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Background: Barrett has been forced to learn two new positions since entering the organization but he keeps producing. After signing as a shortstop, he moved behind the plate during instructional league of his first pro year. He turned himself into an outstanding catching prospect, but the Expos decided midway through the 1998 season to move Barrett to third base. For the remainder of the season, he alternated between catcher and third before settling on third in the Arizona Fall League. Despite the shuffling, he was the Eastern League's No. 1 prospect in 1998. Strengths: Scouts refer to Barrett as "a ballplayer, with tools." He has the natural ability and the desire to be a star. If anything, he has thrived on the emotional and mental demands of playing multiple positions. He has excellent bat speed and consistently makes hard contact to all fields, rarely either walking or striking out. Barrett's defensive tools are first-rate across the board both behind the plate and at third base. At either position, he is a Gold Glove candidate with plus arm strength and easy, smooth actions. Weaknesses: Barrett is not a fast runner, which necessitated his original move from shortstop. But he has quick enough feet to play third or catch. He is slowly growing into his power potential, but the Expos have been careful not to put too much stress in that area of his development. The Future: The Expos have been criticized in many circles for shifting a potential all-star catcher, a rare and valuable commodity, to another position for the sake of Chris Widger and Bob Henley. Perhaps Barrett could move back behind the plate, but for now he will challenge Shane Andrews for the major league third-base job in spring training. And the arbitration-eligible Andrews might not even be around at the start of the season.
Background: Bergeron was largely overlooked out of high school, even though he was a rare versatile talent from the Northeast. Despite their revolving door in center field, the Dodgers included him in the Mark Grudzielanek/Carlos Perez trade. Strengths: The oft-repeated comparison of Bergeron to Brett Butler is a poor one; his build and tools are along the lines of a Steve Finley. He is a sub four-second runner to first base and an excellent bunter, plus he has the strength to drive the ball to the gaps. An ideal leadoff hitter, he also has above-average range in center field and good arm strength. Weaknesses: Bergeron's major fault at the plate is that he leaves the outside half of the strike zone uncovered, which robs him of his power. He improved in this area in the Arizona Fall League. The Future: Bergeron will start the 1999 season as one of the youngest players in Triple-A and with any success he'll see Montreal during the year.
Background: Lilly came to the Expos as part of the same trade that netted Bergeron, Wilton Guerrero and outfielder/first baseman Jon Tucker. He was the Dodgers No. 5 prospect last offseason. Strengths: Though he does not have an intimidating presence, Lilly has power pitcher's stuff and has struck out 403 hitters in 370 minor league innings. His low 90s fastball has exceptional life in the strike zone and he throws a hard two-plane curveball as his strikeout pitch. Weaknesses: Lilly is still developing his changeup. He was pushed quickly through the Dodgers system and struggled a little in his first exposure to Triple-A hitters, a sign that he still needs refinement. The Future: Lilly bears a strong resemblance to former Expos lefthander Jeff Fassero, and Montreal wouldn't mind seeing the same results. Even after a solid winter in Puerto Rico, odds are he'll be at Triple-A Ottawa to start the year.
Background: Mota labored as a shortstop in the Mets system for six years, never rising above Class A ball, before the Expos took him in the minor league portion of the 1996 Rule 5 draft. They immediately shifted him to the mound. Strengths: In an organization of hard throwers, Mota easily lays claim to the top fastball. He throws a 98 mph heater and a plus slider. The Expos say he has an uncanny ability to throw strikes. He also has a carefree attitude on the mound that hitters mistake for arrogance, but the Expos feel that contributes to his mystique. Weaknesses: Mota had elbow surgery for an unusual bone injury in August 1997, and the Expos were conservative in his rehab in 1998. He'll go full-steam this year. He needs to use the inside of the plate more and try to get hitters to chase more balls. The Future: The Expos see Mota setting up closer Ugueth Urbina soon, possibly as early as this season.
Background: Armas is the son of former power-hitting outfielder Tony Armas, one of the most beloved players in Venezuelan history. The younger Armas was originally signed by the Yankees as one of the first Venezuelans to top the $100,000 bonus barrier. He's been traded twice since. Strengths: Armas presents the whole package as a pitcher. He throws a low 90s fastball, a plus changeup and a promising curveball--all for strikes. On the mound, he has a composed confidence that is a product of his baseball background. Weaknesses: For the most part, Armas just needs to fine-tune his skills. His curveball needs the most work of his three pitches. The Expos also feel he has room to get stronger. The Future: Barely out of his teens, Armas likely will start 1999 in Double-A. Given his talent and maturity, it would surprise no one in Montreal to see him move to the big leagues without any setbacks.
