Archive for the ‘ Triple-A Trickledown ’ Category

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

Triple-A Trickledown: Louisville

After 20 straight games against American League opponents – and three straight games where the Chiefs allowed nine runs – Syracuse might be happy to return to National League baseball.  And the Chiefs will start a stretch of 16 straight NL games against the Louisville Bats, the International League’s worst team record-wise by five games.  What’s happened to the Reds’ Triple-A affiliate this season?  Let’s check it out.

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Catcher: Corky Miller, Dioner Navarro

The Reds are in fairly good hands at catcher with two major league veterans here in Triple-A.  Navarro’s hitting .284 with nine walks to just 11 strikeouts for the Bats, and he’s played at least some part of each of the last eight seasons in the major leagues.  However, the last three years have resulted in averages of just .218, .194 and .193 for Navarro.  Miller, who played at least one game in the majors ever year from 2011 to 2010, is likely more for organizational depth at this point.  Neither is likely to see much time in the majors outside of an injury, though, with Ryan Hanigan hitting north of .300 and top prospect Devin Mesoraco having a solid season.

First Base: Neftali Soto

Soto smashed 30 home runs last season at Double-A, but he’s posted a line of just .227/.281/.366 with six homers so far this season.  The 23-year-old’s in his first full season in Triple-A, and he’s on the 40-man-roster, so Cincinnati will likely show patience with him.  But with Joey Votto, one of the best players in baseball, starting for the Reds, there’s no need to worry about that position aside from an injury.

Second Base: Cody Puckett, Chris Valaika

A 40-man member, the 27-year-old Valaika could probably play anywhere in the infield if needed, and he’s been called up to the Reds each of the last two seasons.  However, he owns a slash line of just .265/.299/.371 in his Triple-A career – there’s not too much patience or power there.  Puckett, just called up from Double-A, is hitting .222 in eight games in his first stint in Triple-A.  Up in the major leagues, former All-Star Brandon Phillips has a strangehold on the starting position, though there could be a utility spot available – neither Wilson Valdez nor Miguel Cairo is hitting above .200 this season.

Shortstop: Kristopher Negron, Miguel Rojas

Shortstop Paul Janish, hitting .315/.390/.521 in 23 games, would be the most promising option here, but he’s currently on the Disabled List with a broken wrist.  Meanwhile, the Bats have relied heavily on Negron, who’s played in every game this season, but he’s hitting just .221.  The 23-year-old Rojas is at .217 through 20 games, with almost no power or patience at the plate, so it’s likely the same situation as at second base – if the Reds need a change-up at utility infielder, Negron could get called up from the 40-man.  But Cincinnati’s in good shape at the position with young Zack Cozart starting all but one game this season.

Third Base: Willie Harris

Harris, a former Chief (five games in 2009), was 3 for 35 with the Reds this season before being removed from the 40-man roster – and he’s just 11 for 57 with Louisville.  This was Todd Frazier’s position, but the brother of last year’s Chiefs outfielder Jeff has taken over for the injured Scott Rolen up with the big league team.  And Frazier has been tremendous, with a .597 slugging percentage thanks to 12 extra-base hits out of his 20 total hits.

Outfield: Daniel Dorn, Joey Gathright, Felix Perez, Bill Rhinehart

The only outfielder on the 40-man roster for Cincinnati, Denis Phipps, is on the Bats’ Disabled List with a .168 average.  So more so than any position, the Reds are likely keeping their fingers crossed that none of their outfielders get injured.  It’s likely that one of the utility players would be called up in an emergency, as none of the options here are thrilling for Cincinnati.  Perez, in his third professional season from Cuba, is hitting .230 with just one home run.  Rhinehart, acquired from the Nationals last season while at Harrisburg, is at .230 with just four homers.  Dorn’s in his fourth straight season with the Bats, without a game of MLB experience, and Gathright was just signed out of independent ball.  The best bet of the group might be Gathright, who’s played in the major leagues in seven of the past eight years before 2012 and might be one of the fastest players in baseball.

