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Los Angeles Angels

  • Triple-A Salt Lake (8-2 in last 10 games; 45-31 overall)

    The team is loaded with big names that get plenty of
    attention, and with good reason, but it’s time to talk about some other players
    on the team who are still pretty decent prospects. Let’s start with outfielder
    Reggie Willits. Because he was drafted as a senior in 2003, Willits is
    already 25, but he’s turned himself into an on-base machine this year, batting
    .319/.438/.437. His ability to play all three outfield positions almost
    guarantees him a bench role, but he’s raised his ceiling into a servicable
    starter. The Jered Weaver conundrum is well understood, but that
    probably doesn’t have lefty Joe Saunders feeling any better. The 2002
    first-round pick is a rare survivor from shoulder surgery and has a 2.50 ERA in
    15 starts while allowing 87 hits in 101 innings. Unfortunately, he’ll just
    have to wait his turn.

  • Double-A Arkansas (4-6; 25-48)

    As good as the Triple-A squad is, both by record and by
    level of talent, that’s how bad the Double-A team is … after shortstop Brandon
    Wood
    of course. Wood is silently having a very good year with the
    Travelers, batting .283/.370/.552 with 15 home runs, but the strikeout rate (96
    in 279 at-bats) has taken a dramatic jump from last year’s breakout campaign.
    Nobody on the pitching staff deserves mention, as the team ERA is 5.67, nearly
    a run and a half higher than any other Texas League club.

  • High Class A Rancho Cucamonga (1-9; 33-43)

    The Quakes have lost 12 of their last 13 games, thanks mostly
    to an offense that has averaged fewer than four runs a game in June. The team
    is getting nice production from the left side of the infield, as shortstop Sean
    Rodriguez
    (.289/.350/.507) has tied his career high with 14 home runs while
    starting to come around in the plate discipline area, where he previously
    excelled. Switch-hitting third baseman Freddy Sandoval (.292/.390/.429)
    is reaching base at a rate of nearly twice per game this month, but at the same
    time, he’s 24 and lacks the power to project well. The news on the mound
    lately was the brief appearance of 19-year-old Venezuelan Amalio Diaz,
    who went 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four emergency starts before heading back to
    the team’s Arizona complex. With just 10 strikeouts in 23.2 innings, it was a
    nice run, but not exactly sustainable. Righthander Jose Arredondo
    remains the real deal, despite some tough luck of late. He’s taken the loss in
    four of his last five starts, despite allowing just 17 hits and eight earned
    runs in 34.2 innings while striking out 40.

  • Low Class A Cedar Rapids (5-5; 33-41)

    The Kernels offense is just as bad as the Quakes, with a
    team batting mark of .230/.299/.337 in June, but unlike the Rancho squad, they
    have the pitching to make up for it. While Nick Adenhart gets all the
    attention for his 2.11 ERA, and deservedly so, righthander Stephen Marek
    has actually been the better pitcher, especially of late. While he’s nearly
    three years older than Adenhart, and not in his class as a prospect, Marek is
    still a pretty good prospect, and is remarkably consistent for a Low Class A
    starter: he has yet to give up more than three runs in any of his 15 outings
    while compiling a 2.14 ERA. An interesting sleeper is closer Ryan Aldrige,
    a 2004 17th-round pick who was moved to relief after missing most of 2005 with
    shoulder problems. Armed with a fastball that can get up to 95 mph and a plus
    slider, Aldridge took the loss in his first two games of the season but has
    been unhittable of late, pitching scoreless baseball in 14 of his last 16 games
    while allowing just eight hits in 16 innings and striking out 21.

  • Rookie-level Orem (4-2)

    P.J. Phillips is the younger brother of Reds second
    baseman Brandon Phillips, and he has similar tools but a much larger frame at
    6-foot-3, giving him a little less speed and a little more power. Playing
    primarily at third base, the 2005 second-round pick is 7-for-18.

  • Rookie-level AZL Angels (1-2)

    It’s only three games, but first-round pick Hank Conger
    is 5-for-13 with a double and a triple.

Oakland Athletics

  • Triple-A Sacramento (4-6; 38-39)

    This wasn’t a very interesting team to start with, filled
    mostly with insurance policies and 4A types, and it became less interesting
    when first baseman Daric Barton (.259/.389/.395) broke a bone in his
    elbow that will keep him out until August. Righthander Jason Windsor is
    a perfect 6-0 in nine starts since getting a promotion, but he’s also been
    pretty lucky, as he has succeeded despite allowing 27 hits and 15 runs
    in 23.1 innings over his last four starts. 2002 first-round pick Ben Fritz
    has finally reached Triple-A as part of an injury-plagued career, but he’s
    given up 30 baserunners (17 hits, 13 walks) in just 13.1 innings.

