WTNYJanuary 14, 2005
WTNY 75: Honorable Mention (1 of 6)
By Bryan Smith

For a prospect evaluator like myself, this time of year is when the pressure rises on what I type. The credibility of a baseball writer is judged by two things: how he expresses something, and the fact within his statement. Will Carroll wrote a great piece in response to the recent scouts v. stats debate, saying about his contacts, "It allows me to do what I do and without those, I'm done." Guys like Will and Gammons, they are judged by both the number and credibility of their contacts. For me, it's all in my prospect list.

This is why the next two weeks are extremely important ones for me, as today I begin my trek down my rankings. Today I'll begin with my honorable mention, a group of 25 names, with next week tackling 15 names a day as we count down to number one. While not today, each day's list of fifteen will have about 5-7 players detailed, as I did with Dioner Navarro last week. The best of the best at WTNY in the coming days, my friends.

If you are unfamiliar with my lists, I should explain a few of the differences in my rankings, compared to other sites. First, this year I am not ranking any first-year players. This really stems from point two, which is my heavy weight of statistics in my analysis. Because of limitations in the contacts department, and the importance I weigh in not using others' contacts, I rank with what I have. Players that were drafted in 2004 leave so much to be seen, it's hard for me to get a good feel for where they stand. Finally, unlike your friends at Baseball America, you won't be seeing Mauer, Edwin Jackson or Russ Adams on my lists. Any other questions? Just ask.

As I said earlier, today will be the 25 honorable mention names I selected. Days ago my honorable mention list stood at 70 names, but I shortened it to twenty-five for both brevity and to conveniently create a top 100. But these 25 names will not be ranked today, instead I'll just present them alphaebetically. Drop questions about these players in comments, and while I might answer some, I'm going to try and piece together a gigantic mailbag for after the completion of this project. Enjoy!

Erick Aybar- SS- Anaheim Angels- 21

Conveniently, we begin with one of my most controversial selections. Honestly, Aybar was the last player taken off the top 75, as he was engaged in an internal battle with a player coming Monday. I'll be bold enough to say that in my mind, Aybar's 2004 season was a slight regression from where he was in 2003, he was just helped by a hitter's park in a hitter's league. If you want to view the way that the California League can boast a player's skills, view Josh Barfield. Anyway, Aybar is one of the few players in the minors where being triples dependent isn't such a bad thing, since his speed will probably allow him to sustain at least solid totals in the Majors. His baserunning and defense are both extremely flawed, and that latter (along with the Orlando Cabrera signing) will likely send Erick to second. The best comparison I can think of (and I'm big on comparisons) is Cristian Guzman, though he was in the Minnesota by 21. Judging by what his former-equal Alberto Callaspo did in AA, it probably is going to take Aybar a little longer.

Jonathan Broxton- SP- Los Angeles Dodgers- 21

This can be the first example of my praise of Logan White, but rest assured, it will not be the last. I don't care what anybody else says, the Los Angeles Dodgers have the best farm system in baseball. With such a mix of legitimate prospects and depth, it's a wonder Logan isn't getting interviews all over the place, and I'm looking at you Tampa. As for Broxton, his ranking would likely be higher if not for the loud murmurs that he's a candidate to make the switch to the bullpen. His control improved late in the season, quieting such talk, but such a big body will always harbor those debates. His performance in Vero Beach, like just about everyone that pitches there, was dominant. Care to be freaked out? Try comparing Broxton's peripherals (7.7 H/9, 3.0 W/9, 10.1 K/9, 1.19 WHIP) with those of Eric Gagne in the same stadium (7.6 H/9, 3.1 W/9, 9.3 K/9, 1.19 WHIP). Yikes, now I'm gonna have all the Dodgers fans calling the front office to get him switched. Sorry DePo.

Melky Cabrera- OF- New York Yankees- 20

I have never made it a secret of my obsession with Melky Cabrera, dating back to his days with Battle Creek earlier this past season. To me, he's been the Yankees second-best prospect for months, with or without Pudgito. His numbers show the general trend of what happens to a player when he moves up the ladder, but in no way would I call his FSL performance a drop-off. His ISO rose to .150, probably park-related, and really a drop in average was the only poor sign. You have to love a player with a K% (K/AB) under 20, and he was at 13.5 in the Midwest League, and 17.7 in Tampa. Both, for such a young player, to fare this well in full-season ball is quite the accomplishment. He's a few walks away from being a clone of Bernie Williams at the same age, so that should get all you Bombers fans salivating. Given the problem in centerfield and Duncan's block, I really see no player in this organization that's more likely to stay with New York other than Cabrera.

