Eastern League All Star Game PreviewBy
The 2009 Double-A Eastern League All Star Game is being played right in our backyard this year, as Trenton’s Waterfront Park will host the event for the first time since 1996. Since it’s so close to the New York area, plenty of Yankee fans and RAB readers will be heading to the park Wednesday night to watch some of the best young players in the game have at it. This is a little primer for those of you heading to the game, so you know which players are the ones you should pay special attention to.
But before we get to the game, we should talk about the Homerun Derby, which is set to start at 4:45pm on Wednesday. Yankee farmhand Jorge Vazquez will be one of the nine players taking part in the event, and he would have more than the 13 homers he currently has if he didn’t miss a bunch of time due to injury. Double-A Trenton hitting coach and former big leaguer Frank Menechino will also take some hacks in the Derby, even though he managed to hit just 119 homers in over 5,600 professional plate appearances. You can see the rest of the Derby lineup here.
As for the game, here are the rosters for both the Northern Division Team and the Southern Division Team. The Yankees have six prospects in the game: Vazquez, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Zach McAllister, RHP Josh Schmidt, C Jesus Montero, and SS Eduardo Nunez. Since they won the league title last year, Trenton’s coaching staff will manage the Northern Team, led by manager Tony Franklin. After the jump, we’ll breakdown the rosters for each club.
Before we get the pitching staffs, you should know there’s already been a bunch of changes. Lefthanders Madison Bumgarner (Giants) and Junichi Tazawa (Red Sox) were elected to the Northern Division squad but will not pitch in the game because they were at the Futures Game yesterday. They’ve been replaced on the roster by righty Dan Otero (Giants) and lefty Dustin Richardson (Red Sox). Reidier Gonzalez (Jays) will attend the ceremonies but is injured and will not pitch; he’s been replaced by Dunn. Reliever TJ Large (Red Sox) has been promoted to Triple-A, and will be replaced by Chris Province (also Sox). The Southern Division team lost three pitchers in Josh Richardson (Tigers), Josh Perrault (O’s) and Hector Rondon (Indians) when they were promoted to Triple-A. They’ve been replaced by Zach Simons, Chad Thall and Jeanmar Gomez from the same organizations, respectively. Gomez threw a perfect game against Trenton on May 21st. Reliever Vinnie Pestano (Indians) will not play because he’s injured, and has been replaced by Carlton Smith, also of the Indians.
Zach McAllister is clearly the best prospect on the Northern club’s staff now that Bumgarner and Tazawa won’t participate, leading the league with a 2.25 ERA. The next best arms belong to New Britain’s Anthony Slama (Twins) and Dunn, a pair of relievers who’ve combined to strike out 149 in just 105.2 IP. Starters Matt Fox (Twins) and Roy Merritt (Mets) are fringe prospects who’ve had a solid seasons. The staff is rounded out by relievers Province, Dan Otero (Giants), Joe Paterson (Giants), and Josh Schmidt (Yanks). Paterson’s 15-minutes of fame came in 2007, when he closed out the National Championship for Oregon State.
The Southern pitching staff is led by a pair of 2007 first round picks: lefties Danny Moskes (4th overall, Pirates) and Joe Savery (19th overall, Phillies). Moskos will forever be known as the guy the Pirates took over Matt Wieters, and his .302 AVG against and 43-38 K/BB ratio in 96.1 IP this year is down right ugly. Yet, he’s an all star. Savery has been more deserving of his spot, putting up a .242 AVG against and a 66-44 K/BB in 98.1 IP. Righthander Vance Worley (Phils) is the best prospect on the staff outside of the Moskos and Savery, but he’s still just a back end arm. Relievers Thall, Smith, Ryan Oullette (O’s), Jack Spradlin (Nats), Josh Wilkie (Nats), Zach Simons (Tigers) aren’t top prospects, but earned their spots with strong performances.
The action at Waterfront Park is led by catcher Jesus Montero every night during the regular season, so it’s only fitting that Montero highlights the crop of backstops at the All Star Game. He replaced the injured Josh Thole (Mets) on the roster, and will be joined on the Northern Team by okay hitting (.716 OPS) defensive whiz Brian Jeroloman (Jays) behind the plate. Alex Avila (Tigers) is a tremendous sleeper and will bring his .288-.389-.469 batting line to the plate for the Southern club.
Before Montero was named to the team, the headliner was switch-hitting megaprospect Carlos Santana, who the Indians magically acquired last year in exchange for Casey Blake. The 23-yr old is hitting .266-.394-.494 with 59 walks and only 47 strikeouts to his credit. Ranked the 7th best prospect in the game by Baseball America last week, Santana is unquestionably the best all-around catching prospect in the minors now that Wieters is in the big leagues. He and Montero are clearly the best prospects that will play in the game now that Bumgarner is down for the count.
The infield crop isn’t much to get excited about. Lars Anderson (Red Sox) is the big name for the Northern club, but his .269-.363-.408 batting line isn’t anything to write home about. Mexican league veteran Jorge Vazquez (Yanks) brings the most productive bat to the game thanks to his .333-.362-.583 line. Brian Dopirak (Jays) was once the Cubs’ top prospect, but he’s since fizzled out. Brock Bond (Giants), Reegie Corona (Yanks), Eduardo Nunez (Yanks), Jorge Jimenez (Red Sox), and Whitney Robbins (Nats) round out a forgettable Northern Division infield.
The Southern team is led by a slumping Beau Mills (Indians, .702 OPS), another 2007 first rounder, and gloveman Brian Friday (Pirates). Infielders Michael Abreu (O’s) and Neil Sellers (Phillies) are filler types having a good year, while utility guys Jason Delaney (Pirates) and Jonathan Tuckers (O’s) can offer their services both on the diamond or out on the outfield grass. There’s really not much to see here beyond Mills and Friday.
Like their infielders, the Northern club is lacking in the outfield. The most recognizable name belongs to Eddie Martinez-Esteve (Giants), a former top prospect whose star has dimmed considerably over the last few seasons, but the best prospect is gap-hitting centerfielder Rene Tosoni of the Twins. He’s hitting .278-.387-480 on the year. DJ Wabick (Mets) and Brian Dinkelman (Twins) round out the eh Northern outfield.
Unlike their Northern counterparts, the Southern club brings the heat in the outfield. Michael Taylor is arguably the Phillies top prospect, hitting .337-.405-.574 and ranking second in circuit with 65 RBI. He’ll be joined by Nick Weglarz of the Indians, a Futures Gamer and one of their best prospects who’s hitting .247-.384-.471 as a 21-yr old. Deik Scram (Tigers), Marvin Lowrence (Nats) and Quintin Berry (Phillies) round out the outfield.
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So, if you’re heading to the game and are looking for the cliffnotes version of this post, the guys I’d be paying extra special attention to (other than the Yanks prospects, of course) are pitchers Joe Savery and Anthony Slama, catchers Alex Avila and Carlos Santana, infielders Lars Anderson, Beau Mills and Brian Friday, and outfielders Michael Taylor and Nick Weglarz. If you’re going to the game and plan on taking any pictures, shoot me an email via the link on the right sidebar and we’ll get them up on the site if you want.
Graphic via milb.com