2005 MLB Futures game rosters.

Discussion in 'MLB & College Baseball Discussion' started by Dannomyte, Jun 22, 2005.

  1. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    United States Roster


    TRAVIS BOWYER RHP, Rochester (Twins) Age: 23.
    Drafted: 20th round, 1999, Liberty HS; Bedford Va.

    THOMAS DIAMOND RHP, Frisco (Rangers) Age: 22.
    Drafted: First round (10th overall), 2004, New Orleans

    ZACH DUKE LHP, Indianapolis (Pirates) Age: 22.
    Drafted: 20th round, 2001, Midway HS; Clifton, Texas

    ZACH JACKSON LHP, New Hampshire (Blue Jays) Age: 22.
    Drafted: First round (32nd overall), 2004, Texas A&M

    BOBBY JENKS RHP, Birmingham (White Sox) Age: 24.
    Drafted: Fifth round (Angels), 2000, Inglemoor HS; Bothell, Wash.

    CHRIS LAMBERT RHP, Springfield (Cardinals) Age: 22.
    Drafted: First round (19th overall), 2004, Boston College

    TROY PATTON LHP, Lexington (Astros) Age: 19.
    Drafted: Ninth round, 2004, Tomball HS; Magnolia, Texas

    IAN SNELL RHP, Indianapolis (Pirates) Age: 23.
    Drafted: 26th round, 2000, Caesar Rodney HS; Camden, Del.

    JUSTIN VERLANDER RHP, Erie (Tigers) Age: 22.
    Drafted: First round (second overall), 2004, Old Dominion

    JOEL ZUMAYA RHP, Erie (Tigers) Age: 20.
    Drafted: 11th round, 2002, Bonita Vista HS; Chula Vista, Calif.


    JOSH WILLINGHAM C, Albuquerque (Marlins) Age: 26.
    Drafted: 17th round, 2000, North Alabama.

    RYAN GARKO C, Buffalo (Indians) Age: 24.
    Drafted: Third round, 2003, Stanford.


    CONOR JACKSON 1B, Tucson (Diamondbacks) Age: 23.
    Drafted: First round (19th overall), 2003, California.

    DARIC BARTON 1B, Stockton (Athletics) Age: 19.
    Drafted: First round (28th overall), 2003 (Cardinals), Marina HS; Huntington Beach, Calif.

    MARCUS SANDERS 2B, Augusta (Giants) Age: 19.
    Drafted: 17th round, 2003, South Florida Community College.

    JOSH BARFIELD 2B, Portland (Padres) Age: 22.
    Drafted: Fourth round, 2001, Klein HS; Spring, Texas.

    ANDY LAROCHE 3B, Jacksonville (Dodgers) Age: 21.
    Drafted: 39th round, 2003, Grayson County (Texas) CC.

    SCOTT MOORE 3B, Daytona (Cubs) Age: 21.
    Drafted: First round (eighth overall; Tigers), 2002, Cypress HS; Long Beach, Calif.

    BRANDON WOOD SS, Rancho Cucamonga (Angels) Age: 20.
    Drafted: First round (23rd overall), 2003, Horizon HS; Scottsdale, Ariz.

    B.J. UPTON SS, Durham (Devil Rays) Age: 20.
    Drafted: First round (second overall), 2002, Greenbrier Christian Academy; Chesapeake, Va.

    JEFF FRANCOEUR OF, Mississippi (Braves) Age: 21.
    Drafted: First round (23rd overall), 2002, Parkview HS; Lilburn, Ga.

    JEREMY HERMIDA OF, Carolina (Marlins) Age: 21.
    Drafted: First round (11th overall), 2002, Wheeler HS; Marietta, Ga.

    LASTINGS MILLEDGE OF, St. Lucie (Mets) Age: 20.
    Drafted: First round (12th overall), 2003, Lakewood Ranch HS; Palmetto, Fla.

    CHRIS YOUNG OF, Birmingham (White Sox) Age: 21.
    Drafted: 16th round, 2001, Bellaire (Texas) HS

    DELMON YOUNG OF, Montgomery (Devil Rays) Age: 19.
    Drafted: First round (first overall), 2003, Camarillo (Calif.) HS

    World Team Roster


    FERNANDO CABRERA RHP, Buffalo (Indians) Age: 23.
    Drafted: 10th round, Disciples of Christ Academy, Bayamon, P.R.

    FRANCISCO LIRIANO LHP, Rochester (Twins) Age: 21.
    Signed: Dominican Republic (Giants), 2000.

    ADAM LOEWEN LHP, Frederick (Orioles) Age: 21.
    Drafted: First round (fourth overall), 2002, Chipola (Fla.) Junior College.

    SCOTT MATHIESON RHP, Clearwater (Phillies) Age: 21.
    Drafted: 17th round, Aldergrove (B.C.) SS, 2002.

    JUAN MORILLO RHP, Modesto (Rockies) Age: 21.
    Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001.

    FERNANDO NIEVE RHP, Round Rock (Astros) Age: 22.
    Signed: Venezuela, 1999.

    YUSMEIRO PETIT RHP, Binghamton (Mets) Age: 20.
    Signed: Venezuela, 2001.

    ANIBAL SANCHEZ RHP, Wilmington (Red Sox) Age: 21.
    Signed: Venezuela, 2001.

    MERKIN VALDEZ RHP, Norwich (Giants) Age: 23.
    Signed: Dominican Republic (Braves), 1999.

    EDISON VOLQUEZ RHP, Frisco (Rangers) Age: 21.
    Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001.


    RUSS MARTIN C, Jacksonville (Dodgers) Age: 22.
    Drafted: 17th round, 2002, Chipola (Fla.) Junior College

    MIGUEL MONTERO C, Lancaster (Diamondbacks) Age: 21.
    Signed: Venezuela, 2001.


    JUSTIN HUBER 1B, Wichita (Royals) Age: 22.
    Signed: Australia, 2000 (Mets).

    KENDRY MORALES 1B, Arkansas (Angels) Age: 22.
    Signed: Cuba, 2004.

    WILLIAM BERGOLLA 2B, Louisville (Reds) Age: 22.
    Signed: Venezuela, 1999.

    HERNAN IRIBARREN 2B, West Virginia (Brewers) Age: 20.
    Signed: Venezuela, 2002.

    EDWIN ENCARNACION 3B, Louisville (Reds) Age: 22.
    Drafted: Ninth round (Rangers), 2000, Manuela Toro High, Caguas, P.R.

    JOHN HATTIG 3B, Syracuse (Blue Jays) Age: 25.
    Drafted: 25th round (Red Sox), 1998, Southern High, Santa Rita, Guam

    HANLEY RAMIREZ SS, Portland (Red Sox) Age: 21.
    Signed: Dominican Republic, 2000.

    YUNIESKY BENTANCOURT SS, Tacoma (Mariners) Age: 23.
    Signed: Cuba, 2005.


    MELKY CABRERA OF, Trenton (Yankees) Age: 20.
    Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001.

    SHIN-SOO CHOO OF, Tacoma (Mariners) Age: 22.
    Signed: Korea, 2000.

    NELSON CRUZ OF, Huntsville (Brewers) Age: 23.
    Signed: Dominican Republic (Mets), 1998.

