Before I recap some thoughts on the All-Star break from a Minor League perspective, let me tell you a quick story about how I chatted with a former Major League shortstop at Canal Park but had no idea until hours later.
On Tuesday evening as I stood in the will-call line for my derby tickets, I overheard the man in the line next to me say that his son was on the Eastern Division roster. Intrigued, I asked him who his son was and he told me that it was Jesmuel Valentin. I asked him some really clever question about whether he was proud or something, and he of course said he was. Later, sitting in my section 8 seat with a buddy, I pointed out Jesmuel Valentin and told him that I had chatted with his dad before the game.
Buddy: “Oh yeah? Maybe his dad was Jose Valentin.”
Me: “Uh, come on. I doubt it. I’m sure Valentin is a pretty common name.”
Buddy: (Looking it up on his phone). “Yeah, look at this…”
Me: (Noting Jesmuel is indeed the son of Jose Valentin, who spent 16 years in the Majors and hit 249 career home runs) “I just had mindless small talk with a former Major Leaguer about his son and had no idea who he was. Good thing I’m a baseball writer.”
Also, I’ll go on record saying that I think Valentin could still play. He’s missing the mustache now, but in retrospect, he certainly looked like an athlete.
Anyway, besides the Major League All-Star festivities this week in San Diego, the best of MLB’s young prospects were featured in Sunday night’s Futures Game. I then attended the AA Eastern League Home Run Derby in Akron’s Canal Park on Tuesday and the All-Star Game the following night.
Some scribbles from my notebook:
World 11 – US 3
+ The Indians had three players invited to the Futures Game: Clint Frazier started in left for the US and went 2-for-3 with a double, RBI and a stolen base. Yandy Diaz started at third for the World and went 1-for-2. Catcher Francisco Mejia came off the bench for the World team and went 1-for-3 with a run scored.
+ Mejia is having a fantastic season at the plate, hitting a combined .342/.371/.518 across two levels with 20 doubles, four triples and seven home runs. He’s knocked in 57 runs in 69 games. The 20-year-old switch-hitter started the season at Lake County and was promoted to high-A Lynchburg on June 27th.
+ Mejia also has an incredible 33-game hitting streak, which he carried with him from Lake County to Lynchburg. He takes a crack at 34 in a row tonight at 5pm against Carolina.
+ Fresno’s Alex Bregman put on a show in the Futures Game, going 3-for-5 and falling a home run short of a cycle. In what is best defined as an embarrassment of riches, Bregman is a AAA shortstop in the Houston Astros system now just one level behind last year’s NL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa. Bregman is 22 but Correa is just 21. Bregman actually started at third in the Futures Game, so perhaps he’ll have a Manny Machado approach to a big league debut while he’s blocked by Bregman.
Double-A Home Run Derby
+ After watching eventual derby champion Jason Krizan pepper the right-field seats with home runs, I would have sworn that he was taking advantage of the short right field porch, whereas many of his right-handed competitors were hitting towards a deeper left-field power alley and straightaway center field. Shows what I know – after looking it up, the right field line is actually six feet deeper than left at Canal Park. The power alley in right is also just a foot shorter in right than in left.
+ The aforementioned Krizan, a 27-year-old outfielder with the Erie Seawolves (Detroit system) was a surprise winner considering he’s hit just eight home runs all season in 84 games. If Vegas were interested, I’m sure they would have had much better odds on Reading’s powerful duo of Rhys Hoskins (25 home runs) and Dylan Cozens (24 home runs).
+ Speaking of Hoskins and Cozens, they anchor a Reading ballclub that went 63-27 in the first half – best in all affiliated baseball. The Fightin’ Phils next return to Canal Park for a three game set beginning Monday, August 22nd.
+ Akron’s Nellie Rodriguez, who lost in the finals, is in the midst of another powerful season. Rodriguez, drafted out of the same Washington Heights high school attended by Manny Ramirez, has 17 home runs at the break after topping 20 each of the past two seasons in Lake County and Lynchburg.
Double-A Eastern League All Star Game
Eastern Division 10 – Western Division 2
+ The Eastern Division thumped the West from start to finish, starting with a three-run bomb by Hoskins in the 1st inning. The West (which is Akron’s division) scored their only two runs on solo home runs from Harrisburg’s Neftali Soto and Bowie’s Garabaz Rosa.
+ Akron had three starters in the line-up and interestingly they were the first three players removed from the game. Frazier (RF), Bradley Zimmer (CF), and Rodriguez (1B) were all pulled defensively in the 5th.
+ Zimmer, who stands 6’4″ and only 185 pounds, was drafted 21st overall in 2014. He has a lot of tools to dream on and was hitting only .244 at the break, but has a .364 OBP with 19 doubles, 14 home runs and 30 stolen bases. Zimmer is the #22 prospect overall, and Frazier is right behind at #23.
+ Let me put this in writing just so I can reference back to this in five years and say “I told you so”, or perhaps more likely “Sorry, I’m a fool. Move along”. The Indians certainly should not deal Zimmer or Frazier in any deal for bullpen help. Young outfielders with tools like these should not be traded for relief pitching, which by definition is totally fungible and unpredictable.
+ It was very hot and humid both Tuesday and Wednesday, but it was great to see the fans turn out to cheer on the minor leaguers. Wednesday’s All-Star game was a sellout with 8,054 in attendance.
+ I’ll go out on a limb and say that the foot-long Philly cheesesteaks at Eddie’s at Canal Park are better than anything you can find at Progressive Field, and that’s no knock on the culinary choices at the Prog. Eddie’s makes a killer cheesesteak, and is a pretty decent ballpark value at $9 for a foot-long.