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Bridges was the first of eight selections the Expos had before the start of the second round in the 1997 draft as compensation for the loss of Moises Alou and Mel Rojas to free agency, and the failure to sign 1996 first-rounder John Patterson. After two undistinguished years, Bridges began to assert himself as a prospect in 1999 and continued his rise last season. After starting 2000 at high Class A Jupiter, he was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, where Eastern League managers selected him as the circuit's No. 3 prospect. He started 30 games between the two levels and showed the makings of a workhorse, ranking second overall in the minors with 201 total innings. His 16 wins were one off the minor league lead. Bridges pitched briefly in the Arizona Fall League but the Expos wisely sent him home after two outings. Bridges is a big, strong power pitcher with a full assortment of above-average pitches. Though he has the stuff to blow hitters away, his ability to throw with command and purpose to both sides of the plate may be more impressive. He has an easy delivery and throws a consistent 94-95 mph fastball with late movement. He complements it with a devastating 80-82 mph power curve that gets good spin and bite, and an improving 75-78 mph changeup. Expos officials praise Bridges for his pitching acumen, bulldog makeup and intelligence. He also can wield the bat quite well for a pitcher, as his five pinch-hit at-bats attest. Bridges made huge strides in the control department last year, but still needs to continue to improve the command of his changeup, which he has a habit of overthrowing at times. Like most young pitchers, he needs to be more consistent from start to start. Pitching more than 200 innings at 21 isn't the best way to prepare for a long career, though Bridges wasn't responsible for how he was used. The Expos are hoping their pitching staff at the major league level returns to health so Bridges can receive a full season at Triple-A Ottawa before he vies for a spot in Montreal. He projects to be an innings eater at the front of a rotation.
Phillips comes from a family of athletes. His mother was a basketball star at Shaw University in North Carolina, where she met his father, a running back on the football team. Brandon's older brother Jamil played in the Rangers system and his sister Porsha is a nationally ranked junior sprinter. Brandon has been compared to a young Barry Larkin. He is a high-ceiling middle infielder with a live, athletic body; an above-average shortstop with soft hands, solid range, plus arm strength and superior lateral movement. He's a line-drive hitter with plenty of bat speed and projects above-average power for his position. Phillips is an average runner with good baserunning skills. The Expos speak highly of his intelligence. For all his tools, Phillips still needs to refine his skills. He routinely makes the spectacular play, but his youth sometimes shows up in the field and he loses concentration. He's prone to not squaring up on his throws, causing throwing errors. The Expos have an abundance of slick-fielding shortstops, but he's their long-term answer. He'll begin the 2001 season at high A Jupiter and a quick ascent is a distinct possibility.
One of the top two-way players in NCAA history, Wilkerson struggled when he made his pro debut at the Double-A level in 1999. He returned there and flourished in 2000, earning a promotion to Triple-A and ranking second in the minors with a combined 47 doubles. He finished the season in Sydney as the center fielder on the U.S. Olympic team. Bad news came after that, though, as Wilkerson tried to play in the Arizona Fall League but succumbed to shoulder pain. He had surgery to repair the labrum and rotator cuff in his left shoulder in December and was expected to miss spring training. Assuming a full recovery, he has the classic tools of a right fielder. He has a smooth, compact swing from the left side, with outstanding bat speed and extension that should enable him to hit with above-average power. He's disciplined at the plate. He's a solid corner outfielder with a strong arm and average speed. Wilkerson's troubles two years ago were a blessing in disguise. He realized he needed to improve and entered 2000 in much better condition. He lacks the speed to play center as a pro. With right field blocked by Vladimir Guerrero, Wilkerson could be bound for left or even first base in Montreal. He would have competed for a job in spring training, but now he'll head to Triple-A when he's ready to play again, probably in May.
Girdley gained national notoriety when he stuck out 29 batters in a 10-inning game in high school in 1999. The Expos have seen no need to rush him, keeping him in short-season leagues for two years. He dominated the New York-Penn League last year and was named the circuit's No. 3 prospect. Girdley has a projectable body with long arms and legs. He comes at batters with three above-average pitches: a 92-93 mph fastball with late life, a curveball that has a tight downward rotation, and a changeup that he throws with excellent arm speed. His mechanics are smooth and effortless, which gives him the potential for plus command, and he does an outstanding job of repeating his delivery. Girdley is physically immature and needs to add weight and strength. Expos officials rave about the way he competes but would like to see him pitch inside more. He missed instructional league with a double hernia but should be fine by spring training. Girdley projects as a frontline starter. He'll get his first taste of full-season ball in 2001 with Montreal's new low Class A Clinton affiliate.
Wayne became the first native Hawaiian selected in the first round of the draft when the Expos grabbed him fifth overall. An All-American at Stanford, where he set school records for single-season victories and career strikeouts, he lost the College World Series championship game in relief against Louisiana State. Wayne, whose brother Hawkeye pitches in the Mariners system, signed for a team-record $2.95 million bonus. Wayne is a polished pitcher with a smooth delivery and four solid pitches. His fastball is more notable for its movement than its 88-92 mph velocity, and his slider is his best pitch. He has a plus changeup and solid curveball, and he can command all of his pitches. The Expos can't say enough about his intelligence and makeup. Wayne has a deep repertoire but doesn't have a go-to pitch that strikes fear in the heart of batters. His margin for error isn't as great as that of Donnie Bridges or Josh Girdley. Though the Expos gave Wayne some time off after his long college season, he's definitely on the fast track. He should get to Double-A this season and could be in Montreal by early 2002.
Sizemore was a standout football player--he rushed for 1,199 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior quarterback/running back--who planned to play both baseball and football at Washington before Montreal lured him away with a $2 million bonus. The Expos view Sizemore as a special player. They rave about his athleticism and ability to pick up instruction. He has impressive bat speed, uses the whole field, and has an advanced understanding of the strike zone. He keeps the bat head in the hitting zone a long time and projects to hit with above-average power. He runs a 6.6 60-yard dash and gets good jumps in center field. Sizemore has average arm strength and still displays some stiffness in his throwing stroke because of his football background. Montreal officials believe it will smooth out with time. He has trouble catching up to anything up in the strike zone. Ranked the No. 8 prospect in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season, Sizemore has the ability and makeup to move quickly. The Expos expect him to start 2001 with short-season Vermont but think Clinton is a realistic possibility.
Hodges is yet another member of Montreal's vaunted 1997 draft bonanza who asserted himself as a bona fide prospect last year. He set career highs across the board while earning a spot on Baseball America's postseason high Class A all-star team. Hodges' best tool is his bat, which is one of the best in the system. He has above-average bat speed with quiet hands to the ball when he strides. He has a smooth, level swing with good top-hand extension and follow-though. Hodges is an aggressive hitter with plus power potential. He's a solid third baseman with an average arm and speed. Hodges shortened his stroke in 2000 and abandoned the high leg kick that had triggered his swing. The changes kept his head still and increased his ability to make contact. He still needs to develop physically and work on the mental aspects of his game. With Michael Barrett back behind the plate, Hodges appeared to be the third baseman of the future until the Expos traded for Fernando Tatis. He should begin the 2000 season at Double-A, with a chance for a promotion to Triple-A.
Tucker began 2000 at Double-A and pitched well in seven starts before a promotion to Montreal. In his second of two starts with the Expos, he left with a strained right forearm. He made one rehab outing with Harrisburg before getting shut down for the season and undergoing arthroscopic elbow surgery. Tucker is a big body who's praised for his competitiveness, acumen and feel for pitching. He has outstanding command of a 90-93 mph fastball that has a bit of tail. He supplements his fastball with a nasty 75-78 mph curveball with a 12-to-6 downward break, and a straight changeup. It's imperative that Tucker improve both his strength and conditioning. He lacks command with his curveball at times, but it's a dominant pitch when he consistently throws it for strikes. After pitching well in instructional league, Tucker is expected to be healthy and ready to go for spring training. If he's able to get in a full Triple-A season, he should challenge for a spot in the Montreal rotation in 2002.
Ruan hit .348 in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 1997, then struggled mightily with the bat in his next two seasons. He emerged in 2000, finishing second in the Class A South Atlantic League in hits and stolen bases. Ruan has a wiry athletic body with well-defined muscles and loose flexible actions. He's an outstanding center fielder with well above-average flychasing skills and a cannon for an arm. In addition, he's a top-of-the-scale runner with good first-step quickness and keen baserunning ability. At the plate, Ruan has impressive bat speed and sprays line drives from line to line. He's aggressive at the plate to a fault. He's never going to have much power--he has just two homers in 305 games in the United States--and needs to concentrate on getting on base. His strike-zone judgment and pitch selection leave a lot to be desired. After two seasons in the Sally League, Ruan is ready for high Class A in 2002. The Expos already have a pair of young center fielders in the big leagues in Peter Bergeron and Milton Bradley, so competition awaits Ruan in the future.
Lockwood was a standout baseball and football player in high school. He was a two-way star on the diamond, leading his league in homers while dominating on the mound. On the gridiron, he was an all-area quarterback who topped his league in touchdown passes. Lockwood has a lanky athletic frame that projects to get bigger and stronger. His balanced delivery and quick, easy arm action provide the foundation for above-average command. His fastball has good movement and consistently hits 87-90 mph, and he can top out at 91-92 when he needs a little extra. Lockwood also has a nasty curveball with plenty of tilt. His circle changeup is still in the early stages of development because he never had to use it much in high school. With work, it can be a plus pitch. He needs to improve his strength. When Expos officials talk about Lockwood, the first word is always "moxie" or "mature." Those traits are the reason they'll challenge him with a full season in the Florida State League at 19.
Cepicky made scouts take notice when he ranked among the leaders in all three triple-crown categories in the prestigious Cape Cod League in the summer of 1998, then did the same in NCAA Division I while earning All-America honors the following spring. He's a heavy-hitting outfielder who frequently draws comparisons to Ryan Klesko because of his bat and tools. Power potential and work ethic are Cepicky's strong suits, with his lefthanded power grading out as a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. His power didn't translate into home runs last season, in part because he doesn't always wait for pitches he can drive. He has good bat speed and makes consistent contact, however. Cepicky runs well for a man his size, and his prowess on the basepaths enabled him to swipe 32 bags last season. Defensively, his range and arm are average for a left fielder. He'll probably open 2001 in Double-A.
Schneider made his big league debut in 2000, when he had three separate stints with Montreal. He didn't hit as well in Triple-A or the majors as he had in Double-A the year before, but he still projects as an offensive catcher with power potential. He has a compact swing, and as he continues to add strength and plate discipline, he should increase his power numbers. He has catlike agility behind the plate, with quick feet and outstanding receiving skills. Schneider has only average arm strength but compensates with accuracy and a quick release. He threw out 32 percent of the basestealers who tested him last season. Montreal's offseason trade for Fernando Tatis cemented Michael Barrett's future behind the plate and essentially cut off Schneider's chances of starting for the Expos. But he could make the big league club as his backup in 2001.
It has been a slow, steady climb up the ladder for Mateo. Drafted as shortstop in 1995, he immediately switched to second base to accommodate first-rounder Michael Barrett. Barrett since has become a catcher/third baseman, while Mateo has remained at second. He's a switch-hitting, athletic middle infielder with solid tools across the board. His speed registers a 65 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and he enhances it with good first-step quickness on the basepaths. He swings the bat well from both sides of the plate with gap power. Defensively he has smooth actions, plus range and plenty of arm strength. Mateo projects as a No. 2 hitter, but still needs to improve his ability to make contact and draw walks. He made strides in doing so last season. Mateo is ready for Triple-A, though his future is clouded by the emergence of Jose Vidro as a star in Montreal.
