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The fifth overall selection in 2002, Everts was an outstanding two-way player at Cypress Falls High in Houston. He and Scott Kazmir (Mets) became the first pair of pitchers from the same high school to go in the same first round, and Everts could have gone in the top three rounds purely as a shortstop. But teams focused on him as a pitcher because he had the best curveball in the draft, not to mention age, command and a feel for pitching that all worked in his favor. He signed too late to play in 2002 and spent the fall at Baylor, where he took accounting classes and worked out with the baseball team. Everts had a brief stint in big league camp last spring before heading to extended spring training, then made his pro debut with short-season Vermont in mid-June. The victim of tight pitch counts and poor run support, he went just 2-7 in 2003 but pitched better than his record would indicate. Promoted to low Class A Savannah on his 19th birthday, he allowed two runs or fewer in four of his five starts, but went 0-3. Everts is an outstanding athlete with a projectable body and the makings of three plus major league pitches. He has a solid, balanced delivery and a clean, easy arm action, which enables him to generate lightning-quick arm speed. His fastball sat at 88-92 mph with good movement in 2003, and he should increase his velocity as he adds strength to his slender frame. The development of his changeup and curveball are further along at this point. His curveball, an 80-84 mph bender with great depth and tight spin, grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. It projects as a strikeout pitch in the majors. Everts' 78-81 mph changeup is almost as good as his curve. It's a plus pitch that he has an exceptional feel for. He didn't turn 19 until late in the 2003 season, so he's well ahead of most pitchers his age. Everts had become so reliant on his curveball at one point that the Expos limited his use of his out pitch. He threw it just 15 percent of the time so he could work on his fastball command, which still needs further improvement. He struggled with walks at times, in part because his curve breaks so much that it would leave the strike zone and/or fool umpires. Because of his limited pitching experience, he needs to improve his mound presence and get more aggressive. With Everts' stuff and the weakened state of the Expos farm system, he can fly through the organization. He's expected to start 2004 at Savannah and could be at high Class A Brevard County by midseason. He has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in the majors.
Hinckley ranked second behind Everts on this list entering the 2003 season. He went 4-3, 5.64 in his first 12 starts before finishing the year on a 9-2, 1.37 run. He's rapidly developing into one of the top lefthanded pitching prospects in the game. Hinckley is a projectable lefty with three average to above-average pitches. His arm action and delivery allow him to run his fastball to 91-94 mph with little effort. He learned to manipulate his fastball in the second half of the season, cutting it in on righties and fading it away from lefties. His curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch with good depth and two-plane break. He throws strikes and doesn't allow many home runs. Hinckley's changeup is the weakest of his three offerings but should become an average big league pitch. He must continue to improve his fastball command. Hinckley projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors. He should start 2004 with Brevard County, but with a good spring he could surprise and open the season with Double-A Harrisburg.
The only hitter among the first eight prospects on this list, Broadway tore up the South Atlantic League to open his first full season. Managers rated him the league's best batting prospect, power prospect and defensive first baseman at midseason. He also won the home run derby at the all-star game. After reaching Double-A in mid-August, Broadway homered three times in his first six games. Broadway has a balanced, slightly open stance with good leverage and loft in his swing. He generates top-of-the-scale raw power. He executed a better game plan at the plate in 2003, enabling him to get better pitches to hit. He also showed the ability to make adjustments. He hit .300 or better against lefthanders at all three levels. Broadway's biggest weakness is his speed. He has a strong arm for a first baseman, but his defense is merely adequate. After playing in the Arizona Fall League, Broadway likely will return to Double-A to start 2004. With the acquisition of Nick Johnson, the Expos can afford to be more patient with his development.
The sixth overall choice in the 2001 draft, Karp hasn't had nearly the success of Joe Mauer, Mark Prior, Gavin Floyd and Mark Teixeira, who were picked right before him. He was winless from May 30 until his last start of the 2003 season. Poor run support was a factor, but his ERA also was 5.65 during that stretch. Despite his record, Karp's stuff showed a huge improvement from 2002. He has a short arm action from a threequarters slot that enables him to command all his pitches. He topped out at 95 mph with his fastball, pitching consistently at 93-94 with good tailing action to both sides of the plate. When he keeps his fastball down, he also achieves good sink. His curveball bites though the strike zone and is a potential out pitch. His changeup is a third plus pitch at times. Karp has never won as much as his stuff would indicate he should. His pitches are inconsistent, as is his pitch selection. He needs to be more assertive on the mound. When the timing is off in his delivery, he drops his elbow and gets under the ball. Karp has all the ingredients. He should start 2004 with Triple-A Edmonton and could be in Montreal by the end of the year.
