Roster Wrap: International and Pacific Coast Leagues (AAA)

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Roster Wrap: International and Pacific Coast Leagues (AAA)

This is a team-by team review of the AAA rosters. A couple notes before we begin:

This was done over the course of about a week, so some of the rosters have changed slightly. For some of the first teams, rosters had not yet been finalized, so there were more additions.

If you’ve read Baseball Prospectus before, you’ll find this resembles the Lineouts section of every team. Expect a similar format, albeit with slightly less frequent doses of sarcasm. Also, because that’s kind of the format I’m going for, please don’t change the stylistic layout of the article if you edit it.

If you’d like more info on any of these players or a player that I left out, just comment on this article or send me a message. I’d be more than happy to answer.

I apologize in advance for all the bemoaning of Quad-A stuff. I also apologize in advance if I’ve said something bad about someone you like, but you can’t please all the people all the time. I have my honest opinions and I have nothing against any of these players. I just try to evaluate players as objectively as possible. Also, in one or two sentences, it is difficult to provide a particularly balanced view in every single case.

This runs very long, so if all you want to do is check your favorite team’s AAA roster, by all means do so.

As always, thanks for reading my stuff. I appreciate any questions, comments, or feedback.

Buffalo Bisons

Pitching: Aaron Laffey is the only pitcher to not have turned 23, but he may actually be the first to be called to the majors. Adam Miller is a blue-chipper if he could ever stay healthy. Tony Sipp and Edward Mujica make for a nice lefty-righty combo in the late innings. Jeremy Sowers continues to try to right his career. Tom Mastny might put up some nice numbers this year.

Batting: Josh Barfield is good trade bait but could go back up to Cleveland if Asdrubal Cabrera struggles. Danny Sandoval won the IL batting title two years ago; he would be a decent utility guy in the bigs. Ryan Mulhern is a Quad-A bat who probably will never get a look. Jason Cooper has plenty of power but doesn't tap into it; Brad Snyder is the same way. Jason Tyner makes for a good fourth outfielder and passable starting CF. Ben Francisco does everything well and deserves a big league job.

Overall: The pitching is pretty thin here, but they have some nice bats who insulate the major league team everywhere but catcher and third.

Charlotte Knights

Pitching: There's a Matt Anderson sighting! Dewon Day has one of the nastiest sliders you'll ever see and has always put up gigantic minor league K numbers with it. Charlie Haeger throws one hell of a knuckleball; it's just that catchers can't catch it. Adam Russell and Andy Sisco are two big fellas with great stuff; if they can harness it, they could really both be something.

Batting: 300-pound Brad Eldred continues his quest to break out of Quad-A. Josh Fields returns to AAA, at 25, he may wind up being less than you might think if he isn't traded soon. Jeff Liefer is the rare Quad-A bat who has gotten a major league shot but hasn't done too much with it. Mike Rouse is a lefty David Eckstein if you squint hard enough, but why bother?

Overall: Nice pitching, with a good mix of guys who could reinforce the major league team now and others who will likely spend a full year at the level. It will be interesting to see Eldred in a hitter's park for once, but the hitting aside from Eldred and Fields won't be much.

Columbus Clippers

Pitching: Mike Bacsik pitched decently in the bigs last year and is a classic big league 5th starter. Collin Balester has reached AAA before his 22nd birthday, a good sign but, in his case, not one of future stardom. Tyler Clippard could be the next Joe Blanton. John Lannan nearly made the rotation in spring training, so he could be up quickly. Garrett Mock is similar to Clippard, except his stuff is slightly better and his command is a lot worse. Mike O'Connor is a finesse guy with MLB experience coming off an injury. He had a good spring, so he may yet turn into something. Formerly a big time prospect, Dennis Tankersley is still just 29, but if he's going to have a career it needs to happen now.

Batting: Tony Batista is going to play third base. Bret Boone is going to play second base. Yes, those are not misprints. Larry Broadway and Kory Casto are classic Quad-A bats. Jason Dubois is another Quad-A bat, but he's a good one who really should be given another shot at the big leagues. If Alex Escobar could stay healthy longer than Rich Harden, he could be a bigtime CF. Ryan Langerhans is a decent 4th OF.

Overall: Nice pitching, with several real prospects mixed with big-league quality veteran arms. Dubois, Casto, and Broadway will hit, and so will Escobar when healthy, but Batista and Boone--I can't really believe it either. Nothing at catcher here (a.k.a Wil Nieves).

Durham Bulls

Pitching: Ben Hendrickson is a classic Quad-A pitcher with a good curve who gets killed when he gets called up. Chris Mason gets lost in the shuffle of good Rays prospects, but he might get a shot. Scott Munter throws a great sinker but never K's anyone, so at 28 he pretty much is what he is. 6'9", 290-pound Jeff Niemann could be the first callup.

Batting: Hey, an actual catching prospect! Hector Gimenez is only 25, he switch-hits, and is a great defender. Reid Brignac is a good bet to be the next Bobby Crosby--or rather, what Bobby Crosby would have been had he not gotten hurt. Joel Guzman is huge, can play most of the positions, and has power, so that has some value, just not as much as he was once thought to have. We all know Evan Longoria is a monster prospect; it's only a matter of time. Fernando Perez is one of the fastest players in baseball. Chris Richard, Jon Weber, Justin Ruggiano, and John Rodriguez give the Rays some nice Quad-A bats who can help at first or the outfield if needed.

Overall: Aside from Niemann, there isn't much to see in the pitching department, but there will be very soon as the AA arms advance. Longoria and Brignac have great potential, and the outfielders are good insurance.

Indianapolis Indians

Pitching: Former No. 1 pick Bryan Bullington still could wind up being a good starter. Sean Burnett has been completely derailed by injuries but is still only 25. John Van Benschoten has been a bust as a former top 10 pick, but still will get chances at the No. 5 spot in the majors if he pitches well.

Batting: Neil Walker is a nice 3B prospect who can catch in an emergency. Andrew McCutchen is a toolsy if overrated CF who has breakout potential. Steven Pearce might actually be the best player on the Pirates right now. It says a lot about their management that he isn't even in the majors.

Overall: A thin team that only ranks high in lost potential with Bullington, Burnett, and Van Benschoten trying to salvage careers as back-end starters. McCutchen and Walker are a nice duo, and Pearce has no business being still in AAA. The faster he comes up, the better.

Lehigh Valley IronPigs

Pitching: Kris Benson is here to rehab. Travis Blackley has a shot at some type of swing career if he makes some improvements. Vic Darensbourg is the ultimate Quad-A situational lefty; odds are 50-50 he wears a Phillies uniform this year. J.D. Durbin has one of the best curves around and wasn't overmatched in the majors last year. He could make 20 starts in the bigs. John Ennis and Gary Knotts are better veteran swing insurance than most teams have. Brian Mazone is a good pitcher who has never gotten a chance; you can't help but root for him because of this.

Batting: Catcher Pete LaForest, 1B/3B Andy Tracy, and OF Val Pascucci are three Quad-A bats who are better than that; all would hit 20+ HR as big league regulars, especially in Philly. Gookie Dawkins has an awesome name and an awesome glove. Casey Smith can play everywhere, even catcher, and impressed in camp, so who knows? T.J. Bohn, Brandon Watson, and Chris Snelling are all good fourth OF candidates; all could even be decent starting CFs, although none are as good as Shane Victorino.

Overall: I'm kind of looking through the rosters as I'm writing this, and this is easily the best team I've seen so far. Put the IronPigs, Giants, Orioles, Pirates, and Marlins in a division and I'd bet the IronPigs finish in the top two. The Phillies don't have much depth further down in the system, so they'd be well-served to trade some of their less-important MLB players for less-advanced prospects and promote some guys here. LaForest or Tracy could outhit Pedro Feliz, Greg Dobbs, and Wes Helms at third, although Feliz is a better defender than either. Just something to think about. Look for Kyle Kendrick to pitch his way down here and see Durbin or Blackley go up. Pascucci could replace Pat Burrell easily enough; he hit 34 homers in AAA last year.

Louisville Bats

Pitching: Homer Bailey is a good prospect with two plus pitches, but he got rocked in the majors last year. His chance of not panning out thus doubled. He's still got time on his side though. Bill Bray is a good young situational arm. Dave Gassner is Mike Bacsik, version 2.0. I'm higher on Matt Maloney than most: comparing him to Tom Glavine is a stretch, but Jamie Moyer might not be. Marcus McBeth is a smaller Fernando Rodney, with a mid-90's fastball, great change, and nothing else. Adam Pettyjohn switches teams, levels, and organizations every few months, but he actually has some degree of talent.

Batting: Kevin Barker is a Quad-A bat a notch below the three big ones on the IronPigs, but not without MLB value. And I hate to break it to you, Reds fans, but Jay Bruce isn't the number 1 prospect in baseball. He's not even in my top 10. Yes, he is a good hitter. Yes, he is a good runner. Yes, he is a good fielder. No, there is nothing he doesn't do well. But there is nothing he is great at either. He won't hit .330, he won't hit 40 homers, won't steal 40 bases, and probably won't play center field. He projects to be good but not great, more in the Nick Markakis mold, and the best case scenario is Bobby Abreu with fewer walks.

Overall: Bruce and Bailey are two guys to watch, but they both are a bit overrated as far as I'm concerned. Maloney is a nice sleeper guy. They don't have anyone over 30 on the pitching staff, which is a good sign.

Norfolk Tides

Pitching: Radhames Liz was absolutely terrible as a major league starter and absolutely brilliant as a major league reliever last year. The Orioles want him to start. Garrett Olson has been compared to Barry Zito, but depending which version of Zito you're talking about, that can be good or bad. His MLB performance last year suggests he is close to the current version of Zito, although not all hope is lost yet. Hayden Penn is still just 23, and if he stays healthy, he could really help the Orioles out.

Batting: Alex Cintron should immediately replace Luis Hernandez in the majors. Message to Andy MacPhail: "Immediately" means "NOW!" Mike Costanzo can play third and sort of catch, and he has home run power at the plate. He isn't much yet, but he is almost as good as all the mediocre Aubrey Huff corner types the Orioles carry. Sebastian Boucher, Tike Redman, Chris Roberson, Adam Stern, and Luis Terrero comprise the outfield. They're all basically the same player: a good fifth outfielder, OK fourth outfielder, and bad starter. Roberson is probably the best, followed by Redman and Stern.

Overall: Relative to their competition, the Tides are certainly better than the Orioles. They have some useful spare parts here, but the Orioles have enough of those already. Liz is the only real difference maker here. Oh, and MacPhail, I wrote the Cintron thing a minute ago and he's still in AAA. WHAT PART OF "NOW!" DO YOU NOT UNDERSTAND?

Pawtucket Red Sox

Pitching: Abe Alvarez is a decent situational guy. Bartolo Colon is here to rehab and get in shape--like he's ever been in shape before. Please. Lee Gronkiewicz deserves a shot at the major leagues. Craig Hansen just goes backwards every year; the Sox should start him down in High-A and bring him up once he does well (look at the Rangers' handling of Edinson Volquez last year for comparison). Lincoln Holdzkom throws hard and has a bunch of tattoos, which is cool; if he ever throws a decent breaking ball or controls his fastball, he'd be cooler. There's a bit of a Bobby Jenks comparison there. I've always been a Jon Switzer fan, although he hasn't done well in the bullpen. Charlie Zink is the third-best knuckleballer in the game after Tim Wakefield and Charlie Haeger.

Batting: George Kottaras is a catcher who hits lefty and isn't a terrible hitter--a rare and valuable skill set. Jeff Bailey is Robby Hammock without the major league experience. Chris Carter is an underrated Quad-A hitter who really makes you wonder why the Red Sox brought in Sean Casey. Carter has the same exact skill set, except his younger, cheaper, and better. If you haven't read my article on the Garbage Player Phenomenon, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Joe Thurston is a valuable infield reserve who was once considered a prospect five years ago. He's never stopped hitting in AAA but everyone seems to have forgotten about him but me. Bobby Kielty needs to stop hitting lefty, because he has the worst lefty swing I've ever seen, and it doesn't work. Growing the red afro back would be awesome too. Jon Van Every was constantly ignored by the Indians, but he is a great defensive CF with a good line-drive bat. Brandon Moss is a good hitter who is on the border of OK starter and great fourth outfielder; this season likely will dictate which he becomes.

Overall: Nice team, not quite as good as the IronPigs, but a bit younger, so that's a plus. If Coco Crisp gets traded, Van Every could replace him without the team losing anything. Especially pitchingwise, there are no potential stars here.

Richmond Braves

Pitching: Buddy Carlyle is a prototypical 5th starter. Blaine Boyer is a prototypical sixth-inning reliever. Francisley Bueno holds more promise than your average 27-year-old. Damian Moss had a nice spring, and has surprised everyone by getting this far. Jo-Jo Reyes is an average lefty who will pitch a bunch of major league games at some point--whether he is a long-term major leaguer remains to be seen.

Batting: Clint Sammons is talked up as more than he is. He is akin to Toby Hall, not Kelly Shoppach, and thus is better as a Triple-A starter and emergency big leaguer than a MLB backup. Brent Lillibridge is underrated and may be better than Yunel Escobar. Wes Timmons is a low-power 3B who can play SS and 2B as well. He walks a ton and never strikes out--think 90% of Jeff Keppinger, but a bit older. Scott Thorman has a ton of power, but doesn't show it quite enough to be more than a generic Quad-A guy. Josh Anderson is fast and not entirely useless as a hitter; the Braves should have started Gregor Blanco in center, kept Anderson as his backup, and never signed Mark Kotsay. Joe Borchard has tons of power and actually gets looks that most Quad-A guys don't; unfortunately, he's just reinforced the Quad-A stereotype. Brandon Jones is a good left field prospect who may quickly go up to the majors.

