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The Expos have raved about Phillips' ability since they selected him in the second round of the 1999 draft. Their enthusiasm remained strong after he hit .242-11-72 at low Class A Cape Fear in 2000, and he justified it in 2001, when he made impressive strides with his strike-zone judgment. Phillips needed just 55 games at high Class A Jupiter to equal his walk total from the previous season and was rated the Florida State League's third-best prospect. He joined Double-A Harrisburg in midseason, becoming the Senators' first teenage player since Ugueth Urbina in 1993. Phillips headed to the Arizona Fall League after the season and batted .344 while playing second base, shortstop and third base on a Scottsdale team that also featured top infield prospects Angel Berroa (Royals) and Orlando Hudson (Blue Jays). Phillips is a potential five-tool player at a premium position. He has a live, athletic body and rare natural ability. He's an above-average defender at shortstop with soft hands, solid range, superior lateral movement, excellent first-step quickness and a cannon for an arm. He has enough power on his throws to go into the hole and nail runners from short left field. At the plate, he has a line-drive swing and impressive bat speed that projects to produce more power in the future. Phillips uses the whole field, gets deep into counts and has an advanced awareness of the strike zone. He is an average runner with astute baserunning skills. Despite Phillips' ability to beat teams with his glove, bat or speed, he's still rough around the edges. He made 18 errors in 55 FSL games. Though he cut his errors down to 12 in 67 Double-A contests and was much steadier after his promotion, he still needs to show more consistency with routine plays. The Expos have an abundance of slick-fielding shortstops, but Phillips' offense separates him from the rest of the pack. Expos officials say he rises to the occasion, so they'll challenge him with a promotion to Triple-A Ottawa, where he'll start the 2002 season at age 20. With Orlando Cabrera entrenched in Montreal, Phillips will be given time to develop his skills.
The organization's 2000 minor league player of the year and starting center fielder on the U.S. Olympic team, Wilkerson missed the first month of the 2001 season after surgery on his left shoulder the previous December. Promoted to Montreal in early July, he struggled mightily and was sent back to Triple-A six weeks later. Wilkerson is the best pure hitter in the system. He has a fluid swing with good extension, impressive plate coverage, opposite-field power and an advanced understanding of the strike zone. He makes adjustments and uses the entire field. He's a relentless defensive player with an average but accurate arm. He has average speed and keen baserunning skills. Wilkerson's difficulties in the majors persuaded the Expos to let him go back to using the high leg kick he employed in college. He's beginning to cover up holes on the inner half of the plate. Wilkerson was used sparingly in September after his return from Ottawa. With a good spring, he should be the Expos' everyday left fielder in 2002.
Sizemore was a standout football player who had committed to play both baseball and football at Washington before the Expos lured him with a $2 million bonus. He made considerable progress during his first full season, batting .327 over the final two months of the season. Sizemore has a lean, athletic body with loose, flexible actions. He has above-average center fielder range, speed and instinctive flychasing skills. At the plate he has an uncanny understanding of the strike zone and shows advanced pitch recognition. He has a smooth, easy swing with impressive bat speed. He does a good job of staying back with his swing, so he isn't fooled by breaking pitches and changeups. Once Sizemore learns to incorporate his lower half into his swing, he projects to hit with plus power to all fields. He has below-average arm strength and needs to improve his throwing mechanics by keeping his front shoulder closed. Expos officials are giddy with excitement when they talk about Sizemore. He'll open 2002 with Jupiter and could find himself in Harrisburg by season's end.
The organization's top prospect last year, Bridges logged just 81 innings in 2001 as he tried to regain his stuff. Bridges began the season in Triple- A before being shut down with a sore shoulder--possibly the result of working 201 innings in 2000. After he missed two months, he worked his way back to Triple-A in August. When Bridges is right, he's a power starter who locates a 92-94 mph fastball on both sides of the plate. His heater has good sink and tails to the right. He complements it with a biting curveball with late, two-plane break that's a plus pitch at times, as is his changeup. Like his fastball, it sinks and tails. Bridges had erratic command in 2001 because his delivery got out of sync. His front side kept flying open, leaving his pitches up and off the plate. He rarely looked comfortable on the mound. Bridges will return to Ottawa, where the Expos would like to see him healthy and successful before he vies for a rotation spot.
