M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: 31-40

InsidethePark.com continues its countdown of the top 50 prospects in the Mariners organization with the next set of 10. Prospects 31-40 are here.




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InsideThePark Prospect No. 40
Greg Jacobs OF
Opening Day Age: 28
Height/Weight: 5-10/190
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent in 2003

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

San Antonio

.310

5

31

27

1

16

21

.370

.503

2004

Tacoma

.320

9

30

40

1

21

38

.388

.523



Strengths:
The classic example of a guy who will go as far as his bat will take him, Jacobs has simply ripped the ball at each minor league stop in the Mariners' organization. A lefty who likes to pepper the right-field wall with screaming line drives, Jacobs is patient at the plate and controls the bat very well. He's difficult to strikeout due to his ability to put the ball in play on a regular basis. His arm is also one of the best of any outfielder in the system.

Weaknesses:
Other than his knack for hitting the ball and getting on base, Jacobs rates out as pretty average in almost every other part of the game. For an outfielder, he has limited range and is no threat on the basepaths whatsoever.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 50
If Jacobs was on a big-league roster getting consistent at-bats he could probably hit .275 with some pop. The lefty stick limits his strikeouts, waits out the pitcher for a good pitch to attack and puts good wood on the ball.

Hitting for Power: 50
As a corner outfielder, Jacobs doesn't have the power that clubs seek but 15-18 home runs isn't out of the question. The stocky Jacobs could surprise some if he was playing regularly in a decent park for left-handers. While his future is probably as a role player, his bat will carry him wherever he goes.

Speed: 40
Jacobs has the speed of a 1B, though not as sluggish as the DH-types that still man the soft corner. The 2003 California League batting champion doesn't get many hits with his legs and isn't going to steal many bases.

Glove: 45
Jacobs reminds many of Matt Stairs, both in build and defensive abilities. Never an asset in the range department, he does give a solid effort and rarely makes crucial mistakes.

Arm: 65
This is what separates Jacobs from the hitters destined to be pinch-hitters only. In a game last summer in Triple-A Tacoma, Jacobs played a ball of the bounce deep in right field and gunned down the runner at the plate as he tried to score from second. The throw cut down Kerry Robinson, one of the faster runners in the ballpark that night. Jacobs, a former pitcher, has a very good throwing arm that is pretty accurate to boot.



Future:
The chances are slim that Jacobs will ever be a big league starter, especially at his advanced age, but his steady left-handed bat may make him a valuable commodity off the bench whether it be for the Mariners or another team down the road.



MLB Clone: Matt Stairs, Scott Hatteberg

MLB ETA: September 2006





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 39
Ryan Feierabend LHP
Opening Day Age: 19
Height/Weight: 6-4/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Mariners 3rd round pick in 2003 Draft

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Wisconsin

26

26

9-7

161.0

158

44

106

0

3.63

1.25



Strengths:
Feierabend pitched fairly well in a league that is tough on hitters. At age 18 for most of the season, the M's 3rd-round pick in the 2003 draft held his own versus hitters that were often two or more years older than he. The southpaw stayed effective by mixing his pitches well and keeping his composure when things got tough. With the physical capacity to add velocity as he matures, Feierabend's ability to "pitch" and make in-game adjustments could loom large in his development.

Weaknesses:
Feierabend's greatest weakness begins and ends with his lack of dominant stuff. Standing 6-4 and weighing 200 pounds, the left-hander uses deception to get outs. Without a single plus pitch, Feierabend will find trouble in the upper levels of the minors as he begins to face more talented and experienced hitters. His maturation process is crucial as his pitching intelligence becomes that much more important.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 40
As a teenager in the Midwest League, Feierabend probably overachieved, considering his inexperience and lack of top drawer stuff. Unable to break a soap bubble with his heater at times, the 19-year-old finesses his way to a solid season and could build upon that as he matures physically and adds much-needed velocity to his fastball. With his frame, Feierabend could easily top out around the 90-mph mark, which is more than enough to be a legitimate starter at the big-league level.

Curve: 45
When you top out in the 85-86 MPH range with your fastball, your curve can become one of two things; less effective due to lack of velocity differential, or more effective because it's located well enough to fool hitters into swinging at one out of the zone, or taking one that runs across the plate. Feierabend has room for improvement here, but the pitch is already decent enough to use as a third pitch between the fastball and change.

