Best of Mailbag

Beat reporters answer fans' questions related to the Minors

(Jerry Hale/

June 3, 2008 9:03 AM

Now that [Rays prospect] David Price has finally pitched for the first time in almost a year, how long do you think it will take him to reach the Majors? Do you think the Rays will let him develop? Does he even need that much developing?
-- Curtis S., Lake Placid, Fla.

Based on what I saw during Spring Training -- including his stuff and composure -- and how he's pitched thus far, I think he has a good chance to be with the team in the second half of the season. He came to the Rays well-polished, so I think the Rays are receptive to the idea that he doesn't need a lot of seasoning before putting on a Major League uniform.

I was wondering why [the Rays] don't give Justin Ruggiano a chance? When he was up he played well, and he has played well in Triple-A Durham. We haven't solidified the right-field position, so why not give a long look at him and then go from there?
-- Chris S., Largo, Fla.

I'm not sure why Ruggiano didn't get a better look. He can run and he is really having a nice season at Durham. He also seems to have the right attitude. When he came up for a weekend series against the Red Sox at Fenway, he said he understood going into the 2008 season that it could be a crazy year, so he decided to just roll with the punches, which translates to showing up to the ballpark ready to play every day whether it's a Major League park or Triple-A. In my opinion, that's a nice approach for a player to have.

Why isn't Daric Barton [of the A's] back at Triple-A right now? He's awful.
--James D., Belmont, Calif.

For one thing, I don't think he's awful by any stretch of the imagination. The guy absolutely raked for the better part of September last season, so we know he can hit big league pitching.

His performance has frequently been awful this year, of course, but the talent didn't just leave his body. It's still in there. The way I see it, he's simply going through what all kinds of young studs go through after enjoying early success in the bigs: Teams have identified holes in his game, and they're exploiting them. Now it's up to Barton -- and his coaches -- to make the right adjustments.

The way I see it, sending him to Sacramento wouldn't do him much good because Triple-A pitchers can't exploit the aforementioned weaknesses the way Major League pitchers can. Better that Barton stays in Oakland, faces his demons and fights them. Besides, who's a better option at first base right now? Jack Hannahan? Offensively, sure -- in the short term. But Barton is a huge part of this team's future, so I think they'll stick with him.

[A's outfield prospect] Carlos Gonzalez: phenom or just really good?
--Stephen C., Bend, Ore.

Phenom. He was the centerpiece of the offseason Dan Haren trade to Arizona, and deservedly so. The scouts I've talked to definitely think he's the real deal, and while a few of them expressed concern about his ability to deal with the inevitable failures that will come, they're confident that within two years we'll be looking at a perennial All-Star.

Whatever happened to [Mariners prospect] Eric O'Flaherty after he was sent down in April? I've searched and searched and can find no mention of him. Is he still with the Mariners organization? How is he doing?
-- Emily G., Longview, Wash.

O'Flaherty, sent to the Minor Leagues in Spring Training, made one relief appearance for Double-A West Tennessee and currently is pitching for the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. As of May 30, he had a 1-0 record and 3.60 ERA in 13 relief appearances, walking eight and striking out 17 in 13 innings. His confidence appears to be on the rise.

I see that highly rated [Mariners prospect] Carlos Triunfel is no longer on the roster of the High Desert Mavericks in the California League. I cannot find his name on any of the other Minor League rosters, either. What is his status?
-- Bill S., Ridgefield, Wash.

Triunfel was suspended May 10 for "violation of team rules" and "conduct detrimental to the team." Exactly which rule(s) he broke were not disclosed by either the Mavericks or Mariners club officials. He was reinstated May 21 and went 11-for-21 in the next five games before a 0-for-19 skid over the next four games.

Why did the Rangers designate Franklyn German for assignment to call up Kameron Loe, if they were just going to send Loe back to the Minors a couple weeks later? German seemed like he was contributing.
-- John M., Denton, Texas

The Rangers were concerned with German's inability to throw strikes in crucial situations, but that's a problem all through the bullpen. The Rangers lead the league in walks by relievers and they have allowed the second highest number of inherited runners to score.

The Rangers' single biggest need right now is finding a middle reliever or two who can come into a game in the middle innings and shut down the opposing team's rally right then and there. To me, that's more important than anything else.

Am I right to worry that with Hank Blalock moving to first base [for the Rangers] that it may prevent the call-up of Chris Davis later on this season? I trust Davis more given that he has more time playing first base.
-- Andrew B., Longview, Texas

Rangers fans need to stop worrying about who's going to get called up, what young players are going to be given shots and how they are going to solve these potential position conflicts. Davis needs to be at Triple-A Oklahoma. Blalock needs to get healthy. Neither are ready to play in the big leagues. That will be resolved at some point, and Davis will eventually get a legitimate shot when he's ready and when he's needed. Right now, it's Frank Catalanotto and Chris Shelton at first base.

With [Rangers pitching prospect] Blake Beavan dominating Class A ball, do you see him having as fast a trip through the Minors as Clayton Kershaw?
-- Aaron G., Providence, R.I.

Best-case scenario is a mid-to-late 2010 arrival in Arlington, and that's if everything -- and I mean everything -- goes right. That would get him here at least a year faster than it seems to be taking Eric Hurley, and they were both drafted out of high school.

How far has [White Sox prospect] Jerry Owens fallen since going to Triple-A Charlotte after coming off the disabled list? It seems to me that when Juan Uribe went down and a speedy outfielder was brought up, it should have been [Owens]. So why is it that DeWayne Wise got the nod over Owens?
-- Jason, Rockford, Ill.

Wise was the perfect fit for what the White Sox needed: a utility outfielder with speed who could pinch-run, serve as a defensive replacement or make a spot start during Uribe's absence. Bringing Owens up made no sense because he was not going to play much, as shown by Wise's six at-bats over six games played.

Owens has struggled since staying in Charlotte after being activated from the disabled list, and a couple people who are familiar with Owens' work have told me part of it has dealt with adjusting to life again in the Minors after finding success last year in the Majors. Owens has too much talent to continue this slide, and understand that he still is in the White Sox big league picture, just a step or two removed presently.

With [White Sox prospect] Brad Eldred slugging big numbers in the Minors, is there any chance he gets a call-up? Both [Jim] Thome and [Paul] Konerko have been struggling, and Eldred might be the boost the offense needs.
-- Craig, Calgary

Eldred is hitting home runs for Charlotte, doing exactly what the White Sox envisioned when they brought him aboard for Spring Training. I don't see him in the big league picture any time soon, aside from filling a need produced by a couple of unexpected injuries or through a September call-up.

What is going on with Jose Tabata? What exactly are his off-the-field issues, and is he still considered a top prospect who can eventually help the Yankees?
-- Steve H., Warwick, R.I.

The play in question apparently came last Thursday, when Tabata was pulled from a game for Double-A Trenton for disciplinary reasons -- reportedly, for not backing up a play in the outfield. Tabata was also suspended for three games in April after he left the stadium following a strikeout.

The Yankees still think highly of Tabata -- he is still only 19, after all, with high-ceiling talent -- but it is moderately surprising to see these items popping up after Tabata spent much of his first Spring Training picking [Bobby] Abreu's mind for advice in the Yankees' clubhouse.

Mychael Urban, Jim Street, T.R. Sullivan, Bill Chastain and Bryan Hoch are reporters for who contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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