be an out pitch, though he struggled with it in the majors. He's a very aggressive pitcher with a tough demeanor, but he needs to tighten his breaking ball and work on his slider. That should make him more effective against lefthanders, who batted .411 against him in his first taste of the majors. His lack of command also gets him in trouble at times. Farmed out in mid-March, Bentz will open 2005 at Triple-A Albuquerque. His ceiling is as a lefthanded specialist.
Shaun Boyd, of, Cardinals
Born: Aug. 15, 1981. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 175. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Vista HS, Oceanside, Calif. Career Transactions: Selected by Cardinals in first round (13th overall) of 2000 draft; signed June 26, 2000. Signed by: Dan Ontiveros.
If Baseball America's list of the best tools for every organization included "Biggest Enigma," Boyd would have been the Cardinal in that category in just about every year since St. Louis drafted him 13th overall in 2000. The potentially dynamic tools that the Cardinals saw when he was an amateur are still there, but Boyd never has shown a willingness to apply them every day. He has moved between second base and the outfield, and St. Louis put him in the outfield in 2003 in hopes his bat would blossom. It didn't happen in 2004. He opened at Double-A Tennessee and batted .196 over the first two months of the season, earning a demotion to high Class A Palm Beach, where he played well and got back to Double-A in August. After five games, though, he hurt his leg and missed the rest of the year. Boyd still has the quick hands, strength and smooth swing to become an ideal No. 2 hitter. "He does things offensively to get you excited," one Cardinals official says. "It's just a matter of being able to repeat it." Boyd played mostly in left field last year, though his speed and athleticism would indicate he could handle center. A top-of-the-order center fielder would be worth getting excited about. A bottom-of-the-order left fielder would not. Boyd gets a final chance to show which he'll be this year.
Dallas Braden, lhp, Athletics
Born: Aug. 13, 1983. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 185. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Texas Tech. Career Transactions: Selected by Athletics in 24th round of 2004 draft; signed June 23, 2004. Signed by: Blake Davis.
Braden didn't receive much draft buzz as the workhorse of a surprising Texas Tech team in 2004, but Athletics scouts took early interest in him. He pitched very well down the stretch, striking out a career-high 11 against Mississippi State in the NCAA regionals, and carried that momentum into his pro debut after signing as a 24th-rounder. He completely overmatched short-season Northwest League hitters and fanned 15 in the third game of the low Class A Midwest League playoff finals. Braden's screwball is a true out pitch, sinking and running in on righthanders. He has decent velocity for a lefty at 88-90 mph, up about 3 mph from the spring. His changeup has 15 mph of separation from his fastball, and he throws his change with good arm speed and deception. Braden is an outstanding athletehe hit .286 as a part-time DH for the Red Raiders last yearand fields his position well. There's some question as to how his stuff will play at the upper levels without a plus fastball, but Oakland believe he's a steal. He'll get challenged with an assignment to high Class A Stockton in 2005.
Jeremy Brown, c, Athletics
Born: Oct. 25, 1979. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 210. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: University of Alabama. Career Transactions: Selected by Athletics in first round (35th overall) of 2002 draft; signed June 7, 2002. Signed by: Billy Owens.
Brown has been under the microscope since being the subject of an entire chapter in "Moneyball." While he has looked more like a player worth the $10,000-$15,000 price tag given to him by scouts than the $350,000 he earned as the 35th overall pick in 2002, the Athletics still think he'll have a long major league career as a valuable backup catcher. Brown got off to a slow start at Double-A Midland in 2004, but came around late in the season. His primary skill is the ability to reach base. He can hit for an acceptable average and draws walks in bunches. While he showed some power in his debut, he has just 11 home runs in 188 games above Class A. He's slow and a clogger on the basepaths. Defensively, Brown leaves much to be desired. He calls an excellent game, but he has trouble blocking pitches and often stabs at balls, not framing them well. His arm, which already was below average when drafted, has regressed. Brown will split catching duties with John Baker at Triple-A Sacramento this year, and his future is seen as backing up one of the high-profile 2004 draftees (Landon Powell and Kurt Suzuki).
Nate Bumstead, rhp, Tigers
Born: May 5, 1982. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 215. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Louisiana State University. Career Transactions: Selected by Tigers in 32nd round of 2004 draft; signed July 12, 2004. Signed by: Jerome Cochran.
Bumstead is far from overpowering, but he had consistent success as an amateur. He led Las Vegas' Durango High to a Nevada state 4-A championship, earned junior college all-America honors at Southern Idaho and led Louisiana State in victories in both of his seasons with the Tigers. Because he throws in the mid-80s and has nondescript offspeed stuff, he lasted until the 32nd round of the 2004 draft. Relying on command, deception and strong makeup, he continued to get outs as a pro. His straight-over-the-top delivery has proven consistently tough on hitters. Whether Bumstead has enough arm to be effective as he moves up the ladder remains to be seen, but he has yet to fail a test yet. He'll probably start this year at low Class A West Michigan but could get a look at high Class A Lakeland by season's end.
