BASEBALL / STEVE HENSON : Several Valley Boys of Summer Could Rise in the Spring


Like stocks on the Dow Jones, the value of minor leaguers skyrocket or plummet based on performance. The numbers, there for all to see, usually don’t lie.

Unlike Wall Street, baseball breaks for the winter, offering ample opportunity to pinpoint players most likely to be promoted. Those players from the area who rode a bull market in 1995 follow:

Triple-A: Expecting another area player to break into the major leagues with the force of Angels’ rookie outfielder Garret Anderson (Kennedy High) is a long shot, but several players who have had brief stints in the majors are ready to stick.


Rich Aude (Chatsworth High) spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates early in the season and is back as a September call-up after blistering triple-A pitching. The 6-foot-5 first baseman is batting .245 with two home runs with Pittsburgh, but in 40 games at triple-A Calgary hit .344 with nine homers and 37 runs batted in. Aude should get the opportunity to prove he can put up power numbers in Pittsburgh.

Matt Franco and Mike Lieberthal, both Westlake High graduates, have had more seasoning than a Cajun steak. Franco, three for nine in his debut with the Chicago Cubs this month, has been stuck behind Mark Grace at first base. Nine minor league seasons is enough for Franco, 24.

Lieberthal has the same problem in Philadelphia, where Darren Daulton is blocking the plate. But after two solid years in triple-A and two impressive stints with the Phillies, Lieberthal is ready for prime time.

Showing promise: San Francisco Giants’ pitcher Joe Rosselli (Alemany), Milwaukee Brewers’ infielder Mark Loretta (St. Francis), Boston Red Sox right-hander Jeff Suppan (Crespi), Cincinnati Reds’ right-hander Roger Salkeld (Saugus) and Chicago White Sox left-hander Andrew Lorraine (Hart).


Double-A: Combining the steady performance and reliability of a Japanese car, Ryan McGuire (El Camino Real, UCLA) is steering a course to the major leagues that probably will take him through triple-A next season. McGuire, 23, finished second in the Eastern League with a .333 average for Red Sox affiliate Trenton, N.J.

The left-handed McGuire is a first baseman by trade, but he also played 37 games in left field, a smart move in an organization boasting Mo Vaughn.


“Outfield is a low-stress position,” McGuire said. “I feel like a dog sometimes out there playing fetch, but I’d rather play outfield than sit on the bench as a first baseman.”

McGuire was no dog when he unleashed a throw.

“Ryan showed a very good arm in the outfield and if he needed to convert he could do it,” said Tom McCarthy, a Trenton official. “He was the hardest worker on the team.”

The Red Sox triple-A first basemen consisted of a 27-year-old converted catcher and surplus outfielders, so no one stands between McGuire and Vaughn.

And McGuire’s work ethic has not waned. He will play in the Mexican League this winter, concentrating on increasing his power. McGuire hit only seven home runs this season.

“I’m at the point in my career where I need to play as much as possible and make a move,” he said.

Also expected to make the jump to at least triple-A is Giants’ outfielder Jacob Cruz (Channel Islands), who batted .297 with 33 doubles, 13 home runs and nine stolen bases at Shreveport, La.


Showing promise: Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Pat Bryant (Cleveland High), St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Dmitri Young (Rio Mesa) and Florida Marlins’ pitchers Dan Chergey (Thousand Oaks) and Matt Whisenant (Glendale).


Class-A: The jump to double-A is the toughest short of actually making the majors because there are more than twice as many Class-A leagues than those in double-A.

Making double time to double-A should be right-hander Roland De La Maza (St. Genevieve), whose 2.45 earned-run average for the Indians’ affiliate in the advanced Class-A Carolina League was the best among area minor leaguers with more than 30 innings. He was 6-0 in 24 games.

Other good bets to advance are the Dodgers’ J.P. Roberge (St. Francis), who hit .283 with 16 home runs and 31 stolen bases for San Bernardino of the California League, and the Baltimore Orioles’ David Lamb (Newbury Park), who batted only .222 for Frederick, Md., of the Carolina League but was consistent at shortstop.

Former Montreal Expos’ second-round pick Brad Fullmer began to fulfill expectations by batting .329 with 36 doubles at Albany, Ga., of the South Atlantic League. Fullmer, injured all last season, might skip the Expos’ Florida State League team and play next season at double-A Harrisburg, Pa.

Although he is 26 and was an Angels’ replacement player, former Cal State Northridge outfielder Greg Shockey cannot be ignored after batting .329 with 20 home runs and 87 RBIs for Lake Elsinore of the California League. Shockey’s home run and RBI totals were the highest among area minor leaguers.


Showing promise: Giants’ pitcher Russell Ortiz (Montclair Prep), Pirates’ second baseman Derek Swafford (Ventura), White Sox outfielder Jason Evans (Chatsworth), New York Yankees’ outfielder Mike Mitchell (Rio Mesa), and Mariners’ pitchers Chris Beck (Master’s College) and Craig Clayton (Cal State Northridge).

Biggest surprises: Bob Kazmirski (Agoura) was not drafted out of UCLA this spring but was 4-0 with 10 saves for the Oakland Athletics in rookie league. . . . Bryan Corey (Thousand Oaks High, Pierce College), was drafted in ’93 by the Detroit Tigers as a shortstop, but converted to pitcher this season and notched 10 saves, striking out 41 in 28 innings for Jamestown, N.Y., of the Class-A New York-Penn League. . . .

Following a rocky start at the Cardinals’ Class-A affiliate in Peoria, Adam West (Thousand Oaks High, Pierce) rebounded at Johnson City, Tenn., posting a 2.85 ERA and striking out 41 in 41 innings. . . . Chris Fick (Newbury Park, Cal Lutheran), signed as a replacement player, continued to defy the odds, batting .293 with 41 extra base hits for Cardinals’ affiliate St. Petersburg of the Florida State League. . . .

A disappointing high school season did not keep Darrell Dent (Montclair Prep) from being the highest draft choice from the area. The Orioles’ third-round pick delivered in rookie league, batting .280 and showing great range in the outfield.