March 2011

First Day in Ft. Myers

The first wave of warm air is truly amazing.  Last night my first breath of Florida air began around 12:00 am, but it was worth the wait.  I’m heading over to the Twins Minor League Complex around 12ish to watch Pawtucket and Portland play.  Tonight, I will be covering the Major League game, and hopefully have a chance to catch up with some former Sea Dogs.  I will be spending some time with Red Sox radio broadcaster Jon Rish.

I met some very nice people in the airport last night, all from Maine, and heading down here to watch the Red Sox.  It was nice hearing these people talk so highly of the Sea Dogs’ organization.  They knew everything about the team from the management staff, players, ticket prices and our capacity crowds during the summer.

I just saw the Yankees rotation: 4 of 5 starters all pitched in the Eastern League (CC, Burnett, Nova and Hughes).’s a few goodies from yesterday.  I did a 16 minute clubhouse tour, and our clubhouse luncheon.


Send any questions, comments to

Would anyone be interested in a live show tomorrow night on UStream?  Let me know.

Looking forward to Friday!

springtraininglogo.jpgIt would take me a few blogs to tell everyone how much I enjoy my job, but if you look to the right, that logo says a lot.  After the Sea Dogs Luncheon on Friday afternoon, I’ll be on a plane to Ft. Myers, Florida.  Oh just to let everyone know, it will be in the mid 80’s.  I can imagine what people are thinking of me after that.


Projects I will try and tackle this Spring Training

1.  Blog Updates (of course)

2.  Social Media (Twitter, trying to acquire 1,000 followers by the end of this season)

3.  Photos, Audio but hopefully some good video.  The team invested in a very nice video camera.

4. Interviews with former Sea Dogs

5. Broadcast a live show on U.S. Stream


I would like feedback from the fans…Anything you’d like for me to cover in Spring Training.  Or something that I can bring to the broadcast in 2011.


Monday, Monday!

I’m having way too much fun with technology.  My current android phone (I’ll probably switch to an iphone) is able to change the color scheme when I record video – below is what Hadlock Field would look like back in the day.
It was very weird to see snow today, after having so many nice days, but this is Maine.  Nothing will top a few years ago when we had two feet of snow on the field. I hope we never see a day like that again.
This is my second week back in the office, and I feel like a kid.  Well, I kind of have a young personality for someone almost 40, but I’ll never change.  I’m looking forward to the 2011 season for the Sea Dogs, and the entire Red Sox organization.  This could be one special season.
-Later this week, I’ll have some specials interviews from Spring Training…I’ll be leaving for Ft. Myers on Friday night, and I will tweet, facebook, blog, you name it.  
-Sea Dogs luncheon is on Friday and you’ll be able to watch it live on YouTube.
-How about Nate Spears this spring?  He’s been fun to watch.
Okay, now down to serious business.  Sell me on the iphone…ha ha.

Sea Dogs Spring Training Coverage/Hassan Interview

I wanted to thank Elizabeth Dreeson for her coverage of the Sea Dogs from Ft. Myers.

Check out her blog at:

A few notes from yesterday….

Portland lineup in exhibition game (this is in no way an official look at what the team will be on opening day)


Kyle Weiland pitched on Wednesday, said he felt good and it went well…Stolmy Pimentel is pitching today for Portland.

Ran into the Burkes (Sea Dogs owners) today at the complex!…Portland Sea Dogs’ President Charlie Echbach and General Manager Geoff Iacuessa are in Ft. Myers. 

Sitting Down with Alex Hassan

Alex Hassan is known throughout the Red Sox organization as
a skilled, versatile outfielder. However, Hassan was not always strictly an
outfielder. In fact, he was originally drafted by the Red Sox out of Duke
University as a pitcher, but ended up signing as an outfielder.

            “Before the
draft, all the teams told me I was going to be a pitcher. Then probably a month
before the draft, I [pulled] my oblique and didn’t pitch–I could only hit. So I
went to Cape-Cod, and I had a really good summer hitting–I also pitched–but by
the end of the summer, [the Red Sox] just decided that I’d make a better impact
in the outfield.”

transition from a pitcher to an outfielder seems like a drastic one, but it was
not as difficult for Hassan. During his time at Duke, he split his time between
pitching and playing in the outfield, so he already had some experience.

