This week's minor league rankings is based on the random player in each system who you thought was retired. Okay, maybe you knew a couple of these guys were still in professional baseball, but there's at least one who will make you stop and do a double-take. The rankings are in order of how amazing and amusing it is that the player is still around.
1. Chicago White Sox - Gookie Dawkins
In 2000, the Reds had in the same minor league system as Noochie Varner, with Pokey Reese already starting at the major league level. They were on their way to the new market inefficiency, sending scouts all over America, looking at players like Forky Fembrush, Toobie McStansilus, and "Rex" Growder (given name: Boo Boo Growder). Alas, Noochie never made it to the bigs, and Gookie and Pokey went their separate ways, ending one of the boldest experiments in baseball history.
2. Arizona Diamondbacks - Wily Mo Pena
The Diamondbacks had the top ranking two months ago when Sean Burroughs was in the system, but now that Burroughs was called up, the D-Backs can still claim , who is raking like he’s the Jose Bautista of the Pacific Coast League. That’s the minor-league free agent equivalent of drafting Stephen Strasburg and in back-to-back drafts. Mo Pena will be back in the majors soon, at which point the Diamondbacks will have Burroughs and Pena on the same roster. This is a weird sport.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates - Andy Marte
If you want to read about how poetic and magical baseball is, there are thousands of books out there for you. If you want to read about how baseball is a microcosm of our country, or life in general, there are thousands more. Or, you could just note that is now in the Pirates organization, where he is blocked at the major league level by Brandon Wood. Those last 20 words contain more poetry, information, and meaning than any 400-page book you’ll ever find. Those words are pure, undistilled baseball, for better and for worse.
4. Cleveland Indians - Nick Johnson
I picture him going up to the plate in a full body cast, taking four pitches, and having the third-base coach wheel him down to first. From there, an elaborate series of pulleys and winches helps him around the bases if there’s a hit. And his on-base percentage is always between .441 and .442.
5. Detroit Tigers - Timo Perez
Perez scored eight -- eight! -- runs in the 2000 NLCS against the Cards, where he was well on his way to being a Lemke-like, random postseason legend. Alas, he was only 2-for-17 in the World Series, and while he had a really nice year in 2002 (.295/.331/.437), he soon slipped into journeyman’s purgatory after that, including a stint with St. Louis in which he hit .194 in 2006. Thanks for nothing twice, Timo.
6. Kansas City Royals - Jeff Suppan
I was tempted to make fun of Suppan and the Royals for reuniting after all these years, but it turns out Suppan was pretty good for the Royals in his first stint. He threw over 850 innings of 105 ERA+ ball. That’s pretty danged valuable.
Oh, heck, we can still make fun of them. Suppan and the Royals reuniting in 2011 is like Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain reuniting in 2011. Still not sure who would get the worst of that deal, either.
7. and 8. Cincinnati Reds - Dontrelle Willis
Washington Nationals - Oliver Perez (tie)
I think the world would be better if these two made it back to the majors and pitched well -- Willis because he’s a gregarious, likeable guy, and Perez because it would make Mets fans freak out. And both are doing quite well, actually: Willis has a 2.45 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 44/17 in 47.2 innings for Louisville, and Perez has a 2.22 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 21/3 in 24.1 innings for Harrisburg. Here's hoping ...
What they mean: "This guy’s upside is basically."
|1998||22||2 Teams||2 Lgs||A-Rk||SDP||8||3||.727||2.73||16||16||102.1||89||41||6||18||100|
|2000||24||2 Teams||2 Lgs||AA-AAA||SDP||11||6||.647||2.28||29||29||173.1||147||53||12||35||165|
He was a poor man’s Greg Maddux in the minors, and he was a middle-class man’s in the majors. But I remember looking at those walk rates and thinking, man, that guy’s going to be a monster for a decade. If he came up with the Padres now, he’d have an ERA of 1.33 in Petco Park (ERA+ of 92).
11. Philadelphia Phillies - Ronnie Belliard
Rafael Belliard played against Dave Kingman, Phil Niekro, and Art Howe. That guy has a little brother who is still in the minor leagues. Maybe it’s a stretch, but that blows me away for some reason. edit: They were cousins. Well, that's not as interesting.
Hope your credit card has a high limit there, Mr. Memorabilia Collector. People just don’t give those things away.
13. Boston Red Sox - Tony Pena, Jr.
This is Tony Pena, Jr. 2.0, as he’s a reliever now. He’s scuffling a bit this year, but he had a really encouraging season with the strikeout totals in the Giants’ system last year, which is kind of a waste because the Giants could really use him this year as a cleanup hitter.
14. New York Yankees - Carlos Silva
This isn’t that fun because it was a little bit of a story that the Yankees signed Silva in the first place, but if Mark Prior weren’t hurt, he would have made the list, and then the Yankees would have been top-five, easy. But Prior did make it at the top of another list:
15. New York Mets - Casey Fossum
I know what you’re thinking: "But Fossum has appeared in the majors with the Mets this year!" Actually, that was Chris Capuano. Two totally different people. I think once per week, Capuano shows up at the Fossum household with pizza and says, "Honey! I’m home! And i brought pizza!" and every time Mrs. Fossum is like, "Chris, you’re at the Fossums’ again!" while Capuano says, "I know, what did I say? Wait, where am I? You’re not Ellie!"
