Continuing our look at the prospects who are an injury away from a call up to the big leagues, here's a look at the NL Central:
Cardinals: The Cardinals have a position battle at 3B going into spring training between Allen Craig, Tyler Greene, Joe Mather and David Freese. If history is any indication, manager Tony Larussa will pick a veteran over the prospect, leaving Freese in AAA. But Freese has the power to get the call should he not win the job out of spring training. Freese has a career .384 OBP and .532 SLG in the minors.
Pirates: The Pirates have gone young over the last few years but recently traded for former prospect Jeff Clement to play 1B for them in 2010. They also have career minor leaguer Garrett Jones starting in right field. Jones had a great second half for the Pirates, but his numbers don't jive with how he has hit in the minors, and many are expecting him to regress. Should that occur, the Pirates won't hesitate to call up 21 or 24 year old outfielder Jose Tabata to play right field. I expect that to happen by June.
Cubs: The Cubs are toying around with the idea of letting hyped SS prospect Starlin Castro start the season with the big club, but I doubt they will rush him at the age of 19. But, I could see them calling him up should they fall out of the race come July/August. For some reason, the moves GM Jim Hendry has made over the last few seasons have made the club worse.
Reds: The Reds have a logjam in leftfield to start spring training with Chris Dickerson, Wladimir Balentien, Todd Frazier, Chris Heisey, Juan Francisco and possibly Jonny Gomes battling for the opening. Why the Reds would look to sign Gomes is beyond me. Once Scott Rolen takes his annual trip to the DL, I could see the Reds calling up Todd Frazier to play 3B, assuming Frazier does not make the team out of spring training. Frazier is also a candidate to play left field, and can play 2B or SS in a pinch.
Brewers: Former first round pick Mat Gamel may make the team out of spring training, but if not he could be the first hitter called up by the Brewers. Right now, it appears that Casey McGehee will start at 3B with Rickie Weeks manning 2B. Should McGehee not duplicate his 2009 season in Milwaukee, the Brew Crew could call up Gamel and see if he is the bat he was in AAA. Gamel's bat should keep him in the big leagues, as his glove is non-existent. Should the Brewers decide to deal Prince Fielder for a king's ransom, Gamel would fit in nicely at 1B.
Astros: The Astros currently have two catchers on their 40-man roster-former top prospect JR Towles and career backup Humberto Quintero. It appears Towles may get another chance to win the catchers job out of spring training, but should he falter once again, the Astros could call on top prospect Jason Castro who can hit for a good BA and has a good eye at the plate as evidenced by his .380 OBP in High-A and AA last season.
Is 2010 the season we see the real Mat Gamel?
This poll is closed
Yes, but where will he play?
No, he strikes out too much.