Many people think the Expos fleeced the Cardinals when they got Fernando Tatis for Dustin Hermanson and Steve Kline in December, and Reames could prove to be a nice throw-in. He was the Cardinals' minor league pitcher of the year in 1996, when he fell one win short of the Class A Midwest League's pitching triple crown. Then he tore a ligament in his elbow, had Tommy John surgery and missed all of 1997 and 1998. Like many recent pitchers, Reames has come back stronger than ever. His fastball now works at 90-93 mph with good sink and run. He complements it with a solid average curveball, a plus changeup and a bulldog mentality on the mound. Reames was effective after joining the Cardinals last year, including allowing just one run in 10 postseason innings. Montreal will give him every opportunity to replace Hermanson in the rotation this spring.
Mitchell had an impressive resume as an amateur. In the summer of 1999, he was named the top prospect at the East Coast Professional Baseball Showcase and pitched in the Dixie Majors World Series. Last spring, he pitched Bladenboro High to the North Carolina 1-A state championship while going 10-1, 0.39 with 157 strikeouts and 18 walks in 71 innings. Mitchell has a medium-sized pitcher's build with a loose, tension-free arm. His delivery is solid and compact. He throws a 90-94 mph with explosive sink and complements it with a promising 76-78 mph curveball with good spin. The most impressive thing about him is the late break he gets on both his fastball and curve. He also throws a slider and changeup, which are less advanced. After holding his own in the Gulf Coast League, Mitchell probably will step up to Clinton in 2001.
Outside of Brad Wilkerson, the Expos don't have a lot to show for their 1998 draft. That crop took a hit in spring training when Good, its second-most promising player, sprained a nerve in his elbow. He didn't pitch in a game until June, then lasted just eight starts before getting shut down. His rehab has gone according to plan, so Good should start 2001 with a clean bill of health. He has a lean, athletic body with an effortless delivery. His two-seam fastball sits in the 88-91 mph range with good life, and should reach 92-94 mph once he fills out. He supplements his fastball with a plus curveball that has a tight rotation and a sharp downward break. Good's approach to pitching is solid, but he needs to get stronger and learn how to compete and not make excuses. If all goes well, he'll start 2001 at Clinton.
Pascucci starred in baseball, basketball and water polo in high school, and turned down the Brewers as a 10th-round pick in 1996 to attend Oklahoma. Primarily a pitcher for the Sooners, he caught the eye of Expos area scout Joe Jordan while playing the outfield as a freshman. Pascucci has had no problems hitting as a pro, showing the ability to drive the ball out of any part of the park. He also has exceptional discipline at the plate and average speed on the bases. He does have the long swing expected from a player his size, so he can get tied up by balls in on his hands. Pascucci has adequate range and a plus arm that makes him a right fielder. He'll have to keep proving himself, and he has earned the chance to do so in Double-A this season.
Based on pure stuff, the Expos thought Lee was one of the top three college lefthanders available in the 2000 draft. He was selected out of high school by the Marlins (eighth round, 1997) and out of Meridian (Miss.) Community College by the Orioles (20th round, 1998). He has a prototype pitcher's body with long arms and legs. Lee has two plus pitches, an 88-93 mph fastball and a curveball. He also throws a slider and a straight changeup. Lee didn't have much success in 2000 at Arkansas or Cape Fear, primarily because he has an inconsistent delivery that hampers his ability to throw strikes. He has a tendency to lose his stuff quickly after dominating for a couple of innings, and responded when the Razorbacks moved him to the bullpen. Montreal used him as a starter in his pro debut, and will do so again this year in Class A.
