Toolshed makes Triple-A ballot picks

Endorsing All-Star options to head to Columbus on July 11

Jabari Blash leads Triple-A batters with a .741 slugging percentage in 44 games for Salt Lake. (Paul Asay/

By Sam Dykstra / | June 8, 2018 10:00 AM doesn't have an editorial page. There's no spot for long-winded pieces debating the major stories of the day around the country and the globe. There are no endorsements to make in key local and national races.

That is, until now.

The Triple-A All-Star Game ballot is live, and fans can vote to send their favorite International and Pacific Coast League players to Columbus for the Minor League version of the midsummer classic on July 11. Balloting closes in two weeks, so while there's still time this week's edition of the Friday Toolshed lays out the best options in each of the major IL and PCL categories. (Note: All statistics are through Thursday afternoon.)

First base

International: Joey Meneses, Lehigh Valley -- An eight-year Minor League veteran who hadn't cracked Triple-A until this season, Meneses leads ballot-eligible IL first basemen with a .293 average, .529 slugging percentage and .875 OPS. His 10 homers are tied for second in the league with fellow first baseman Carlos Franco (Gwinnett). It's not a particularly deep group here, but Meneses' trip to Columbus would be both well-earned and a nice story. 

Pacific Coast: Jose Miguel Fernandez, Salt Lake -- Fernandez has gotten almost equal time at first, second and third, but he's on the ballot as a first baseman, so he gets the nod here. He ranks fifith in the PCL with a .345 average, and his .973 OPS and 155 wRC+ both lead the PCL at the position. He's also one of five qualified batters with more walks than strikeouts. Round Rock's Tommy Joseph (13) and El Paso's Brett Nicholas (12) may have the homers but lack the overall resume of Fernandez. Tacoma's Daniel Vogelbach boasts a fun slash line at .304/.444/.652 but has 84 fewer PCL plate appearances this season. No need to overthink this.

Make your Triple-A All-Star selections »

Second base

International: Kean Wong, Durham -- The younger brother of Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong has been solid in his second season with the Bulls. He's the only IL second baseman on the ballot with an average above .300 (.304), and his 136 wRC+ is also highest in the group. His .360 OBP, .478 slugging percentage and five homers in 41 games might not jump off the page, but among this group, the 23-year-old is the standout ahead of Irving Falu and Kevin Kramer.

Pacific Coast: Tony Kemp, Fresno -- This comes down to personal preference. Iowa's David Bote has the best power among the group with eight homers, a .497 slugging percentage and .846 OPS. But that's about the only argument over Kemp, who's proven to be a better hitter (.335 average vs. .275), reaches base at a better rate (.407 OBP vs. .349), steals more bases (13 vs. two) and strikes out significantly less (8.2 percent K rate vs. 22.3 percent). So what if Kemp is up in the Majors as an Astros outfielder? He's on the ballot as a PCL second baseman and has enough at-bats to qualify in the major categories.


International: Ronny Rodriguez, Toledo -- Most recall Rodriguez as the guy who hit for the cycle for the Mud Hens on May 30, then was called up to the Majors for the first time the next day. He hasn't been back in the IL since, but his numbers are good enough to warrant votes here. Despite being away for a week, he ranks second in the IL with 107 total bases and is tied for third with 63 hits and 35 RBIs in 48 games. His .540 slugging percentage is alone in third place, while his .882 OPS is almost 100 points higher than his nearest competition in this group -- Willy Adames (.788). Rodriguez was an IL postseason All-Star with Columbus last season, but if he were to be voted in here, it would be the first midseason All-Star honor of his career.

Pacific Coast: David Fletcher, Salt Lake -- No one in Minor League Baseball has more doubles or extra-base hits than Fletcher's 24 and 35, respectively. His 132 total bases trail only Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s 136 across all levels. At .963, he's the only qualified PCL shortstop with an OPS above. 900. You get the picture. Fletcher might be the easiest pick on the PCL side.

Video: Fletcher goes yard for Salt Lake

Third base

International: Mitch Walding, Lehigh Valley -- There are a couple of notable prospects on the ballot in this spot in Nick Senzel and Austin Riley. But this isn't about prospect status or big names. Simple enough, Walding has put up the fifth-highest wRC+ in the IL at 148, thanks to a .271/.379/.484 line. His .857 OPS is the highest among IL third basemen. Flash can be fun, but there isn't a player at the hot corner who can beat Walding's resume this season.

Pacific Coast: Tyler White, Fresno -- White began the season by reaching base in 45 straight games and has the numbers to back up that level of consistency. He's hit .330/.440/.549 with 10 homers, 15 doubles and a 31/37 K/BB ratio through 56 contests. His 161 wRC+ ranks fourth in the PCL. As good as those numbers are, there was a time that J.D. Davis would have taken this spot over his Grizzlies teammate, thanks to a .415/.473/.654 line and 22 extra-base hits in 33 games. But after two stints with the big club, he has 104 fewer PCL plate appearances than White, and that's enough to take him out of the running, albeit for a good reason.


