It’s time now to preview one of the two Triple-A leagues; The International League. Divided up into North, South, and West divisions, the IL is located in the east primarily in the Ohio Valley, the Northeast, the Carolina’s, and spilling over into the nearby areas. We will be taking a look at some the top names looking to break into the majors soon. Guys like Matt Harvey, Jeurys Familia, Ryan Lavarnway, Will Middlebrooks, Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Julio Teheran, Starling Marte and of course – Bryce Harper.
International League – North Division
Jeurys Familia, RHP – One of the big 4 Mets pitching prospects. He may force his way on to the Mets before too long. He’s currently 1-0 with a 3.72 ERA and 12 K’s over 9.2 innings. His 6 walks are the only complaint I can lodge and we still think a move to the pen isn’t the answer. He’s a stud in the makings.
Matt Harvey, RHP – Another of the big 4, Harvey is our #1 Mets prospect going into the 2012 season. He was brilliant in 2011 and despite a shaky debut in 2012, he pitched better in his 2nd outing. He should be bringing his 4 pitch arsenal to New York sometime this season as well.
Jenrry Mejia, RHP – I promise this will be the last reference to the big 4 in this article, but Mejia deserves to be mentioned in the group. Coming back from Tommy John surgery that cost him all but 5 games in 2011, I think there’s little doubt that he would have been part of the Mets staff right now if that wasn’t the case. He’s going to be given a chance to be a starter, but could very well end up in the bullpen as a lock down 8th inning guy and could turn into a very good one.
Jordany Valdespin, SS – After an exciting 2011 campaign, the Mets gave Valdespin a shot at winning the SS job in spring training. Ultimately they decided he needed some more time in the minors with regular at bats. Our biggest criticism of Valdespin has his inability to draw walks and get on base more. It’s happened throughout his career, winter league, spring training, and now again at AAA. The Mets have been patient with him and he’s made huge strides. If things click, he could turn into a legit SS option for the Mets. If not, he should still find his way onto the team as a utility MI.
Phillippe Aumont, RHP – Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Not only was Aumont drafted ahead of Matt Dominguez, Jason Heyward, Devin Mesoraco, J.P. Arencibia, Rick Porcello, Ben Revere, and Travis d’Arnaud, he was also the main feature in the trade that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle. Aumont made strides last year, but no longer as a starter. He’s building on his 2011 season with a good start to the 2012 season and should be a key piece in the Phillies bullpen before too long.
Domonic Brown, OF – He’s no longer a prospect but is back in AAA to get everyday play in. After missing much of the 2011 season with a fractured hamate bone, he has been dealing with some neck issues this spring. He still has mad sleeper potential, but is going to have to get on a roll and force his way into a crowded Phillies outfield.
Ryan Lavarnway, C – One of the very best catching prospects, at least with the stick, is Ryan Lavarnway. The Red Sox want him to continue to play everyday and should be one of the first position player call ups.
Lars Anderson, 1B – He’s no longer a top prospect like he used to be. In fact he didn’t make our Red Sox top 10 or our Baseball Instinct 360 list for 2012. He’s just lingering and has turned into a carbon copy of Matt LaPorta. He should get a little time in Boston in 2012 like he did in 2011, but it’s not going to be much.
Will Middlebrooks, 3B – He lost a little bit on his contact rate in 2011, but continued to find his power stroke. He desperately needs to work on taking walk. While he’s off to a good start on the 2012, he hasn’t walked in 31 at bats. He should get a taste of the majors later this season and is one of the Red Sox better prospects.
Jose Iglesias, SS – There’s nothing really new to tell with Iglesias. He’s ready to win gold gloves right now, but you can’t win them if you don’t get into the lineup because of a weak bat. His .554 OPS in 357 AAA at bats in 2011 is just not going to get it done.
Major League debut candidates: Alex Hassan, OF; Che-Hsuan Lin, OF
Scott Diamond, LHP – Was not exciting in any regard in 2011 with Rochester or with the Twins in his major league debut. However, he is off to a decent start on the 2012 season and is likely to get 5-10 starts with the Twins. He may ultimately find his way onto the big club as a long man out of the pen.
Carlos Gutierrez, RHP – The 27th overall pick in the 2008 draft has had several opportunities to be a starter, but couldn’t take hold of the opportunities. He’s settled into a roll in the bullpen for Rochester and is likely to get a call up this summer.
