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TODAY: Monday, May 15
Rating the outfielders


I spend most of my waking hours taking care of a 19-month old boy. As a result, I find myself thinking in Sesame Street terminology far too often. With that in mind, please forgive me when I tell you that today's column is brought to you by the number seven.

Here are seven top outfield prospects, viewed with the Seven Skills Approach. This gives you an idea about how the Seven Skills work as an evaluation tool.

Milton Bradley, Montreal Expos
Scouts will tell you that Bradley is a Five Tool player. Is he a Seven Skill guy?

Hitting For Average: His career average entering the season was .300.

Hitting For Power: He doesn't have awesome over-the-fence power at this point, but his bat is very quick, he slugged .526 last year, and he should be good for 15-20 knocks a season with lots of doubles.

Strike Zone Judgment: Adequate. His walk rate was on the edge of respectability last year, but his strikeouts were not excessive. He needs to improve this, but it isn't a huge flaw at this point.

Offensive Speed: He runs like the wind, but can be very sloppy on the bases. Needs improvement.

Range Afield: Excellent.

Reliability: He'll make the brilliant play, but muff the routine one. Needs improvement.

Throwing Utility: He had just three assists last year.

Conclusion: Bradley has tremendous potential, but his game is still raw in a number of ways.

Dee Brown, Kansas City Royals
He is a good athlete, and scouts love his bat. His problems on defense keep him from true Five Tool status.

Hitting For Average: Career average entering the year was .299. Hit .353 in 65 Double-A games last season.

Hitting For Power: Hit 25 homers last year. Career slugging percentage was .500 to start the season. Terrific bat speed and upper-deck power.

Strike Zone Judgment: Erratic, but promising. Walk rate was very good last year (79 BB). Usually has problems adjusting to a new level due to impatience, but once comfortable, he remembers how to wait for his pitch.

Offensive Speed: Runs well for a big guy and stole 30 bases last year, but his technique needs a bit more refinement.

Range Afield: Good.

Reliability: Awful. I saw him a lot at Wichita last year, and it seemed like he misplayed at least one ball a game, even if he wasn't charged with an error.

Throwing Utility: His arm has below average strength, and is inaccurate to boot.

Conclusion: Brown will be an excellent hitter, but unless he makes great strides with the glove, he won't be a pure Seven Skill player.

Pat Burrell, Philadelphia Phillies
Everyone loves his bat, but he isn't a wonderful athlete and thus doesn't qualify as a Five Tool player traditionally.

Hitting For Average: Career mark entering the season: .316. Not a problem.

Hitting For Power: The guy is a masher. Slugged .631 last year.

Strike Zone Judgment: 110 walks in 582 at-bats. Strikes out some, but not bad for a power hitter.

Offensive Speed: Burrell is slow and will never be a threat on the bases.

Range Afield: Average, but not bad for a converted first baseman.

Reliability: Surprisingly good considering his lack of experience in the outfield.

Throwing Utility: A former third baseman, Burrell has a strong arm. He needs more experience using it in the outfield, but that's just a matter of time.

Conclusion: If Burrell develops as expected, he will have six of the Seven Skills, lacking only useful Offensive Speed.

Chin-Feng Chen, Los Angeles Dodgers
Taiwanese outfielder is destroying Double-A, on the heels of his superb 1999 campaign. He was supposed to be just a slugger when they signed him, but has turned out to be much more than that.

Hitting For Average: .316 entering this year.

Hitting For Power: Slugged .580 last year.

Strike Zone Judgment: Very good. Walked 75 times last year. Strikes out a bit too frequently, but that should decline with more experience.

Offensive Speed: Chen runs well, but proved to be an exceptional baserunner last year, stealing 31 while being caught just seven times.

Range Afield: Above average.

Reliability: He'll make mistakes of inexperience, but that will get better with time.

Throwing Utility: Strong and accurate arm.

Conclusion: Sometimes overlooked when the best prospects in baseball are discussed, Chen is a going to be an outstanding player.

Josh Hamilton, Tampa Bay Devil Rays
The first player chosen in last year's draft, Hamilton can do everything on the field according to scouts.

Hitting For Average: Hit .347 in rookie ball, and is at .435 so far this year.

Hitting For Power: Hit 10 homers in rookie ball. Slugging .667 this year.

Strike Zone Judgment: The big question. Hamilton had poor 13/43/236 BB/K/AB marks last year in rookie ball, and has drawn just three walks this year. His impatience hasn't hurt him yet, but it probably will at higher levels if he doesn't get it under control.

Offensive Speed: He runs well, knows how to take the extra base, and should get close to 20 swipes per year.

Range Afield: Very good.

Reliability: Good for a young outfielder.

Throwing Utility: He was a pitcher in high school, and has a strong and accurate arm.

Conclusion: He does everything except control the strike zone. How bad will this hurt him? Too early to tell, although what has happened to Corey Patterson may be instructive.

Corey Patterson, Chicago Cubs
I rated him as the best prospect in baseball, despite a flaw in his game (mentioned below).

Hitting For Average: Hit .320 last year.

Hitting For Power: 35 doubles, 17 triples, 20 homers ... what do you think?

Strike Zone Judgment: Drew just 25 walks last year. Only fanned 85 times, but his lack of patience is his biggest problem right now.

Offensive Speed: Blazing speed, and he knows how to use it, at least compared to most 20-year-olds.

Range Afield: Exceptional.

Reliability: Makes errors of inexperience, but that will improve.

Throwing Utility: Arm is strong enough for center and accurate.

Conclusion: I just love Corey Patterson, and I still think he is the best prospect in baseball (though Chen is right on his heels). His marginal strike zone judgment is a handicap, but he is a very smart guy, and given the fact that he does make contact, I'm not worried about his long-term performance.

Vernon Wells, Toronto Blue Jays
He's hitting just .185 so far in Triple-A, but scouts still expect him to reach the majors later this year, and to be starting this time next year.

Hitting For Average: .309 career mark entering 2000.

Hitting For Power: .480 slugging percentage entering 2000. His power is not fully developed yet, but he is extremely strong and it will arrive eventually.

Strike Zone Judgment: Marginal. He was rushed last year, and you could see it in deteriorating K/BB numbers at each level. His strike out rate is not high, but he sometimes lets pitchers take advantage of him. He has eight walks but just eight strikeouts in 55 at-bats this year, a good sign his slow start will end soon.

Offensive Speed: He runs very well, and is a confident, aggressive runner.

Range Afield: Very good.

Reliability: Like most of these guys, his errors are nothing that experience won't cure.

Throwing Utility: Strong and accurate arm.

Conclusion: His power is not consummated, and he was rushed last year. Given another year or so, Wells will be a complete Seven Skill player.

John Sickels is the author of the STATS 2000 Minor League Scouting Notebook. You can email your questions to him at


Down on the Farm: The Seven Skills

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