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Ten on the rise

From ESPN The Magazine

Watching the crops grow down on the farm is a rich summer tradition. But it's not often when you have a season like this one, when 10 minor leaguers might well play key roles for their major league clubs come August:

Pat Burrell
Burrell had 28 homers and 90 RBI in 117 games in Double-A last year.

1. Vernon Wells, CF, Syracuse (Blue Jays). The real CF deal. He has a first step in the class of Andruw Jones, Junior Griffey and Jim Edmonds. He covers ground. And he's going to hit, and hit for power, once he gets a little more selective. The Jays need pitching if they're to make a run in the AL East -- and Wells is either the trade bait or the replacement for the bait (Jose Cruz Jr.)

2. Terrence Long, CF, Sacramento (Athletics). Much has been made of Oakland pitching prodigies like lefties Mark Mulder and Barry Zito, but Long may be more important in the short run. The A's need a CF who can go get it, because offense-only guys anchor -- the word is used advisedly -- the OF corners.

3. Pat Burrell, LF, Scranton (Phillies). Teammates and opponents this spring were unanimous: Burrell is a monster force. The Phillies need him as a building block and presence. Any takers for Ron Gant?

4. Sun Woo Kim, Pawtucket (Red Sox). "He could be the No. 2 starter here right now," says one Boston catcher. As Dan Duquette shops for arms, Kim and rehabbing Bret Saberhagen become key pieces in the Sox pitching puzzle for the second half -- and that may be the second half of May.

5. Vicente Padilla, RHP, Tucson (Diamondbacks). The big Nicaraguan with the 99-mph heater could be a much-needed setup guy. Who can strike his way out of jams in front of Matt Mantei.

6. Corey Patterson, West Tennessee (Cubs). The talented 20-year-old shares -- with Kerry Wood -- responsibility for the Cubs' future. If those two finish the season in Wrigley, the North Side faithful will have a short winter.

7. Ben Petrick, C, Colorado Springs ( Rockies). An offensive, athletic receiver -- so athletic he can also play third and the outfield. Along with Todd Helton, Neifi Perez and a kid OF named Juan Pierre, he'll be part of the Rockies' foundation for years to come. Petrick is currently up with the big club with Scott Servais on the DL.

8. Adam Everett, SS, New Orleans (Astros). Acquired from Boston in the Carl Everett deal, this Everett has such strong fundamentals that coach Matt Galante told him this spring, "If anyone tries to change anything, don't listen. You're the soundest infielder I've ever seen." By August, with Astros pitchers desperately trying to keep balls out of the air at Enron, Everett could get the call.

9. Dee Brown, LF, Omaha (Royals). One scout this spring called him "the best young hitter in Florida." The former high school All-America running back is important to a talented young Royals team because K.C. probably won't be able to keep Johnny Damon, who's in his free agent walk year (and has Scott Boras as his agent).

10. Milton Bradley, OF, Ottawa (Expos). This multidimensional talent is close. When he's ready, the Expos will move Rondell White for pitching and let Peter Bergeron, Wilton Guerrero and Bradley share center and left.

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