Starting Pitchers: Jeff Francis, Sean Gallagher, Chad Reineke, Wirfin Obispo, Brett Tomko, Pedro Villarreal

Four of the six starters here have pitched in the major leagues, with the exception of Obispo – today’s starter – and Villarreal.  But, strangely enough, the only 40-man roster member here is Villarreal, a 24-year-old with a 3.70 ERA in four starts.  He’s walked just two in 24.1 innings while striking out 18 in his debut season at Triple-A.  Obispo’s making just his second Triple-A start of the season today, while the rest of the Louisville rotation has been generally average .  Tomko does have an ERA of 3.18 in nine starts – despite an 0-5 record – but he’s walked 26 in 51 innings and he’s changed teams for the 13th time in his career.  But Cincinnati won’t have to worry too much – the Reds’ rotation has been stiller this year outside of Mike Leake, but the young-right hander is one of the team’s top prospects and has improved over his last few starts.

Relief Pitchers: Scott Carroll, Nick Christiani, Carlos Fisher, Josh Judy, Jordan Smith, Kanekoa Texeira, Travis Webb

The worst ERA of any regular Reds reliever is Sean Marshall’s 4.24 mark, so we’ll spare you having to go through everyone of the Louisville relievers – especially because Jordan Smith is the only one on the 40-man roster.  However, Smith’s 6.89 ERA ranks as the second-worst number on Louisville’s roster.  The best Bat here has been Texeira, who’s sported a 0.81 ERA in 13 games.  However, he’s walked 13 to just 10 strikeouts in 22.1 innings, so those numbers should dip soon.  Judy, the former Indians right-hander, has also excelled, with a 3.27 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 22 innings.

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Hope you enjoy today’s Chiefs/Bats clash and your Memorial Day.  And don’t forget to email your ideas or tweet them at kevinbrown@syracusechiefs.com or @ChiefsRadio.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Toledo

After splitting a four-game set with Columbus, the Chiefs are staying in Ohio to take on the Toledo Mud Hens.  After an 8-5 win last night took 3 hours and 15 minutes, you might feel like you’re somewhat situated with Toledo already, but let’s take a look at the Hens’ roster in our latest examination of an IL roster…

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Catcher: Bryan Holaday, Omir Santos

Alex Avila, Detroit’s regular catcher, is off to a slow start offensively.  But the guy who started last season’s All-Star game for the American League might not be in danger of losing his job this early on in the season.  Backup Gerald Laird has been a steady second-stringer, likely leaving Santos and Holaday in Triple-A for the foreseeable future.  But look out for 22-year old Rob Brantly, who’s hitting .326 with 13 doubles and three home runs in Double-A.

First Base: Brad Eldred, Ryan Strieby

Eldred has been destroying Triple-A pitching for a good chunk of the year, leading the league in home runs, RBI and slugging percentage by wide margins.  But even after a quick promotion to Detroit this season, the Tigers designated Eldred for assignment, removing him from the 40-man roster.  It doesn’t seem likely he’d jump back on the 40-man unless there’s a rash of injuries.  Strieby’s a similar player to Eldred – big power numbers, heaps of strikeouts –  but he’s struggled so far this season.  (Oh, by the way…Prince Fielder plays first base for the big league team.)

Brad Eldred

Second Base: Eric Patterson

Patterson has 228 games and five seasons of major league experience, so he’d be a logical choice for promotion if Detroit needed an infielder.  However, he’s posted just a .217 average and .294 on-base percentage in that major league time, so the Tigers might look elsewhere for an infield solution…but, that being said, the Tigers may not have much of a choice soon.  Their two second baseman this year – Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn – are hitting .183 and .148, respectively.  Raburn’s going to get most of the reps at the position, but if the Tigers’ regulars can’t crack the Mendoza Line, Detroit may soon look elsewhere.

Shortstop: Argenis Diaz, Danny Worth

Here’s another guy who could help Detroit in the major leagues – Worth, who, incredibly is the ONLY Toledo position player on the 40-man roster.  24 of the Tigers’ 40-man players are pitchers, a number which likely has to change at some point, but is quite bloated as of now.  Worth, however, was just 3 for 17 with Detroit this season, so the Tigers may not be rushing to call him back up.  Diaz, hitting just .222 without an extra-base hit in 28 games, still has plenty of time to develop at age 25, but this year might not be his year for promotion.