            “I think
the only adjustment was getting used to playing everyday, [and] only focusing
on one position. The transition was pretty good because it was a lot easier on
my body only doing one [position.]”

Hassan is a valuable asset for the
organization because he can play both left and right field. “I think that for
me, it’s going to be pretty important that I can play both [positions,] and
play both well.”

Does his experience as a pitcher
give him any advantages as a hitter?

            “I would
like to say yeah, but not really. I don’t feel like I’m good at guessing what
is coming. I don’t really think too much along with the pitcher–that’s just not
my style of hitting–but I wish it helped me more.”

Hassan put up solid numbers for
Salem. He batted .287–a drop from his 2009 season split between Lowell and
Greenville where he batted .323–and posted a .397 OBP, his highest to date.
April was a really tough month for Hassan, though: he batted only .140.

            “I just got
off to a tough start: the first month I really struggled. After the first month
I just felt like I took a lot of pressure off myself to do well, and I started
doing a lot better. Overcoming a bad start was probably the most challenging

hitters struggle when they hit the High-A level because the pitchers are more
sophisticated. But Hassan has an interesting perspective on the advancement of
pitchers: “It definitely gets challenging as you move up, but it’s the same
game no matter what level you’re playing at. You can control and have good
at-bats no matter where you are. They are not inventing new pitches, so you
just have to go up there and hit, and hopefully it works out.”

            If it was
not the pitching that daunted Hassan during his first month, what does he
attribute his struggles to?

            “It was
more just putting pressure on myself. I just tried to do too much to try and
show everyone that I belong on the team.”

spring, Hassan has had the opportunity to appear in a few major-league spring
training games. Although he has only had two at-bats, he has collected two hits
and two RBIs.

            “You can
learn a lot just by listening and watching the way that the players go about
their business, and it has been a really valuable experience for me to see what
that level is like.” 

            Hassan has
put up solid numbers ever since signing with the Red Sox in 2009. In fact, he
jumped from Lowell to Greenville that same season, where he only played eight
games. After a solid 2010 season in Salem, Hassan will likely make the jump to
Double-A Portland to start the 2011 season. 

March Madness is everywhere

Madness Descends Upon the Sea Dogs

By Ben Altsher
Yes everyone, it’s that time again. March Madness, otherwise known as the men’s NCAA tournament is here. While in the office we’re as focused on getting ready for Opening Day April 7th vs. Reading, get your tickets), I’d be lying if I said we weren’t paying attention to the tournament.
Like so many other workplaces across the country, we too, are filling out our brackets, hoping to have year-long bragging rights over everyone else. And, just like in your workplace, every person has their own method to March Madness and how they fill out their brackets.
Some who rarely follow college basketball, simply go with most of the top seeds with a few upsets sprinkled in for variety if nothing else. Some just look at the names of the schools and say, “I’ve never even heard of Belmont, no way they stand a chance against Wisconsin.” Still others who’ve seen a good number of games this season consider themselves to be the next incarnation of Jay Bilas, breaking down matchups Ron Jaworski-style thinking they have every little detail accounted for.
Then there’s me. See unlike most of the other people in the office, I bring a unique perspective to college basketball. I’ve seen the game from just about every angle. I’ve seen it as a fan, both from up close and personal, and from afar. I’ve also seen it from inside the locker room, as a media member during my days at Syracuse. Basically, the only perspective I don’t have is that if a player (if only I had 10 more inches on my vertical).
Aside from that, my knowledge on the game is endless, which teams will keep trending the same way they have, and which teams will turn a losing streak into a surprise run or a winning streak into a quick exit. I know which teams are prepped and ready for the pressure, and which teams seem most likely to wilt under the spotlight. I know that UConn’s Big East tourney run was remarkable (five wins in five days), but Kemba Walker’s got some tired legs as he heads into Missouri’s “40 minutes of hell” defense. Point is, I know what I’m doing. I know where to look for the upsets and where the real contenders come from. In three weeks, everyone here in the office will know too.

