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Tuesday, August 3, 2004
Kazmir, Harris top the list

By Jim Callis
Baseball America

While big league acquisitions received most of the attention this weekend, we at Baseball America have an affinity for prospects. Several promising young players changed addresses as well, and if history is any indication, it won't take long for some of them to make an impact in the majors.

Two years ago at the July 31 deadline, the Padres picked up Jason Bay from the Mets in a deal for Steve Reed and Jason Middlebrook. (Ouch.) Since sent to the Pirates in a trade for Brian Giles, Bay is now the most dangerous rookie hitter in the game.

Right before the deadline, the Indians picked up Ricardo Rodriguez as part of a package for Paul Shuey. Rodriguez helped pitch the Rangers into first place this summer before a line drive broke his elbow. Jason Frasor went from the Tigers to the Dodgers as part of a minor transaction for Hiram Bocachica, and now Frasor is the Blue Jays' closer. When the Indians dumped Chuck Finley's salary, one of the players they received was Coco Crisp, currently their center fielder.

Who are the best of this year's prospects on the move? Here are the top 10:

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  • 1. Scott Kazmir, lhp, Devil Rays from Mets (Victor Zambrano trade)
    After the Mets inexplicably dealt him for Zambrano while barely being on the fringes of contention, word came out of New York that Kazmir might break down and might be nothing more than a reliever. He might be Ron Guidry, too, and no lefty in the minors can match his stuff (mid-90s fastball, hard breaking ball). Between Kazmir and 2004 first-round pick Jeff Niemann (still unsigned), the Rays finally have some pitchers to build around.

    2. Brendan Harris, inf, Expos from Cubs (Nomar Garciaparra four-team trade)
    Harris is a line-drive machine who's starting to hit for more power this year, and he's athletic enough to play second base, third base or shortstop. Making him a full-time shortstop might be a bit of a defensive stretch, but he's a better all-around player than incumbent Montreal third baseman Tony Batista -- right now.

    3. Justin Huber, c, Royals from Mets (Kris Benson three-team trade)
    As with almost every New York prospect, Yankees or Mets, Huber was a bit over-hyped. Scouts aren't sold that he's good enough defensively to catch regularly in the majors, and he has thrown out just 19 percent of basestealers in 2004. But Huber does have a potent bat that has carried him to Triple-A at age 22, and he should find his way into Kansas City's lineup somewhere.

    4. Matt Murton, of, Cubs from Red Sox (Garciaparra)
    Not only did Cubs GM Jim Hendry get Garciaparra without giving up anything of value from his big league roster, but he also extracted the best hitting prospect from the Boston system. Murton can hit for power and average and has had no problem with high Class A pitching in his first full pro season after the Red Sox made him a supplemental first-round pick in 2003. His only below-average tool is his arm, which limits him to left field.

    5. Bill Murphy, lhp, Diamondbacks from Dodgers (Steve Finley) from Marlins (Brad Penny/Paul Lo Duca six-player trade)
    Also traded last December from Oakland to Florida for Mark Redman, Murphy moved twice in two days at the deadline. His lively 89-91 mph fastball dances around bats, and he can become a middle-of-the-rotation starter if he improves his curveball and changeup.

    6. Matt Peterson, rhp, Pirates from Mets (Benson)
    Not only did the Mets part with their best pitching prospect (Kazmir), they also jettisoned their second-best (Peterson) as well. Though he has been slowed by a strained oblique this year, Peterson has the chance for three average or better pitches with a 12-to-6 curveball, a low-90s fastball and a developing changeup.

    Koyie Hill
    Hill

    7. Koyie Hill, c, Diamondbacks from Dodgers (Finley)
    He's already in the majors, as Arizona immediately made Hill its starting catcher. A third baseman at Wichita State, he has good arm strength and hands but still is refining his catch-and-throw skills. A switch-hitter, he offers gap power and sprays line drives all over the diamond.

    8. Justin Jones, lhp, Twins from Cubs (Garciaparra)
    On sheer ceiling, Jones could rank as high as No. 2 on this list. But he was shut down twice with a tired arm in 2003 and hasn't been as sharp this year, when he sat out April with a sore elbow. When he's 100 percent, Jones shows two plus pitches (89-94 mph fastball and a curveball) as well as a promising changeup and a splitter.

    9. Francis Beltran, rhp, Expos from Cubs (Garciaparra)
    On a deep Cubs staff, Beltran would have been buried in middle relief for a while. In Montreal, he could emerge as the closer as early as next year. He served that role over Guillermo Mota and Felix Rodriguez while winning MVP honors and helping the Dominican Republic win the Caribbean World Series, and he has legitimate late-inning stuff with a mid-90s fastball, mid-80s slider and a splitter.

    10. Alfredo Simon, rhp, Giants from Phillies (Felix Rodriguez)
    At 23 Simon is a bit old for high Class A, but his current streak of three consecutive complete-game victories (including a pair of shutouts) is impressive nonetheless. He maintains a 90-94 mph fastball deep into games, and he also throws a changeup and a work-in-progress slider.