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2004 League top 20 prospects


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Baseball America's League Top 20 lists are generated from consultations with scouts and league managers. To qualify for consideration, a player must have spent at least one-third of the season in a league. Position players must have one plate appearance for every league game. Pitchers must pitch 1/3 inning for every league game, and relievers have to have made at least 20 appearances in full-season leagues and 10 in short-season ones


Gulf Coast League

1. Luis Soto, ss, Red Sox

2. Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Mets

3. Greg Golson, Phillies

4. Kyle Waldrop, rhp, Twins

5. Neil Walker, c, Pirates

6. Christian Garcia, rhp, Yankees

7. Marcos Vechionacci, 3b, Yankees

8. Jay Rainville, rhp, Twins

9. Christian Lara, ss, Red Sox

10. Greg Burns, of, Marlins

11. Jose Campusano, ss, Marlins

12. Juan Portes, 3b, Twins

13. Jamie Hoffmann, 3b, Dodgers

14. Carlos Carrasco, rhp, Phillies

15. Anthony Swarzak, rhp, Twins

16. Jesus Flores, c, Mets

17. Johan Silva, of, Braves

18. Carlos Gomez, of, Mets

19. Willy Mota, of, Red Sox

20. Scott Mitchinson, rhp, Phillies


NY-Penn League

1. Ambiorix Concepcion, of, Brooklyn

2. Anibal Sanchez, rhp, Lowell

3. Jason Vargas, lhp, Jamestown

4. Taylor Tankersley, lhp, Jamestown

5. Ben Zobrist, ss, Tri-City

6. Jesse Hoover, rhp, Staten Island

7. David Haehnel, lhp, Aberdeen

8. Tony Sipp, lhp, Mahoning Valley

9. Christian Lara, ss, Lowell

10. Jeff Marquez, rhp, Staten Island

11. Curtis Thigpen, c, Auburn

12. Mike Butia, of, Mahoning Valley

13. Hunter Pence, of, Tri-City

14. Tommy Hottovy, lhp, Lowell

15. Jon Fulton, ss, Jamestown

16. Argenis Reyes, of, Mahoning Valley

17. Blair Johnson, rhp, Williamsport

18. J.A. Happ, lhp, Batavia

19. Jake Mullinax, 3b, New Jersey

20. Jon Barratt, lhp, Hudson Valley


2 in the top 4. Nice. :cool


A couple of notes from a chat with Aaron Fitt from BA.

Q:? Bill H from Jacksonville asks:

Who makes his MLB debut first from the NYP league?


A:? Aaron Fitt: Tommy Hottovy or Jason Vargas were the most polished pitchers in the league this year, and one of them will probably be first to the majors. Ben Zobrist could be the first position player to the majors.


Q:? Earl from Atlanta asks:

Its interesting that Jamestown had 2 of your top 4, yet such a terrible league record. How do Vargas & Tankersley project for the Marlins?


A:? Aaron Fitt: At this level, league records often have little to do with the quality of prospects on the roster, particularly when it comes to pitching. The best pitching staffs in the league - from a prospects perspective - probably belonged to last-place Staten Island, last-place Lowell, and Jamestown, which finished 15 games under .500. Vargas and Tankersley look like they could be the real deal. It will be very interesting to see what they do once they get a full season under their belts. Tankersley might have slightly more upside than Vargas, but Vargas is more of a sure thing. They both could pitch in the big leagues, perhaps both as starters.




They'll be going through all the leagues.


SAL-(Greensboro)-September 28

FSL-(Jupiter)-October 1

SL-(Carolina)-October 5

PCL-(Albuquerque)-October 8


I'll update this as they do each league.

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I really like Vargas and Tankersley. I keep getting this image of Vargas as Bartolo Colon in my head. Big, strong kid with a live fastball. Only a lefty. Nasty. Tank is a gamer and could be a really good one too when he comes along. The fact that they are both college-draftees is nice. They will reach the majors faster and you already have a clearer picture about their talent and potential. But what will be interesting is when they start facing better competition. These guys have been mostly pitted against prospects that are 2-4 years younger and not as physically and mentally developed. But I think that these two are studs in the making. Good things for the Marlins.

