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As a freshman on Mount St. Joseph High's junior-varsity team, Floyd watched his older brother Mike and Mark Teixeira, both seniors, play for the varsity. Three years later, Gavin and Teixeira were selected with the fourth and fifth overall picks in the 2001 draft, with Philadelphia also taking Mike in the 22nd round. The Floyd brothers were on the South Carolina campus ready to attend class before both agreed to last-minute deals with the Phillies, with Gavin receiving a club-record $4.2 million bonus. He made a strong pro debut in 2002, ranking among the low Class A South Atlantic League leaders in several categories. Managers rated him the league's top prospect. The Phillies handled Floyd cautiously, starting his pitch count at 70 and stretching it to 100 as he gained strength and durability. Floyd came to the Phillies with two plus pitches: his fastball and hard, sharp curveball. He throws the fastball 89-92 mph, peaking at 94-95 mph, with rapid arm action and a smooth delivery, and he used it almost exclusively to no-hit Lexington on July 24. Nevertheless, his knee-buckling curve is his best pitch because it can be unhittable at times. The organization asked Floyd to lay off his curve last season, urging him to develop the changeup that he never needed in high school. He has a nice feel for it now, and it could become a third plus offering. While Floyd's stuff compares favorably to that of Brett Myers, he has a more laid-back personality. That doesn't mean Floyd isn't a strong competitor, though. His makeup and work ethic should allow him to maximize his talents. Floyd just needs innings and work in game situations. He's learning which pitches to throw in certain counts and how to read hitters. He throws strikes to both sides of the plate but is refining his command in the strike zone. Floyd must use his fastball more and not rely so much on his curveball. Though he's as polished as any prep pitcher after one year in the minors, Floyd won't be rushed. The Phillies' minor league pitching depth will allow them to move him one level at a time. He can expect to start 2003 at high Class A Clearwater. Floyd profiles as a No. 1 starter.
While his Little League teammate Sean Burroughs' move from third base to second failed in 2002, Utley's switch from second to third was successful. He also improved his offensive numbers while making the jump from high Class A to Triple-A. Utley's sweet line-drive stroke and alley-to-alley power produced an International League-leading 39 doubles last year. He displayed a solid approach and handled breaking pitches well, especially for a player skipping Double-A. He moved closer to the plate and showed the ability to drive the ball hard to the opposite field. Utley's makeup allowed him to handle the position switch and skip a level at the same time. Utley never was a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman, and he won't win the award at the hot corner either. There are questions about his footwork and arm strength at third base. With hard work, he can be an average defender at either position. Until the Phillies signed David Bell, Utley was a natural choice to replace Scott Rolen. It's unclear where Utley will play in Triple-A, but he'd make a lot of sense as an offensive second baseman.
Don't let his Kirby Puckett build fool you. Byrd has 30-30 potential. He's a gym rat who has worked hard to reshape his body after ballooning to 315 pounds following an accident as a Georgia Tech freshman. Byrd severely injured his right leg after karate-kicking a door in jest, and required three surgeries. Byrd has above-average speed, can hit for average and will show power. He has a working knowledge of the strike zone and uses the entire field. He makes good reads and shows solid range in center field. He works as hard as any player to improve his game every day. Byrd focused too much on homers while hitting in the middle of the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre order. He needs to cut down on his strikeouts and be more aggressive on the bases. He was charged with assault after an August confrontation with his girlfriend. The matter was resolved, and the club hopes he'll learn from it. Byrd will be an upgrade over Doug Glanville and Ricky Ledee in center fieldr. His experience, maturity and minor league accomplishments should allow him to make the jump to the majors.
