Sizing up prospects involved in trades
John Sickels offers analysis on the prospects involved in trades this season.
As the August 31 trade deadline approaches, we're likely to see more and more prospects on the trading block. In addition to our regular features, Down on the Farm will provide brief capsules of all prospects involved in these late summer trades.
Cory Stewart, LHP (Padres to Pirates in Brian Giles trade)
Stewart was originally drafted by the Reds in the 27th round in 1998, out of high school in Texas. A shoulder injury led to his release in 2000. He drifted to independent ball, pitched well, then was signed by the Padres as a free agent. Fully recovered from his arm problems, Stewart developed into one of the best prospects in the Padres system, posting a 3.72 ERA and a 133/50 K/BB ratio in 126 innings this year for Double-A Mobile. Stewart's best pitch is his curveball, but his 88-92 mph fastball is respectable, and his command is sharp. He looks like a solid Grade B prospect.
Jason Bay, OF (Padres to Pirates in Giles trade)
Bay was originally Expos property, drafted in the 22nd round out of Gonzaga in 2000. He hit .362 in A-ball in '01, but was traded to the Mets in the spring of '02. He then went to the Padres last July as part of the Steve Reed/Bobby Jones deal. Bay has played well at every level, showing power, speed, and good strike zone judgment. He hit .303 with 20 homers and 23 steals this year at Triple-A Portland. He missed six weeks after being hit by an Elmer Dessens pitch, but seems to have recovered fully. Bay has solid skills in all aspects of diamond play, and it's a bit of a puzzle how he lasted to the 22nd round.
Chris Tierney, LHP (Royals to Padres in Rondell White trade)
The Royals drafted Tierney in the seventh round in '01, out of high school in Illinois. A thin, projectable lefty who stands tall on the mound at 6-6, Tierney has a high-80s fastball that could pick up velocity as he fills out his frame. His curveball and changeup have their moments, but so far he has been very inconsistent. He has a 4.38 ERA this year at Class A Wilmington, with a poor 73/48 K/BB ratio. His control is OK, but he doesn't dominate people, and will need to learn the difference between throwing strikes and throwing quality strikes. There is potential here, but so far it is mostly untapped.
Brian Sanches, RHP (Royals to Padres in White trade)
Sanches was drafted out of Lamar University in 1999. He pitched well as a starter in A-ball, but had serious problems adjusting to Double-A competition, where he's spent the last three years. Converted to the bullpen this year, Sanches has improved, posting a 3.16 ERA and a 73/17 K/BB ratio in 85 innings. His control is good, and he's made strides keeping hitters off balance with his 88-mph fastball, curve, and change. He projects as a middle reliever at this point.
Justin Pope, RHP (Cardinals to Yankees in Sterling Hitchcock trade)
Drafted by St. Louis in the first round in 2001, Central Florida right-hander Justin Pope missed half of the 2002 season following elbow surgery, but posted a 1.38 ERA in the Class A Midwest League after recovering. He's been less effective this season, with a 4.92 mark at Palm Beach in the Florida State League. Pope's fastball is average; he's lost velocity following the injury. He has a decent slider and changeup. His 69/33 K/BB in 106 innings at Palm Beach is OK; the walk rate is low, but the strikeout rate is mediocre, and not a good sign for higher levels. He's a Grade C prospect at this point, and is 23 years old.
Ben Julianel, LHP (Cardinals to Yankees in Hitchcock trade)
The Cards drafted Ben Julianel in the 12th round in 2001, from San Diego State. He's spent the last two years at Class A Peoria in the Midwest League, pitching very well. He has an excellent 1.05 ERA this year, with a 78/25 K/BB ratio in 52 innings. Despite his superb strikeout rate, he does not throw hard, owning a fastball that is just mediocre on its best days. But he has a good breaking ball, throws strikes, and has gotten people out so far. He projects as a Lefty-One-Out-Guy (LOOGY). Julianel turns 24 next month.