  • Double-A Midland (4-6; 37-37)

    Outfielder Travis Buck (.306/.388/.490) has gotten a
    lot of attention for all of his doubles, but he remains a left fielder who
    doesn’t put the bull over the fence (four home runs in 157 at-bats) a whole
    lot. At the same time, catcher Kurt Suzuki is the same age, has been at
    Midland all year, has been just as effective (.304/.408/.460) at the plate and
    plays a much more difficult defensive position. The rotation doesn’t feature
    much, as righthander Brad Knox, who had 14 wins and a 2.59 ERA two years
    ago at Kane County, has a 5.47 mark with the RockHounds, proving man can not
    live by curveball alone.

  • High Class A Stockton (5-5; 37-38)

    Catcher Landon Powell, a 2004 first-round pick who
    missed all of 2005 with a knee injury, has had a solid year at .278/.362/.487. He’s been on fire of late, with four home runs in his last eight games.
    Like Powell, third baseman Myron Leslie (.288/.370/.428) spent four years in
    college and is a little old for the league; like Powell, he’s been hot of
    late, including a .338 mark in his last 20 games. 2003 first-round pick Brian
    Snyder
    was sent down after struggling at Midland and has yet to walk in 24
    at-bats. Why is that weird? Because in May, Snyder had one of the strangest
    batting lines you’ll ever see. How’s .067/.391/.067 hit you? That 3-for-45
    with 24 walks.

  • Low Class A Kane County (4-6; 43-30)

    While third baseman Jeff Baisley (.314/.397/.531)
    continues to drive in runs in bunches with 62 RBI in 69 games, he was also drafted after four years of
    college and turns 24 in the offseason. While much was made of the teenage trio
    from the 2005 draft in the Cougars rotation, the results have been mixed. Craig
    Italiano
    lasted just four starts before being shut down with a shoulder
    injury, while Vince Mazzaro and Jared Lansford have both been
    plagued by inconsistency, with neither missing many bats. The Cougars’ best
    starter was 2005 8th-round pick Jason Ray, who had a 3.02 ERA
    in 65.2 innings with 68 strikeouts and was bumped up to Stockton. He’s a
    little small and lacks a third pitch to project as a starter, but his plus
    fastball/power curve combination gives him plenty of projection as a big league
    reliever.

  • Short-season Vancouver (4-3)

    Fifth-round pick Jermaine Mitchell went 8-for-11 in
    his first three pro games but is 1-for-15 since. First baseman/occasional
    catcher Don Sutton (.100/.208/.100) was a sleeper candidate when he hit
    .333/.408/.571 in the Arizona League … in 2003. Three years later a
    variety of injuries have limited him to just 112 pro games and he’s only in the
    Northwest League.

  • Rookie-level AZL Athletics (1-2)

    Eighth-round pick Angel Sierra (1-for-9) is a toolsy
    outfielder form Puerto Rico who is still just 17.

Seattle Mariners

  • Triple-A Tacoma (8-2; 41-35)

    The Rainiers have gone 16-8 in June thanks to a juggernaut
    of an offense that is batting a composite .301/.388/.468 in June and averaging
    6.6 runs per game. The keys have been an outfield that has flip-flopped
    defensive positions and combined for 53 runs and 48 RBI in 24 games this
    month. Shin-Soo Choo (.300/.378/.449) is a nice little player who lacks
    that one tool to project him as a starting corner outfielder, while
    cannon-armed Adam Jones (.268/.314/.454) leads the team with 11 home
    runs and has the highest upside, having yet to celebrate his 21st
    birthday. Taking over in center field is the always-hitting or always-injured Chris
    Snelling
    (.288/.391/.441) who is 10-for-24 since moving there. 2005 No. 3
    overall pick Jeff Clement was off to nice start at San Antonio
    (.288/.386/.525) before having minor knee surgery. When he returned, they
    bumped him to Triple-A. So you have your best prospect in his first full
    season, he’s coming off surgery, he’s a catcher and Kenji Johjima is
    under contract through 2008. Why is he in Tacoma? It’s a mystery for now.

  • Double-A San Antonio (6-4; 30-42)

    The Missions roster is loaded with guys who spent the first
    half of the season in the California League. The biggest name bat-wise is Matt
    Tuiasosopo
    , who is 3-for-16; if it wasn’t Seattle, who is becoming notorious for their aggressiveness in assignments, one would be surprised by
    the promotion after a so-so .306/.359/.379 line for the 66ers. Reliever Mark
    Lowe
    continues to be the biggest surprise in the system, firing 12 shutout
    innings in seven appearances after striking out 46 in 29.1 California League
    innings. A 2005 fifth-round pick, fireballer Stephen Kahn hasn’t been
    able to replicate Lowe’s success, allowing 15 runs in 11 innings after giving
    up just 16 in 27.2 California League frames. Another sleeper is lefthander Ryan
    Feierabend
    , who has a 4.23 ERA, but is just 20 years old and has allowed
    just two runs in his last three starts. He doesn’t have star potential, but he
    should be a solid third or fourth starter and his career record needs to be reconciled
    with his age (like many Seattle prospects) for proper analysis.

