Well, I finished the rough manuscript for the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook on Thursday night. I'm pretty tired.
Here is a mailbag to keep you going through the Holidays. Travel safely, spend time with your friends and family, and remember to keep things in perspective. The world of baseball may be fouled up, but compared to the rest of the world, things aren't so bad. Take care, everyone.
Dave from Boulder writes: I'm a huge Cubs fan and really appreciate your projections for players. Since the Cubs have added Moises Alou, I'm wondering what your impression is of Roosevelt Brown? Is he an everyday player for a team on a tight budget?
Brown has seen limited action for the Cubs over the last three years, but despite a lot of pinch-hitting and part-time play, he's done OK. In 238 at-bats, he's hit .286 with a .487 slugging percentage. His lack of patience keeps his on-base percentage rather low, and that would be a handicap if you played him full-time. But if someone gave Brown 500 at-bats, he'd probably put up decent numbers, and he'd do it for cheap. His defense would limit him to left field or DH, but he can help some teams.
Troy asks: With the Yankees' flurry of activity going on, what do you think the chance of Juan Rivera getting a shot is? He looked like he finally learned the strike zone last year playing in Triple-A and had a breakout year because of it.
Rivera looks like he's headed back to Triple-A, but when Rondell White goes down with the inevitable injury, he would be on the short list for recall. He did make progress with the strike zone last year, although his walk rate remains low. His MLE says he can hit .290-.300 with 20-homer power ... Rondell White numbers, in other words. His lack of patience may make that a bit optimistic in the short run, but I do think Rivera will have a very good career, though perhaps not for the Yankees. He is ideal trade bait for help down the stretch.
Gregg from Minnesota asks: Being a "Large & Tall" shopper myself, I have always been a fan of players with like builds (David Wells, Greg Luzinski, Boog Powell, you get the picture). With that said, the hefty Matt LeCroy is a player that intrigues me. Other than his horrible half season in 2000, he seems to hit for power, average and has decent command of the strike zone. What does the future hold for him (other than a cholesterol reading of 240).
Assuming the Twins exist next year, LeCroy will be in the mix as a platoon DH, backup first baseman, and emergency catcher. They seem to have given up on him as a regular backstop. I personally think that's a mistake, but they didn't ask me. Anyhow, LeCroy can hit. He gets ahead of himself sometimes and tries too hard to crush pitches, but when he hangs back, he can be deadly. I think he'll hit .270-.280 with very good power if he gets the playing time.
Scott C. asks: What do you think about Ben Howard's chances of making the San Diego rotation next year? He turned his career around last year at Rancho Cucamonga and Mobile. He throws in the 95-96 mph range.
Howard walked 111 guys in 107 innings in 2000. He cut that to 47 free passes in 132 innings last year, incredible progress. As you point out, he throws quite hard, and his slider is pretty nasty as well. He improved his mechanics last year, obviously with terrific results. I would be skeptical about his chances to make the Padres rotation in '02. He has just 30 innings in Double-A, and while he pitched well there (2.40 ERA), he probably needs a year to consolidate his progress.
Derek writes: I was curious what you thought about Luke Hudson, the pitcher the Reds picked up from the Rockies in the Pokey Reese deal.
Hudson was a fourth-round pick in 1998, from the University of Tennessee. He went 7-12 with a 4.20 ERA at Double-A Carolina last year, with a 145/68 K/BB ratio in 165 innings. All of his numbers were almost exactly average for the Southern League last year. He throws 90, has decent breaking stuff, and did a good job as a rotation workhorse last year. If he sharpens his command a bit, he has a chance to be a decent fourth or fifth starter.
Hugo from Quebec asks: How good is Shin-Soo Choo, the Korean outfielder in the Mariners farm system? Do you think has a chance to develop into a good player?
Choo hit .302 with 10 doubles, 10 triples, 12 steals, and 34 walks in 199 at-bats in the rookie level Arizona League. He has great raw power, and is willing to take a walk. Some people in the Arizona League think he tried to pull the ball too much, but that seems like nitpicking at this point. The important thing is that he played very well in his North American debut. We do need to see what Choo does at higher levels, but he's just 19, and on the right track so far. I don't think we'll see him in the majors until 2004, but if all goes as expected, he'll be a fine player and possibly more than that.
John Sickels is working on the 2002 STATS Minor League Scouting Notebook. 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 hometown.aol.com/jasickels/page1.html.