Mike Hessman, Minors Home Run Leader, Retires
The greatest home run hitter the domestic minor leagues have ever seen has decided that 19 seasons is enough. First baseman/third baseman Mike Hessman, the U.S. minor league career home […]
Prospect Handbook: The 31st Team
March 11, 2003
Remember: These aren't the 30 best players who didn't make it into our Prospect Handbook. These are just 30 players who we compiled scouting reports for, but who didn't make the book for one reason or another. That's why we've listed them in alphabetical order and have not attempted to rank them.
We bring them to you to give those who haven't seen the Prospect Handbook an idea of what you're missing--and because we hate to see any scouting report go to waste. Enjoy.
To order the Prospect Handbook, use the online store or call customer service at (800) 845-2726.
Jamie Athas, ss, Giants
Athas looks like a scout's dream: a lefthanded-hitting middle infielder who can run, throw and hit for some power. The problem is that he tries to show off that power too often, which hurts his ability to make contact and contribute offensively. He struck out once every 3.8 at-bats in 2002 in high Class A. The Giants hope Athas can get his swing under control because the problem is more mental than mechanical, and he made some strides in instructional league. If he continues improving, he has a chance to rise quickly in a system thin with middle infielders. In fact, Athas projects as the system's best shortstop who has a chance to hit, as Cody Ransom will never be better than mediocre at the plate. Athas is good defensively, with a strong arm and good range. If he hits in Double-A this year, he'll soar up the Giants' prospect list.
Rob Bowen, c, Twins
Rated No. 8 on BA's Twins prospect list a year ago, Bowen suffered through a miserable offensive season in 2002. The 1999 Indiana high school player of the year may have heard the footsteps of Joe Mauer a level behind him, but the Twins aren't sure what happened to Bowen's bat. He launched 18 homers in 2001 as a 20-year-old getting his first taste of full-season ball, then he collapsed. His main deficiency is in strike-zone judgment, and while his swing is fundamentally sound it's too often sluggish. Scouts say it looks like he forgot to take the doughnut off his bat. Defensively, Bowen has a rocket arm, good hands and a quick release. He's just a shade behind Mauer defensively and could serve as his backup in the majors someday. The Twins would like to keep Bowen and Mauer at separate levels. Bowen clearly isn't ready for Double-A despite a solid showing in the Arizona Fall League, but if he's going to develop into a secondary offensive contributor and a reserve catcher in the big leagues, it is crucial for him to get 350-plus at-bats a season.
Jace Brewer, ss, Devil Rays
Brewer showed signs of making significant steps after batting a combined .218 in his first two seasons. He signed a major league deal with the Devil Rays worth $1.5 million in 1999 after telling teams he was intent on returning to Baylor for his junior season. He battled a shoulder injury that required surgery to repair a slight tear in his rotator cuff in November 2000, leading to what proved to be a rehab season in 2001. Healthier and more confident last season, Brewer got off to a fast start in high Class A by hitting safely in 22 of his first 25 games, including 13 multi-hit contests. He drove pitches for the first time in his professional career before receiving a mid-July promotion to Double-A, where he struggled once again. Brewer has gap power but lacks the strength to do much damage against quality pitches. His bat looked slow after he moved up last year, and his plate discipline continues to need work. Defensively, his arm isn't as powerful as it was before the surgery. Brewer is a good athlete with above-average range, but consistency in all parts of his game is lacking. Because he signed a big league deal, Brewer must reach the majors for good by 2004, a date that appears to be optimistic at best, or else be placed on waivers. A return trip to Double-A appears likely in 2003.
Brian Cardwell, rhp, Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have several power righthanders who could blossom in 2003 the way Francisco Rosario did in 2002. Among them are Dominicans Neomar Flores and Juan Perez, Canadian Vinny Perkins and Adam Peterson. Cardwell might have the best chance. Things haven't gone well for him since he ranked No. 7 on BA's Blue Jays prospect list after the 2000 season. He has had off-field problems and two different occasions where he just couldn't find the plate, a la Rick Ankiel. As one Jays scout put it, taller pitchers take longer to get their mechanics back together than shorter ones, and Cardwell was out of sorts. But the one-time Tulsa basketball recruit started to get his stuff back together in 2002 after working with short-season Auburn pitching coach Dane Johnson in extended spring training. Cardwell's slider, a power pitch in the 85-87 mph range, is the best in the system when he stays on top of it, generating excellent tilt on the pitch from his 6-foot-10 frame. He also has a 93-95 mph fastball and throws it on a nasty downhill plane. A stress fracture in his forearm cut his progress short, but if he stays healthy and keeps it all together, Cardwell's ceiling remains high.
