Andy Marte and Jordan Brown of the Columbus Clippers have been named to the 2009 Topps Triple-A All-Star team. The baseball card company recognized the productive hitting by both players. Marte has yet to fulfill high hopes in multiple opportunities with the Indians. Brown, despite winning the 2009 International League batting crown with a .336 mark, did not get a late-season call to Cleveland.
To his credit, Marte showed great improvement after being dropped from the Indians' roster last winter but staying with the organization. He worked with Clippers hitting coach Jon Nunnally to shorten his swing a bit and began to hit as the Indians envisioned when they considered him the key player in a blockbuster trade with the Boston Red Sox in January 2006.
In 82 games with Columbus this year, Marte hit .327 (98-for-300) with 18 homers and 66 RBI. He earned IL Topps Player of the Month honors for July when he hit .385 with nine homers and 24 RBI.
Called up to Cleveland, he still didn't set the world afire, but managed to bat .232 (36-for-155) with six homers and 25 RBI in 47 games. That was much better than what he had accomplished in four other trials at the big-league level.
After posting big numbers in the Atlanta Braves system, Marte was called to the majors at age 21 in 2005 -- and flopped. He hit only .140 (8-for-57) without a homer and four RBI -- and was dealt to the Red Sox that December for veteran infielder Edgar Renteria and cash.
Seven weeks later, Marte was traded to Cleveland with catcher Kelly Shoppach and right-handers Guillermo Mota and Randy Newsom for outfielder Coco Crisp, catcher Josh Bard and right-hander David Riske. Shoppach is the only other player still with the club that traded for him.
Marte got another extended look in 2008 after the Tribe traded away Casey Blake to the Dodgers for young catcher Carlos Santana, but in 80 games, he hit only .220 with three homers and 17 RBI.
In 221 games in the majors, Marte has only a .216 average (144-for-668), 15 homers and 77 RBI. In 786 career games in the minors, he has hit .277 (797-for-2,876) with 131 homers and 500 RBI.
A third baseman for all of his career until 2009, Marte played six games at first base for Columbus, then saw all of his action for the Indians this year at the new position -- and looked very good. The 25-year-old displayed some nice agility around the bag and made some good stretches and scoops to save infielders from throwing errors.
Brown didn't display such defensive prowess at either first base or in the outfield, though he has always been a consistent line-drive hitter.
Drafted in the fourth round by Cleveland in 2005 out of the University of Arizona, Brown has a .308 (575-for-1,868) batting average with 51 homers and 288 RBI in 491 games in the minors.
This year, the left-hander hit .336 (140-for-417) with 15 homers and 67 RBI in 111 games for Columbus. He ranked third with a .532 slugging percentage and tied for fifth with 35 doubles.
Brown made two errors in 21 games at first base, three errors in 27 games in right field, and no errors in 41 games in left field.
According to sources in the Indians' organization, however, it was Brown's lack of effort in the field that shaped their thinking. He didn't dog it in games, but never seemed to go out of his way during practices to get after it and try and improve. Management noticed and apparently so has Brown, who vowed to work hard on his fielding from now on.
If so, the Indians could have a good hitter available to them at first or left field -- which may work favorably as a platoon with promising slugger Matt LaPorta, a right-hander who also plays those two spots.
2009 TOPPS TRIPLE-A ALL-STAR TEAM
PLAYER CLUB/LEAGUE AFFILIATE AVG. HR RBI
Randy Ruiz Las Vegas/PCL Toronto .320 25 106
Kevin Russo Scr./W-B/IL New York-AL .326 5 31
Andy Marte Columbus/IL Cleveland .327 18 66
Alcides Escobar Nashville/PCL Milwaukee .298 4 34
John Bowker Fresno/PCL San Francisco .342 21 83
Jordan Brown Columbus/IL Cleveland .336 15 67
Shelley Duncan Scr./W-B/IL New York-AL .277 30 99
John Hester Reno/PCL Arizona .328 9 66
Mitch Jones Albuquerque/PCL Los Angeles-NL .297 35 103
Lenny DiNardo Omaha/PCL Kansas City 10-5, 3.32 ERA
Ruiz, 32, won Most Valuable Player honors in the Pacific Coast League. The Blue Jays signed him as a free agent last December.
Russo, 25, finished fourth in Triple-A with a .326 average. The Yankees selected him in the 20th round in 2006 out of Baylor University.
Escobar, 22, was among the top base stealers in Triple-A with 42 and among the top defensive PCL shortstops with a .975 fielding percentage. The Brewers signed him as a free agent in July 2003.
Bowker, 26,, led Minor League Baseball with a .451 on-base percentage. His .342 average was second best among all full-season Minor Leaguers. The Giants drafted him in the third round in 2004 out of Long Beach State.
Duncan, 30, was the International League MVP. The Yankees drafted him in the second round in 2001 out of the University of Arizona.
Hester, 26, threw out 30 percent of base runners trying to steal. The Diamondbacks drafted him in the 13th round in 2006 out of Stanford.
Jones, 32, won the Joe Bauman Trophy as Minor League Baseball’s top home run hitter with 35 and also led the Minors with a .651 slugging percentage. The Dodgers signed Jones as a free agent in November 2008.
DiNardo, 30, was involved in five combined shutouts at Triple-A. The left-hander struck out 127 while only walking 38 in 151 2-3 innings. The Royals signed DiNardo as a free agent last December.