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August 17, 1998

Prospect Focus

Peter Bergeron, Carlos Guillen, Jon Tucker, Freddy Garcia, and Ted Lilly

by Christina Kahrl

(Davenport Translations appear courtesy of Clay Davenport.)

This time around in Prospect Focus, let's take a look at the upper level prospects that changed hands in two of the big deadline trades: the Dodgers-Expos deal, and the Astros-Mariners swap.

Peter Bergeron, OF Born 1978 Age 20

Year Team     Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  R  RBI  SB  CS Out  BA   OBA  SA   EQA
1996 Yakima   Nwn 238  51   2   1   4  20  19  17   6   6 193 .214 .275 .282 .189
1997 Savannah SAL 508 130  15   3   5  59  66  48  13  12 390 .256 .333 .327 .232
1998 SanAnton Tex 413 121  12   5   8  52  75  56  21   7 299 .293 .372 .404 .277
There isn't any secret that the Expos have two-thirds of a good outfield in Rondell White and Vladimir Guerrero. Bergeron should be the third outfielder this team sorely lacks; he's shown the range to play center, and could push Rondell to left next spring. But his defense, although very good, isn't his key skill. At 19 last year, he drew 67 walks and stole 34 bases, and considering his age, it isn't too surprising that he did not show much power; it was still enough to get him named the 11th best prospect in the organization by Baseball America. He then skipped the California League coming out of camp this year, showing even better patience and power at AA while hitting for a higher average. He's still learning how to pick his moments to swipe a base, but he clearly has the makings of the new Brett Butler. He could be the Expos' best leadoff man since Tim Raines (and no, we're not forgetting Delino DeShields or Marquis Grissom).

Carlos Guillen, SS Born 1976 Age 22

Year Team     Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  R  RBI  SB  CS Out  BA   OBA  SA   EQA
1996 Quad Cit Mid 113  33   4   0   3  12  18  16   7   4  84 .292 .360 .407 .268
1997 Jackson  Tex 385  85   9   1   9  33  35  34   4   3 303 .221 .282 .319 .207
1997 New Orln AA   13   4   1   0   0   0   2   1   0   0   9 .308 .308 .385 .243
1998 New Orln PCL 365  95  12   3  11  28  44  48   3   2 272 .260 .313 .400 .247
Naming which of the Astros' Venezuelan prospects is the best of the bunch is no easy task: Richard Hidalgo, Freddy Garcia, Wilfredo Rodriguez, Alberto Blanco... or possibly Guillen. A switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate, and a solid command of the strike zone, the major issue with Guillen has been his health (his non-throwing shoulder has given out on him twice). Finally healthy for most of the last two seasons, he's shown dramatic improvement at the plate in a relatively short period of time. He's gotten extremely high marks for his work ethic and as a "coachable" player, and he's been hitting over .290 with good power for most of the year. The Mariners are expected to move him to second and call him up in September. I'm really high on his ability to continue to improve dramatically as he gets more and more game experience, but keep in mind that I was really high on the idea that Tony Batista could develop quickly going into '97.

