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Rookie-Level Appalachian League

Top 20 Prospects

By James Bailey

Adam Wainwright
Adam Wainwright
Photo: Sports On Film

The general feeling among managers in the Rookie-level Appalachian League was that the overall talent level was down a notch from recent years. Certainly there was no Josh Hamilton around wowing folks with his every swing. And there was no consensus choice for top prospect, unlike last year when all talk began at No. 2, behind Hamilton.

Perhaps Danville righthander Adam Wainwright would have garnered that kind of enthusiasm if he had been in the league all summer, but several managers never saw him. Those that did, however, were all impressed to some degree.

Six first-round or supplemental first-round picks from this June's draft appeared in the league, with all but Johnson City center fielder Shaun Boyd and Burlington lefthander Derek Thompson finding a spot on the Top 20. Boyd eventually got comfortable but didn't show managers the tools they would expect from the No. 13 overall choice. Thompson was limited to strict pitch counts all season, and managers didn't see him at his best because of that.

1. ADAM WAINWRIGHT, rhp, Danville (Braves)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                      Drafted          W  L   ERA  G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-7  195  19  HS--St. Simons Island, Ga.  Braves '00 (1)   2  2  3.68  6   0  29  28   2  39

The first of four Atlanta first-round picks, Wainwright spent the first half of the season in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League before arriving in Danville. He easily could have skipped the GCL.

Wainwright, who also ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the GCL, showed great command of both his low-90s fastball and curve, not walking a batter until his fourth Appy League start. He also throws a good changeup. He has great size and projects to add velocity as he fills out. Wainwright came on strong late in the high school season and never slowed down all summer.

"He has the best two pitches in the league, with that fastball and curve," Bluefield manager Duffy Dyer said.

2. ENRIQUE CRUZ, 3b-ss, Kingsport (Mets)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  Country             Signed         Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
R-R  6-1  175  18  Dominican Republic  Mets FA '98   .251  223  35  56  14  0  9  39  19

The No. 7 prospect in the GCL last year, Cruz made the jump to the Class A South Atlantic League to open 2000, but came down to Kingsport for a fresh start when the Appy League season opened in June. He spent the majority of his time at third base because teammate Jose Reyes was the class of the league defensively at short. Cruz showed good hands and a strong arm.

What excited managers most was Cruz’ ability to hit the ball hard consistently. He should continue developing power as he grows.

"He might be the best player in the league," Elizabethton manager Jeff Carter said. "He can handle the bat. He has good hands, a good arm. He can run."

3. COREY SMITH, 3b, Burlington (Indians)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                Drafted           Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
R-R  6-0  200  18  HS--Piscataway, N.J.  Indians '00 (1)  .256  207  21  53   8  2  4  39   8

Smith showed drastic improvement, both offensively and defensively, as the season progressed. In June he often looked uncomfortable at third, showing little range. By August, his athleticism took over and he made numerous impressive plays. Many of his errors came on throws, though he owns a strong arm and has all the tools to become a good defender.

Smith hit the ball as hard as anyone in the league, and when his approach at the plate develops even further, he’ll be a major power threat. He also runs well and is a potential five-tool infielder.

"He has big league makeup already," Burlington manager Dave Turgeon said. "He plays the game as hard as anyone on the team. He's going to be a leader."

4. ROCCO BALDELLI, of, Princeton (Devil Rays)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School             Drafted              Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
R-R  6-4  180  19  HS--Warwick, R.I.  Devil Rays '00 (1)  .216  232  33  50   9  2  3  25  11

Baldelli was ranked as the top high school athlete in this year's draft class, and showed that in Princeton. He played the same position and wore the same number (22) as Hamilton, but any comparison of the two would be unfair at this point.

"He can play," Alfonzo said. "He works hard. He was a little overmatched, but he has the tools. There's something about him I like."

Baldelli runs well and plays solid defense in center, but is unpolished overall and has a lot of progress to make at the plate. When he develops he should be a four-tool player, lacking only arm strength.

5. OCTAVIO MARTINEZ, c, Bluefield (Orioles)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                   Drafted            Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
R-R  6-0  195  21  Bakersfield (Calif.) JC  Orioles '99 (10)  .387  181  45  70  14  1  7  46   0

The league's batting champ and player of the year, Martinez flirted with .400 for much of the season. The offense was something of a surprise, considering his .237-0-15 showing in the GCL last year. He approached his at-bats with confidence and patience.

Dyer said having Martinez, who caught Rangers farmhand Colby Lewis in junior college, behind the plate was like having an extra coach on the field. He blocked balls well, showed soft hands and a quick release, though his arm strength itself wasn't exceptional.

"Defensively, his ability is close to Double-A already," Princeton manager Edwin Rodriguez said. "I think his catch-and-throw is what's going to carry him."