Kieran Mattison, RHP (Royals to Indians in Brian Anderson trade)
Mattison, 23, pitched college ball at East Carolina, but wasn't highly-regarded and went undrafted in 2002. He signed as a free agent, and has had a very good season at Class A, splitting between Burlington in the Midwest League and Wilmington in the Carolina League, combining for a 2.80 ERA and 118/35 K/BB ratio in 142 innings. Mattison has a fastball timed at 88 to 90 mph. He also has a curveball and changeup, both of which are decent pitches. It's puzzling why he wasn't drafted; he has a better arm than a lot of guys who were. We need to see how he holds up at higher levels.
Trey Dyson, 1B (Royals to Indians in Anderson trade)
Dyson was a successful college player at the University of South Carolina, but like Mattison, he wasn't drafted, joining the Royals system as a free agent in 2002. A 6-4, 220-pound left-handed hitter, Dyson is hitting .275 with 14 homers this year, and has made major strides with his strike zone judgment. He does not have much defensive value, however, and will probably end up as a DH. He is 23 years old.
Ray Sadler, OF (Cubs to Pirates in Randall Simon trade)
The Cubs drafted Sadler in the 30th round in 1999, from a junior college in Texas. A speedy outfielder, he has some pop in his bat as well, and was hitting .291 with a .434 SLG before the trade, playing at Double-A West Tennessee. Sadler is very good with the glove, but will have to prove his bat will hold up against higher-level pitching. He has problems with strike zone judgment on occasion. 22 years old, he projects as a useful reserve outfielder.
Emmanuel Ramirez, RHP (Cubs to Rockies in Tony Womack trade)
The Cubs signed Ramirez (then known as Pedro Olivero) in 1999, from the Dominican Republic. A member in good standing of Chicago's Live Arm Collection, Ramirez has a fastball/slider combination, and projects as a solid middle reliever. He has split this year between Class A Daytona and Double-A West Tennessee, combining for a 2.36 ERA and a 47/26 K/BB mark in 46 innings. His walk rate is too high, and he'll have to improve his command before getting a major league trial. But his strikeout rate is also high, a good sign. Ramirez is 23 years old, and rates as a Grade C/C+ type prospect, a potentially useful bullpen arm.
Greg Bruso, RHP (Giants to Brewers in Eric Young trade)
The Giants drafted Bruso in the 16th round in 2002, out of the University of California-Davis. He posted a 1.99 ERA last year in the Northwest League, getting himself on the prospect radar, and has combined for a 3.26 ERA and a sharp 122/22 K/BB ratio this year, pitching at Class A San Jose and Double-A Norwich. Bruso has a mediocre fastball, but gets people out with his curve, slider, and changeup. He has successfully made the finesse pitcher transition to Double-A, a good sign for his future, but will need some Triple-A time to make adjustments. Bruso is 23 years old. He could be a Rick Reed-like starter if everything goes well, but for every similar finesse success, there are five who don't make it.
Tim Hummel, 2B-3B (White Sox to Reds in Scott Sullivan trade)
The White Sox drafted Hummel from Old Dominion in the second round in 2000. He made good progress at first, but stalled following a mediocre season in Triple-A in '02. He has rebounded this year, hitting .284 with a .349 OBP and a .447 SLG in 126 games at Triple-A Charlotte, with a career-best 15 homers so far. Hummel is best at second base, but can also play third and short, though he lacks the tools needed to play those positions full-time. His plate discipline is decent, but he hits the ball on the ground a lot, and tends to hit into double plays. He is 24 years old.