Overall: Not much in the way of pitching here, but Lillibridge and Jones are good prospects, and Anderson, Timmons, Thorman, and Borchard all have value. The issue with most of them is that they dont excel at more than one thing. Anderson is fast. Timmons has great plate discipline. Thorman and Borchard have power. The lack of versatility within the individual players is worrisome.

Rochester Red Wings

Pitching: Carmen Cali is a generic fringe fastball-slider lefty. He's in the right organization. I can't believe anyone signed Danny Graves. Phil Humber and Kevin Mulvey, both acquired in the Santana deal, are good prospects. Humber is noted for his curve. Glen Perkins is a good prospect as well.

Batting: Jose Morales has no power but he is a good contact hitter at the plate, sort of like a switch-hitting Jason Kendall with a less dirty uniform. Eli Whiteside isn't a bad catcher either. Howie Clark defines "fringe utilityman." Randy Ruiz has power but is 30 and never has played much above AA ball. He might be a decent pinch hitter-type in the majors. I wrote an entire article about Jon Knott and how he should be in the majors: the Twins should install him in left, Young in right, and Cuddyer in center to give Gomez more minors time. Knott is way better than what a Quad-A player should be. How good should one be? Look at Garrett Jones, who has one tool--power--and not quite enough to make a really strong case for an everyday job. Alexi Casilla is a fast slap hitter who can't play short, which doesn't bode well. Darnell McDonald would be a useful fourth outfielder, but he isn't as good as Knott. Jason Pridie is something of an overrated prospect who really isn't too different from Carlos Gomez--except Pridie is older, less talented, and has less upside. Denard Span is small, fast, plays a good center, and that's it, but if Minnesota isn't going to get creative and use Young or Cuddyer in center, they should use Span.

Overall: The Red Wings have three good pitchers--Humber, Mulvey, and Perkins--and a ton of Quad-A sluggers with various levels of deserving to be Quad-A. Unfortunately, the Twins aren't a team that values sluggers as much as people who "do the little things," so there's a ton of danger that this team will finish 10-15 games worse than it should. Seriously guys, Knott-Cuddyer-Young in the outfield. Or Young-Monroe-Cuddyer when Kubel doesn't play and DH Knott. I apologize for the Quad-A ranting, but I'm just an 18-year-old kid and I see this stuff and Bill Smith doesn't?

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees

Pitching: Chris Britton is really fat and really ordinary when it comes to pitching--he's a generic MLB sixth-inning guy. Alan Horne is considered to be pretty good, but he's already 25, so the jury's still out. Jeff Marquez is an underrated prospect who could probably be Carlos Silva right now without the $48 million contract. Heath Phillips is the second coming of Mark Buehrle if you ask me, but a generic lefty arm if you ask anyone else. He has one hell of a pickoff move. Edwar Ramirez has a filthy changeup that has resulted in some filthy minor league K rates. He deserves 50 more big league innings to see if he can have success there. Scott Strickland is back from arm troubles; I have no idea if there's anything left. Jose Veras is another generic sixth-inning arm.

Batting: Eric Duncan's status keeps going down, but he is a decent AAA hitter at age 23 and can play the corners, so there's some value there. Cody Ransom is the hitter Juan Uribe wishes he could be, but Uribe's career is the one Ransom wishes he could have. Brett Gardner is crazy fast and that's it. Jason Lane's sudden MLB downturn the last two years is almost inexplicable, but with Shelley Duncan and Morgan Ensberg on the Yankees, he isn't going to get a shot. Greg Porter is a big outfielder with a big swing, and given his swing, he makes a surprising amount of contact. Add him to the list of Quad-A guys who are better than 20 starting corner guys in the majors.

Overall: There's no talent up the middle on this team, but plenty of pitchers and corner guys.

Syracuse Chiefs

Pitching: Josh Banks doesn't walk anyone, strikes out a lot of people, but allows a LOT of homers. It all adds up to him being a back-of-the-rotation guy, but he's probably better than Jesse Litsch. Bill Murphy is a good swing arm who might take a step forward this year. I have no idea why John Parrish gets chances with anyone anymore; when your walk rate is 8 BB/9 and people talk about how you've "improved your command" I stop caring. David Purcey is a big lefty with command problems, but if he improves his command by 10%, his stuff is good enough to stick somewhere. Tracy Thorpe is similar to Purcey, only he is two years older, righthanded, and a reliever, so his chances aren't as good. Still, plus stuff is plus stuff.

Batting: Robinzon Diaz is an odd player: a slap-hitting catcher. It's worked so far. Half of what I read about Curtis Thigpen says he's an offensive catcher who can't defend; the other half says he's a defensive catcher who can't hit. I guess it just averages out and Thigpen is OK at everything. If Tomas Perez is in the majors, Russ Adams should be. Chip Cannon is clubfooted (seriously he is, I'm not making fun) but damn he's got power. He essentially is the same player as Frank Thomas in everything but age and salary. Pedro Lopez plays exactly like you'd expect a shortstop named Pedro Lopez to play. Jorge Velandia always hits in AAA and hit well for the Rays in a callup last year. Makes you wonder why Eckstein makes the big bucks. Wayne Lydon, not Jim Edmonds, would make a ton of sense for the Padres in CF: he's crazy fast and can cover the ground. He also is a switch-hitter who isn't overmatched offensively. Yet, look who the Padres got and who the Blue Jays don't need. Adam Lind is a good young hitter who was rushed out the door by the Jays last year; some team should buy low. Matt Watson was a good AAA hitter, went to Japan, and is now back. He'll continue to be a good AAA hitter.

Overall: The Jays have a ton of money spent on average players in the majors. They have a ton of similar players in the minors. Take away Halladay, Burnett, Rios, and Wells, and all of a sudden it's hard to tell which roster is better. Sure is easy to tell which is more expensive. J.P. Ricciardi has badly mismanaged his team's budget.

Toledo Mud Hens

Pitching: Francis Beltran is a hard thrower with no command, but he is still just 28. A lot of people were high on Armando Galarraga two years ago, but he's 26 and hasn't done anything since coming to the AL. Anastacio Martinez could come out of nowhere and be something. Macay McBride is a decent situational lefty. Virgil Vasquez was rocked in his brief callup last year, but should get another shot with the Tigers' bullpen in tatters.

Batting: Mike Hessman is hilarious. He hit .165 for the Mud Hens in 2006 and they kept him around! He hit .251 last year and even hit four big league homers. Hessman swings for the fences with every swing, and he does connect sometimes. However, his batting averages tend to be so low it's tough to carry him on a roster. Jeff Larish is a Quad-A guy waiting to happen; he deserves better than that. Mike Hollimon can hit and play short, but that hasn't been enough to give Marshall McDougall a career, so who knows? Brent Clevlen is a younger, center field version of Hessman with half the power. He either makes more contact or his big '06 callup will be most of his MLB career. Jason Perry would be a good bench outfielder in the majors.