6. JIMMY BARRETT, rhp, Martinsville (Astros)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School               Drafted         W  L   ERA   G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-2  190  19  HS--Cumberland, Md.  Astros '99 (3)  6  2  4.73  13   0  67  60  32  72

Barrett debuted in Martinsville last season but pitched in just six games. This season he quickly took his place as one of the top pitchers in the league, and carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning against Pulaski. The biggest improvement from last year to this was in his offspeed pitches. He throws a curve and quality changeup to go with his low-90s fastball.

"He's made some nice adjustments," Martinsville manager Brad Wellman said. "When he starts mixing up pitch sequences, he'll be even more effective."

7. ROB BOWEN, c, Elizabethton (Twins)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                Drafted         Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
B-R  6-2  195  19  HS--Fort Wayne, Ind.  Twins '99 (2)  .288   73  17  21   3  0  4  19   0

When Bowen went down with a hairline fracture of his collarbone about a month into the season, he was among the league leaders in several offensive categories. That came as a pleasant surprise for a player heralded for his defense coming into 2000.

The switch-hitter is more advanced at this stage from the right side. He should hit for some power, especially righthanded, down the road.

His defense lived up to its billing as well. Bowen moves well behind the plate and showed a strong arm.

8. RAFAEL BOITEL, of, Elizabethton (Twins)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  Country             Signed         Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
B-R  6-3  165  19  Dominican Republic  Twins FA '98  .263  224  43  59   7  2  2  27  16

Boitel does a little bit of everything, playing good defense in center field and putting the ball in play at the top of the order. He owns a nice swing and should hit with a little more pop when he adds some muscle to his frame, though he doesn't project as a power hitter. He runs well and has a strong, accurate arm.

"He's got a quick bat and he'll hit the ball the other way" Wellman said. "He seems to be at home out in center field."

9. DOMINGO VALDEZ, rhp, Pulaski (Rangers)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                      Drafted           W  L   ERA   G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-3  220  20  HS--Corpus Christi, Texas   Rangers '98 (16)  6  2  1.63  11   0  61  45  25  71

The Appy co-pitcher of the year, Valdez led the league in ERA and was among the leaders in both wins and strikeouts. This was his third season in Rookie ball, having spent most of the previous two seasons in the GCL. Valdez, who is already solidly built, throws a low-90s fastball, curve and changeup with good command.

10. CHRIS NARVESON, lhp, Johnson City (Cardinals)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School               Drafted            W  L   ERA   G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
L-L  6-3  180  18  HS--Asheville, N.C.  Cardinals '00 (2)  2  4  3.27  12   0  55  57  25  63

Narveson throws hard for a young lefthander, with a fastball that runs in the low 90s. He works in both a slider and curve, as well as a changeup, and showed good command of his offspeed stuff. He has solid mechanics and could climb quickly in the Cardinals system.

"He's just a kid, but he's a bulldog," Johnson City manager Luis Melendez said. "He knows what he's doing. He's got the arm to be a big leaguer."

11. RAMON GERMAN, 1b-3b, Martinsville (Astros)

B-T    Ht  Wt Age  Country             Signed          Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
B-R  5-11 160  20  Dominican Republic  Astros FA '97  .320  225  42  72  24  1  7  44  16

German was on a tremendous pace for doubles early in the season, but dropped off late in the season. He still led the league with 24, a year after leading the Dominican Summer League with 23. Those could turn into home runs in the future.

"He has a fast bat," Wellman said. "He'll struggle with the breaking ball a little but can still find a way to get the fat part of the bat on the ball."

Though German has below-average speed, he plays above that by using good instincts on the bases. Defensively, he has a strong enough arm to play third base but looks more comfortable at first, where he spent most of the season. He also can play the outfield.

12. CHAD BOWEN, rhp, Kingsport (Mets)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                     Drafted          W  L   ERA   G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-4  210  18  HS--Hendersonville, Tenn.  Mets '00 (8)     7  2  3.00  11   0  63  59  23  41

The other co-pitcher of the year, Bowen won his first seven decisions in his pro debut. His fastball is a notch below average, but he can throw his curve for strikes on any count, which enables him to keep hitters off balance. His pitching smarts are unusual for a high school draftee.

"He has the ability to pitch when he doesn't have his good stuff," Rodriguez said. "He showed good presence on the mound."

13. CORY DOYNE, rhp, Martinsville (Astros)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School          Drafted          W  L   ERA   G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-2  185  19  HS--Lutz, Fla.  Astros '00 (8)   3  6  4.45  12   0  40  25  35  54

With his glasses and sideburns, Doyne looks more like a musician than a baseball player—until he takes the hill. Most rock stars don't throw in the mid-90s.

