Every Thursday throughout the season, Minor Impacts takes a look at some of the hottest minor league players that could have impacts at the Major League Level in the near future. Some of the players we’ve educated you on before their promotions include: Vince Mazzaro, Andrew McCutchen, Gordon Beckham, Robert Manuel, Marc Rzepczynski, Aaron Poreda, Jake Fox, Nolan Reimold, Daniel Bard, Bud Norris, and Mat Latos.
Josh Donaldson: The Cubs originally signed Donaldson as a supplemental first round pick out of college, but he slumped a bit at the beginning of his first full pro season. Oakland pounced and had him included in the trade for Rich Harden. The organization then aggressively promoted him one level upon his arrival and he hit .330/.391/.564 in 188 at-bats. This season in double-A, the catcher’s offense has come back to earth a bit again and Donaldson, 23, has a line of .271/.398/.429 with 32 doubles and six homers in 329 at-bats. He’s also posted an outstanding walk rate of 17.3% and a respectable strikeout rate of 20.7%. He won’t be a star, but Donaldson could be an above-average offensive catcher in the Majors.
Travis Snider: After a disappointing beginning to his MLB career, the 21-year-old left-fielder was sent back down to triple-A where he missed time with an injury. Finally getting back into the swing of things after missing all of June, Snider is swinging a big bat. He has seven home runs and 17 RBI in 22 July games, including three homers and nine RBI in his last 10 games. On the down side, Snider’s average is still below .260 and he’s striking out a lot. But you have to expect those kinds of things with young players. He’s definitely a future star, but he’s going to have his ups and downs. Just be patient.
Cameron Maybin: Like Snider, Maybin’s rookie season has not gone quite as expected and he is currently riding buses in triple-A, rather than traveling in style in The Show. With that said, his performance in triple-A has been outstanding and he looks ready for another shot in the Majors, which has been oddly slow in coming. Currently, the Marlins outfield prospect is hitting .325/.413/.469 with 14 doubles in 228 at-bats. He’s also increased his walk rate, while trimming his strikeout rate significantly. Maybin’s power numbers have been down and he’s also stopped stealing bases so his value is really tied up in his average right now. Regardless, he’s making positive steps and could be up any day now.
C.J. Retherford: With Josh Fields possibly on his way out of Chicago, this former non-drafted amateur free agent (a great scouting job by the White Sox) could suddenly find himself jumping up the depth chart at third base. Retherford has done nothing but hit since signing and he’s currently hitting .294/.334/.471 with 28 doubles and eight homers in 340 at-bats. The 23-year-old does not possess a ton of power; his swing is more geared to the line drive. His walk rate has also dipped each season and is down to 6.3 BB% in 2009 at double-A. The right-handed hitter has potential, but Retherford needs to be a little more patient.
Brooks Brown: Prior to the season, the Diamondbacks sent Brown to the Tigers so the National League organization could have the rights to Rule 5 draft pick James Skelton, who was then optioned to the minors. Brown, a former supplemental first round pick, had been a disappointment to that point in his pro career. He’s still not a strikeout pitcher, and never will be, but Brown has learned how to pitch to his strengths and rely on his defense. His fastball is in the upper 80s most of the time, but he has a solid ground-ball rate of 50.4% between double-A and triple-A this season. Brown’s walk rate has taken a hit lately, but his control has seen signs of improving overall. A starter in the minors, the 24-year-old is headed to the bullpen (possibly as a swing man) in the Majors but he should still be a useful arm who could luck into a number of vulture wins.
Sam Demel: A former third-round pick out of college, Demel has risen quickly through the minors and is on the cusp of his big-league debut. The 23-year-old right-hander posted a 2.79 FIP in double-A while allowing 23 hits in 29.1 innings of work and a strikeout rate of 7.98 K/9. Promoted to triple-A, he’s allowed just eight hits (but 11 walks) in 15.1 innings. He also has 14 Ks. The two key things that Demel needs to work on are: consistency and command. He has the upside of a set-up man with a low-90s fastball that has touched 95 mph, as well as a slider and changeup.