Could land in Portland down the road

Interview with Red Sox prospect Derrik Gibson (written by Elizabeth Dresson)

Derrik Gibson was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2008 draft as a shortstop. He had a fantastic season in short-season, single-A Lowell in 2009 collecting 74 hits in 67 games and posting a .290 batting average. He also posted spectacular numbers in a short stint with the Gulf Coast League coming out of high school in 2008 (.309 avg. with 29 hits over 27 games). Gibson was humbled in his season with Low-A Greenville in 2010, where he saw his average plummet 60 points from his 2009 season.

The jump from Lowell to Greenville is tough because for many players, it is their first full season playing professional baseball. They go from playing approximately 70 games, to over 120. Gibson’s numbers in Greenville epitomize the difficulty of the transition.

“The biggest challenge I guess was playing everyday…playing [a] 140-game schedule. I’m not as physically mature–meaning not as strong as some of the guys who can maintain their strength over the season–so I think that was the biggest side of it, and just being able to go in there day in and day out and try to perform.”

The tough thing about Greenville is that the adjustment is both physical and mental. Players at higher levels are consistent in their mechanics, but in Greenville,players are still learning them. Gibson attributes a lot of his struggles to a lack of confidence when it came to maintaining his mechanics with the new level of pitching.

“When you step into the box, you should be very confident no matter how your day is going that game. You should be confident each at-bat. And the pitching each [level] you get up is getting better. They can repeat good curveballs, good changeups, good sliders, and each one has better life and better break to it than the levels before. It’s just learning to fine-tune those [mechanics,] and [trying] to build confidence in the mechanics and in yourself.”

Gibson also lacked confidence in his fielding. Even though he was drafted as a shortstop out of high school, the Red Sox organization has had him play a lot of second base as well–a position that did not come as naturally to him.

“Second base was a little tough for me because I had not played there before.  I knew that I was not as comfortable at second base as I was at shortstop, so it was an adjustment, and some games were a little tougher than others where I couldn’t just naturally do it.”

What were some of the biggest adjustments Gibson had to make?

“[At] second base, your feet have to work a little better. You have to put yourself in better positions to make double play feeds, or the ball [comes] off the bat a little differently, so it was just [the] repetition of getting used to it. [At] shortstop,

I played there most of my life, so I already had the repetition, so mentally I just told myself this is probably going to take a little time.”

Gibson is ready to put his 2010 season behind him and move on to Salem, where he will likely start the 2011 season. This spring, Gibson continues to try and maintain a level head when it comes to his mechanics both offensively and defensively.

“I think the biggest thing [I’m focusing on] is not trying to be too perfect. Just hit the ball where it’s pitched, hit it hard, and you can’t control what it does after it comes off the bat. All you can control is if you put a good swing on it or not. And the same thing defensively: it sounds very simple, but just catch it and throw it to first–know what your situations are on the field.”

Will “not in the Middle(brooks) any more”

Saturday afternoon…I want to thank Elizabeth Dresson, who has a tremendous blog at, for putting together this interview with Will Middlebrooks…For the month of February, Elizabeth’s blog was the 8th most viewed fan blog through  That is tremendous. 

Will “not in the Middle(brooks) any more”
Potential Sea Dogs moving to third base
(Please direct your complaints on the title to me –  Elizabeth did not come up with this.)

What was the
deciding factor, or factors, in choosing to go professionally over going to
college first?

Well, it was
tough because both my parents are educators, and my dad is a coach, so
education is important to them. I was [committed] to Texas A&M, which is a
pretty good academic school, and I was hoping to play football and baseball
there, so it was a tough decision but being able to start my career early and
just get a head start.

What was your biggest challenge last
year in Salem?

I feel like the
pitching was a lot better just in the jump from Low-A (ie. Greenville) to
High-A (ie. Salem), and just getting comfortable at the plate, staying
consistent with my approach. Within the first two, two-and-a-half months, I had
a real good beginning of the season


I hear a lot of guys say that the transition from Low-A to High-A
is tough. What did you notice about the pitchers that made it that much harder?

