This week’s rankings; previous ranking in parentheses, with a look at late-season and/or September call-ups. Stats through Thursday’s games:
1. Philadelphia (1): As if Phillies needed more pitching, reliever Michael Schwimer had a 1.74 ERA over his last 88 innings in AAA. If nothing else, he makes the majors’ tallest staff even taller: at 6-8, he’s the Phillies’ fifth pitcher 6-5 or bigger.
2. N.Y. Yankees (3): Jesus Montero, 21, can hit — he has a .501 slugging percentage in five minor league seasons. But can he catch? He hasn’t yet for the Yankees. Catchers who slug .500 are more valuable than DHs who do; the latter are supposed to.
3. Boston (2): The Red Sox have their own rookie catching hope in Ryan Lavarnway, who has slugged .521 in four minor league seasons. Like Montero, he can hit, but can he catch? The two might reprise the Munson-Fisk rivalry of star catchers, or Kevin Maas-Jack Clark non-rivalry of mediocre DHs.
4. Atlanta (4): Braves adding 21-year-old Randall Delgado and 20-year-old Julio Teheran, giving them one of the youngest and most diverse staffs in the majors. They now have starters from the Dutch Antilles (Jair Jurjens), Panama (Delgado), Colombia (Teheran), and relievers from the Dominican Republic (Arodys Vizcaino and Cristhian Martinez) and Australia (Peter Moylan).
5. Milwaukee (5): The Brewers may have traded Brett Lawrie, but they’re not out of Canadian-born young infielders who can hit. Casey McGehee might want to take notice. British Columbia’s Taylor Green is 7-for-16 after hitting .336 and slugging .583 at AAA Nashville.
6. Texas (6): Cuban defector Leonys Martin, 23, was great in AA — .348/435/571 — but much less so in AAA — .263/316/314. It’ll take more than the latter to win a job in the Rangers’ outfielder, even from Endy Chavez.
7. Arizona (7): Former No. 1 pick Wade Miley had a 4.30 minor-league ERA, but the D’backs promoted him and thrust him into the middle of the pennant race. That’s what happens after a summer of watching Zach Duke, Barry Enright and Armando Galarraga battle to be your fifth starter.
8. Detroit (10): Tigers called up 2009 No. 1 pick Jacob Turner, who had a 3.44 ERA in AA-AAA, started him on Sept. 1 and haven’t used him since. What’s the point?
9. L.A. Angels (8): It’s been six years between major-league wins for former Giants No. 1 pick Jerome Williams, who was 0-7 for the Cubs and Nats in 2006-07. He’s 3-0 for the Angels and pitching like it — a 3.51 ERA, 26 innings, 23 hits, 4 walks, 19 strikeouts.
10. Tampa Bay (9): Brandon Guyer was part of the package the Cubs dealt for Matt Garza. Remember that, because it will become a redundant clause in the coming years. After hitting .344 and slugging .588 in AA for the Cubs in 2010, Guyer hit .312 and slugged .521 for the Rays’ AAA team in Durham. But the Cubs don’t need that kind of offensive potential in a 25-year-old outfielder, do they?
11. St. Louis (12): Reliever Maikel Cleto is 22 and has already been traded twice (Mets to Mariners as part of J.J. Putz package; Mariners to Cards for Brendan Ryan). That can be good or bad. Cleto throws hard (135 strikeouts in 134.2 innings), but it would help if he knew where it was going (43 walks in 71.1 AAA inninga).
12. San Francisco (11): Brett Pill joins Brandon Belt to give the Giants two four-letter word options at first base. Here’s how to tell the prospect from the non-prospect: Belt is 23 and will live up to his name; Pill is 27 and will live up to his name.
13. Toronto (13): Jays promote outfielder Adam Loewen, after he hit .306, 17 homers and 46 doubles in AA. You might remember him as an Orioles pitcher from 2006-08 with unusally high walk rates (106 in 164 innings); as a hitter, his strikeout rate has caught up — he fanned 136 times in 520 AAA at-bats.
14. Cleveland (14): Traded as a starter, former Red Sox No. 1 pick Nick Hagadone makes major-league debut as a reliever. He’s the second piece of the Victor Martinez trade to join the Indians (Justin Masterson was first).
15. Cincinnati (16): Note to Red Sox and Yankee fans: It’s possible neither of you has the game’s best young catching prospect. That might be the Reds’ Devin Mesoraco, about whom there’s no question of whether he’s a legit catcher (threw out 41% of base stealers last year, 26% this year). Followed up .964 OPS of 2010 with .855 in AAA this year.
