As writers, we typically select column subjects for a limited number of reasons. Perhaps we want to get mistakes off our chests (a regular of mine), we have theory to impart or as in this case, information to share.
Always on the lookout for potential pickups before they reach the Majors, this week I perused the roster of the Pacific Coast League All-Star Team. My mission was to identify a few players - whether prospects or non-prospects - who might sneak onto a major league roster during the second half.
The 30-man PCL All-Star squad is made up of 13 players voted in by coaches, front office officials, media and fans plus 17 others selected by the league office.
Starting at first base is an interesting power bat in Brock Peterson. The 29-year-old has hit safely in 34 of his last 47 games at a .345 clip (61-for-177) and leads the Memphis Redbirds with 29 multi-hit games. Peterson leads the PCL in home runs (20) and extra-base hits (42), ranks third in total bases (175), RBI (61), and OPS (.972), fourth in slugging (.583) and is tied for seventh in doubles (22).
The downside is that Peterson is a first base-only player in a Cardinals organization that cannot use a designated hitter and has another, better prospect in his way in Matt Adams. As a result, it is hard to see how Peterson could fit in the Cardinals’ picture this season without help.
Mets prospect Wilmer Flores is another interesting PCL All-Star. Having seemingly been around forever, yet still just 21 years of age, the right-handed hitter has rocketed ahead in the last 12 months after his career had seemed stalled. This time last year, Flores was still in high-A, where he had been for two years.
Now, the Venezuelan leads the PCL in RBI with 64 in his first 82 games at Triple-A. Flores began as a shortstop, was moved to third and is now playing second base. It would seem there is little to block Flores from making his way to Citi Field in the second half.
Another 21-year-old is shortstop Chris Owings of Reno. The Diamondbacks’ first-rounder in 2009 is leading the PCL in hits with 131 and runs scored with 70. Alongside Owings on the Aces and with the PCL All-Stars is third baseman Matt Davidson, taken six picks ahead of Owings in the same draft.
Even though there appears no room for either in Arizona, one or both could be packaged as part of a deal for a front-line starting pitcher. Major league opportunity could immediately open up with a new organization.
Another former first-rounder (2010) yet to make his MLB debut is Michael Choice of Sacramento. In his first taste of Triple-A, the centerfielder has 11 home runs and 53 RBI for the River Cats. Yet unless something happens to Coco Crisp, Choice currently appears to be blocked in Oakland.
With a very young (Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily all from 24 to 26 years of age) and very old (40-year-old Bartolo Colon) rotation, the first-place A’s don’t seem to have immediate room for the PCL’s starting pitcher, Sonny Gray, either. The right-hander is 7-5 with a 3.02 ERA for the River Cats and leads the league with 98 strikeouts.
Among other PCL All-Stars to watch include designated hitter Brett Pill of Fresno (Giants), Oklahoma City (Astros) pitcher Jarred Cosart, outfielder Carlos Peguero of Tacoma (Mariners) and Memphis pitcher Michael Wacha (Cardinals).
All of these players and many more would likely say that they can only do what is within their power – to influence their own play. An All-Star berth is indication of a job well done to date. What might happen around them is out of their control, but excelling is necessary - even if not sufficient - to secure that break in the Majors.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 14-year history. Though he is the only one to remember or care, he also finished second in each of the two subsequent seasons. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.