Every Thursday throughout the regular season, we’re going to take a look at the some of the players hackin’ and chuckin’ away in Minor League Baseball who have a good chance of making an impact at the MLB level in 2009. With that said, let’s get this party started.
Matt LaPorta: The Cleveland Indians might be tempted to shake things up with the club stuck in last place in the AL Central. He could fill a role at either left field, first base or designated hitter. The club is actually hitting fairly well right now and Travis Hafner is having an early-season resurgence, so he’s not going anywhere. The player most likely to lose a roster spot to LaPorta would appear to be left fielder Ben Francisco (.220/.304/.366). The former Brewers prospect is currently hitting .362/.423/.660 in 47 Triple-A at-bats.
Eric Young Jr.: Infielders Jeff Baker (.111 AVG) and Omar Quintanilla (.143) are both struggling for the Rockies and Young Jr. is continuing the hot hitting that he displayed last season. At Triple-A, the son of former Rockies’ second baseman Eric Young Sr., is hitting .298/.313/.340 with nine stolen bases in 10 attempts. His lack of walks (He has zero) hurts his overall value, but he could be a source of cheap steals (87 SB is his MiLB career high) and he would provide more defensive flexibility than Baker.
Andrew McCutchen: Nyjer Morgan is going to have to keep playing like his pants are on fire to keep this former first round draft pick in the minors. The Pirates, though, could get cute and play the center fielder out of position to make room for him. Neither Brandon Moss nor Craig Monroe are hitting that well. Delwyn Young was also brought in recently from Los Angeles, but his defense will not wow anyone. McCutchen, on the other hand, is a gifted outfielder who is currently hitting .315/.373/.630 with five triples and three steals in 54 at-bats.
Bobby Wilson: The Angels have two pretty good young catchers on the MLB roster already, but the organization also has one of the best No. 3 catchers around… and Wilson is stuck playing in Triple-A until an injury occurs. If an opportunity presents itself, though, Wilson could be a valuable addition for fantasy league managers. Along with being a solid defensive catcher (which doesn’t help in most fantasy scenarios), he’s never hit below .268 in the minors leagues and he’s currently batting .346 in 26 at-bats after managing a .312 average at the same level last season. Wilson also has three home runs.
Daniel Bard: With an already-dominating bullpen, Boston could get even more scary with the addition of Bard. Unfortunately for fantasy owners, he’s not likely to get involved in many impact scenarios (ie. saves) due to the depth in front of him in the big league pen. He could, though, earned some vulture saves while piling up Ks. So far in Triple-A, Bard has allowed just one hit and three walks in nine innings. He’s struck out more than half (16) of the 27 batters he’s retired.
David Huff: With veterans Fausto Carmona and Carl Pavano struggling, Cleveland may need to dip down into the minors yet again for some pitching help. With Aaron Laffey having already been promoted, Huff could be the next Triple-A starter to get the call. He has a 3.94 ERA through three starts and has allowed 14 hits and seven walks in 16 innings. The left-hander has also struck out 12 batters. Another player to keep an eye on is Hector Rondon, who is one of the fastest rising prospects in the game. He’s currently at Double-A with a 1.10 ERA through three starts.
Jess Todd: Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa is not know for his patience with young pitching. If Jason Motte continues to struggle into the beginning of May, Todd may get his opportunity to shine in the St. Louis bullpen. The former second round draft pick out of the University of Arkansas has had little trouble with pro hitters and he currently has 12 strikeouts in 9.1 Triple-A innings. He’s also allowed just five hits. Right-handed hitters are batting just .120 against him.
David Price: It’s not 2008 anymore and the Rays are currently stuck in last place in the AL East. The organization may live to regret not going with its best 25-man roster, which would have included Price, right from the get-go. The left-hander has been solid – but not dominating – at Triple-A with a 2.63 ERA in three starts. He’s allowed 10 hits and four walks, with 15 Ks, in 13.2 innings of work. MLB starters Jeff Niemann and Andy Sonnanstine are a combined 1-4 with ERAs above 5.40.
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