Marcos Carvajal, rhp, Dodgers
The Dodgers have an abundance of budding young power arms from Latin America. They hope the addition of former Braves international scouting director Rene Francisco will bolster their presence in that region, especially in the Dominican Republic. Carvajal, another player signed by Camilo Pascual in Venezuela, watched his stock soar last year when his velocity jumped from the high 80s to the mid-90s. He has a projectable frame and shows more of a feel for pitching than fellow Dodgers flamethrowers Jose "Jumbo" Diaz, Lino Urdaneta, Agustin Montero and converted catcher Jose Diaz. Carvajal touches 97 mph and sits in the low 90s with good movement. His slider is below-average at this point, though his feel for a changeup is encouraging. He was quite dominant in eight relief appearances last year, limiting opponents to a .146 average. The development of his breaking ball will dictate his future role. It wouldn't be a stretch for Carvajal to start 2003 in low Class A.
Daryl Clark, of, Brewers
The meter is about to expire on Clark's prospect status. He was injured for much of 2002, missing time after fouling a pitch off his ankle, but he still managed to drive in 78 runs in 93 games. The problem is that his batting average continued to plummet even as he was bolstered by a benevolent hitter's park in High Desert's Mavericks Stadium. Clark has a smooth hitting stroke and gap power, but the Brewers are trying to get him to pull the ball more often. The other big hurdle facing Clark is his lack of a clear position. He has spent time at both corner-infield spots and in the outfield but hasn't found a home. Clark's performance in spring training will determine whether he goes back to high Class A or moves up to Double-A.
Felix Diaz, 3b, Expos
Diaz, who had been playing under the name Felix Lugo, had his age adjusted upward three years when he had his visa renewed. He missed the first half of the 2002 season before he was granted a visa and started off slowly before exploding in August, when he batted .292-11-18 in 106 at-bats at low Class A Clinton. Diaz tantalizes the Expos because he has the best combination of raw tools in the system. He has a strong, athletic body with loose flexible actions, and he swings the bat well from both sides of the plate. He has plus raw power but he needs to stay compact and under control when he swings. He also must do a better job of recognizing pitches and improving his strike-zone awareness. For all his physical skills, he's still a career .238 hitter with 438 strikeouts in 361 pro games over six seasons. Diaz is an above-average baserunner and shows good speed for a big man, running a 7.0-second 60-yard dash. Defensively, he has a quick first step, good lateral movement and range, soft hands and a plus-plus arm. The Expos project Diaz as a middle-of-the-order run producer if he can put everything together. They hope he can handle the jump to Double-A this year.
Jake Dittler, rhp, Indians
Dittler's 5-11 record at low Class A Columbus in 2002 didn't diminish the enthusiasm Indians officials have for his potential. Dittler features a 93 mph fastballand he might have even more velocity in therea hard overhand curve and a good changeup. Dittler is a rare power pitcher who also has a good feel for his changeup. Because of his size, he struggles at times to keep his mechanics together, but when he does Dittler can be dominating. He physically resembles Curt Schilling but needs to develop the focus and relentless pitch-to-pitch, hitter-to-hitter focus of Schilling. He's marching through the Cleveland system with fellow 2001 draftees Dan Denham, Travis Foley and J.D. Martin. The Indians would like to keep them together to healthy competition within the group. It looks like they'll start the 2003 season together in high Class A. If one of them gets bumped back to low Class A, it could be Dittler.
