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Triple-A Trickledown: Charlotte

And now a word from one of our broadcast interns, Daniel Comisi:

This is my final installment of the Triple-A Trickledown for the regular season (I might do another should the Chiefs make the playoffs), and I have enjoyed doing my own little scouting report on the Chiefs’ upcoming opponents. It brought my love of stats and learning about player’s history to a face when I actually saw them play. I believe that it really helped me learn a lot about every team in the International League. Hopefully you’ve all learned something as well.

Catcher: Miguel Gonzalez and Josh Phegley

 

26 year-old Josh Phegley is the primary catcher in Charlotte, starting in 91 games, while 23 year-old Gonzalez has only started in 19. Both catchers were called up to Chicago last year; Phegley played in 65 and Gonzalez played in five. Phegley is in his fourth season at Charlotte and been fantastic this year for the Triple-A White Sox. This year he is batting .289 with 20 home runs and 27 doubles and seems to be a rising star in the organization. Gonzalez was promoted to Triple-A after batting .269 in 16 games with AA Birmingham. The White Sox’ current catcher, Tyler Flowers has been decent this year, batting .248 with eight home runs in 96 games. If Phegley keeps up his offense, he is on the 40-man roster and can easily get a call back to the bigs.

 

First Base: Andy Wilkins

Andy Wilkins

 

25 year-old Wilkins is in his second year in Charlotte after batting .265 with seven home runs in 58 games. Wilkins has been fantastic this year in his first full season at Triple-A, batting .296 with a career-high 28 homers and 30 doubles in the middle of the Knight’s lineup. Unfortunately for Wilkins, his fantastic 2014 numbers won’t necessarily get him to the majors any time soon because Chicago’s top prospect, first baseman Jose Abreu, has 31 home runs and is batting .303 on the year. Adam Dunn is still the team’s designated hitter and continues to have a ridiculously low batting average of .217, but he has 17 homers on the year, so he’ll continue to get his at-bats. Wilkins is not on the 40-man roster and will most likely get more seasoning at Charlotte, barring an injury to Abreu or Dunn. My presumption for Wilkins in his future is that if the White Sox do not extend Dunn’s contract, which expires at the end of the 2014 season, he would get the opportunity to start next year as long as the White Sox have not signed anyone during the offseason.

 

Second Base: Micah Johnson

 

23 year-old Johnson is the #6 prospect for Chicago according to Baseball America and has batted well in his first season at Triple-A. He is batting .291 with 10 steals and only 33 strikeouts in 56 games. However, he only has 14 extra-base hits in 237 at-bats and seems to be a high-average/20-steals-a-season type of player.

Chicago has been looking for a good offensive second baseman for years as current second baseman Gordon Beckham has been known for his defense and not his offense, so Johnson provides some hope for White Sox fans. It’s unlikely to see him called up since he is only in his third professional year and has only played 56 games in the majors. But to play devil’s advocate, he on is the 40-man roster, and if White Sox GM Rick Hahn and the front office get sick of Beckham’s poor offense, Johnson could get the call. He is definitely putting Beckham on the hot seat with his good play.

 

Shortstop: Carlos Sanchez and Marcus Semien

Carlos Sanchez

Sanchez, a 22-year-old shortstop, was called up for one game with the White Sox, going 0-5 with two strikeouts against Cleveland on July 13th. He’s played by far the most games at shortstop for anyone with Charlotte. In his sixth professional season, third with Charlotte, Sanchez has batted .303 with a career-high six home runs (He either hit no home runs or one homer every year before 2014). 23 year-old Semien has played 64 games between last year and this year with Chicago, but was sent down after batting .218 with three homers in the 2014 campaign. It appears to be a platoon at short and both are on the 40-man roster, but since Sanchez is having the better year, he would most likely get called up if something happens to Alexei Ramirez.

 

Third Base: Matt Davidson

 

23 year-old Davidson was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft by the Diamondbacks and was acquired by the White Sox in the Addison Reed trade during the offseason. Davidson played 31 games for Arizona last year, batting .237 with three homers and an OBP of .333. Unfortunately, he has been struggling this year, batting .201 with 138 strikeouts in 108 games, but he has 18 home runs, so he is an all-or-nothing hitter. Davidson is on the 40-man roster and the White Sox are desperate for a decent third baseman, but right now, Davidson does not appear to be the guy.

 

Outfield: Avisail Garcia, Michael Taylor, Jared Mitchell, Matt Tuiasosopo

 

23 year-old Garcia is currently rehabbing with Charlotte after tearing the labrum in his left shoulder in April with Chicago. Over the past three years with Detroit and Chicago, he is batting .287 with nine home runs and an OBP of .323. 28 year-old Taylor is in his first year with Charlotte but he has been in Triple-A for five years with Sacramento (Oakland’s farm system). Through 44 games, the PCL-to IL-transition has not hurt Taylor at all, batting .326 with five homers and 14 doubles. 25 year-old Mitchell is in his third year with Charlotte, but has been struggling so far. Through 59 games this year, he is batting .198 with six home runs and has a career Triple-A average of .199, so he doesn’t seem quite ready for Triple-A pitching. 28 year-old Tuiasosopo played 81 games with the Tigers last year, batting .244 and was with both Buffalo earlier in the year before being purchased by the White Sox on June 12th. Besides Garcia, who is rehabbing, only Jared Mitchell is on the 40-man roster, but he has been struggling so much at Charlotte that he likely won’t pack his bags for Chicago any time soon.

 

Starting Pitchers: Chien-Ming Wang, Erik Johnson, Shawn Hill, Chris Beck, Charlie Leesmaan

 

If this team has such dominant hitting and big sluggers, how are they 55-68 on the year? Well, to put it bluntly, Charlotte’s pitching is bad. Real bad. Their team ERA is 4.94, which is 20 points higher than the second-highest ERA with the Louisville staff. A name you might know is Chien-Ming Wang. 34-year-old Wang pitched for the Yankees from 2005-2009, threw for the Nationals (and Chiefs) from 2011-2012, and pitched in six games for Toronto last year. He sports a career 4.37 ERA in the majors, and he’s a few years removed from the 2006 and 2007 seasons, where he won 19 games each year with New York.

Chien-Ming Wang

24 year-old Johnson is the big name you may not know about. He is the #2 prospect in the White Sox organization according to Baseball America behind some guy name Jose Abreu (who probably just hit another a home run while you were reading this). He dominated the minors, with ERAs of 2.43, 2.30, 2.74, 1.96, 2.23, form 2011-2012 and a ridiculous 1.57 ERA last year, flying from A-ball to Double-AA in less than a year and made his major league debut last year. There, he posted a 3.25 ERA in five games in 2013 and spirits were high that he would emerge as a dominant pitcher at the front of their rotation. This year, however, Johnson has taken a big step backward. Johnson was in the rotation right out of training camp and in his first game he allowed seven runs in 4.2 innings against the Royals. After four more so-so games, he was optioned down to Triple-A for seasoning. Unfortunately, that has not worked out well for the young righty. With Charlotte this year, he has a 5-6 record with a 6.29 ERA and a ridiculously high walk to strikeout rate of 51-62.

23 year-old Chris Beck is a bright spot in the Charlotte rotation after being drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft. After dominating Double-A with a 3.42 ERA and 1.26 WHIP, he was called up to Triple-A where he’s been solid. In four games, he owns a 3.57 ERA and actually has been doing the best of any of the starters since he came up. The final starter is 27-year-old Leesman. The lefty has been okay so far and even though his ERA is over 4.00, Charlotte plays in a hitter’s park so perhaps he can hang his hat on that accomplishment. He was called up on April 22nd to pitch against Detroit this year and got lit up; 2.2 innings, nine hits and six runs and was sent down immediately after the game. Even though the White Sox really need one of these guys to come up and replace Scott Carroll (4-7 with a 4.81 ERA in 19 games), nobody is really standing out to be called up to Chicago. However, Leesman and Johnson are on the 40-man roster so they might get the call up if a spot start is needed or someone goes down with an injury.

 

Relievers: Taylor Thompson, Donnie Veal, Ryan Kussmaul, Frank De Los Santos, Jarrett Casey, Andre Rienzo, Eric Surkamp

 

27 year-old Thompson leads the team in saves with six, followed by 27 year-old Kussmaul with five. Thompson leads the team in appearances with 33 and has a fantastic 2.47 ERA. He also has gone up for five appearances with the White Sox this year, and was doing well through his first three games. However, in his fourth and fifth games, he allowed five runs in two innings to spike his ERA well over 10.00. He was recently optioned down and the Knights hope that he can go back to his dominant self.

