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The List: Early success stories

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Players who have opened eyes thus far: The E-Mail files
Or, we had no idea this guy was this good. Suggestions provided by players, managers, coaches, scouts and general managers.

1. Eric Chavez, 3B, Oakland: He may be Oakland's best player, a line-drive, gap hitter with power, and a far better third baseman than people thought. With Chavez and the Angels' Troy Glaus -- maybe the best big third baseman since Mike Schmidt -- the American League finally has a couple of future All-Star third basemen.

2. Phil Nevin, 3B, San Diego: He was the top pick in the '92 draft, but has drifted around until landing with the Padres last season. He has bulked up with his buddy Jason Giambi and now is a big-time presence. How improved is he? In '98, his slugging + on-base percentages was .662. Through Friday, those totals stand at 1.065. "He's putting up four good at-bats a game," says a coach, "and the stunning part is his defense."

3. Ben Molina, C, Anaheim: He had thrown out six of the first eight runners who tried to run on him, has improved defensively and is giving the Angels their much-needed defensive catcher. Anaheim doesn't need offense at the catching position, so Molina is the exact guy they want.

4. Trot Nixon, RF, Boston: He came on at the end of last season, but laser eye surgery eliminated those at-bats when he was fiddling with his contact lens (sometimes when the pitcher was in his windup), his back is healthy again, his old swing is back and he plays as if every game were N.C. State-Florida State.

5. Luis Gonzalez, LF, Arizona: "I realize he had a great '99 season," writes one player, "but he just makes himself get better and better."

6. Carlos Lee, LF, Chicago White Sox: This guy can flat-out hit. Went into the weekend as one of the leaders in Bill James' runs created list.

7. Kelly Wunsch, LHP, White Sox: This is the former No. 1 pick of the Brewers, so wild that he once struck out five batters in one inning. Now he's coming from the side at 91-92 mph as part of that fascinating White Sox bullpen.

8. Scott Schoeneweis, LHP, Anaheim: "He could always pitch, but he's come up with a good changeup," writes one player. "He's got a nasty sinker." Indeed, Schoeneweis leads the AL with a 3.30 groundball/flyball ratio.

Five things I really like as a fan
1. Braves games on TBS. Humor, insight, contrasting personalities, objectivity from four very good broadcasters. Skip Caray is one of the great broadcasting humorists, but he never tries to be The Show.

2. Edgardo Alfonzo and Rey Ordonez taking infield practice live off the bat in BP.

3. STATS, Inc.'s "Leaders and Trailers."

4. The Kowloon Chinese food stand at Fenway Park.

5. Eric Owens.

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