Team USA Who's Who
Compiled by John Manuel
Ages as of Sept. 15
KURT AINSWORTH, rhp, Giants
Ht: 6-3. Wt: 185. Age: 22. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: Giants, 1999, first round (Louisiana State).
PAST: Ainsworth had pitched just eight innings entering his third year at LSU, thanks to his own performance and an elbow injury he sustained in the Central Illinois Collegiate League. He had Tommy John surgery in 1997 and after playing sparingly in 1998 bounced back stronger than before. He was an All-American in 1999, going 13-6, 3.45 with 157 strikeouts in 130 innings. He became the highest-drafted player ever (24th overall) with Tommy John surgery on his resume.
PRESENT: Ainsworth immediately became the Giants' No. 1 prospect, going 3-3, 1.61 in 45 innings at short-season Salem-Keizer last year. He made the jump to Double-A Shreveport this season with ease, going 8-9, 3.54.
FUTURE: The Giants' pitching staff came around after the all-star break, freeing up Ainsworth for Team USA. He should be one of the team's top starters, and he has a chance to join the Giants rotation next season if he has a good spring.
RYAN FRANKLIN, rhp, Mariners
Ht: 6-3. Wt: 165. Age: 27. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: Mariners, 1992, 23rd round (Seminole, Okla., JC).
PAST: Franklin went 20-0 in two seasons in junior college before signing with the Mariners as a draft-and-follow. He moved steadily up the organizational ladder before reaching Triple-A Tacoma in 1997. Prior to this season, he was 16-20, 4.50 in at Tacoma and earned his first callup last season, pitching 11 innings.
PRESENT: Franklin throws up to six pitches, most of them for strikes. His best pitch is his curveball, and he also relies on a sinking fastball, split-finger and changeup. This season, that control has translated into wins for the first time at Triple-A. He was 11-4, 3.37 for Tacoma.
FUTURE: The Mariners like to think of Franklin as a righthanded John Halama, a control pitcher who could get the job done as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. He will be a situational pitcher for Team USA. And with the Mariners' packed pitching staff, Franklin may have to look for his big league opportunity elsewhere.
CHRIS GEORGE, lhp, Royals
Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Age: 20. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Drafted: Royals, 1998, first round supplemental (Klein, Texas, HS).
PAST: George went 15-0 as a prep All-American in 1998 was the Royals' second first-round pick that year, but he quickly surpassed righthander Matt Burch as the more important selection. He dazzled in his first full pro season, going 9-7, 3.60 in the tough Carolina League. Because of his fastball/changeup repertoire and makeup, he has been compared to Braves lefty Tom Glavine.
PRESENT: George's quick ascent shifted into high gear this season when he went 8-5, 3.14 in 97 innings at Double-A Wichita, prompting the Royals to promote him to Triple-A Omaha in July. In his first six starts there, George was 2-2, 5.73.
FUTURE: George could be considered the organization's top pitching prospect now. Together with righthander Jeff Austin, three years his senior, George should have a chance to crack the Royals rotation in 2001. With Team USA, he should be the No. 2 lefthander behind C.C. Sabathia.
SHANE HEAMS, rhp, Tigers
Ht: 6-1. Wt: 175. Age: 24. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: Mariners, 1994, 41st round (Parkland, Ill., JC).
PAST: Heams has resurrected his career after two major changes. He started his career as a hitter, batting .197-1-4 for short-season Everett in 1995 after signing as a draft-and-follow. The Mariners switched him to the mound the next year, and he made progress before retiring during spring training 1998. The Tigers signed him later that spring, and he had 174 strikeouts in 116 innings the last two seasons between short-season Jamestown and Class A West Michigan.
PRESENT: Heams has rapidly progressed toward the big leagues in 2000. He went 6-2, 2.59 with five saves at Double-A Jacksonville, where opponents hit just .177 against him. He had 67 strikeouts and 34 walks in 56 innings before a promotion to Triple-A Toledo, where he had a 10.00 ERA in his first nine innings and had walked 11.