  • High Class A Inland Empire (7-3; 43-32)

    Another interesting prospect is outfielder Michael Wilson,
    a second-round pick in 2001 who took a long time to get going, but earned a
    promotion to San Antonio after batting .315/.389/.555 in the first half for Inland Empire. He’s a fantastic athlete who had Division I football options out of high
    school, and it’s taken a long time for him to translate his athletic ability
    into baseball ability, but watch out. One productive hitter not yet making the
    jump to Double-A is Taiwanese infielder Yung-Chi Chen, who is batting
    .444 in his last 16 games and .342/.388/.478 overall. He can play second and
    third and obviously makes good contact, but his secondary skills leave
    something to be desired. Lefthander Robert Rohrbaugh, a seventh-round
    pick last year out of Clemson had a 1.46 ERA start in 10 games before moving
    up, getting by with classic control/finesse stuff.

  • Low Class A Wisconsin (2-9; 28-46)

    The Timber Rattlers’ offense is downright awful, with no
    regular featuring an OPS over .740, but the good news is that 20-year-old
    Venezuelan second-baseman Luis Valbuena is showing signs of life. The
    top prospect on the team, Valbuena (.265/.365/.374) has a mature approach as
    evidenced by more walks (37) than strikeouts (36) and is batting .417 in his
    last 10 games. A second-round pick and perennial disappointment, first baseman
    Jeff Flaig‘s descent continues (.200/.276/.248).

  • Short-season Everett (6-1)

    Sixth-round pick Adam Moore is 9-for-19 with five
    doubles, while seventh-rounder Doug Fister started his pro career with a
    bang, firing five hitless innings in his debut with nine whiffs.

  • Rookie-level AZL Mariners (4-0)

    19-year-old outfielder Carlos Peguero is a 6-foot-5,
    220 pound man-child who either hits the ball really hard (5-for-13, three
    doubles and a home run) or doesn’t (seven whiffs).

Texas Rangers

  • Triple-A Oklahoma (6-4; 38-37)

    After a rough start, lefthander John Danks strung
    together four straight quality starts to earn a promotion to Triple-A, and the
    former first-round pick held his own in his PCL debut, allowing three hits and
    three runs over five innings. There he joins Edison Volquez, who has
    been filthy in his last four starts, allowing just eight hits in 27 innings
    while striking out 33. Memo to the Rangers: you’re in a dogfight with the
    surging A’s in the AL West–maybe it’s time to give Volquez another shot
    instead of calling up Robinson Tejada every time another starter is
    needed. Going the safe route rarely gets you into the playoffs. After batting
    .396 in his last 40 games for Frisco, outfielder Anthony Webster joined
    Danks at Oklahoma, going 6-for-16 in his first five games.

  • Double-A Frisco (2-8; 35-39)

    Last year, third baseman Travis Metcalf and
    outfielder Kevin Mahar both put together big years at Bakersfield, but
    Metcalf was 23 and Mahar was 24. One year later both are struggling in the
    Texas League, with Metcalf at .219/.304/.316 and Mahar batting a slightly better
    .244/.284/.417. Players like that need to move quickly, not slow down.
    Falling behind Danks and Volquez is 2004 first-round pick Thomas Diamond,
    who has 84 strikeouts in 69.1 innings, but has a 4.67 ERA as his control (50
    walks) has abandoned him. Many scouts saw his future as a closer when he was
    first drafted, and it might be time to try him there.

  • High Class A Bakersfield (5-5; 31-45)

    Outfielder Ben Harrison is the team’s best hitter at
    .292/.389/.530, but he’s almost 25 years old and still in A ball. Far more
    interesting is fellow fly chaser Steve Murphy. A 14th-round
    pick last June, Murphy was the MVP of the Northwest League last year at Spokane, and this year, he’s proving it’s not a fluke with a .298/.346/.524 line. As a
    corner outfielder, he’ll need to develop more power or better on-base skills
    (or both, of course) to profile as a big leaguer. 20-year-old stud Eric
    Hurley
    is expected to replace Danks at Frisco by the end of the month. In
    14 starts, the 2004 first-round pick has a 2.92 ERA and 87 strikeouts in 83.1
    innings.

  • Low Class A Clinton (5-5; 26-47)

    Just a dreadful team all around, the Lumber Kings are loaded
    with big draft pick disappointments like 2004 2nd-round selection K.C.
    Herren
    (.221/.300/.289) and 2005 2nd-round pick Johnny
    Whittleman
    (.214/.318/.307) who does have 36 walks, but is 5-for-32 in his
    last 10 games, though one of those hits is a home run–his first of the year.
    2005 first-round pick John Mayberry has the highest OPS of any regular,
    but that’s more of an indictment of the whole team as he is hitting just
    .229/.322/.417–even more of a disappointment than Herren or Whittleman as
    Mayberry was drafted out of college.

  • Short-season Spokane (1-6)

    Seventh-round pick Grant Gerrard has 14 total bases
    in seven games and four stolen bases while third-rounder Chad Tracy is
    5-for-15 in three games.

  • Rookie-level AZL Rangers (2-1)

    Signed for $250,000 last summer, Dominican teenager Johan
    Yan
    made his much-anticipated U.S. debut, going 2-for-3 with a double and
    an RBI. Yan has a pro frame at 6-foot-3, but some scouts think he’ll have to
    move off shortstop as he fills out.