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Los Angeles Angels

Triple-A Salt Lake (66-48)

As conservative as the Angels are when it comes to trading
prospects, it was still somewhat surprising to see them not get something for Erick
Aybar
to help them down the stretch. With Orlando Cabrera locked up
until 2009, Aybar is completely blocked while being pretty much ready, but he
hasn’t let it affect his performance, batting .345 in 20 games since returning
to the minors and .312/.355/.462 overall. Another hot bat since getting sent
down is first baseman Kendry Morales (.329/.367/.536), who is 17-for-46
(.370) with five home runs since coming back to Utah. Completing the trio is
outfielder Reggie Willits (.323/.441/.424), who has had a breakout
season and is also not letting a demotion get to him; the center fielder is
batting .400 while reaching base 43 times in 19 games since returning to the
minors. All three will likely be added to the big league roster when they
expand to provide some speed, defensive versatility and thump off the bench.

Double-A Arkansas (44-68)

Outfielder Terry Evans just keeps rolling along in
what is by far the most unanticipated performance of the season. With 32 home
runs overall, Evans is second in the minor leagues, trailing only Triple-A Durham’s
Kevin Witt, and he’s gone deep in five of his last six games. Batting
.297/.355/.624 at Double-A Arkansas since coming over from the Cardinals for Jeff
Weaver
, the 24-year-old Evans offers no track record to go on and an ugly
102/30 K/BB ratio in 414 at-bats, but a great season is a great season and he’s
certainly some kind of prospect. Shortstop Brandon Wood (.274/.358/.548)
is hitting just .223 in 33 games since the start of July, but 18 of his 27 hits
have gone for extra bases, as Wood has just 49 singles on the season, to go
with 39 doubles, three triples and 23 home runs. After exploding in the
California League and pitching a complete-game five-hitter in his Arkansas
debut, righty Jose Arredondo has hit a wall, giving up 26 runs over 23.1
innings in his last five starts.

High Class A Rancho Cucamonga (50-63)

Shortstop Sean Rodriguez (.304/.380/.540) just keeps
mashing, batting .331 in 34 games since July with seven home runs and 20 walks
in 133 at-bats. His reviews defensively are mixed, which means that his strongest
supporters only feel that he can become average there. If he’s forced to move
to second base, he’ll need to prove that the bat is real, and not just a
product of the California League. A weak rotation has been bolstered by the
promotions of righthanders Nick Adenhart and Stephen Marek.
Adenhart has a 3.76 ERA in seven starts, but that’s offset by one start when he
gave up eight runs. Marek is a big-budget draft-and-follow, and while he has
move velocity than Adenhart, he’s also nearly three years older and doesn’t
have as deep an arsenal–though many scouts think he could be dominant in a
bullpen role where he could concentrate solely on his big heavy fastball and
sharp curve.

Low Class A Cedar Rapids (50-63)

The team had high hopes for 20-year-old shortstop Hainley
Statia
going into the season, and he’s finally begun to hit. He went an even
40-for-100 in July with 15 walks and batting .295/.371/.385 overall while
playing outstanding defense, leading the Midwest League with 71 double plays.
The Angels don’t make a lot of big money mistakes, but Mark Trumbo is
beginning to look like one. Given $1.425 million as a 18th-round
pick in 2004, Trumbo is batting .229/.313/.378 and is already limited defensively
to first base. It’s not time to think about it yet, but he had loads of
potential on the mound coming out high school as well. While Adenhart and
Marek have moved up, righthander Tommy Mendoza has stayed behind, and
with a 4.32 ERA it’s understandable–but I still like him as a prospect. He’s
been plagued by inconsistency, allowing two or fewer earned runs in 10 of 23
starts, while also surrendering seven or more runs four times. Showing the
ability to pitch very well is a much better sign than if he were just mediocre
every time out. Season totals can be dangerous for pitching prospects; game
logs are much more telling.

Rookie-Level Orem (29-17)

2005 second-round pick Ryan Mount (.277/.368/.458)
has looked much more comfortable in his second year as a pro, showing power and
patience–secondary skills that he’ll need to continue developing, as few
think he’ll be able to stay at shortstop.

Rookie-Level AZL Angels (22-15)

First-round pick Hank Conger‘s season is done after
19 games, as he hit .319/.382/.522 in 69 at-bats before breaking a bone in his
hand.

Oakland Athletics

Triple-A Sacramento (62-54)

The River Cats have been quite the juggernaut offensively of
late, scoring 260 runs in 34 games (7.6 runs per game) since July 1. The bad
news is that most of the damage has been done by minor league veterans like Hiram
Bocachica
(.340/.438/.632) and D’Angelo Jimenez (.303/.417/.485), as
well as first baseman Dan Johnson (.406/.486/.720), who’s been doing his
best Ted Williams impression since being sent down. First baseman Daric
Barton
would be the youngest contributor on the team, but his return from an
elbow fracture has been slower than expected and he hasn’t played since late
May. From the “don’t forget about me” files comes former Cleveland reliever Kaz
Tadano
, who has a 6.09 ERA overall, but has looked especially impressive
out of the bullpen lately, allowing one earned run in his last nine
appearances while striking out 16 in 12.2 innings.

