July's Top 30 Prospects

Four of last month's Top 30 received the call to Seattle, so the "Diamond Genius" settled in and picked the Top 30 prospects for July. There's one Mariner on the list - a Peoria Mariner - and a number of Aquasox. See the future of the Safeco Crew today with the July Power Rankings and see why the kids are all right.

1. Felix Hernandez, RHP, San Antonio Missions
Hernandez is so good that InsidethePark.com Publisher Joe Kaiser is writing in Felix's name on is Presidential ballot in November. Oh, and just so everyone knows, Mr. Kaiser votes absentee.

2. Jose Lopez, SS, Tacoma Rainiers
Lopez returned from a sprained knee this past week and hasn't skipped a beat. He still reminds me of Adrian Beltre at the dish and Carlos Guillen in the field. When Lopez becomes a solid everyday contributor at the MLB level, remind me to rub it in to that weblog that doesn't think much of him.

3. Jeremy Reed, CF, Tacoma Rainiers
Reed and Lopez are interchangeable in the rankings with Lopez getting the nod this week mainly due to the shortstop's early return to the field. Reed is still hitting well and playing center field better than some say he can.

4. Clint Nageotte, RHP, Tacoma Rainiers
I think Clint might have sat next to Gil Meche on the bus recently because he has the same disease that Meche has had all year. One start he allows several bases on balls, few hits, and a handful of runs. The next he stays away from the walks but gets pummeled to the tune of double-digit hit totals, due to catching too much of the plate with the fastball. Nageotte needs to trust his stuff more and harness better overall command on his two-seam fastball.

5. Shin-soo Choo, RF, San Antonio Missions
Choo's steady progress in 2004 is exactly what the organization wanted to see. It's going to be awfully tough to keep him out of Triple-A all year, especially if Tacoma squeaks into the postseason and San Antonio doesn't.

6. Adam Jones, SS, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Jones is coming along nicely in the Midwest League, putting up mild offensive numbers but showing the skills defensively that the Mariners saw when they drafted him. The soon-to-be 19-year-old is still on schedule to see Double-A baseball by 2006.

7. Jesus Guzman, 3B, Inland Empire 66ers
Guzman's first year in the system has been a very good one, especially at the plate. The 20-year-old's advanced plate skills make for a perfect second-hole hitter and his developing power could have him in the teens by this time next season.

8. Rene Rivera, C, Inland Empire 66ers
Rivera is still fairly raw at the plate but is skilled beyond his years when he squats behind it. When his offense catches up with his defense, the M's could have a dilemma on their hands. Olivo or Rivera?

9. Yung-Chi Chen, 2B, Everett Aqua Sox
Chen's hot start could land him a promotion before the year is completed. Good speed combined with great plate skills usually equals top hitting prospect. Chen must prove the same in the higher levels to move up the charts. But I wouldn't bet against him.

10. Shawn Nottingham, LHP, Everett Aqua Sox
It's tough not to get excited about Nottingham after his 3-0, 0.36 ERA start to the season but it's also tough to get too excited about so few innings. Ah heck forget it, I'm excited.

11. Wladimir Balentien, OF, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Balentien leads the Rattlers in bombs-oops, I used a war term to refer to a sports statistic…darn. The young right-handed hitter has the best raw power in the system and simply needs more at-bats to clean up his strikeouts ratios and become more patient at the plate.

12. Bobby Livingston, LHP, Inland Empire 66ers
Livingston's biggest test will be Double-A hitters. If he passes that test in 2005, then all the scouting services who refuse to acknowledge him as even a decent prospect will have to eat seagull. I'm so tired of hearing that Livingston doesn't throw hard enough or have the arsenal to make it. Yeah, and Jamie Moyer can break glass with his best fastball and has eight out pitches to choose from. Whatever.

13. Chris Colton, OF, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Colton's hot streak in late May showed what he can do when he is on his game. His putrid showing since then shows what any player can do when he isn't focused. Next season is a make or break year for Colton as far as his top prospect capabilities are concerned. A big year in the California League gets him to Double-A by age 23. A drought-filled season drops him off the radar.

14. Casey Craig, OF, Everett Aqua Sox
Craig's plate discipline is good enough for the bigs already. Inexperience is the only thing keeping him in the lower levels right now. Watch for Craig to develop into a Chris Snelling type player-minus the injuries of course.