Robinson Cano- 2B- New York Yankees- 22

For some reason I've always had an internal bias with Cano, though one particular Yanks fan that reads this site has made that notion a hard one to keep. Well, so have his numbers. He really showed his dominance over Navarro as a player this year, looking better than Dioner in both Trenton and Columbus. His performance in AAA was far less than dazzling, but even a .144 ISO has to be respected given his youth and his position. While the Yankees signed Tony Womack to a two-year, $4 million deal this winter, they could have done far worse than have handed Cano the job. I don't see his ceiling ever being over an .800 OPS, with a line looking like .280/.340/.420 probably about what type of player he can be. Looking at this position across the league, that's a commodity that many teams would like to buy.

Elijah Dukes- OF- Tampa Bay Devil Rays- 21

Another player I'm fascinated by, I was shocked to read Dukes in the teens on what site's list, though I do recognize he could fly up lists next season. Everyone you talk to recognizes the immense amount of talent that Dukes has, citing maturity issues as the one problem that will likely hold him back. I don't buy it. In my mind, Elijah has five-tool talent that could even rival that of Lastings Milledge. If the power develops like it should, Dukes has the potential to be a 30/30 player in the Major Leagues, and give the Devil Rays a legitimate reason to trade Rocco Baldelli. Lord, wouldn't you want to have controlling interest of the team that could one day start Carl Crawford, Dukes and Delmon Young in their outfield? The team will likely challenge him, as well as Young, with a promotion to the Southern League next year. That's quite far from the help that the California League gives hitters, so next year should provide a true test of Dukes' character.

Richie Gardner- SP- Cincinnati Reds- 23

Following a less-than-stellar career at the University of Arizona, Gardner was quite the stud across both the Carolina and Southern Leagues in 2004. The Voros McCracken's of the world will likely point to Gardner as an example for drafting college players, as he could be contributing by mid-year, only two years after he was drafted. Still, given the room Richie has left to be desired in the K/9 department, it's still quite possible that scouts will have the last laugh here. Gardner's value is netted solely in his ability to control his pitches, as his W/9 was under 2.0 in both leagues last season. That's far lower than what he showed in his junior season at Arizona, making you wonder if 2004 was a fluke, or whether Cincinnati might be improving their teaching on the farm.

Ryan Garko- C/1B- Cleveland Indians- 24

Failure is, well, one thing that Ryan Garko does not have to worry about. A four-year player at Stanford, his OPS was at or above .995 in his three final seasons as a Cardinal. Success at the plate continued this season, as Garko played in three different levels, and though his brief trial in AAA is hard to judge, never really seemed challenged. I've said of Garko before that he's the type of player that could dominate AAA next year, have a great second half with the Indians, and make the BP cover in 2006. Then, as Josh Phelps before him, fall flat on his face. All kidding aside, Garko is your typical poor-defensive, big bat catcher: he'll bust up lefties, and probably like Matt LeCroy, even make a case for 500 AB. He could become Ben Broussard's platoon-mate as soon as the Juan Gonzalez trial fails.

Tom Gorzelanny- SP- Pittsburgh Pirates- 22

Luckily for Tom, since he was born 11 days after July 1, he'll still be a 22-year-old in the stat books next season. You could say his Sally League dominance last year could be explained by such a late birthday, but since his college resume doesn't boast a big name, you can understand why the Pirates sent him there. He quickly proved he was far too good for the league, posting great numbers across the board, though 9 home runs in 93 innings is actually a lot given his great half-season. As for his Carolina League performance, I think his ERA is quite higher than the way he pitched, since his H/9 was low, K/9 high, and W/9 was nothing to really be concerned about. Even despite his age, the Pirates should be conservative with Tom, sending him back to Lynchburg to prove I'm right about that inflated ERA.