Overall: Not much here. The Tigers have arguably the worst system in baseball, and it shows. However, between Hessman, Larish, Hollimon, and Perry, there are four useful bats here at 1B, 3B, SS, and OF.

Albuquerque Isotopes

Pitching: Marcos Carvajal pitched well for the Rockies as a 20-year-old (Coors Field success at 20!) and yet hasn't seen much big league action since. Still just 23, there's obviously upside here. Eulogio De La Cruz throws really hard and has at least some idea of where the ball is going--he is likely suited more to relief than starting work. Marcus Gwyn keeps pitching well; everyone keeps failing to notice. Gaby Hernandez is a good prospect, but unless his curve improves, he won't be much of a starter. Brandon Villafuerte is as good as 20% of the pitchers in the majors, but he isn't really better than any. Doug Waechter gets by on pure guts and wile; this guy shouldn't be on the mound for a team that wants to make the playoffs. Thankfully, he isn't on a team like that.

Batting: John Baker is a lefty-hitting catcher. It gave Paul Bako a career, so why not him? Tagg Bozied either slugs or gets hurt: unfortunately, he's gotten hurt so many times that no one notices if he slugs anymore. Chase Lambin can play everywhere, and more importantly, can HIT, and switch-hit at that. He isn't in the majors because?... John Gall is Bozied again, without the injuries, but two years older. Alexis Gomez is a perfect fourth outfielder, but his 15 minutes of fame have come and gone (They were in the 2006 ALCS). Dallas McPherson was once a big-time prospect, but chronic injuries and strikeout issues have killed his career. He won't get a better shot than he did in spring training, so his career prospects are through unless Jorge Cantu hurts something. Eric Reed is a speed-and-defense guy who doesn't hit enough to justify a backup OF spot.

Overall: There are a few interesting players here, most notably Lambin, Carvajal, and Hernandez, but this is just an average AAA team.

Colorado Springs Sky Sox

Pitching: Jose Capellan throws really hard. You just need to do more than that to do well in the majors, and Capellan doesn't do more than that. Valerio De Los Santos might be the new Vic Darensbourg. Chris George is a Quad-A lefty who has had a ton of ups and downs. Who knows what this year will bring? Juan Morillo throws 104 mph. You gotta love that. Greg Reynolds, former No. 2 overall pick, looks like he could be the new Jason Jennings--pre-implosion Jason Jennings. Josh Towers is the ultimate garbage pitcher. You can always do better than him. And besides, it's weird to have a single-digit number for a pitcher in the majors.

Batting: It's time the Rockies either trade Todd Helton or trade Joe Koshansky, who has a ton of power and plays a good first base. He's closer to Mark Teixeira (without the switch-hitting, just lefty) than you would think. Omar Quintanilla is essentially Ramon Vazquez II, which isn't a good or bad thing, it's just okay. Ian Stewart is overhyped because he did well in Low-A ball three years ago, but there are worse 3Bs out there. Sean Barker is a Quad-A outfielder who does more than hit for power--he also makes contact and can play center field. Think Cody Ross. Seth Smith is a decent prospect who can do some of everything, but he likely will end up being a part-timer along the lines of Jason Michaels. Cory Sullivan has gotten more MLB playing time than he has deserved; he can play a good center and that's about it.

Overall: Morillo is interesting, Koshansky even more so, and the rest of the roster is a nice group of MLB-ready players. This team will be a very good AAA team, although their players won't emerge as MLB stars.

Fresno Grizzlies

Pitching: Everyone on this staff is 25 or older; that's bad. Jesse Foppert keeps getting chances to come back from injury; all he does is keep getting hurt. Billy Sadler is a short fireballer who should be in the majors now. Pat Misch is a fringe guy. Randy Messenger throws hard and that's about it.

Batting: Scott McClain should be in the majors. Scott McClain should be in the majors. Scott McClain should be in the majors. Scott McClain should be in the majors. Yes, he's 35, but he would hit 30 HR in a Giants uniform this year, taking their offense from completely pathetic to almost completely pathetic. He's easily the best power hitter on the team. The fact that Brian Bocock is at short for the Giants instead of Ivan Ochoa is nothing short of criminal. Ochoa is very small and very good defensively, and plus-plus defensive shortstops who slug .430 at age 24 in AAA should be in the majors. Get a clue, Sabean. Brett Harper is a lefty power bat at first. Whoever the Giants are playing at 1B and 3B, I guarantee Harper and McClain can beat their VORP by 20 runs. Emmanuel Burriss is a moderately interesting middle-infield prospect who's been rushed. He's better than Bocock but not Ochoa. Brian Horwitz hits for average and that's it, so he seems optimal for a pinch-hitting role in the NL. Nate Schierholtz was supposed to be part of a youth movement in San Francisco, but it obviously isn't happening. A Fred Lewis-Aaron Rowand-Schierholtz outfield wouldn't be very bad.

Overall: Pitchingwise, the Grizzlies are pathetic. Hittingwise, they're miles ahead of their big-league counterparts. Seriously, if the Giants changed some stuff around, their lineup could be Bengie Molina at catcher, Brett Harper at first, Jose Castillo at second, Ivan Ochoa at short, Scott McClain at third, Fred Lewis/Rajai Davis in left (in a platoon), Aaron Rowand in center, and Nate Schierholtz in right. Throw in a Winn-Velez-Horwitz-Alfonzo-other half of the LF platoon bench, and you've got a lineup better than 10 teams in the majors. It's not amazing, but pair it with the Giants' decent MLB pitching staff and contention isn't that hard to see. Not that Brian Sabean would ever do it. Front-office change in San Francisco can't come soon enough: if you don't do what I just said, fine, but do SOMETHING besides what you're doing now!

Iowa Cubs

Pitching: Jose Ascanio is a young fireballer who has moved quickly. Neal Cotts once started the Futures Game, and once was a great reliever for a World Series championship team, and yet nobody really thinks highly of him. Sean Gallagher is underrated because scouts make too much of his conditioning; at 6’2” 220 he isn’t exactly David Wells. Gallagher throws reasonably hard, has a great curve, and has MLB experience at 22 (if not MLB success). Randy Keisler is a pure finesse Quad-A pitcher. Sean Marshall is likely to be the first player called up to fill a rotation spot; he’s huge and has solid-average stuff across the board.