Drafted in the eighth round out of high school by the Braves, Karp passed on a seven-figure bonus to attend UCLA. He went 23-7 over three seasons for the Bruins but rarely showed signs of dominance. After a summer- long holdout as the sixth overall pick in the 2001 draft, he signed in late September for $2.65 million. Karp has the potential to be a front-ofthe- rotation starter if everything comes together. He has a prototype pitcher's body to go with a clean, easy arm action, sound mechanics and, at times, three above-average pitches. His arsenal includes a 90-94 mph fastball with exceptional late action at the plate, a tight-breaking curveball with good spin and bite, and an outstanding circle change with late sink. Karp relied on his changeup in college, and the Expos would like to see him establish his fastball more in the pro ranks. He needs to improve the command and consistency of his pitches. Karp never experienced a lot of success in college but will be put on the fast track. He'll go to big league camp before making his pro debut with one of Montreal's Class A affiliates.
Wayne pitched well enough at Jupiter to earn a promotion to Double- A after seven starts. The fifth overall selection in the 2000 draft then reeled off eight wins in his final nine decisions. Wayne has good command of four pitches. His two main weapons are an 88-91 mph two-seam fastball that sinks down and in on righthanders, and a deceptive change that does an outstanding job of decelerating bats. He has an average slider with fair tilt and break. Wayne does a good job of using both sides of the plate and getting in on hitters with his fastball. Wayne has a 71-75 mph curveball that he seldom uses. It still needs work because it lacks bite and depth, and he has a tendency to drift and cut it off at times. His four-seam fastball generates fringe-average velocity without much effort but lacks movement. The Expos planned for Wayne to pitch in the Arizona Fall league, but they decided against it after he came down with a tired arm. Though he doesn't have overwhelming stuff, he has won everywhere he has pitched. That should continue at Triple-A Ottawa in 2002.
Though Tomo Ohka also was included in the deal and wound up pitching for Montreal last season, Rundles was the key player in the July deadline deal that saw closer Ugueth Urbina shipped to Boston. After spending two seasons in complex leagues, he ranked third in ERA in the South Atlantic League in 2001. Rundles is a strike-throwing machine. He has the ability to throw with command and purpose to both sides of the plate, inducing grounder after grounder. He has an 86-90 mph two-seam fastball that runs and sinks. It breaks late, as does his curveball. Rundles also owns a plus changeup, a fine feel for pitching and plenty of composure. Rundles doesn't have overpowering velocity with his fastball, but he projects to throw harder because of his smooth compact delivery, loose easy arm stroke and projectable body. At times his curve can be consistent. Rundles will follow the natural progression and start 2002 with Jupiter. The Expos view him as a potential No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors.
Originally drafted by the Yankees, Day is with his third organization in just over a year after coming over to the Expos in a swap with the Indians for outfield prospect Milton Bradley. The Yankees had sent him to Cleveland in 2000 in a package for David Justice. Day has made a complete recovery from 1999 rotator-cuff surgery. He has a three-pitch mix that consists of a 90-94 mph fastball with sink, an 81-83 mph curve with good bite and two-plane break, and a 78-84 mph change with nice arm speed and sink. He has a sound delivery with good rhythm, mixes his pitches well, works ahead in the count and tries to induce early contact. The ball comes out of his hand with ease. Day will drift through his balance point and throw across his body from time to time. He sometimes flies open in his delivery, making his control inconsistent. Day, who got his first taste of Triple-A after coming to the Expos, will return to Ottawa to polish his game before making a run at a spot in the rotation in 2003.
