OK, I know I promised part four of the wedding story. It’s still coming. I’ve got big happenings in my Hardball Dynasty league, though. This Saturday is the big HDB draft. For those of you who don’t know what Hardball Dynasty is, it’s basically like Madden “Franchise” mode for online baseball. As the owner of a team, you are in charge of hiring coaches, signing free agents and draft picks, promoting and demoting players, scouting and so much more. It is absolutely ridiculous how awesome it is. Anyway, I’m currently in season three. I’ve been the wild card team in the AL in the first two years. The AL World Series rep has come from my division both years, so you can tell we are wicked competitive. 50 games into the third season, my major league team is in the wild card spot three games out of the division lead. My AAA team has the second best record in the league. My AA team is leading the division. My High-A team is in the Wild Card spot and my Low-A team is leading the division as well. I’m proud of all the work I’ve done and I most certainly enjoy doing it. It’s absolutely addicting… the last thing I did before leaving for the church on my wedding day was check my HBD team. Another user said he checked his team while defending at a murder trial. Anyway, this is more for my own good, but here’s a look at my top 40 prospects in the Minnesota Twinkies franchise under the age of 25.

  1. Vic Blanco – SS – 20 – currently injured – I somehow snagged Blanco as an international free agent from Venezuela after the first season but before the start of the second. In his first season at High-A, he killed batting .372 with 59 homers, 179 RBIs and an OPS of 1.358. Unfortunately, he’s extremely injury prone as he’s been on the DL twice in his first season. He’s currently out for nearly three months with a torn hamstring. If he stays healthy, he’ll be ready to go at the major league level in a year or two. He does need to improve his below average fielding if he’s ever going to be one of the best players in the league. For the record, I can’t wait til his 60 more days on the shelf are done because he’s going to take his frustrations out on pansy little minor league pitchers.
  2. Harry Velazquez – 3B – 22 – AAA – My first draft pick in season 1 is already in AAA. He killed Rookie league pitching in his first year and has a nice .322/.415/.690 season with 41 HRs in Season 2 in High A. Like Blanco, he’d be a quality major league hitter if I brought him up today. Unfortunately, his fielding is also holding him back a little bit. I expect him to make his big league debut next year.
  3. Ned Taylor – 1B – 25 – ML – Taylor is currently my best major league hitter and he’s probably been my most consistant hitter over the past two years. In his first two major league seasons, he hit 86 home runs while posting a .334 batting average. In the field, he’s not rated as anything special, but he has a career .996 fielding percentage.
  4. Miguel Benavente – P – 23 – ML – I traded for Benavente before his first season. I worry that I rushed him a little bit as he was in the majors for just a brief period during Season 1. I brought him up again in season 2 and he responded with 12 wins in 24 starts with a nice 4.00 ERA earning mentions for Rookie of the Year (I think he finished 5th in voting).
  5. TJ Shaw – P – 24 – ML – A very solid major league with three solid pitches (and two crappy ones). He struggles against lefties, but he’s improving every year. I expect him to be an intregal part of my rotation for the next 7-10 years.
  6. Marshall Roberts – P – 23 – ML – He’s actually my highest rated pitcher. I’m not sold on him being a solid ace, though. I think he can develop into a great #4 pitcher, though. He is an absolute inning eater which helps to rest the bullpen. Currently, he’s got average control, and he’s about equally good against righties and lefties. His first two pitchers are okay, but not great and his third pitch is pretty rotten. From the looks of things, he’s going to develop better control. I think he’ll always hover around the high 4’s in ERA, but you also have to remember this is a hitter’s league.
  7. Pat Witt – P – 21 – AAA – He’s been killing the minor leagues so far. In three seasons, he’s got a 3.12 ERA starting at Low A through AAA where he is now. This year will be the challenge for him. His ratings are similar to Marshall Roberts, although Roberts seems to be more of a workhorse versus Witt who has better (and more) pitches. I expect he’ll be my long relief guy next year eventually stepping into a starting role.
  8. 8) Bonk Root – P – 23 – ML – I traded my top pitcher for a guy named Bonk? He’s got amazing potential as a reliever. His projected ratings tell me that he’ll eventually be able to guy three innings nearly every single day if he needed to. He has the potential to have nearly perfect control, two lights out pitches, and much better than average ability to get out both righties and lefties. In his first partial big league season last year, he had a 3.13 ERA in 89 innings.
  9. Alex Maduro – 2B/CF – 25 – ML – At one point, Maduro probably would have been #1 on this list. He hasn’t made as much improvements as I’d been hoping from year one until now. Don’t get me wrong, he’s solid. He batted .310 with 99 RBIs in 120 games his rookie year. Last year was a bit of a disappointment, but he’s off to a solid start this season. He’s got the defensive ability to play either CF or 2nd base which makes him versatile.
