|FIVE YEARS AGO|
|1. Chris Tritle, of, Athletics|
|2. *Shin-Soo Choo, of, Mariners|
|3. Andy Gonzalez, ss, White Sox|
|4. Ryan Hannaman, lhp, Giants|
|5. *Ronny Cedeno, ss, Cubs|
|6. *Ervin Santana, rhp, Angels|
|7. Anthony Webster, of, White Sox|
|8. *Francisco Liriano, lhp, Giants|
|9. Leonel Cabrera, 2b, Giants|
|10. Pedro Esparragoza, c, Brewers|
|*Has played in major leagues|
|1.||Hank Conger, c, Angels|
|B-T: B-R Ht: 6-0 Wt: 205 Age: 18 Drafted: Angels '06|
|Following surgery, Conger stayed in Arizona
and worked out with the team. As soon as he got his cast removed, he
was back behind the plate, catching bullpens and doing as much side
work as he could.|
While his makeup has earned plaudits since his prep days, Conger's bat and ability behind the plate are what made him the 25th overall pick in June. He's a switch-hitter with power from both sides of the plate and the swing to make hard contact consistently.
Conger worked hard on his defense leading up to the draft, taking instruction from former big leaguer Brent Mayne. His leadership and improved receiving make him a potentially above-average defender, though his arm was sore much of the summer and he didn't show great arm strength.
|2.||Jeremy Jeffress, rhp, Brewers|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 175 Age: 18 Drafted: Brewers '06 (1)|
|The 16th overall pick in June, Jeffress
evokes comparisons to Dwight Gooden because of his velocity, athletic
ability and easy, clean delivery. Unlike Gooden, Jeffress throws a
slider rather than a 12-to-6 curveball as his second pitch, but it
comes in with velocity and life as well, sitting in the low 80s at
Jeffress didn't perform well in his pro debut, but it wasn't for lack of stuff. Several managers reported hearing that he hit triple digits on the radar gun or seeing it themselves. Others said he topped out at 99 but believed he could have thrown harder had he wanted.
His 25 walks, 13 wild pitches and six hit batters, however, testify to Jeffress' need to harness his stuff. He didn't show much in the way of offspeed pitches, either. Some managers thought he tired late in the year, but he never got hit hard and didn't surrender a home run.
|3.||Cedric Hunter, of, Padres|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-0 Wt.:185 Age: 18 Drafted: Padres '06 (3)|
|Hunter reached base in his first 49 pro
games, and the only time he was stopped was on Aug. 26, when he went
0-for-5 against the Rangers. He hit safely in 45 of his 53 games
(including the playoff victory) and threw in a 23-game hitting streak
for good measure.|
Hunter's polished offensive approach should allow him to move quickly, and his bat is his best tool. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and a balanced swing, with an advanced ability to let the ball get deep before committing to a pitch. He also has a good two-strike plan. While his other tools aren't above-average, he's an average runner and the Padres will give him a chance to play center field. He spent a lot of time at DH this summer because of a sore arm.
"I had Alex Rodriguez when he first signed, and Cedric is right up there with A-Rod in terms of his aptitude," Padres manager Carlos Lezcano said, "He learns very, very quickly. He wasn't just all about BP. He learned to run the bases better, take leads, throw to the right bases. He was very coachable."
|4.||Marcus Lemon, ss, Rangers|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 173 Age: 18 Drafted: Rangers '06 (4)|
|The son of a former all-star, Lemon played
for his dad's amateur club--Chet Lemon's Juice, which counts big
leaguers such as Rickie Weeks among its alumni--while building an
impressive prep career. Lemon plays like the son of a big leaguer,
and his outstanding makeup was a factor in the Rangers giving him a
$1 million bonus as a fourth-rounder.|
While his University of Texas commitment helped scare teams off, so did questions about Lemon's bat and his average speed. However, managers liked his athleticism and the offense he showed in the AZL. His instincts were obvious at the plate (16 walks vs. 10 strikeouts) and on the basepaths (11 steals in 13 tries). He had competitive at-bats and showed a good two-strike approach for a young hitter.