Nate Cabrera, rhp, Phillies
Born: Jan. 25, 1983. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 235. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Trinidad State (Colo.) JC. Career Transactions: Selected by Phillies in 16th round of 2003 draft; signed June 6, 2003. Signed by: Therron Brockish.
Cabrera broke two Trinidad State (Colo.) JC records in 2003, registering 117 strikeouts for the season and finishing with 199 for his career. His numbers in his first full season were impressivehe led the low Class A South Atlantic League with two shutouts and ranked sixth with a 2.82 ERAbut his stuff was not despite his size. He works mostly in the upper 80s with his fastball and doesn't have a solid offspeed pitch. But Cabrera knows how to pitch, isn't afraid to attack hitters and can throws strikes with any of his pitches, which is why he was able to make low Class A hitters look foolish. He reminds the Phillies of former farmhand Joe Roa, whose command allowed for masterful minor league performances that he failed to replicate in the majors. Still, Cabrera's ability to miss bats makes him the little engine that could for the Philadelphia system, and someone worth keeping an eye on. He'll start 2005 at high Class A Clearwater.
Javier Castillo, ss, White Sox
Born: Aug. 29, 1983. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Panama by White Sox, Jan. 9, 2002. Signed by: Miguel Ibarra.
Castillo hit just .224 in two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, but his bat picked up when he came to the United States last year. Big for a shortstop at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he drew comparisons to fellow Panamanian Carlos Lee because of his strength and power potential. Castillo strikes out a lot but he's willing to draw walks and could become a high-average hitter once he makes better contact. He doesn't have much speed on the bases and could outgrow shortstop, though the White Sox don't plan to move him any time soon. If he shifts to third base, he has the strong arm for the position. Low Class A Kannapolis is his logical next step.
Callix Crabbe, 2b, Brewers
Born: Feb. 14, 1983. Ht.: 5-8. Wt.: 190. Bats: B. Throws: R. School: Manatee (Fla.) CC. Career Transactions: Selected by Brewers in 12th round of 2002 draft; signed June 10, 2002. Signed by: Tom McNamara.
With Rickie Weeks and Hernan Iribarren ahead of him on our Brewers prospect list, Crabbe probably will never play second base for Milwaukee. But the Virgin Islands native has some tools, particularly speed. He stole 37 bases and hit 11 triples at high Class A High Desert in 2004. Crabbe plays to his strengths offensively, using a consistent, compact stroke to put the ball in play. He has decent pop but focuses on reaching base and making things happen once he does. After committing 36 errors at low Class A Beloit in 2003, he lowered that number to 21 last season and managers rated him the best defensive second baseman in the California League. His range and arm are average. Crabbe ended the year by turning in a good showing during instructional league. He'll remain one step behind Weeks on the minor league ladder, playing at Double-A Huntsville.
Dave Crouthers, rhp, Cubs
Born: Dec. 18, 1979. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 203. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Career Transactions: Selected by Orioles in third round of 2001 draft; signed June 7, 2001 . . . Traded by Orioles with OF Jerry Hairston and 2B Mike Fontenot to Cubs for OF Sammy Sosa, Feb. 2, 2005. Signed by: Troy Hoerner (Orioles).
The Sammy Sosa trade revealed the relative strength of the Orioles and Cubs farm systems. Crouthers ranked 10th on BA's Baltimore prospect list, but after switching organizations he couldn't crack our Chicago Top 30. He was a two-way standout who earned more notoriety for his outfield play at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, a solid NCAA Division II program that also produced Baltimore reliever Aaron Rakers. He earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League last year but was excused by the Orioles after one rough outing to attend to personal matters. Crouthers' pure stuff is good. He holds his 93-94 mph fastball through the middle innings of starts and touches 96. His sharp slider can be a plus pitch at times, and his changeup can be average. If Crouthers doesn't reach the big leagues, it will be because he can't make the mental adjustments. He has worked with a sports psychologist to keep his emotions in check, but he still tends to put too much pressure on himself. On the mound, he elevated the ball too much in 2004. He needs to use his changeup more often. Crouthers might be better off relieving, so he can come to the ballpark ready to pitch every day and won't have so much time to obsess over every start. He'll go back to Double-A to start 2005.
Brad Davis, c, Marlins
Born: Dec. 29, 1982. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Long Beach State University. Career Transactions: Selected by Marlins in fifth round of 2004 draft; signed July 9, 2004. Signed by: Robby Corsaro.