Just being able
to throw all their pitches for strikes. That’s just something the higher you
get, everyone is more consistent–that’s just the name of the game at this
point. So especially going in this year, I’m probably gonna be in Double-A (ie.
Portland), which is supposedly the biggest jump in the minor leagues. …Just
pitchers being able to throw any pitch at any time for a strike.


So how did you adapt to that?

Like I said,
just remaining consistent in my approach, and knowing what pitches I can hit,
and what counts, and just watching film and studying the game.


A lot of the times, an organization will change a player’s
position early on in their development. Is third base where you feel most
comfortable right now?

Well they’ve
already changed me: I was a shortstop coming in, and I got a lot bigger as I
got older; I put on some weight, so they moved me to third within my first year
of pro-ball.


So how was the transition from shortstop to third?

It was
tough–There [are] a lot different angles, a lot less time for reaction–it’s
just something you have to get used to, but I’m fully adapted to it now.


What do you think the biggest differences are between the
positions mentally and/or physically?

defense… as far as an infielder… it’s all the same: just being ready,
reading the bounces–it’s pretty much the same for everyone, but at first base
and third base, it’s a lot of reaction: you get a lot of hard hit balls; you’re
playing in a lot. Shortstops you’re more back a lot of time to react to balls.


I noticed that you batted fifth a lot in Salem. Is that where you
like to bat?

I could really
care less, anywhere is fine with me. I like middle of the lineup… a lot of
guys seem to be on base; you get more opportunity for RBIs.

Do you adjust your approach and/or mentality depending on where
you bat in the lineup?

Maybe in the
first inning is the first time it would be different just because you don’t
want your first batter up there swinging at everything because in the game, you
want your bigger guys who hit in the middle of the order, who hit for power be
able to see what this guy has on the mound. You know, first, second, maybe even
third batter see a few pitches so maybe we can see the breaking pitches or his


What is your opinion on small ball? It seems like suicide squeezes
are kind of a dying art.

It’s very
important–especially when you get to the seventh, eighth, ninth inning, if you
need to move a runner over… I think you’re right, you don’t see the squeeze
bunt much anymore mainly because a lot of third basemen years ago were a lot
bigger guys; they couldn’t move as well. Now third basemen [and] first basemen
are a lot more athletic. I think they can make those plays and get the ball
home. Maybe that’s why you don’t see it as much, but sac bunts are just as
important as they have always been.


If you had to pitch against yourself, what weaknesses would you
take advantage of at this point?

I know my
positives: I could hit a fastball really well, so I would attack myself with
offspeed early in the count because I’m aggressive early in the count: I look
for fastballs.


What do you think fans overlook or take for granted the most?

Just the
day-to-day grind. It’s tough–especially straight out of high school it’s tough
to adapt [from] being at home, being with your family, in your comfort zone…
then you’re here on your own for eight months. It’s tough, it’s something you
definitely have to get used to, but once you can get past the fact of ‘I’m not
home; I’m not going to see my family, my friends, my girlfriend… once you get
past that, and you say, ‘OK, I’m here; this is my job; this is my life now; I’m
gonna play baseball; you can focus on that, and it’s a lot of fun.


What is the biggest thing you’re working on this spring training?

Just staying
consistent with my approach offensively and defensively… my footwork
defensively just getting good jumps on balls at third base.


You have been called up a couple of times already this spring.
Describe that process for us.

Normally we
find out the day of, or the day before. I’ve been lucky enough to go to four
games, and I’ve started two of them, so it’s a lot of fun. For me, I’m really
just a sponge when I’m up there. I just want to soak in everything, and see how
they go about their business because ultimately, that’s where we want to be, so
just follow them, see what they’re doing, see how they do their cage work,
their defensive work before the game in BP, and just try to change my game a
little bit to how they do it.


What is the best thing you have learned so far?

Just effort
level, really. You kind of have to pace yourself. With them, it’s 162
games–even more than that–just pace yourself. You cant be 100% everyday. If
you have 90% to give, that’s what you give. If you push past that, you might
get hurt or you could be out for a few months.