Buchholz' commitment to North Carolina caused him to slip in the 2000 draft, but the Phillies persuaded the local product to sign by offering him $365,000, equivalent to fourth-round money. After starting his pro career with a 3-13 record, Buchholz rebounded to go 18-12 since. Like Brett Myers and Gavin Floyd, Buchholz has developed into a durable pitcher with the potential for three above-average pitches. He throws two- and four-seam fastballs, generating plus life and sitting at 88-93 mph with a high of 96. Buchholz learned a new curveball grip at low Class A Lakewood in 2001, and now his breaking ball has more velocity than Floyd's and equal bite. His conditioning, athleticism and sound delivery have made him durable. Like Floyd, Buchholz needs to refine his command in the strike zone. He tends to overthrow, causing him to leave his pitches up. His circle changeup is a work in progress. Buchholz was knocked around a bit in four late-season starts at Double-A Reading, and will head back there in 2003. He gives the Phillies another potential front-of-the rotation starter.
Some clubs considered Hamels the best pitcher in the 2002 draft, but his medical history allowed the Phillies to get him with the 17th overall pick. He broke the humerus in his left arm as a high school sophomore, but it's not the same injury that ended the careers of major league lefthanders Tom Browning, Dave Dravecky and Tony Saunders. Hamels first injured the arm in an off-field accident before aggravating it while he was pitching. He had surgery performed by the Padres' team doctor and rehabbed with pitching guru Tom House, sitting out his junior year but pitching well as a senior. Hamels' fastball reaches 93-94 mph with good lefthanded life, though he often pitches closer to 90. He shows exceptional control of his curveball and already has a solid changeup. Hamels has an easy delivery and an advanced feel for pitching. The Phillies aren't worried about his arm, yet Hamels will have to establish his durability. In any case, he must get stronger. Hamels might have a better feel for pitching than Gavin Floyd and Brett Myers did at the same stage of their careers. He could make his pro debut in low Class A and move quickly from there.
Madson followed a breakout 2000 season with a less impressive encore in 2001, missing time with a tired shoulder. He bounced back last year to lead the Double-A Eastern League in victories, ranking second in strikeouts and third in ERA and innings. Despite his size, Madson reaches only the low 90s with his fastball. He struggled in 2001 as he tried to pitch around hitters, but he became more aggressive and worked inside more last season. That made his overhand curveball and changeup, which rates as the organzation's best and is a major league out pitch, even more effective. Madson keeps the ball down in the zone, enticing groundouts and preventing homers. Madson is growing into his 6- foot-6 frame, but still could stand to add some more muscle, especially in his lower half. There's nothing specific for him to work on mechanically. He just needs the experience of facing hitters at the highest levels. Madson doesn't blow hitters away with electric stuff, but he stays around the plate and keeps the ball in the park. He figures to slide into the big league rotation after spending 2003 in Triple-A.
Machado's defense has always been first-rate, as he has drawn Dave Concepcion comparisons for his build and actions. The Phillies have waited patiently for his bat to develop, and they were rewarded with his best offensive season in 2002. He has been among the youngest regulars in his league for the last three years. Machado has the hands, arm, range and instincts to play shortstop in the majors right now. He reads the ball off the bat well. His 28 errors last year caused little concern because most were the result of his aggressive nature and confidence in his arm. Machado's best offensive tool is plus-plus speed that he easily translates into steals. He also showed improved plate discipline and power in 2002. Machado has to prove that his offensive performance wasn't a fluke. His swing mechanics are fine, but he needs to add strength to increase his bat speed and drive balls more often. With Jimmy Rollins in place, the Phillies have no need to rush Machado. He'll spend 2003 in Triple-A. He could be the second baseman of the future if Chase Utley can't move back there.
Following Rangers prospect Jason Hart as a slugging first baseman at Southwest Missouri State, Howard projected as a 2001 first-round pick. Then he succumbed to draft pressure and batted just .271-13-54 with a school-record 74 strikeouts, so the Phillies landed him that year as a fifth-rounder. Howard shows plus raw power from left-center field to the rightfield corner, and he can drive low pitches. He blasted a homer off the batter's eye behind the center-field wall 400 feet from home plate in Lakewood. He did a good job of making adjustments during his first full pro season. Howard has good hands and agility for a big man and should become at least an average first baseman. Howard's swing tends to get long, giving him trouble with breaking balls. He draws walks but must adjust his approach to make more consistent contact. A shorter stroke could boost both his power and average. The signing of Jim Thome means Howard will get plenty of time to develop. The large ballparks in the Class A Florida State League will provide a stiff test for Howard and his power in 2003.
