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With the selection of Everts fifth overall, the Expos have taken a pitcher with their first pick in six of the last seven drafts. Everts and Scott Kazmir, who went 15th overall to the Mets, became the fourth pair of high school teammates to be chosen in the first round of the same draft. There were rumors that Everts had agreed to a predraft deal, but he held out throughout the summer. He finally signed in late August for $2.5 million, passing on a scholarship to Baylor. A two-way player in high school, Everts also attracted interest as a shortstop. He pitched for the U.S. national youth team in 2000, earning a gold medal at the Pan American Championships in Monterrey, Mexico. Everts has the potential to be a front-of-the-rotation starter. He's an outstanding athlete with a slender frame that projects to fill out as he matures. He has a loose, quick, smooth arm action, using a high three-quarters arm slot and a balanced delivery to produce three above-average pitches. Everts had the best curveball in the 2002 draft. It's a 78-84 mph power curve that falls off the table with good spin, bite and two-plane break. His curve gets top marks on the 20-80 scouting scale, with one National League scouting director saying, "If that's not an 80 curveball, I'll never see one." Everts' fastball arrives at 90-94 mph with late movement. At times his circle changeup is his second-best pitch. He throws it at 78-81 mph with deception, sink, tumbling action and excellent arm speed. He has command of all his pitches, is a strong fielder, and has a good feel for pitching and plus makeup. The Expos didn't hold instructional league, so Everts lost his first chance to gain what he needs most: experience. He has thrown an awful lot of curveballs at an early age, but hasn't had arm problems. All he seems to need are repetitions and added strength. Though many expected Montreal to draft a collegian, Expos scouting director Dana Brown was ecstatic to select Everts. He should make his pro debut at Montreal's new low Class A Savannah affiliate. Though high school pitchers are a risky demographic, Everts could zoom through the system.
Hinckley came on strong as a high school senior before the 2001 draft, emerging from obscurity to become a third-rounder. After a lackluster debut, he led the short-season New York-Penn league in ERA and innings last season. Hinckley already touches 94 mph and sits in the low 90s, and some scouts project him to add more consistent velocity as he fills out his lean frame. He works with a low-stress arm action and delivery, allowing him to command all his pitches. He generates good sink, and his 79-82 mph changeup is an effective pitch against righthanders. Hinckley's curveball, a 74-78 mph bender with tight rotation, already is a plus pitch and should get better. He also has the best work ethic in the organization. Hinckley just needs to add strength and innings. He showed improvement in all areas of his game last year, doing a better job of pitching inside and improving the overall quality of his stuff. He learned to channel his intensity so he wouldn't overthrow and cost himself control and life with his pitches. The Expos envision Hinckley developing into a frontline starter. He'll make his full-season debut at Savannah in 2003.
The sixth overall pick in 2001, Karp signed for $2.65 million and made his pro debut last year. He needed just seven starts at high Class A Brevard County to earn a promotion to Double-A Harrisburg. He missed a month with shoulder tendinitis, but returned to represent the Expos at the Futures Game. When everything is working for Karp, some scouts grade out his raw stuff equal to that of former Pacific-10 Conference rival Mark Prior. He has a prototypical pitcher's body and three plus pitches: a 91-94 mph fastball with good life, a tight downer curveball and a circle changeup. He has a balanced delivery and a quick, easy arm action. The Expos have urged Karp to use his fastball more. He'll have to find a way to battle lefthanders after they hit .331 against him in Double-A. He needs to improve the consistency of all his pitches, as he sometimes loses his mechanics and then overcompensates. Montreal plans to take it slow with Karp, who struggled in the Arizona Fall League while sick with strep throat. He could return to Double-A to begin 2003.
Day spent his first full season in the Expos system after coming over from the Indians in a July 2001 trade for Milton Bradley. After starting the season with Triple-A Ottawa, he beat the Blue Jays to become the first pitcher in big league history to win his debut on his birthday. Day threw his fastball in the 87-90 mph range early last season, but in September he was working out of the Montreal bullpen and pumping 93-97 mph four-seamers with outstanding arm-side action. He also did an excellent job of changing planes by mixing in a heavy 88-92 mph sinker, a plus 79-83 mph curveball and an improving changeup. Day has a strong pitcher's body, and the Expos also praise his demeanor and intelligence. Occasionally, Day will fly open with his front shoulder in his delivery. When that happens, he loses command and leaves his pitches high in the strike zone. With his strong performance in Montreal, Day earned the right to compete for a spot in the rotation. He could become a No. 1 or 2 starter, though he also could be their closer of the future.
