Last week, we looked at some of the 2013 Pacific Coast League All-Stars. This time around, their opponents from the International League will be the target. The two circuits will face off in the annual Triple-A All-Star Game in Reno on Wednesday, July 17.
Since the event began a quarter century ago, 77 Triple-A All-Stars have gone on to play in the Major League All-Star Game, or an average of just over three from each year’s teams.
The reality here is that our sights are set much lower, but also more immediate. We are looking for International League stars that may be able to contribute in the Majors during the second half of this season.
The IL player with perhaps the highest profile is Louisville (Reds) outfielder Billy Hamilton. After all, setting the all-time minor league record last season with 155 stolen bases will do that. This season, “all” Hamilton has accomplished is 50 swipes in 61 attempts. Still, a .640 OPS indicates more time in the Minors may be best.
The premier offensive player in the league during the first half is undoubtedly Chris Colabello of Rochester (Twins). The first baseman leads the league in batting (.357), slugging (.650), OPS (1.086) and RBI (69) and is second in OBP (.436) and home runs (22).
Colabello is an interesting story. Already 29 years of age, he spent seven years in the Can-Am Association before signing with Minnesota prior to last season. In 2012, the right-handed hitter led the Double-A Eastern League in doubles (37), was second in RBI (98), fourth in runs scored (78) and tied for fourth in home runs (19). It is not as if the Twins have an excess of offense, so why not give Colabello an extended look? (He went 2-for-15 in a brief trial earlier in the season).
Though he is listed as the starter at third base, Durham’s (Rays) Vince Belnome also has experience at second and first. That is good for the IL’s on-base leader (at .444) given the hot corner in Tampa should be manned by Evan Longoria for many years to come. Belnome, a 25-year-old left-handed hitter, is third in the league in runs scored (55), but is also in the top-10 in RBI (54 – T7th).
The IL leader in long balls with 24 is first baseman Mauro Gomez of Buffalo (Blue Jays). The starting designated hitter in the All-Star Game is batting just .239, however, and has just 13 doubles. Gomez, 28, is a former Red Sox prospect claimed off waivers in April.
Catcher Tony Sanchez of Indianapolis had a very brief stint with Pittsburgh last month and has a solid line of .294/.378/.526/.904 with the Indians. However, as long as Russell Martin remains healthy, the 25-year-old seems destined to pad his IL numbers in the second half.
Outfielder/third baseman Nick Castellanos of Toledo (Tigers) was named to the squad, but will not be playing in Reno. He will be returning home to be with his wife, who is expecting the couple's first child. Castellanos is tied for second in the league with 105 hits and 28 doubles. The 21-year-old may not have a clear job in Detroit, but could be traded as the Tigers try to improve elsewhere.
The announced starting pitcher for the IL is a familiar name. The second overall pick by Colorado in 2006, Greg Reynolds, had an undistinguished MLB introduction with the 2011 Rockies. The 28-year-old signed a minor league deal with Cincinnati this spring and had an opt-out clause last month that he decided not to exercise.
The right-hander has posted a league-leading 10 wins and an IL-best 2.62 ERA. His 1.12 WHIP and 76/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 120 1/3 innings at Louisville indicates promise – if the Reds eventually make the call.
Not this season, but 25-year-old reliever Vic Black of Indianapolis (Pirates) could one day take the job of a National League All-Star, Jason Grilli. A hard-throwing 6-foot-4 right-hander, Black has fanned 44 and walked just 11 in 32 innings. He is holding IL batters to a collective .152 average and has a 1.97 ERA.
To watch all 60 Triple-A All-Stars in live action, be sure to catch the game, televised nationally on MLB Network on Wednesday evening, July 17.
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.