Change Up: 50
His most effective pitch is the change, which when properly located is an average pitch. With improved command and velocity to the fastball, the change could end up as a plus pitch, much like that of fellow Mariner farmhands Bobby Livingston, Thomas Oldham and Travis Blackley.

Command: 55
Control isn't an issue with the 19-year-old but command is a different story. Being able to locate each pitch is essential for a pitcher lacking dominating stuff or a 95 MPH fastball. As Feierabend gains experience, his command will improve and should be an asset for the left-hander for years to come.

Delivery: 55
Arm slotting, release point and leg kick are all satisfactory for the Cleveland-area born Feierabend. Tightening and tinkering are all that is needed to stay sharp and in command.



Future:
Feierabend could repeat the Midwest League, depending on the fate of many other pitchers in the system and how the roster shakes out for the Inland Empire 66ers. The level of progress shown in the next two seasons could determine whether he has a future as a big league pitcher, and in what role.



MLB Clone: Kirk Reuter, Mark Redman

MLB ETA: 2008





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 38
Cesar Jimenez LHP
Opening Day Age: 20
Height/Weight: 5-11/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2002

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Inland Empire

43

2

6-7

86.1

80

19

81

6

2.29

1.15



Strengths:
Jimenez has an advanced maturity level to match a solid arsenal that flows out his left hand like a flame from a warrior's fiery spear. Jimenez displays maturity well beyond his years and displays the ability to truly overmatch hitter's without blowing them down with an overpowering fastball.

Weaknesses:
Jimenez has no glaring weaknesses but he could use a pitch-sharpening tool for his developing curve ball. Otherwise, the lack of experience is all he is missing, and most of that is due to his primary role in relief since signing in 2002.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 55
Not blessed with a plus fastball, Jimenez counters with impeccable control and the ability to run the heater in and out against right-handers. As he matures, the 20-year-old could add a few miles per hour to the fastball, creating a dominating two-pitch combination with his change up.

Curve: 55
The more Jimenez throws his curve, the more it becomes an effective pitch. But with a good change up, the left-hander has difficulty finding the right time to mix in the curve. A decent pitch now, could be a plus pitch down the road.

Change Up: 65
Clearly Jimenez's best pitch, his command of the change might be the most impressive component of his arsenal. If Jimenez is turned into a starter, his change could be a major factor in shooting his prospect status through the roof. As is, he baffles hitters much more advanced in age and could continue to do so from the pen in 2005.

Command: 65
Walking just 19 batters in 86.1 innings is very impressive for any hurler. When you do it in a hitter's league as a 19-year-old, it's just that much more special.

Delivery: 65
If Jimenez is moved into the starting rotation, he'll likely repeat with Inland and his delivery may change, in order to get more innings out of him. A solid, smooth delivery will help with the southpaw's durability and stamina.



Future:
The M's are likely to see if Jimenez can handle a starting role after pitching in relief in 58 of his 80 career appearances. Whether the conversion takes place in 2005 or down the road, remains to be seen. Jimenez will see his first major challenge when he heads to Double-A San Antonio as one of the league's younger players.



MLB Clone: Odalis Perez, Darrell May

MLB ETA: September 2006





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 37
Aaron Jensen RHP
Opening Day Age: 20
Height/Weight: 6-2/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Mariners 19th round pick in 2003 Draft

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Everett

16

16

7-4

80.0

90

36

56

0

5.29

1.58



Strengths:
Jensen had a tough time in the Northwest League when several starts into his first season in pro ball, he had yet to take the hill with his best stuff. When all is right, Jensen carries a solid pitch selection to the mound, headlined by a solid fastball and a 12-6 curve. His competitive, fiery attitude kept him from blowing up in the majority of his outings.

Weaknesses:
When the M's took Jensen in the 19th round of the 2003 draft, they scouted a hard-throwing right-hander with a biting curve ball and solid command. Jensen had problems finding a consistent release point on his curve ball and never reached the 93-94 MPH range that he displayed before the draft. If he is going to be successful in the upper levels, he must find a way to overcome such secondary issues.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 55
Jensen saw his fastball dip from the low-90's down into the high-80's and struggled mightily with his command as he tried to keep the ball away from the strike zone in fear of getting battered. If the M's 19th-rounder in 2003 can regain top velocity, he should get his confidence back and show why he was thought of as a steal in the draft.

