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August 6, 2004

Can Of Corn

Deadline's Prospects, Part 2

by Dayn Perry

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Last time out, we took a look at roughly half the prospects involved in the recent deadline deals. This time, it's the other half. Sometimes, I just don't feel like a meandering intro...

  • 3B Jose Bautista, Age: 23
    New Home: Pirates
    How He Got There: From the Royals, as part of the Kris Benson three-way trade with the Mets.

    This season, Bautista has been passed around like Liz Taylor. Originally a Pirates farmhand, Bautista was nabbed by the Orioles in the December Rule 5 Draft, then the D-Rays claimed him off waivers, then the Royals traded for him, and then he completed the circle of life by coming back Buc-ward. Coming into this season, Bautista posted a career minor league line of .287/.385/.452, having played as high as the Carolina League. Not surprisingly, he's struggled badly this year in the majors, so the lost year of development is a mark against him. He'll remain on the active roster for the balance of the season, and next year he'll likely be dispatched to Double-A Altoona.

    Bautista boasts good bat speed, some pop and a capable glove at third. He's also posted strong walk rates since his debut showing in the NY-Penn League. The power numbers were down last season at Lynchburg, but while that park plays as a hitter's haven, that's relative to the otherwise pitcher-friendly Carolina League. Next year will be a critical season for him. The only thing certain is that his and the Pirates' interests would've been better served by adding him to the 40-man last winter.

  • RHP Jose Diaz, Age: 24
    New Home: Devil Rays
    How He Got There: From the Mets, as part of the Victor Zambrano trade.

    Signed in '96 as a catcher, Diaz has been working as a starting pitcher since 2001. He has a fastball that touches 94 and a promising change, but he has serious trouble getting his slurve over for strikes. (In 209.1 career innings, Diaz has issued a fairly astounding 171 free passes). He has a live arm, but the control issues are patently unacceptable. He may need a move to the bullpen if he's to have a career of any consequence.

  • RHP Bartolome Fortunato, Age: 29
    New Home: Mets
    How He Got There: From the D-Rays, as part of the Victor Zambrano trade.

    He's already 29, so Fortunato's ceiling is obviously quite limited. Signed as an outfielder in 1996, he was converted to a reliever in '99 and has done well in the role. He suffers occasional lapses with his control, but has posted good strikeout rates at every stop. He was in the midst of a nice season as the closer for Triple-A Durham and projects as a useful reliever at the highest level for a few seasons.

  • RHP Jon Huber, Age: 23
    New Home: Mariners
    How He Got There: From the Padres, in exchange for Dave Hansen.

    Huber is having a solid season in 2004 (107 innings for High-A Lake Elsinore, 100 Ks, 44 walks, nine homers, 4.46 R/G), but it's out of step with his work in previous years. Heretofore, his K rates had been too low, his K/BB ratio had been only 1.53, and he'd allowed a staggering 6.71 R/G. Maybe he's achieved some growth this season, but at 23 he's a bit old for the Cal League, even acknowledging its hitter-friendly nature. Huber doesn't have great stuff, and it's doubtful he'll amount to much.

  • C Justin Huber, Age: 22
    New Home: Royals
    How He Got There: From the Mets, as part of the Kris Benson three-way trade with the Pirates.

    Huber, a native of the land of funnel spiders, sharks, crocodiles and melanoma, has fine offensive potential. Coming into this season, Huber boasted a career line of .282/.382/.464 with good plate discipline and solid gap-power skills. Huber's numbers dropped last season after a mid-year promotion to the Eastern League. This year, back in Binghamton, he's excelled. Prior to a recent promotion to Triple-A Norfolk, Huber sported a .216 ISO and had drawn 42 unintentional walks in 295 plate appearances (for a .414 OBP). He's not a skilled defender, but he does have catch-and-throw capabilities. His mechanics behind the plate are raw, but he's not a liability. Obviously, if he's able to stick at the position, his offensive potential is that much greater. He's a much better prospect than John Buck (whom K.C. obtained from the Astros as part of the Carlos Beltran deal) was, and could move to the front of the Royals' catching queue in a hurry.

  • LHP Scott Kazmir, Age: 20
    New Home: Devil Rays
    How He Got There: From the Mets, as part of the Victor Zambrano trade.

