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Prospect Retro: Cesar Izturis

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Cesar Izturis doing what he does best (AP)

Prospect Retrospective: Cesar Izturis

Cesar Izturis was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent out of Venezuela in 1996. At St. Catherine's in the New York-Penn League in 1997, he hit just .190 in 70 games. He showed good defensive skills, but to describe his hitting as "anemic" would be charitable. He was just 17 years old, though, with time to move beyond that. I would have rated him as a Grade C- prospect at best given his hitting problems.

Moved up to the Sally League for 1998, he hit .262/.305/.305 in 130 games, stealing 20 bases. He knocked just 15 extra-base hits, but impressed with his glove, and certainly hit much better than he'd hit in '97, granted it was still mediocre performance in absolute terms. He did not make it into the 1999 book, but would have been a Grade C prospect.

Izturis continued to make offensive progress in '99, hitting .308/.342/.422 in 131 games for Dunedin in the Florida State League, with 32 steals. Note the 46 point gain in batting average, along with a strong 117 point boost in slugging percentage; he hit 12 triples. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2000 book, noting that I liked him, but that I was still worried about his bat at higher levels, and thought he might end up as a utility player rather than a regular.

The Jays jumped Izturis aggressively in 2000, skipping him past Double-A and having him spend the entire year at Triple-A Syracuse at age 20. This strategy had a high risk of backfire, and it did: Izturis hit just .218/.260/.278, completely overmatched by Triple-A pitching. He continued to play well defensively, drawing comparisons to Omar Vizquel, and I cut him some slack in the 2001 book, dropping his grade just one slot to Grade C+.

Izturis split '01 between Syracuse (where he hit .292) and Toronto, continuing to show off his glove skills and improving with the bat, though his Major League numbers (.269 but just .279 OBP) weren't too hot. He was traded to the Dodgers in 2002, taking over their shortstop job on the basis of his defensive skills. His glove has kept him in the lineup, and he's improved his hitting gradually. He came into this year with a career .262/.293/.342 Major League line, compared to a career minor league line of .263/.307/.338, nearly identical.

Izturis has performed in the Majors very similarly to how he performed in the minors: excellent glove work on defense, with speed and a gradually rising batting average on offense. His power and on-base skills have improved, and there is still a chance he could turn into Omar Vizauel. As a minor leaguer, his best attribute on offense was a low strikeout rate. Even when he was struggling and overmatched, he still made contact, giving him a chance to develop offensively.

Comparable Players to Cesar Izturis, based on Sim Score and PECOTA, through age 24, no active players listed.

Luis Aparicio
Bucky Dent
Marty Marion
Ozzie Guillen
Chico Carrasquel
Alfredo Griffin
Larry Bowa
Ozzie Smith
Nellie Fox