Lockwood was the organization's most consistent pitcher in 2001 despite a 5-10 record with low Class A Clinton. He led the Midwest League in complete games and placed second in ERA and innings. He was shut down late in the year, not because of injury but because the Expos didn't want to pile any more innings on him. Lockwood has a lean, wiry, strong body with a whip-like arm action. He does an outstanding job of repeating his delivery, throwing first-pitch strikes and mixing his pitches well to keep hitters off balance. Lockwood pitches inside and commands both sides of the plate with his 86-88 mph two-seamer, which has good downward movement. He has a solid 75-77 mph curveball. His changeup is also an above-average major league pitch. Lockwood would rate higher if he threw harder, though he's still young and projectable. He sometimes tips off his changeup by slowing down his arm speed. Lockwood is a few years away from getting serious consideration for a big league spot. He'll head to Jupiter in 2002 to continue his climb.
The Expos love lefthanders and have been infatuated with Good since drafting him. After missing the majority of 2000 with a sprained nerve in his elbow, he pitched pain-free in 2001 and would have led the Florida State League in ERA had he not fallen four innings short of qualifying. Good has an effortless arm action, a compact delivery and three plus pitches. His best is a 79-81 mph changeup that he keeps down in the zone with tail and sink. He complements it with an 88-91 mph two-seam fastball and a hard-biting 78-81 mph curveball. Good has a tendency to get his fastball up in the zone at times because he'll spin off in his delivery and get poor extension on his pitches, something that's correctable. He also needs to show more consistency with his curve. He doesn't stay on top of it, causing it to flatten out and become loopy. He also does a poor job of holding runners. In 2002, Good is scheduled to anchor a prospect-laden Harrisburg rotation that also will include prospects Cliff Lee and Phil Seibel.
The Expos thought Lee was one of the top three college lefthanders available in the 2000 draft, and at times he shows the pure stuff to justify that ranking. He entered a Florida State League game last August in the second inning and promptly pitched eight no-hit innings with one walk and 10 strikeouts. He just missed winning the Florida State League ERA title, falling 21⁄3 innings short of qualifying because he was out for a month with a stiff shoulder. When everything is clicking, Lee has two varieties of an 88-93 mph fastball, a two-seamer that sinks and runs to the left, and a four-seamer that he's aggressive with up in the zone. He has an impressive 78-79 mph changeup that also runs to the left, an 80-82 mph slider with late break and depth, and a 69-73 mph curveball with tight spin and bite. At times he shows four above-average pitches, but his main stumbling block has been lack of consistency with his command. Lee must do a better job of concentrating and improve his ability to hold runners, but the Expos think he'll evolve into a middle- of-the-rotation starter.
There were rumors that the Expos might make Levinski the sixth overall selection last June in what would have been a signability decision, but they waited until the second round and landed him for $825,000. He has an athletic body with broad shoulders, and he should get bigger and stronger. He has a sound, balanced delivery and loose arm action that produces a heavy 88-94 mph fastball with outstanding sink. He also throws a 78-81 mph power curve, one of the best breaking pitches in the 2001 draft. It has a tight, fast rotation with good depth and late, sharp break, though he needs to gain better consistency with it. He sometimes drops his arm slot, causing his curve to flatten out. His circle change also has a chance to be a plus pitch, as he throws it with fastball type trajectory and arm speed. The Expos like the way Levinski handles himself on the mound, showing a controlled presence with confidence. They were pleased with the progress he made during the pitching minicamp they held after the season and believe he may have a chance to start 2002 at Clinton if he has a good spring.
Ruan has been one of the best athletes in the system for a while. In a midseason survey of Florida State League managers, he was named the circuit's fastest baserunner, best defensive outfielder and best outfield arm. He also earned a spot in the Futures Game, though he missed 31 games after a needless headfirst slide into second base fractured one of his fingers. He's the fastest runner in the system, with outstanding range, flychasing skills and basestealing potential. Ruan has a lean body that has gotten noticeably stronger in the past year. With his compact, line-drive swing and good bat speed, Expos officials see plenty of power potential in Ruan. Now he needs to start refining his tools. He's a free swinger who needs to be more selective at the plate, and his basestealing skills also could stand some improvement. He did begin to take some pitches in 2001, though the results didn't show up in his walk totals. Ruan will start 2002 in Double-A. If he progresses with the bat, he could be the long-term answer in center field for Montreal.
