Minor League Roster Previews

Minor League Roster Previews

The minor league season starts on Thursday, so let's take a look at who has been assigned where, along with top prospect, big questions and who to keep an eye on at each level. Fresno, Connecticut, San Jose and Augusta, here we come!

FRESNO GRIZZLIES - AAA

Infielders
Outfielders
Catchers
Pitchers
Tomas De La Rosa
Fred Lewis
Eliezer Alfonzo
Matt Anderson
Alfredo Simon
Kevin Frandsen
Todd Linden
Yamid Haad
Brian Cooper
Michael Tejera
Jed Hansen
Abraham Nunez
Kevin Correia
Erick Threets
Chad Santos
Dan Ortmeier
Brad Hennessey
Merkin Valdez
Adam Shabala
Matt Kinney
Brian Wilson
Pedro Liriano
Brandon Villafuerte
Jeff Miller

The Top Prospect: RHP Merkin Valdez - He was one of the most talked about guys in Spring Training camp, and all eyes are on him to make a splash this year.

Other Big Names: 2B Kevin Frandsen, another spring training performer; OF Todd Linden, disappointed to be back but still a big hitter; OF Fred Lewis, lots of potential, but it's time to stop being just potential; OF Dan Ortmeier, the other switch hitter with speed and power; RHP Kevin Correia, whether a starter or reliever; RHP Brian Wilson, the other closer prospect; RHP Brad Hennessey, has to prove himself again.

Strengths: Offensively, this lineup should be able to bash the ball around. Linden led the minors in slugging percentage last year. Lewis and Frandsen are great hitters to set the table, and Ortmeier was the only player in the minor leagues to combine 20 home runs with 35 stolen bases last season. C Eliezer Alfonzo has some pop, too.

Weaknesses: There's some serious questions in a pitching staff with a lot of ex-major leaguers, and not just the question of who, if any, are real major league prospects. Alfredo Simon and Erick Threets got promotions to AAA? They had issues in AA.

Questions: With Simon reputedly a starter and Valdez reputedly a closer, would these two be better suited switching roles? Is Linden going to be traded? Will any of these starters perform well enough to be called up and not have every appearance dreaded? Will any of them have a shot at the 2007 rotation?

Name to Watch: Alfonzo. He's got some pop, and could find himself forcing his way onto a 2007 major league roster despite being unheralded.

CONNECTICUT DEFENDERS - AA

Infielders
Outfielders
Catchers
Pitchers
Brian Buscher
Eddy Martinez-Esteve
Justin Knoedler
Joe Bateman
Matt Palmer
Travis Ishikawa
Nate Schierholtz
Brian Munhall
Chris Begg
Jeff Petersen
A.J. LaBarbera
Clay Timpner
Garrett Broshuis
Billy Sadler
Derin McMains
Randy Walter
Geno Espineli
Jonathan Sanchez
Aaron Sisk
Jesse Floyd
R.D. Spiehs
Tyler Von Schell
Pat Misch
Jason Waddell
Jake Wald
Mike Musgrave

The Top Prospect: OF Eddy Martinez-Esteve. One heck of a hitter, with good power and good strike zone recognition. Now, about that defense.....

Other Big Names: OF Nate Schierholtz, a power prospect with K problems; 1B Travis Ishikawa, a power prospect with contact problems; OF Clay Timpner, defensive wiz and smarts on the basepaths; LHP Jonathan Sanchez, Low-A strikeout king skipping a level; LHP Pat Misch, starting in AA again; RHP Joe Bateman, a sidearming closer with potential; C Justin Knoedler, down in AA to get playing time.

Strengths: There's a lot. The pitching staff has two guys who've done very well at AA in the past (and are surprisingly still there) in Begg and Misch, and Sanchez adds a risky but exciting young strikeout pitcher. The core of the offense from the California League champion Giants is intact, especially the outfielders and Ishikawa.

Weaknesses: Defense could be an issue at places, especially in the corners of the outfield, where EME is a disappointment and Schierholtz is still learning route-taking. However, even that is offset by Timpner in center field and Ishikawa at first, both excellent defensive players.

Questions: Is EME healthy? Will the hitters, like so many San Jose hitting stars before them, struggle mightily at AA? Is Jonathan Sanchez being pushed too hard? And why are Begg and Misch still in AA while Threets and Simon got pushed to AAA?

Name to Watch: Garrett Broshuis. Quietly, he was the rock of San Jose's rotation. He doesn't throw hard, but has great control, and could shine even with a very good rotation around him in Connecticut.