J.J. Hardy- SS- Milwaukee Brewers- 22

This was a bandwagon I never got on, so you can't say I ditched the guy when his shoulder really got bad last season. The scouting reports I read, on fantastic defense and a solid overall player, they prompted me to call him "Royce Clayton at best" last season. Their minor league careers correlated pretty nicely until this year, as both were playing in AA at age 21, and their averages were within one point of each other. Hardy's 100 at-bats in AAA were far better than Clayton's 200 at the same age, though the two seem fairly consistent with their walk totals. This does not bode well for Hardy, as Royce did not reach the 40 walk plateau in a season until turning 28, making .346 the OBP high of his career. In fact, it was that season for Royce, in which he hit .288/.346/.445, that best represents the player I think Hardy could become. The shoulder injury only helps my case that it will take him a long time to adjust to the Majors.

John Hudgins- SP- Texas Rangers- 23

I wish I had saved the e-mail desperately. My respect for Jamey Newberg should not be news to anyone, and his description of Hudgins' performance pitching against Felix Hernandez should be a must-read for all prospect followers. Newberg said, in my attempt to paraphrase him correctly, said for that day Hudgins was Greg Maddux. He showed such precision in his final season at Stanford, though he was never more than a solid pitcher in his Pac-10 career. And that's really what I see in Hudgins, as a player very similar in style to Tim Stauffer with the San Diego Padres. He's going to be an innings eater in the Majors, you can bank on that, though he'll probably never be the strength of the Rangers' rotation. Still, given their inability to find such players now, I think Arlington will be welcoming Hudgins' arrival at some point in the 2005 season. I'll say his chance of reaching his ceiling is as high as anyone in my honorable mention.

Andy LaRoche- 3B- Los Angeles Dodgers- 21

Other than a low average in the second half of his season, at a level higher than what he began, there's really no reason to dislike Andy LaRoche as a prospect. His ISO was still quite high in Vero Beach, which as we've previously mentioned is a pitcher's park, and he continued to show fairly good patience. Considering how long it took Joel Guzman to adjust to the stadium, I think Dodgers' fans will understand that it's best for LaRoche to be sent back to high-A beginning next season. At some point, you'll probably see him move up to Jacksonville, with Blake DeWitt filling his shoes. Did I mention this system is loaded yet? Well, LaRoche has far more power potential than his brother does, and if he keeps his strikeouts down and walk numbers solid, he could turn out to be a rich man's version of Adam still.

Brandon League- RP- Toronto Blue Jays- 22

Never have I been considered to be particularly nice to relief prospects, so you'll understand when you only see two in my top 75. League is probably number three, though I think there are some bad qualities you have to worry about here. While his HR/9 was always solid in the minors, making him a good candidate to relief, at some point Blue Jays fans should be concerned that his K/9 has not reached 8.0 since the Pioneer League. He's yet to show the dominance on the mound that many relievers do shortly after their switch, though League certainly impressed onlookers upon his arrival in Toronto. League has great control and should be equivalent to the 2003 (not 2004) version of Dan Kolb statistically, though his arsenal is different. Now that J.P. traded away Adam Peterson, the doors are wide open for League to land some saves next season.

Francisco Liriano- LHP- Minnesota Twins- 21

Everyone has their favorite Twin prospect to break out next season, from Scott Baker to Scott Tyler to Adam Harben to Alex Romero to Liriano. While I agree with Romero as well, I think Liriano has the chance to take as large a step forward as anyone on this list next season. Remember, this was his first season back from arm injury, and he still showed a lot of great stuff and hope for the future. His ERA of 4.00 at Fort Myers was definitely too high, and it's a bit problematic that his H/9 numbers were so high. But I think his strikeouts are indicative that his great stuff was at least some of the way back this year, and they should only improve as he returns to New Britain this year. A loaded Minnesota rotation will give him time to develop, though I do think Liriano could be pushing the envelope, and give Aaron a new "Free ____" caimpaign, as early as this year.

