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Montreal Expos:
1999 Top 10

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Montreal Expos Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams

By David Rawnsley

1. Tony Armas, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-4  Wt: 205
Signed: Venezuela, 1994  Signed by: Rudy Santin (Yankees)

Top Prospects of the 90s

1990 Delino DeShields, 2b
1991 Wil Cordero, ss
1992 Wil Cordero, ss
1993 Cliff Floyd, 1b/of
1994 Cliff Floyd, 1b/of
1995 Ugueth Urbina, rhp
1996 Vladimir Guerrero, of
1997 Vladimir Guerrero, of
1998 Brad Fullmer, 1b
1999 Michael Barrett, 3b/c

Background: Aside from being the son of former two-time American League home run champ Tony Armas, the younger Armas also received what was, in 1994, the largest signing bonus in Venezuelan history ($140,000) from the Yankees. He was dealt by the Yankees to the Red Sox in 1997 in a pennant-drive trade for Mike Stanley. Then he came to Montreal with Carl Pavano four months later in the Pedro Martinez deal. Double-A Eastern League managers pegged Armas as the league’s top pitching prospect. He made his big league debut in August but the Expos shut him down with a tired arm as a precautionary measure; he had pitched in the Venezuelan League the previous winter.

Strengths: While Armas has good raw stuff, his poise and maturity make him exceptional. He pitches like he has 10 years of big league experience. Armas uses a balanced, easy delivery and hides the ball effectively from hitters without looking unnatural. He looks like he’s throwing a casual game of catch, but his fastball comes out at 91-94 mph with good sinking and boring life. His effortless delivery enables Armas to have precise command of his pitches, especially his fastball. A key difference in his arsenal in 1999 was switching from a curveball to a slider as his primary breaking pitch. A solid changeup gives him three quality pitches.

Weaknesses: Though his slider could be an above-average pitch, some in the organization don't want Armas to give up on his curveball yet. He switched because he altered his delivery when throwing the curveball, which not only tipped hitters to the pitch but also affected his fastball. The timing of such tinkering, for a young pitcher on the cusp of a big league job, could jeopardize his chance of opening the 2000 season in the big leagues.

The Future: The Expos realize the hazards of bringing young pitchers to Montreal straight from Double-A before they are ready. The organization would like to avoid doing that with Armas. The Expos are hoping five other starters win jobs outright in spring training and allow Armas to get some more seasoning at Triple-A Ottawa before he enters the rotation.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Harrisburg (AA)   9  7  2.89  24  24   2   0  150 123  55 106
Montreal          0  1  1.50   1   1   0   0    6   8   2   2

2. Milton Bradley, OF
Age: 21  B-T: B-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 170
Drafted: HS--Long Beach, 1996 (2nd round)  Signed by: Mark Baca

Background: Bradley overcame his second umpire-related suspension–this one for spitting gum at an umpire–and a shoulder injury to enjoy a successful season. He joined teammate Peter Bergeron with Team USA in the Pan American Games. His two-out grand slam in the bottom of the ninth won the Eastern League championship for Double-A Harrisburg.

Strengths: Bradley’s tools are unquestioned. He has excellent bat speed from both sides of the plate and is an above-average runner. He has Gold Glove potential as a center fielder, with an above-average arm and the ability to make the spectacular catch.

Weaknesses: The Expos try to paint as positive a picture of Bradley’s demeanor as possible, pointing out that he is intelligent and plays as hard as anyone. But umpires, teammates and opponents see a sullen young man.

The Future: Bradley can become an all-star if he gives himself the chance. His immediate future hinges on Rondell White’s status with the organization.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Harrisburg (AA)  .329  346  62 114  22   5  12   50  33  61  14

3. Peter Bergeron, OF
Age: 22  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 185
Drafted: HS--Greenfield, Mass., 1996 (4th round)  Signed by: John Kosciak (Dodgers)

Background: Though he posted good numbers and made his big league debut, Bergeron did not have an easy year. He injured his right shoulder, restricting him to left field and DH, and had postseason surgery to repair a torn labrum.

Strengths: Bergeron has the makings of an ideal leadoff hitter: above-average speed, an excellent eye, the best bunting ability in the system and enough power to drive the ball in the gaps. Scouts say Bergeron should mature into his power with experience.

Weaknesses: Arm strength was never his best tool, even before his shoulder injury, He has the speed and instincts to play center field but is now looked at as a left fielder. On the basepaths, he needs to get better reads on pitchers and better jumps.

