At this point in the season, the minor leagues are littered with familiar faces. Whether they've played in the Majors already, shined in Spring Training or appeared on Baseball America's Top 100, these Triple-A players are already known commodities.
Here's an update on six hitters and six pitchers who could have a huge impact either on the field or at the trade deadline.
Matt Wieters, C, Norfolk Tides (Orioles)
The No. 1 prospect in baseball is off to a solid, if not overwhelming, start. He's hitting .286 with one home run, which happens to be his only extra-base hit. His most impressive stat is his .394 on-base percentage. The 38-year-old Greg Zaun is hitting just .122 as the catcher in Baltimore, so Wieters could be up soon after he recovers from a strained hamstring.
Alcides Escobar, SS, Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
After stealing 34 bases in Double-A last season, Escobar has already swiped six bags in 15 games this year. With J.J. Hardy at short for the Brewers, Escobar's only opportunity to get regular at-bats is in Nashville. The Milwaukee Triple-A affiliate has quite the left side of the infield with Escobar and...
Mat Gamel, 3B, Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
With the versatile Bill Hall currently seeing the lion's share of playing time at third base for the Brewers, it may not be long before Gamel is playing at Miller Park. The left-handed hitter has a .423 average to go with five homers and an eye-popping 1.319 OPS.
Matt LaPorta, OF, Columbus Clippers (Indians)
LaPorta became a recognizable name after being the main piece traded by the Brewers to acquire CC Sabathia last year, and is living up to high expectations. After hitting .279 in Double-A last year, LaPorta boasts a .360 average in his first Triple-A stint.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)
The Pirates are off to a good start and McCutchen looks like he's ready whenever they think he's needed. After nearly making the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, McCutchen is hitting .322 with 10 extra-base hits in 12 games. He has shown flashes of his impressive speed, hitting five triples and stealing three bases.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, New Orleans Zephyrs (Marlins)
Sanchez was expected by many to be the Opening Day first baseman for the Marlins, but is making the most of his first stint in Triple-A after what must have been a disappointing demotion. After hitting .314 with 17 homers and 92 RBI in Double-A last year, Sanchez is hitting .333 with a homer.
He'd be a defensive upgrade over Jorge Cantu, who would move to third, taking over for the suddenly struggling Emilio Bonifacio.
David Price, LHP, Durham Bulls (Rays)
Price, a postseason hero for Tampa Bay last year, is expected to be called up very soon. In fact, many speculated that Jeff Niemann's start Wednesday would be his last. Price is 1-1 with a 2.63 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13-and-two-thirds innings pitched.
Tommy Hanson, RHP, Gwinnett Braves
Hanson has absolutely mowed down hitters in his three starts. He has 23 strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings pitched and has walked only five batters, giving him an average of 14 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
Hanson has a 2.45 ERA and opposing hitters have just a .214 average against him. Atlanta seems to be content with taking it slow with the 22-year-old, but expect him up around mid-May or sometime in June.
Wade Davis, RHP, Durham Bulls (Rays)
With a deep rotation in Tampa Bay and Price in front of him in Durham, Davis is going to have a hard time breaking into the majors as a starter with the Rays. The 23-year-old has a 2.08 ERA through three starts this year after finishing last season with a 2.72 ERA in nine Triple-A starts.
Expect him to somehow help the Rays bullpen, whether he's converted to a reliever or traded for one.
Luke Hochevar, RHP, Omaha Royals
The impressive part about the Royals' early-season success is the fact that their former No. 1 overall pick is pitching in Omaha.
Hochevar has struggled in the Majors, posting a 6-13 record and 5.21 ERA in 26 appearances, but should get another chance in Kansas City very shortly. He's 3-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in three starts.
Michael Bowden, RHP, Pawtucket Red Sox
Though he has been overshadowed by Clay Buchholz in the Red Sox's system, Michael Bowden has been tough to hit this year. The 22-year-old has been arguably the most impressive pitcher on this list, giving up just one run in 14 innings pitched while striking out 15 hitters.
Phil Hughes, RHP, Scranton-Wilkes Barre Yankees
Hughes has struggled through ineffectiveness and injuries at the Major League level, but has been downright dominant in the minors. He's 3-0 with a 1.86 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 19-and-one-third innings pitched and 31-8 with a 2.37 ERA and 10 strikeouts per nine over his minor league career.
It may not be the worst idea for New York to insert Hughes into the rotation and move either Chien-Ming Wang or Joba Chamberlain to the bullpen.
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