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2003 League Top 20s: Arizona League
by Allan Simpson
For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Arizona League, subscribers
can access our expanded coverage.
When several big league clubs sought new affiliates in short-season leagues after the 2002 season, the Royals lost the game of musical chairs. As a result, the Royals had to field two teams in the Rookie-level Arizona League this year.
The league granted an exception to the rule that prohibits clubs from having more than eight players 20 or older, though the more experienced of the two Royals teams (Royals 2) was declared ineligible for postseason play. It hardly mattered as the team failed to qualify for the playoffs anyway.
That team--not to mention the entire league--was upstaged by Royals 1, a younger outfit that won the AZL title and dominates the top 20 list. Kansas City's twin first-round picks, outfielder Chris Lubanski and catcher Mitch Maier, both made the top five.
Rangers lefthander John Danks, another first-rounder, also would have been near the top of the list had he pitched enough innings to qualify. Danks worked with the poise of a veteran while controlling the inner half of the plate with a 90-94 mph fastball and a biting, 12-to-6 curveball.
Overall, the AZL was much more of a hitter's league than in the past, with 18 of the top 20 spots occupied by position players. Righthanders Ronald Bay (Cubs) and Leslie Nacar (Giants) were the only pitchers to break through.
1. Chris Lubanski, of, Royals 1
1. Chris Lubanski, of, Royals 1
The fifth player selected in this year's draft, Lubanski was part of one of the best high school outfield crops to come along in years. In addition to the fleet Pennsylvania product, Delmon Young (Devil Rays, No. 1), Ryan Harvey (Cubs, No. 6) and Lastings Milledge (Mets, No. 12) were among the first dozen picks.
Lubanski's tools are at three different stages of development. His best and most advanced tool is speed, which ranks as an 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale. It's most apparent going from home to first, where he was timed from the left side in less than 3.8 seconds on a bunt and 4.0 seconds on a full swing. He's still learning how to steal bases, however, as he was caught 10 times in 19 attempts.
His speed also was evident chasing down fly balls in center field, but he needs to turn and go on balls hit directly over his head and learn angles better. His bat is a solid-average tool. He hits a lot of line drives, especially to the gaps, but must recognize pitches better and use the whole field. Lubanski also must to draw more walks and make more contact.
"With his speed, he needs to learn to hit the ball the other way," Giants manager Bert Hunter said. "He tries to pull everything now."
Lubanski's arm and power are both below-average, but he should add pop as he fills out his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame and lofts balls more consistently.
For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Arizona League, subscribers can access our expanded coverage.