26 year-old De Los Santos is on the 40-man roster and is in his third season in Triple-A (first with Charlotte). He’s been OK in his 21 appearances this year, with a 5.23 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP in 33 innings of work. However, his 16 walks to 14 strikeouts shows he struggles with his control and will need more seasoning before being called up. Surkamp was sent down to Charlotte at the start of this series from Chicago after struggling in the majors. In 20 appearances, he allowed 10 runs in 12.2 innings (7.11 ERA) and walked seven batters. He’s been okay with the Knights, but he has been a starter for Charlotte in 11 of the 15 games, yet his experience in the majors is a reliever, so I put him here in the reliever section.

Triple-A Trickledown: Louisville

For the first time since April 25th, the Chiefs will meet the Triple-A Cincinnati Reds, the Louisville Bats. Here’s a look at what to expect for the 58-60 Bats…

Catcher: Bryan Anderson and Tucker Barnhart

23-year-old Barnhart has the most starts for Louisville this year, starting in 63 games for the Bats, followed by 27 year-old Anderson with 31 starts behind the plate. Barnhart, the Reds’ #10 prospect according to Baseball America, was called up from April 26-May 18 and from July 6-11 and played in 12 games for Cincinnati, hitting .232 through 64 games with 24 walks and 29 strikeouts. Anderson has the best numbers of the catching corps, batting .283 with five homers in 39 games. Since Barnhart has already been called up this year and he is on the 40-man roster, I’d guess that if anything were to happen to Devin Mesoraco or Brayan Pena, Barnhart would get the nod.

First Base: Thomas Neal and Neftali Soto

26 year-old Neal is batting .260 with 16 doubles and three homers in 92 games for the Bats this year and has played 46 games at first. Neal is in his first year with Louisville, but has spent the past three years in Triple-A (2011 with Fresno, 2012 with Akron, and 2013 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre). Soto is the MLB veteran among the first baseman, playing 13 games for Cincy last year and playing 21 games this year for the Reds. However, he only has 3 hits in 42 at-bats (.071 batting average) and one RBI in the majors. Soto is on the 40-man roster, but is still in the minors even though All-Star 1B Joey Votto is on the DL with a strained left quad, so the odds of Soto making it back up to the majors this year is very slim.

 Second Base: Ruben Gotay, Hernan Iribarren, Donnie Murphy

Ruben Gotay

Three older veterans, 31 year-old Gotay, 30 year-old Iribarren, and 31 year-old Murphy roam second base for the Bats. Gotay is the starter at second, playing 73 games and is batting .257 on the year with 16 home runs, most of the team. He is also the team leader in games played with 111, runs scored with 76, walks with 53, and strikeouts with 102. Iribarren has played in 76 games, and has played second, third, shortstop, and the outfield. He is batting .238 on the year with 21 walks and 38 strikeouts. Murphy was signed to a minor league contract on July 19th after being released by the Texas Rangers and has played 10 games on the year, batting .152 with a home run and three RBIs before going on the Disabled List. None of these players are on the 40-man roster and Skip Schumaker has been holding down the fort while Brandon Phillips has been out with left-thumb surgery. (He’s expected to return in mid-August.) It is highly unlikely any of these guys will make the majors this year.

Shortstop: Jake Elmore, Rey Navarro

27 year-old Elmore is the most recent addition to the Louisville roster after being claimed off Oakland’s waivers on August 2nd. He spent the beginning of the year with Triple-A Sacramento, batting .282 with 15 doubles and stole nine bases in 47 games. Even though Navarro is only 24 years-old, he has been a part of three different farm systems (Diamondbacks, Royals, Reds) and is up in Triple-A for the second time after playing 17 games with Triple-A Omaha (Royals). Navarro has been spectacular at the dish for Louisville, batting .317 with 15 doubles, two home runs and has only struck out 18 times in 41 games. With shortstop Zack Cosart batting .219 with only two home runs and three steals up in Cincinnati, the Reds already called up Kris Negron from Louisville and neither Elmore nor Navarro are on the 40-man roster, so it is highly unlikely that either will make the majors this year, but the ceiling for Navarro appears to be high with a little more seasoning in Triple-A.

Third Base: Juan Silverio

23 year-old Silverio was called up to the Bats after hitting .274 with nine homers and a 44-10 K/BB rate in 64 games with Double-A Pensacola. He’s been trying to get his sea legs in Louisville, batting .243 with six extra-base hits and only two walks to 19 strikeouts in 25 games in his first stint in Triple-A. Of course, with most 23 year-olds, there is going to be a lot seasoning for Silverio and there is almost no shot that the Triple-A rookie has at being in the majors with his poor showing with Louisville. Also, Todd Frazier’s put up ridiculous numbers, Kris Negron can play most of the infield positions and the Bats have a number of super-utility players, so Silverio better get comfortable in Louisville.

Outfielders: Jason Bourgeois, Felix Perez, Steve Selsky

There are nine players on the Louisville current roster that have played at least one game in the outfield this year, but only 31 year-old Bourgeois (101) and 29-year old Perez (93) have played more than 35 games. Bourgeois is the stereotypical leadoff hitter, who has a high average of .288, on-base percentage of .337, and has 20 stolen bases, most on the team (the next highest base-stealer has two). He has played in 231 games with the White Sox (2008), Brewers (2009), Astros (2010-2011), Royals (2012), and Rays (2013).

Felix Perez

Perez is now in Louisville for his fourth season after defecting from Cuba in 2010. He is batting .275 on the year with 28 doubles and 10 home runs, but is a free swinger with only 23 walks in 98 games. 25-year old Selsky has played 35 games for the Bats since being called up from AA Pensacola after batting .301 and walking 29 times to own a .410 on-base percentage. None of these three are on the 40-man roster and the only one who is on the 40-man is Ryan LaMarre, who is on the 15-day DL, so it is unlikely any of these guys will make the Reds this year.

Starters: Dylan Axelrod, Josh Smith, Scott Diamond, Brett Marshall, David Holmberg

The starter to watch here is 23 year-old Holmberg, who came to Cincinnati as part of the Heath Bell to Tampa Bay deal and is a top-15 prospect in the Reds’ organization. Holmberg started one game for the Reds this year, but got lit up, allowing seven hits and five runs in 2.2 innings against the Cubs on July 8th. He has struggled in his first year at Triple-A, going 1-6 with a 4.90 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP in 15 starts.  26 year-old Smith is in his first year at Triple-A after being drafted in the 21st round in 2010. In 19 starts this year, Smith owns a 9-4 record but has a 4.42 ERA and a 1.48 WHIP, which are not good at all, but somehow he is getting wins. 28 year-old Diamond is the veteran of the group, having started 58 games for the Twins from 2011-2013. His 2012 campaign was his only good year, going 12-9 with a 3.54 ERA, but in 2011 and 2013 his ERAs were over 5.00 and has not been up to the majors since.

Brett Marshall

24-year-old Marshall is in his second year in Triple-A after spending last year with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. None of Marshall’s numbers are good: 10 starts, 0-7, 39.2 innings, 8.62 ERA, 2.09 WHIP, and it’s surprising to see him still at Triple-A with consistent numbers that are nothing short of awful. 29 year-old Axelrod started in 30 games for the White Sox from 2011-2013 with a 5.36 ERA but has been excellent since being purchased from the Reds on July 17th, with a 2.60 ERA in four starts. He shut out Rochester on two hits earlier in the week. It is also important to note that left-hander Tony Cingrani is on the 15-Day DL with left shoulder tendinitis for the Bats, but there has been no timetable for his return. Holmberg is the only starter on the 40-man roster, but since he did not do well against one of the league’s worst teams, it is very unlikely to see him be called up again this year unless it’s an emergency spot-start.

Relievers: Ryan Dennick, Pedro Villarreal, Curtis Partch, Chad Rogers, Tim Crabbe, Justin Freeman, Fabio Castillo, Mikey O’Brien

27-year-old Freeman leads the team in saves with six, but has allowed 11 runs in 19.1 innings in his second year with Louisville. 27-year-old Partch is on the 40-man roster and has made six appearances with the Reds this year, throwing seven scoreless innings, but he’s also walked seven, so the control is not there for him. He was plagued last year with his poor control, walking 17 batters in 23.1 innings and it was a key factor of his 6.17 ERA last year in Cincinnati. 25 year-old Rogers is also on the 40-man roster but has not been up in the majors since being drafted in the 28th round in the 2010 draft. He’s currently in the middle of a transition from a starter to a reliever, having started every game from High-A Bakersfield to Louisville last year. The switch to a reliever was this year for Rogers and he owns a 4.69 ERA in 26 appearances for Louisville. 27-year-old Dennick is having the best 2014 campaign among Louisville relievers, going 4-0 with a miniscule 2.28 ERA in 48 appearances.