James Loney- 1B- Los Angeles Dodgers- 21

We heard the wrist excuses a year ago, when Loney was showing no power in a pitcher's park as a teenager. But then he came to Spring Training in 2004 and turned everyone's heads, making them proclaim that since his injury was healed, he was ready to start showing why he was a first-round pick in 2002. And then they sent him to the Southern League, and he regressed. Talk of the wrist injury not being healed resurfaced, but I'm just sick of the excuses. I like the low strikeout numbers, but at this point that's all I really like. He doesn't walk quite enough, and hasn't shown the ability to hit for average that was supposed to be his calling card. And his power? I really think he hit more home runs in the first week of exhibition games last spring than he did all year with Jacksonville. But people, even our own Jon Weisman, keep swearing by his talent, so I can't write him off quite yet.

Sean Marshall- SP- Chicago Cubs- 22

Probably, at this point, my favorite Cubs prospect. After a solid career at Virginia Commenwealth, Marshall dominated the Midwest League in seven starts this season. Everyone forgets that, though performances by John Danks and Matt Chico seem to be remembered by everyone. Well, Marshall was then promoted to the Southern League to fill Ricky Nolasco's vacancy, completely skipping over Daytona. This is a unique move by a franchise that really babies prospects, but I guess acceptable given Marshall's collegiate background. Well he was hurt within six poor starts at West Tenn, and didn't resurface until the AFL, when he immediately kept showing the control that's his calling card. That left him in those AA starts, and are essential to his success, as he'll probably give up his fair share of hits. The Cubs are flush with mid-level pitching prospects, so it's easy for Marshall to get lost in it all. But I have a feeling that in a year, Cubs fans will be calling for Marshall to take the Glendon Rusch role at the back of that rotation.

Jeff Mathis- C- Anaheim Angels- 22

I recently named the former first-rounder my disappointment of 2004, so I refer you to that entry for my extended thoughts on Mathis. In short, this is a player with a lot of talent still, though his performance last year was terrible. His development is going to hold sabermetric favorite Michael Napoli up a little bit, but it's essential for the Angels to send Mathis back to AA next year. Let's hope he built enough endurance tihs winter to sustain a whole season of catching in the Texas League.

Clint Nageotte- P- Seattle Mariners- 24

It was hard to label Nageotte a starting pitcher or relief one, because what he's doing now and what everyone swears he'll be doing at one point are far different things. Nageotte, like his buddy Travis Blackley, struggled mightily in both Tacoma and Seattle this past season. Neither was ready for the Majors at all, and both pitched far worse after returning to AAA following their demotion. But Nageotte's slider gives him a lot more future value than Blackley, since he should be converted to relief pretty soon. The Mariners return on pitching prospects lately (Nageotte, Ryan Anderson, Blackley, Rafael Soriano, Rett Johnson, Gil Meche, etc) is disastrous, and they should realize that the treatment their giving Felix Hernandez should be instilled on all players. Anyways, I think Nageotte will soon be converted into a two-pitch reliever, where he could have great success in both the set-up and middle relief slots.

Dioner Navarro- C- Los Angeles Dodgers- 21

Refer here for my thoughts on Dioner.

Fernando Nieve- SP- Houston Astros- 22

Like Erick Aybar, Fernando Nieve was the final player I took off my top 75 list. It saddened me to do so, because I kind of liked bragging about Nieve, who was on my breakout list a year ago. His season in the Carolina League was overlooked because of a 7.1 K/9, though all his other peripherals suggested good things. An extremely poor winter helped me decide he would be the pitcher to leave my 75, though I still think he has an extremely high ceiling. His three starts in Round Rock went extremely well, giving a lot of hope for the future. Watch him next year, because I think his '05 performance will tell us whether or not he's destined for the Houston rotation, or just another failed Houston pitching prospect. Part of me wishes for both.

Renyel Pinto- SP- Chicago Cubs- 22

For me, Pinto is one of the hardest prospects in all of Prospectdom to read. First of all he's a Cub prospect, so that always makes me take a second to put it all in perspective and not overrate him a little bit. Secondly, his H/9 and K/9 numbers were as good as anyone on this list last year, making me think Pinto could be a very powerful leftie in a rotation stacked with powerful right-handers. But the worry with Pinto is control, as his W/9 was on the wrong side of the 4.5 mark last year. Like a lot of prospects with his numbers, there are whispers that he's better suited for relief, which actually wouldn't be so bad. How about this comparison:

Player A: 6.2 H/9, 4.0 W/9, 9.7 K/9 in AA at 21
Player B: 6.8 H/9, 4.6 W/9, 11.4 K/9

Who is Player A? None other than Arthur Rhodes, who I think (given build, style, numbers) should serve as Pinto's running comparison now.

