As the regular season of Major League Baseball winds down, the regular season of the minor league schedule has already come to a close. That means it’s time for me to assemble my annual minor league all-star team made up of players that have previously attended a Perfect Game showcase event.
This marks only the fourth time I have put together this list, and yet we have already seen young talent that has previously graced this list, in addition to some of the names below, make their mark at the big-league level. These players include B.J. Upton, Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Colby Rasmus and Clayton Kershaw, just to name a few.
Unlike many of my other top prospect teams, this team is lined up how I would write up my lineup, one through eight, with three starting pitchers and a closer rounding out the list.
Austin Jackson - CF
Passing on a potential basketball career has paid off for Jackson, a former Aflac All-American, whose raw athleticism has translated well to the baseball diamond. He profiles in a similar fashion to Orioles all-star centerfielder Adam Jones, and Jackson could be up and playing the same position for the Yankees as early as next spring. He hit .300 this past year and showed off his speed by swiping 24 bags and hitting nine triples. There is more power to come, as he continues to refine his approach at the plate.
Buster Posey - C
The fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft, it hasn’t taken long for Posey to reach the Major Leagues. He made his big-league debut the other day, striking out in his only at-bat, but he has shown no problems making the everyday adjustments to life in professional baseball over the past year. He started this year in high-A before getting an aggressive bump up to AAA, and may be the Giants everyday catcher as soon as opening day next April, depending on how the Giants handle free agent catcher to be, Bengie Molina.
Jason Heyward - RF
Welcome back to the PG minor league all-star team Jason, one of my personal favorite players since his prep days who recently was named Baseball America’s minor league player of the year. He hit .323/.408/.555 across three levels, finishing the year at AAA. He likely will return to AAA to open the 2010 season, but it shouldn’t take long before he’s patrolling right field on a regular basis for the Braves, and is poised to become the face of the franchise much like Chipper Jones has been for the past 10-15 years.
Pedro Alvarez - 3B
In a recurring theme with most of the prospects on this list, Alvarez has shown little to no problems adjusting to pro ball. He actually hit significantly better after a midseason promotion to AA, collectively hitting .288 with 27 home runs and 95 RBI between high-A and AA. It shouldn’t take much longer for Alvarez to be making an impact at the big-league level, as he could be batting in the middle of the Pirates batting order as early as next summer, a position he stands to hold down for years to come.
Third base was definitely the most talent rich position, with Brett Wallace, Ryan Rohlinger, and Josh Bell also in the running.
Matt LaPorta - LF
This also marks the second year in a row that LaPorta has made this list, and he already has had a brief taste of the big leagues with the Cleveland Indians. In half of a season at the AAA level, he hit .299 with 23 doubles and 17 home runs while driving in 60, showing off his propensity to be a run-producing machine. The Indians will likely welcome him to their lineup on an everyday basis with the beginning of the 2010 season.
Brandon Allen - 1B
Allen received some contention from Michael Rizzo, but Allen’s power output allowed him to sneak ahead of Rizzo’s more well-rounded overall game. The Diamondbacks acquired Allen this year from the White Sox for pitcher Tony Pena in early July, and he hit .296 with 20 home runs and 75 RBI between AA and two AAA stops before getting the call to Arizona in late August. He offers a much-needed left-handed bat to the D-Backs young lineup, and figures to offer protection for established sluggers such as Mark Reynolds and Justin Upton.
Sean Rodriguez - 2B
Three times might be a charm for Rodriguez, who graces this team for the third time during his professional career. While he has struggled to make the proper adjustments during his big league opportunities both this year and last, he has hit .298/.396/.620 with 51 home runs in 175 AAA games. The Angels do have, and have had, quite the logjam in the infield, as other fellow organizational mates have had to be patient before they got their opportunity to stick. If he isn’t given an everyday chance to open the 2010 season, he may be a candidate that could be changing addresses this offseason.
Chase D’Arnaud - SS
D’Arnaud may not have the star power associated with his name that Pedro Alvarez does, but he is yet another promising bat in the Pirates system that the team is counting on for bigger and better things moving forward. He had a very good season at the plate, hitting .293/.398/.454 between two levels of A-ball, and should open the 2010 season at AA, with his projected arrival to Pittsburgh likely coming at some point in 2011. D’Arnaud also receives high marks for his defense, giving him the potential to become a very good all around shortstop at the highest level.
Madison Bumgarner - LHP
Bumgarner has been cruising along since he was drafted 10th overall by the Giants in the 2007 draft, as he also appeared on this list last year. As noted in last week’s column, Bumgarner has already gotten a taste of the majors after going 12-2 with a 1.85 ERA this season between high-A and AA, although he may return to AAA to open the 2010 season for more seasoning. How many teams that picked ahead of the Giants in 2007 are kicking themselves right now for letting this talented young lefty slip by their pick?
Jeremy Hellickson - RHP
The Tampa Bay Rays certainly are doing an impressive job developing a stable of young, power arms. Hellickson, like Bumgarner, was also on this team a year ago, and also like Bumgarner, Hellickson seemingly has had little trouble recording outs in the minor leagues. He is poised to be knocking at the big-league door next season after posting a 9-2 season with a 2.45 ERA, posting an impressive 132 to 29 strikeout to walk ratio over 114 innings of work between the Rays’ AA and AAA levels.
Travis Wood - LHP
This also marked a repeat appearance for Wood on this list, although his first nomination came after the 2007 season. He went 13-5 with a 1.77 ERA between the AA and AAA levels in the Reds’ system this summer, and is yet another promising arm the Reds have developed in recent years after going years known more for their knack to procure big bats. He tossed a lot of innings this year (167.2), so he could be ready to make the jump to the big leagues to open the 2010 campaign.
Special mention to Casey Crosby, Kyle Drabek and Jarrod Parker.
Jess Todd - Closer
Todd was the lesser known future closer candidate the Indians acquired from the Cardinals for Mark DeRosa, joining Chris Perez (who has also made this list in the past) as Cleveland has been desperate for help in the bullpen for several years now. Todd doesn’t have prototypical size for a closer, or a starter for that matter, but he has light’s out stuff, and has already appeared in 14 big-league games this year.
The thoughts and opinions listed here do not necessarily reflect those of Perfect Game USA. Patrick Ebert is affiliated with both Perfect Game USA and Brewerfan.net, and can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.