Triple-A Trickledown: Norfolk

Chiefs fans will get to know the Norfolk Tides quite well over the next week. Syracuse and Norfolk play the second of eight straight games today, with the two teams heading to Virginia on Monday morning for a four-game set. Our own Daniel Comisi took a look at the Triple-A Orioles in our next edition of Triple-A Trickledown

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Catcher: Steve Clevenger, Brian Ward

29 year-old Clevenger is a major-league veteran after playing 107 games in four years with both the Cubs and the Orioles. His best year was in 2012, when he batting .201 with 13 extra base hits in 69 games with Chicago. 28 year-old Ward is the primary backstop and is in his first year with Norfolk. In 21 games this year, Ward has hit .284 with 10 walks and 14 strikeouts, which shows his plate discipline. Clevenger is on the 40-man roster and would only be called up if something would happen to Nick Hundley, who is only starting behind the plate because All-Star Matt Wieters is on the DL with a right elbow strain.

First Base: Chris Marrero, Brett Wallace

Chiefs fans will remember 25 year-old Marrero, who spent 2011, 2012 and 2013 in Syracuse after being drafted 15th overall in the 2006 draft by Washington. In his 275 games in Syracuse, Marrero batted .281 with 25 home runs and 34 doubles. Marrero has played 39 games in Washington, 31 in 2011 and eight in 2013. 27 year-old Wallace was the starting first baseman for the Houston Astros from 2010-2013, playing in 311 games. Two main reasons why Wallace continued to lose playing time each year after starting 115 games in 2011 are his high strikeout rates and a batting average that continued to plummet each year. Neither player is on the 40-man roster and even though Wallace is hitting well, (.278 BA, 7 HR, 27 RBI in 60 games at first), All-Star Chris Davis is occupying first base with the Orioles and Delmon Young at designated hitter, there is no room for him in Baltimore.

Second Base: Alexi Casilla, Steve Lombardozzi, Jemile Weeks

Casilla (29), Lombardozzi (25), and Weeks (27) all have spent time in the major leagues. Casilla spent seven years with the Twins before spending last year in Baltimore. After playing 577 games in the majors in eight years, Casilla owns a .302 OBP with 103 extra-base hits and 80 stolen bases in 91 attempts. 2011 Chiefs fans will remember Lombardozzi from when he played 69 games with Syracuse. He was fantastic in Central NY, batting .310 with 19 extra-base hits before being called up to Washington. Lombardozzi spent 257 games with Washington before being sent to Detroit this offseason in the Doug Fister deal, and finally landing in Baltimore after traded to the Orioles for Alex Gonzalez. He’s played 20 games in Baltimore this year and was hitting .288 before being sent down to Norfolk on May 1st.

Weeks, the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, has played 226 games in the majors, most of them with the Oakland Athletics. After a fantastic rookie year in 2011, batting .303 with 22 stolen bases and eight triples in 97 games, Weeks’ numbers have gone down. He’s now looking for a second chance in Baltimore. This year in Norfolk, Weeks is batting .288 with six steals and four triples in 31 games. It appears that Lombardozzi will be the first guy to called up to the majors because he has normally been used as a utility guy to give any of the middle infielders a day off and if someone got injured, I’d expect Lombardozzi to be called up again.

Third Base: Buck Britton, Cord Phelps

27-year-old Phelps was a third round pick in the 2008 draft by Cleveland after playing though Low-A, High-A, and Double-A in a year-and-a-half before being promoted to Columbus in 2010. Now in his fifth year in Triple-A, Phelps is with Baltimore after being claimed off waivers this offseason and is looking to make the jump to the majors again after playing 53 Major League games with Cleveland. Britton has been bouncing between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk each year since 2012 and has had trouble with Triple-A pitching. In Double-A, Britton is hitting well with a .296 BA, .350 OBP and 17 stolen bases in 271 games. But in Triple-A, Britton is only hitting .232 with a .282 OBP and only two steals in 98 games. Neither player is on the 40-man roster, and even though starter Manny Machado has struggled, Lombardozzi would likely be the next man up.

Shortstop: Ivan DeJesus

Once a second-round draft pick in 2005 by the Dodgers, DeJesus (27 years old) has been bouncing around teams the past couple years. He was a part of that massive Boston-Los Angeles trade in 2012 that sent Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett to LA for prospects and salary cap relief for Boston. Then, in the 2012 offseason, he was traded by Boston with Mark Melancon, Stolmy Pimentel and Jerry Sands to Pittsburgh for Joel Hanrahan and Brock Holt and spent 2013 with Triple-A Indianapolis. In Indy, DeJesus batted well in 103 games with a .319 BA, .380 OBP and 27 doubles. This year, he’s continued his contact hitting and extra base hits with Baltimore’s Triple-A squad, batting .308 with a .398 OBP and 13 doubles in 51 games. However, since DeJesus is behind All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy, it’s unlikely that he’d see time in Baltimore without a few injuries.

Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Julio Borbon, Xavier Paul, Francisco Peguero, Henry Urrutia

The only top-10 prospect in the Baltimore organization in Triple-A is roaming the Norfolk outfield. 27 year-old Urrutia (#7 prospect according to Baseball America) from Cuba made his major league debut on July 20, 2013 and played 24 games last year in Baltimore, batting .276 with a triple. Urrutia is in his second year of playing in American baseball after playing in Cuba from 2005-2009. In 2010, Urrutia tried to defect from Cuba but failed to do so and was suspended from Cuban baseball for the entire season. In September of 2011, he successfully defected to Haiti and attempted to get a work visa to come to America. After having trouble acquiring a visa for a year, Urrutia was in America and played his first game in April of 2013 with Double-A Bowie.

29-year-old Berry is in his ninth professional season and now with his seventh team as he bounces around the minor leagues. He has played 107 games in the majors, 94 of them in 2012 with the Tigers, where he batted .258 with 18 extra base hits and 21 steals. Borbon (28) was a first round pick by Texas in 2007 and has played 288 games with the Rangers and the Cubs. In 2010, Borbon played 137 games and batted .276 with 11 doubles and 15 stolen bases. 29-year-old Xavier Paul – a Chiefs outfielder in 2012 – is the oldest and most tenured outfielder with 335 games played with the Dodgers, Pirates and Reds. 26-year-old Peguero has been in the Giants organization since he was 18, but signed with Baltimore as a free agent this offseason. Peguero played 35 games between 2012-2013 and is currently rehabbing with Norfolk after being on the disabled list since March 21 with a strained right wrist.

The Orioles’ outfield currently holds Adam Jones, one of the majors’ best outfielders, MLB home run leader Nelson Cruz and .305-batting Nick Markakis. Reserve David Lough’s hitting below .200 this year, so a hot spurt from one of Norfolk’s outfielders could send a Tide to take his place.

Starting Pitchers: Nick Additon, Eddie Gamboa, Mike Wright, Suk-min Yoon

Despite yesterday’s start, 24-year-old Mike Wright has been a bright spot in the Oriole organization. Wright was drafted in the third round of the 2011 draft and is in his first full season with Norfolk. In 12 starts this year, however, Wright has struggled with a 6.75 ERA in 57.1 innings. 27 year-old Suk-min Yoon is in his first year in America after spending the first nine years in the Korean Baseball Organization. In 303 games (136 starts) in Korea, Yoon is 73-59 with a 3.19 ERA and a fantastic 1.20 WHIP. He’s also on the 40-man roster and most likely will be a September call-up. Gamboa, a converted knuckleballer, will start for the Tides tonight in his third Norfolk season. He’s a 29-year-old in his seventh season in the Orioles’ minor leagues.

Relief Pitchers: Tim Alderson, Kelvin De La Cruz, Preston Guilmet, Brock Huntzinger, Chris Jones, Evan Meek, Anthony Vasquez

As I look at this group of relievers, none of them are having a spectacular 2014 season. Norfolk’s team ERA is 4.77, which is third-worst in the International League, and every reliever has an ERA over 3.20. 26 year-old Guilmet leads the team in saves with four, and has been up in Baltimore for nine appearances, allowing six runs in 9.1 innings while striking out 11. Former Pittsburgh Pirate Meek (31) is second on the team with three saves in 13.2 innings. Heath Bell recently opted out of his minor-league contract, as well, taking away another possible arm for the Orioles. Guilmet and Meek are the only ones on the 40-man roster and will most likely continue to be called up and sent down based on how the bullpen is used and if a fresh arm is needed.

