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Under the radar minor league performances

Otherwise known as the Wrigley Report

Leslie Anderson has shown more power than usual so far
Leslie Anderson has shown more power than usual so far

I actually have no problem with Henry Wrigley. He performed well for the Rays organization before moving on to the Rockies organization in the past off-season. Minor league discussion almost certainly gravitates toward players considered prospects, which Wrigley never really was. In recent years, I think he best exemplifies the group of minor leaguers that perform well but aren't considered prospects. Thus, the Wrigley Report.

I looked around the system (stats through Sunday's games), and found seven players not on our writers' top 30 poll entering the season that have performed well through the first month of the season. There are others; Alejandro Segovia comes to mind, but these stood out to me most in terms of both on-field results and discussion generated. Some may make a top 30 in future years, and some may continue plugging away in the minors as organizational players, never getting a chance to put a big league uniform on.

1B Leslie Anderson, 31 years old in triple-A (.313 average/.393 on-base/.515 slugging, 12.5 strikeout rate, 8.0 walk rate)

In the final season of the four year contract he signed with the Rays, the former Cuban defector is off to the best start of his career. He was once ranked #28 in the Rays organization, but his defensive limitations and lack of power give him the profile of a career minor leaguer. He does put bat on ball, hitting nearly .300 for his career with pretty low strikeout rates, but that's not enough for a corner player to make it to the majors.

This year, his power is up, and his 8% walk rate is higher than his career norms too. His career high in home runs is 14, and he already hit four in April. Maybe he can't sustain it, but that's one important piece of his game that's kept him from advancing. If he were ever to make the majors, it would probably be as a platoon bat. He's always had significant splits, hitting right-handed pitchers much better.

2B Vince Belnome, 25 years old in triple-A (.293/.414/.524, 17.8 K%, 16.8 BB%)

Belnome once slipped into San Diego's top 30 as their #30 prospect, but an injury plagued down 2012 season knocked him off. The Rays got him in the off-season for minor league reliever Chris Rearick, and he's doing much better in his second go-around in triple-A. His walk and strikeout rates are still really good, and he's now hitting for power again.

When the Rays picked him up in December, I called him Sergio Pedroza 2.0, but he's managed to advance further than Pedroza did with the Devil Rays. He walks a ton and has pretty decent power, but he's not much of an athlete. He's played mostly second and third base in his pro career, but he's not good defensively and may not have the bat to play at a corner position. Prior to this season, like Anderson, he's always had significant splits, hitting righties much better, but in a small sample size this year, it's not at all apparent.

2B Tommy Coyle, 22 years old in low-A (.323/.455/.505, 12.2 K%, 18.7 BB%)

It's been a great month for the Coyle brothers. His younger brother Sean in the Red Sox organization hit seven home runs in April and already has two more this month, pretty impressive for a 5'8, 175 pound second baseman. He's repeating the Carolina League, but he's on his way to putting himself back on the prospect map.

Tommy is a pretty similar player but obviously not the same kind of prospect as Sean, who's both younger and playing at a higher level. He's a small, athletic second baseman with a smart game who does what he can to get on base. He has exactly as many walks and strikeouts in his career and has 33 steals in 38 attempts. He's even shown a little pop this season with 11 extra base hits in 28 games. The stats are surely encouraging, but as an older, experienced college player, he'll need to prove it at higher levels.

SS Shawn O'Malley, 25 years old in double-A (.293/.393/.507, 14.1 K%, 9.8 BB%)

Before Hak-Ju Lee was acquired, O'Malley was considered to be the best defensive infielder in the system. His defensive ability and speed were never in doubt, but he was never able to hit enough to get past Montgomery. Not only was he almost exclusively a singles hitter, he couldn't even make solid enough contact to hit singles. His career high in homers is two; his career high in extra base hits is 17, all the way back when the Columbus Catfish were still a team.

That career high in homers has already been equaled through 24 games this year, and he already has 10 extra base hits total. He still works the count and steals bases effectively, so, for a month anyway, he's been the complete package. It's important to note that this is the fourth straight season O'Malley has spent time in Montgomery, including a 2012 season where he finished in Durham. It's fair to attribute a lot of his success to just seeing the same caliber of pitching over and over again, but I don't think that can account for a sudden power surge like this. He's only had one other full month in his career with a slugging percentage over .400.

LHP Ryan Carpenter, 22 years old in high-A (29 innings, 2.48 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 28.5 strikeout rate, 3.5 walk rate)

Carpenter has already been an internet fan group think favorite, and I admit I've been a part of that, but he's carried over his success into 2013. His 2012 season was a mixed bag. He threw a ton of strikes, but maybe they weren't always quality strikes with just an average strikeout rate while allowing over a hit an inning.

So far this year, Carpenter's walk rate is still very low, but his strikeout rate is 10% higher and he's not being hit as much. This could just be an experienced former college pitcher taking advantage of a nice pitchers league, but he is a big lefty and could be regaining some of the fastball velocity the Rays saw in him when they drafted him out of high school in 2008. If he keeps pitching effectively, he could return to a top 30 list.

LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, 23 years old in double-A (19.2 IP, 0.46 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 23.3 K%, 5.5 BB%)

Riefenhauser has gotten off to hot starts in the past, including last season when he started at Charlotte and finished with Montgomery. Last year, it really seemed like he had most of his success in relief before being moved back into the rotation, and they've resisted the temptation to do the same this season with some injuries on the Biscuits pitching staff.

His stuff isn't overwhelming, working with a fastball that can touch the low 90's and some average offspeed offerings. This kind of arsenal lends itself to relief work, and his control has been much better in the bullpen too. He also hasn't been able to get righties out consistently, so limiting his exposure to them in relief will be best for him. Since he's not a dominant reliever, he'll never appear on a top 30, but he could still have a role in the future.

RHP Kirby Yates, 26 years old in triple-A (13.2 IP, 2.63 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 37.9 K%, 6.9 BB%)

Yates was signed as an undrafted free agent with the Rays, and he's pitched well enough to earn two Arizona Fall League assignments and reach Durham. His career strikeout rate is over 30%, thanks to impressive mid 90's fastball velocity despite a short 5'10 frame. Despite generally high walk rates, he's had success at every level since he's also able to keep the ball in the park.

This year, Yates' walk rate is in single digits so far, something he's only done over the course of a full season once, his first year in 2009. He has a lot of trouble against lefties though, and that's true for this season in a small sample too. If he doesn't find an offspeed pitch to help against lefties, he's going to be limited to being a righty specialist, a role that doesn't always help pitchers sustain a big league career.