Prospect Power Rankings: 6/13

As mid-season nears in 2005, the top prospects in the M's system are rising to the head of the pack.

1. Felix Hernandez, RHP - Tacoma
12 GS, 7-4, 2.53 ERA, 67.2 IP, 51 H, 71 K, 36 BB, .208 BAA
Hernandez has been inconistent with his command of late, but the King is still as unhittable as any pitcher in baseball. Hernandez has allowed just three home runs all season – two in one game. The 19-year-old leads the PCL with his sparkling 2.53 ERA after 5.1 shutout innings versus Las Vegas on June 9.

2. Chris Snelling, OF - Tacoma
42 G, .383/.462/.582, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 24 BB, 29 K
Through games as of Sunday June 12, Snelling led all of professional baseball with a .383 average and has been able to stave off injury with a safer approach to the game. Or so he says. He's still the kid who can't wait to get the park to play. One thing is for sure; Snelling can hit and is probably the most major-league ready hitter in the minor leagues.

3. Adam Jones, SS – Inland Empire
61 G, .295/.378/.515, 8 HR, 40 RBI, 26 BB, 55 K
The shortstop has cooled down a bit after three white-hot weeks to raise his average over .300. Jones is sitting in the mid-.290s through June 12 but his peripherals are much more impressive of late. The 19-year-old leads the 66ers in extra-base hits with 32, triples with five, and over his past 21 games has leveled out his strikeouts-to-walks ratio with 25 whiffs to 17 bases on balls. Jones' power is developing, as is his ability to make consistent contact – both good signs for the former first round draft pick. Though he may need to switch positions (19 E's in 61 G's), Jones is developing nicely in the California League.

4. Shin-soo Choo, OF - Tacoma
45 G, .273/.407/.389, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB, 36 BB, 44 K
Choo's bat has been cold since the first week after being sent back to Triple-A Tacoma from his big-league stint in May. Still showing that he's more than just a box of tools, Choo has shown bigger power than expected but hasn't been consistent at the plate, often falling into short slumps and digging himself out of offensive holes. It's very possible that his time in the big leagues, where he received just three plate appearances in two weeks, interupted his development.

5. Wladimir Balentien, OF – Inland Empire
54 G, .284/.335/.573, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 13 BB, 64 K
Balentien is the most polished power prospect in the system and has made strides this season with his approach at the plate. The 20-year-old still has room to improve his strikeout ratios but the power is there. More consistency is needed but the first 60 games has been fruitful for the outfielder. Balentien was named to the California League All-Star team last week.

6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS - Wisconsin
45 G, .327/.410/.464, 3 HR, 22 RBI, 25 BB, 31 K
Cabrera is known as a defense-first type player but his bat has been opening eyes this season. The switch-hitting 19-year-old has shown some pop and was one of seven Timber Rattlers to make the Midwest League All-Star Team. Displaying his versatility, Cabrera has started multile games at second base, shortstop and third base for Wisconsin.

7. Bobby Livingston, LHP – San Antonio
13 GS, 5-3, 2.84 ERA, 82.1 IP, 67 H, 54 K, 16 BB, .223 BAA
Livingston continues to defy the laws of baseball with his average fastball and array of offspeed pitches. Texas League hitters are baffled by his mixture of change-ups and two different fastballs to help the 22-year-old rank sixth in the league in ERA and third in innings pitched. Livingston was a unanimous selection to the 2005 Texas League All-Star team.

8. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS - Wisconsin
48 G, .307/.379/.439, 4 HR, 23 RBI, 20 BB, 47 K
Still above the .300 mark, Tui has managed to stay consistent to some extent after his torrid start to the year. A move off the shortstop position is long overdue (13 E's in 28 G's at SS) and a change may be condusive to a more focused Tuiasosopo at the plate. The 19-year-old has been selected as a 2005 Midwest League All-Star.

9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS - Tacoma
61 G, .269/.297/.395, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 9 BB, 18 K, 14 SB
Betancourt was probably rushed to Triple-A Tacoma when Michael Morse was called up last week but one thing YuBet can do is play shortstop. Defensively, the 23-year-old is as good as there is in the minors and his bat has potential. Making solid contact is a good sign that he could carry his own weight at the plate.