Triple-A Trickledown: Columbus

Hello from overcast and drizzly Columbus. The Chiefs started a four-game series with the Clippers – the Triple-A Cleveland Indians – yesterday, and they’ll play all eight of their games vs. Columbus in this month. With that in mind, we decided to dust off Triple-A Trickledown, where we examine a team’s roster and see why these particular playres are here – and where they might go.

Today’s version comes from Daniel Comisi, one of our broadcast interns, and examines the Triple-A Indians…

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Catcher: Roberto Perez, Luke Carlin

There’s good catching depth in Columbus with 25-year-old Perez and 33-year-old veteran Carlin. Perez is the everyday catcher, starting in 21 of the team’s 31 games. A 33rd-rounder from the 2008 draft, Perez has found his stroke, hitting five home runs this season after zero with Columbus last year. Carlin owns more experience here, having played 56 games over four years in the majors. The Indians just designated backup catcher George Kottaras for assignment, meaning converted third baseman Carlos Santana will have to give regular starter Yan Gomes a rest every now and then. Neither Perez nor Carlin are on the 40-man roster otherwise.

First Base: Jesus Aguilar, David Cooper

 

The 23 year-old Aguilar has started all of Columbus’s games this year. He leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, and walks. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, Aguilar is seeing Triple-A pitching for the first time in his career after spending the previous two years at Double-A Akron. The backup first baseman, 27 year-old David Cooper, has played 72 games in two years with the Toronto Blue Jays. It’s highly unlikely the Indians will send up Aguilar due to his young age and Nick Swisher holding down first base. However, if anything were to happen to Swisher, Aguilar is on the 40-man roster and can easily be called up to Cleveland. Here’s Terry Francona, on Aguilar, from a few days ago:

He’s doing a really good job. I guess the way he plays would probably [influence a promotion]. I mean, we’re not going to put [first baseman Nick Swisher] on the bench, but you don’t ever know what’s going to happen health-wise. If he ends up being a possibility here, we’d be thrilled, because that means he’s doing really well.

Second Base: Audy Ciriaco, Ryan Rohlinger

30 year-old Rohlinger signed with the Indians in 2013 and has been a starter in the Clippers infield for 27 of the team’s 32 games at either second or third base. With 46 games in four seasons in the majors, he’s the veteran of a young infield for Columbus. Ciriaco is a new addition to the Indians organization after spending his first nine years in the Detroit and Miami farm systems. The path to the majors as a second baseman is slim for both of these players, with Jose Ramirez currently up in Cleveland while All-Star Jason Kipnis is on the disabled list with an abdominal strain.

Third Base: Giovanny Urshela

At age 22, Urshela was called up to Columbus on May 3rd, and he’s started at third base ever since. He’s continued to crush the ball after hitting .300 with 5 home runs and 19 RBIs in 24 games at Akron. He’s 10 for 25 with three home runs so far with Columbus. Urshela may very well spend a year or two with Columbus for seasoning with the large number of corner infielders in Cleveland, including Santana, a former All-Star, and Lonnie Chisenhall, a former top prospect batting .338 through 24 games.

Shortstop: Justin Sellers

Sellers, a 28-year-old, is the everyday shortstop for the Clippers, having played 21 of his 26 games this year at short. He has some major-league experience, having played 82 games in three years with the L.A. Dodgers. With Asdrubal Cabrera currently struggling in the majors last year and to start off this year, a good stretch of productive hitting and good defense from Sellers could propel him back to the big leagues.

Outfield: Matt Carson, Tim Fedroff, Carlos Moncrief

There are only three outfielders on the Clippers roster this year, with 25-year-old Moncrief the only newcomer to the gang. Moncrief spent last year with Double-A Akron, batting .284 with 17 homers and 75 RBIs. Carson and Fedroff both spent their 2013 season with a Columbus jersey on their backs. Carson, age 32, played 92 major league games in four seasons with Oakland, Minnesota, and Cleveland. Fedroff, meanwhile, spent last season on the 40-man-roster, but he’s yet to make his major-league debut and was removed from the 40-man in September. If the injury bug strikes in Cleveland, only Moncrief is on the 40-man roster, meaning he’d be most likely to have his number called.

Starting Pitchers: Travis Banwart, Trevor Bauer, Tyler Cloyd, Kyle Davies, T.J. House

Top prospect Trevor Bauer is the big name here of this bunch. The 23 year-old right-hander has been long-heralded as one of the top prospects in the Cleveland organization. However, he’s bounced between the Clippers and Indians as he works to get better command of his pitches. Entering the 2014 season, Bauer had started nine games for the Indians with an ERA above 5.50. But this year he seems to be turning a corner at Columbus, throwing 40.1 innings with a sparkling ERA of 1.12 and 40 strikeouts.

Taking a look at the rest of the Clippers rotation: 28 year-old Banwart is now in his sixth year at AAA and his first with Columbus after spending the first seven years of career with Oakland. 26 year-old Cloyd has started 17 games in the majors with the Phillies, sporting an ERA of 4.76 in the bigs.  24 year-old House is in his second year with Columbus after starting 24 games last year, owning a 4.17 ERA in 164 innings. And Davies, a former Royal and Brave starter recovering from injury, threw seven innings of two-run ball in his first Columbus start. House owns a 1.77 ERA in six starts and is on the 40-man roster, but Bauer’s likely the first man up in Cleveland’s future.

Relief Pitchers: Austin Adams, Scott Barnes, Brett Brach, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, Mark Lowe, Vinnie Pestano, Blake Wood, Mike Zagurski

This is a terrific Triple-A bullpen with a bunch of live arms. Does it translate to the majors? Maybe not, as the Indians’ bullpen has been outstanding this year. Both Pestano (13.50 ERA in three games) and Wood (7.11 in seven games) have been up to Cleveland this year, with Adams, Hagadone and Barnes also on the 40-man roster. Those three, however, all sport ERAs in between 4.91 and 5.17 with Columbus, so there’s no clear front-runner out of that pack if the Indians need a reliever.

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The Chiefs and Clippers take the field at Huntington Park tonight at 7:05. Our pregame coverage begins on The Score 1260 at 6:50 PM.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Columbus

Good afternoon from gorgeously sunny NBT Bank Stadium, where the Chiefs and Clippers are ready to play the fourth of a four-game set. Syracuse and Columbus are going to play five more times in the next 10 days, so it might be a good idea to get to know the Clippers a little bit with our latest edition of Triple-A Trickledown

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Catcher: Omir Santos, Chris Wallace

There’s good catching depth here with Santos, a 32-year-old veteran of 122 major league games, who’s on the Indians’ 40 man-roster, and Wallace, a 25-year-old acquired from Houston, who’s a .275 career hitter in four minor league seasons. Cleveland, however, is in terrific shape up in the major leagues. Behind Carlos Santana, who might be the best hitter in the American League so far this season, there’s 25-year-old catcher Yan Gomes, an intriguing prospect with six extra-base hits in 15 games. Veteran backstop Lou Marson’s also on the Disabled List with a sore right shoulder.

First Base: Matt LaPorta

LaPorta, the seventh overall pick back in 2007, is with Columbus for at last part of the season for the fifth straight year. He’s got a career .900 OPS in 225 Triple-A games, but he’s scuffled a bit with Cleveland. LaPorta’s posted just a .238 average and .694 OPS in his 291-game Indians career, and he was removed from the 40-man roster this offseason. Since no team claimed LaPorta, he’s back to terrorize the drawn-in fences at Columbus’ Huntington Park.

Matt LaPorta (Toledo Blade)

Second Base: Matt Lawson, Cord Phelps

Phelps, who went 0 for 8 with Cleveland this year, has gotten off to a rough start with Columbus this season. He’s hit just .229 in 25 games with 11 walks to 26 strikeouts. Phelps is a 40-man roster member, but he’s only 18 for 112 in his major league career. Lawson’s a 27-year-old career minor leaguer in his first-ever Triple-A season. Meanwhile, former Clippers standout Jason Kipnis has sported a .775 OPS in 31 games with Cleveland while batting largely out of the #2 spot.

Shortstop: Juan Diaz

Diaz, a 24-year-old switch-hitter, made his major league debut with five Cleveland games last season. He’s started slow in 2013, though, batting .209 in 36 Clippers games with 40 strikeouts to seven walks. The Indians, meanwhile, are in solid shape with Asdrubal Cabrera and Mike Aviles at shortstop. Diaz is a bit stuck – he’s not currently a good enough offensive player to work his way onto the major-league roster, and he’s never played a game outside of shortstop in his professional career.

