M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 11-15

Prospects 11-15 just missed the cut for the Top 10 but have some long-term promise of their own. Curtains up!



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InsideThePark.com Prospect No. 15
Position: 3B
Opening Day Age: 28
Height/Weight: 6-1/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: M's 13th round draft pick 1999

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Tacoma

.269

21

51

56

5

26

82

.344

.597

2004

Seattle

.216

6

13

15

1

9

32

.298

.441



Strengths:
Leone is one of the best athletes in the system and possesses great power and better speed than anyone expects. The Las Vegas native brings an old school approach to the game that begins with his willingness to play anywhere in fthe field, as long as he stays on the field. Leone has the physical tools to play any position on the diamond.

Weaknesses:
Leone's "slugger" mentality has kept him from blue chip status and may ultimately facilitate a trade of the Saint Martin's College product. Lacking great defensive instincts at third base, and a special talent this side of his raw power, leave Leone on the fringe.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 45
Hitting .269 in Triple-A isn't indicative of great hitter and when 82 strikeouts in just over a half of a season are factored in, you are left staring at a stat line dominated by power numbers. Far too many empty at-bats in Tacoma, and even more so in Seattle, showed that Leone has some serious fine tuning to do.

Hitting for Power: 65
Leone's best tool is the power swing he can lay on a fastball. As proven at Safeco Field in the second half of last season, Leone can hit the ball a long ways, when he makes contact. If more consistent contact was made, the power potential would be even greater.

Speed: 65
Leone is a plus runner with solid instincts on the bases. Though he won't steal too may bags, the M's 2003 Minor League Players of the Year will take the extra base and leg out a few infield hits a long the way.

Glove: 50
Leone's fielding at the hot corner is adequate, though his error totals do not provide convincing evidence of the facts. Several throwing errors with the M's late in the year showed he may have had some jitters about being in the big leagues. Leone has the ability to slide over to shortstop and fill a short-term gap and can also play adequately in left field. His footwork is solid and he is capable of making the necessary throws from short.

Arm: 60
Arm strength is not an issue with Leone, no matter where he plays on the field. Accuracy may be. After tossing a half-dozen wide ones across the diamond in August and September, he must get past the nerves or lack of focus that caused the blunders.



Future:
Leone may be the odd man out in a roster crunch this offseason. After the signing of Adrian Beltre the M's have little need to carry a second third baseman. With Greg Dobbs and Hunter Brown capable of filling the position in Triple-A, Leone could be traded if he can't convince new manager Mike Hargrove and GM Bill Bavasi that he can fill a utility role. The decision may have already been made and, if so, Leone will not get a chance to head to spring with the club. Barring a deal, Leone has a chance to use his physical tools to earn a job on the 25-man roster in Peoria.



MLB Clone: Morgan Ensberg, Casey Blake

MLB ETA: 2005





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InsideThePark Prospect.com No. 14
Position: SS
Opening Day Age: 23
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Acquired from White Sox in June, 2004

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Birmingham

.287

11

38

30

0

15

46

.336

.536

2004

San Antonio

.274

6

33

18

0

9

27

.326

.465



Strengths:
Morse has the raw power to hit 30 or more home runs and the arm to play either position on the left side of the infield. One thing that is not missing with Morse is resolve. Many believe Morse has been playing out of position since day one but he keeps playing just well enough to hang on to his job.

Weaknesses:
More has had off the field issues that may have taken some of his focus away from his performance at the ball park. Morse's plate discipline needs work, as does his ability to work the count on a consistent basis.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 50
With mediocre walks ratios, Morse has room for improvement with his plate skills that would add to his ability to hit for a higher average. Morse would greatly benefit from more patience and a more aggressive approach once the count is in his favor.

Hitting for Power: 55
Morse could grade out in the "70" range here if his strike zone judgment improved and he was able to focus on driving the ball. Far too often he is fooled or overpowered by a plus fatsball. Better pitch selection could correct much of what is lacking.