Ramirez carries the nickname "Easy" because of his arm action and ability to throw strikes. He led the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League with a 1.10 ERA and tossed a two-hit shutout in the playoffs. He has the same body type and command as Pedro Martinez, but he doesn't have nearly the same stuff. Ramirez has an exceptional approach, shown by his 73-2 strikeout-walk ratio. He can throw any of his three pitches--a fastball that touches 92 mph, a solid curveball and an average changeup--for strikes. Better yet, Ramirez can place them wherever he wants in the strike zone. He's unflappable on the mound and demonstrates a great feel for a pitcher his age--which isn't questioned, except by those who believe the baby-faced pitcher is still a teenager. The Phillies want Ramirez to bulk up his slight frame, improving his velocity and durability. He also would benefit from working off his fastball more and using it to set up his offspeed pitches. Ramirez has demonstrated the savvy to succeed in the FSL, though the organization's pitching depth may dictate that he at least begins 2003 at Lakewood.
Segovia outpitched Mets first-rounder Scott Kazmir on the 2001 U.S. junior national team, striking out 15 and not allowing an earned run in eight innings at a tournament in Cuba. By getting into better shape as a high school senior, Segovia pitched himself into the second round of the 2002 draft and signed for $712,500. The Phillies hired his high school coach, Ron Ortegon, to manage short-season Batavia in 2002. Segovia's fastball sits at 92-93 mph. His best pitch is a tight-breaking slider, but Segovia used it so much that the Phillies took it away from him in the Gulf Coast League. They wanted him to refine his changeup, which improved rapidly. He got his slider back in instructional league, where he dominated by going after hitters with all three pitches. While the Phillies like Segovia's strength, he's on the thick side and must monitor his weight so he doesn't get soft. He needs to improve his changeup and work off his fastball more often. Segovia will spend his first full pro season at Lakewood. If he gets blocked by the starting pitchers ahead of him, he has the approach and stuff to become a future closer.
Lee threw 95 mph as a Korean amateur before signing for $1.2 million in March 2001. A disc problem in his back and trouble adjusting to the United States limited his effectiveness that season. He enjoyed a more successful second year as his medical and mental outlooks improved. Lee went from introvert to extrovert and became a clubhouse clown, according to Lakewood manager Jeff Manto. He learned Spanish from his Latin teammates and made strides in English. Lee's back problems cut his velocity down to 92 mph. That's fine, because his changeup is solid and his backdoor slider has developed into a money pitch. He can throw it in any count and commands it as well as he does his fastball. Because of Lee's feel for pitching and ability to work both sides of the plate, the Phillies have encouraged him to pitch backward at times. Lee still is cleaning up his mechanics, paring down superfluous motion from his traditional Asian delivery where he pulls his hands above his head and then pauses before driving plateward. The Phillies worry that Lee's big, Paul Wilson-type body could pose a problem if he doesn't watch his conditioning. He was quite hittable in the Arizona Fall League, but the Phillies chalk that up to fatigue. Lee projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter at the major league level. While he had success in low Class A, he was old for the South Atlantic League. He should get a truer test in 2003 in Double-A, where he made a strong late-season start.
A hamstring injury forced Padilla to miss 40 games and a chance at a 20-20 season in 2001. He also missed time with a foot injury in 2000. He remained healthy throughout 2002, but the rigors of playing a full season caught up to him. Mentally, Padilla found it difficult to deal with playing tired and fighting through slumps at the same time. He was hitting .297 through May, but struggled to make adjustments and batted just .224 the rest of the way. Double-A pitchers took advantage of his aggressive approach and got him to chase pitches. Padilla drives the ball well and possesses the strength to hit for power, but has yet to show it in game action. His top hand-dominated swing generates so much topspin that balls often dive into the alleys rather than carrying over the wall. He should develop a better feel for lofting the ball with time. Padilla rates as a plus runner and steals bases as much because of his instincts as his speed. He reads balls well off the bat and has plus arm strength, but still won't push Bobby Abreu out of right field. While previous comparisons to Magglio Ordonez might be a bit off base now, Padilla still flashes the tools to become a solid major league outfielder. He's capable of hitting .280 and being a 20-20 man. He'll start 2003 in Triple-A.