Matt Belisle, RHP (Braves to Reds in Kent Mercker trade)
Belisle was drafted by the Braves in the second round in 1998, out of high school in Texas. He had a strong campaign in 2000, but hurt his back and ended up missing all of 2001 following surgery to repair a ruptured disc. He came back in 2002 and was less effective, lacking the zip he formerly had on his fastball. This year, Belisle had a 3.52 ERA and a 94/42 K/BB in 125 innings for Double-A Greenville. He is still a decent prospect, owning a 90-mph fastball (as opposed to the 95-mph fastball he used to have), and a decent curve. He could be a good back-of-the-rotation starter or perhaps a middle reliever. He is 23 years old, and now rates as a B-/C+ type prospect.
Ryan Hannaman, LHP (Giants to Orioles in Sidney Ponson trade)
The Giants drafted Hannaman in the fourth round in 2000, from high school in Alabama. Although he hasn't received a lot of attention, he is one of the better left-handed prospects in the minor leagues. Hannaman, 21, works with a fastball clocked as high as 94 mph. He also has a good slider, and his command has been surprisingly good, considering that he didn't pitch much in high school. He posted an outstanding 145/46 K/BB ratio in 132 innings last year in the Class A South Atlantic League. He has been less successful this year, posting a 4.74 ERA and 77/32 K/BB in 63 innings in the Class A California League. His strikeout rate remains very high, a great sign, but his command has slipped. Hannaman has missed time this year with a sore arm, but it isn't supposed to be a major problem. Assuming that is true, he rates as a solid B/B+ prospect, as a live-armed lefty with a fresh arm and a good track record.
Brandon Claussen, LHP (Yankees to Reds in Aaron Boone trade)
The Yankees drafted Claussen in the 34th round in 1998, from Howard Junior College in Texas. He emerged as a top prospect in 2001, possibly the top southpaw pitching talent in the minor leagues, but blew out his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery last spring. Claussen has returned healthy this year. His fastball isn't quite up to what it was before, but is still respectable, and his breaking stuff has returned. He has a 2.75 ERA with a 39/18 K/BB ratio in 11 starts at Columbus in the Triple-A International League this spring. The strikeout rate is low, and an indicator that he still has some work to do in getting his stuff back, but overall he is still an effective pitcher. At 25 years old, Claussen should go right into the Cincinnati rotation.
Charlie Manning, LHP (Yankees to Reds in Boone trade)
Drafted by the Yankees in the ninth round in 2001, Manning, a University of Tampa product, is your classic soft-tossing lefty. His fastball runs 87-89 mph. He has a good curve, and his changeup has its moments as an above-average pitch. Manning has had problems with his command this year, pitching poorly in the Double-A Eastern League and getting demoted back to A-ball. His combined ERA is 5.12. He has fanned 59 hitters in 77 innings, but has walked 50, entirely too many for a guy who doesn't throw hard. At age 24, he still has time to turns things around, but shouldn't be regarded as a top prospect at this point.
Bubba Crosby, OF (Dodgers to Yankees in Robin Ventura trade)
The Dodgers drafted Crosby in the first round back in 1998. The former Rice University star was supposed to be a regular outfielder by now, but his pro performance has been marred by nagging injuries and inconsistent hitting. He is having his most successful pro season this year, hitting .361 with 12 homers for Triple-A Las Vegas. He runs well and is a good defensive outfielder, but it remains to be seen how well he'll drive the ball at the major league level. Crosby is 26, and profiles best as a reserve outfielder.
Scott Proctor, RHP (Dodgers to Yankees in Ventura trade)
Like Crosby, Proctor is a product of Los Angeles' 1998 draft class. Drafted out of Florida State in the fifth round, Proctor has pitched adequately as a starting pitcher, but never obtained true prospect status and was often left off Dodger prospect lists. Converted to relief this year, Proctor has posted a 2.58 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 66 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. His fastball has been timed anywhere between 89 and 95 mph, and he has a reasonably effective slider. He is 26, and could be a middle-relief sleeper.
