Prospect Files: Michael Garciaparra

Michael Garciaparra has faced the pressure of living up to both his last name and his high draft selection over the course of his first two pro seasons. But just when it looked like the soon-to-be 21-year-old shortstop might buckle under the stress, he busted out with a big second half last season that opened the eyes of the Mariners brass. Become an subscriber, and learn more about the promising signs that point to a breakout season for Garciaparra in 2004.

Position: Shortstop
Born: April 2, 1983
Place: Scottsdale, AZ
Bats: R
Throws: R
How acquired: Selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 1st round (36th) of the 2001 First-Year Player's draft. The draft choice was the one that the M's were given as compensation for Alex Rodriguez's free agent departure to Texas.

Michael Garciaparra had but one guarantee after being drafted in 2001. He wasn't guaranteed a multi-million dollar contract, any World Series rings or MVP's, or even any level of success. He was guaranteed an everyday comparison to his older brother Nomar, an all-star shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.

The younger Garciaparra wasn't signed early enough after the 2001 draft to see any time that summer. The first taste of pro baseball would be the Arizona Rookie League with the Peoria Mariners in 2002.

The 19-year-old, who chose to sign with the M's over a soccer scholarship offer from Tennessee, hit a solid .275 in 46 games with Peoria and showed flashes of the top tools he was drafted for. The strikeout totals were a bit high (42 in 160 a-bats) but nothing extremely alarming for a first-year player. Overall his stay in Peoria was successful.

Late in the 2002 season, Garciaparra was served a cup of coffee with the Everett Aqua Sox in the Northwest League, where he seemed highly overmatched. The teenager logged strikeouts in nearly half of his plate appearances and clearly had his winter work cut out for him. This came to no surprise to the M's, however, due to Garciaparra missing his senior baseball season after sustaining a football injury.

The M's started Garciaparra in the Midwest League in 2003 as the starting shortstop for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The struggles continued at the plate and to a lesser extent in the field for Garciaparra. Heading into mid-season he carried an average just over .200 and was staring a possible demotion right in the eye. The possibility of Garciaparra being sent to Everett or being benched for a long period of time was hovering when the light suddenly switched on.

Garciaparra went on a tear, hitting well over .300 for a three-week stretch. His hot-hitting moved him up to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, a stark contrast from his usual spot at the 7, 8, or 9 spots. The strong finish to 2003 resulted in a more respectable final stat-line as the 20-year-old finished hitting .243 with two homeruns and 38 RBI. He added 14 steals and sharpened his defense after the all-star break as well. The 80 strikeouts in over 500 plate appearances was a vast improvement over the previous season and showed he has the ability to make marked progress.

Look for Garciaparra to start the 2004 season playing shortstop with the Inland Empire 66ers of the California League and possibly see time at a few other positions as well. The glutton of shortstops in the system might push one or two of them to slide over to third base, second base or even the outfield. Garciaparra has the speed and arm to play any position on the field and is fully capable of making the necessary adjustments should the M's decide to experiment.

TOOLS: Grading Scale

Stick: 40+
Garciaparra has the physical skills to turn into an average to above-average hitter and could develop gap power. Thus far that has been lacking but the impressive second semester in 2003 was a positive sign for the future.

Glove: 50+
Garciaparra's throwing arm is well-above-average as is his range. At times he has had issues making the routine play or trying to make a play that wasn't there. Another step in the right direction in 2004, and his defense should be on the right track.

Speed: 60+
Baserunning is not going to be much of a problem for Garciaparra. With well-above-average speed and solid instincts on the basepaths he is capable of turning the natural speed into an offensive weapon. Still learning how to read pitching is always a factor for younger prospects and that's no different with Garciaparra.

MLB ETA: 2007 (September)

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