Danny Worth

Third Base: Audy Ciriaco, Justin Henry

Let’s get this out of the way first: Miguel Cabrera is the Tigers’ third baseman, and he’ll be staying put unless there’s an injury, thank you very much.  So Ciriaco and Henry would be best served in the majors as utility guys, a role Henry’s quite well-suited to.  The 26-year-old can play just about every position on the diamond, and though he lacks power, he’s an on-base and stolen base machine.  The 24-year-old Ciriaco seems to have a number of good tools, but he’s hitting just .219/.260/.373 this season.

Outfield: Quintin Berry, Jeff Frazier, Matt Young

The Tigers are in good shape here, with Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks performing well in the major leagues and Brennan Boesch starting to heat up.  There’s also Delmon Young, who’s just returned from suspension, although that’s a question mark for the Tigers.  If there’s a backup spot to be had with the major league team, perhaps Young gets a shot.  The 5’8 29-year-old doesn’t look like the most imposing player, but he’s currently second in the International League in walks and third in on-base-percentage, while hitting a solid .282.  Young, who signed with the Braves as an undrafted free agent, has certainly had to overcome plenty of odds throughout his baseball career, and if he keeps on getting on base, it might be tough for Detroit to say no.  Frazier, the former Chief, and Berry seem likely to spend the season here with Toledo.

Matt Young

Starting Pitchers: Casey Crosby, Andrew Oliver, Jacob Turner, Thad Weber, Adam Wilk

Remember what we said about only one of the Mud Hens’ position players being on the 40-man roster?  (In case you don’t, just scroll up the page.)  Well, here’s a situation with a polar opposite.  All five of Toledo’s current starters are members of the 40-man roster, with the Tigers able to call up any of the arms at a moment’s notice.  Of course, with a rotation of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer, Rick Porcello and rookie sensation Drew Smyly (2.89 ERA) – good luck cracking that group.  The 24-year-old Wilk is the lone member of the five to start for Detroit this season, but he’s 0-3 with an 8.18 ERA in three starts, while Weber has allowed 10 hits in four innings in a pair of relief appearances.  The next shot might go to the 20-year-old Turner, the ninth overall pick in the 2009 MLB draft, who tossed a few games for the Tigers in 2011.

Relief Pitchers: Chris Bootcheck, Brooks Brown, Darin Downs, Matt Hoffman, Zach Miner, Jose Ortega, Ryan Robowski, Rob Waite

Hoffman and Ortega, a pair of 23-year-olds, are the two 40-man players here.  However, Ortega, who does throw about one thousand miles per hour, likely needs some seasoning before a promotion to the major leagues.  Exhibit A: his 0.2 inning, three-walk performance against Syracuse last night.  Hoffman’s allowed 16 hits and 11 runs in 8.1 innings, so he’s likely not next in line for a call up, either.  Former major leaguer Chris Bootcheck’s pitched well for Toledo, but he hasn’t tossed in the majors since 2009, and he had double-digit ERAs in three of his last four seasons.  So…I don’t know what the answer is here, either.  One other option could be Tyler Stohr, a 26-year-old who’s posted a 1.13 ERA in six Double-A games, but is on the 40-man roster.  (Why is he in Double-A?  Who knows.)

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That’s all for now…be sure to tune in today at 2:00 for the Chiefs and Mud Hens in the second of a four-game series.  We’re on the air at 1:45 for the start of the pregame show.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Columbus

Hello from Huntington Park, a beautiful downtown ballpark in Columbus, Ohio.  The Chiefs and Columbus Clippers meet for the first of eight times this season – with all eight games between the two teams coming in the next 13 days.  Here’s a look at the Clippers, the Triple-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians, in our latest “Triple-A Trickledown”…

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Catcher: Luke Carlin, Matt Pagnozzi

Carlos Santana has a firm grip on the starting catching job in the major leagues for Cleveland, but Lou Marson’s just 2 for 21 as the Indians’ backup.  If there’s a spot to be had in the majors, Carlin, who’s hitting .265 and has major league experience, would likely take it over Pagnozzi, who played in the majors for a bit last season but is currently hitting .215 with Columbus.  Veteran backstop Michel Hernandez is also waiting in Double-A if needed.