The Future: The Expos got poor performances in left field and the leadoff spot in 1999, so Bergeron could step into both roles in 2000.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Harrisburg (AA)  .327  162  29  53  14   2   4   18  24  29   9
Ottawa (AAA)     .314  194  36  61  12   3   3   20  23  40  14
Montreal         .244   45  12  11   2   0   0    1   9   5   0

4. Jake Westbrook, RHP
Age: 22  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 186
Drafted: HS--Danielsville, Ga., 1996 (1st round)  Signed by: Steve Payne (Rockies)

Background: Westbrook, acquired from the Rockies in the December 1997 deal for Mike Lansing, struggled in his first exposure to Double-A. He was 2-4, 6.18 in the first half before winning nine of his last 10 decisions.

Strengths: Westbrook’s best pitch is a hard, sinking two-seam fastball thrown in the 89-92 mph range. When he locates the pitch down in the strike zone and busts hitters inside, Westbrook can register 15-18 groundball outs a game. A fastball pitcher with excellent command, Westbrook is a durable innings eater. He has never missed a pro start.

Weaknesses: Westbrook’s low strikeout totals point to his lack of an effective breaking ball. His slider and curveball are complementary pitches at present. The Expos plan to work a split-finger into Westbrook’s arsenal.

The Future: Westbrook is exactly the type of pitcher who would be most effective playing for the Rockies. If he improves his secondary pitches, he should join the Montreal rotation by 2001.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Harrisburg (AA)  11  5  3.92  27  27   2   0  175 180  63  90

5. T.J. Tucker, RHP
Age: 21  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-3  Wt: 245
Drafted: HS--New Port Richey, Fla., 1997 (1st round supplemental)  Signed by: Doug Carpenter

Background: Tucker excelled at Class A Jupiter to earn a promotion to Double-A, where he struggled. Having pitched only 83 innings the previous two years, Tucker understandably tired late in the year and the Expos shut him down for his last two starts.

Strengths: Tucker is mature and throws with command and purpose to both sides of the plate. His fastball is in the 90-92 mph range and fairly straight, but he has pinpoint control of it. His best pitch when he’s on is a tight-breaking curveball, but he pressed on it in Double-A. His changeup is an effective third pitch.

Weaknesses: While Tucker was a highly recruited football kicker and punter, he is neither especially strong nor in consistently good shape. He must improve both his strength and conditioning to reach his potential.

The Future: The Expos like Tucker’s intelligence and ability and were thrilled when he stepped forward in 1999. They’ll be satisfied if he makes 27-28 healthy Double-A starts in 2000.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Jupiter (A)       5  1  1.23   7   7   0   0   44  24  16  35
Harrisburg (AA)   8  5  4.10  19  19   1   0  116 110  38  85

6. Ted Lilly, LHP
Age: 23  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 180
Drafted: Fresno CC, 1996 (23rd round)  Signed by: Joe Ferrone (Dodgers)

Background: Lilly spent his first full year in the organization after being acquired from the Dodgers in 1998 in the Mark Grudzielanek/Carlos Perez trade, which also brought Bergeron. He made his big league debut and had surgery after the season to remove bone chips in his elbow.

Strengths: Lilly’s curveball, a big league strikeout pitch, is the best in the organization. He also has a solid average fastball in the 88-92 range. Lilly’s change is a good third pitch.

Weaknesses: Big league hitters touched Lilly for seven home runs in September, most off his straight four-seam fastball. He needs to keep it down in the zone and learn how to throw a sinking two-seam fastball. Lilly also tends to get distracted by umpires’ calls, situations and opponents.

The Future: Despite six relief appearances, the Expos believe Lilly’s future is as a starter. His surgery was considered minor, and he should be at full strength to challenge for a spot in Montreal’s rotation in the spring.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
Ottawa (AAA)      8  5  3.84  16  16   0   0   89  81  23  78
Montreal          0  1  7.61   9   3   0   0   24  30   9  28

7. Brian Schneider, C
Age: 23  B-T: L-R  Ht: 6-1  Wt: 185
Drafted: HS--Chadds Ford, Pa., 1995 (5th round)  Signed by: Jim Gabella

Background: Schnieder, in his fifth year in the organization, has just developed the strength to assert himself offensively. In 1999, he doubled his previous career home run total and was an Eastern League all-star.

