Talent goes beyond top 10 lists
by Jim Callis
CHICAGO‹We're halfway through out organization Top 10 Prospects lists, which may be Baseball America's most popular feature. But for many of you, just 10 prospects per team aren't close to enough.
That's why we've been producing an annual Prospect Handbook since 2001. We go 30 prospects deep for every club, and we list another 20-30 on our organization depth charts. And just for you, we're working toward getting the new edition of the Handbook in your hands earlier than ever before.
January is still a while to wait, however, but fortunately we're in a giving mood this holiday season. Here's our annual all-star team of prospects who weren't quite good enough to make the National League Top 10 lists than have run in these pages. Last year's version included Cubs outfielder Matt Murton, who hit .343 in the minors and .321 in the majors, plus Rockies third baseman Garrett Atkins and Pirates infielder Freddy Sanchez, who had solid debuts as big league regulars.
J.R. Towles, c, Astros. It looks like Houston got a steal when it took Towles in the 20th round out of North Central Texas CC in 2004. Pressed into service at low Class A Lexington because of injuries, he batted .346-5-23 in 162 at-bats. Far from one-dimensional, he has good catch-and-throw skills and is athletic for his position.
Chris Carter, 1b, Diamondbacks. Another 2004 late-rounder, Carter dropped to the 17th round after failing to live up to expectations at Stanford. He has exceeded them as a pro, hitting 48 homers in 215 games and reaching Double-A. He's a one-tool player, but light-tower lefty power is hard to find.
Omar Quintanilla, 2b, Rockies. Currently a shortstop, his instincts stand out more than his tools on the bases and in the field, and he faces a likely move from shortstop to second base. A career .320 hitter in the minors, Quintanilla came to Colorado in the midseason Eric Byrnes-Joe Kennedy trade with the Athletics. He's a line-drive hitter who controls the strike zone.
Scott Moore, 3b, Cubs. The eighth overall pick in the 2002 draft, Moore couldn't even make the 2005 Prospect Handbook after Detroit sent him to the Cubs in the Kyle Farnsworth trade. After hitting just .240 with 24 homers in three years in the Tigers system, Moore batted .281 with 20 homers while repeating high Class A. Learning to be selective and not try to pull everything made all the difference.
Matt Macri, ss, Rockies. Macri could have been a first-rounder out of high school if not for signability questions, and his career at Notre Dame took a detour when he needed Tommy John surgery. A former two-way star who once had a low-90s fastball, he's now a full-time infielder with a productive bat. He has Gold Glove potential at the hot corner, but Ian Stewart is Colorado's third baseman of the future, and 2005 first-round pick Troy Tulowitzki is coming up behind him at shortstop.
J.T. Restko, lf, Marlins. Like most lanky sluggers, Restko gets compared to Richie Sexson. He wasn't ready for full-season ball until his third pro season but emerged in 2005 by showing not only power but also hitting aptitude during a .313-15-70 year in low Class A. He's still figuring out how to play left field after moving from first base.
Daryl Jones, cf, Cardinals. A star wide receiver in high school, Jones tantalized Texas area scouts with his speed and athleticism, but most thought it would be impossible to get him to give up on attending Rice. The Cardinals proved otherwise, taking him in the third round and signing him for $450,000. Though he wasn't ready for the Rookie-level Appalachian League at age 18, scouts compare him to Kenny Lofton‹with much more power potential than Lofton ever had.
Dan Ortmeier, rf, Giants. Ortmeier, who hit 20 homers and stole 35 bases while repeating Double-A, has just missed our Giants Top 10 for two years running. Very athletic for a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, he finally stayed healthy in 2005 after his aggressive style of play repeatedly led to injuries in the past.
Sean West, lhp, Marlins. Pitchers don't come much more projectable than West, who signed for $775,000 as a supplemental first-round pick in June. He's 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds, and he already throws 90-92 mph as a teenager. He repeats his delivery extremely well for his size, and his curveball could give him a second plus pitch.
Justin Orenduff, rhp, Dodgers. The only reason that Orenduff didn't make our Dodgers Top 10 is that Los Angeles has the best system in baseball. Orenduff succeeded in Double-A during his first full pro season and isn't far from being a solid innings-eater in the majors. His slider is his best pitch, his fastball sits in the low 90s and his changeup has its moments.
Hong-Chih Kuo, lhp, Dodgers. The first Taiwanese high schooler to sign with a U.S. team, Kuo landed a $1.25 million bonus but needed Tommy John surgery after his first pro start in 2000‹and again in 2003. He came back with a vengeance in 2005, topping out repeatedly at 98 mph and reaching the majors. As a bonus, he's lefthanded.
You can contact Jim Callis by sending e-mail to [email protected]