M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 16-20

InsidethePark.com's Jason A. Churchill rolls on with prospects 16 through 20. Premium subscribers can enjoy the countdown to numero uno.



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InsideThePark Prospect No. 20
Casey Craig OF
Opening Day Age: 20
Height/Weight: 5-11/190
Bats/Throws: L/R
Acquired: M's 21st round draft pick in 2003

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Everett

.265

5

30

46

17

45

59

.398

.420



Strengths:
Craig is a solid athlete and is mature in the areas of physical strength and plate skills for someone who was 19-years-old for the entire 2004 season. His discipline and natural stroke leave very little for Craig to work on, with the exception of gaining valuable experience against top pitching.

Weaknesses:
Craig is not that unlike fellow outfield prospect Chris Snelling. Not blessed with great speed or top defensive skills, Craig must rely on instincts to get by with the glove. To stay on path to the majors, Craig must develop power and continue his improvement on the bases to avoid becoming a common minor leaguer.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 65
Craig should continue to get better at making consistent contact and spraying line drives all over the field. His patience and natural ability to work the count may allow for the 21st round draft pick to hit .300.

Hitting for Power: 60
Even after sporting a .420 slugging percentage in the Northwest League, it's apparent that Craig will have very little difficulty hitting 15+ home runs and finding the gaps for 30 or more doubles a season. The 20-year-old has drawn comparisons to a young Brian Giles due to his advanced approach and power potential.

Speed: 50
Craig won't be winning any stolen base titles anytime soon, nor will he break the triples record, in any particular manner. But he does run pretty well, considering his power potential and physical build. Stealing bases in double figures should be something that stays with Craig throughout his career.

Glove: 55
Intelligent, aggressive and consistent defense is all Craig needs to shoot for and he is more than capable of such, as a left fielder. He won't win any gold gloves, but he is far from a liability.

Arm: 60
Fitting of a major league left field prospect, Craig's arm is slightly above average, though he needs to work on being more accurate.



Future:
Craig's future and level of success will depend greatly on how far his bat can carry him. With projectable power that could ultimately land in the 20-25 range, possibly even better, Craig could find himself as a major league starter for more than a decade. The San Diego native will likely start his third pro season in the Midwest league with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.



MLB Clone: Sean Casey, Trot Nixon

MLB ETA: 2008





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 19
Rene Rivera C
Opening Day Age: 21
Height/Weight: 5-10/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: M's 2nd round pick in 2001

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Inland Empire

.235

6

53

41

0

28

70

.300

.346

2004

Tacoma

.400

1

1

3

0

0

3

.400

.667



Strengths:
Rivera has plus defensive skills, advanced for a 21-year-old backstop. Physically, Rivera is equipped to provide a solid, durable catching option for at least a decade. Rivera is the quintessential catch-and-throw receiver.

Weaknesses:
Typical of a young catcher, Rivera's plate skills need work but he has the physical tools to be adequate with the bat. If things go well, the Puerto Rican could develop average power, which would be a bonus from the catcher's position.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 40
After hitting a solid .275 in the pitcher's paradise that is the Midwest League, Rivera took a step back and finished at .235 in the California League. To make things look a little bit better, Rivera did collect two hits in five at-bats in spot duty at Triple-A Tacoma. Rivera must improve on working the count and getting better pitches to hit.

Hitting for Power: 45
Rivera has the raw strength to hit the ball along ways but lacks the discipline and bat speed to develop much more than average pop. Anything approaching double figures is a bonus.

Speed: 35
What else can be said but Rivera runs like a catcher. His footwork behind the plate is very solid but it doesn't translate into foot speed.

Glove: 65
Rivera's biggest strength is the 3-pound mitt he wears for nine innings. Quick to the ball and able to block pitches very well, Rivera is well on his way to being better-than-average defensively.

Arm: 65
Rivera has better-than-average arm strength and is very accurate, as well as aggressive, with his throwing. More experience will only improve his decision making with his pick-off throws and tendencies to throw behind runners at second base.



Future:
There is very little doubt that Rivera can catch in the big leagues. His bat, however, is a question mark for the first time in his career. If he can return to the .275/.344 range with average power, the M's have a solid prospect on their hands. Rivera is likely to start the 2005 season in Double-A San Antonio but could hit his way to Triple-A sometime this upcoming summer.