Anastacio Martinez, RHP (Pirates to Red Sox in Jeff Suppan trade)
Goes back to the Red Sox after coming over to the Pirates in the July 22 Scott Sauerbeck deal. Pitcher Brandon Lyon, also sent from the Red Sox to Pittsburgh in that trade, turned out to have an injured elbow, making the trade very unfair to the Pirates. To make up for this, the Pirates are returning Lyon and Martinez to the Red Sox along with Suppan, while the Sox send prospect Freddy Sanchez to the Pirates along with Mike Gonzalez, included in the Sauerbeck trade.
Freddy Sanchez, INF (Red Sox to Pirates in Suppan trade)
Drafted in the 11th round in 2000 from Oklahoma City University, Sanchez is a line-drive hitter with a proven ability to hit .300+ at the minor league level. He can possibly do that in the majors as well, while providing defensive flexibility and reliability up the middle. Sanchez hit .341 at Triple-A Pawtucket this year, but has hit just .220 in 32 major league games thus far. At 25 years old, Sanchez is capable of much better than that, and will get a chance to show his talent in Pittsburgh.
Mike Gonzalez, LHP (Red Sox to Pirates in Suppan trade)
Gonzalez goes back to Pittsburgh after spending eight days in the Red Sox organization.
Joe Valentine, RHP (Athletics to Reds in Jose Guillen trade)
Originally White Sox property, Valentine was drafted in the 26th round in 1999, from Jefferson Davis Junior College in Alabama. He saved 36 games for Double-A Birmingham last year, with a 1.96 ERA and 63/30 K/BB in 59 innings. He came to Oakland as part of the Keith Foulke/Billy Koch trade this past winter. At Triple-A Sacramento this year, Valentine had a 4.82 ERA and had struggled with his command at times, walking 37 in 52 innings, though he also has 53 strikeouts. Valentine, 23, has a 93-95 mph fastball and a savage slider. He could be a closer if he can refine his command.
Jeff Bruksch, RHP (Athletics to Reds in Guillen trade)
Oakland drafted Bruksch in the fifth round in 2001, out of Stanford, where he was a very successful reliever. His fastball is average, 87-90 mph, and his best pitch is his changeup. Bruksch hasn't had the same success as a pro as he did in college. Used as a starter in the Class A California League this year, he has a 5.13 ERA and 87/54 K/BB ratio in 126 innings, allowing 144 hits and 14 homers. Although Bruksch has good size at 6-4, 210, he doesn't throw that hard, and needs better command to survive at higher levels. He is 23 years old.
Anthony Webster, OF (White Sox to Rangers in Carl Everett trade)
One of the more interesting players in the White Sox system, Webster was drafted in the 15th round in 2001, from high school in Tennessee. Very athletic, he got on the prospect board by hitting .352 with 16 steals in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in 2002. This year he was hitting .289 with a .353 OBP for Class A Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League before being included in the trade. Webster hasn't developed much power yet, but that should come in time, and he has good strike zone judgment to go with his speed (20 steals). He needs development time, but the 20-year-old has lots of potential, and could end up being a solid player.
Josh Rupe, RHP (White Sox to Rangers in Everett trade)
The Sox drafted Rupe in the third round in '02, from Louisburg Junior College in North Carolina. Used as both a starter and reliever this year in the Sally League, Rupe has a fine 69/36 K/BB in 66 innings, to go with a 3.02 ERA. His walk rate is a bit high, but his strikeout rate is impressive, and a good sign for his future. Rupe throws 89-93 mph, has a good slider, and could end up being a solid No. 4 starter or an above-average middle reliever. He is 20 years old.
Franklin Francisco, RHP (White Sox to Rangers in Everett trade)
Originally in the Red Sox system, Francisco was traded to the White Sox in exchange for Bobby Howry last summer. He has a very good arm, with a fastball in the 92-94 mph range. Pitching for Class A Winston-Salem in the Carolina League, Francisco was 7-3 with a 3.56 ERA, with a 67/36 K/BB in 78 innings. Although his fastball is impressive, his secondary pitches need work, and his command will have to improve for him to flourish at higher levels. He struggled last year in Double-A. Francisco is from the Dominican Republic, and is 23 years old.