Song entered 2002 as Boston's top prospect and pitched in the Futures Game for the second consecutive year. But after coming to Montreal in a trade for Cliff Floyd, he finished the summer under the care of the Expos' medical staff. Trying to impress his new organization, he overthrew in his first start and missed the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury that didn't require surgery. Song has uncanny command of two plus pitches: a 90-94 mph fastball with arm-side tail and a 77-78 mph curveball. His changeup is effective. He has a good idea how to pitch, mix speeds and throw strikes. His arm stroke is a bit long, but he maintains his release point and does a good job of hiding the ball. Song puts a lot of stress on his shoulder with his corkscrew delivery. The Expos addressed it before he began to rehabilitate his injury. He also had elbow problems before the trade. Song could form a devastating one-two punch with Josh Karp in Double-A. Barring any more health problems, Song could make his big league debut after the all-star break.
After taking Clint Everts in the first round, the Expos focused on college players for the rest of the 2002 draft. Rasner set Nevada's single-season win mark with 14 as a freshman in 2000, and two years later he had claimed Wolf Pack career records for victories (28), strikeouts (302) and innings (341). After signing for $800,000, he allowed two runs or less in six of his 10 pro starts, including back-to-back one-hit outings. Rasner gets heavy sink and run on his 90-94 mph fastball. He complements it with an 84-85 mph slider with good tilt. He also throws a circle changeup and a downer curveball. Rasner is a physical pitcher. He has an athletic frame with a strong upper half and wide shoulders. His balanced delivery includes a quick arm action, plus good follow-through and extension. Rasner scuffles with his command because he has an inconsistent release point. When he keeps his front side closed, he's able to throw strikes with greater ease. Look for Rasner to jump on the fast track in 2003. With a good spring, he could open the season in high Class A.
Considered one of the Marlins' top pitching prospects, Vargas was shellacked in his first taste of Triple-A in 2002. Florida included him in the July trade that brought Cliff Floyd back to Montreal. Vargas pitched better after a demotion to Double-A, but he wasn't as effective at that level as he had been the year before, when he ranked second in the Eastern League in strikeouts. Vargas has unlimited potential and one of the best arms in the system. His prototypical pitcher's body and quick arm help him generate an overpowering 94-97 mph fastball and a power curve. Both have the potential to be plus major league pitches. His fastball is fairly straight but can be deceptive at times. Vargas needs to refine his delivery so he can throw more strikes. He also must improve the consistency of his curveball and utilize it more often. If he's going to remain a starter, he'll have to come up with a better changeup. The Expos haven't decided whether Vargas' long-term role is in the rotation or bullpen. He'll give Triple-A another try in 2003.
Expos scouting director Dana Brown signed Young for the Pirates as an area scout. Pittsburgh paid Young $1.65 million to buy him away from a potential NBA career after he was an all-Ivy League performer as a basketball center. He fell somewhat out of favor with the new Pirates regime, which included him in a deal for Matt Herges in December. Young added velocity to his fastball after having arthroscopic elbow surgery following the 2001 season, throwing 93 mph last year. He has the potential to throw harder, though his inability to do so frustrated the Pirates. His long arms and legs create plenty of deception in his delivery. Young is looking to develop a good second pitch. He scrapped his slider last season in favor of a curveball, and he's refining his changeup. He needs to clean up his mechanics and throw on more of a downhill plane to take full advantage of his height. Young didn't make his pro debut until June 2001 because he was working toward his Princeton degree. The Pirates made him repeat low Class A, and he's ready to move up a level in 2003. He's going to be a long-term project.