Jon Tucker, 1B Born 1977 Age 21

Year Team     Lge  AB  H   DB  TP  HR  BB  R  RBI  SB  CS Out  BA   OBA  SA   EQA
1995 Yakima   Nwn 118  15   1   0   1   8   3   3   0   0 103 .127 .183 .161 ****
1996 GreatFls Pio 164  40   4   0   6   8  16  20   5   3 127 .244 .279 .378 .228
1997 Vero Bch Fla 420 107  12   0  13  31  46  51   3   2 315 .255 .306 .376 .237
1998 SanAnton Tex 362 101  24   0  10  35  53  52   2   3 264 .279 .343 .428 .265
Drafted out of high school in California, the Dodgers probably felt Tucker was expendable (even after trading Paul Konerko away) with the development of Glenn Davis. Tucker is coming into a tough situation with the Expos, in that Brad Fullmer isn't exactly old at 23. Tucker has shown the ability to drive the ball at a young age, and has shown above-average skills with the glove at first. As a 20-year old, Tucker showed very good power in the dead air of the Florida State League. Although the Texas League has its well-deserved reputation as a good league for hitters, San Antonio is the toughest hitter's park in the circuit, and untranslated, Tucker hit .297 with 34 doubles and 10 homeruns for the franchise nobly represented by Floppy the Taco. He's also shown inmproved patience at the plate this year. Having shown that he can hit above A-ball at 21 is outstanding. Nevertheless, its hard to give him a ringing endorsement in terms of a great future, beyond having Fullmer around: stocking first with a veteran can be relatively cheap and easy for most major league teams, and success at a young age against advanced competition didn't help first base prospects like Steve Cox or Ryan Jones, both of whom also hit well at AA at 21. At this point, he's an asset who needs a couple of breaks and continued development.

Freddy Garcia, RSP Born 1977 Age 21

Year Team     Lge     IP   H   ER  HR  BB  K    ERA  W  L   H/9   HR/9  BB/9  K/9
1996 Quad Cit Mid    55.3  81  33   5  28  34  5.37  2  4  13.17  0.81  4.55 5.53
1997 Kissimme Fla   168.3 215  73   8  56  97  3.90 10  9  11.50  0.43  2.99 5.19
1998 Jackson  Sou   114.0 113  43   9  50  88  3.39  8  5   8.92  0.71  3.95 6.95
Garcia, like Guillen, has a solid argument for being the jewel of the Astros' Venezuelan program. Chalk one up for scouting, in that he was throwing in the low 80s at 17, but he's added almost 15 mph and better command with age. He's also done well in developing his assortment, adding a curve and change. He was leading the Texas League in ERA this year after being one of the aces of the great '97 Kissimmee Cobras rotation. Like almost any pitching prospect, there are concerns about his long-term health: he's had elbow problems in the past, and he's going to miss his next start for Tacoma with tendinitis. I can't help but feel a bit sorry for Garcia. Although he's clearly one of the top twenty pitching prospects above AA, you could have said the same thing about Ken Cloude last year, or Bob Wolcott a couple of years ago. One of the easiest ways to make yourself look great as a GM isn't just ripping off other GMs in terms of talent exchanged, but to give them players they'll never use to their best advantage. I'm afraid that as long as Lou Piniella is mismanaging the careers of every young player he comes in contact with, that's exactly what Gerry Hunsicker has done here.

Ted Lilly, LSP Born 1976 Age 22

Year Team     Lge     IP   H   ER  HR  BB  K    ERA  W  L   H/9   HR/9  BB/9  K/9
1996 Yakima   Nwn    49.7  42  10   0  16  40  1.81  5  1   7.61  0.00  2.90 7.25
1997 San Bern Cal   129.7 139  49  10  32 107  3.40  8  6   9.65  0.69  2.22 7.43
1998 SanAnton Tex   102.7 133  50   9  36  75  4.38  5  6  11.66  0.79  3.16 6.57
1998 Albuquer PCL    33.0  38  16   3   9  21  4.36  2  2  10.36  0.82  2.45 5.73
Losing Lilly is probably an even bigger loss for the Dodgers than Dennis Reyes. Named the fifth-best prospect in the Dodgers organization after leading the California League in ERA in '97, Lilly is that rare lefty who throws a 90+ fastball with good movement with exceptional control. He used that heat to rack up 158 strikeouts in 135 innings. This year, he was second in the Texas League in ERA before going up to Albuquerque for five starts prior to the trade. He hasn't mastered changing speeds, and his curveball and changeup need work, but its always easier to teach junk that to live with it. There's a very strong likelihood that he'll get a couple of starts in September when rosters expand, and he should get every opportunity to win a spot in the rotation for '99. The chances that he'll be an ideal replacement for Carlos Perez are strong; toss in Bergeron and Tucker, and you have a steal of a deal.

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

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