Batting: Jake Fox can catch and play first and left, and he has serious power. Think Adam Melhuse. Koyie Hill and J.D. Closser both switch hit, and both do it reasonably well, so the Cubs have great catching depth. Andres Blanco has absolutely no power but a great glove at short. Casey McGehee is one hell of a third baseman defensively, but not at the plate. Then again, Jack Hannahan has essentially the same skill set, so maybe McGehee will get a career too. Sam Fuld hits a little and hustles a lot, so there are worse candidates to back up Felix Pie. A better one, though, is Matt Murton, who has followed in Jason Dubois’ footsteps as a power-hitting corner outfielder who the Cubs have completely mishandled. Murton likely won’t be in an Iowa uniform in a month. Josh Kroeger is athletic but inconsistent; he needs a good year if he aspires to have a long career. Eric Patterson can play second and the outfield, and he does some of everything. Think Chone Figgins with less speed and more power.

Overall: The Cubs have a nice team here; it may not reflect in the PCL standings, but if North Siders get hurt, the big league team won’t suffer as it tries to fend off Milwaukee and Cincinnati in the Central.

Las Vegas 51s

Pitching: Brian Falkenborg is a fringe pitcher who is a better fit for a bullpen than Jose Mesa/Antonio Alfonseca types. Jason Johnson is a formerly effective MLB pitcher who seemingly lost effectiveness two years ago; at 34, it’s unlikely he’ll suddenly rebound. Greg Jones throws a knockout slider and not much else; there are worse middle relievers in the bigs. Mike Koplove is a fringe sidearmer who was overworked as the setup man of the awful 2004 Diamondbacks and hasn’t done much since. Jon Meloan has possibly the highest-effort delivery in organized baseball. He’s waiting for a breakdown, but until the breakdown, he could be a really good pitcher. Greg Miller is a former top pitching prospect who has lost all control of his plus-plus stuff after two major shoulder surgeries. Still just 23, there’s still an outside chance he could improve, and as much as I’m rooting for him, the odds aren’t on his side. Mike Myers has one of the biggest platoon splits around, and he is now 38 years old, so there isn’t much left. Justin Orenduff is a sinkerballer who could be a back-end starter. Matt Riley could be a nice back-end guy or middle reliever. He’s a lefty with good stuff and poor control. Eric Stults is a typical fringe lefty swingman finesse pitcher.

Batting: Kevin Howard is a line-drive lefty bat who can play second or third. Think of a lefty Tony Graffanino. John-Ford Griffin has a hyphenated first name and a very powerful lefty bat that has given him a .696 SLG in 27 career MLB plate appearances, as well as some monster power numbers in AAA. There’s no reason that his ’08 can’t be Jack Cust’s ’07, albeit with less OBP. He should also change his name to John-Ford Ford-Ford Ford-Griffin. Wilkin Ruan has some of every tool, and could be a decent backup outfielder. George Lombard is similar, only three years older and from the opposite side of the plate. Neither is likely to get much of an opportunity given LA’s OF depth. Jason Repko and Xavier Paul are also deserving of jobs, but even further back in line. Paul is only 23 though, so he has time.

Overall: Almost everyone on the pitching staff is noteworthy, and they have a very good infielder in Howard and outfielder in Griffin, who will thrive at Cashman Field.

Memphis Redbirds

Pitching: Ron Flores is a generic situational lefty. Blake Hawksworth is a big guy who throws downhill and has solid-average command of solid-average stuff. That sounds like a big-league No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Chris Perez is considered by many to be the best relief prospect in baseball; we’ll find out if his killer slider passes the MLB test sooner rather than later. Cliff Politte’s MLB career was as follows: He had a bunch of OK years, then one amazing one, and then one awful one. I say “had” because he’s unlikely to continue it. Mark Worrell doesn’t have Perez’s stuff, but is considered to be a good relief prospect as well. John Wasdin is the quintessential average fringe pitcher: He can start or relieve equally well, throws 90 with his fastball, throws a curve, slider, and change that are all average, and he has average control. Now 35, he probably isn’t quite average enough to make the majors again.

Batting: Mark Johnson hits lefty, catches, and walks a lot, a rather bizarre skill set that no one has ever really put to much use. Brian Barden is a Quad-A infielder who is definitely better than Cesar Izturis. So is D’Angelo Jimenez, although Barden is younger, has more power, and is a better defender, so I would personally give him the first shot. Could Josh Phelps have possibly hit any better than he did with the Pirates last year? Seriously, a guy who hits .351/.463/.649 (in nearly 100 PA’s) doesn’t get another chance? Not only that, he can catch! It’s ridiculous that Gary Bennett earns an MLB paycheck (and for above the minimum!) and Phelps doesn’t. Juan Gonzalez is here—if he stays healthy, who knows? Joe Mather had a big power breakout last year and needs to continue to progress if he wants to stay out of Quad-A. I’m skeptical of a lot of top prospects—see my comment on Louisville’s Jay Bruce—but Colby Rasmus is the real deal. In both scouting and statistical measures, he reminds me a lot of Carlos Beltran.

Overall: Rasmus kind of makes this team interesting by himself, and they have a solid infield as well. Perez is the only pitcher who could grow up to be a star.

Nashville Sounds

Pitching: The most exceptional thing about Tim Dillard is that he’s a switch hitter. That might sound like an insult, but at least the most exceptional thing about him isn’t a bad one. He could grow up to be a back-end rotation guy. Ben Howard throws hard, but his K rates aren’t quite up to his velocity, a bad sign. He doesn’t have any big flaws, though, so he’s a better bullpen fit than more inconsistent fireballers like Kyle Farnsworth. Zach Jackson is emblematic of a certain type of pitcher: the lefty who doesn’t have plus anything, but throws a nice cutter and pitches well in AAA. That type usually can succeed as a fifth starter, it’s finding the team to be the fifth starter on that’s the hard part. Mitch Stetter is a low-cost situational option who belongs in the big leagues.

Batting: Eric Munson and Vinny Rottino split the catching duties. Both can hit (Munson lefty, Rottino righty) and play several other positions, so they have MLB platoon/utility value. Speaking of platoons, if you paired Russell Branyan with Mike Hessman of the Toledo Mud Hens and made a 3B platoon in the majors, they might hit 50 homers and strike out 250 times. That would be fun to watch: maybe the Marlins would do it because it wouldn’t cost them anything. We should ask. Ozzie Smith Chavez is a great glove at short (he has to be, look at his name) who can hit a little, although the Padres made the right call taking Callix Crabbe in the Rule 5 instead of him. Brad Nelson is similar to Branyan, but he strikes out much less and is seven years younger. Finally, Abraham Nunez is not in the majors. If Brooks Conrad and Marshall McDougall aren’t worthy of the bigs, Nunez isn’t worthy of Double-A. Alas, I’ll bet 10 bucks Nunez is up to the Brew Crew before Chavez and Hernan Iribarren, who can play 2B and OF while providing a lefty line-drive bat. Iribarren in his prime will look something like Craig Biggio in 2004-05. Brendan Katin is a big slugger who hasn’t tapped into his power enough to make a real case for a promotion. Laynce Nix is still just 27. He may yet be something, but more likely he’ll flame out like Chris Magruder.