Mattes spent one season at junior college before signing as a draft-and-follow. He made good progress through the system and made Montreal's top 15 list after the 1996 season. Arm trouble over the next couple of seasons stunted his development until he rebounded in 2000 at Double-A and in the Arizona Fall League, where he ranked fourth with a 1.50 ERA. Mattes has regained his velocity and can maintain it, reaching as high as 97 mph but more regularly pitching in the low 90s. His size allows him to pitch on a nice downhill plane, and he supplements his heat with a 82-83 mph slurve. While he has made enormous progress, some parts of his game still need work. He needs to improve his command of his slurve and changeup, and he needs to learn to set a tempo that will allow him to pitch deeper into games. Mattes will move up to Triple-A this season and could get a look in Montreal at some point.
As a freshman pitcher in junior college, Reding caught the eye of former Expos area scout Mark Baca, who became even more impressed by Reding's overall athleticism when he moved to shortstop. He was named the South Atlantic League's best defensive shortstop in 1998, but the highlights have dwindled since then. He's still outstanding with the glove, as he has soft hands to go with above-average arm strength and range. He also has plus speed and the instincts to steal bases. But Reding's career .311 on-base percentage and .300 slugging percentage beg the question about whether he'll ever hit enough to play in the major leagues. He has a good balance and bat speed, but he lacks the strength to drive the ball and the selectivity to make consistent contact and get on base. At times he'll let a bad at-bat affect his play in the field. After a disastrous 2000 performance in Double-A, Reding should return there and try again this season.
McKinley was the 11th overall selection in the 1998 draft, in large part because he agreed to a predraft deal for a below-market $1.25 million. He was named to the Gulf Coast League all-star team in his pro debut but has stalled in low Class A since then. Drafted as a shortstop, McKinley now finds himself at second base. The Expos are pleased with the adjustments that he has made defensively. Now he needs to the same at the plate. He has a short swing from both sides of the plate and he's willing to draw a walk. But his occasional gap power isn't an acceptable tradeoff for inconsistent contact. He has average speed and can steal bases with his terrific instincts. The Florida State League will provide a strong test for McKinley this season.
Valdez was signed out of Nizao Bani, the same hometown as Vladimir Guerrero. An outstanding defensive shortstop with instincts beyond his years, he possesses soft hands and excellent range. His arm strength is above-average and he has quick, smooth actions to the ball. Former Expos minor league infield instructor Jerry Royster went so far as to say that Valdez was the best defensive shortstop he had ever seen. His body has matured and started to fill out since he came to the United States in 1999. He projects as a line-drive hitter with potential gap power, but he has a long swing and is too impatient at the plate. Valdez makes the most of his average speed by getting solid jumps and reads on the basepaths. As with Josh Reding and Josh McKinley, Valdez will have to hit in order to show off his defensive prowess in Montreal. He's finally ready for his first extended stint in full-season ball.
After righthander Jorge Julio was traded to the Orioles in December for third baseman Ryan Minor, Tetz inherited Julio's title as having the best fastball in the system. Tetz has a mature body made for power pitching. His fastball tops out in the 94-96 mph range and features good boring action and life. The reason he doesn't rank higher is that he doesn't have much else going for him at this point. He scrapped his curveball last season at the suggestion of Montreal officials, and while his slider has plus potential, it still needs considerable work. He throws a changeup that isn't terribly effective. The Expos have cleaned up Tetz' delivery, but he can be erratic with his release point, causing problems with his command. He walked nearly as many batters as he struck out in 2000, and he got hit after his promotion to high Class A, where he'll probably return in 2001. Tetz moved from the rotation to the bullpen last year, and the Expos believe he has a chance to be a closer.
Norderum became one of 2000's top draft-and-follow prospects after an outstanding season at Sacramento City College. He pitched well in every outing at one of the nation's best junior college programs, going 9-1, 2.10 with 91 strikeouts in 65 innings. He decided to sign with Montreal for a bonus in excess of $500,000 rather than going back into the draft. Norderum has a mature pitcher's body with strong legs and thighs. He has a solid, balanced delivery that should translate into plus command, though he struggled with his control in his pro debut. Norderum throws an 87-92 mph fastball with above-average movement and a curveball with nice downward break. His third pitch is a changeup that's still in development. The Expos expect bigger things out of him this year, when he'll open at Clinton.
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