Broken at the Break: Position Prospects in Trouble

While the Gavin Floyds and Ryan Howards of the world have gotten a lot of attention for the numbers that they're putting up, other prospects are struggling. For some, 2004 has been a rough season and could still get rougher. The good news is that the players on our list of struggling prospects all have one thing in common; the potential to turn things around.

Andy Machado
There is no doubt that Machado has a lot of talent. Defensively, he has been stellar. He makes spectacular plays that have saved Scranton pitchers time after time. Unfortunately, he has also been known to zone out a time or two and blow some easy plays here and there, although he seems more focused this season. Offensively, Machado is just not putting up the numbers that the Phillies had hoped for, hitting just .233 at the break. The fact that Machado has some decent plate discipline helps him, since he has drawn 43 walks to up his OBP to .350 for the season. If he could cut down on his strikeouts (60) and make more contact, his speed would become a bigger part of his game.

Originally, Machado was thought to be a potential everyday major leaguer, but his numbers now point to him being a utility player at best. Since he's still just 23, there is time for him to turn things around.

Danny Gonzalez
The switch-hitting Gonzalez is another guy with a lot of talent that is still untapped. Like Machado, he's still very young (22) and can take a little time to progress. At the lower levels, Gonzalez was a career .263 hitter, but has dropped to .239 this season at AA Reading. Some scouts believe that he won't get much higher than .250, especially if his plate discipline doesn't improve. Defensively, Gonzalez has made 22 errors in 86 games at shortstop already this season after averaging 23 per season in his first three minor league seasons.

The Phillies have high hopes for Gonzalez even though he has struggled. His age is on his side and he can afford to spend another season at AA next year. Ironically, one scout that we talked to says that he thinks Gonzalez is a true sleeper and another has him pegged to simply be a utility player. We'll see who is right.

Russ Jacobson
Jacobson's star has been falling for a while, but it has officially burned itself out this season. The 26 year old catcher is hitting just .149 at AA Reading. After an injury plagued 2003 campaign that saw him on the DL four times, Jacobson actually had put up some of the best numbers of his career. The hope was that if he could get past the injuries, he might be at least a minor prospect to become a backup catcher at the major league level. That hasn't happened, obviously. Jacobson, who was teammates at the University of Miami with Pat Burrell and Jason Michaels, was a third round pick in 1999 and seemed to have a bright future.

The fact that Jacobson is a pretty good defensive catcher who handles pitchers well is a plus. Still, he can't hit below the Mendoza Line and get anywhere near the majors.

Juan Richardson
This time last season, Richardson's season was already over after suffering a severly sprained ankle. When he got hurt, he was leading the Eastern League with 15 homeruns and Baseball America had tabbed him as the best power prospect in the Eastern League and the ninth best prospect in the Phillies system. Richardson is still fighting his way back from the ankle injury. He's back at Clearwater and is struggling offensively, hitting just .154 with one homerun and two RBI in 52 at bats. He is also serving just as a DH, so his defensive skills will be a little rusty to say the least.

Richardson's fall is all contributed to the injury. At 25, he is old for the Florida State League, but needs the time there to fully recover. Hopefully, this is just going to be one of those seasons that Richardson will write off and come back strong next season. He's got solid power and has never really shown the ability to hit for much of an average, but is decent enough to be considered a prospect. The injury has really knocked him back and only time will tell if he can climb his way back through the system.

Tim Moss
Moss has become the poster boy for disappointment. Injuries and a weak bat have made Moss look almost lost at times. This season has been one thing after another, starting with a diagnosis of high blood pressure during a spring training physical. When Moss has been able to play, he has at least started to show some signs of picking up what to do with a wood bat. This season, he's hitting .200 for Lakewood, but it's been difficult for him to get into any sort of groove because of the injuries.

The Phillies still believe strongly that they made the right pick in the third round of last year's draft. Moss is talented and the injuries have been unfortunate, but luckily, none of them have been very serious. Like Richardson, Moss may just need to ride out this season and look for a fresh start next year. He's likely to fall behind his draft buddies Javon Moran and Michael Bourn, but someday, he may be able to catch up to them at a different level.

Jason Crosland
Keep in mind that Crosland is still a month or so away from his 22nd birthday. It's tough to get on a kid that young for not putting up the numbers that everybody had hoped for. Playing at Batavia, Crosland is experiencing a rough time after starting strong last year in the Gulf Coast League. Taken in the ninth round of last year's draft, Crosland hit .263 with six homeruns in the GCL last season. This season at Batavia, he is hitting .177 with 27 strikeouts in 62 at bats.

Youth is definitely on Crosland's side, especially since this is just his second professional season. One scout was baffled by Crosland because he thought after seeing him play last season that he might be a very pleasant surprise. He still might be, but it's looking like he may be more of a project than the Phillies had hoped.

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