First Base: Beau Mills, Matt LaPorta

LaPorta, a one-time top prospect who was acquired as the centerpiece of Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia deal, has had some trouble adjusting to major league pitching to date.  But Triple-A’s been a vastly different story, with LaPorta mashing IL hurlers this season to the tune of a .333/.408/.658 slash line with 10 home runs in 31 games.  Meanwhile, full-time big league starter Casey Kotchman is at .198 with three home runs, so LaPorta may soon get another chance to prove himself.  Mills, a 25-year-old who’s a former first-round pick, has been solid but not spectacular to date, and is likely to spend the season with Columbus since he’s not on the 40-man roster.

Matt LaPorta

Second Base: Cord Phelps

Phelps has started 36 of the Clippers’ 37 games at second base this season with decent offensive numbers, but a former Clipper’s right ahead of him in the major leagues.  Jason Kipnis, who’s started all 35 games for the Indians, has excelled in the bigs with a .281 average and six home runs.  A backup spot could be open with veteran Jose Lopez off to a sub-.200 start, but the organization may want to give the 25-year-old Phelps regular at-bats and keep him in Triple-A.

Shortstop: Gregorio Petit, Justin Toole

Cleveland’s likely filed this position under “don’t worry unless there’s an injury”, because 26-year-old Asdrubal Cabrera has turned into one of the Indians’ best players in the major leagues.  The switch-hitter’s posted a .316/.414/.500 line, with 17 walks to just 9 strikeouts and 12 doubles on the season.  Petit’s hitting just .213 with limited power and patience, while the just-promoted Toole was hitting .196 with Class A-Advanced Carolina.  At Double-A Akron, shortstop Juan Diaz is hitting just .234, but he’s a 40-man roster member who was promoted for last season’s Triple-A playoffs.

Third Base: Lonnie Chisenhall, Andy LaRoche

Jack Hannahan’s been above-average as Cleveland’s starting third baseman this year, but Chisenhall’s lying in wait in case of a slip-up or injury.  The 23-year-old (who’s currently on the Disabled List) was a first-round pick of the Indians in the 2008 draft and has quickly shot up the minor league system, splitting time between Triple-A and the major leagues last season.  This year, Chisenhall’s batting average and slugging percentage are second on the team, only behind Matt LaPorta.  LaRoche, a 28-year-old major league veteran, is likely here to provide organizational depth for the Indians – though it’s comforting having someone who’s played in the majors for parts of each of the last five seasons.

Lonnie Chisenhall

Outfield: Russ Canzler, Ezequial Carrera, Ben Copeland, Chad Huffman

Canzler – last year’s International League MVP – and Carrera are the two 40-man roster players here, but neither is off to an especially hot start with Columbus.  However, Cleveland’s major league outfield is somewhat of a mess, with none of the Indians’ five main outfielders posting a batting average higher than .261 or an OPS above .700.  And former star center fielder Grady Sizemore, who’s struggled in each of the last two seasons, is out until at least June after knee surgery.  All of that begs the question – what in the world are Tim Fedroff and Jared Goedert doing in Double-A?  Fedroff – 25 years old – is hitting .339 with a .430 on-base percentage after hitting .338 with Akron and .272 with Columbus last season.  Meanwhile, Goedert, who’s hit 35 home runs in the last two seasons with Columbus, is hitting an astronomical .362 with 12 extra-base hits and 20 walks.    Huffman’s having a solid season, but the 28-year-old Copeland hasn’t played or hit much so far.  Seems like the winds of change could be blowing soon…

Starting Pitchers: Eric Berger, Paolo Espino, David Huff, Corey Kluber, Chris Seddon, Kevin Slowey