    FRANK DIAZ OF, Potomac (Nationals) Age: 21.
    Signed: Venezuela, 2000.

    FELIX PIE OF, West Tenn (Cubs) Age: 20.
    Signed: Dominican Republic, 2001.

  2. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    The rosters are filled with several first-round picks, many Top 50 prospects, hitters with power and speed to spare, and a couple of pitchers who can hit triple digits on the radar gun.
    In other words, it looks like another outstanding Futures Game is in the works.

    Rosters for the seventh annual XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game were announced on Wednesday in an MLB.com exclusive webcast from Frisco, Texas, site of the 2005 Texas League All-Star Game.

    The game, which features the top Minor League prospects in a United States-vs.-World formattted exhibition, will take place at Comerica Park in Detroit on Sunday, July 10, two days prior to the 76th All-Star Game to be played there. The game can be watched on ESPN2 at 4 p.m. ET or listened to on MLB Radio.

    Twenty-five-man rosters for both the U.S. and World teams were selected by Major League Baseball Operations and the Major League Scouting Bureau, in conjunction with the 30 Major League clubs and Baseball America. Each Major League organization is represented, and the World team features players from six countries -- the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Canada, Venezuela, Australia and South Korea -- as well as Puerto Rico and Guam.

    A total of 11 players appeared on MLB.com's Top 50 prospect list published during Spring Training. The United States has seven -- first basemen Conor Jackson (Diamondbacks) and Daric Barton (A's), outfielders Jeff Francouer (Braves), Jeremy Hermida (Marlins), Lastings Milledge (Mets) and Delmon Young (Devil Rays), and pitcher Zach Duke (Pirates).

    The world team has four from the Top 50 list in shortstop Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox) and pitchers Francisco Liriano (Twins), Yusmeiro Petit (Mets) and Merkin Valdez (Giants).

    While it's no guarantee, this year's group should know the odds of moving from a Futures Game to the big leagues are pretty good. There are 105 Futures Game alumni currently in the Major Leagues. Eight of this year's participants already know this. William Bergolla (Reds), Fernando Cabrera (Indians), Shin-Soo Choo (Mariners), Justin Huber (Royals), Ian Snell (Pirates), B.J. Upton (Devil Rays), Valdez and Josh Willingham (Marlins) all have big-league experience. Bergolla and Huber are up right now, but are expected to be returned to the Minors in time for the Futures Game. Should those plans change, both would be replaced on the World team roster.

    Seventeen players who have competed in the previous six Futures Games have gone on to participate in a Major League All-Star Game:

    Player Team Position All-Star Game Futures Game
    Lance Berkman Houston OF 2001,2002 1999
    Hank Blalock Texas INF 2003 2001
    Mark Buehrle Chicago (AL) P 2002 2000
    Miguel Cabrera Florida OF 2004 2001,2002
    Francisco Cordero Texas P 2004 1999
    Carl Crawford Tampa Bay OF 2004 2002
    Adam Dunn Cincinnati OF 2002 2001
    Rafael Furcal Atlanta INF 2003 1999
    Marcus Giles Atlanta INF 2003 2000
    Victor Martinez Cleveland C 2004 2002
    Mark Mulder Oakland P 2003 1999
    F. Rodriguez Angels P 2004 2003
    C.C. Sabathia Cleveland P 2003 2000
    Ben Sheets Milwaukee P 2001 2000
    Alfonso Soriano Texas INF 2002,2003 1999
    Vernon Wells Toronto OF 2003 1999,2000
    Barry Zito O Oakland P 2002,2003 2000

    For the first time, there will be Minor Leaguers making their third appearances in a Futures Game. Huber, Valdez and Edwin Encarnacion (Reds) are all three-peaters, with Valdez making three consecutive visits.

    In a game usually dominated by pitching, it does appear that the U.S. team has the edge on paper. As of June 21, the U.S. pitching staff had a combined 67-18 record with a 2.64 ERA and 31 saves. In 741 innings, the U.S. pitchers had yielded 604 hits, walking 227 and striking out 776.

    The World staff's record over the same time period is 35-34 with a 3.23 ERA, allowing 596 hits and 230 walks in 685 1/3 IP. The World pitchers do have a better strikeout rate than the U.S. with 761 K's, just 15 fewer than the U.S. staff in 55 2/3 fewer innings.

  3. trainwreck

    trainwreck SRMer

    Futures game

    The American staff is deadly so they should win this game. Diamond, Duke, Verlander, and Bowyer is all they even need and they would win easily. I think Delmon Young will be the MVP as he has been absolutely on fire. If not I will say LaRoche even though he just got moved up to Double-A he still has a ton of pop in his bat or Barton because he has finally gotten out of his funk and has been on fire his only problem is he will take a lot of walks so he will not get a MVP award for walking everytime up. As for the international team I am going to go with my boy Russel Martin to be their best player or Huber. I think their starting pitching is nowhere near the level of the American team, but who knows.
  4. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    I agree, with the U.S. staff they should win it but you can never tell in games like this. I seriously hope that Verlander gets the start. I can just imagine the ovation he will get from his future home town crowd. With the way he's pitching this year every Detroiter is counting the days until he makes the big club!

    As far as MVP's go Young is the clear favorite for the U.S. team. I imagine he'll be a crowd favorite considering his brother is one of the most likeable Tigers. For teh World team I'm going to go with Pie for sure with Morales having an outside chance.

    I can't wait for this game and the All Star Game festivities. I'll be there front and center.
  5. trainwreck

    trainwreck SRMer

    Futures game

    That is sweet, I would love to go to that game. Verlander's first start at Double A was absolutely awesome. Been hearing he has control problems so either he has really worked well on controlling them or his stuff is so good that even without control Double A players can not handle it. I think it is more of situation number 2 for now but if he learns to control his stuff he can be dominant. Pie is having a monster year no doubt so he has a good chance to win, but I think he may falter against some really good pitching. It is cool to see you know minor leaguers. I know a little bit about the minors, but no one here seems to really follow many minor league players.
  6. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    That was the big knock on Verlander coming out of college that he had control problems. Since the Tigers worked with him in spring training he has been almost unhittable and his control has been amazing. The Tigers VP was at his AA start and was told by a scout that Verlander had the best stuff he has seen all year. Here are his numbers on the year.

    High A Lakeland 86 IP 104 K 19 BB 1.67 ERA 9 W 2 L

    AA Erie 7 IP 1 hit 1 BB 11 K 0.00 ERA

    THe other Tiger selected AA Erie pitcher Joel Zumaya is no slouch either. He had a slow start but has been unhittable lately as well. I think he is leading all of the minors in K's per 9 IP. He is wild at times but only 20 years old. Here are his numbers.

    AA Erie 88 IP 121 K 44 BB 3.16 ERA 5 W 3 L

    These 2 guys are giving Tigers fans hope for the future.

    I try to follow the minors as much as possible but it's not easy with so many teams and players. That's probably why not many people bother with minor league baseball unless there is a farm team close to your house.
  7. scoonie12g

    scoonie12g Moderator Staff Member

    I'm looking forward to watching Verlander in that game...I've followed every start he's made this year, but this will be the first time I'll get to watch him on tv...