Omar Quintanilla- MI- Oakland Athletics- 23

You see that position I listed for Quintanilla there? That's no mistake, as it's a pretty common thought that Q will move to second both because of defensive shortcomings and a certain Rookie of the Year. I was telling Will Carroll the other day that Q is a poor man's Khalil Greene, though his best year at Texas was only a bit better than Greene's freshman season at Clemson. Still, I think the two are very compareable in an average sense, with Omar possibly being an even better contact hitter. There's no question that Greene will outpower Quintanilla, a feat that Rich Lederer could probably handle. A Chavez-Crosby-Q-Johnson infield would be very solid for Billy Beane in 2006, when you have to figure the A's to be a favorite for the World Series.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia- C- Atlanta Braves- 20

Given the rigors of the catching position and such a long season, you have to credit Jarrod with the way he handled himself in the 2004 season. He didn't do anything spectacular, though he showed talent both as a hitter and a receiver. You have to love a switch-hitter behind the plate, and even the best in baseball (Victor Martinez) wasn't in high-A until he was 22, Jarrod will be at 20. Salty needs to cut down on his strikeouts, since his K% was a fairly poor 25.6 last season. The average could use a boost, though is his .270/.350/.420 line continues, I don't think anyone can really complain. The largest worry for Salty should be the Braves logjam of catchers with Johnny Estrada and Brian McCann, in which he falls third. Still, the Braves will wait as long as they can to see if Jarrod blossoms into the hitter that led to his high draft selection.

Nate Schierholtz- 3B- San Francisco Giants- 21

Very similar statistically to the aforementioned Andy LaRoche, with more strikeouts, less walks, and a better *looking* performance in high-A. I emphasize looking, because really it was Andy's average that's worse, but Schierholtz was the one that saw the large drop in ISO. And even with such a large SLG loss, much of his California League power numbers were dependent upon nine triples, which is hardly sustainable. But he's a legitimate power hitter, that shouldn't be the concern here, which should be BB/K, a combined 33/93 in 2004. I can't decide whether it's a good idea to push Nate to Norwich next year and really test him, or leave him in California a little longer, though I'm actually leaning towards the former. They need to figure out whether he should be groomed as Edgardo Alfonzo's successor or not.

Steven Shell- SP- Anaheim Angels- 22

King of the peripheral. Despite a high ERA and HR/9 due to a bad park we've already spoken about, Shell doesn't come up on a lot of radars. But he should, if not for his ability to eat a lot of innings, then for his 190/40 K/BB. That's about as good as you'll find in the minor leagues, though reports on Shell's pitching aren't quite as good. I wish he allowed less home runs, mostly because of the emphasis I place in Dayn's study, but it's always been a problem of Shell's. Watch him in the Texas League, where many an Angel prospect proved to be a failure.

Joey Votto- 1B- Cincinnati Reds- 21

Interestingly enough, we close with perhaps the guy that would be #76 on my list. I really like Joey Votto, who's season wasn't really noticed because of the press that Brian Dopirak got. But quietly, Votto was playing well enough in the Midwest League to draw a promotion to Carolina, where he continued his hitting ways. His power needs a bit of refining, but Votto already has the contact and discipline skills of a Major Leaguer. Call it a feeling that the strikeouts really won't decline and he'll be slotted for 100+ annually in the Majors, but that will be swallowable when some of those doubles start going over the fence. And it's going to happen, making Votto the reason Sean Casey should not get another extension.

That's all for now folks.

Comments

Bryan, here's what I wrote about Hudgins on July 2:

================

I was in Frisco last night, and I saw the future. His name is John Hudgins.

Id told myself a couple days ago that even though Hudgins would be making his Frisco home debut on Thursday night, thered be plenty of chances to see the righthander pitch this summer, and Id just been to the park Monday and had plans to go again next week. But once I learned that Seattle was promoting 18-year-old righty Felix Hernandez to San Antonio and that hed be Hudginss opposition, I couldnt bear not to be there. Hernandez might be the best pitching prospect in the minors right now.