Jason Dubois, of, Blue Jays
Dubois was one of college baseball's top two-way players at Virginia Commonwealth, where he set the school's career home run record while winning the Colonial Athletic Association triple crown in 2000. He also won 19 games on the mound, but his power at the plate steered the Cubs to make him a position player. Dubois' combination of power and on-base skills intrigued the Blue Jays, who selected him in the 2002 major league Rule 5 draft. While he was the third of their three selections (after righthanders Aquilino Lopez and Gary Majewski), he has the highest ceiling because he can be an everyday player. He led the high Class A Florida State League in slugging percentage and ranked second in on-base percentage last year. Despite missing six weeks with a wrist injury, he also ranked in the top four in the FSL triple-crown categories, thanks to his excellent strength, strike-zone knowledge and plate discipline. His pitching background hints at his strong arm. His weaknesses are his below-average speed and his history of injuries, which also includes a stress fracture in his left foot in 2000. Dubois, who also has played some first base, might have a chance to stick as an extra bat on the Jays' 25-man roster.
Ben Francisco, of, Indians
At the time of the 2002 draft, Francisco was recovering from a broken collarbone that caused him to miss the last two months of the season at UCLA. He showed no sign of the injury as a pro, winning the short-season New York-Penn League batting title. Francisco is a doubles hitter with occasional power. He has enough range and arm to cover ground in center field. He has above-average speed and understands the game, so he projects as a basestealer at the major league level. At times he became overly pull-conscious and got away from his strength, which is to hit the ball up the middle and the other way. After exceeding expectations in pro debut, Francisco is expected to start to the 2003 in high Class A.
Junior Frias, rhp, Red Sox
The Red Sox thought so highly of Frias after signing him out of the Dominican Republic in January 2002 that they brought him to the United States rather than letting him ease into pro ball in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League. Frias got knocked around in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League but didn't diminish his promise. He has a strong pitcher's body and regularly threw 91-93 mph at age 17. He also showed a feel for a changeup and threw strikes, though the rotation on his curveball will need significant improvement. Frias made progress in Boston's Dominican winter program, further encouraging the club. He'll return to the GCL in 2003.
Brandon Gemoll, of/1b, Brewers
Gemoll has hit for a high average with little power in his first two pro seasons. He moved from low Class A to high Class A last year without a drop in production or an increase in pop. Though he has decent instincts at first base and was a serviceable outfielder, he's not a standout at either spot. The brother of Royals minor league third baseman Justin Gemoll, Brandon loves to hit and he's good at it. He uses the whole field and doesn't chase pitches out of the strike zone. He'll need to learn to lift the ball more in order to attract more notice this year in Double-A.
Jody Gerut, of, Indians
In a deal that continues to look more one-sided in Cleveland's favor, the Indians added Josh Bard and Gerut in June 2001 for Jacob Cruz. The Rockies released Cruz five months later. Gerut missed the entire 2001 season following reconstructive knee surgery, but he wasted little time in re-establishing himself as a prospect last year. He can play any of the three outfield positions. He gets good reads and jumps, understands hitters and has good anticipation and knowledge of the game. His feel for outfield play makes up for his lack of speed, though he does know how to steal a base. It remains to be seen what kind of hitter Gerut will become, though he has shown good gap power. He can come off the bench and be productive, which might be his role in the big leagues. Though there have been no lingering effects from his knee injury, Gerut needs to continue to get stronger and improve on his explosiveness. He'll has an outside chance of winning a spot on the Indians' Opening Day roster, but more likely will begin the season in Triple-A.
Jason Grove, of, Yankees
A three-sport star in high school, Grove made five starts on the mound as a Washington State freshman. He has had difficulty showcasing his skills because he has been hindered by injuries since his draft year. A broken hamate bone in his right wrist may have cost him the opportunity to go in the top two rounds in 2000, and he missed that summer after breaking a bone in his foot in a Yankees minicamp. Grove managed to get 451 at-bats in 2001, but he hurt his wrist on a checked swing in April 2002. He uses a slight crouch and an open stance at the plate, and he owns one of the prettiest strokes in the Yankees system. His power is mostly to the gaps, but good bat speed and natural loft to his swing produce occasional power to right field. He's a hard worker with above-average instincts. Grove is a below-average runner, and his range and arm strength limit him to left field. He profiles as an extra outfielder who could contribute as a lefthanded bat off the bench. He'll spend 2003 in Double-A.
