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June 3, 1998

Prospect Focus

Ed Yarnall and Preston Wilson

by Rany Jazayerli

This time around in Prospect Focus, we turn to the two main prospects - we use that word gingerly in the case of one of them - that the Marlins received for Mike Piazza. Geoff Goetz, the third player in the deal, is 19 and has thrown barely 50 innings of professional baseball; he needs more time before he can be judged properly.

The two prospects - left-handed starter Ed Yarnall and outfielder Preston Wilson - are an intriguing pair. Yarnall is a terrific prospect who could be wasted as a surgical case if Jim Leyland gets to him, while Wilson has been one of the most overrated players in the minor leagues for several years.

Ed Yarnall, LSP Age 22

Year Team        Lvl     IP   H   R ER  BB    K  HR  ERA   W  L  H/9   BB/9   K/9

1997 St. Lucie   A+   105.1  93  33 29  30  114   5  2.48  5  8  7.95  2.56  9.74
1997 Norfolk     AAA    5.0  11   8  8   7    2   1 14.40  0  1 19.80 12.60  3.60
1997 Binghamton  AA    32.1  20  11 11  11   32   2  3.06  3  2  5.57  3.06  8.91
1997 Translation DT   141.0 148     47  50  110  10  3.00 11  6  9.45  3.19  7.02
1998 Translation DT    43.3  28      4  18   36   0  0.83  5  0  5.82  3.74  7.48
Yarnall, the Mets' 3rd-round pick in 1996 from LSU, may be the best left-handed pitcher in the minor leagues. He throws 4 pitches for strikes, and with the exception of the one bad start at AAA last year, he has dominated wherever he has pitched. This year his numbers resemble those high-school-pitcher-throwing-95-against-quivering-16-year-olds lines you see in Baseball America. Not even translating his stats can get his ERA above 1. He's obviously not going to keep doing that, but he is good enough to step into the Marlins rotation right now and be their #1 starter. An excellent acquisition by Dombrowski; the Marlins have a good prospect or young player at every position except third base and catcher, but the starting rotation is much thinner, and Yarnall gives them an excellent pitcher to build around.

Of course, Jim Leyland is still managing in Miami, so unless he leaves at the end of the year, Yarnall is a candidate for injury-related disappointments. I hope - and expect - Leyland to leave, so unlike Livan Hernandez, Jesus Sanchez, and the rest of Leyland's Scar Tissue Factory, I think Yarnall may be able to avoid the injury bug.

Preston Wilson, RHB OF Age 23

Year Team       Lvl   AB   H DB TP HR BB  R  RBI SB CS   AVG  OBP  SLG   EQA

1997 St. Lucie   A+  245  60 12  1 11  8  32  48  3  4  .245 .267 .437
1997 Binghamton  AA  259  74 12  1 19 21  37  47  7  1  .286 .340 .560
1997 Translation DT  497 116 13  2 22 24  47  63  7  3  .233 .269 .400  .227
1998 Translation DT   93  23  6  1  1  4  10   9  2  2  .247 .278 .366  .219
Preston Wilson, on the other hand - even the best GMs make mistakes every now and then. Last year Dombrowski gave Rick Helling back to the Rangers for Ed "Garbage Man" Vosberg, and this year he makes Wilson a centerpiece of the Piazza deal. Wilson is probably the second-most overrated prospect in baseball, behind only new teammate Josh Booty. Gary Hughes, the Marlins' Scouting Director, was recently quoted as saying that if he had had the top pick in the 1992 Draft, he would have taken Wilson. The question is: why? Wasn't Glenn Braggs already available?

Let's make this crystal clear: Wilson is not, and probably will never be, a productive major league hitter. He can play reasonable defense at the corners, has fair speed, and his power is okay - but he really doesn't have one outstanding skill. Most importantly, he can not get on base. His translated batting averages have never reached even .250, and he has never shown any inclination to draw a walk. Maybe the Marlins have some master plan for him; maybe they think they can teach him to hit. He's already 23, and unless their "plan" for him is to platoon with John Cangelosi, I suspect they're going to be disappointed. Despite the acquisition of Yarnall and Goetz, this trade has to be considered a disappointment for the Marlins - they had a chance to come away with a good booty for a marquee player, and instead they ended up with another Josh Booty.

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

Related Content:  Preston Wilson

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