"I liked him better on defense early," Royals manager Lloyd Simmons said. "But he got better and better as the year went on. He was very heady, always in the game."
|5.||Brent Fisher, lhp, Royals|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 190 Age: 19 Drafted: Royals '05 (7)|
|Fisher repeated the league but made a strong
impression by dominating. His 98 strikeouts were 50 percent more than
his closest AZL pursuer (Tim Schoeninger of the Angels). Fisher led
all starters in short-season leagues with 12.9 strikeouts per nine
innings, and ranked second with a .171 opponent
Fisher makes hitters miss with an 87-91 mph fastball that plays above-average because of his deceptive, easy delivery. The pitch also has excellent armside run, helping him handle righthanders.
His best offering is a curveball that can become a plus pitch. Fisher has the confidence to use it in fastball counts, and he also believes in his changeup as well. He worked closely with former Cy Young Award winner and Royals pitching coach Mark Davis on finding a comfortable, consistent grip for his change and on keeping it and his fastball down in the strike zone.
|6.||Matt Sweeney, 3b/1b, Angels|
|B-T: L-R Ht.: 6-3 Wt.:210 Age: 18 Drafted: Angels '06 (8)|
|Sweeney was lightly recruited out of a
Maryland high school and had committed to play for Potomac State
(W.Va.) Junior College. Area scout Dan Radcliff noted that Sweeney
was getting in better shape, losing 30 pounds during his senior
season, and successfully lobbied the Angels to take him in the eighth
Sweeney was the league's best hitter after Hunter and showed considerable power potential as well. He has an advanced ability to recognize pitches, which came in handy when pitchers fed him a steady diet of breaking balls after his fast start. Thanks to quick wrists and a sound swing, he has the bat speed to turn on good fastballs.
The catch: Sweeney doesn't have a true position. A catcher/DH in high school, he struggled with a move to third base despite working on his defense. Most managers thought he'd be adequate at best at the hot corner, but believed he would hit enough for a move to first base.
|7.||Sharlon Schoop, ss, Giants|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.:160 Age: 19 Signed: Giants FA '04|
|Last year, AZL observers usually linked
Schoop to fellow Curacao native Shairon Martis. With Martis traded to
the Nationals, Schoop was on his own, and he's probably the best
defensive player in the Giants system. Managers believed that he
could hold his own defensively in the majors with his strong arm,
excellent range and reliable hands.|
The Giants had Schoop repeat Rookie ball, however, because his bat needed work. He still needs to add strength to get through a full season, as he wore down late, but he learned to work counts, recognize breaking balls better and run the bases more efficiently. The Giants believe he has some power potential, but his offensive approach isn't consistent enough to take advantage of it.
|8.||Kyler Burke, of, Padres|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-3 Wt.:205 Age: 18 Drafted: Padres '06 (1s)|
|While he has five-tool ability, Burke also
work to do, as competition in the lowest level of the U.S. minors
proved to be quite tougher than that in the Chattanooga area. He hit
safely in 11 of his first 13 games but batted just .168 afterward,
including a 4-for-47 slump.|
Burke drifted with his body into pitches, got out on his front foot and had difficulty making consistent contact. He lost confidence after his first taste of failure, but he maintained a good attitude throughout his struggles.
Physically, Burke was one of the league's better specimens. He has above-average speed and strength, and has the raw power desired in a right fielder. After touching the low 90s with his fastball as a high school pitcher, he featured one of the AZL's best outfield arms.
|9.||Jason Taylor, 3b, Royals|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.:210 Age: 18 Drafted: Royals '06 (2)|
|Projected as a sixth- to 10th-round pick,
Taylor eschewed Clemson for pro ball when the Royals took him with
the first pick of the second round (45th overall). While others had
more auspicious debuts, he impressed by showing tools across the
One of the AZL's top athletes, Taylor was streaky offensively, losing confidence at one point as he adjusted to wood bats. He had a tendency to get out on his front foot but adjusted as the season wore on, showing a knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball.