Hodges' weight dropped from 220 to 178 in six weeks and he missed the last 51 games of the 2001 season because he had colitis, an inflammation of the large intestine. That came on the heels of a breakout 2000 performance. He didn't regain form last year as he continued to return to full health. Hodges has a smooth, compact lefthanded stroke and above-average bat speed. He's an aggressive hitter but makes decent contact, driving the ball hard from gap to gap. He projects as a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat with plus power. Defensively, he has a strong and accurate arm and solid hands. Hodges still hasn't regained all his strength and wore down in the second half last year. He needs to do a better job of not lunging at pitches. His range is just adequate at the hot corner. Hodges has drawn criticism at times for his lack of hustle, but he has improved in that area. The Expos would love to dump Fernando Tatis, but his $6 million salary makes that difficult. After gaining Triple-A experience, Hodges should be ready to take over for Tatis in 2004.
Broadway is a product of Wellington (Fla.) High, where he played with Pirates first-round picks Bobby Bradley and Sean Burnett. Broadway began his career at Duke as a two-way player before an elbow injury made him a full-time first baseman. After displaying tremendous pop with wood bats in the Cape Cod League in 2001, he didn't hit as well with aluminum last spring. Broadway's best tool is his bat. He has a smooth left handed stroke with natural loft that produces top-of-the-scale raw power, which he showed off with a mammoth homer in his first pro at-bat. He has the ability to hit the ball a long way without making sweet-spot contact. He moves well for a big man, and his arm and hands are solid. Broadway has made strides but must refine his approach at the plate. He relied on pure ability in college. He missed time at short-season Vermont because of a pulled muscle in his back. The Expos system desperately needs power prospects, so Broadway should be put on the fast track. He'll open the season with one of Montreal's Class A affiliates.
After just missing leading the Florida State League in ERA in 2001 because he fell four innings short of qualifying, Good missed all of last season following minor elbow surgery. Fully healthy again, he should start this year in Double-A. Good has an easy arm stroke, solid mechanics and, at times, three above-average pitches. He'll get his fastball up to 93 mph and usually pitches at 88-91 mph with sink and run. His curveball has hard bite and two-plane break. His best pitch is a changeup that moves down in the zone with late fade and tumbling action. Good has a tendency to leave his fastball up at times when he gets poor extension on his pitches. He needs to show more consistency with his curveball and do a better job of staying on top of it. Good also missed much of 2000 with a sprained nerve in his elbow, so his biggest task is remaining healthy.
Watson had a breakthrough season in 2001 but tailed off in high Class A last year. He did earn a late-season promotion to Harrisburg, where he sustained a sprain and a hairline fracture in his right ankle. A high school second baseman who immediately moved to the outfield after turning pro, Watson is the best athlete in the system. His speed makes him the fastest runner and best defensive outfielder among Expos farmhands, and he's the best bunter. He's a potential Gold Glvoe center fielder who takes good routes to fly balls and has a strong, accurate arm. He's a top-of-the-scale burner who gets down the first-base line in 3.7 seconds on drag bunts. Watson is a contact hitter with excellent hand-eye coordination. He has a compact, line-drive stroke and uses the entire field. To be a top-of-the-order threat in the majors, Watson needs to draw more walks and get on base on a more consistent basis. The only tool he's truly lacking is power. He has an unconventional style at the plate, similar to Ichiro's, and sometimes lunges and gets out in front of pitches. He'll start this season in Double-A.
The Expos have lefthanded pitching depth throughout the system, and Lockwood is one of their most projectable southpaws. He put together a winning record for the first time in 2002, though he had pitched well in the past. Lockwood has a wiry strong body. He's not a flamethrower, but with his clean arm action he should throw harder once he matures more physically. Lockwood does a good job of commanding both sides of the plate with his 86-90 mph fastball, and his curve is becoming impressive. His changeup is an above-average major league pitch. Lockwood needs to continue to add weight and strength. He has difficulty throwing first-pitch strikes and sometimes slows his arm speed on his changeup. Lockwood has pitched a total of 310 innings the last two seasons at a young age, so the Expos will have to be cautious with his workload this year in Double-A.
