APPLETON, Wisc. - The locker room door opens and out walks Yung-Chi Chen, the promising infielder…
Prospect Watch: Top 10 Movers and Shakers
Top 10 Movers and Shakers
1. Yung-Chi Chen, 2B - Chen's defensive prowess is enough for him to earn a late season call-up all by itself, but a strong start at the plate could force the hands of the Mariners sometime around mid season. Chen is more than capable of handling the California League. aThe 21-year-old's game is well-suited for the fast track and his start in 2005 is more evidence that he's as polished as any prospect in the system. Chen could split the next few seasons covering four levels, bringing him to within one step of the big leagues.
2. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS - While the club is planning to leave Tui in the Midwest League for the entire season, the soon-to-be 19-year-old might not give the organization much choice but to see what their top pick from last June can do against tougher competition – although that was the whole idea with starting him in Wisconsin in the first place. Tuiasosopo has the tools to mash his way through the system without repeating levels and perhaps with the ability to spend a few half season in the California and Texas Leagues.
3. Jason Snyder, RHP - Snyder's 3-0 start with the Timber Rattlers is indicative of the right-hander's solid arsenal and overall ability. The 22-year-old was probably ready for the Cal League coming out of spring training, but might have to wait until the halfway point to don a 66ers uniform. Snyder isn't likely to skip levels completely, but he's more than ready to be challenged in Advanced-A ball – which would give him a shot at Double-A San Antonio in 2006.
4. Mumba Rivera, RHP - The Bethune-Cookman product could be the first Wisconsin arm to see the next level. Rivera, 24, could project as a starter or reliever and if he stays consistent will likely make the jump around the all-star break. The right-hander's value to the system diminishes the longer stays in the low minors. Look for the M's to move Rivera as soon as he shows the aptitude to handle such a promotion.
5. T.J. Bohn, OF - Bohn is a solid candidate to head to Tacoma once the likes of Chris Snelling and Jamal Strong get the call to the big leagues. Bohn's defense is polished and his hot start at the plate has the 25-year-old at the top of the list. In less than two years, Bohn could find himself battling for a spot on the 25-man roster.
6. Craig James, RHP - The former Giants draftee could move quickly with a strong first half and may be one to see three levels in 2005. The Miami native has the pitches to rise above High-A this season if he stays healthy. Look for James to at least see a late-season promotion to Inland Empire, putting the 22-year-old in position to break camp with the San Antonio club in 2006.
7. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS - Cabrera's ankle injury might hinder his chances at seeing anything more than a cup of coffee in the California League, but Cabrera's strong season in 2004, his first in professional baseball in the states, served him well in the eyes of many scouts and the Mariners front office. The club toyed with the idea of starting him in Advanced-A Inland Empire but wanted to keep the 19-year-old at shortstop, the same position as 2003 first-round draftee, Adam Jones. As goes Jones, goes Cabrera, unless the Venezuelan-born Cabrera passes his fellow shortstop prospect on the ladder to the bigs.
8. Yuniesky Betancourt, 2B/SS - Another of the many prospects whose promotability depends on the movement of others, Betancourt is in line for Triple-A by season's end – if the Mariners move Michael Morse from shortstop, or call up the 23-year-old. Betancourt's defensive skills are far superior to those of Morse and Jose Lopez, but offensively is where the Cuban-born infielder needs work. A strong showing at the plate with Double-A San Antonio may be enough.
9. Wladimir Balentien, OF - Balentien is being treated very much the same way as top outfield prospect Shin-soo Choo – one step at a time. Or at least that's the plan. As of April 22, Balentien is tearing up the California League with seven homers in two weeks of play. Working to improve his plate discipline, Balentien is well on his way to using his one plus tool to get through the low minors.
10. Bryan LaHair, 1B - Despite his slow start, LaHair is an intriguing power prospect with a solid stroke from the left side of the plate. The 22-year-old slugger belted home runs in his first two games as a Timber Rattler last season, after a mid-season promotion from Everett. And then the strikeout bug hit the 6-foot-5, 225-pounder out of Worcester, Massachusetts. Sixty-six strikeouts in 262 at-bats aren't what you want to see from any hitter, but LaHair has the ability to drastically improve those numbers – which would allow his power numbers to soar. Any sign of such enhancements would give LaHair a shot at Double-A late this season.
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