Double-A can ultimately make or break many prospects standing within an organization. That pattern…
Roster Outlook – Binghamton (Update)
Coming off a season that significantly improved his stock, Thole spent considerable time in big league camp during Spring Training but that will not be enough to persuade the organization to push him any higher. Both his offense and defense will be challenged in the Eastern League and scouts want to see if he can continue the success he started last season. Thole will have much to experience in his first shot as the everyday catcher which is a fairly tall order given that it comes in Double-A.
1B -- Lucas Duda
It is the next step for the first baseman. One cannot deny Duda has been productive in his first two seasons on the farm but more will be demanded of him in Double-A. Duda still seeks an identity as a prospect and as Double-A has attested for many over time, this is the season in which he has to do it. He has no competition for his spot and with at least 130 games easily in reach, Duda has to maximize his playing time.
SS -- Ruben Tejada
Because the organization continues to challenge the young shortstop. Tejada is a light hitter who has been pushed beyond his level and thus could find it very tough to produce at the plate in a league loaded with talented arms. However, that will not deter the organization from seeing what it can get out of Tejada with a logjam of middle infielders behind him.
3B -- Shawn Bowman
It is the best place for Bowman. He is healthy entering a season for the first time in years but even he would say he is beyond the comeback stage as he demands the most of himself everyday. Many are still waiting for is bat to come around but there is widespread recognition of his defensive skills and those should be enough to give him a boost even if his bat takes a bit longer than anticipated.
2B -- Hector Pellot
Because there may not be any other place to put him. Registering only 23 games in High-A before going to Double-A is not ideal, but the organization knows what they are getting from Pellot—good contact, speed, base running and solid defensive skills. Those traits should help carry him to Double-A.
C/DH -- Jordan Abruzzo
Abruzzo bounced around plenty last year in efforts to get him playing time and with internal backing, the third-year catcher should make it to Binghamton where he can be used as a solid backup to Thole or slotted in the lineup as a valuable designated hitter. Abruzzo has flown under the radar a bit because of a lost rookie season in 2007, but that should change in 2009.
OF -- D.J. Wabick
Even though Wabick not cracked the Top 50, he continues to produce and show value as an organizational piece. He hits for a solid average, some power and offers solid defense. The organization will give him the opportunity to show if he can keep it going at the next level.
OF -- Caleb Stewart
Stewart is a gamer who throughout his career and gone out and performed to the best of his ability without much fanfare. He began the 2008 season in Triple-A and could end up repeating that this season, but the number of big league and minor league free agents that will fill up the Buffalo roster may keep Stewart back in Double-A for yet another season.
UT -- Jonathan Malo
He is a trusted utility infielder despite little production at the plate. He is a steady glove who has proven durable and gained more backing in recent years. He has a high baseball I.Q. and simply goes out and plays the game effectively at this level.
UT -- Josh Petersen
This is a bit of a flier. He plays the infield corners but has seen time in left field as well. His destination will likely come down to the last few spots on both the Buffalo and Binghamton rosters. Peterson spent nine games in Triple-A before returning to Double-A last season.
RHP -- Dillon Gee
After consideration, it appears Gee will return to Binghamton. There was some mixed belief that he could jump right to Binghamton, but Gee would still benefit from at least another half season in Double-A before any promotion comes down.
LHP -- Eric Niesen
Niesen's numbers St. Lucie were rough at times [6-12, 4.64], but that will not be enough to deny him a shot at Double-A. Niesen, who enters only his second full season as a starter, should be one of two left-handers is the rotation. Long term projections may ultimately move him to the bullpen, but for now he stays a starter.
LHP -- Michael Antonini
Antonini will be the other left-hander in the rotation. He made eight starts in Binghamton last season, going 1-3 with a 3.74 ERA but there is still work to be done at this level before he moves up. Time in Triple-A by the end of the year is certainly possible, but Antonini should be a lock to start the season in Double-A.
RHP -- Dylan Owen
Owen is an even bigger lock to begin the year in the Binghamton rotation. Owen made three shaky starts with the B-Mets last season and is out to show he can handle the level over the course of a full season.
RHP -- Ryan Coultas
Coultas will return to Binghamton but this time as a pitcher who impresses with very good velocity—he was 92-94 MPH early in camp—with a solid changeup and a sneaky breaking ball. His value as a middle reliever continues to climb but now the question is whether he can be successful against Eastern League hitters.
RHP -- Jose De La Torre
De La Torre last compiled significant innings in 2007 when he posted a 4-7 record and a 4.55 ERA in 61 1/3 innings with St. Lucie before he underwent Tommy John surgery that winter. With a very good fastball/slider combination and a track record in High-A, the right-hander would best be served facing next level competition.
RHP -- Jake Ruckle
Prior to undergoing surgery to repair a tear in his labrum, Ruckle served as a swingman for the B-Mets. That role will not likely be there in 2009, but first things first, Ruckle appears healthy and ready to assume a spot in the Binghamton bullpen.
RHP -- Tobi Stoner
Only if the organization feels Stoner could benefit from a little more seasoning before moving up which has been the case with the right-hander the last two seasons. He made 15 starts in Binghamton last season and his depth of pitches should be enough to get him to Triple-A outright, but a more conservative estimate leads him to begin the year with the B-Mets.
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