Overall: There’s a lot of talent here ready to help the Brewers in case of emergency, but if the Sounds of 2008 are the Brewers of 2010, they’ll lose 100 games. By that, I mean there isn’t a ton of upside here.

New Orleans Zephyrs

Pitching: How is Tony Armas just 29? As with all disappearing acts, he could reappear, but the odds don’t favor him. Adam Bostick is a deceptive finesse pitcher with shaky control. No one seems to agree on him: Some think he could be an MLB No. 2, and others don’t think he could be an AAA No. 2. I’ll reserve judgment until I see him in the majors, because until then it doesn’t matter. Joselo Diaz is your typical wild Dominican power pitcher with no secondary stuff. A 22-year old with that profile has potential; a 27-year old like Diaz does not. Ruddy Lugo is likely an MLB-caliber pitcher; whether he is more than an 11th or 12th MLB pitcher is the question. Brian Stokes had no business pitching as many big league innings as he did last year.

Batting: Shawn Wooten has a ring, which I suppose makes up for getting less major league ABs than he deserved; at 35, the spherical catcher is likely done. Fernando Tatis could be a useful righty bat off the bench. Chris Aguila is a tweener, and not an especially good or young one.

Overall: Yikes! I don’t recognize almost half the batters on this team, and most of the ones I do recognize are in their 30s or complete non-prospects. I don’t follow this system as much as I do many others, so it may just be bad luck, but it isn’t a good sign. The pitching is more recognizable, but the most damning thing about this team is that everyone is 25 or older. That isn’t good at all.

Oklahoma RedHawks

Pitching: Frank Francisco is a hard thrower who doesn’t do anything else well enough to make his legacy of throwing baseballs bigger than his legacy of throwing chairs. Eric Hurley is considered a good prospect; he’ll likely get a shot if Texas’ rotation falls apart for the ___th straight year. If Sidney Ponson also gets a shot…Kameron Loe is a big sinkerballer with a moving-parts delivery that makes him tough to read, but the formula hasn’t really worked yet in the majors. Bill White got his first big league look last year. Even though he’s 29, he’s good enough to deserve another. Elizardo Ramirez is still just 25 and has had occasional MLB success; his Texas rotation audition can only be weeks away.

Batting: Kevin Richardson has advanced at a glacial pace, but has a good power bat for a catcher. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is just 22, but for all the hype, he really hasn’t hit much since 2005 and it’s time for him to step forward. Joaquin Arias is 23, has extensive AAA experience and some MLB experience, and plays a decent short, yet isn’t seen as much of a prospect. Maybe he isn’t, but he is one of 100+ minor league middle infielders who can hit much better than Tomas Perez. Drew Meyer is considered to be a draft bust, but if the talent was there once you can never write it off. Nate Gold has never played in the majors despite gaudy minor league homer totals. There are better Quad-A bats, but his should be above the cutoff. Ryan Roberts replaces Tug Hulett as Oklahoma’s utility infielder who can really hit. I know I’m really hating on Tomas Perez here, but he gets to play in the majors and all these other guys don’t? Say what you want about my authority to say this, but how can Ed Wade not see there are 100 guys out there, available for literally nothing, who can instantly upgrade his bench? Chris Shelton is a good hitter in all aspects, and he can catch in an emergency, but given his inconsistent MLB performance I’d be tempted to call Gold up first. Nelson Cruz turned out to be much less than the prize of the Carlos Lee deal. It’s surprising to see Kevin Mench couldn’t find MLB work; he has platoon DH value but can’t hit righties or play defense. Jason Ellison lucked into being a 5th OF for a couple of years, but so many people can do that job that his turn was eventually up. Now 30, Ellison is unlikely to be much again.

Overall: This should be a very good hitting squad at pretty much every position, and at least in Hurley there is a good pitching prospect. The rest of the pitching staff shouldn’t embarrass their collective selves, but don’t look for an ERA under 4 from this group either.

Omaha Royals

Pitching: Kyle Davies has been in the majors for a while now, but is still just 24. He doesn’t excel in any one category, however, and while his stuff is solid-average, he allows too many homers. You could do worse for your No. 5 starter, but surprisingly, the Royals can do better. Jorge De La Rosa throws is the upper-90’s and is lefthanded, but he doesn’t have enough command or a changeup to be a starter. If moved to the pen, he could become something like Alan Embree. Brandon Duckworth is eight years older than Davies, but they’re similar in both stuff and stats. Because of upside, Davies is higher on the depth chart. Luke Hochevar was picked No.1 overall in 2006, and should be in the majors for good very soon. He has three plus pitches. Tyler Lumsden’s stock has taken a slight hit, but as a 24-year-old AAA lefty with decent stuff, his situation could sure be worse. Mike Maroth never had any margin for error, so when injuries took a bit off his stuff, he lost all MLB effectiveness. Joel Peralta has a great slider and not much else, but he’s proven he can pitch in the bigs. Chin-Hui Tsao has had injury after injury after injury derail is career, but hasn’t been entirely awful on his rare occasions of health. Still only 26 (Davies is only 24 and Tsao is only 26? Wow.), he still could have a career. Neal Musser is a fringe situational lefty who didn’t help his cause with a self-inflicted injury last year.

Batting: Matt Tupman is a catcher who bats lefty and can hit. He has no power, but good average and OBP. He could be what Paul Bako is supposed to be. Mike Aviles is yet another player who can play seven positions competently and is a decent hitter. He deserves a shot at the bigs. Angel Berroa is a thoroughly terrible player on both sides of the ball, and has always been, except for one year when he was a rookie. You all know the rest of that story. Ryan Shealy is a Quad-A slugger who has gotten more of a shot than most. Injuries hurt him in the bigs last year, but he’s on the 40-man and likely will get a look if he performs. Mike Stodolka is the Rick Ankiel of infielders, in that he was a can’t miss pitching prospect who struggled and decided to try to slug instead. He won’t make an Ankiel-type splash, but he’s a sound overall hitter at first, sort of a Dan Johnson type. Jason Smith is what happens if you take Aviles, have him hit lefty, make him three years older, and put some sporadic MLB playing time on his record. I’d take Aviles because he’s a better defender with more upside, but it’s close. Brian Buchanan is strictly roster filler, but he can still hit lefties. Shane Costa was talked up a few years ago, but never deserved the hype as a corner outfielder with little speed or power. Damon Hollins has had a very strange career, but then again, so do most 5th outfielders. Odds are probably slightly in his favor that he’ll wear an MLB uniform again. Move over, Jack Cust: Chris Lubanski is about to take over the mantle of “worst defensive major league outfielder” from you. LF defense doesn’t really matter, but if Lubanski gets to KC, having him and Billy Butler playing two of the eight positions will really hurt. Now for the positives: Lubanski makes contact, has gap and occasional over-the-fence power, and can run some. It’s unclear whether it will add up to a real career or if he will follow another AL Central outfielder, Shin-Soo Choo, in disappearing. Mitch Maier is a classic tweener as an outfielder, but he can catch or play third in an emergency. He would make more sense in the NL.

