Minor League Roundup: First Basemen

Minor League Roundup: First Basemen

While catchers have made plenty of noise recently in the Jays farm system, today Lance tackles a less distinguished group. He lets us know who figures to play for each minor league club, and which players among them deserve closer attention. And as always, he looks back ten years for a little reminiscing.

I remember my first first basemen's glove. It was green and seemed bigger then life to a young grade school boy. I remember the first throw coming my way... I don't remember the infielder, but I remember the ball was high, and I made a leaping attempt, sure the ball had sailed over my head, only to find it stuck in the webbing. It was then and there, I became a first basemen.

In Softball, you generally put the guy with the bad knees at first. In baseball, first becomes the home for not only the weak knees (in the AL they go to DH), but those who have no other home. Is it by chance that the svelte John Mayberry played first, or that Carlos Delgado wound up there after stints behind the plate and in Left Field? Why when they talk about a home for Josh Phelps do they talk about first? The reason is because if you give a guy a big glove he can almost fake it.

For the Blue Jays, first base is the home of lefties. There has been Ron Fairly, John Mayberry, Willie Upshaw, Fred McGriff, John Olerud, and Carlos Delgado. Below I will mention a lot of first basemen. Fourteen different minor leaguers past and present will be brought up. Of those fourteen, ten are southpaws.

This article looks at the men of the big glove. Some that we will discuss, might actually parade as athletes, while others find themselves at first for reasons mentioned above. Sadly, you don't put your world class athlete at first. Yet, here we go.


Syracuse

The projection is John-Ford Griffin. The problem with this projection is that Griffin is the newly anointed "Captain Fibreglass." I remember Tom Evans earned that nickname from me for his myriad of injuries, but now, Griffin is the reigning king. We gave up Jason Perry plus for a perennial DL case. Griffin slapped the ball silly in college, and was respectable last year at New Haven. The future....well, I think it's so bright I may want to look away. I am not so sold on Griffin, but here's hoping.

Griffin - 2003 New Haven
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
104 373 48 104 23 3 13 75 49 85 .279 .361 .461

Griffin will spend more time on the DL then Pat Borders spent chasing Juan Guzman wild pitches. So I expect Shawn Fagan to fill in. Fagan has put up some nice numbers, but struggled last year in his Syracuse debut. He did go on to hit .314 at New Haven. Fagan seems to have a good eye at the plate, but the problem there is that sometimes his good eye watches the ball go by for a third strike. Fagan has tried catcher, first, third, and the outfield, and he seems destined at best for a Simon Pond-like role.

Fagan - 2003 New Haven
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
115 421 78 132 14 3 5 50 62 82 .314 .402 .397


New Hampshire

In 2001 Matt Logan played 96 games for Tennessee, in 2002 he played 104 games, and then in 2003 the franchise moved to New Haven where he played 92 games. Now, unless I missed something, Logan seems destined to play his fourth year at AA. For Matt it is time to move on, or move out.

Logan - 2003 New Haven
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
92 299 45 80 14 1 3 36 39 37 .268 .360 .351

One can't help but think if Logan hasn't been shown the door yet, that he will find it soon. That leaves Mike Snyder with the job. Snyder has not seen AA pitching yet, but has over 560 games of A ball. Look for Mike to get a chance and follow Logan.

Snyder - 2003 Dunedin
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
137 469 70 133 24 0 9 75 66 113 .268 .365 .371


Dunedin

Vito Chiaravalloti - what's not to like about a guy named Vito (cue Sopranos)? He hit .351 last year in 68 games for Auburn. But names like Jermiah Johnson and Greg Morrison ring loudly as reasons to not get too giddy just yet. Nevertheless, Chiaravalloti is a name worth watching. Given the lack of strong first basemen above him, he could rise quickly if he continues to rip the cover off the ball.

Chiaravalloti - 2003 Auburn
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
68 228 47 80 20 1 12 67 47 48 .351 .469 .605

Clint Johnston was taken in the minor league portion of the rule five draft from the Pirates. Johnson spent time as a pitcher, has been in the outfield, and batted .318 in 23 games for Auburn last year, before moving up to Charleston. Johnston is 26, which is young to me, but a bit old for A ball. I might cut him a little slack due to his lack of experience as a position player, but if he is going anywhere, he better do it fast.

Johnson - 2003 Charleston
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
23 74 10 15 3 0 5 14 10 23 .203 .294 .446


Charleston

Joey Reiman was one who fancied himself a catcher, but he played some at first, and will likely find his home there, if anywhere. He had a respectable start to his pro career last year for Pulaski.

Reiman - 2003 Pulaski
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO AVG OBP SLG
59 206 47 62 18 2 1 35 32 46 .301 .416 .422


Flashback - 1994

Syracuse: Ray Gianelli - Odd to see him at first, considering his claim to fame was a brief stint for Kelly Gruber at third. Gianelli hit .287 at Syracuse, having played 8 seasons in minor leagues.

Knoxville: Chris Weinke - Also a part-time third basemen. Looked like a good proespect after hitting .284 in Dunedin, but may be better known for his Heisman trophy run, and brief career as a QB.

Dunedin: DJ Boston - He was the prospect, hit .315 at Hagerston and the organization was all a flutter. Boston hit .289 at Dunedin, with a nice 55 walks to 65 K in a 433 at bat performance. He soon found himself in Pittsburgh's organization and faded away.

Hagerston: Ryan Jones - scouts once compared him to Mark McGwire. Jones hit .239 in 94, his second year in organization. He ended his Jays run in 98 after only hitting over .260 once.

St. Catherines: Kip Roggendorf - he was the regular first basemen and hit .175

Medicine Hat: Mark Landers - spent two years in the system. He hit .286 his first year, found his way to St Catherines the next year only to hit .232, and was out.

Gulf Coast: Rich Halbrunner - his third season and still in rookie ball, enough said.


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