Montreal drafted Girdley sixth overall in 1999, signing him for a below-market $1.7 million, which was the second-lowest bonus in the top 15 picks. He dominated the short-season New York-Penn League in 2000 and the Expos were excited about seeing him in full-season ball. But an offseason motorcycle accident derailed him. After missing all of April, Girdley managed to start just six games with Clinton before a sore elbow shut him down for the year. He has received a clean bill of health and will be ready for the start of 2002. Girdley is a projectable lefthander with the potential for three plus pitches: a low-90s fastball with late life, a curveball with excellent two-plane break and a developing changeup. He has a smooth easy arm action and does an outstanding job of repeating his delivery. Lee should start the season with Clinton, and a good start could put him in Jupiter by midseason.
Puello produced three lackluster seasons in the Dominican Summer League before making his U.S. late in 2000. At the suggestion of Expos minor league coach Salomon Torres, Puello lowered his arm slot to three-quarters in the offseason and immediately showed improved velocity. Puello has one of the best arms in the Expos system. His fastball is consistently in the 92-94 mph range with good sinking movement and tops out at 96 mph. He complements his heat with a 78-80 mph curveball that has a late power break. A plus changeup rounds out his repertoire. He tends to drop down a bit on his curveball, pushing the ball, so sometimes it flattens out. After moving from the Gulf Coast League to Clinton, Puello became tentative and it showed in his command. He may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization but will take some time to develop.
Hodges lost considerable weight and missed the last 51 games of last season after it was discovered that he had colitis. That came on the heels of a breakout 2000 campaign that saw him earn a spot on Baseball America's Class A all-star team. Hodges is one of the best pure hitters in the system. He has a smooth lefthanded stroke with above-average bat speed and good top-hand extension. Hodges is an aggressive hitter but makes decent contact, driving the ball hard from gap to gap. He projects to be a legitimate middle-of-theorder threat with plus power. A shortstop in high school, he immediately was switched to third base upon signing. Defensively, he has an above-average arm, solid hands and adequate range. Hodges should be healthy and ready to go for the start of this season. He'll make a return visit to Harrisburg, with Fernando Tatis eventually standing between him and a big league job.
Tucker made his major league debut in 2000, when he made two starts with the Expos in June. He left the second game with forearm pain and ended up missing the second half of the season after having arthroscopic elbow surgery. He returned last season and was able to remain healthy, pitching 166 innings between Harrisburg and Ottawa. Tucker is a moose on the mound with four major league average pitches. He has a 90-92 mph fastball with very good boring and sinking action. He throws it to both sides of the plate and keeps it down in the strike zone. A 77-78 mph curveball, 81-85 mph slider and 80-83 mph changeup with good sink round out his repertoire. His command can be a little off at times, and his stuff isn't so dominant that he can get away with mistakes. The Expos have an opening at the end of their rotation and Tucker will be in the running to fill the void.
Chiavacci doesn't have the typical prospect background, coming out of NCAA Division II Kutztown (Pa.) University as a 44th-round pick. But he's making a name for himself, leading the Double-A Eastern League and setting a Harrisburg franchise record with 161 strikeouts last year. His 3-11, 3.97 record hardly was reflective of his performance, as his teammates supplied him with three or fewer runs in 20 of his 25 starts. Chiavacci comes right after batters with a four-pitch mix. His best pitch is an overpowering 91-95 mph fastball than runs in on righthanders. He complements it with a 77-78 mph curve, an 82-83 mph slider and a deceptive changeup. His slider is still developing, as he occasionally will drop his arm slot and cause it to flatten out, and he needs to improve his command. He'll work on those things in Triple-A this year.
