The questions in the mailbag were first answered on Around the Minors on Tuesday.
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With the Phillies recent trade of Jim Thome to Chicago for Aaron Rowand, they seem to have solidified their center field position for years to come. This deal gives heavy-hitting Ryan Howard a chance to play every day. But my main question is, where does the acquisition of Rowand leave the International League player of the year, Shane Victorino? He showed flashes of brilliance when he was called up in September, and played well for Team USA in its recent qualifying tournament. Where could you see them playing him? At what level? If they were to move him to another team, where could you see him going? -- J.J.
It's a tough situation. Victorino is a guy who's moved around a little bit. He was taken in the Rule 5 Draft twice. It finally seemed like he had found a home in Philadelphia. He did everything that could possibly have been asked of him in Triple-A, gets called up, plays well and then plays well for Team USA. The talk before this trade was that he and Jason Michaels might form a platoon in center field. Now, obviously, Aaron Rowand is the everyday center fielder. I can't fault the Phillies. They got rid of Jim Thome to clear space for Howard, they got two very good left-handed pitching prospects in Daniel Haigwood and Gio Gonzalez, and they got a very good and still young Aaron Rowand.
Looking at it from Shane Victorino's perspective, you have to say, "What else do I have to do to get a shot?" He got little shots through the Rule 5, then finally earns a call-up based purely on merit and does well. So now what? I think they need to see how things shake out in the outfield. There's a chance he'll still be given an opportunity to be a fourth or fifth outfielder. When he was with the Padres, he played all over the place. He can play the corners. As a guy who's been around for a little bit, though still just 25 years old, I think he'd be fine with that. That being said, it'd be great to find him a straight platoon, or a place where he could play more regularly. I think if you give this guy 400 at-bats, he could be good.
What team needs a center fielder? Well, what team doesn't? He could be a good fit in New York with the Yankees, not that the Yankees would ever do that. But he's got more offensive upside than Bubba Crosby does. In the end, I think he might end up sticking with the Phillies, but as more of a role player. He and Michaels might have to fight for one spot instead of both getting time in a platoon. If they are both on the team, they simply won't play as much as originally thought.
Do you think the Red Sox brought up Craig Hansen too quickly? Where do you see him starting off this up-coming season? Minors or Majors? -- Kevin, Levittown, NY
I really think Hansen will be in their bullpen, depending on what they do at the big league level in terms of free agents and trades. But I think he'll be given every opportunity to win a job in that bullpen. Had he signed immediately last summer, and not gone through that dead arm period, he would've been brought up a little more quickly. Did they bring him up too fast? Not necessarily. I know he didn't throw a lot in the Minors, but they drafted him with the intention of moving him up quickly. He didn't give up a run in the Minors. It's not like he was awful with the Red Sox. Worst case scenario, he spends a little time with Pawtucket, but I think it's more likely you see him in the Red Sox bullpen starting Opening Day 2006.
The Orioles' Major League outfield is lacking and the talk is that Nick Markakis will have a shot to make the team in the upcoming year. What have you heard about Markakis, what do you think his chances are for making the team this year, and who would you compare him to in the Majors today? -- Kevin, O's fan in Boston
We got to see Markakis a little bit in the Fall League and he more than held his own, though not so much power-wise. But he is legitimate. In an ideal world, I would love to see him get a little more playing time in the Minors. He started last year in the Carolina League, ripped it up, moved up to Double-A Bowie and performed there, then went to the Fall League -- and remember he just turned 22 in November. He hit .300 with good power in Frederick, he hit .339 with Bowie and then hit .326 with Peoria in the AFL. He will be, in the not-too-distant future, a prototypical right fielder -- he's got a cannon for an arm. Remember, this is a guy a lot of people wanted to draft as a pitcher.
He will grow into his power. He did win the home run derby in the Carolina/California League All-Star Game, then hit a couple of homers in the game itself. He does have power. He had 12 homers and 62 RBIs in 350 at-bats for Frederick. I think he would probably hold his own right away in Baltimore, hit for a decent average with probably not a whole lot of power. In terms of who I would compare him to in the Majors today, I probably would say Shawn Green, down the line. That kind of power might take a while. But Markakis will hit .300 and eventually will have 25-30-homer power, at least. If I'm the Orioles, why not give him a shot?
Can you tell me what you know about Blake Hawksworth? I have not heard much about him lately. I know he was injured most of 2004 and 2005, but does he still have what it takes to be a top prospect in the Cardinals system? -- Rob
It's hard to say whether he has what it takes to be a top prospect. You can't really evaluate a guy who hasn't played. He's thrown about 25 innings in the last two years. This year, he only threw 14 and change, all with Class A Short-Season New Jersey, and he wasn't very good. Obviously, he had a lot of rust because of the arm problems he's had. He was still thought of as a top prospect in the organization heading into the season and he'll be just 23, but I think a telling sign is that the Cardinals did not put him on their 40-man roster. He hasn't pitched above the Florida State League, so it's not that big of a risk. But they're not protecting him. To me, that means there's a chance he could be gone, and that says something about his value within the Cardinals organization.
If he can get healthy, he has the stuff to get back there. Talking to the Hawksworth camp and the Cardinals, his arm has bounced back very well. He's long-tossing and throwing a football to add arm strength, and everyone expects him to be 100 percent heading into Spring Training. He could put himself right back on the map with a healthy season. Of course, that's not the first time that's been said about Hawksworth since he was signed in 2003 as a big draft-and-follow from the 2002 draft.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.