Just 42 games into his pro career, Davis already has made an impression as an intense on-field presence with obvious leadership qualities. He has strong hands and good receiving and throwing skills, but he needs to add 10-15 pounds of muscle to do more damage with the bat. He's very athletic and runs better than the typical catcher. He projects to have slightly above-average power, and if that comes he could be an everyday catcher in the majors. Marlins area scout Robby Corsaro and West Coast supervisor Scott Goldby liked Davis early on stayed on him through draft day. He signed for $165,000 after going three rounds after Florida took fellow Long Beach State product Jason Vargas. Davis reminds some of a young Dan Wilson in the way he can handle a staff, and he showed that ability in college with the way he caught Vargas and celebrated staff ace Jered Weaver. In 2003, Davis spent most of his time at first base and right field for the 49ers in deference to Todd Jennings, who became a Giants second-round pick that June. But there's no question Davis' future lies behind the plate.
Adam Donachie, c, Royals
Born: March 3, 1984. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Timber Creek HS, Orlando. Career Transactions: Selected by Royals in second round of 2002 draft; signed June 20, 2002. Signed by: Cliff Pastornicky.
The Royals have held high hopes for Donachie since he led Florida high school players with 15 home runs in 2002, including one off Kansas City's first-rounder that year, Zack Greinke. But injuries and roster crunches have limited Donachie to just 110 games as a pro, stunting his development. His 2004 season ended in mid-July, when he sustained a skull fracture when he was hit above the left eye by a practice swing from low Class A Burlington teammate Kila Kaaihue. Donachie toyed with switch-hitting in high school, but stuck to the right side in conference play and made the decision last year to abandon lefthanded hitting. He needs a full season of at-bats before the organization knows if he can live up to their initial projections of a .260 average and 15 home runs per season in Kansas City. He certainly hasn't produced at anywhere near that rate as a pro, hitting .204 with just one longball. Defensively, Donachie's athleticism and strength profile perfectly for an everyday catcher. His release and arm strength both rate above average, and he excels at calling games and blocking balls. Donachie took the organization's catcher-of-the-future label from the disappointing and injury-prone Mike Tonis entering 2004, but he'll need a solid season in Class A this year to prove he's not heading down the same road.
Jon Felfoldi, lhp, Nationals
Born: July 6, 1981. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Glendale (Calif.) CC. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in fourth round of 2002 draft; signed June 22, 2002 . . . On restricted list, June 19, 2003-May 30, 2004. Signed by: Tony Arango.
Felfoldi spent almost a year on the restricted list with personal issues that haven't been specified. When he returned last May, he pitched well enough to put himself back on the Nationals' radar. Felfoldi has a big, durable frame and a solid arm, so he should be an innings-eater. He has an average fastball in the 88-91 mph range and the makings of a good curveball. His best pitch is an above-average changeup with nifty movement. When he's throwing all three pitches for strikes, he's very tough. The biggest question mark with Felfoldi is his makeup, but Washington believes he's beginning to mature and will put it all together. He could begin 2005 in the high Class A Potomac rotation, and he projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Carlos Hines, rhp, Devil Rays
Born: Sept. 26, 1980. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Smithfield-Selma HS, Smithfield, N.C.. Career Transactions: Selected by Reds in 24th round of 1999 draft; signed June 9, 1999 . . . Released by Reds, Aug. 25, 1999 . . . Signed by Devil Rays, June 20, 2001. Signed by: Steve Kring (Reds).
Though Hines wasn't spectacular in 2004, he could contribute in Tampa Bay's bullpen in the near future. If he makes it, his fastball will be his main ticket. It sits at 93-95 mph, peaks at 97 and has decent movement. His slider has improved, as he threw more strikes with it and hung it less often last year. Though his changeup is a below-average pitch that he rarely uses, he nevertheless is tough on lefthanders. Hines' aggressive approach fits better in the bullpen, where he moved full-time in 2003. Though the Reds released him for disciplinary reasons shortly after signing him in 1999, he has had no problems with the Devil Rays. Plans call for him to open 2005 at Triple-A Durham, with a big league promotion likely once he makes more progress with his slider.
Josh Johnson, ss/2b, Royals
Born: Jan. 11, 1986. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 170. Bats: B. Throws: R. School: Middleton HS, Tampa. Career Transactions: Selected by Royals in third round of 2004 draft; signed June 16, 2004. Signed by: Cliff Pastornicky.
The son of former Larry Doby Johnson, Johnson has soaked up a lot of knowledge being around baseball his entire life. After he signed for $410,000, his energy and love for the game were certainly evident in his pro debut, maybe too much so. Johnson was overly aggressive in every aspect of his game, leading to rushed plays and throws defensively and wild swings at the plate. He also led the Rookie-level Arizona League by getting caught stealing 13 times in 36 attempts. Johnson's talent also was evident, however. He showed athleticism, solid middle-infield actions and arm strength. Despite his anxiousness in the batter's box, he still led the AZL with 55 walks, leading the club to believe he can develop into a No. 2 hitter. He has a line-drive stroke that produces doubles power. He possesses above-average speed, a good first step and should be a basestealing threat. Johnson likely will begin 2005 in extended spring training before heading to Rookie-level Idaho Falls.
