By Michael Levesque
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2004.
2. Mike Hinckley, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 170.
Background: Hinckley ranked second behind Everts on this list entering the 2003 season. He went 4-3, 5.64 in his first 12 starts before finishing the year on a 9-2, 1.37 run. He's rapidly developing into one of the top lefthanded pitching prospects in the game.
Strengths: Hinckley is a projectable lefty with three average to above-average pitches. His arm action and delivery allow him to run his fastball to 91-94 mph with little effort. He learned to manipulate his fastball in the second half of the season, cutting it in on righties and fading it way from lefties. His curveball is a swing-and-miss pitch with good depth and two-plane break. He throws strikes and doesn't allow many home runs.
Weaknesses: Hinckley's changeup is the weakest of his three offerings but should become an average big league pitch. He must continue to improve his fastball command.
The Future: Hinckley projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter in the majors. He should start 2004 with Brevard County, but with a good spring he could surprise and open the season with Double-A Harrisburg.
3. Larry Broadway, 1b
Age: 23. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 230.
Background: The only hitter among the first eight prospects on this list, Broadway tore up the low Class A South Atlantic League to open his first full season. Managers rated him the SAL's best batting prospect, power prospect and defensive first baseman at midseason. He also won the league's home run derby at its all-star game. After reaching Double-A in mid-August, Broadway homered three times in his first six games.
Strengths: Broadway has a balanced, slightly open stance with good leverage and some loft in his swing. He generates top-of-the-scale raw power. He executed a better game plan at the plate this year, enabling him to get better pitches to hit. He also showed the ability to make adjustments. He hit .300 or better against lefthanders at all three levels.
Weaknesses: Broadway's biggest weakness, as it is with most big men, is his speed. He has a strong arm for a first baseman, but his defense is merely adequate.
The Future: After gaining more experience in the Arizona Fall League, Broadway likely will return to Double-A to start 2004. The Expos have a gaping hole at first base, and the job is Broadway's for the taking when he's ready.
4. Josh Karp, rhp
Age: 24. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 210.
Background: The sixth overall choice in the 2001 draft, Karp hasn't had nearly the success of Joe Mauer, Mark Prior, Gavin Floyd and Mark Teixeira, who were picked right before him. He was winless from May 30 until the last start of his 2003 season. Poor run support was a factor, but his ERA also was 5.65 during that stretch.
Strengths: Despite his poor record, Karp's stuff showed a huge improvement from 2002. He has a shortarm action from a three-quarters slot that enables him to command all his pitches. He topped out at 95 mph with his fastball, pitching consistently at 93-94 mph with good tailing action to both sides of the plate. When he keeps his fastball down, he also achieves good sink. His 78-80 mph curveball bites though the strike zone and is a potential out pitch. His changeup is a third plus pitch at times.
Weaknesses: Karp never has won as much as his stuff would indicate he should. His pitches are inconsistent, as is his pitch selection. He needs to be more assertive on the mound. When the timing is off in his delivery, he drops his elbow and gets under the ball, flattening his pitches and leaving them belt-high.
The Future: Karp has all the ingredients. He should start 2004 with Triple-A Edmonton and could be in Montreal's rotation by the end of the year.
5. Chad Cordero, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 195.
Background: Cordero became the second member of the 2003 draft class to make his major league debut this summer, following in the footsteps of the Reds' Ryan Wagner. Cordero was a surprise pick at No. 20 overall, but he was a good fit for the Expos because he signed for below slot money ($1.35 million) and didn't need much seasoning. It's hard to argue with the results.
Strengths: Cordero projects as a closer in the majors, possibly as early as 2004. He's extremely aggressive with his heavy 90-94 mph fastball and sharp slider. He's not big, but he generates power with good lower-half drive and extension in his delivery.
Weaknesses: Cordero has a mature body with strong legs and rounded shoulders, so his stuff likely won't get much better. He's thick through his hips and will need to watch his weight. He occasionally leaves his circle changeup high in the strike zone and needs to scrap a slower version of his slider.
The Future: Based on his September showing in Montreal, Cordero should make the Opening Day roster with a good spring training. Rocky Biddle isn't the most reliable closer, so Cordero could take his job in the near future.
6. Shawn Hill, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 185.
Background: After a lethargic April, Hill found his groove. He won 12 games for the second straight year and represented Canada in the Futures Game at midseason. He finished the season in Double-A and joined Team Canada for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Panama.
Strengths: Hill threw his sinker at 90-91 mph consistently all year. He also showed an effective curveball and changeup, along with excellent control. With the help of Brevard County pitching coach Mark Grater, he cleaned up his mechanics and improved his arm speed. For someone who was more of a shortstop as a Canadian amateur, Hill is very polished.
