WTNYAugust 13, 2003
Teenage Thoughts
By Bryan Smith

I'd like to point out I missed a few names that mentioned me in blogs this past week. Paul Sporer, of Rich and Sporer and the Southpaw are the two I'd like to mention. After you're finished with this, get over to those sites for more baseball knowledge.

Many publications, namely Baseball Prospectus, don't really believe in taking stock in a young player until he hits AA. That being said, I think even Prospectus believers would be blown away by Greg Miller's last start for the Jacksonville Suns:

7IP 2H 0ER 14K

What could possibly make that line more impressive? How about the fact that it was his second start in AA, and he is at the ripe age of eighteen years. Truly amazing. How about his numbers for the season:

AA= 1-0 0.00 5H/14IP 20K/2BB
A+= 11-4 2.53 103/113.2 109/41

One of last season's late first-round selections, Miller is quickly shooting up prospect charts with his great stats. Before June 2002's amateur draft, Miller was a high-school leftie topping out at 92MPH with a loopy slider. In an offseason shoulder strengthening program he lifted his fastball to 95MPH, tightened his slider, and added a changeup. Those three 'new pitches' have helped him to become the youngest pitcher in AA.

Coincidence that the third youngest pitcher in AA is also a Dodger? No way. Edwin Jackson has also gained notice this season, as he is holding up in the Southern League, despite turning 19 before the season. Jackson attended the Futures Game, although he didn't pitch in the contest. His season statistics:

7-6 3.37ERA 109H/136.1IP 143K/47BB

So, the Dodgers have two teenagers in AA? And combined they've allowed 114 hits in 150 innings, while striking out 163? Amazing. The two have blown past James Loney and Franklyn Gutierrez in prospect charts, and likely are two of the top ten pitching prospects in all of baseball....

TINSTAPP. That was the subject of Joe Sheehan's "Prospectus Today" yesterday for Baseball Prospectus premium subscribers. Sometimes better known as "There Is No Such Thing As a Pitching Prospect," Joe spoke of his lack of belief in young pitchers. As shown by my own hyping of teenagers Miller and Jackson above, I am going to have to disagree with Joe on that one.

Yes, there are an astounding number of pitchers who get injured every season, and a number of hyped players don't spend time at the Big Show. But, isn't waiting for the next Mark Prior, the next Roger Clemens or Greg Maddux worth talking about these players? Isn't one Dontrelle Willis worth the hyping of ten Ryan Andersons? While the number of pitching prospects is hardly what Baseball America and even I document it to be, there's reason to hope. For example, I hope none of you heard of Greg Miller before today. But after today's column you'll remember the southpaw in the Dodger's farm system. And if one day Miller reaches Steve Carltonesque status, you can say, "I remember him striking out 14 in AA." That's what makes it worth it....

One belief I do share with Baseball Prospectus, sometimes, is that drafting college players is 'safer' than high school amateurs. For that reason, I argued many times this season that Richie Weeks was a better option than Delmon Young. Well, Weeks signed last week, and made his low-A debut yesterday with the Beloit Snappers. He immediately becomes the number two second base prospect in all of baseball, sitting right behind Josh Barfield. That gives the Brewers a pretty mean infield of the future:

1B- Prince Fielder- Ranked at the top of my first base rankings
2B- Richie Weeks- A top two second basemen
SS- J.J. Hardy- Easily one of the top five in the minors
3B- Corey Hart- Ranks in any hot corner top-10

Not bad. I will be giving my positional prospect rankings next week, but you can be sure to read those names in all of them. Throw in Dave Krynzel, Mike Jones, Luis Martinez, and others, and the Brewers will contend before 2010....

While Weeks may be the draft's best prospect, no one has done better from the June draft than Arizona 3B/LF Conor Jackson. The first-round pick has thrived in rookie-ball, showing gap power and a watchful eye:

Yakima Bears: .315/.405/.565 30 2B 51RBI 6HR in 51 games

That's right, Jackson is averaging one RBI a game, and more than .5 doubles per game. A college hitter, it should be noted that Conor was expected to succeed at this level, but not at this rate. He is hitting the cover off the ball, and it will be interesting to see if those doubles ever become home runs as he rises through the system....

The draft's best pitching prospect has now arrived. Kyle Sleeth signed with the Tigers over the weekend, with Detroit giving him $3.35M. It's good to know that Major League Baseball is trying to control signing bonuses, as giving a college pitcher $10M is crazy. Sleeth won't rise through the system like Mark Prior did in Chicago, but don't be surprised if he finishes 2004 in AA. Hopefully the team won't push him like they did Jeremy Bonderman.

Sleeth became the fourth to last player in the first round to sign. First pick Delmon Young, fourth choice Tim Stauffer, and Lastings Milledge (12th), are all yet to sign. Young and Milledge have both used the college card to threaten the D-Rays and Mets, but it won't work. These two players won't pass up the big bucks now, but don't expect to see them soon. It will be good for Stauffer to take the summer off, as he was worked too hard in college. The Padres will get this deal done soon, and should see results as soon as 2005....

Quickly a look at the next K-Rod:

Seattle: 2-0 1.42ERA 17/31.2 40K/6BB

Sensational numbers for Seattle's best reliever, Rafeal Soriano. I believe the bullpen is a better home for Soriano, as he could then throw his high-90s heat and hard slider more consistently. The team would be smart to make him the 2004 closer, but will likely put him in Freddy Garcia's spot in the rotation, the subject of tomorrow's column....

And lastly, the line of my favorite prospect, now pitching in the Northwest League:

7-1 1.84ERA 30H/44IP 55K/22BB

Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners has dominated this league, and won't turn 18 until next March. The hype on him may be premature, but there's more upside in his right arm than anyone in the minor leagues.

Debuts for Neal Cotts and Jose Dominguez yesterday, and neither was horrible. Come back tomorrow as I analyze the future of two players whom are depressingly underperforming.