But he was the second-best pitching prospect who toed the rubber last night. Marvel all you want at Hudginss line seven shutout innings, three hits, no walks, 11 strikeouts but unless you were in the ballpark too, you couldnt possibly comprehend how remarkable he was.

Ive met John Hudgins, or at least I think I have. The guy I saw out there wore something as close to a scowl as youll ever see on a guy who was doing his job well, while the guy I met four months ago was about the most affable, humble pro athlete Ive ever run across. Last nights guy on the mound was so locked in, so intense, that he probably wasnt aware that half a dozen Ranger front office men were in the stands or that twice as many of his own family members were there, hanging on every pitch. He probably wasnt even aware that there were fans in the park at all.

At one point I thought that Id figured out that Hudgins was varying his own pace to mess with the hitters rhythm, peering in for two seconds before some pitches and what seemed like 10 seconds before others, but I later learned that he was merely brushing off signs from catcher Jeff Smith without moving his head at all. Hudgins and Smith were communicating, gesturelessly. It was as if there was no distance between them, and no air between Hudginss hand and Smiths mitt.

Sometimes you carry out the plan to pitch to contact, but carry it out so well that you cant help but miss bats. In one stretch, Hudgins set 8 of 11 Missions down on strikes.

And consider this: despite the 11 punchouts, Hudgins still needed only 90 pitches to get through seven innings. A crisp 70 percent of his deliveries were strikes.

Ive never seen a better pitching performance in the minor leagues. Hudgins put every pitch where he wanted it, commanding a fastball that sat around 90 most of the night, mixing in a decent curve, and showing San Antonio hitters as dirty a changeup as those of them who eventually get to the majors might ever see. He dealt. He orchestrated. He was Greg Maddux.

Count on this: there arent too many players who reach the major leagues before theyre even Rule 5-eligible, but John Hudgins will be one of them. By this time next year, hes a big leaguer. And when the day comes that hes wearing a Ranger uniform, if I forget to do it on my own, remind me to run down for you how many of the 75 players chosen before him in the 2003 draft have beaten him to The Show.

Hey Brian-

A couple of notes. I saw Loney in a couple of games and wasn't really that impressed with his talent, although he really did seem to be smacking the hell out of the ball in BP. When I talked to him before and after the games, I didn't originally know it was Loney, because I guess he didn't really carrry himself like a star. It seems like stars all have a certain attitude, whether its the Kobe Bryant arrogance or the Peyton Manning, "I won't say anything because you already know I'm better than you," and I'm not sure I saw that with Loney...thats what scares me about him. I want to see a player who KNOWS he's the best...particularly when he's still at the lower levels. Not a jerk, mind you, but confident in his own abilities. Is that Loney? I'm just not sure.

Also, I live in CT and one of my coworkers just absolutely gushes about the games he saw League pitch in AA this year. He's not a prospect expert by any means, but when anyone gushes this much, I guess you take notice. I'm surprised to see his K/9 isn't higher, because in the box scores it always seemed like he was whiffing 2 guys in his one inning he threw.

Also, I'm happy to see Quintanilla ranked in your top 100, but as an A's fan, I'm not sure I'm as optimistic about him as you are. There's a reason we might be looking into dealing for Scott Hairston, and it's not that we have faith in Quintanilla. Khalil Greene seems like he's been superior to him at every level...and its not like Khalil Greene is ARod.

Anyway, good work...these will keep me occupied a few extra minutes at work the next couple days. Hope to, and probably will, see a bunch of A's soon.

Jamey, thanks for the link. I hope you don't think I wrongfully paraphrasized you, I could have sworn there was a Greg Maddux reference in there. I'll change that.

Sean, great comments. Quintanilla is a lot less superior than Khalil in both power and defense, and actually a bit better at contact. Both have just adequate speed for a middle infielder, so it's a draw there. Still, you're right, Greene is definitly the far better player. Also, thanks for your comments on Loney and League, I sour more on James everyday.

FYI: It doesn't look to me like Schierholtz will be playing at 3B in the future. There was already grumblings about his defense there even before the 2004 season and by the end of the Cal League season, he was already moved into the outfield. According to reports I read somewhere (BA maybe), competing team managers thought he should be given another year to see if he would improve defensively at 3B, but the Giants appear to have pulled the plug on that by the end of the season by moving him to the outfield for the playoffs.

