General | Crack The Bat | 9/13/2007

Minor League All-Star Team '07

Patrick Ebert        

September is always a tough time for me. Summer is coming to an end, the college and high school summer leagues, showcases and tournaments are behind us, and the minor league season comes to a close. There are still two weeks to play at the Major League level as well as the playoffs, not to mention the WWBA World Championship at the end of October, but certainly there are fewer and fewer things to quench my thirst for baseball this time of year.

Similar to last year, with the end of the minor league season I am going to name my own All-Star team, assembling a group of players that have participated in Perfect Game showcase events that enjoyed the best seasons at their respective positions. While this wasn’t done by design, it is interesting that most of these hitters bat left-handed while the pitching staff is represented almost entirely by southpaws.

Matt Antonelli - 2B

Antonelli profiles the best to bat leadoff amongst this group, a very good athlete that has slid over to second base after playing the left side of the infield for most of his college career. He has a disciplined eye at the plate, as shown by the 83 walks he drew in 534 at-bats, while hitting .307 with a .404 on-base percentage between two levels, finishing the year at AA. Antonelli also showed a very nice blend of power and speed, hitting 25 doubles, 5 triples and 21 home runs while swiping 28 bags. Given his skills and relative polish it won’t take him long to become a fixture in the Padres big-league lineup, and has the versatility to play wherever the Padres need him upon his promotion.

Colby Rasmus – LF

Rasmus slides over to left field given the presence of Adam Jones, and gets the nod over Justin Upton and Cameron Maybin since he spent more time in the minor leagues, allowing him to put up more impressive numbers. Rasmus may have hit only .275, but he has power to spare after hitting 37 doubles and 29 home runs at AA, as well as a little bit of speed since he swiped 18 bags in 21 attempts. He has already soared through the minor leagues after being part of the very impressive 2005 draft class, and is poised to take the place of Jim Edmonds in centerfield for the Cardinals within a couple of years.

Jay Bruce – RF

The second year in the row Bruce makes this list, he was arguably the best player in all of the minor leagues this season. He finished the season at AAA and left a few Reds fans bewildered why the organization didn’t call him up to finish the season. His numbers were extremely impressive soaring through three levels, collectively hitting .319 with 46 doubles, 8 triples, 26 home runs and 89 RBI. He has been compared to Larry Walker since his days in high school, and could very well be a star that other young players are unfairly compared to years down the road. That could start next year if he takes over left field for Adam Dunn, who may leave via free agency this upcoming offseason.

Chris Davis – 3B

What a pleasant surpriseDavis was this year. His numbers were absolutely astounding: .297 batting average, .598 slugging percentage, 35 doubles, 36 home runs and 118 RBI. Those numbers were posted over two levels that favor hitters (high-A California League and AA Texas League), but Davis has still firmly placed himself on the prospect map, and may only be a year away from replacing Hank Blalock at the hot corner. Defensively he will need to improve after committing 34 errors in 129 games, but that is what the minors are for, and if his offensive productivity continues, I don’t think anyone is going to complain about his D’ that much.

Adam Jones – CF

Jones has nothing left to prove in the minor leagues after hitting .301 over two years and 800 at-bats at the AAA level. In those 800 at-bats he has 46 doubles, 10 triples, 41 home runs and 146 RBI, and is now finding his way at the big-league level. With a tool package similar to the Twins’ Torii Hunter, Jones will have to play a corner spot given the presence of Mariners centerfielder Ichiro Suzuki, although the spacious outfield of Safeco Field will gladly welcome Jones’ power and speed package.

Joey Votto – 1B

Votto is similar to Jones in that he has nothing left to prove at the AAA level, and is now making his mark in the big-leagues for the Cincinnati Reds. Following a big year in the Southern League last year, in which he was also named the first baseman on this list, he hit .294 with 22 home runs and 92 RBI this year at AAA Louisville. The second Reds prospect on this list, he, Jay Bruce and even Josh Hamilton could given the Reds four impressive young left-handed sluggers to complement Ken Griffey Jr. to help make sure the Big Red Machine is alive and well.

Jeff Clement – C

There were quite a few impressive catchers to choose from with a history attending Perfect Game showcase events including Max Ramirez, Angel Salome (who represented the catchers on this list a year ago) and J.R. Towles. Clement put up the best offensive numbers at AAA Tacoma with a .275 average, 35 doubles and 20 home runs, continuing his legacy as one of the best young power hitters in the game. He may have a hard time finding playing time behind the dish given the presence of Kenji Johjima, but could fill in a variety of roles next year to get the at-bats at the big-league level that he deserves.

Sean Rodriguez – SS

Rodriguez graced this list a year ago as a second basemen, but slides back to his natural position at shortstop this year after once again posting big offensive numbers. While he hit only .254, he had 31 doubles, 17 home runs and 73 RBI. The Angels organization is loaded with talented shortstops both ahead of Rodriguez and behind him, so as long as Rodriguez keeps on hitting his versatility on the infield will help his chances of making the Angels big-league club in the not-so-distant future.

Clayton Kershaw – LHP

It hasn’t taken long for Kershaw to make his mark in professional baseball, finishing among the minor league leaders in strikeouts this year with 163 in 122 innings of work. The Dodgers rewarded him with an aggressive promotion to the Southern League after he carved up the Midwest League, collectively going 8-7 with a 2.95 ERA between those two levels. The Dodgers have always seemed to be extremely proficient developing young arms, and Kershaw seems poised to be the next in line.

Brett Anderson – LHP

Anderson is sandwiched by a couple of power lefties, and while Anderson is far from a soft-tosser, it is his command and pitching savvy that is the foundation for his success. After going 8-4 with a 2.21 ERA in the Midwest League, the D-Backs bumped Anderson up to high-A. While he didn’t enjoy as much success in the California League, which is never an easy league for any pitcher, he did manage to go 11-7 with a 3.07 ERA between those two levels, posting a very impressive 125 to 21 stirkeout to walk ratio in just over 120 innings of work. His approach should allow him to move quickly up the Diamondbacks chain.

Jacob McGee – LHP

The Devil Rays are slowly but surely developing some incredibly promising arms to help surround Scott Kazmir and an impressive young lineup within a couple of years. McGee might have the most electric arm of this group, and after blowing away batters at an impressive rate in the Florida State League, he garnered a promotion to AA Montgomery. Between those two levels he went 8-6 with a 3.15 ERA, striking out 175 batters while allowing only 105 hits and 52 walks in 140 innings of work. He likely will return to AA to start the 2008 season, but shouldn’t take long for him to find himself in Tampa .

Chris Perez – Closer

Most closers are made, not born, but Perez might be an exception after being drafted in the sandwich round a year ago by the Cardinals as a closer out of Miami . With 35 saves between AA and AAA this past year, he already has 47 professional saves. While he still walks far too many batters (41), he is extremely hard to hit (23) as he blows batters away as shown by his 77 punch-outs in just over 54 innings of work. A powerful fastball and nasty slider should allow Perez to continue to advance quickly, who should be a mainstay in the Cardinals bullpen at some point next season.

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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