Phil Dumatrait, LHP (Red Sox to Reds in Scott Williamson trade)
The Red Sox continue to shed reminders of the Dan Duquette era. Dumatrait was Boston's first-round pick in 2000, from Bakersfield Junior College in California. His fastball is average, but he has a very good curveball, and can be overpowering at times. He's had problems with nagging injuries, but has stayed healthy this year, posting a 3.02 ERA in 21 games for Class A Sarasota in the Florida State League. Dumatrait's K/BB ratio is mediocre at 74/59 in 104 innings, but he's allowed just 74 hits. He may face adjustment problems in his initial exposure at higher levels, but does have upside down the road. He turned 22 years old last week, and projects as a No. 4 starter.
Jon-Mark Sprowl, C (Diamondbacks to Yankees in Raul Mondesi trade)
Sprowl was drafted by the Cubs in the 47th round in 1998, out of high school in Florida. He signed the following spring as a "draft and follow" pick, then was traded to the Diamondbacks in the spring of 2002. Sprowl has a solid bat, hitting .296 this year for Class A South Bend, with a .402 on-base percentage. He is a sound left-handed line-drive hitter who doesn't have tons of power, but does a good job controlling the strike zone and getting on base. Sprowl's defense behind home plate is shaky, and he may have to switch positions eventually. Sprowl is 22, and is the son of former major league pitcher Bobby Sprowl.
Doug Nickle, RHP (Angels to White Sox in Scott Schoeneweis trade)
A Triple-A veteran, Nickle was originally drafted by the Angels back in 1997, from the University of California. Traded to the Phillies in 1998, then to the Cardinals in 2002, he re-signed with the Angels as a free agent last winter. Before this trade, he had a 1.48 ERA and 23/18 K/BB ratio in 49 innings at Triple-A Salt Lake. Nickle has proven he can handle Triple-A hitters, but has yet to be given a full trial in a major league bullpen. He works with a 89-92 mph fastball and a knucklecurve. At 28 years old, he projects as a middle reliever.
Scott Dunn, RHP (White Sox to Angels in Schoeneweis trade)
I first wrote about Dunn earlier this month when he was traded to the White Sox from the Reds in the D'Angelo Jimenez trade. He has a good arm and a decent track record. His combined numbers in Double-A this year show him with a 3.35 ERA and a 68/21 K/BB in 51 innings. He may get an opportunity in Anaheim sooner than he would have in Chicago.
Tim Bittner, LHP (White Sox to Angels in Schoeneweis trade)
The White Sox drafted Bittner in the 10th round in 2001, out of Marist College. A typical soft-tossing lefty, Bittner's fastball is average at 86-89 mph. He does have a decent slider, and has proven he can handle the A-ball level, with a 3.54 ERA at two Class A levels this year. You need to see what he does at higher levels before you know exactly how he will project. Bittner is 23 years old, and projects best as a reliever.
Jeremy Hill, RHP (Royals to Mets in Graeme Lloyd trade)
The Royals drafted Hill in the sixth round in 1996, out of high school in Texas. A former catcher, he was converted to pitching two years ago. Hill had an excellent season in Double-A last year, but had severe problems with his command and control this spring. He posted a poor 7.44 ERA with a lousy 41/42 K/BB ratio in 40 innings for Triple-A Omaha this year, and was recently demoted back to Double-A to try and get things back in gear. At his best, Hill combines a 92-95 mph fastball with a hard slider, and can be very overpowering. His mechanics are currently fouled up, his confidence is down, and the change of scenery will probably help him. Hill is 25 years old.
Kenny Kelly, OF (Mariners to Mets in Rey Sanchez trade)
Originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the second round in 1997, Kelly is a great athlete who played quarterback at the University of Miami in the mid-1990s. He's never been able to fully translate his athletic tools into baseball skills however. Tampa sold him to the Mariners in 2001, but Seattle hasn't been able to get much out of him, either. Kelly does have 13 homers and 20 steals at Triple-A Tacoma this year, but was hitting just .246, and continues to struggle with the strike zone. Age 24, he projects as a reserve outfielder unless he makes significant progress refining his skills.
Matt Bruback, RHP (Cubs to Pirates in Aramis Ramirez/Kenny Lofton trade)
The Cubs drafted Bruback in the 47th round in 1997, out of high school in Texas. He opted for junior college in Florida, then signed as a "draft and follow" pick in May of '98. He has made slow but steady progress through the farm system, pitching at Triple-A Iowa this year. He has a 3.96 ERA overall at Iowa, with a decent 90/33 K/BB mark in 125 innings. Bruback has pitched better recently after a slow start; his ERA since June 1 is 2.76. He works with a 90-mph fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. I've seen him twice this year for Iowa, and was impressed with his breaking ball in both games, though his command of it was erratic at times. The 24-year-old could end up being a solid No. 4 starter.
Anastacio Martinez, RHP (Red Sox to Pirates in Scott Sauerbeck/Brandon Lyon trade)
Martinez was signed by the Red Sox out of the Dominican Republic in 1998. He has one of the best arms in the system, with a 93-95 mph fastball, but his career has been slowed by problems throwing strikes. He moved from the rotation into the bullpen this year, and he's done better as a reliever, posting a 2.25 ERA at Double-A Portland to go with 14 saves. He has fanned 37 hitters in 40 innings, a solid mark, but has also walked 23, too many. He has a lot of raw ability, but Martinez, 24, still needs to make strides with his command and control. I wouldn't expect him to be ready until some time next year.
Mike Gonzalez, LHP (Pirates to Red Sox in Sauerbeck/Lyon trade)
The Pirates drafted Gonzalez in the 30th round in 1997, out of junior college in Texas. He's been clocked as high as 94 mph, though 89-92 is more usual. He has a very good breaking ball, and is tough on left-handed hitters, making him a potentially solid short reliever out of the bullpen. Gonzalez has been bothered by a sore back this year, and has pitched just 21 innings at three levels. He could take over a bullpen slot for the Red Sox by early next year. The Texan is 25 years old.
Ryan Ludwick, OF (Rangers to Indians in Ricardo Rodriguez/Shane Spencer trade)
Originally drafted by Oakland in the second round in 1999, Ludwick, a UNLV product, is a power-hitting outfielder. He has decent plate discipline, but his swing is inconsistent, and while he has a lot of raw power, his batting average and on-base percentages may fluctuate. He hit .303/.372 OBP/.558 SLG this year at Triple-A Oklahoma in 81 games, but has yet to make the adjustment to major league pitching. Ludwick is a solid defensive outfielder, so he isn't just a one-dimensional bat. He could hit anywhere from .220 to .280 at the major league level, and would likely exceed 20 homers in a full season of play. He is 25 years old.
Frank Brooks, LHP (Phillies to Pirates in Mike Williams trade)
The Phillies drafted Brooks in the 13th round in 1999, from St. Peter's College. He is your standard finesse lefty: his fastball is mediocre, but he has good breaking stuff and solid control. His track record has been nothing special, but he is pitching very well this year, with a 2.30 ERA and nine saves at Double-A Reading. His K/BB and K/IP marks are very strong, with 71 strikeouts and just 13 walks this year in 59 innings. He has held lefties to a .222 batting average this year, righties to a .182 mark. Brooks, 24, could get a shot as a middle reliever in the Pirates pen next year.
Jason Anderson, RHP (Yankees to Mets in Armando Benitez trade)
Anderson was drafted in the 10th round from the University of Illinois in 2000. A starter initially, he moved to the bullpen in '02, and gained several mph on his fastball to emerge as a very interesting prospect. He's been bouncing between the majors and Triple-A Columbus this year. Anderson has greater diversity in his arsenal than many relievers, featuring a slider, a cut fastball, and a decent changeup to go with the 90-95 mph heater. If he can develop consistent command in the majors, he'd make an excellent middle reliever.
