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Off The Radar

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 2, 2006

Ever wander away from the game for a few months and then check back and all of a sudden there is a group of prospects that you've never heard of before?

Nah, me neither. But if you did some of the top names would be foreign to you once you returned. The prospect turnover rate is higher than it is at McDonald's in South Central.

The best prospects either swiftly move through the minors and become major leaguers or their progress stagnates and they are no longer seen in the same status.

Lately, the M's have seen the former happen with a few of their own; Clint Nageotte, Yorman Bazardo, Travis Blackley, Mike Morse, and to a lesser extent, Greg Dobbs, Jamal Strong, who just signed a minor league deal with Atlanta, and Michael Garciaparra.

But someone is always there to take their place as the organization's top prospects.

Enter Asdrubal Cabrera, Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, Adam Jones and Matt Tuiasosopo.

But what about the replacements for the current top group?

Usually they are either currently in college and yet to be drafted, still playing in their homeland's summer and winter leagues or working out down in Peoria.

They remain off the radar until they get the chance to break through.

Here are the top 10 candidates to break into the spotlight over the next few years, starting with this summer.

10. Jose Escalona, LHP – Wisconsin: A pretty solid arsenal for a 20-year-old puts Escalona on top of the pack that did not compete in the US last season. He'll need time to develop but he's got the feel for pitching and is showing that with the Rattlers.

9. Julio Santiago, LHP – Inland Empire: Similar to Escalona, minus a few natural mphs on the radar gun. Santiago has a better set of secondary pitches right now and a little bit better control. He could move a little faster through the system.

8. Marwin Vega, RHP – Wisconsin: Struggling of late, but has better current stuff than any starter below AA San Antonio. Vega will not be 20 until the year is over, so he has time to sharpen his control and continue to develop his change and breaking ball. Velocity (87-90) is fine and will only get better.

7. Greg Halman, OF – Everett: Possesses some intriguing power potential and his 6-4, 200-pound frame backs that up. Two-time MVP in the Netherlands, Halman had a pretty good year in the rookie league last summer. He'll see Everett this June and won't be 19 until late August.

6. Jair Fernandez, C – Everett: The best among a group of teenage catchers the M's have nabbed in the past two years. Fernandez is just 19 and the club believes he can develop better than average offensive skills while providing plus defense.

5. Miguel Marquez, RHP – Everett: Marquez posted an ERA over seven last year in Peoria but everyone keeps telling me to ignore it. He can miss bats and has a plus fastball in the 90-94 range. Could be a front-line starter with time.

4. Jeffrey Dominguez, SS – Wisconsin: After not hitting much in his first full year as a pro, Dominguez has been well above .300 for the T-Rats, spending most of the year as the leadoff hitter. His defensive tools suggest he can remain a shortstop, though his bat may ultimately play better at second base, where he could project as a gold glover.

3. Chia-An Huang, RHP – Peoria: Huang has some serious off field issue to clear up before returning to the field, but he's got all the tools to become a frontline starting pitcher. He's typically in the 90-94 range with his fastball but sat 87-89 last summer in the rookie league. Huang stands 6-feet, 2 inches and weighs in at 220 pounds at just 20 years of age. Even considering his extra-curricular problems, his pure stuff cannot be ignored.

2. Michael Saunders, OF – Wisconsin: Prematurely, Saunders has been ranked as high as 7th on various prospect lists, but the holes in his swing have to be mended before he gets that kind of praise from me. His swing is long and though he can draw a walk, his command of the strike zone needs work. At 6-4, he's a very good athlete currently playing center field for the Rattlers, but his future is in right field. His left-handed power potential reminds many of Kevin Maas. But it's still raw and his approach needs refining.

1. Hui Kuo Lo, OF – Everett: Lo, a Taiwan native, was signed in July of last year and at 20, should get a shot at Everett next month. Lo is a right-handed hitter with medium power and strong athletic skills. He's likely to play a lot of right field but the M's may see a reason to see what he has in center. He has the speed for the gig and showed in last Fall's instructional league that he can track fly balls with ease. Lo is not much of a project compared to the rest of this list and if he can get past the language and cultrual barriers, he's certainly one to watch.

20 Responses to “Off The Radar”

  1. Willmore said

    Why wasn’t Halman on the WBC roster for the Netherlands ? They could have used him.

    Also, if it’s not confidential, what are Huang’s off-the-field problems, and how is the organization handling them ?

  2. He was on the provisional roster but may have just prefered not to be considered or they felt he was too young, because he obviously wasn't on the final roster.
    Re: Huang… it's all a very strange story that I have heard 1/2 of third-fourth party and half from the M's.

    I won't go into details since I can't be confident that they are correct, but Huang was rumored to be in some trouble, apparently.

    The M's believe it'll get straightened out, but aren't expecting him to pitch until July at the earliest.

  3. JH said

    Halman is HUGE. If he’s really just 18 (no reason to doubt it), he oozes projectability. They had both him and Lo alternating at all 3 outfield spots in ST/EST, though I couldn’t really see either of them having the range to stick in center.

