Saturday, January 19, 2013

Players to Watch - 3 years later

In 2010, I took a couple of roadtrips in which I saw a good bit of minor league baseball. In California, I saw three games and in Iowa, I witnessed another seven matches. For all but one of those games, I mentioned a "player to watch" which was simply a player (not a well-known prospect) who I thought might have a chance to reach the majors based on his performance in that single game. Of course, baseball is a sport where even the least talented player can have a 4-4 game once in a while, so having this feature was more an exercise in learning about randomness rather than demonstrating what a great eye for talent that I have.

Two seasons have passed since then, so I thought I'd review those players and find out where they are now. Most of the games I saw were in Class A, so the players should be playing at AAA in 2013 if they have a legitimate chance at making the big leagues. Here's the list of my players to watch from 2010, in the order in which I watched the games:

Dallas Keuchel (LHP) - Lancaster Jethawks. Keuchel was Houston's 7th round pick in 2009 and he pitched well when I saw him. No fluke, as he debuted with the Astros in June, 2012 and started 16 games, going 3-8 with a 5.25 ERA.

Roberto Lopez (C) - Rancho Cucamonga Quakes - Lopez, the Angels' 25th-round pick in 2008, had a great defensive game when I saw him. Played in 10 games in AAA in 2011 but only hit .167, so spent 2012 back in AA where was a solid contributor. At 27, he's not likely to reach the majors.

Drew Cumberland (SS) - Lake Elsinore Storm - San Diego's top pick in 2007, he played superbly in the game I watched. He was destined for the majors when he was diagnosed with a neurological condition which caused him to retire before the 2012 season.

Jay Jackson (RHP) - Iowa Cubs - OK, picking a player in AAA isn't that hard, but Jackson has yet to appear in Chicago despite some decent numbers in 2010. He had a poor 2012 and spent the winter in Mexico where he seemed to improve. Guessing if he doesn't crack the Cubs this year he will be picked up by another club.

Matt Adams (1B) - Quad Cities River Bandits - Drafted in the 23rd round in 2009, he wasn't considered a prospect but hit two long dingers in the game I saw. St. Louis called him up in May 2012 and he appeared in 27 games, hitting 244/286/384 before being returned to Memphis, where he had some great numbers, including a .986 OPS. Expect to see him back at Busch permanently very soon.

Stephen Locke (LHP) - Cedar Rapids Kernels - I saw Locke throw a 5-inning no-hitter but that was his career highlight as he's out of organized baseball after starting 2 games in the California League in 2011. He's now in the news for suing the Gainesville police.

Carlo Testa (OF) - Burlington Bees - Drafted in the 18th round by the Royals in 2008, Testa hit two homers and added an outfield assist in the game I saw. He played a full season at AA in 2012 and seems to be moving up the ladder, but at 26 he is probably too old to make an impact. Still, expect to see him in the bigs this year or next.

Trey Haley (RHP) - Lake County Captains - Cleveland's 2nd-round pick in 2008, Haley was initially a starter and outpitched Shelby Miller in the game I went to. After becoming a reliever in 2011, he underwent surgery for a sports hernia injury that had plagued him for over a year. He recovered well and ended the 2012 season in AA and is now considered a top prospect for the Indians.

Keon Broxton (OF) - South Bend Silver Hawks - Arizona's 3rd round pick in 2009, this speedy outfielder hit 19 triples in 2010, including one at the game I saw. Looking at his stats, he seems to have plateaued at the High A level in Visalia, spending most of 2011 and all of 2012 there. However, he is only 22 years old and he hit 19 homers for the Rawhide last year, so I think he still has a future in baseball, although I'm not as confident that he will reach the majors as I was back in 2010.

So there you have it: out of nine players to watch, two made the majors, another three are likely to make it in smaller roles, one retired, one is out of baseball, and the other two will probably spend their entire career in the minors. Not a great record for the Player to Watch feature; I guess my dreams of becoming a baseball scout will remain just that.



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