Ugly 1997 stats, good futures
Underrated Prospects of 1998
Carlos Beltran, OF
Rated Grade C after 1997 season hitting .229/.311/.363 with 17 steals and 11 homers for Class A Wilmington at age 19. At this stage of his career, Beltran was a young tools player with no track record of consistent success. He was overmatched more often than not in the Carolina League. However, his walk rate was decent, and his home park was very difficult for hitters. He was also one of the youngest regulars in the league. Nowadays, I'd probably give a guy with that profile something like a Grade B-. His numbers were bad enough that I wouldn't go beyond that, but Grade C was too low. As for Beltran, he blossomed as a prospect during the 1998 season, improving all aspects of his game.
Casey Blake, 3B
Rated Grade C- after 1997 season, hitting .238/.319/.332 with seven homers for Class A Dunedin in the Florida State League at age 23. Not much power production, low batting average and OBP, and he was older than ideal for the league as well. No reason to think he was anything but a marginal prospect. Scouts weren't wild about him, and his numbers were below average. He started hitting in 1998, and has turned into a useful player, not perfect but certainly better than his early minor league numbers indicated.
Octavio Dotel, RHP
Rated Grade C after 1997 season, posting a poor 5.98 ERA and 40/38 K/BB ratio in 56 innings at Double-A Binghamton at age 21. He was young and threw hard, but his command was quite bad, and there wasn't much to distinguish him from the mass of hard-throwing minor league moundsmen who don't know what they are doing. He improved his command dramatically in 1998, emerging as a top prospect.
Mark Redman, LHP
Rated Grade C after 1997 season, going 8-15, 6.31 in 28 starts for Triple-A Salt Lake at age 23, with a 125/80 K/BB in 158 innings, allowing 204 hits. Even allowing for PCL stat inflation, Redman's Triple-A debut season was dismal. His fastball dipped into the low 80s, and he hung his curveball too often; it wasn't just the thin air that hurt him. It took Redman three years to figure out Triple-A, but once he did, he turned into a fairly decent starting pitcher in the majors, not an ace certainly, but a guy who can grind out some innings for you, a Grade C pitching prospect made good.
Preston Wilson, OF
Rated Grade C after 1997 season at age 22. His numbers that year were weird: .245/.267/.437 in 63 games for Class A St. Lucie, with a horrific 8/66 BB/K ratio in 245 at-bats, but a .286/.340/.560 mark in 70 games for Double-A Binghamton, with a 21/71 BB/K in 259 at-bats. He made huge progress after his promotion to Double-A, improving his plate discipline dramatically and, not coincidently, boosting his production across the board. Scouts always loved his tools, of course. But I was really puzzled about how to grade him based on his actual '97 output. Given his horrible strike zone judgment in previous seasons, I had doubts that he could sustain his Binghamton numbers, and thus gave him a Grade C. Although Wilson isn't a favorite of statheads, he's useful if deployed properly, and Grade C understated his potential.
Randy Winn, OF
Rated Grade C after 1997 season at age 22, split between two levels. Hit .315/.400/.399 with 16 steals in 36 games at Class A Brevard County, then .292/.371/.424 with 35 steals in 96 games for Double-A Portland. Winn showed impressive speed and hit with more authority than in past seasons, also featuring a good walk rate. However, I was concerned about his mediocre stolen base success ratio and his relative lack of power, so I projected him as a future reserve outfielder. I never thought he could be a guy who could add double-digit homer totals to go with his speed at the major league level.