PP 2004 Scouting Report: C, Jon-Mark Sprowl

The Yankees acquired Jon-Mark Sprowl last summer as part of the deal that sent Raul Mondesi to Arizona. At first, he looked like a diamond in the rough for the Yankees but is his time now running out as a real prospect? (Free Preview)

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.

Jon-Mark Sprowl started his amateur career fairly modestly out of Bay High School in Panama City, Florida. While by professional standards, Sprowl was not considered a big time prospect by scouts, he was one of those players that looked, at a young age, like he just knew how to play the game. Sometimes that can take you even farther than raw skill itself. In this case, that is what catapulted Sprowl to getting drafted. Sprowl graduated from Bay High School in 1998 and was looked prospect as an infield draftee options by many organizations. However, things started to change for him when he began his first year in college. He was then 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.

The left hand hitting Sprowl had been primarily an infielder and even a pitcher in his high school career, but changes would be on the horizon in his first professional season. He was asked to play catcher during his lone season in college after his draft by the Cubs. Sometimes it seems that the draft in baseball is far from an exact science. In fact, it has a lot of luck involved as well. And, one big break for Jon-Mark Sprowl may have made his career. One Chicago Cub's scout, Jim Crawford, who was very impressed with Sprowl's performance behind the plate, attended one of his games and was very impressed by his performance behind the plate. "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." Luck had struck in the career of the young catcher and suddenly he had himself a spot on the roster of a Chicago Cubs farm team next season. Even though he has drafted in the later rounds of the 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."

As it ended up, Sprowl only played that one, single season in college in which he hit .300 with 42 RBI. Soon after, he 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. Despite his inexperience at the position and even after saying "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, Sprowl held his own behind the dish.

In his rookie season with the Cubs organization, Sprowl had a fabulous season with the bat by hitting a lofty .392, 0 HR and 14 RBI in 97 at bats. But, if you look deep into his statistics, there are some things to love and some things to really question, also. Something to question would be his power hitting abilities or lack there of. But, that could be given a pass in only his first season with a wooden bat. Something very impressive, however, is his patience. He achieved a rare feat by compiling more walks (18) than strikeouts (14) at the age of only 19. Despite such a fine 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 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. But, there is no way or no reason to make any judgments on such a limited sample size. It was a truly a nightmare of a season for Sprowl and this up and down pattern would and still has remained a career pattern of his.

Not breaking the trend, after suffering through another awful season in 2001 with Lansing, Sprowl came back stronger and a better all around player than ever for the 2002 campaign. But he would be waving goodbye to the Cub's farm system because he was being shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was traded in March of 2002 and was then assigned to the Low A Lancaster Jethawks. It would be there that he had his best season yet, of his young career. The then 22 year old backstop batted .278 with 6 HR and 27RBI. Also, he had 43 walks with 42 strikeouts in 230 at bats. Can you say, "Moneyball" player. Sprowl had really started taking on the reputation of a patient hitter that could put up impressive on base percentages. Through it all, it seemed like his patience never wavered. And, for a short time, Sprowl really looked like he was on the rise as a prospect.

In 2003, Jon-Mark Sprowl hit a milestone of sorts but certainly not a milestone he is very proud of. He spent his fifth season in a row in the minors without making it past High A ball. However, at times he did prove that he deserved a promotion but he was never consistent enough for an organization to trust him in AA. This is especially so, considering his lack of power production. But, 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 end soon when he was once again traded, this time to the New York Yankees.

After Jon-Mark Sprowl joined the New York Yankee affiliate in the Mid-West League, Sprowl didn't miss a beat in his breakout season. He batted .402 with 1 HR and 20 RBI and compiled a fantastic .500 OBP in 97 at bats. The frustrating thing about Sprowl, though is his lack of power. Years upon years have past and his power potential has just never shown through. Will it ever show up? Well, he is certainly running out of time. With this being said, the Yankees were looking for some proof that Sprowl could give them the idea that he could hit the ball out of the yard and be a consistent force at the plate. However, Sprowl was put back in High A ball again. But, it seemed like Sprowl really hit a wall in the 2004 season. He played a full season in High A Tampa in the Florida State League and struggled mightily throughout the year. Rather than improving, Sprowl's power numbers actually got worse. He only mustered 1, lone home run for the entire season. That will just not cut it. He did play only 66 games, yes but his all around numbers also suffered. He batted only .256 and just about the only thing he had going for him was his strikeout to walk ratio. Amazingly, the 24 year old walked 41 times in comparison to only 24 strikeouts. To think, if all his other statistics were as impressive as that, he would be a star. But, the big question really is, will 2004 be Sprowl's last gasp with the organization? That very well could be. He still has potential but he better start tapping it pretty soon.

*2004 Stats



























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. He has become very adept at drawing walks and cutting back on strikeouts, which is a very good sign for a young hitter. Sprowl has consistently struck out less times than he has walked. His power is just about non existent and as an older player in the Florida State Leagues this year, he showed that the power stroke was a big weakness for him. But, he does have a 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 and that won't change anytime soon. Also, his quickness and foot speed behind the plate are not improving.

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. He does have a strong arm but needs work on the fundamentals of catching. He could be on the move to first base in the near future but the problem with that is that it is assumed that first baseman have to have more thunder in their bat than Sprowl has shown.

Projection.Jon-Mark Sprowl has been called a sleeper prospect over the last couple years but he is slowly starting to lose that tag. You can never count out a guy with his work ethic but time is really running out on the 24 year old. Scouts have compared him to Bill Mueller on offense, but he has too many improvements to make to consider a comparison. However, at his full potential, they are similar hitters. He will not remain a catcher but with almost no power, it will be difficult to move him to a corner position.

ETA. 2007. 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. He had a very poor season in Tampa but just because of his age, they might put him in Trenton as a role player in 2005. A starting job is highly unlikely for him. After that, it really all depends on how he performs.

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