Just Missed It: Beyond the Top 50

Wondering about a prospect that was not on the top 50? You have come to the right place. Ian Levin and Joseph A. Yencich provide their take on the minor leaguers that missed the top 50, but still may have an impact in the future. Part 1 0f 2.

Carlos Arroyo, OF
Arroyo displayed more power this year than in any previous season, slugging out 22 doubles and six home runs. He also hit .323, his highest single season average in the U.S., and stole his usual quota of around fifteen bases. His primary asset is his ability to put the ball into play. He isn't likely to add walks to his game any time soon, but if he can keep getting extra-base hits, he'll become an interesting 2-hole hitter. Stealing a few more bags couldn't hurt either.

Adam Brandt, RHP
Brandt seemed like a sleeper when the M's drafted him in the 28th round out of Otterbein College this year. He impressed rather quickly in Peoria, posting a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings, in spite of the dry air. His hit totals were low and he struck out more than a batter per inning, but such is usually the case when a starting pitcher comes out of the 'pen. If Brandt can nail down a rotation spot and keep this up, he'll be one to watch.

Jeffery Dominguez, SS
Though the Mariners selected Dominguez in the 9th round out of the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy this year, he was a bit overmatched in his debut, and hit just .222/.288/247. The good news is that he was perfect in ten stolen base attempts. Dominguez was scouted as having some gap power and the ability to hit to the opposite field, so he isn't a lost cause offensively. Nor are his fifteen errors in 47 games a sign of a future defensive liability. More practice in a short-season league should help both areas.

Omar Falcon, C
The Mariners picked up Falcon in the 2003 minor league rule 5 with the intent of teaching him to switch-hit. While his average was mediocre at .222 this year, his peripherals of a .335 on-base percentage and a .373 slugging percentage aren't bad in comparison. The most important thing for Falcon may be surviving a full-season league, seeing as how he has yet to do so in five pro years. Whether his bat improves or stays about the same, nothing beats live competition for improving skills.

Michael Garciaparra, SS
A change of scenery to the warmer California League didn't help Garciaparra's bat as much as one would hope, seeing as he hit only .226/.333/.316. He was also plagued by wrist problems, just as his brother was years ago. The former first-rounder has been consistently inconsistent in his years as a pro. That is to say, he starts off ice cold, gets injured midseason, and comes back having caught lightning in a bottle. The shortstop is now buried on the organization depth chart and its now or never for his prospect status.

Stephen Grasley, RHP
Grasley stuck to relief in Arizona and had a 3.18 ERA over 28.1 innings, logging four wins. While impressive, the real jaw-dropper was that he struck out 37 and walked just one batter the entire season. Though his reputation as a serious control pitcher is well-deserved, doing that as an undrafted college senior in a league run by 19-20 year olds isn't as spectacular. Grasley needs to earn a rotation spot in a higher league, then a promotion or two. If he can keep that up, he could be legit.

Edgar Guaramoto, RHP
In his first season as a pitcher, the former infielder embarrassed VSL hitters to the tune of a 2.28 ERA and a .195 opposing average. After that, he nailed down a bullpen spot with Lara in the VWL and kept the far-superior competition to a 3.33 ERA. Guaramato throws mid-90s gas and a dangerous slider, so all that's really keeping him from the top 50 list is a U.S. debut. But like many others who have just recently taken to the mound, he'll need to polish up his control a bit if he's to succeed at the higher levels.

Jeff Heaverlo, RHP
Among the more peculiar injury stories of the year was Heaverlo tweaking a muscle in his armpit and being held to just 5.2 innings with Tacoma. It wasn't a season-ending injury, but it wasn't successfully rehabbed either, this the season-long stint on the DL. When healthy, he's an intriguing arm with a good fastball and two kinds of sliders. Should he prove himself healthy in Tacoma, he might get a look if the M's need another arm in the ‘pen.

Marshall Hubbard, 1B
Hubbard split time between first and the outfield for the Aquasox after being drafted in the 8th round this year. In 55 games with the ‘Sox, he hit .275/.361/.392, and was fifth on the team with 14 doubles, despite having 50-100 at-bats less than those ahead of him. His bat was what got him drafted in the early rounds, but like many other draftees, he needs to get used to handling a wood bat. The good news is that the early results are much better than other recent draft picks.

Mike Hrynio, RHP
Drafted out of high school as a shortstop, Hrynio never did enough with the bat to warrant leaving the Arizona League. On the mound, however, he transformed into a flamethrowing closer, and struck out 82 in just 62.1 innings out of Wisconsin's bullpen. Like many taking the mound for the first time, Hrynio's control isn't perfect, and he ended up with 33 walks in the same span. If he can cut down on those, hitters already have enough trouble getting hits off of him, compiling a .203 opponent's batting average.

Craig James, RHP
At 21-years-old, James tore through the Arizona League, posting a 0.68 ERA and notching four saves, albeit with just 13.1 innings under his belt. Compared to 2003, his walks went up by two per nine innings, but his strikeout ratio took a spike as well, while he allowed less hits per inning. Though the numbers are quite impressive, the level of competition and the sample size were not. James should at least have earned himself a promotion to Everett and possibly a shot at closing. What he does with it will determine his future on this list.

Aaron Looper, RHP
Looper seemed on the verge of getting a bullpen job with the M's when he was traded with Ryan Ketchner for Jolbert Cabrera. A week later, he was sent back for Glenn Bott, and pitched just 12.2 unspectacular innings with Tacoma before needing Tommy John surgery. The surgery might add a few MPH to his already good stuff, but it will take a few months before he's back to full strength. Even then, he'll still have to compete with all the other arms left in Tacoma.

