In the four-and-a-half years that Baseball Prospectus has been
around, we’ve touted a number of players who, for one reason or another,
have caught our collective eyes. This spring is turning out to be a good
one for some of our pets, who are playing well and even in danger of
winning major-league jobs. At the risk of jinxing them, here’s how some of
them are situated for the 2000 season:
Any discussion of BP favorites starts with Frank Catalanatto. In BP
1996, I was no doubt under the influence of marriage planning when I wrote,
"He has the highest upside of any position player prospect in the
[Tigers] organization." At the time, his secondary skills as a
21-year-old at A-ball seemed impressive, despite a .202 EqA. In the four
seasons since, he’s reached the majors and played well as a utility infielder.
Last November, Catalanatto was traded from the Tigers to the Rangers. When
Mark McLemore signed with the Mariners as a free agent, that left
just Luis Alicea as competition for the second-base job. The Cat has
taken advantage, having a big, 5-for-6 game early in the exhibition season
and posting a 1433 OPS through Sunday. Given Alicea’s problems with staying
healthy and batting left-handed, it seems like this will be the year
Catalanatto gets a chance to be the good-hitting second baseman we’ve felt
he could be for a long time.
Catalanatto isn’t the only Ranger making our stubbornness look good. Tom
Evans was a Blue Jay prospect for years, unable to get a look ahead of
Ed Sprague. Shoulder injuries also played a part in his struggles.
Last spring, the Jays waived him and he caught on with the Rangers, where
he played well for their Triple-A team at Oklahoma City, posting a .250 EqA.
Like Catalanatto, Evans has benefited from a free-agent exodus, in this
case third baseman Todd Zeile. The Rangers let Zeile go in part to
create an opportunity for prospect Mike Lamb, but Evans has forced
his way into the picture early in the exhibition season, hitting four home
runs and walking four times without striking out. His path to a job isn’t
as clear as Catalanatto’s; on the other hand, he’s playing better and would
give the Rangers an excuse to let Lamb play for a few months at Triple-A.
Now, if Scott Sheldon gets a crack at the shortstop job, we’ll look
into whether resident Ranger fan Michael Wolverton is holding members of
Johnny Oates’ family against their will. Until then, we’ll enjoy–and root
for–some of our favorites in Port Charlotte.
One of the biggest disappointments for us in recent years has been the play
of Travis Lee. Our projections for him in both the 1998 and 1999
editions of the book were very optimistic, and he failed to match either.
Last year, he lost time to an ankle injury and his first-base job to
With the Diamondbacks’ decision to move Tomy Womack from right field
to shortstop, a new position opened up for Lee. While he is an excellent
defensive first baseman, we observed in the 1998 book that he had the
physical ability to be a quality outfielder as well. He has started the
spring hot, with an OPS over 1000, including six doubles. Healthy for the
first time since the middle of his rookie season, he should help counter
the expected declines of the Diamondback veterans and could keep them in
contention in a weak division.