Plenty of southpaws in the Eastern League03/18/2006 9:22 PM ET
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
If you are planning a trip to one of the 12 ballparks in the Double-A Eastern League, there are three things you'll have a good shot at seeing: pitching, pitching and pitching, especially from the left side.
There's also a chance of seeing some good outfield bats, a former phenom making his managerial debut, a new owner bringing in a new team name and a minority owner who's likely headed to the Hall of Fame ... in Canton, Ohio. Let's take a closer look at 10 names to know in the Eastern League.
Brent Clevlen, OF, Erie SeaWolves
Sometimes repeating a level makes a huge difference in a player's development. Clevlen spent a second year in the Florida State League in 2005 and exploded with a .302 average, 18 homers and 102 RBIs. A strong spring (.323, 3 HR in 31 ABs) made an impression on big league skipper Jim Leyland, who can keep tabs on him in nearby Erie.
Frank Diaz, OF, Harrisburg Senators
The Nationals have been talking about Diaz for the last few years and last season he took a large step toward reaching the potential they've been touting. In a second Class A Advanced season, he hit .312 with 16 homers and 14 stolen bases and was voted the Carolina League's top defensive outfielder. He's a five-tool center fielder and is just starting to sharpen his skills.
Cole Hamels/Gio Gonzalez, LHPs, Reading Phillies
If Hamels can stay healthy -- a big if -- the Reading rotation might be one of the best in the Minor Leagues. Hamels' stuff is unquestionable and Gonzalez, one of the left-handers the Phillies got from the White Sox in return for Jim Thome, is extremely polished (with excellent stuff) for a 20-year-old. The two are undeniably the top lefty tandem in the Minors and will be joined by top-notch righty Scott Mathieson.
Adam Loewen, LHP, Bowie Baysox
Loewen really started putting things together last year with the Carolina League champion Frederick Keys, adding some command to his tremendous repertoire. He capped his season off with a 1.67 ERA in the hitter-friendly Arizona Fall League, perhaps a harbinger of good things to come in Bowie this year.
Eddy Martinez-Esteve, OF, Connecticut Defenders
There's absolutely no doubt about his bat; it's the glove that has been in question. Injuries didn't help him much, keeping him from developing in the outfield for much last year. He's getting some work at first this spring, though Travis Ishikawa will be there in Connecticut this year. But with a .317 average, .420 OBP and .524 SLG in his brief career, the Giants think they have their best right-handed hitting prospect since Matt Williams.
Adam Miller, RHP, Akron Aeros
Not that long ago, Miller was arguably the best and fastest-rising pitching prospect in the Minors. An elbow injury that didn't require surgery kept him out for three months last year, jumping him off the fast track and perhaps taking him off some top prospects' lists. But he's just 21 and is now healthy and could start taking off again, fortunate news for Aeros fans.
Ricky Romero, LHP, New Hampshire Fisher Cats
Hard to believe, another lefty worth watching in the EL. This one is just getting started. The No. 6 overall pick last June has three Major League average or better pitches -- fastball, curveball, change-up -- that should allow him to jump to Double-A with just over 32 innings of professional work since leaving Cal State Fullerton.
Juan Samuel, MGR, Binghamton Mets
Remember how good Samuel was in his rookie season as a player with the Phillies, hitting 36 doubles, 19 triples, 15 homers and stealing 72 bases (and striking out 168 times)? While he had a nice career -- over 1,500 hits, 161 homers and 396 career steals -- he didn't quite live up to the lofty expectations he created with such a fast start.
Now we get to see how he'll do as a rookie manager and whether he can find a better level of consistency. Samuel will have another former Mets middle infielder on his staff in hitting coach John Valentin.
Lou DiBella, owner, Connecticut Defenders
It's never a bad thing to bring in new blood into Minor League ball, and DiBella is the new owner on the EL block. The boxing recruiter/promoter/marketer has brought a new look and new name to the club he purchased in Norwich, still the Double-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
Jerome Bettis, owner, Altoona Curve
The "Bus" may have stopped on the football field following Super Bowl XL, but it will keep going in Minor League Baseball. The future football Hall of Famer is a part owner of Curve Baseball, LP, which not only runs the very successful franchise in Altoona, but the new NY-Penn League entry in State College, Pa. as well as the Carolina League's Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.