Jamar Hill, of, Mets
The Mets bolstered a strong 2001 draft class by signing Hill last May as a 48th-round draft-and-follow out of Santa Ana (Calif.) JC. In his pro debut, Hill was named Rookie-level Kingsport's team MVP. A raw athlete, he offers size, speed and improving strength. The ball jumps off his bat. Though he needs to make more contact, Hill has some talent for drawing walks. A juco third baseman, he has the range, arm and offensive production to handle either outfield corner position. Hill simply needs to polish his tools over the next few years. A promotion to low Class A is in his immediate future.
David Jensen, 1b, Royals
In between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Brigham Young, Jensen took a two-year Mormon mission to Uruguay. He returned to the Cougars and hit .411-10-69 with 29 doubles and 13 steals in 263 at-bats before the Royals selected him as a draft-eligible sophomore. (The Indians drafted him in the 17th round in 2001, while he was still in Uruguay.) Strong and barrel-chested, Jensen struggled initially with the transition to wood bats and had trouble making contact, but he did make adjustments as the season progressed. Jensen offers plus bat speed with a compact stroke and should develop above-average power. He plays with lots of energy, sometimes to his detriment, as he gets overaggressive both at the plate and in the field. Defensively, Jensen displays average arm strength and hands and moves well around the bag. While the mission might have set Jensen back in terms of baseball development, it also helped him mature. That showed as Jensen displayed strong leadership qualities at short-season Spokane and figures to do the same this year at one of Kansas City's Class A affiliates.
Kade Johnson, of, Brewers
In the past three seasons, Johnson has fallen from seventh to 12th to off BA's Brewers prospect lista plunge reminiscent of Enron. While Johnson still has the power that got him drafted in the second round in 1999, he has been plagued by injuries. He had rotator-cuff surgery in 1999, broke his left hand in 2000 and had shoulder problems in 2002. The highlight of his career thus far has been a handful of tape-measure homers in spring training batting practice. The Brewers, hungry for help behind the plate, have given up on the idea that Johnson will be able to catch. They've moved him around the diamond to keep him healthy, and he might fit best in left field. He doesn't run particularly well and his arm strength has diminished because of his injuries. He simply hasn't played enough for anyone to know if he'll live up to his lofty potential.
Mark Kiger, 2b/ss, Athletics
Kiger has the instincts and work ethic out of the mold of David Eckstein and Mark Ellis, who preceded him as shortstops at Florida. He may have more pure talent than those overachievers, especially on defense, where Kiger has exceptional hands and solid range. He has enough arm for shortstop but might fit better at second base. Offensively, he excels at drawing walks and getting on base, and his guile makes him an occasional threat to steal. Kiger's .244 average in his pro debut may have been an aberration. He hit .403 during the spring as a Gators senior, and batted .497 (including a 44-game hitting streak) to win the California community college batting title as a Grossmont CC freshman. Kiger also has surprising pop for his size. He'll probably play second base for one of Oakland's Class A affiliates in 2003. The A's have several infielders ahead of him on their depth chart, but he could be a useful utilityman because he can help everywhere except at pitcher, catcher and first base.
David Martinez, lhp, Yankees
Following an impressive 2001 season, Martinez nearly cracked BA's Yankees Top 10 Prospects list. But the excitement over his season was tempered by arthroscopic shoulder surgery that ended his season prematurely and limited him to 25 innings in 2002. The Yankees' Tampa complex was full of rehabbing pitching prospects during the year, with Brandon Claussen, Sean Henn, Jon Skaggs and Manny Acosta joining Martinez. His career high is just 98 innings, so durability is a major concern. He didn't take the mound until July in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, and his longest outing was four innings. When he's healthy, Martinez deals with a moving 89-92 mph fastball, a sharp curveball and an effective changeup. After pitching in Venezuela this winter, he's expected to be back at full strength for spring training.
Don Murphy, ss, Royals
Murphy didn't qualify academically to play at Long Beach State in 2002, so he headed to Orange Coast instead. He received considerable exposure there as scouts flocked to see teammate Matt Clanton, a righthander the Cubs selected 38th overall. Murphy shows solid shortstop actions and instincts with a plus arm. His lack of speed eventually could push him from the position, though the Royals will give him every opportunity to stick there. A below-average runner, Murphy doesn't have great range at shortstop, a problem that would also hinder his chances at becoming an everyday second baseman. His consistent bat gives him the chance to become an offensive middle infielder, yet he must develop more power if he were to play third base. A switch to catcher also has been discussed, as well as a move to left field. Like Ken Harvey, Murphy can let the ball get deep on the plate before smacking it to the opposite field. If he stays in the infield, Murphy could develop into a solid utility player along the lines of former Royal Keith Lockhart.