    I enjoyed last years game as well, I believe Kyle Sleeth got the save in that one...
  8. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    Catching a glimpse of the Futures
    Four backstops look to step to the forefront in Motown
    By Jason Ratliff / MLB.com

    The 2005 XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game catchers provide some interesting juxtapositions.
    At 26, Josh Willingham is the oldest player on the roster, while Miguel Montero is just 21 years old. The former has already had his first taste of the big leagues, while the latter is just getting his first crack at Class A ball. Willingham and Russell Martin are former infielders who have only been converted to catcher within the last few years. Ryan Garko is doing his best to keep from being converted from his long-time receiving position.

    But while there may be a lot of differences between the Futures Game catchers, one thing they all have in common is that they're amongst the best young backstops in the world.

    Here's a closer look at the four players who will be calling the signals at Detroit's Comerica Park on July 10:

    Ryan Garko, US Team, Buffalo (Triple-A Indians)
    The former Stanford star started his professional career at the age of 22 after being selected by the Cleveland Indians in the third round of the 2003 draft, and his rise through the Indians system has been nothing if not meteoric.

    After a requisite stint in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2003, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound backstop barreled his way up the ladder in 2004, stopping at Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron just long enough to prove that he didn't belong there. He finished the season at Triple-A Buffalo, where he hit .350 (7-for-20) in five games.

    All told, Garko had hit a combined .330 with 33 doubles, 22 home runs and 99 RBIs, and was named the Indians Minor League Player of the Year. And he's followed that up by being named to the 2005 International League All-Star team and the Futures Game U.S. Team.

    With such a quick ascent, it seems that even Garko may not believe what he's accomplished.

    "I just never really thought that I'd be playing in something like this, even as I watched it last year when a couple of my teammates -- [Michael] Aubrey and [Fausto] Carmona -- were in it," said Garko. "To me, it's a pretty big deal. Not too many players get this opportunity. I mean, there are only four catchers in Minor League Baseball who are chosen, so to be selected, you're in pretty elite company."

    Russell Martin, World Team, Jacksonville (Double-A Dodgers)
    This Canadian-born catcher may not have the eye-popping offensive numbers of some of the other Futures Game representatives, but he's one of the most prized prospects in a very deep Los Angeles Dodgers farm system, as evidenced by his inclusion on the team's 40-man roster. The 22-year-old was also sent to the Arizona Fall League in 2004, where he turned heads with his offense and defense and was rated by Baseball America as the eighth-best prospect in a league full of prospects. All this, despite the fact that he's been catching for just over two years.

    "We converted him to catcher a few years ago and he's taken to it very fast, he really loves to catch," said Dodgers Director of Player Development, Terry Collins. "He's become one of the top receivers that I've been in around in a long time."

    One thing scouts love about Martin is his plate discipline. In his first three seasons, he accumulated 130 walks while striking out just 109 times. Through the opening half of his first season at Double-A this year, the former 17th-round pick had drawn 44 walks to 31 strikeouts, which in combination with his .313 average gave him the second-highest on-base percentage in the Southern League, at .444.

    Miguel Montero, World Team, Lancaster (Class A Diamondbacks)
    If there's one player that no one would have pegged to be on the 2005 Futures Game roster before the season began, it's probably Montero. The 21-year-old Venezuelan -- who will turn 22 the day before he plays in the Futures Game -- showed up on few, if any, top-prospect lists prior to the 2005 season. In his first four seasons, the 5-foot-11 lefty hit .266 with a combined 19 homers and 122 RBIs in 267 games, with a slugging percentage of .399 and an on-base percentage of .339.

    And although Diamondbacks officials claim to have seen a breakout year coming, not even Montero's most ambitious proponents could have foreseen what he's done to California League pitching in 2005. Through games of June 22, Montero was leading the Minors in hits (107) and runs (61) while ranking fifth in homers (21) and second in RBIs (75).

    "We saw him really coming around last year and then again during Spring Training, so he's not just been doing this for three months," said Diamondbacks Assistant General Manager, Bob Miller. "But no, I don't know of many catchers to lead all of Minor League Baseball like Miguel is."

    Josh Willingham, US Team, Albuquerque (Triple-A Marlins)
    Not only is Willingham the oldest player on the 2005 Futures Game roster, he is older than any player from the 2004 roster, and older than all but one player (Stephen Smitherman) from the 2003 roster. But while the 26-year-old may be the least likely Futures Game player to be mistaken for a bat boy, he is certainly not the least likely to end up in a big league uniform.

    "He got a little taste last year and he could be [in Florida] at any time," said Marlins Vice President of Player Development and Scouting, Jim Fleming. "He's ready for the big leagues, and his numbers this year are proving that. It's just a matter of getting the opportunity and taking advantage of it."

    Willingham -- an All-American shortstop at University of North Alabama -- got a brief look in 2004, making the jump from Double-A Carolina to Florida for an eight-game stay while Marlins catcher Mike Redmond nursed a stiff back. This year, he's taking the opportunity to fatten up on Triple-A pitching while waiting for his next call-up. Through games of June 22, Willingham was leading the Pacific Coast League in home runs (19) and slugging percentage (.714) while ranking seventh in batting (.337). The first-time Future Game selection also has a keen batting eye, ranking third in the PCL in walks (44) and second in on-base percentage (.469).

    Also a PCL All-Star, Willingham will rack up the frequent flyer miles in July. He'll fly from Albuquerque to Detroit for the Futures Game on July 10, then from Detroit to Sacramento for the Triple-A All-Star game on July 13 and on to Memphis for the first game of the second half on July 14.

  9. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    World Team corner infielders preview.

    Major League Baseball and Baseball America took the concept of a "World Team" pretty seriously when they selected the corner infielders for the 2005 XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game.
    Kendry Morales is from Cuba while Edwin Encarnacion is a native of the Dominican Republic, but went to high school in Puerto Rico. And these are the only two players that are even within 1,000 miles of each other. Justin Huber is one of the few players in professional baseball to call Australia his motherland while John Hattig is the first ever professional baseball player from Guam.

    It seems that the only people missing are Tibetan monks, African bushmen, and Amazonian forest-dwellers.

    But these players were not just chosen to represent different regions of the baseball world, but because they are the best the world has to offer.

    Kendry Morales, 1B, Arkansas (Double-A, Angels)
    The fact that Morales is available to play in this year's Futures Game is an accomplishment. Because of visa problems, the 22-year-old Cuban defector wasn't even sure he would be in the United States at this time of year. Once his paperwork cleared in mid-May, he played first base for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes like he hadn't missed a game, hitting a home run in his first at-bat.

    The switch-hitting first baseman draws raves from scouts with his impressive power and discipline from both sides of the plate and his ability to utilize the whole field from either side. In 22 games with the Quakes, Morales hit .344 with five home runs, 17 RBIs and just 11 strikeouts. He is also praised for his defensive work at first, making good use of his soft hands and quick feet, and scouts have noticed an increase in his mobility since his professional debut.

    Los Angeles Angels Director of Player Development Tony Reagins feels that once Morales has had a chance to familiarize himself with life in America, his talents will really shine.

