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2003 League Top 20s: Southern League

by John Manuel
September 30, 2003

2003 League Top 20s
Sept. 18Gulf Coast League
Sept. 19Arizona League
Sept. 20Appalachian League
Sept. 21Pioneer League
Sept. 22New York-Penn League
Sept. 23Northwest League
Sept. 24South Atlantic League
Sept. 25Midwest League
Sept. 26California League
Sept. 27Carolina League
Sept. 28Florida State League
Sept. 29Eastern League
Sept. 30Southern League
Oct. 1Texas League
Oct. 2International League
Oct. 3Pacific Coast League


For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Southern League, subscribers can access our expanded coverage.

No minor league made as much of an impact on this year's major league pennant races as the Double-A Southern League.

The Marlins wouldn't have been in the wild-card race if not for lefthander Dontrelle Willis and third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who began their seasons with Carolina. Cabrera ranks No. 1 on this Top 20 Prospects list, while Willis would have given him a run for that honor if he had pitched enough innings to qualify. The Mudcats won the SL championship despite losing both players and strong-armed righthander Denny Bautista, the key player in the Jeff Conine trade with the Orioles.

The Cardinals (Tennessee's Dan Haren), Dodgers (Jacksonville's Edwin Jackson) and White Sox (Birmingham's Neal Cotts) all called up pitchers who rated among the SL's 10 best prospects, with varying degrees of success. The Cubs likely would have promoted another, West Tenn's Angel Guzman, had he not injured his shoulder.

Managers and scouts agreed that the SL had better talent than usual. Several players who didn't make the Top 10--such as Huntsville third baseman/league MVP Corey Hart, Bautista and Jacksonville outfielder Reggie Abercrombie--have the talent to be future all-stars.

"What impressed me the most is the top prospects are young," Chattanooga manager Phillip Wellman said. "Usually, the top guys are 22 or 24, but this year the league had 19- and 20-year-olds who had talent and performed. That is exciting."


1. Miguel Cabrera, 3b, Carolina Mudcats (Marlins)

As deep as the SL was, no league manager or scout considered anyone else for the top prospect spot. In fact, they had trouble restraining themselves from lavishing Cabrera with praise. The lone complaint was the Cabrera knew he was too good for the league and it showed.

"His plate approach was outstanding for a 20-year-old," Tennessee manager Mark DeJohn said. "It's the approach to hitting you try to teach, but it comes natural to him. He uses the opposite field to drive in runs. It's the approach Albert Pujols uses. I'm not sure he has that kind of power, but he has that approach and he's very disciplined for a young hitter."

Cabrera pummeled lefthanders (.455 with five homers in 55 at-bats), which he continued to do in the big leagues. Managers rated him the league's strongest infield arm and best defensive third baseman, though he made 15 errors in 64 games. He initially played left field in Florida after spending just three games there in Double-A, but moved back to third base after Mike Lowell's season-ending injury and made only one error in his first 20 starts there.

TEAMG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG
Carolina 69 266 46 97 29 3 10 59 31 49 9 .365 .429 .609


For complete scouting reports on the Top 20 Prospects in the Southern League, subscribers can access our expanded coverage.

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