Here's something to chew on during the long bus ride to Cincinnati.
It seems to me that with the call-up of Manny Parra, we're pretty much done promoting our ready-for-prime-time players from Nashville. It's quite the extensive list, too:
- we have Fielder, Weeks, Braun, Hardy, Hall, and Hart pretty much entrenched as our regulars for the next several years, with Gwynn kind of riding the fence between starter and bench player. Of the eight non-pitching positions, only catcher and left field have not been filled by a legitimate prospect from our system; if Gwynn is the real deal and we can move Hall to left, it would only leave catcher. (Not to knock our Estrada/Miller combo, but there's something to be said for a home-grown product whose salary you control and who hasn't hit 25 yet, not to mention 30.)
- our pitching prospects had been decimated with injuries over the years, but Gallardo looks like he could be an ace, and Villanueva might round into form as a #2-3 starter, if that's how we use him. It's too early to say what we have in Parra, though I bet he'll be in the running for a rotation spot next spring. He hasn't pitched much for us yet, but what we've seen is encouraging.
In looking at our players in Nashville, I don't really see anyone who is breaking down the door to be let in, exactly. Instead, I see guys who could be useful in short stints in the majors, but who probably have found a home in AAA. (And to be honest, if we still had Nelson Cruz, that might be an accurate description for him.)
So that's Question #1:
Looking outside of Nashville leads us to Question #2:
The easy answer is Matt LaPorta, whom I'm guessing we'll first see as a September callup in 2009. I think Jeremy Jeffress might be our next big pitcher, though Mike Jones is pitching well. (Isn't he another of our oft-injured pitchers?) How about position players? We all heard Ryan Braun's name well before he arrived: is that because of the hole we had at third base, or because he was a much better prospect than, say, Mat Gamel? Is Angel Salome a legitimate catching prospect? Do we have another Ryan Braun lurking in our system? If not, do we have another Corey Hart in our system, someone who isn't as highy touted but might very well turn out to be above-average for his position?
I guess that's my problem: I don't get a sense that we have a position player or pitcher in our system that everyone is excited about. I have no sense if Lorenzo Cain is an actual prospect or someone who will either flame out in AAA or turn into Lyle Mouton.
What do you all think? The first wave of prospects have arrived, and we won't be able to re-sign them all. Who do you think we have in our minor-league system to take their place?