Curve: 50
A major league average curve ball is a pretty solid pitch and if Jensen's confidence returns, it could grade out as a plus pitch for the Utah native. Formerly a 12-6 style curve, Jensen is slowly transforming his out-pitch into a slurve, which can be more effective versus left-handers.

Change Up: 40
Jensen's biggest challenge might be to perfect a change up. Adding a quality third pitch to a solid fastball and a potentially devastating curve ball could propel the 20-year-old into star status.

Command: 40
Cleaning up the control problems he faced a year ago should be Jensen's top priority in 2005. Simply attacking the strike zone would have made it possible for the right-hander to go deeper into each outing and develop better stamina as a starting pitcher.

Delivery: 45
While nothing glaring sticks out as a detriment to Jensen's approach, his delivery could be fine-tuned to help him add velocity and/or better command. You can bet that Jensen will be working on a consistent arm slot and release point all spring long.



Future:
Adding a third quality pitch as well as improving his command will determine whether Jensen has a future as a starter. His talent cupboard could bare a solid reliever and also help him hold his velocity at it's peak. Expect Jensen to start 2005 in Wisconsin.



MLB Clone: Brett Tomko, Jake Westbrook

MLB ETA: 2008





InsideThePark Prospect No. 36
Daniel Santin C
Opening Day Age: 19
Height/Weight: 6-3/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Acquired: Mariners 23rd round pick in 2003 Draft

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Peoria

.325

4

28

31

2

10

21

.384

.506

2004

Everett

.111

0

0

0

0

0

4

.111

.111



Strengths:
Santin's bread and butter is his bat and his strong performance in the Arizona Rookie League was enough evidence of such, that the club is considering a position switch already, to ensure Santin's stick stays in the lineup and develops as much as possible. With a smooth swing and good pop that could turn into the 25-homer variety, Santin is a solid offensive player at just 19-years-old.

Weaknesses:
Defensively, Santin is average, at best, in most areas and although he could develop into an average catcher, might be best suited for a move to first base, or even the outfield. At the plate, his reactions are a bit delayed as he sits on the fastball and adjusts to the offspeed stuff.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 40
In Santin's limited time as a pro, the 19-year-old has shown the ability to hit the ball hard on a consistent basis while limiting the empty at-bats, striking out just 21 times in 177 plate appearances. After hitting .325/.384/.506 in Peoria, Santin seems to be on schedule to move quickly through the system.

Hitting for Power: 50
Santin has the swing and the approach to develop plus power from the left side of the plate. Although he likely won't stick as a catcher, the Miami native could turn into a solid bat at first base.

Speed: 40
Santin runs decent for a teenage catcher and as long as he doesn't squat behind the dish for the next 20 years, he should be able to stave off the "slow" tag and stay within reach of the average runner.

Glove: 40
Still with a lot to learn as a backstop, Santin may end up sliding out to first base. If the organization has a strong feeling he will not develop better-than-average catching skills, the sooner he is moved, the better. Santin isn't terrible defensively, but as he progresses deeper into the system, more responsibilities will fall unto him.

Arm: 55
Santin has a pretty solid throwing arm and his performance during the season is affected much more by his footwork and the timing of his release. Santin has the arm to stick at catcher.



Future:
When, exactly, the M's make a decision on Santin's defensive position, could be determined after a second go of it behind the plate. Most clubs tend to leave a player at his most valuable defensive position until the decision to move him is made for them. Santin could split time between Wisconsin and Everett, just to get him as much experience as possible before the short season begins.



MLB Clone: Josh Bard, Greg Zaun

MLB ETA: September 2008





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 35
Ryan Christianson C
Opening Day Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6-2/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Mariners 1st round pick in 1999 Draft

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

San Antonio

.280

1

13

15

2

10

25

.329

.371

2004

Tacoma

.258

6

24

19

1

15

35

.325

.430



Strengths:
When the Mariners took Christianson in the first round in 1999, his best attributes were his throwing arm and the potential for a plus bat from behind the dish. Since the injuries have destroyed his development, Christianson has battled through it all just to give himself a chance. Players with resolve like that are always welcome in baseball.