MLB Clone: Einar Diaz, Benji Molina

MLB ETA: 2006





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 18
George Sherrill LHP
Opening Day Age: 27
Height/Weight: 5-11/170
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Signed as a minor league free agent in 2003

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Tacoma

36

0

4-2

50.1

42

9

62

13

2.32

1.01

2004

Seattle

21

0

2-1

23.2

24

9

16

0

3.80

1.39



Strengths:
Sherrill is a polished left hander with great durability. His experience in college, the independent leagues and the two highest levels of the minor leagues have done him a great service. Confident, aggressive and intelligent on the hill, Sherrill is perfect for the bullpen.

Weaknesses:
Sherrill is minus a glaring weakness as all of his stints at each level were impressive, even after his left arm grew a bit tired following more than 15 consecutive months of live-action pitching.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 60
If you didn't see Sherrill pitch until his September call up than you missed perhaps the most dominant season a Mariners pitcher has put together in a few years. With a heater sitting in the 90-93 MPH range, Sherrill was the best relief pitcher in the PCL last season, and it wasn't even close. By the time he reached Safeco, he had worn down somewhat and was hitting the upper 80's. A rested Sherrill is a fine addition to the M's pen for 2005.

Slider: 65
Sherrill's slider is his out pitch and with great command is a plus option for the Memphis native. After setting up the slider with his fastball, Sherrill is able to dominate lefties and keep right-handers at bay with a well-located breaking ball.

Change Up: 45
The change isn't a pitch Sherrill has mastered yet, but knowing the path the 27-year-old took to get where he is, don't bet against him developing a more-than-usable change up.

Command: 70
Another strength for the former Austin Peay State Governor, Sherrill's command is impeccable. Fine control of the fastball and the slider allow Sherrill to throw either pitch in any count. It's not often that he gets himself into trouble by picking at the corners.

Delivery: 65
Sherrill's delivery is a weapon for the southpaw. With a three-quarters arm angle and a rhythmic leg kick, Sherrill is able to hide the ball until it explodes out of his hand. A thick lower half helps him drive off the mound and maximize his velocity.



Future:
Sherrill is going to open 2005 with the M's, serving as one of the main left-handed options along with Ron Villone. If he can add a serviceable change up to his arsenal, Sherrill could be one of the better relievers in the league, but until then will have to settle for being the plain old nasty southpaw that owns left-handed hitters.



MLB Clone: Mike Stanton, Steve Kline

MLB ETA: 2005





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 17
Yung-Chi Chen 2B
Opening Day Age: 21
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Everett

.300

3

34

37

25

16

36

.353

.420



Strengths:
Chen is lightning quick and uses his speed very well. In his first season as a pro in the U.S., the 21-year-old led the Northwest League in steals, despite missing the final three weeks after representing Taiwan in the Athens Olympics. Defensively, Chen is capable of playing 2B, 3B and SS at a high level and has all the skills to stick at either middle infield position.

Weaknesses:
Chen is a little bit light in the wallet and will need to get stronger in order to ensure that he staves off injury and doesn't suffer weary Septembers. The added strength will also aid in his power development, which is below average at this stage.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 65
Chen will get hits using his speed but his solid plate skills should continue to develop, allowing for solid contact and a high average. Limiting empty at-bats as a leadoff type will be Chen's next challenge.

Hitting for Power: 35
At this point in time, Chen isn't going to approach double figures in home runs but could use his speed to leg out doubles and triples. Chen could project out to 10-12 home runs as he matures physically.

Speed: 70
This is the Taiwan native's bread and butter. Capable of stealing 40+ bags, Chen is adept at reading pitchers and making a smooth turn toward second base. With very little wasted movement, Chen was caught stealing just three times and rarely makes an error in judgment on the base paths.

Glove: 65
Chen has the lateral quickness to play shortstop or third but is probably best suited to play second base and could be the club's future at the position. Able to make all the throws around the bag at second as well as in the hole at short make Chen a valuable piece in the organization.

Arm: 55
Chen's raw arm strength is more fitting of a second baseman but his quick release and accuracy allow for his time at shortstop and third.



