Day 4: Bradenton
I’m in Pirate City folks. And yet, the guy I’m going to focus on in a bit is a Twin. Go figure.
First, a couple of tidbits, one on-the-field related and one an off-the-field bizarre small world story I meant to share with you yesterday.
I’m beginning to fear that prospects — especially in the Pirates organization — are going to start avoiding me. I saw — and wrote about — Jose Tabata here yesterday. Then I find out when I arrive in Bradenton that Tabata, along with Tom Gorzelanny, had been sent to the Minor League side. Gorzo will be in the Indianapolis rotation and it’s looking like Tabata will start with Double-A Altoona.
Then, to add to it, I see the Pirates again today. Neil Walker makes a few nice plays at third, walks and scores a run. Then, after the game, he’s optioned to Triple-A as well. To be fair, both were eventually going to be sent down. Turns out that Walker’s was more a procedural move than anything else. If a player is on the 40-man roster and is still in big-league camp after March 20, if he gets hurt, he has to be put on the big-league disabled list. That might not sound like much, but that counts against his service time clock and he’d get a Major League salary. Since Walker was not going to make the club anyway, it’s not that big of a deal. Walker, as always, handled it with grace and said he understood the situation. Sounds like it was well communicated to him and the Pirates, for their part, would’ve loved to keep him around to let him learn in this atmosphere for a while longer. But rules are rules.
OK, on to our Prospect Impression:
I first met Twins prospect Luke Hughes at the 2008 Futures Game. The Aussie was on the World Team and we took him and New Zealander (Kiwi) Scott Campbell of the Blue Jays on a double-decker bus tour of New York City. A good time was had by all. You can watch the video feature we did by going here. The link is on the bottom right, where it says “Hughes, Campbell tour NYC.”
Now, Hughes isn’t just a good personality. He split the year between Double- and Triple-A in 2008, finishing with a .309 average and .524 slugging percentage. The 24-year-old then went to Venezuela and handled himself well, hitting .298 in 32 games. He’s on the 40-man roster and participated in the World Baseball Classic, where he went 3-for-12 with a homer and three RBIs in Australia’s three games.
He’s still in big-league camp and really opening some more eyes. He had two more hits today against hte Pirates to raise his average to .429 (6-for-14). He’s played second, third and the outfield over the past year. He’ll either settle into one position (an offensive-minded 2B perhaps?) or he can be a superutility guy who can really rake. Whatever the case, he’s bound for Triple-A eventually. He told me he was hoping he could stick around in big-league camp for another week, at least, maybe show more people what he can do. The bigger impression you can make up here, after all, the more likely the whole “phone call away” thing comes true.
I’ve got an “off day” tomorrow, but I’ll try to do a draft update of some sort just to mix it up.