MLB

Prospect Watch: 10 Minor League Position Players on the Verge of a Call-Up

Todd HawkinsCorrespondent IMay 27, 2011

Prospect Watch: 10 Minor League Position Players on the Verge of a Call-Up

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    SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Mike Moustakas of the Kansas City Royals poses during photo media day at the Royals spring training complex on February 26, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Prospects are the future of Amerca's pastime and in the long run, ultimately make or break an organization.

    Highly touted prospects of reeling teams can give fanbases that glimmer of hope again. 

    Or in some cases, it can be depressing to look back upon those former promising farmhands that were once traded away in deals that now look so awful on paper and leave one asking what could have been.

    As the grinding season of major-league baseball progresses, these emerging prospects are put under the microscope for further analysis to help project where they'll end up and when - and most importantly, what kind of numbers they'll be putting up when they get there.

    Here are ten minor-league position players who could make an impact in the near future at the major-league level.

Anthony Rizzo, 1B

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    SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Adrian Gonzalez #23 of the San Diego Padres prepares himself in the on deck circle against  the Cincinnati Reds during their MLB game on September 26, 2010 at PETCO Park in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Get
    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Help is finally on the way, San Diego.

    The Padres avoided calling up the 2008 non-hodgkins lymphoma survivor in May to avoid an early start to his arbitration years and save money - something the Royals surprisingly didn't do with Eric Hosmer.

    Rizzo was an integral piece of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to Boston and if he reaches his ceiling, Gonzalez will be a distant memory.

    This lefty currently leads all minor league levels with 54 RBI and sports a ridiculous 1.162 OPS. 

    It’ll be interesting how he adjusts from the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League to the pitcher friendly confines of Petco Park. 

    While Brad Hawpe shows a pulse every now and again at the plate, I'd be surprised if the Padres don't cut off his life support sometime before the all-star break.

    Current PCL line: .366-14-56-37-5

Brett Lawrie, 3B

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    DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Infielder Brett Lawrie #13 of the Toronto Blue Jays warms up for play against the Detroit Tigers February 26, 2011 at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Known to many as the guy traded for Shaun Marcum, Lawrie is on an absolute tear in the PCL at the ripe age of 21.

    This left-handed hitting speedster has already exceeded his homerun total from last year with 12, and is beginning to show the power scouts have been projecting. 

    Lawrie is one of the best young bats in the minors and could turn out to be a special player for the Jays.

    One of the few downfalls to Lawrie's game is his questionable glove, which should improve over time now that he’s been moved from second to third. 

    Look for Lawrie to nail down the hot corner in Toronto next season and don’t be surprised if you see him rounding the bags sometime in early June due to his recent breakout. 

    Current PCL line:  .343-12-40-45-10

Mike Moustakas, 3B

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    SURPISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 27: Mike Moustakas #8 of the Kansas City Royals bats during a spring training game against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium on February 27, 2011 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    With the recent promotion of Eric Hosmer in Kansas City, Moustakas shouldn't be too far behind.

    Like Hosmer, "Moose" is another highly touted, sweet swinging lefty who belted 36 homeruns over two levels in the minors last year, finishing in the top three among minor-league hitters in homeruns, RBI’s, extra-base hits and slugging percentage.  

    It's about that time for Wilson Betemit to start taking groundballs at second base, because the hot corner will soon belong to the power-hitting Moustakas. 

    Once June arrives, he could just be a Triple-A hot streak away from receiving a call-up.  

    Current PCL line: .268-8-36-29-1

Dustin Ackley, 2B

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    PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 01:  Dustin Ackley #13 of the  Seattle Mariners at bat against the Texas Rangers during spring training at Peoria Stadium on March 1, 2011 in Peoria, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    This former North Carolina standout tore up the Arizona fall league and now looks to have regained his stroke (.333 last 10 games) after a slow start to the season. 

    Coincidentally, Ackley got off to a sluggish start in his first year of minor league ball last season.

    Now that the slow start is behind him, look for the Mariners to plug him into the lineup at second base sometime before the all-star break.

    He could even see time in the outfield if management feels like he's not cut out to play up the middle. 

    The Mariners thrive off their rock-solid defense up the middle, and replacing Jack Wilson with Ackley would be a significant downgrade defensively. 

    Ackley often draws comparisons to Chase Utley based on physical frame and approach at the plate.

    Once he completely fills outs physically, he could become an annual 20-homerun hitter.

    Current PCL line: .268-7-24-33-6

Desmond Jennings, CF

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    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Desmond Jennings #27 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a photo during Spring Training Media Photo Day at Charlotte County Sports Park on February 26, 2010 in Port Charlotte, Florida.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
    Nick Laham/Getty Images

    Carl Crawford should be an afterthought for Tampa Bay fans once this kid hits the scene full-time. 

    Jennings is another speedy, slick-fielding center fielder who will be an asset in St. Petersburg for years to come. 

    D.J. still has some work to do at the plate, but he’s nearly tripled his homerun total from last season (eight), which is a positive sign his bat is turning the corner.  

    No catcher has been able to throw Jennings out this year in the International League, as he’s a perfect nine for nine in the stolen base department. 

    The Rays are hoping Jennings will eventually be their table setter at the top of the order next year, and he could provide a nice boost the rest of the way this season with his speed on the basepaths. 

    Look for Tampa Bay to make a move on Jennings any time now.   