Weaknesses:
Christianson may not be able to return to top form defensively, due to the nature of his arm injury. His bat doesn't project well enough at this stage to warrant a full-time move to first base. Christianson doesn't run well enough to make a smooth transition to the outfield and if his arm isn't full strength he probably couldn't play the field at all.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 35
Having not been healthy much over the past two seasons, Christianson welcomed the DH role in Triple-A Tacoma with open arms. While his throwing arm was healing from surgery the former first-round pick was working on making better contact and driving the ball the other way. If the work in both areas pays off, Christianson could hit in the .260-.270 range at the next level. At this point, however, the backstop has a long ways to go.

Hitting for Power: 45
If he does learn to hit the ball to right field more often, the 23-year-old will get more pitches to hit on the inner half of the plate and be able to use his natural power more to his advantage. Better weight shift and a consistent stride are awaiting his discovery.

Speed: 30
What else can you say but Christianson runs like a catcher? When 100% healthy he probably outruns most catchers but as his body matures and he continues to add bulk, the little speed he had will continue to run away from him.

Glove: 40
At the time of his last major injury, Christianson was making solid progress behind the plate and was starting to gain a reputation for calling a solid game. It remains to be seen If he can regain his defensive form.

Arm: 65
This is the biggest question mark after having surgery to repair his throwing shoulder. When he returned to the lineup last summer, Christianson was unable to catch after a few games behind the dish in Double-A San Antonio. Pre-injury, the Riverside, California native had a solid throwing arm with better-than-average accuracy ratings.



Future:
Christianson's future rides on how he handles the catching duties in Triple-A Tacoma in 2005. If his arm is sound and he shows the ability to work well with the pitching staff, the only question will be the development of his bat. A healthy Christianson could surprise many.



MLB Clone: Brook Fordyce, Dan Wilson

MLB ETA: September 2005





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 34
Rich Dorman RHP
Opening Day Age: 26
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent in 2002

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Inland Empire

7

7

3-2

37.0

35

12

36

0

2.68

1.27

2004

San Antonio

20

20

8-4

108.2

93

64

137

0

3.48

1.44



Strengths:
Dorman works off of his fastball, which is sneaky at times, and can appear to be dominant when located. The 26-year-old has a knack for putting hitters away when the count is in his favor. Packing a solid arsenal, Dorman's feel for pitching gives him an advantage that many pitchers are missing.

Weaknesses:
The right-hander needs to shore up his command to finish the journey to the top of his game. Surrendering 64 bases on balls in 108.2 innings isn't exactly the control of a pitcher ready to break into the big leagues. Improvements in this area land Dorman on the doorstep of Safeco Field a year from now.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 60
Dorman has a fastball that rarely touches the 93-94 range but seems to pick up velocity as it reaches the plate. In a relief role, the right-hander could release the hounds and add a few miles per hour to the heater but in a starting role his command tends to suffer the harder he throws.

Curve: 50
At times an underrated pitch, Dorman's curve ball can be inconsistent and down right stubborn. When it is working it's a tough pitch for hitters to deal with after seeing a steady diet of fastballs. Better control and more consistent release points from Dorman might allow him to boast a better-than-average overhand curve, as he closes in on a chance in the big leagues

Change Up: 45
Dorman is another pitcher with decent stuff that lacks a change up to polish the ammo. Dorman is a lot like fellow right-hander Clint Nageotte in that he will abandon the change when things get tight. If the curve ball isn't biting and the change has been forgotten, the hitter has a clear-cut advantage that he can see from miles away; sit on the fastball. Good thing Dorman's fastball is good enough to make up for a lack of a third pitch. But that will change in Triple-A where many hitters have major league experience.

Command: 45
Any progress made in this area and Dorman becomes a top candidate to see the M's pen in 2005. Walking 76 in less than 150 innings is hidden only by his 173 strikeouts. Walking 4.5 per nine innings is eventually going to hinder Dorman's chances of being promoted.