Cordero became the second member of the 2003 draft class to make his major league debut last summer, following in the footsteps of the Reds' Ryan Wagner. Cordero was a surprise pick at No. 20 overall, but he was a good fit for the Expos because he signed for $1.35 million, below market value, and didn't need much seasoning. Cordero projects as a closer in the majors, possibly as early as 2004. He's aggressive with his heavy 90-94 mph fastball and sharp slider. He's not big, but he generates power with good lower-half drive and extension in his delivery. Cordero has a mature body with strong legs and rounded shoulders, so his stuff won't get much better. He's thick through his hips and will need to watch his weight. He occasionally leaves his circle changeup high in the strike zone and needs to scrap a slower version of his slider. Based on his September showing in Montreal, Cordero should make the Opening Day roster with a good spring. Rocky Biddle isn't the most reliable closer, so Cordero could take his job quickly.
After a lethargic April, Hill found his groove in 2003. He won 12 games for the second straight year and represented Canada in the Futures Game at midseason. He finished the season in Double-A and joined Team Canada for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama. Hill threw his sinker at 90-91 mph consistently all year. He also showed an effective curveball and changeup, along with excellent control. With the help of Brevard County pitching coach Mark Grater, he cleaned up his mechanics and improved his arm speed. For someone who was more of a shortstop as a Canadian amateur, Hill is polished. Because he doesn't have an overpowering pitch, Hill doesn't miss a lot of bats. That leaves him little margin for error, though his command has allowed him to succeed. He needs to maintain his delivery because when he rushes his sinker rises. Hill boosted his stock more than any pitcher in the system. He should begin 2004 in Double-A and projects as a mid-rotation workhorse in the majors.
Drafted behind Everts in 2002, Rasner was off to a good start in his first full pro season before a minor case of shoulder tendinitis sidelined him for a month. He pitched well when he first came off the disabled list before wilting in August. He established several school records during his three-year career at Nevada. Rasner has a prototype pitcher's body with a broad upper torso and strong legs. He has a quick arm action from a three-quarters slot and gets good extension in his delivery. His 88-94 mph fastball features heavy sink and run. He complements it with an average to plus 75-76 mph curveball and an 82 mph circle changeup. When Rasner pumps his fastball up to 94 mph, it lacks the running action he gets when he throws in the high 80s. At times he'll get inside the ball, which also costs him movement. He needs to continue to improve his command of his curveball. Rasner will move up another step to high Class A in 2004. He could reach Double-A by midseason and the majors by the end of 2005.
Song was the key player for the Expos in the Cliff Floyd trade with Boston in July 2002. He became the first Harrisburg pitcher since Lew Krausse Sr. in 1933 to throw a no-hitter in the Eastern League when he beat Erie 2-1 on April 28, 2003. In July, he became the first player to appear in three Futures Games. Song throws strikes. The Expos adjusted his delivery, shortening his arm action. His fastball was a constant 88-90 mph in 2003, and his 72-74 mph curveball is a plus pitch when he commands it. He also throws a changeup and has played around with a splitter. Despite his no-hitter, Song hasn't been as dominant as he was in the Red Sox system. He lost about four miles an hour off both his fastball and curve. His strikeout rate declined even more dramatically, from 10.1 per nine innings over his first four pro seasons to 5.2 in 2003. Though Song rated as Boston's top prospect entering 2002, now he looks like a back-of-the-rotation starter. He should get a shot at cracking the Expos staff in 2004.
Sledge pounded Pacific Coast League pitching in 2003, leading the league in runs while finishing second in slugging and third in batting. Because Major League Baseball wouldn't permit the Expos to expand their roster in September, Sledge never got a look in the majors. After the season, Sledge made headlines by becoming the second player on a major league roster to test positive for steroids. He tested positive during Team USA tryouts in October, though the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency did not announce the results until January. Because the test was not conducted by Major League Baseball and took place in 2003, Sledge will not face any sanctions under MLB's new steroid policy. Sledge has a compact stroke that allows him to spray line drives to the gaps. He has a game plan and always has quality at-bats. He waits for his pitch and is aggressive when he gets it. He did a better job of using the whole field and hitting pitches up in the strike zone in 2003. His 22 homers doubled his previous career high. He's athletic and has above-average speed. Because he doesn't project as a big league center fielder, Sledge needs to add more power in order to start on a corner. He needs to work on his routes on fly balls and his throwing. He has average arm strength, but his throws are low and lack carry. After the Expos brought in Carl Everett and Juan Rivera in the offseason to fill their outfield holes, Sledge has little opportunity for a regular big league job in 2004. He could win a spot on the bench, and might be a better long-term fit as a fourth outfielder anyway.