When the Expos traded Ugueth Urbina to the Red Sox at the 2001 trade deadline, they received Tomo Ohka, who won 13 games and finished seventh in the National League in ERA last year, and Rundles. Montreal would make that deal again in a heartbeat. The good news for Rundles, who tired shortly after switching organizations and saw his fastball dip to 84-86 mph, was that he got his velocity back in 2002. He consistently threw 88-91 mph with good run and sink. He commanded the pitch well to both sides of the plate. The bad news was that he made just 11 starts because of elbow tendinitis and a cut finger, though neither injury is a long-term concern. Rundles also has a curveball with two-plane change and late break. He rounds out his repertoire with an above-average changeup that he throws with fastball arm speed. Rundles has a good feel for pitching and shows good composure on the mound. With Eric Good and Luke Lockwood, Rundles could give Harrisburg a lefty-laden rotation in 2003.
Nicknamed "Chi-Chi" after the former professional golfer, Rodriguez ranked third in the Gulf Coast League in ERA in his U.S. debut in 1997. He has the best arm in the system--not that he has been able to showcase it much. He has pitched a total of just 301⁄3 innings the last two years while battling a shoulder injury. Rodriguez has a prototype pitcher's body with long arms and legs, and a quick arm action. He has a 95-96 mph fastball that explodes out of his hand and has been clocked as high as 101. His heater has late running action up in the zone. His out pitch is a splitter that drops off the table, and he throws a slider that remains inconsistent. He still needs to work on the command of his pitches and improve his delivery by coming straighter toward to the plate. He peels off toward first base, causing his pitches to sit high in the strike zone and placing undue stress on his shoulder. Rodriguez' rehabilitation went well and the Expos expect him to be a 100 percent for spring training.
Calloway had an outstanding spring training and came close to making Montreal's Opening Day roster last year. While he never surfaced in the majors during the season, the Expos' outfield situation remained unresolved and he'll battle Endy Chavez, Peter Bergeron, Terrmel Sledge and Matt Cepicky for a spot on the roster in 2003. Now 26, he needs to step forward this year. A late bloomer who didn't start playing baseball until he was a teenager, Calloway is a good athlete with average to plus tools across the board. He's an aggressive hitter with a line-drive stroke that allows him to spray balls to the gaps. He has average power and projects to hit 20 homers annually in the majors, but he still needs to improve his plate discipline. He is a skilled center fielder with an above-average arm and range. A long strider, Calloway has plus speed and baserunning instincts. He's also an accomplished bunter.
Sledge won the California League batting title in 2000, though his season ended in early August because he strained his right shoulder. A month later, he went to the Expos as a player to be named for Chris Widger. Because of the injury, Sledge spent most of 2001 playing first base before returning to the outfield last year. Despite an unorthodox trigger mechanism in his swing, Sledge has batted .302 in the minors and is the best pure hitter in the system. He has a short stroke and gap power, and he uses the entire field. He has solid speed and is a heady baserunner who projects to steal 20-30 bases a year in the majors. Sledge profiles as a left fielder in the majors, and he may not have the power to be an everyday player at that position. He has good range but his arm never has bounced back from his shoulder injury.
Pascucci led the Eastern League with 27 homers last year, but it wasn't a totally impressive season. He was repeating the EL, had only 15 other extra-base hits and hit just .235. Then again, Pascucci contributes to an offense far beyond his batting average. He draws lots of walks and uses his lanky frame to generate excellent leverage and power to all fields. He has good plate coverage and doesn't strike out as much as his batting average and homer totals might indicate. Defensively, he has one of the strongest outfield arms in the system. He has average speed. Because the Expos have a void at first base, they'll give Pascucci more time there this year while he's at their new Triple-A Edmonton affiliate.
Former Expos scouting director Jim Fleming thought Caputo was a sleeper when he drafted him in 2001, and the assessment seems accurate after the way Caputo performed last season. He opened 2002 at low Class A Clinton before being sent back to extended spring training in April to rework his delivery and mechanics. Once he returned, he pitched well out of the bullpen before minor league pitching coordinator Brent Strom decided he warranted a shot in the rotation. Caputo went 2-0, 2.67 in six starts with 43 strikeouts in 27 innings. His command improved after he switched roles. Caputo has an outstanding pitcher's body, standing 6-foot-7 with plenty of room remaining for projection at 200 pounds. His fastball sits at 91-95 mph and sinks, and his 81-84 mph slider also has a chance to be a plus pitch. He's also developing a changeup. Caputo will try to build on his progress this year in high Class A.