Overall: Almost every player on this team has something going for them. The Royals are about to surprise people.

Portland Beavers

Pitching: Adam Bass is a generic big finesse righty. If you were absolutely desperate for a long reliever, I suppose he would do, but outside of that he isn’t really worth an MLB spot. Kevin Cameron was Rule 5’d last year, and is now getting more seasoning. He’s already 28, so the fact that he still needs seasoning isn’t good. So you’re telling me Shawn Estes was in the majors for a decade, left for seemingly forever with a bunch of arm problems, came back, and is still only 35? Wow. If he still has the knee-buckling curve, I suppose he could do Glendon Rusch’s job exactly as good as Glendon Rusch. Jared Wells throws pretty hard and has a funky delivery. Since he’s a converted catcher, he still has more development time than normal left at 26.

Batting: Nick Hundley is a bona fide catching prospect. Matt Antonelli broke out last year and is all set to be the Pads’ 2B in ’09. You know how on seemingly every team, I point out one or two middle infielders who can hit and deserve big-league jobs? Well, Marshall McDougall deserves a job before all but one (who we’ll get to in a bit). He would be in the Jason Bartlett-J.J Hardy class of shortstops if he played in the bigs (not defensively, I mean overall value). Brian Myrow can hit a ton, but at this point he’s just a lefty Scott McClain. It’s a shame. Oscar Robles, Craig Stansberry, and Luis Rodriguez all have some virtues and versatility, but Kevin Towers would be stupid to call any up before McDougall. Chip Ambres is more athletic than most Quad-A guys; not sure why he hasn’t gotten more of a chance. Jody Gerut isn’t a great player, but it’s always nice to see a player beat the comeback odds. It appears that Chase Headley will move to the outfield so Kevin Kouzmanoff can stay at third. I seem to be in the minority in thinking that was a smart decision. Headley can hit like crazy.

Overall: Headley and Antonelli are excellent prospects, and McDougall, Myrow and Ambres are great hitters. The pitching isn’t really very old, but I don’t see too much talent in the staff.

Round Rock Express

Pitching: Jack Cassel is a fringe swingman with decent velocity. Mike DeJean is trying to come back from injuries; he wasn’t even effective before them. Runelvys Hernandez was okay for the Royals six years ago, but has ridden that wave ever since. It has finally crashed ashore. I don’t know much about Ryan Houston other than that he’s definitely in the right organization. Mark McLemore is a lefty with decent stuff who isn’t quite good enough for an opening day roster. Pitchers like him always surface in the majors when injuries hit. Fernando Nieve has had some success in the majors and could have more. Chad Paronto is an intimidating presence on the mound who has pitched well in the majors at times. Stephen Randolph had an otherworldly season for the Express last year but returns again. Randolph may be better than Ron Mahay, but Mahay earns $4 mil a year while Randolph hopes for a callup. Life isn’t fair. Oft-injured Nick Regilio is now 29 and unlikely to do much. Chad Reineke may ultimately be a reliever, but he’s a real prospect in this dreadful organization.

Batting: J.R. House is one of the 15 best offensive catchers in baseball, but the former top prospect is now inexplicably mired in Quad-A. Jonny Ash is a little round second baseman with excellent plate discipline and contact ability—the Jeff Keppinger skill set from the left side. Danny Klassen has always hit, but only rarely played in the majors. He can still hit, but probably won’t don an Astros uniform this year, no matter how well he does. Tomas Perez has a roster spot over Ash and Klassen? David Newhan is still kicking around—he isn’t much, but as middle infield bats go, he’s Jimmy Rollins compared to Perez. Lance Niekro wouldn’t be a horrific platoon first baseman, but House is miles ahead. Reggie Abercrombie is toolsy, but no amount of tools will fix the gigantic holes in his swing. Victor Diaz is what happens when you take Manny Ramirez and give him no plate discipline. That tells us two things: Diaz can really hit, and plate discipline is really important. Nick Gorneault is a Quad-A bat who would be useful as a Jason Michaels-type platoon corner outfielder.

Overall: The Astros are one of the three worst organizations in baseball (the Orioles and Giants are the other two). The Astros and Tigers have the two worst farm systems; at least the Tigers have that lineup to show for it. The fact that the major league team has pitching depth issues and Tomas Perez is bad enough, but throw this weak group behind them and you have a disaster. They expect to contend this year, and there’s no way. As far as the actual team goes, Randolph, Paronto, and Reineke are the only three pitchers who are squarely above replacement level. If you replace Brad Ausmus with House, Perez with Klassen, put Hunter Pence in center and Diaz in right, the hitting for the Astros goes way up. But they won’t do it. House, Ash, Klassen, Diaz, and Gorneault are all Quad-A bats of some sort or another, and there are no real “prospects” out of the position players. Replacing the big league bench with those 5, however, would probably result in a 5-win gain for the Astros.

As a side note, now that we have finally gotten to his organization, I’m seriously going to try to stop going after Tomas Perez. I have four organizations to go without making any references to how all the 2B/SS guys are better than him. Wish me luck.

Sacramento River Cats

Pitching: Jerry Blevins is a lanky lefty with three good pitches who soon should be one of the best situational guys around. Dallas Braden throws three different breaking pitches and a nasty changeup to go with a high-80’s fastball. He should have a nice career. Troy Cate is a generic two-pitch bullpen lefty. Joey Devine has a nice fastball-slider combo, but his mechanics give him chronic back problems and he has struggled in the majors. Chris Gissell is back from Japan; think Kyle Lohse without the contract. Gio Gonzalez has a low-90’s fastball and gigantic curve. He may just let A’s fans know what six extra mph on Barry Zito’s fastball would have done. Jeff Gray gets a ton of grounders and has a nice curve, so at least he’s got two things going for him; it’s more than you can say for a lot of big leaguers. Brad Kilby is a big, intimidating lefty who may be able to be more than just a pure situational guy. Brad Knox deserves an emergency start, but unfortunately so are a ton of other A’s prospects. Shane Komine is a small Hawaiian with a big curve and an assortment of other average pitches. Gissell, Knox, and Komine all are basically equal in terms of value. Dan Meyer is a three-pitch lefty who found himself last year after tons of shoulder issues. He’s not what he once was, but the odds are slowly increasing. Kirk Saarloos throws a good sinker and hopes for the best. Greg Smith is similar to Meyer, only two years younger and with no injury history. Thus, he’ll be up first. Brad Ziegler is a submarining righty who isn’t quite in the Colter Bean class just yet.