  10. Fred Callaway – LF – 25 – ML – Callaway started out tearing up the minors. He hit .368 between Low A, High A, and AA in Season 1. Last year, I was ready to put him in the majors, but just didn’t have a spot for him to start everyday and wanted him to play. So, I put him in AAA and he struggled a bit. This year, though, he’s my starting left fielder and he is paying dividends. He’s hit 6 homers in his first 12 games. If his fielding skills would develop a bit more, it would help as he could also play 2B or 3B. Plus he’s got
  11. Herman Cox – P – 19 – AA – I drafted Cox last year and he just killed Low A hitting with a 1.44 ERA in 16 starts. This year, he’s at AA… we’ll see how it goes. He’s definitely got the potential to be a very solid #3 pitcher with no real weakness.
  12. 12) Fernando Posada – P – 19 – High-A – A *nice* international pickup. He just got picked up by me today. He projects to be a solid all-around hitter. I wish he maybe had a little more power, but he might develop into a 10-20 homer a year guy. He’s got rock solid durability, he’s quick, he’s a good enough fielder to play any of the corner outfield or infield positions and he has a great batters eye.
  13. Enrique Henriquez – 19 – SS – High-A – He’s played less than 40 games total so far because I picked him up so late last year, but he has the potential to be a solid major league guy. He is very similar to Posada. Contact will be his strength. He’s got a fair batters eye and he’s above average against righties. His power is lacking, but if he develops into a good fielder, he could be a solid 2B or utility infielder.
  14. Anthony Ward – P – 25 – ML – Ward is going to be a solid big league pitcher. He had a career 3.13 ERA in the minors. He’ll probably be a solid long reliever in the bigs. He’s in his first season in the majors, so we’ll see what he can do.
  15. Daryle Vaughn – P – 24 – ML – Vaughn doesn’t have the greatest all-around ratings, but he’s solid. He’s a control pitcher with above average pitch speed. He’s got two solid pitches (and two lousy ones). This is his first season in the bigs, but he’s had a 3.67 ERA in 57 minor league starts over the past two seasons.
  16. Todd Shumpert – CF – 23 – AAA – Shumpert spent last season at AAA. He’ll spend this year there as well and then he likely will be called up next year or the year after as a backup outfielder. His power numbers are average which will hold him back, but his other hitting numbers are pretty solid. He could develop into a very good major league hitter.
  17. Houston Morton – SS – 22 – ML – This is almost kind of funny. He’s only 22 and yet this is his third season in the big leagues. He’s a career .292 batter and an everyday starter. His defense needs to improve and his power numbers should develop a little bit, but he really is close to reaching his potential.
  18. Dusty Callaway – C – 24 – ML – Callaway was another guy I was ready to bring up last year. He’s an all-around solid hitter who is again lacking a little bit in the power category. Had I not had the chance to bring in a dynamite free agent last year, Callaway would have been in the bigs last year. I wish his defense was a little better, but he’s the best catcher I’ve got in the system right now.
  19. Thom Titan – 3B – 25 – ML – Here’s a guy who probably has been playing better than his ratings. He his .352 in his rookie year with 17 homers and 121 RBIs. This past year, he hit .291 with 10 homers and 75 RBIs. I expect similar numbers this year. Like Morton, he’s probably going to be bypassed by one of my young studs, but even if he does, he will be an extremely solid backup.
  20. Quinton Richardson – 2B – 23 – ML – Richardson is my new “backup everything” guy in the bigs. He was a career .309 minor league hitter with 47 homers and 209 RBIs in two seasons. He actually projects out to be a slightly better hitter than Thom Titan although I think he’s kind of a guy without a position. He doesn’t have the range and glove to be a solid second baseman, he doesn’t have the arm to be a third baseman, and he doesn’t have a great bat that you’d want as a corner outfielder.
  21. Alex Bell – P – 20 – AA – He’s just killing the minors right now. Unfortunately, I think he’s going to level off as a AAAA kind of pitcher… too good for the minors, but not good enough to be an everyday guy in the majors. He does have three extremely impressive pitches. Maybe he’ll be able to latch on as a bullpen guy. Part way into his third season, he’s got a minor league ERA of 2.09 in 44 career starts.
  22. Rudy Cox – SS – 22 – AAA – A pretty solid shortstop prospect. He’s hit .338 in three minor league seasons starting at Low A up to his home today in AAA. He doesn’t have much power, he projects to be a a great backup infielder. He hits enough that he isn’t going to kill you especially against righties and he’s solid enough to play every defensive position except catcher.
  23. Mickey Banks – LF – 24 – AAA – He may need to get a look this year if I suffer any injuries. If not, he’ll be ready to step in as a backup outfielder next year when one of my players with a big contract is a free agent. He’s a phenomenal hitter with absolutely no power. In three seasons at AAA, he’s hit .325 with zero homeruns. He’s hurt by the fact that he’s not a great defender (he can’t play centerfield) although his 83 steals in his first two seasons are pretty impressive.
