This is the thrid and final part of a 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. Part two presented the “warning track” players who are knocking on the door and waiting for an opportunity at the big league level. Today, I reveal the players I think will have an outside shot or are dark horse candidates to make their debuts:
Jose Lobaton (Padres)
My gosh. We’ve seen a lot of catchers come through Fort Wayne that are either in the Majors or close to it. Colt Morton, Nick Hundley and Luke Carlin are the most recent to go along with Javier Valentin, A.J. Pierzynzki, Chad Moeller, Matt LeCroy and others. Jose Lobaton will most likely be the next on that list. With the Wizards in 2006, he hit .279 with 17 hits in 61 at bats. Over 20 games, he collected three doubles, one homer and 11 runs batted in. He also drew 12 bases on balls. He’s got a great arm, handles the staff well and tends to hit in streaks (ending his Wizards run with an eight game hitting streak). We’ll see him in September if not sooner.
Neil Jamison (Padres)
Neil Jamison was the sixth round pick (number 188 overall) by the Padres in the 2005 Amateur Draft. he San Diego native was a teammate of former Wizards starting pitcher Cesar Ramos while at Long Beach State University. With the Wizards in 2005, Jamison appeared in seven games to post a 1-1 record to go along with 12 strikeouts and a 2.70 ERA. The following year, he got into four games with the Wizards while posting a 0-0 record to match a 0.00 ERA and collecting 3 saves. He’s steadily progressed at each stop but had seen his ERA rise each year until his wonderful 2008 season was stopped short because of an elbow injury. In 29 games with Double-A San Antonio, Jamison posted a 2.55 ERA while pitching exclusively in relief. He’ll probably start the year at Triple-A or maybe again at Double-A before moving up. If he can stay healthy, he’d make a good fill-in candidate for a big leaguer who isn’t, but a September call-up is more likely (although they’d have to make room for him on the 40-man roster first).
Josh Alley (Padres)
Alley is another Padres farmhand with breakthrough potential who is not on the 40-man roster. Also like Jamison, Alley spent parts of 2005 and 2006 in Fort Wayne. In 2005, he hit .263 with 40 walks to just 26 K’s over 45 games to collect a.411 OBP. In 2006, he hit .205 in 234 at-bats over 67 games. Alley also hit two home runs and collected 23 runs batted in while swiping 11 bases in 17 attempts. He’s made it as high as Triple-A (albeit a short stint in the end of the 2007 season). 2008 was spent at Double-A San Antonio where he put up respectable but not stellar numbers. Hi patience and good eye are solid assets that might give him a chance when September call-ups take place. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him debut with a team other than the Padres though.
Ernesto Frieri (Padres)
Unlike the previous two, Ernesto Frieri is on the 40-man roster. At just 23-years-old, Frieri is a 4-year veteran of the minor leagues after being signed as an undrafted free agent. Perhaps his best stint in the minors was with Fort Wayne in 2007 (he also appeared in a Wizards Uniform form one game in 2006). In 2007, he appeared in 40 games with the Wizards, all in relief. He posted a 1-2 record to go with a 2.64 earned run average. Frieri struck out 64 and walked 23 over 64.1 innings pitched. He will probably start at 2009 at Double-A San Antonio. Last year, he went 8-6 with a 4.00 ERA at Lake Elsinore. A switch from the starting role to relief might produce a solid opportunity for him to crack through the big league roster though.
Ray Chang (Pirates)
He’s a dark horse this year – maybe not so much next year. He’s playing in the World Baseball Classic for China, so let’s pay attention. Who the heck is Raymond (Ray) Chang? Glad you asked. Read more here. I’m really rooting for this former Wizard.
Todd Donovan (Toronto)
This is perhaps the darkest of the dark horses. Some might even contend it’s more than a bold prediction, but I won’t go there. Todd Donovan has been around Minor League baseball for a while. Since 1999 to be exact. That’s right, he enters his eleventh Minor League Baseball season in 2009. He does so with the Toronto Blue Jays, who are his eight organization. The San Diego Padres selected him in eighth round (number 262 overall) of 1999 amateur draft. With the Wizards in 2000, Donovan hit .284 with 58 hits, 23 runs batted in, and 25 stolen bases. That later stat is probably what has kept Donovan around so long. The dude has stolen a lot of bases in his day, including 40 in 1999 with Idaho Falls (rookie league), 31 in Double-A Mobile in 2003, a whopping 62 with Jacksonville in 2005 and 37 last year with Oakland’s Double-A team in Midland. In his career, he has over 300 minor league stolen bases. Would be a good pinch runner late in the season.
For more on Todd Donovan, see also: