The FutureBacks.com Top 50: 35-31

The FutureBacks.com Top 50: 35-31

<p>The Top 50 is finally here.&nbsp; After months of interviews, evaluations, discussion and hand wringing, we've done the Santa Claus thing, made the list, checked it twice, then reevaluated, discussed some more, and done some more hand wringing...then there were cuts, and trades, and rumored trades.&nbsp; We're locked and loaded now though, once it's in print, there's no going back you know.&nbsp; A local kid, trade acquisition, and one of the 'Three Amigos' are among #35-#31.</p>

#35--Jaime D'Antona

Name Jaime D'Antona
Position Third Base
Age 22
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Hi-A Lancaster JetHawks (California League)/ Double-A El Paso Diablos (Texas League)

D'Antona is part of the vaunted 'Three Amigos' along with Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin that all were promoted together from Hi-A Lancaster to Double-A El Paso.  He may have the most pure power of the three, but lags behind Jackson and Quentin in total baseball skills.  His third base defense is often questioned, and a natural move toward first base might be the answer there.  More troubling was the nagging arm injury that shut D'Antona down shortly after he arrived in El Paso, and his high strikeout totals, that figure to rise as he sees better breaking pitches in the higher levels.

#34--Reggie Abercrombie

Name Reggie Abercrombie
Position Outfield
Age 24
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Hi-A Vero Beach (Florida State League), Double-A Jacksonville (Southern League), Hi-A Lancaster (California League)

Abercrombie came over as part of the Steve Finley deal, and the Dodgers had basically given up on him because he had struck out nearly one-third of his pro at bats.  A true burner, there was fear that he would lose speed after tearing his ACL in the 2003 Arizona Fall League, but the surgery and rehab appear to have been successful, and his speed remains intact.  Statistically played the best baseball of his career after the trade when he reported to Hi-A Lancaster.  Still needs to cut down the strikeout totals, but if he can his combination of speed and power is unmatched in the Diamondbacks system.  Baseball America called him "The best pure athlete in all of minor league baseball" in 2003.

#33--Mike Schultz

Name Mike Schultz
Position Pitcher
Age 24
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Lancaster JetHawks (Hi A California League), El Paso Diablos (AA Texas League), Tucson Sidewinders (AAA Pacific Coast League)

A rarity, a minor league relief pitcher who is apparently being groomed as a set up man, Schultz has impressed everywhere, including the 2004 Arizona Fall League.  Was given the opportunity to close after Jason Bulger was promoted and had mixed results.  Certainly has the stuff to close, but seems more comfortable in the 8th inning.  Is developing a split fingered fastball he picked up in the AFL, and that could be his ticket to the majors.

#32--Tim Vaillancourt

Name Tim Vaillancourt
Position Pitcher
Age 23
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Club Rookie Level Missoula Osprey (Pioneer League), Triple-A Tucson Sidewinders (Pacific Coast League)

Another pitcher who spent the majority of the season at Rookie level Missoula but who seems to be ready to make a huge jump in 2005.  His fill in start in Triple-A Tucson at the end of the season was further proof that the kid is ready.  Could start the season as high as Double-A, but probably in Hi-A Lancaster with a quick promotion to follow.  Even though he's 23 his body has a lot of room for muscle, and he's already throwing in the low 90s.  An exciting prospect who will benefit from the better competetion of a higher level.

"This is a kid ready to make a huge jump," FutureBacks.com's David Merchant says, "the most exciting thing is his stuff, but his poise and maturity are almost as impressive."

#31--Jered Liebeck

Name Jered Liebeck
Position Pitcher
Age 23
Bats Right
Throws Right
'04 Clubs Lo-A South Bend Silverhawks (Midwest League), Hi-A Lancaster JetHawks (California League) Short Season A Yakima Bears (Northwest League)

"Liebeck is hard to classify, hard to rank," Merchant says, "The radar gun doesn't show anything worth talking about, his body is average sized, but he just wins wherever he goes.  The move back to the starting rotation, where he pitched at Arizona State, appeared to take its toll on his arm.  Expect him to start lower than he might need to be, probably in Lo-A South Bend, but move quickly if he's successful.  He's as ready as he's going to be, it's just a matter of him continuing to hit his spots, which he always has, and seeing if there's enough movement on the fastball to be able to pitch inside."

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