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Great to see South Florida prospects representing


2. Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Mets

6. Christian Garcia, rhp, Yankees

15. Anthony Swarzak, rhp, Twins


All from South Florida schools


< wants Swarzak to become stud for i can brag that i got a hit off him my entire life :)





You still hit .220 last year.



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Great to see South Florida prospects representing


2. Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Mets

6. Christian Garcia, rhp, Yankees

15. Anthony Swarzak, rhp, Twins


All from South Florida schools


< wants Swarzak to become stud for i can brag that i got a hit off him my entire life? :)





O also I hope Garcia becomes a stud also so i can brag for my whole life that I K'd and hit into a DP against him.....







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BA unveiled the South Atlantic League's top 20 prospects today.


1. Delmon Young, of, Charleston, S.C.

2. Ian Stewart, 3b, Asheville

3. Lastings Milledge, of, Capital City

4. Adam Miller, rhp, Lake County

5. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp, Capital City

6. Chuck Tiffany, lhp, Columbus

7. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, c, Rome

8. Brandon McCarthy, rhp, Kannapolis

9. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Columbus

10. Clint Everts, rhp, Savannah

11. Michael Bourn, of, Lakewood

12. Jacob Stevens, lhp, Rome

13. Tom Gorzelanny, lhp, Hickory

14. Josh Anderson, of, Lexington

15. Chris Young, of, Kannapolis

16. Nate Schierholtz, 3b, Hagerstown

17. Scott Mathieson, rhp, Lakewood

18. Matt Albers, rhp, Lexington

19. Chin-Lung Hu, ss, Columbus

20. Brandon Moss, of, Augusta



No Bats in the top 20 which isn't surprising, considering the season they had.


Marlins prospect were mentioned in the chat with John Manuel though.


Q: Brian Daniels from Atlanta Georgia asks:

Jai Miller was not included on the list. Was it his lack of strikezone judgement? Also, do you think this was one of the better prospect classes in recent years in the Sally?


A: John Manuel: That's one reason; Miller had one nice two-week power stretch, and otherwise he had a pretty bad year. He made some progress, but he's going to be back at low Class A next year, and he wasn't really close to making this list because it really was the best SAL year in a long time . . . 1995, maybe, wVlad and Andruw? Couple of other years since then, but this year, the SAL was just 16 teams that all had legitimate Top 20 talents. It was very hard to whittle it down.


Q: John from Boston asks:

How much more did Chris Resop have to do to get some love? He went Eric Gagne on the league in his first full season of pitching, and it's not like there were questions about the quality of his stuff.


A: John Manuel: Chris Resop also came very close to making this list, and in fact was on my first draft of the Top 20, but when it came down to it I had a hard time justifying any reliever making a league top 20 this deep. Resop had a sick year but may not even have been the best reliever, his 73 Ks in 40 or so IP notwithstanding. Jose Diaz was the league's hardest thrower for Columbus, touching 99, and Chad Orvella was up to 97 with a 5-76 BB-K ratio for Charlie Souith. Resop made progress with his curveball this year, topped out at 98, has late life up in the zone with his fastball and showed better command as the year went on . . . he's a nice prospect and could make the Marlins' top 10. But that's easier to do than making the SAL top 20.


Q: Chandler Bing from new york asks:

How much support was there for Marlins LHP Adam Bostick, the league leader in strikeouts? His command is a bit shaky but the 163 SO in 114 innings makes him appear to be a solid prospect, and despite being a 2001 draftee, he's not really old for the league (21) either.


A: John Manuel: I think that's my first Friends reference ever . . . Bostick got some support, but it wasn't overwhelming, and neither is his stuff, despite the K's. It's an average fastball, maybe a tick above at 88-90, touching 92, and it's got average movement if not a tick above as well. He was effectively wild with it, got into a lot of deep counts and didn't go past 5 or 6 IP very often at all. His curveball is a solid second pitch, but his changeup has a way to go. More often than not, he was described as a future LH reliever.


Q: Perry Cox from Boston asks:

Jason Vargas didn't qualify, but he did throw 7 no-hit innings in one of his three starts - what's his future? Obviously the list doesn't run deep enough for a guy like Travis Chick, but he really took off after being put in the rotation, especially after the trade. What did the Marlins give up there?


