Oakland Athletics Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By Casey Tefertiller
1. Carlos Pena, 1b
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: Northeastern, 1998 (1st round). Signed by: Joel Grampietro (Rangers).
Background: If there was any doubt, Pena established himself as the top first-base prospect in the game last year. After driving more than 100 runs in each of his first two full pro seasons, he slumped at the start of 2001 in Triple-A. Hamstring and ribcage problems contributed to him hitting just .229-8-24 in his first 50 games, but once he got healthy he looked like the Pena of old. He batted .326-15-50 in the second half and was impressive during his September callup with the Rangers, which included a two-homer game against Oakland. Because Rafael Palmeiro shows no signs of slowing down for Texas, Pena worked out in the outfield in the Dominican Republic this winter. He was born in the Dominican before moving to Boston with his family in 1992, later becoming a local star at Northeastern and in the Cape Cod League. Any chance Pena might switch positions ended in January, when the Athletics acquired him and Mike Venafro from the Rangers for four of their top prospects: lefthander Mario Ramos, outfielder Ryan Ludwick, first baseman Jason Hart and catcher Gerald Laird.
Strengths: Pena showed better-than-advertised opposite-field power in the majors. That encouraged the Rangers, because he has gotten into trouble in the past by trying to pull too many pitches. He has a silky smooth lefthanded stroke and always has maintained solid strike-zone judgment. Pena is a good athlete who runs well enough to leg out doubles and steal an occasional base. Hes smart and has the character to grow into a clubhouse-leadership role.
Weaknesses: Pena must stay back on breaking pitches to handle them better. He looks for fastballs too often, contributing to his average of 129 strikeouts the last three seasons. Big league lefthanders noticed and held him to one hit and five whiffs in 11 at-bats. Pena sometimes tries to be too flashy at first base, and he got caught in between hops on too many balls while in the majors.
The Future: The Athletics are giving the daunting assignment of replacing Jason Giambi to Pena, who he has the tools and the makeup to handle it well. Hes a leading candidate for American League rookie of the year.
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