Inconsistency has plagued Bucktrot throughout his career. He didn't even have consistent scouting reports as a prep player, as some teams liked him better as a hitter. He struggles to repeat his delivery, pitch to pitch and outing to outing. And there's not one clear problem. Sometimes Bucktrot rushes his delivery. Sometimes his front side flies open. At other times, he throws across his body. Bucktrot's future success is directly related to mastering his mechanics. When's he's on, he can dominate. His fastball sits between 92-94 mph, his power curveball can be a plus pitch at times and his changeup rates as at least average. But he's pretty hittable despite his stuff, and he walks nearly as many batters as he strikes out. Bucktrot had it all working in early August, when he tossed back-to-back complete games, allowing four hits in one and two in the other. In his next start, he displayed his mercurial approach by surrendering 10 hits and five runs in six innings. He figures to repeat high Class A at least at the start of 2003, which has as much to do with his need to refine his delivery as it does the depth of pitching in the system.
Richardson turned out to be two years older than previously thought, but kept crushing baseballs like he always had. The age change moved him from among the Florida State League's younger players to the same age as its veterans. Nonetheless, Richardson's considerable power potential still makes him one of the Phillies' better prospects. A year after socking 22 home runs in low Class A, he stroked 15 in the FSL's humid air and spacious ballparks. He tied for fourth in home runs and fifth in RBIs. He improved his approach at the plate by using the whole field and showed the ability to adjust against breaking pitches. He's not going to hit for a better average until he tightens his strike zone. An average defender, Richardson displays a plus arm along with good hands at third base. He's an average runner. Richardson progressed enough to make the move to Double-A in 2003. With his age adjustment, it's now important that he moves fast--and it's also worth wondering where his career heads if he begins to struggle.
After strong seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League and Gulf Coast League, Cabrera took another step up the ladder to the short-season New York-Penn League in 2002. Each year Cabrera has added strength and weight, going from 174 pounds after signing to 183 in 2001 and 195 last year. As he fills out his 6-foot-4 frame, Cabrera reminds the Phillies more and more of Carlos Silva. Like Silva, Cabrera has a strong arm and can be a durable starter. His fastball sits between 90-92 mph, can get up to 94 and bores in on hitters. His curveball is progressing nicely and should become an average to plus pitch, though now it still varies from crisp to flat. Cabrera just learned to throw a changeup but has picked it up quickly, giving him another solid offering. He struggled with his release point last season, which affects his command. The rest of his delivery is clean, so he shouldn't need a major adjustment. He'll continue to refine his secondary stuff while continuing his transition from thrower to pitcher in the Lakewood rotation in 2003. Cabrera is advanced for his age, which should expedite his rise through the system.
There's not a significant difference between Arteaga and Carlos Cabrera. They bear a strong resemblance, both physically and as pitchers, with Cabrera just a bit further along. At 6-foot-7, Arteaga is an imposing figure on the mound and works hitters aggressively. He's taller and thicker than Cabrera, but not quite as strong. Arteaga throws his 92 mph fastball on a steep downhill plane. It's his best pitch and he needs to make more use of it rather than relying on his secondary stuff, which rates just a tick behind Cabrera's. Arteaga employs a curveball and changeup, which both eventually can become average or better. He shows solid command, but at times struggles to maintain a consistent release point and can get wild. He'll work on repeating his delivery as he joins Cabrera in low Class A.
