Yesterday, we took a look at some of the pitchers that were recently demoted to the minors. Today, we’ll highlight some position players – who could still have impacts on the MLB 2009 season – that were sent down to the minors in the last few days.
After a breakout 2008 season, Drew Sutton has positioned himself to be the Houston Astros’ second baseman of the future. For the time being, though, it appears that Kaz Matsui, despite currently hitting .054 in 37 spring at-bats, will be ‘The Man’ while Sutton continues to work on his game in Triple-A. Last season in Double-A, the 25-year-old infielder hit .317/.408/.523 with 20 homers and 20 steals in 520 Double-A at-bats. Sutton also hit very well in the Arizona Fall League.
The Pirates demoted two third-base prospects in recent days in Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker, both former No. 1 draft picks by the organization. Alvarez has a much higher ceiling than Walker, who could eventually become trade bait – unless one of the two players moves somewhere else on the diamond. Despite not having a minor league at-bat yet, after signing late last year, Alvarez may be more MLB-ready than Walker, who spent 2008 in Triple-A and hit .242 with a walk rate of 5.4%. Walker hit .231 this spring in 39 at-bats, while Alvarez killed the ball with a .444 average in just 18 at-bats. Fellow youngster Andy LaRoche will have first shot at the third-base job in Pittsburgh and is hitting .483 in 29 at-bats.
He doesn’t have a ceiling as high as some of the other players on this list but Tug Hulett has the potential to be a solid regular – or a utility player capable of hitting .270-.280 with more than his fair share of walks. He was obtained off waivers by the Royals from the Seattle Mariners organization during a 40-man roster crunch and had a shot at being KC’s second baseman in 2009. However, displaced outfielder Mark Teahen is having a lights-out spring and could end up at the position despite average-at-best defense. Hulett received just nine spring at-bats.
Jarrett Hoffpauir has posted some solid numbers in the last couple of seasons in the Cardinals organization. Combined with the club’s desperate need for a second baseman, Hoffpauir seemed like a perfect fit. However, despite hitting .333 in 18 at-bats without a strikeout, the 25 year old was an early spring cut. The Cardinals organization appears to favor outfielder-turned-second-baseman Skip Schumaker and minor league vet Joey Thurston. Another surprising early cut for the Cardinals, outfielder Brian Barton spent the entire 2008 season with the club after being a Rule 5 draft pick out of the Cleveland organization.
The White Sox demoted catcher Cole Armstrong, 25, to the minors yesterday. He was an early favorite to back-up veteran A.J. Pierzynski, but both players are left-handed batters, which hurt Armstrong’s chances. The job will now likely go to someone like minor league vet Corky Miller or Chris Stewart. The club could also consider a veteran castoff like Josh Bard, who was just let go by the Red Sox.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.