Strengths: Schneider moves like an infielder behind the plate, with quick feet and athletic actions. He has an accurate arm and can throw from all angles. Schneider’s swing is short and compact and scouts believe he has the potential to hit with even more power as matures.

Weaknesses: Schneider’s has just average arm strength. He will have to add strength to offset the demands of the catching position. With a short, quick swing that maximizes contact, Schneider could learn to work deeper in counts and take more walks.

The Future: The Expos have two young catchers in front of Schneider in Chris Widger and Michael Barrett, but Widger has been mentioned in trade talks and Barrett may end up at third base. Continued improvement would make Schneider the top receiver in the organization.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Harrisburg (AA)  .264  421  48 111  19   1  17   66  32  56   2

8. Brad Wilkerson, OF
Age: 22  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 190
Drafted: Florida, 1998 (1st round supplemental)  Signed by: Mark Leavitt

Background: Wilkerson was an unusual pick for the organization, a prospect worthy of a $1 million bonus as a compensation pick. A strong spring performance influenced the Expos to start his pro career in Double-A. That proved to be too ambitious as Wilkerson struggled to stay above .200 in the first half.

Strengths: Wilkerson, one of the top two-way players in NCAA history, is an excellent athlete. He has refined his body and is a solid average runner, which combined with his above-average arm makes him a top defensive right fielder. Wilkerson has good bat speed with a slight uppercut in his swing that should give him loft power as his skills mature.

Weaknesses: Wilkerson drew 88 walks in 1999, but scouts say he may have been too passive at the plate and took pitches he should have been able to drive.

The Future: Wilkerson’s struggles in 1999 haven’t discourage the Expos, who say that his improvement is just a matter of adjusting to professional pitching.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
Harrisburg (AA)  .235  422  66  99  21   3   8   49  88 100   3

9. Brandon Phillips, SS
Age: 18  B-T: R-R  Ht: 6-0  Wt: 170
Drafted: HS--Stone Mountain, Ga., 1999 (2nd round)  Signed by: Darryl Monroe

Background: Phillips was an enigma to many scouts prior to the draft. Many teams did not consider him a top prospect, while others raved about him. If his Rookie-level Gulf Coast League debut was an accurate indication, the latter group was on target.

Strengths: Expos officials can’t say enough about Phillips athleticism. His raw bat speed is on par with Bradley’s. He also has the hands, arm strength and balance to stay at shortstop, even with the organization’s depth in slick-gloved Latin prospects.

Weaknesses: While Phillips’ tools are obvious, his fundamentals are still very raw both offensively and defensively. Coming from a small school, multi-sport background, Phillips still has to grow into the game. The Expos speak highly of his aptitude, though.

The Future: Phillips is the prototypical Expos prospect of the ‘90s, long on tools and short on experience. A telling point will be how quickly he can surpass less talented but more skilled shortstop prospects such as Albenis Machado, Josh Reding and Wilson Valdez.

1999 Club         AVG   AB   R   H  2B  3B  HR  RBI  BB  SO  SB
GCL Expos (R)    .290  169  23  49  11   3   1   21  15  35  12

10. Josh Girdley, lhp
Age: 19  B-T: L-L  Ht: 6-4  Wt: 175
Drafted: HS--Jasper, Texas, 1999 (1st round)  Signed by: Dennis Cardosa

Background: Relatively unknown outside southeast Texas before the spring, Girdley vaulted to draft prominence with a 29-strikeout game in high school, projectable stuff and a strong desire to sign. His bonus was the second-lowest among the first 15 picks in the draft.

Strengths: With long, loose arms and legs on a lanky frame, Girdley defines projectability. He pitches at 89-90 mph with his fastball but will touch 92-93 when everything comes together. Girdley’s strikeout pitch is a hard-breaking curveball. He has excellent command potential.

Weaknesses: Like many pitchers from small high schools, Girdley must further develop his changeup–a staple of good big league lefthanders. Getting stronger is imperative, or Girdley risks seeing his fastball velocity drop under the stress of the long minor league season.

The Future: The Expos see no need to rush Girdley through the system. The key in Girdley’s development will be evaluating what kind of fastball he develops as he matures physically.

1999 Club         W  L   ERA   G  GS  CG  SV   IP   H  BB  SO
GCL Expos (R)     0  2  3.32  12  11   0   1   43  41  16  49

Rest of the Best:

11. Donnie Bridges, rhp
12. Mark Mangum, rhp
13. Scott Strickland, rhp
14. Luis Torres, rhp
15. Jorge Julio, rhp

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