Future:
Chen is slated to start 2005 with the Inland Empire 66ers, probably moving around the infield wherever he is needed. With other top prospects also expected to be added to the 66ers roster, Chen is unlikely to stick at one position.



MLB Clone: Chone Figgins, Willie Harris

MLB ETA: 2007





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 16
Shawn Nottingham LHP
Opening Day Age: 20
Height/Weight: 6-0/182
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: M's 13th round pick in 2003

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Everett

15

14

8-3

88.2

74

29

87

0

3.15

1.16

2004

Tacoma

3

0

0-0

2.0

4

3

2

0

13.50

3.50



Strengths:
Nottingham's competitive nature is hidden in his cool approach on the mound, but his maturity on the mound far outweighed his lack of experience. With average stuff, Nottingham pitches like he has the league's most devastating breaking ball and a 95-mph heater and usually catches hitters by surprise.

Weaknesses:
The Ohio native's lack of top drawer stuff, as well as his minimal experience, is his only weaknesses. As he builds endurance and durability, it is imperative that the left-hander stays strong with his pitching approach.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 50
Armed with a fastball in the 86-89 MPH range, Nottingham does not overpower hitters in the natural sense of a Randy Johnson. In his first season as a pro, however, he used a quality mix of well-located fastballs to set up his breaking pitches.

Curve: 50
Nottingham's next step is to polish the breaking ball, whether he goes with the curve ball or the slider. Left-handers are typically better off developing a slider to neutralize left-handed hitters as they progress through the minors.

Change Up: 65
Nottingham is one in a long line of southpaws with plus change ups. Working off the fastball, Nottingham mixes in a solid change that baffled older, more experienced hitters in the Northwest League last season. A quality pitch already, Nottingham simply needs to learn to set it up with better primary strikes, particularly a slider or cutter.

Command: 70
Nottingham walked just 29 batters in 2004, but in less than 90 innings, that number could use some fine tuning. When a pitcher, such as Nottingham, lacks dominating stuff, they tend to nip at the corners when they get into trouble. Throwing first pitch strikes, with all of his pitches, will help the 20-year-old stay away from having to nibble in order to hold off the big innings.

Delivery: 60
The Mariners will work with Nottingham on his delivery to iron out any kinks in his mechanics, though there aren't any glaring hitches at this stage. Working on a slide step, and improving the pick-off move, will give Nottingham more confidence in pitching with runners on base.



Future:
After one season, Nottingham appears to be a number four of five starter, but with maturity and a few more miles per hour on the fastball, Nottingham could become a middle-tier starting pitcher. Expect Nottingham to start 2005 in Wisconsin where he will be greatly assisted by the wretched weather in the first half of the season. A full year pitching against more experienced hitters will be a great test for Nottingham to take on.



MLB Clone: Mike Maroth, Noah Lowry

MLB ETA: 2008





InsideThePark.com Top 50 Prospects

  • No. 50 Chris Colton, OF
  • No. 49 Mumba Rivera, RHP
  • No. 48 Jon Huber, RHP
  • No. 47 Mark Lowe, RHP
  • No. 46 Brandon Moorhead, RHP
  • No. 45 Jared Thomas, LHP
  • No. 44 Aaron Taylor, RHP
  • No. 43 Brandon Green, 1B
  • No. 42 Matt Thornton, LHP
  • No. 41 Brent Johnson, OF
  • No. 40 Greg Jacobs, OF
  • No. 39 Ryan Feierabend, LHP
  • No. 38 Cesar Jimenez, LHP
  • No. 37 Aaron Jensen, RHP
  • No. 36 Daniel Santin, C
  • No. 35 Ryan Christianson, C
  • No. 34 Rich Dorman, RHP
  • No. 33 Juan Gonzalez, 2B
  • No. 32 Jason Snyder, RHP
  • No. 31 Rett Johnson, RHP
  • No. 30 Josh Womack, OF
  • No. 29 Oswaldo Navarro, 2B
  • No. 28 Jon Nelson, OF
  • No. 27 T.J. Bohn, OF
  • No. 26 Hunter Brown, 3B
  • No. 25 Greg Dobbs, 3B
  • No. 24 Ismael Castro, 2B
  • No. 23 Scott Atchison, RHP
  • No. 22 Jesus Guzman, 3B
  • No. 21 Jamal Strong, OF




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