Pro Hitters I Saw in College

I thought I’d take a look at how some of the guys I saw in college are doing now that they’ve turned pro. These are players I saw during the 1998 and/or 1999 seasons. This time we’ll check out the hitters, next time, the pitchers.

The bad news is, I can’t say anything about Ryan Ludwick or Eric Munson, because for one reason or another I missed them when they came to San Diego. The good news is, I have seen some fine young hitters the past couple of years. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how they did in 1999.

                          00                   99
 PLAYER             Org  Age  School  Drafted Lvl  AVG   G  AB   R   H 2B 3B HR RBI  BB  SO  SB CS   SLG   OBP  E
#Blakely, Darren,OF Ana   23  Hawaii   98(5)   A+ .251 124 510  88 128 38 10 12  63  36 159  23 13  .435  .323  3
 Bush, Brian,OF     Phi   23  Michgn   99(12)  A  .233  38 129  12  30  3  0  0   7   7  32   4  5  .256  .298  2
*Crosby, Bubba,OF    LA   23   Rice    98(1)   A+ .296  96 371  53 110 21  3  1  37  42  71  19  8  .377  .376  5
 Da Luz, Craig,1B   Det   25  Fresno   98(26)  A  .264  87 314  36  83 14  5  3  49  20  46   3  1  .369  .311  9
*Ford, Will,OF      Mil   23   Rice    99(11)  R+ .341  53 179  38  61 14  4  5  46  22  27   5  5  .547  .413  2
 Hodge, Kevin,3B    Min   23   Rice    98(19)  A  .240 125 425  65 102 30  3 13  73  78  85   6  6  .416  .361 28
 Owens, Ryan,3B     Ari   22  Fllrtn   99(7)   A+ .398  26 103  19  41  7  3  4  28   9  30   1  2  .641  .447  9
                                               AA .319  31 113  11  36  5  1  1  18   8  36   1  2  .407  .371  9
 Oborn, Spencer,OF  ChA   ??  Fllrtn   99(14)  SIGNED LATE -- DID NOT PLAY
 Pelaez, Alex,3B     SD   24   SDSU    99(42)  A+ .298 117 443  62 132 21  4  4  54  35  53   7  3  .391  .349  9
                                              AAA .308   5  13   1   4  0  0  0   0   0   2   0  0  .308  .308  1
 Quinlan, Robb,3B   Ana   23  Minnst   99(10)  A- .322  73 295  51  95 20  1  9  77  35  52   5  3  .488  .400 27
#Scales, Bobby,2B    SD   22  Michgn   99(14)  R+ .290  44 169  47  49 14  6  1  30  29  31   7  2  .462  .398 10
 Thames, Damon,SS   StL   23   Rice    99(9)   A- .228  47 180  22  41  5  1  0  16   7  42  10  5  .267  .271 25
#Williams, Charl,OF StL   22   Rice    99(5)   A- .244  28  90  16  22  4  4  2   8  19  25   3  5  .444  .382  3

* bats left; # bats both

Darren Blakely: I don’t remember much about Blakely from his college days except that he was very fast and looked like an excellent athlete. I saw him again this past summer in the California/Carolina League All-Star Game, and he still fits that description. Blakely is kind of a ‘tweener as a prospect. On the one hand, he’s got a nice combination of power and speed, and he’s a switch-hitter who can play center field. On the other hand, he doesn’t walk enough, strikes out too much, and was a tad old for the Cal League. Still someone to watch.

Brian Bush: Bush flies and covers a lot of ground in center field. His arm is decent but not great. Bush is a good bunter. Despite his lack of homers in his pro debut, he also showed the ability to drive the ball into the gaps when I saw him in college. But power isn’t his game; speed and defense is.

Bubba Crosby: Crosby’s complete lack of power (1 HR in his first 570 ABs) at the beginning of his professional career is surprising to me. When I saw Crosby at Rice, he hit from a George Brett-like crouch but with more uppercut and unloaded on the pitch as it arrived, generating tremendous power. He was recovering from a hamstring injury when I saw him, so he didn’t play the field but I’ve heard he’s a good outfielder. I’d hoped to see Crosby in the California Fall League this year but he didn’t get into the San Bernardino game I attended.

