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Top 25 Prospects: Midseason Snapshot

Compiled by John Manuel
July 15, 2005

Only rookie-eligible players currently in the minor leagues were eligible for BAís midseason Top 25 Prospects, which really seems unfair for Braves fans. Andy Marte and Jeff Francoeur also would have made the top 25 had they been sent down before the Futures Game in Detroit, and lefties Zach Duke (Pirates) and Scott Olsen (Marlins) could say the same. But the goal isnít to be a top prospect, after all; itís to be a big leaguer. B.J. Upton reached that goal last year with 159 at-bats, making him ineligible for a prospect list, but the Devil Rays have left him in Triple-A this season to work on his defense. His struggles with the glove at Durham would put him behind fellow Rays farmhand Delmon Young and Mariners flamethrower Felix Hernandez. Youngís precocious power and complete offensive package make him the gameís top prospect.

Player, Pos., Organization Skinny
1. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays Challenging for a triple crown in the Southern League.
2. Felix Hernandez, rhp, Mariners Bursitis bout is the only reason heís behind Young.
3. Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies Overcame early hamstring injury to catch fire in June, July.
4. Jeremy Hermida, of, Marlins Plate discipline, physical maturity has led to more power.
5. Stephen Drew, ss, D-backs Long holdout did little to erode his skills or tools.
6. Joel Guzman, ss, Dodgers Has experimented at third base; bat should play anywhere.
7. Chad Billingsley, rhp, Dodgers Developing command of a power four-pitch repertoire.
8. Justin Verlander, rhp, Tigers One-game Detroit cameo capped rise for No. 2 pick in í04.
9. Prince Fielder, 1b, Brewers Brief big league promotion hints heís almost ready.
10. Hanley Ramirez, ss, Red Sox Steady improvement in all phases for toolsy athlete.
11. Brandon Wood, ss, Angels Unlikely minors home run leader can play short, too.
12. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Dodgers Making $1 million bonus as 39th-round pick look good.
13. Matt Cain, rhp, Giants Fast start tempered by realities of hitter-happy PCL.
14. Daric Barton, 1b, Athletics After slow start, he heated up (.494 since June 16).
15. Lastings Milledge, of, Mets Just promoted to Double-A after finding a groove in the FSL.
16. Adam Miller, rhp, Indians Elbow strain delayed season, but stuff is back in Kinston.
17. Felix Pie, of, Cubs Heís added power; last piece will be plate discipline.
18. Francisco Liriano, lhp, Twins Lithe live arm adjusted quickly to Triple-A (32 K in 25 IP).
19. Carlos Quentin, of, Diamondbacks Very few holes in his polished game with bat or with glove.
20. Conor Jackson, 1b, Diamondbacks Quentinís tag-team partner could be future batting champ.
21. Billy Butler, 3b/of, Royals Unique approach produces huge power; position a question.
22. Joel Zumaya, rhp, Tigers Power stuff remains unhittable as he smooths out delivery.
23. Kendry Morales, 1b/of, Angels Cuban has quickly adjusted to U.S. minors (9 HR in 176 AB).
24. Nick Markakis, of, Orioles Greeceís two-way Olympian has advanced hitting tools.
25. Cole Hamels, lhp, Phillies When healthy as he is now, heís the minorsí best lefty.

Graduated to the Majors
The Braves arenít the only ones using their minor league system while also making a pennant run--Scott Olsen has seized a spot in the Marlins rotation. But Jeff Francouer, Andy Marte, Brian McCann and Kyle Davies are four of the 15 Braves rookies who are keeping the Braves in contention. Joe Mauer (Twins), Dallas McPherson (Angels), Jesse Crain (Twins) and Tadahito Iguchi (White Sox) are among the rookies who have jumped into important roles on pennant contenders. Former Texas closer Huston Street (Athletics) reached the majors faster than any 2004 draftee and has become Oaklandís closer.

