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Devil Rays Top 10 Prospects

By Bill Ballew
December 4, 2002

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Prospect Handbook
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1. Rocco Baldelli, of

Age: 21. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 187. Drafted: HS–Warwick, R.I., 2000 (1st round). Signed by: Matt Dodd.

Background: Few players made more progress in 2002 than Baldelli, the sixth overall pick in the 2000 draft and the recipient of a $2.25 million bonus. A career .237 hitter in his first two pro seasons, he opened at high Class A Bakersfield and closed by helping Triple-A Durham win the International League championship. Baldelli was Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year and the top prospect in the California League. He was one of the youngest players in the Southern League during his three weeks at Double-A Orlando, where he batted .371 and hit safely in 14 of his 17 games. After jumping to Durham, Baldelli served as the Bulls’ center fielder and leadoff hitter during their run to the title.

Strengths: Baldelli is the total package and getting better. Considered the top athlete in the 2000 draft, he was a standout volleyball and basketball player in high school in addition to starring in baseball. Baldelli has excellent bat speed and uses his hands well to produce line drives. He can hit and hit for power, and he wasn’t overmatched against veteran pitchers. A natural center fielder, he has plus speed and is an effortless runner who glides to the ball with a long stride. Coaches and scouts rave about his makeup and desire to become the best player he can be. Despite his natural athleticism, Baldelli isn’t just a pure tools guy.

Weaknesses: The biggest question about Baldelli’s readiness for Tampa Bay is his plate discipline, shown by his dearth of walks last season. He didn’t draw a single walk in Triple-A, though he made strides in the Arizona Fall League. Baldelli also needs to work on the art of stealing bases. Somewhat inexperienced because he hails from a cold-weather state, Baldelli should continue to improve with time. His arm is his weakest tool, though most scouts think it will be close to major league average because of the accuracy of his throws.

The Future: After promoting a 20-year-old Carl Crawford last year, the Devil Rays will give Baldelli every opportunity in spring training to prove that he belongs in center field. Though he played well during the AFL, the consensus is that Baldelli needs a little more Triple-A seasoning.

2002 Club (Class)

AVG

OBP

SLG

AB

R

H

2B

3B

HR

RBI

BB

SO

SB

Bakersfield (A)

.333

.382

.535

312

63

104

19

1

14

51

18

63

21

Orlando (AA)

.371

.413

.529

70

56

26

3

1

2

13

5

11

3

Durham (AAA)

.292

.292

.469

96

13

28

6

1

3

7

0

23

2

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