In his two pro seasons, McReynolds has been the most dominating player in the minor leagues, averaging .372, 33 homers and 127 RBIs. Promoted to the Padres last June, he hit just .178 in 73 at-bats and struck out 22 times before being returned to Las Vegas. He was better in September, hitting .269 for San Diego. McReynolds goes to spring training as the Padres center fielder, though some scouts say hes better suited for one of the outfield corners. He is not slow afoot, but doesnt have the speed or arm to compensate for mistakes. "I think scouts question his arm because he doesnt put on a display in infield practice for them," San Diego general manager Jack McKeon said. "But with us last year, he made every throw he had to make."
The Padres believe that McReynolds will hit .285-.300, 20-25 homers and be a run producer. He is a good two-strike hitter, willing to shorten his stroke and go to right field. Pitches up in the strike zone have given him trouble, but scouts say he is a smart hitter and, given experience, should be able to adjust. "The more you see a player, the more you look for things he cant do, and I think thats happened to him a little bit," McKeon said. "But people still say hes the best player drafted in the last five years." The sixth player selected in the June 1981 draft, McReynolds sat out that season rehabilitating from serious knee surgery. He has had no problems with the knee the past two seasons.
His six weeks in the New York-Penn League last summer convinced the Yankees that he can be in the big leagues soonassuming that he scorns the National Football League. After a very slow start in Oneonta, Elway finished at .318 with four homers and 13 stolen bases in 42 games. "If he had devoted himself to baseball instead of football, hed probably be in the big leagues now," Yankees player development director Bill Livesey said. "Once he got to Oneonta last year and got into it, his progress was in leaps and bounds. He was coming on as fast as anyone in the organization when he had to go back (to Stanford)."
The Yankees project Elway as a high average hitter whose power totals will rise as he learns to pull the ball in Yankee Stadium. He bats lefthanded. Otherwise, he has an extremely powerful arm and runs well for his size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds). "Hes just average from home to first," Livesey said, "but he runs very well from first to third." Should everything go according to the Yankee plan, Elway should be ready to take right field for them in the near future. That would leave Steve Kemp and Don Baylor as designated hittersthe most expensive platoon in big league history.
Scouts say he can handle any pitch when hes at full-bore concentration because the wrist-action in his swing might be the quickest and strongest in the game. That, plus his full body strength, give him enormous power to all fields. When Canseco has problems, it usually is a matter of overswinging, which causes him to chase poor pitches. He didnt fall into many of those ruts last season at Huntsville and Tacoma (.333-36-127 overall in 118 games) and handled big league pitching in September (.302-5-13). One of his homers landed on the roof in Comiskey Park.
Canseco was developing into a decent right fielder, but Michael Davis has that position with the As, so Canseco will have to adjust to left, where one of the strongest outfield arms in the game will be wasted. He runs well but is not a base stealer. How Canseco reacts to the pressure and attention that is inherent to being a heralded prospect remains a question. He has shown a moody, dark personality at times and was considered somewhat of a discipline problem during his early years with the As.
The 10th player selected in the 1984 draft, he has the strength in his arms and hands to hit the ball out of the park when he is fooled by a pitch. McGwire is fooled less frequently now that he has tightened his swing and learned to cover the inside of the plate. He progressed faster last season than the As expected (.312-23-112, 36 doubles at Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Tacoma), making superb contact (112 strikeouts) for a man of his size. And three of his 10 hits in the big leagues were home runs. McGwire, though, probably isnt ready for the varsity.
Even though he bats righthanded, he has some difficulty with lefthanded pitching. And the As arent ready to trust him at third base, where he made 47 errors last season, including six in 16 big league games. A first baseman and pitcher at Southern Cal, he was switched to third base after signing with the As. They remain convinced that he has the agility and reactions to play third, blaming his mistakes on lapses in concentration.
(EDITORS NOTE: McGwire played 151 games with Oakland in 1987 and set a major league rookie record with 49 home runs.)
Drafted first overall in 1993, Rodriguez and agent Scott Boras waged a long, contentious and highly publicized battle with the Mariners during negotiations. The parties finally struck an 11th-hour deal where the Mariners gave Rodriguez a $1 million bonus and a major league contract. Despite missing his first year, Rodriguez adapted so well to the professional game that he spent only a half-season in the minors. By July he was in Seattle, where he became the first 18-year-old since Robin Yount in 1974 to start at shortstop in the big leagues. But major league pitching soon exposed his inexperience, and he was sent back to Triple-A, his fourth stop to finish the 1994 season.
Rodriguez is a shortstop all the way. He glides instinctively to balls, especially to his left, and throws runners out with a strong, accurate arm. Defense is the most advanced part of his game. With experience, hell become above-average in all other phases. He projects as a .280-.300 hitter with annual totals of 20-25 home runs and 20-25 stolen basessuperior numbers for a shortstop. Rodriguez has shown his greatest improvement as a pro with the bat, but he still has holes in his swing.
He has been getting a heavy dose of reality this winter in the Dominican Republic, where he was struggling to reach .180 at midseason. Scouts say Rodriguez needs to be more selective and relaxed at the plate, and refrain from lunging at pitches. Defensively, balls hit right at Rodriguez give him his biggest challenge. He needs to work harder on positioning himself on in-between hops. If Seattles development people have their way, Rodriguez will start 1995 in Triple-A, where theyd like to see him repeat what he did at the end of 94. He can use more time to work on his hitting and make routine defensive plays more consistently.
After being limited to seven innings in his pro debut because of a respiratory illness, Wood showed in 1996 he could be just as dominating as he was in high school. He was voted the No. 1 prospect in the Florida State League despite being the youngest player in the league. He missed a month with a tender elbow but led Cubs minor leaguers in strikeouts and started both of Daytonas no-hitters. Wood is a potential No. 1 starter in the big leagues. He has a mid-90s fastball, and as he matures could add more velocity. His curveball can be inconsistent, but when hes in command its a knee-buckler. You have to get picky to find fault. Woods changeup is a tad below-average.
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