1. Ryan Royster, Outfield: Columbus
Royster has been on a tear of late. That statement--parallel to saying that the Devil Rays' bullpen has had its fair share of struggles this season--is an understatement. The 21-year-old outfield prospect, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2004 draft, hit a home run in his sixth consecutive game on Saturday night.
For the season, he is batting .321 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs for the Catfish, who are currently in second place of the South Atlantic League Southern Division. Hudson Valley's Player-of-the-Year in 2006, Royster is reminding Catfish fans of Ken Griffey Jr. and Don Mattingly, the two players currently tied for the major-league record of most consecutive games with a home run, eight.
2. Rhyne Hughes, First Base: Montgomery
Since being called up from Single-A Vero Beach, Hughes has done nothing but hit. In 10 games with his new club, he is batting .343 (12-35) with three doubles, one home run, and seven RBIs. His strongest performance with the Biscuits, in which he went 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs, came in a win against Tennessee on August 3.
Before being promoted, Hughes was one of the most prolific hitters in the Florida State League, hitting a team-best .329 with 12 home runs, 57 RBIs, and 172 total bases in 94 games at Vero Beach.
3. Justin Ruggiano, Outfield: Durham
Ruggiano has been hot at the plate of late for the Bulls, collecting 14 hits his last 37 at bats. During his last 10 games, he is batting .378 to along with three home runs and six RBIs. In that span, he also has four steals and four walks to pace the Bulls in the middle of the lineup.
For the season, Ruggiano is tied for the Bulls team lead with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs. He has a legitimate chance of seeing time at the big-league level in the near future.
1. Joel Guzman, Infield: Durham
Guzman is still among the team leaders with 16 home runs and 60 RBIs, but the once-renowned hitting prospect is in the midst of a 6-for-34 slump (.176) over his last 10 games.
The 22-year old, who was selected to the Futures game last July, is struggling through a disappointing season. He has flashed a lot of offensive potential, but is hitting just .242 with 109 strikeouts in 389 at bats.
2. Elliot Johnson, Second base: Durham
Johnson, a fairly consistent performer at the plate prior to this season, has been entrenched in a season-long slump in 2007. And things seem to be only getting worse for the 23-year-old middle infielder.
After being elected to Baseball America's Double-A All-Star team a year ago, in a season in which he hit a respectable .281 with 15 home runs and 50 RBIs, he appeared to be ready to take his game--and status in the organization--to the next level. But a severe lack of production at the plate, combined with an alarming number of errors (18), has limited Johnson's playing time recently. To make matters worse, he is 4-for-38 in his last 10 games.
3. Doug Waechter, Starting pitcher: Vero Beach
Waechter – a St. Petersburg native who was in the Devil Rays starting rotation when spring training broke in 2006 – is struggling mightily in a rehab sting with Vero Beach. After four impressive starts with Hudson Valley--he compiled a 2-1 record and 1.42 ERA--the right-hander appears to have hit a wall in his comeback attempt.
Waechter is now 1-4 with a Jae Seo-like ERA of 7.33 in five Single-A starts. He did show signs of improvement in his latest outing, a six-inning gem in which he allowed only six hits and one earned run against the Clearwater Threshers on August 7.
You can email Tyler Hissey by sending an email to TylerHissey@gmail.com.