Pete LaForest, c, Devil Rays
Born: Jan. 17, 1978. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 208. Bats: L. Throws: R. School: Fort Scott (Kan.) CC. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in 16th round of 1995 draft; signed June 5, 1995 . . . Contract voided, Aug. 15, 1995 . . . Signed by Devil Rays, May 10, 1997. Signed by: Fernando Arango.
LaForest caught for Canada and homered twice in the 2004 Olympics. That was definitely the highlight of his year, as he failed to make the Devil Rays in spring training, then was bothered by knee and hand injuries that robbed him of his power and led to his worst offensive season as a pro. Designated for assignment in the offseason, he went unclaimed by other teams. LaForest's strong suit is his power, and he draws walks because pitchers often are reluctant to challenge him. He hasn't been able to shorten his big swing, so he'll probably never hit for a high average or make consistent contact. His defense always has lagged behind his offense, though LaForest did improve his game-calling last season. His catch-and-throw skills may never be enough for him to play regularly behind the plate in the majors, and he threw out just 21 percent of basestealers in 2004. Some scouts think that with his bat and lack of defensive ability, he'd be better suited as a DH who also could serve as a backup catcher/first baseman.
Pedro Liriano, rhp, Phillies
Born: Oct. 23, 1980. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 175. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Dominican Republic by Angels, Nov. 10, 1998 . . . Traded by Angels to Brewers, Sept. 20, 2002, completing trade in which Brewers sent OF Alex Ochoa and C Sal Fasano to Angels for C Jorge Fabregas and two players to be named (July 31, 2002). Brewers also acquired 2B Johnny Raburn (Aug. 14, 2002) . . . Claimed on waivers by Phillies from Brewers, Dec. 6, 2004. Signed by: Jose Gomez (Angels).
Two years after being acquired from the Angels in a trade-deadline deal for Alex Ochoa, Liriano made steady progress and earned a major league debut last September. His prospect status appeared to be fading when he took a beating in first year at Triple-A. He threw too many fat pitches, had trouble keeping the ball in the park, eventually landing in the bullpen. The demotion to relief seemed to motivate Liriano, who held his own in that role after being summoned to Milwaukee. Liriano throws an 88-90 mph two-seam sinker and a slider that entices righthanders to chase it out of the strike zone. He must hit his spots and work both sides of the plate because his stuff isn't good enough to overpower hitters. Lefties have little trouble seeing the ball against him and batted .352 against him in Triple-A. He pitched with confidence and poise in the majors, which helped raise his stock. When the Brewers exposed him to waivers in December, the Phillies snapped him up.
Corwin Malone, lhp, White Sox
Born: July 3, 1980. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: L. School: Thomasville (Ala.) HS. Career Transactions: Selected by White Sox in ninth round of 1999 draft; signed June 7, 1999 . . . On disabled list, April 8-Sept. 24, 2004. Signed by: Warren Hughes.
Malone was the top lefty in the White Sox system for three years running, but he lost his command and began having elbow problems at the end of the 2002 season. He didn't pitch well and missed two months in 2003, puzzling the White Sox. They got some answers last spring when doctors found ligament damage in his elbow that required Tommy John surgery. He should be ready to pitch early in 2005, though Chicago may take it slow with him. A former linebacker recruit by Alabama-Birmingham, Malone was able to overmatch hitters in the lower minors with a 92-93 mph fastball and a sharp curveball. He's more thrower than pitcher, however, and not only must he get healthy but he also must develop his changeup and his control. If he can't, his future may be as a reliever.
David Marchbanks, lhp, Marlins
Born: Feb. 3, 1982. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 205. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: University of South Carolina. Career Transactions: Selected by Marlins in seventh round of 2003 draft; signed July 6, 2003. Signed by: Joel Smith.
An All-America lefthander at South Carolina, Marchbanks seemed an unlikely candidate for Steve Blass Disease. But that's exactly what befell him near the end of his first pro spring camp in 2004. Instead of moving onto the fast track at Double-A Carolina, he stayed behind in extended spring training and tried to work through his control problems. For no apparent reason, he could hardly play catch, much less hit a target from the mound. After two months of trial and mostly error, he returned home to Mauldin, S.C., and threw for hours each day against the wall of his high school gym. Eventually, Marchbanks was able to reclaim most of the extension and control he had lost. He showed solid signs of progress over the final two months in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, though Florida was careful not to rush him. Signed for $144,000 as a seventh-rounder, he pitches at 87-89 mph. His slider needs work but his changeup projects as a plus pitch. He has some deception in his delivery because of a high leg kick. His makeup already was considered strong, and he gained even more admirers in the Marlins system with the way he handled his control problems. He credits minor league pitching coordinator Dean Treanor as well as minor league coaches Gary Buckels and Reid Cornelius with helping him emerge from the fog. Sports psychologists John Fishbein (Marlins) and Ron Kasper (University of Southern California) also played a key role.
