1. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS – Inland Empire
Cabrera is the new No. 1 this week, since right-hander Felix Hernandez is on the disabled list and has missed more than two starts. Though Cabrera will drop a spot or two as soon as King Felix returns, his defensive prowess is being matched by advanced plate skills this season – a trend he has continued in the California League. Perhaps the most impressive statistic about Cabrera, despite his age of 19, is his combined slugging percentage of .491.
The M's have five solid shortstops in the system, four of which the club believes can stick at the position. Cabrera, who will not turn 20 until November, is at the top of the list, though he's at least two more season away from tasting the big leagues.
2. Adam Jones, SS – San Antonio
Jones has handled his promotion to Double-A pretty well, hitting .250 through his first 12 games, but getting hits in nine of 12 games played. The organization still believes in Jones as a shortstop and felt his season with Inland Empire was plenty good enough to warrant a half season in San Antonio.
Defensively, Jones has a ways to go but the player development department cites consistency as the only major issue with the former first round pick.
3. Bobby Livingston, LHP – San Antonio
Livingston is a walking, talking quality-start machine – and a left-handed one at that. InsidethePark.com has learned that it may just be a matter of time before the southpaw is sent packing to the Pacific Coast League. The 22-year-old has been one of the best pitchers in any of the three Double-A leagues all season long, and continues to find ways to get outs. The Missions' ace is 8-4 on the season with a 2.78 ERA in 110 innings. Livingston has struck out 73, walked just 26 batters and the Texas League is hitting just .237 off of him.
4. Shin-soo Choo, OF - Tacoma
Choo has begun to pick up the pace a bit, hitting his sixth and seventh home runs in his past nine games. The left-handed hitter has also impressed in the field, leading the league in laser-beam assists from left field. Choo is still hitting just .263 but sports a solid .387 on-base percentage. The M's are looking for more pop from Choo's bat and the 22-year-old could repeat Triple-A – if he isn't traded by the time 2006 rolsl around. Former teammate Chris Snelling has pulled away from Choo as the Mariners look into the future for a left fielder.
5. Yung-Chi Chen, 2B - Wisconsin
Chen is one of the more interesting prospects in the system, because his defensive abilities deem the 21-year-old capable of second, shortstop and third, and his bat could play at either middle infield spot. The M's like him best at second base, where his range and bat are a plus, rather than simply adequate. The area in which Chen needs to improve upon most is his plate discipline. The speedy Taiwan native has whiffed 55 times and drawn just 20 walks, to go with his solid .287 average and 14 steals.
6. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS - Tacoma
Oh, no! Betancourt made his second error in Triple-A! Ah, relax, he has just the two in 30 games with Tacoma. The 23-year-old's bat has proven to be a little bit better than expected, sitting between .270 and .290 during his month with the Rainiers. If he learned to draw a walk now and then (just three in 127 PA's), he might just hit enough to make a few all-star games in the majors.
7. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS - Wisconsin
Tui is showing some of the warrior-like attributes as his brother Marques did for the University of Washington in 2000. The younger Tuiasosopo is fighting to stay at shortstop, a position he has virtually no shot to stick at, and has kept his offensive numbers in the "respectable" department. Hitting .286/.371, the Woodinville, Washington native continues a solid season in a league known to be tough on hitters. His 18 errors in 43 starts at shortstop are proof that he belongs in the outfield, but for now, the M's top pick in 2004 will remain in the six-hole.
8. Robert Johnson, C - Wisconsin
Johnson, like Tuiasosopo and fellow catching prospect Ryan Christianson, is grinding out a solid season at the plate. The 21-year-old is third on the club in homers (8) and RBI (43), while ranking second in doubles (17) and slugging percentage (.459). Votes the Rattlers team MVP and Best Defensive Player of the first 72 games of the season, Johnson heads into the second half with Inland Empire in his sights. A late-season promotion is a possibility.
9. Marshall Hubbard, 1B - Wisconsin
Hubbard is sixth in the league with a .322 batting average, second with 12 home runs, and third with a .553 slugging percentage. I think it's safe to say he's shown he's ready to be challenged by the California League.
