Prospect three-day weekend

After a one week hiatus here at the 3DW thanks to the combination of green beer and a bracket-busting day of college hoops, we’re back to catch you up on where all your favorite prospects have disappeared to in the past two weeks.

Most of them are not in camp any more. Roster cuts have been in full effect, both to get the veterans ready for their season and to get the kids out of the way before they get hurt and their service clock has to start ticking while they’re on the DL.

But where did they all go?

I’m glad you asked. Some did not go far, and won’t be away for long. The most recent string of cuts saw Dustin Ackley, Matt Dominguez and Brett Lawrie all sent to Triple-A, but none of them should get too comfortable. Ackley was one of the Mariners’ best hitters in camp, and while the excuse of wanting him to shore up his defense is a legitimate one, keeping him out of an extra year of arbitration is an even better one. I hope Ackley is only renting in Tacoma.

Dominguez entered camp with the Marlins with a reputation as a great glove man at the hot corner whose bat may not be ready for the big stage—a reputation that turned out to be as well deserved as Charlie Sheen’s. Dominguez hit a little bit early, but fell into a huge slump toward the middle of March that he could not shake. He’ll head back to Triple-A, but given the Marlins (lack of) internal options, Dominguez should be back in Miami the minute he starts hitting.

Lawrie, on the other hand, was new to the hot corner, but reviews from Blue Jays camp were that he took to it extremely well. Lawrie’s bat was as good as advertised, but the team wants him to get a little more time getting used to his new position. I doubt it will be too long.

There are years that Triple-A has more veterans hanging on and Quadruple-A players than actual prospects, but this year doesn’t appear to be one of those. At least not at the start. In fact, the running joke that the Omaha Storm Chasers (no, that’s not the joke, but that is the new name of the team previously known as the Omaha Royals) might actually be better than their big brothers in Kansas City may be more truth than humor. The Royals appear set to have their top pitching prospect, Mike Montgomery, and their two top hitting prospects, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas, all open the season just a phone call away from the majors. If you want to see this trio in person, however, don’t wait until the weather warms up. All three could be in Kansas City by June.

As good as those Royals prospects were all spring, none were thought to have a real chance to make the 25-man roster. Some prospects who were sent down in the past few weeks, however, did have a chance before their organizations decided otherwise.

Jordan Lyles, despite there being little incentive to rush their only premium prospect, almost cracked the Astros starting rotation this spring. Lyles has been impressive this March, but no matter how good he was, there is just no need to rush a 20-year-old to the majors to help a fourth place (at best) team. Even Ed Wade realized that.

The Mets made the decision this year that they should have made last year regarding Jenrry Mejia. He’s heading to Triple-A to stretch out and work on being a starter. And the Rays, who have established a reputation of making prospects earn each promotion rather than handing them out because it’s time, have sent Desmond Jennings to Triple-A to start the season despite him being the obvious heir apparent to Carl Crawford. It’s a shrewd move for the Rays, who know that Jennings has been banged up but could be a star if he refines his game properly. It also shields him from the pressure of trying to directly replace the Rays’ all-time leader in virtually every offensive category.

A few teams also made tough decisions, despite their obvious nature. Mike Trout is the top prospect in baseball, and played like it this spring. There was never really a chance for him to make the Angels, but if they had asked themselves if he was among their best 25 players, he would have had to be in the discussion. Instead, he’ll start the season in Double-A, and if he moves in 2011 at the same pace he’s moved so far as a professional, he should be in southern California by the fall.

Lonnie Chisenhall might have been the best hitter in the Cactus League during his time there, and given the Indians’ gaping hole at third base, he became a tempting choice. But the Indians kept their desires at bay, remembering that Chisenhall has yet to see a pitch in Triple-A and is still learning third base. Still, every out made by Jason Donald, Luis Valbuena and Co. is one step closer to the Lonnie Chisenhall Era in Cleveland.

Jacob Turner entered Tigers camp poised to make a Rick Porcello-like jump straight to the majors, and did nothing on the field to dispel his readiness. But the Tigers’ major league rotation doesn’t have any openings, and while Turner may be the team’s best pitching prospect, they have others who are more major league ready. Turner will instead head to Double-A and should spend the entire season in the minors, with the possible exception of a late season spot start or two if the Tigers are out of contention.

References & Resources
http://www.mlbprospectwatch.com/mlb_prospect_watch/2011/03/roster-cuts-ackley-dominguez-lawrie.html

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