    "It was a big ordeal for him coming over to the States, so the biggest thing for him is to get comfortable playing here," Reagins said. "The first time I saw him, he seemed a little overwhelmed with everything. Now I see him hanging out and laughing with his teammates, looking more at ease."

    If Morales becomes comfortable in his new surroundings and at the plate, the only players who won't be comfortable will be the ones trying to pitch to him.

    John Hattig, 3B, Syracuse (Triple-A, Blue Jays)
    Before being traded last year by the Red Sox, not much was expected out of the switch-hitting Hattig. All the 1998 25th-round pick from Guam did was help the New Hampshire Fisher Cats win the Eastern League's Northern Division by hitting .296 with 10 home runs and 30 RBIs in just 40 games.

    "John far exceeded expectations when he came over here after the trade," said Dick Scott, Toronto's Director of Player Development. "His bat and glove helped New Hampshire win the title. The kid is the total package as far as abilities go, and he just loves to play."

    Scott describes the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Hattig as a "big man with a little man's quickness." He possesses a sound arm and has steadily improved his footwork and range. Hattig's best trait, according to Scott, is his makeup -- the fact that he has a great approach and can easily handle any kind of difficulties he might face.

    What is even better for the Blue Jays is that he's continued to improve, hitting .325 with six doubles and a home run in 22 games for the Syracuse SkyChiefs in International League before suffering a pulled hamstring on June 13. It was more of the same when he started the year at Single-A Dunedin, torturing Florida State League pitchers by hitting .386.

    Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Louisville (Triple-A, Reds)
    The future might already be now for Encarnacion, Cincinatti's top position-player prospect, who was called up by the Reds on June 24 to fill in for the injured Kenny Kelly.

    Encarnacion has shown consistent improvement in every phase of his game since his first professional season in 2000. Through 69 games with the Louisville Bats this year, the Dominican-born, Puerto Rican-educated Encarnacion was hitting .292 with 12 home runs, 46 RBIs and 31 walks. Last year for Double-A Chattanooga, he hit .281 with 13 homers, 76 RBIs and 53 walks.

    "He's a unique player," Reds Director of Player Development Tim Naehring said. "No one thing jumps out at you because he does so many things well. And there still is room for improvement."

    Most critics say that Encarnacion's difficulties fielding his position have kept him in the Minors for so long. But Naehring, a former third baseman himself, is quick point out this may not be the case for much longer.

    "He's worked very hard on improving his footwork and staying on top of the ball when making the throw," Naehring said. "As soon as he keeps his feet under him and keep his arm from dropping down consistently, he won't be in the Minors for too much longer."

    Justin Huber, 1B, Wichita (Double-A, Royals)
    Making the switch from catcher to first base has worked wonders for the man from Down Under. Huber earned a call-up from Kansas City after dismantling Texas League pitchers, hitting .332 (2nd TL) and driving in 50 runs (T-3rd) while reaching base at a .420 clip (T-3rd) through 67 games. Freed from the rigors of catching and the stress placed on his arthroscopically-repaired left knee, Huber's keen eye and natural hitting abilities have not only blossomed, but exceeded most expectations.

  10. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    U.S. Team corner infielder preview.

    Some are closer to playing in the big leagues than others. Some are a bit more high profile than others.
    Yet, all the players who will serve as corner infielders for the United States Team in the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game have one thing in common. They can all put on a show at the plate and will all garner considerable attention on July 10 at Comerica Park.

    Here's a closer look at the corner infielders -- Conor Jackson, Andy LaRoche, Daric Barton and Scott Moore -- who will play on the United States team in Detroit.

    Conor Jackson, 1B, Tucson (Triple-A, Diamondbacks)
    Arizona is content keeping Jackson in the Pacific Coast League for much of this year for some extra seasoning simply because there isn't room for him in Phoenix at the moment. And that's okay because Jackson is using the experience at Triple-A and benefiting from being one of the PCL's biggest stars.

    Jackson was hitting .373 through 74 games, which was second best in the league. He had six homers and 58 RBIs, which was tied for third on the circuit. A first-round pick in 2003 (19th overall), Jackson came into this season as a .323 career hitter.

    "You can basically write anything you want about Conor; he's been such a closely followed prospect, almost everything there is to say about him has already been written," Diamondbacks assistant general manager Bob Miller said. "He's not scuffling in his first year at Triple-A, is he? "He's only in his second full season and he's got [Chad] Tracy and [Tony] Clark in front of him at first and [Luis] Gonzalez out in left, so we just want to get him as many at-bats as we can until there's a spot for him. There's not really a particular number of at-bats we want him to have -- it's not that scientific.

    "It's really hard to compare him to other hitters. He's got the great plate discipline and everything else, plus the great body size. He hits the ball so hard that he gets a lot of top spin on the ball. I guess in terms of how hard he hits the ball, he's similar to [Gary] Sheffield, just in terms of a guy that hits the ball hard just about every time. Here's a guy who's never hit 50 home runs in a season, probably because of how hard he hits the ball. And Conor's similar in that regard. Some people say they're not sure about his power, but the backspin will come. But he hits so many doubles -- who cares? If he hits 50, 60, 70 doubles, I don't think anyone will complain."

    Andy LaRoche, 3B, Jacksonville (Double-A, Dodgers)
    LaRoche's history has been well-documented, from the signing to the bonus to the stir it created at the time. Well, the Dodgers are the team that's had the last laugh because LaRoche has been everything the organization could have hoped for and more, blistering his way through the Minor League season with frightening ease.

    The big third baseman was hitting .333 with 21 homers and 51 RBIs through 63 games at Vero Beach of the Florida State League before earning a promotion to Double-A Jacksonville of the Southern League. Moving up the Florida coast did little to hurt his production. Nine games into his Suns' stint, LaRoche has four homers and 13 RBIs.

    "He's had a tremendous year and been a real surprise," said Terry Collins, Los Angeles' director of player development. "We all knew that he'd hit, we just didn't know he'd hit for so much power. He's another guy who switched positions, from shortstop to third base, and he's really become a very good defensive player. We take a lot of pride in developing our players defensively, and Andy has really improved at third base.

    "He's only about 6 feet tall, but he's 200, 210 pounds; he's a strong guy, and we saw some power there, we just didn't know it would develop so quickly. His dad [former big leaguer Dave LaRoche] even told us, when he starts using the field, he'll drive the ball."

    Scott Moore, 3B, Dayton (Class A, Cubs)
    A first-round pick of the Tigers in 2003, Moore began showing the power potential last year when he cracked 14 homers for Lakeland in the Florida State League. He only hit .223, though, and there were some questions about his ability to hit consistently when Detroit included him in the Kyle Farnsworth deal this winter.

    Consider the questions answered. Moore was hitting .297 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs through 69 games and has impressed people, reminding many who had forgotten why he was a first-round pick in the first place.

    "He might have the most upside of any player in the Florida State League," one Major League scout said. "He's a talent, and he has room on his body to get stronger. He can play defense, he has a plus arm at third, and he has power. His body profiles for the big leagues as a third baseman. It's easy to see that a kid like this could someday become a pretty good big-league player.

    "The trade was a nice change of scenery for him. Maybe it jump-started him. I'm not sure, but I think it helped him. He still has things to work on, but he's a pretty good player and better defensively than LaRoche."

