It appears the International League standings are a very good indication of which teams will be well-represented at the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 16.
The Pawtucket Red Sox, who lead the North Division with a 55-32 record, will be sending a league-high five players, while the Durham Bulls, who are atop the South Division at 47-39, will send four to the 21st annual event. The 2008 contest will be played at Louisville Slugger Field, home of the Louisville Bats, and can be seen on ESPN2 for the 14th consecutive year.
It's the first time that more than three PawSox have been chosen, and this year's crop boasts second baseman and IL batting leader Joe Thurston (.324 in 309 at-bats).
Thurston's no stranger to the Triple-A All-Star Game; this will be his record-tying fourth appearance (2002 and 2005 with Las Vegas, 2006 with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), tying him with Lee Stevens and Todd Williams.
Joining him from Pawtucket will be right fielder/first baseman Jeff Bailey (.296, 22 homers, 58 RBIs, 67 runs scored), designated hitter Chris Carter (.293, 16 homers, 68 RBIs, 40 runs), center fielder Jonathan Van Every (.290, 21 homers, 49 RBIs, 61 runs) and right-hander Charlie Zink, whose 2.63 ERA is second-lowest in the league.
In addition to a minuscule ERA, Zink has compiled an 8-2 record with 64 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings. He will be joined by Syracuse left-hander David Purcey (6-6, 2.97 ERA, 100 K, 33 BB) as the top starters on the roster. Purcey is the only member of the Chiefs on the team.
Durham will also be well-represented and is the only team sending more than one hurler. Though their 4.03 staff ERA is fifth-best in the league, right-hander Jeremy Cummings is 7-2 with a 2.72 ERA and a 55-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Right-handed reliever Dale Thayer is 1-0 with a 1.48 ERA and nine saves in 10 opportunities. A native of Fountain Valley, Calif., he has struck out 53 in 42 innings and has not allowed more than two runs in any inning this year.
Top shortstop prospect Reid Brignac (.262, seven homers, 38 RBIs, 37 runs scored) and first baseman Chris Richard (.309, 15 homers, 42 RBIs, 46 runs scores) will also make the trip to Louisville for the Bulls. Richard also played in the 2000 contest while with Memphis.
Extreme power will come from corner infielders Brad Eldred (Charlotte) and Mike Hessman (Toledo). Both are former Minor League home run leaders, and both have gone yard 26 times already this season. This is the second consecutive selection for Hessman (.265), while Eldred (also at .265) received the honor for the first time.
Charlotte's other two representatives are second baseman Chris Getz (.309, six homers, 43 RBIs, 42 runs) and right-handed reliever Jason Childers (1.59 ERA, 28 strikeouts).
In addition to Hessman, the West Division-leading Mud Hens (49-37) are represented by right-hander Blaine Neal (1.57 ERA, 22 saves), the Triple-A saves leader, and outfielder Brent Clevlen (.304, 14 homers, 60 RBIs).
The second-worst team in the league, Lehigh Valley, is shipping three to Louisville. The inaugural group of IronPigs All-Stars includes returnee catcher Jason Jaramillo as well as third baseman Mike Cervenak, who played in the 2005 game with Fresno, and left-hander Brian Mazone, who leads the IL with 109 2/3 innings pitched.
Indianapolis's lone representative, center fielder Andrew McCutchen, is arguably the most heralded prospect in the contest. McCutchen, the top-ranked outfielder in the Pirates organization, is hitting .284 in 320 at-bats from the leadoff spot. The Fort Meade, Fla., native has scored a team-high 49 runs, slugged eight home runs and driven in 33 runs to go along with a team-best 23 stolen bases.
Host Louisville is the final IL club with more than one player selected, as catcher Ryan Hanigan (.296) and right-handed closer Jon Adkins (14 saves) will be showcased on their home field.
Left-handed reliever Rich Rundles (Buffalo) and right-handed closer Brian Sanches (Columbus) round out the 10-man pitching staff.
Catcher Omir Santos (Norfolk), outfielder Justin Christian (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre), outfielder Darnell McDonald (Rochester) and designated hitter Barbaro Canizares (Richmond) will be the lone representatives for their respective teams.
The IL All-Stars will be managed by Dave Miley (Scranton/Wilkes-Barre) with help from coaches Doug Davis (Syracuse) and Rick Sweet (Louisville).