What has been
the highlight of your career so far?
in Lowell my first year when we played the Futures at Fenway, I had the walk
off hit in the 12th inning, so that was a lot of fun. I’d have to
say that so far.

Sea Dogs’ Family in Japan, Going Live on UStream tonight

Tonight around 6:15 PM EST, I will test my new UStream Page.  I will be working at a radio station in Portland, Maine, producing the Boston Bruins’ game, so I will be able to chat at times.  I want to test this.  Hope to have you join me.  We can talk about anything.

Good afternoon from lovely Old Orchard Beach Maine where temps neared 50 degrees, but that was accompanied by some heavy rain.  Am I complaining?  No.  I actually enjoy rain (not on game days), but I was very shocked to wake up and find out what happened in Japan today.

People ask me all the time, “What is the best part of working in baseball?” I think they might be surprised when I say it’s not the radio part.  At one time, that’s all that mattered, but I’ve met and developed some friendships that will last a lifetime.  My best friend is the same person that hired me 15 years ago, and is now an accomplished radio broadcaster in the NHL.  We talk 3 to 4 times a week, and it’s always about life, friends and family.  We do talk a little sports, but that is expected.
My first thoughts this morning after hearing about the horrible events in Japan was a friend of mine that was once the head trainer in Portland – Masai Takahashi.  Masai and his wife are both from Japan, and I was happy to talk with him via text message earlier today.  All of their family members are safe.  
These are the days that put things in prospective.  I wish the best to Dice-K, Okajima and the other Japanese players, coaches and staff with the Red Sox.  This has to be a very tough day for them.
Top 5 things I’ve enjoyed this off-season.
1. Going to Disney – was my first time, and went with my entire family.
2. Getting asked by my brother-in-law on X-Mas eve to be the Godfather of my niece…I don’t do a good impression.
3. Eating healthier, and sticking to a good workout program.  I still like my doritos, movie theatre popcorn and ice cream.  It’s all about moderation.
4. Feel so blessed to watch the best quarterback in Patriots’ history.  When I grew up the Patriots’ home games were never on.  Also, just enjoying the Celtics and Bruins.
5. Getting the opportunity to announce UNE Women’s Basketball.  Division III basketball doesn’t get the ink as Division I, but this is a special program.  They had a phenomenal season.

Top 5 things I’m looking forward to this season.
1. Going to Spring Training.  It’s awesome, getting to catch up with guys I won’t see during the year is the best part.
2. Starting back in the office on Monday.  I love going to the ballpark, and look forward to getting to know my co-workers again…ha ha.  
3. Spending everyday with new Sea Dogs’ Manager Kevin Boles….The two of us were both together in Utica back in 2001.  Also excited to have Bob Kipper, Dave Joppie and Paul Buchheit back.
4. The new players that will be joining us.  It’s fun to watch the development of players.  This is the level that usually tells it all.
5. Seeing the new renovations in Reading.  Oh, and Erie has a new team hotel.  That’s big in our business.  Just changes things up.

Sea Dogs TV? Favorite Sea Dog and EL Top Prospects

Good afternoon baseball fans,
It’s starting to get somewhat nicer out in New England, but once the exhibition games start, I instantly get into baseball.  I’ve even playing MLB2k10 on XBOX 360.  I usually don’t play baseball video games, but for some reason, I got hooked this year.
Below is a link to my brand new Ustream channel…I want feedback on this ( I was thinking I’ve having live webcam views during games, but how about a live talkshow at some point before the season, and/or a live talkshow before a game on a designated day.