15. Aaron Jensen, RHP, Everett Aqua Sox
Although he hasn't put it all together in the early going, Jensen is capable of being the staff ace. His low to mid-90's heat and overhand curve are both plus pitches. Command and experience are the polish he needs.

16. Jon Nelson, OF, Inland Empire 66ers
Nelson has been solid all season and has been hitting around .300 for several weeks. So what's the problem? The problem is that he still strikes out too much, hasn't learned to take a walk, and his power has yet to reach it's potential. This wouldn't be a problem for a third year pro, except for the fact that Nelson is 24-years-old and playing in the California League.

17. Ryan Feierabend, LHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Feierabend's ceiling is probably as a 3rd or 4th starter but comparison's to Mark Redman and Mike Maroth are both good signs that he could have what it takes to be a major leaguer.

18. Josh Womack, OF, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
If the Tooth Fairy could take about 40 strikeouts from underneath Womack's stat line, he would probably rank in the top 10. Everything else he has done is a plus. His progress in the field, on the bases, and signs that his power is close to breaking out are all big positives. Oh Tooth Fairy, could you please make a visit to Josh in Appleton?

19. Michael Morse, SS, San Antonio Missions
Probably deserves to be much higher on this list but since he has only been in the organization a few weeks we'll make him earn his way for a little while longer. Morse's power and defensive progress are the two biggest keys to his development. Neither have been very impressive yet.

20. T.J. Bohn, RF, San Antonio Missions
Bohn's recent promotion saved the 24-year-old from falling off the Top 30 for the same reason that Nelson could fall next month. A 24-year-old has no business in Single-A. Bohn has been solid since his jump to the Texas League and his bat has Triple-A potential. See ya in Tacoma next spring T.J.

21. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS, Peoria Mariners
Lack of power, Shmack of Shmower. Tui's two homers are already more than he had all year in high school. The latest star in the Tuiasosopo family is off to a fast start. Could see a few at-bats in Everett next month.

22. Bryan Lahair, 1B, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
Lahair has been one of the biggest surprises and now the joke is on everyone but yours truly. Bryan Lahair can hit. Period. Now leave him alone and eat your porridge!

23. Ryan Christianson, C, Tacoma Rainiers
Joe Ruiz's favorite player was promoted solely to fill an offensive role and due to the lack of options, Christianson does seem to have the prowess to hit in the PCL. Only time will tell. Now the question is…can he catch?

24. Juan Gonzalez, SS, Inland Empire
Gonzo has slipped somewhat over the past six weeks but is still having a fine year. Look for the 22-year-old to move permanently to 2B for 2005.

25. Ivan Blanco, RHP, Everett Aqua Sox
See Aaron Jensen. Blanco just hasn't put it together as of yet. But when he does, you'll love him. High strikeouts, low walks, and a mound act to go with it.

26. Greg Dobbs, 3B, Tacoma Rainiers
If Dobbs had Leone's power, he'd be the M's starting 3B for the next ten years. Since he doesn't he will have to settle for a chance to win the job next spring, barring an Adrian Beltre signing.

27. Jamal Strong, CF, Tacoma Rainiers
The forgotten prospect. Strong's injuries have homicidally affected his chances of earning a starting role with the Mariners. A Healthy Strong is solid trade bait. Otherwise he is just in the way of Shin-soo Choo, T.J. Bohn, and Chris Snelling.

28. A. J. Zapp, 1B, Tacoma Rainiers
Zapp too, needs a visit from the Strikeout Fairy. On schedule to break the Tacoma record for K's in a season, the 26-year-old is dangerously close to a 200-strikeout pace. If Zapp could ever cut the K's down by 25%, he'd be a legit prospect.

29. Rob Johnson, C, Everett Aqua Sox
Yet to display his defensive talents, Johnson has already shown his offensive skills and warrants a promotion in that department. More time behind the plate is necessary for his defensive development.

30. Hunter Brown, 3B, San Antonio Missions
Brown could be Tacoma's starting 1B or 3B in 2005 and has proven he can hit at the Double-A level. His plate patience and solid defense could land him a major league job in a year or two..

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