Jeff Clement: Many believe Clement will be in the majors by the end of the 2007 season, but if that's going to be true the backstop must continue to show improvement behind the plate in '06. Scouts say he could already hit at a Triple-A level. So the question is, how do you push him defensively without stunting his progress offensively? Some expect Clement to skip Inland Empire and start '06 in Double-A San Antonio, but I believe he'll start next season with the 66ers and spend the second half of the year in the Texas League. That'll keep him on track for a September promotion to Seattle in '07, barring any setbacks.
Adam Jones: Jones is only 20 years old, but the kid can play. After showing he was more than capable as one of the youngest hitters in the Texas League last season, it'll be tempting to move the former first-round pick up to Triple-A at the start of '06. That decision may ultimately rely on how well he plays in center field this fall, trying to make the adjustment to a new position after playing shortstop his whole life and entire professional career. Expect Jones to begin next season back at Double-A to continue to improve his skills as an outfielder. Early success will make for a quick promotion to Tacoma.
Asdrubal Cabrera: With Jones slated to change positions in 2006, expect Cabrera to take over as San Antonio's every-day shortstop next season. Extremely polished defensively with excellent footwork, soft hands and a strong arm, Cabrera showed he was up to the task offensively as well in '05, finishing the season in Triple-A when the club was shorthanded. He'll be only 20 next season, and along with Jones and Clement is on track to crack the big leagues some time late in '07, probably at second base.
Bobby Livingston: Livingston continued to make believers out of many observers over the course of the 2005 season, much like he had in previous years at the lower levels of the minors. Without a 90+ mph fastball in his arsenal, the likable Texan doesn't likely have a future as a front-of-the-rotation starter in the big leagues, but there's little denying his value as a No. 4 or 5 starter. Livingston is workhorse who started the Texas League all-star game this past season before spending the final two-and-a-half months in Triple-A. Expect him to return to Tacoma in '06, improving his craft even further, before earning a late-season callup to the bigs.
Shin-soo Choo: It was a rocky season for Choo, who spent most all of '05 at Triple-A before getting a September callup to Seattle. Choo was coming off a career year at San Antonio in '04, but his offense regressed a bit with the Rainiers, at least until the final month of the season. Even after a season-long struggle at the plate, the Korean outfielder still managed to raise his offensive numbers to a more than respectable level - .282, 11 home runs, 54 RBI, 20 stolen bases. It's easy to forget that he's still only 23, and won't turn 24 until the middle of next season. Choo will almost surely spend another season at Tacoma, barring a trade this offseason, before getting another chance in Seattle.
Matt Tuiasosopo: Tui would be a redshirt freshman playing quarterback at the University of Washington had the Mariners not drafted him so high and offered him the lucrative contract they did. Instead, he already has two pro seasons of baseball under his belt, and his stock figures to take a huge jump in '06 when he heads to the hitter-friendly California League to play for Inland Empire. Tuiasosopo will only be 20 next season after a solid '05 campaign with Wisconsin, where he showed an ability to get on base with regularity. Whether a position change lies ahead – to the outfield is the most likely scenario – all eye's will be on Tui's bat next season, when his numbers could very well take a huge leap forward.
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