1. Joe Mauer, c, Twins
2. Scott Kazmir, lhp, Devil Rays
8. Rickie Weeks, 2b, Brewers
9. Andy Marte, 3b, Braves
12. Dallas McPherson, 3b, Angels
14. Jeff Francoeur, of, Braves
23. Jeff Francis, lhp, Rockies
24. Nick Swisher, of, Athletics
26. Ryan Howard, 1b, Phillies
28. J.J. Hardy, ss, Brewers
33. Jeremy Reed, of, Mariners
34. Zach Duke, lhp, Pirates
38. Scott Olsen, lhp, Marlins
44. Brian McCann, c, Braves
49. Brandon McCarthy, rhp, White Sox
53. Kyle Davies, rhp, Braves
60. Chris Burke, 2b/of, Astros
63. Jesse Crain, rhp, Twins
64. Aaron Hill, 3b/ss, Blue Jays
85. Mark Teahen, 3b, Royals
87. Joey Gathright, of, Devil Rays
94. Hayden Penn, rhp, Orioles
96. Tadahito Iguchi, 2b, White Sox
97. Huston Street, rhp, Athletics

Second-Half Surge
Expect these prospects to improve their numbers over the seasonís remaining games. Matt Cain might have been in the majors already in a different organization, but the Giants still think they can win in 2005. Fellow hard throwers Homer Bailey (Reds) and Mark Rogers (Brewers), adjusting to their first year in pro ball, have shown flashes of brillianceóRogers has hit 100 mph this seasonóbut are still learning what they can and canít do against pros rather than preps. A pedestrian first half by Eric Duncan (Yankees), who was still adjusting to Double-A pitching, might have dampened his trade value.

13. Matt Cain, rhp, Giants
15. Prince Fielder, 1b, Brewers
21. Brian Dopirak, 1b, Cubs
36. Eric Duncan, 3b, Yankees
39. Erick Aybar, ss, Angels
45. Josh Barfield, 2b, Padres
46. Yusmeiro Petit, rhp, Mets
48. Homer Bailey, rhp, Reds
50. Philip Humber, rhp, Mets
55. Mark Rogers, rhp, Brewers
66. Ryan Harvey, of, Cubs
68. Javi Herrera, of, Athletics
78. Fred Lewis, of, Giants
81. Neil Walker, c, Pirates
82. Ubaldo Jimenez, rhp, Rockies
95. Josh Fields, 3b, White Sox

Sidetracked By Injury
Ian Stewart (Rockies) missed time in spring training with a hamstring pull and was rusty when the season started before heating up in June and July. Fellow Rockies prospect Nelson also pulled a hammy and wasnít showing the power he displayed in his pro debut. Cole Hamels (Phillies) has had two years interrupted by injuries but hasnít had major arm surgery. When heís been healthy, heís been excellent, and heís clearly on the fast track to Philadelphia. Repeated injuries are threatening the prospect status of such players as Michael Aubrey (Indians, back), Angel Guzman (Cubs, shoulder) and Greg Miller (Dodgers, shoulder).

4. Ian Stewart, 3b, Rockies
10. Hanley Ramirez, ss, Red Sox
16. Adam Miller, rhp, Indians
17. Jason Kubel, of, Twins
20. Jeff Niemann, rhp, Devil Rays
26. Chris Nelson, ss, Rockies
29. Mike Hinckley, lhp, Nationals
31. Felix Pie, of, Cubs
41. Michael Aubrey, 1b, Indians
61. Sergio Santos, ss, Diamondbacks
71. Cole Hamels, lhp, Phillies
73. Clint Nageotte, rhp, Mariners
86. Kyle Sleeth, rhp, Tigers
88. Angel Guzman, rhp, Cubs
100. Greg Miller, lhp, Dodgers

Helium To Spare
The preseason Top 100 Prospects who have improved their status the most this season seem to be concentrated in West Coast organizations. Three members of the Dodgers' Double-A Jacksonville affiliate have vaulted up the charts, and Chad Billingsley may be the best pitching prospect this side of Felix Hernandez. Russell Martin has become the minorsí best catching prospect. While Jeremy Hermida hasnít joined former prep rival Jeff Francouer in the majors yet, his bat indicates heís not far away. Several players who emerged in 2004óIan Kinsler (Rangers), Brandon Moss (Red Sox) and Jon Papelbon (Red Sox)óhave proved their big years werenít a fluke, while Angels catcher Jeff Mathis has shown his brutal í04 season was.