A: John Manuel: Vargas had an excellent pro debut and ranked third, I believe, in the NY-P League. I want to see him do it at a higher level, but he's a big, physical LHP that seems to have some command. I think he needs more experience as a former two-way player; he needs to learn the routine of being a pro pitcher. Chick took off in the MWL with the Padres after the trade, he's big and physical with a plus fastball, but it looks like he had a good stretch at Fort Wayne where he commanded his breaking ball and changeup better. We'll know better what the Marlins gave up next year, but right now it looks like they gave up a lot for Ismael Valdez.



Some interesting notes from the Chat. I really like Resop, I think he could be very good.

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The Florida State League's top 20 prospects were unveiled today.


1. Joel Guzman, ss, Vero Beach

2. Chad Billingsley, Vero Beach

3. Hanley Ramirez, ss, Sarasota

4. Scott Kazmir, St. Lucie

5. Scott Olsen, Jupiter

6. Felix Pie, of, Daytona

7. Mike Hinckley, Brevard County

8. Jeremy Hermida, of, Jupiter

9. Tony Giarratano, ss, Lakeland

10. Eric Duncan, 3b, Tampa

11. Francisco Liriano, Fort Myers

12. Jonathan Broxton, Vero Beach

13. Yusmeiro Petit, St. Lucie

14. Jon Papelbon, rhp, Sarasota

15. Jon Lester, lhp, Sarasota

16. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Vero Beach

17. Ismael Ramirez, rhp, Dunedin

18. Delwyn Young, 2b, Vero Beach

19. Josh Banks, rhp, Dunedin

20. Kyle Sleeth, rhp, Lakeland


2 in the top 8 not bad.


Some notes from the chat wrap with J.J. Cooper.


Q:? Nate from Denver, CO asks:

A lot of lefties made this list.. Mike Hinckley could possibly be the expos top pitching prospect. What seperates him from say, Scott Olsen?


A:? J.J. Cooper: With Everts injury, Hinckley is almost assuredly the Expos top pitching prospect, and he's one of the better lefty prospects in baseball. Ceiling is what separates him from Olsen. Hinckley is more likely to reach his ceiling, but he projects as a No. 2 or No. 3 starter, which is still really good. Olsen has one of those rare arms that means he could project as a No. 1 if he puts it all together. He's less likely to reach that ceiling right now, as he's more raw than Hinckley (and a year and a half younger), but when he's on, he could potentially be a rotation ace with a 94-95 mph fastball and a power slider.


Q:? Casey from Albany, NY asks:

Billingsley ahead of Kazmir and Olsen already?! What kind of ceiling does this kid have, and who does he best compare to in the majors? How does he compare to fellow Dodgers pitching phenoms Greg Miller & Edwin Jackson?


A:? J.J. Cooper: Yeah, ranking the top pitchers in the FSL was both fun and aggravating. Kazmir is a guy who is already showing flashes of dominance at the major league level, while Olsen has nearly as good an arm as Kazmir with a better frame. When you're talking about the differences between these guys, we're nitpicking, but Billingsley impressed with his plus stuff and feel for pitching. His walks were a little higher than you would like, but managers and scouts felt he already has solid command, so it shouldn't be a big issue. Injuries meant that Kazmir didn't give many managers in the FSL a good luck at his true ability, while Olsen is the rawest of the three. He has a high ceiling, but he also has the furthest to go as far as demonstrating consitency and poise on the mound.


Q:? Roger Dorn from Cleveland asks:

You wrote that there are "bigger questions" about Jeremy Hermida's power potential. I was a little concerned too until I saw that Shawn Green hit 5 homers combined in his first two minor league seasons, and never hit more than 16 until 7 years after he was drafted. He should be able to eventually get at least 30 jacks annually out of that swing, don't you think? And is it the sweetest swing in the minors?


A:? J.J. Cooper: Yeah, that's true with Shawn Green, but it's also true that Sean Burroughs was projected to eventually develop power as well (he still could, but nowadays few believe that he will). Hermida should develop power, but as a corner OF, he'll have to show it, as he currently has a .399 career slugging percentage. It's not a big knock, but it's a question for him right now, one of the few for a guy who does have a great swing.


Q:? Mike Flaherty from NYC asks:

A week or two ago, John Manuel said that Scott Olsen has the most upside of any lefty in the minors - do you agree?