Church has a solid all-around package of tools, but he was stuck behind a group of talented young outfielders in the Indians system. Thus his career received a huge boost when he joined the Expos in the Scott Stewart trade in January. Church began his college career as a pitcher before hurting his arm, and he has persevered and overachieved since entering pro ball as a 14th-round pick. His strong build, quick bat, slight uppercut and ability to make hard contact give him above-average raw power. He projects as a .275 hitter with 25 homers annually in the majors, though he needs more consistency and better plate discipline. He's predominantly a pull hitter and must use the opposite field more often. Though Church is a slighty below-average runner, he's capable of playing all three outfield positions. He's best suited for right field because of his strong arm. He'll probably start 2004 in Triple-A but could push for a promotion in the second half, especially if Juan Rivera should struggle in right field.
Bernadina is the last player former Expos director of international operations Fred Ferreira signed before moving to the Marlins. Ferreira signed him out of Montreal's academy in the Netherlands. Bernadina made his full-season debut in 2003 as one of the youngest regulars in the South Atlantic League. Bernadina is a raw, toolsy outfielder with perhaps the highest upside of any position player in the organization. He's a pure hitter with a smooth stroke and quick hands. He shows gap power now and projects to hit with average power. He's a spectacular center fielder with excellent instincts and an average arm. He has above-average speed and should be a factor on the basepaths with more experience. Bernadina comes from a limited baseball background and still has a ways to go in learning the intricacies of the game. He needs to improve his plate discipline but has a solid approach at the plate, considering his age and limited baseball experience. Bernadina profiles as a five-tool center fielder in the majors, and Expos officials often compare his bat to Garret Anderson's. He'll start 2004 as a teenager in high Class A.
Bergmann sprained his right ankle when he slipped on ice at home in New Jersey in January 2003. He couldn't walk for two weeks and was behind the other pitchers when he reported to spring training. Despite the setback, he had a good first half and was selected to the South Atlantic League's all-star game, before slumping down the stretch. Bergmann has a long, lean body and a live arm. From a low three-quarters angle, he can run his fastball into the 91-94 mph range. His heater has boring action up in the zone and will sink and tail when he keeps it down. He has a 72-76 mph downer curveball with good depth and a 78- 82 mph changeup with tumbling action. He has a sound delivery but will rush sometimes, causing his front side to fly open. That leads to problems with his control. Bergmann likely will move to high Class A in 2004.
Hodges has been battling colitis for a couple of years, which has made it difficult for him to maintain his strength. He managed a full season in 2003 and showed improvement later in the year. His hitting actions are good but he needs more patience at the plate if he's going to provide enough offense for a third baseman. He should develop more over-the-fence power once he learns to turn on balls and drive them. Drafted as a shortstop, Hodges moved to the hot corner after signing and now displays Gold Glove-caliber skills. He has fluid fielding actions with quick hands, good range and lateral movement with a quick first step, and a lot of body control. Hodges has above-average arm strength, plus the ability to get rid of the ball quickly and make accurate throws. Though third base opened up when the Expos let Fernando Tatis go, they opted to sign Tony Batista rather than turn the position over to Hodges.
After batting .236 through mid-May, Watson was one of the minors' hottest leadoff hitters over the remainder of the 2003 season. He hit .349 with 64 runs over his final 101 games, finishing fifth in the Eastern League in hitting. Watson began to improve as he developed more patience at the plate, though he still needs to draw more walks if he's going to be a tablesetter. He has a quick bat, makes good contact and shows the ability to hit to all fields. He lacks power, partly because he collapses his back shoulder, making his swing path longer and creating a loss of leverage. Watson is also an efficient bunter who can get down the line in 3.7 seconds when he drags the ball. He has plus speed, but needs to improve his jumps and baserunning skills. He has Gold Glove potential in center field, with superb flychasing skills and an average arm. Endy Chavez didn't seize Montreal's center- field job in 2003, and Watson could make a push to take it in the near future.
