Ben Davis and Matt Harrington

I was going to talk about Ben Davis, but that turned into a full-blown article. Funny the things that can happen when you wake up at 4:30 and have time to do actual research.

In other news, in the latest issue of Baseball America, Alan Schwarz has an excellent article on Matt Harrington and his bitter contract negotiations with the Rockies. It doesn’t cast a very favorable light on any of the parties involved but it’s a great read. Check it out if you have a chance…

ESPN’s New Center Field Camera Angle

Looks like I’m not the only one who doesn’t like ESPN’s new center field camera angle.

Klesko, Lawrence, Nady

Turns out David Bacani was just getting started when I had to return to work. He knocked another homer, as Fullerton cruised to an 11-2 victory that knocked Tulane out of the tournament.

. . .

Ryan Klesko is hitting a weak .190/.238/.311 against lefties this year but he sure had a nice at-bat against A’s southpaw Mike Magnante last night. After falling behind, Klesko worked the count to 2-and-2 before drilling a Magnante offering into the second deck in right field. Unfortunately the ball ended up just foul. Klesko then hit a lazy fly ball to Terrance Long on the eighth pitch of the at-bat.

For the record, Klesko is hitting a ridiculous .340/.451/.724 against righties.

I also got to see Brian Lawrence pitch. While I still think the folks over at Baseball Prospectus are way too enthusiastic about this guy, I understand why they like him. His pitches have good late movement, and he can spot them pretty well. But righthanders with fastballs that top out at 86 MPH have to continually prove themselves in order to get and keep a job at the big-league level. If he gets a legitimate shot at a rotation spot, Lawrence could probably follow in the footsteps of Bobby Jones and Brian Tollberg, or maybe even Rick Reed. But with so many other options in the system, it remains to be seen whether he’ll get that opportunity with the Padres.

Speaking of the Padres system, talk of moving Xavier Nady to second base won’t die. He’s currently playing first at Lake Elsinore (where he’s hitting .310/.385/.539 after a slow start) to protect his elbow from an injury sustained in the Arizona Fall League.

Finally, the Padres and second-round draft pick Matt Harrington apparently have gotten off to a good start. Of course, that’s easy to say now because they haven’t yet talked money. Both sides sound optimistic but we’ll see…

Thoughts on the College World Series

We just got another dog this weekend, so I’ve taken to going home for lunch to check up on him and our other dog. Which also means I’m getting to watch some of the College World Series.

This afternoon I got to see a couple innings of the Tulane-Cal State Fullerton game. I saw Padres first-round pick Jake Gautreau bat. Good balance, good patience, nice approach to the ball. He hit a sharp grounder up the middle that looked like a base hit, but Fullerton second baseman David Bacani came out of nowhere to make a spectacular diving stop and turn it into an inning-ending double play.

In the bottom half of the inning Gautreau made a fine play of his own, sprawling for a bunt that was popped up into foul territory off third base. Bacani continued his heroics later in the inning, smacking a three-run homer that put Fullerton up, 6-0. Bacani is a senior, and I don’t believe he was drafted, but he made an impression on me when I saw him play back in 1999, and I still think he could do something at the next level if given the chance.

One other thing I have to mention is ESPN’s new center field camera angle. I’m all for innovation but only when it actually improves on what’s currently in place. It’s not as annoying as listening to Ray Knight (what is?) but one of the things I like to watch in the pitcher-batter matchup is how the ball breaks as it moves toward home plate. That’s easy enough to do with the camera low over the center field fence looking from right behind the pitcher into the catchers mitt, but good luck with this new angle. The only advantage I can see to what ESPN is doing now is that it’s easier to tell whether a pitch is inside, over the plate, or outside. That’s nice in limited quantities (watch the Cubs on WGN for a good example of how to use this technique properly) but it gets old pretty quickly. It’s disorienting to try and track the ball from that angle. Or maybe it’s just me.

Okay, enough of my whining. I’m starting to sound like Andy Rooney. Oh well, at least I don’t sound like Ray Knight.

In Search of the Five-Tool Prospect

In baseball circles, we often hear about the “five-tool prospect.” The traditional five tools judged by scouts in evaluating a player are the ability to hit, power, speed, fielding skill, and throwing arm. Symobolically, if we think of each of these tools as points on a star, then a player who possesses all five tools should be a star. There are other important factors, of course, such as strike-zone judgment, dedication, coachability, etc., but a player who has all five tools generally has quite a head start over players who are less talented.

Now that we’ve defined the five tools and their significance in prospect evaluation, let’s examine some of the best five-tool prospects out there today. I’ve excluded players who have seen any time in the big leagues, which eliminates some outstanding young players, including Dermal Brown, Michael Coleman, Chad Hermansen, D’Angelo Jimenez, George Lombard, Ruben Mateo, Ben Petrick, Julio Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, and Vernon Wells. With that disclaimer out of the way, here are my top 10 five-tool prospects:

1. Corey Patterson, OF, Cubs

Any discussion of five-tool prospects today begins with Patterson. The left-handed hitter has drawn favorable comparisons to big leaguers Ray Lankford and Kenny Lofton. In his pro debut, in the Midwest League, Patterson hit.320/.358/592 (BA/OBP/SLG) as one of the younger players in the league. An excellent defender in center field and with speed to burn (33 steals in 42 tries), Patterson’s one area of weakness right now is strike-zone judgment (25 BBs/85 Ks in 475 ABs). A reluctance to draw walks can stall a player’s development at higher levels; however, there are exceptions — Vladimir Guerrero was one, and I suspect Patterson will be another. Patterson also had an explosive Arizona Fall League campaign, all the more impressive because he was playing against much older and more experienced players, and could see action with the big club as early as this season.

2. Chin-Feng Chen, OF, Dodgers

The kid from Taiwan simply dominated the California League in his first exposure to North American baseball, hitting .316/.404/.580. Chen drew 75 walks in 510 at bats, a good sign, and was 31 for 36 in stolen base attempts. A solid defensive corner outfielder, Chen draws raves for his work ethic. He does strike out a bit much (129) but with his all-around offensive package, the Dodgers should be willing to live with that. In a system largely devoid of prospects at the higher levels, Chen could advance very quickly and projects to be a Tim Salmon type hitter down the line.

3. Abraham Nuñez, OF, Marlins

I kept going back and forth between Chen and Nuñez as the #2 guy behind Patterson. Both carved up Cal League pitchers last year, and although Chen is closer to the big leagues, the younger Nuñez might have a higher ceiling. The switch-hitter batted .273/.378/.492 at High Desert in 1999. And although his home park was especially conducive to offense, any 19-year-old who puts up numbers like that at High-A ball demands attention. Nuñez has an advanced knowledge of the strike zone (86 BBs/122 Ks in 488 ABs) for such a young player and has outstanding speed, stealing 40 bases in 53 tries. Acquired by Florida as the player to be named later in the Matt Mantei deal, Nuñez has as much upside as anybody currently in professional baseball.