    Another catcher of interest is Juan Beltran. He’s a bit old for his level (will be 20 this year), and has questionable power, but he’s a plus defender behind the plate who also has plus speed.

    Alex Liddi is another infield prospect the team seems high on. He’ll probably start the season in the AZL. He was signed as a SS but might be switched to 3B.

    Have you heard anything from Ms scouts about a kid named Salinas, Jason? (I have his first name written down somewhere but don’t feel like looking for it).

  4. Liddi is probably headed for the outfield, apparently. I guess because the M’s are so stocked with 3B… Don’t ask me.

    Beltran is one they are worried about as far as physical tools. Can he handle a long season behind the dish? When they signed him he weighed 167, and weighed in at 177 in February.

    He’s got a long, long ways to go offensively, too.

    Yeah, it’s Doug Salinas. Good looking right-hander from Venezuela. Well built for being just 17, already reaches 90+ on the radar gun.

    They see him as a project. A “fun” project, according to Carrasquel, who signed him.

    He was down in IL last fall throwing on the side a lot.

  5. BTW, JH, you still down in the desert?

  6. JH said

    Yeah, Beltran seemed really small for a catcher, but damn he moved well behind the plate.

    Liddi to the OF is a surprise. I only saw him at SS and 3B down in Arizona. I only saw him bat a few times, so there’s little I can say about him other than he’s big and seems to have some power.

    Jason: I sent you a message about a week ago, but you might not’ve gotten it. The highlights: I’m back in Washington, and I’ll be here for the next 2 weeks before heading to NY for a little bit. I’ll send you an email about meeting up and talking shop.

  7. Coolio.

    Send it to Churchill@ProspectInsider.com

  8. [...] According to Prospect Insider, former Mariner prospect Jamal Strong has signed a deal with the Atlanta Braves. Interesting, not sure where he’s going to land in the orginization most likely Richmond or Mississippi. [...]

  9. slim said

    I only made it down to one minor league practice session in Peoria this spring, but the one thing that I couldn’t help but notice: Jair Fernandez is a chatterbox. I don’t think he ever stopped talking and most of it was aimed at encouraging his teammates. He was fun to watch.

    (The second most notable thing from ST: Andy Hargrove might be wider than he is tall.)

  10. J said

    How close were Venegas and Eddy Fernandez? Seems like you were sticking with guys guarenteed to play in the states this year.

  11. JasonAChurchill said

    Eddy Fernandez was there… I guess Venegas, too, but I tried to keep the list to those who the club favored to play in Peoria or Everett this year.

    There are certainly a fewe guys that rank as better talents, but may be too far away to be considered right now.

  12. J said

    That’s what I figured.

    Gregorio Rosario will be a guy we’re really starting to think about a year or two down the road, just not now. And that’s fine by me, ’cause with an Everett outfield featuring Graterol, Halman, and Lo, the Aquasox are going to eat up a lot of my time this year.

  13. i saw some pre-signing video of Rosario a few weeks back and he reminds me of a really young Javier Vazquez.

  14. Andren said

    I figured if anyone would know you would…

    What happened to Jesse Foppert? Is he hurt?

  15. Dave Cairns said

    Outfielder Jamal Strong was signed as a free agent and added to the R-Braves’ roster. Strong played in 14 games with Iowa (Chicago Cubs’ organization) before being released. He hit .293 with four homers and 36 RBI and had 25 steals with Triple-A Tacoma last year. He also played in 16 games with Seattle. Strong struck out in a pinch-hitting appearance last night.

    http://www.timesdispatch.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=RTD/MGArticle/RTD_BasicArticle&c=MGArticle&cid=1137835680859

  16. Dave Cairns said

    JH

    I responded to your request for information on Australian baseball by email over the weekend.

    If you did not get the email, email me at david.cairns at telstra.com or PM snowy1973 on the scout forums / davidlouise2002 Yahoo IM

    Dave

  17. Dave Cairns said

    From mlb.com

    “Chicago White Sox

    Signed RHP Jeff Nelson to a Minor League contract and sent him to extended Spring Training.”

    Surely this is insurance for the White Sox, Nelson is 39. Good Luck to him very few guys can still pitch at that level at 39.

  18. jason said

    This site is my new favorite. Jason, could you comment on Wellington Dotel and Jairo Hernandez? What do expect to see from these guys? I’m really curious about Dotel. Thanks.

  19. Re: Foppert

    He’s on the DL with a strained quad. Been bugging him since spring and he’s veen overcompensating.

    Re: Dotel

    I haven’t seen him, no video or anything, but he’s got a decent set of tools. He’s not a blue chip type guy but he’s an interesting talent.

    Jairo Hernandez I have seen quite a bit of, mostly in spring training and rookie ball film.

    He’s a big kid, with a big power swing. A mini Dave Winfield swing.

    If he can polish up his plate skills, his raw power will start to show up. I’m a bit surprised he’s in Wisconsin right now, but I like he and Eddy both.

  20. true said

    I love this site. Good work…

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