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Atlanta Braves

  • Triple-A Richmond (38-69)

    Trying to find a positive note when looking at one of the
    worst upper-level teams in the minors is a difficult task, but it’s possible
    that outfielder Gregor Blanco has worked his way back into the prospect
    world by hitting .299/.399/.347 in 38 games since a promotion from Mississippi. He has some valuable skills for sure, including speed, the ability to take a
    walk and very good defensive skills. He doesn’t have enough contact ability or
    enough pop to be an everyday player, but he’s only 22 and those three existing
    abilities alone can equal a lengthy big league career coming off the bench.
    How bad is the Richmond lineup? Only two players hit more than one home run in
    July: one of them is 29-year-old veteran Mike Ryan, and the other, first
    baseman James Jurries, hit .171 overall.

  • Double-A Mississippi (46-60)

    Jarrod Saltalamacchia‘s (.221/.344/.374) return to the land of hitting
    was documented
    on Monday
    , which leaves me with very little to discuss here, as the team
    scored just 90 runs in 26 July games with a team on-base percentage of .298.
    Basically, if the Braves had a decent hitting prospect in the upper levels,
    he came up in 2005–the team keeps developing pitching, but the position player
    pool is wading-area thin. That said, toolsy outfielder Brandon Jones
    remains the system’s best-kept secret, batting .280/.336/.515 in 36 games since
    a promotion and showing unprecedented power. There’s finally some good news
    on Anthony Lerew‘s progress, who had an inexplicable 9.38 ERA at
    Richmond. Sent down to the Southern League, things are coming together, as the
    righthander has a 1.44 ERA in eight starts and has given up just one earned
    run in his last 29.2 innings; he could get another shot at the International
    League soon.

  • High Class A Myrtle Beach (55-50)

    21-year-old first baseman Kala Kaaihue was one of the
    talks of the system during the season’s first half, batting .329/.458/.614 for Rome, but it’s been a very different story in the Carolina League (.217/.327/.450). The
    walks and power are still there, but his long swing–designed to either hit the
    ball a mile or not at all–is catching up with him. 2005 first-round pick Joey
    Devine
    was in the major leagues last year shortly after being
    selected, but after missing much of the season with a torn disc in his back,
    he’s been lost in the weeds at Myrtle Beach, with a 7.24 ERA in nine
    appearances. His mechanics have been highly inconsistent, but signs of
    dominance are still there, as evidenced by 22 strikeouts in 13.2 innings. I
    certainly wouldn’t give up on him yet.

  • Low Class A Rome (58-48)

    Speaking of back problems, third baseman Eric Campbell, ranked as the
    No. 8 third baseman in the minors
    , landed on the disabled list for two weeks
    with a strained back. He had been bothered by it during a 3-for-28 slump that dropped
    his averages to .285/.323/.486. With better plate discipline, he’ll rank much
    higher next year, as his raw tools are outstanding both at the plate and in the
    field. A pair of lefties drafted in June–fourth-round pick Lee Hyde
    (Georgia Tech) and fifth-round selection Kevin Gunderson (Oregon State)–have both looked good in limited action out of the bullpen.

  • Rookie-level Danville (24-15)

    Second-round pick Chase Fontaine (.308/.414/.438) is
    off to a nice start with the bat thanks to an advanced approach.

  • Rookie-level GCL Braves (14-19)

    First-round pick Cody Johnson drew widely varying
    reviews in high school, with the Braves feeling strong enough about the Florida prep star to sign him for $1.375 million, while one team’s scouting director
    referred to him as “a total myth.” So far he’s batting
    .236/.288/.327 in 55 at-bats with 22 strikeouts, and he has yet to hit a home run.

Florida Marlins

  • Triple-A Albuquerque (53-55)

    The Marlins have exceeded all expectations at the big league
    level, and those young hitters better keep it up, as the Marlins’ Double- and
    Triple-A lineups are just as depressing as the Braves’. After giving Hanley
    Ramirez
    some strong competition in spring training, shortstop Robert
    Andino
    (.257/.301/.374) has gone back to his light-hitting ways, while first
    baseman Jason Stokes (.262/.349/.446) has landed on the disabled list
    for what seems like the 1,873rd time. After a
    miserable nine-game stint in the majors, righthander Yusmeiro Petit is
    back in the minors at Triple-A, and his inability to miss bats at the upper levels has
    continued. Many, many scouts thought this would happen in the end. A better
    prospect at this point might be former Cub Renyel Pinto, who has a 3.40
    ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning thanks to an average fastball and plus
    curve while making solid in-season progress with his control.

