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September 29, 1997

NL East Expansion Draft Analysis

Who should be protected in the NL East

by Rany Jazayerli, Gary Huckabay and Keith Law

Welcome to our six-part series on the upcoming expansion draft, and who the established teams should be protecting. We'll be looking at every major league team and making our picks on who they should be protecting. Please note this isn't a prediction on who they *will* be protecting. We're sure the Angels will be protecting Garret Anderson, for example. We just don't think they should be.

ATLANTA BRAVES

    Greg Maddux, SP
    Andruw Jones, CF
    Chipper Jones, 3B
    Tom Glavine, SP
    John Smoltz, SP
    Denny Neagle, SP
    Javy Lopez, C
    Ryan Klesko, LF
    Mark Wohlers, RP
    Michael Tucker, RF
    Alan Embree, RP
    Tony Graffanino, 2B
    Kevin Millwood, SP
    Mike Cather, RP
    Bruce Chen, SP
The Braves are fortunate in that most of their talent is sequesterered into relatively few players, so they are quite unlikely to lose anyone of real value. Fred McGriff is not on this list, and that is not a misprint; he's expensive and clearly in his decline phase, and if the Braves were offering him straight up for Bret Boone last year, I don't think they'll mind shedding his salary and moving Klesko to first base, at long last... Graffanino has played quite well in his brief audition, and with Mark Lemke a free agent, the Braves have the potential to improve tremendously at at least one position in 1998. Millwood and Cather have both pitched tremendously well in the minors this season and have contributed enough that their spots are fairly secure. The Braves' minor league system is surprisingly empty at its upper levels, and besides Bruce Chen, the only players worth a flyer are southpaw Damian Moss and Adam Johnson. Glenn Williams, the much-heralded Australian shortstop who signed at 16, still has promise but suffers from Booty syndrome, and I'm not referring to his rear end.

FLORIDA MARLINS

    Edgar Renteria, SS
    Gary Sheffield, RF
    Kevin Brown, SP
    Alex Fernandez, SP
    Charles Johnson, C
    Bobby Bonilla, 3B
    Livan Hernandez, SP
    Al Leiter, SP
    Cliff Floyd, OF
    Robb Nen, RP
    Mark Kotsay, OF
    Alex Gonzalez, SS
    Felix Heredia, RP
    Todd Dunwoody, OF
    Luis Castillo, 2B
This may be the deepest organization in baseball, and five years after their own expansion draft, the Marlins figure to lose several quality prospects. With so many players in danger of being lost, and with the pall of an impending sale over this team, don't be surprised if many star players (with star salaries) are put on the block. Moises Alou is the most likely to be put on display, at least if the Marlins have any sense; he's making $5 million per, and despite having a decent season, the Marlins have tons of extra outfielders and Mark Kotsay just looking for an opening.

With one of the 5 best catchers in baseball starting for them, it would make little sense for the Marlins to protect Gregg Zaun; still, if he's selected by either expansion team and made a starter, he could be the surprise of the draft. There's no room for Tony Saunders on this list, and he would be appealing to a team looking for young starting pitching that can perform in the majors in 1998. In the bullpen, Felix Heredia, just 21, has to be protected over Jay Powell, but Powell could easily perform as an expansion closer, with the potential to be a big-time stopper in 2 or 3 years. As for the prospects: Kotsay is a no-brainer, Gonzalez hit 19 homers at the age of 20 and draws Renteria-like raves for his defense, and Dunwoody needs work on his plate discipline but has power and speed and is only 22. Castillo, despite falling out of grace with the Marlins, is still a great prospect; he hit .354 after his demotion to AAA, and is still only 22. He's a better second baseman than Victor Rodriguez, who's been mentioned as a super-prospect for years, despite never really doing anything on the diamond. He's only 20 and held his own in AA, and plays great D, but his "power" makes Castillo look like Ralph Kiner.

Others missing: Ralph Milliard could still become Willie Randolph, but has no hope of a job in Miami; Jeff Conine had a very disappointing year, and might be the only player selected in both expansion drafts; Kurt Abbott is no solution at second base, and Craig Counsell is a bit of a fluke; Darren Daulton has had a nice year, but is on his last surgically repaired legs; and I fear for the Baseball Prospectus team if Josh Booty makes any sort of protected list, because one of us is sure to bust a hernia laughing.