    Kazmir, B.J. Upton, Delmon Young, Jonny Gomes, Chad Gaudin...the Rays are putting together an imposing gaggle of high-ceiling prospects. Kazmir, of course, is the latest to join the fold. Why the Mets parted with him for the likes of Zambrano is befuddling, but scuttle had it that pitching coach Rick Peterson saw trouble ahead for Kazmir by dint of his mechanics. Maybe, maybe not. But Kazmir is a special pitching talent. He sports a nasty, mid-90s fastball and a great breaking ball. He's also made good progress with his change-up this season. An early-season rib-cage strain dampened his numbers a bit at High-A St. Lucie, but after a promotion to Double-A Binghamton he began dominating once again (29 Ks, nine walks and 2.08 R/G in 26.0 innings). Also in his favor is the fact that he's coughed up only nine homers in 208 career innings. The D-Rays have dispatched him to Montgomery, and if he continues cutting a swath through Double-A as a 20-year-old, well, he's still a special prospect.

  • 2B Jeff Keppinger, Age: 24
    New Home: Mets
    How He Got There: From the Pirates, as part of the Kris Benson trade.

    Keppinger earned a great deal of praise for hitting over .400 for much of the season for Double-A Altoona. That's certainly praiseworthy, but his average declined as the year wore on, and the peripheral skills were never there. He makes good contact, but doesn't have good plate discipline or show much in the way of power. It's doubtful he'll be a regular at the highest level, but he could be a capable utility man.

  • LHP Matt Merricks, Age: 21
    New Home: Dodgers
    How He Got There: From the Braves in exchange for RP Tom Martin.

    Merricks, a sixth-round prep product in 2000, is a hard-throwing, sub-six-foot lefty who touches 95 with his heater and also sports a plus change. He lacks command of his curve, and he's had some elbow problems in the past. His numbers have been solid despite a limited repertoire. It's possible he could see a performance boost by switching to relief, which is a possibility given his injury concerns and lack of a good breaking pitch. He could be quite a promising reliever if given the chance. As a starter, however, the outlook is less enticing.

  • RHP Matt Peterson, Age: 22
    New Home: Pirates
    How He Got There: From the Mets, as part of the Kris Benson trade.

    Peterson throws a strong overhand curve, a fastball that's consistently in the low 90s and a change-up that's under construction but already useable. He's had some control problems in the past, which coming into this season kept his K:BB ratio at a merely decent 2.3. This season, toiling for Double-A Binghamton (a notable hitter's park), it was more of the same. Some scouts like him as a number-two guy down the road, but right now the numbers don't suggest anything better than a future fourth starter. He needs to show better command if he's to realize his potential.

  • RHP Alfredo Simon, Age: 23
    New Home: Giants
    How He Got There: From the Phillies, as part of the Felix Rodriguez-Ricky Ledee trade.

    A Dominican product signed in 1999, Simon is a live arm who could be a real find for the Giants. He has a fastball that touches 97 and shows good life. At this point, however, his complementary pitches need work. His change-up isn't deceptive enough, and he has trouble repeating his delivery on his breaking pitches. Still, with proper instruction and cultivation, he could be a good one. Coming into this season, he'd averaged almost a strikeout per frame with low home run rates. His control, however, had been a serious problem.

    In 2004, he's made strides. Pitching in the Florida State League prior to the trade, Simon had issued 36 unintentional passes in 134.2 innings while maintaining a 2.82 K:BB ratio. Unless he's able to deepen his repertoire, he may be headed for relief detail. But he could really take off if that happens.

  • OF Henri Stanley, Age: 26
    New Home: Dodgers
    How He Got There: From the Red Sox in exchange for Dave Roberts.

    A former Astros farmhand, Stanley, in 2001 and 2002, put up back-to-back outstanding seasons in the Midwest and Texas Leagues (the latter performance came despite his skipping over High-A entirely--the Astros had no High-A affiliate at the time). In 2003, he suffered an apparent decline at New Orleans, but that's one of the toughest hitting environments in all of Triple-A. This season, despite the upheaval of having played for three organizations in 2004 before this trade, he put up decent numbers. At 26, it's doubtful he'll ever be anything resembling a star at the highest level, but he could provide a capable glove in left and a nice left-handed stick off the bench. He may yet be useful in an organization that knows how to leverage his skills.

Related Content:  Trade,  A's,  Triple-A,  Promotion,  Year Of The Injury,  Repertoire

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