  • Double-A Carolina (45-62)

    A prospect-less offense played like it in July, hitting a
    composite .239/.297/.357 in 26 games while scoring 79 runs. The pitching staff
    is nearly as uninteresting, though hard-throwing reliever Scott Tyler
    (2.80 ERA) might still have a chance if he can keep throwing strikes. After walking
    30 in his first 32 innings, he’s given up just four free passes in his last 13
    frames while striking out 17.

  • High Class A Jupiter (44-60)

    J.T. Restko had a breakout season in 2005, but has
    been one of the system’s many disappointments this year, batting just
    .226/.317/.343 for the Hammerheads. The good news is that he hit .281 in
    July. Undrafted out of college and more than just a little on the small side,
    23-year-old righty reliever Todd Doolittle just keeps getting the job
    done, and scouts tend to think he’s more than a simple fluke, with just enough
    stuff and moxie to get there. In 11 Florida State League games, he’s given up
    one run in 16.1 innings while striking out 21. On the flipside is 2005 first-round
    pick Jacob Marceaux, who was not only drafted, but got $1 million as the
    26th overall pick. With a 4.07 ERA and a 57/43 K/BB ration in 86.1
    innings, the righthander has seen significant drops in both velocity and
    control–a troubling combination.

  • Low Class A Greensboro (52-52)

    Kris Harvey is tied for third in the Sally League
    with 15 home runs, but he’s coming off a miserable month in which he went
    15-for-92 (.163) with 28 strikeouts, lowering his season averages to
    .248/.295/.434. If it doesn’t work out at the plate, they can always have him give
    pitching a shot–like his father, former all-star closer Bryan Harvey,
    the kid pumps mid-90s gas from the mound. 2006 first-round pick Brett
    Sinkbeil
    (2.31 ERA in two starts) now completes the Grasshoppers rotation,
    giving them five first-round picks. Despite a season ERA of 5.11, righthander Ryan
    Tucker
    has been the best of them lately, allowing three earned runs over
    his last 26 innings while allowing just 13 hits and striking out 29.

  • Short-Season Jamestown (20-17)

    Seventh-round pick Don Czyz was one of the nation’s
    best closers at Kansas, and after giving up seven runs over less than an inning
    in his pro debut, he had a perfect July with ten straight scoreless
    appearances.

  • Rookie-level GCL Marlins (18-16)

    Second-round pick Tom Hickman (.283/.390/.458) has
    shown patience, power and a tendency to strike out a lot.

New York Mets

  • Triple-A Norfolk (42-66)

    With Xavier Nady jettisoned to Pittsburgh, the Mets
    called up Lastings Milledge, who suffered through a bit of big
    league-itis after getting sent down last month, hitting just .237/.314/.387 in
    July. Nonetheless, he shouldn’t result in any immediate drop off from Nady,
    and obviously his future is much, much brighter. With Milledge gone it’s a
    pretty awful team, with Victor Diaz‘s season-long slump (.231/.287/.345)
    continuing and Norfolk fans actually paying good money to see Jose Offerman

    (.227/.323/.343) still getting a paycheck.

  • Double-A Binghamton (57-49)

    The B-Town Mets are coming off a fantastic month in which
    they went 22-5 and outscored their opponents 133-87. The offense was led by
    20-year-old center fielder Carlos Gomez (.280/.340/.430), who had a
    miserable first half but went 41-for-101 in (.406) in July with nine doubles
    and four triples. His plate discipline still leaves much to be desired, but
    it’s a nice run for such a young player, and his tools are as good as anyone in
    the system. Heck, even shortstop Corey Ragsdale (.205/.275/.334) hit
    .280 with five home runs, but he kept up his amazing strikeout rate with 32
    more whiffs, giving him 145 in 341 at-bats. Reliever Henry Owens
    struggled with his command in a three-game big league audition, but his ratios
    at Binghamton remain on the insane level, with just 14 hits allowed in 31.1
    innings to go along with 62 strikeouts and nine walks. Those three games with
    the big boys do not convince me that he’s a worse option than Roberto
    Hernandez
    .

  • High Class A St. Lucie (59-46)

    20-year-old first
    baseman Mike Carp (.292/.385/.440) gets nice reviews from scouts. Carp is showing impressive power for
    his age and a nice on-base percentage that is augmented by 20 HBPs this year. Yes, he crowds the plate. Already at the wrong end
    of the defensive spectrum, Carp will need to continue to make improvements to project as an every day player, but so far,
    so good. Closer Carlos Muniz has 24 saves and a 1.80 ERA over the last
    two months, but he’s getting by solely on a plus slider; his lack of
    velocity will likely catch up to him as he moves up the ladder.