Speed: 55
Morse is no speed burner and isn't going to blind anyone with his quickness on the bases. The 23-year-old does, however, possess good foot speed and runs pretty well for a player of his stature. His speed doesn't translate into steals but he will run out a few triples on liners into the gap.

Glove: 50
Defense is likely Morse's Achilles heel. Lacking great range or footwork and making a few too many errors, Morse needs to make the position-switch to stay on track to make the big leagues anytime soon. Third base and first base seem to make the most sense but a move to the outfield might be the best chance for the Florida native to make a positive contribution offensively. His 200+ pound frame isn't the detractor but being 6-4 eliminates any room for error that shortstops have.

Arm: 65
Possessing a plus arm, Morse simply needs to improve his consistency and better his short throws to second. The former White Sox 3rd round pick has arm strength to spare and would benefit from the ability to let it fly from an outfield position.



Future:
Morse's work to stay at shortstop will continue in 2005 at Triple-A Tacoma where the leash will be much shorter with Jose Lopez on the roster. Any long stretches of inconsistencies and Morse could find himself playing more left field than anything else.



MLB Clone: Eric Munson, Jayson Werth

MLB ETA: 2006





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 13
Thomas Oldham LHP
Opening Day Age: 22
Height/Weight: 6-2/210
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: M's 8th round draft pick in 2003

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Wisconsin

19

19

6-6

116.2

108

30

132

0

2.93

1.18

2004

Inland Empire

7

6

4-3

42.0

47

6

56

0

3.21

1.20



Strengths:
Oldham has an aggressive, intelligent approach to pitching and his relentless pursuit to be better could be the difference in the southpaw making the big leagues and being left in Triple-A forever. If it's all put in the basket of effort and focus, you can bet Oldham isn't left behind.

"He's a tremendous kid and a tremendous worker," said M's minor league pitching coordinator Pat Rice.

Weaknesses:
Lacking an overpowering fastball or a devastating breaking ball, Oldham has been getting outs with a well-located heater and a plus change. As he progresses through the minors, Oldham needs to develop a slider to neutralize left-handers.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 50
An average fastball in the high 80's doesn't keep Oldham from having a box full of solid pitches.

"He has got very good stuff," said Rice. "You can tell by his strikeout numbers and how guys hit him. He has days where he is 88-91, but will sit 86-90."

Curve: 65
A solid curve ball is one of Oldham's strikeout pitches and the left-hander is capable of keeping right-handed hitters off balance with the curve.

"I thought behind Felix he was probably the best pitcher we had in the minors last year," said Rice. He was outstanding."

Change Up: 65
Probably his best pitch at this point, Oldham's change is second only to fellow lefty Bobby Livingston and with great command it could stay a plus pitch throughout his career. "Tremendous change up," adds Rice.

Command: 70
Oldham's numbers in Wisconsin were very good and his 30 walks in 116.2 innings were one of the eye-opening numbers he left behind. But his six walks in 42 innings with Inland Empire versus 56 strikeouts dwarfed his performance in the Midwest League. It's numbers like these that make scouts believe in Oldham's long-term ability.

Delivery: 65
Oldham's delivery is prototypical of a left-hander and reveals no tells or hitches. Continued work in driving off the mound and getting the most out of his pitches are crucial for any starting pitcher, and even more so for those lacking a dominant fastball.



Future:
Oldham will likely start 2005 with Double-A San Antonio where he will be challenged by experienced hitters of his own age group. Adding a cutter or slider this winter is key for Oldham's further development.

"I think he could be as interesting a left-hander as there is to watch," said Rice.



MLB Clone: Darrell May, Mark Buehrle

MLB ETA: 2007





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InsideThePark.com Prospect No. 12
Position: OF
Opening Day Age: 23
Height/Weight: 5-10/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 1999

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Peoria

.312

0

9

8

1

7

3

.476

.500



Strengths:
Snelling's hard-nosed approach is a strength and a shortcoming. It's what separates him from the average minor leaguer but is also what has kept him off the field so much since 2002. When healthy, the Australian native is a gifted hitter with solid all-around baseball talent.