Double-A Midland (56-56)

Second baseman Kevin Melillo (.289/.370/.430) is
suddenly having a pretty good season by going 19-for-37 with seven walks during
his current 10-game hitting streak. He hasn’t been able to replicate last
year’s power numbers, but his on-base skills remain top notch. Righthander
Connor Robertson continues to be one of the better bullpen sleepers in the
system thanks to one of the more deceptive deliveries you’ll see, as his
extreme body twist before delivery hides the ball from opposing batters until
the moment of release. In his last 15 appearances, the former 31st-round
pick has 32 strikeouts in 23 innings, and in his career, he has 249 whiffs in
just 180 frames. Relief sleeper number two is Marcus McBeth, as the
converted outfielder has a 2.68 ERA in 32 games and more than a strikeout per
inning despite remaining extremely raw.

High Class A Stockton (57-54)

If you are looking for disappointing first-round picks, Stockton is the place for you. 2003 first-round pick Brian Snyder (.303/.416/.400)
is 24 and already pretty much reduced to a bad third baseman whose only skill
is a propensity for walks, while fellow 2003 first-round selection Brad
Sullivan
is back in Arizona trying to figure out something… anything
after giving up 29 runs over 9.2 innings in his last 10 appearances. Going
back a year, 2002 first-round pick John McCurdy (.284/.323/.467) has had
the smallest of rebounds, but he’s now 25 and has already flamed out at the
upper level, while going forward a year we have catcher Landon Powell

(.262/.347/.427). A four-year college player who couldn’t afford development
interruptions, Powell missed all of 2005 recovering from knee surgery, and
hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. The Ports are about to get a much needed
injection of youth this week in the arrival of 19-year-old and 2005
second-round pick Jared Lansford, who was promoted over the weekend.
While he had a 2.86 ERA in 18 starts, and allowed just 87 hits in 104 innings,
his Wang-esque strikeout rate (4.3 per 9) will require him to prove it at every
level.

Low Class A Kane County (66-47)

Third baseman Jeff Baisley (.302/.377/.541) is among
the minor league leaders with 94 RBI, but the list of 23-year-old sluggers
putting up big numbers in Low A only to disappoint at the higher levels is pretty long. Arriving on the scene last week, third-round pick Matt
Sulentic
will make the last month of Cougars box scores much more
interesting. After cruising through the college-heavy Northwest League at a
.354/.409/.479 clip, the 18-year-old outfielder is 4-for-12 in his first three
full-season league games. Three highly regarded teenagers began their year in
the Kane County rotation, and while Lansford has moved up and Craig Italiano

went down with a shoulder injury, Vince Mazzaro keeps plugging away
with a 4.86 ERA. His numbers are not impressive–as he’s struggled to find
consistency with his offspeed pitches–but he is coming off his best outing of
the season on Sunday, allowing four hits over eight innings and striking out
nine.

Short-Season Vancouver (26-21)

Sixth-round pick Andrew Bailey is a big righthander
with a big fastball and excellent command. In seven games he has a 1.67 ERA
with 27 strikeouts in an equal number of innings and just three walks.

Rookie-Level AZL Athletics (14-23)

Eighth-round pick Angel Sierra (.191/.327/.245) has
drawn 17 walks in 94 at-bats, but his other abilities are still far more tools
than skills.

Seattle Mariners

Triple-A Tacoma (61-53)

Triple-A is proving to be not only an illogical destination,
but a far too aggressive assignment for last year’s first-round pick, Jeff
Clement
. Batting just .248/.306/.372, Clement has shown little power and a
surprisingly impatient approach. Are the frequent injuries finally catching
up to Chris Snelling? Currently in an 0-for-21 slump, he’s also just
7-for-78 (.090) in his last 23 games and .223/.331/.344 on the season–unacceptable numbers for a hitter who needs to hit .300+ because of his
sub-standard secondary skills. Korean righthander Cha-Seung Baek got
hit hard in a brief 2004 big league look and was torched for a 6.41 ERA at
Tacoma last year, but he was once highly regarded and has turned things around
this season, with a 2.80 ERA in 135 innings and quality starts in 16 of his
last 19 outings.

Double-A San Antonio (51-60)

After hitting .342/.388/.478 in the California League,
Taiwanese infielder Yung-Chi Chen was riding a 10-game hitting streak
with the Missions, batting .324/.361/.574 in 17 games before dislocating his
shoulder in late July. Just 20 years old, third baseman Matt Tuiasosopo doesn’t
belong in Double-A, and his performance at Inland Empire did not merit a
promotion. Nonetheless, more was expected than a .191/.262/.206 line in 37
games with just two extra-base hits in 131 at-bats. He’s already been moved
off of shortstop, and his prospect status has taken a big hit this year. Now
having been traded at each of the last three trade deadlines, righthander Travis
Chick
has a 2.23 ERA in six starts, but with a 24/22 K/BB ratio in 36.1
innings, it looks like luck more than anything else.