    Daric Barton, 1B, Stockton (Class A, A's)
    Depending on how their respective careers unfold, Daric Barton may always be known as the player for whom the A's traded Mark Mulder away. But who knows? If things work out, Mulder may become known as the player for whom the Cardinals traded Daric Barton away. At least that's how Oakland is hoping it will happen.

    Barton, a former first-round pick by St. Louis, is blossoming at Stockton, hitting .319 with eight homers, 51 RBIs and a .467 slugging percentage as the California League finishes up its All-Star break. Drafted as a catcher, Barton played first and third base throughout high school. He caught at the Area Code Games because he thought it would get him noticed and it worked.

    "First base is a cool position," he said. "I'm in the game a lot, I get in on a lot of plays and any time you're in there, the action is good. The game is harder and faster here than in high school, but overall I've done well."

  11. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    World Team middle infielders preview.

    The future for some of the World Team middle infielders may not include the XM Satellite Radio Futures Game before all is said and done.
    While Hanley Ramirez, Yuniesky Betancourt, William Bergolla and Hernan Iribarren are all certainly deserving of a place in the July 10 affair at Comerica Park in Detroit, some of them may not be eligible to play when the game actually rolls around. Bergolla has already spent time in the Major Leagues this season and if another player gets injured in Cincinnati, he's likely to be recalled to fill out the parent club's roster.

    Ditto for Betancourt, who was already promoted once this season to Triple-A Tacoma because injuries in Seattle necessitated a raid of the Tacoma roaster. Another injury or two before All-Star weekend and the slick-fielding Betancourt may be spending his time at Safeco Field rather than Comerica.

    Still, all four are worth a look, so here's a quick glimpse of what the middle infielders on the World squad have to offer.

    Hanley Ramirez, SS, Portland (Double-A, Boston)
    Ramirez is one of Boston's top prospects, though this season's numbers don't quite reflect how high a ceiling he has. He was hitting .271 with two homers and 22 RBIs through 59 games, though he was sidelined recently with back problems. Ramirez came into this season with a .314 career average, stealing 25 bases at three levels last season. He even got a taste of the big leagues in Spring Training this year, hitting .389 in 13 games.

    An un-drafted free agent, Ramirez is a top-flight shortstop with the skills to be an All-Star at the Major League level. He does have some power, but it's not at the level of an Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada or Nomar Garciaparra, who have helped fuel the image of slugging shortstops over the last decade. The Sox have Edgar Renteria on the big-league club and will for another three seasons so unless there is a change in the organization's thinking about its future, don't be surprised if Ramirez starts taking grounders or fly balls somewhere other than at short before long.

    Ramirez was Boston's Class A Player of the Year in 2004 at Sarasota and played in the Florida State League All-Star game.

    Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Tacoma (Triple-A, Seattle)
    The Cuban refugee has been on the radar screen for a while, but didn't sign with anyone until January when Seattle gave him a four-year Major League deal worth more than $3.5 million. He's a gifted shortstop, so gifted in fact that many baseball folks believe the Mariners came by him cheaply.

    The youngster -- he's listed at 23 though the true age of some Cuban players is up for debate -- began the season at Double-A San Antonio of the Texas League and hit .273 in 52 games with five homers and 20 RBIs. But when the Mariners called up Mike Morse, they bumped Betancourt up to Tacoma and through his first month in the Pacific Coast League, he doesn't seem to have any problems adjusting. Betancourt was hitting .293 with two homers and 15 RBIs through 25 games for the Rainiers.

    A star on the Cuban National Team, Betancourt also played second base before leaving Cuba and entering Mexico last summer. He's been a star on the world stage for a while, hitting .429 in the World Junior Championship five years as Cuba won a bronze medal. He's more of a doubles hitter than a home-run threat but has demonstrated that hitting .300 shouldn't be a problem once he makes the necessary adjustments.

    William Bergolla, SS, Louisville (Triple-A, Cincinnati)
    Bergolla has had an interesting season, riding the shuttle between Louisville and Cincinnati while also spending some time on the disabled list because of a hamstring problem. Still, he's managed to hit .327 through 40 games at Louisville with a pair of homers and 17 RBIs. He's appeared in 17 games for the Reds without as much success, hitting .132 through 38 at-bats. Bergolla's latest stint with the parent club saw him go 0-for-2 as a pinch-hitter.

    The native Venezuelan, who spent time on the disabled list last year because of a broken bone in his hand, is a defensive whiz but doesn't have much power. Some predict him to be nothing more than a utility player because he lacks power, but he has shown the ability to get on base and hit for average this year with the Bats. He stole a combined 88 bases in 2003 and '04, tops in the organization both seasons, but hasn't had much opportunity this year.

    Bergolla seems destined to ride the shuttle for the remainder of this season, but if Cincinnati's forecast remains as dire as it is now, then he could be moved up permanently for the sake of rebuilding.

    Hernan Iribarren, 2B, West Virginia (Class A, Milwaukee)
    A year after blistering his way through Rookie ball, Iribarren is showing no signs of slowing down in the Single-A South Atlantic League. He was hitting .323 with a pair of homers, 34 RBIs and 25 stolen bases through 71 games. He's still young and hasn't filled out yet so the Brewers are projecting better power numbers from him in the future.

    "I'm hearing they're very happy with them," one National League scout said. "He's a big-time prospect."

    Iribarren came into this season with only 61 games of Arizona (where he was named MVP) and Midwest League experience on his resume, but he was outstanding over that brief period. He hit a combined .422 last year with five homers, 46 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. His .439 average was the second highest in Arizona League history.

  12. poiu

    poiu SRMer

    For what it's worth, I read this morning that the mets probably won't let Yusmeiro Petit pitch in the futures game.
  13. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    U.S. Team middle infielder preview.

    Teams like to build their future up the middle.
    Any time an organization can develop shortstops or second baseman in their Minor League systems, it's a huge plus, a feather in their development cap.

    So it's understandable that the four organizations represented in the U.S. Team's middle infield for the XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game on July 10 at Comerica Park are pretty pumped up about what lies ahead.

    It should be noted that while the U.S. team technically has three shortstops listed, one -- Marcus Sanders -- does have second base experience and would likely slide over for the Futures Game. Here's what things will look like up the middle for the U.S. Team:

    Josh Barfield, 2B, Portland (Triple-A, Padres)
    The son of former big leaguer Jesse, Barfield is making his second trip to the Futures Game. Just 22, he's already playing at Triple-A, where he was hitting .282 with eight homers and nine steals in 78 games for Portland. He's gotten better as the season has progressed, making adjustments to the higher level and hitting .336 in June.

    "His style is pretty unorthodox, but he gets it done so I can't argue with it," one American League scout said. "He has a late trigger on his swing, but his bat is so fast that it makes up for it."

    Early in his career, many felt Barfield would eventually have to move to the outfield because of defensive inefficiencies. But he's worked tirelessly with the glove, to the point where position switch talk has quieted down.

    "He's a better defender at second than people give him credit for," the scout said. "He can stay at second. ... He's never going to win a Gold Glove, but he can stay there."