As he incorporates his lower half into his swing more, Taylor projects to hit for average and solid power. A prep shortstop, he handled the move to third base well but eventually could move to an outfield corner.
|10.||Vladimir Veras, rhp, Angels|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 160 Age: 20 Signed: Angels FA '03|
|Veras won two-thirds of the AZL pitching
triple crown, leading the league in ERA (1.35) and wins (eight). With
his 6-foot, 160-pound frame, he doesn't offer a lot of projection,
but he has enough stuff to profile as a back-of-the-rotation
Veras pounded the strike zone with four pitches: low-90s fastball, a slider, a knuckle-curve and a changeup. He was confident enough to throw any pitch in any count. He's athletic, with a quick arm and sound mechanics that he repeats, and he keeps the ball down in the zone.
|11.||Brent Brewer, ss, Brewers|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 190 Age: 18 Drafted: Brewers '06 (2)|
|Aptly named for his organization, Brewer is
a raw athlete who will need a while to become a baseball player, as
opposed to an athlete playing baseball. A Florida State football
recruit as a wide receiver, he has above-average raw power and speed,
which he showed by drilling six triples and succeeding on all 10 of
his steal attempts. Perhaps most encouraging, he showed aptitude to
go with his tools, adjusting his swing and finishing the season by
going 25-for-75 (.333).|
Brewer has the actions and enough arm to play shortstop, but he struggled with the increased speed of the professional baseball and made 24 errors in 33 games. One manager said he envisioned Brewer moving to center field sooner than later.
|12.||Gerardo Avila, 1b, Mariners|
Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 185 Age: 20 Signed: Mariners '02|
|As a lefthander with size and power, Avila
fits the profile of a first baseman. His performance also has the
Mariners encouraged, as he wound up tied for the AZL lead with seven
home runs in his first year in the United States after three in the
Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League.|
Avila has a sound swing and can overpower pitches. He's very aggressive at the plate, a flaw pitchers exploited after his promotion to low Class A, where he hit .159 with 22 strikeouts in 88 at-bats. AZL managers liked his smooth glovework around first base
|13.||Luis Durango, of, Padres|
|B-T: B-R Ht.: 5-10 Wt.: 145 Age: 20 Signed: Padres '03|
|Durango's speed and slap-and-dash
approach are his trademarks. He has top-of-the-line wheels, getting
to first base in 3.6 seconds on drag bunts from the left side. He
edged Hunter for the batting title (.378) and also led the AZL in
on-base percentage (.470), but still has a ways to go as a
basestealers after succeeding on just 17 of 23 attempts.|
A switch-hitter, he needs to gain strength but never will hit for much power. A former infielder, he has a below-average arm and his outfield instincts are lacking as well.
|14.||Jose Ceda, rhp, Padres/Cubs|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-4 Wt.: 207 Age: 19 Signed: Padres FA '05|
|Ceda started his AZL season with the Padres
but came to the Cubs in the Todd Walker trade. He was one of the
league's hardest throwers in either uniform, peaking at 96 mph and
sitting in the low 90s. He's also notable for his size, standing
6-foot-4 and carrying as many as 60 pounds more than his listed
weight of 205.|
His secondary pitches and his control lag behind his fastball, leading several managers to project him as more of a reliever down the line.
|15.||Manuel Cabeza, rhp, Giants|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-2 Wt.: 180 Age: 18 Signed: Giants FA '03|
|As usual, the Giants had an assortment of
raw power arms in the AZL. Among them, Cabeza featured the best
pitchability and earned the highest marks on the staff. He won all
seven of his decisions.|
At his best, Cabeza threw strikes with three pitches. He ran his fastball into the mid-90s at times but it sat more in the 90-91 mph range. His slider and changeup also showed flashes of being average pitches, with his changeup the more consistent of the two.