Cepicky was leading the Eastern League in RBIs when he was promoted to Montreal on July 31 and made his major league debut, striking out in his first at-bat against Randy Johnson. He didn't perform well with the Expos, yet his work ethic made him a favorite of manager Frank Robinson. Cepicky is a heavy-hitting outfielder who frequently draws comparisons to Ryan Klesko because of his tool set and body type. His lefthander power grades out at 70 on the 20-80 scale, though he has yet to truly tap into it because of his mediocre strike-zone judgment. Cepicky runs well for a man his size, but he's limited to left field. He has moderate range and a below-average but accurate arm. He should start the year in Triple- A but could serve the Expos as a left fielder (if they decide to move Brad Wilkerson to first base) or as a power bat off the bench.
Bentz was born without a complete right hand, similar to Jim Abbott. His thumb is functional, but the rest of the fingers on the hand are knuckle-like stumps. Originally drafted by the Yankees out of Juneau-Douglas (Alaska) High, where he played with current NBA rookie Carlos Boozer as the shortstop, Bentz turned down football scholarships from several Pacific-10 Conference schools. He thrived out of the bullpen at Long Beach State, started in his first pro summer and moved back to relief last year. He pitched well enough to be selected for the Florida State League all-star game, but a recurring nerve problem in the third toe on his left foot ended his season before the contest. Bentz is praised for his bulldog mentality and composure on the mound. With a balanced delivery and strong frame, he throws a 91-93 mph fastball with explosive life. He also throws a cutter to get inside on righthanders. His slider is a plus pitch at times, and his changeup is effective against righthanders but still needs improvement. For the most part, Bentz gets good downhill angle on his fastball, but at times he will overthrow and leave it up in the zone.
After Brandon Phillips was traded to Cleveland, Labandeira became the best shortstop prospect in the system. After winning the Western Athletic Conference player-of-the-year award and nearly the triple crown in 2001, he signed as a sixth-round pick but injured his knee in his first pro game. He returned last year to perform solidly in low Class A. A four-sport (baseball, football, soccer, wrestling) star in high school, he incorporates that athleticism on the diamond. He's not tall but he's solidly built, and while his swing can get a bit long he generates gap power. He has average speed and is capable of making spectacular defensive plays, though he's also error-prone. Labandeira has a strong arm, soft hands and a tick above-average range. He'll move to high Class A in 2003.
Hill was one of the system's most consistent pitchers in 2002, winning 12 games and making the low Class A Midwest League all-star game in his first taste of full-season ball. He was primarily a shortstop as a Canadian amateur, not moving to the mound until 1998. He's polished in all facets of pitching despite his relative inexperience. Hill has a long, loose arm and solid mechanics. He throws a heavy 88-92 mph sinker that induces lots of ground balls. He doesn't beat himself because he throws strikes. When he doesn't have his best stuff, he's resourceful enough to get by on what he has. Hill also commands a sharp curveball and has a good feel for his changeup. He throws both his offspeed pitches at 73-78 mph. Montreal will continue moving him one level at a time, promoting him to high Class A this year.
A former two-way player, Long was the right fielder on the Brooklyn team that won the 2000 Continental Amateur Baseball Association High School World Series. Set to play with his brother Brandon at the University of Georgia, Long's plans changed when the Expos took him in the fourth round of the 2001 draft. He has yet to reach full-season ball and was hammered in the New York-Penn League, but his potential remains evident. He has a thin, athletic body that projects to add plenty of strength. His best pitch right now is an 88-92 mph fastball that moves down and to the right as it reaches the plate. He should throw harder as he matures. Long also has a nice 77-80 mph curveball, but his changeup needs a lot of work. He also needs to improve the command of all his pitches, and he might not be quite ready for low Class A.
Signed in January 1999 out of a tryout camp by noted scout Fred Ferreira, Montreal's former director of international operations, Thorne was set to make his pro debut the following year. Then doctors discovered bone chips in his elbow, and the grind of rehab and his homesickness for Australia caused him to quit in May 2000. His desire came back when he pitched in the Claxton Shield tournament for the Australian national championship in February 2002, and he rejoined the Expos a month later. He showed one of the better arms in the lower levels of the system. He throws a fastball, splitter and curveball from a high three-quarters arm slot. He can run his fastball to 93-95 mph, and his splitter is a strikeout pitch. He has a solid frame but needs to build his arm strength back up. Thorne also must improve his consistency and command. He should open 2003 with one of the Expos' Class A clubs.
