WTNYSeptember 09, 2003
Checking Back
By Bryan Smith

Yesterday we checked in on the current top three organizations, today I'll look at last year's top 3. The rankings I give are those of Baseball America's 2002 Prospect Handbook. Enjoy...


This was a rebuilding year for the Indians, and it didn't go quite to plan. The team thought they had two rookie of the year candidates in Brandon Phillips and Travis Hafner. They also thought Josh Bard would be a reliable catcher until the arrival of Victor Martinez:

Phillips: .209/.246/.320 in 325AB
Hafner: .263/.336/.492 in 236AB
Bard: .224/.268/.325 in 277AB

Horrible. Phillips also failed drastically in AAA, not hitting the Mendoza line in 200AB. The team went with Jason Davis and Ricardo Rodriguez out of Spring Training, and those two haven't performed:

Davis: 7-10 4.60 161/154.2 82/42
Rodriguez: 3-9 5.73 89/81.2 41/28

The pathetic performance of Rodriguez led to his being traded to the Texas Rangers. In exchange Mark Shapiro landed Ryan Ludwick, a promising young outfielder. The team's attempts at bringing Brian Tallet and Billy Traber had two different stories: Tallet struggled and only has 19 innings; Traber pitched 15 games in relief before having 17 consecutive starts. There has been some promise in Traber, but the results are still disappointing.

Yet the All-Star the whole time has been an unknown, Jody Gerut. Gerut was acquired with Bard from the Rockies in exchange to Jacob Cruz. In 410AB this season, he's hit .280/.339/.507, hitting his 20th HR this weekend. Coco Crisp also had a promising year, hitting .282 in his extended time in the Majors.

A look at the top 15:

1. Brandon Phillips- Disappointing, questions fog future
2. Victor Martinez- Has hit .275/.322/.303 in his first 109AB
3. Cliff Lee- Promising debut thus far, a 3.06ERA in 6 starts
4. Jeremy Guthrie- Sensational in AA, but 129H in 96.2 AAA IP
5. Travis Hafner- Injuries led to bad year
6. Ricardo Rodriguez- Dealt for Ryan Ludwick
7. Grady Sizemore- Futures Game MVP is top 3 OF prospect
8. Billy Traber- Shown promise: 1 hitter vs. Yankees
9. Brian Tallet- Hardly dominated AAA (5.15ERA in 14 starts)
10. Jason Davis- Has some promise, but very inconsistent
11. Corey Smith- Former #1 prospect bad defensively at third
12. Francisco Cruceta- 13-9, 3.09ERA in 25AA starts
13. Alex Escobar- Second in International League in HR
14. J.D. Martin- Hardly dominated AAA
15. Josh Bard- Nothing more than a backup catcher

A few other names to throw at you: Fausto Carmona and Kazuhito Tadano. Carmona dominated low-A, to the tune of 17-4, with a 2.06ERA. He allowed 117 hits in 148.1 innings, striking out 83 against only 14 walks. He finished the year in Double-A, where he will begin next season. His low strikeout total will hurt his prospect status, and next season is extremely important.

Tadano's numbers:
High-A: 2-1 1.89 13/19 28/3
AA: 4-1 1.24 62/72.2 78/15

He also finished the year in triple-A. Tadano is a sensational reliever, and is hoping to be Shigetoshi Hasegawa in the Majors. He should debut next season, with a chance of making the bullpen out of Spring Training. He has an interesting past, but is one of the top three relief prospects in baseball.

Shapiro also had a great draft, using his two first-round picks in hitters Michael Aubrey and Brad Sullivan. Aubrey made his debut in High-A, and could be ready in 2005. Sullivan has immense potential, but won't be ready until 2004. Mark Shapiro has done well in his couple of drafts, and we'll see how good in a couple of seasons.


Unlike the Indians, the Braves weren't planning on incorporating prospects this season. The only one was #11 Horacio Ramirez, who won the 5th starter job out of Spring Training. His numbers under the tutelage of Leo Mazzone: 9-4 4.17ERA 156H/157.2IP 88K/66BB. He was my personal Rookie of the Year pick, and surprisingly didn't embarrass me.

Top prospect Adam Wainwright has the perfect pitcher's body, and had an interesting season at Double-A. While his final numbers of 10-8, 3.37ERA look good, it was an inconsistent season. I think the team will send him to Richmond next year, rather than hand him a rotation spot. He's still a little raw, but has immense potential. His inconsistent season has made him slip a little though.

It was a tough year for Braves' hitters. Betemit had a 2nd straight disappointing season, managing only a ..315OBP and .414 SLG% while converting to third base. It was his second trial of Triple-A, and has one more season before he's a prospect no more. Carlos Duran, the seventh prospect, hit only .224 at high-A Myrtle Beach. First Basemen Scott Thorman hit .243 for Myrtle Beach, and former big-name prospect Kelly Johnson struggled at AA.