Doyne, who was drafted two picks after Bowen, also has the makings of a good curveball and changeup, though he has trouble commanding the changeup at this point. He wasn't exactly Nuke LaLoosh, though one manager did refer to him as effectively wild. He struggled early in the season but finished strong as his mechanics improved.

"He has a special arm," Bristol pitching coach Sean Snedeker said. "He had the best arm in the league."

14. ANGEL PAGAN, of, Kingsport (Mets)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                 Drafted         Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
B-R  6-1  175  19  HS--Rio Piedras, P.R.  Mets '99 (4)   .361   72  13  26   5  1  0   8   6

Pagan signed as a draft-and-follow this spring after an uninspiring juco season. He wound up playing just 19 games before going on the disabled list in mid-July, but impressed managers with a well-rounded package of tools. He can hit with projectable power and he runs well, though he's raw on the bases. He also showed good range in center field and a strong arm.

"He can go get it," Alfonzo said. "He's got good range. He can go in, go back, go side to side. And he's got a strong arm."

15. BOB KEPPEL, rhp, Kingsport (Mets)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School                 Drafted          W  L   ERA  G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-5  185  18  HS--Chesterfield, Mo.  Mets '00 (1)     1  2  6.83  8   0  29  31  13  29

Keppel was inconsistent after joining Kingsport midway through the season, and some managers weren't impressed by what they saw. But he showed an aptitude for three pitches, throwing a sinking, low-90s fastball, a good slider and an average changeup.

The slider was his most effective pitch by the end of the summer, which wasn't bad considering the knock on him before the draft was his breaking stuff. With his frame the Mets project him to add velocity in time.

"His body's not that strong right now, but he's going to be a big boy," Alfonzo said. "He's a potential No. 2 starter in the big leagues."

16. DAVID MEAD, rhp, Pulaski (Rangers)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  School           Drafted          W  L   ERA   G  SV  IP   H  BB  SO
R-R  6-5  180  19  HS--Chattanooga  Rangers '99 (1)  6  2  4.62  12   0  62  57  24  66

Mead has nice size and strength, and he throws the low-90s fastball you'd expect to see out of him. But what you might not expect is the solid changeup he mixes in.

He also throws a slider. Mead can be wild at times, but in his final start of the season he struck out 13 and walked none, so he's around the plate when he's on.

"He's very young, very raw," Pulaski manager Bruce Crabbe said. "His potential is unlimited."

17. ALEJANDRO MACHADO, 2b, Danville (Braves)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  Country     Signed          Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
R-R  6-0  160  18  Venezuela   Braves FA '98  .341  217  45  74   6  2  0  16  30

Machado was the key to Danville's offense, leading the league with a .477 on-base percentage. He's got a willingness to walk that is uncommon in young Latin players, and he has the speed to be a threat on the bases. He does not, however, project to hit with any power at all and could become another Luis Castillo.

He also showed good hands and some managers thought he was the best defensive second baseman in the league.

"He just got on base every time," Dyer said. "He's a good runner. He played good defense. He did it all against us."

18. GUILLERMO REYES, 2b-ss, Bristol (White Sox)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  Country             Signed             Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
B-R  5-9  160  18  Dominican Republic  White Sox FA '98  .296  257  45  76  10  2  3  31  21

Reyes was the standout on a solid but unspectacular Bristol team. He showed enough arm strength that the Sox moved him from second to short midway through the season, and he played well at both spots.

The switch-hitter was among the league leaders in hits and was amazingly consistent, going hitless in consecutive games only once all season. Reyes won't hit with much power, but he projects to be average in the other four tools.

19. JOSE MORBAN, ss, Pulaski (Rangers)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  Country             Signed           Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
R-R  6-1  160  20  Dominican Republic  Rangers FA '96  .227  119  21  27   3  2  3  17   6

The No. 3 prospect in the GCL in 1999, Morban began this year in the Sally League, where he struggled. The Rangers finally assigned him to Pulaski in late July and he never really got his bat going.

Morban tends to overswing at times, but shows power from both sides of the plate and runs well. Defensively, he stood out, showing good range and a strong arm.

"He's got all the tools," Crabbe said. "He just needs more seasoning. He makes young mistakes. He's as close to a five-tool shortstop as you get."

20. JOSE REYES, ss, Kingsport (Mets)

B-T   Ht   Wt Age  Country             Signed        Avg.  AB   R   H  2B 3B HR  BI  SB
B-R  6-0  160  17  Dominican Republic  Mets FA '99  .250  132  22  33   3  3  0   8  10

The consensus best defensive infielder in the league, Reyes showed outstanding hands, range and footwork at shortstop, as well as a strong arm. He held his own at the plate, considering he was one of the youngest players in the league at 17, and he should hit more as he grows. But his defense could carry him up the ladder regardless.

"He sure picked it against us," Dyer said. "I really like his glove, and I think he will be better with the bat."

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