PP 2004 Scouting Report: C, Jon-Mark Sprowl

The New York Yankees acquired Jon-Mark Sprowl from Diamondbacks in a 2003 mid season trade that also sent Raul Mondesi to Arizona. Sprowl is considered to be a very good sleeper prospect that will benefit the Yankees in the long run. After finishing out a stellar all around season in 2003 with the Battle Creek Yankees, the 22 year old backstop is expected to be in line for a promotion in the upcoming year.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jon-Mark Sprowl
Position: Catcher
DOB: August 1, 1980
Height: 6' 1"
Weight: 200
Bats: Left
Throws: Right
Place of Residence: Panama City, Florida
How Acquired: Jon-Mark Sprowl was acquired by the New York Yankees from the Arizona Diamondbacks along with RHP Bret Prinz in exchange for Raul Mondesi in July of the 2003 season.

The way that Jon-Mark Sprowl's baseball career began now looks much different from where it stands today. Sprowl graduated from Bay High School in Panama City, Florida in 1998 and was a highly touted prospect as an infielder by many organizations. However, things started to change for him when he began his first year in college. He had been drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 47th round of the 1998 amateur draft as a draft and follow and went on to play for Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Besides the fact that Sprowl had been primarily an infielder and even a pitcher in his high school career, he was asked to play catcher during his first and only season in college after his draft by the Cubs. It just so happens that attending this game was Chicago Cub's scout Jim Crawford who was very impressed with Sprowl's performance behind the plate. Crawford was quoted as saying "He is a good infielder, but doesn't have the speed to play on the highest level in the infield." But he was also quoted as saying "But he's got a great arm and good hands and was a catcher when he was younger." In nearly a stroke of luck, the young Florida native sealed himself a place in the Cub farm system for the next season. Despite his late round draft it seemed that the Cub organization was excited about Sprowl. "This kid does a lot of things better than a lot of guys who have been catching all their lives," Crawford stated. "He's got a future in professional baseball."

After only a single season in college in which he hit .300 with 42 RBI, Jon-Mark Sprowl signed with Cubs in 1999 and was assigned to play for the Rookie League Arizona Cubs. It was there that Sprowl was converted from infielder to primarily a catcher. Even though he was inexperienced at the position and even said "I guess I was about 13 years old" in reference to the last time he played catcher before he was asked to do so in college.

In his first season with Arizona Cubs Sprowl had an outstanding season with the bat by hitting a lofty .392, 0HR and 14 RBI in 97 at bats. Another very encouraging part of Sprowl's game at this time was his well refined plate discipline. He achieved a rare feat by compiling more walks (18) than strikeouts (14) at the age of only 19. Despite a fabulous rookie campaign in the Cub's farm system in 1999, the 2000 season would not be nearly as sweet for the then 20 year old. He began the season with began the season with the Cub's short season league team in Eugene where he hit only .235 with 1HR and 7 RBI. However, he was still promoted very late in the season to single A Lansing where he compiled three base on balls but had a batting average of .000 in a very limited amount of at bats.

Despite suffering through another awful season in 2001 with Lansing, Sprowl came back stronger and better than ever in 2002. But he would no longer be playing in the Cub's farm system but with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was traded in March of 2002 and was then assigned to the Lancaster Jethawks. There he had perhaps his best season of his young career. Sprowl batted .278 with 6HR and 27RBI. Also he had 43 walks with 42 strikeouts in 230 at bats. Perhaps the most impressive part of his game during that season and the rest of his career as well has been his on base percentage. He put up an outstanding .404 OBP in 2002.

It seems very odd that in 2003, Jon-Mark Sprowl spent his fifth season in a row in the minors without making it above single A ball. Again, he proved that he deserved a promotion in 2003 when he started off the season with South Bend Silver Hawks and continued to play well. The 23 year old batted .296 with 4HR and 42 RBI with South Bend, but his stay would be cut short when he was once again traded, this time to the New York Yankees.

