By Josh Boyd
January 8, 2002
Jack Cust has as much power as any prospect in the game. He’s averaged more than 26 home runs per season over the last three years. His uppercut stroke is tailor-made for Coors Field.
On Monday, the Diamondbacks sent Cust, their No. 4 prospect, and catcher J.D. Closser to the Rockies in exchange for lefthanded relief specialist Mike Myers.
While Cust’s offensive game may be born for the thin air of Denver, his defense is not. The Diamondbacks grew frustrated with his lack of progress in the field. Arizona decided Cust, who will be 23 when the season starts, has proven incapable of playing anywhere other than designated hitter. He’s had unsuccessful stints at first base and right field.
The outfield in Coors is not for the defensively-challenged, which has already led to speculation Cust’s stay in Colorado will end before spring training. His propensity for the walk, combined with his power potential, has attracted attention from the A’s. The Rockies are still in need of a third baseman to replace Jeff Cirillo and bullpen depth. Given the close relationship of Athletics general manager Billy Beane and Rockies GM Dan O’Dowd, which has already produced several Colorado-Oakland deals, Cust to Oakland could be a perfect match.
The Rockies plan to hang onto Closser, however. They were bereft of catching prospects after dealing Josh Bard (and outfielder Jody Gerut) to the Indians for outfielder Jacob Cruz last summer and deciding Ben Petrick wasn’t the answer behind the plate.
They have since added Garrett Gentry from the Astros (as the player to be named in the Pedro Astacio deal) and Closser to address the organization-wide need at the position.
While Bard’s defensive skills stood out as his best, Closser, like Gentry, is further along with the bat. The Diamondbacks likened Closser’s big league ceiling to that of former Tigers and Orioles backstop Matt Nokes. The switch-hitting catcher has a discerning eye at the plate, drawing over 100 walks in 1999–though he was demoted from the Class A Midwest League to Rookie-level Missoula.
Closser feasted on Class A California League pitchers in Lancaster, one of the best hitter’s parks in the minors, last year. He slugged more than 150 points higher at home, while hitting .331 in Lancaster. He profiles as a reserve in the big leagues, and given the Rockies lack of depth, Closser will have every opportunity to advance.
The Diamondbacks were dealing from their strength. Their 40-man roster was loaded with lefthanded-hitting outfielders, and the system has depth behind the plate.
From Rod Barajas, who contributed with a clutch home run in Game 5 of the World Series, to No. 10 prospect Brad Cresse, who is a year away from Arizona, to Class A backstops Craig Ansman and Mike DiRosa, Arizona boasts catching prospects at every level.
Contributing: Tracy Ringolsby.