Rundles joined the Expos along with Tomo Ohka in the Ugueth Urbina trade in July 2001. In his first full season in the organization, Rundles made just 11 starts because of elbow tendinitis. He was relatively healthy in his return to high Class A, experiencing only minor elbow soreness that cost him a few starts, and would have ranked seventh in the Florida State League in ERA if he hadn't fallen three innings short of qualifying. Rundles is a tall, lanky lefthander with good command of his 87-91 mph fastball. His 77-81 mph changeup is a plus pitch with late fade and tumble, but he needs to tighten up his slow 69-73 mph curveball. Rundles has an easy arm action and balanced delivery, but his arm path is long in back and fails to generate arm speed. Added strength is a must to improve his durability. He'll advance to Double-A in 2004.
After leading the Eastern League with 27 homers in 2002, Pascucci graduated to the Pacific Coast League, where he placed second with a .419 on-base percentage. Pascucci has a large frame and generates excellent leverage with power to all fields, but his ability to draw walks has also made him somewhat passive at the plate. Instead of feasting on pitches he could drive, Pascucci watched too many go by for strikes as he piled up a career-high 132 whiffs. Despite playing in more favorable parks, he dipped to 15 homers. His speed and arm are average, and he's adequate at right field and first base. Like Sledge, he might have been recalled in September had the Expos been permitted to expand their roster. With the Expos' offseason acquisitions at first base and in the outfield, Pascucci likely won't win a big league job in 2004 and could return to Triple-A.
Owens gave up baseball after his sophomore season at Hart High in Newhall, Calif., where he starred as a wide receiver catching passes from childhood friend Kyle Boller, who now starts for the NFL's Baltimore Ravens after going 19th overall in the 2003 NFL draft. Owens spent two injury-plagued years on UCLA's football team before enrolling at The Master's (Calif.) College and returning to the diamond. He initially wanted to pitch, but coaches convinced him that he needed to take advantage of his speed by playing a position. Owens did just that, hitting .451 with 30 stolen bases to win the Golden State Athletic Conference's 2003 player of the year award. He was one of the premier athletes in the 2003 draft, and the Expos considered taking him 20th overall before opting for Chad Cordero. Owens has a lean, wiry physique with sinewy muscles. He can get down the line from the left side of the plate in 3.85-3.95 seconds, and has been clocked as quick as 3.5 seconds on a drag bunt. He projects as an electrifying basestealer in the majors, though he's raw and will need time to develop as a hitter. He lost valuable time last summer when he ran into an outfield wall during his second pro game, missing the rest of the season after minor operations on his throwing shoulder and a pre-existing hernia. Owens has a compact swing, good bat control and a line-drive approach. His bat occasionally drags through the zone and he needs to get his hands more extended. Owens has a below-average arm, but with his range probably will stay in center field. He'll play in low Class A in 2004.
Thompson was relatively unknown entering the 2003 season, but soon created a stir among scouts and drew comparisons to Oil Can Boyd for his pitching style and appearance. The Expos selected him in the eighth round and were more than pleased with his debut. Lean and wiry with long arms and legs, plus large hands and fingers, Thompson has good growth and strength potential. He has a loose arm action and somewhat funky mechanics. He drops and drives through his delivery, reaching down and back to fling his fastball consistently 90-91 mph and up to 94. Thompson works from an overhand three-quarters slot, getting good boring action up and down to righthanders with his fastball. His curve is a potential average big league pitch with quick downer rotation, while his changeup is effective. Thompson is athletic, showing plus running speed and solid defensive skills. The Expos have moved their young pitchers slowly in recent years, so Vermont could be his next step in 2004.
When Expos scouting director Dana Brown was an area scout with the Pirates, he engineered the $1.65 million signing of Young as a third-round pick in 2000. Young was an all-Ivy League center at Princeton with NBA potential, and his deal was heralded as a coup for Pittsburgh. But he developed slowly with the Pirates and fell out of favor with the new regime after general manager Dave Littlefield took over. Pittsburgh traded Young and righthander Jon Searles for Matt Herges in December 2002, then released Herges at the end of spring training. After switching organizations, Young was unhittable in high Class A and so-so in Double-A. At 6-foot-10 and 250 pounds, he has a commanding presence on the mound. He has smooth mechanics and a clean arm action for a pitcher so tall, but doesn't throw harder than 87-93 mph. The Expos sent Young to the Arizona Fall League to work on increasing his arm speed and adding some explosiveness to his delivery. After throwing a slider, he scrapped it in favor of an improving 76-80 mph curveball. It's a 12-to-6 downer that should be at least an average big league pitch. His changeup is also developing. Young should get his first taste of Triple-A at some point in 2004.