*I also would like to see how many people can get back to me on their favorite Sea Dogs.  This doesn’t have to do with performance, or where they are now.  I was the fans view on this.
Possible Top Prospects we could see at Hadlock Field – compiled by Ben Altsher
Harrisburg Senators – Double-A affiliate of the Washington Nationals
The Nationals have proven over the past year that they are more than willing to spend what it takes to become a top contender.  The question now is whether all their heavy investments will pan out.  Especially since a good chunk of their spending came in the draft, in order to get young talent.  The depth in the system isn’t quite there, but the Nats definitely have some names that jump off the page, like these:
Bryce Harper, OF – Everyone around baseball has known about Harper since Sports Illustrated dubbed him “The Chosen One” as a 16-year-old in 2009.  With that kind of hype, Harper could be billed as the LeBron James of baseball.  At just 18, if the talk turns to truth, Harper will almost assuredly be in Harrisburg.  The only question might be how long he’ll stay.
Derek Norris, C – After injury issues the past two seasons, Norris hopes a move to Harrisburg will keep him healthy in 2011.  When on the field, he’s an offensively gifted catcher, with tremendous plate discipline.  He still needs work on the finer nuances of catching, but his arm strength and accuracy are big weapons in holding down would-be base stealers.  Barring further injury, Norris’ rise to the majors could coincide with Stephen Strasburg’s return.
Sammy Solis, LHP – He doesn’t have the physical attributes that stand out like some of the other prospects in the system.  However, Solis will eat up innings the way Kobayashi gobbles hot dogs.  He features three pitches: a devastating changeup, solid fastball and knuckle-curve, all of which he can throw for strikes.  Threw just two innings last year after getting drafted, but could get a taste of Double-A if his first half goes well.

New Britain Rock Cats – Double-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins
The Twins are one of those organizations that appears to focus more on their own business than the business of others.  Not surprisingly, that approach leads to a lot of homegrown talent, some who stay (Joe Mauer) and some who go (Johan Santana).  There’s another crop on the way soon, although there might be a slight gap at the Double-A level.
Liam Hendricks, RHP – A former Aussie Rules Football player prior to signing with the Twins, Hendricks sports a four-pitch mix with a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup.  All can be thrown for strikes, but none is a pitch that he can rest his laurels on.  He pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA last year between Low-A and High-A, and will look for those results with the Rock Cats in 2011.
Alex Wimmers
, RHP – Another solid arm that Minnesota hopes to add to its future rotation, Wimmers is similar to Hendricks in that his stuff is all very good, just not great.  He gave up virtually nothing in his four starts last season after getting drafted.  However, the Twins patience may keep out of New Britain for this season, unless Wimmers forces his way up.

Angel Morales, OF – Although patient so far, the Twins are waiting for Morales (drafted in 2007) to really make the leap and become an impact player at the higher levels.  He’s very athletic and has a good bat, but there are holes in his swing that he’s not learned to protect or eliminate.  If his numbers start to improve during his second year in Advanced-A, a promotion to New Britain could be in the cards.

New Hampshire Fisher Cats – Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays
Our rivals in the Eastern League the Fisher Cats have relied on the strength of their pitching the past couple of seasons.  Headlined by Kyle Drabek last year, the Toronto organization now looks to some of their position prospects to pan out.
Deck McGuire, RHP – One can never have enough pitching, and McGuire is the next big name to come through the organization.  The ACC Pitcher of the Year in 2010, McGuire did not play after getting drafted and will likely debut at a lower level.  However, his maturity and polish could necessitate an early promotion to Double-A.
Anthony Gose, OF – Fans last year will remember Cats leadoff man Darin Mastoianni and his prowess on the basepaths.  Gose is in the same mold and will steal his fair share of bags.  Though he was thrown out a bunch last year as well (32 times), he still managed more than enough thefts (45) to be problematic.  He still needs some work at the plate both average and power-wise, so he probably won’t start in New Hampshire, but could easily earn a promotion with some solid production.
Travis D’Arnaud, C – One of the better all-around catchers to come through recently, D’Arnaud could be the everyday backstop for New Hampshire in 2011.  He’s got a solid bat and will for average with a little bit of power.  His throwing arm is strong but could use some work on his accuracy.  If he’s not plagued by back problems again, he’ll be challenging former Fisher Cat J.P. Arencibia for the starting Toronto job very soon.