10. Rob Johnson, C - Wisconsin
45 G, .296/.345/.508, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 14 BB, 17 K
Just when you thought it was safe to pick on the M's for not having any catchers… Johnson joins the solid group that includes 2005 draftee Jeff Clement. Johnson may stay in the Midwest League all season, which would be a shame, if Clement signs early and heads to the California League. Johnson was named to the Midwest League All-Star team last week.


11. Cha Seung Baek, RHP - Tacoma
10 G, 9 GS, 4-2, 3.26 ERA, 49.2 IP, 46 H, 38 K, 10 BB, .241 BAA
Baek and No. 12 are M's starters No. 6 and 7. The right-hander has been solid since returning from an elbow injury in April.

12. Jorge Campillo, RHP - Tacoma
11 GS, 3-1, 2.98 ERA, 60.1 IP, 61 H, 38 K, 16 BB, .271 BAA
Campillo is hittable. But for some reason, teams don't score many runs off the 26-year-old.

13. Jamal Strong, OF - Tacoma
45 G, .306/.384, 2 HR, 21 RBI, 14 SB, 20 BB, 29 K
Strong has been ready for a promotion since he returned from suspension last month. Good wheels, smart base runner, smart leadoff-type bat. His .384 on-base percentage is misleading – he has posted a .419 clip since his return, and his 14 steals ranks fifth in the PCL, despite playing in just 45 games.

14. Yung-Chi Chen, 2B - Wisconsin
58 G, .275/.311, 3 HR, 36 RBI, 9 SB, 13 BB, 42 K
Chen has had trouble with the strikeout but his defensive tools are still very intriguing and he plays second and third base well enough to warrant a starting gig at either spot. Offensively, Chen needs to ut down the empty at-bats and improve upon the 42-13 K/BB ratio. Watch for Chen to start hitting the gaps more often in the second half of the year. Chen is a member of the Midwest league All-Star team as one of seven representing the T-Rats.

15. Rene Rivera, C – San Antonio
32 G, .292/.320/.400, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 4 BB, 20 K
Rivera was having a so-so season at Double-A San Antonio before injuries and a struggling Miguel Olivo forced the M's to call up the 21-year-old Puerto Rico native. Hitting over .400 since the promotion, Rivera is showing he does have the bat to catch in the big leagues. More seasoning is needed, but the kid can play.

16. Jason Snyder, RHP - Wisconsin
12 GS, 7-4, 3.64 ERA, 71.2 IP, 81 H, 43K, 16 BB, .271 BAA
Snyder has battled through a loss in velocity into the high 80s, but has proven he can pitch well without his best stuff. The 6-foot-6 right-hander should turn the corner in the second half and possibly earn some time with the Inland Empire.

17. Hunter Brown, 3B - Tacoma
50 G, .260/.343/.401, 3 HR, 20 RBI, 16 BB, 36 K
Two things are for sure. Hunter Brown can hit and all it takes is the opportunity to do prove it. Hitting .316 since Justin Leone went on the DL, Brown has shown he belongs in Triple-A and has a future with the organization.

18. Mumba Rivera, RHP – Inland Empire
12 GS, 7-1, 3.58 ERA, 66.2 IP, 54 H, 37 K, 36 BB, .259 BAA
Rivera was 7-0 with Wisconsin but has been shelled in two starts in the Cal League. The 24-year-old should be able to adjust and be more competitive as the year moves along. Rivera was selected as a 2005 member of the Midwest league All-Star team.

19. Ryan Christianson, C - Tacoma
34 G, .289/.356/.406, 4 HR, 18 RBI, 12 BB, 39 K
Christianson is a capable hitter but still has a ways to go defensively. The 24-year-old backstop has thrown out just three of 18 runners trying to steal. And while stolen bases aren't always a result of the catcher being inadequate, it's clear that Christianson needs more time to work on his release point. Offensively, the right-handed hitting Christianson has been consistent, hitting in the middle of the order for Tacoma.

20. Thomas Hubbard, 1B - Wisconsin
43 G, .297/.396/.505, 7 HR, 22 BB, 35 BB
Since his breakout game in mid-May, Hubbard has been producing regularly and contributing in the power department for Wisconsin.
NOTE: First round pick Jeff Clement will not be considered for the power rankings until signed to a professional contract.

Jose Lopez does not qualify for prospect status due to exceeding the MLB rookie limit of 130 PAs.


Jason A Churchill is the Executive Editor at InsidethePark.com and can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsideThePark.com

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