By this time next week, every prospect hound on the internet will be talking about Rafael Furcal. Furcal is one of the outstanding shortstops that will be on display at next week's Futures Game, the minor league equivalent to the All Star game.
The 18-year old Brave is the second coming of Maury Wills. He has tremendous speed, a terrific batting eye and plays adequate defense. Last year in Rookie League Danville, he stole 60 bases in 66 games. He posted an other-worldly .412 on base percentage and struck out only 29 times in 268 at bats.
This year, he's continuing his sprint toward the majors at A-ball Macon in the Sally League. In 77 games so far, he's hitting .343, getting on base at a .424 clip and and has stolen 68 bases. He has only 35 Ks in over 300 ABs, a remarkable achievement as one of the youngest players in the league.
Although his defensive numbers aren't good, many project him to be a fine defensive shortstop. He's made 30 errors already this year, but the reports are that most of them are due to trying to do too much. He has terrific range and a good arm. Think of him as a younger, faster version of San Diego's Damian Jackson.
The Braves don't really have anyone who's as good as Furcal in the higher minors, so look to see him fast-tracked over the next couple of years - he'll be Atlanta's shortstop when Walt Weiss' contract expires in 2001.