Jason Mackintosh, LHP
The Mariners talked Mackintosh out of retirement and into a minor league contract prior to last season. At first glance, his 4.04 ERA in Wisconsin seems to show a little rust, but his 139 strikeouts to 44 walks and .248 opposing batting average speaks otherwise. Still, a good season in A ball doesn't make up for lost time. On top of that, 18 HR, 14 hit batters, and 10 wild pitches in 149.1 innings aren't much to write home about. 'Tosh will have to improve in all those categories and work his way into another promotion this year. But he has the stuff pitch well in the California League and end the season competing in Double-A.

Erick Monzon, SS
After being signed as an undrafted senior, Monzon took over primary duties at shortstop for Inland Empire and quickly made his presence known, hitting .339/.381/.591 with the Sixers over the course of 31 games. Many players overlooked by the draft start their careers out with a bang, but oftentimes they struggle to keep it up for a full season. Monzon will have to prove that his performance wasn't merely a flash in the pan. He may sneak up on some people and may also sneak up some prospect lists.

Eric O'Flaherty
Back in 2003, O'Flaherty set the short-season leagues on fire with a combined 2.43 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 37 innings. Unfortunately, the Walla Walla native came down with some back troubles this year in Wisconsin and was shut down with just 57 more innings under his belt. O'Flaherty will just have turned 20 by the time spring training starts, so he has time on his side. The Braves thought enough of him to consider using their first round pick on him in 2003, and he still has great potential if his mechanics can hold up. Expect the Washington native to be in the top 50 next season.

Nick Orlandos, 2B
Orlandos started off his half season with Wisconsin by batting .400 through the first few weeks. He then cooled off quite a bit, and his end average was .291/.354/.345. The .345 slugging was a far cry from the .419 he put up the previous season when he was named Everett's team MVP. He is already 24 and has yet to play a full minor league season. Couple that with a tendency to slow down as the season goes on, and there are questions that he needs to answer before he is considered a prospect.

Julio Santiago, LHP After dominating the VSL in 2003, Santiago took his show to the Arizona League and destroyed the competition, holding them to just five hits in ten innings of work while striking out twelve. That was all the work he got in for the season, for unknown reasons, but it is in line with, if not a little better than what he did in Venezuela. Santiago will likely have a shot at one of the rotation spots in Everett come this summer.

Mike Wilson
The former second rounder played his first season outside of Arizona this year and showed good raw power, hitting 15 doubles and 9 home runs in 239 at-bats. His batting average dropped from .311 to .259, but he still came through when it counted and was second on the team with 51 RBIs. Wilson has been an enigma through his first few seasons, always seeming to be on the verge of putting it together, just never quite making it. Production wise, this was a big step in the right direction, but his average and ability to take walks could use some improvement.

Bryan LaHair, 1B LaHair narrowly missed the top 50. After a blazing start in Everett he was promoted to Wisconsin where he remained on fire. He finally cooled off but the 6-5 lefty hit .279 with five homers in 262 at-bats in Wisconsin. If LaHair is to make the top 50 next season he will need to cut down on his swing to help limit his strikeouts, but his power caqnnot be ignored.

Gary Harris, OF
Harris is an athletic outfielder that can do a little bit of everything. The former 18th round pick hit .279 with 8 homers, 18 triples, and 34 stolen bases for Inland Empire in 2004. Those are nice numbers but his age, 25, limits his potential. If he is to take the next step he will need to improve his plate discipline. He walked just 29 times in over 600 plate appearances.

John Lindsey, 1B
Like Harris, Lindsey posted solid numbers in 2004 but was old for the league. He hit .282 with 19 homers in 457 at-bats in his second time through the Texas League. Lindsey was 27 last season so if he is to see the top 50 next year he'll need to have a monster season. Time is running out but he could have a solid year in Triple-A.

Aaron Trolia, RHP
Trolia was drafted in the 27th round from Washington State University where he was primarily a starter. After with the M's he was assigned to Everett where he made just four starts in 20 appearances. Trolia will likely remain in the pen for 2005 so he will need to adjust to his new role if he is to crack the top 50 next season. From the bullpen, Trolia has good stuff and could work his way toward either end of the game, as a starter or as a closer.

Miguel Martinez, LHP
After a breakout 2003 season in which Martinez posted a 1.13 ERA, he took a step back to a 5.62 ERA in ‘04. He managed to post a better K/9 rate but his walks and homers allowed also increased. If he can limit the longball, the 2001 37th round pick could bounce back and shoot up the M's prospect chart. Again. Last season, Martinez was ranked as the top reliever in the system after his stellar '03 campaign.

Brett Evert, RHP
The Mariners acquired Evert when the Braves placed him on waivers in August 2004. He posted a 6.48 ERA in just 8.1 innings while in the M's organization. Since being named one of the best Atlanta prospects a few seasons ago, his strikeouts have gone down while his walks have gone up. The M's may give him one more chance next season, likely starting the year in Triple-A Tacoma.

Ruben Flores, RHP
Flores was drafted in the 12th round of the 2003 amateur draft. In the Arizona Rookie League that season he posted a 3.73 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 31 innings. The M's were hopeful that he could improve on those numbers in Everett in 2004 but instead he regressed. He posted a 5.20 ERA in 53.2 innings, striking out 40 but walking 24. If he is to improve his game, he will need to keep the ball in the park. He allowed eight homers in 2004.

Rick Guttormson, RHP
Guttormson, the former independent leaguer, surprised many when he posted a 3.29 ERA in 65.2 innings pitched for Double-A San Antonio. He struck out 56 and walked 24 while saving 25 games. He continued his solid pitching into the winter leagues and has emerged as a solid relief prospect. Guttormson should get a chance to be a major contributor to the Tacoma Rainiers' bullpen in 2005.

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