There were three hitters that didn't struggle:

Andy Marte (A+): .285/.372/.469 in 463AB
Jeff Francoeur (A-): .281/.325/.445 in 524AB
Adam LaRoche (AAA): .295/.360/.466 in 264AB

I included Francoeur even though it could be argued he had a bad season. The first pro-season for high-school outfielders can be unpredictable, and I think he handled it well. LaRoche has the chance to be the Atlanta first basemen next season, as Rob Fick is likely to be gone. Andy Marte was still young for high-A, but had a great season. He is the best prospect in this system, and the top 3B prospect in baseball.

Two pitchers that have flown up prospect charts are lefties Macay McBride and Dan Meyer. McBride pitched only in Myrtle Beach, going 9-8 with a 2.95ERA He struck out 139 in 164.2 innings, only allowing 164 hits. He is a solid pitching prospect. Meyer had a great year splitting between low-A and high-A. He finished cumulatively 7-10, with a 2.87ERA. He allowed 145 hits in 160 innings. He struck out 158 in the process only walking 32 hitters. He has an argument for being the best prospect in the system, although I believe that belongs to Wainwright. Expect Marte-Wainwright-Meyer to be atop most Braves' rankings.

Reviewing the top 15
1. Adam Wainwright- Inconsistent, but will make debut in 2004
2. Wilson Betemit- Needs to step up next year
3. Andy Marte- Great year and one of game's best prospects
4. Bubba Nelson- Oddly pitched a lot in relief, even in AAA
5. Macay McBride- Will be in AA next year, important level
6. Jeff Francoeur- Must have jumps in OBP and SLG next year
7. Carlos Duran- Has skills, but definitely hasn't translated them
8. Scott Thorman- Not a top 15 prospect
9. Brett Evert- Back into Braves' scene after impressive AA year
10. Gonzalo Lopez- Only managed 10 innings due to injury
11. Horacio Ramirez- Successful rookie campaign
12. Kelly Johnson- Has the tools, and will repeat AA next year
13. Adam LaRoche- Braves want him to claim the 1B job
14. Bryan Digby- Pitched unsuccessfully in relief (A+ and AA)
15. Zach Miner- Pretty decent year at Myrtle Beach


Injuries really made it a difficult year for the Cubs' organization, but also allowed them to open their eyes on a few more players. Angel Guzman, likely the top prospect, only managed 89.2 innings at double-A. Andy Sisco only pitched 94 innings, with some sore shoulder complaints. If you look at Sisco's H/9 and K/9, it indicated much better things than that of his ERA. Bobby Brownlie, last season's first-round pick, was shut down early. Number seven prospect Luke Hagerty was out for the season, and another prospect, Justin Jones, was only pitching for 71 innings.

Yet all the while, the farm system did very well for itself. While Guzman, Sisco, Brownlie, and Jones only cumulated 320.2 innings, but only Sisco had an ERA over three. Brownlie pitched sensationally in his debut, but still had arm fatigue. He could rise to the top of the rankings quickly if the time off helps him revert to the pitching he was doing his Junior year at Rutgers. This four prospects are great pitchers, and the team must keep their arms safe.

While the injuries hurt, it helped the team realize they had some great players, like Chadd Blasko, Jae-Kuk Ryu, and Ricky Nolasco. Their numbers:

Ryu (low-A): 6-1 1.75 59/72 57/19
Blasko (A+): 10-5 1.98 100/136.1 131/43
Nolasco (A+): 11-5 2.96 129/149 136/48

Ryu also pitched 78.2 innings away from low-A, but they weren't as successful. He killed an osprey, getting national media attention. He is a great pitcher, and will be much more ready for Double-A next year. Blasko was a supplemental first-round pick from Purdue, and pitched amazing this year. He will move to West Tennessee next year, and another year of this would make him the top prospect. Nolasco has the same token, and has great numbers as well.

At AAA, the team saw minor disappointments in Dave Kelton, Nic Jackson, and Frank Beltran. Kelton's .338 OBP is still under what the team would hope for, and Jackson's .699 OPS is pathetic. Beltran had a decent season, but only struck out 33 in 48.2 innings. All three will start next season in Iowa again, and must shown significant improvement.

1. Hee Seop Choi- Disappointing debut, should improve next year
2. Angel Guzman- Could replace Cruz as 5th starter next July
3. Andy Sisco- 6'9'' left-hander had injuries shorten his season
4. Felix Pie- showed plate discipline, but no power in low-A
5. Nic Jackson- struggled with injuries, and had bad year in AAA
6. Francis Beltran-
7. Luke Hagerty
8. Brendan Harris- solid average, bad SLG for a third basemen
9. David Kelton- needs to show better OBP skills next season
10. Todd Wellemeyer- Did well in Majors, but not in minors
11. Jae-Kuk Ryu- Described at 'million dollar arm with ten cent head'
12. Justin Jones- sensational arm must stay healthy
13. Felix Sanchez- will move to Triple-A, but needs an identity
14. Luis Montanez- former first-round pick is now a complete bust
15. Alfredo Francisco- still to early to judge on next 3B

That's it... Positional Rankings start tomorrow....