As 2008 begins to wind down, teams out of contention are looking toward next season. Their key to success in 2009 may revolve around a prospect receiving playing time at the major league level down the stretch. While not every player called up is Ryan Braun or Edinson Volquez, there could be some diamonds here.
OF Cameron Maybin, Florida Marlins – This 21-year-old entered spring training this season with a good chance to make the Marlins’ roster. Unfortunately for him, Maybin didn’t hit and was sent to Class AA. He’s currently hitting .265/.357/.461 with 12 home runs (a career high) and 17 stolen bases. The Marlins are in contention, and Maybin may be the spark they need to get into the postseason. He’ll hit .300 with solid power and about 20 or 25 stolen bases throughout his career.
SP David Price, Tampa Bay Rays – As a high school senior, Price posted a 0.43 ERA and was drafted in the 19th round by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He decided to forego professional baseball and attended Vanderbilt, where he turned himself into the first overall pick in the 2007 Amateur Draft. There can be no quibble with his statistics so far: 65.2 innings pitched, 62 strikeouts, 17 walks, 1.93 ERA, and 1.09 WHIP. The Rays may call him to the major league level for their bullpen. It could be considered a stretch since the Rays are contending, but they could also give Price a spot in their major league rotation.
OF Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates – With Xavier Nady traded and Jason Bay potentially on his way out, McCutchen should be guaranteed a spot at the major league level. He is a career .284/.360/.420 hitter at the minor league level. It is only a matter of time before the Pirates brass realizes McCutchen is ready and call him up. He won’t hit for a high average, but could be a 20-20 or 25-25 guy at the major league level.
OF Colby Rasmus, St. Louis Cardinals – When the storybook season ends for one of Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, or Skip Schumaker, expect Rasmus to receive the call to the major league level. After an astounding season at Class AA in 2007, Rasmus is hitting .249/.346/.395 in Class AAA. It’s not quite where it should be, but his 11 home runs and 15 stolen bases hint at his well rounded game that should carry with him to the next level.
SS Reid Brignac, Tampa Bay Rays – Brignac is no one’s idea of a stellar prospect at shortstop, but then again, somebody owns Bobby Crosby or Khalil Greene in your fantasy league. Brignac has a little bit of power (career high of 21), but with tons of strikeouts. He won’t ever be a high-OBP guy, nor will he hit for plenty of average, but he should get the most playing time this year of the guys listed here. That is if he can get out of the slump he currently finds himself in.
1B Steve Pearce, Pittsburgh Pirates – The Pirates will soon realize Adam LaRoche (.258/.335/.444 this season) isn’t the long-term answer at first. When they do so, they will install Pearce there. The Pirates’ future at first, Pearce isn’t hitting too well at Class AAA this season, .261/.309/.431. It’s only a matter of time, however, until Baseball America’s 2007 offensive player of the year returns to his previous form. And when he does, he should provide plenty of power and a high batting average.
SS/3B Brandon Wood, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – Wood has not been given a fair shake by the Angels’ brass the last two seasons. His stats show he can dominate Class AAA ball, but when he’s called up to the majors, he receives sporadic playing time. Since the Angels have guaranteed themselves the AL West crown, they might as well let their future stud play at third for the remainder of the season. He’s got a ton of power, but strikes out quite a bit. That will keep his batting average around .270 or .280.
SP Gio Gonzalez, Oakland Athletics – This southpaw is having a little bit of trouble in Class AAA, just like he did his first season of Class AA ball. While he might not help too much, as Oakland may not slide him into their starting rotation down the stretch, he could garner a lot of strikeouts in a relief role. He’s averaged more than one per inning throughout his minor league career and has a 10.49 K/9 career ratio in professional ball.
2B Matt Antonelli, San Diego Padres – This might be a stretch, considering that Antonelli hasn’t really hit this season (.196/.323/.285). However, he has the ability to draw plenty of walks (194 BBs vs. 198 Ks in his minor league career) and steal a few bases. Since the Padres don’t have any offense in their lineup, it would be smart for them to try Antonelli in the lineup.
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