Anastacio Martinez, rhp, Red Sox
Born: Nov. 3, 1978. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Dominican Republic by Red Sox, Jan. 6, 1998 . . . Traded by Red Sox with RHP Brandon Lyon to Pirates for LHPs Scott Sauerbeck and Mike Gonzalez, July 22, 2003 . . . Traded by Pirates with RHPs Jeff Suppan and Brandon Lyon to Red Sox for SS Freddy Sanchez and LHP Mike Gonzalez, July 31, 2003. Signed by: Levy Ochoa.
Martinez made his major league debut in 2004, picking up a victory over the Blue Jays in his first outing, a year after Boston tried to trade him to the Pittsburgh. The Red Sox dealt Brandon Lyon and Martinez for Scott Sauerbeck and Mike Gonzalez, but the Pirates disputed the condition of Lyon's elbow. Boston eventually sent Freddy Sanchez and Gonzalez to Pittsburgh for Jeff Suppan, Lyon and Martinez. While Gonzalez was terrific as a rookie last year, the Red Sox used Lyon in the Curt Schilling trade, so they're not complaining. Considered one of the organization's top starting pitching prospects as recently as three years ago, Martinez struggled in Double-A in 2002 and moved to the bullpen in 2003. He likes to challenge hitters with a 92-95 mph fastball that features boring and sinking action. His hard curveball is a good second pitch when it's on, though he has pretty much scrapped the average changeup he had as a starter. Martinez never has owned consistent command, and he'll stick in the majors if he can find the strike zone more regularly. His conditioning also has been an issue. He's out of options, so if he doesn't stick with the Red Sox in spring training, he'll have to clear waivers before they can send him back to Triple-A Pawtucket.
D.T. McDowell, of, Angels
Born: Aug. 16, 1985. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 190. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Tucker HS, Atlanta. Career Transactions: Selected by Angels in 20th round of 2004 draft; signed June 28, 2004. Signed by: Chris McAlpin.
McDowell seemed destined to play quarterback at the University of Nebraska until the Cornhuskers fired football coach Frank Solich and scrapped their option offense. As a result, McDowell backed out of that commitment and signed cheaply with the Angels as a 20th-round pick. He showed promise in 21 Rookie-level Arizona League games before abruptly leaving camp without warning to join Troy University's football team. McDowell served as a backup for the Trojans last fall and projects to start in their option offense this fall if he stays there. The Angels would like to get McDowell back and think he has star potential as a center fielderbut only if he plays baseball full-time. McDowell pitched in high school, showing a lively mid-90s fastball at times, but the Angels want to utilize his athletic skills on an everyday basis. He has well above-average speed as well as raw power. He's still unrefined and needs more baseball repetitions. In one AZL batting-practice session, he bombed one pitch over the batter's eye in center field, then swung and missed at the next. At this point, McDowell is undecided about his future and the Angels are trying to avoid pressuring him.
Brian Miller, rhp, White Sox
Born: Oct. 18, 1982. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Charlotte (Mich.) HS. Career Transactions: Selected by White Sox in 20th round of 2001 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2001. Signed by: Nathan Durst.
Entering the 2004 season, there was significant argument about who was the better White Sox pitching prospect, Brandon McCarthy or Miller. There's no question at this point, as McCarthy soared while Miller stalled. He repeated low Class A but still failed to harness the potential he showed when he rated as the Michigan's top high school pitcher in 2001. Miller has an excellent pitcher's body and a fastball that parks in the low 90s and sometimes can hit 94 mph. His changeup is the best in the White Sox system, but his breaking ball hasn't become a weapon. Some scouts believe Miller's arm action won't allow him to throw a consistent breaking pitch. He falls behind in the count too often, in part because of erratic mechanics. The good news for Miller is he's become a project for high Class A Winston-Salem pitching coach J.R. Perdew, who has helped pitchers such as McCarthy and Sean Tracey. This will be a key season for Miller, who could be challenged for his rotation spot by pitchers from the last two drafts.
Nate Moore, rhp, Royals
Born: June 14, 1983. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 215. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Troy State University. Career Transactions: Selected by Royals in fourth round of 2004 draft; signed June 29, 2004. Signed by: Max Semier.