Background: Bradley blossomed offensively in his first exposure to full-season Class A, combining both power and speed. He continued his strong play in the Maryland Fall League, but was suspended after a physical confrontation with an umpire. With the Delmarva Rockfish this fall, the switch-hitting Bradley hit .330-5-22 in 106 at-bats. Strengths: The Expos compare Bradley's offense to Rondell White's at the same stage. They have similar skills and outfield instincts. Bradley has demonstrated above-average arm strength and the ability to make acrobatic catches. Weaknesses: Bradley has a reputation as being intelligent, but overly sensitive at times. The Expos make no excuses for the incident this fall, but feel that Bradley has made tremendous strides in his approach and attitude. The Future: The Expos stress time and patience when discussing Bradley, but also don't hesitate to praise his ability. They feel his performance in 1998, especially after moving up to the Florida State League, was a reinforcement of Bradley's emotional development.
Background: A native of Panama, Seguignol was 20 years old in April 1995 when the Yankees traded him to Montreal in exchange for Expos closer and future World Series MVP John Wetteland. After years of searching for consistent power, he found it last season. Strengths: Seguignol is a large, graceful athlete with plus power potential as a switch-hitter. He hits equally well from both sides of the plate and has improved at pitch recognition. Weaknesses: Seguignol has played first base for most of his career, where he has above-average defensive potential. He is still learning the fundamentals for left field. As a power hitter, his four-year average of 133 strikeouts a season comes with the territory. The Future: Seguignol's September call-up to the majors has put him in position to win a job in spring training. He might start the year in Triple-A, but the Expos see him as a future middle-of-the-order slugger.
Background: Westbrook and fellow pitching prospects Mark Mangum and John Nicholson joined the Expos in the Mike Lansing trade last winter. Down the line, the Rockies might regret losing any arms that could have helped tame Coors Field. Strengths: Just two years removed from high school, Westbrook is a polished, mature pitcher. He throws strikes with three pitches--a low 90s fastball, a curveball and a straight change. He could be a workhorse for the future, having never missed a professional start. He's averaged almost six innings an outing. Weaknesses: Westbrook's minor league strikeout totals are mediocre, especially for a top prospect, and call into question his deception. He may need more life and crispness on his pitches to make hitters swing and miss at the upper levels. The Future: Westbrook has a lot of pluses in his corner and is more advanced than most of the Expos cadre of young, talented arms. He'll face an important test at Double-A this year.
Background: A low-round pick out of high school, Henley has slowly worked his way through the system. He made the most of his extended playing time in Montreal late in 1998. Strengths: Although he hit for average in his trial with the Expos, Henley is most valued for his defensive skills. He calls an excellent game, is fearless in blocking balls and effectively shuts down the running game. His offensive strength is as a situational hitter, but he has shown he can drive mistakes for extra bases. Weaknesses: Henley has overcome injuries throughout his career, including a serious concussion in 1997 and elbow problems in 1998. Expos officials say he is a magnet on foul balls and constantly has to play at less than full health. The Future: Top prospect Michael Barrett was shifted to third base in recognition of Chris Widger's skills, but Henley still put himself into the Montreal catching picture. If he stays healthy in 1999, he might nail down a permanent big league spot.
Background: Wilkerson was one of the top two-way players in NCAA history, but he slid out of the first round on draft day--perhaps because of signability concerns. After telling Wilkerson during the College World Series that they wouldn't take him with their regular first-round pick, the Expos took a chance on him later. He agreed to a $1 million bonus at the end of the summer. Strengths: Many scouts considered Wilkerson equally talented as a pitching prospect. As a hitter, Wilkerson has a smooth, Will Clark-like swing and good power potential. In the outfield, he has the instincts but not the speed to play center. He'll probably end up in right field. Weaknesses: Wilkerson may have become too power-conscious last year, as his swing broke down mechanically. He will have to make adjustments after sitting out all summer while negotiating his contract. The Future: Expect Wilkerson to make a smooth transition to wood bats in Class A, where the Expos will start him in 1999.