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AAA players near call-up
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sorted by AAA league, by MLB division, by team, by non-pitcher or pitcher

International League (June 30)

AL East

Baltimore:

I’m not projecting any position player at Baltimore’s AAA Ottawa to ever establish themselves as a regular. However, numerous players look ready to contribute if injuries require their presence on the big club. Unfortunately, the Orioles are loaded with fading veteran OF-1B types. Midre Cummings has only had 64 Major League At Bats over the last four and a half baseball seasons, but deserves a job somewhere (.964 at Durham last year, .935 at Ottawa this year). Twenty-five year old Walter Young (.817 OBA + SlgA this year, .882 in AA last year) is possibly a legitimate prospect as a DH. 30-year-old firstbaseman Alejandro Feire (.859). thirty-year-old outfielder Bobby Darula (.803), 28-year-old thirdbaseman Napolean Calzado (.800), 26 year old 2B Bernie Castro (.802), and twenty-five year old catcher Eli Whiteside (.748) are looking major league ready, if necessary.

 

Although, rushed to the majors last year, 24-year-old John Maine is clearly the next starter deserving a call-up this year (86 Ing., 76 K, 27 BB, 10 HR, 3.66 ERA). Right-hand reliever Aaron Rakers (47.3, 57, 14, 7, 3.04) and lefthanded reliever Tim Byrdak (37,42, 14, 4, 2.19) have earned a shot. Byrdak is Ottawa’s closer.

 

Boston:

The team most famous for its collection of 1B-DH types is Boston (Manny, Millar, Ortiz, McCarty, Olerud). Brutalizing the International League for Pawtucket is another such type: one recent Japan star and long ago Astros prospect Roberto Petagine (1.108 OBA+SlgA). Eight and a half years younger than Petagine is 25-year-old slowly emerging Texan outfielder Chip Ambres (.944 O+S). That’s not enough to draft and protect, but then he could help some team willing to trade with Boston. Pawtucket is a pitchers’ paradise. Shooting up much more quickly is the 5’9” 21-year-old shortstop Dustin Pedroia from the Sacramento region of California. After hitting .324/.409/.508 for Eastern League’s Portland, he’s hitting .263/.440/.474 in his first 6 games down coast in Pawtucket. Defensively, he’s not particularly fast or strong, but his instincts are off the charts. 25-year-old Kelly Shoppach more than earned his call-up to fill in for Mirabelli, but he didn’t get a hit in his 11 At Bats. His Averages in AAA for the season so far are .250/.360/.542. With Boston’s love of Varitek, he looks like fine trade bait.

 

None of the Red Sox hurlers in AAA are making a very strong case for promotion. There are too many pitchers pitching decently to single out any as the next likely call-up. However, pitching at least as well as any of them with a younger age and higher strikeout rate is southern California’s Abe Alvarez. Those two stats tell me he is their best long run hope there. John Sickels tells me he is just a finesse lefty.

 

New York:

1b-2b-3b Andy Phillips has no problems with AAA pitching, but he doesn’t play enough to keep it up in the majors when he’s up. Mitch Jones – another firstbaseman the same age appears to have the same skills (.967 OBA + SlgA at Columbus). With Bubba Crosby looking all messed up (.648), minor league veteran Mike Vento is easily their top hitting outfielder (.919). Don’t be fooled by shortstop Andy Cannizaro’s .843 O+S in his first 38 At bats at Columbus. He batted only .605 at AA Trenton.

 

Colter Bean is mailing in his 49 Ks in 40 innings (19 BB, 4 HR, and 3.15 ERA). He pitched even better last year and about the same the year before that, but he’s only been allowed two innings with the boys in pinstripes. He must be getting discouraged. However, there is a rumor that Mike Stanton and Paul Quantrill will soon be released. Although, Sean Henn got the call up when Kevin Brown missed some starts, he would have been my third choice after the more veteran Alex Graman and Brad Voyles. Henn probably has the better long term outlook, though.

 

Tampa Bay:

The fourth youngest player who can be found in the Durham line-up is Darnell McDonald (26). A well regarded Orioles prospect a few years ago missed 2003 due to shoulder surgery. They gave up on him last year and he became property of the Indians. He was suspended for using steroids and the Devil Rays took him on. Finally, playing in hitter friendly Durham, McDonald has come to life in his first 57 At Bats with an orgasmic 1.244. He hit .754 in Buffalo, which is probably more realistic. The third youngest every day Bull is Joey Gathright (24) who’s speed and on-base skills (.388) should make him the Devil Rays starting centerfielder this year. The second youngest Fernando Cortez (almost 24) just came up from a fine campaign of playing secondbase for the organization’s AA franchise. The youngest Bull is three years younger than Cortez. Still 21, BJ Upton is the team’s leading hitter (.813 OBA+SlgA) of players with more At Bats than McDonald. The problem is that Upton has 29 errors already. That would be a high total for a full season. I don’t know if that is something which can be drastically fixed.

