2006 Independent Leagues Top Prospects

of Baseball America know we are always looking to uncover prospects,
wherever we can find them. So, naturally, we’ve extended that search to
the independent leagues. The following is a list of players who stood
out for their potential to make it to–or back to–affiliated ball,
with the potential to raise some eyebrows if they get the chance. The
opinions of independent league managers helped shape this effort.

before beginning the list, a word of warning: Affiliated scouts do
scour the independent leagues for potential finds and snap a number up
quickly, so their aren’t that many hidden gems. And the best finds are
usually more complementary players than top-notch regulars. an age
cutoff of 25 was instituted to focus the list on prospects with some
room for projection.

Mike Bille, rhp, Evansville (Frontier) Age: 25. Ht: 6-2. Wt: 220

was signed by the Marlins in 2005 as a nondrafted free agent out of Cal
Poly after missing nearly two seasons to Tommy John surgery while in
college. He was effective for short-season Jamestown, but was released
during spring training this year. After signing with the Otters, Bille
showed an 88-92 mph fastball that touched 93 with late movement and
baffled league hitters. Bille throws a two-seamer and a cut fastball,
with the latter offering serving as his out pitch. He also throws a
slider, but it’s a get-me-over pitch at best. His command was excellent
early in the season but wavered late.

Ian Church, of, Kalamazoo (Frontier). Age: 25. Ht: 5-10 Wt.: 178.

Baseball America’s 2006 Independent Leagues Player of the Year showed
off his power this season, but he also runs pretty well, as evidenced
by his 6.8 seconds time in the 60-yard dash. He also played a solid
center field for the Kings, although some managers felt he’d likely
have to move to a corner spot–probably left field–in affiliated ball.
Because of his size and build, few opposing managers thought of Church
as a middle of the lineup slugger, despite his hefty numbers, but his
exceptional bat speed makes him likely to hit for average with some
power in affiliated ball.

Travis Garcia, ss/3b, Chillicothe (Frontier) Age: 24 Ht: 6-2. Wt.: 205.

the Mets’ 21st-round pick in 2003, was released after two years in the
system. Since coming to the Frontier League, he’s shown a smooth swing,
a quick first step and the league’s best infield arm. Garcia split time
between shortstop and third base, but his chance at getting back to
affiliated ball rests with his ability to stay at shortstop. His
line-drive approach and gap power profile best there. Several managers
believed he had the defensive tools to stick at short if he went back
to affiliated ball.

Craig Hurba, c, Kansas City (Northern). Age: 25. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 225.

who turned 25 at the tail end of the Northern League season, impressed
managers with his power and a balanced swing that allows him to drive
the ball to all fields. Behind the plate he is a solid receiver, and
although his throwing motion is unorthodox–with a sort of sidearm
sling–he is both accurate and reasonably quick to second.

Cristian Mendoza, rhp, Quebec (Can-Am). Age: 24. Ht. 6-1 Wt: 200

Yankees signed Mendoza out of Colombia in 1998. He spent five seasons
in their system, topping out at high Class A Tampa before being
released prior to the 2004 season. Mendoza piled up strikeouts in
affiliated ball but also struggled with his command. Since joining Les
Capitales, Mendoza has refined his control while featuring the same
92-94 mph heat. He also throws a solid slider and a split-finger
fastball that serves as an out pitch. He can throw all three pitches
for strikes, though the fastball and split are clearly his best two
pitches. Mendoza’s split has good late movement, and he commands it
well enough to feel comfortable throwing it with runners on, knowing
that he won’t bounce it in the dirt. Mendoza’s biggest problem may be
getting a visa, a tough feat for Colombian players part of the reason
he’s pitched in Quebec the past two seasons.

Mike McTamney, rhp, Reno (Golden). Age: 23. Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 190.

signed with the Golden League’s Fullerton Flyers in 2005 after
finishing his senior season at Wagner College. He had the best fastball
in the Golden League, touching 94 mph with a free and easy delivery.
His secondary stuff is less impressive right now. He actually throws a
hard knuckleball in addition to a curveball, but the knuckler has
little potential. McTamney’s curve is a slow, loopy pitch, though his
manager Les Lancaster believes he has the arm action to throw a tighter
curve or a slider with work.

Jimmy Mojica, ss, St. Joseph’s (American Association). Age: 22. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175.

American Association rookie of the year was an independent league
rarity: a shortstop who stood out as much with his glove as at the
plate. Shortstop and catcher are the two toughest positions for indy
teams to fill, but Mojica, who signed with St. Joe’s after starring at
Kansas City Community College, showed solid range with the arm to make
the play from the hole. He was clearly one of indy ball’s most athletic
shortstops. Mojica also showed good speed, a knack for stealing bases
and a quick, line-drive bat.

Chris Sidick, of, Washington (Frontier). Age: 23. Ht.: 5-9. Wt.: 185

may be the best athlete in the indy leagues. He holds the NCAA Division
III record for kick return yardage, having played safety, linebacker
and wide receiver at Division III Marietta (Ohio) College, where he was
also an All-American outfielder. Thanks to plus speed, Sidick covers a
lot of ground in center field, and he’s a threat on the bases. He was
successful in 31 of 40 stolen base attempts and contributed 16 triples,
a league record. Despite an unorthodox swing, Sidick showed good raw
power. “He has explosive speed out of the box,” Pohl said. “He has very
raw baseball skills, and not a pretty swing, but he’s strong and