  • Low Class A Hagerstown (45-61)

    As crazy as people are for Yankees outfielder Jose
    Tabata
    , and deservedly so, Fernando Martinez deserves just as much
    acclaim. Actually two months younger than Tabata, Martinez has outhit the
    Yankees’ top hitting prospect with a .333/.391/.481 line. Tabata has a better
    approach and much more power projection, but Martinez is a center fielder, while
    Tabata is destined for a corner. They’re both among the highest-ceiling players
    in the game. Speaking of youngsters, righthander Deolis Guerra is even
    younger than Martinez and Tabata, with a date of birth (4/17/89) that makes
    most everyone feel old. Even more eye-popping is his 2.45 ERA in 14 starts, remarkable
    numbers for a pitcher who would still be a high school junior if he were born
    here instead of Venezuela.

  • Short-Season Brooklyn (22-17)

    Third-round pick Joe Smith has a plus-plus slider and
    has been the best closer in the New York-Penn League, allowing one earned run
    in 20 innings with 28 whiffs, while giving up just 10 hits and three walks.

  • Rookie-Level Kingsport (20-18)

    A 20th-round pick in 2004, the Mets have seen Sean
    Henry
    as a bit of a sleeper, but he’s in his third year of rookie-ball, yet
    hitting a solid .266/.361/.477 as he has moved from the middle of the infield
    to center field.

  • Rookie-Level GCL Mets (14-21)

    Fourth-round pick John Holdzkom can get into the
    upper-90s with his fastball, but he has little clue as to where it’s going. The
    15 strikeouts in 14.2 innings are nice, but an 11.66 ERA thanks
    in part to 13 walks and 11 wild pitches are more than just a bit concerning.

Philadelphia Phillies

  • Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (62-46)

    With Bobby Abreu off to the Big Apple, I was frankly
    confused by the team’s decision to send Michael Bourn back to Triple-A
    in favor of Chris Roberson (.293/.350/.367). At nearly 27 years old,
    Roberson has proven himself to be no more than a fourth outfielder at best,
    while the speedy Bourn is hitting .330/.418/.457 in 24 games for the Red Barons
    and is a much better defensive player. Scott Mathieson got the call to
    replace Cory Lidle and he’s the best pitching prospect in the system,
    but don’t forget about lefty Eude Brito, who has had brief stints in the
    big leagues in each of the past two seasons. With a 3.07 ERA, Brito has
    allowed just 91 hits in 120.1 innings and has a 1.10 ERA in his last six
    starts.

  • Double-A Reading (51-54)

    While big, finesse lefty J.A. Happ (2.17 ERA in six starts) continues
    to cruise through the Eastern League
    , what in the heck has happened to small,
    power lefty Gio Gonzalez, the former White Sox prospect who came over
    in the Jim Thome trade? Check out this freefall:

    
    MONTH   ERA   IP   H  OPPAVG
    ----------------------------
    April  1.48  24.1 15  .174
    May    3.31  35.1 24  .190
    June   5.40  30.0 33  .282
    July   8.88  24.1 31  .313
    

    For those looking for entertainment value, the Reading team
    might have the ultimate minor league veteran in 36-year-old outfielder Pedro
    Swann
    , who hasn’t played in the majors since 2003 and began the year in
    Mexico, but is 31-for-82 (.378) in 21 games.

  • High Class A Clearwater (52-53)

    2004 first-round pick Greg Golson is trying to regain
    his prospect status after nearly two years of struggles at Lakewood. He was
    batting just .220/.258/.333 this year in the Sally League, but got promoted
    anyway, because eventually you have to, and he’s playing his best baseball of
    the season, going 9-for-29 (.310) in eight games with a pair of home runs.
    Speaking of disappointing top picks, still no signs of life from 2005 top
    selection Mike Costanzo (.238/.334/.376) who has 109 strikeouts but has
    at least looked good defensively, leading Florida State League third basemen in
    both fielding percentage and assists. Sleeper Alert! Righthander Pat
    Overholt
    was a 22nd-round pick last June out of Santa Clara as
    he was slow to recover from Tommy John sugery, but he’s touched 96 mph this
    year and flashed a plus slilder, striking out 69 in 56.1 innings split between Lakewood and Clearwater.

