Pace-Of-Play Initiatives Get Mixed Reviews In AFL
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2003 League Top 20s: Pioneer League
by Bill Ballew
For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Pioneer League, subscribers
can access our expanded coverage.
Talk in the Rookie-level Pioneer League this year centered on the Provo Angels. After putting college-oriented clubs on the Brigham Young campus for the past several seasons, Anaheim fielded one of the league's younger teams and the results were impressive, with the Angels going 54-22 and reaching the finals of the playoffs.
Provo manager Tom Kotchman, who scouts for the Angels when he's not managing, said talent in the league this season mirrored the 2003 draft. The league featured more pitching prospects than position players, though several hitters could develop into impact players. Heading the list is Casper third baseman Ian Stewart, a clear pick among the managers as the league's top prospect.
Veterans of the league, including Kotchman, Casper's P.J. Carey and Helena's Ed Sedar, said they noticed more depth than in recent seasons. More than 40 players received serious consideration for the list, and several others made significant impressions but didn't qualify for the top 20, including Great Falls outfielders Brian Anderson and Ryan Sweeney, the White Sox' first two picks in the 2003 draft.
"Down the road, I wouldn't be surprised if many of the guys in the second 10 wind up having as much success or more than those guys in the first 10," Kotchman said. "That's how deep the league was this year."
1. Ian Stewart, 3b, Casper Rockies
Managers loved every aspect of Stewart's game. A high school player drafted 10th overall in June, he made a seamless move into the professional ranks, particularly with the bat. He attracted raves for his aggressiveness at the plate, while others appreciated the way he was into every pitch at third base.
"He's a Jim Thome type," Kotchman said. "He drives the ball the other way to left-center field, and he can hit the ball over the right-field lights."
Stewart may not be a Gold Glove candidate at third but should be able to handle either corner infield position. Carey said Stewart's work ethic could allow him to be an above-average defender.
"He not only met expectations, he's exceeded them," Carey said. "And what I love about him is that the expectations he has for himself are higher than anyone else's."
For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Pioneer League, subscribers can access our expanded coverage.