  24. Lefty Garcia – SS – 24 – AA – He’s an interesting prospect. Again, he’s probably not going to be anything more than a backup because his hitting just isn’t there, but again he can play every position except for catcher. Ironically, he bats and throws right-handed.
  25. Gus Weiss – RF – 23 – High-A – Weiss was a 4th round draft pick who went unsigned this off-season. He’s already a solid although not spectacular overall hitter. He’s never going to develop into an elite hitter, but he might develop into a good enough hitter to contribute at the major league level. His fielder is good enough that he can play right or left and possibly even third base which would definitely help his chances.
  26. Wascar Blasco – 2B – 23 – AA – Blasco is in his third year. I drafted him during season 1 and placed him in the rookie leagues where he did well hitting .425. Last year, he hit .327 in Low A. This year, he is struggling a bit at AA, but he’s coming off an injury, so we’ll see. He’s another player that projects out to be a great hitter with zero power. I suspect he’ll be able to play any major league position other than catcher or shortstop which will help his major league chances.
  27. Enrique Domingo – DH – 22 – AAA – Now this guy projects to be a major league hitter. He crushes lefties and although he doesn’t have homerun power, he does have extra base power evident by his 47 doubles at AA last year in 429 at bats. He might be a great platoon guy in the future.
  28. Pat Fordyce – RF – 24 – AAA – At the age of 24, he’s pretty close to reaching his ceilling. I wish he had a little more power and a little better of a batting eye. He’s a solid hitter, but he isn’t spectacular. He’s a career .343 hitter in the minors, but his power and lack of defense (he’s primarily a 1B or bad corner outfielder) is going to hurt him.
  29. Jeffery Radke – 2B – 22 – AAA – Unfortunately, I think he’s going to wind up being “the odd man out.” He’s probably a hair worse than Rudy Cox and Lefty Garcia. He’s batted .320 hin the mniors, but he’s struggled in AAA this year. I think he might be a career minor leaguer. It’s nice that I could package him, Cox, or Garcia in just about any trade and not be any worse off.
  30. Freddie Brow – P – 20 – High-A – Again, probably doesn’t have what it takes to be a big league starter, but he’s going to have 2 solid pitches and 2 that should be others that are at least slightly above average. I drafted him last year and he’s had a solid 2.77 ERA in Low A and High A. He’s got a little time to develop, so I’ll be interested in watching him.
  31. Benji Valentin – C – 22 – AAA – He’s an interesting prospect as well. It looks like he’ll be an above average catcher defensively. He looks like he’ll crush the ball against lefties. In his first two minor league seasons, he batted .351 and .317. In his second season, he batted 331 times, but had 30 doubles, 14 homers, and 62 RBIs.
  32. Paul Brennaman – P – 22 – AA – He’s a different player than Valentin. Defensively, he’s not as good. He’s got a great batters eye, though, and he looks like his other hitting attributes are at least average. His .451 minor league career OBP is interesting enough to catch my eye. He’ll hit a few homers and he’ll get a few doubles.
  33. Spud Stevens – DH – 24 – AAA – Here is another guy that has the potential to be a major league hitter, but he just lacks power. He’s great against lefties, he’s got great contact and batter’s eye attributes. I don’t know if he’ll ever make it though because he’s strictly a DH. He possibly could catch, but he’s below average.
  34. Steve Riley – LF – 23 – AA – I drafted Riley in the 8th round in my first season. He’s been surprisingly good hitting .357 in Rookie Ball (season 1), Low A (last year), and AA (this year). AA might be about where he tops out, though.
  35. Desi Ugueto – P – 21 – AA – I completely should have traded him this past offseason. He had a 3.65 ERA in High A. His overall rating is deceptively high. I think I could possibly get someone worth something in return for him. Let’s think of him as a Drew Henson-type.
  36. Shayne Nixon – DH – 24 – High A – Another minor league hitter with not enough power or defensive to make it to the next level.
  37. Roy Lee – CF – 22 – AA – He’s got the power and defense, but I just don’t think he’s going to be a good enough contact hitter to make it to the big time.
  38. Manny Dong – DH – 20 – Low A – He’s hurt by the fact that he can’t play defense. He’s got a good batter’s eye and great power, but I think he’s going to top out in productivity around AA.
  39. Dennis Duran – P – 25 – AAA – He spelled me for a bit at the major league level when three pitchers got injured at the same time. I didn’t want to waste the “option years” on a few of my bigger prospects, so he got the call. I think he’s got some potential as he’s had a 4.19 ERA in seasons at AAA.
  40. Miguel Posada – P – 25 – AAA – He may never pitch in the majors, but he’s got quality stuff. He’s got a 3.38 ERA in 20 innings thus far this season. I think he’ll come back to earth a little bit, but he’s got the potential to be a top notch AAA middle relief guy.

    If you’re out on your bike tonight, do wear white,