Anderson Garcia, RHP (Yankees to Mets in Benitez trade)
A Dominican signed in 2001, Garcia has one of the best power arms in the Yankees system, capable of hitting 95 mph. He doesn't have a breaking ball, and does not change speeds well at this point, but so far he's done well in A-ball, with a 3.32 ERA and 62/36 K/BB in 76 innings for Battle Creek in the Class A Midwest League. Garcia is being used as a starter, but could end up in the bullpen eventually if he doesn't learn a changeup. His command needs work, but he has a lot of potential, although at 22 he isn't young for the Midwest League. I would rate him as a Grade C+ prospect.
Ryan Bicondoa, RHP (Yankees to Mets in Benitez trade)
Bicondoa was a successful pitcher at Western Kentucky University. Signed as a free agent by the Yankees last May (he was a fifth-year senior and thus eligible to sign before the draft), Bicondoa posted a 1.90 ERA and 94/7 K/BB ratio in the New York-Penn League last summer. He has been less successful this year, with a 3.54 ERA and 30/20 K/BB in 48 innings for Tampa in the Class A Florida State League. Bicondoa's stuff is average; his fastball is mediocre, but he has a very good changeup, and his control is usually good. He'll have to prove himself at higher levels, and is a Grade C prospect at this point.
Victor Diaz, 2B (Dodgers to Mets in Jeromy Burnitz trade)
Diaz was drafted in the 37th round in 2000, out of Grayson County JC in Texas. A right-handed hitter with a quick bat, he entered 2003 with a .320 career batting average, and was hitting .291/.353 OBP/.462 SLG at Double-A Jacksonville before the trade. Diaz has line-drive power, and obviously hits for average. He could use better patience at the plate, but he runs pretty well for a big guy. His defense at second base is erratic, and some scouts think he'll end up at first base or the outfield in the long run. He is 21 years old.
Joselo Diaz, RHP (Dodgers to Mets in Burnitz trade)
A 23-year-old right-hander from the Dominican Republic, Joselo Diaz played under the name "Jose Diaz" in previous seasons, and was a catcher until this year. He has a very strong arm, but couldn't hit, so moving him to the mound made sense. Used as a starter this year at Class A Vero Beach, Diaz has a 3.50 ERA in 62 innings, with 69 strikeouts but 48 walks. He throws very hard, and limited right-handed hitters to a .127 average this year. Diaz will have to improve his control, but so far his pitching career is off to a decent start.
Kole Strayhorn, RHP (Dodgers to Mets in Burnitz trade)
The Dodgers drafted Strayhorn in the second round in 2001, from high school in Shawnee, Okla. Clocked in the mid-90s in high school, he's been in the 90-92 range more often as a pro. He has a very good breaking ball to go with the fastball. Used as a closer this year at Class A Vero Beach, Strayhorn is 5-2 with seven saves and a 2.93 ERA. His K/BB of 44/13 in 46 innings is solid, and he's shown a good balance of stuff and command.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B (Marlins to Rangers in Ugueth Urbina trade)
The first player picked in the 2000 draft, out of high school in California, Gonzalez's pro performance has been acceptable, though not outstanding on the surface. He hit .266 with 17 homers in Double-A last year, OK but not terrific. This is misleading, as he's been one of the youngest players in his league every year, and most scouts have no doubt he'll hit. He has a smooth stroke, untapped power potential, and excellent defensive ability. He hit just .216 through 40 games in Triple-A this year, but has been hampered by a wrist injury, and has played better lately. He'll need a year to be ready for the majors, but there is still a lot to like here.