 

The Devil Rays are having a difficult time finding competent pitchers for their major league team. There is no great hope down in Durham especially among the starters. The best looking relievers on board are Matt Carnes, Joe Nelson and most legitimately Franklin Nunez. You would think they’d be of some help, but some organizations bring along pitchers better than others.

 

Toronto:

The Blue Jays don’t need to put up with Eric Hinske at firstbase. Kevin Barker is flashing a 1.227 OBA+SlgA in 102 At Bats in Syracuse. Although, he’s essentially been in AAA since 1998 and notably inconsistent (only .772 in AA this year), I’d love to see him get a chance. At 30, his battery doesn’t have much juice left. If not Barker, then John Hattig might do even better. His OBA+SlgA playing mostly thirdbase is .838. Last year in AA, it was .923. At 25, Hattig should still be considered a serious prospect. He’s from Guam. In the outfield 25 year-old John-Ford Griffn (.803) is giving competition to Gabe Gross (also 25) as the Jays’ up and down  5th outfielder.

 

I’m not sure how serious the Jays are about maintaining Pete Walker as their 5th starter, but Chad Gaudin (59 K, 16 BB, 4 HR, 2.30 ERA in 82.3 Innings) and David Bush (24 K, 7 BB, 3 HR, 3.50 ERA in 36 Innings) are competing with each other for another chance at the job. With the Jays, Gaudin was 11, 4, 4, 12.19 in 10.3 Innings, while Bush was 26, 10, 10, 4.89 in 53.3 Innings. Francisco Rosario needs more work to get to that level. Brandon League needs lots of work. Justin Miller has given up his starting job and well earned another shot as a reliever. In 35.3 Innings he has 36 K, 7 BB, 2 HR, and a 2.29 ERA.

 

AL Central

Cleveland:

Everyone is clubbing the ball in Cleveland’s Buffalo. What’s more, this is considered a pitchers’ park. Veterans Ernie Young and Jon Liefer have OBA+SlgAs around the .950 mark. Veteran back-up catcher Watham is around .890. More intriguing is a 25 year old Texan secondbaseman Jake Gautreau crawling his way through the minors hitting .800 all the way except in 2003 possibly when a colitis condition may have sapped his energy. Right now, he’s posting an .891 average. The real prospects in the line-up are catcher Ryan Garko (.847 – a Pittsburgh native) and Brandon Phillips (.739 from Georgia). Five years ago Ryan Ludwick was supposed to be a good prospect, but after four seasons up and down from the show, he’s sporting a very sad .582.

 

The Indians do have one AAA pitching prospect shining way above their others. He one of their youngest (23), his ERA is less than a third of anyone’s with 30 or more innings, he has by far both the lowest home run rate 2/43.3 Ing., walk rate 9/43.3, and best strikeout rate 60/43.3. He’s been brought along slowly – converted to relief in 2003 - but has been improving all the way. From Puerto Rico he is the 6’4” owner of a 95 mph fastball and big breaking splitter: Fernando Cabrera. The Indians have one of the deepest bullpens in baseball. That may be the only thing keeping him on the farm, but, at least, it means his chances of success once he’s up are dandy. Jason Davis is the starter who will apparently be up and down for the rest of the season.

 

Chicago:

Ross Gload cinched the International League in his first rehab (1.038 O+S) until he re-injured his shoulder. He’s back in action now, and the White Sox are allegedly eager to have him back. The best prospect at AAA Charlotte is outfielder Bryan Anderson 23 (.825). Guillermo Reyes is a young secondbaseman who was obviously over-rushed. Greg Norton (3B), Rooselvelt Brown (OF), and Jorge Tosca (1B) are each smacking the ball in the .800s, but the youngest of them will be 30 in a month. There’s not encouraging news for the rest of the position players. Joe Borchard .231/.296//422 just isn’t cutting it. Ben Davis just keeps getting worse.

 

There’s not an encouraging lot of pitchers down there either save for one 27 year old Californian Jeff Bajenaru (43.7 Ing., 51K, 21 BB, 3 HR, 1.24 ERA). He has an excellent track record and has nothing left to prove in the minors. Just as the Indians, the White Sox tend to have fine success with their relievers. Bajenaru just needs an opening. With Damaso Marte’s injury they, just had one, but inexplicably Kenny Williams called up Kevin Walker (24.7, 27, 15, 5, 5.11) instead. Walker isn’t even a lefty as Marte is, but he does have about four years of Major League experience.

