MINORS: The Eyes have it—2013 South Atlantic League All Star game

In theory, minor league All-Star games, especially at the lower levels, are golden. It’s the one spot to get a look at the best players of a given league all in one sitting. The whole field is filled with prospects with a major-league future, right?

In practice, though, it rarely works out that way. Talent evaluators still have to mine through layers to find the gems, as participants are often chosen by short-term statistic performance rather than long-term skills promise. Some of the league’s brightest talents aren’t invited because of poor numbers. And all that is without the threat of Mother Nature.

For the 2013 South Atlantic League (SAL) All-Star game in Lakewood, NJ on June 18, the weather made its mark. A steady ran throughout the afternoon canceled batting practice, and by the 7:05 pm scheduled start time, many were resigned to the fact that there would likely be no SAL All-Star game in 2013.

But the proverbial window opened, and the game started at 9:45 pm. It was shortened to a seven-inning contest, which made looks at pitchers especially brief, as no one pitched more than one inning. But there was some talent on the field, and what follows is some thoughts on several of the players who might become prospects with fantasy value in the near future. Again, these are one-shot looks, but with the SAL one of the two lowest full-season leagues, it's a place to start.

Joey Gallo (3B, TEX): A first-round pick from the 2012 draft, Gallo is tied with Hickory teammate Ryan Rua (also an All-Star) for the SAL HR lead with 22. Though he didn’t go yard in his three AB, with one look at his classic lefthanded uppercut swing from his 6-5 205 frame and one can see that HR totals are legit—when he makes contact. Gallo already has 111 strikeouts in just 258 AB (that's a 57% contact rate), and he struck out in his final AB in this game. He’ll likely never completely get his ct% under control, but his raw punch will provide his value as he rises the ladder. Just 19 years old, he still has time.

Lewis Brinson (OF, TEX): Brinson is another 19-year-old first rounder from 2012, a lean centerfielder who looked at home as he glided to run down a couple balls in the gap. At 6-3, 170, he has an athletic frame with some room to fill out. Brinson, though, also has similar strikeout issues in this first full professional season as Gallo, but has also showed off his power (14 HR, 12 doubles) so far. He has very good bat speed, though his swings were wildly aggressive at times. Brinson worked a walk, had an RBI groundout and went down swinging in his three AB. Both Gallo and Brinson are raw, but their loud tools were obvious and on display.

Raul Mondesi Jr (SS, KC): Speaking of tools, Mondesi (son of the former major-league OF, who was in attendance this night) has them on both sides of the ball. He entered the game in the fourth inning and did not have a chance in the field, but the buzz has been that this 17-year-old (yes, 17) can already play defense at a high level. His 6-1, 165 stature looked like that of teenager, but showed in his two plate appearances that he belonged. Batting right-handed both times, the switch-hitting Mondesi first turned around a 94 mph fastball for a sharp single into left field, then followed it by keeping his hands back on an 0-1 breaking ball and lining it into left field for his second hit. It’s a miniscule look, but those two successful at-bats off of different types of pitches at his young age is promising, to say the least. And he’s not just a singles hitter; he has 4 HR along with 12 SB so far. He’s still far away, but the whispers of “special” just might be truthful.

Dilson Herrera (SS, PIT): Herrera was tagged by Jeremy Deloney as a possible breakout prospect in February, and his .283 BA with 6 HR, 31 RBI and 9 SB earned him a starting spot in the game. The 19-year-old Herrera is even smaller than Mondesi—listed at 5-10, 150—but rapped a single, quickly sped from first to third on a hit-and-run, and then stole home on the back end of a double-steal. He looked far less comfortable in his second AB, striking out on three pitches. In the field, he showcased a strong arm but less-than-smooth instincts, and it’s possible that his slight frame might eventually push him to 2B.

Micah Johnson (2B, CHW): Johnson, the game’s MVP (pictured above), is worth noting if only for his speed. He leads all minor leaguers with 54 SB through 67 games, and didn’t disappoint this evening, with two steals and a run scored. Johnson was a ninth-round pick out of Indiana University in 2012, and his .337/.420/.533 line should earn him some notice—and likely a promotion—if this pace continues. There were questions about his glove coming into 2013; he hasn’t answered those with 17 errors so far. But with speed, decent plate discipline and some pop, he’s worth keeping an eye on.

Two of the pitchers with the loudest skills in the league during the first half did not make it into the game: C.J. Edwards (RHP, TEX) and Tyler Glasnow (LHP, PIT). But just about everyone else did. In a game that went six and a half innings (the home North won 2-1 and did not bat in the 7th), no fewer than 19 pitchers were used. Martin Agosta (RHP, SF) started the game for the South and worked around a one-out walk in his inning of work. Teammate Chris Stratton (RHP, SF), 2012 first round pick, didn’t fare so well in the third inning; he allowed both runs on four hard hit balls. And Christian Binford (RHP, KC) threw more warm-up pitches before the inning than in the game, as he retired the side in the second inning on just four pitches. 

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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.