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On Monday, Jerry Sands was the first big-name prospect to come up from Triple-A this season when the Los Angeles Dodgers promoted the slugger from Albuquerque. Here are some other National League position player prospects to watch in Triple-A.
Blackmon is a toolsy center fielder that can do a little bit of everything. In 52 at-bats this season, the Georgia Tech alumnus is batting .308 with four homers, 13 RBIs, three steals and a 1.005 OPS. Blackmon is a career .312 hitter in the minors, but he needs to work on his base stealing technique (69.1 percent career success rate). Blackmon, 24, is an intriguing talent whose skills are tailor-made for Coors Field. He is capable of reaching and building on 15 homers and 15 steals in the majors.
The Reds have arguably the best catching tandem in baseball (Ramon Hernandez, Ryan Hanigan), so Mesoraco doesn't have a clear path until 2012 at the earliest. However, the Reds' 2007 first-round pick caught the eye of manager Dusty Baker during the spring, and the skipper indicated that Mesoraco would be the first in line for a call-up at catcher should a need arise. Mesoraco is currently hitting .286 with three homers, nine RBIs and a 1.038 OPS in 35 at-bats. The power-hitting catcher projects as an All-Star-caliber catcher capable of reaching 20 home runs on a yearly basis in his prime.
Rizzo, one of the prized prospects the Padres landed in the Adrian Gonzalez deal during the winter, made a strong impression on manager Bud Black in the spring, and the skipper said the young first baseman had a chance to break through at some point this season. Rizzo is hitting .412 with three home runs, eight RBIs, three steals and a 1.160 OPS in 51 at-bats this season. Only 21, Rizzo has 25-homer pop, but needs a little work on his plate discipline. He is the Padres' first baseman of the future. If Padres first basemen Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu are still struggling come late May or June, don't be surprised if the Padres eventually turn to Rizzo.
Nieuwenhuis is off to a hot start, hitting .349 with one home run, three RBIs, one stolen base and a .943 OPS in 43 at-bats. The former Azusa Pacific star has averaged 17.5 homers and 15 steals over his last two seasons in the minors. There is no question Nieuwenhuis is a good athlete who can drive the ball and run, but his big problem in the past has been with strikeouts as he whiffed once every 3.1 at-bats in Triple-A last year. This year he has improved on it so far (3.9,) and he has improved his walk rate in the early going. The Mets would like to give Nieuwenhuis a full year in Triple-A, but those plans could change given the health issues surrounding outfielders Carlos Beltran and Jason Bay.
The Mets designated rookie second baseman and Rule 5 draftee Brad Emaus for assignment and promoted infielder Justin Turner from Triple-A Buffalo. Turner is expected to be on the short end of a platoon with Daniel Murphy at second base. Turner, 26, is a lifetime .309 hitter in the minors, so he has been pretty consistent in making contact, but he doesn't bring much to the table in terms of power and speed. He set a career high with 12 homers in Triple-A last season and hasn't reached double digits in steals since 2007. Because of his playing situation, Turner should be watched by fantasy players who need a middle infielder in NL-only leagues.
The Seattle Mariners called up outfielder Carlos Peguero from Triple-A Tacoma after Justin Smoak left the team on bereavement leave. Peguero is very similar to a lot of tools-laden outfielders the Mariners have developed in recent years. He has big-time tools, but his poor approach at the plate undermines the good he brings to the table. From 2009 to 2010, Peguero averaged 27 home runs a season but also averaged 175 strikeouts. Last season he hit .254 in 488 at-bats at Double-A West Tennessee and was thrown out on nine of his 16 stolen base attempts.
About Chris Hadorn
Chris Hadorn has covered minor league and amateur prospects for more than a decade. He writes for San Diego's North County Times and has been a KFFL fantasy baseball contributor since 2006.