After signing as a 16-year-old in July 2000, Sucre appears ready for his first extended taste of full-season ball in low Class A this year. He has five-tool potential and has been brought along slowly because of his age and lack of refinement. He spent all of 2002-03 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, except for one game in high Class A, where he fanned in both his at-bats. Sucre has a lanky, athletic body with plenty of room to add weight. He has a smooth righthanded stroke with good bat speed and leverage, and he projects to have above-average power as his body matures. But his ability to hit for average will be tested unless he makes some adjustments at the plate. He doesn't show much patience and currently struggles against breaking pitches because his swing can get long. Sucre is sound defensively with good range and an average arm. He's a plus runner who has yet to learn how to translate his speed into stolen bases.
Lockwood had been on the prospect radar screen for a couple of years, primarily because he was a lefthander who knew how to pitch and projected to add velocity. But in his first taste of Double-A, he struggled for most of the 2003 season before going 5-0, 1.47 in August. Lockwood started pitching better after the Expos remade his arm action. Earlier in the season, he had a long arm arc and batters got a good look at the ball. After he quickened his arm action in back and improved his tempo, he gained better deception. Lockwood pitches with an 85-88 mph fastball, an average changeup and an improving curveball. Unless he comes up with an out pitch, he may be relegated to middle relief. He's dependent on his defense to make plays for him, and he has to figure out a way to combat righthanders, who hit .330 and slugged .507 against him last year.
Rooi missed part of the 2003 season when he suited up for the Dutch national team. He led the European championship with two homers and was named the tournament's best defensive player as he helped the Netherlands to a first-place finish. Then he played a part-time role as the Dutch finished second at Europe's Olympic qualifying tournament to earn a berth in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Rooi has made slow but steady progress in the Expos system. He returned for his second stint at high Class A last season and showed marked improvement at the plate. He has a medium-sized frame with a muscular upper body and strong wrists. He has good power potential and a fairly compact stroke, but his body is wound so tightly that there's stiffness in his swing. Rooi has a solid approach at the plate but must improve his flexibility and bat speed to have success as he moves up the ladder. His .254 average and .379 slugging percentages were career highs, yet far short of the production he's going to need to make it to the majors. Defensively, he has quick actions at third base. His hands, range and arm are all assets. Rooi will begin 2004 in Double-A.
Baez was the consensus top prospect in Puerto Rico before the Excellence Games, a pre-draft showcase held on the island in May. He didn't perform well there, which caused him to slide to the Expos in the fourth round. After arriving in the Gulf Coast League, he again showed his middle-of-the-order potential. He has a well-proportioned, athletic frame with room for added strength. He has a fluid stroke at the plate, featuring quickness and a slight uppercut. Baez is aggressive and projects to have average power. He does have a hitch in his swing, which causes him difficulty with inside pitches. He's a slow runner out of the box and is decent once he gets under way. He doesn't cover a lot of ground in the outfield, but he does own an average arm and can handle right field. Baez' most likely destination in 2004 is Vermont.
After two seasons in the Gulf Coast League, Diaz made the jump to low Class A in 2003 and held his own as a 19-year old. Signed as a righthanded pitcher, he never made it to the mound because the Expos converted him to the outfield after they saw him swing the bat. Diaz has a solid, athletic body and projects as a power-hitting right fielder in the majors. He has good bat speed and a smooth line-drive stroke, but his swing can get long at times and he needs to incorporate a better trigger mechanism. Starting from a slightly open stance, Diaz generates above-average power potential but will have to concentrate on hitting the ball to all fields. He tends to get pull-conscious. He also needs to show more patience at the plate or run the risk of being exploited by pitchers at higher levels. Diaz has average speed and keen baserunning instincts. A good defender with a plus arm, he can play all three outfield positions. He's destined for high Class A this year.