Weaknesses: Because he doesn't have an overpowering pitch, Hill doesn't miss a lot of bats. That leaves him little margin for error, though his command has allowed him to succeed to this point. He needs to maintain his improved delivery, because when he rushes his sinker rises in the strike zone.
The Future: Hill boosted his stock more than any pitcher in the system. He should begin 2004 in Double-A and projects as a mid-rotation workhorse in the majors.
7. Darrell Rasner, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 210.
Background: Drafted behind Everts in 2002, Rasner was off to a good start in his first full pro season before a minor case of shoulder tendinitis sidelined him for a month. He pitched well when he first came off the disabled list before wilting in August. He established several school records during his three-year career at Nevada.
Strengths: Rasner has a prototype pitcher's body with a broad upper torso and strong legs. He has a quick arm action from a three-quarters slot and gets good extension in his delivery. His 88-94 mph fastball features heavy sink and run. He complements it with an average to plus 75-76 mph curveball and an 82-mph circle changeup.
Weaknesses: When Rasner pumps his fastball up to 94 mph, it lacks the running action he gets when he throws in the high 80s. At times he'll get inside the ball, which also costs him movement. He needs to continue to improve his command of his curveball.
The Future: Rasner will move up another step to high Class A in 2004. He could reach Double-A by midseason and the majors by the end of 2005.
8. Seung Song, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 190.
Background: Song was the key player for the Expos in the Cliff Floyd trade with Boston in July 2002. He became the first Harrisburg pitcher since Lew Krausse Sr. in 1933 to throw a no-hitter in the Eastern League when he beat Erie 2-1 on April 28. In July, he became the first player to appear in three Futures Games.
Strengths: Song throws strikes. The Expos adjusted his delivery, shortening his arm action. His fastball was a constant 88-90 mph in 2003, and his 72-74 mph curveball is a plus pitch when he commands it. He also throws an 80-82 mph changeup and has played around with a splitter.
Weaknesses: Despite his no-hitter, Song hasn't been as dominant as he was in the Red Sox system. He lost about 4 mph off both his fastball and curve. His strikeout rate declined even more dramatically, from 10.1 per nine innings over his first four pro seasons to 5.2 in 2003.
The Future: Though Song rated as Boston's top prospect entering 2002, now he looks like a back-of-the-rotation starter. He should get a shot at cracking the Expos staff in 2004.
9. Terrmel Sledge, of
Age: 27. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 180.
Background: Sledge pounded Triple-A Pacific Coast League pitching in 2003, leading the league in runs while finishing second in slugging and third in batting. But because Major League Baseball wouldn't permit the Expos to expand their roster in September, Sledge never got a look in the majors.
Strengths: Sledge has a compact stroke that enables him to spray line drives to the gaps. He has a gameplan and always has quality at-bats. He waits for his pitch and is aggressive when he gets it. He did a better job of using the whole field and hitting pitches up in the strike zone in 2003. His 22 homers doubled his previous career high. He's athletic and has above-average speed.
Weaknesses: Because he doesn't project as a big league center fielder, Sledge is going to have to continue to add more power in order to start on a corner. He needs to work on his routes on fly balls and his throwing. He has average arm strength but his throws are low and lack carry.
The Future: If the Expos re-sign free agent Vladimir Guerrero, Sledge will battle with Ron Calloway and Endy Chavez for the last outfield spot on the 2004 Expos. If Guerrero leaves, Sledge should make the team as a starter or fourth outfielder.
10. Rogearvin Bernadina, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 170.
Background: Bernadina is the last player that former Expos director of international operations Fred Ferreira signed before moving to the Marlins. Ferreira signed him out of Montreal's academy in the Netherlands. Bernadina made his full-season debut in 2003 as one of the youngest regulars in the South Atlantic League.
Strengths: Bernadina is a raw, tool-laden outfielder with perhaps the highest upside of any position player in the organization. He's a pure hitter with a smooth stroke and quick hands. He shows plenty of gap power right now and projects to hit with average power as he progresses. Bernadina is a spectacular center fielder with excellent instincts and an average arm. He has above-average speed and should become a factor on the basepaths with more experience.
Weaknesses: Bernadina comes from a limited baseball background and still has a ways to go in learning the intricacies of the game. He needs to improve his plate discipline but has a solid approach at the plate, considering his age and limited baseball experience.
The Future: Bernadina profiles as a five-tool center fielder in the majors, and Expos officials often compare his bat to Garret Anderson's.He'll start 2004 as a teenager in high Class A.