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General | Crack The Bat | 9/15/2006

Perfect Game Minor League All-Star Team 2006

Patrick Ebert        

With the regular season of the minor leagues in the books, I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the better players and prospects that enjoyed seasons to remember in the minors that have participated at Perfect Game showcase events. Listed below is an All-Star team I assembled of such players that enjoyed the best seasons at their respective positions. The list below represents where they would bat in my imaginary lineup, while adding three starting pitchers and a closer.

B.J. Upton-SS

The second overall pick in the 2002 draft, Upton was believed to be the top prospect available for that draft even though the Pirates decided to select Bryan Bullington with the first overall selection that year. The Pirates, currently in need of impact bats, are likely regretting that decision since Bullington has had a hard time staying healthy and productive. Upton has shown that his bat is legitimate even prior to this year, as his .269 batting average this season playing for the Durham Bulls was his lowest total in his minor league career. His 46 stolen bases in 106 AAA games, which led the International League, marked his highest figure in that category, and is what prompted me to make Upton my leadoff hitter for my Perfect Game Minor League All-Star team for 2006.

Sean Rodriguez-2B

While Rodriguez currently plays shortstop in the Angels organization, as there weren’t too many true second basemen to choose from that had a good season statistically (the best second basemen often are converted shortstops anyway). Rodriguez likely will have to move to a different position in the Angels organization should he remain in the system and make it up to the big-leagues with Miguel Cabrera and Brandon Wood ahead of him at shortstop and Adam Kennedy and Howie Kendrick ahead of him at second base. Rodriguez hit .307 with a .387 on-base percentage and a .557 slugging percentage across three levels (although only two at-bats came at AAA). He hit 34 doubles, 4 triples and 29 home runs collectively, numbers most middle infielders yearn for.

Alex Gordon-3B

Gordon’s banner season prompted Baseball America to name him their Minor League Player of the Year, a year after he received the Golden Spikes Award as the best player in all of college baseball. His numbers at AA Wichita in the Texas League are impressive and fun to look at: A .325 batting average, a .427 on-base percentage and a .588 slugging percentage to go with 39 doubles, 29 home runs and 101 RBI. It won’t be long before Gordon is putting up numbers similar to those of Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira for the Kansas City Royals, while providing to be a rock in the middle of the Royals’ lineup for years to come.

Joey Votto-1B

The Cincinnati Reds over the last 10+ years have never had a shortage of bats, and Votto is next in line to help keep the Big Red Machine churning out runs. Votto doesn’t receive the same fanfare that Upton and Gordon receive, but all the guy has done is hit during his minor league career. He hit .319 with 46 doubles and 22 home runs in the pitching-favored Southern League on his way to being named the league’s MVP. It won’t be long until Votto is playing first base for the Reds hitting amidst the likes of Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.

Carlos Gonzalez-CF

Similar to the Reds, the Arizona Diamondbacks have no shortage of bats throughout their system, and Gonzalez might be the best of a deep group of young sluggers that includes Stephen Drew, Justin Upton, Chris Young, Conor Jackson and Carlos Quentin. Gonzalez played most of the season at high-A Lancaster in the hitting friendly California League. He batted .300 in 403 at-bats with a .563 slugging percentage, thanks to 35 doubles, four triples and 21 home runs. Gonzalez may play a corner spot at the big-league level, particularly due to the presence of players like Young and Upton, but he is going to hit no matter where he ends up.

Cameron Maybin-RF

It hasn’t taken long for Maybin to assimilate himself to professional baseball. He along with Justin Upton gave the 2005 draft two extremely exciting five-tool players that don’t come around very often, and the Tigers were fortunate enough to be able to take him with the 10th overall pick. So what did he do in his first full season? He batted .304 with a .387 on-base percentage and .457 slugging percentage for the West Michigan Whitecaps in the Midwest League. If that success continues, it won’t be long until Maybin assumes an outfield spot for the surging Detroit Tigers, another testament to their organization that has quickly acquired an incredible amount of young talent.

