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Chicago Cubs Top 10 Prospects

By Jim Callis

1. Mark Prior, rhp

Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 225. Drafted: Southern California, 2001 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Fuller.

Cubs Top Prospects

1992 Lance Dickson, lhp
1993 Jessie Hollins, rhp
1994 Brooks Kieschnick, of
1995 Brooks Kieschnick, of
1996 Brooks Kieschnick, of
1997 Kerry Wood, rhp
1998 Kerry Wood, rhp
1999 Corey Patterson, of
2000 Corey Patterson, of
2001 Corey Patterson, of

Background: Flirting with a no-hitter against Louisiana State at the 2000 College World Series and starring that summer with Team USA’s college squad positioned Prior as the top pitching prospect for the 2001 draft. By the end of the season, several scouts called him the best college pitching prospect they ever had seen. After going 14-15 in his first two college seasons, Prior went 15-1, 1.69 with a Pacific-10 Conference-record 202 strikeouts and just 18 walks in 139 innings. Baseball America’s College Player of the Year passed Georgia Tech third baseman Mark Teixeira as the consensus best player available. Drafting first overall, the Twins opted for Minnesota high school catcher Joe Mauer. Picking second, the Cubs had determined in March they’d take Prior if they got the chance. Negotiations began in earnest in August, when Prior signed a four-year major league contract with a guaranteed worth of at least $10.5 million, a draft record, including a $4 million bonus.

Strengths: Prior has everything scouts dream about in a pitcher. He throws his fastball at 94-97 mph, and his uncanny command of the pitch may be more impressive than its considerable velocity and life. Scouts say they’ve never seen a 20-year-old pitcher locate his fastball at will like Prior does. He also can overmatch batters with his 12-to-6 curveball, another potential plus-plus pitch. Though he had little reason to give college hitters a fighting chance by throwing a changeup, Southern California coach Mike Gillespie insists Prior has a pretty good one. Prior has a classic pitcher’s body at 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds; his mechanics are flawless. He’s intelligent, poised and dedicated to his craft.

Weaknesses: Prior’s main need is experience. The Cubs wish Prior had headed to instructional league or the Arizona Fall League after he signed, but he returned to college to finish his degree. He’ll have to throw more changeups and get acclimated to throwing every fifth day as a pro.

The Future: Prior will be in big league camp and make his pro debut at Double-A West Tenn. A true No. 1 starter, he’s an obvious candidate for a September callup if he hasn’t reached Wrigley Field already. Scouts look at him and see the next Roger Clemens.

Did Not Play--Signed 2002 Contract

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