Moore enhanced his draft status by leading NCAA Division I pitchers with a 1.25 ERA and ranking 10th with 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings as a junior closer at Troy. The Royals signed Moore for $280,000 and admit they might have rushed him a bit with an immediate assignment to low Class A Burlington. At that level, he learned he couldn't get away with pitching up in the strike zone as much as he did in college. That was partly because Moore tired out after a long year, dropping his velocity from 90-93 mph in the spring to 88 during the summer. He's most effective when he keeps his heavy sinking fastball low in the zone, then finishes hitters with his power slider. At his best, Moore racks up lots of groundballs, a key reason he's projected as a setup man at the major league level. His mechanics (he uses a loose, very low three-quarters arm slot) and demeanor both grade out well for the bullpen. Moore has a strong lower half, and the Royals expect him to regain his velocity following offseason rest. He'll pitch for one of their Class A clubs in 2005.
Jose Morales, c, Twins
Born: Feb. 20, 1983. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Bats: B. Throws: R. School: Academie la Providencia HS, Rio Piedras, P.R. Career Transactions: Selected by Twins in third round of 2001 draft; signed June 30, 2001. Signed by: Hector Otero.
Morales signed as an infielder but a position change became necessary when he got thicker in his lower half and lost quickness. With his arm strength and soft hands, the Twins decided to try him behind the plate at instructional league in 2002. The transplant took, and Morales threw out 29 percent of low Class A Midwest League basestealers in his first season at catcher. He missed time with nagging back injuries, but held up better in the high Class A Florida State League last year. He greatly improved his release and throwing accuracy and did a much better job moving behind the plate. He also got better at calling games, a skill he continued to work on at instructional league. A switch-hitter, he doesn't provide many home runs but should hit for decent average and gain gap power as he matures. He still strikes out a bit much and needs to show more patience, though he did leg out four triples in 2004. Morales should begin 2005 as the regular catcher at Double-A New Britain.
Jon Nelson, of, Mariners
Born: Jan. 16, 1980. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 240. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Dixie State (Utah) JC. Career Transactions: Selected by Mariners in 26th round of 2001 draft; signed Aug. 15, 2001. Signed by: Rodney Davis.
Based on pure ceiling, Nelson is one of the Mariners' most talented minor leaguers. He's a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder with power to match Wladimir Balentien's, as well as surprisingly above-average speed. But the odds of him becoming a productive big leaguer are long because of his age and propensity for striking out. Though Nelson was Inland Empire's 2004 player of the year, he won that award at age 24much older than the typical high Class A prospect. He delayed his career when he took two years off in junior college to go on a Mormon mission in South Florida. Since turning pro, Nelson has hit for power at every stop, but he also has struck out 418 times in 323 games. While he doesn't chase as many bad pitches and lays off more breaking balls than he did previously, he still doesn't make consistent contact. His swing can get very long, and pitchers with good command can exploit him. Defense is another problem. Though Nelson is a good athlete with a decent arm, his poor hands made him a liability at first base. Last year he moved to left field, where he struggled with his routes on fly balls. Nelson is extremely dedicated, so his work ethic is no issue. But he has a lot of adjustments to make in short period of time. The Mariners hope everything will start to click for him this year at Double-A San Antonio.
Val Pascucci, 1b/of, Chiba Lotte Marines (Japan)
Born: Nov. 17, 1978. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 230. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: University of Oklahoma. Career Transactions: Selected by Expos in 15th round of 1999 draft; signed June 2, 1999 . . . Released by Nationals, Dec. 8, 2004 . . . Signed by Chiba Lotte Marines (Japan), Dec. 8, 2004. Signed by: Joe Jordan (Expos).
Pascucci finally got a chance to play in the majors in 2004, smacking homers off Nate Bump and Al Leiter. Though he turned in three seasons with 20-plus homers in the minors, including leading the Double-A Eastern League with 27 in 2002, he wasn't in the Nationals' long-term plans. They opted to sell his contract to Japan's Chiba Lotte Mariners for $300,000 in December. Pascucci's strong suits are his plus power and his willingness to draw walks. Some scouts believe he's too passive at the plate, however, as he falls behind in the count too often. His swing generates pop to all fields but is too long and can be exploited easily by quality pitching. His arm and speed are adequate for a first baseman or left fielder. He can play either position but does a better job at first base.
Andy Pratt, lhp, Brewers
Born: Aug. 27, 1979. Ht: 6-0. Wt.: 180. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Chino Valley (Ariz.) HS. Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in ninth round of 1998 draft; signed June 8, 1998 . . . Traded by Rangers to Braves for LHP Ben Kozlowski, April 9, 2002 . . . Traded by Braves with 2B Richard Lewis to Cubs for RHP Juan Cruz and LHP Steve Smyth, March 25, 2004 . . . Claimed on waivers by Brewers from Cubs, Sept. 3, 2004, completing trade in which Brewers sent OF Ben Grieve to Cubs for player to be named (Aug. 31, 2004). Signed by: Dave Birecki (Rangers).