4. Alex Escobar, OF, Mets

There is another very important factor in the success of a young player: the ability to stay healthy. There is no questioning Escobar’s talent but he has been plagued by injuries throughout his brief career. After a breakout season in 1998 (.310/.393/.584 in 416 ABs, with 54 BBs, 133 Ks, and 49 steals in 56 attempts in the SAL), the young flychaser played just 3 games last year due to first a stress fracture in his back and then a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder. Escobar draws comparisons to a young Eric Davis or Andruw Jones. If he can overcome his injury problems, the sky is the limit.

5. Josh Hamilton, OF, Devil Rays

The first player taken in the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, Hamilton adjusted to wooden bats very nicely, hitting .347/.378/.593 in 236 Rookie League at bats before tailing off to .194/.213/.236 in 72 at bats in the short-season Class-A New York-Penn League. As with Patterson, he could stand to control the strike zone a bit more (14 BBs/57 Ks combined last season). There’s a lot of work to be done here, but that’s to be expected of a kid just out of high school. Hamilton should be an impact player at the big-league level by 2003.

6. Jackson Melian, OF, Yankees

Although Melian hasn’t exactly been the brilliant star everyone expected when the Yanks signed him out of Venezuela at age 16, he has exceptional athletic ability and has held his own as one of the younger players in his league since coming to North America. Melian, who just turned 20, hit .283/.358/.413 in the tough Florida State League. His plate discipline is decent but not great (49 BBs/98 Ks in 467 ABs) and he is not an outstanding basestealer (11 in 19 tries) but the tools are definitely there. Melian also had a standout winter in the Venezuelan League, which bodes well for the future. Still very young, it’s just a matter of time before this kid starts putting up big numbers. With talent coming out their ears at every level in the organization, the Yankees will not rush Melian. Don’t expect him to make an impact before 2002.

7. Milton Bradley, OF, Expos

All jokes about “being a gamer” aside, Bradley is a serious prospect with serious tools. Often compared to a young Rondell White, the switch-hitting Bradley batted .329/.391/.526 in 346 Eastern League at bats. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks (33) but doesn’t strike out much (61), either. And although he only stole 14 bases in 24 attempts last year, Bradley has the ability to be a force on the basepaths as well. The kid out of Poly High in Long Beach, CA, also had a terrific Arizona Fall League campaign, further solidifying his status as a top prospect. Bradley’s biggest problem to this point has been himself, as a few unfortunate on-field altercations have given him something of a bad reputation. Even if we chalk those up to youthful exuberance, once a player acquires a certain reputation, it can be very difficult for him to overcome. But if the talent is there — and it definitely is in Bradley’s case — eventually the player will succeed.

8. Jayson Werth, C, Orioles

The lone member of the top 10 who isn’t an outfielder, Werth displays an unusual array of talents for a catcher. Frequently compared to Craig Biggio and Jason Kendall because of his athletic prowess, Werth hit .305/.403/.394 in 236 Carolina League at bats before posting a .273/.364/.355 line in Double-A. He controls the strike zone (54 BBs/63 Ks in 387 at bats, combined) and has very good speed (23 for 27 in stolen bases, combined). At 6’6″, he doesn’t look much like a catcher; a move to another position is possible, but wherever Werth ends up, he should be a good one.

9. Alex Fernandez, OF, Mariners

Not to be confused with the Marlins’ righthander of the same name, this Fernandez hit .282/.320/.458 in the California League. The left-handed hitter is very much a work-in-progress, as shown by his 21 walks and 83 strikeouts in 426 at bats. On the positive side, Fernandez doesn’t turn 19 until May and he already has a season of High-A ball under his belt. Not many guys can say that. The Mariners should bring him along slowly, letting him experience success at each level, one at a time. If they are patient with Fernandez, and if he develops as expected, the Mariners could have a superstar on their hands.

10. Choo Freeman, OF, Rockies

This last spot was the toughest to fill. There were several worthy candidates — Minnesota’s B.J. Garbe and San Diego’s Vince Faison immediately spring to mind as two who just missed the cut — but I went with Freeman because he’s further along in his development and with a future in Coors Field, his offensive upside is that much higher. Freeman is a former prep football star who is still a diamond in the rough when it comes to baseball. In the SAL last year, he hit .274/.336/.423 over 485 ABs. His plate discipline is atrocious (39 BBs/132 Ks) for a guy who hasn’t yet put up big-time power numbers, but Freeman does just about everything else very well. How long it takes Freeman to figure out the strike zone will determine how long it takes him to arrive in Denver. Once he’s there, anything is possible.

Winter League 1999-2000: California Fall League

We first examined the California Fall League (CFL) back in November, just after the completion of its inaugural season. My emphasis at that time was primarily on visual scouting, i.e., how guys I saw play looked out on the field. This time around, we’ll take a closer look at players who put up the big numbers.

The CFL, like the more visible Arizona Fall League, exists solely as a place for top prospects to hone their skills in the “off-season.” Unfortunately, due to poor attendance and insufficient funding from Major League Baseball, it’s looking like the CFL will be on hiatus next season. Why such a fine league isn’t being subsidised by folks who should have significant interest in seeing it succeed is anybody’s guess.

But enough business. Let’s see who did what this year.

Lake Elsinore

San Francisco catcher Giuseppe Chiaramonte, aside from having one of the more interesting names in organized baseball, features some nice offensive skills, which he displayed this winter, to the tune of .307/.396/.511 (BA/OBP/SLG — this format will be used throughout). He drew 13 walks in 88 at bats and struck out only 18 times. Fellow Giants farmhand Doug Clark, a lefty-swinging right fielder, hit a cool .333/.442/.527 in 129 at bats. He drew 24 walks against 19 strikeouts and stole 7 bases in 10 tries. Milwaukee shortstop Chris Rowan showed excellent pop for a middle infielder but needs to control the strike zone if he’s to succeed at higher levels. Rowan batted .267/.310/.552 in 105 at bats. The good news is that over half his hits were for extra bases; the bad news is that he walked just 6 times while striking out 38. Mets outfielder Robert Stratton flashed some serious power when he was able to make contact. Stratton hit .233/.322/.488 in 129 at bats. He drew 16 walks but struck out an alarming 54 times. On the bright side, 18 of his 30 hits went for extra bases. Fellow Met Ty Wigginton hit .269/.347/.500 in 130 at bats. Nearly half his hits were of the extra base variety, and the young second baseman walked 17 times versus 26 strikeouts.

On the mound, righthanders Bryan Hebson and Mark Mangum excelled. Hebson, a 24-year-old Montreal farmhand who split 1999 between two Class-A teams, posted a solid 2.30 ERA over 27.1 innings, walking 8 and fanning 26. Opponents hit .242 against him. Mangum, another Expo prospect, finished with a brilliant 1.24 ERA in 29 innings. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was just so-so, at 16-to-6, but he held the opposition to a staggering .139 batting average.