16. Chicago White Sox (17): Australian reliever Shane Lindsay had .132 batting average against in 63.2 innings at AAA; he gave up eight hits in his second big-league inning alone.
17. N.Y. Mets (19): Mets outfielder Val Pascucci, 32, was last in the majors so long ago he said sayonara to the Expos in 2004 to play two years for Bobby Valentine in Japan. He’s hit 234 career minor league home runs, 21 in AAA this year.
18. L.A. Dodgers (21): Rookie catcher Tim Federowicz gets number 31; last Dodger catcher to wear it was Mike Piazza. Don’t expect Piazza-like numbers from Federowicz, who came to L.A. from Boston as part of three-way deal which sent Erik Bedard to Sox. Still Federowicz is no Dioner Navarro — he hit .287 and slugged .450 at two stops this year.
19. Washington (18): On days Stephen Strasburg doesn’t pitch, Nats fans might notice former first-round pick Chris Marrero has moved Mike Morse off first base and to the outfield. They might also notice Marrero has never hit more than 18 homers in last three full seasons nor slugged much more than his .457 minor league average.
20. Colorado (15): Rockies promote catcher Wilin Rosario, 22, who has power (21 AA homers), but no control of the strike zone (19 walks, 91 strikeouts). If you like J.P.Arencibia (.221 average, .281 on-base, 22 homers), you’re going to love Rosario.
21. Pittsburgh (20): Jeff Locke is the latest piece of the Nate McLouth trade to reach majors, though he hasn’t been used yet. Locke had a 3.70 ERA and 139 strikeouts (55 walks) in 153.1 innings, mostly in AA.
22. San Diego (22): Released by Cubs in 2009, reliever Erik Hamren pitched in Independent Leagues in 2010, then averaged a strikeout an inning with a 1.05 ERA for Padres this year and has 2.53 ERA in 10.2 innings for Padres. Not sure this one is the Cubs’ fault — Hamren pitched like someone who should have been released in 2009 (5.98 ERA, 58.2 innings, 64 hits, 32 walks at low-A Peoria).
23. Florida (23): Marlins supposedly tinkered with the idea of opening the season with Matt Dominguez at third base. Too bad they didn’t — they might have had the next John Vukovich, the good-field, no-hit infielder who was moved off third for Pete Rose on the 1975 Reds. Dominguez hit .258 in AAA this year, in line with his .255 career average.
24. Oakland (24): Outfielder Michael Taylor was traded twice in December of 2009, first from Philadelphia to Toronto as part of the deal for Roy Halladay, and from there to Oakland for Brett Wallace. He hasn’t been worth either, spending the last two and a half years at AAA and never topping a .282 average, 16 homers, or .850 OPS (despite the PCL differential). Now 25, he finally made his major league debut.
25. Chicago Cubs (27): Cubs called up 28-year-old first baseman Bryan LaHair, who slugged 38 homers at AAA, to see if he can be Carlos Pena on the cheap in 2012. They didn’t call up young centerfielder Brett Jackson, and those of us trying to acquire Jackson in keeper fantasy leagues don’t think another century of misfortune is punishment enough for the Cubs’ front office.
26. Seattle (26): Born in Italy, 23-year-old Alex Liddi hit 30 home runs in AAA but fanned 170 times and hit just .259. Compared to Chone Figgins, that doesn’t look so bad.
27. Kansas City (28): Catcher Salvador Perez of Venezuela is 21 years old but already in his fifth professional season. He’s up for his defense — 42% of minor league base stealers thrown out — but his bat, like Yadier Molina’s, might catch up. Perez batted .290 and slugged .437 at two stops this year.
28. Minnesota (25): Kyle Waldrop was a 2004 first-round pick of the Twins, but it took until his eighth season for him to reach the majors. Unfortunately, he may not stay long — he has a career 3.63 minor-league ERA and a low strikeout rate (494 in 779 innings).
29. Baltimore (29): Left-handed reliever Clay Rapada gets another chance; the Orioles are his third team in three years and fourth in five years. If he ever figures out how to get right-handed hitters out, he’ll be a star. In 50 major-league innings, lefties are hitting .156 vs. Rapada, righties .359. Alas, the contrast is getting worse: in 2011, lefties are hitting .103 vs. Rapada, righties .692 (9-for-13).
30. Houston (30): Here’s how bad it is for the Astros: they’re picking up pitchers rejected by the White Sox. Lucas Harrell was cut by Chicago in July; in September, after 52.1 AAA innings with a 1.72 ERA, Harrell started for the Astros. And pitched 5.1 shutout innings. Like the Astros ranked last, Harrell’s success can’t last. Or can it?