Delivery: 50
Dorman may have the quintessential delivery for today's pitcher. It is very simple, but advantageous to his attack on the hill. Dorman may benefit from work as a starter so his consistent delivery is able to aid in his quest for better control.



Future:
Dorman could be a candidate for a September call-up if he has a strong season in 2005. The right-hander could split time between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tacoma, where he could either start or fill a relief role.



MLB Clone: Dustin Hermanson, John Thomson

MLB ETA: 2006





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 33
Juan Gonzalez 2B
Opening Day Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6-0/165
Bats/Throws: B/R
Acquired: Traded from Detroit to Seattle in Jan. 2004

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Inland Empire

.290

2

59

79

17

51

95

.353

.371



Strengths:
Gonzalez is a solid player in all areas with the exception of hitting for power. Decent at shortstop, Gonzalez could project as a very solid second baseman where his range and arm are a better fit.

Weaknesses:
For a top-of-the-order hitter, Gonzalez must cut down on two things; Strikeouts and the number of times he gets caught stealing. Unable to fit anywhere else in a lineup but one where speed and getting on base are the name of the game, Gonzalez's status as a prospect relies on improvements in these areas.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 40
The switch-hitting Gonzalez has two shortcomings as a hitter; lack of traceable power and the ability to make consistent contact. These aren't two qualities that go hand-in-hand but the Puerto Rico native still managed to hit .290 for the Inland Empire 66ers. If Gonzalez is to move through Double-A San Antonio, he must continue to reduce the strikeouts, as he has done the past two seasons. It wouldn't hurt to take a few more walks either. Gonzalez does handle the bat very well and can bunt his way on base.

Hitting for Power: 20
Gonzalez reminds some of Rey Sanchez but that really isn't a fair statement to the 23-year-old middle infielder. Although he hit just two home runs, he did add 22 doubles and seven triples. If he can strengthen his 6-foot, 165-pound frame, Gonzalez could add enough pop to hit the gaps on a regular basis.

Speed: 65
Probably his best attribute, Gonzalez still hasn't learned how to steal bases. Caught 38 times in 109 attempts over the past three seasons, Gonzalez needs to continue to learn to read the move of the pitcher and run in better counts than he has in the past. The 23-year-old has the pure speed to swipe 40 bases a year.

Glove: 50
Not horrible at shortstop, Gonzalez is best suited to play second base and could flourish there in a full-time role. Without the pressures of playing the infield's toughest position, Gonzalez could turn into being a solid fielder if he can improve his footwork around the bag at second and clean up his throws to first.

Arm: 45
Another reason why shortstop isn't a good long-term fit for Gonzalez is his throwing arm. While he makes the necessary throws, ala David Eckstein, his arm strength is ideal for second base.



Future:
Gonzalez will more than likely be the starter at shortstop or second base at Double-A San Antonio after a solid 2004 campaign. Wherever he plays defensively, the 23-year-old must prove that he is capable of hitting good pitching on a regular basis to warrant a spot at the top of any batting order.



MLB Clone: Tony Womack, Neifi Perez

MLB ETA:2007





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 32
Jason Snyder RHP
Opening Day Age: 22
Height/Weight: 6-5/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Mariners 17th round pick in 2003 Draft

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Peoria

6

5

1-0

25.0

20

7

29

0

2.88

1.08

2004

Everett

8

8

2-2

44.1

32

16

39

0

2.23

1.08



Strengths:
Snyder's focus and determination might have been his best attribute if it weren't for his ability to make the right pitch when the count calls for such. Snyder uses his fastball well to set up his curve ball and has an intelligent approach to lead his attack.

Weaknesses:
The right-hander has a need for a solid third pitch and without it may fade out in Double-A in two years. His fastball-curve ball combination is solid but not dominant enough to get him to the major leagues all on their own. Also, better location of the fastball would set up his off speed stuff more efectively.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 55
In his first pro season, Snyder's heater sat in the 88-91 range and knocked on the door of 92 and 93, at times. The right-hander could use better command of his fastball to set up his breaking pitch, but the giddy up is already aboard. Some fine tuning here and there and his fastball could very well top out as an above average pitch.