Similar to Jim Abbott, Bentz was born without a complete right hand. That handicap hasn't impeded his baseball progress, as he pitched in Double-A in his second full season. An Alaska high school product who pitched with limited success at Long Beach State, Bentz broke into pro ball as a starter in 2001, moved to the bullpen in his first full season and became a closer midway through 2003. He's the best lefthanded reliever in the system. With a solid delivery and durable frame, Bentz throws a 91-93 mph fastball with late life and a plus slider. He also throws a cutter to get in on righthanders and has the confidence to throw any pitch at any time. His changeup is effective but still needs improvement. His command slipped against more experienced hitters last season. After pitching with nerve damage in his left foot in 2002, Bentz was relatively healthy. He had a case of pink eye early in the season and a pulled upper stomach muscle in August. He was supposed to head to the Arizona Fall League in October, but the Expos changed their minds and decided not to send him because he had thrown too many innings. He should start the 2004 season in Triple-A.
Though Clint Everts' noted curveball has received much more attention, the Expos insist that Rueckel's is better. It's a devastating 78-82 mph curve with hard bite, and it grades as a 75 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He gained command of it down the stretch and was unhittable in August, not allowing a run and fanning 19 in 13 innings while opponents batted .075 against him. It was a stunning conclusion to his first full season as a pitcher, as he had been a four-year starter at shortstop at Furman. Rueckel is an athletic righthander with a medium frame. He can run his fastball into the 89-92 mph range with late movement. If he can continue to progress like he did at the end of 2003, he'll advance rapidly. For now, he's ticketed for high Class A.
Signed as a nondrafted free agent out of Louisiana State in 2001, Corcoran rocketed through the system. He started 2003 in high Class A and was called up to Montreal in late July, giving up one run in five big league appearances. While he lacks the size scouts desire in a pitcher, his arm action is so quick it looks like he is throwing harder than he actually is. Corcoran has a heavy 91-92 mph fastball, good command and a knack for keeping the ball down in the strike zone. His tight 78-80 mph curveball is a second plus pitch that rates as a 65 on the 20-80 scouting scale. His changeup lags behind his other two pitches, but isn't as crucial in a relief role. Corcoran is a candidate to return to the big league bullpen in 2004.
The Expos regarded Morales as a sixth- to ninth-round talent in the 2003 draft, but he had some arm soreness in junior college and they thought he was unsignable. Then area scout Zack Hoyrst learned that Morales was academically ineligible to return to school, so Montreal grabbed him in the 46th round and signed him for 10th-round money. After the draft Morales went to play for the Joliet JackHammers in the independent Northern League, where his junior college head coach Mike Pinto was the JackHammers' pitching coach. The Expos saw he was healthy and signed him, and he threw so well that they advanced him to high Class A. Morales is a smallish righthander with a power arm. He has a short, quick arm action that generates fastballs up to 94 mph and sliders up to 82. His slider is the better of the two pitches, a sharp breaker with good tilt that grades as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has a decent changeup with late tumble. The Expos aren't sure yet what they have in Morales. He could be a late-inning reliever or end up in the rotation. He'll probably return to the Florida State League this year.
In one of his best trades as Montreal's GM, Omar Minaya somehow turned soft-hitting Jose Macias into Chavez, who was buried behind a slew of more talented arms in the Cubs system. Macias was eligible for arbitration and about to be nontendered, while Chavez could crack the Expos rotation in the near future. Chavez led the short-season Northwest League in strikeouts in 2000, but his stock has dropped since. He was discovered to be nearly three years older than he was believed to be when he signed. He lacks a true plus pitch, though he has gotten by with an 87-91 mph fastball, a slurvy slider and a changeup. When it's on, his slider is his best offering. Chavez throws strikes and has been able to miss enough bats to be effective. He didn't fool many Triple-A lefthanders--they batted .286 and slugged .466 against him--so he probably needs to return to that level before he's ready for Montreal.
The 2001 Western Athletic Conference player of the year, Labandeira broke his leg in his first pro game that summer. He made up for lost time by reaching Double-A midway through 2003, but hit the wall and struggled offensively. Labandeira is a sparkplug who plays hard at all times. He has a tightly wound body that has reached full maturity. He has a short, compact swing with gap power, but also shows some stiffness and a tendency to chase pitches up in the strike zone. He's flashy on defense with soft hands and a plus arm, but has trouble coming across the bag at second, which could be due to the lingering effects from his leg injury. Labandeira is an intelligent baserunner with average speed. He'll need to prove he can handle Double-A pitching before advancing further, but for now he's the top shortstop prospect in the organization.
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