Third Base: Adam Abraham, Lonnie Chisenhall, Ryan Rohlinger

Chisenhall is the big name here, a 24-year-old former first-round pick who sported just a .213/.253/.351 line in 26 games with Cleveland. He was sent down just in time for the start of this four-game series, and he’ll likely be back up at some point this season if he works out some swing issues. The Indians, though, are in fine shape right now with Mark Reynolds and his 11 home runs manning the hot corner. Abraham, a 26-year-old, and Rohlinger, a 30-year-old former major leaguer, provide infield depth.

Outfield: Ezequiel Carrera, Matt Carson, Tim Fedroff, Jeremy Hermida, Cedric Hunter

Carrera’s had a roller coaster ride to begin the season. He was claimed by the Phillies from Cleveland off of waivers and went for 1 in 13 in 13 games up in the big leagues. Philadelphia then designated Carrera for assignment, and the Indians scooped him back up – before later designating him for assignment again. So Carrera’s here in Columbus, but he’s no longer on the Tribe’s 40 man-roster. The only 40-man member in this group, strangely enough, is Fedroff – though he’s the only one of the five outfielders here not to appear in a single major-league game. Fedroff’s a 26-year-old who sported a .325/.393/.517 line in 69 games with Columbus last year. He’s on his way back there thanks to a .365 average to date in May. Fedroff could find his way in the majors with an injury to one of the Indians’ four outfielders – Ryan Raburn, Michael Bourn, Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs, all of whom are off to solid starts.

Tim Fedroff (Double G Sports)

Hermida, who’s been a major leaguer for at least some portion of the last eight years, leads the Clippers in most offensive categories at the moment. He’s joined by Hunter, a 24-year-old former top prospect in the Padres’ organization, and Carson, a 31-year-old who got some time last year up in Minnesota.

Starting Pitchers: Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, T.J. House, Joe Martinez, Toru Murata, Danny Salazar

Top prospect Bauer isn’t on the Clippers’ roster that’s in front of me right now, but he’s not on the Indians’ active roster right now, either, and he was only called up for a spot start. So, you figure it out. Bauer could certainly find his way to a regular rotation spot soon enough, considering three-fifths of the Indians’ rotation sports an ERA north of 5.00 (Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber).

Trevor Bauer (milb.com)

The rest of the rotation spells good fortune for the Indians’ future, with a pair of 23-year-olds in House and Salazar and a 26-year-old in Carrasco, all of whom are on the Indians’ 40-man roster. Martinez, a 30-year-old journeyman in his second tour of duty with the tribe, and Murata, a 27-year-old in his third season with the Indians’ minor leagues, round out the group.

Relief Pitchers: Scott Barnes, Jerry Gil, Preston Guilmet, Matt Langwell, Fernando Nieve, Giovanni Soto

Barnes, the lone 40-man member of the group, is a left-handed former starter with a 7.50 ERA in 10 games this season – far and away the worst ERA in a top-to-bottom strong bullpen. Closer Guilmet’s been a stalwart, with a 2.95 ERA and 13-for-14 save success rate in his first Triple-A year. Former big leaguer Nieve has a 0.99 ERA in 10 games, with a crazy 31-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those two might be the first right-handers up if needed. In the majors, though, Cleveland’s well-stocked with right-handers, with Matt Albers’ 4.38 ERA the worst right-handed mark. Left-hander Nick Hagadone sports a 7.20 mark to bring up the rear for southpaws, so a good season from the 22-year-old Soto could find him knocking on Cleveland’s door.

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The Chiefs and Clippers take the field tonight at 7:00. Our clubhouse show starts at 6:45 on the Syracuse Chiefs Baseball Network. See you there.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Norfolk

Evening, Chiefs fans.  Syracuse is back in town today to begin a four-game series with the Norfolk Tides after dropping three out of four games in Pawtucket.  The Chiefs lost their first four games against the Tides this year down in Norfolk, but the four losses came by a combined five runs – so either way, you’ll want to stay tuned until the final out.

Let’s take a look now at the Tides – the Triple-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles – before their lone visit to Alliance Bank Stadium this year.

Catcher: Luis Exposito, Ronny Paulino, Chris Robinson

40-man member Exposito, who’s just recently been activated from the Disabled List, is an intriguing 25-year-old player who was claimed off of waivers from the Red Sox this season.  He’s got a strong arm and is a plus defender, but there’s work to be done offensively – he’s hitting just .267 with no home runs and seven walks in 28 games this season.  Paulino, a 31-year-old major league veteran, was recently sent down to Norfolk after big league backup Taylor Teagarden’s activation from the DL, while the 28-year-old Robinson likely provides mostly organizational depth at this point.

Luis Exposito

First Base: Joe Mahoney

Mahoney, a 6’6″, 25-year-old first baseman, just made his big league debut with the Orioles 13 days ago, but he was quickly sent back down to Norfolk.  At .259 with only six home runs in 92 games, he’s likely not a big league offensive player yet, but he’s the only active infielder on the 40-man roster and he’s played regularly for the Tides this year.  Baltimore’s survived with basically-average first base play this year from swing-hard-and-maybe-make-contact titans Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds, who have combined for 23 home runs and 170 strikeouts on the season.

Second Base: Bill Hall, Carlos Rojas

Speaking of strikeouts…Hall, who started the season in the majors before being designated for assignment, has been the ultimate king of whiffs this year.  He’s punched out 91 times – to just 13 walks – in 56 games with the Tides.  Hall does have 11 doubles and 11 home runs in 56 games with Norfolk, however.  Rojas, a .222 hitter with one extra-base hit in 35 games, is a 28-year-old who likely provides organizational depth.  Unfortunately for the Orioles, neither of these two appear to be the answer to their major league problems.  Robert Andino, who’s posted a .230/.292/.325 slash line, has been the regular second baseman this year.  Former All-Star Brian Roberts is currently on the DL – and even when he’s been off it, he’s been slowed down to the tune of a .182 average in 17 games.  And right now – with both Andino and Roberts on the DL – it’s Steve Tolleson, up from Norfolk, who’s become the starter.

Shortstop: Blake Davis

J.J. Hardy’s started 90 games for the Orioles this year, though the position’s not necessarily set in stone for Baltimore – he’s hitting just .217 on the season.  But Davis, at .247 with two home runs in 75 Triple-A games, is likely an “in case of emergency” option.  The real long-term option here is likely in Double-A – uber-prospect Manny Machado.  The 20-year-old who was the #2 pick in the 2010 MLB draft is having a solid offensive season, batting .257 with 23 doubles and eight home runs, though he’s committed 17 errors.  But Machado’s likely still in need of some seasoning at the lower levels before coming to Norfolk.

Third Base: Brandon Waring, Zelous Wheeler

Neither the 26-year-old Waring or the 25-year-old Wheeler is much of a prospect at this point, and neither player has ever appeared in a major league game.  Luckily for the Orioles, there’s no shortage of potential third-base options up in the major leagues, with Reynolds, Tolleson, Wilson Betemit and Ryan Flaherty all able to play the position if needed.

Outfield: Xavier Avery, Led Ford, L.J. Hoes, Jamie Hoffmann, Nate McLouth

Avery’s the only 40-man roster member here, and the speedy 22-year-old has already been up in the major leagues a few times this year.  He wreaked havoc against the Chiefs in his only game versus Syracuse this year, collecting two hits and two walks while stealing a base and scoring a run.  But it’s Ford, the former Minnesota Twin, who’s been the team’s offensive standout this year.  He’s hitting .340 in 54 games with a colossal .964 OPS, and though Ford’s 35, those kind of numbers seem certain to catch someone’s eye, whether it be Baltimore or not.  Hoes, a 22-year-old prospect, has also opened some eyes with a .314/.371/.444 line in his Triple-A debut season.  And then there’s McLouth, with an asinine .746 slugging percentage in 59 July at-bats, along with a former major leaguer in Hoffmann – so yes, this is a fairly stacked group.

Lew Ford

However, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis have a firm grasp on two of the major league club’s starting outfield spots, with Steve Pearce and Davis also getting their fair share of playing time.  So outside of an injury, that group’s likely to stay the same, and it seems logical that 40-man member Perez would be the first guy to go up.

Starting Pitchers: Jake Arrieta, Jason Berken, Dana Eveland, Steve Johnson, Brian Matusz

Four of these five starters are members of the 40-man roster, with the exception being Dana Eveland, who was designated for assignment just six days ago.  Tonight’s starter, Matusz, has more than double the amount of major league starts to minor league starts in his career – but at 5-10 with a 5.42 ERA, he’ll be making his third Norfolk start of the season tonight.  Johnson’s back here after making his major league debut a few days ago, while Arrieta’s down with the Tides after a 3-9, 6.13 record in 18 Baltimore starts this year.  It’s a trio of likely future contributors for the big club – but for now, it’s time for extra seasoning.

