Buffalo Bisons (Triple-A)
*Currently on 7-Day Disabled List
- The most notable element of this roster is the quartet of young left handed hitters who could see big league action this year: Chris Carter, Ike Davis, Fernando Martinez, and Josh Thole. Carter (.321 / .387 / .679) and Davis (.357 / .514 / .679) are both off to scorching starts while Martinez (.265 / .286 / .353) and Thole (.042 / .115 / .042) are not. Fortunately, Carter and Davis, both capable of playing first base, would fill a more pressing Major League need right now than Martinez or Thole. Why they are both in Triple-A while Mike Jacobs and Frank Catalanotto are occupying roster spots is beyond me, though I suspect with Davis they're waiting at least two weeks to consider promoting him so they can delay his service time and keep him in the organization for an extra year.
- The other position prospect on the Bisons roster--Ruben Tejada--joins Martinez and Thole in being off to a sluggish start, hitting just .091 / .115 / .091 in seven games since being sent back to Triple-A. Tejada had just collected his first Major League hit in his final plate appearance in the majors while filling in for the rehabbing Jose Reyes before he was sent down.
Mike Hessman--who came into the year as the active minor league career home run leader--has already added four bombs to his record and is hitting .310 / .364 / .759. A right handed batter who can play all four corners and a solid defensive infielder, he would make a fine replacement for Fernando Tatis should the need arise.
- Dillon Gee is doing his very best to make us forget that Nelson Figueroa is no longer in the organization. The top pitching prospect on the Bisons has yet to allow a run in two starts and 13 innings so far this year, registering 12 strikeouts and flashing excellent command with just one walk. Gee is still fresh off of a right shoulder injury that he spent the better part of the 2009 season rehabbing, though you'd never know it based on his first two outings of 2010. He's quickly establishing himself as the first logical callup should the need for a starting pitcher arise with the big league club.
Tobi Stoner was just called up from the Bisons, to give Jerry Manuel a fresh arm to
useruin after Saturday's 20 inning debacle of a win. Stoner's results in two for the Bisons starts have been more mixed: four runs in just 8.1 innings with five strikeouts and three walks. Since he'll probably be used out of the bullpen, I can't fault the organization for opting to tap Stoner rather than Gee here. Expect Stoner's big league assignment to be temporary.
- The other option the organization should have been considering for a callup was Bobby Parnell, who spent all of 2009 on the Major League roster. Parnell has yet to allow a run in four relief appearances, though he's walked four and struck out just three in 5.1 innings.
Binghamton Mets (Double-A)
|De La Torre, Jose||R||5|
*Currently on 7-Day Disabled List
- The big story early in Binghamton is third baseman Zach Lutz. His professional career has been delayed by injuries, so he hasn't received tons of attention as a prospect, but almost every piece written about him includes the caveat "but he can hit". The opening weeks of this season have been no exception. Lutz has now homered in three straight games and hit in eight straight, bringing his line up to .343 / .477 / .714. He's leading the Eastern league in homers, slugging, and OPS. If he proves he can handle Double-A pitching over an extended period--especially with this kind of power--he may start gaining some momentum as a late blooming prospect with legitimate upside.
- Another semi-surprise that one might have seen coming is 1B/OF Lucas Duda. Throughout his minor league career he's always had a high walk rate, but he finally seemed to be finding his power stroke in the second half of last year. Through 2009's first three months, he managed just four homers in 261 ABs, but he outpaced himself in the seasons second half, hitting five long balls in his final 129 ABs. He's picked up right where he left off in 2010, having already hit three bombs along with five doubles, and his early season batting line is at .289 /.404 / .658. Like Lutz, he's a bit old for the Eastern League and blocked by a number of players in Triple-A, but if he can continue to show that his apparent power breakout is for real, he's another late blooming sleeper candidate.
- For the third straight season, Nick Evans Who?, as he is officially known around these parts, has set out to prove that he can handle Double-A pitching. And for the third straight season he is doing just that, hitting at .395 / .455 / .737 so far. Its hard not to feel for this guy at this point, but with Chris Carter, Fernando Martinez, Ike Davis, and Mike Hessman all in Triple-A, there really wasn't anywhere higher in the minors to put him.
- "Captain" Kirk Nieuwenhuis is also off to a solid start in Double-A, albeit without the power production of the first three hitters discussed. He's hitting .302 / .348 / .419. One recalls his scorching second half from 2009, so perhaps he's just waiting for the weather to warm up before taking advantage of his new, more hitter friendly environment.
- On the pitching side, Dylan Owen is trying to do his best Dillon Gee impression, having allowed just three runs (one earned) thus far over two starts and 11.0 innings. He's not missing as many bats or showing off such devastating command, however, having struck out eight and walked four. Still, few thought Owen would ever be able to handle upper level hitters, so any progress is encouraging.
Eric Niesen is also off to a decent start. His ERA through three starts is pretty, at 3.08. However, while he's missing plenty of bats (10 strikeouts), his command has been spotty (nine walks), and he hasn't lasted deep into any of his starts (11.0 innings).
- The Eddie Kunz rotation experiment is not going well thus far. He's given up 10 runs in 8.1 innings, walking nine and striking out just five. Some growing pains were expected, so we can overlook a performance like this for now, but these results are simply unacceptable.
Up Next, we'll take a look at the Middle Minors: The St. Lucie Mets (High-A) and Savannah Sand Gnats (Full Season-A)