Many of you might not know this, but I'm Jewish. And as a Jewish sports fan, I'm naturally obsessed with who the Jewish athletes are in the professional world.
There are so few of us excelling at the highest level of the major sports, that the Jewish community gravitates toward any Jewish player who makes it to the big leagues. Just ask Shawn Green or Gabe Kapler about the Bar Mitzvah invites they've gotten over the years.
But then I got to thinking. It's all good and well to figure out who the Jews are once they hit the big time. But what about the next wave? Who are the kosher Minor Leaguers, so to speak? So I went digging, looking for who the next Jewish Major Leaguers will be. So here's a glimpse into baseball's Jewish future (all stats through May 9):
Ryan Braun, 3B, Brevard County Manatees: By far the top Jewish prospect in baseball, Braun was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers as the No. 5 overall pick in last June's draft after starring at the University of Miami. He's still in Florida (for now), where Jewish retirees can kvell over the fact that he's hitting .274 with four homers, 20 RBIs and nine stolen bases in his first full season of pro ball.
Brian Horwitz, OF, San Jose Giants: Horwitz has flown under the radar, but all he's done is hit. He wasn't even drafted coming out of college as a senior but he's won two batting titles and had a .348 average heading into this season. So far, he hasn't missed a beat and is seventh in the California League with a .343 mark.
Adam Greenberg, OF, West Tenn DiamondJaxx: He had to go back to Double-A to prove himself all over again. Greenberg didn't get off to a good start, hitting .175 in 19 games, but was still recently bumped up to Triple-A. He's gotten just 12 at-bats so far there, but I still think he'll get it going and get back up to Chicago at some point.
Adam Stern, OF, Pawtucket Red Sox: Stern's had quite a bit of big-league time with the Red Sox, including 20 at-bats this season, but he was sent down to Triple-A and has hit .230 with six steals in 15 games. There's some debate over whether he identifies with us, but we'll keep him for now.
Matthew Kutler, OF, Greensboro Grasshoppers: A 24th-round draft pick by the Marlins last June, Kutler hit .354 in his debut last summer. He's picked up just 30 at-bats so far this season, but he's an Ivy Leaguer (Brown) who I'm sure the folks in Miami would just plotz over if he ever makes it to the bigs.
Scott Feldman, RHP, Oklahoma RedHawks: Feldman's a relief pitcher who's been a bit of a yo-yo with the Rangers. He just got called back up and pitched in Texas on Tuesday. He started the season in the bigs, but got sent back down to Triple-A where he's gotten into 10 games and managed to lower his career 2.05 Minor League ERA entering this season by posting a 1.46 mark in 12 1/3 innings.
Craig Breslow, LHP, Pawtucket Red Sox: You have to make sure to have a lefty and righty in your bullpen, right? Breslow was impressive with the Padres in the big leagues last summer (2.20 ERA in 14 games), but the Red Sox didn't have room for him this year after they signed him in the offseason. He's been a little inconsisent in Triple-A, but overall he's 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA and has kept hitters to a .140 batting average. He's another Ivy Leaguer, coming out of Yale.
Mark Rosen, LHP, Lancaster JetHawks: A starting pitcher when he was drafted in 2002, Rosen is now in his second full season of relief work. He's off to a rough start, with a 5.23 ERA in six outings with the Diamondbacks' affiliate in the hitter-friendly California League.
Matt Ford, LHP, Rochester Red Wings: What's with all the lefty Jews (and no, that's not meant to be a subtle political commentary)? Ford had big-league time back in 2003 with the Brewers, but hasn't been able to get back since. He's now with Rochester in the Twins organization, though he's gotten into only five ballgames so far this season.
Jose Bautista, pitching coach, Idaho Falls Chukars: With all these pitchers, you need a coach, so why not pick the most unlikely Jew in baseball? Bautista won 32 games in a big-league career that spanned nine seasons and is now coaching for the Royals' short-season club in the Pioneer League. You think the folks in Idaho Falls have met many Latino Jews?
Mark Shapiro, GM, Cleveland Indians: OK, so this one is a stretch, but the Indians and Shapiro, their general manager, do stress player development and bringing up players from the Minors. Besides, it was the only way I could figure out to mention the Tribe having a Member of the Tribe.