The team as a whole hit .292/.392/.449, so there were some pretty gawdy individual totals. Catcher Lee Evans hit .324/.392/.507 in 71 at bats. The Pittsburgh prospect drew 8 walks against 20 strikeouts. Seattle second baseman Harvey Hargrove batted .342/.413/.468, with 14 walks and 26 strikeouts in 111 at bats. Another backstop, Detroit’s Brandon Inge, abused league pitchers to the tune of .407/.518/.860, with 20 walks and 23 strikeouts in 86 at bats. Well over half his hits were for extra bases and he managed to steal 6 bases (though he was caught 5 times). Colorado outfielder Juan Pierre had a fine season, batting .371/.457/.464 in 140 at bats. Pierre showed excellent top-of-the-order skills, walking 22 times against an impressive 6 strikeouts and stealing 27 bases in 34 attempts. Minnesota second baseman Mike Ryan hit .322/.439/.494 in 87 at bats. The left-handed hitter drew 19 walks and 15 strikeouts, and was successful in 7 of 8 stolen base attempts. Pittsburgh jack-of-all-trades Rico Washington hit .296/.444/.417 in 115 at bats. The lefty with the sweet swing had just 12 extra base hits (no homers) but displayed impressive patience at the plate, walking 32 times and fanning 27.

Southpaw Chris Cervantes posted a 3.90 ERA over 27.2 innings. The Arizona farmhand walked 5 batters and struck out 33, and opponents hit .289 against him. Righthander Sean Heams finished at 2.79 in 19.1 innings. A product of the Tigers organization, Heams walked 17 but struck out 23, while holding batters to a .209 batting average. Another Detroit prospect, righthander Kris Keller, fashioned a 3.57 ERA, with 4 walks and 16 strikeouts in 17.2 innings. The league hit .288 against Keller. Minnesota righthander Kyle Lohse, obtained in the Rick Aguilera deal, finished with a lofty 6.09 ERA but posted some nice peripheral numbers, including a 38-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a respectable .273 opponent batting average. Colorado’s Justin Miller posted a 3.78 ERA in 33.1 innings. More impressive were the righthanders incredible 54 whiffs against just 14 bases on balls. He held opponents to a .254 batting average. Finally, Steve Sparks (no, not the Angels’ knuckleballer), a righthander in the Pirates chain, tailored a 3.13 ERA over 31.2 innings, walking 16 and fanning 29, while holding the opposition to a .256 batting average.

Rancho Cucamonga

Jay Gibbons, a first baseman in the Toronto system, hit .323/.403/.500 in 124 at bats. The left-handed hitter walked 18 times against 19 strikeouts. The Indians’ Jon Hamilton batted .340/.405/.528 over 106 at bats. Hamilton, an outfielder, drew 12 walks and fanned 26 times. Yankee outfielder Marcus Thames hit .361/.398/.602 in 108 at bats. He didn’t walk much (7) but didn’t strike out much (12) either. Toronto shortstop Mike Young finished at .295/.413/.561 in 139 at bats. Over 40% of his hits were for extra bases, and he drew plenty of walks (26), though 29 whiffs is a tad high.

On the hill, the Padres’ Jason Middlebrook, a former Stanford standout coming back from an injury-plagued 1999, showed signs of returning to form, with a 4.14 ERA in 37 innings. The righthander struck out 38 and walked just 11, while limiting opponents to a .262 batting average. Doug Sessions, a reliever in the Astros organization, posted a brilliant 1.06 ERA over 17 innings, walking 5 and striking out 24. The league hit just .180 against the righthander. The Devil Rays’ Matt White worked 22.2 innings, finishing with a 2.78 ERA. He walked 10, struck out 21, and held the opposition to a .159 batting average. Southpaw Scott Wiggins, a Yankee farmhand, fashioned a 2.33 ERA, with 20 walks and 40 strikeouts in 38.2 innings. The league hit just .218 against him.

San Bernardino

Cincinnati’s Ben Broussard had a terrific winter after completing his first professional season, hitting .387/.497/.757 in 111 at bats. The converted first baseman saw nearly half his hits go for extra bases, while walking 27 times against 24 strikeouts. Another Reds prospect, outfielder Dewayne Wise (since taken by Toronto in the Rule V draft), hit .295/.377/.484 in 122 at bats. The left-handed hitter drew 15 walks, struck out 24 times, and stole 6 bases in 8 attempts. Atlanta first baseman A.J. Zapp batted .277/.355/.446 over 148 at bats. He walked 17 times but struck out an alarming 45.

The Rangers’ Joaquin Benoit posted a 4.41 ERA, with 21 walks and 32 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. The league hit .269 against the young righthander. Benoit doesn’t turn 21 until July. Southpaw Adrian Burnside, then with the Reds, but since taken by the Dodgers in the Rule V draft, posted a high 6.10 ERA in 31 innings but had interesting peripheral numbers, walking 19, striking out 43, and limiting the opposition to a .217 batting average. Guys who do that don’t usually end up with a 6.10 ERA. Cincinnati lefthander Lance Davis finished with a fine 2.52 ERA over 35.2 innings. He walked 13, struck out 23, and held opponents to a .252 batting average. Brett Haring, yet another lefthander in the Reds system, posted a 3.74 ERA, with 8 walks and 24 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. The league hit .262 against Haring. Florida righthander Gary Knotts worked 37 innings, with a 4.38 ERA, 13 walks and 32 strikeouts. He limited opponents to a .269 batting average. Lefty James Manias spun a 3.47 ERA over 23.1 innings. The Cincinnati farmhand walked 5, struck out 34, and was hit at a .273 clip.

That’s all for the CFL. Let’s hope the powers-that-be can get their heads together and figure out a way to make this important league work.

Winter League 1999-2000: Arizona Fall League

The Arizona Fall League (AFL) works a little differently from the other Winter Leagues. It’s actually subsidised by Major League Baseball with the purpose of serving as a league where the best prospects can further work on their game against better competition. Statistics in this league are often misleading, as often an organization will send a player to the AFL to work on one particular aspect of his game, e.g., hitting breaking balls or learning a new position in the field. With that caveat in mind, let’s take a look at who shined in the AFL this year.