FUTURE: If Heams can right himself at Triple-A, he has a chance to join Matt Anderson and give the Tigers a pair of flamethrowing set-up men for Todd Jones. Heams needs to show better command at higher levels, though. He will be a bullpen arm or alternate for Team USA.
RICK KRIVDA, lhp, Orioles
Ht: 6-1. Wt: 185. Age: 30. Bats: R. Throws: L.
Drafted: Orioles, 1991, 23rd round (California, Pa.).
PAST: The epitome of a crafty lefthander, Krivda has shown mediocre stuff but a good idea of how to use it for a decade in the Orioles system. While he has flopped in the big leagueshe's 11-16, 5.57 in 258 career inningsKrivda makes sense for Team USA. His career minor league record is a sterling 83-46, 3.40.
PRESENT: Krivda has returned to Triple-A Rochester for the first time since 1997, but it's the sixth time he's spent part of a season there. This year, he was 11-8, 3.12.
FUTURE: Krivda should be a useful swing man for Team USA and could get a start against Olympic doormats Italy or South Africa in the round robin. His stuff is average at best and he needs to be very fine to win in the big leagues. It's been done before, though, and with the reconstruction going on in Baltimore he might get one last chance to prove he can do it.
ROY OSWALT, rhp, Astros
Ht: 6-0. Wt: 170. Age: 23. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: Astros, 1996, 23rd round (Holmes, Miss., JC).
PAST: Signed as a draft-and-follow in 1997, Oswalt moved slowly through the organization thanks to elbow problems. He graduated to Class A Michigan last year, going 13-4, 4.46. He has always demonstrated a plus fastball, touching 97 mph and usually sitting in the 92-94 mph range.
PRESENT: Oswalt has stayed healthy and showed improved durability this season. Oswalt started the season with Class A Kissimmee and went 4-3, 2.98 in 45 innings. He earned a promotion to Double-A Round Rock, and in his first start pitched a complete-game five-hit shutout, striking out 15. He was 11-3, 1.88 for the Express with 124 strikeouts and 20 walks in 114 innings.
FUTURE: Oswalt has put it all together in his first full, healthy season. With the Astros' disastrous debut at Enron Field and an injury-plagued year for top prospect Wilfredo Rodriguez, Oswalt has been a needed glimmer of hope for the organization's pitching. He figures to join Scott Elarton in a revamped Astros rotation soon. He will likely play a supporting role for Team USA.
JON RAUCH, rhp, White Sox
Ht: 6-10. Wt: 230. Age: 21. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: White Sox, 1999, third round (Morehead State).
PAST: Rauch came to scouts' attention when he dominated the Shenandoah Valley League as a rising college junior in 1998. He went 8-1, 1.69 with 126 strikeouts in 85 innings that summer, but in the spring a bout of viral meningitis kept him from capitalizing on his summer success. He slipped in the draft, and the pitching-hungry White Sox were waiting.
PRESENT: The tallest righthander in baseball, Rauch has vaulted to the top of his vaunted draft class by dominating Carolina League hitters this season. He went 11-3, 2.86 with 124 strikeouts in 110 innings before a promotion to Double-A Birmingham, where he has just kept going. He was 4-1, 2.77 in 39 innings for the Barons.
FUTURE: The White Sox have given nine rookies a chance in their big league staff this season, from Rocky Biddle to Mark Buehrle to Jon Garland to Kip Wells. Rauch's ceiling is as high as any, but the White Sox can be patient with him. He'll probably be the No. 3 righthander for Team USA, behind Kurt Ainsworth and Ben Sheets.
