INDIANAPOLIS, AUG. 17 -- They sit behind the screen with radar guns pointed, cards on every team with scribblings that can't be decoded and the task of trying to figure out which of these Pan American Games baseball players are prospects and which ones aren't.

As many as 20 major league baseball scouts sit in the box seats closest to home plate, looking at the best amateur baseball players the Americas have to offer.

They're studying just about every player on the United States team, at least a couple of pitchers from Canada and a couple of raw Arubans who are still too young to go to the movies unaccompanied. And they dream about a few Cubans who likely could become all-stars in the major leagues but probably will never get to prove it.

Start with 20-year-old Cuban Omar Linares, a player so swift, with such a strong arm and quick bat, that Baltimore Orioles scout Chu Halabi said recently, "He's probably the best prospect in the world."

Tony Levato, midwest scouting supervisor for the Kansas City Royals, shook his head and said, "The third baseman {Linares} and the second baseman {Antonio Pacheco}, they're players. No question about it."

But for these major league scouts, it's probably a moot point. The major league scouts here aren't even allowed to talk to the Cuban players or their coaches.

"They're totally off limits," Levato said. "You can't even get near them. See the heights and weights I've written down here; I'm just guessing because nobody has provided us with even the basic information, except the U.S. and Canada."

Linares looks to be about 5 feet 10, 175 pounds. In this tournament, he has hit home runs that are still rising as they clear the 350-foot sign. One of his teammates, left-handed pitcher Pablo Abreu, has a big-league arm, Levato said.

"He's 19 years old, we believe," Levato said. "His speed is pretty close to the big-league average {mid-80s}. They have one guy, Rogelio Garcia, who I clocked out here one night at 91 mph. But Garcia is 31 years old."

Glen Van Proyen of the Los Angeles Dodgers is asked what the major league clubs believe can be done about approaching the Cuban players. "As far as we know," he said, "nothing."

All it means is that Abreu, Pacheco and even Linares probably will wind up like right fielder Luis Casanova. "He was known as the next Roberto Clemente," Halabi said. "But that was seven years ago when he was 22 years old . . . It would be good for major league baseball if they could play. I hope they can. I hope for them. I knew Casanova when he was 22."

But the scouts here aren't totally frustrated. The Dodgers already have drafted two U.S. players, Georgia Tech pitcher Jim Poole and Northwestern pitcher Chris Nichting.

"Eighty-five mph is the major league average," Van Proyen said. "And there are at least four U.S. pitchers -- maybe five out of the eight -- who throw faster than that."

Levato consults his notes and said that not many pitchers here can reach 90 mph, the major league pitcher's Promised Land. But Cris Carpenter from the University of Georgia, Auburn's Gregg Olson and Joe Slusarski from the University of New Orleans all have been clocked at 90 mph. Slusarski hits it consistently, Olson and Carpenter have reached 92, Levato said.

Jim Abbott, the celebrated one-handed pitcher from Michigan, doesn't reach 90, but he's still considered a big league prospect. Many major league executives have been under the impression that Abbott's story is basically one of empathizing with a determined young man. "My office called and asked me the same thing: 'Can he really play in the bigs?' I told them, 'Absolutely,' " Levato said. "He's got the attitude, he's very consistent, a good curveball and a fastball with big league movement."

Halabi likes Abbott's pitching, but said he worries about his switch-glove fielding. "I still worry about the kid picking up line drives at the major league level," he said.

There are others from the U.S., including Georgia Tech's switch-hitting second baseman Ty Griffin, whose stock must have soared after hitting home runs from both sides of the plate to help the U.S. upset Cuba Saturday.

"The guy who really impressed me," Levato said, "is Tino Martinez {the U.S. first baseman from the University of Tampa}. "He's got the tools and the discipline."

Halabi pointed out that "13 of the guys on the 1984 U.S. Olympic team are playing professionally . . . This team, in the next four or five years, could have seven or eight. I think 13 of them have already been drafted."

Levato said two Canadian pitchers -- left-hander Dennis Boucher (88 mph) and right-hander Brad Parasotto (86) -- have turned a few heads. The fact that ex-big leaguer Ferguson Jenkins is the Canada pitching coach should help both.

Quite a few of the scouts were seeking information on pitcher John Allen of Nicaragua, 17, who had everybody checking radar guns after he threw 87 mph in a game last week.

Halabi, as one of the coaches with the Aruba team, has a twofold mission here. He already has helped develop two players who are in the Orioles system: center fielder Sherwin Cijntje from Curacao, who is at Class AA Charlotte, and center fielder Rafael Skeete from St. Martin, who is playing A ball at Hagerstown, Md.

Does Halabi have anyone else like them here? "Well, we do have a 16-year-old pitcher, Clem Wernet, who throws 84 mph. He's not long out of the little league system, and a 17-year-old Pierre Richardson. But the next year or so will tell a lot for them."

About the same might be said for most of the players here.