  • Low Class A Lakewood (62-44)

    Can we get Matt Maloney up to Clearwater already? At
    22, and coming out of a bigtime college program at Mississippi, it’s not a huge
    surprise to see him with a 1.55 ERA in 20 starts. With good control of an
    average, but deep arsenal, we won’t know if what he does works until we see it
    against more advanced hitting, and obviously, he’s ready for that test. Like
    Golson, third baseman Welinson Baez (.225/.287/.342) is another highly
    thought of player trying to recover from a nightmarish first half. His batting
    average was below the Mendoza line less than a month ago, but he’s hit .324
    (23-for-71) with 11 extra-base hits in his last 20 games.

  • Short-Season Batavia (16-20)

    Fourth-round pick Jason Donald had a disappointing
    junior year at Arizona but is off to a solid start, batting .274/.381/.372 at
    the bottom of the Muckdogs lineup. I included that last phrase solely for the
    purpose of saying Muckdogs. Say it with me. It’s fun. Muckdogs.

  • Rookie-Level GCL Phillies (14-19)

    The team’s top two 2006 picks are here with very mixed
    results. First-round pick Kyle Drabek has been downright awful,
    allowing 14 runs in 10 innings, and never less than three in any of his three
    appearances. Meanwhile, after betting .647 in high school this spring, the
    hits keep coming for supplemental first-round pick Adrian Cardenas
    (.333/.403/.459).

Washington Nationals

  • Triple-A New Orleans (55-54)

    The Nationals greatly augmented their system with a nice
    draft in June, but most of their real talent is at the lower levels, and the
    Zephyrs roster is just sad. They’re best performers are outfielder George
    Lombard
    (.290/.403/.490) and infielder Brandon Larson (.416 in
    July), who, let’s face it, are still George Lombard and Brandon Larson. While
    the big league club just called up former Reds first-round pick Ryan Wagner,
    he wasn’t especially effective. Why not give 27-year-old righty Chris
    Schroder
    a look? The six-year veteran has an average fastball but a very
    good curve and has 419 strikeouts in 353 career innings.

  • Double-A Harrisburg (52-56)

    First baseman Josh Whitesell (.271/.352/.467) is a
    hulking slugger whose bat finally caught fire in July with a 1.049 OPS in 27
    games, including seven home runs in 80 at-bats. That’s really the only good
    news for the Senators in July, as the team went 9-21 with a team batting
    average of .228 and a composite ERA of 5.41.

  • High Class A Potomac (50-56)

    Step right in folks, and welcome to the Land Of Faltering Prospects! Watch, as ultra-athletic shortstop Ian Desmond returns
    from an over-aggressive assignment at Double-A to hit just .237/.305/.371.
    Thrill, as righthander Collin Balester comes off a breakthrough season
    in 2005 to give up 61 runs in 92 innings, including 13 in his last 12 frames.
    And enjoy the ultimate tease in 2002 first-round pick Clint Everts, who
    gives up just one hit total in a pair of starts early this month, only to
    follow that up by surrendering eight runs over 9.1 innings in his next two outings
    to get his ERA up to 5.30. Warning: some portions of the show may not be
    suitable for children.

  • Low Class A Savannah (46-62)

    My faith in this working out is very, very low, but I’m
    keeping an eye on 23-year-old righthander Donald Levinski. A
    second-round pick by the Expos (remember them?) in 2001, Levinski had a 3.02
    ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in his full-season debut, but did walk
    55 in 119.1 innings. Traded to the Marlins as part of the Cliff Floyd
    deal towards the end of the 2002 season, the wheels started to fall off, as
    Levinski walked 70 in 87 innings. Traded to the Orioles towards the end of
    2003, he was downright awful in the Baltimore system, putting up a 6.48 ERA in
    31 games for Frederick in 2004. He pitched just 4.2 innings last year
    for Aberdeen, allowing 14 runs on 11 hits and six walks. It seemed over, but
    his original organization is giving him another chance, and in 29 innings, he’s
    allowed just 18 hits and struck out 31, but the control (18 walks) is still
    spotty.

  • Short-Season Vermont (14-26)

    It’s looking like I
    just missed
    on outfielder Justin Maxwell, who had a lowly .622 OPS
    in 17 games at Savannah, and hasn’t done much more (.259/.341/.378) back in
    the short-season leagues.

  • Rookie-Level GCL Nationals (16-20)

    The Nationals wasted no time in moving first-round pick Chris
    Marrero
    from third base to left field, but he’s hitting well
    (.304/.372/.406).

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