M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 6

Who could that be in the on-deck circle? (Kaiser)

The Top 5 is on the horizon- can you take a gander at who is next? InsidethePark.com's Top 50 rolls on with prospect No. 6



When the Seattle Mariners 2004 season went awry from the very start of the year in early April, it was clear to all that the organization needed a face lift. Out with the old, in with the new, so to speak.

So out the door went John Olerud, Rich Aurilia and Kevin Jarvis. And then Edgar Martinez gracefully hung up his golden bat.

But by the time most of those moves had taken place, the makeover had already begun. Three weeks before general manager Bill Bavasi traded Freddy Garcia for three players, two of which will likely be heavy contributors in '05, the M's went into the June draft with their first opportunity to start a rebuild.

Without a selection in the first two rounds, the M's selected Matt Tuiasosopo, a multi-talented shortstop from nearby Woodinville, Wash.

Most clubs saw Tuiasosopo as a risk, since he had already committed to the University of Washington to play quarterback.

But the M's convinced the two-sport threat to choose baseball, and gave him a record bonus of $2.29 million, the largest bonus ever given to a third-round choice.



Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6
InsideThePark Prospect No. 6
Matt Tuiasosopo SS
Opening Day Age: 18
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: M's 3rd round draft pick in 2004

Year

Team

AVG.

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Peoria

.412

4

12

18

1

13

14

.528

.721

2004

Everett

.248

2

14

18

4

10

36

.336

.386




Strengths:
When you come from a family of world class athletes, typically your versatility and athletic ability are at the top of the tool box. It's no difference with Tuiasosopo, the former University of Washington recruit that chose a pro baseball career over playing quarterback for the Huskies. The youngest Tuiasosopo is well-built at 200 pounds and has solid instincts and good natural strength to go with his potential to become a five-tool star.

"You can see he has advanced athletic skills," said an American League scout. "He has a lot of natural physical ability that and that could provide the foundation for a top notch player for the Mariners."

Weaknesses:
Tuiasosopo's skills are limitless, but very raw. His footwork on defense needs time to develop and could push for a position switch sooner rather than later. After tearing up the Arizona Rookie League, Tuiasosopo started off hot in the Northwest League until the more experienced pitching found a few holes in his swing. The 18-year-old must fine-tune his approach with two strikes and learn to lay off breaking balls out of the strike zone.

"All he did was force college-aged pitchers to pay more attention to a high school draft pick than anyone thought they'd need to," said the scout. "His shortcomings won't last long with proper instruction."



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Hitting for Average: 60
If you simply glance at the stat lines and ignore the actual performance of Tuiasosopo after he arrived in Everett, you will have missed seeing the reason why he was considered first-round talent. In his first week as an AquaSox shortstop, Tuiasosopo was nothing short of spectacular. In a double-header sweep of Eugene, the future star collected five hits in six at-bats, including two doubles and his first home run, while driving in three. It was clear, no matter what might transpire after that day, that Tuiasosopo was a top-tier talent.

"I was at those games and I, too, was as impressed as can be," said the scout of Tui's performance in the double-header. "I didn't think he'd be able to take pitches the other way for a few years. I can throw that idea out the window."

With natural progression and a few adjustments as needed, Tuiasosopo should develop into a solid overall hitter with the ability to limit strikeouts and force pitchers to throw him strikes. Better plate discipline and strike zone control will come with experience.

Hitting for Power: 65
Perhaps his most intriguing talent, Tuiasosopo could develop 30-plus home run potential and stay on track as a decent contact hitter at the same time. The most surprising thing about his 2004 season was his ability to hit for power, after hitting just one home run his entire senior season in high school, prior to the June draft.

"You could see right away that he had projectable power," said the scout. "He is built well and has a nice solid swing that gets through the zone very quickly. But for him to hit six home runs in his first 100 professional at-bats was far beyond all expectations."

Speed: 60
Tuiasosopo has good speed and runs the bases well, but is unlikely to be a big base stealer. Getting into double-figures shouldn't be a problem but anything more than that is a bonus. The multi-sport talent will learn to run the bases with intelligence and aggressiveness the more experienced he gets.

Glove: 50
Tuiasosopo was drafted as a shortstop but will not likely stay in the six-hole, defensively. Lacking great range, soft hands and the footwork necessary of playing the position, it's likely he will make the change in the next 1-2 years, depending on outside factors. A move to the outfield is ultimately his most likely destination.

"He has some infield skills but at shortstop, those would peak out in a year or two," said a National League scout. "He will outgrow the position, if he hasn't already."

Arm: 70
Arm strength will not be a problem, no matter what position Tui ends up playing for the long haul. The former star quarterback has a strong, accurate arm that would best be used from one of the corner outfield spots where he can set up before he makes the throw.

"I wouldn't rule out right field or third base for him, just yet," the AL scout added. "It's still very early in his career and nearly impossible to judge what he can and cannot do."



Future:
Tuiasosopo is as close to a can't-miss positional prospect as the Mariners currently have in the system. His natural, athletic ability will allow him more room for error as well as give him the tools to overcome inexperience. Expect Tuiasosopo to start 2005 in the Midwest League with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers where he will likely see action at a few different defensive positions. The competition level will be very equal to Tuiasosopo's own experience and age level and provide the breeding grounds for him to have a breakthrough season.

"He could struggle some, as many hitters do in that region," said an NL scout. "But he also could have a grand time against a mix of younger, more inexperienced pitching. Some of the same pitchers he faced a year ago will pitch against him again in 2005 - advantage to a smart hitter. It's a great test."



MLB Clone: Magglio Ordonez, Michael Cuddyer

MLB ETA: 2008





Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com


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