Editor's note: John Sickels will give a rundown of prospects involved in trades throughout the offseason. Check back to this page whenever prospects are involved in deals to find out the background on each player.
Josh Pressley, 1B (Tampa Bay to New York in Rey Ordonez deal)
Pressley was a fourth-round pick in 1998, from high school in Ft. Lauderdale. He was considered a first-round talent with the bat, but fell in the draft because of his perceived bonus demands. He was the first player the Rays picked in the draft that year, since they gave up their other choices to sign free agents (that didn't work out too well). Pressley's career has been slowed by injuries, and his bat hasn't developed as expected. He hit .304 this year in Double-A, but with just four homers in 342 at-bats. At this point he is a very marginal prospect.
Manuel Mateo, RHP (Atlanta to San Francisco in Damian Moss/Russ Ortiz trade)
Mateo was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1999. At 20-years old, he pitched very well in his North American debut in 2002, posting a 1.98 ERA in the Gulf Coast League, with a terrific 76/12 K/BB ratio in 68 innings. Mateo throws in the 91-94 mph range, hitting 95 at times. He may pick up even more velocity as he matures, and he already knows how to throw strikes. A very intriguing long-term prospect, though he'll have to prove himself at higher levels.
Neal Cotts, LHP (Oakland to White Sox in Billy Koch trade)
Second-round pick in 2001 by the Athletics, out of Illinois State. Went 12-6, 4.12 in 28 starts for Class A Modesto in the California League, with 178 strikeouts in 138 innings, an excellent ratio. On the other hand, he walked 87. Toning down on the free passes will be necessary as he moves up. Works at 87-89 mph, with a good curveball and changeup.
Daylan Holt, OF (Oakland to White Sox in Koch trade)
Third-round pick in 2000, out of Texas A&M. Big disappointment in '01, when he hit just .179 in the California League, but he turned it around in '02 by hitting 20 homers and combining for a .286 average between more Cal League action and Double-A. Owns solid raw power, but doesn't always control the strike zone or keep his swing consistent.
Josh Thigpen, RHP (Boston to Cincinnati in Todd Walker trade)
Thigpen was a 16th-round pick in 2000, out of high school in Alabama. A big kid at 6-4, 195, Thigpen can hit 96 mph on a good day, and works easily in the 90-94 mph range. He needs work on a curveball and changeup. He fanned 87 in 83 innings at Class A Augusta, being used in relief, but he'll need to diversify his arsenal as he moves up. He was one of the few decent prospects left in the Red Sox system.
Tony Blanco, 3B (Boston to Cincinnati in Walker trade)
Blanco was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1998. He hit .382 in rookie ball in 2000, then hit 17 homers in 96 games in '01, though he struggled with the strike zone. In '02, he battled injuries at Class A Sarasota, hitting just .221. He also completely lost his remaining plate discipline, which apparently didn't endear him to the new sabermetrically-inclined braintrust in Boston. He's got power, yes, but he is still very raw.
Josh Hancock, RHP (Boston to Philadelphia for Jeremy Giambi)
Hancock was a fifth-round pick in 1998, out of Auburn. A physical pitcher at 6-3, 215, Hancock works at 90-94 mph. He uses a slider and a knuckle-curve as his secondary pitches, but his changeup needs some work. When his mechanics are in gear, Hancock does a good job of keeping hitters off-stride, but his command can waver at times. His 29/26 K/BB ratio in 44 innings of Triple-A in '02 is not impressive, though his ERA remained good at 3.45. If he can throw strikes, he can be a decent pitcher, but is not an elite prospect at this point.
Jason Arnold, RHP (Oakland to Toronto as part of four-way trade)
Arnold was a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2001, from the University of Central Florida. He's quickly emerged as one of the top right-handed prospects in the game. He was traded to Oakland as part of the three-way Jeff Weaver trade this past summer, and now he's moved on to Toronto. This should not be considered a negative; it just shows how highly many teams think of him. Arnold throws 88-92 mph, with a good arsenal of secondary pitches and a strong feel for pitching. He could enter the Toronto rotation some time in '03.
John-Ford Griffin, OF (Oakland to Toronto as part of four-way trade)
Griffin was the Yankees' first-round pick in '01, from Florida State. He went to Oakland along with Arnold in the Weaver deal, and is now said to be going with him to Toronto as part of the Erubiel Durazo/Elmer Dessens/Felipe Lopez trade, although that isn't 100 percent official yet. Griffin is a pure hitter with a smooth stroke and strong strike zone judgment. He's been compared to a young Paul O'Neill.
John Sickels is the author of the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and is now working on the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book. His biography of Bob Feller will be published next spring. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at JohnSickels.com.