Around the farm, part II

Matt Romig

It could be that last week's column represented the most wildly successful road trip since Chris Farley in "Tommy Boy" saved Callahan Auto, and upper management insists that I extend this simulated journey.

There's also a good chance that between trekking up and down the California coast for my first trip to Petco Park and sweating out games four and five between the San Jose Sharks and Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I've left myself incapable of original thought.

I will leave it to you, the educated reader, to determine my rationale. Just buckle up.

St. Lucie, FL
If you are counting on Jose Reyes to invigorate your fantasy team on the basepaths, you'd better start considering another option. If you haven't already heard, Reyes removed himself from a rehab start at Class-A St. Lucie Thursday and the results of a subsequent MRI were not encouraging.

According to Newsday correspondent David Lennon, the Mets would be thrilled to have Reyes back in action before the All-Star break. No matter how long the wait, you shouldn't expect Reyes to run full throttle at any point this season. Scan the available player list for Baltimore Oriole Brian Roberts (who has a hit in 16 of last 18 games) and Kenny Lofton (recently activated by the New York Yankees), or pursue a trade if Reyes was your stolen base savior.

Fresno, CA
If you are a Barry Bonds owner searching for someone to curse the next time the opposition throws four wide to your slugger, look no further than the on-deck circle. Through Barry's first 23 starts this season, the San Francisco Giants have placed five different hitters behind him in the lineup. The five have combined to go 17-for-89 (.191 average) with seven RBIs despite hitting with at least Bonds on base more often than not.

Brian Dallimore hasn't hit in the No. 5 position yet, but at his current rate of production his shot can't be far off. Dallimore was batting .375 with 30 hits in 20 games at Triple-A Fresno before the Giants called him up to give the lineup a shot in the arm. That's just what he did – hitting a grand slam in his first major league start. Don't let that early flex of muscle fool you. While Dallimore did win a batting title in the Pacific Coast League a year ago, he has just 39 homers in nine years of professional baseball. He could help an NL-only manager looking to patch an infield hole.

Huntsville, AL
I couldn't resist a return trip to Huntsville this week, and it wasn't the free HBO at the Motel 6 that beckoned. As expected, the Brewers sent Chris Saenz back to Double-A after he shut down St. Louis in his big league debut on April 24. In his first start back, he ran his record to 2-1 with five solid innings against the Chattanooga Lookouts. You gotta love those minor league team names.

Sacramento, CA
Eric Karros and Scott Hatteberg combined to give the Oakland A's one home run from the first base position this season. Lump in last year, and A's first basemen have gone deep 17 times over the past 187 games. With all due respect to general manager Billy Beane and the virtues of plate discipline and on-base percentage, that ain't getting it done.

You need to make the 81-mile drive from Oakland to Sacramento to find a first baseman in this organization capable of putting fear into opposing pitchers. The player is Dan Johnson and he is currently mashing for the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats.

Through 24 games, Johnson has seven homers and 25 RBIs. He also seems to know that getting on base might get him to the majors just as fast as jogging around them. In those 24 games he has 14 walks and only eight strikeouts.

Binghamton, NY
Who wouldn't take a third baseman who is hitting .353 with four homers and nine stolen bases? Sure, third base isn't the fantasy wasteland it was in 2002, but I know a lot of Edgardo Alfonzo and Eric Hinske owners who would jump at that kind of production. David Wright is one of the top prospects in all of baseball and he's showing why at the Double-A level this year.

Wright stole 19 bases last year and is on pace through 22 games to shatter that total in 2004. There is nobody at third base in the Mets organization to block his progress, but a major league debut this year is unlikely. Keep this guy on your draft radar next year as a Wright/Kazuo Matsui/Reyes infield is not far off.

Nashville, TN
Jason Kendall is off to a nice start for the Pittsburgh Pirates, which means the trade rumors should heat up any time now. When Kendall is dealt, the door will be open for the much-anticipated return of J.R. House. The Pirates drafted House out of high school in 1999 and he's been ranked among the top prospects in their system ever since.

Through 19 games at Triple-A Nashville this year, House has left the yard six times while driving in 19 runs and hovering around .300. He'll need to bring a hot bat to the big leagues to maintain his career average, which stands at 1.000 after a single in his only plate appearance of 2003. He hit well in the Arizona fall league last year (.338, five homers) so it looks like he's fully recovered from 2002 elbow surgery.

I'm still going to make good on my promise to return to San Jose's Municipal Stadium to check out the Class-A San Jose Giants. I hope to schedule my visit around a start for Matt Cain. Through five starts, he's punched out 35 batters in just more than 24 innings. He was in high school two years ago, so his big league debut will probably be a few years off.

Of course, the way things are going in San Francisco, maybe I should get over there and see the kid while I still can without paying $20 for parking.