Hill was a shortstop for his Ontario Connie Mack team before converting to the mound four years ago. For a raw Canadian with very little pitching experience, he's a very polished pitcher. He has a balanced delivery with a long, loose arm action and very good extension. He has a projectable body with big, wide shoulders. Hill uses an 89-92 mph two-seam fastball to get ground balls. He pitches to both sides of the plate and his fastball command is outstanding. He also has a sharp curveball and good feel for a changeup, both of which he throws at 73-78 mph. Limited to seven starts at short-season Vermont last year before getting shut down with a tired arm, Hill will make his full-season debut with Clinton in 2002.
In an effort to increase his versatility, the Expos had Pascucci play exclusively at first base in the Arizona Fall League. He had been primarily a corner outfielder, but with Vladimir Guerrero and Brad Wilkerson ticketed for those spots in the majors, the team is looking at ways to get Pascucci's bat in the lineup. He's a good athlete who can hit the ball a long ways. He has good plate coverage and discipline, and a short stroke with nice extension for someone his size. With all those tools, he must produce more than he did in 2001, when he hit .244 (and .228 against righthanders) with just 39 extra-base hits. A former pitcher, Pascucci has an above-average arm with good carry and pinpoint accuracy. Three of his throws where clocked at 94 mph from the outfield in spring training. He has average speed and is intelligent on the bases, though he has a choppy stride when he runs. Pascucci could be in line to replace incumbent Lee Stevens at first base in 2003.
Calloway opened the 2001 season in a reserve capacity with Harrisburg, yet by the time he departed in late June he was leading the Eastern League in batting and had established himself as a bona fide prospect. He finished the season by hitting eight homers in Triple- A in August. He's athletic and has solid tools across the board. Calloway is a competent center fielder with an above-average arm, good range and the ability to track down balls. He's an aggressive hitter with a quiet, line-drive swing and emerging power, but he needs to improve his discipline at the plate. Calloway is an above-average runner with a long, looping stride. He further enhances his speed with his accomplished bunting skills. Calloway profiles as a fourth outfielder in the majors, and some Montreal officials believe he should be given a shot in center field if Peter Bergeron continues to struggle.
One of the players to be named in the trade that sent Chris Widger to Seattle in 2000, Sledge won the high Class A California League batting title that year before his season ended in August because he strained his right shoulder. The injury left Sledge at first base for Harrisburg for the majority of 2001. He has an unorthodox trigger mechanism when starting his swing, yet generally gets the job done. He'll have to hit for more power to earn a big league job, however. He's an above average runner and is a threat to steal 30 bases annually in the majors. The Expos are taking every precaution with Sledge's shoulder and hope to have him playing the outfield on a full-time basis in 2002.
Lima has an electric arm, though he didn't get to show it as often as hoped in 2001 because he had a strained elbow. As he gains experience and learns to separate speeds, he'll be tough to hit. He has good control of an explosive 92-94 mph fastball with late life. He also has an 84-86 mph slider that already has major league break and velocity. It has the potential to be a big league strikeout pitch with better command and consistency. Lima has a balanced delivery with an easy arm action, though he gets very little extension after release. His changeup, which is in the developmental stage, can be too hard at times. Montreal hopes to get a full season out of Lima at Clinton in 2002, which could significantly boost him on the prospect charts.
Valdez scaled two levels in his fifth professional season and made significant improvement that never showed up in the stats. The Expos say the more you watch him, the more you end up liking him. Valdez is a superb defensive shortstop with outstanding range to both sides and good hands. He has excellent lateral movement and a plus arm with accuracy. Valdez has a simple line-drive stroke at the plate, uses the whole field and is a proficient bunter. When he gets in a rut, he'll start his trigger late and drop his bat head towards the catcher. He tends to swing at balls out of the strike zone. The Expos praise his intelligence and ability to anticipate both on defense and on the bases. Valdez is an average runner who gets down the line. With Orlando Cabrera and Brandon Phillips in front of him, Valdez will be given plenty of time to develop and may have a position change in his future. He'll do so this year at Harrisburg.