Relief Pitchers: Tim Bascom, Greg Burke, Pat Neshek, Zach Phillips, Miguel Socolovich, Oscar Villarreal, Pedro Viola

Hey, remember that note about all those starting pitchers on the 40-man roster?  You know, the one from six lines ago?  Well, a whopping one member of the Tides’ relief group is on the 40-man – IL All-Star Socolovich, who just pitched in his first two ever big league games on the 14th and 16th.  There likely won’t be too much of a concern for Baltimore, though – Kevin Gregg’s 3.90 ERA represents the worst mark in a completely stacked major league bullpen.  Outside of Socolovich, another former Twin has excelled here, in Neshek.  The submarine-throwing right-hander’s posted a 2.48 ERA in 32 games, striking out 44 batters to just seven walks in 40 innings.

Pat Neshek

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That’s all for today’s version of Triple-A Trickledown.  Hope to see you at the park tonight for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, tomorrow for fireworks, or on Sunday or Monday for some more Chiefs baseball.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Gwinnett

For the first time since April 17, 2011, the Chiefs are at .500 (not counting 0-0, of course).  After a 6-2 win over the Gwinnett Braves last night, Syracuse improved its record to 37-37.  The Chiefs now have a chance to sneak over .500 for the first time since – well, April 16, 2011.  So let’s meet the enemy, the G-Braves, and examine who’s where and why…

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Catcher: J.C. Boscan, Shawn McGill, Jose Yepez

If it seems a little bit odd that Gwinnett is carrying three catchers, it is.  Boscan – despite a .193 average – is here as the de facto third catcher for Atlanta, since he’s on the team’s 40-man roster.  Yepez is a 31-year-old career minor leaguer – save a week last season with the Mariners where he didn’t appear in a game – and he’s hitting .241 with some good defensive skills.  McGill’s inclusion, however, is somewhat odd – he’d played just 19 games above Single-A in his career until this season, and he’s just 4 for 27 with the G-Braves this year.

First Base: Christian Marrero, Ernesto Mejia

Mejia’s been the offensive MVP of the G-Braves this season, ranking third in the league in batting average and RBI, fourth in total bases and fifth in extra-base hits.  However, he’s a 26-year-old Triple-A rookie who still strikes out at a high volume, doesn’t walk a ton, and only plays first.  Mejia’s certainly a big bat to have in Triple-A, but he’s not on the 40-man roster, so who knows where his ceiling lies.  Former G-Braves star Freddie Freeman – all of 22 years old – looks to have a solid grip on first base up in Atlanta.  Marrero, the older brother of Chiefs first baseman Chris, was traded to the Braves from the White Sox for cash considerations this offseason.  At 26 years old, he provides first base and outfield insurance for the team.

Ernesto Mejia

Second Base: Lance Zawadzki

Zawadzki’s a former Padre who went 7 for 35 in limited time with San Diego in 2010, though he’s been a career minor leaguer outside of that.  But there’s no need to worry about this position for Atlanta, as former All-Star Dan Uggla has started all of the Braves’ 70 games at second this year.  2010 fifth-round pick Philip Gosselin could make his way up here eventually, but he’s hitting .260 with no home runs in Double-A.

Shortstop: Tyler Pastornicky, Josh Wilson

The 22-year-old Pastornicky was Atlanta’s opening-day shortstop, but the Braves sent him back to Triple-A after a .248 average in 45 games.  It likely won’t be the last time Pastornicky steps on a major league field – and honestly, the move shows long-term faith in the shortstop.  Pastornicky could have stayed in the major leagues in place of the .175-hitting Jack Wilson, but Atlanta would prefer regular at-bats for Pastornicky.  Meanwhile, Josh Wilson (no relation) is a long-time veteran who once played for nine teams in a four-year span.  He played in 60 games with Arizona and Milwaukee last year, though he’s just a .227 career big league hitter with nine home runs.  Another top prospect, Andrelton Simmons, has become Atlanta’s regular starter.  And he’s performed quite well, with a .323/.368/.500 slash line in 18 games.

Tyler Pastornicky

Third Base: Ruben Gotay

This was Joey Terdoslavich’s position for most of the season, but the 23-year-old hit just .180 in 53 games before being reassigned to Double-A.  Terdoslavich broke a Carolina League record last season with 52 doubles and was so impressive that he originally skipped Double-A, but it turns out the jump was a bit too high to handle.  So it’s now manned by the veteran Gotay, who’s only 7 for 42 in 13 games.  Former Louisville Bats infielder Juan Francisco currently owns the position of Chipper Jones’ backup in the major leagues, where he’s posted just a .243 on-base percentage, but it doesn’t appear his job’s in any sort of jeopardy.

Outfield: Jose Constanza, Luis Durango, Stefan Gartrell, Felix Pie

Unless there’s an injury, it doesn’t seem like Atlanta’s going to need anyone from here.  With Jason Heyward, Michael Bourn, Martin Prado and lefty-masher Matt Diaz, the Braves are just about set up in the major leagues.  Constanza would be the easy – and logical – choice to go up first.  He’s the only 40-man member of this bunch, and he hit north of .300 with both the G-Braves and A-Braves (does that work?) last season.  Gartrell was unleashing his case after being named the IL Player of the Month in May, but a June slump’s knocked him down to .242/.343/.422 for the season.  Durango, a .280 hitter, leads the IL with 27 stolen bases, while Pie’s a former big leaguer hitting .281 in 38 games.  It’s a group that’s certainly the offensive strength of Gwinnett this season.

Starting Pitchers: Erik Cordier, Yohan Flande, Eric Junge, Todd Redmond, Julio Teheran

Redmond, Cordier and Teheran are all 40-man members here, but it’s Flande who was the closest to making the Braves on Opening Day this season.  The 26-year-old left-hander was still in camp when Atlanta got down to 25 players and looked to have a bullpen spot sewed up, but Atlanta then signed right-hander Chad Durbin, and Flande returned to Gwinnett.  He’s still not on the 40-man-roster, so his path still isn’t quite clear.

Meanwhile, uber-prospect Teheran, who’s tonight’s starter, has made one spot start in the majors this season after being called up for a few starts last year.  At 21 years old, he’s likely got a long career ahead of him, so it seems Atlanta will be as cautious with Teheran as possible.  Redmond was just called up to the majors for the first time earlier in the week, though he didn’t pitch out of the bullpen.  The Braves’ rotation right now is 80% complete, with the fifth spot somewhat in flux – Brandon Beachy (and his 2.00 ERA) just injured his elbow and is out for the season, so Jair Jurrjens was recalled to take his spot.  Jurrjens, who struggled early this season, allowed just three hits in 7.2 innings against Boston in his return, so Atlanta will be keeping a sharp eye on that spot.

Yohan Flande

Relief Pitchers: Billy Bullock, Buddy Carlyle, D.J. Carrasco, Jaye Champan, Cory Gearrin, Dusty Hughes, Adam Russell

Chapman (3.15 ERA in 28 games) and Gearrin (1.41 in 24 games) are the two 40-man members here, part of an overall strong Gwinnett bullpen.  But the Braves are equally strong in the majors, with a strong and young core of relievers.  Veteran Buddy Carlyle’s also had a strong season for the G-Braves, going 3-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 16 games.  But overall, it doesn’t sound like there will be too much movement bullpen-wise with the big leaguers or the Triple-A squad this year.

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Hope to see you out at the park tonight for the Chiefs and G-Braves at 7:00 – or if not, we hope you tune in at 6:45 to The Score 1260.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Pawtucket

Afternoon, Chiefs fans.  After Scranton/Wilkes-Barre left town yesterday, another AL East power brings its Triple-A club into town with the Pawtucket Red Sox.  (I should note that “power” is relative to past years, not just this season.)  Boston’s highest minor league level has been sensational this year, sporting an IL-best 45-25 record.  So why are they so good?  Shouldn’t all these guys be in the majors?  Let’s take a look.

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Catcher: Ryan Lavarnway, Mike Rivera

Lavarnway shot through the minor league system last season en route to 17 games in the major leagues, but he’s stayed in Triple-A this season thanks to some potent production from Boston’s catchers.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kelly Shoppach, each slugging north of .500, may be two of the few players actually exceeding expectations for a 33-33 Red Sox team, so Lavarnway might stay in Pawtucket the entire season just to get regular at-bats.  At .284/.377/.433, he’s having a solid season, and he is only 24, so the future’s still bright for Lavarnway.  Rivera, a 35-year-old backstop, provides good insurance.