 

Minnesota:

Rochester the AAA affiliate for Minnesota lacks a slugger who is giving Jones, Ford, Hunter, LeCroy & company anything to worry about, although anybody would be as good as back-up outfielder Michael Ryan. Jason Bartlett (.768 OBA+SlgA) deserves a second try more than anyone else deserves a first. Terry Tiffee is batting (O+S) .681 in his efforts for a recall. Just-turned-24-year-old firstbaseman Garrett Jones has power, but no control of the strike zone.

 

The top AAA Twins starting pitcher is a 23-year-old Louisianan Scott Baker, who’s mix of fastball, change-up, slider, and knucklecurve has been ready all season. The ace of the bullpen is a 23-year-old Virginian Travis Bowyer, who as Baker has a fastball and change-up as his top two pitches.

 

Detroit:

There are really no surprises as to who’s doing most of the hitting at Detroit’s Toledo franchise. Leading the way, but with only 58 At bats is Marcus Thames with a remarkable 1.233 OBA+SlgA. I know he only had .667 when he was up with the Tigers, but he was 1.145 last year in Toledo and .835 in his stint with Detroit. Couldn’t the Tigers find room for him in their line-up? Perhaps, sell off Dmitri Young or Rondell White? Thames is 28. He might be a victim of ageism. Carlos Pena is hitting a .926 O+S since his demotion. Top outfield prospect Curtis Granderson a 24-year-old centerfielder from Illinois has an .827 O+S. It is probably time he took over the job from Nook Logan and Alexis Gomez. Placido Polanca will be a free agent this winter. Secondbase in 2006 could belong to Ryan Rayburn who has moved up slowly through the system to an acceptable .793 O+S – especially in pitcher friendly Toledo.

 

Pitching is a bigger concern. Will Ledezma’s attitude and performance has been a huge disappointment to the Tigers, and it doesn’t look any better in Toledo. Recently sent down starter Matt Ginter is the best bet to be recalled. Vic Darensbourg (ERA: 0.00!) and Matt Rooney (0.95) have been the brightest stars in the pen.

 

 

Pacific Coast League (July 8)

 

Kansas City:

Sadly, the top hitter on the Royals’ Omaha franchise is 32 year-old Aaron Guiel (.882 OBA+SlgA). We all know Calvin Pickering can do much better than that, but he’s not (.796). There is no other position player or pitcher here worthy of a mention.

 

AL West

Los AngelesAnaheim

Salt Lake City is a hitter’s haven in a hitter’s league. No wonder the Angels have 6 hitters with an OBA+SlgA in the .800s there. The closest to .900 (.897) is a 26 year old outfielder Nick Gorneault. Just below him at .876 with a wonderful .405 OBA is Chris Prieto. Unfortunately, he’s 32 and has been trying to pass AAA for 8 seasons. 25 year-old outfielder Brian Gordon also checks in at .876. More impressive is Brian Specht (.861) a 24 year-old utility infielder prospect who missed part of the season with a shoulder injury, but has come back stronger than before. Luke Allen (.856) is another AAA veteran outfielder. The only serious prospect among this bunch is from the Florida panhandle 22 year-old Jeff Mathis (.849) reputedly the top catching prospect in baseball.

 

The Angels organization is as fine a relief pitcher university as any. However, the only impressive reliever there now (and I don’t see any impressive starters) is 6’6” 27 year-old lefthander Dusty Bergman. He has 37 K, 8 BB in 47 innings with a 2.51 ERA. He had very similar stats in Salt Lake City last year. Scott Dunn, also 27, has the higher upside. His strikeouts match his innings, but he has only made very slow progress during his now lengthy minor league career.

 

Oakland:

Although, Keith Ginter hit up a storm in Sacramento during his two week demotion, he is still not hitting much on the big club. Mark Ellis is hitting just well enough to allow his outstanding defense to patrol the right side of second-base. That’s probably just enough barrier to keep Oakland’s top performing AAA position prospect 25 year-old Mike Rouse (.800 OBA+SlgA) from full time employment in the Major Leagues. He could stick as another utility infielder, however. Veteran minor league sluggers Matt Watson, Jack Cust, and Andrew Beattie are all hitting in the upper .800s (O+S), but I don’t see that getting them a job either. I prefer Cust’s bat, but Watson can, at least, play leftfield, but not as well as Byrnes or Kielty. Unfortunately for Cust and Watson, they both hit lefty – just as do the DH/1B Johnson and Hatteberg.

 

While Dan Meyer is pitching through his recovery from a shoulder injury and Jairo Garcia learns to harness his unhittable fastball, the top pitching option in Sacramento is Seth Etherton (71 innings, 2.29 ERA, 62 K, 20 BB, 6 HR). However, his 6.62 ERA in his 17 innings with A’s probably scared them away. 26 year-old lefty John Rheinhecker looked useful (1.77 ERA) until he tore a hand tendon.