BOBBY SEAY, lhp, Devil Rays
Ht: 6-2. Wt: 190. Age: 22. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Drafted: White Sox, 1996, first round (Sarasota, Fla., HS)
PAST: Seay was one of four loophole free agents in the 1996 draft, along with first baseman Travis Lee and righthanders John Patterson and Matt White. Seay got the least money of the foursome, signing for $3 million with the Devil Rays. He progressed slowly thanks to injuries and dropped off the organization's Top 10 Prospects list despite pitching well for Team USA last summer. Seay saved Team USA's 3-2 win in round-robin play against Brazil and pitched three scoreless, hitless innings in the Pan Am Games, striking out four.
PRESENT: Seay is considered a power lefthander with a fastball around 90 mph and an above-average curveball. He was 7-7, 4.15 for Double-A Orlando this season despite an unsightly 1-5, 6.09 record on the road.
FUTURE: The Devil Rays have moved Seay slowly, but he should have a shot at a rotation spot soon if he stays healthy. He figures to fill a relief role again for Team USA.
BEN SHEETS, rhp, Brewers
Ht: 6-1. Wt: 195. Age: 22. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: Brewers, 1999, first round (Northeast Louisiana).
PAST: An accomplished high school basketball player, Sheets focused on baseball in college and became a top-notch prospect by his junior season. He went 4-1, 2.51 in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 1998, striking out 66 in 68 innings while showing off the best curveball in the league. A first-team All-American in 1999, he almost singlehandedly led Northeast Louisiana to a regional berth, going 14-1, 3.11 with 156 strikeouts in 116 innings.
PRESENT: Sheets signed for the highest bonus in Brewers history, and he has proven worth the money so far. After a solid start in the Class A California League last season, Sheets was 8-8, 2.43 between Double-A Huntsville and Triple-A Indianapolis this season. He had 116 strikeouts in 145 innings and had walked 51.
FUTURE: Sheets is the most polished power pitcher on Team USA's staff and should be the No. 1 starter on a talented staff. The Brewers need him, but they can wait until next yearthey're not going anywhere in 2000. Sheets should move into Milwaukee's rotation next year as the Brewers move into Miller Park.
TODD WILLIAMS, rhp, Mariners
Ht: 6-4. Wt: 190. Age: 29. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Drafted: Dodgers, 1991, 54th round (Onondaga (N.Y.) CC).
PAST: Williams jetted to Triple-A with the Dodgers after signing as a draft-and-follow in 1991, making it to Albuquerque in 1993. He's spent most of his time there ever since, enjoying brief major league stints with the Dodgers, Reds and Mariners as well. He was in Team USA's bullpen for the Pan Am Games last summer, with a 1.69 ERA in five innings of work.
PRESENT: Williams was traded to the Mariners last season and has been Triple-A Tacoma's closer this season, putting up 31 saves and a 3.11 ERA in 47 appearances.
FUTURE: Williams continues to be a valuable Triple-A pitcher, getting minor league hitters out and providing insurance for the major league club. He should be able to continue in that line of work for several years. He will be an important part of the Team USA bullpen.
TIM YOUNG, lhp, Red Sox
Ht: 5-9. Wt: 170. Age: 26. Bats: L. Throws: L.
Drafted: Expos, 1996, 19th round (Alabama).
PAST: Young helped pitch Alabama to the College World Series in 1996, going 11-3, 2.73 and leading the Southeastern Conference in wins. He got off to a fast start in his pro career, going 1-0, 0.31 with 18 saves for short-season Vermont. He entered the season with a 2.33 career minor league ERA with 266 strikeouts in 209 innings, giving up just 148 hits.
PRESENT: Young's funky, sidewinding delivery has made him a lefthanded specialist. After pitching six innings for the Expos in 1998, Young signed with the Red Sox and returned to the big leagues this season, posting a 6.43 ERA in seven innings in Boston. He was 1-1, 1.93 with six saves for Triple-A Pawtucket.
FUTURE: The Red Sox have only one lefthander in the bullpen in Rheal Cormier. Young figures to compete with South Korean lefthander Sang Hoon Lee for another specialist spot in the Red Sox bullpen. He should occupy a similar role for Team USA.