Ryan Lavarnway

First Base: Lars Anderson, Mauro Gomez

Here are two of the main reasons Pawtucket’s the best team in the league – Anderson (.271/.393/.487, 14 doubles and 9 home runs) and Gomez (.296/.360/.596, 20 doubles and 15 home runs).  Anderson, a once-top prospect in the Boston organization, has started playing the outfield this season to increase his versatility – he’s played 37 games at first base and 15 in the outfield this season.  Gomez, who’s split time at first base and designated hitter, ranks in the top 5 in the league in batting average, runs, doubles, home runs, extra-base hits, RBI, and total bases.  They’re each on the 40-man, but with Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez up in the big leagues, they’d likely only be used in case of injury.

Second Base: Jonathan Hee, Tony Thomas

Neither of those two players has a day of major league experience, so any second base help would likely come from outside of the organization if needed.  Dustin Pedroia’s backups, Nick Punto and Mike Aviles, could fill in admirably if needed, though Pedroia’s a fairly durable player, so this isn’t likely to be an issue for Boston.

Shortstop: Pedro Ciriaco, Jose Iglesias

The 22-year-old Iglesias, who’s currently on the 7-day Disabled List, has been labeled Boston’s shortstop of the future for quite some time now thanks to his defensive prowess.  It’s a defense that’s always been well ahead of his offense, though Iglesias has made some strides this season.  He’s upped his Pawtucket batting average from .235 last season to .269 this year (despite an OBP and SLG each at just .317).  It wouldn’t be a shock to see Iglesias in the big leagues this season, because Aviles hasn’t been great offensively (.284 OBP).  Ciriaco, the former Pittsburgh Pirate, is hitting .301 – though it’s with just five walks and a 10-for-18 stolen base rate.

Jose Iglesias

Third Base: Nate Spears

Spears was called up to the majors earlier this season, only to go 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.  He’s since been designated for assignment, so he’s no longer on the 40-man roster.  Spears is hitting .242 with four home runs for Pawtucket in 52 games.  He wasn’t supposed to be the regular Pawtucket third baseman, though – but Will Middlebrooks blew up those plans by setting baseball on fire.  The 23-year-old rookie, who posted a 1.057 OPS in 24 games with Pawtucket, has an .813 OPS in 35 games with Boston, and it’s safe to say he’s ahead of schedule after spending most of last season in Double-A.

Outfield: Alex Hassan, Josh Kroeger, Che-Hsuan Lin

Lin, the only 40-man member of that group, was 1 for 5 in six games with Boston this year in his major league debut.  At 23, he could factor into Boston’s future plans.  Hassan, a former pitcher, is an intriguing prospect at 24 years old, while the 28-year-old Kroeger is likely veteran insurance at this point.  But they’d do well to be on standby at all times.  A slew of outfield injuries have sent Scott Podsednik, Ryan Kalish and Daniel Nava all to the majors from Pawtucket this season, with Darnell McDonald filling out the group.  Meanwhile, Cuban defector J.C. Linares, who played part of last season in Triple-A, is tearing the cover off the ball at Double-A Portland, to the tune of .343/.415/.547 mark in 56 games.

Starting Pitchers: Billy Buckner, Brandon Duckworth, Justin Germano, Doug Mathis

Right-hander Aaron Cook’s starting tonight on Major League rehab, inheriting the fifth spot in the rotation for now – a spot that’s been rotating for Pawtucket recently.  He joins a group that features no 40-man roster members outside of Cook himself.  That doesn’t constitute a lack of effectiveness, though – Duckworth’s 7-1 with a 3.69 ERA in 13 starts, while last year’s perfect-game hurler Germano is 8-3 with a 2.49 ERA.  The Red Sox could be in need of a spot starter soon, though, with Josh Beckett recently placed on the Disabled List.  Reliever Franklin Morales made a spot start in Beckett’s stead yesterday, so Boston has a few days to make a decision there.

Relief Pitchers: Daniel Bard, Will Inman, Garrett Mock, Tony Pena, Mark Prior, Junichi Tazawa, Alex Wilson

Since you’ve likely ignored six of the seven names here, we’ll go ahead and skip to Mark Prior, too.  The former Cubs phenom, who’s been injured and out of the major leagues since 2006, has rejuvenated his career this season in the Red Sox minor leagues.  In 6.2 innings, he’s struck out 15 while allowing just three hits and four walks.  Mock, a former Chiefs reliever, has also had a great season – sporting a 1.95 ERA in 21 games with 30 strikeouts in 27.2 innings.  Also, keep an eye out for Bard, who was just recently sent down to work on his command.

Mark Prior

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Hope to see you at the park during this series – the Chiefs and PawSox play at 7:00 for each of the next four nights.  We’re on the air at 6:45 tonight with our Clubhouse Show on The Score 1260.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Scranton/Wilkes-Barre

While 2012 has been and should continue to be a trying year for the Yankees’ Triple-A club, it’s a treat for Syracuse – a city and a state full of Yankee fans gets ten extra chances to see Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in action.  The nomadic Yankees, whose home stadium is under renovation throughout the season, will play all 16 games with Syracuse and two extra games with Buffalo here at Alliance Bank Stadium this year.  So let’s get to know them a little better…

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Catcher: Francisco Cervelli, Gustavo Molina

Cervelli – who gets his third straight start of the series today – has received more cheers in Syracuse than anyone this side of Jim Boeheim.  For whatever reason, he’s become a massive fan favorite in the Salt City.  Of course, Cervelli would rather be a fan favorite in the Big Apple, and it came as a surprise to see the 26-year-old in Triple-A to start the year.  But the Yankees decided to keep veteran backup Chris Stewart – a good handler of pitchers – as Russell Martin’s backup.  Cervelli’s an injury away from a promotion, but otherwise, the Yankees will likely keep him with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to get regular at-bats.  Meanwhile, Molina’s hitting just .170 to date in 13 games.

Francisco Cervelli

First Base: Russell Branyan

A recent signee, Branyan is a classic “three true outcomes” player – walk, strikeout or home run.  At 36 years old, Branyan is coming off a season where he played in the majors for the Angels and Diamondbacks, but he likely won’t provide too much value to the Yankees in the major leagues unless Mark Teixeira goes down.  However, the Yankees could also fill first base with Eric Chavez, Jayson Nix or Nick Swisher if needed.

Second Base: Corban Joseph

Joseph, a 23-year-old Triple-A rookie and 40-man member, got off to a hot start with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, starting his Triple-A tenure with a 10-game hitting streak.  However, he’s just 1 for 19 since.  Former Chiefs infielder Matt Antonelli is also here and on the 40-man roster, but he’s currently on the Disabled List with a hand injury.  Utility infielder Jayson Nix is serving as Robinson Cano’s backup in the major leagues, although the Yankees don’t have another second base candidate on the roster.

Shortstop: Doug Bernier, Ramiro Pena

Eduardo Nunez, who was having a solid season in the major leagues, was sent down to Triple-A to become a regular shortstop and second baseman once more.  However, he’s gone on the DL with a thumb injury, leaving Pena and Bernier to man the position.  Both players are slick fielders who are better with the glove than the bat.  Again, though, an injury to Nix in the major leagues would force a move – Derek Jeter’s obviously not going anywhere, but Nix is the only other major league shortstop option.

Third Base: Brandon Laird

A 40-man member who made his major league debut last season, Laird is hitting just .236 with three home runs for the Yankees this season.  This position is less important for the Yankees in case of an injury, with both Chavez and Nix able to fill in for Alex Rodriguez in a pinch.  Laird’s only 24, so he’s likely to be in the Bombers’ plans for quite some time.

Outfield: Colin Curtis, Chris Dickerson, Ronnier Mustelier, Kevin Russo

Mustelier is the most intriguing name of this bunch.  He’s a 27-year-old Cuban defector who’s been tearing the cover off the ball, to the tune of a .314/351/.481 slash line in 39 Triple-A games.  This year’s just the second for Mustelier with the Yankees after defecting, and he’s shot through the system on a blazing fast track.  Manager Joe Girardi’s even stated that the Yankees have had discussions about calling up Mustelier recently, although they’d need to clear a 40-man roster spot for him.  The other three outfielders – Curtis (27 years old), Dickerson (28) and Russo (27) – all have some big league experience as well.  Russo can play just about any position, while Curtis and Dickerson add speed and good defense.  Veteran Dewayne Wise – just 4 for 26 in 31 games – could find himself swapped out for one of the players in this group soon.