Then known as Carlos Rosario, Rodriguez signed with the Phillies for $700,000 shortly after emerging as a prospect at the 2000 Area Code Games. He's a raw player with plenty of tools who needs a lot of repetitions to refine all aspects of his game. For now, defense remains his calling card. Rodriguez' hands, arm, agility and range all rate as plus tools and he has proven a better fielder than his 18 errors at Batavia would suggest. Offensively, Rodriguez hasn't struggled as much as many other slick-fielding infield prospects. He generates good bat speed and his mechanics at the plate steadily have improved in each of the last two seasons. A plus runner, Rodriguez stands to learn more about stealing bases, as he was successful in just 21 of his 32 attempts last year. Rodriguez has better tools and more promise than Danny Gonzalez, who has played a level above him the last two seasons, but still faces a numbers crunch in Philadelphia with Jimmy Rollins there and Anderson Machado on the doorstep. Rodriguez will get his first taste of full-season ball at Lakewood in 2003.
Arm injuries have wrecked the development of Baisley, who once was considered the Phillies' best pitching prospect after Brett Myers and now profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter. The elbow tenderness that shortened Baisley's 2000 season also ate into his performance the following year, when he missed most of spring training and didn't get to Double-A until mid-May. He then struggled through his worst pro season. A frayed labrum held Baisley back in 2002. It wasn't a tear and minor surgery in the fall cleaned it up. He should return at 100 percent for 2003. He offers three solid-average pitches: a 90 mph fastball, a curveball and a changeup. The curve rates as a potential out pitch. The 6-foot-9 Baisley needs to stay on top of the ball and throw downhill more, as he often drops his arm angle, losing control and velocity. Though he pitched better last year, he didn't intimidate Eastern League hitters. While the injuries might have frustrated a lot of players, Baisley's background--his dad is a high school coach--and makeup have kept him focused on returning. The Phillies will take it slow with Baisley, starting him at Double-A again this year.
Valent played with Troy Glaus, Jim Parque and Eric Byrnes at UCLA, where he broke Glaus' career home run record. A player with Valent's talents might have ranked as the Phillies' top prospect five years ago. Instead, he has become a victim of the organization's depth, especially in the outfield. He spent time in Philadelphia in 2001, when he was promoted to serve as a DH during interleague play, but struggled and hasn't been back since. He got off to a slow start in 2002 spring training, which prevented him from making the big league roster, and it carried over into the beginning of the season. By the time Valent got things going again, Jason Michaels had usurped his spot as Philadelphia's fifth outfielder. While Valent might never hit for a high average, he always has been a run producer. He tied for fourth in the International League with in 84 RBIs, the fourth straight season in which he drove in at least 79 runs. He has quick hands and above-average power to drive balls into the gaps and over fences. Defensively, Valent rates as the best outfielder in the system and also boasts the best arm. With the ability to become a solid major league corner outfielder, Valent could serve as trade fodder as Philadelphia searches for the final pieces to put a winner in place.
The younger brother of Rangers prospect Hank Blalock received plenty of hype during his senior season at Rancho Bernardo High, where he played for his uncle Sam Blalock. Despite rumors that Blalock could be a supplemental first-round pick of the Athletics--Oakland general manager Billy Beane also played for Sam Blalock in high school--he fell to the fifth round and landed with the Phillies and high school teammate Cole Hamels, their first-round pick. Blalock is an impressive physical specimen, bigger than his brother and possessing more raw power. He hit a ball so hard in the Gulf Coast League that he left one side flat. He takes a solid approach to the plate, where he sees breaking balls well for a young hitter and uses the whole field. Owing to his baseball bloodlines, Blalock's makeup and work ethic are impressive. Defensively, he has yet to settle into a position. A high school shortstop, he has seen time at the outfield corners and third base since turning pro. At best, he'll be an adequate defender, as Blalock doesn't have the hands his brother does. His arm and range are average. A strong spring could earn him a spot in low Class A.
