Q (for Qualifying) Rating

Well, they finished up in Arizona last week with the United States sweeping the competition. So Team USA moves on to Havana in August 2006 along with Canada, Nicaragua and Panama for the final round of qualifying for the 2005 Summer Games.

There were a number of affiliated Minor Leaguers who stood out during the five-game tourney, so I figured, why not give some of them some love here. I’m going to stick with the teams that actually qualified for the next round. I’m also going to try to avoid talking about the AFL guys, since t hey’ve gotten enough attention over the last couple of months.

He’s not really a prospect, considering he’s 24 and spent another year in the Carolina League, but Avelino Asprilla had a nice little tournament for Panama (one of the few affiliated players from Panama, Nicaragua or Guatemala). He spent the year in Lynchburg (Pirates) — the fourth season he’s played in the Carolina League, where the third baseman hit .269 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs. DHing for Panama, Asprilla hit .412 in four games.

The top player from Nicaragua (who’s affiliated) may have been William Juarez. The light that went off for Juarez in the postseason with the Jacksonville Suns clearly didn’t go out. Juarez had a 0.60 ERA in the Southern League playoffs, allowing just one run in 15 innings, walking one and striking out 10. Juarez threw up zeroes in his one start last week, going six innings while yielding just four hits and one walk to pick up one of his country’s three victories (granted it was against Guatemala).

It was Teams USA and Canada that had the most impressive rosters of prospects, and many of them did not disappoint. Just about everyone hit for Canada, as evidenced by the fact that the Dodgers’ Russ Martin was sixth on the team among players who played three games or more with a .308 batting average. Joey Votto (sorry, can’t avoid some AFL guys) of the Reds hit .450 in five games. The Braves’ Scott Thorman hit .364 and while he only played in two games, the Mariners’ Sebastian Boucher was impressive, going 6-for-9 with a pair of steals in those games. Pitching-wise, Adam Loewen (Orioles), Mike Meyers (Brewers), Jon Lockwood (Mariners) and Chris Begg (Giants) all threw well. Lockwood, interestingly, was a reliever during the season with Everett and Wisconsin, but tossed five no-hit innings as a starter last week for Canada.

Then there’s Team USA. It’s hard to pick one guy when a team goes 5-0, and you don’t want to mention everyone. You have to call out Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Braves catcher. Anyone who goes 7-for-8 and has an OPS of 2.525, albeit in three games, deserves some props. But how about guys like the Rockies’ Ryan Shealy (.500), the Angels’ Jeff Mathis (6-for-12; Team USA catchers combined to go 13-for-20 with two homers and 10 RBIs), the Mariners’ Bryan Lahair (4-for-9) and the Phillies’ Shane Victorino (.318) who weren’t fresh from the AFL and had to shake off the rust from a layoff? Pitching-wise, two AFL alums who had up-and-down seasons had terrific outings, with the D-Backs’ Bill Murphy beating the lefty-laded Canadian team and the Cards’ Chris Lambert blanking Guatemala to get things going on one hit and no walks.

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