Grand Canyon

Minnesota third baseman Mike Cuddyer didn’t put up spectacular numbers, but as one of the younger players in the league, he certainly held his own, hitting .250/.382/.375 (BA/OBP/SLG–this format will be used throughout). And although he struck out too much (28 times in 128 at bats), he drew 26 walks, which is very encouraging. Angels’ second baseman Trent Durrington hit .315/.423/.363 in 124 at bats. He walked 22 times and struck out 20. He also stole 15 bases but was caught 9 times. If this improved plate discipline is for real, with very little competition for the job in Anaheim, Durrington could be useful at the top of the order. (Late note: the Angels just signed former Athletics second baseman Scott Spiezio.) Colorado outfielder Jody Gerut hit .180/.313/.351 in 111 at bats. While that .180 batting average is nothing to write home about, 40% of his hits went for extra bases and 21 walks versus 18 strikeouts is a good sign. All in all, not a bad season for a kid without any Double-A experience. Fellow Rockie Ben Petrick hit .280/.389/.360, with 13 walks and 18 strikeouts in 75 at bats. He still needs to work on his defense a bit before taking over as the everyday catcher.

The team ERA was 6.00, so there weren’t too many guys with good numbers here. Two notable exceptions were righthanders Matt Kinney and Scott Linebrink, of the Twins and Giants, respectively. Kinney posted a 3.19 ERA over 31 innings. He walked 18 and struck out 33, and opponents hit just .239 against him. Linebrink, who missed most of the regular season due to injury, fashioned a 3.68 ERA in 36.3 innings. Opponents did hit .310 against him (they hit .307 against the team as a whole), but he allowed no home runs and had a fine strikeout-to-walk ratio of 30-to-9.


Outfielder Chad Alexander, taken in the Rule V draft by the Mariners out of the Houston organization, had a terrific AFL season. He hit .369/.435/.537 in 149 at bats, with 19 walks and 23 strikeouts. Houston farmhand Keith Ginter batted .306/.433/.459 in 85 at bats. The 24-year-old second baseman drew 16 walks and struck out 14 times. Milwaukee’s Chad Green showed surprising power but still insufficient on-base skills for a leadoff hitter. He hit .291/.342/.475 in 141 at bats, with just 12 walks and 24 strikeouts. Green also stole 6 bases in 7 attempts. Another Brewer outfielder, Buck Jacobsen, hit .329/.400/.624 in 85 at bats, with 8 walks and 21 strikeouts. Highly touted Braves prospect George Lombard, coming off a disappointing regular season, hit .302/.386/.619, with 18 walks and a whopping 38 strikeouts in just 126 at bats. Lombard was successful on 10 of 12 stolen base attempts. Cleveland’s slugging first baseman Danny Peoples hit .336/.408/.536 in 110 at bats. Peoples, stuck behind Jim Thome and Richie Sexson, drew 13 walks while striking out 26 times.

Not much pitching here, either (6.03 team ERA). Cleveland righthander Jamie Brown worked 35.2 ERA, posting a high 5.55 ERA and .285 opponent batting average. On the positive side, he walked just 5 while striking out 32. Braves southpaw Damian Moss, bothered by injuries the past couple years, sported a 4.22 ERA over 32 innings. Opposing batters hit just .254 against him. Moss issued too many (20) walks and not enough (19) strikeouts.


White Sox outfielder McKay Christensen hit .362/.424/.492 in 130 at bats. He walked 12 times and struck out 19, and swiped 10 bags in 16 tries. Christensen is a terrific defender but he’s not young and he doesn’t walk enough to bat near the top of the order; he’s probably a fourth outfielder at best. The good news for Pat Cline is that he hit .286/.362/.512 in 84 at bats, with more than half his hits going for extra bases. The bad news is that with Yamid Haad and Steve Lomasney on the team, he spent most of his time at DH, which Cline’s parent club, the Cubs, uses only a handful of times a year. The Rangers’ Mike Lamb hit .343/.393/.556 in 99 at bats. The switch-hitter walked just 9 times but struck out only 8; with the free-agent defection of Todd Zeile, Lamb looks to be the favorite to land the third base job in Arlington this spring. The aforementioned Lomasney, a Boston farmhand, put up a solid .284/.382/.580 effort over 88 at bats. While he struck out too much (31 times, versus just 8 walks), nearly half of his hits were of the extra-base variety, and he also stole 6 bases in 8 attempts. Cubs megaprospect Corey Patterson, the youngest player in the league, more than held his own in the AFL. Playing against competition consistently 3-4 years older than him, Patterson hit .368/.408/.581 in 117 at bats. He drew just 7 walks against 33 strikeouts, and stole 8 bases in 9 tries. While his patience at the plate needs work, this is simply an outstanding showing for someone who had never even faced High-A pitching.

White Sox righthander Lorenzo Barcelo, coming back from injuries, posted a high 5.19 ERA over 26 innings but opponents hit just .248 against him. Barcelo walked just 5 while striking out 20. Texas lefthander Doug Davis, who spent the greater portion of 1999 riding the Arlington/Oklahoma City shuttle, managed a fine 2.25 ERA in 36 innings. The opposition batted .261 against him, and he walked 15 while striking out 32. Boston righthander Sun Kim baffled opponents, holding them to a paltry .171 batting average. Kim’s 2.27 ERA and 31-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 31.2 innings were also impressive.


San Diego first baseman Ryan Balfe hit .371/.432/.568, with 14 walks and 32 strikeouts in 132 at bats. The switch-hitter figures to spend 2000 at Triple-A Las Vegas. Phillies prospect Pat Burrell went to the AFL to work out in the outfield. By all accounts he acquitted himself nicely in the field; he also kept hitting, to the tune of .296/.386/.548, with 18 walks and 33 strikeouts in 135 at bats. Forty-five percent of his hits went for extra bases. San Diego infielder David Newhan hit .284/.361/.532, with 10 walks and 30 strikeouts in 109 at bats. The left-handed hitting Newhan has excellent power for a middle infielder and should compete for a spot on the Padres’ bench this spring. Dodgers second baseman Adam Riggs hit .316/.368/.537 in 136 at bats, with 12 walks and 35 strikeouts. He also stole 8 bases in 9 attempts. Toronto’s wunderkind outfielder Vernon Wells batted .259/.333/.504 in 139 at bats. He walked 15 times, against 25 strikeouts, and well over half his hits were of the extra-base variety. Wells also was successful on all 6 of his stolen base attempts.

Seattle southpaw extraordinaire Ryan Anderson dominated the AFL, posting a 2.91 ERA over 34 innings. Opponents batted just .228 against him, and he walked 9 while striking out 29. Righthander Adam Eaton, acquired by the Padres in the Andy Ashby deal this off-season, finished up with a 4.78 ERA in 32 innings. Eaton held opponents to a .248 batting average; he walked 10 and struck out 24. Toronto righthander Gary Glover compiled a 2.70 ERA, with 13 walks and 26 strikeouts in 26.2 innings. Opponents hit a miniscule .168 against him. San Diego lefty Kevin Walker worked 21.1 innings, posting a fine 2.11 ERA. He walked 7 and struck out 19, and opponents batted .280 against him.