Guillermo Reyes, ss, White Sox
Signed as a 16-year-old, the diminutive Reyes often has been among the younger players in his league. He seemed out of place offensively in the high Class A Carolina League as a 19-year-old in 2001 but more than held his own when he returned for a full season in 2002. He improved his batting average 71 points and even showed some extra-base potential for the first time since he had been in Rookie ball. It was an encouraging sign for a middle infielder considered more than adequate defensively and on the bases. Reyes moved between shortstop and second earlier in his career but has been used almost exclusively at shortstop the last two seasons. He's a smooth fielder but his range is considered only decent at short. He figures to be challenged by a jump to Double-A and will need to continue to improve offensively if he's going to remain ahead of Andy Gonzalez, who's two rungs back but gaining fast.
Nate Robertson, lhp, Tigers
Durability has been a concern for Robertson, an affable lefty who has averaged 13 starts in his first three pro seasons. He had Tommy John surgery in 1997 while at Wichita State, plus additional elbow surgery unrelated to the ligament in 2000. He held up for most of last season, missing one Double-A start in August with shoulder inflammation. That problem recurred during his September callup, canceling a planned trip to the Arizona Fall League. Nevertheless, the Tigers picked him up as part of a three-prospect package when they traded Mark Redman to the Marlins in January. Robertson, whose brother Luke is a pitching prospect in the Athletics system, is a sinker/slider guy who tops out at 92 mph. His changeup needs work but his experiments with a cut fastball have been encouraging. He hasn't taken it into a game yet but hopes to this season. That should give him another weapon against righties, against whom he did a better job of pitching inside. The Tigers need starting pitching more than the Marlins did, which should work to Robertson's advantage.
Fernando Rodney, rhp, Tigers
Rodney was cuffed around in his first shot at the major leagues last season. His performance and the discovery that he was four years older than previously believed took some of the shine off the strong work he did in the minors, where he held opponents to a .182 average while averaging more than a strikeout per inning. Rodney throws hard, reaching 95 mph consistently and touching 98. However, his fastball is straight and he doesn't hide the ball during his delivery. He's also short, so he doesn't get a good downward angle on his heater. He has a quick arm but somewhat violent motion. The key for Rodney is his slider. When it's working well, he's effective. If he can be more aggressive in spring training than he was during his four stints in the majors last year, he has a legitimate shot at making Detroit's Opening Day roster. Once considered a possible future closer, he'll have to settle for a setup role.
Casey Rogowski, 1b, White Sox
Entering the 2002 season, no hitter in the low minors excited the White Sox as much as Rogowski. But he underwent arthroscopic surgery after experiencing shoulder pain during spring training and was limited to 63 games after his return. He had been on track to jump to high Class A and was assigned there after a brief tuneup in Rookie ball, but Rogowski didn't seem comfortable at the plate and his power totals suffered. It was pretty much a lost year, though the Sox expect him to rebound in 2003. He's a solid first baseman and runs well for his size. He was a multi-sport star in high school and is a dogged competitor. Those traits will help him get his career back on track.
Matt Roney, rhp, Tigers
A two-time Oklahoma high school player of the year, Roney's career was sidetracked soon after the Rockies made him a first-round pick in 1998. He missed the 1999 season because of surgery to repair a torn labrum. He set himself back when he went on a workout routine of his own and bulked up too much. It took close to 10 miles off his fastball and left his mechanics out of sync. In 2001 and 2002, however, he began to pitch himself back into prospect status. That attracted the attention of the Tigers, who bought him from the Pirates after they selected him in the major league Rule 5 draft in December. Roney has a power four-seam fastball that touches 98 mph, and his slider is a plus pitch at times. Roney is not as comfortable with his two-seam fastball, but it does have movement and started to come around last year. He uses a 12-to-6 curveball. His changeup is inconsistent. Because he's still searching for a third pitch and working on his command, his long-term role may be in the bullpen. If he sticks with Detroit, that will be his spot in 2003. He has possible closer potential.