Reading Phillies – Double-A affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies
For a team that comes into the season boasting four top end pitchers on its major league team, you’d think the Phillies have minimal needs from their minor league staffs.  You’d be wrong.  There’s another solid crop of pitching talent on its way, and although most of it will be at the lower levels, a few guys will push their way to Reading.
Brody Colvin, RHP – Colvin survived a couple early shellings to finish with a 3.39 ERA with Low-A Lakewood last year.  His fastball is his chief weapon, generally sitting in the low to mid-90s, he can also ratchet it up to 97 on the gun.  It’s complimented with a curveball and a changeup.  The mechanics may need some more work in terms of consistency, but his stuff could force a move to Double-A.
Phillippe Aumont, RHP – Now that his role is settled as a reliever, the Phillies hope Aumont can improve his location.  He was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Cliff Lee to Seattle, and though they got Lee back, Philly hopes that Aumont can help stabilize what has been their weak link over the years.  Aumont relies on a hard, diving sinker and an upper-90s fastball.  He could start the year as Reading’s closer.
J.C Ramirez, RHP – Another component to the Lee deal, Ramirez also has underperformed since joining the Phillies’ organization.  He managed to stick with Reading last year, although did not put up terrific numbers in the second half of the season (5.45 ERA in 78 IP).  He’ll get another shot in 2011, and may end up moving to the bullpen for a quicker track to the majors.

Richmond Flying Squirrels – Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants
Now the poster child organization after winning a World Series in 2010, it’s a wonder what’s left of the Giants system after so many homegrown guys were needed to win the trophy.  Though the names moving up probably won’t have the same impact as guys like Lincecum, Posey and Bumgarner, there’s still some talent to be had for the Giants.
Francisco Peguero, OF – MVP of the California League (Advanced-A) playoffs in 2009, and helped San Jose to another title last year.  Peguero’s got plenty of speed and power, leading to Vladamir Guerrero comparisons, especially because he could afford to be a lot more patient at the plate.  That patience could be tested this year as he moves into Double-A for the first time.
Ehire Adrianza, SS – A wizard with the glove, Adrianza, like Boston’s Jose Iglesias, is already a major league caliber shortstop.  He’s got a great first step and can throw accurately, even on the move.  The one thing holding him back is his offense.  He’s a switch hitter and doesn’t really excel from either side, getting pull-happy at times.  He should be a regular with Richmond in 2011.
Charlie Culberson, 2B – Culberson jumped back into high-level prospect status with a terrific 2010 at Advanced-A San Jose.  He hit .290 with 16 homers and 71 RBI.  Part of the major improvement was his increased willingness to take pitches.  That approach coupled with his already solid swing, could lead to more big things with Richmond.

Trenton Thunder – Double-A affiliate of the New York Yankees
It won’t delight Sox fans, but the Yankees organization does bring along some top prospects every now and then.  While, it seems like more often they’re trade bait, occasionally New York does bring in some homegrown talent.
Dellin Betances, RHP – The New York native is the closest the Yanks have to a young arm that might be ready to contribute in the rotation.  Betances has a mid-90s fastball and an above-average curveball with sharp break.  He also mixes in a changeup which is still a work in progress.  He still needs to work on his mechanics as he tends to get out of line and lose command of the plate, but all eyes are sure to be on him with Trenton this season, hoping he can move up soon.
Manny Banuelos, LHP – Turning just 20 years old this month, Banuelos has good velocity (low 90s) for a smaller pitcher (5’5, 155lbs).  He’ll likely spend the entire 2011 season with Trenton working on his secondary pitches.   His curveball and changeup need consistency, and Banuelos needs to show he can handle a starter’s workload.
Adam Warren, RHP – Warren pitched well down the stretch for the Thunder last year and will start 2011 in Trenton as well.  He relies almost exclusively on his fastball which has decent velocity and has good command.  However, he probably won’t go too far until he develops and polishes his secondary pitches.

Ben Altsher continues his top prospects in the EL

Today we focus on Binghamton, Bowie and Erie

Binghamton Mets –
Double-A affiliate of the New York Mets

The Mets have spent big lately, only to come up small.  Free agents haven’t worked out at the major
league level, and the problems have filtered down the minors as well.  There’s plenty of raw ability to be found,
but even the highest of New York’s prospects have flaws.  Here’s a look at three of the more intriguing

Wilmer Flores, SS – The Venezuelan native has made a quick
ascent up the Mets’ system as a teenager, thanks to his hitting ability.  A nightmare to strike out, Flores has a very
loose and easy swing.  The problem is his
defense, which doesn’t project well as a major league shortstop.  No word on whether a position switch will
come this year, but expect to see Flores somewhere on the field for the B-Mets
in 2011.