Montreal outfield prospect Milton Bradley had a fine AFL campaign, finishing at .352/.426/.556, with 14 walks and just 12 strikeouts in 108 at bats. The switch-hitting centerfielder stole 7 bases in 10 attempts. Bradley will have to overcome the perception that he is a troublemaker, but the talent is definitely there. Royals farmhand Dermal “Dee” Brown hit .324/.403/.519, with 12 walks and 22 strikeouts in 108 at bats. The lefty-swinging Brown will seek to land a spot in the crowded Kansas City outfield this spring but more likely will spend some time at Triple-A improving his glovework. Sean McNally is a bit old (27) for a prospect, but his 36 homers at Double-A last year cannot be ignored. The first baseman, a member of the Royals organization, hit .361/.462/.580, with 20 walks and 38 strikeouts in 119 at bats this winter. Oakland’s Adam Piatt has the misfortune of being stuck behind Eric Chavez at the hot corner. But if he keeps hitting, he’ll force his way into a big-league lineup somehow. He hit .308/.414/.481 in 104 at bats. Piatt walked 20 times, against 18 strikeouts, and nearly half his hits went for extra bases.

Rightander Jeff Austin, a former first-round pick of the Royals, posted a 4.06 ERA over 31 innings. He was hit pretty hard (.336 Opp BA) but maintained a solid strikeout-to-walk ratio of 21-to-8. Cincinnati hurler Rob Bell, acquired from the Braves a year ago in the Denny Neagle trade, finished with a 4.76 ERA in 34 innings. Opponents hit just .242 against the righthander, and he struck out 34 batters while walking just 8; a solid showing from a guy coming back from injury. Kansas City righthander Chad Durbin posted a fine 0.75 ERA (only 2 of his 8 runs allowed were earned) in 24 innings. He held the opposition to a .221 batting average and struck out 26 against 7 walks. Montreal righthanders Jim Serrano and Scott Strickland put up good numbers in the AFL. Serrano finished with a 2.31 ERA in 23.1 innings. Opponents hit .189 against him, and he walked 10 while striking out 23. Strickland, who saw some time with the big club in 1999, fashioned a 3.47 ERA over 23.1 innings. His .188 batting average against and 30-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio were outstanding. Jake Westbrook, recently dealt to the Yankees in the Hideki Irabu trade, posted a 3.10 ERA in 29 innings, with 8 walks and 20 strikeouts. Opponents hit .280 against the young righthander.


Arizona outfielder Jack Cust continued his habit of abusing opposing pitchers despite once again being one of the younger players in his league. He finished at .267/.436/.542 in 120 at bats, with a nice 34 walks and a not-so-nice 45 strikeouts. There are questions about the defensive abilities of Detroit catcher Robert Fick but there’s no doubt he is a big-league hitter; the sweet-swinging lefty batted .302/.457/.594 over 96 at bats. Over half his hits were of the extra-base variety, and his 24 walks against 18 strikeouts is outstanding. He also stole 10 bases in 12 attempts. Eric Munson is another in the mold of Fick. Just months after being drafted out of USC, Munson moved to first base, where he played in the AFL. He hit .292/.338/.477, with 9 walks and 25 strikeouts in 130 at bats. Very impressive for a kid with so little pro experience. Baltimore’s Calvin Pickering must be wondering what he has to do to get anyone’s attention. The bulky first baseman hit .322/.450/.433, with 19 walks and 25 strikeouts in 90 at bats. Detroit outfielder Chris Wakeland hit .356/.439/.533 in 135 at bats. The lefy-swinging Wakeland walked 19 times, against 35 strikeouts. He also stole 7 bases in 9 attempts.

Florida righthander Jason Grilli, acquired this past summer in the Livan Hernandez deal, showed mixed results after a disappointing regular season. Grilli fashioned a 4.63 ERA but held opponents to a .241 batting average. The 26 walks were way too many for 35 innings but he also struck out 34. Arizona righthander John Patterson finished with a 4.09 ERA over 33 innings; batters hit .254 against Patterson, who walked 11 while fanning 25. Brad Penny, acquired from the Diamondbacks in the Matt Mantei trade, dominated the league’s hitters to the tune of a 1.64 ERA over 33 innings. The righthander was hit at a .236 clip, and walked 13 while striking out 36. The Mets’ Grant Roberts also put up solid numbers, finishing at 2.43, with 7 walks and 35 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. The league hit just .228 against him. Arizona righthander Jeremy Ward, drafted this past June out of Cal State Long Beach, did just fine in the AFL. He posted a stellar 1.62 ERA over 16.2 innings, limiting hitters to a .197 batting average. Ward walked 7 and fanned 14.

Winter League 2000: Mexican Pacific League

The so-called “Winter Leagues” feature an odd mix of bright young prospects honing their skills, former prospects hoping to get their careers back on track, and veterans just playing out the string. In this series, we’ll take a look at some of the prospects and former prospects and see who’s on their way up. In recent years you could have found prospects such as Carlos Beltran and Ted Lilly, up-and-comers such as Edgardo Alfonzo and Jose Vidro, and guys just looking for a shot such as Benny Agbayani and Erubiel Durazo in these leagues.

This week let’s check out the Mexican Pacific League, which just finished its regular season.


Detroit outfielder Karim Garcia tore the cover off the ball, hitting .336/.380/.656 (BA/OBP/SLG — this format will be used throughout). He still didn’t draw many walks (9 in 128 at bats) but he didn’t strike out much, either (19). Former big leaguer Benji Gil hit .341/.406/.560 in 91 at bats. He has no plate discipline, but good pop for a middle infielder, and he’s still only 27 so anything’s possible. Former White Sox prospect and current Twins hopeful Mario Valdez had a fine winter south of the border, hitting .340/.434/.599. In 147 at bats, he walked 22 times and struck out 31. Forty percent of Valdez’ hits went for extra bases.

On the mound, former big leaguer Reggie Harris dominated the league’s hitters, who batted a pitiful .120 against him. Over 29.2 innings, he posted a 1.52 ERA, striking out 46 against 14 walks. Padres farmhand Rodrigo Lopez enjoyed another fine winter in Mexico. With an ERA of 3.45 in 57.1 innings, Lopez was stingy with the hits (45), although his control could use improvement (35 walks, against just 42 strikeouts).


Jalal Leach and Brad Seitzer put up some nice numbers this winter, again. These guys are way too long in the tooth the be considered prospects, but wouldn’t kill a big-league club as the last guy off the bench. Leach hit .284/.330/.460 in 250 at bats, with 18 walks and 45 strikeouts. He also stole 16 bases in 21 attempts. Seitzer, the younger brother of former big-league infielder Kevin Seitzer, hit .305/.381/.467 in 197 at bats, with 22 walks and 43 strikeouts. Outfielder Roberto Mendez and catcher Noe Munoz are also worth mentioning. I don’t know how old they are or whether they are affiliated with any big-league club, but they put up good numbers in Mexico. Mendez hit .248/.358/.416 in 202 at bats; the 35 walks versus 31 strikeouts is encouraging. In 198 at bats, Munoz hit .273/.353/.414, with 25 walks and 26 strikeouts. These numbers aren’t overwhelming, but it should be noted that the team as a whole hit .246/.325/.369, so perhaps there are park factors at work.

