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July 18, 2000

The Daily Prospectus

Just Around the Corner

by Joe Sheehan

As teams separate themselves into contenders and Cubs, organizations with little hope for 2000 and quality minor leaguers will have the opportunity to showcase their cheap, young talent. Between now and the middle of September, a number of players are going to arrive in--or in some cases, return to--the major leagues, many of them to stay. Here are some of the ones I'm watching:

Ramon Castro, C, Marlins. Castro has taken a step forward offensively in his second year at Triple-A. While his performance at the plate--.344/.391/.651 at Calgary--has to be discounted a bit by the environment, the improvement over his 1999 is considerable. Florida's mild success this season is the only thing keeping him in the minors, but bringing him up would help the wild-card dream, not hurt it. Look for Castro sometime in August.

Matt Kinney, RHP, Twins. One of the problems the Twins have had developing pitchers is that their Triple-A affiliate plays in a pitchers' hell. Salt Lake inflated offense by 11% last season, which is par for the course. It's been the place Twins pitching prospects go to die, posting ERAs in the 7.00s and losing confidence with each start.

So you have to hope the Twins don't leave Kinney, their best pitching prospect, in the Pacific Coast League too long. Kinney walked all over the Eastern League (2.71 ERA, 93 strikeouts and 74 hits in 86 innings) before his recent promotion to Salt Lake. While he isn't ready to take a rotation spot in Minnesota, he's probably better off throwing slop relief in the majors rather than getting pasted (7.80 ERA in three starts so far) in Triple-A. The Twins need to convert some of their bullpen depth into position-player prospects and get Kinney to the big leagues.

Craig Wilson, C, Pirates. Wondering why an extension for Jason Kendall is a sudden priority for the Pirates? It's because Wilson may give them a viable replacement if they can't come to terms with their All-Star catcher.

Wilson has returned from Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow in 1999 to post a .288/.378/.579 campaign at Nashville. His defense is just passable, so if the Pirates do sign Kendall, Wilson could be moved to first base or left field and still be a reasonable prospect. Regardless, he should be up in the majors by the end of the year.

Here are some other names to remember:

I'm contractually obligated to mention Aubrey Huff, who should be the Devil Rays' starting third baseman right now. He has an OPS well over 900 at Durham and is stuck behind the worst third baseman in baseball. Free Aubrey Huff!

With the season-ending injury to Quilvio Veras, the prospect of Marcus Giles showing up in Atlanta grows brighter. The perception of Giles as a player with defensive problems persists, but Giles has done nothing but hit for three years, including a .286/.404/.461 for Double-A Greenville this year.

Given how unlikely it is that both Walt Weiss and Rafael Furcal will make it from here to October unscathed and the complete lack of other options within the organization, Giles could be just a Weiss hamstring pull from a job in Atlanta.

Joe Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@baseballprospectus.com.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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