Mike Schultz, rhp, Diamondbacks
The Diamondbacks' top draft pick (second round) in 2000, Schultz joined the organization as a Mike Witt type, a long, lanky righthander with a power curve out of a high three-quarter delivery. Unfortunately, he has made just nine appearances in three seasons because of arm problems. Schultz, whose fastball was clocked in the 94-96 mph range at Loyola Marymount, missed all of the last two seasons with a deltoid strain that became a torn rotator cuff. After suffering his first shoulder injury, Schultz rushed his recovery while in rehab in late 2001 and had to undergo further surgery that sidelined him for all of 2002. He was expected to be at full strength for 2003 spring training, but the D'backs won't rush him back after his previous troubles. When he gets back on the mound, he has a lot of work to do in order to refine his breaking ball, changeup and command.
Todd Self, of/1b, Astros
A college senior sign in 2000, Self didn't do much in his pro debut but rebounded to become a short-season New York-Penn League all-star in 2001 and low Class A Michigan's team MVP last year. The Astros say the difference was that Self learned how to use his 6-foot-5 frame, which one official described as all arms and legs. He has opposite-field power now and pull potential. Self can handle good fastballs, centers them well on his bat and understands the strike zone. He still needs to improve against lefthanders, who held him to a .248 average without a homer last year. He has a plus arm suitable for right field, though his speed may make him better suited for first base, where he handles himself well around the bag. Because Self is 24, Houston may challenge him by jumping him to Double-A in 2003.
Eider Torres, 2b/ss, Indians
Torres hit a combined .316 at Rookie-level Burlington and short-season Mahoning Valley in 2002, showing the potential to be a No. 2 hitter in the major leagues. He wasn't a surprise, because he had hit .398 in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League in 2001. As he faced pitchers three and four years older, he wasn't overmatched at all. He's a switch-hitter with bunting ability and tremendous bat control, not to mention basestealing speed. Torres needs to develop the physical strength to drive the ball more. Right now he's more of a singles and doubles hitter. He understands counts and has a very polished approach to hitting. He has enough arm to play shortstop, but will compete for a second-base job in Class A this year.
Matt Tupman, c, Royals
Tupman sandwiched an all-star season in the New England Collegiate League during the summer of 2001 between trips to the Division II College World Series with Massachusetts-Lowell. He's athletic and with a strong, wiry frame, Tupman resembles a catcher trapped in a second baseman's body. He shows a plus arm, is a good receiver and blocks balls well. Tupman also scoops throws from the outfield as if he were playing first base and has the agility to snag foul pop-ups most catchers can't. While sound behind the plate, Tupman struggled at times when standing next to it. After ironing out an uppercut in his swing, he generated good bat speed. He raised his average from .219 in mid-July to finish at .271. Though he's not a power hitter, the ball still jumps off his bat and into the alleys. He's patient at the plate and collected as many walks as strikeouts. Tupman profiles as a solid backup catcher in the Brent Mayne mold. He could start as in high Class A this year, depending on where 2002 second-round pick Adam Donachie is assigned.
Neil Wilson, c, Rockies
Because he was on the same Vero Beach High team as Pirates 2001 draft pick Chris Torres, Wilson played on the left side of the infield before moving behind the plate as a high school senior last year. Exposure as a catcher helped his stock rise in the weeks leading up to the draft, and he turned down a scholarship to play with his older brother Andy at Stetson. Neil is a good athlete, and while he didn't have the quickness to be a middle infielder in pro ball, he's mobile behind the plate and shows the tools to be a good receiver. Though he threw out just nine of 46 basestealers (20 percent) in his pro debut, he has a solid to plus arm that figures to be even better once he masters the footwork of catching. Wilson's work ethic and desire to catch are encouraging. He showed power in high school, but has a long swing he'll need to shorten to succeed in pro ball. He's a below-average runner but isn't a baseclogger like most catchers are. Given his youth and that he has only caught for a year, Wilson would figure to begin 2003 in extended spring training before going to short-season Tri-City in June.