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2003 League Top 20s: Appalachian League
by Bill Ballew
For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Appalachian League, subscribers
can access our expanded coverage.
The 2003 season marked the 16th season Ray Smith has been in the Elizabethton dugout; his eighth as the manager. Smith, who spent parts of the 1981-83 playing for the parent Twins, has a better perspective than anyone when it comes to the Rookie-level Appalachian League.
So what's his assessment of the league this year? "Overall, I think the talent was down a little bit," said Smith, who led Elizabethton to its second straight Appy championship. "There weren't the number of big bats that we've seen recently. But there were several arms that have an excellent chance of becoming impact guys."
Burlington manager Rouglas Odor had the best pitching prospect, Adam Miller, as well as others such as Aaron Laffey, who just missed the top 20 list.
"This was probably the best all-around pitching the league has had in the three years I've been here," Odor said. "Every team had a couple of guys that could develop into prospects."
Two of the best position players in the league didn't log enough playing time to qualify for the list. Lastings Milledge (first round, Mets) and Ryan Sweeney (second, White Sox) are both multitalented outfielders who figure to be mainstays on prospect lists in years to come.
1. Adam Miller, rhp, Burlington Indians
Miller is a classic example of how insignificant statistics can be in the lower minors. The 31st overall pick in June, he didn't win a game in 10 starts. But he impressed opponents with his nasty slider and a sinking fastball that sat at 90-92 mph. He also kept hitters off balance with one of the Appy League's better changeups, which has excellent depth and consistency.
"His composure on the mound is unbelievable," Odor said. "He looks like a major league veteran out there. His demeanor, his approach and his work ethic are as good as you'll see anywhere. He's a bulldog. His focus while making every pitch is incredible."
Scouts love Miller's projectable body (6-foot-4, 180 pounds) and his feel for pitching. With added strength, experience and maturity, his easy delivery should allow him to add velocity to his fastball.
"He's going to be in the big leagues very quickly," Pulaski manager Paul Elliott said. "Everything is so nice and loose, and he has a great feel for his offspeed stuff."
For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Appalachian League, subscribers can access our expanded coverage.