01/17/11 10:07 PM EST
Scouting report on prospects in Gorzelanny deal
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
Michael Burgess: When the Nationals took Burgess out of Hillsborough High School in Tampa, Fla., with the 49th overall pick in the 2007 Draft, it was his raw power that intrigued most scouts. The question back then, though, was if he'd hit enough at the next level to tap into it.
Now, after more than three full seasons of pro ball under his belt, those questions really haven't been answered. He was a South Atlantic League All-Star in his first full season and got an All-Star nod for the Carolina League the past two seasons. He hit 24 homers in 2008, with 19 in 2009 and 18 last year as he finally reached Double-A. But his career line of .257/.349/.464 isn't all that much to write home about.
Burgess still has huge raw power and a plus arm from right field. But that power remains largely untapped and he's a slightly below-average defender overall. Burgess, 22, is still too much of a free swinger with poor plate discipline. While he did hit six homers in 74 Double-A at-bats last year, there is concern he'll never make contact consistently enough to ever put that power to proper use as an everyday player. He's still young and he could evolve into a useful left-handed power bat off the bench.
A.J. Morris: The Nats took Morris in the fourth round of the 2009 Draft after his monster year at Kansas State. As a senior, Morris went 14-1 with a 2.09 ERA and was a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award (won by that Strasburg guy). While he was a starter in college and for much of the early stages of his pro career, most see him as a reliever at this point in time.
The Nationals moved him into the bullpen with Class A Advanced Potomac last year, and while his numbers weren't great, there was a definite uptick with his stuff. He's got plus command of at least two above-average pitches. Morris' fastball velocity was up to 93-94 mph with good life. Movement plus command is a very good thing. He's also got a very good slider, somewhere in the 83-84 mph range, which he also throws routinely for strikes. He had been working on a changeup, but it was behind the other two offerings. If the Cubs want him to start, he'll have to progress with that offspeed pitch. If they scrap it, the 24-year-old could be a setup type who could get to the big leagues fairly quickly.
Graham Hicks: He was the Nats' fourth-round pick out of the Florida high school ranks in 2008. At 6-foot-5, 170 pounds, Hicks is a tall, lanky lefty who stood out at the Florida High School All-Star Game just prior to the Draft and the Nats signed him away from the University of Central Florida with an above-slot deal.
At the time, Hicks was a slender southpaw with plenty of projectability. He was up to 92 mph with his fastball at that all-star game, with the thought that there would be more in the tank as he matured and gained strength. With a good curve and a feel for a change, it seemed like he'd have three at least average pitches to go along with a pretty good idea of what he was doing on the mound.
That projectability still remains just that. Hicks, who will pitch this year at 21, still hasn't gained that much strength and he's yet to establish himself in full-season ball. He's got a 5.33 ERA in 31 career starts, allowing 163 hits in 133 1/3 innings. Still young, there is hope that he'll still reach the potential that so intrigued scouts when he was coming out of high school. He has had some success, albeit in small doses, against left-handed hitters, so if starting continues to not work out, perhaps a career as a specialist is a possibility.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.