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World middle infielders are MLB ready

World middle infielders MLB ready

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.

Kevin Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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