Ronnier Mustelier

Designated Hitter: Jack Cust

Astute readers may note that this is the first time we’ve listed “Designated Hitter” as a position on one of these posts this year.  The reason?  Cust has played as many innings in the field as you or I this season, unless you are a professional baseball player.  Anyway, Cust is doing Jack Cust things, which is to say hitting home runs (13), drawing walks (51) and collecting strikeouts (81).  He’s walked, homered or struck out in just about half of his career plate appearances.  Maybe you’d see him in the major leagues if regular Yankees DH Raul Ibanez got injured, but otherwise, likely not.

Starting Pitchers: Dellin Betances, John Maine, D.J. Mitchell, Ramon Ortiz, Adam Warren

The next pitcher in line to start for the Yankees would be David Phelps, who was just sent down to Class A Tampa to build up his arm strength – Phelps had been working out of the bullpen for New York this season.  Until then, it’s questionable who New York would grab next.  Mitchell and Betances are the two 40-man members here, though they sport ERAs of 5.43 and 5.91, respectively.  The 39-year-old Ortiz could be an intriguing option – he’s 5-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 11 starts this season.

Relief Pitchers: Jason Bulger, Juan Cedeno, Manny Delcarmen, Nelson Figueroa, Ryota Igarashi, Mike O’Connor, Justin Thomas, Chase Whitley

Even without Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ bullpen is still a strong one, so there likely aren’t many (if any) spots for the team to swap.  The standouts here have been a couple of left-handers – Cedeno, a 28-year-old with a 1.99 ERA, and Thomas, another 28-year-old, who sports a 2.45 ERA.  Thomas and former Mets right-hander Ryota Igarashi are the only relievers on the 40-man roster here.  But look out for 22-year-old Chase Whitley, a 2010 draft pick who’s the first member of that year’s draft class to reach Triple-A.  He’s 5-2 with a 3.96 ERA in 21 games, and right-handers are hitting just .179 against him.

Chase Whitley

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Hope to see you at the ballpark tonight, on another gorgeous night for baseball, as the Chiefs and Yankees play their third game in a four-game series.  We’re on the air at 6:45 on The Score 1260 with first pitch slated for 7:00.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Lehigh Valley

It’s hard to believe that 62 games into the season, the Lehigh Valley IronPigs – a North Division opponent – have yet to make their first visit to Alliance Bank Stadium in 2012.  But all five games between the Chiefs and the Swine of Steel so far have been at Allentown’s Coca-Cola Park.  Tonight, Ryne Sandberg’s crew heads to Syracuse to begin a four-game series and continue the Chiefs’ current 21-game homestand.  Let’s take a look at what Syracuse is in for…

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Catcher: Tuffy Gosewisch, Erik Kratz, John Suomi

Gosewisch and Suomi combined for 18 Triple-A games last season (all by Suomi), and while Suomi’s on an otherworldly tear right now (12-20, six extra-base hits in his last five games), neither of the two has any major league experience or is on the 40-man roster.  In an emergency, they might get leapfrogged by 21-year-old prospect Sebastian Valle, a hot catching prospect in Double-A.  But then there’s Kratz, who’s had this transaction log in 2012:

5/2: Recalled by Philadelphia
5/12: Optioned to Lehigh Valley
5/22: Recalled by Philadelphia
5/24: Optioned to Lehigh Valley
5/29: Recalled by Philadelphia
6/4: Optioned to Lehigh Valley

He’s here today.  He may be gone tomorrow.

By the way, up in the major leagues, Philadelphia starting catcher Carlos Ruiz has improbably become one of the league’s best hitters at age 33, while Brian Schneider has been a solid, if not spectacular, backup.

Erik Kratz

First Base: Cody Overbeck

At .274 with six home runs and 13 walks in 61 games, Overbeck has been about league-average at first base for the IronPigs while playing 59 games at the position.  He’s not a top prospect, though he’s only in his fourth season in professional baseball after being drafted in 2009.  Ty Wigginton’s played the majority of Philadelphia’s first base this year, with John Mayberry, Laynce Nix and Jim Thome also getting time there.  Down in Double-A, 25-year-old Darin Ruf is tearing up the league to the tune of .328/.409/.549 in 56 games.  Ruf, who’s never played in Triple-A, is a name to watch in the Phillies organization.

Second Base: Kevin Frandsen

Up in the major leagues, Phillies second baseman Freddy Galvis just suffered a fractured back, making Mike Fontenot the likely starting second baseman.  Former Chief Michael Martinez was just recalled to take Galvis’ place, since Martinez is a 40-man roster.  Frandsen, in his second year with Lehigh Valley, hasn’t played in the major leagues since 2010 with the Angels.  He’d be a good utility man in an emergency, but with a .242 average, he’s likely not first in line for that promotion.  But look out for 22-year-old second baseman Cesar Hernandez, a 40-man member hitting .321 with 20 extra-base hits for Double-A Reading.

Shortstop: Andres Blanco, Pete Orr

Orr, a former Syracuse fan favorite, was part of the major league team until just a few days ago, when he was sent back to Triple-A.  He’ll play all over the field, but he’s started his first two games at shortstop.  Blanco, a non-roster player in spring training with the Nationals, is hitting just .212 with a .600 OPS despite some stellar glovework.  Orr could certainly find his way back to the bigs at some point, but he’s no longer on the 40-man roster, so it’ll take some time.

Pete Orr

Third Base: Tug Hulett

If you’re a Chiefs fan, you likely remember Tug Hulett – one of Syracuse’s top hitters throughout the majority of 2011.  Hulett, who actually started the season at Reading, has hit safely in 11 of his IronPig starts, despite a .167 average in Double-A.  Go figure.  Veteran Placido Polanco owns the major league starting job, with Wigginton or Fontenot able to play in a pinch.

Outfield: Domonic Brown, Kyle Hudson, Michael Spidale, Steve Susdorf

If you’re wondering where the name “Rich Thompson” is, the five-year IronPig (he’d been with Lehigh Valley since their inception in 2008) was traded to Tampa Bay a few weeks ago for Hudson.  Thompson – owner of one previous major league at-bat – was promptly called up to the major leagues and collected his first major league hit in his first Rays start.  In Hudson, though, the Phillies got eight years younger, adding a player who made his MLB debut with Baltimore last season.

The big name here is obviously Brown, a once-heralded Phillies prospect who Ruben Amaro hung on to despite various trade offers.  But Brown – still only 25 years old – may not have put together all of his tools yet. He’s posted a .270/.318/.428 line with Lehigh Valley, while spending the entire season with the IronPigs.  Spidale, a 29-year-old up from Double-A, and Susdorf, a 26-year-old Triple-A rookie, are the other two outfielders here.

Starting Pitchers: Tyler Cloyd, Tom Cochran, Scott Elarton, Pat Misch, Matt Wright

None of Lehigh Valley’s starters are on the 40-man roster, which means Elarton could be an injury away from an improbable promotion to the major leagues.  The 36-year-old, who’s largely been out of baseball for the past three years, made a comeback with a clean bill of health this year and has been tremendous – he’s 5-2 with a 3.36 ERA in 12 starts, including a 22-inning scoreless streak.  Cloyd, a 25-year-old right-hander, has also been outstanding, allowing one or no runs in five of his eight starts this season.  Overall, he’s 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA.  Outside of injuries, Philadelphia’s rotation is likely set in the major leagues, though – even with Roy Halladay on the shelf for a few weeks.  21-year-old right-hander Julio Rodriguez, who’s 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA, leads the Double-A staff.

Scott Elarton

Relief Pitchers: Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Brummett, Jeremy Horst, David Purcey, J.C. Ramirez, Brian Sanches, Raul Valdes

Aumont, Ramirez and Valdes – the last of whom was just optioned down to Lehigh Valley today – are all 40-man roster members.  Valdes, who sported a 2.13 ERA in 11 Philadelphia games with 13 strikeouts to just one walk, would be the logical call up if needed in a pinch, as neither Aumont nor the recently promoted Ramirez have made their major league debuts yet.  This is a bullpen stacked with good options, though, with strong numbers from just about every reliever in the group.  Down in Double-A, 25-year-old right-hander Justin Friend has stated his case for a promotion with a 0.47 ERA in 18 games and 11 saves in 11 opportunities.

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Hope to see you at the park over these next four series as the Chiefs and IronPigs tangle.  We’ll start at 7:00 tonight, with a 5:00 first pitch on Sunday and 7:00 game time on Monday before breakfast and baseball – a 10:30 start time on Tuesday.

KB

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