The first weekend of the Minor League Baseball season is in the books. It may still be early, but there are already many managers that have had to really get creative to get all the deserving players on the field. No manager will ever complain about having too many good players, but I came across ten teams that have too many players for their given spot(s). Here they are, in alphabetical order by parent team:
Gwinnett Stripers – Atlanta Braves AAA – Starting Rotation – Mike Soroka got the nod on opening day and Matt Wisler toed the rubber to start the second game. Next in line are Lucas Sims, Kolby Allard and Aaron Blair for what would probably not be the worst rotation in Major League Baseball and is likely the best in the minors.
So, what makes their rotation a struggle to get enough guys their turn? It wasn’t too long-ago Jesse Biddle was a decently thought of starter in the Phillies organization. The Braves also have pitchers itching to move up in Max Fried (who has big league experience), Touki Toussaint, and the aggressively moving Kyle Wright. The Braves system is loaded with pitching talent, and there is so much in the high minors it is hard to find them all a spot in a rotation that gives them the proper challenge.
Bowie Bay Sox – Baltimore Orioles AA – Outfield – Austin Hays is going to get all the attention in Bowie, but Cedric Mullins, Ademar Rifaela, and Mike Yastrzemski are all solid players in their own right. Mullins can fly and play an impressive centerfield, Rifaela has real raw power and the arm to play in right, and Yastrzemski not only has the name bloodlines but a smooth left-handed stroke that has led to an average above .270 in three of his five seasons in the Orioles system.
So far Yastrzemski and Rifaela have each seen a day at DH and a day off, while Hays and Mullins have started in the field all four games.
Winston-Salem Dash – Chicago White Sox A+ - Outfield – Right now, Luis Robert is on the DL, which means the Dash only have four active outfielders that are worth keeping an eye on every day instead of five.
Blake Rutherford was one of the prized prospects in the David Robertson deal with the Yankees and is a true five tool player. Miker Adolfo has an insane arm and flashed plus power and can move well for a larger outfielder although there is plenty of swing and miss in his bat. Luis Alexander Basabe can fly and looks like a legit center fielder but has enough arm strength that would have him as the scariest arm in the outfield on just about any other team that doesn’t feature Adolfo.
Then there is Alex Call who really struggled and didn’t look right in a rehab assignment in the AZL last year but was a third round pick just two years ago and does have the raw talent to be a legit prospect.
Lakeland Flying Tigers – Detroit Tigers A+ - Outfield – Daz Cameron has the fielding acumen of his father Mike and would be considered a five-tool player if he had some more power. His defense is elite and the bat is solid, his upside will be determined by the development of his bat.
Another son of a big leaguer is roaming the outfield for Lakeland in Cam Gibson who showed well in the AFL but seems to being held back in aggressiveness with an assignment that keeps him in A ball. Derek Hill has had injury trouble early in his pro career, but he has elite speed and will rival Cameron to be the best defender in the outfield. Hill’s big question is the bat where he has had just one season with an average over .250 and has never hit more than two home runs.
The Flying Tigers have another D-first outfielder in Jose Azocar. He swings and misses far too much but still manages to put up a solid batting average, having seasons of .340, .300, and .281 under his belt, but also hit just .220 last season for Lakeland.
Wilmington Blue Rocks – Kansas City Royals A+ - Catcher – This is one that will fly under the radar of most, but Chase Vallot and Meibrys Viloria are actually a very intriguing catching duo. Viloria has caught two games and been a DH for one while Vallot has been the DH three times without catching yet, as Xavier Fernandez has actually caught two games for the Blue Rocks.
Viloria has a strong arm and a decent hit tool with the ability to put balls in gaps for doubles, but likely won’t ever have much HR power. Vallot has long been a below average defender, but his power tool can be a real weapon for a catcher, putting up double digit home runs in each 80, 92, and 89 games over the past three seasons. Fernandez is more of an org guy but has enough fringy tools to be a guy that sticks around and maybe earns a cup of coffee in time.
Tulsa Drillers – Los Angeles Dodgers AA – Catcher – Keibert Ruiz and Will Smith have both caught two games, each gotten one game off and filled in as DH in another. Ruiz is an aggressively assigned 19-year old AA switch hitting catcher, Will Smith can catch in the big leagues today but his bat is lagging behind the D.
These two both have starting MLB potential, with Ruiz having much more upside and Smith likely going to have to rely on his defense and athleticism. Either way, Dodger fans can tune in to Tulsa on any given night and see a glimpse of their future backstops, it is just a question of who will grab that title and run with it.
Sacramento River Cats – San Francisco Giants AAA – Outfield – Chris Shaw can play first but has seen time in left twice and DH once so far. He has great power and a solid arm, but the athleticism in the field is rough and the foot speed is painfully slow. He needs to prove he can stick in the outfield to find his way to San Francisco where his bat will undoubtedly play.
Steven Duggar was the last cut by the Giants when trimming down to the 25-man roster as he is a guy that combines plus speed and arm with the ability to play a great center field. His hit tool is good enough to potentially turn into a leadoff hitter, but the power won’t likely ever be a big part of his game.
Austin Slater is good across the board showing an ability to hit with some average and power while playing a solid right field. He has no one tool that truly stands out, but he also doesn’t have one that is a true weakness. Add to those three the fact that Mac Williamson is trying to prove he is worthy of another shot with the big league club and the River Cats have more outfielders than they do positions in the outfield.
Durham Bulls – Tampa Bay Rays AAA – Entire Lineup – Christian Arroyo, Jake Bauers, Willy Adames, Joe McCarthy, Johnny Fields, and Keon Wong have started all three games while Jason Coats, Justin Williams, and Curt Casali have started two of three. This means a guy with big league experience in Brandon Snyder, another with experience and a real prospect not long ago in Micah Johnson, and a catcher who has seen time in the show in Adam Moore are backups so far this season. Add to that Nick Ciuffo who is currently on the restricted list, and you have easily the deepest lineup in the minors to start the season.
Buffalo Bisons – Toronto Blue Jays AAA – Catcher – Weather has postponed all three scheduled games for the Bisons thus far, so it is still a matter of time before we see how manager Bob Meacham handles the catching duties.
Danny Jansen is the top-rated catcher in the Jays system and one of the best in all of baseball, while Reese McGuire is a personal favorite and has the skills to be a solid big leaguer. Jansen has shown signs of being an elite hitter and solid behind the plate. McGuire has always had questions with the bat and a surprising lack of power for his build but watching him catch is a treat. He has soft hand and a cannon of an arm.
As if those two weren’t enough, Max Pentecost is sitting in AA looking to put together a healthy year and make a case to be the next catcher of the Blue Jays as well.
Hagerstown Suns – Washington Nationals A – Infield – Luis Garcia is a natural middle infielder with excellent range, soft hands, and a strong enough arm to stick at short. Yasel Antuna is a shortstop today but will likely add size that will land him at third where he will have good power and plenty of arm to make the backhanded throws from the line. Cole Freeman is a former LSU Tiger who has the natural fluidity to be a good shortstop just doesn’t have the arm, so will be a second baseman that can steal bags at the top of a lineup.
Anderson Franco is a power bat with a strong arm to go with his long frame that makes him a good fit for the hot corner but can hit enough to play first should his 6’3” frame fill out to the point of not having the quickness needed for the position.
That is four guys for four infield spots, which is good for the long term as they can all play in the positions they will most likely be best suited in the end, they have a guy who can play short currently playing third, and a guy who can play third who has started half the games at first.