Through the first month we are, and somewhat surprising are the results. For example, Carlos Lee (.176) and Mark Teixeira (.189 after a four hit day) stuggling at the plate while Javier Vasquez (1-3, 9.78) and Mark Beuhrle (2-3, 5.40) are struggling with the plate. Not to mention Curtis Granderson and Joe Mauer are nursing injuries.
Which means it is beginning to look like baseball season all over, with ups and downs and injuries and streaks along with promising debuts. Like Oakland's Josh Donaldson, advanced to provide some defense behind the dish in deference to Kurt Suzuki's injured intercostal muscle strain. Mind you, I still like Landon Powell, but Donaldson does have a better glove, not to mention his first big league hit was a tater on Saturday against Toronto. Donaldson, a 2007 selection out of Auburn, was hitting .269-4-19 when summoned.
For now, in a deep league, a better selection would be the Rays John Jaso, advanced with the injury to Kelly Shoppach and suspension to Dioner Navarro. Jaso, a 2003 twelfth round pick out of McKinleyville High School, in Southern California by Tampa. A26, Jaso has nice .291-57-330 totals over eight minor league seasons, including a terrific .379 OBP (297 walks to 306 whiffs). Jaso has shot out of the blocks hot (.400-1-9 over 11 games) and is getting playing time and is a good replacement in just about any format.
Yet a third backstop worthy of note is Texas catcher Max Ramirez, also advanced over the past week. Ramirez, 25, was drafted by the Braves in 2002, swapped to the Indians (for Bob Wickman) and then to the Rangers (for Kenny Lofton). Ramrez .298-69-333 totals over 561 minor league games, with a .398 OBP suggests his hitting skills, and with an inability to really establish any of their young catchers recently (Salty and Teagarden, eg) if Ramirez can start it off like Jaso he will earn a starting gig.
Moving to the NL and the outfield, the Reds Chris Heisey was promoted after Curtis Dickerson injured his finger. I saw Heisey at the AFL and he looked great. At 25, Heisey owns .296-51-231 totals over five minor league seasons, with a good .367 OBP and OPS of .825. Heisey does not walk that much (172) nor does he strike out that much (206) so he is a good contact hitter with a good eye. A lot
Back to the AL for a flychaser, with Curtis Granderson down, look for Marcus Thames to grab the bulk of playing time, mostly because he hits lefy. However, just because he is platooning, do not sell Thames short. With a career .495 SLG (102 homers) over 1569 at-bats, Thames should (he has before) flourish in a part-time temporary role with the Yanks as he did with the Tigers the last couple of years, especially 2008 with Detroit where he hit 25 dingers over 316 at-bats.
Back to the NL for another kid I saw at the AFL, this time two years ago, with Eric Young, Jr, son of the former player, who was drafted in round 30 in 2003 by the Rockies. At 26 he has speed like his pop (306 swipes over 583 minor league games) as well as some decent pop (27 homers, 115 doubles). Young also has a good eye with 291 walks to 418 strikeouts to a good .383 OBP, and he could be a serious cog in a youth movement in Colorado that could spell dynasty.
I write that previous paragraph having just listened to Rockies rookie hurler, Jhoulys Chacin having handcuffed the Giants with seven shutout innings, allowing a hit and three walks and not much else. It is hard to think of the Rockies as pitching oriented, but, well, Chacin, along with Jorge De La Rosa (who is on the DL), Jeff Francis (also hurt, but both will be back this season, and De La Rosa shortly) along with Umbaldo Jiminez, and bingo, this is a pitching team. In case you are interested, Chacin is 40-17, 2.43 as a minor leaguer, with 422 whiffs to 145 walks over 488 innings. Not bad.
Finishing this week, we leave with new San Diego second sacker Matt Antonelli, a 23-year old first round pick of the Padres in 2006. Antonelli has promise, though he has struggled at AAA the last two years. In 2008 he went .215-7-39 over 540 at-bats, and that was in the PCL, a definite hitters league. Last year it was .196-4-22 over 219 at-bats, coupled with .193-1-3 major league totals, so Antonelli has some offensive work to do yet. He does make good contact (233 minor league walks to 247 strikeouts) and did hit .307-21-78 split between A and AA in 2007, so the skill set appears to be there, just not necessarily ready as of yet.