18. Jeremy Hermida, of, Marlins
19. Chad Billingsley, rhp, Dodgers
32. Daric Barton, 1b, Athletics
40. Conor Jackson, 1b, Diamondbacks
52. Thomas Diamond, rhp, Rangers
59. John Danks, lhp, Rangers
65. Nick Markakis, of, Orioles
67. Jeff Mathis, c, Angels
72. Brandon Moss, of, Red Sox
74. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Dodgers
75. Billy Butler, 3b/of, Royals
76. Kendry Morales, of, Angels
83. Brandon Wood, ss, Angels
89. Russell Martin, c, Dodgers
90. Jeremy Sowers, lhp, Indians
91. Jon Papelbon, rhp, Red Sox
98. Ian Kinsler, 2b, Rangers
99. Anthony Lerew, rhp, Braves

Losing Air
Few prospects are more perplexing than Casey Kotchman (Angels), who was still recovering from an awful start, and Edwin Jackson (Dodgers), whose power stuff canít seem to get Triple-A hitters out. White Sox outfielder Ryan Sweeney (zero home runs in 257 at-bats) hasnít figured out how to hit for power, while Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson (104 strikeouts in 348 AB) probably should give back some of his 44 extra-base hits in order to make more consistent contact. Players such as Dan Meyer (Athletics) and Guillermo Quiroz (Blue Jays) have had injuries but also havenít performed well when healthy.

6. Casey Kotchman, 1b, Angels
25. Jose Capellan, rhp, Brewers
30. Edwin Jackson, rhp, Dodgers
35. Gavin Floyd, rhp, Phillies
42. Ryan Sweeney, of, White Sox
43. Dan Meyer, lhp, Athletics
51. Shin-Soo Choo, of, Mariners
54. Franklin Gutierrez, of, Indians
57. Curtis Granderson, of, Tigers
62. James Loney, 1b, Dodgers
69. Brandon League, rhp, Blue Jays
70. J.D. Durbin, rhp, Twins
79. Guillermo Quiroz, c, Blue Jays
92. Jake Stevens, lhp, Braves
93. Richie Gardner, rhp, Reds

As Expected
Living up to expectations isnít easy, and it also isnít the same for every player. If Felix Hernandez (Mariners) and Delmon Young (Devil Rays) had not dominated, it would have been a disappointment, but both teenagers have lived up to their hype. Others, such as Joel Guzman (Dodgers) and Brian Anderson (White Sox), have merely consolidated gains they have made previously in their careers. Ezequiel Astacio has pitched well in the minors and is being groomed to help the Astros in middle relief, but he flopped in a big league trial. Anthony Reyes (Cardinals) has pitched well when healthy but canít keep from missing a start.

2. Felix Hernandez, rhp, Mariners
3. Delmon Young, of, Devil Rays
5. Joel Guzman, ss, Dodgers
11. Lastings Milledge, of, Mets
22. Carlos Quentin, of, Diamondbacks
37. Brian Anderson, of, White Sox
47. Anthony Reyes, rhp, Cardinals
56. Edwin Encarnacion, 3b, Reds
58. Merkin Valdez, rhp, Giants
77. Joaquin Arias, ss, Rangers
80. Ezequiel Astacio, rhp, Astros
84. Brad Snyder, of, Indians

Jumping In
Stephen Drew (Diamondbacks) and Jered Weaver (Angels) held out until the last minute but finally signed with the clubs that drafted them in 2004. Drewís debut has been spectacular in the California League (including an .865 slugging percentage in 74 at-bats), while Weaver (2-1, 5.85 but 28-4 K-BB ratio) has been uneven after his layoff. Several other 2004 draft picks also have catapulted themselves into top prospects with strong 2005 seasons, including young pitchers such as Gio Gonzalez (White Sox) and Troy Patton (Astros. No one has come as far as fast as Justin Verlander (Tigers), though. The No. 2 pick last year had some doubters but has responded to mechanical tinkering to have the best year by any pitcher in the minors, and he earned a one-game cameo in Detroit. These players are listed alphabetically.

Yuniesky Betancourt, ss, Mariners
Jonathan Broxton, rhp, Dodger
Stephen Drew, ss, Diamondbacks
Gio Gonzalez, lhp, White Sox
Gaby Hernandez, rhp, Mets
Philip Hughes, rhp, Yankees
Chuck James, lhp, Braves
Howie Kendrick, 2b, Angels
George Kottaras, c, Padres
Chris Lambert, rhp, Cardinals
Jon Lester, lhp, Red Sox
Eddy Martinez-Esteve, lf, Giants
Miguel Montero, c, Diamondbacks
Juan Morillo, rhp, Rockies
Fernando Nieve, rhp, Astros
Justin Orenduff, rhp, Dodgers
Troy Patton, lhp, Astros
Hunter Pence, of, Astros
Anibal Sanchez, rhp, Red Sox
Chuck Tiffany, lhp, Dodgers
Edison Volquez, rhp, Rangers
Justin Verlander, rhp, Tigers
Jered Weaver, rhp, Angels
Chris Young, of, White Sox
Joel Zumaya, rhp, Tigers

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