Jay Bruce-LF

The second of two Cincinnati Reds sluggers to make this team, Bruce likely plays center or right field as he continues to move up, but he moves over to left on this squad given the presence of Gonzalez and Maybin. Bruce might just be the best pure hitter of the three, as he hit .291 in his first full professional season that included 42 doubles. He is expected to add onto his 16 home runs as he continues to progress, and he has enough speed to swipe 20-30 bags, adding to his overall package of tools. Bruce is a few years behind Votto, and might be asked to replace Adam Dunn or Ken Griffey Jr. when he’s ready to make his mark at the Major League level.

Outfielders note: There were plenty of outfielders to choose from, and if I were to assemble a second team, Chris Lubanski, Ryan Sweeney and Andrew McCutchen would represent the outfield on that squad.

Angel Salome-C

Salome is probably the one player on this list that may cause you to ask, “who?” Had Jarrod Saltalamacchia continued his success from the 2005 season he would have been a no-brainer for this spot, but he slumped at the plate while Salome was one of the better run producers in the South Atlantic League. He was leading the league in RBI when he broke his ankle in mid-August, and while that injury will be tough for him to recover from, particularly as a catcher, few players in all of baseball work harder than the naturally chiseled Salome. He is built like Ivan Rodriguez, and like Pudge, Salome has cat-like quickness behind the plate and a rocket for an arm. Overall he hit .292 with 31 doubles and 10 home runs for the West Virginia Power.

Tyler Clippard-RHP

The Yankees had two promising starters at AA Trenton, with top pitching prospect Phillip Hughes being the other. Clippard posted a 12-10 record over 28 games, tossing just over 166 innings. In that time he struck out an impressive 175 batters while walking just 55 and holding opposing batters to a .200 average. Both Clippard and Hughes are poised to make the jump to AAA next year, where they are one step away from helping the big-league team, a team that is in dire need of pitching and youth. That is unless the Yankees decide to trade one or both away for a proven, big-name player to join their already star-laden roster.

Lance Broadway-RHP

Broadway is the most polished pitcher on this list, but he’s far from a soft-tosser, with a low-90s heater and impressive slider. He pitched at both AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte this year, posting a 8-8 collective record over 160 innings of work. The White Sox may be looking at Broadway to join their big-league rotation next spring after a disappointing season from potential free agent to-be Mark Buehrle (the White Sox own a $9.5 million club option for Buehrle’s ’07 contract). Broadway may be polished enough to make a seamless transition to the bigs, as the White Sox will not accept anything else since it seems they will be in playoff contention for years to come. He’s still plenty young enough to send back down to AAA next year to get more work in.

Travis Wood-LHP

This was a tough call between Wood and Marlins RHP Chris Volstad. Wood got the nomination with better peripheral numbers (133 strikeouts, 56 walks, 108 hits in 140 innings pitcher and a .215 opposing batting average for Wood vs. 99 K, 36 BB, 161 H in 152 IP with a .275 opposing batting average for Volstad), and because he throws left-handed. He also becomes the third Reds farmhand nominated to the Perfect Game Minor League All-Star Team for 2006. The Reds could probably use Wood a lot more than Votto and Bruce at this point in time, given their perennial need for pitching. They’re going to have to wait a few years for Wood, who just finished his first full pro season in the Midwest League.

Ryan Doherty-Closer

Most closers are made, not born, meaning more often than not they are converted starters at the big-league level, not players groomed to be closers from the bottom up. For the purposes of this team, I really liked the idea of an intimidating 7’1” right-hander with a mid-90s fastball and wicked slider coming in to close games. Doherty was a well known commodity coming out of high school for his size alone, and if he is able to make the big leagues some day, he will become the tallest player ever to take the field. He decided to attend Notre Dame, and might become the most dominant closer to come out of the Irish program since Brad Lidge.

I invite everyone to send me their favorite group of former Perfect Game players to see how your team stacks up against mine.

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 pebert@brewerfan.net.

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