 

Seattle:

With an ancient (42) Pat Borders, an injured Dan Wilson, and a .393 hitting Miguel Olivo (that’s OBA+SlgA not BA) in Seattle, what’s keeping the 31 year-old Venezuelan catcher Wiki Gonzalez and his .920 O+S in Tacoma? This is the most pitcher-friendly park in the PCL. Jose Leon is no Adrian Beltre – even at his 2005 slump season, but Leon’s .266/.403/.469 would be an improvement over the ever fading Scott Spiezio. First-baseman Gregg Dobbs was up with the Mariners while Spiezio was hurt. He had earned it with an .878 O+S, but he managed to hit only .459 as mainly a Mariners pinch hitter. Hunter Brown is a 25 year-old third-base prospect (yet another) hitting .810 O+S in Tacoma. He’s a Rice graduate, so he should be OK, if he doesn’t make it as ballplayer.

 

King Felix Hernandez of Venezuela watch: 74 Innings, 78 K, 40 BB, 3 HR, 2.32 ERA, 8-4 W-L. I’ve seen better stats at AAA – every year, but from a 19 year-old? Yes, actually. Dwight Gooden put up better stats than that as a 19 year-old New York Met. Hernandez might be the most exciting pitching prospect since Gooden, but I’d like to see him develop better command. That is do-able. Other Tacoma pitchers worth mentioning: 25 year-old Korean starter Cha Seung Baek who pitched 31 innings for Seattle last year and has 74 Innings, 52 K, 17 BB, 10 HR, and a 4.52 ERA for Tacoma this year. 36 year-old Japanese reliever Masao Kida who has 57 Innings, 45 K, 16 BB, 4 HR, and a 3.97 ERA (and an 0-5 W-L), and a mysterious long reliever called Jeff Harris of unknown age and origin (to my data sources) drafted in the 50th round of 1993, who has 39 innings, 31 K, 11 BB, 5 HR, 2.52 ERA, and a 4-0 W-L.

 

Texas:

The top hitter in Texas’s PCL team Oklahoma is Jason Botts (.946 OBA+SlgA). He’s a slugger in search of a position moving from first to the outfield this year. It’s not inconceivable that the Rangers could give up on Hidalgo for whatever is ailing him by moving Dellucci to the outfield and call-up Botts to DH.  Competing with Botts for that job and as a first round pick and two years younger is considered the better prospect Adrian Gonzalez is hitting a decent .858 O+S. Gonzalez already has 78 Major League At Bats. Texas’s top prospect at AAA is like Gonzalez another just-turned 23-year-old Ian Kinsler. The difference is Kinsler was a 17th round pick and can play middle infield. Hitting .838, he just won’t have a job unless something happens to Young or Soriano. Even so, Estaban German (age 27) is the more polished second-baseman down there and not only has a slightly higher O+S of .841, but a much higher OBA of .404. The Rangers made a mistake sending down Gerald Laird recently with Rod Barajas suffering a hand injury a week later. He should be eligible to be recalled any day now and probably will. He’s hitting a healthy .891 O+S, although he is a beefy 25 year-old catcher who struggled last year as the Rangers’ back-up backstop.

 

Although Oklahoma is pitcher-friendly for the PCL (perhaps neutral for AAA overall), the Rangers don’t appear to have any pitchers at this level worthy of consideration who aren’t already up (Benoit & Dominguez).

 

To sum it up, here are the American League players from AAA who are most worthy of consideration for your upcoming supplemental draft:

(An * indicates they might be worth protecting, ** indicates they are certainly worth protecting.)

 

sp:

Felix Hernandez – Sea.**

Scott Baker – Min.*

John Maine – Bal.*

David Bush – Tor.*

Chad Gaudin – Tor.

 

 

rp:

Fernando Cabrera – Cle.*

Travis Bowyer – Min.

Tim Byrdak – Bal.

Colter Bean – NY.Y

Jeff Bajenaru – Ch.W

Justin Miller - Tor

 

c:

Wiki Gonzalez – Sea.

Kelly Shoppach – Bos.*

Ryan Garko – Cle.

Gerald Laird – Tex.

 

ss:

Dustin Pedroia – Bos.**

Jason Bartlett – Min.

Ian Kinsler – Tex.*

 

1b:

Ross Gload – Ch.W

Roberto Pentagine – Bos.

 

of:

Curtis Gunderson – Det.*

Marcus Thames – Det.

Midre Cummings – Bal.

 

dh

Jason Botts – Tex.

John Carter