Southpaw Gilberto Gonzalez fashioned a fine 2.90 ERA over 87 innings. Opponents hit just .214 against him, and while he walked a few too many (45), he also struck out his share (82). As with Mendez and Munoz, I don’t know anything else about Gonzalez, but those numbers are certainly noteworthy.


Some real good hitters over here. Juan Canizalez hit .336/.398/.525, with 24 walks against 31 strikeouts in 244 at bats. Again, I know nothing about him other than he tore up the Mexican Pacific League. Cleveland outfielder Jacob Cruz had a solid winter, batting .302/.402/.453, with 26 walks and 25 strikeouts in 159 at bats. With Kenny Lofton expected to miss a big chunk of the 2000 campaign, Cruz is a good bet to get some playing time with the Indians. And of course Erubiel Durazo abused pitchers once again, to the tune of .360/.467/.627 in 150 at bats. He also walked more than he struck out. Yet another unknown, second baseman Miguel Flores, hit .321/.392/.466 in 277 at bats, with a solid 33-to-34 walk-to-strikeout ratio. He stole 12 bases in 15 attempts. Third baseman Bryant Nelson, of the Cubs organization, hit .295/.396/.472 in 176 at bats. He drew 30 walks and struck out just 20 times. The switch-hitter’s pro record is a bit spotty, but he did have a decent 1999 at Double-A West Tenn, at age 25.

Baltimore righthander Javier de la Hoya is too old (30) to be considered a prospect but put together a solid effort this winter. He posted a 3.69 ERA, with 24 walks and 60 strikeouts in 63.1 innings. Opponents hit just .251 against him. Former Pirates righthander Elmer Dessens finished with a cool 3.44 ERA in 49.2 innings. He walked 17 and struck out 38, and the opposition batted .243 against him. The Diamondbacks’ Nelson Figueroa sported a 2.66 ERA, with an outstanding 58-to-20 strikeout-to-walks ratio over 67.2 innings. The 26-year-old righthander acquired from the Mets in the summer of 1998 isn’t a high-ceiling prospect but could have a big-league career. Ageless lefties Angel Moreno and Fernando Valenzuela also pitched for the Hermosillo club.


Former prospect Brent Cookson had his way with pitchers, in limited playing time, hitting a robust .318/.408/.682 in just 66 at bats. Thirteen of his 21 hits went for extra bases. Time is running out for the 30-year-old right-handed slugger. Minor league vet Kevin Grijak hit .262/.328/.493, with 21 walks and 27 strikeouts in 229 at bats. Last seen in the Dodgers organization, the 29-year-old Grijak is another, like Cookson, who could prove useful on a big-league bench. The Cubs’ Eric Hinske didn’t put up big numbers south of the border, but he’s a 22-year-old with just 15 at bats above Class-A ball, so that’s not surprising. The lefty-swinging Hinske can play first or third base, and patrolled the outfield in Mexico this winter. After hitting 28 doubles and 19 homers in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League in 1999, with good plate discipline, he held his own in Mexico. Hinske hit .243/.353/.335 in 173 at bats, with 28 walks and 33 strikeouts. He also stole 10 bases in 11 tries. Brad Tyler is another in the mold of Cookson and Grijak. He hit .253/.348/.430 in 249 at bats, with 37 walks and 46 strikeouts.

Righthander Miguel del Toro and southpaw Daniel Garibay once again had fine seasons. Del Toro, who pitched briefly for the Giants in 1999, posted a 3.34 ERA over 32.1 innings, with 20 walks and 30 strikeouts. He held opponents to a .222 batting average. In 100.1 innings, Garibay, recently signed by the Chicago Cubs, had a 2.51 ERA, with a fine strikeout-to-walk ratio of 86-to-26. The league hit just .233 against him. Tampa Bay righthander Pablo Ortega notched a 3.08 ERA in 76 innings, while limiting opponents to a .234 batting average; on the downside he walked 44 but struck out just 42.


Third baseman George Arias tore up the league again, batting .276/.395/.654, with 29 walks and 38 strikeouts in 156 at bats. Just 28 years old, he still has a chance at a career but he’d better make his move soon. San Diego outfielder Mike Darr hit .308/.395/.479, with 24 walks and 42 strikeouts in 169 at bats. With the departure of Reggie Sanders to the Braves, Darr figures to get material playing time with the big club in 2000. Australian Aaron Guiel hit .286/.424/.482, with 25 walks and 21 walks in 112 at bats. The 27-year-old outfielder/first baseman is a marginal prospect in the Padres organization. Yet another San Diego farmhand, outfielder Chris Prieto, batted .289/.395/.421 in 242 at bats, with 38 walks against 29 strikeouts. He swiped 23 bases and was caught only 4 times.

Righthander Alonzo Beltran is the best of the moundsmen, having compiled a 3.22 ERA over 72.2 innings. The 28-year-old, who spent 1999 in the Pirates organization, walked 37 and struck out 56, while limiting the opposition to a .246 batting average.


Outfielder Jayson Bass, a power/speed guy in the Mariners chain, hit .251/.324/.484 over 214 at bats. He also stolen 11 bases in 14 tries. Over 40% of his hits were of the extra-base variety, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 57/22 leaves a little to be desired. San Francisco farmhand Jay Canizaro batted .281/.327/.406 in 96 at bats. He struck out three times as often as he walked, and as a 26-year-old stuck behind Jeff Kent, time is not on his side. But he has been highly regarded in the past, and middle infielders who hit 26 homers (even if it’s the PCL) don’t grow on trees, so you never know. The good news for Padres outfielder Ethan Faggett is that he got on base this winter, to the tune of .265/.374/.447 (including 21 walks versus 31 strikeouts in 132 at bats), which is what he needs to do if he’s to take advantage of the one great tool he has — speed; the bad news is, he broke even in 12 in stolen base attempts, which doesn’t get it done. Minor league mainstays J.R. Phillips, Ryan Thompson, and Ernie Young all played here, hoping for one more chance at glory. Phillips hit .302/.384/.640 in 139 at bats, with 18 walks and 29 strikeouts; Thompson hit .248/.319/.424 in 125 at bats; Young hit .249/.332/.525 in 177 at bats. Both Thompson and Young finished with strikeout-to-walk ratios of 2.5-to-1 or worse.

There’s not much in the way of pitching here. Venerable southpaws Teddy Higuera and Ed Vosberg are still kicking around. Vosberg, as a starter, dominated the league with a 1.33 ERA in 47.1 innings. But he’s 38 years old, and Higuera’s probably even older, so don’t get too excited.