Will Smith, OF (Marlins to Rangers in Urbina trade)
A sixth-round pick out of high school in Arizona in 2000, Smith has been quite successful as a pro, showing a consistent ability to hit for average and knock balls into the gaps. He has an unusual batting stance that turns some scouts off, but it works for him. He broke a bone in his wrist in April, and like Gonzalez that has inhibited his production this year. Smith needs experience and refinement, but his career batting average is .300 and he is still just 21. Like Gonzalez, he's a year away and needs to heal his wrist.
Ryan Snare, LHP (Marlins to Rangers in Urbina trade)
Snare was involved in a trade last summer, going from the Reds to the Marlins for Ryan Dempster. He was originally drafted by Cincinnati in the second round in 2000. He does not have a blazing fastball, hitting 87-88 most days, but his breaking ball is very sharp, and he knows how to use it. He has a 3.67 ERA in Double-A this year with a 77/37 K/BB in 103 innings. He projects as a solid fourth starter type, or perhaps an anti-lefty middle reliever.
Scott Dunn, RHP (Reds to White Sox in D'Angelo Jimenez trade)
The Reds drafted Dunn in 1999, a 10th-round pick from the University of Texas. He hasn't received much attention, but his pro track record is pretty good. He throws 90-92 mph, has a solid curveball, and usually throws strikes. He had a 3.79 ERA with 54 strikeouts in 40 innings this year at Double-A Chattanooga. I've had him on my sleeper list for a couple of years, and the change of organizations may help people see him in a new light. He could be an impressive middle reliever.
Alejandro Machado, INF (Royals to Brewers in Curtis Leskanic trade)
Machado, from Venezuela, was originally a Braves prospect, but was traded to the Royals in '01 for Rey Sanchez. Just 21, he is a slick-fielding middle infielder who can handle second base and shortstop. He was hitting .286 at Double-A Wichita, but doesn't have much power, and the Royals no longer projected him as a future regular. His glove and ability to hit for average should get him a bench job eventually.
Wes Obermueller, RHP (Royals to Brewers in Leskanic trade)
The Royals drafted Obermueller in the second round in 1999 from the University of Iowa. Arm injuries cost him much of the '00 and '01 campaigns, reduced his velocity, and slowed his development. He still has a 90 mph fastball and a good slider, but has problems with consistency and command. Used as a starter for the most part so far, he is probably better-suited for a middle relief role.
Royce Ring, LHP (White Sox to Mets in Roberto Alomar trade)
Ring was drafted by the White Sox in the first round in 2002, out of San Diego State. Ring's fastball has been clocked as high as 96 mph, though 89-93 readings are more usual. He has a sharp breaking ball that keeps left-handed hitters off-balance, and he has a changeup that's good enough to use against right-handers. Although he is a southpaw, he does well enough against righties to be a regular closer. He's perhaps a half-year away from being ready to substantially help in the majors, although a rebuilding team like the Mets could push him to The Show more quickly than that. Overall, Ring is one of the most promising relief prospects in the minors today.
Edwin Almonte, RHP (White Sox to Mets in Alomar trade)
Almonte was drafted in the 26th round in 1998, from St. Francis (N.Y.) College. He saved 26 games in Triple-A in 2002, with a 2.24 ERA, but has struggled this year, with a 6.68 ERA and a sharp drop in his strikeout rate. His fastball is mediocre, 87-89 mph, but when he is sharp he can get people out by changing speeds very well. He projects as a middle reliever down the road, provided he can fix whatever is bothering him this year.
Andrew Salvo, INF (White Sox to Mets in Alomar trade)
Salvo is a University of Delaware product, drafted in the 22nd round in 2001. A left-handed hitter, he can play second base or third base, and his versatility is his best skill. He is willing to take a walk, but lacks power and hasn't hit for much of an average. At this point, he looks like just an "organization player," a useful roster-filler.
John Sickels is the author of the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered from his Web site, JohnSickels.com. His biography of Bob Feller will be published this fall by Brassey's. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.
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