Brewers general manager Doug Melvin was running the Rangers when they made him a ninth-round pick in 1998, and he didn't hesitate to reacquire him when given the chance. Melvin shipped Ben Grieve to the Cubs last August and received Pratt as the player to be named later. Pratt's mechanics and command had started to deteriorate before last year, when they completely fell apart. His inability to throw strikes resulted in a very brief trial with Chicagohe recorded more walks (seven) than outs (five)and limited him to 46 innings overall. He did end the season on a positive note, working five innings without a walk in his lone start as a Milwaukee farmhand. Pratt, whose father Tom is a minor league pitching coach for the Cubs, has picked up velocity in recent years. He now throws his fastball in the low 90s. His slider is also an effective pitch, and his curveball and changeup are used to keep hitters off balance. Pratt tweaked his elbow in instructional league and had to be shut down. Should Pratt eventually harness his pitches, he could develop into a quality lefthanded reliever. He got hammered in big league camp, however, so the Brewers outrighted him off their 40-man roster and sent him to Triple-A Nashville.
Paulino Reynoso, lhp, White Sox
Born: Aug. 10, 1980. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 190. Bats: L. Throws: L. Career Transactions: Signed out of Dominican Republic by White Sox, Dec. 21, 1998. Signed by: Denny Gonzalez.
Originally signed as a corner infielder, Reynoso moved to the mound after the 2000 season. The White Sox have brought him along carefully, limiting his starts and his pitch counts, but now look ready to advance him more rapidly as a reliever. Added to the 40-man roster in the offseason, Reynoso projects to have the most value as a lefthanded setup man. He can light up a radar gun with a low-90s fastball that tops out at 94, and he also has a plus slider. Those two pitches make him very tough on lefthanders, though he could use a better changeup to combat righthanders. Though Reynoso must continue to work on repeating his delivery, his control is improving. He should advance to Double-A Birmingham in 2005.
John Santor, 1b, Cardinals
Born: Nov. 16, 1981. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 215. Bats: B. Throws: R. School: Highland HS, Palmdale, Calif. Career Transactions: Selected by Cardinals in 35th round of 2000 draft; signed June 16, 2000. Signed by: Chuck Fick.
Santor looked like a late-round find for the Cardinals after the 2003 season, but he bogged down in 2004. Sent back to low Class A Peoria after performing well there in 2003, he put up pedestrian numbers before finally earned a promotion to high Class A Palm Beach. After he moved up, his approach fell apart and he never got untracked. Santor is a switch-hitter with strength and a smooth swing from both sides, though he shows more power from the right. He has good pop, but he needs to make better contact and showed an inability to make adjustments when Florida State League pitchers attacked his weaknesses. He swung and missed on too many pitches, which St. Louis attributes to frustration and a lack of concentration. On a positive note, he has become the best defensive first baseman in the organization. Santor will go back to Palm Beach to open the season, and he needs to turn it up a notch because the organization is relatively well-stocked with first basemen, from Albert Pujols on down.
Stantrel Smith, of, Angels
Born: Oct. 21, 1983. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 215. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: North Florida CC. Career Transactions: Selected by Angels in 16th round of 2003 draft; signed May 11, 2004. Signed by: Tom Kotchman.
Rival high school coach Antonio Grissom (Marquis' younger brother, and now an area scout with the Cubs) hooked Smith up with North Florida CC, his destination after declining to sign with the Reds as a 35th-rounder in 2002. Angels area scout Tom Kotchman spotted Smith's explosive tools and recommended taking him as a draft-and-follow in 2003. A year later, the Angels signed Smith for $132,000 prior to the 2004 draft. Sculpted along the lines of Mike Cameron, Smith is an intriguing raw prospect with five-tool potential. His plus speed helps him track down balls across the outfield and he has an above-average arm. Smith was slowed by a sprained ankle last summer and his bat isn't as advanced as his other tools, as indicated by dreadful numbers in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He did do better in instructional league, where the development staff rated him as the most improved player. He still needs to improve his pitch recognition, strike-zone discipline and balance at the plate, much like another North Florida CC product, Diamondbacks outfield propsect Reggie Abercrombie. Smith is so strong that he managed to hit several balls to the fence or beyond despite getting out in front of pitches. He's grounded and shows both a lighthearted demeanor and a willingness to absorb instruction. He could begin 2005 at low Class A Cedar Rapids.
Pablo Sosa, 3b/of, Marlins
Born: Aug. 11, 1982. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Bats: R. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed by Marlins out of Dominican Republic, Aug. 15, 2001. Signed by: Louie Eljaua.