Fitzpatrick struggled as a high school senior and again last year, but the Expos are still excited by his raw tools and huge upside. Nicknamed "The Train," he's a gifted athlete and a true burner. Fitzpatrick can run the 60-yard dash in 6.5-6.6 seconds. He shows major league range and outstanding flychasing skills in center field. He still has a ways to go in other areas of the game. Fitzpatrick's swing has length to it, but the ball comes off his bat well. He needs a better feel for the strike zone and for stealing bases. Fitzpatrick's arm is currently below-average but should improve with repetitions and added strength. Like Nick Long, a fellow Georgia high school product, Fitzpatrick may not be ready for full-season ball at the outset of his third pro season.
Girdley went sixth overall in the 1999 draft because he was willing to accept a below-market $1.7 million bonus. After a positive start to his career, he has missed the majority of the past two years and is starting to lose his luster. He was involved in a motorcycle accident after the 2000 season and has had shoulder problems. Girdley still has considerable talent, but 2003 is a huge year for him as he needs to prove he can pitch a full season and get back on track toward the majors. He's a projectable lefthander with an easy arm stroke and the potential for three above-average pitches. He's still building up his arm strength and threw his fastball at 85-91 mph with late life last year. He also has a tight 74-76 mph curveball with excellent two-plane break, and a solid changeup. He'll open the season in low Class A for the third straight year, as the Expos wait for him to get healthy and pitch to his ability.
Puello is an enigma who hasn't yet produced numbers indicative of his talent. He had three mediocre seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and hasn't been any better since coming to the United States. He had a horrendous first half in low Class A in 2002, losing eight consecutive starts with a 6.87 ERA during that span, before rebounding somewhat. Puello has the body of an NFL cornerback. He's a fast-twitch athlete with a wide back, big hands and a lean, athletic frame. He has a natural high three-quarters arm slot, but inconsistent mechanics lead to stretches where his control abandons him. He throws an explosive 92-95 mph fastball that tops out at 97 and has arm-side sink. Puello complements his fastball with an above-average power curveball. At times, he'll drop his elbow when throwing his curve, causing it to flatten out and stay up in the zone. His changeup has some promise. Unless Puello has a standout spring, he'll head back for a third stint in low Class A. He may have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in the organization, so the Expos are trying to be patient with him.
After starring at Triton JC, the alma mater of Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett, Thissen turned down a Louisiana State scholarship to sign with the Expos. In his first full pro season, he played in the Midwest League all-star game and spent most of his time at second base. At 6-foot-4 and 185 pounds, he projects as a run-producing third baseman. Starting from an open stance with good balance, Thissen has a tension-free swing that generates alley power. He has quick wrists and some length to his swing, but the ball comes off his bat well and he should develop over-the-fence power when he adds more weight and strength. He has a lithe, athletic body with average to plus tools across the board. He needs to show more discipline at the plate so he can hit for a better average. Defensively, he has quick feet and good hands. Thissen grades out as a 60 runner on the 20-80 scale but has an unconventional running stride. Thissen, who needs to get stronger, struggles to keep weight on his body. He wore down over the 2002 season, losing more than 15 pounds. He'll play in high Class A this year.
After leading the Eastern League in strikeouts in 2001 while setting the Harrisburg franchise record, Chiavacci regressed in 2002. That led to Montreal's decision to designate him for assignment when it needed roster space after picking up three big leaguers for Bartolo Colon in January. A stocky righthander with a strong lower half, he struggled with his control and was converted from a starter to a reliever in June. Chiavacci has a power arm and all four of his pitches are better than average at times. He has a lively 91-95 mph fastball and uses a late-breaking slider as his out pitch. He also throws a downer curveball and a changeup. Chiavacci runs into trouble because he has a lengthy arm action that leads to an inconsistent release point and command. He'll try to smooth out his mechanics this year in Triple-A.