Friday, November 5, 2004
Updated: November 8, 10:20 AM ET
Brewers prospect Rickie Weeks
By John Sickels
Special to ESPN.com
Position: 2B Height: 6-0 Weight: 195 Born: 9/13/82 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Rickie Weeks was a superstar in college, winner of two NCAA batting championships for Southern University. Regarded as the best overall college prospect in the 2003 draft class, he went second overall to the Milwaukee Brewers. Weeks killed the ball in three weeks of A-ball after signing, positioning himself for rapid progress this year. But his 2004 campaign turned out to be less successful than expected. He struggled at times for Huntsville in the Southern League, although he is still regarded as one of the top position prospects in the game.
Weeks has one of the best physical tool sets in the minor leagues. He is quick, fast (they aren't the same thing), athletic, lithe, strong. He is also an intelligent and motivated player with a strong work ethic. His biggest problem coming into 2004 was his defense. Although he has the range and arm strength to play middle infield, scouts were concerned that he made too many errors and had trouble turning the double play. Weeks worked hard to remedy these defects this year, improving his footwork around the second base bag, while reducing his error rate. He's alert and active on the field, and has improved his fielding fundamentals substantially. While the progress on defense was notable, Weeks seemed to slip a bit offensively. He had problems with plate discipline at times, although this had previously been a strength for him. He didn't show as much home run power as expected, and his swing was a bit too mechanical on occasion. He could get tied up on inside pitches.
However, he still retains excellent bat speed, and scouts remain optimistic that he'll be a fine offensive player, hitting for a high average with a good OBP and moderate power. He didn't face the best competition in college, and so Double-A was more of an adjustment for him than for many college guys. Weeks runs very well, but needs to get better reads on pitchers in order to improve his stolen base percentage.
The negative markers in Weeks' numbers this year are slippage in his power production and an increase in his strikeout rate. On the other hand, his overall OPS of .773 was six percent better than the Southern League average, not outstanding obviously but not as bad as it may look on the surface. Positive markers include a still-decent walk rate, and the large number of doubles he hit. Weeks is destroying the Arizona Fall League, hitting .350 with a .683 slugging percentage through 18 games. His plate discipline has been much better in Arizona than it was for Huntsville, and scouts remain very positive about his bat in the long run.
Weeks has had no major health concerns.
What to expect
Weeks will head to Triple-A in 2005, hopefully carrying forward the momentum he has gained in the fall league. While his '04 campaign wasn't quite what people expected, he is still a premium prospect. Quick progress in Triple-A will get him a major league job sometime in '05.
John Sickels is the author of The Baseball Prospect Book 2004, which can be ordered through his Web site, Johnsickels.com. His other book, "Bob Feller: Ace of the Greatest Generation," is also out, and can be ordered through online book outlets or your local bookstore. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, Jeri; son, Nicholas; and feline friends Toonces and Spot.