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Newz Forum: BASEBALL: Minor league players may play important role

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posted on Jul, 29 2004 @ 02:35 PM
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) - As baseball's trading deadline looms closer and closer, clubs will realize that every team isn't going to be able to acquire a Randy Johnson or Carlos Beltran or some other high profile major league player. But not to worry. For teams that have needs, some of the answers are only a phone call away in the minor leagues. Many players in the minors have the experience and ability to be impact players in the major leagues. Here's a quick look at some of the veteran minor leaguers who could play important roles in the upcoming months.

Midre Cummings OF, Durham Bulls. .309/.425/.608 with 21 homeruns and 69 RBI. The Sports Network's Co-Star of the Game from this year's Triple A All Star game should be a valuable option for many major league clubs. At the All-Star game, Cummings dazzled the Pawtucket crowd with a game-saving, home-run-robbing catch that he followed up with a homer of his own to put the International League ahead. Now 33 years old, Cummings may have lost a step in the outfield but he can still go get the ball. Add the fact he still has pop in his bat and Cummings should figure in as some team's fourth outfielder. Trapped behind Rocco Baldelli, Carl Crawford, Aubrey Huff, Joey Gathright and Delmon Young, Cummings may be best served if either he was traded or if Baldelli or Crawford were traded.

Calvin Pickering 1B, Omaha Royals. .313/.446/.723 with 29 homeruns and 65 RBI. What more does a player have to do to get another shot at the big leagues. The Royals however find themselves in the position of having one player they absolutely can't move: 1B/DH Mike Sweeney. Unfortunately for Pickering those are the two positions he can play. Over his past 614 at bats in the minors, Pickering has hit a combined 58 homers in the last two seasons. "I missed 2002 and last year I was in the Mexican League for most of the year. To come back here and hear people say we don't know if he's going to stay healthy or if he's going to be able to put up the numbers still. To come out and show them that I'm still young I mean I'm not 30, I'm only 27," said Pickering recently. The fact that he's been healthy and productive for two straight seasons should cause any team that has a hole at first base or DH to take a flier on this lumbering slugger. Seattle, in my opinion, should take a good look at Pickering. Edgar Martinez is (probably) going to retire any decade now and Pickering could be a good young inexpensive replacement for him. Hitting in Safeco Field is difficult but when Pickering gets a hold of one he could put it out of any park in the majors.

Larry Sutton 1B, Albuquerque Isotopes. 360/.458/.676 with 19 homeruns and 60 RBI. Sutton, now 34, is no spring chicken and may not have the long term value of a Pickering. But Sutton, unlike Pickering, has extra value in that he's more versatile in the field capable of playing first base and the outfield. Besides that ask yourself this quick question,"Who in the majors has had a higher OBP this season then Sutton?" Answer: Barry Bonds and Todd Helton. Granted Sutton isn't at that level but he can get on base and he can hit for power. After being out of baseball for a year, he seems rejuvenated. "I know that I can help any team. Whether it's as a bench player or a spot start here or there. It's just a matter of finding the right fit at the right time with whatever team. I think that having a year off gave me such a mental freshness that put things in perspective," says Sutton. The Marlins have to make some moves and whichever moves they make, probably for a reliever, Sutton could be a perfect addition that could help most teams.

Joe Dillon 3B, Albuquerque Isotopes. .350/.418/.760 with 24 homeruns and 62 RBI. Like his teammate Larry Sutton, it's a wonder why Dillon isn't in the big leagues. Dillon, besides pounding the ball, is about as versatile a player as there is. Primarily a third basemen, Dillon has also logged time at first base, second base and in the outfield this season. True, Dillon turns 29 next week, but he deserves a shot. If the Marlins believe that due to their inability to get a new stadium deal that incumbent third basemen Mike Lowell is going to leave as a free agent it makes sense for the Marlins to hold onto Dillon. If that's not the case, I would believe that a number of teams would be interested in receiving Dillon in a package for a relief pitcher. No matter for which team or at what position, Dillon should be in the majors by the end of the season.

Nelson Figueroa P, Nashville. 10-6 with an ERA of 4.27 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of roughly 4:1 (105-26). Every team you talk to is looking for pitching. Good teams and bad teams alike. Figueroa in his career at Triple A has a record of 55-26 over the past six years. His major league numbers aren't bad either 7-14 with an ERA of 4.52. Last season he went 2-1 with ERA of 3.31 for Pittsburgh and then found himself back at Nashville. His main problem in the majors has been to maintain control of the strikezone. But over the last two seasons his strikeout-to-walk ratio has been better then 3:1 (249-76). A club such as the Yankees with their problems in the starting rotation could use a pitcher such as Figueroa who could log innings and get batters out.

Matt Whiteside, P Richmond. 2-3, with an ERA of 3.28, 26 saves and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of roughly 4:1 (41-9). At 37, Whiteside is the oldest player to make this list. But as closers and relief pitchers drop like flies, the Braves find themselves with a very tradeable commodity. With basically every team in playoff contention looking for bullpen help and John Smoltz closing out games at the major league level, the Braves should have their pick of teams to trade with. Granted a team is not likely to get the next young phenom for a 37-year-old relief pitcher, but crazier things have happened. Jesse Orosco was in his late forties before teams stopped using him.

Lou Collier, 3B Scranton-WB. .324/.383/.511 with 13 homeruns and 65 RBI. Collier, a versatile infielder who also played in the outfield, is putting together his best season to date. He's currently one home run and four RBI away from matching his minor league career highs in only 370 at bats so far this season. Collier's biggest problem has been controlling the strike zone and it continues to be a problem. So far this season he's struck out 79 times and walked just 34 times. But add in the fact that he has speed, 14 stolen bases, so far this season, and Collier could be valuable to a team looking for a back-up infielder or a fourth outfielder.

by Jonathan O'Konis Minor League Baseball Editor

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