High Class A Inland Empire (60-52)

The Mariners have moved a number of players to Double-A this
year, with little prospect-wise to replace them. Second baseman Luis
Valbuena
(.259/.328/.362) is up after finally getting hot at Wisconsin, and he’s a decent second base prospect with some gap power and on-base skills. The
pitching staff has been awful of late aside from 6-foot-5 righthander Cibney
Bello
, whose average stuff and average ERA (4.06) is enough to make him one
of the best pitchers on the team at this point.

Low Class A Wisconsin (41-73)

Busier than most teams in scouting Asian talent, the
Mariners signed outfielder Kuo-Hui Lo last summer to a just-over
six-figure bonus, and he’s batting .266/.320/.351 in 24 games after making his
pro debut at Everett. A tall, lanky outfielder who is not without tools, Lo’s
plus-speed has allowed him to steal 14 bases in 15 attempts, but he has little
power and will need to develop a more patient approach to move up. Undrafted
out of Princeton, righty Brian Kappel has moved from closing at Everett
to closing at Wisconsin and his 31 strikeouts in 21.1 innings–but he went
undrafted for a reason, as he gets by on knowing how to pitch (not surprising
for a Princeton guy) more than stuff, as he rarely hits 90 mph on the radar
gun.

Short-Season Everett (23-24)

Eighth-round pick Doug Fister has moved from the
rotation to the bullpen, but the 6-foot-8 righty has pitched well in both
roles, with a 0.94 ERA in 28.2 innings.

Rookie-Level AZL Mariners (18-19)

First-round pick Brandon Morrow has stuggled with his
control as a pro, with eight walks and three wild pitches in 10 innings.

Texas Rangers

Triple-A Oklahoma (58-58)

Righty Edison Volquez went from the Pacific
Coast League disabled list (strained calf) to the big league rotation, where he
struggled against first-place Oakland in his first Ranger start of the season.
Volquez sat in the low-90s and struggled with his command, which has been a
bugaboo all year. All swings and misses from Oakland bats came off his
plus-plus changeup. Lefthander John Danks might have to wait until next
year to get the call, but the 21-year-old former first-rounder makes up for a
5.32 ERA with his youth, good stuff and 49 strikeouts in 45.2 innings. Can we
start admitting to ourselves that shortstop Joaquin Arias just isn’t
that good? Now batting .268/.305/.367, Arias has solid tools across the board,
but he has no power and swings at everything, so even when he hit .300, his OPS
was in the .750 range.

Double-A Frisco (57-56)

Nate Gold is batting .299/.380/.582, but it’s pretty
hard to get excited about a big mashing first baseman who is 26 years old. Kevin
Mahar
has come on strong, batting .333 in his last 30 games and
.273/.320/.476 overall, but it’s hard to get excited about a big mashing
center fielder who is 25 years old. You get my drift. While righthander Thomas
Diamond
has been beyond inconsistent this year and has a 4.26 ERA, his
counting statistics are pretty impressive, including 128 strikeouts and just 86
hits allowed in 107.2 innings. Two-and-a-half years younger than Diamond, but
pitching at the same level, righthander Eric Hurley has limited Texas
League hitters to a .194 average in three starts since his promotion.

High Class A Bakersfield (48-65)

Conversions to catcher are often a last resort, but former
third baseman Emerson Frostad is batting .308/.377/.531 and has looked
at least decent defensively. The Rangers entered the year with high
expectations from righthander Michael Schlact (6.20 ERA), and while an
inability to miss bats hurt him in the Midwest League last year, it has
destroyed him in the offense-heavy California League this season, with
lefthanders teeing off against him for a .357 average.

Low Class A Clinton (34-79)

Once of the worst teams in the minors has lost 28 of their
last 35 games but has at least found something to be optimistic about in the
performances of two of their top draft picks from last June, outfielder John
Mayberry
(.252/.335/.450) and third baseman Johnny Whittleman
(.232/.319/.368). While neither has statistics to get excited about, Mayberry
hit .299/.342/.495 in July, while Whittleman hit .267/.324/.525 with seven of
his nine home runs on the season coming over a 20-day period.

Short-Season Spokane (18-29)

The only two players with double-digit home run totals in
the Northwest League are third-round pick Chad Tracy (.291/.367/.532 w/
10 HRs in 158 at-bats) and fifth-round pick Chris Davis (.288/.356/.622
with 13 HRs in 156 at-bats).

Rookie-Level AZL Rangers (13-23)

Great news for Rangers fans: the club was able to pry
shortstop Marcus Lemon away from a full ride at the University of Texas, signing the fourth-round pick for first-round money with a cool $1 million
bonus. Chet’s son is, not surprisingly, a great defender, and he’s hit .304/.429/.435
in his brief pro career.

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