Anaheim Angels: Third base prospect Dallas McPherson had an excellent season in 2003, splitting his time between Ranco Cucamonga and AA Arkansas. The 23-year-old lefty hit a combined .310 with 23 homeruns and 16 stolen bases. He boasts an extremely impressive .410 OBP but he committed 16 errors in 88 games this season. With his bat however, he could be in the majors by late 2004 or 2005.
Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles' 5th round pick in the 2003 amateur
draft, Nate Spears had an impressive professional debut in the rookie-level Gulf
Coast League. Spears, a shortstop, posted a .427 OBP in 180 at bats with
the Sarasota Orioles, opening scout's eyes. Spears also stole 18 bases in
his 56 games and has an impressive 1.25 BB:K ratio. At just 18 years old,
this kid has a long way to go on his way to the majors, but he looks like a good
talent right now.
Boston Red Sox: With on-base percentage being preached by many general managers
around the league, Red Sox third base prospect Kevin Youkilis may be the poster
child. In his first 100 at-bats in the Mexican Pacific League he managed a .424
OBP. That trademark of his has been recognized amongst the media, most notably
in the book "Moneyball." Shortstop Hanley Ramirez has struggled in the
Dominican Winter League, but last Monday (December 22) he put together a three
hit performance to raise his average to .214. He's still young, with comparisons
to New York Yankees second basemen Alfonso Soriano being made.
Chicago White Sox: RHP Josh Fields led the Sox' minor league system in ERA and total games categories for 2002 with a 2.51 mark in 57 outings. The Montana native did not disappoint many in 2003, finishing with a respectable 3.10 ERA in 58 games at Class-A Winston-Salem. Fields, who turns 24 in January, could have a bright future ahead in a Sox bullpen that already has no long-term relievers.
Cleveland Indians: Nicholas Pesco was drafted in the 25th round of
the 2002 draft, but the young righty looked mighty impressive in 2003 at
rookie-level Burlington. There, Pesco compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.82
ERA in 13 starts (54.1 innings). He struck out 55 batters and posted a
WHIP ratio of 1.07, but there may be a problem. Almost half of the
baserunners Pesco allowed were via walks and ,while he only walked 22, he'll
need to cut down on that number if he wants to continue this kind of success at
the higher levels.
Detroit Tigers: Outfielder Cody Ross will likely be fighting for a
roster spot on the Tigers come Spring Training 2004. Ross hit 20 homeruns
in 470 at bats at AAA Toledo in 2003, earning a promotion in September.
Ross didn't look particularly good in his first taste of the big leagues, but he
did homer in his first 19 at bats. The 23-year-old has a good combination
of power and speed with 15 steals in 2003 to go with his .515 slugging
Kansas City Royals: Was there anyone in the Royals farm system that had a more disappointing season than RHP Ian Ferguson? Ferguson, 24, finished 2003 with a 5.15 ERA after boasting an organization high 18 wins a year ago in 2002. Ferguson is not overpowering, but does have excellent command, often spotting his sub-90 mph fastball and mixing speeds for throwing strikes.
Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer may get all the attention, but the
Twins' catching prospects don't stop there. A 10th round pick from the
2002 draft, Kyle Phillips put on an impressive display at Rookie-level
Elizabethton. The southpaw hit .289 with a eight homers in 246 at
bats. He also boasts an impressive 0.76 BB:K ratio. Phillips' play
earned him a late promotion to single-A Fort Myers, but he only had two at bats
there before the season ended. Expect Phillips to start at Fort Myers in
New York Yankees: RHP Ramon Ramirez isn't experiencing the same kind of
success that he had in the AFL while pitching in the Dominican League.
Ramirez, who led the AFL in ERA and strikeouts this past Fall, has a 1-3 record
and a 5.19 ERA in hist first 17.1 innings for the Gigantes del Cibao. The good
news? His K:BB ratio is over four and he's hovering around 9 K/9,
both excellent peripheral numbers.
Oakland Athletics: Former Philadelphia Phillies star Von Hayes
will manage at Class A Modesto in his first season in
the A's organization next year. He will be joined by
pitching coach Scott Emerson and hitting coach Eddie Williams. Hayes made his managerial debut last year at
Class A South Bend in the Arizona Diamondbacks
organization, guiding the Silver Hawks to a 72-64
record. The A's did lose left-handed pitcher Bill
Murphy to the Florida Marlins to complete the Mark
Redman trade. Murphy was 7-4 with a 2.25 ERA for low
Class A Kane County and went 3-3 with a 4.09 ERA for
Double-A Midland last season.