Montreal drafted Watson as a second baseman and immediately switched him to the outfield, where he's showing some promise. He started in the Midwest League all-star game as a teenager before battling a heel injury and a slump in the second half. He's a leadoff prospect with most of the skills necessary to succeed in that role. He has outstanding speed, though he still gets caught far too often as a basestealer. He has a line-drive stroke, uses the whole field and is considered the best bunter in the Expos minor league system. Watson is a contact hitter but needs to do a better job of drawing walks and working the count. He's an efficient center fielder who makes good reads and has a playable arm. He'll step up to Jupiter this year.
Hinckley was a lefthander with middling velocity before he reinvented his arm action prior to his senior season. The result helped jump his fastball into the low 90s and made him a third-round pick in last June's draft. Hinckley has a lean rail-thin but projectable body with wide shoulders. In the Gulf Coast League, he routinely threw his sinker in the 88-91 mph range. His command was erratic because he's such a competitor that he got too pumped up at times and couldn't settle into a consistent rhythm. Another flaw is that he sometimes opens his front foot too soon, causing his arm to drag and come across his body. Hinckley has good feel for a 79-81 mph straight changeup and a 72-74 mph curveball with downward spin. If he develops as expected, the Expos may have something special.
Seibel boosted his stock as a member of Team USA's college squad in 1999, posting a 2.12 ERA that ranked second behind eventual Dodgers first-round pick Ben Diggins. Then he strained a tendon in his elbow at the University of Texas, causing him to slide to the eighth round in the 2000 draft, where the Expos scooped him up. He didn't make his pro debut until last season--in high Class A, no less--when he worked exclusively as a starter after also seeing time in the bullpen as a Longhorn. Seibel is a crafty lefthander with three solid pitches. He has an 87-89 mph two-seam fastball that produces ground balls, a 78-80 mph slider and a plus 79-80 mph changeup. Seibel needs to maintain a consistent delivery because he'll fly open in his delivery and lose command of his pitches. Montreal officials compare him to a young Mike Hampton, a comparison he'll try to justify in Double-A this year.
After leading the Eastern League with 48 stolen bases in 2000, Mateo led the International League with 47 thefts last season. The sparkplug also used his above-average speed to accumulate 12 triples, also tops in the league. Mateo is an athletic middle infielder with solid tools across the board. He has a line-drive stroke but needs to temper his aggressive nature and improve his strike-zone judgment. Defensively he has smooth actions, plus range and plenty of arm strength. Mateo, who made his major league debut last July and went 3-for- 9, will return for a second stint at Triple-A in 2002. Unfortunately for him, the Expos are awash in top-notch middle infielders with Orlando Cabrera, Jose Vidro and No. 1 prospect Brandon Phillips.
Watson (no relation to Brandon) missed much of 2000 because of rotator-cuff surgery and entered last season as an afterthought. Healthy again, he won the Florida State League batting crown and Expos minor league player of the year honors. He also had an impressive .417 on-base percentage, walked more than he struck out and contributed his share of doubles and steals. A pure hitter, Watson has a short stroke and gap power. He's a solid left fielder with a playable arm and good range. He's an intelligent base runner with average speed, and the Expos rave about his makeup and determination. Watson will have a chance to go for his third batting title in four years--he hit .380 to lead the New York-Penn League in 1999--when he heads close to home to play for Harrisburg.
A year after finding Ron Chiavacci in the 44th round, the Expos scored there again with Ferrari. Montreal crosschecker Scott Goldby was impressed with him after watching him win the championship game in the 2000 NAIA World Series. Ferrari has had plenty of success as a pro, earning postseason all-star recognition in the Florida State League in 2001. He throws much harder than the typical 5-foot-9 lefthander, pitching down in the zone with a 92-94 mph two-seam fastball. He also has an 81-83 mph slider and an 80-81 mph changeup. Ferrari has a jerky, unconventional delivery, which causes his release point to be inconsistent at times. He'll try to keep defying the odds at Harrisburg in 2002.