Reese Havens, 2B – Another up-the-middle defender known more
for his bat than his glove, Havens ended last year with Binghamton, hitting
.338 over 18 games.  If he can stay
healthy (and it’s been a problem for him), Havens can be a threat in the middle
of the lineup, while providing enough defense not to necessitate a move.  His main goal should be to get through a
season playing 100 games, something he’s yet to do.

Brad Holt, RHP – The 2008 first round pick is no stranger to
the Eastern League.  Problem is, Holt’s
probably still having nightmares about his first two forays into Double-A
ball.  In 2009, he had a 6.29 ERA over
eleven starts.  Last year was even worse
with a 10.20 ERA over 30 innings with the B-Mets.  He worked hard to re-adjust some mechanical
flaws and will hope to finally conquer his Double-A monster this season.

Bowie Baysox –
Double-A affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles are another organization that has struggled for
the better part of the decade, never quite finding enough talent to compete
with the Red Sox, Yankees, and most recently the Rays.  Not surprisingly, their farm system has some
solid pieces, ones that Baltimore management hopes will bring a winner back to
Camden Yards.  Here’s three guys who
should help:

Xavier Avery, OF – Perhaps the best overall athlete in the
organization, Avery was persuaded to go straight into the system out of high
school, shunning a football scholarship to Georgia in the process.  He made the jump to Bowie last year as a 20
year old.  Now he’ll likely spend a full
season at Double-A as he could turn into one of the league’s top leadoff men
and base stealers.

L.J. Hoes, 2B – An interesting prospect, Hoes has a solid
bat, projecting as a .300 hitter. 
However, his power numbers are very low (7 homers in 3 pro seasons) and
he sports only average speed.  His
defensive tools are just as mystifying as he probably would be better suited at
third base or left field.  The problem
there is that the team can probably find better offensive options at those
positions.  The enigma that is Hoes will
get a full season with the Baysox, likely shining a brighter light on his
possible MLB future.

Wynn Pelzer, RHP – The Orioles picked up Pelzer from the
Padres when San Diego nabbed Miguel Tejada at the deadline last year.  He’s been a starter for most of his career,
but had recently shifted into a reliever’s role before Baltimore picked him
up.  He finished 2010 with the Baysox and
probably will start there this season. 
The only question is whether or not he’ll be starting games, or
finishing them.

Erie SeaWolves –
Double-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers

The Tigers shifted towards getting younger by moving Curtis
Granderson prior to last season.  Though
some of that talent was able to help in the big leagues immediately, Detroit
management is counting on some of their top talent to step up and pitch in
their load soon.  Here are some of the
players on their way to help:

Jacob Turner, RHP – Ranked by Baseball America as the Tigers’ top prospect, Turner has an easy
fastball that registers in the mid-90s without a problem.  In fact, the fastball is so good, that his
secondary pitches still need more work, although his curveball shows amazing
potential.  He’s coming off a solid first
season in pro ball, and likely won’t start in Erie, but should finish there.  Oh, and he’s only turning 20 in May.

Francisco Martinez, 3B – Another youngster who turned 20 at
the end of last season, Martinez could be a staple at the hot corner for Erie
in 2011.  He’s very solid with the glove,
although his footwork isn’t tremendous. 
Plus, he’s got more than enough arm to make all the throws.  Offensively, his power numbers should improve
as he develops, but he’s already a solid line drive hitter and has decent speed
to boot.

Chance Ruffin, RHP – The former Texas Longhorn
has a chance (excuse the pun) to crack the Tigers bullpen this season despite
not having pitched a full pro season yet. 
More likely, he’ll spend the majority of his time with the SeaWolves
using his low-90s fastball and wipeout slider to befuddle Eastern League hitters.  Ruffin should