Former indy league legend and current Boston farmhand Morgan Burkhart put together another monster season, hitting .315/.461/.591 in 232 at bats, with 56 walks and 58 strikeouts. The 28-year-old Burkhart could pull a Benny Agbayani this season and make a positive contribution off the Red Sox bench at some point. Virgil Chevalier, another in the Boston chain, hit .287/.341/.434 over 272 at bats, with 21 walks against 32 strikeouts. At age 26, he’s a bit old to be a prospect, but he could show up on a big-league bench someday. Charles “Gator” McBride, a former Braves prospect, hit .331/.383/.490 in 239 at bats, with 21 walks and 39 strikeouts. Now 26, time is running out for McBride. Yet another guy I’ve never heard of, Mauricio Zazueta, put up intriguing numbers. Zazueta, a second baseman hit .280/.336/.414 in 239 at bats, with 20 walks and 49 strikeouts. Poor plate discipline, but nice pop for a middle infielder.

The one pitcher worth mentioning is righthander Aaron Quiroz. I couldn’t find anything on him, but he posted a solid 3.19 ERA in 59.1 innings, with a respectable 42-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio.


The best performances here came from veterans such as Mattias Carrillo, John Cotton, Hensley Meulens, and Lee Tinsley. Carrillo, a Mexican League legend, hit .311/.367/.508 in 254 at bats. Cotton, a corner infielder last seen in the Colorado organization, hit .273/.351/.519, with 25 walks and a whopping 66 strikeouts in 231 at bats. At age 29, he’s not really a prospect, but if he gets his foot in the door, anything’s possible at Coors Field. Meulens and Tinsley, former big leaguers, hit .299/.357/.544 and .330/.384/.534 in 204 and 103 at bats, respectively.

Good pitching was hard to find in Obregon this winter. One who pitched fairly well was righthander Alfredo Garcia, who posted a fine 3.38 ERA over 77.1 innings. Opponents hit .268 against him, and he walked 31 while fanning 45. I don’t know how old he is or whether he is affiliated with any big-league club, but he put up decent numbers this winter.

1999 Rule V Draft

Here are the results of the 1999 Rule V draft, along with analysis of the players selected during the major league phase of the draft and how they might fit into their new team’s plans. Ages are as of July 1, 2000. Bear in mind that many of these players will be returned to their former organizations before the season starts. Although there have been some high-profile players that had nice careers after being selected in the Rule V draft — Roberto Clemente, George Bell, Bobby Bonilla, Bip Roberts, Matt Mantei, to name just a few — many more slip back into obscurity, unnoticed by the masses. For more information on the Rule V draft, visit the Baseball America web site.

Round 1

Minnesota Twins: Jared Camp, RHP (drafted from Cleveland Indians). Camp features mid- to high-90s heat but has been plagued by control problems throughout his pro career. Made stops last season at three different levels, dominating the Carolina League before pitching inconsistently at Double- and Triple-A. Traded shortly after being drafted, the 25-year-old Camp stands a good chance to stick with the Marlins, who are desperate for pitching help and who have had good success turning hard throwers into relief aces in the past (Trevor Hoffman, Robb Nen, and former Rule V draftee Mantei). This could turn out to be a great pickup.

Florida Marlins: Johan Santana, LHP (Houston Astros). Santana, a 20-year-old Venezuelan, spent 1999 in the Midwest League. He put up some decent numbers at Michigan, but it’s a long way from the Midwest League to the Show. Traded to the Twins, Santana looks like a longshot to stick with the big club.

Kansas City Royals: Damian Rolls, 3B (Los Angeles Dodgers). Rolls, a former first-round pick (1996) of the Dodgers, has been a huge disappointment as a pro. At age 22, he finally showed signs of life in the Florida State League last year. Having never played above A-ball, and stuck behind Joe Randa, Rolls is unlikely to land a job with his hometown team.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Chad Ogea, RHP (Detroit Tigers). Probably the highest profile selection in the draft, at least in terms of big league experience, Ogea played his first five seasons in Cleveland before moving to Philadelphia, where he posted uninspiring numbers in 1999. The 29-year-old Ogea, whose worst enemies are the gopher ball and the DL, figures to get a very long look at a rotation job for Tampa Bay, mainly due to a severe lack of competition.

Montreal Expos: Marty McLeary, RHP (Boston Red Sox). Boston’s 10th round selection in 1997, McCleary has never pitched higher than Class A. Following two nondescript seasons, in 1999 he performed very well in the SAL before getting pounded in a late-season trial in the Florida State League. The 25-year-old Ohio product, a converted catcher, throws hard but is very raw as a pitcher. Felipe Alou has a pretty good track record with young hurlers; McCleary doesn’t strike me as a good candidate for a big league job at this point but anything is possible.

Detroit Tigers: Mark Johnson, RHP (New York Yankees). Johnson, a 1996 first-round pick (Astros), spent most of last season at Double-A Norwich, where he posted a respectable ERA but struggled with his control, which is dangerous for a guy without overpowering stuff. The University of Hawaii alum stands a good chance to win a job as a fifth starter/long reliever with the pitching-starved Tigers.

Anaheim Angels: Derrick Turnbow, RHP (Philadelphia Phillies). Turnbow, a 1997 fifth-round pick out of a Tennessee high school, spent 1999 in the SAL, where he put together a very solid season. The 21-year-old will try to crack the Anaheim staff as a long reliever.

San Diego Padres: Kory DeHaan, OF (Pittsburgh Pirates). DeHaan, age 23, split 1999 between the Carolina League (where he was an All-Star) and the Eastern League. The Iowa native displayed a good batting eye and gaps power at Lynchburg before being promoted to Altoona, which proved to be more of a challenge. A lefty-swinging center fielder whose skills draw comparisons to Steve Finley and Andy Van Slyke, this 1997 seventh-round pick of the Pirates will go to spring training to compete for a spot with the big club as a pinch-runner/defensive replacement.

Milwaukee Brewers: Matt Williams, LHP (New York Yankees). Not to be confused with the third baseman of the same name, this Matt Williams, a fourth-round pick of the Indians in 1992, pitched well at Double- and Triple-A in 1999. Although he hasn’t been considered a prospect for some time, the 29-year-old Williams has plenty of minor league experience and a live arm; he’s got a good chance to help fill the situational lefty void left by the recent trade of Mike Myers.

Seattle Mariners: Chad Alexander, OF (Houston Astros). The 26-year-old Alexander, a 1995 third-round pick out of Texas A&M, split 1999 between Double- and Triple-A. He’s a toolsy player who hasn’t developed as expected. His strong defense gives him a good shot at sticking with the big club. He certainly can’t be any worse than Brian Hunter.

Toronto Blue Jays: DeWayne Wise, OF (Cincinnati Reds). Wise, the Reds’ 1997 fifth-round pick out of a South Carolina high school, runs well and is a very good defender. The 21-year-old left-handed hitter showed improved power and strike-zone judgment in his second tour of duty in the Midwest League. There’s a lot of upside here, but there’s also a lot of work to be done, preferably at the minor league level. Looks like an extreme longshot to make the team.