A:? J.J. Cooper: As much upside? Can probably agree with that. He's a little riskier than some other lefties out there as far as the likelihood of reaching his potential, but he has a great arm.


Q:? Aaron from The Island asks:

Assuming that Eric Duncan repeats the FSL, and excluding Joel Guzman...Who will have the best offensive output at AA next year: Hanley Ramirez, Felix Pie, or Jeremy Hermida?


A:? J.J. Cooper: I'll take Hermida, but I think Ramirez is most likely to make the majors next year.



Q:? jupiter fan from jupiter asks:

do you hate all the hammerheads except for hermida and olsen? what's the deal, those other four guys in the rotation are studs too.


A:? J.J. Cooper: Hate? Wow...No hate at all. Actually Kensing got some support. Heavy 93-94 mph fastball, can throw it to both sides of the plate, knows how to pitch and had a good slider. He struggles when working from the stretch right now, which is a concern, but he projects to be a good one down the road.




I asked a couple of questions, but unfortunately didn't get them answered. :thumbdown


Still some interesting points from the chat.

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BA unveiled the Southern League's top 20 prospects today.


1. Andy Marte, 3b, Greenville

2. Joel Guzman, ss, Jacksonville

3. Rickie Weeks, 2b, Huntsville

4. Prince Fielder, 1b, Huntsville

5. Jose Capellan, rhp, Greenville

6. Edwin Encarnacion, 3b, Chattanooga

7. Anthony Reyes, rhp, Tennessee

8. Kyle Davies, rhp, Greenville

9. James Loney, 1b, Jacksonville

10. Josh Barfield, 2b, Mobile

11. Brian Anderson, of, Birmingham

12. Josh Willingham, c/1b, Carolina

13. Renyel Pinto, lhp, West Tenn

14. Freddy Guzman, of, Mobile

15. Dan Meyer, lhp, Greenville

16. Michael Morse, ss, Birmingham

17 William Bergolla, 2b/ss, Chattanooga

18. Arnaldo Munoz, lhp, Birmingham

19. Brad Thompson, rhp, Tennessee

20. Brad Nelson, of/1b, Huntsville


no real surprise here. Willy probably would've been higher if he was younger.


Some notes from the chat wrap with Will Lingo.


Q: Charlie Murphy from LA asks:

Whither Jason Stokes? I can see him as high as #13 and I definitely can't see much of a case for putting him behind Brad Nelson unless Stokes is worthless in the field.


A: Will Lingo: A lot of questions about Jason Stokes, and to be honest, going into the information-gathering process I would have expected him to be on the list. And he's not far off. But he's a year older than Nelson and I think Nelson is a little bit better hitter overall. Stokes' swing is long and there was concern from some people about his ability to catch up to the best fastballs. There are also concerns about his work ethic and his wrist injury, which has flared up at least three times in two years. Neither one of those guys is any great shakes defensively (assuming Nelson would eventually end up at his better position of first), but Nelson will be a little bit better.



Q: Andy from Charlottesville, VA asks:

How do you think Prince Fielder and Jason Stokes stack up against each other in all aspects of the game (hitting, defense, pure power, etc.)? Thanks!


A: Will Lingo: In just about any aspect, I think you'd have to put Prince ahead. Maybe on raw power you could give the nod to Stokes, but Fielder is so much better as a hitter overall that he has much more usable power.


Q: Eric from Cambridge, Ontario asks:

Playoff baseball and a BA chat, it doesn't get much better. How does Josh Willingham profile behind the plate? Does he have what it takes to be a starting catcher in the big leagues?


Will Lingo: I really like Willingham's bat, but he is not good behind the plate. I think the consensus is that he could be a backup catcher at best. Problem is, he's not great anywhere else, either. But some people liked his offensive approach as much as anyone in the league. I think the Marlins should try him at first or trade him.




Hate to hear that about Willy, but I still feel he'd be able to handle splitting time with Red next year at catcher, especially with our catchers' unability to throw out baserunners and the number of passed balls this year. In the long run he'll be a 1st baseman, but for now we need him at catcher.

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Catching is not an easy position to learn. Piazza never really learned it as well as he perhaps should have - but made up for it with his bat. I dont know if Willy has that kind of bat - but that is what we would have to see for him to make up for his deficiency right now behind the plate. I think another year of full-time catching in the minors would be more beneficial for Willingham. And give Lo Duca a one year deal just to buy time.