Curve: 60
Easily his best pitch, Snyder uses his curve quite a bit when the count is in his favor. Most hitters he faced in Everett were overmatched by the slurve-style breaking ball but as Snyder faces better hitters, his out pitch must become a tighter pitch. Leaving it up over the plate in the short-season Northwest League is very different than hanging a curve ball in the California League.

Change Up: 40
Snyder is still working on the change and could decide to try throwing a splitter instead, if the change doesn't begin to develop. Simply a work-in-progress, Snyder's change up might be the difference between the 21-year-old staying in line as a starter and being sent to the bullpen.

Command: 45
Command is the only thing that keeps Snyder from breaking the top 20 and major progress in 2005 could send him packing his bags for the Texas League in the second half. More than likely, his improvements will come in stages and the Utah native has the stuff to overcome imperfect control. An average grade in this area next season pushes Snyder up 10 spots.

Delivery: 55
As with almost all pitching prospects, Snyder has flaws in his delivery that will be worked out with experience, instruction and simple repetition. There are no major hitches that are conducive to causing arm problems and his command isn't hurt too much by inconstant arm action.



Future:
Watch for Snyder to start the season in Wisconsin and possibly see some time with the Inland Empire 66ers in the California League. The soon-to-be 22-year-old has a chance to be a solid prospect and the more he commands the curve ball the more dominant he can be. Snyder has the endurance and durability to go deep into each start and eventually become a rotation anchor.



MLB Clone: Cal Eldred, Joe Mays

MLB ETA: September 2007





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 31
Rett Johnson RHP
Opening Day Age: 25
Height/Weight: 6-2/211
Bats/Throws: L/R
Acquired: Mariners 8th round pick in 2000 Draft

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Inland Empire

7

7

0-2

20.1

32

14

14

0

7.79

2.26



Strengths:
Johnson has better-than-average-command of a solid arsenal and is known for being a thinker on the mound. When focused, Johnson has a natural advantage over most minor league hitters.

Weaknesses:
All of the right-hander's strengths showed great vulnerability this past season when the 25-year-old folded after an off field distraction during the early stages of spring training. The 20.1 innings Johnson threw in 2004 proved he was nowhere near the pitcher he showed he was in 2003 and nearly moved him completely off them map within the orgnaization.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 55
Johnson has the ability to take his fastball into the low-90's, when healthy, but usually sits in the 88-90 range with solid control. With any added velocity Johnson's heater can grade out as above average but his movement is what has made it so effective to this point.

Slider: 60
The progress made with the slider in 2002 and 2003 is what propelled Johnson up the prospect ladder and had the right-hander on the brink of a big-league appearance heading in 2004. Continued improvement in command and consistency could make the slider a true out pitch for Johnson.

Change-Up: 50
Johnson dominated Double-A and for two months in Triple-A later in the 2003 season, and did it with a solid two-pitch combination that didn't include the best change up in the world. The grasp Johnson has on how to pitch tells that his change will be very important to him as he continues to sharpen his arsenal. No reason Johnson can't refine his change into an average pitch to give him three options to choose from.

Command: 50
Johnson has never been a pin-point control specialist but has typically displayed solid command of his fastball and slider. After a bump in the road during spring training last March, Johnson's focus, or lack thereof, forged a control problem that nobody expected from a polished pitcher. His return this past summer wasn't what he was looking for but it was just the first turn down the long road back. In the end, Johnson probably won't have too many problems finding the plate.

Delivery: 60
While his delivery isn't deceptive in the mold of a Dontrelle Willis or as smooth as a Mark Prior, Johnson's simple set, leg kick and drive motion is perfect for the set of pitches he uses. Without much negative lean and a strong drive toward the plate, Johnson's delivery is a positive aspect of his pitching talents.



Future:
Johnson was designated for assignment on 12/20 to clear room on the 40-man roster for Adrian Beltre. The club would like to retain his services and if Johnson clears waivers the two sides can re-connect on a minor league contract. If Johnson stays with the club, expect the right-hander to start fresh in spring training and begin his vindication in Inlande or San Antonio. Johnson has the stuff and command to be a No. 3 or 4 starter at the big-league level.



MLB Clone: Ryan Franklin, Jon Lieber

MLB ETA: 2006





Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com



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