Perhaps no one in the Marlins system, Jason Stokes included, puts on the batting-practice exhibitions Sosa does. He has bat speed that rates a 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale and tremendous raw power, but that has yet to translate into game situations. His pitch recognition is lacking and he's too aggressive at the plate. Hoping to calm him down and unlock that power, Florida moved Sosa from third base to left field at their year-end minicamp. He has a strong arm and quick feet, so he could return to the hot corner, but the Marlins want him to focus on his hitting. Sosa is a below-average runner, and his speed wasn't helped by a mildly sprained knee that led to three stints on the disabled list last year. A hard worker, he spent long hours with roving hitting instructor John Mallee trying to stay back on balls and stop beating them into the ground. Sosa probably will return to low Class A Greensboro in 2005.
Mitch Stetter, lhp, Brewers
Born: Jan. 16, 1981. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Indiana State University. Career Transactions: Selected by Brewers in 16th round of 2003 draft; signed June 5, 2003. Signed by: Mike Farrell.
The Brewers went the entire 2004 campaign without a lefthanded reliever, so they're interested in Stetter. He won't ever be more than a southpaw specialist, and he pitched very well in that role in low Class A last year. He was old for that level at 23, however, and didn't fare well as a starter in high Class A or as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League. He has a below-average fastball, so he relies on his curveball, slider and changeup. Stetter can come over the top or drop down to a sidearm angle to sweep his breaking pitches against lefties, who batted just .130 with one homer against him last year. A Freshman All-American in 2000 at Indiana State, Stetter came down with back problems later in his college career but has been healthy as a pro. Milwaukee plans on pushing him to Double-A Hunstville this year.
Brian Stokes, rhp, Devil Rays
Born: Sept. 7, 1979. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R. School: Riverside (Calif.) CC. Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Devil Rays, Oct. 2, 1998 . . . On disabled list, April 8-Sept. 30, 2004. Signed by: Craig Weissmann.
Stokes didn't take the mound last season after having Tommy John surgery in August 2003, yet his instructional league performance encouraged the Devil Rays. His arm looked stronger than ever, as he threw in the low 90s with good movement. Signed as a nondrafted free agent, Stokes began his pro career in the bullpen before moving to the rotation in mid-2002. To remain in that role, he'll need to add more sharpness and consistency to his breaking ball as well as some depth to his changeup. He showed signs of doing so in instructional league, and his control was improving gradually before he got hurt. Stokes likely will resume his career at Double-A Montgomery this year and could make his big league debut by the end of the season.
Derek Thompson, lhp, Dodgers
Born: Jan. 8, 1981. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Bats: L. Throws: L. School: Land O' Lakes (Fla.) HS. Career Transactions: Selected by Indians in first round (37th overall) of 2000 draft; signed June 15, 2000 . . . Selected by Cubs from Indians in Rule 5 major league draft, Dec. 16, 2002 . . . Contract purchased by Dodgers from Cubs, Dec. 16, 2002 . . . On disabled list, March 29-Oct. 31, 2003 . . . Granted free agency, Dec. 21, 2003 . . . Signed by Dodgers, March 17, 2004. Signed by: Jim Gabella (Indians).
Thompson's career has been on a roller coaster since the 2002 major league Rule 5 draft. The Dodgers cut a predraft deal to purchase him from the Cubs after they selected him from the Indians on their behalf. Los Angeles liked what it saw of him in instructional league that fall and planned on keeping him on its big league roster in a lefty specialist role. Then Thompson blew out his elbow in spring training, requiring Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2003 season. The Dodgers cleverly exploited a loophole in the Rule 5 process by nontendering him in December 2003 before re-signing him to a minor league contract. Thompson made it back on Los Angeles' 40-man roster after taking a regular turn in the Double-A Jacksonville rotation last year. He was slowed at times by chronic knee problems and a sprained ankle, but he still showed the arm strength to run his fastball up to 95 mph. It's a hard, heavy pitch that usually sit around 92, though his velocity tapered off late in the season. His slider and changeup have the potential to be above-average offerings but lack consistency. He also needs to improve his control. With those goals in mind, Thompson probably will return to Double-A this year.
Ruddy Yan, 2b/of, Rangers
Born: Jan. 13, 1981. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Bats: B. Throws: R. Career Transactions: Signed out of Dominican Republic by Pirates, Jan. 4, 1999 . . . Traded by Pirates with LHP Damaso Marte to White Sox for RHP Matt Guerrier, March 27, 2002 . . . Claimed on waivers by Rangers from White Sox, Nov. 19, 2004. Signed by: Pablo Cruz (Pirates).
Yan led all minor leagues with 164 steals in 2002-03, but recurring muscle strains limited his speed last year. Not only did his steal total plummet, but he also lost infield hits that would have helped his batting average. When the White Sox removed him from their 40-man roster during the offseason, they abruptly lost him on waivers to the Rangers. Speed is his most obvious tool, but he needs to improve his on-base percentage to take better advantage of it. Though he's not counted on for power, his utter lack of pop is a handicap. He has become more reliable in the field, though his arm is below average and could hinder his ability to serve as a utilityman. Texas has expressed an interest in trying Yan in center field this season.