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|TOP 20 PROSPECTS|
|1. Angel Villalona, 3b, Giants|
|2. Engel Beltre, of, Rangers|
|3. Nick Noonan, 2b, Giants|
|4. Danny Duffy, lhp, Royals|
|5. Wilmer Font, rhp, Rangers|
|6. Wilber Bucardo, rhp, Giants|
|7. Drew Cumberland, ss, Padres|
|8. Danny Carroll, of, Mariners|
|9. Cristian Santana, c, Rangers|
|10. Mario Martinez, ss/3b, Mariners|
|11. Mason Tobin, rhp, Angels|
|12. Michael Anton, lhp, Angels|
|13. Matt Mitchell, rhp, Royals|
|14. Yefri Carvajal, of, Padres|
|15. Charlie Culberson, 2b/ss, Giants|
|16. Larry Suarez, rhp, Cubs|
|17. Clay Fuller, of, Angels|
|18. Sam Runion, rhp, Royals|
|19. Ivan Contreras, 2b, Angels|
|20. Jacob Wild, rhp, Mariners|
The Rookie-level Arizona League has only a few veterans: the managers and coaches who return to the league year after year. Ruben Escalera was in his sixth season as Athletics manager, as was Bert Hunter with the Giants. Cubs coaches Carmelo Martinez and Rick Tronerud have combined for nearly 20 years of AZL experience.
These veteran AZL observers and others say the league has gotten younger as more organizations emphasize Latin American scouting and send those players to complex leagues for their first U.S. pro experience. The two best prospects in the league were Latins: Giants third baseman Angel Villalona and Rangers outfielder Engel Beltre.
The most important number regarding Villalona isn’t 2.1 million (the bonus he got when he signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006) but rather 1990 (the year he was born). He played most of the season at 16. Beltre, who signed for 600,000 out of the Dominican last year, hit much better following his inclusion in the Eric Gagne trade.
The new Aug. 15 signing deadline for draft picks led to protracted negotiations that precluded many first-rounders from arriving in the AZL early enough to qualify for this list. That’s why the likes of Cubs third baseman Josh Vitters (who went just 2-for-30 with nine strikeouts) and righthanders Tim Alderson (Giants) and Michael Main (Rangers) aren’t on the Top 20.
Several of the league’s stats leaders didn’t make the list mostly because of their advanced age, such as Giants first baseman Andy D’Alessio (14 homers) and Angels outfielder Anthony Norman (.362 batting average). Both were 22.