    Marcus Sanders, SS, Augusta (Class A, Giants)
    The Giants were thrilled to get Sanders as a 17th-round draft-and-follow in the 2003 draft. A high school football injury forced him from shortstop to second base, though he led all Florida junior college players with 44 steals in his one season of juco ball.

    After getting his feet wet in the Arizona League last summer, the Giants moved him back to shortstop (another year removed from that shoulder surgery) in the South Atlantic League for the 2005 season.

    Obviously a plus runner -- he's got 40 steals in 71 games for Augusta -- he's not just legs. Sanders understands the value of getting on base, and he's got more power than you'd expect from his appearance.

    "He's a lot like a Rickey Henderson or Bobby Bonds, a guy who used to lead off and hit [with power]," Giants farm director Jack Hiatt said. "We look at Marcus as a table setter."

    B.J. Upton, SS, Durham (Triple-A, Devil Rays)
    Some may be surprised to see Upton making a repeat performance at the Futures Game, not because of a lack of potential, but because his days as a Minor Leaguer seemed over.

    Upton got 159 big league at-bats last year, ending his rookie status. Many thought he'd never leave the Tampa lineup after that. But the Rays decided to allow their shortstop phenom get some more development time at Triple-A Durham, a level he breezed through in 2004.

    "I think he's handled it well," said Devil Rays director of player development and scouting Cam Bonifay about Upton's return to the Minors. "He's continuing to work on his game and continuing to improve on all facets. I'm sure he's looking forward to participating in this game."

    Upton has hit .292 with eight homers, 39 RBIs and 22 steals in 81 games with Durham this season. But the biggest question mark has been about his defense. He's made 29 errors at short in the International League this year, but the organization has seen improvement, reminding people he's still just 20 years old.

    "We've seen better preparation, a better of understanding of what it takes to play a premier position at a higher level," Bonifay said. "Even though he's made errors, I think all young shortstops make errors as they make their way to the big leagues. People forget how young he is and how skilled an athlete he is."

    Brandon Wood, SS, Rancho Cucamonga (Class A Advanced, Angels)
    To say that 2005 has been a breakout for the Angels' prospect would be a bit of an understatement. After hitting 11 homers all year in the Midwest League a year ago, Wood has knocked 26 out of Californa League parks to tie for the overall Minor League lead (with Jacksonville's Andy LaRoche).

    "He's having a tremendous year; he's swinging the bat very well," Angels farm director Tony Reagins said about the organziation's top pick from the 2003 draft. "He is producing power numbers we didn't expect this early."

    Like with some of the others on this list, there has been some talk of Wood needing to find a new defensive home. Third has been most often mentioned, with Wood eventually outgrowing shortstop. But so far, he's done fine up the middle, and there's no plan to move him right now.

    "Defenisvely, he's been solid," Reagins said. "That's the mindset: Until he proves he can't play short, he's a shortstop. So far, there's been no indication of that."

  14. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    World Team outfielders preview

    Familiar faces and several newcomers highlight the list of World outfielders who will participate in the July 10 XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game at Comerica Park.
    Futures fans will have get the chance to see Felix Pie and Shin-Soo Choo, two players who have previous experience in this event. There's Nelson Cruz and the unheralded Frank Diaz as well as Yankees prospect Melky Cabrera, who should garner enough attention simply because of the organization for which he plays.

    There's a little something for everyone to get excited about when discussing the World outfielders, so here's a closer look at the bunch.

    Nelson Cruz, Nashville Sounds [Triple-A, Brewers]

    The well-traveled Cruz - Milwaukee is his third organization and he's only 24 - seems to have finally found a home with the Brewers. He's got power; he's got a strong arm and is on the verge of moving up to the Pacific Coast League, if not the big leagues before too long.

    Cruz was hitting .306 with 16 homers and 54 RBIs with a .388 on-base percentage through 68 games, before being promoted to Nashville where he hasn't missed a beat hitting .385 (5-for-13) with two homers and five RBI in his first four games. He played at three levels last season with Oakland, combining to hit 26 homers and drive in 99 runs and was one of five minor leaguers to rack up 300 total bases before Milwaukee traded for him.

    "He just needs to play against some advanced pitching now," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "We were tempted to send him to Triple-A out of Spring Training but we said go to Double-A and perform and we'll consider sending you up. He's done that so we're going to have to back what we say. If he goes there [to Nashville] and hits, we wouldn't be afraid to bring him to the big leagues if we had an injury."

    Felix Pie, West Tenn Diamond Jaxx [Double-A, Cubs]

    Pie is making his third trip to the Futures Game. His effort through the first half of the Southern League season certainly shows that he is deserving of the honor. A native of the Dominican Republic, Pie was hitting .304 with 11 homers and 25 RBIs through 59 games.

    Already a Winter League veteran, Pie has been groomed in the Cubs system for several years and is wowing folks throughout the circuit.

    "He reminds me of a young Cesar Cedeno," West Tennessee hitting coach and former Major Leaguer Von Joshua said. "Cesar used to have a lot of flair. He could run and hit for power. For a thin guy he is tremendously strong. You don't realize his power. If I had to pick someone whom he reminded me of it would be a young Cedeno, around 19 or 20.

    "He does everything well. He's a little brash and a little confident in his ability. In his mind right now, he's a big leaguer. It's not cocky. He knows he can play. They've been grooming him since he was 14 or 15. He knows the game well for a young kid and he's infectious. He rubs off on everyone."

    Frank Diaz, Potomac Nationals [Class A, Washington]

    Diaz is probably one of the more unheralded players chosen to participate in the Futures Game but that certainly doesn't mean he has no right to be there. He's projected as a No. 3 hitters and has shown flashes that he is capable of excelling in that role. He's hitting .305 through 78 games with nine homers and 38 RBIs. While none of those numbers are tops on the team, his 97 hits over the same span are 18 hits better than teammate Kory Casto. He has managed only eight walks but has also fanned only 33 times.

    "He was a fairly raw hitter at the time he signed and he's just been able to develop through getting a number of at-bats," Washington's director of player development Adam Wogan said. "Prototypically, he would be the ideal on-base guy. He doesn't strike out much, he's a good line-drive hitter and we think he'll develop more power. He really thrives in the three hole.

    "He may not walk 20 times this year but for us, that's okay because he doesn't swing and miss a lot. If he sees a pitch he likes, he doesn't let it go by. So I don't know if he'd be the ideal leadoff guy."

    Diaz possesses average speed but has a plus arm and is currently playing.

    Shin-Soo Choo, Tacoma Rainiers [Triple-A, Seattle]

    Choo, the only Asian player on the World Team, has experience on his side, having already played in a pair of Futures Games. This game might ultimately represent his swan song in the Minor Leagues because he is on the verge of breaking through with the parent club. He's already been called up this season and went 1-for-3 with an RBI in limited duty.

    The left-handed hitting Choo has risen steadily throughout the Seattle system after signing as an un-drafted teenager in 2000, culminating with his effort this season. He's hitting .259 with six homers, 23 RBIs and 15 steals. He signed for nearly $1.5 million and the Mariners haven't been disappointed, particularly with his play in the outfield and his arm.

