Full time players are now approaching 50 AB and we are in that murky area in which we can be impressed with a very hot start while still reserving judgement over quite cold starts. Snap conclusions about pitchers are even harder given the sample size but we have to talk about SOMETHING, right?
The system does feature some impressive work a dozen games in and it’s okay to be impressed. Let’s take a look at some of them on a team-by-team basis.
Obviously Valdito is the story everyone wants to talk about. He’s likely to suit up four more times for the Bisons (he’s only played five games for them so far because of the weather, none of them at home) but hardly anyone disputes the bat is ready. Beyond VGJ though, there’s other offense to speak of. Take Cavan Biggio for example. He’s hitting a crisp .439 and has more walks than strikeouts which is crucial given one of the lingering concerns from last year was the strikeout rate. Outfielder Roemon Fields, who struggled mightily with the bat last year, is off to a hot start as well. To be fair, he’s a prime candidate to cool off unless he’s figured something out. Also, #2 prospect Bo Bichette started off cold but he’s hitting .355 over his last eight games so maybe that fire has been lit.
On the pitching side, the results have been mostly abysmal so far with the exception of a couple of relievers. I pointed out Dusty Issacs last week, so it’s only fair I direct you to newly acquired (in the Pillar deal) Derek Law. In 6.2 IP he’s allowed 7 baserunners and struck out 12.
Keep your eye on him.
The guy who was expected to be the offensive star of this team is Kevin Smith, who’s not quite there yet. The one who’s been off to a hot start is Joshua Palacios, but a recent 1-for-14 skid has made his numbers look a lot more like what might have been expected. That leaves only unheralded catcher Alberto Mineo and his reserve Ryan Hissey to carry the offense as best they can, along with Santiago Espinal who was ice cold a week ago (an OPS under .400) but is riding a 7 game hit streak during which he’s 11 for 29.
The pitching staff is much the opposite of Buffalo’s situation. Two prominent starter prospects have struggled to be consitant, but almost everyone else has pitched well with only one holding an ERA over 4.00. You’ve maybe heard about the success of Zach Logue and even more so Yennsy Diaz, but you may not have hear that former Dodger (Martin deal) Andrew Sopko has an almost identical stat line to Diaz. To be fair though, he’s two years older and came into the season with 33 AA starts and really ought to be in Buffalo already (and if some of those guys don’t get their act together he soon will be).
The D-Jays are a three man offense right now, led by catcher Riley Adams, and 3B Cullen Large, who are both on fire, along with Of/1B Ryan Noda who’s doing respectable work. If Adams and Large keep this up (well not THIS but excellent offense) and have even passable defense they are going to jump onto a lot of top prospect lists before too long.
On the mound, with one exception, this has been a monster staff. The collective staff ERA, minus reliever Emerson Jimenez, is 2.30 which is…wow. The top four starters have a combined ERA of 1.85! Nate Pearson you know about. You may have heard me brag on Nick Allgeyer last week. But there’s also Maximo Castillo who’s a mere 19 (for a couple more weeks) and thus by far the youngest starter on the staff. He’s been in the “honorable mention” cohort for some prospect listing people for a couple of years now but if he sustains success in Hi-A as a 20 year old that buzz is going to get noticeably louder. Plus how can you not get excited about a guy named Maximo? The 4th member of the set is Turner Larkins who’s not been on much of anyone’s radar to this point, but in the early days he’s not slacking.
This team, too, is led by a three-headed offensive monster, though here all three are running close to each other. As you’ve already heard from me last week, Jordan Groshans is raking and may well find himself in Dunedin by early June as Smith did last year if he sustains this. However, Smith was drafted out of college and Groshans is a high school pick who’s only 19 and they might view his promotion schedule differently. One year older is Alejandro Kirk, the young catcher who has exploded onto the scene this season for the Lugnuts. In 13 games he has 11 walks and THREE strikeouts. He’s impressing with the glove too. Second baseman (nominally, he has a Ben Zobrist thing going on) Otto Lopez is also 20, his .956 OPS is third on the team, and seventh in the Jays’ system overall. Both of them are as likely, or unlikely, to be promoted in six weeks or so as Groshans is. It’s worth noting, though, that Kirk’s schedule may be linked to Adams as you ideally would not want the two of them competing for appearances.
The pitching staff has had it’s ups and downs, most of the starters have a couple of impressive starts but also a time or two they got beat up. The exception is Josh Winckowski who’s rocking a 1.42 ERA with a line marred only by a higher-than-you-want number of walks. But he showed excellent control in Vancouver last year and this might just be a cold-weather thing. The other two names that jump out at you are relievers Will McAffer and Jackson Rees, neither of whom have yet allowed an earned run. The former was a 25th rounder last year who needs to tighten his control some yet, and the latter was signed as an undrafted free agent last year. In the early going, over nine IP he has one walk and 16 strikeouts. On the other hand, he’s two full years too old for the league and if he keeps this up he’ll surely get challenged at a higher level.
As I said at the beginning, it is very dangerous to draw firm conclusions on samples this size, but at least maybe we’re starting to get indications of who we should be keeping our eyes on. There’s also some indication of who to maybe be worried about *cough*Warmoth*cough* – but I don’t want to get into that yet.