Wizards: Position Player/Prospect of the Year

This year in Fort Wayne, shortstop Matt Bush got all the attention being the number one overall pick from last year's draft, Colt Morton for his power, Chris Kolkhorst because, well, he's the "Grit Man", but. . .

Sean Kazmar was the Wizard's best overall player/prospect of 2005.

The Padres drafted Kazmar, 21, in the 5th round in 2004. Converted to second base from shortstop because of the selection of Matt Bush, Kazmar led the Wizards this year in total bases, doubles and only had 17 errors in 135 games.

Although Kazmar led the Wizards in few categories, few players put together as many different skills and only Bush may have the potential to be a better player than Kazmar in the long run. Although he plays second base, he still possesses the cannon arm and range of the highly coveted shortstop prospect he once was, and for his size, 5-foot-9, 170-pounds, he posses some decent pop on the offensive side.

By the numbers: .267/.329/.386, with 26 doubles, ten home runs and 48 RBIs

"I'm looking to hit line drives, like any other guy. Sometimes I'll run into one, but I've always been able to hit the ball out. What the organization says is that I have enough pop to get me in trouble. I'll take that, but I'm not going out there trying to hit home runs. I'm more like a gap guy, trying to hit doubles, get in scoring position for the three, four and five guys", said Kazmar during an in-season interview.

Moreover, the players that we are comparing Sean to, with the exception of Bush, Morton and Kolkhorst, came out of highly competitive division one schools, while Kazmar is the equivalent of a college sophomore. Middle infielders with his range, power and age are rare. Next year we should see Kazmar put up some good numbers at Lake Elsinore and he could form part of the best defensive middle infield with Matt Bush in the California League.

Peter Ciofrone, 22 also put up some quality numbers with the Wizards this year including a final month where he hit .384/.545/.470. A left-handed hitter, who saw the majority of his playing time as a designated hitter, Ciofrone settled into playing third base for the last month of the season once Brett Dowdy was promoted to Lake Elsinore.

Overall Ciofrone finished the season at .301/.400/.391, with five home runs and 59 RBIs. The biggest problem that Ciofrone may have is finding a regular position where he excels defensively. He committed 12 errors in very limited time in the field and his power numbers right now aren't enough to carry him far as a third baseman. Also, with Brett Bonvechio ahead of him in Mobile and Chase Headley behind him in Fort Wayne, he will face some stiff competition within the organization.

Chris Kolkhorst, 23, should have never been at Fort Wayne in the first place, or if he did it should have been to get comfortable playing centerfield. The "Grit Man" turned in his typical quality performance, again walking more than he struck out (65/57) while hitting .282/.349/.392.

Chris may be the best leadoff hitter in the organization right now, for a few reasons. One, he knows how to draw a walk and while not possessing home run power, is certainly able to hit doubles, with 23 extra base hits in 100 games.

Wizard's manager Randy Ready had this to say on Kolkhorst: "As far as being a leadoff hitter, that is my easiest decision of the day when Chris is in there. His on base percentage reflects that, he's done a nice job of running the bases. At one point they didn't know if he was going to be a good enough base runner and base stealer, but he's worked with the coaches and taken a lot of the information and applied it to his game."

Matt Thayer, 23, had a nice year, despite bouncing back and forth between Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. Thayer does a lot of things well, but doesn't have an outstanding tool, defense, power or speed, which kinds of holds him back when competing with others who are similar players such as Drew Macias and Kolkhorst. Still, Thayer put up good numbers at both Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore. He has a decent slugging percentage because of his ability to hit doubles, but, like Kolkhorst, the Padres need to start finding out what he can and can't do.

Colt Morton, 23, found the control of the strike zone that had eluded him for his first two years of professional baseball this year in Fort Wayne. This year Colt hit .261/.464/.362, with 15 home runs and 46 RBIs in 63 games, but most importantly he had a vastly improved strikeout to base-on-balls ratio from previous years, 57-to-35, which propelled him to greater heights at Lake Elsinore this year, but more on that in the next report.

Matt Bush, 19, has made a lot of errors during the year, but for every error made he also ranged to about two or three balls that other shortstops in the Midwest League wouldn't have. A lot of guys that are young in that type of league playing 140 games are going to have lapses in concentration and are going to make errors.

When you talk with people in Fort Wayne who have seen him play everyday, they credited him and his defense as being one of the big reasons that the Wizards did as well as they have in the first half of the year.

To put it in perspective, Bush, who should be a college freshman, played this whole year against essentially an all-star team of college players. It's a tough jump.

At the plate, he does make contact, it's just a question of understanding what type of hitter he is, a gap hitter, not a home run hitter as he originally thought he was, and how to hit with a wooden bat.

The Cal League is much more of a hitter's league with better weather and the infields play like astro turf because they are so hard. His average will increase.


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