With the glut of offensive talent in the organization coming into the 2007 season, it's unlikely that anyone in the system would have predicted that third baseman Taylor Green would wind up as the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year.
But special assistant to the general manager and director of amateur scouting Jack Zduriencik would certainly have had him pegged as something special.
"Now if you'd asked who would have the Minor League 'Heart of the Year'?" Zduriencik mused. "Yes. He has that kind of heart."
Turns out Green was both.
The Vancouver-born Green -- the Brewers' 26th-round pick in 2005 who signed as a draft-and-follow pick in 2006 -- was the somewhat surprising winner of the Brewers' annual Robin Yount Performance Award given to their offensive Minor League Player of the Year.
He hit .327 with 14 homers and 86 RBIs for the West Virginia Power of the Class A South Atlantic League, helping lead that team to the Sally League finals. He finished fourth in the league in batting.
After hitting just .231 at Short-Season Helena in 2006 coming out of Cypress College in California, the 20-year-old not only weathered a shift in position from second base to third but also kicked his bat into gear in his full-season debut.
Green spent a few weeks in instructional league camp in Arizona, not seeing any official game action but rather getting ready for his pending trip to Taiwan, where he would be representing Canada in the International Baseball Federation World Cup tournament.
Green's remarkable season not only got him onto the radar of avid Brewers fans, it also caught the attention of the Canadian national team, and Green was thrilled to be added to that roster.
He'd already won over the Brewers' brass.
A shortstop in junior college who started his pro career at second base, his progress at third this season has been impressive and Zduriencik thinks he can be that type of utility guy who can play all three positions down the line.
"He has really good hands and terrific instincts for the game," he said. "He's a phenomenal kid, a hard-working guy."
Zduriencik broke down Green's game in more detail, comparing him physically to former Los Angeles Dodgers great Ron Cey.
"He's not a physically imposing kid, but he's a left-handed hitter with some power who just knows what he's doing," he said. "He can field everything that's hit to him, has good first-step quickness and good body control."
Zduriencik gave a lot of the credit for this impressive late-round sign to scout Bruce Seid.
Seid was, in Zduriencik's words, relentless in the "war room" in wanting the club to draft Green. A sore ankle had limited Green during his 2005 college season, but Seid convinced the club of the prospect's amazing heart.
"He said 'they don't make them like this,'" Zduriencik said. "And he was right."
San Diego Padres
Guys you can dream on.
To a large extent they are what player development is all about and to an even larger extent they're what the fall instructional leagues are about.
Outfielder Yefri Carvajal and shortstop Jonathan Spraut are two of the San Diego Padres' "dreamboats" this year.
A pair of teenagers from the Dominican Republic, the two just finished a September-October stint with the Padres' instructional league program in Peoria, Ariz.
Unlike olders players sent to the Arizona Fall League or Hawaiian Winter League or even the winter ball teams in Latin America, this wasn't about tweaking the little things, refining this or that, getting players ready to compete in the big leagues this spring or even moving up to Double- or Triple-A in anticipation of being a phone call away.
This was about continuing to create the player from almost scratch. And players you can dream on, well, they're what make it all worthwhile. They're not yet the "player" you hope they will be in a year or a few, but the experienced scouting eye sees that potential like Michelangelo with a pristine canvas and an untouched artist's palette in hand.
Carvajal's colors are starting to come out on that canvas of green already, as he was named the Padres' Most Valuable Player during this past instructional league in Peoria.
The 18-year-old batted .340 with a homer and 22 RBIs in 25 games in the Arizona League this season before moving up to Eugene of the Short-Season Northwest League, where he hit .262 with two home runs and 19 RBIs in 31 games.
"He was a guy who never put up real big numbers, but we were dreaming on and he's starting to scratch the surface of what we think he might be," said Bill Bryk, the Padres' Minor League field coordinator during instructional league who was just promoted to special assistant to GM Kevin Towers. "We don't have too many guys that can turn the bat like him. The ball jumps off his bat like a shot out of a gun."
During instructional league, more work was done on shortening his swing and refining his game and he made so much progress that there was some thought given to not only awarding him fall league MVP but the Most Improved Player award as well, a rare double dip.