MONTREAL EXPOS

    Pedro Martinez, SP
    Rondell White, CF
    Vladimir Guerrero, RF
    Brad Fullmer, 1B
    Carlos Perez, SP
    Mike Lansing, 2B
    Dustin Hermanson, SP
    Bob Henley, C
    Trey Moore, P
    Ugueth Urbina, RP
    F.P. Santangelo, UT
    Jose Vidro, 3B
    Hiram Bocachica, SS/2B
    Orlando Cabrera, SS
    Chris Widger, C
The Expos' farm system has fallen on hard times the last few years, and their minor league cupboard looks more barren than it has in a long, long time. It's the offseason in Montreal, which means it's cost-cutting time, and Henry Rodriguez, he of the .306 OBP and bad defense, and Mark Grudzielanek, who may have had the most valueless 54-double season history in major league history, should be dangled, either in the draft or in trade.

Jose Vidro had a great AAA season and hasn't bought the farm since he was recalled to Montreal, but a little primer on the strike zone couldn't hurt; Hiram Bocachica has a great bat but no position; Cabrera has a good glove and moved from A ball to AAA this season, always a good sign.

Ryan McGuire is a nice guy but a poor man's David Segui nevertheless; Israel Alcantara showed tremendous power this year, but is 24, has never had a season like this one, and still can't tell a strike from a bad CBS sitcom; Shayne Bennett, Marc Valdes and the rest of Felipe Alou's bullpen all have talent, but trying to guess who will succeed is like trying to follow a "Twin Peaks" episode. Mike Johnson gets a lot of press for a Rule V draftee but hasn't done anything of note.

NEW YORK METS

    Edgardo Alfonzo, INF
    Todd Hundley, C
    Bernard Gilkey, LF [Mandatory]
    Roberto Petagine, 1B
    Matt Raleigh, 3B [Viva RDFC!!]
    Jesus Azuaje, 2B
    Rick Reed, SP
    Bobby Jones, SP
    John Franco, RP [Mandatory]
    Greg McMichael, RP
    Dave Mlicki, P
    Bill Pulsipher, P
    Juan Acevedo, P
    Jason Isringhausen, SP
    Paul Wilson, SP
It's possible that this could be the second consecutive expansion draft with an overrated hitter named Wilson drafted in the first round. None of the Mets' young hitting talent needs to be protected, really. Azuaje makes the list based on his defensive rep and batting eye. Other than that, this list is designed to maximize trade value. Despite the injuries, I'm still high on at least two of the Young Met Guns, but perhaps not for another year. Still, I'd be patient with them. Good starting pitching is a great starting point, and you can always trade good starting pitchers to fill other needs.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

    Billy McMillon, OF
    Curt Schilling, SP
    Garrett Stephenson, SP
    Scott Rolen, 3B
    Bobby Estalella, C
    Mike Lieberthal, C
    Mickey Morandini, 2B
    Gregg Jefferies, OF [Mandatory]
    Ricky Bottalico, RP
    Calvin Maduro, SP
    Matt Beech, SP
    Desi Relaford, SS
    Rob Burger, SP
    Ron Blazier, RP
    Mike Grace, SP
Good God, this system is more barren than the rumpus room at the Larry Flynt mansion. Guys like Relaford (who still can't really hit) and Grace (who may never be healthy enough to last a full season) don't belong on a major-league team's protected list, but there's simply no one else worth keeping. Theys do have modest strength in the starting pitching area, and could get stronger in the pen if Blazier's work with Bruce Sutter pans out.

Notable omissions: Touted wild men Wayne Gomes and Tyler Green, who haven't shown any real ability to throw strikes on a consistent basis. Carlton Loewer, another apple in Lee Thomas' eye who throws strikes but tries to be too fine, surrendering 198 hits in 182.1 IP with a 4.60 ERA in AAA this year. Midre Cummings is also off the list; let Tampa Bay get all aroused over Cummings' tools so the Phillies can pull back someone like Loewer after round 1.

Rany Jazayerli is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Rany's other articles. You can contact Rany by clicking here
Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Gary's other articles. You can contact Gary by clicking here

Related Content:  Mark Grace,  The Who,  Mark Kotsay

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