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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.