Triple-A All-Stars show mix of potential, passion
Mariners' Moran, Pirates' Sanchez put on good show among talented field
RENO, Nev. -- This year's Triple-A All-Star Game came to Reno's beautiful new Aces Stadium, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks' Triple-A club, on Wednesday.
The park was packed with enthusiastic fans dressed in their favorite teams' colors. The entire evening was a festival.
The game had a mix of veteran players who have had the opportunity to play in the Major Leagues as well as younger prospects waiting for their first chance. Regardless of their tenure in the game, it looked as if every player on the field cherished the opportunity to be an All-Star.
I was left with several impressions of players.
I have now seen D-backs prospect Chris Owings make over-the-shoulder catches on balls hit to short left field on several occasions. I would be hard pressed to find many shortstops who can do it better. Owings, ranked No. 4 on the D-backs' Top 20 Prospects list, has the ability to play in the Major Leagues. He has a measured, short stroke at the plate, and he makes good contact. My only concern might be some noticeable hesitation when Owings releases the ball at shortstop. But he is a good defender.
I think Seattle Mariners left-handed pitching prospect Brian Moran has a chance to be an effective situational lefty. He throws strike one and builds on that by pounding the strike zone. Moran does not throw particularly hard, but he is effective. He misses lots of bats and gets important strikeouts.
I am impressed with the way Athletics No. 2 prospect Michael Choice has reduced the aggressive approach in his swing from the first time I saw him. He is going to be a very solid hitter for the A's. The question for me: Where does Choice play? If he can play solid defense in center field, he will provide a big bat in a generally defense-first position.
Pirates No. 14 prospect Tony Sanchez has the ability to hit to the opposite field as a right-handed hitter. It is a real plus when a hitter can take the pitch where it is thrown. He needs to keep it up. Sanchez hit a game-deciding three-run homer.
I thought Royals No. 16 prospect Chris Dwyer threw harder than what I saw Wednesday. He has been a top prospect for Kansas City for quite some time. Dwyer works the corners well as a left-handed pitcher, but he will have to find success with good location and command. The second half of the season is important for him.
Orioles Minor League outfielder Jason Pridie is a prototypical fourth outfielder. I hope he gets that chance again. Pridie plays good defense, puts the bat on the ball, has speed on the bases and plays with energy. He can help some clubs.
Yankees prospective outfielder Thomas Neal has never really had the sustained time in the big leagues that he may deserve. Neal has a patient approach at the plate, is willing to take a base on balls and also has some pop in his bat.
Astros right-handed pitching prospect Jason Stoffel was a closer in college. He can throw strikes and can handle the pressure of being at the back end of the bullpen. Stoffel is not overpowering, but he makes guys swing and miss.
St. Louis Cardinals first-base prospect Brock Peterson came in second to D-backs third-base prospect Matt Davidson in the Home Run Derby, which was held two days before the All-Star Game. His power is obvious. Peterson still has some development remaining, but I like his swing and approach at the plate.
Cardinals No. 4 prospect Michael Wacha looked very polished on the mound. He repeated his delivery and induced some ground balls. Wacha has advanced mechanics and should find sustained success. He was sitting at a very comfortable 90-92 mph and hit 95 with ease.
Kirby Yates of the Tampa Bay Rays organization has the type of control and stuff that could help in the bullpen. I like his mechanics and his ability to get guys to roll over pitches.
I remember Carlos Peguero from my days with the Mariners. He is still a prospect. Peguero has enormous power, but he has trouble making contact. He is a big man with a big bat. If Peguero can ever make more contact, he will be very dangerous.
Zach Walters, ranked No. 13 on the Washington Nationals' Top 20 Prospects list, is very smooth at shortstop. He is not yet among the elite at the position, but he can certainly be a utility infielder whom a team can use with confidence.
Reds top prospect Billy Hamilton looks very comfortable in center field. A converted shortstop, his speed allows him to play shallow. Once Hamilton figures out how to be more patient at the plate, he will be a force, as projected.
Cody Asche could be the next Phillies third baseman. He has made strides since I saw him in the Arizona Fall League. The club's No. 9 prospect comes up a bit short in power, but Asche has a line-drive bat that can drive in runs.
The best changeup I saw Wednesday came from Cubs prospect Chris Rusin. He showed very good command of a tough pitch to throw.
Pirates No. 15 prospect Vic Black was throwing his fastball in the high 90s. Bringing the fastball at 98 and 99 and then bending knees with a slider, he is an outstanding pitcher. Black looks very ready for prime time.
My votes for Top Stars of the game: Moran for the Pacific Coast League and Sanchez for the International League. The actual winners were Wacha for the PCL and Sanchez for the IL.
Congratulations to all the folks with the Reno Aces for doing such a wonderful job with the Triple-A All Star Game.