Joe Benson, OF – Will try to regain the power stroke that he found in 2010, but lost in 2011. He got some time with the big club in 2011 and will probably get about the same this season. He’s only 24, but he’s not the prospect people briefly believed he would be.
Brian Dozier, SS – I recently did a Prospect Instinct article on Dozier and I really think he’s a player to watch closely. Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla are doing absolutely nothing for the Twins while Dozier is hitting .480/.552/.720 in the early goings at AAA. He was sent down out of spring training to fine tune his game, but there’s only so long that the Twins can put up with no production in their middle infield. If ever a player screamed out “pay close attention to me because few are”, it’s Dozier.
Manny Banuelos, LHP – The lefty from Gomez Placio, Mexico had a break out season in 2011 and is regarded as one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball. Yankees fans will be impatient and want him in the show right away. The Yankees aren’t going to rush him and there’s a good chance he will spend all of 2012 at AAA. If he doesn’t make his debut some time in 2012, he’s a good bet to be there as a 22-year-old in 2013.
Dellin Betances, RHP – Came back strong after Tommy John surgery in 2009. Despite a lack of run support in 2010 and 2011 posted very good numbers and made a his MLB debut in September. He’s a few years older than Banuelos, but the Yankees won’t rush him either.
Adam Warren, RHP – Has done nothing but pitch well in his 3 years in the Yankees organization. He’s off to a rough start in 2012, but there’s no real reason to be concerned. It will be interesting to see if he remains with the Yankees as his pitching style isn’t going to play well at Yankee Stadium.
Major League debut candidate: Corban Joseph, MI.
Tyler Moore, 1B – I thought it was cute in the off-season when Bryce Harper tweeted about “big things” coming from Tyler Moore in 2012. He doesn’t walk much and strikes out a ton. But after back to back 31 HR seasons and off to a start where he’s hit 4 HRs in 5 games, maybe Harper is on to something. Adam LaRoche and Michael Morse are always going to be health concerns, so it is plausible that Moore will get a chance. The 25-year-old is certainly worth monitoring.
Bryce Harper, OF – What more can be said about this super phenom that hasn’t already been said? He’s a 19-year-old at AAA that is knocking on the door of greatness. His ceiling? Ken Griffey, Jr and then some? An outfield version of Alex Rodriguez? His floor? Well, J.D. Drew comes to mind. He may go down as the most scrutinized player of all time. The Harper tour should kick off before the All-Star game and should be pretty entertaining for years to come.
Major League debut candidate: Carlos Rivero, OF.
International League – South Division
Jordan Danks, OF – Has some pop and speed. He wasn’t much of a prospect and after 2 full seasons at AAA, the 25-year-old doesn’t figure to be a major league regular. Still, he will have an opportunity to find himself on the bench as a 4th or 5th outfielder before the season is over.
Brandon Short, OF – Not much is ever said about the 2008 28th round pick. Most players picked that late, that long ago have new careers by now. Short has done a nice job of hitting for a little power and possessing some speed. He’s not likely to be a regular for any club, but like Danks he could very well find himself as a 4th or 5th outfielder.
Major League debut candidate: Josh Phegley, C.
Chris Archer, RHP – One of the key pieces to the Matt Garza deal, Archer had a great 2010 season. He debuted in 2011 for the Rays and had some what of a rough time at AA. He finished off the season with 2 good starts with Durham and has picked up where he left off with an 8 k, 2 hit, 1 er victory in his 2012 debut. The rotation is crowed in Tampa, but at some point they are going to have to give Archer a turn. He could become trade bait or head to the pen. It will be interesting to watch play out for Archer.
Alexander Torres, LHP – After many excellent seasons as a starter with the Angels and Rays organizations, Torres spent a few innings in the bullpen for Tampa in late 2011. He’s right there with Archer waiting for an opportunity to get a chance in the Rays rotation.
Tim Beckham, SS – So much has been said about how disappointing Tim Beckham has become, never living up to the lofty #1 overall pick expectations. If you ignore the fact that he was indeed the #1 pick in 2008, his numbers and progression for a 22-year-old isn’t bad. In fact, he hit .271 with 12 HRs and 17 SB between AA and AAA in 2011 as a 21-year-old. At some point in 2012 he’s going to get a look in Tampa.
