Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
You're probably familiar with John Fogarty's song "Centerfield," recorded in 1985 and played at just about every baseball stadium in the country:
"Put me in, coach, I'm ready to play today. Look at me, I can be centerfield."
Oh, if only it were that simple.
Every year, a new crop of minor leaguers comes up through the system, hoping for a chance to someday play in the big leagues. A few of these budding young stars will eventually get that opportunity but plenty of others won't.
The minor leagues can be a cruel waiting game for some. Lars Anderson has been in Triple-A Pawtucket for half a decade and still isn't any closer to winning Boston's first base job thanks to Adrian Gonzalez and his huge contract.
Here are a few talented minor league hitters who could definitely make some noise in fantasy ... that is, if they ever get the chance:
Julio Borbon, CF, Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers) - Unlike most of the other players on this list, Borbon already has a good amount of major league experience: he's appeared in 215 games for the Rangers, including 137 in 2010 (.276, 3 HRs, 42 RBIs, 19 SBs). Now the hard part will be getting back to the big show. Despite an impressive .315 average and 10 stolen bases through 52 games for Triple-A Round Rock (he's also on a 19-game hitting streak), the 26- year-old is a distant fifth on Texas' outfield depth chart behind Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, David Murphy and Craig Gentry.
Corey Brown, CF, Syracuse Chiefs (Washington Nationals) - In Brown's first season as a Syracuse Chief last year, he hit 14 HRs with 39 RBIs in 124 games. Through 58 games in 2012, he has already passed his home run total from last season (16 HRs) and he'll be able to eclipse his RBI mark from a season ago with just one more RBI. As good as Brown has been, it's not going to be easy for him to get consistent playing time in the majors unless Bryce Harper, Mike Morse or Roger Bernadina get hurt. The former first-round pick out of Oklahoma State went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in a short stint in the majors at the end of last month.
Justin Christian, LF, Fresno Grizzlies (San Francisco Giants) - Christian has been as hard to get out as any player in the Pacific Coast League this season. Despite hitting only .217 in June, Christian's .364 batting average through 57 games is still the third-best in the PCL. He's fourth in the PCL in on-base percentage as well (.434). Unfortunately for Christian, he plays the same position as Melky Cabrera, who has had a monster year at the plate in his first season with San Francisco (.364, 4 HRs, 28 RBIs). The former Southeast Missouri standout is 22-for-87 (.253) in 42 career major league appearances with the New York Yankees and Giants.
Adam Eaton, CF, Reno Aces (Arizona Diamondbacks) - Eaton began the year with the Double-A Mobile BayBears before quickly earning a promotion to Triple-A Reno. All he's done since then is lead the league with a .398 average and steal 19 bases (tied for second-best in the PCL behind Las Vegas outfielder Anthony Gose). Most left-handed hitters struggle against left-handed pitching. Eaton, on the other hand is batting .444 in 54 at-bats against lefties this season. The 5-foot-8 Miami University product would probably be on the fast track to the majors if not for the small fact that center fielder Chris Young (.273, 5 HRs, 16 RBIs in 28 games for Arizona this season) is already under contract until 2014.
Brad Eldred, DH, Toledo Mud Hens (Detroit Tigers) - Eldred is basically the Barry Bonds of the International League. Nobody is even close to his incredible power numbers (23 HRs, 62 RBIs in 57 games) and every pitcher he goes against fears him. And they should: the guy is enormous (6-foot-6, 270 pounds). But with the team already committed to first baseman Prince Fielder and DH Delmon Young up at the major league level (and Victor Martinez when he returns from an ACL injury), there's really nowhere else for the 11-year veteran to go. Maybe if Eldred gets bored in Triple-A, he can try hitting blindfolded.
Yan Gomes, 3B, Las Vegas 51s (Toronto Blue Jays) - Gomes made history by becoming the first Brazilian-born player in the major leagues when he made his debut earlier in the year. The 2009 10th-round selection has been tearing PCL pitching apart this season (.349, 7 HRs, 30 RBIs), but with Brett Lawrie at third and Edwin Encarnacion at first (though he's mostly been used as a DH recently), the Blue Jays' corner infield positions appear to be occupied. Vladimir Guerrero's comeback tour appears to be heading to Toronto soon and that won't help Gomes, either.
Dan Johnson, 1B, Charlotte Knights (Chicago White Sox) - Johnson's improbable ninth-inning homer versus the Yankees last year in Tampa Bay's regular-season finale was one of the most iconic home runs of the past decade. Despite the memorable home run, Johnson is still struggling to find steady work at the major league level. The former Oakland A is having a remarkable season for the White Sox's Triple-A affiliate: he's third in the IL in homers (14) and second in RBIs (46). But don't expect Chicago to come calling for his services unless Paul Konerko (.365, 12 HRs, 35 RBIs) or Adam Dunn (.226, 20 HRs, 46 RBIs) suffer a major injury.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Iowa Cubs (Chicago Cubs) - Rizzo has made the PCL look like a T-ball league with his off-the-charts production this season. He leads the league in round-trippers (20), is second in RBIs (53) and his .363 average is the PCL's fourth-highest. Rizzo appeared in 49 games for the San Diego Padres last season, but now that he's with the Cubs, he'll have much greater competition for playing time at first base. Bryan LaHair (.310, 12 HRs, 25 RBIs) is having a breakout season and Jeff Baker (.268 career batting average) has shown some ability there as well.
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