Once he joined the Yankee affiliate in the Mid-West League, Sprowl didn't miss a beat. The newest Battle Creek Yankee batted .402 with 1HR and 20 RBI while putting up an incredible .500 OBP in 97 at bats.

It is hard to tell where Sprowl will be placed in the Yankee farm system for the 2004 season when you consider the presence of Dioner Navarro at AA Trenton. More than likely, at the very least he will be promoted to high A Tampa this coming season.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2003

Battle Creek

.402

97

8

1

20

21

0

17

8

.500

.515

2003

South Bend

.296

321

22

4

42

56

5

54

31

.402

.421

2002

Lancaster

.278

230

12

6

27

39

2

43

42

.404

.417

2001

Lansing

.219

155

9

3

28

12

0

18

24

-

.335

2000

Eugene

.235

98

2

1

7

9

3

14

24

-

.286

2000

Lansing

.000

4

0

0

0

3

0

3

2

-

.000

1999

Arizona Cubs

.392

97

9

0

14

19

1

18

14

-

.526


* Stats as of 9/7/03

Batting and Power. One of Sprowl's best attributes by far is his plate discipline and his ability to hit for a very high on base percentage. Has become very adept at drawing walks and cutting back on strikeouts, which is a very good sign for a young hitter. Is not a great power hitter per say but has a quick, short left handed stroke which allows him to be a good contact hitter that can take the ball to all fields.

Base Running and Speed. Sprowl is not a speedster at all and is nowhere near what you would call a base stealer. Speed is definitely not a strong point in his game.

Defense. It seems unlikely that Jon-Mark Sprowl will remain a catcher throughout his career as he is a work in progress behind the plate. Has a strong arm but needs work on the fundamentals of catching. Could be on the move to first base in the near future.

Projection. Jon-Mark Sprowl has been called a sleeper prospect over the last couple years. Due to his tremendous work ethic, he has developed into a very solid all around ballplayer. Scouts have recently compared him to Bill Mueller with possibly a ceiling to be even better. Could end up being a very pleasant surprise for the Yankees in the next few years, but it will probably be at third base.

ETA. 2006. At this point, it is difficult to tell where Sprowl will end up in the next couple years and what position he will be playing. With the presence of Dioner Navarro at AA Trenton and Sprowl's advanced age of 23 it will be interesting to see where he actually ends up. But this is how it will likely take place. Next season Sprowl will start out with high A Tampa and if all goes well he will probably be promoted to Trenton by mid season. This could hinge on whether Dioner Navarro is promoted to AAA Columbus. Then he could spend the 2005 season in Columbus. After that, he could be ready for the big leagues by the 2006 season.

Catcher Team
Michel Hernandez AAA - Columbus Clippers
Dioner Navarro AA - Trenton Thunder
David Parrish A - Tampa Yankees
Jon-Mark Sprowl A - Battle Creek Yankees
Carlos Rosario A - Staten Island Yankees
Edins De Los Santos R - GCL Yankees


Catching Overview


Outside of Dioner Navarro, the other catching prospects in the Yankees organization are not extremely promising to say the least. There are several good defensive players, but lack the offensive production to amount to serious major league talent.

1. Dioner Navarro - Nicknamed "Pudgito" after Ivan Rodriquez, the 19-year-old backstop has shot through the Yankees system faster than scouts had expected. Huge offensive showing in 2003 while with Trenton has made the switch-hitter a hot topic. Excellent defensive player.

2. Michel Hernandez - As good a defensive player as Navarro is, Michel Hernandez may just be better. An above-average arm and great foot work, Hernandez made just four errors for the Clippers in 2003. Baseball America calls him the organization's best defensive player.

3. David Parrish - Began season with Trenton, but was sent down after hitting just .223 with the Thunder. Struggled in Tampa as well and is not in the Yankees plans.

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