Minor league home run leaders: Arizona’s Goldschmidt leads the way

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Here’s a list of everyone in the minor leagues with at least five homers headed into Monday’s action:

9 – Paul Goldschmidt (AA D’backs) – .345/.473/.845
8 – Jorge Vazquez (AAA Yankees) – .348/.361/.710
7 – Jaff Decker (AA Padres) – .359/.481/.859
7 – Ian Gac (A+ White Sox) – .300/.368/.700
7 – Kody Hinze (A+ Astros) – .323/.442/.710
7 – Chris Wallace (A Astros) – .419/.486/.903
6 – Michael Burgess (A+ Cubs) – .213/.262/.574
6 – Cody Decker (AA Padres) – .313/.323/.672
6 – Jonathan Garcia (A Dodgers) – .288/.354/.712
6 – Jeff Larish (AAA Phillies) – .279/.333/.639
6 – Bryce Massanari (A- Rockies) – .421/.492/.825
6 – Tommy Mendonca (AA Rangers) – .322/.349/.661
6 – Cody Overbeck (AA Phillies) – .350/.381/.717
6 – Marcell Ozuna (A Marlins) – .300/.394/.667
6 – Wily Mo Pena (AAA D’backs) – .420/.473/.820
6 – Anthony Rizzo (AAA Padres) – .420/.487/.768
6 – Clint Robinson (AAA Royals) – .397/.486/.778
6 – Joseph Terdoslavich (A+ Braves) – .245/.259/.642
5 – Denny Almonte (A+ Mariners) – .329/.329/.700
5 – Adam Bailey (A Astros) – .344/.359/.639
5 – Michael Bianucci (AA Rangers) – .300/.377/.567
5 – Alex Castellanos (AA Cardinals) – .276/.302/.621
5 – Andy Dirks (AAA Tigers) – .297/.370/.609
5 – Ryan Flaherty (AA Cubs) – .333/.394/.649
5 – Jacob Goebbert (A+ Astros) – .194/.278/.435
5 – Yasmani Grandal (A+ Reds) – .333/.458/.750
5 – Mike Jacobs (AAA Rockies) – .371/.467/.694
5 – Brendan Katin (AAA Brewers) – .209/.306/.628
5 – Donald Lutz (A Reds) – .345/.387/.690
5 – Jai Miller (AAA Royals) – .391/.491/.826
5 – Trevor Plouffe (AAA Twins) – .300/.367/.700
5 – Jerry Sands (AAA Dodgers) – .400/.422/.875
5 – Steven Souza (A+ Nationals) – .281/.305/.667
5 – Michael Spina (AA Athletics) – .327/.449/.691
5 – Trayce Thompson (A White Sox) – .239/.311/.493
5 – Tim Wheeler (AA Rockies) – .302/.392/.619

As one would expect, there aren’t a whole lot of top prospects in the group. Sands is, and he’s already been promoted to the majors. Grandal, a 2010 first-round pick many believed would open the season at Double-A, also qualifies. Wheeler may as well, if he keeps this up for a few more weeks. The 2009 first-round pick didn’t excel in his first year and a half in the minors, but if the power is for real, he could make Dexter Fowler expendable next winter. And then there’s Rizzo, the best prospect of all of them. For more about him, check out my Rotoworld column.

How about a sampling of what’s left…

– Goldschmidt, who was such a pleasant surprise for the Diamondbacks this spring, is showing that his March success was no fluke. The 23-year-old also put up big numbers in the California League last year, but his 35 homers for Visalia came with a 161/57 K/BB ratio. This year, he has a 12/15 K/BB ratio through 17 games. The Diamondbacks should test him with Triple-A soon, but they have to make room for him at Reno, possibly by promoting Brandon Allen or Pena to the majors.

– I didn’t mention Decker in the Rotoworld column, but I probably should have. With the Padres getting nothing from the outfield corners so far, perhaps they’ll consider jumping him to the majors in June. I think he’s less vulnerable to being rushed than Rizzo is.

– Keep a close eye on Jonathan Garcia. The 19-year-old already has 13 extra-base hits in 16 games in the Midwest League.

– The Royals are eventually going to turn first base over to Eric Hosmer, but Robinson, who hit 29 homers in Double-A last year, is making a case for a crack at Kila Ka’aihue’s job in the meantime.

– Dirks is another player who really emerged in spring training, and he probably would have made the Tigers had Brennan Boesch not suddenly returned to early-2010 form. Austin Jackson has shown signs of life the last few games, but if he resumes slumping, the Tigers could send him to Triple-A and give his at-bats to Dirks and Casper Wells.

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.