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Low-down on Futures Game players
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07/11/2003  2:32 PM ET 
Low-down on Futures Game players
Three minor league managers give scouting reports
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Clint Nageotte has a good breaking ball and the ability to command his pitches. (Seattle Mariners)
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    The rosters have been announced, and the game is now just days away. But just who are these Futures Game players anyway?

    The Futures Game is an All-Star exhibition of the game's top minor leaguers. Whether you're a true prospect hound, or just a casual fan, it helps to get first-hand knowledge from people who have seen these stars in the making up close. spoke to three members of the Futures Game coaching staff -- minor league managers Tim Ireland, Al Pedrique and Tracy Woodson -- to get their scouting reports on some of the top names on the United States and World rosters.

    Frisco RoughRiders (Texas League, Double-A) manager Ireland has seen a lot over the years in baseball. As a scout in the Pacific Rim, a manager at various levels, and now as a skipper in the Texas League, he's seen many of this year's Futures Game participants on a variety of continents:

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    Clint Nageotte:
    He's a big, husky guy. When you first see him, you think he'll be a flamethrower. But he knows how to pitch. Certainly, he throws hard enough, but he's got a good breaking ball and the ability to command his pitches at this age.

    Chris Burke:
    He's a very well-rounded player. He's a great baserunner, and that's a skill that's under-appreciated. He'll be a solid, Major League second baseman. The only question last year, when he was young in Double-A, was can he hit? This year, I think he's proven he can. He's a smart, solid player who can beat you in a number of ways.

    JJ Hardy:
    I was the interpreter for Team USA in Hermasillo. He turned up while his high school team was playing in Arizona. In his first game, he hit a grand slam and a couple of doubles. After one of the games, I told his dad he was going to be a big-league player. He hadn't been drafted yet. This was after his junior year. This guy was a ballplayer. He had a look in his eyes you don't see often in a kid that age. He seems to be doing well, and he's on track to make it someday.

    Dave Krynzel:
    I scouted him in Taiwan in an international tournament with Team USA. The thing that impressed me four years ago was his speed. He looked like a bona fide base stealer, the kind of guy who can wreak havoc within a game. I saw him in Taipei when I was scouting. I haven't seen him in pro ball, but you looked at him immediately as a very exciting, igniter-type guy.

    Travis Blackley:
    He's got a tremendous changeup. He's far beyond his age in terms of command and mound presence. He's got a good future in the big leagues, in my opinion.

    Rich Harden:
    Last year in Midland, he one-hit us one night. We were lucky to foul a ball off. He had that kind of stuff. He's overpowering. It wasn't even a contest. He's got a curveball that's Major League ready, at least on that night.

    Seung Song:
    I scouted him in Korea. I had the opportunity to possibly sign him, but it didn't work out. We were just outbid. I saw him as a high school kid. I liked him. What I liked was an effortless, rising fastball.

    Chin Hui-Tsao:
    I signed him, so I guess I know him. He's everything you want in a big-league pitcher. Athleticism, stuff, command. As a youngster in Taiwan, he was a national hero. I was lucky enough to sign him. I'm really rooting for him to make it. Coming off of Tommy John surgery, he's really close. He was born to be a pitcher.

    Chien-Ming Wang:
    I almost signed him. We made an offer, but couldn't get it done. I saw him and Tsao together. The first time I saw both of them was my first day, on the Taiwan national team. He's a big tall guy with a tremendous sinker. He was developing his other pitches at the time. There was a big, big ceiling there. It's very, very likely he'll be successful in the big leagues.

    Ramon Nivar:
    He's the most exciting player I've ever managed. One of the most exciting players in the minors. He's tremendously aggressive and can beat you in a number of ways. He made two of the best catches anybody's ever seen last week. We put him in center field and he'd never played there, and he made two Willie Mays-type catches. They were of that caliber. He's got a lot of talent. He comes to play every day. He's just very exciting.

    Chin-Feng Chen:
    I saw him in Bangkok and in Taiwan. He's got a quick stroke, a lot of hitting potential. I just got beat in signing him. He has quick wrists and he's one of the best hitters to come out of the Far East in recent memory.

    Alexis Gomez:
    He played against me last year. What a great, talented kid. He's got all the tools.

    Pedrique currently manages the Tucson Sidewinders, Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also piloted the Scottsdale Scorpions in last year's Arizona Fall League. Here's what he had to say on some of the Futures Game players he's seen in person:

    Chad Tracy:
    This year, he's playing really well for us. He's hitting third and playing third base. He's a gap-to-gap hitter. Right now, he's not showing a lot of power home run-wise, but the older he gets, he'll be a 15-20 home run-type guy. He's a very smart hitter, a good RBI man. Defensively, he's getting a lot better. He's working really hard, and has improved at third base. He has a good chance of being in the Majors soon with the Diamondbacks.