Brandon Guyer, OF – Guyer got a handful of major league at bats in 2011 and hit .312/.384/.521 for Durham. His speed has dropped off a bit, but is still very useful. He should get another shot, and likely more at bats with Tampa in 2012.
Julio Teheran, RHP – Posted fantastic numbers in 2011 on his way to winning the AAA starting pitcher of the year award. While his 19.2 big league innings was a mixed bag, his season as a whole as a 20-year-old was a huge success. He should spend a few months with Gwinnett before joining the rotation in Atlanta for good.
Joey Terdoslavich, 1B – The 2010 6th round pick has wasted no time marching through the Braves organization highlighted by a very productive 2011 season and now skipping right past AA to AAA. There’s a good chance he will be in Atlanta later this summer and may force his way into the lineup as his power blooms.
Major League debut candidate: Jaye Chapman, RP.
Ryan Adams, 2B – Adams had a productive 2011 season with Norfolk, which found him in the Majors for 29 games and he did decent there. With the unstable 2B situation in Baltimore, he could see plenty of time in 2012 as well. He’s ultimately suited to be a reserve though.
Xavier Avery, OF – A toolsy lead off guy who can steal bases effortlessly. The problem is he strikes out like a power hitter. He’s got to turn a portion of those K’s into walks and infield hits if he’s ever going to have a shot at a big league job.
International League – West Division
Scott Barnes, LHP – Had an impressive 2011 campaign, most with Columbus. He’s a potential end of the rotation inning eater. A 2012 MLB debut is very likely.
Zach McAllister, RHP – entering his 7th season in the minors, the 24-year-old seems to have been around forever. He got 4 starts with Cleveland in 2011, and probably would have fared a little better had it not been for some sloppy defense by the Tribe. He may get a few more starts before settling into a career as a middle reliever.
Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B – Was sent to start the season at Triple-A after spending 66 games in the Indians lineup in 2011. He’s with Columbus to work on a few things and so far with a .313 average and 3 HRs in 32 at bats, it looks like it’s going well. He should join the Indians soon.
Beau Mills, 1B – The 13th overall pick in 2007 draft looked like a sure thing after a good 2008 season. However, he just hasn’t found any success since then. Now 25, he’s not really what you would consider a prospect and isn’t looking like a major league regular. He could however get a shot at a mlb debut this season, but don’t expect much.
Chase d’Arnaud, SS – The 2008 fourth round pick managed to get 143 at bats with Pirates in 2011. He’s back in AAA for the time being and doesn’t project out to be much of a SS, but with Clint Barmes as the best option Pittsburgh has, Chase will get another shot at the job before the season is over.
Starling Marte, OF – Excellent bat speed combined with sensational contact ability. Bad plate discipline will be the only thing to keep him from being an elite player. Even with his inability to draw walks, the 23-year-old is going to force his way in Pittsburgh’s line up this summer. I love the potential and think he’s going to be a very exciting player.
J.J. Hoover, RHP – Converted back to a relief pitcher in 2011, Hoover has developed into a reliable arm in the pen. The Reds are likely to give him his mlb debut this summer.
Neftali Soto, 1B – Belted 31 HRs in 396 at bats with Louisville in 2011. His bat should carry him to the majors, but with his lack of versatility and the road block known as Joey Votto, where does he play?
Detroit Tigers – Toledo Mud Hens
Casey Crosby, LHP – Command and health issues have limited us from seeing what Crosby really has to offer. He should spend most of the season with Toledo, but the feeling we get is he will be in the bullpen eventually. Look for him to make his major league debut some time this summer and it could come as a mixed bag of starts and relief appearances.
Adam Wilk, LHP – He’s a pretty steady pitcher who lacks true strikeout stuff. He made 5 relief appearances with the Tigers in 2011 and is set to make his 1st big league start on Saturday, filling in for Dough Fister. He should head back down after that and will have other opportunities this season. He doesn’t look like much more than a #5, possibly an inning eating long reliever at some point.
That’s our preview of the International League. There’s no real surprises at this level, but there is a couple of sleepers mixed in with some players on the doorsteps of stardom. We are winding down our previews, but check back often for continuous updates throughout the season. Thanks for playing along.
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