At 21, Cabeza was older than most pitches in the league. He missed all of 2004 with an injury while still in the Dominican, and was sidelined in early August with a knee injury that flared up against after his promotion to low Class A, precluding him from pitching in the South Atlantic League playoffs.
|16.||Derrick Robinson, of, Royals|
|B-T: B-L Ht.: 5-11 Wt.: 170 Age: 18 Drafted: Royals '06 (4)|
|Like Brewer, Robinson was one of the best
athletes in the league and a top college football recruit. He was
ticketed to player cornerback at Florida before signing with the
Royals for $850,000 as a fourth-round pick.|
Robinson's standout tool is his speed, as he's a 3.9-second runner from the left side of the plate to first base and could shave more time off it he got out of the box quicker. He can run down just about any ball in center field, and though he only recently has become a full-time baseball player, he has solid defensive instincts. He still has work to do on the basepaths.
Most of Robinson's game remains raw, and there are concerns about his bat. A switch-hitter, he needs to smooth out his swing from both sides. He has the strength and bat speed to hit with some authority, but must learn to make more consistent contact. His arm is below average.
|17.||Nick Van Stratten, of, Royals|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1 Wt.: 185 Age: 21 Drafted: Royals '06 (10)|
|While Van Stratten isn't a pure speedster
like Royals outfield mates Robinson or Jarrod Dyson, he's quick,
has plenty of tools and looks like a steal from the 10th round of the
2006 draft. He set a national junior college record with 14 triples
this spring at St. Louis CC-Meramec, and hit seven more to rank
second in the AZL. His mix of gap power and speed mix impressed
Van Stratten showed the ability to drop a bunt or to sting the ball to both gaps. His best tools are his bat, with a short swing and outstanding pitch recognition considering his experience, and his above-average throwing arm. His gritty, all-out approach also earned him praise.
|18.||Carlos Peguero, of, Mariners|
|B-T: L-L Ht.: 6-5 Wt.:210 Age: 19 Signed: Mariners FA '05|
|Peguero teamed with Avila to give the
Mariners a 1-2 punch unrivaled in the league. They tied with teammate
Wellington Dotel for the home run lead with seven, and Peguero's
.649 slugging percentage easily topped the AZL. He didn't fare as
well after a promotion to short-season Everett, however, where his
inexperience with breaking balls and somewhat long swing were
Peguero has a big, projectable frame at 6-foot-5, 210 pounds and moves well for a big man, though he figures to slow down as he fills out. He showed more ability and willingness to use the whole field than Avila did, but he doesn't have quite as much raw power. Peguero's outfield arm is another plus tool.
|19.||Warner Madrigal, rhp, Angels|
|B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-0 Wt.: 200 Age: 22 Signed: Angels FA '01|
|After signing for $150,000, Madrigal spent
his first five seasons in pro ball as an outfielder. However, his
above-average raw power didn't translate to games well enough because
of his inability to recognize breaking balls. After getting off to a
tough start in his third straight assignment to low Class A Cedar
Rapids, Madrigal assented when the Angels asked him to move to the
mound in late May.|
As a pitcher, Madrigal showed the same raw arm strength he had as an outfielder. His fastball touched 98 mph and he regularly sat at 94 mph when he maintained his mechanics. His slider also showed signs of being a reliable second pitch. Still just 22, he could move quickly if he continues to show aptitude in his new role.
"What impressed me was the poise he showed for being new to pitching," Angels manager Ever Magallanes said. "He had pretty good mound presence for his level of experience."
|20.||Felix Carrasco, 3b, Padres|
Ht.: 6-1 Wt.:220 Age: 19 Signed: Padres FA '06|
|The Padres won the league in part because of
the ability of Durango and Hunter to get on base and the knack
Carrasco and league RBI champ Ranyor Contreras had for driving them
in. San Diego officials rave about Carrasco's raw power, though some
managers questioned his defense and listed age of 19, preferring
A year younger and more physical, Carrasco earns the nod here for two big power tools. Besides his pop, he also has a plus throwing arm, as well as the range and hands to become an average defensive third baseman.
"He's a legitimate switch-hitter, and when he got into one, it went a long way," one manager said. "He needs to improve his pitch recognition and he's pretty mature physically, but he has outstanding power."