Seattle Mariners: It was hard to find a more solid OF prospect in the M's organization for 2003 than Shin-Soo Choo. Choo, a 21-year-old Korean who made the move from pitcher after coming to the United States in 2001, has done nothing but impress at every level since the transition to the outfield. After hitting over .300 last year between Class-A Wisconsin and San Bernardino, he disappointed few and delighted many while at Class-A Inland Empire, where he batted .286 with 9 HR and 55 RBI in 110 games.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays: Everybody knows about the prospects at the upper levels, but what about at the lower levels? Chad Cooper has plenty of speed and used it to swipe 25 bases at Princeton in 2003. The D'Rays took Cooper in the 11th round of last summer's draft and were happy with his professional debut. The 22 year old second baseman hit .264 at Princeton and was moved along to Hudson Valley where ht hit just .214 in 8 games. The folks in the Devil Rays front office believe that Cooper can be taught a little more plate discipline, boosting his OBP and his stolen base numbers. They also believe that added plate discipline will lead to a higher average.
Texas Rangers: The fourth round pick of the Rangers in this year's
draft, Wes Littleton had an excellent pro debut. The right-handed pitcher
tossed 52 innings for Spokane of the Northwest League and put up a sparkling
1.56 ERA and 47 strikeouts. He walked just eight batters and allowed just
36 hits. Littleton came out of California State Fullerton University and
he's 21 years old, so don't worry Rangers fans, pitching help is on the
way. It just may take a while.
Toronto Blue Jays: Simon Pond just keeps on hitting. After tearing up AA pitching (.338) in the early part of the 2003 season, Pond was moved to AAA where he hit .306. Now, this winter, Pond is pounding the ball in the Puerto Rican League, hitting .292 with 10 homeruns and 28 RBI. It took a while, but Pond has learned to be more patient at the plate and drew more walks than strikeouts at AA in 2003. If not for Alex Rios, Pond might be getting a lot more attention. Even though he's not a household name, the Blue Jays did add him to the 40 man roster so there wouldn't be any chance that they would lose him in the Rule 5 Draft. A hot spring could boost Pond to the majors next spring.
Atlanta Braves: Chuck James was Atlanta's 20th pick in the 2002 amateur
draft, and he made his first pro appearance in 2003 for the Danville Braves of
the Appalachian League. In 50.1 innings, James posted a brilliant 1.25 ERA
and an even more impressive 68 strikeouts while walking just 19. The lefty
starter is 22 years old however, and is much older than the average Rookie
Arizona Diamondbacks: RHP Edgar Gonzalez has posted a 2.25 ERA in
12 innings for Hermosillo of the Mexican Pacific
League, but more impressive is that he has issued only
one walk. RHP Jose Valverde has been dominating in
Mexican Pacific League play for Hermosillo. Valverde
has struck out 17 in 19 innings to go with four saves
and a 2.84 ERA, but has walked 10.
Chicago Cubs: Was there anybody in the Cubs'
system that had a more silent season for a .300 hitter (well, ok -- .299, but
who's counting?) than Adam Greenberg? Greenberg put up overwhelming numbers
while at college at North Carolina, with batting averages of .386, .310 and
.337 in three years with the Tar Heels. At the young age of 22, Greenberg may
soon be considered one of the MLB's top outfield prospects.
Cincinnati Reds: With pitching in such short supply in Cincinnati, the Reds might consider letting a starter jump from AA to the majors if things fall just right. One candidate would be right-hander Josh Hall. The 23 year old did get a short major league audition, pitching 24.2 innings in 5 starts in 2003. Things didn't go well, as Hall suffered an 0-2, 6.57 line of stats. Still, if Hall looks sharp in spring and the Reds need another arm, they might give Hall a longer tryout to start the season. You can rest assured that Hall will see the majors again sometime in the 2004 season.
Colorado Rockies: Jason Young went 6-7
for the Rockies top affiliate and played with the big club in 2003, allowing 20
earned runs in 21 innings. At 6-5,
Young kept his Colorado Springs ERA down at 3.95 mixing a 93 mile per hour
fastball in with an improving changeup. Young will continue to refine his work this year at Triple-A but could
be a midseason callup and get a few spot starts.
