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May 10, 2002

6-4-3

Who Are These People Behind the Stained Glass Windows?

by Gary Huckabay

Since we're about a month into the season, and I'm getting a lot of mail with specific questions about prospects, I thought I'd bounce through some of the early performances from the minors and talk to a few scouts. Originally, I had hoped to have a Win Shares review done by now, but the responsible parties here at BP--namely me and Keith Woolner--keep procrastinating. If we don't have the review of Win Shares done by about the 17th or so, e-mail Keith and me and hassle us to get it done.

Anyway, let's go on to the minors. I apologize if there's not a lot of breadth here; I'm focusing on those guys who I've been able to talk to some scouts about, and I'll get to more over the course of the season. I'm concentrating on guys with some upside, or guys who, for some reason or other, are interesting because their level of performance may have changed.

If you want more frequent information and analysis, break out your checkbook and sign up for John Sickels's e-mail prospect reports. They're worth the dough.

Ken Holubec, SP-L, Minnesota Twins (Fort Myers, Florida State League, high A)


G   GS    IP     H   BB   K    ERA
7    7   30.3   28   16  43   2.97

Yes, the FSL is a good place to pitch, so these numbers aren't particularly eye-popping, but they're pretty good. Holubec has picked up a couple of MPH on his fastball, and he's gained control of his slider, resulting in left-handed hitters instantly bailing out upon release. Holubec has not been overworked, had a reasonable track record coming into this year, and, according to scouts, is likely to end up as a very effective left handed set-up guy.

He's listed at six feet, and that'd have to be metric feet or something. Then again, what's your height and weight according to your driver's license? I think my 5' 10", 230 pounds was accurate...in 1982.

Drew Henson, 3B-R, New York Yankees (Columbus, International League, Triple-A)


G      AB    H   2B   3B   HR   BB    SB  CS    AVG   OBP   SLG
30    117   28    8    1    3    3     0   0   .239  .256  .402

Not listed are his 41 strikeouts thus far, making for a nearly 14-1 K/BB ratio. It's too early to write Henson off, but I've never been impressed with him. I think the Yankees had something of a mind lapse here, caused by a combination of the aging of Scott Brosius and the chance they might lose Henson to football. He may well pick it up and be a productive major leaguer, but I think there's more Ryan Minor here than Eric Chavez.

No one questions Henson's athleticism; he's a big guy, and the scouting reports are that he has tremendous strength, but his footwork and balance are "not good at all." "He has a long way to go at the plate," says one scout, "and you can get him out anywhere but down."

Xavier Nady, 3B/DH/2B-R, San Diego Padres (Lake Elsinore, California League, high A)


G      AB    H   2B   3B   HR   BB    SB  CS    AVG   OBP   SLG
32    109   30    4    1   10   24     1   0   .275  .407  .606

The highly touted Cal product seems to be hitting just fine despite the elbow problems that have kept him from playing defense. One scout who has followed Nady closely had these comments: "He's got very quick hands, so he doesn't need to open up so much, but he still does. He also lets a lot of hittable pitches pass by." Maybe, but he appears to be doing well with the ones he is swinging at. "He's not the best hitter on that club. Nady gets all the attention, but that [Taggert] Bozied kid is going to be a better hitter. But neither one can move to a ball and be in position to make a throw."

Jeff Mathis, C-R, Anaheim Angels (Cedar Rapids, Midwest League, A)


G      AB    H   2B   3B   HR   BB    SB  CS    AVG   OBP   SLG
32    126   41   12    1    6   10     2   0   .325  .374  .579

Mathis is one of the "fool's errand" group--catchers drafted out of high school. As with more famous catching prospect Joe Mauer, though, there's reason to be optimistic. Mathis has a quick, level swing, a solid batting eye, and--most importantly for catching prospects--the requisite defensive skills to play the position competently. "He does everything right back there [defensively]," according to one scout. "He blocks off a little when he's hitting, which means you can get him out inside. He's got a lot of things to work on at the plate, but the bat speed is there." Mathis needs reps and lots of cage time, but he's the real thing." What major-league hitter is closest to Mathis? "Probably Jeff Cirillo."

Mike Wood, SP-R, Oakland Athletics (Modesto, California League, high A)


G   GS    IP     H   BB   K    ERA
7    7   41.3   41    6  50   3.48

I wasn't planning to include Wood. Then I saw him pitch, and had a chance to listen to two Cal League observers argue about him. "A taller Tim Hudson." "No chance. Wood doesn't have a third pitch. He's going to end up a closer." "He's 21 years old, and he'll learn a third and fourth pitch." "He's not going to be Tim Hudson. His stuff's identical to Kaz Sasaki. He's going to be a closer." Either way, the A's will be happy. Wood comfortably throws 88-90, and can reach back to get a couple more mph if he needs it. His big out pitch is a ridiculously vicious Mike Scott/Dave Stewart/Roger Clemens/Tim Hudson split-finger. He can also throw a fastball into a teacup.

Jack Cust, Object Lesson-L, Colorado Rockies (Colorado Springs, Pacific Coast League, Triple-A)


G      AB    H   2B   3B   HR   BB    SB  CS    AVG   OBP   SLG
31    104   34    8    0   11   32     0   2   .327  .486  .721

There's some excessive fear and hype going on here. I understand that there's more square footage to cover in Coors Field than there is anywhere else. I understand that because of lower air pressure, the effects of lift and drag are reduced, meaning that fly balls travel at a lower trajectory and spend less time in the air. I understand that it's frustrating to see balls roll to the wall between outfielders.

But there's no reason for this guy not to be starting every day in Denver. None. Todd Hollandsworth is just not good enough to justify Cust's time in Triple-A.

What do the scouts say about him? "We'd love to have him at DH. He's not good in the outfield, but there are a lot of guys who play the outfield that aren't any good." "He's actually not bad moving to his glove side, but he can't come forward or back on a ball." How about his bat? What kind of major leaguer would he be? "McGwire. Same short stroke, not as much power, same hip action." "Edgar Martinez or Frank Thomas."

The Rockies have little to lose by bringing him up and letting him play. I can understand O'Dowd's fear of his glove, but at some point, don't you have to at least take the chance and look at the results?

If there's a player or players you want profiled, drop me an e-mail. Hanging out in minor-league parks and talking to scouts and GMs certainly beats real work.

Gary Huckabay is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him 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

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