Double-A Transition Monitor
Brett Harper, 1B, Binghamton Mets (Mets)
Harper was a 45th round pick in 2000, from Scottsdale Community College. His claim to fame before this year was being the son of former major league catcher Brian Harper. He came into '04 with a career batting average of .302, mostly at the A-ball level, but his power production wasn't spectacular, and he didn't have a position. The power showed up in spades this year, as he's combined for 33 homers in 117 games between St. Lucie and Binghamton. In 55 games in Double-A, he's hitting .304/.379/.571 with 13 homers, 21 walks, and 69 strikeouts in 184 at-bats. It's clear that he's made some improvements this year, but his strikeout rate remains quite high. At age 24, he's not that young. So, what we have here is a very successful transition to Double-A with notably improved power, but there are still some question marks. His glove isn't very impressive, and his best position in the long run is DH.
Jerry Owens, OF, Birmingham Barons (White Sox)
Owens was drafted by the Expos in the second round in 2003, from a small college in California. He hit .292 with 30 steals last year in the Sally League, but was traded this spring to the White Sox. Owens is very athletic, but also inexperienced and somewhat raw. . .at least he was considered raw until this year. He's hitting .340/.400/.416 with 34 steals, 47 walks, and 66 strikeouts in 474 at-bats this year. Obviously, you have to be impressed with someone hitting .340 in their Double-A debut, especially a guy making the jump from the Sally League. Owens was mostly a football player before 2003, so he has much less experience than most 24-year-old players. The knock on him is lack of power, but he makes contact, will draw walks on occasion, and can outrun a lot of balls. He needs to improve his stolen base success ratio: he's been caught 17 times. I think he will need a full year of Triple-A, but as speed players go, I like him.