Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Background: The Phillies have been patient with Burrell despite the record-setting $8 million major league contract he signed after being the No. 1 pick in 1998. They left him in the Double-A Eastern League most of the season, and he was the league's top prospect. Burrell didn't receive a September callup, in part so that he could attend instructional league and work on his second defensive move in two years before playing in the Arizona Fall League. Strengths: Burrell may be the top hitting prospect in the minor leagues. Strength is not a problem. The ball explodes off Burrell's bat with the special sound scouts look for but rarely find. Watching Burrell take batting practice can be reminiscent of a Mark McGwire show. Burrell is more than brute strength, though. He is adept at lining pitches down and away to right-center field, works counts like a leadoff hitter and adjusts his swing to different pitchers and situations. He has significantly improved his ability to get his hands through the hitting zone on plus inside fastballs. Weaknesses: Burrell is solid defensively at his natural position, which is first base. His experience fielding ground balls from his high school and college days as a third baseman helps him. Still, the Phillies see hope for him in left field. His below-average speed limits his potential there, yet Burrell has shown surprising agility and instincts in tracking fly balls. He still needs work on going back on the ball. Burrell's arm is solid average and will be a benefit in left field as he improves his accuracy and ability to throw to the right base. The Future: On the topic of Burrell in left field, one Phillies executive remarked, "Hey, this is the organization that has put Greg Luzinski, Pete Incaviglia and Gregg Jefferies out there. Burrell has to be better than all those guys." In truth, Burrell is not only a better fielder but also potentially a far better hitter. The Phillies have some decisions to make, with first baseman Rico Brogna signed for two more years, left fielder Ron Gant around for one more year, and Burrell obviously ready for the major leagues.
Background: The Phillies soured on Rollins after a mediocre 1998 season and a perceived lackadaisical attitude. A new staff saw a different player in 1999. Rollins improved his skills on the field and became a leader on both teams he played for. Strengths: Though only 5-foot-8, Rollins plays with the skills of a bigger player. He is smooth and quick in the infield with a plus arm from the hole and no fear around the bag. Rollins is equally proficient from both sides of the plate and has surprising pop for his size. He stays under control at the plate and doesn't overswing. Weaknesses: As long as Rollins maintains a solid approach, continues to polish his skills on routine plays and learns the nuances of baserunning and situational hitting, he has a bright big league future. He has all the tools. The Future: The Phillies' middle infield is wide open. Rollins was playing well in the Venezuelan League, and it wouldn't be a shock if Rollins made his big league debut next summer.
Background: Madson was a classic projection draft pick, lured away from a Southern California scholarship with a $350,000 bonus. He is closer to 6-foot-7 than his listed height and is growing into his lanky frame. Strengths: Madson's biggest strength may be his youth; he will pitch almost all of 2000 at 19. His fastball has crept up to the solid average range and will occasionally hit 93 mph. While it isn't a consistent pitch yet, Madson's curveball will flash good spin and biting action, and he has shown the ability to throw it for consistent strikes. Weaknesses: As with any work in progress, most of what Madson needs to do is to develop consistency with his mechanics, release point and the quality of his stuff. With his fastball and command potential, the development of his curve and changeup will be vital. The Future: Madson is just reaching the point physically and mentally to be able to take advantage of his natural gifts. He will get his first taste of full-season ball in 2000.