Guy #1: With the first pick in the 2000 Fantasy Draft In Some Alternate Dimension, I choose ... Willy Tavares of the Colorado Rockies.
/groans from the rest of the people in the draft room
Guy #2: Man, I guess I’ll take.
17. Los Angeles Dodgers - Tim Redding
Jon Bois decreed that Terrmel Sledge was the most 2000s baseball player. I countered with "Mike Lamb," but I totally forgot . He played his first major league game in 2001 and his last (so far) in 2009, so he avoids those pesky "what constitutes a decade" debates. If you followed baseball in the 2000s, you knew who Redding was. If you didn’t, you never will.
18. San Diego Padres - Bobby Kielty:
Kielty could probably hit for a .230/.290/.320 line in San Diego right now (OPS+ 121), but you also know that the Padres could probably turn him into a slider-throwing goof who’d put up a K/BB ratio of 234/3 in 80 relief innings. If you think that’s a joke, note that he has a 10.8 K/9 in the PCL right now. Sure, it was in 1-2/3 innings, but don’t get too comfortable. Those Padres make slider-throwing goofs as if they were orcs in Lord of the Rings.
From a poll of MLB fans:
20. Baltimore Orioles - Chris George
Is there a better example of a Royals prospect who didn't make it? Before 2001, he was the #25 prospect in baseball. If the Royals haven’t figured out what the problem is, allow me to help: prospects with two first names. Avoid ‘em. Chris George, Ken Harvey, Jimmy Gobble (it’s a first name if he were an infielder in the Reds’ system) ... though I guess Alex Gordon might break through after all. Watch this trend carefully, Kansas City.
21. and 22. Minnesota Twins - Jeremy Reed
Milwaukee Brewers - Mike Rivera (tie)
These two were stathead favorites back when being a stathead meant that you knew about on-base percentage while those cretins in the front office usually didn’t. Reed was going to be Eddie Stanky with power, and Rivera was going to be a cheap 20-homer catcher for some smart team. Yeah, those opinions aged like bad yearbook pictures.
23. Tampa Bay Rays - J.J. Furmaniak
Every December, all of the random utility infielders who passed through the big leagues during the previous season should gather in Vegas for an awards ceremony. It would be utility infielders only -- strictly an in-clan affair. Throughout the night, awards would be handed out to utility infielders in different categories -- scrappiest, grittiest, least likely to be there, most improved, etc.... These awards should be called "Furmys."
25. Texas Rangers - Omar Quintanilla
Quintanilla is the all-time record holder for "(my favorite team) should trade for that guy!" comments on internet forums and message boards. He was a former top prospect, he filled a position at which a lot of teams usually don’t have a hitter of note, and he was never really given a straight shot at a starting job -- the perfect storm for furiously rosterbating internet-types.
Although, you know, if he could manage a .358 OBP in Round Rock this year, maybe he’d be an upgrade on...
26. San Francisco Giants - Joe Koshansky
The corollary to the Theorem: whenever a team needed a low-cost first baseman, the great internet unwashed would always look towards Colorado Springs, where some first baseman was always a) putting up gaudy numbers, and b) blocked by Todd Helton’s 52-year contract. The trailblazer was Ryan Shealy, but then Koshansky carried the torch quite nicely.
27. Florida Marlins - Joe Thurston
In 2009, after the top-prospect sheen had worn off completely, Thurston hit his first and only home run off of , who I’m pretty sure is a hockey player. Maybe Thurston will make it back to the majors some day, and maybe he won’t, but at least he had a home run. It kind of drives me nuts when they can’t even get one home run after a being a top prospect.
28. Toronto Blue Jays - Dewayne Wise
All of the players on this list will have some good stories to tell their kids and grandkids. A few of them will know what what it’s like to step nervously onto a field with All-Star or playoff bunting framing it. But in 50 years, there’s only one guy who will still show up in the highlights. That is not a bad legacy at all.
29. Oakland Athletics - Vinnie Chulk
There are a ton of random, lesser-known nicknames listed on Baseball Reference. Like "Crazy Horse" for Angel Pagan, who really should be nicknamed "The Flying Oxymoron." Yet for , there’s no mention of "The Vincredible Chulk," which was coined by a Blue Jays’ fan back in the day, and is a great reason for Chulk to be a famous closer some day. I’ll start something at petitiononline.com, because if Baseball Reference doesn’t fix that soon, I promise that I’ll visit that site 59,392 times every day instead of 59,393. That’ll learn ‘em.
30. Houston Astros - Francis Beltran
I don’t remember Beltran, and neither do you, but he has 67 games in his major-league career. It’s appropriate that the Astros don’t have some well-known name here, because there’s no sense being 33 years old with 500 games in the majors, looking up at the Astros’ roster and thinking, "Wait, they didn’t want me out of spring training?" That’s nature’s way of telling you to spend more time with your kids.