    Melky Cabrera, Columbus Clippers [Triple-A, Yankees]

    Cabrera is on the move, having been promoted to Triple-A Columbus after hitting .272 with nine homers and 42 RBIs at Double-A Trenton. The move seems to be working as Cabrera is batting .385 (8-for-21) with three homers and seven RBI in his first six games with the Clippers. One of the Yankees top outfield prospects, the club may be accelerating Cabrera's development considering some of the problems they've had in the outfield in The Bronx.

    Whether that means Cabrera actually makes it to New York this season remains to be seen. It would seem highly unlikely but injuries and age have left the Yankees outfield vulnerable and the club has promoted from within with a greater frequency this season than in the past.

    Cabrera has good gap power and appears to be an average to above average center fielder, a position at which the Yanks have had problems with this season.

  15. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    U.S. Team outfield preview

    It's often in the outfield where one looks for some great five-tool talents. And the U.S. group of outfielders for the July 10 XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game is not lacking in the toolbox department.
    Delmon Young will have to tell his four U.S. cohorts what the Futures experience is all about as the only repeat participant. Young went to Houston a year ago, though it's likely that Jeff Francoeur, Jeremy Hermida, Lastings Milledge and Chris Young will figure out a way to hold their own. Here's a look at the American group:

    Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mississippi (Double-A, Atlanta)
    Francoeur is playing at Double-A at age 21 and playing well. An outstanding outfielder defensively, Francoeur is starting to come into his power. He hit 18 homers last year as a career high and already has 13 this year.

    The first-round pick of the 2002 draft has also shown more aplomb on the basepaths. After swiping 11 bases in 17 attempts in 2004, he's gone 13-for-17 over the course of this season (thus, the five tools).

    Jeremy Hermida, OF, Carolina (Double-A, Florida)
    Like Francoeur, Hermida was a first-round pick out of high school in 2002. And like his fellow U.S. team member, he's playing at Double-A at age 21 while coming into his power. His 14 homers are already a career high, and his .525 slugging would also set a career mark.

    "He's been good at every level, and he's been showing more power at every level," Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Jim Fleming said. "He's always had a very stylish, very efficient swing, but now he's adding power. I think he's stopped growing, but he keeps getting stronger. And he's a very selective hitter, so he gets good pitches."

    He, too, has shown very good instincts on the basepaths. Despite not having blazing speed, Hermida has gone 19-for-20 in stolen-base attempts this year.

    "He's the complete player," Fleming said. "He's excellent defensively, has a great arm, runs well. ... He's got the whole package."

    Lastings Milledge, OF, St. Lucie (Class A Advanced, New York Mets)
    At age 20, Milledge brings down the average age of the U.S. outfield corps a notch. The Mets haven't been this excited about an outfield prospect since that Strawberry fellow came up.

    And it's with good reason. Milledge has shown the ability to do a little of everything, as evidenced by his 15 homers and 26 steals in his first full season last year.

    The power hasn't come yet this year -- perhaps partly because he's playing in the pitching-friendly Florida State League, but he's still hitting around .300 with an OBP over .380. He's also swiped 17 bags (albeit with 13 caught stealing) for St. Lucie. After starting the year by hitting .216 in April, he's made adjustments and hit .329 in May and .306 in June.

    Chris Young, OF, Birmingham (Double-A, Chicago White Sox)
    Perhaps the least known in this group, and the oldest at the advanced age of 22, Young has just as much all-around talent. He's the only non-first rounder here, taken in the 16th round by the White Sox in 2001 and he's been moving his way up slowly since.

    Young played last year in the South Atlantic League and broke out with 24 homers and 31 steals. He also struck out 145 times and hit .262, showing he still had some work to do in smoothing out the rough edges.

    A bit surprisingly, the Sox challenged Young by skipping him a level up to Double-A this year. Young has responded with the same power-speed combination he showed in 2004. He had 17 homers and 15 steals in his first 80 games for the Barons. He's still striking out -- 87 K's at last count -- to keep his average at .265, but he's also drawn 41 walks for a respectable .359 OBP.

    Delmon Young, OF, Montgomery (Double-A, Tampa Bay)
    Considering his organization's penchant for pushing top prospects up the ladder quickly, some were surprised that Young spent the entire year in the South Atlantic League last year.

    What impressed the Rays most about that season, however, was that after a slow start, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft made great adjustments and finished the season with fairly gaudy numbers.

    He's putting those numbers to shame this year. And after that "slow" season, the Rays have him on the fast track. He won't turn 20 until September, but he's leapt up to Double-A and is handling the Southern League like a veteran.

    In just his second full season of pro ball, Young was hitting .332 with 19 homers, 70 RBIs and 24 steals (already besting his season total from 2004). He's in the top five in the Southern League in seven offensive categories. There's a reason why people keep asking when he's going to make it to Tampa, though the Rays want to be sure not to rush him...too much.

    "We're concerned with him continuing to improve every day," Devil Rays director of scouting and player development Cam Bonifay said. "He's still learning what it takes to play every day at this level. It's a tremendous accomplisment to be such a young player and have such production at the Double-A level.

    "You usually don't do that [jump a player a level] unless you feel you have a special young player. I think he is that, without question."

  16. Dannomyte

    Dannomyte SRMer

    U.S. Team pistchers previewed

    If you're looking for upward mobility, look no further than the pitching staff of the U.S. Team for Sunday's XM Satellite Radio All-Star Futures Game in Detroit.
    Of the 10 talented arms on the staff, six have already received promotions to a higher level. Two pitchers -- Justin Verlander to the big leagues and James Johnson to Double-A Erie -- moved up for one start, bringing the total moves up the ladder to eight. Zach Duke, Ian Snell and Bobby Jenks were all originally on the roster, but had to be replaced because, you guessed it, they were promoted to the big leagues.

    Just who are these pitchers on the go? Lets take a look.

    Thomas Bowyer, P, Rochester (Twins, Triple-A)
    Originally drafted out of high school by the Twins as a starter (20th round, 1999), Bowyer began making the transition to the bullpen in 2002 in the Midwest League.

    His career has taken off since. He spent all of 2003 and part of 2004 in the Florida State League before getting bumped to Double-A for most of last season, keeping hitters to a .185 combined batting average against.

    On the 40-man roster, the 23-year-old Bowyer was challenged with a move to Triple-A and he's responded. Cranking his fastball up to 99 miles per hour, the right-hander leads the International League with 18 saves and has a 1.15 ERA in 47 innings, striking out 64. The league is hitting just .152 against him.

    Thomas Diamond, P, Round Rock (Rangers, Double-A)
    Diamond was taken No. 10 overall in the 2004 draft with the hopes he'd be able to move quickly through the Rangers' system. He hasn't disappointed.

    After holding California League hitters to a .191 average, striking out 101 in 81 1/3 innings and going 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA, Diamond was bumped up to Double-A Frisco in late June.

    He seems to like the Texas League as well, giving up three earned runs and striking out 11 in his first 11 innings. After a bumpy debut, he clearly made some adjustments and tossed seven stellar innings for his first Double-A victory.

    "We're very pleased with his progress," Rangers director of Minor League operations John Lombardo said. "He's made very quick adjustments, not only to have success at the lower levels, but translating to Double-A as well. It's a testament to his hard work." "His third pitch was lagging behind the other two pitches, but it's really come on of late. He's become a more complete pitcher than just relying on what worked for him in college."