Weaknesses:
With the exception of his health issues, Snelling has very few true weaknesses. He lacks great athletic ability but makes up for much of that with pure effort.

"Snelling isn't going to light anybody's bleacher's on fire," said a former AL scout. "He can do a lot of things with the bat but if he is always going to be hurt, what good is it going to be?"



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 65
Not many doubt that a healthy Snelling could bat .300 in the big leagues. Many question his ability to stave off injury enough to even get the chance.

"Without evidence of anything different, they (M's) can't count on him," said the scout.

Hitting for Power: 50
Power isn't his game and Snelling has no ill-advised efforts to change that.

"He is what he is," added the scout. "10-12 home runs is probably all you can expect."

Speed: 50
Speed used to be a weapon for Snelling but as he matured physically and suffered through two knee injuries, he is lucky to grade out as an average runner.

"He'd be smart to put up a doughnut in the stolen base column this year," joked the scout.

Snelling's game occurs in the batter's box and expecting more than average stolen bases numbers as a maximum is too much.

Glove: 60
Snelling has average range in the corners but his grit and determination pay off here. He gets good jumps and takes solid routes on a consistent basis. With plus speed, Snelling would be an ideal center fielder. Without it, he is an asset with the glove in left.

Arm: 60
Snelling has a solid accurate arm in which he is very intelligent about using. Rarely do you see the 23-year-old miss a key cut-off man or throw to the wrong base.



Future:
Snelling's health is at the top of every discussion about his future. Perhaps some time at DH and a switch to left field work, versus center or right, would aid in his attempts to be a healthy prospect.

"Snelling should already be the club's left fielder. His knee injury in Tampa changed his career, but don't sell this kid short," said the scout. "He can hit. Period."



MLB Clone: Trot Nixon, Sean Burroughs

MLB ETA: September 2005





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InsideThePark Prospect No. 11
Cha Seung Baek RHP
Opening Day Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6-4/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: Signed as a non-drafted free agent in 1998

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Tacoma

14

14

5-4

72.2

85

24

56

0

4.21

1.50

2004

Seattle

7

5

2-4

31.0

35

11

20

0

5.52

1.48



Strengths:
Baek's build and resolve have persevered over the past two seasons after the right-hander returned from arm surgery in 2003 and a nagging finger injury last summer.

"He's got tremendous command and probably the best mechanics as anyone in the system," said Rice.

Weaknesses:
Baek missed a third of the year with the finger injury and has yet to get the opportunity to pitch a full, healthy season since his surgery prior to the 2003 season.

"He just needs to stay healthy," said Rice.

Holding base runners and keeping his focus with runners aboard is crucial as he enters his final stages of development.



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 60
Baek has a solid fastball, typically sitting the 88-92 range. With good command of his heater, Baek is able to locate well and set up his solid off speed stuff and often comes back and throws a sneaky low-90's fastball right on by hitters.

Slider: 50
Baek's slider needs work but it's more than a usable pitch at this stage. Developing effective and consistent arm action will greatly improve his effectiveness with the slider.

Change Up: 60


Baek has a solid change but often falls in love with the pitch and negates its effectiveness. The 24-year-old right-hander must work on setting up the change as an out pitch instead of using it to set up another change or a hittable fastball.

Command: 60
Baek has good control and his command of the zone is a strength for the Korean native. At times, Baek picks at the corners and this is typical of a pitcher without confidence in his fastball.

Delivery: 70
Solid mechanics and a consistent, fluid motion come naturally for Baek.

"The bad thing is that sometimes the pretty mechanics don't lead to any deception to the hitter," said Rice. "It's just a matter of him getting comfortable up there."



Future:
Baek will start the 2005 season in Triple-A Tacoma in attempts to break into the majors for good. Staying off the DL and becoming more focused in jams are a must for the right-hander.

"We're going to work on hiding the ball a little bit better and trying to get his fastball to sink a little bit more," said Rice. "I think the last game he threw at the end of the season was what we expected all along."



MLB Clone: Chan Ho Park, Scott Elarton

MLB ETA: 2005





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



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