Oakland Athletics: Bo Porter, OF (Chicago Cubs). Pros: hits, hits for power, draws walks, runs well, can play center field. Cons: Porter is 27 years old. He’s too old to be a prospect, but this guy could contribute in Oakland as a fourth or fifth outfielder. A very shrewd pickup.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Brian Smith, RHP (Toronto Blue Jays). A 27-year-old reliever with decent but not great numbers in the minors, Smith stands as good a chance as anyone to land a job at the back end of the Bucs’ pitching staff. A 27th-round pick in 1994 out of the University of North Carolina, Smith features a plus fastball and slider. The Pirates won big in the Rule V last year, with the acquisition of lefty Scott Sauerbeck (Mets), so maybe lightning will strike twice.

San Francisco Giants: David Maurer, LHP (San Diego Padres). Maurer, the Padres’ 11th round pick in 1997, has put up solid numbers ever since turning pro, striking out more than a batter an inning, allowing less than a hit an inning, and keeping his strikeout to walk ratio at better than 2 to 1. Strictly a reliever in the minors, this Oklahoma State product, who spent all of 1999 at Double-A, could give San Francisco some quality innings out of the bullpen.

Cincinnati Reds: Adrian Burnside, LHP (Los Angeles Dodgers). Burnside, a native of Australia, hadn’t had much success in North America prior to 1999, when he put together a fine season in the California League. Just 22 years old, as a southpaw he has an outside shot to land a job in the bigs next year.

New York Mets: Jim Mann, RHP (Toronto Blue Jays). Mann spent most of 1999 at Triple-A Syracuse, where he worked out of the bullpen. The 25-year-old was stingy with the hits but showed spotty control. Right now he looks like the 11th man on a staff, at best.

Round 2

Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Chris Reitsma, RHP (Boston Red Sox). The 22-year-old Reitsma returned from a severe arm injury and pitched in the Florida State League last year, with mixed results. The downside is that he put up poor numbers in a pitcher-friendly league. The upside is that he managed to make 19 starts. A first-round pick of the BoSox in 1996, out of an Alberta, Canada, high school, if Reitsma is healthy, he’s got a pretty high ceiling. The last thing he needs right now is infrequent appearances out of a big league bullpen. Despite the Devil Rays’ pitching woes, I have a hard time imagining Reitsma making the club.

Pro Pitchers I Saw in College

Last time, we reviewed some of the hitters I’d seen in college. Now we turn to the pitchers. As with the hitters, unfortunately there were a couple of top young prospects I missed when they came to town, most notably Jeremy Ward and Barry Zito, so I won’t be talking about them. But enough of that; let’s take a look at a few of the good young pitchers I did see and check out how they did in 1999.

                           00                   99
 PITCHER            Org   Age  School  Drafted Lvl  W  L   ERA   G GS CG SHO SV  IP     H   R  ER HR HB  BB  SO WP   AVG
 Bess, Stephen      Det    23   Rice    99(16)  A-  0  0  1.06   7  1  0   0  2  17.0   9   2   2  1  0   7  23  1  .153
                                                A   1  1  0.93  12  0  0   0  3  19.1  12   2   2  0  0   7  23  1  .174
*Kurtz-Nicholl, Jes  KC    23   Rice    99(10)  A-  5  2  3.08  24  0  0   0  0  38.0  39  19  13  0  0  14  38  4  .262
 Pautz, Brad        Phi    23  Minnst   99(4)   A-  8  4  4.06  13 13  2   2  0  77.2  77  37  35  4  1  30  58  4  .264
*Pettyjohn, Adam    Det    23  Fresno   98(2)   A+  3  4  3.77   9  9  2   0  0  59.2  62  35  25  2  1  11  51  2  .257
                                                AA  9  5  4.69  20 20  0   0  0 126.2 134  75  66 13  8  35  92  4  .270
*Ramos, Mario       Oak    ??   Rice    99(6)  SIGNED LATE -- DID NOT PLAY
 Weaver, Jeff       Det    23  Fresno   98(1)   AA  0  0  3.00   1  1  0   0  0   6.0   5   2   2  0  0   0   6  0  .227
                                               MLB  9 12  5.55  30 29  0   0  0 163.2 176 104 101 27 17  56 114  0  .278

* throws left

Stephen Bess: I don’t remember much about Bess except that he looked like he threw pretty hard. He had a very nice debut at two Class-A leagues. Also played some outfield in college.

Jesse Kurtz-Nicholl: Southpaw hurler with a live arm. Good slider is murder against lefties. Kurtz-Nicholl got his pro career off to a good start at short-season Spokane. He could move up quickly and eventually end up in the Royals’ bullpen as a situational lefty. Like Bess, he saw some time in the outfield at Rice.

Brad Pautz: My recollection of Pautz is about the same as that of Bess. Hard-throwing righthander. I believe he was used in relief at Minnesota but I’m not entirely sure about that. Pautz had a solid debut at Batavia.

Adam Pettyjohn: I actually didn’t see Pettyjohn pitch but I included him anyway. I don’t know anything about his repertoire but I do know that the Colorado Rockies had expressed interest in him during trade talks with the Tigers. His strikeout rate dropped after a promotion to Double-A but was still pretty decent. Good control is a plus. Pettyjohn threw a lot of innings, which is a bit of a concern in light of the fact that Fresno State has been known to work its pitchers pretty hard.

Mario Ramos: Ramos is a smallish southpaw built in the Ron Guidry/Jim Parque mold. He has a smooth, compact delivery. A decent fastball is set up by a nasty overhand curve. He throws strikes and works both sides of the plate. When I saw Ramos pitch, he occassionally left his fastball up, especially as the game progressed. Ranked the 39th best college prospect coming into 1999, according to Baseball America, Ramos “isn’t overpowering, [but makes] up for it with an advanced understanding of pitching.” Fellow southpaws Mark Mulder and Barry Zito get the headlines but Ramos should be a fine prospect in his own right.

Jeff Weaver: Weaver skyrocketed to the big leagues and got off to a terrific start with Detroit before the league caught up with him and hung some ugly numbers on him. When I saw Weaver in college, two things immediately struck me about him: first, he was murder on righties but southpaws abused him; and second, he threw 136 pitches. Weaver is a fine prospect but I do worry about his college workload, and he needs to find a pitch to counteract lefties; otherwise opposing managers will continue to stack their lineups–nearly 60% of the big league hitters he faced as a rookie batted from the left side. It’s hard to say what effect his initial exposure to the Show will have on Weaver–hopefully he’ll be able to learn from it and bounce back strong. Personally, I’d like to see him at Toledo in 2000, where he can refine his off-speed stuff and experience extended success above Double-A. Weaver’s got a real good arm but he needs to learn a few more tricks to consistently get hitters out at the highest level.