Mud Hens Updates
By Chris Hannum
We haven’t had a lot on MCB lately about the ebb and flow of talent in Toledo, what with the distractions of trade deadline deals and an AL Central pennant race. The time has come to remedy that situation!
Some things about the 2011 Mud Hens we all know: Scott Sizemore was fantastic, got called up, and got traded. Charlie Furbush was fantastic, got called up, and got traded. Adam Wilk was fantastic, got called up, and got sent back down (twice). Duane Below was fantastic, got called up, and he’s still here – same goes for Andy Dirks. Poor Casper Wells got a demotion he didn’t deserve, took all that rage and pain out on the ball (you’ve all seen ‘The Waterboy’?) in Toledo and earned a ticked to Seattle. And that’s about where common knowledge ends.
There’s a lot worth at least a little of your attention that has been going on down there across the Ohio border (but not quite so far as Cleveland, nothing important going on there). Follow through the jump for an overview:
Today I’ll start with the position players, in no particular order:
-Will Rhymes is wondering what he can possibly do to get your attention, other than take enough HGH to outweigh Miguel Cabrera. He’s hitting .316 after 83 games in AAA, taking walks and playing great defense. If any team in the majors could use a left-handed bat with a .385 on-base percentage and speed, you’d think it would be Detroit, but I don’t think Rhymes has the kind of ‘tools’ that get a guy second chances.
-Cale Iorg is an utterly lost cause. You sort of expected this to be the case, if you’ve paid any attention to his minor league performance up to 2010, but consider it finalized. A .571 OPS and 20 errors have cost him his starting job. Iorg does have the ‘tools’ to get second, third and fourth chances but I think this cat is finally out of lives. He’s hit even worse in Erie than he had in Toledo.
-Iorg’s failure has given a second chance to 24-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Argenis Diaz, a chance he’s making the most of. Diaz played some atrocious ball in the minors in 2009 and 2010, allowing the Tigers to sign him as an under-the-radar minor league free agent last winter. He still has no power (literally zero home runs in 2011) and a glove that is merely so-so, but in Toledo this year he’s walking more and striking out less and the results are, well, an awful lot better than Cale Iorg: .292/.368/.354.
-Reclamation projects/organizational depth Timo Perez and Scott Thorman aren’t doing all that great. Both are still eating a lot of at-bats, and not performing the way 30-year-olds and almost-30-year-olds need to against AAA pitching. Thorman’s OPS is .665 Perez’ is .771. If .771 sounds decent, don’t forget that Inge has a .907 OPS in Toledo, does that make you want to call up Brandon Inge? I’m sure there is a purpose in keeping these guys around, but I can’t say as I can see it.
-It’s looking like the same can be said for Clete Thomas: though he’s been a little warmer lately, he isn’t showing many signs of life (.236/.301/.380) and at this point he’s not doing much but blocking other guys’ progress.
-Andy Dirks extended stay in the major leagues has freed up some space in the outfield for some guys with potential. We’ve seen Ben Guez and Deik Scram promoted from Erie and Jeff Salazar brought in from outside – with mixed success. Guez undoubtedly earned that promotion and has undoubtedly deserved to stay. He’s striking out a bit more than we’d like against AAA pitching, but he has been improving as the season wears on and would be considered the closest thing to a true prospect of the bunch. Scram is back in Erie, strangely, since in Toledo he hit almost as well as he did for the Seawolves – walks and extra-base hits. His 2010 was weak, and he’s a little old, but a .400+ OPS should be treasured at any level. His huge L-R splits make me wonder if Scram might even succeed as the strong side of a very cheap big-league platoon. Salazar is not a prospect, he’s another reclamation project – one who saw some action in the big leagues in 2006 through 2009. In the show, he displayed an ability to walk but not necessarily to hit. You would have expected, with a profile like that, that he would have wound up in the A’s organization but somehow, no, he’s here after being released by the Rockies in June and snagged by Dombrowski. I could wonder why, but I didn’t see the point in signing Alburquerque either. In Toledo, where he remains lodged, Salazar has been doing Scram-ish things. Walks, extra-base hits and an enormous L-R split. If need be, he could probably give the Tigers something above replacement level if used properly as could Scram.
-With all these old guys (Guez excluded) getting so much playing time in Toledo’s outfield, the guy we haven’t seen is the guy I would most like to see: Jamie Johnson, a center fielder who does what a leadoff hitter is supposed to to (take that as a suggestion that perhaps Austin Jackson does not) – get on base. He’s only 24, a 2009 draft pick, and might actually be able to do some things in the big leagues…
-Former top prospect Ryan Strieby is finally getting warm, with an .884 OPS in July and a 1.448 so far in August. Too bad he had to wait until he was a few days shy of his 26th birthday… We know and have known that Strieby has real ability, though his career development was completely derailed by long injury. IF he can keep this up, he might provide the 2012 Tigers with the kind of cheap production they have had the past few years from Ryan Raburn.
-Omir Santos is Omir Santos. His .578 OPS is a little below his career norms, but it’s probably making Mud Hens fans wish he was still wearing the tools of ignorance. Unfortunately for Mud Hens fans, it’s equally true that Max St. Pierre is Max St. Pierre (.496 OPS), John Murrian is John Murrian (.327 OPS) and Jeff Kunkel is Jeff Kunkel (.308 OPS). Stay healthy boys, stay healthy.
-Bryan Pounds did a pretty solid job filling in a third for the Hens while Danny Worth was in Detroit (.287/.336/.455), though he’s back at Erie now (and 25 years old) we might be hearing more about him in 2012.
-Not to leave out Danny Worth, he hasn’t been playing all that well since being sent back down to Toledo. Some guys take it as motivation, some as a curse. Maybe Worth is in the second camp, maybe it’s just a slump.