My guess is that he'll end up in the outfield because Brian Buscher is ahead of him and the Giants have been higher on Buscher than Schierholtz from the beginning (but after the draft, as Schierholtz was picked before Buscher), in terms of current ability (I have to assume Schierholtz has more potential since they drafted him first and he did mash at Hagerstown). The Giants have played Buscher at higher levels than Schierholtz each year though they were drafted together in the same draft in 2003. From what I've read, Buscher looks like he could develop into an MLB-level 3B defensively while Schierholtz does not appear to have the physical tools a 3B should have.

The Giants appear to have this problem of drafting players who are poor defensively and thus gets moved around, Torcato was a 3B, then RF, now I think he's 1B, Niekro got moved from 3B to 1B, Schierholtz looks like he might get moved now, Martinez-Esteve has a poor defensive reputation but he's already in the outfield, so maybe 1B? They drafted Fred Lewis for his athletic ability but he apparently has enough to stay in CF; his problem was he has raw skills that projects well but hadn't played baseball much.

About Loney, he also dominated in the AFL in 2003, which probably led to him being rated even higher as a prospect when the 2004 prospect lists came out.

Thanks for the nice rundown, look forward to the rest of your prospect list.

Melky, Duncan, and Cano all have good chances of playing in the Bronx IMO.

I saw Loney play 12-15 times here in Jacksonville last season and he just didn't look comfortable at the plate...I don't think he ever truly recovered from the wrist injury and then the thumb injury early in the season. A co-worker of mine knows him real well as he is from Houston and Loney played ball with his oldest son and said he's a real nice kid who is low key and is very mature. I liked what I saw of him in the field as he's smooth out there. The swing is still there, but let's see if the power in his swing comes back this year. The ballpark here in Jax is a pretty big park that is deep in center and right center.

Bryan, nobody is talking about Loney's broken wrist from 2002 as an "excuse" for his 2004. The wrist healed long ago, which is why he raked in the second half of his FSL season in 2003. Three games into the 2004 season, Loney's middle finger on his left hand was broken by a second baseman's throw when Loney tried to break up a double play. The break was bad enough, but the finger became infected and it had to be operated on. Logan White, in hindsight, has called it a mistake letting Loney return to action so soon after all that, but Loney wanted to play, even if he couldn't really "perform."

And Bryan, "the dog ate my homework" is an excuse. A serious injury that impaired a player's ability during a season is an explanation for a player having a season that does not accurately reflect his talent and skills.

Hey guys, sounds like I have a bunch of Loney believers on my hands, which I completely anticipated. I guess the word "excuse" was a bit harsh, but 2005 is definitely a "put up or shut up" year for him.

I agree with your comments on Dukes - he is a fascinating player that could fly up most people's list (and I think should have already). But I don't understand what you meant when you said...

"citing maturity issues as the one problem that will likely hold him back. I dont buy it."

Don't buy what? That he has those type of problems? Or that those type of problems can keep someone from reaching their potential?

Because people aren't making up his problems. They are real. Problems like being suspended twice in 2 seasons (and kicked out of other games for arguing), being enrolled in anger management courses during the season twice, being arrested for battery after throwing a remote control at his baby's mother 13 months ago.

I'm rooting for the guy because I can't imagine what his potential is - but those maturity issues are real and concerning. The good news is his manager said that he saw a real tunraround during the 2nd half this past season.

One reason that Scott Hatteburg may be used more then Dan Johnson next year that you may not be aware of, is that late last year Dan Johnson suffered from Vergito (which is why he didnt sub for Hatteburg in september).

I think the A's are keeping Hatteburg on board till they can be sure that Johnsons Vergito is gone, and can safly assume the position.

On Dukes - he got arrested yesterday for domestic violence. How timely.

Bryan, this is really great material on the prospects. I learned a lot from it--especially about Cabrera. (Too bad he's not ready to play center field right now.) Keep up the fine work.

Bryan--
Can you give me any information on Chris Nelson, SS, Colorado? I thought I might see him on your list but he is not there. Thanks! I really enjoyed reading about your thoughts on so many young players. One of the best that I have seen!