Not every phenom makes Top 10 Prospect lists
by Jim Callis
CHICAGO—There's no offseason at Baseball America. There's the regular season, and then there's Prospect Season.
We spend pretty much every waking moment between the World Series and Opening Day evaluating players. As you're well aware, this is the third issue in our six-part series on organization Top 10 Prospects as we build toward our annual Top 100 Prospects extravaganza.
We're also working on the fifth annual edition of the supersized Prospect Handbook, in which we break down 30 players in every farm system. For those of you who just can't wait until early 2005 for more American League reports, we'll give you an all-star team of prospects who couldn't make the top 10 cut.
A year ago, our AL all-not-quite-top-10 team included Lew Ford, Bobby Madritsch and Kazuhito Tadano, all of whom had major league success in 2004. Howie Kendrick, the low Class A Midwest League batting champion, also was included.
Landon Powell, c, Athletics. "Landon Powell is what Billy Beane thought Jeremy Brown was," one AL executive said after Oakland made Powell the 24th overall pick in the 2004 draft. Powell won't sell any jeans, but he's a switch-hitter who can provide power and walks. Unlike Brown, Powell has the agility, receiving and throwing skills to be an everyday catcher.
Jason Botts, 1b, Rangers. Botts is reminiscent of Travis Hafner, and rest assured Texas isn't going to give him away to get another Einar Diaz. Some scouts like his chances of establishing himself in the Rangers lineup more than those of Adrian Gonzalez, the No. 1 pick in the 2000 draft. Botts has started to show the power expected of a 6-foot-6, 250-pounder, and he has surprising speed and athleticism for his size.
Sean Rodriguez, 2b, Angels. Rodriguez held his own in the Midwest League as a 19-year-old, then dropped down to the Rookie-level Pioneer League and won MVP honors. He's a line-drive hitter with advanced instincts in every phase of the game. Though Rodriguez primarily has played shortstop, he also has seen time at five other positions and figures to settle in at second base.
Mark Trumbo, 3b, Angels. Trumbo had first-round potential as a pitcher, but fell to the 18th round in June because he had a rock-solid commitment to attend Southern California. The ever-aggressive Angels stayed on him, however, and the more they watched him, the more they decided they liked him more as a slugger. He has Troy Glaus potential, though the club worked him out at first base during instructional league.
Trevor Plouffe, ss, Twins. Like Trumbo, Plouffe was a Southern California recruit who entered last spring viewed more as a pitching prospect. In a draft crop thin on position players, his all-around ability as a shortstop was too enticing to ignore. He projects as a .275 hitter with 15-20 homers annually while showing solid hands and a strong arm at short.
Gabe Gross, lf, Blue Jays. Gross never has realized the power projections that made him the 15th overall pick in 2001, but he might need only a change in approach. Though he can work counts in his favor, he needs to looks for pitches to attack rather than just seek walks once he gets ahead. He won't be a star but there's no reason he can give Toronto a solid left fielder for a few seasons.
Jamal Strong, cf, Mariners. As Seattle sputtered through a stunning 99-loss season, it started running open auditions at several positions. Strong lost the opportunity to make an impression after banging up his right knee running into an outfield wall in Triple-A. The odds that he'll be able to beat out both Jeremy Reed and Randy Winn in center field are long, but Strong's on-base and defensive ability could help several teams.
Mickey Hall, rf, Red Sox. The only high school player Boston took in the first 16 rounds of the 2003 draft, Hall went to low Class A at age 19 and looked overmatched for the first two months. But he persevered and made adjustments, batting .274/.364/.489 from June on. He's a candidate for a breakout 2005 season in high Class A.
Glen Perkins, lhsp, Twins. The report on Perkins when the Twins took him in the first round in June was that he was more advanced than fellow University of Minnesota product Denny Neagle at the same stage of their careers. Perkins did nothing to dispel that notion after signing, going 3-1, 1.49 in 12 starts. He throws three pitches for strikes, and his fastball, curveball and changeup all have the chance to be above average.
Adam Harben, rhsp, Twins. Minnesota stole Harben in the 15th round of the 2002 draft, partly on the recommendation of big league manager Ron Gardenhire's son Toby, his teammate at Westark (Ark.) Community College. Harben throws a heavy 91-93 mph fastball, and his secondary pitches are coming along nicely.
Aaron Taylor, rp, Mariners. Recovering from 2003 surgery to repair a small tear in his rotator cuff, Taylor pitched at 92-93 mph rather than his customary 94-97 mph last season. But he gained better command of his slider and splitter, and if he can harness one of those pitches consistently, he could be a real late-inning weapon.
You can reach Jim Callis by sending e-mail to [email protected].