Craig Da Luz: I was charting Da Luz’ teammate, RHP Jeff Weaver, the night I saw him play, so my recollection of Da Luz is a tad fuzzy. I do recall someone asking me how he was doing; I said I didn’t know but someone else mentioned that he had two or three hits. A third baseman in college, Da Luz was old for the Midwest League and didn’t show the type of power expected from a corner infielder.

Will Ford: Ford began the 1999 college season as Baseball America’s #89 college propsect but saw his stock fall despite a solid showing. He has a nice line drive stroke and uses the whole field. Ford tore up the Pioneer League this summer. We need to see what he does in a full-season league but he looks like a hitter to me.

Kevin Hodge: I can’t find my notes on Hodge but STATS’ John Sickels identified him as a possible sleeper from the 1998 draft and so far, so good. Again, Hodge was a bit old for the Midwest League but he showed a nice mix of power and bat control. He’s playing for an organization that has frequent openings at the big-league level. Worth keeping an eye on.

Ryan Owens: Owens, the 41st best college player according to Baseball America’s preseason rankings, made quite an impression in his pro debut, hitting over .300 at both Single- and Double-A. High Desert and El Paso are both very good park for hitters, but still, for a guy to hold his own in the Texas League just months out of college is impressive. When I saw him play in college, he showed good balance at the plate and above-average speed from first to third. In the field, although Owens played some shortstop at Fullerton, he looked a bit stiff at third base when I saw him. A line drive machine, Owens could advance quickly through the Diamondbacks system.

Spencer Oborn: Oborn signed just before the minor league season ended and didn’t make it into any games. A transfer from BYU, he was Baseball America’s 85th best college player before the season. A straight-up hitter, Oborn has very quiet hands and generates doubles power with a compact, line-drive stroke. He runs well and is an adept bunter. He’s big enough (6’3″, 190 lbs.) to eventually develop 15-20 HR power. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Oborn can do in the pros.

Alex Pelaez: I saw Pelaez play numerous times but I never paid much attention to him because I was usually watching someone else on the other team. He had a decent year at Rancho Cucamonga but was a bit old for the league. Pelaez even filled in for a few games at Triple-A Las Vegas. In an organization that features Sean Burroughs, it’s hard to imagine him getting much of an opportunity but you never know.

Rob Quinlan: The younger brother of journeyman infielder Tom Quinlan, this Quinlan is a line-drive machine. He has the misfortune of being stuck behind Troy Glaus, who is the same age. Quinlan can hit, though, and guys who can hit have a way of creating opportunities for themselves, so don’t be surprised to see him in the Show one of these years.

Bobby Scales: Scales had a nice debut but before you get too excited, remember that he was a college draftee playing in the Pioneer League, so he should have performed well. Still, he appears to have made the transition to wood nicely. I like his walk rate and number of extra base hits. I’m guessing he’ll start 2000 at Ft. Wayne, in the Midwest League.

Damon Thames: Thames hit 26 homers in 268 at bats as a junior and was rewarded by being drafted in the 10th round by the New York Yankees. He didn’t sign and returned to Rice for his senior season, where he hit 9 homers in 287 at bats. Even when he was putting up the numbers, I wasn’t overly impressed with him. He had a long swing, and off-speed and breaking pitches appeared to give him trouble. But he sure can crush a fastball. Defensively, while he has decent range to both sides, his glovework and his arm can be erratic, as shown by his 25 errors in just 47 games at New Jersey. Thames has good raw power for a middle infielder, so anything is possible, but he really needs to tighten up his swing to kick his career into high gear.

Charles Williams: Williams’ stock rose dramatically just prior to the June 1999 draft. Baseball America said of him, “Most scouts see his present tools as solid across the board and disagree on how projectable he is.” When I saw him, the main thing that grabbed my attention was his ability to work the count. In an extremely limited sample, that ability appears to have translated to the pro game. As with many of these guys, we need to see him in a full-season league before we get too excited. I have a good feeling about Williams, though.

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