Spring Training Blog - March 6

Bill Shanks spent a couple of hours on the minor league fields Monday. He has some thoughts on some of Atlanta's top prospects.

Monday, March 6 - 6:21 pm

* As reported by Mark Bowman over the weekend, Eliecer Murillo was involved in a serious car accident recently. Murillo will come over to the states next week to be examined by several hand surgeons. The Braves are still hopeful he'll be able to recover, especially since he is very young. Murillo was thrown through the sun roof of his car, so he's very lucky to be alive.

* Yoel Campusano, whom I told you guys about a few weeks ago, is getting raves from some of the scouts at Disney. While he won't be in camp for several more weeks, the scouts believe he's got a great chance at making the Gulf Coast League club this summer. The 18-year-old Campusano is about six foot tall, and scouts think he's got the body of a young Adrian Beltre. They say he's very, very polished.

* The Braves hope Francisley Bueno and Barbaro Canizares, their two Cubans defectors, will make it into camp in the next 7-10 days. Both are still trying to get their paperwork completed. The Braves hope both can compete for jobs with AA Mississippi. One scout told me today that while there are some questions about Canizares' age, they do think he is 26. The scout said he might be an Ardley Jansen type, but with much better power.

* I saw Brandon Monk, last year's seventh round draft pick, for the first time Monday. He reminds me of a smaller version of Tony Graffanino. He's very smooth at second base, and he's got a nice swing. With a few more years to grow, he could be similar to Graffanino's body type. Right now, he looks like a young Marty Malloy, but he will get bigger. His swing is much more like Giles, as he keeps his hands a bit high. Monk has a good chance to spend 2006 in Rome.

* Bumped into right-hander Matt Wright, who missed part of last year with right arm troubles. Wright said he feels great, had a good winter, and should start throwing off the mound in three to five days. Wright will battle for a spot in Mississippi's rotation.

* Yunel Escobar is the real deal folks. I watched him take batting practice. It's just weird how you can watch certain players and know they are more advanced. You know Elvis is better than any other seventeen year old you'll see. You knew Francoeur and Salty were special, and now it's easy to say the same thing about Escobar. If he goes to Myrtle Beach at all, he won't be there long. One coach told me he thinks Escobar could play second or third or even in the outfield. He's athletic enough to be that versatile. Gregg Kilby, the scout that signed Escobar last summer, had compared him to Edgar Renteria. That's not a bad comparison at all, but I like the name thrown around today by one of the coaches: Edgardo Alfonso. Remember, Alfonso used to be a pretty good player, so that's not a bad player to be compared to. Escobar has energy out the wazoo; he's always whistling and talking during batting practice. Even though I can't understand what he's saying in Spanish, it's easy to know that he's having fun out there.

* Eric Campbell, who got an at bat in the big league game Sunday, took a little batting practice. Campbell has an unusual swing. He starts out upright, with his left foot a bit behind his right foot. He's also a bit upright at this point. But then, during his stride, he straightens up that leg to be even. He generates a lot of power, and he's still growing. That's what's fun to see these kids when they are 20 or so - to know how much bigger they're going to be in a few years. A coach and I were laughing today thinking back to how skinny Wilson Betemit was in 2001, when I first saw him. Now, Betemit is bigger than Scott Thorman, which says a lot. These kids still have a lot of developing to do, especially physical development. You have to project how big these kids will get, and when you do, it's fun to wonder what kind of power guys like Campbell and especially Andrus could generate in a few years.

* I'm really beginning to be excited about the potential situation in AAA Richmond. It could be a roster full of very good insurance. Michael Ryan and David Kelton could join Billy McCarthy in the outfield, while Cesar Crespo and Tony Pena, Jr. should be in the infield. Ryan and Kelton look like big leaguers down here, but chances are they'll be in Richmond.

* I got there a little late to see the pitchers throw today. I saw Tyler Bullock for a minute and Asher Demme. I'll see more tomorrow.

* For what this is worth, and it might be nothing, there was a Houston Astros' scout roaming around the minor league camp this morning. Again, it might be nothing. Scouts look at minor league talent all the time in spring training, but I thought I'd pass it along.

* Rudy Quinonez, last year's 12th round pick out of Fresno State, pitched the ninth inning of the big league game. Quinonez gave up a long home run, but the game was already out of hand. It was a good experience for Quinonez, and it's one benefit of having many people, especially pitchers, gone to the WBC. Quinonez, who had a 2.60 ERA and 10 saves for Danville last year, will likely begin the year in Rome, but could easily be in Myrtle Beach by the end of the year.

* Will Startup, the fifth rounder last year, was also dressed today for the big league game. Startup could be in that big league bullpen next spring for every game. He is going to be very, very good.

* We'll chat Tuesday night at 7:00 pm ET. Not sure if we'll have anyone with us since the team is on the road tomorrow, but if not we'll still have plenty to discuss.

Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional front office philosophies. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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