Huff, Kluber and Slowey are the three 40-man starters on Columbus’ roster, with Kluber’s 2.58 ERA in seven starts providing the standout mark of the bunch.  However, the right-hander’s only pitched in three career major league games, with an 8.31 ERA, and he’s yet to pitch more than six innings in a game this season.  Huff, a 2006 first-round pick, posted a solid 4.09 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) with Cleveland last year – and he’s left-handed – while Slowey, a major league veteran, has struggled with a near 6:00-ERA this season.  There’s probably not an open spot in Cleveland’s rotation in the moment, especially with Zach McAllister temporarily called up after an injury to Josh Tomlin.  But down at Akron, 22-year-old left-hander T.J. McFarland is going to be hard to ignore for much longer, at 6-1 with a 2.18 ERA in seven starts.

Relief Pitchers: Cody Allen, Hector Ambriz, Scott Barnes, Frank Herrmann, Matt Langwell, Chris Ray

The two 40-man players here are Barnes and Herrmann, a pair of left-handers who have been solid but not overwhelming statistically.  The fact that they’re left-handers could help, with the worst ERA in the bullpen belonging to Tony Sipp’s 6.94 mark.  However, Sipp sported a 3.03 mark last season, so he’ll likely get the benefit of the doubt for some time.  A perhaps-familiar name to casual fans in this bullpen could be Ray, a former Orioles closer who saved 33 games with the O’s in 2006.  But injuries set back Ray, who missed nearly all of 2008, and he’s now on his fifth organization in four years.  However, the right-hander’s 2.08 ERA this season could mean that he’s back on the right track.

Herrmann and Ray

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That’s all for now – as always, your thoughts are welcomed at kevinbrown@syracusechiefs.com or jasonbenetti@syracusechiefs.com.

KB

Triple-A Trickledown: Rochester

Happy Saturday to everyone.  Today, in the third part of our ongoing 72-part series, we analyze the Rochester Red Wings roster, because you can’t spell “Rochester” without “roster”.  Actually, that doesn’t have anything to do with anything.  Never mind.  Let’s move on.

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Catcher: Rene Rivera, J.R. Towles

The first two times that Syracuse played the Red Wings, Rochester had three catchers on its roster, with Drew Butera joining Rivera and Towles.  But with Joe Mauer banged up, Minnesota’s brought up Butera for some extra catcher insurance.  Both Rivera and Towles have plenty of big league experience, but each player’s hitting south of .200 to date with the Wings this season.  Butera’s also the only 40-man player of the three, so he’ll likely be the man on the move this season.

First Base: Aaron Bates, Matt Rizzotti

With Justin Morneau still on the DL, Chris Parmelee and his .195 average have been inhabiting first base for Minnesota for most of this season.  However, the answer to the Twins’ problem likely won’t come from within.  Bates, despite a .380 OBP, has just four extra-base hits (all doubles) this year.  Rizzotti also had just four doubles, but his OBP sits at .258.  Bates has played just five career games in the major leagues (2009 Red Sox), while Rizzotti’s never played above Triple-A.

Second Base: Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Joe Thurston

Second’s been an offensively challenged position for the big league club this season, with Alexi Casilla posting a .250/.277/.300 slash line.  Nishioka, signed last season to be the starting second baseman, had a tough season with the Twins in 2011 and has been with Rochester all this year, though he’s currently on the disabled list.  With a hot streak, he could easily find his way back in the major leagues thanks to the Twins’ need for infielders.  Thurston just provides organizational depth at this point after being released by the Phillies a few years ago.

Shortstop: Pedro Florimon

Brian Dozier was in this spot until about a week ago, when Minnesota promoted him to the major leagues.  He’s started just 4 for 21, but he’ll likely get the benefit of the doubt with no other great offensive options.  Veteran infielder Jamey Carroll, who’s started 27 games this year at shortstop, is hitting just .212.  Meanwhile, the new Red Wings shortstop has impressed in five games.  He’s 7 for 21 with two home runs and has sparkled defensively after being called up from New Britain.  Florimon, who made his major league debut last season with Baltimore, isn’t on the 40-man roster, but if his newfound power sticks, he could certainly find his way there.