10. Jamal Strong, CF - Tacoma
Strong is having his best season since he hit .326 with 82 steals in 2001. The 26-year-old has his on-base percentage up to .385 and has 18 steals in 23 attempts, the sixth highest total in the PCL, despite missing time in April, due to a suspension.
11. Clint Nageotte, RHP - Tacoma
Nageotte returned last week and walked four batters in 4.1 innings of work. That's the only bad news here. The right-hander is healthy and in three appearances with Tacoma, has allowed just one hit, struck out five and earned his first save since his first season in pro ball in 2000.
12. Wladimir Balentien, OF – Inland Empire
Balentien's inconsistencies keep the outfielder in the Cal League, and could present a bump in his developmental path. Strikeouts, long slumps and newfound holes in his swing keep him down – his power potential cannot be ignored, however.
13. Jeff Flaig, 1B - Everett
Flaig is finally on the field and is doing exactly what the club expected to see when they made him the 56th player taken in the 2003 draft. Flaig, a former shortstop coming off two seasons of shoulder problems, is hitting .333/.449/.564 with two home runs in 11 games this season. The 20-year-old will man first base for the time being, to keep his shoulder off the injured list.
14. Luis Valbuena, 2B - Everett
Valbuena's offense is pretty exciting, especially for a second baseman with a solid glove. With double-figure home run power and a good eye at the dish, Valbuena is one to watch in future seasons.
15. Casey Craig, OF - Everett
If Craig was given the opportunity to play everyday, he'd likely rank several spots higher on this list. The left-handed hitter has power to all fields and a solid approach at the plate that should allow for high batting averages. Unless he gets bored, Craig should put up ridiculous numbers in the Northwest League.
16. Sebastien Boucher, OF – Wisconsin
Boucher is second only to Jamal Strong as the system's best leadoff prospect. The 23-year-old will need to prove his game works at higher levels of the minors before he'll be taken seriously – but a promotion could be coming soon.
17. Jairo Hernandez, OF - Peoria
Hernandez is a 20-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic, signed in 2004 and named MVP of the club's Dominican team in Santo Domingo last season. Hernandez has plus power from the right side of the plate and his 6-foot-3, 190-pound frame could produce a big time power swing as he matures physically. Hernandez is 5-for-13 (.385) for the M's rookie club in Peoria, with one home run. He also has a 4-4 strikeouts-to-walks ratio in his four games played.
18. Oswaldo Graterol,
Graterol, 20, was signed in 2001 and has had a huge impact early in the rookie season. The right-handed hitting outfielder is hitting .529 (9-for-17) with three extra-base hits and three RBI.
19. Harold Williams, LHP - Peoria
Williams was a 2004 draftee, taken in the 38th round out of Mt. Jacinto JC in California. Williams is making a case for a quick promotion to Everett with 14 strong innings over three starts. The southpaw has allowed just 11 hits (.208 BAA) and has 16 punch-outs to just three bases on balls.
20. Hunter Brown, 3B - Tacoma
Brown is the quintessential underdog in Triple-A Tacoma, but is still outperforming both Justin Leone and Greg Dobbs. The Rice product has his numbers back to respectability after starting off slowly, hitting in the low .200s when Leone went on the DL on May 3. Brown is now hitting .283/.366/.450, even while getting inconsistent playing time – and he still leads the club in doubles with 20, the seventh best total in the PCL.
The Fallen - RHP Felix Hernandez (DL), OF Chris Snelling (recalled by Seattle, 7/3), RHP Jason Snyder, RHP Chia-an Huang, RHP Cha Seung Baek
New Additions - OF Jairo Hernandez (17), Oswaldo Graterol (18), LHP Harold Williams (19).
He's Back - 3B Hunter Brown
Biggest Jump - RHP Clint Nageotte (19 to 11).
NOTE: First round pick Jeff Clement will not be considered for the power rankings until signed to a professional contract.
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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