    Kevin Youkilis:
    I had him in the fall league a little bit. He played well for me. He has the potential to hit home runs and drives the ball the other way with power. Defensively, in the Fall League, he was pretty solid. Our hitting coach, Brooks Jacoby, worked with him on staying inside the ball. I like his chances. He plays hard, has some pop and has a quick swing. He's very disciplined at the plate. He didn't go after too many bad pitches and it seemed like he was always in a hitting count.

    Edgar Gonzalez:
    He's only 20 and he's got a good arm. He has a good live fastball, good curve and change. Once in a while, he'll throw a slider. He knows how to pitch for his age. He pitched in Mexico and was something like 9-1 in winter ball last year. He's very aggressive and mixes his pitches well. He has a good idea of how to pitch. He knows how to set up hitters. He holds runners well and is quick to the plate. I like his arm.

    Rene Reyes:
    He has some power. He knows how to use the whole field. He's got good strength to the opposite field. He runs well and can steal some bases. Defensively, against us, he played well. He's got good arm strength. He gets good breaks on balls in the outfield. He has a tendency to chase fastballs up in the zone, but other than that, he's got a good idea at the plate.

    Woodson currently manages the Carolina Mudcats in the Southern League. He's also spent time as a skipper in the Midwest, Carolina, South Atlantic and New York-Penn Leagues. Here's what the former Dodger had to add:

    Neal Cotts:
    He's the best left-handed pitcher in this league this year. He throws strikes and has a good fastball, too. He knows what he's doing on the mound. I can see him moving real fast.

    Edwin Jackson:
    He's only 19 years old and he has an unbelievable arm. His command against us has been so-so. They only let him go five innings. They're being very careful with his arm since he's so young. He's got tremendous poise for a guy that young. I just had him in the Southern League All-Star Game three nights ago.

    Chris Narveson:
    We just faced him and made his Double-A debut very good. He threw strikes; he's a very deceptive left-hander. He's not overpowering, but he put pitches where he wanted to and has a good changeup.

    Royce Ring:
    He wasn't very impressive at the beginning of the year, but when we saw him again, he was closing. He's like a bulldog. He reminded me of Randy Myers, the way he ran in from the bullpen. He just took the ball and went right at you. He's not scared of a thing out there.

    Jeff Mathis:
    I saw him last year. I really liked him as a catcher, catching and throwing. Offensively, he's very aggressive. He showed good power in the gaps, not as a home run hitter, more as a doubles hitter.

    Joe Mauer:
    He didn't hit many home runs, but he's got a nice, smooth swing. I think power's going to come down the road for this kid. He's got a tremendous arm as a catcher. When he wasn't catching, he played first and was a tremendous defensive first baseman. He had good hands at first and behind the plate. You could tell he was a good athlete.

    Josh Barfield:
    He's a tremendous kid. You can tell he was raised the right way. He knows how to play the game. If he got hurt, he still played every day. He really struggled with breaking balls last year, but he's really coming along. The power is coming now, too. He's going to have pretty good power numbers for a second baseman. And he's still really young.

    Adam LaRoche:
    He just got called up to Triple-A. He's a solid defensive first baseman. Offensively, he's got a smooth stroke. You can beat him with some fastballs in, but I think he'll make some adjustments. The ball just jumps off his bat.

    Stephen Smitherman:
    He's a big, strong power hitter. He doesn't get cheated when he goes to the plate. He can hit the ball out of the ballpark, all over the ballpark. He's probably got the most power in the Southern League. When he's hot, he hits everything. I think it's the other way around, too, but he was hot more than he was cold against us.

    Denny Bautista:
    I hope he is on. He might be in the big leagues quickly. He throws 95-97 (mph) and has a big-league breaking ball. If he throws it, and his changeup, for strikes, it's lights out. He's electric. A tall, skinny kid.

    Edwin Encarnacion:
    He's got weaknesses at the plate, but he makes adjustments at the plate. We got him out with breaking balls, but he adjusted the next time we saw him. He has good power, hits the ball to all fields. He's a tremendous fastball hitter. He's a very good defensive third baseman with a strong arm.

    Pete LaForest:
    He's a strong kid, but I don't see him as an everyday player. His bat is what's going to carry him. He's got pretty good power from the left side. They're trying to find a position for him.

    Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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