Does 10 prospects per team only whet your appetite? How does 30 sound? If you want the more of in-depth information you're finding here on three times as many players, Baseball America's 2003 Prospect Handbook is for you.
1. James Loney, 1b
Age: 18. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 205. Drafted: HSMissouri City, Texas, 2002 (1st round). Signed by: Chris Smith/Logan White.
Background: Early last spring, James Loneys name jumped up the follow lists of Houston area scouts. Most teams were enticed by his left arm, rather than his pure lefthanded stroke, but the Dodgers drafted him as a first baseman. After passing up a Baylor scholarship to sign for $1.5 million, he tore up the Rookie-level Pioneer League, where managers rated him the No. 1 prospect. He had no trouble making a late-season jump to high Class A Vero Beach. The only glitch came when he was hit by a pitch, breaking his left wrist. Demonstrating his passion for the game, Loney was back swinging a bat with one hand within two weeks. He won a gold medal with the U.S. national 16-and-under team at the 2000 Pan American Youth Games and the national high school title with Elkins High last spring. Loney was a high school All-American as a two-way player, batting .509-8-58 and going 12-1, 1.51 with 120 strikeouts in 69 innings.
Strengths: Loney possesses outstanding bat control, and his picturesque stroke reminds scouts of Shawn Greens. He uses a pronounced leg lift as a timing mechanism, drawing comparisons to David Justice. Loney stays inside the ball well and his swing path keeps the bat head in the zone for a long time. Hes still growing, having added four inches since his junior year, and projects to hit 35-plus home runs in the majors. He generates natural loft and raw power already. Hes also a future Gold Glover as a first baseman. His instincts for the position make up for average range, and his soft hands will help save wild throws. On the mound, he reached 93 mph.
Weaknesses: Some scouts worried about Loneys durability as a position player because he had arthroscopic knee surgery after his junior season. His injury last year was a freak occurrence, but anytime the wrist is involved, there are concerns over how it will affect swing mechanics. Loney is an aggressive baserunner but will have below-average speed as he fills out.
The Future: Loney jumped on the fast track and only injury can slow him. Hell play first at high Class A this yearif the Dodgers can resist promoting him.