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General | Crack The Bat | 9/19/2008

Minor League All-Star Team '08

Patrick Ebert        

Both the summer showcase and minor league seasons are behind us. I’ve been focusing on the various all-star events and college summer leagues for the past several months, so now I figured it was time to turn my attention to collect my annual Perfect Game minor league all-star team.

Similar to past years, I am going to assemble a group of players that have participated in Perfect Game showcase events that enjoyed the best seasons at their respective positions while also stacking them up to try and determine what a batting order with this cast of characters may look like.

Ben Revere - CF

My minor league team from a year ago lacked a true leadoff hitter, but I had two to choose from this year. Revere gets the nod over Ivan De Jesus at the top of my imaginary batting order given his game-changing speed, keen eye and his knack for getting on base. The Twins received a lot of criticism selecting Revere in the first round of the 2007 draft, but all he has done so far during his career is hit to the tune of a .360 batting average while leading all of the minor leagues with a .379 average this year. There’s not much home run power to his swing, but he did slug nearly .500, an impressive number in the Midwest League, thanks to 17 doubles and 10 triples on his way to being named the league’s MVP.

Ivan De Jesus - SS

The Dodgers certainly haven’t had any shortage of talented prospects moving up their organizational ladder in recent years, and De Jesus is the latest to enjoy a breakthrough season at their AA Jacksonville affiliate. The son of the former big-league shortstop of the same name, De Jesus has similar talents to his father with his defense highlighting his tool package. An instinctive overall player with a good eye and a contact bat, the Dodgers may view him a little differently after he put up impressive offensive numbers this year, socking seven home runs along the way, two more than his previous career total. He may not be as flashy as someone like Omar Vizquel, but he could profile as a similar two-hole hitter.

Jason Heyward - RF

Few players were as impressive as Heyward was on the showcase circuit during the summer of 2006, and I’m still confused as to how this young man last to the 14th overall selection in the 2007 draft. A good athlete with good size and proportions with exciting power potential to go along with surprising speed, Heyward showed no problems adjusting to professional pitchers at the low-A level in the talented South Atlantic League during his first full minor league season. So far during his minor league career Heyward is hitting .315 while showing an advanced knowledge of the strike zone with 54 walks and only 87 strikeouts in 514 professional at-bats.

Lars Anderson – 1B

It’s hard not to admire the way the Boston Red Sox go about their business. With two World Series rings in the past four years to go along with one of the most impressive farm systems, it’s hard to imagine their success slowing down anytime soon. Lars Anderson could have been a late-first-rounder in the 2006 draft, but fell to the 18th round due to signability, where the Red Sox gave him sandwich round money. Their investment has proven to be a good one, as Anderson, like Revere and Heyward, hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped hitting, with a .304 cumulative average after hitting .317/.417/.517 between two levels this year. He finished this year at AA Portland, and may make it to Boston before his 22nd birthday.

Matt LaPorta - LF

Not too many teams are giving up top prospects anymore in midseason trades for proven big-league talent, but the Brewers did just that with LaPorta in order to acquire bona fide staff ace C.C. Sabathia. LaPorta didn’t fare nearly as well after the trade as he did before, but he did play for Team USA and is now the proud owner of a bronze medal for his efforts. No player on this list, and few in all of the minor leagues, have as much power potential as LaPorta does, who smacked 22 home runs in 101 games before joining his Olympic teammates, and so far during his pro career he has slugged .577.

Angel Salome - C

A lot of people question Salome’s size and overall tool-set, as he’s only listed at 5’7”, his defense is still improving and many have labeled his swing as unorthodox. However, he has hit at every level he has played at, and enjoyed his best season so far at the AA level with a .360/.415/.559 line with 30 doubles, 13 homers and 83 RBI. His .360 average led the Southern League, and he was rewarded with a September call-up to Milwaukee to close the 2008 season. It remains to be seen just how far his bat is ahead of his defense, but he has a cannon for a throwing arm and a tenacious work ethic that should allow him to enjoy the bump to AAA next April.

Bradley Suttle – 3B

Suttle had one of the most polished bats and overall approaches of all hitters available for the 2007 draft. A draft-eligible sophomore, he signed for first-round money as a fourth rounder for the Yankees, and had a solid first full season in the South Atlantic League. He continued to show his patient eye and gap-to-gap prowess as a switch hitter, as hit bat, approach and instinctive defense at the hot corner has elicited comparisons to Bill Mueller. Like Mueller, scouts question how many home runs he’ll hit down the road, but the rest of his game is solid.

Eric Sogard – 2B

A shorter, left-handed hitting second baseman with gap power and a very disciplined eye at the plate, Sogard followed in Dustin Pedroia’s footsteps and carries a similar profile at a similar point in his career with limited tools and questions about his overall ceiling. He had a breakout season playing for Lake Elsinore in the Cal League, hitting .308 with a .394 on-base percentage thanks to 79 walks in 536 at-bats. He only struck out 62 times, and he added 42 doubles and 10 home runs. His polished overall approach at the plate and improving defense at second could allow him to get to San Diego more quickly than most players.

Madison Bumgarner - LHP

The first of three first-round picks for the Giants in the 2007 draft, Bumgarner had the most impressive season of any minor league pitcher during the 2008 season, which was his first taste of professional baseball after signing late during the summer of 2007. With prototypical size, an athletic build and a very good fastball, it’s easy to compare him to former big-leaguer Chuck Finley. The numbers he put up are near-Nintendo quality with a 15-3 record, a 1.46 ERA, 164 strikeouts over 141 innings of work while allowing only 111 hits and 21 walks. The command is particularly impressive at his age, and since the Giants have had a knack developing pitchers in recent years, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bumgarner pitch at multiple levels next year.

Tommy Hanson - RHP

Hanson has come a long way since the 2004 Perfect Game National Showcase, when his fastball topped out at 84 mph. The Braves saw the same upside, following him at Riverside Community College before signing him in 2006 as a DFE. At 6’6”, he has a tall, projectable build, and while he has always had a big-breaking curveball, his fastball has spiked nearly 10 mph over the past three to four years. He posted an 11-5 record and a 2.41 ERA over two levels this year, striking out 163 over 138 innings of work. After finishing the year at AA, he likely will be challenged with a promotion to AAA to open the 2009 season.

Jeremy Hellickson - RHP

Native Iowans always have a place in Perfect Game’s collective hearts. With so many prototypical staff workhorse prospects currently in the talented Rays system, Hellickson doesn’t stand out at 6’1”, 185 pounds, but he has been consistently solid if not spectacular since joining the Rays in 2005 as a fourth-round pick. He went 11-5 this season with a 2.96 ERA across two levels of work, continuing to a show a very good strike-to-walk ratio (162 to 20) over 152 innings. His overall ratio is now at 268 to 54 with a cumulative ERA under 3.00 during his professional career, and it’s possible he gets a shot at the big-league level at this time next year.

Andrew Carignan - Closer

Carignan has made quite a few lists of mine as a closer, dating back to his college days pitching for North Carolina. While he doesn’t have the most explosive stuff nor does he have ideal size with a sub-six-foot frame, he was extremely effective throughout his college career, and that effectiveness has translated well to the pros. He pitched in an impressive 55 games this year, most of those coming in the bat-happy Texas League, where he posted 2.22 ERA and 24 saves. It won’t be long until Carignan joins an already strong Oakland A’s bullpen.

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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