"I think he has a chance to be a very special player," Bryk said.
Spraut, who also hails from the Dominican and has yet to make his pro debut, signed to a 2008 contract. Just 16 years old (born on Jan. 18, 1991), he was the youngest prospect in camp and is truly a dream that the Padres hope will come true.
At 6-foot-2 and about 160 pounds, he has yet to grow into his body and, while his position is still officially shortstop, Bryk and the Padres realize he may well grow out of that spot as he develops and matures.
"We'll let him play his way out of it," Bryk said of the long-legged Spraut. "You know his tools will increase as he grows into his body."
You just never know what little perks might come out of being deemed the Diamondbacks' "Instructional League Pitcher of Camp."
For right-hander Barry Enright, the Arizona Diamondbacks' second-round draft pick this past spring out of Pepperdine, his impressive fall stint brought a windfall he could certainly never have imagined back in June.
Coming off of a season in which he combined to toss 15 scoreless innings in 10 games at three levels (Short-Season Yakima, Class A South Bend and Class A Advanced Visalia), Enright didn't miss a step in the fall stint in Tucson.
Director of Player Development A.J. Hinch couldn't rave enough about the polished hurler.
"He does a lot of things right," Hinch said. "He doesn't struggle with fastball command, he has good secondary stuff, he does a lot of things naturally already. He'll get a shot at Double-A this spring."
And after the little perk that came to Enright during instructs, Double-A hitters may be a breeze.
As a reward for his showing in camp, the Diamondbacks dispatched Enright from Tucson to Phoenix where he got to pitch batting practice to the Arizona lineup in preparation for their National League Championship Series against Colorado.
"I called him that morning, and we had him come up and throw to Chris Young and Eric Byrnes and Stephen Drew and those guys," Hinch said. "It was good for him to get in front of the Major League staff. What a great summer it's been for him leading into Spring Training."
Enright was one of the dozen players in camp who had been drafted with the club's first 12 picks. The Diamondbacks had all of their first 12 picks in camp, and Hinch could not have been more pleased with the results.
Along with first-round pitcher Jarrod Parker, discussed in detail in an earlier Arizona Instructional League Notebook, right-hander Wes Roemer and catcher Edward Easley were the club's supplemental first-round picks.
Roemer, drafted out of Cal State Fullerton, posted a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings with Short-Season Yakima, walking two and striking out 18.
"He'd logged a ton of innings in college, so we were very conservative with him during the season and instructs," Hinch explained. "He was exhausted but made great progress on the mental side. He has such a good sinker and such good movement on his fastball, and they don't emphasize that as much in college as we do at the pro level so it was about getting him to use it."
Hinch, a former Major League catcher, was not surprisingly enthusiastic about Easley, a polished all-around receiver out of Mississippi State who hit .250 with six homers and 20 RBIs in 33 games at Yakima.
"He's a sound leader who can take control of a game," Hinch said. "He's good at keeping a solid demeanor. He does everything well and doesn't have a lot of deficiencies or weaknesses. He may not wow you with light-tower power or a cannon, but he does everything right."
Rounding out the prospects from the first five rounds were shortstop Reynaldo Navarro (3), right-hander Sean Morgan (4) and outfielder Tyrell Worthington (5).
Navarro, just 17 when drafted out of Puerto Rico, hit .250 in 60 games at Short-Season Missoula, while Worthington was taken out of high school in North Carolina. Both are raw toolsy athletes with huge upsides but further to go than the other college draftees.
Navarro is "as raw as they come but an energetic upbeat guy who came to instructional league with his eyes wide open and ready to learn," Hinch said. "He's the definition of what instructional league is supposed to be about."
Hinch said Worthington is as good an athlete as the Diamondbacks have in their system now, an outfielder with five-tool potential who is just learning how to pay pro ball.
Morgan, a right-hander out of Tulane, struck out 29 in 28 innings in 17 games at Yakima, posting a 5.46 ERA.
"He didn't log a lot of innings this summer, so he came to instructional league to do the little things, covering first, learning to field his position and continuing to learn to be a professional," Hinch said. "He's got good stuff, and now we're trying to harness it and get him to believe in it, to give him confidence in his own stuff."