International: Danny Jansen, Buffalo -- There have been few hitters in the IL like Jansen these last two seasons, never mind catchers. The Blue Jays' No. 6 prospect ranks among the IL's top five in average (.315), OBP (.422) and OPS (.884) and has an almost even 24/23 K/BB ratio through 42 games. He may not be as good defensively as other backstops on the IL ballot, but he's head and shoulders above the group offensively. 

Pacific Coast: Tom Murphy, Albuquerque -- In his fourth season with the Isotopes, Murphy boasts an offensive resume that'd be more closely tied to power positions like first base, corner outfield or DH. The 27-year-old is hitting .299/.372/.659 with 14 homers, two triples, 14 doubles and 40 RBIs in 44 games. No catcher on the ballot has more than eight homers, and if there's an inclination that a lot of that has to do with Murphy playing his home games in the hitter's haven of Albuquerque, know that nine of his 14 long balls have come on the road. 

Designated hitter

International: Chad Huffman, Toledo -- With only 15 starts in the field through 40 games, Huffman has been a true DH for the Mud Hens, and he's made the most of his ability to focus on the bat alone. He's hit .295/.400/.511 with six homers, one triple and 10 doubles in 2018. His .911 OPS is tops in the IL, as he has just enough plate appearances to qualify. That's good enough to earn the vote here.

Pacific Coast: Rymer Liriano, Salt Lake -- Not quite as deep a field here, and that makes some sense; it's tougher to find exclusive DHs in the Minor Leagues. Liriano isn't quite that as he's recorded six outfield assists in 288 innings on the grass. But he's still showing plenty of pop in his first season in the Angels system with 12 homers, a .550 slugging percentage and .880 OPS through 41 games. That wouldn't get him an outfield spot, but he does fit the "best of the rest" designation that comes with the DH spot.


International: Christin Stewart, Toledo; Jacob Wilson, Syracuse; Christopher Bostick, Indianapolis -- Stewart has been the IL's best slugger with 13 homers in 56 games; no one else has more than 10. Bostick (.326/.376/.513) and Wilson (.326/.378/.511) have almost identical resumes and both lead the circuit in average, though Bostick has 52 more at-bats.

Pacific Coast: Jabari Blash, Salt Lake; Mike Tauchman, Albuquerque; Franmil Reyes, El Paso -- As the league leader with 16 homers, a .741 slugging percentage and 1.164 OPS, Bash is the early leader for PCL MVP. Tauchman was running away with the batting title with a .385 average before moving up to the Rockies on Tuesday. Reyes made a lot of noise early with 14 homers and a .346/.442/.738 line in 36 games. Those 14 dingers are still tied for second in the PCL, despite the fact he was called up on May 14. His might feel like a token vote, but without a clear option for the third spot, it's hard to ignore his utter dominance.

MiLB include

Starting pitchers

International: Enyel De Los Santos, Lehigh Valley; Jalen Beeks, Pawtucket -- De Los Santos can make the case as the IL's best first-half pitcher with a league-best 1.63 ERA next to his 1.01 WHIP and 69 strikeouts over 66 1/3 innings. Beeks, who made his Major League debut Thursday night, leads all Triple-A starters with a 35.4 percent strikeout rate via 80 K's in 56 1/3 innings. He's also posted a 2.56 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in 10 Pawtucket starts. Columbus right-hander Adam Plutko (1.83 ERA, 0.68 WHIP) isn't on the ballot but might be worth a write-in vote.

Pacific Coast: Daniel Poncedeleon, Memphis; Trent Thornton, Fresno -- Poncedeleon could be the feel-good story of the Triple-A All-Star Game. The Cardinals right-hander was struck by a comebacker last season and limited to six starts for Memphis. Now he leads the PCL in ERA (2.41) and strikeouts (71) over 60 innings with the Redbirds. Thornton has done the league's best job at keeping runners off the bases with a league-leading 1.01 WHIP alongside a 3.20 ERA and 53 strikeouts over 50 2/3 innings.

Relief pitchers

International: Josh Ravin, Gwinnett; Diego Castillo, Durham -- Ravin is the only IL reliever on the ballot who has yet to allow an earned run. He also has a 0.96 WHIP, .125 opponents' average and 29 strikeouts over 17 2/3 innings. Castillo's numbers (1.03 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 32 strikeouts in 26 1/3 innings) were eye-popping enough to push him to the Majors on Tuesday, and they're good enough to earn him votes to reach Columbus, should he be back in Triple-A by next month.

Pacific Coast: Preston Guilmet, Memphis; Bobby Wahl, Nashville -- This isn't a column that will take the easy way out and pick the reliever with the most saves. But Guilmet makes it easy. The Memphis right-hander leads the PCL with 11 saves and posted a 0.93 ERA, 0.48 WHIP and .098 opponents' average with 35 strikeouts in 29 innings. He was called up to St. Louis on Tuesday and designated for assignment two days later. Wahl ranks second among PCL relievers with a 39 percent strikeout rate and owns a 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP and .140 opponents' average in 25 innings.

Sam Dykstra is a reporter for Follow and interact with him on Twitter, @SamDykstraMiLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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