Under normal circumstances, this feature is going to be focused almost exclusively on prospects, by which we mean young minor league players, guys nowhere near their peak. Each Friday, I'll have to find new ways to hype Trevor Bauer, Nolan Arenado, Dylan Bundy, Mike Trout, Danny Hultzen, Billy Hamilton, Will Middlebrooks, and the rest of the usual suspects.
But today we're taking a different approach. Today, we need to turn our attention to an older minor league demographic. Consider this a Bryan LaHair tribute if you like. Or it's a celebration of Brandon Weeden. Or it's a tip of the cap to Brandon Moss, a man who just recorded his 1,000th career minor league hit.
In any case, there are at least two recent call-ups you'll want to be familiar with, and neither is a prospect in the traditional sense...
• The Tigers just plucked 31-year-old Brad Eldred out of Triple-A Toledo, where he's been terrorizing the pitchers of the International League. Over the first 20 games of his season, Eldred is hitting .388 with an OBP of .444 and a slugging percentage of 1.013. The man already has 23 extra-base hits to his credit, including 13 home runs. He's gone deep five times in his last three games. No player at any level of professional baseball, other than Matt Kemp, is putting up numbers like those.
Eldred has of course made cameo appearances in the majors before — first in 2005, then in 2007 and 2010 — and the results haven't been great (career .204/.259/.419). At this stage, it would really be a surprise if he were to binge for an extended period of time in the big leagues.
Still, Detroit is going to give the vet a look. Jim Leyland makes a fair point right here...
"We have the hottest hitter in all of minor league baseball. I'm going to DH him. How long depends on how he does. He's doing something everyone is talking about. Maybe he can get us going."
...so consider Eldred in deep leagues, if you have a clear need for power.
• Does everyone remember Michael Taylor, the Philly-then-Oakland outfield prospect who seemed like such a strong 20/20 candidate back in the day? Taylor essentially cleared the path that Domonic Brown is following.
Well, the A's just recalled the 26-year-old Taylor, because there's a possibility that Coco Crisp could soon be making his first DL visit of the season. This from Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle:
Outfielder Michael Taylor is here in Baltimore with the A's, and it appears that if Coco Crisp remains too ill to play tomorrow that Taylor will take Crisp's spot on the roster, with Crisp going onto the DL. ... [Crisp's health issue] was initially thought to be the flu, then an inner-ear infection, and he was still dizzy and had some nausea on Monday when he played.
Taylor has been feasting in the PCL, posting a .366/.393/.573 slash-line over 19 games. (I realize that seems insignificant when compared to Eldred's year-to-date performance, but so do all other hitting stats, everywhere). Crisp's name is actually on Friday's lineup card, however, so we'll just see how this thing plays out.
• You'll probably never believe this, but Matt LaPorta is absolutely raking at Triple-A. Stunning development. When has that ever happened?
Actually, it happens every time LaPorta visits the International League, which of course seems to occur every season. The 27-year-old LaPorta has banged out 28 homers for Columbus in 558 career at-bats, hitting .320/.404/.568. He has clearly mastered the level; he's hit five bombs so far this year, while batting .364. But the majors have been a different story, as you all know. And Cleveland's roster does not exactly lack for DH-types at the moment, so there's no promotion imminent.
• Here's another name from the 2008 cold case files: Travis Snider. He's hitting .400/.477/.693 at Triple-A Las Vegas, with four homers, 10 doubles and two stolen bases. Snider suffered a wrist injury of as-yet-unknown severity on Thursday night, so he could be sidelined for a few days. There's no obvious spot for the 24-year-old in Toronto's batting order right now, but he seems like a decent trade chip for the Jays. He's not really a prospect anymore, but he's also too young to simply discard.
• The White Sox just called up RHP Dylan Axelrod from Triple-A Charlotte, where he ranked among the league leaders in Ks (26) and ERA (1.08). The 26-year-old will replace the injured Jesse Crain (oblique). Axelrod impressed in a late-season call-up last year, striking out 19 batters in 18.2 innings, going 1-0 in three starts, and delivering a 2.89 ERA. He's spent time as both a reliever and a starter in the minors, and he's really been lights-out in the International League over the past two seasons: 19 G, 8-2, 116.1 IP, 101 Ks, 25 BB, 2.01 ERA, 1.01 WHIP. He could eventually be a useful piece in AL-only formats, if/when a Sox starter breaks.
• Randy Ruiz, 34, is hitting a ton at Triple-A Reno right now, following a two-year stint in the Japan Pacific League. Ruiz is batting .344 with an OPS of .945. Of course Arizona's first base situation is complicated (and ugly) enough at the moment, without tossing Ruiz's name into the equation. Basically I'm just discussing Ruiz here in the final bullet because I owe him a thank-you for the huge second-half in 2009: 115 AB, 10 HR, .313/.385/.635. Good times, great stats.