At this point, it might not be enough

Carlos Zambrano, RHP, Cubs (Low-A Peoria)
Thursday’s stats: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K
On the shelf since early in the month with back spasms, Zambrano carved up Midwest League hitters on Thursday in preparation for a return to the Cubs rotation. The problem is, it might be too little, too late, as the Cardinals have the biggest lead of any division leader, and the North Siders have four teams ahead of them in the wild card race. It’s looking nearly impossible for the Cubs to make the playoffs at this point, but it would be even more so without Big Z.

This much closer to the big leagues

Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Rays (Triple-A Durham)
Thursday’s stats: 5 IP, 3 H, 2 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 10 K
Hellickson continues his ascension both up the Rays prospect list and on his journey to the big leagues, as he needed just five innings to establish a season high in strikeouts. With the International League batting just .192 against him, Hellickson is ready for a look in the eyes of many, but at this point, it would cost them a roster spot, so it’s a brief September look for him at best.

No worries…

Buster Posey, C, Giants (Triple-A Fresno)
Thursday’s stats: 2-for-3, BB

For anyone concerned with Posey’s ability to handle a jump from the California League to Triple-A, Posey has now reeled off five straight multi-hit games, is batting .444 in his last 10, and .319/.404/.543 in 26 games for the Grizzlies. The Giants insist there’s no guarantee that he’ll be called up this year, but as far as being the team’s primary catcher in 2010, book it.

Welcome to the pros

Mike Minor, LHP, Braves (Low-A Rome)
Thursday’s stats: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K

One of the more controversial first-round selections, Minor was the seventh overall selection in June, despite the fact that some teams didn’t even see his talent as first-round worthy. The poster boy for the risk vs. reward debate, it’s hard to find anyone who doesn’t think he’ll be a solid big-league starter, but it’s equally difficult to find anyone who thinks he’ll be a star. The masses also think he can move quickly, and by retiring all six players he faced in his pro debut, he’s well on his way.

Paperwork is finally in order

Maikel Cleto, RHP, Mariners (Low-A Clinton)
Thursday’s stats: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K

Going from the Mets to the Mariners in the complicated J.J. Putz trade completed last winter, Cleto begin the year on Seattle’s Double-A roster, only he wasn’t actually with the team, as the 20-year-old Domincan’s problems with getting a visa in order to return to the States turned into a nearly four-month affair. Still shaking the rust off, Cleto is one of the harder throwers in the minors, often getting into the mid to upper 90s with his fastball, but he still needs to work on his secondary stuff and command.

Sleeper alert?

Daniel Moskos, LHP, Pirates (Double-A Altoona)

Thursday’s stats: 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R (0 ER), 1 BB, 6 K

While it’s strange to call a guy who was the fourth overall pick two years ago a sleeper pick, many had already written off Moskos, who entered the year with a career 5.64 ERA and the possibility of being remembered as little more than the guy the Pirates took (under their former administration) instead of Matt Wieters in the 2007 draft. However, something is suddenly clicking for Moskos, who has transformed himself into a bit of a ground-ball machine, as evidenced by the 15 non-strikeout outs in last night’s first complete game. Only two came in the air. With a 2.60 ERA in his last six starts, there’s suddenly some hope here.