Sadly, the minor league season is over. But I can't be too bummed because the Arizona Fall League, Hawaii Winter Baseball league and the Latin American winter leagues will be in full effect soon. The Hawaiian league starts Sept. 29, and the AFL kicks off Oct. 9. Is this important? Well, let's just say Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy played in the HWB last season.
I've spent the last few weeks looking at the guys most likely to get September call-ups, and I'll continue to do that. But it's also time to look deeper into the minors, including players who were drafted this season. What these guys have in common is they have done some pretty nice work this season.
Jonathan Meloan, RHP, Dodgers: The recent call-up is a former University of Arizona Wildcat. Meloan, 23, is a potential closer with a fine combo of stuff and deception, including a mid-90s fastball and a high-80s slider that Dodgers farm director De Jon Watson has called "lights out," and a cutter that Watson also cites as a plus pitch. Meloan fills out his repertoire with a change and a curveball, but he usually doesn't work those pitches into his appearances because he's a reliever. Meloan dominated the high minors this year, going 7-2 with a 2.03 ERA and 20 saves between Double-A and Triple-A. In 66 2/3 innings, he allowed a mere 36 hits, including only five homers, and had a sharp 12.29 K/9 rate. He had 91 combined K's, with just 27 walks (3.64 BB/9). He'll get a middle-relief job next season, but he should be getting holds by the end of next year and helping NL-only/deep leaguers.
Steven Pearce, 1B/OF, Pirates: Pearce was a senior signing out of the University of South Carolina in 2005 with a reputation for good power. The question about Pearce was whether he could handle the high minors. Pearce, 24, answered critics by screaming through the minors this season, pulling an offensive version of Joba Chamberlain by starting off at high-A and ending up in Pittsburgh. Overall, he batted .333-.394-.622 in three minor league levels, with 40 doubles, four triples and 31 homers in 487 at-bats. Pearce is not going to be a major league superstar, but he could become a poor man's Paul Konerko, batting in the .280 range with 30-35 homers at his peak. Pearce should be a solid starter next year, and he might qualify in the outfield if the Pirates keep sticking him out there the final few weeks.
Jeff Clement, C, Mariners:. One of the best catching prospects in the AL, this USC product was the third overall pick in the 2005 draft, and he signed for $3.4 million -- the highest bonus in Mariners history. A superstar in high school, Clement broke Drew "Remember me?" Henson's prep home run record with 75 career long balls, then went on to hit 46 taters for the Trojans. The jury is out on Clement's defense, but most scouts feel he'll be at least adequate behind the plate. In other words, his bat will carry him. Clement batted .275-.370-.497 at Triple-A Tacoma this year, with 35 doubles, three triples and 20 homers in 455 at-bats. He doesn't have any speed (zero steals), but he does have fine plate discipline, with 61 walks and 88 whiffs this season. Clement will turn 23 in 2008, and he should be ready to get significant at-bats as a DH/backup catcher. With regular time, he could become an immediate mixed-league option. By the time he peaks, I'd look for a .300 average and 25 homers, with loads of walks.
Michael Burgess, OF, Nationals: Arguably the top batting prospect in the amateur ranks coming into 2007, Burgess played at Gary Sheffield's alma mater, Hillsborough (Fla.) High School, where he displayed Sheffield-esque bat speed and power potential. However, he didn't quite put things together this season. He dropped from the first round to the supplemental first round, going to the Nationals at pick No. 49 and signing for $630,000. Burgess rallied as a pro, leading the Gulf Coast League in OPS by almost 100 points and displaying solid plate discipline. At age 19, his .336-.442-.617 batting line in rookie ball -- six doubles, three triples and eight homers and 25 walks -- is pretty remarkable. Even better, he then took his act to the short-season New York-Penn League, a circuit usually frequented by college players, and held his own, batting .286-.383-.457. I am impressed with his tools and performance. Given time and the right player-development staff, he could be huge.
Caleb Gindl, OF, Brewers: Gindl, who will turn 19 next season, led the rookie-level Pioneer league in batting average this year. Gindl is only 5-9, but he is solidly built at 185 pounds. Gindl's size was considered detrimental by many organizations, and he was more highly regarded as a pitcher, but the Brewers obviously were on to something. Gindl batted .372-.420-.580 with 22 doubles, three triples and five homers in 207 at-bats. He has a quick bat and good power potential, and his plate discipline is decent (20 walks, 38 whiffs). He was third in the league in OPS, and the two guys ahead of him were age 24 and 22, respectively. A solid sleeper most of your league mates aren't aware of, Gindl is someone to keep an eye on.
Nicholas Weglarz, OF, Indians: Weglarz is 19 next season, and his upside is tremendous. Just as important, the kid has chops. He batted. .276-.395-.497 at Lake County in the low-A Sally League, and he added 28 doubles and 23 homers in just 439 at-bats. He also was very patient, drawing 82 walks. Weglarz's strikeout total (129) leaves a little to be desired and he doesn't offer much speed, but if he continues to progress, he'll be in Double-A at age 20, and he could be in the majors by age 21. What's scary is that Weglarz is actually a year behind schedule – the Indians would have placed him in Lake County in 2006 if not for a broken hamate bone. The kid has excellent raw power, and the Indians' player-development staff has done a great job of improving Weglarz's swing and batting eye. He's a big kid with a sturdy frame (6-3, 215 pounds), and I could see him being a 35-homer threat in the majors within the next two to four years.
David Srinivasan writes about statistics and the minors for ESPN.com. If you have questions, please e-mail him at Srini@TalentedMrRoto.com.