NECBL Alumni: Players to Watch

With Major League Baseball season one week away, we’ll profile five minor league NECBL alums who could make a big impact at the major league level in years to come:

Brian Bogusevic (Danbury/Tulane) was drafted as a pitcher in the first round by the Houston Astros in 2005.  Bogusevic, a big lefty, struggled with his command after signing for $1.375 million.  Bogusevic posted an ERA above four in Single-A with Tri-City of the New York-Penn League (2005-2006), Lexington of the South Atlantic League (2006), and Salem of the Carolina League (2007).  After earning a promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi of the Texas League in 2007 and struggling (7.40 ERA in six starts), Bogusevic decided to re-visit the swing he had fine-tuned during his tenure as a two-way star at Tulane.  Last year, as a pitcher at Corpus Christi, Bogusevic was 2-6 with a 5.50 ERA.  However, as a hitter, Bogusevic batted .371 with three home runs and 20 RBI.  Bogusevic, who has since been placed on the Astros 40-man roster, plays a solid center-field, hits with power to the opposite field, and has a good approach at the plate.  He should begin the year at Triple-A Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League, and could earn a promotion if Michael Bourn struggles at the major league level.

Christian Friedrich (Vermont/Eastern Kentucky) was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the first round of the 2008 amateur draft.  Friedrich, a 6’4” lefty, was undrafted out of high school, but burst onto the college scene with a 20-7 record and a 1.83 ERA in his three years with Eastern Kentucky.  Baseball America also remarks, “[Friedrich] caught the attention of scouts by dominating the wood-bat New England Collegiate and Cape Cod leagues.”  Friedrich split 2008 between Tri City of the Short Season Northwest League and Asheville of the Low-A South Atlantic League.  He displayed a low-90’s fastball and two plus-breaking pitches, a 12-6 curveball and a slider, and he continues to work on a changeup.  Friedrich figures to begin the year with the High-A Modesto Nuts, and could see himself in Coors Field by 2010.

Cole Gillespie (North Adams/Oregon State) helped lead the Beavers to the 2006 College World Series title and was consequently drafted in the third round of the 2006 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers.  Gillespie, an outfielder, has displayed remarkable consistency in three years of minor league action.  He batted .344 with eight home runs and 31 RBI in rookie ball with Helena in 2006, he batted .267 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI in the pitcher friendly High-A Florida State League in 2007, and he batted .281 with 14 home runs and 79 RBI last season with Double-A Huntsville of the Southern League.  Gillespie has no glaring weakness; with 38 doubles and 14 home runs last year, he has shown above-average power, a good eye at the plate, and an accurate arm in the outfield.  Gillespie should begin the year with the Triple-A Nashville Sounds, but could see himself in Milwaukee as a September call-up or a replacement for Ryan Braun or Corey Hart should injuries strike the parent club.

Zach Jackson (Manchester/Texas A&M) has been traded twice before the age of 26 and has reached the major leagues with two different clubs; 2009 could be his most successful (and most stable) season.  Jackson, a tall, left-handed pitcher, was drafted in the first round of the 2004 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.  With the Jays, Jackson was on the fast-track, reaching Triple-A Syracuse in his second professional season.  In the 2005-2006 offseason, Jackson was traded to the Brewers in the deal that sent Dave Bush and Gabe Gross to Milwaukee in exchange for Lyle Overbay.  Jackson began his Milwaukee career with Triple-A Nashville and sparkled in 18 starts, posting a 4.12 ERA while holding opponents to a .262 batting average.  He earned a promotion to the major leagues at the end of the 2006 season, and went 2-2 in seven starts with the Brewers.  Jackson remained a top prospect in 2007 and 2008, spending 2007 with Nashville while splitting time between Nashville and Milwaukee in 2008 before the trade that shook the baseball world last season: C.C. Sabathia joined the Brewers while big-time talents Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, and Zach Jackson joined the Indians.  Jackson was called up to the Indians at the end of 2008, going 2-3 in nine starts.  With Scott Lewis and Anthony Reyes earning the last two spots in the Indians’ rotation to begin 2009, Jackson will be waiting in the wings at Triple-A Buffalo for a call-up that could come sooner rather than later.

Greg Miclat (Keene/Virginia) won’t be seen on any top-10 prospects lists for the Baltimore Orioles… yet.  Miclat, a fifth-round selection in the 2008 draft, has quickly become a defensive standout at shortstop.  Miclat is fast, possesses good instincts, and makes solid contact; in short, he is Brian Roberts without the power.  Miclat hit .291 with three stolen bases in 16 games with Aberdeen of the short-season New York-Penn League last season, and should begin the year at Low-A Delmarva of the South Atlantic League.  Miclat, who stole 83 bases at Virginia, could earn a mid-season promotion if he displays the speed and defense that made him a fifth-round pick one year ago.

NavigatorsBlog will be back shortly with the Weekly Update.

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