Hancock came from the Red Sox in a Winter Meetings trade for Jeremy Giambi, who became expendable once the Phillies signed Jim Thome. Hancock is probably best known for getting the Pedro Martinez stamp of approval. Martinez skipped his last start of the 2002 season, nominating Hancock to replace him. He was as close to major league-ready as any pitcher in the Boston system, but his chances of making Philadelphia's Opening Day roster were diminished by his November surgery to repair a small tear in his pelvic wall. He should be able to bounce back, however. Hancock had his jaw broken by a line drive last June but returned after a month, cutting his expected recovery time in half. He doesn't have a true out pitch, but all three of his pitches are above-average at times. He commands his 91-94 mph fastball to both sides of the plate, and he also throws a curveball and changeup. Hancock just needs to show greater consistency with his secondary pitches. He throws across his body a little bit, but the Red Sox never thought his delivery would lead to injury. Hancock pitched well in three major league appearances in September and could join the Phillies bullpen at some point in 2003. He should be able to pitch in games by the end of March. Down the road, he could get a chance to crack the back end of the rotation.
Perez has made strides each year since his U.S. debut at 18. That progress was interrupted in October, when he had Tommy John surgery that will put him out through the 2003 season. Despite his elbow injury, the Phillies added him to their 40-man roster in November. Perez employs a heavy fastball with good sink. He improved his velocity in 2002, going from 88-91 mph to sitting at 93-94. Hitters have a tough time lifting it, so Perez gets a lot of grounders. For that reason, the Phillies see his future being in the bullpen rather than the rotation. Perez also seems to work better in relief, posting a 2.52 ERA in that role last year compared to 4.48 as a starter. The Phillies envision Perez being similar to Carlos Silva, eventually replacing him in the middle innings as Silva goes deeper into games. Perez' slider continues to improve but isn't an average pitch yet. He needs to work on his consistency within the strike zone, not so much throwing more strikes but better ones.
Tejeda turned potential into performance in low Class A in 2001 and followed it up with a strong first half in high Class A last year. He ended up being shut down in mid-July with a tender shoulder, and the Phillies began to rework his mechanics in instructional league. Tejeda used a long arm action and also flew open quite a bit with his delivery, causing him to wrap his arm behind his body and then throw across it. The motion led to the shoulder soreness as well as some wildness on the mound. His health is no longer a question. Tejeda's breaking ball improved with the new delivery and he also offers an average changeup to go along with his 92-93 mph fastball. His unrefined secondary stuff and sore shoulder contributed to Tejeda's 14 home runs allowed, which ranked fifth in the Florida State League though he didn't throw a pitch over the last two months. He looks like an end-of-the-rotation pitcher. A return to Clearwater awaits.
Like Jorge Padilla, Gonzalez is a Puerto Rican who spent his high school years in the United States playing for the Florida Air Academy in Melbourne. Like Eric Valent, Gonzalez gets lost in a deep Phillies system. Jimmy Rollins and Anderson Machado are ahead of him and Carlos Rodriguez is nipping at his heels. Gonzalez made the jump to full-season ball successfully in 2002. He's a slap hitter with a decent swing, but his bat must improve if he's to continue advancing through the system. Defensively, Gonzalez plays a solid shortstop and displays average arm strength and range. His hands are soft and he shows good actions around the bag. Gonzalez possesses average speed and runs the bases aggressively, though his 11 stolen bases in 32 attempts suggest he's too aggressive. Gonzalez is built similarly to Minnesota's Cristian Guzman, a frame that lends itself to durability but also one that worries the Phillies that he might get too thick for the position. He's headed to high Class A this year.
Sal Agostinelli and Jim Fregosi Jr. signed Machi for $58,000 out of a tryout camp in February 2000. Like many Latin players, Machi had his age corrected before the 2002 season, gaining a year in the process. A strong-bodied pitcher with solid command and a clean delivery, Machi has drawn comparisons to Bartolo Colon. He has dominated Rookie ball simply by relying on his mid- to high-90s fastball. Despite that heat, the Phillies want to break Machi's belief that harder is better, believing he'd be more successful if he works at 94-96 mph with a quality secondary pitch. He's still learning how to throw a curveball and changeup, both of which are new to him. He projects as a possible closer, but he likely will be used as a starter or long reliever this season at Batavia or Lakewood. That way he can get more innings in and will be forced to develop his full repertoire.