Pedro Florimon

Third Base: Sean Burroughs, Ray Chang, Danny Valencia

Valencia’s just been sent down after starting as the primary third baseman in Minnesota all season long.  He hit just .190 in 27 games before the Twins before Minnesota made the move, though things aren’t much better for the team.  Trevor Plouffe’s the only player currently on the roster to have started at third in the major leagues this season, but he’s hitting just .137 in 19 games this year.  (In case you haven’t figured out, Minnesota’s having some trouble offensively this year.)  The 28-year-old Chang has had a nice season for Rochester, hitting .303 with a .384 OBP, though he’s never played in the major leagues before, while Burroughs was also just sent down from the majors recently.  The former Padre is hitting just 2 for 12 and is no longer on the 40-man roster after being designated for assignment.

Outfield: Matt Carson, Bene Revere, Clete Thomas, Rene Tosoni

Josh Willingham has been tremendous and Denard Span’s had a solid season for the Twins this season, though the third outfield spot is a revolving door for Minnesota right now.  Darin Mastroianni was just called up to the major leagues and Erik Komatsu’s recently been signed, so the Twins will likely see what they have from those two relatively young players.  Thomas was removed from the 40-man roster after a 4-for-28 start with Minnesota, while Tosoni, a 40-man players, is off to a difficult start at .128 with the Red Wings.  Revere, who’s already been up to the big club this season, might be a logical choice to return.  He’s posted a .319 average and .359 OBP with Rochester, and despite a lack of power, is one of the Twins’ best base stealers.  But maybe Carson, the former Oakland A, will get his shot soon, since he’s leading the team in OPS.  With a hot streak, any of those four could theoretically head up…though they might want to watch out for former Detroit Tiger Wilkin Ramirez, who’s tearing the cover off the ball in Double-A (.356, 7 extra-base hits in 10 games).

Matt Carson

Starting Pitchers: Cole DeVries, Luke French, Liam Hendriks, Daryl Thompson

Yes, that’s only four starting pitchers litsed, and no, that’s not a typo – with P.J. Walters’ promotion to the major leagues two days ago, the Red Wings had to throw reliever Jeff Manship into a spot start.  Hendriks, the only 40-man player of the bunch, was 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in four games, so he’s been essentially replaced by Walters in the major league rotation.  While DeVries and Thompson have been good, not great, that might just be enough thanks to a Twins rotation that’s struggled tremendously all season long.  Scott Diamond was recently called up to the majors, where he threw seven shutout innings, and he might be there for a while.  Carl Pavano (5.02 ERA), Nick Blackburn (7.18), Francisco Liriano (9.45) and Jason Marquis (6.26) have all had a rough go of things this season.

Relief Pitchers: Casey Fien, Deolis Guerra, Jeff Manship, Tyler Robertston, Anthony Slama, Esmerling Vasquez, Brendan Wise

For the most part, Minnesota’s bullpen has been very good this year with four relievers posting a sub-3 ERA and five at 3.75 or better.  But there’s always room for improvement, and that improvement could come from Guerra.  If that name sounds familiar, it’s likely because Guerra was one of the four players traded for Johan Santana in the Mets/Twins blockbuster from way back in 2008.  Guerra’s only 23 years old, and as one of three 40-man relievers, he could find himself in the major leagues before long.  In four Triple-A games,  he’s allowed six hits and no runs in nine innings while striking out nine.  Manship and Tyler Robertson are the only other 40-man players, but the name to watch here is Anthony Slama.  The right-handed reliever has struck out a staggering 27 batters in 15.2 innings, allowing nine hits and 10 walks.  Though the walk numbers are a bit high, you’d have to imagine Slama will be in the major leagues soon with these types of numbers.  The Red Wings could likely be welcoming a new face soon, though, with 40-man member Lester Oliveros tearing up Double-A to the tune of a 1.42 ERA.

Anthony Slama

——

Look forward to seeing everyone out at the park today on Armed Forces Day.  It’s a great event to celebrate our military and an absolutely gorgeous day to do so.  As always, we’d love to hear from you with thoughts and comments.  kevinbrown@syracusechiefs.com and jasonbenetti@syracusechiefs.com are the places to do so.

KB

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