    Zach Jackson, P, New Hampshire (Blue Jays, Double-A)
    Jackson is another college pitcher who was drafted largely because of his ability to advance quickly.

    The left-hander went 8-1 with a 2.88 ERA, striking out 48 and walking just six in 59 1/3 Florida State League innings before getting moved up to Double-A. The Eastern League hasn't been as kind, but the Texas A&M product is still ahead of the curve, one that could land him at another level before all is said and done in 2005.

    "He's handled the jumps pretty well," Blue Jays farm director Dick Scott said. "It's not often you see a kid go from college to Single-A to Double-A so quickly, and we hope to see him in Triple-A by the end of the year. He told us that he wanted to move through the system as fast as possible, and he's earned it so far.

    "Zach is one of those kids with a great arm, but not overpowering. He knows how to pitch and is a great competitor. He has a fantastic drive inside of him."

    James Johnson, P, Frederick (Orioles, Class A Advanced)
    While many members of this pitching staff are on the fast track, Johnson has taken a little more time to develop. But it's looking like he was well worth the wait for the Orioles.

    The O's took the 6-foot-5 Johnson out of high school in the fifth round of the 2001 draft, and he's been brought along very slowly. He didn't hit full-season ball until 2004, but he showed glimpses of a more complete product in Delmarva.

    That earned him a move up to Class A Advanced Frederick, where things have really started to click for Johnson. The Carolina League is hitting just .223 against him, and he's struck out 106 in 98 innings using a low-90s fastball with hard sink and a good slider. He even was brought up to Double-A Bowie for a spot start and opened many eyes with seven shutout innings there.

    "The first couple of years, he came along slowly, but last year and this year, he's made a lot of gains with his physical maturity that's allowed him to do a lot more as a pitcher," Orioles director of Minor League operations David Stockstill said. "The difficult part [with pitchers like Johnson] is you don't know which ones are going to click, so you have to show patience. James is one who's really blossomed for us."

    Chris Lambert, P, Springfield (Cardinals, Double-A)
    Lambert was a hockey star coming out of high school but got a scholarship to Boston College after showing a plus fastball at a showcase event. His last season at BC was a bit uneven, but the Cards still saw a lot of untapped potential in his strong right arm and took him 19th overall in the 2004 draft.

    It's looking like they made a good call. He went 7-1 with a 2.63 ERA in 10 starts for Palm Beach in the Florida State League to earn a bump up to Springfield. The Texas League has been a little bit more of a challenge, but the Cardinals think his stuff will play just fine at the higher levels.

    "Lambert's still getting adjusted to Double-A," said John Vuch, the Cardinals' manager of baseball information and assistant director of player development. "He's got above average velocity and shows a good curve and change at times. Consistency and command of his breaking pitch and changeup are the keys to his progress. When they're on, he could be effective at any level.

    "For him to be pitching at Double-A in his first full season as a professional is good progress. I think once he exhibits better command of his other pitches, he'll begin to have more consistent success at Springfield as he did at Palm Beach."

    Anthony Lerew, P, Richmond (Braves, Triple-A)
    After a rough April, the Braves prospect had a 3.03 ERA in May and 1.80 ERA in June, earning a promotion up to Triple-A. The 22-year-old, who is turning out to be quite a draf bargain (11th round, 2001), hasn't skipped a beat, posting a 2.75 ERA and holding hitters to a .171 average in his first three starts with Richmond.

    Lerew has shown some increased velocity over the past year, touching 97 mph last year in Myrtle Beach. He's got a plus changeup when it's on, and he throws a slider as well. The Braves added him to the 40-man roster last offseason, which speaks volumes for an organization that cultivates young pitching like the Braves do.

    Paul Maholm, P, Altoona (Pirates, Double-A)
    Maholm was off to a terrific start in his first full season in 2004 when he was hit in the face by a line drive in May. Showing the toughness that might be his greatest trait, Maholm came back in August, but then had to shut it down when he needed additional surgery.

    He's come back full force all the way in Double-A, with a 3.01 ERA in 71 2/3 innings, holding Eastern League hitters to a .225 average. The lefty from Mississippi State has used four solid-average Major League pitches -- fastball, curve, slider and changeup -- to strike out 65. But it's not his stuff that draws the highest praise from the organization.

    "What makes him special and sets him apart from other good pitchers is his makeup, his mental toughness, his ability to make adjustments, his ability to handle pressure, his focus and concentration," Pirates farm director Brian Graham said. "He's very similar to Zach Duke on the mound. They're special kids when it comes to their makeup.

    "What Paul needs is experience. His stuff is good, his ability to pitch is good. When he gains that necessary experience, he'll be ready for the big leagues."

    Troy Patton, P, Salem (Astros, Class A Advanced)
    Patton lasted until the ninth round of the 2004 draft because most thought the Magnolia, Texas, native was headed to the University of Texas. But the hometown Astros lured him away with the highest ninth-round bonus in draft history.

    It appears to be money well spent. The left-hander posted a 1.93 ERA and struck out 32 in 28 innings in his debut last summer, and he hasn't let up since. Patton pitched shutout ball over five consecutive starts for Lexington (32 consecutive scoreless innings) and got bumped up to Salem recently with a 1.94 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 78 2/3 innings. Now he'll try his hand in the Carolina League, all at the ripe old age of 19.

    Justin Verlander, P, Erie (Tigers, Double-A)
    Verlander has been in the news as much as any prospect of late due to his one-start callup to the big leagues. And while he took the loss and looked shaky in that first inning, he certainly earned kudos for settling down some after yielding three runs to the Indians in his first big league frame.

    There's never been a question about Verlander's arm strength. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft throws consistently in the mid-to-upper 90s. It's always been a question of command and secondary pitches.

    He's shown tremendous progress on both fronts. He's still ranked second in the Florida State League with 104 strikeouts even though he got promoted to Double-A Erie in the middle of June. That the 104 K's came in just 86 innings shouldn't come as a surprise; that he walked just 19 might.

    And he's continued that dominance in the Eastern League , tossing 15 scoreless innings and yielding just five hits (.098 average) and three walks while whiffing 18. Depending on how the rotation works out, he's got to be the front-runner to start the game for the U.S. squad in the big-league club's ballpark.

    Joel Zumaya, P, Erie (Tigers, Double-A)
    If Verlander can't start, maybe Zumaya should. The 20-year-old throws as hard as anyone, Verlander included, using the hard heat to climb all the way to Erie last year as a teenager.

    Then he learned a valuable lesson: You cannot live on a fastball alone if you want to survive as a starting pitcher at the higher levels. Other young flame-throwers might be more stubborn, but Zumaya seemingly has embraced the need to be more complete.

    The results have been outstanding, to say the least. Zumaya is seventh in the Eastern League with his 2.90 ERA and his 137 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings is second best in all of the Minor Leagues (the Cubs' Rich Hill had 139 entering play on July 6).

    He's gotten better as the season has progressed, posting a 0.78 ERA in June in which he walked just nine and struck out 43 in 34 2/3 innings. Overall, the Eastern League is managing a paltry .193 average against Zumaya


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