SAN JOSE GIANTS - High-A

Infielders
Outfielders
Catchers
Pitchers
Julio Cordido
John Bowker
Steve Holm
Brian Anderson
Brooks McNiven
Pat Dobson
Joey Dyche
Todd Jennings
Ben Cox
Anthony Moreno
Tim Hutting
Brian Horwitz
Guillermo Rodriguez
James Garcia
Nick Pereira
Simon Klink
Mike Wagner
Adam Gardner
Jesus Reina
Mark Minicozzi
Spencer Grogan
Juan Serrato
Marcus Sanders
Alex Hinshaw
Craig Whitaker
Thomas King

The Top Prospect: SS/2B Marcus Sanders. He's been called the best leadoff hitter and base stealing prospect in the minors, and the most exciting player in last year's South Atlantic League.

Other Big Names: OF Brian Horwitz, an undrafted Cal player who has won 2 batting titles in 2 years in the minors; OF John Bowker, a power hitter who slumped early last season but came on strong late; C Todd Jennings, still in San Jose but back to catching, a more valuable position; OF Joey Dyche, the kid who hit .500 in college; RHP Craig Whitaker, a former first round pick still searching for a role; RHP Brian Anderson, Salem-Keizer's closer who had 42 K's and 3 walks in 27.2 innings; IF Mark Minicozzi, a streaky hitter with some potential.

Strengths: While it's not as flashy as last year's champion team, there's a lot of good hitters on this team. Sanders, Dyche and Horwitz will all be on base often for Bowker to knock in.

Weaknesses: Behind Bowker, there's no real power hitter. The rotation has a number of questions that need to be answered.

Questions: Is Sanders' shoulder healthy, and where will he play? Can 1B Pat Dobson and OF Mike Wagner step up to provide the depth this lineup will need to score big run totals? Can Anderson be a dominant closer again even though his fastball barely scrapes 90 on the gun? Will this be the year that Whitaker finally puts it together? And is he a starter or a reliever?

Name to Watch: Nick Pereira. Comparisons to Jesse Foppert are easy to make, since this bay area native also went to USF, but if Pereira can improve upon his performance in Salem-Keizer, he could be the anchor that this pitching staff needs to stay competitive in a hitter's league.

AUGUSTA GREENJACKETS - Low-A

Infielders
Outfielders
Catchers
Pitchers
Jon Armitage
Ben Copeland
Andy Busch
Buck Cody
Matt Minor
Anthony Contreras
Mike Mooney
Nick Conte
Wayne Foltin
Ben Nieto
Kyle Haines
Alex Requena
Barry Gunther
Dan Griffin
David Quinowski
Aaron Hornostaj
Antoan Richardson
Joe Martinez
Ronnie Ray
Pablo Sandoval
Shairon Martis
Sergio Romo
Eugenio Velez
Osiris Matos
Ryan Shaver
Jose Yens
Bryan Millikan

The Top Prospect: RHP Dan Griffin, the 2005 NCAA strikeout rate leader, should do well in the South Atlantic League.

Other Big Names: OF Ben Copeland, the Giants top draft pick in 2005 (albeit in the 4th round); OF Mike Mooney, a 5 tool player who has been hidding in short season ball until now; 3B Pablo Sandoval, the switch hitter who teamed with Mooney to power the Volcanoes offense; RHP Shairon Martis, fresh off his WBC first ever no-hitter; RHP Joe Martinez, the underrated pitcher from Boston College; LHP Ben Nieto, who impressed as part of the Volcanoes pitching staff.

Strengths: Griffin anchors what could be a dominating rotation, teaming with Martinez and hot young prospect Martis, and could also include Nieto and Sergio Romo, who both had good years in Salem-Keizer. Mooney, Copeland and Sandoval will make up a formidable middle of the order. And the speed of returning OF Alex Requena and newcomer OF Antoan Richardson could give the GreenJackets a second season with a pair of 50 stolen bases (Requena and Sanders did it last year).

Weaknesses: The bullpen doesn't have a dominating or experienced closer, and may take a while to sort things out. The bottom half of the batting order will not be very strong overall.

Questions: Are Martis and Sandoval (both 19) ready? Will top draft picks Griffin and Copeland move quickly? Will Michael Mooney, who has done very well for three years in short season but been the victim of a numbers game, finally make a name for himself? Will Richardson be able to work with his unconventional swing and make use of his speed?

Name to Watch: Sergio Romo. The Volcanoes had a strong pitching staff with a lot of strong performances, but Romo quietly led the team in starts (14) and wins (7), with 65 strikeouts agains 9 walks in 68.2 innings. The 2005 28th round pick from Mesa State College could emerge as a top pitching prospect this season.



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