Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
Background: To say Wells had an incredible and unprecedented run since the end of 1998 would not be stretching the truth. He has appeared on 10 rosters during that time: Sydney in the Australian League, Blue Jays spring training, Class A Dunedin, Florida State League all-star game, the U.S. team for the Futures Game, Double-A Knoxville, Triple-A Syracuse, Toronto, instructional league and Peoria in the Arizona Fall League. Wells was voted the No. 1 prospect in the FSL, the Southern League and the International League, an unprecedented honor. Wells' big league debut included a four-hit game, and he led the AFL in extra-base hits to cap off his run. Wells' father played professional football, and Wells himself could have had his choice of nationally ranked football schools out of high school. Strengths: Baseball executives love to say the sport is losing athletes like Wells to football and basketball. He has a rare combination of speed, power, balance and athletic presence. He has a short, compact swing that should guarantee a high average at all times. Wells' speed is above-average but he has a strong, loping stride that gives him deceptive quickness both on the bases and in center field. His instincts are strong in center field, and he has an accurate throwing arm with above-average strength. Wells' makeup has served him well in handling his rapid advancement. Weaknesses: Wells hasn't learned to loft the ball for consistent home run power, and any 400-foot drives he hits are more a matter of overpowering the ball with pure bat speed and physical strength. The Blue Jays would like to see him continue to become more aggressive on the bases and in tracking balls in center. The Future: Scouts say Wells still has plenty of room to improve. The Blue Jays have tried to keep their expectations realistic, pointing to his age and still-evolving feel for the game. Although he started in the big leagues much of September, Wells probably will start 2000 in Triple-A while the Blue Jays give Jose Cruz Jr. one more shot at becoming a regular center fielder.
Background: Lopez had a trying upbringing. His mother died when he was three, and his stepmother died when he was 11. His uncle, Brewers minor leaguer Roberto Lopez, assumed a strong role in his life and his baseball career, sitting out a year of play to help Felipe when he was a high school senior. Strengths: Lopez is a potential five-tool talent. His silky smooth hands and strong arm remind scouts of Omar Vizquel, but Lopez projects at least average power at the plate. He has excellent speed, especially down the first-base line. Weaknesses: Lopez has not learned how to play within himself, especially on offense. His pitch recognition is weak, leading to too many strikeouts. He especially needs more discipline from the left side. Lopez needs better baserunning skills to take advantage of his speed. The Future: Lopez has the highest ceiling of Toronto's many middle-infield prospects. The organization's depth means he will be brought along slowly.
Background: Izturis compares favorably to countryman Vizquel, in fact better than Lopez does. Despite being one of the younger players in the league, Izturis was the Florida State League's No. 5 prospect. Izturis played 45 games at second base and 84 at shortstop for Class A Dunedin. Strengths: Izturis has exceptional baseball instincts. He's a plus runner with the quickness to play short on artificial turf. He combines soft hands and good lower-body balance with a strong throwing arm. Izturis is a slap hitter from both sides but can drive the ball into the gaps occasionally. Advanced for his age, he is an excellent bunter and hit-and-run artist. Weaknesses: Izturis doesn't have a high ceiling offensively and will have to continue to hone his skills, especially in learning how to use his good hand-eye coordination to draw more walks. The Future: Izturis already speaks fluent English and is considered a leader by the organization, which will help his advancement.
Background: Young was primarily an outfielder in college and didn't become a full-time middle infielder until he joined the Blue Jays. Young alternated between second base and shortstop at Dunedin and played short in the California Fall League. Strengths: Young has two above-average tools in his arm strength and speed. His actions are best suited to second base, where his arm gives him a powerful weapon. Young has a short, quick swing and can drive the ball to right-center field with authority. He handles the bat well and has good plate discipline. Weaknesses: The organization has persuaded Young to become more aggressive on the bases because he has the physical ability to steal more bases. Young's actions in the middle infield can be long but are improving. The Future: Multitalented middle infielders are too valuable, so Young will stay in the infield. If he continues to improve, Young could rack up 50 stolen bases and 50 extra-base hits at Double-A Knoxville in 2000.