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December 27, 2010
A week ago, we looked at 10 players in the American Leaguewho are going to (likely) trend up (i.e. the big leagues) or down (i.e. longer stays in the minors) based on what's been happening in free agency.
Now, natural progression: the National League.
The Ssnakes are looking for another solution here, but Allen isn't the worst option. In 160 Triple-A games, he's gone yard 38 times and walked 103 times. His batting average will be low, but the power and patience should make up for it.
Brandon Belt, 1B
Last year, this guy moved from High-A to Triple-A, batting .352/.455/.620 across three levels. The scouting reports match the stats, so it was a surprise in some respects that the Giants re-upped with Aubrey Huff. GM Brian Sabean says Belt will compete for an outfield job this spring; it seems that whether it's first base or left field, they aren't going to leave his bat in the minors for long.
Domonic Brown, OF
Brown has nothing left to prove in the minors (.327/.391/.589 at the upper levels of the Phils' system), and Jayson Werth is gone—so it seems natural he'll be a starter come April. GM Ruben Amaro, though, has spoken of a Ross Gload/Ben Francisco platoon in right field. This will be an interesting situation to watch during spring training for a prohibitive NL favorite.
Matt Dominguez, 3B
Wes Helms, Emilio Bonifacio, and Chris Coghlan could all be options for the Fish here. Dominguez is great with the glove—you could argue he's the best defensive third baseman in the minors—but above A-ball, he has a .241 career batting average. He's going to compete for the job in February and March, but he's likely going to end up in the minors for more tuning.
Freddie Freeman, 1B
Atlanta isn't even pretending Freeman has competition for this job. He's not in the class of Jason Heyward, but he might be close.
Brett Jackson, OF
In the short term, the Cubs' desire is to get more playing time for the solid-but-unspectacular Tyler Colvin. Long term, The Cubs won't spend to fill outfield gaps, as they are making sure their path is clear for Jackson, the club's first-round pick in 2009. Jackson, who's a spectacular athlete with above-average raw power and speed, is the center fielder of the future, and the hope is that, like Freeman for the Braves in 2010, Jackson will get some big-league experience in September to prepare for an Opening-Day job the following year.
Craig Kimbrel, RHP
Billy Wagner seems to have ceded the closer job to Kimbrel; the latter has a mid-to-high 90s fastball and a slider that is unhittable at times. He has whiffed 14.8 per nine innings over his career. All told, he seems like a good fit as a closer—and maybe even a great one (including the playoffs, he walked five batters in his final 15 2/3 innings last season).
Wilson Ramos, C
This guy was behind Joe Mauer in Minnesota— read: not playing catcher anytime in the next few seasons—but he struggled at Triple-A this past season. Ivan Rodriguez is around for one more year, and Ramos needs at-bats, he doesn't need to ride the pine. He'll likely be the Triple-A catcher and get the job in 2012. He's a plus defender with limited offensive upside.
When the Padres traded Adrian Gonzalez to Boston earlier in the month, they believed they found his long-term replacement in Rizzo, the best hitting prospect in the Red Sox system at the time of the trade. By signing Brad Hawpe last week to man the position for one year, they're hoping that Rizzo can be ready for Opening Day in 2012. He's a prospect who has always hit for a high average until 2010, when he started to tap into his power potential but at the price of less contact and a lower batting average. The good news is that he's proven he can hit for average and power—but to be a productive big league first baseman, he needs to prove he can do both at the same time.
Mark Rogers, RHP
Rogers looked good for a rotation spot this spring then the Brewers got Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum—now he's on the outside looking in. Rogers has a nice mid-90s fastball and a plus-curve, but he missed the entire 2007 and 2008 seasons due to shoulder problems, so a bullpen role might be his best bet anyway. The Brewers have a shaky bullpen, so that could be Rogers' entry into the bigs in 2011.
A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider .