Top Prospect #25: SS/OF Juan Sosa

Sosa! The name means power and of course, conjures images of that great smile and that chic little hop that he does when the ball is sailing toward oblivion. Oops, wrong Sosa. The Phillies haven't acquired Sammy Sosa, but they do have a Sosa of their own and he is definitely worth getting to know all about because for the Phillies version of Sosa, the future is now.

To say that Juan Sosa has had a varied and interesting career would be an understatement. The guy has seen and done a lot of stuff.

Sosa signed with the Dodgers as an undrafted free agent in 1992. He didn't head right to the Dodgers lower levels though, going instead to the Dodgers Dominican Summer League team for two seasons where he averaged .284 and drove in 99 runs. Finally, the Dodgers brought him state-side and assigned him to Vero Beach, but that stay didn't last long. By June, Sosa was moved to Yakima in the Northwest League where he stayed for the rest of the season. From there, the Dodgers bounced him back and forth between the Florida State League and the South Atlantic League. Those seasons in the lower levels of the Dodgers system weren't among Sosa's best. He hit just .238 and averaged just 4 homeruns and 22 RBI from 1995-1997.

After the '97 season, the Rockies acquired Sosa and put him at Salem in the Carolina league where he truly started to develop. Sosa led the entire Rockies organization in triples and steals and finished third in the league in runs, third in the league in hits and fifth in the league in total bases Defensively, Sosa was spectacular, leading the league in putouts with 196. Sosa's growth continued in 1999 when he started the season at AA Carolina. He wound up third in the league with 38 steals and led all shortstops with a .958 fielding percentage. Those numbers got Sosa moved to AAA on September first and to the majors nine days later. Literally hours after arriving in the big leagues, Sosa was pinch-hitting against Milwaukee. Ironically, a week after his first at bat, he picked up his first major league hit off Robinson Checo of the Dodgers, the organization that had given up on him less than two years before.

While things seemed to be going well for Sosa, 2000 was a step back. There were no calls from the Rockies and Sosa spent the entire season at AAA where he also started the 2001 season. From there, things got worse when the Rockies put Sosa on waivers in April. As he waited to learn of his fate, Sosa got a call saying he had been claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks and he was to report to AAA Tucson. In May, the D'backs needed a warm body and recalled Sosa, who played in three games, two of them as a defensive replacement at third base. Less than a week into his stay, the D'backs sent him back to the minors, but didn't have room for him at AAA, so they sent him to AA El Paso for six weeks before moving him back to Tucson. That summer, Sosa played a total of 50 games at shortstop, 36 games at second base, 17 games at third base and 5 games in the outfield.

Even with the increased versatility, the Diamondbacks didn't want Sosa back and cut him loose. Sosa spent the entire winter without a team and wasn't picked up until May of 2002 when the Phillies signed him as a minor league free agent and assigned him to Clearwater. The Florida State League was definitely an eye-opener for Sosa, but he did what he needed to do and battled through the season and played winter ball in the Dominican Republic as part of a plan to revitalize his career.

The Phillies showed faith in Sosa and gave him a spot on the Scranton Wilkes-Barre roster to start the 2003 season. Sosa didn't exactly leap out of the gates, but started to come around and put together an 11 game hitting streak, raising his average from .246 to .337. Sosa was the starting shortstop when the Scranton season started, but when Nick Punto came to Scranton after a stint with the Phillies, Sosa moved to the outfield to fill the hole created by the departure of Wendell Magee.

Unfortunately, the second half of the season was unkind to Sosa and his average again fell, dropping all the way to a season-ending .252 at Scranton. 

At 28, Sosa isn't a top-notch prospect, but he bears watching. Some scouts believe that he could turn into a Tomas Perez type player. The Phillies would love the idea of Sosa progressing to that point. Sosa plays with intensity and definitely has speed to go with the versatility that he has learned along the way. The key now, will be to watch how Sosa rebounds in 2004 and then wait to see if the Phillies – or some other organization – may have a place for him.

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