This is the second in a three part series on former Fort Wayne Wizards that I think will debut in Major league Baseball during the 20009 season. In part one, I presented the “sure things” who I think will break camp with their parent clubs or get called up relatively early. Today, I present the “warning track” players who are knocking on the door. All it will take is some good play early in the season and an opportunity at the big league level:
Jon Link (White Sox)
The San Diego Padres drafted pitcher Jon Link in the 26th round of the 2005 draft. Link was traded to the White Sox for Rob Mackowiak in 2007. The 24 year-old spent last season at Double-A Birmingham, where he compiled a 3.02 ERA, struck out 66 batters and collected 35 saves. With the Wizards in 2006, Link appeared in 53 games with a 4.91 EAR while striking out 57 over 62.1 innings pitched to go with a 5-5 record. Link will undoubtedly be assigned to Triple-A to start the season, but I suspect he is being groomed as the closer of the future. While he’s a more sure bet for 2010, he’s knocking on the door and we may get to see him a bit this year.
For more on Link, see also:
Peter Ciofrone (Padres)
Peter Ciofrone started 2008 at AA and ended at Triple-A. During that stint in Portland, he impressed. He was named Pacific Coast League Batter of the Week for May 19-25. During that span, he batted .429 (12-for-28) with four homers, three doubles, 10 RBIs, 10 runs scored and a .964 slugging percentage in seven games.
With Fort Wayne in 2005, he hit .301 with 20 doubles, two triples, five home runs and 59 runs batted in over 104 games. He also drew 50 walks and compiled a .391 OBP.
As one BBIFW commenter suggested, Ciofrone should have been a September call-up last season. I’m not sure where he’ll start the year, though I suspect it will be Triple-A. He’ll get a shot this year as long as he stays healthy and continues to put on a show. Just don’t know when.
Says Geoff at Ducksnorts:
The 24-year-old Ciofrone has decent on-base skills and some pop (although probably not as much as he’s showing this year), and can play multiple positions. The latter skill may eventually get him to the big leagues. Ciofrone exhibits no appreciable platoon splits and has improved his numbers as the season has progressed, which is always a good sign. He’s not a future star, or even a future regular, but he could have a career.
For more on Ciofrone, see also:
Kyle Blanks (Padres)
For Blanks, it is probably not a matter of “if” but “when”. The dude can flat out hit and was one of my favorites to watch at the Castle while he was there. He will start the year at Triple-A Portland after spending all of 2008 in Double-A.
With Fort Wayne in 2006, Blanks appeared in 86 games. He hit .292 with 10 home runs and 52 runs batted in while drawing 36 bases on balls. His production really took off in 2007 and continued to develop in 2008.
If he didn’t have Adrian Gonzalez blocking him cheaply at first base in San Diego, I’d say they would bring him up mid-season. But barring an out-of-the-ordinary trade or injury, that won’t happen. Probably a September call-up.
For more on Blanks, see also:
Greg Burke (Padres)
When it became apparent that Trevor Hoffman was not returning to San Diego, I boldly predicted that Greg Burk would take on the closer’s role. I’m probably a year or two ahead of things, but I still think he’ll get there.
He’s been used mostly as a middle relief guy except for last season, when he saved 23 games for Double-A San Antonio. With the Wizards in 2006, Burke appeared in 24 games where he compiled a 3.57 ERA with 87 strike out sin 121 innings pitched. He had an ERA above 5.00 over two combined stints with Lake Elsinore. But something must have clicked when he got into the closers role, where he drastically lowered that to 2.24 on the year.
“I felt this was do-or-die coming into last season,” Burke said. “I needed to show someone something, I needed to shock people to make the Double-A team and open eyes.”
I see him coming up sometime during the 2009 campaign to soak up some innings for injured middle relief Friars.
For more on Burke, see also:
Cesar Ramos (Padres)
In seven games with Fort Wayne in 2005, Cesar Ramos put together a 3-2 record with a 4.19 ERA and 32 strike outs. He progressed in each area during stops stop of Lake Elsinore and Double-A San Antonio over the next two years. Last year didn’t go so well. He posted a 9-11 record with a 5.15 ERA over 149.2 innings pitched at Triple-A Portland. To make the show, he’s going to have to come back big in 2009. He may get a spot start near the tail end of the season like Dirk Hayhurst did before getting the heave-ho out of the organization.
Brett Dowdy (Padres)
Brett Dowdy will be entering his seventh minor league season; having played in Fort Wayne in 2005. He’s hardly a prospect, but he’s progressed through the system, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A each of the last two season. He’s got a career .269 batting average with 23 home runs and 168 runs batted in over more than 1,700 at-bats. 2009 is a make or break year for Dowdy. He’s probably a dark horse of this bunch, but you never know.
In part three, I’ll present the “outside shot” and more “dark horse” candidates.