Batting: Justin Knoedler just about defines “organizational third catcher.” Landon Powell is a behemoth at 6’3” 280, but don’t let the weight turn you off; he’s got a cannon arm and is a good hitter who switch-hits. Think a switch-hitting Russell Martin without the speed. I know that sounds amazing; the catch is that he’s had two major knee injuries already and is already 26, so slightly temper your expectations. Powell may take the catching job from Kurt Suzuki this year if he stays healthy. Jeff Baisley is a 3B with some pop, but he hasn’t been all that great since leaving Kane County. Wes Bankston has some corner versatility, but not enough of a bat to deserve a big league job. For those of you who have actually read this whole article and are waiting in suspense to find out the one AAA middle infielder more worthy of a job than Marshall McDougall, it’s Brooks Conrad. Conrad switch-hits, has experience at every position (even a bit at catcher!) and while at Round Rock two years ago, he led the minors in extra-base hits. Not just AAA; the whole minors. That sounds to me like the kind of player you build a team around, not one who you let rot in AAA the next year. Conrad hit .348 this spring and may finally be close to making his big-league debut. Eduardo Cornejo is a utility infielder who hits lefty; sometimes that’s enough. Kevin Melillo is Conrad Lite: a lefty hitter who can play second and third with gap power. A good comparison is Todd Walker. Gregorio Petit plays better defense than Conrad, Cornejo, or Melillo, and is a true shortstop. He also isn’t a completely useless hitter. Casey Rogowski is the fastest and best defensive 1B you’ll ever see, and offensively he’s similar to Lyle Overbay. He deserves a career. Nick Blasi is a smallish guy who hustles and makes contact; while there’s no reason for him not to make the majors, there isn’t a whole lot of reason for him to make it, either. Jeff Fiorentino is a classic tweener. Classic tweeners make for OK backup outfielders. Carlos Gonzalez is a lefty Jose Guillen: he can hit for average and power, is a great right fielder with a cannon arm, and he’s still frustrating in his lack of effort on occasion. Hopefully it’s a maturity issue he’ll work through. Todd Linden had one of the best years you’ll ever see in the PCL three years ago, but it hasn’t given him more than occasional looks. Danny Putnam went from Midland’s left fielder to Oakland’s center fielder at one point last year. If he’s anywhere near McAfee Coliseum, let alone its center field, everything will have gone horribly wrong once again.

Overall: This is a really good team. I know more about the A’s than any other team obviously, because they’re my favorite team, so I’m biased, but this is the No. 2 system in MLB for a reason. Gissell is the only player over 28, and he’s 30, which also serves to reinforce the upside. Gio and Carlos Gonzalez, Powell, Conrad, Blevins, Braden, and Smith all deserve big careers.

Salt Lake Bees

Pitching: Nick Adenhart is the Angels’ best pitching prospect. With all the MLB injuries, he’ll get a look very soon. Jose Arredondo throws a great fastball; he needs better secondary stuff. Nick Green has advanced quickly after being a 35th round pick and has the ceiling of a No. 3 or 4 starter. Shane Loux is better than some MLB pitchers. Kasey Olenberger is 30, but he has good control and can eat innings. If you’re starved for starters you could do worse. Rafael Rodriguez’s delivery is scary for hitters but scarier for him. Matt Wilhite is a sidearmer with a great pickoff move who could be as good as Chad Bradford.

Batting: Matt Brown is just an average bat for 3B. Kendry Morales has more upside than you might think. Sean Rodriguez and Brandon Wood can both play all over the infield, and both have enough in their bats to project as regulars. Dee Brown is a former top prospect who is now a Quad-A bat after rebounding last year. Bradley Coon deserves mention because he is the only left-handed Bee. Terry Evans is 26 and can’t play center, which doesn’t bode well.

Overall: Wood, Rodriguez, and Adenhart are three great prospects, but the Bees have little else.

Tacoma Rainiers

Pitching: Phil Barzilla and Eric Cyr are 29-year-old lefties who can start or relieve. R.A. Dickey throws a knuckler and doesn’t have a UCL. Ryan Feierabend is s soft-tossing lefty who has MLB experience at 22, so he’s doing something right. Denny Stark is back. Sean White is a generic bullpen righty. Arthur Rhodes is still truckin’ away at 38. Jake Woods is three years younger than Barzilla and Cyr, and his curve is better. Otherwise, they’re all the same.

Batting: Jeff Clement is a first-class hitting catcher who reminds some of Javy Lopez, except lefthanded. Rob Johnson is a speed-and-defense catcher (They exist?) with some modest sock in his bat. Yung-Chi Chen is a utility slap hitter. Tug Hulett deserves a 2B job right now. Mike Kinkade is still kickin’ around, looking for a pinch-hit job. Bryan LaHair is a Quad-A mammoth with a good approach. Greg Norton had a fluke 2006 in Tampa and is now back where he belongs. Matt Tuiasosopo is 21 and in AAA, but he’s really been rushed. He’s raw but has potential. Wladimir Balentien would be a DH upgrade for the M’s right now; think Wily Mo Pena with a better approach and better defense. Jeremy Reed would have more value as an NL pinch-runner. Bronson Sardinha’s middle name is Kiheimahanaomauiakeo, and he can play first, third, and the outfield. As 25th man types go, he’s not bad.

Overall: Balentien, Clement, and Hulett could all be big-league regulars right now. There’s a bunch of replacement-level talent elsewhere. Wasting spots on guys like Stark isn’t a good idea.

Tucson Sidewinders

Pitching: Billy Buckner has a good knuckle-curve and fastball, so he’s a good bet to have a career. Emiliano Fruto has frustrated a ton of organizations; he may have five plus pitches, but he doesn’t seem to care. Juan Gutierrez is an organizational favorite with plus stuff. He won’t be in Tucson for long. Evan MacLane is the ultimate finesse pitcher; he might have Bruce Chen’s career if he’s lucky. Connor Robertson throws a sinker and a slider, and he gets good marks for his deceptive delivery. Max Scherzer has the potential to be a frontline starter. Esmerling Vasquez is a decent pitcher who’s on the 40-man at 24. Life could be worse.

Batting: Wilkin Castillo switch-hits, is good behind the plate, is 23, and hit .302 last year in AA. He also stole 18 bases last year. If he improves his approach, he could be a combination of Josh Bard and Jason Kendall. Emilio Bonifacio is really fast. I mean really fast. However, he is the type of player who needs to hit .300 to be of use, and the jury’s still out on his ability to do that. Jamie D’Antona can catch in an emergency, and he has modest pop, but if Vinny Rottino hasn’t had a career, then D’Antona doesn’t really deserve one. Josh Whitesell is on the Quad-A fringe. Phil Avlas is sort of a cross between D’Antona and Castillo. Trot Nixon is only 33? He looks to get back to the bigs. Tim Raines would make for a nice pinch-runner or 5th outfielder.

Overall: The Sidewinders have some nice prospects, especially on the pitching side. They’re also young, which means they aren’t wasting roster spots. Signs are good.

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