Florida Marlins: The Marlins addressed some needed left-handed
minor league pitching depth by acquiring Bill Murphy
as the player to be named in the deal that sent Mark
Redman to Oakland. Murphy, 22, was Oakland's
third-round pick in the 2002 free agent draft. The
left-hander was 7-4 (2.25) in 14 games with Class A
Kane County. In 92 innings pitched, he struck out 87
while walking 32. At Double-A, he was 3-3 with a 4.09
ERA. In 11 games, he pitched 55 innings, striking out
34 and walking 26.
Houston Astros: LHP Carlos Hernandez, who missed
the 2003 season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery, appears set to compete
for a job in the Astros' starting rotation. In eight appearances in the
Venezuelan league, he had little shoulder discomfort and decent velocity. He
was 3-1 with a 4.21 ERA, pitching 36 1/3 innings and allowing 29 hits. He
walked 13 and struck out 39.
Milwaukee Brewers: Mike Jones was setting the minors on fire in
2003. At the tender age of 20, Jones
made the all-star team at Double-A, posting a 7-2 record for Huntsville with an
ERA of 2.40. An elbow injury shelved
Jones for the remainder of the season and he has avoided Tommy John surgery so
far. The Brewers will monitor his
progress closely as they see his future as being bright. RHP Adrian Hernandez was signed to a minor
league contract and invited him to camp as a
non-roster player. The younger brother of Expos
pitcher Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, Adrian, 28, went
8-5 with a 3.21 ERA in 32 games and nine starts for
Triple-A Columbus in 2003. He has made eight major
league appearances, all with the Yankees.
Montreal Expos: What if the Expos can't find a third baseman? Scott Hodges is waiting in the wings, as he has been seemingly every season for years now. Hodges turns 25 the day after Christmas and has a full season of AAA ball under his belt. He hit .288 with 12 homeruns at Edmonton in 2003 and the Expos were happy but would like to see a little more power out of the third base spot. Their other option, Jamey Carroll also lacks power and the Expos like his ability to play a number of infield position, so he's not a likely candidate.
New York Mets: When you begin talking about the Dominican Winter League with
scouts, the name of Victor Diaz is bound to pop up. The second baseman, acquired
from the Chicago White Sox in the Roberto Alomar trade, is putting on a hitting
display of late. On Sunday he went 2-for-4 with 2 runs scored, a walk, a stolen
base, and raised his average to .322. With the shifting of Jose Reyes to second,
Diaz may be a very nice trading chip whether it be in the next few months or
during the season. There's never been a question of his offensive ability, but
many feel he is a defensive liability and question his work ethic to improve his
Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies have a lot of expectations for third baseman Juan Richardson. To clear his road to the majors, the Phillies declined to offer a contract for 2004 to Travis Chapman, making him a free agent. Chapman could have wound up back at AAA Scranton and would have been blocking Richardson's path. Now, Richardson will start at AAA Scranton in 2004 and is the likely successor to David Bell at the major league level. Richardson hit .270 with 15 homeruns at AA Reading, but the Phillies believe he'll continue to develop power along the way.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Eastern league
Pitcher of the Year Sean Burnett is a hop away from Pittsburgh after completing
his third successful minor league season.
Playing for Altoona of Double-A, the 21 year old lefty went 14-6 with a
3.21 ERA. In 159.2 IP he walked just
29. Burnett doesn't overpower hitters
but keeps the ball down and in play to be successful. The former first round pick is slated to begin the year in
Triple-A. Three of the Pirates' top 10 picks in the
2003 draft were from scout of the year Everett
Russell's area, including first-round Paul Maholm, a
left-hander from Mississippi State. Russell also
signed right-handers Kyle Pearson, the fourth-round
pick from Mosley High School in Panama City, Fla., and
Russell Johnson, the seventh-round pick from Benjamin
Russell High School in Alexander City, Ala.
San Diego Padres: Padres prospect Steve Watkins has quietly compiled a
6-3 record playing in the Mexican League.
Two of his starts he has gone the distance and he has compiled a 3.53
ERA in 71 innings pitched. In 12
starts, Watkins has walked 25 and struck out 63.
St. Louis Cardinals: LHP Rick Ankiel, still a
prospect, will begin throwing in January after having had Tommy John elbow
surgery last summer. He is way ahead of schedule and should be ready to pitch
in the minors sometime this season and to contend for a Cardinals rotation spot
again by 2005.
Down on the Farm 12/31
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