    Current IL line: .274-8-21-36-9

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Paul Goldschmidt #63 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    This Arizona right-handed hitting prospect has been flying under the radar since being drafted by the D-Backs in '09 out of Texas State. 

    The player they call "Goldie", who turns 23 in September, is currently tearing up the Double-A Southern League at the plate.

    After posting a .314-35-108-102 line in High-A last season, Goldie is on pace to match that production and then some, proving to his critics that he’s no fluke. 

    Scouts are finally buying into this kid as being a legitimate upper-tier prospect and love his makeup. 

    Plate discipline has been a bit of concern in the past, but it looks like Goldie has revamped his approach having already drawn 40 walks compared to only 30 strikeouts so far this season. 

    Look for Goldschmidt to finally land on top prospect lists across the board next season and maybe even receive a call-up at some point this season.

    With Russell Branyan out the door, Xavier Nady may not be far behind, which could open the door for the right-handed power hitting first basemen.

    But for the meantime, it appears as though Kirk Gibson will give Juan Miranda a chance to show what he can do with consistent at-bats.

    Bringing Goldie in on September 1st when rosters expand would make a bit more sense to me.

    Current Southern League line: .335-16-44-38-3

Mike Trout, CF

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    TEMPE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26:  Mike Trout #90 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim waits for a pitch while at bat against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium on February 26, 2011 in Tempe, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    Ranked as the top prospect in all of baseball by both ESPN.com and MLB.com, Angel fans are clamoring for the 19-year-old to make the jump from Double-A, given the injuries to Vernon Wells and Howie Kendrick. 

    Manager Mike Scioscia is currently rolling out a platoon of light hitting duo Reggie Willits and Alexi Amarista. 

    Scioscia feels like a call-up right now could be a huge risk for a player with so much upside and that Trout should see more pitching in the minors to achieve the growth he needs for when his time does come. 

    And I completely agree. 

    But, the skipper did say that in a month from now, this could be a completely different conversation, which gives those clamoring fans a glimmer of hope to hang on to. 

    Scouts rave over Trout’s plate discipline and speed as he currently sports a .413 on base-percentage along with 10 steals. 

    Current Texas League line: .307-6-17-30-10

Yonder Alonso, LF

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    GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 28:  Yonder Alonso #23 of the Cincinnati Reds gets ready in the batters box against the Cleveland Indians at Goodyear Ballpark on February 28, 2011 in Goodyear, Arizona.  (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    As the Reds search for production in left field, Alonso is making a strong case for a call-up, as he continues to post solid numbers at Triple-A Louisville. 

    With Votto blocking him from his primary position at first base, the organization tried Alonso in left field last season and again this spring. 

    He won’t turn any heads out there defensively, but he’s been praised for his work ethic and steady improvement out there. 

    The left-hander continues to struggle against left-handed pitching, which is the other obstacle blocking him from the show.

    Cincinnati passed on Alonso and called up right-handed hitting outfielder Todd Frazier last week, who has since returned to Louisville. 

    The Reds are currently stockpiled in left field with Fred Lewis, Chris Heisey and Johnny Gomes, providing the organization with some tough decisions in the near future. 

    Current IL line: .313-5-23-22-5

Jason Kipnis, 2B

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    GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 22: Jason Kipnis #72 of the Cleveland Indians poses during their photo day at the Cleveland Indians Spring Training Complex on February 22, 2011 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)
    Rob Tringali/Getty Images

    This former Arizona State standout is Cleveland’s second baseman of the future. 

    While Orlando Cabrera provides intangibles the Indians need right now, the odds of him making it through the season at his age without landing on the disabled list at some point is a long-shot. 

    Last season playing for the Reds in early August, Cabrera served a stint on the disabled list for a month with a strained oblique.  In the meantime, Paul Janish took over at shortstop for Cabrera and never looked back.

    Don’t be surprised if a similar situation occurs with Kipnis and Cabrera in Cleveland. 

    Current IL line: .292-5-29-29-8

     

    Why not Lonnie Chisenhall? 

    Chisenhall was a strong candidate to win the third base job coming out of spring training.

    While he did manage to turn heads this spring with his hot bat, Cleveland went with the safe choice by going defensive with non-roster invitee, Jack Hannahan.

    With the Indians currently enduring so much early success and Hannahan leading all AL third basemen in fielding percentage, there's no need to throw Chisenhall into the fire during a bid for the postseason. 

    In a perfect world, Chisenhall will be the everyday third basemen next season. 

    Current IL line: .287-5-26-34-0

Collin Cowgill, CF

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    SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 21:  Collin Cowgill #70 of the Arizona Diamondbacks poses for a portrait at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick on February 21, 2011 in Scottsdale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    This former Kentucky Wildcat star has been doing a little bit of everything on his recent tear for the Reno Aces. 

    Standing at just 5’9, Cowgill has remarkable power for his size.  

    He’s also a five-category producer, and I highly recommend that fantasy owners keep an eye out on this kid should he upend Gerardo Parra for playing time in the outfield.  

    Former big league center fielder of 16 seasons and current Ace’s manager, Brett Butler, raves over this kid’s tools. 

    According to Chris Jackson of Milb.com, Butler called Cowgill one of the best centerfielders he had ever coached.

    From Cowgill’s perspective, what a better guy to learn from than Brett Butler given their similarities? 

    Having just turned 25 a few days ago, Cowgill's time may be coming sooner rather than later in the desert.

    Current PCL line:  .331-8-25-37-13

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