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No mention of our thirty-somethings in AAA. :plain


Pacific Coast League


1. Casey Kotchman, 1b, Salt Lake

2. Dallas McPherson, 3b, Salt Lake

3. Edwin Jackson, rhp, Las Vegas

4. Nick Swisher, of, Sacramento

5. Jose Lopez, inf, Tacoma

6. Jeremy Reed, of, Tacoma

7. Chris Burke, 2b, New Orleans

8. Joe Blanton, rhp, Sacramento

9. Juan Dominguez, rhp, Oklahoma

10. Yadier Molina, c, Memphis

11. Clint Nageotte, rhp, Tacoma

12. Ryan Church, of, Edmonton

13. Dan Johnson, 1b, Sacramento

14. Freddy Guzman, of, Portland

15. Clint Barmes, ss, Colorado Springs

16. Luis Terrero, of, Tucson

17. Garrett Atkins, 3b, Colorado Springs

18. Bobby Madritsch, lhp, Tacoma

19. Brendan Harris, inf, Iowa/Edmonton

20. Noah Lowry, lhp, Fresno


Q: Kurt from Oklahoma City asks:

What is your take on Adrian Gonzalez? Now that he is fully healthy do you see him gaining more confidence and start hitting with more power? Where do yo see him fitting in with Texas over the next couple of years? Thanks!


A: Jim Callis: His power has really regressed the last couple of years, so I can't see him pushing Mark Teixeira off first base or to DH. PCL observers were underwhelmed by him, and it's possible he becomes trade bait for some much-needed pitching in Texas.

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What Makes A Closer?



The Converts


Percival was a junior-college catcher and is now the patron saint of hitter-to-pitcher conversions, with 316 career saves and a World Series championship ring for good measure. Unlike Percival, several of the top hitter-to-pitcher converts weren't catchers in their previous lives.


The breakout performers among the converts in 2004 were righthanders Chad Orvella of the Devil Rays and Chris Resop of the Marlins. Orvella only had 12 saves during the season between low Class A Charleston, Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham, but he has the excellent command of a fastball that reaches 97 mph, the solid secondary stuff (above-average changeup, average slider) and aggressiveness to go to the back of a big league bullpen and be effective.


The Devil Rays drafted the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Orvella in the 13th round in 2003 after area scout Hank King saw him pitch in a relief role at North Carolina State, where Orvella was normally the starting shortstop. Orvella had pitched in high school and at Columbia Basin (Wash.) JC, so he was not new to the mound, but he was a shortstop first for the Wolfpack, hitting .320 in two seasons.


As a junior college coach, King had seen Orvella in high school and always knew he had athletic ability and a strong arm. But even King didn't know how good Orvella would be, which in 2004 was good enough for a 1.70 ERA and 117-10 strikeout-walk ratio in 74 innings spread over three levels.


"He's got a strong body and a great feel for his body, and he's been like that since I've known him, when he was 16," King said. "But nobody thought he would be in Triple-A this year. He's only been a full-time pitcher for 14 months."


Orvella says he thought the Rays would give him a chance to make or break as a hitter before moving him to the mound, even taking a shipment of new bats with him when he reported to short-season Hudson Valley last summer.


"When I got there, they said, 'OK, you're done.' So since then, I've been a pitcher," he said. "They told me I'll go to big league camp next spring with a chance to break with the big league team, and that's all you can ask for."


Resop, a two-way player in high school, has been a pitcher for about the same length of time, agreeing in July 2003 to become a pitcher after hitting .193 in 269 pro at-bats. The 21-year-old has a projectable pitcher's body at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, and he has the athletic ability to put his fastball where he wants it.


As a hitter, his best tool was raw power, though he failed to translate it from batting practice to games. As a pitcher, power remains Resop's forte, as he struck out 71 in 43 innings and gave up just one homer in his first full season as a pitcher.


"The last homestand we had, he topped out at 98 mph," low Class A Greensboro manager Steve Phillips said. "It's got velocity, and it's got late life. It looks like it hops at the end. But the last few weeks of the season, we've encouraged him to throw his curveball more. It's becoming a pretty good pitch too, and it's only going to get better if he throws it more."



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