When the Phillies dumped Omar Daal rather than pay him $4.5 million for 2002, Junge was the best of the two prospects they received from the Dodgers. Junge spent his first season in the system in Triple-A, where he led the International League in walks while finishing second in innings and fifth in strikeouts. The Phillies sent him to the Arizona Fall League to change him from an innings-eating starter into a reliever. He made four appearances there before shutting it down because he was physically and mentally exhausted from the long season. At 6-foot-5, Junge could emerge as an imposing figure coming out of the bullpen. His 91-94 mph fastball has good life and he has added a splitter that rates as an average to above average pitch. He also throws a changeup and curveball, but lacks consistency with them, leading to deep counts. Junge has a legitimate chance to make the Phillies this year as a swingman or long reliever.
Wedel always has had the odds stacked against him, especially in an organization as deep in pitching as the Phillies. He was a 20th-round pick from an NCAA Division II program and doesn't dominate with his stuff. But he's always competed tenaciously, and that's been enough to keep his door to the majors from being slammed shut. The Phillies rewarded him for a solid Triple-A season by adding him to the 40-man roster for the first time in November. Wedel is quick to the plate and has a resilient arm. A gutsy pitcher, he goes after hitters by changing speeds and mixing pitches. He has an 88-89 mph sinker that reaches 92 mph, plus a solid slider and changeup. He needs to stay on top of the slider to prevent it from spinning flatly toward the plate. Wedel sometimes gets too hyper on the mound and subsequently has mechanical problems. He'll get a shot at making the Philadelphia bullpen in spring training, but he most likely will repeat Triple-A.
Franco had three years and three months added to his age before the 2002 season, and then got slapped around a bit in his first stop in Double-A. He struggles to find the strike zone at times and ends up elevating his pitches, then running to back up third base. Maintaining a consistent release point would go a long way to alleviating his problems. Franco remains intriguing because of his 93-94 mph fastball with heavy sink. He gets it right in on hitters, leaving them with broken bats or stingers in their hands. With a little more polish, his slider can be an average or even plus pitch. His changeup is coming along as well. The Phillies think he'll be able to pull his repertoire together because of his strong work ethic and aptitude for pitching. Franco also tends to thrive in difficult situations because he's such a tough competitor. That makes him an eventual candidate for the bullpen, but for now he'll likely stay in the rotation to get more work in. His feel for pitching will serve as the ultimate factor in deciding where his future lies. Depending on how many young arms get sent back to Triple-A after spring training, Franco could pitch in either role there or start in Double-A.
The Phillies' shortstop prospect train rolls on with de los Santos, who began his career as a third baseman. He possesses solid shortstop instincts and average range and arm strength. His inconsistent bat also helped force the move off the hot corner. De los Santos epitomizes streaky at the plate. He hit well over .400 in extended spring training last year before plummeting to .222 once he repeated the Gulf Coast League. De los Santos plays with a lot of emotion, and sometimes it takes over. If he strikes out in his first at-bat of a game, he's a good bet to add a few more K's to the boxscore in subsequent plate appearances. As he matures and learns to deal with the successes and failures inherent in baseball, he could come around at the plate. He might never become a .300 hitter, but the Phillies would settle for his consistent glovework and a .260 average with 10 homers. How he handles short-season ball in 2003 should be telling.
Like many pitchers in the Philadelphia system, Hernandez has a tall, slender frame. Unlike the others, he doesn't possess a plus pitch or the same ceiling. Using an 86-88 mph fastball and a curveball, changeup and sinker, he makes his living through precision. He can throw any pitch to any location in any count. His command is an asset, but because he's always around the plate Hernandez has been very hittable. He led the Florida State League in losses last year, but threw better than that stat suggests. Hernandez has shown the ability to be a workhorse, topping the FSL in innings pitched after a full winter's work in Venezuela. He'll pitch in the Double-A rotation this year.