This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Here is a look at players at the Triple-A and Double-A levels who should or could get the call to the majors soon. Some of these are players expected to make the majors out of spring training, but who were sent back to the minors instead. Others are more in the sleeper category. This week we will do hitters; next week we'll take a look at pitchers. The focus is on players who could see significant major league action this year, not guys who are just expected for a September promotion.
Wladimir Balentien, OF, Seattle Mariners - The Mariners are getting weak production out of right field right now, which should open a door for Balentien soon. Hitting .389/.383/.632 for Triple-A Tacoma, he has little left to prove at that level and is ready to contribute in the majors now.
Brandon Boggs, OF, Texas Rangers - Texas isn't getting much out of Marlon Byrd or Frank Catalanotto right now, and Boggs could be a beneficiary. Hitting .341/.400/.561 for Triple-A Oklahoma, Boggs is a sleeper prospect with power, speed, and on-base skills, though he hasn't hit for much of an average in the past.
Reid Brignac, SS, Tampa Bay Rays - Jason Bartlett is hitting .191. With Evan Longoria now in the majors, Brignac is the next hitting prospect Rays fans are tracking. He's hitting just .229 in Triple-A, but with a .458 SLG, six extra-base hits, and a solid BB:K:AB ratio thus far. If he can heat up a bit with the bat, he could be up at mid-season.
Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds - Bruce is scuffling with the strike zone, but holding his own overall with a .294/.308/.471 mark for Triple-A Louisville. The Reds outfield seems set right now, but Ken Griffey's inevitable injury awaits, and Corey Patterson won't block Bruce long-term. (Ed Note: Bruce left Wednesday night's game with a jammed shoulder; the injury isn't considered serious at this point.)
Brian Buscher, 3B, Minnesota Twins - With Mike Lamb hitting .167 on the season, the Twins may give Buscher another shot at adding more offense to the lineup. Though not a top prospect by any means, he's off to a .356/.420/.600 start for Triple-A Rochester, and can't be any worse than Lamb has been so far.
Jeff Clement, C, Seattle Mariners - Still blocked behind Kenji Johjima, Clement is hitting .419/.500/.712 in his first 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma, with four doubles and three homers already. If he continues to hit like this, he will force the issue soon enough. Like teammate Balentien, he's got little left to prove at this level. Just be aware that until he plays a few games behind the plate at the major league level this year, he won't qualify at catcher in many leagues, having been used only a DH for the M's last year.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Oakland Athletics - Oakland isn't getting a ton of production from their outfielders right now. Gonzalez is in Triple-A working on his plate discipline, and so far he's having a fine season with a .326/.392/.500 mark. His tools have always stood out, and if he adds more polish he can be a star.
Chase Headley, OF, San Diego Padres - Headley is off to a mediocre start in Triple-A, hitting .245/.327/.347 in his first 12 games for Portland, but he would still be the top option should the Padres need another outfielder (or third baseman) for an extended length of time.
Wes Hodges, 3B, Cleveland Indians - Hodges is off to an excellent start for Double-A Akron, hitting .360/.377/.740 in his first 12 games. Although there are still some concerns about his defense at third base, the failure of Andy Marte to distinguish himself thus far probably makes Hodges the third baseman of the near future, especially if he continues to hit like this.
Brandon Jones, OF, Atlanta Braves - While Jones' .250/.353/.386 mark for Triple-A Richmond isn't impressive (though his OBP is decent), the Braves aren't getting much out of Matt Diaz yet, and Jones could end up as part of an outfield platoon soon. He may need some adjustment time but should be productive in the long run.
Adam Lind, OF, Toronto Blue Jays - Lind seems to have solved the plate discipline issue which hampered him last year and is back to bashing the ball, hitting .360/.411/.640 thus far for Triple-A Syracuse, with five walks and just seven strikeouts in 50 at-bats. He's ready for another trial in the majors.
Cameron Maybin, OF, Florida Marlins - Maybin is off to a great start in Double-A, hitting .317/.472/.512 with 12 walks for Carolina. His strikeout rate remains very high and the Marlins would be advised to give him as much minor league time as possible. But the temptation to promote him may grow irresistible by mid-season if he keeps hitting like this.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates - With Nate McLouth, Xavier Nady, and Jason Bay producing good numbers at the major league level, there's no immediate pressure to promote McCutchen. He's hitting .240/.356/.480 for Triple-A Indianapolis: the low batting average is a small sample thing, but note the good power and OBP production. A second-half promotion is quite possible if the at-bats are available, but don't expect him to sit on the bench.
Steve Pearce, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates - Pearce's .263/.306/.368 start for Indianapolis is below his usual standards, but the sample is small and considering his past track record the Pirates shouldn't hesitate to promote him. His ability to play both first base and the outfield will make it easier to find a roster spot for him.
Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals - St. Louis is getting good production from the major league outfield right now, reducing the pressure to promote phenom Rasmus. He's hitting just .179 for Triple-A Memphis, though he's drawn nine walks at least. Currently mired in a 3-for-37 slump, he remains an outstanding prospect though he won't be promoted as quickly as previous projected.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Texas Rangers - With Ben Broussard and Gerald Laird both erratic offensively, Salty's .324/.405/.595 line for Triple-A Oklahoma could get him into the major league lineup at either first base or catcher soon enough. He's already proven he can hit big-league pitching, and just needs a clear shot at playing time.
Nate Schierholtz, OF, San Francisco Giants - The Giants could use additional hitting, and Schierholtz showed last year that he can at least hold his own in the majors. He's 7-for-25 (.280) with a homer in seven games for Triple-A Tucson. He still projects as a .280ish hitter with moderate power at the major league level if he gets the playing time.
Seth Smith, OF, Colorado Rockies - The Colorado offense is off to a slow start, and Smith's undoubted on-base skills could look attractive soon, if only as a reserve and fourth outfielder. He's hitting.277/.438/.362 for Triple-A Colorado Springs.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Colorado Rockies - Like Smith, Stewart is hitting OK in Triple-A (.288/.377/.558) but doesn't have much left to prove at that level and is basically waiting for a spot to open up. Injuries or ineffectiveness from players on the major league roster should get him a shot at some point soon.
Brandon Wood, 3B, Los Angeles Angels - Still waiting for a spot to open up in the Angels infield, Wood is hitting .255/.309/.647 for Triple-A Salt Lake, though currently on a 7-for-20 tear with four homers and three walks in his last five games. He remains a very impressive power prospect, but with questions about his plate discipline remaining.
Article first appeared 4/17/08