Eight regular season games left. Seven if you’re in Dunedin. Less than that for Bluefield and the Complex teams. Whether or not there are more is a question that remains unsettled in a couple of instances. The Bisons sit three games out behind first Place Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and 2.5 behind Syracuse. The possible drama arises from the circumstance that they play the last four games this year at the home of that first place team. The trick, of course, is to get to that series and still be within three games and to hope for bad outcomes for the Syracuse Mets. New Hampshire is eliminated, Dunedin is already in based on their first half championship. Lansing is 3.5 games out. The host Great Lakes, the first half division winner and a very good road team (Lansing is not so good at home) for two, then last place Western Michigan (who stink away from home) for three, before closing out on the road to Fort Wayne who are also currently tied for last place. So they have a credible shot but a lot of work to do. None of the short season teams are going anywhere.
All the buzz in Buffalo is about Nate Pearson (of course). A huge crowd showed up yesterday to watch him largely dominate Pawtucket yesterday (a second inning two-run homer by the PawSox’ Bobby Dalbec being the single exception). Otherwise, his six-inning, sever-strikeout performance gave the crowd what they came to see. If the Bisons are going to charge into the playoffs, they have the pitching now to do so. Beyond Pearson, newly-acquired top-ten prospect Anthony Kay follows him in the rotation and he’s hot as well. in his last 4 starts he’s sporting a 1.64 ERA and struck out 28 in 22 IP. Then there’s suddenly relevant TJ Zuech, who precedes Big Nate in the rotation and who has given up only two earned runs in his last three starts. Then there’s (potentially) Thomas Pannone who had his issues starting in Toronto but was dominant during his previous work in AAA (1.65 ERA over six outings, 32 K and 8 walks in 27.1 IP) for good measure.
When 3B Cullen Large arrived in AA, he came out of the chute with an 0-for-13 in his first 4 games, without so much as a free pass to get him to first base. But clearly he got that sorted out. In the 14 games since, he’s slashed .340/.352/.509/.861 which lacks only for walks (he has but one at this level) but that will come too. Catcher Riley Adams is having his best offensive month at AA yet as the Blue Jays continue to feature an embarrassment of riches behind the plate. To be honest, given everyone’s place in the development curve, if Toronto decides to put together some prospects in a trade for pitching this off-season, Adams is just the right combination of talent and progress to be both someone they can spare and a player attractive to other teams. On the mound, the ‘Cats welcomed back Patrick Murphy (at long last, he was out six weeks) but with almost no runway to build him back up. Zach Logue is also back after a similarly long absence, and with the same problem. The solution? Piggyback. They combined to work the first five innings Saturday night and logically will do so again this week. After that, you may well see one or both assigned to the AFL in order to make up, at least somewhat, for the lost time.
Ryan Noda has apparently set out to finish strong. boosted by an insane 12 walks in his last 10 games, he’s slashed .288/.456/.500/.956 over his last 17 games. Also, the previously noted rebound of Chavez Young continues apace, his August is up to .310/.394/.402/.796 and the two of them, along with the steady production from Alejandro Kirk, have formed the core of the D-Jays offense this month. Pitching wise, Simeon Woods Richardson continues to combine with the aforementioned Anthony Kay to make Ross Atkins’ praise stand up. Over his last thee starts he’s rocking a 1.23 ERA with 1 K and 3 BB in 14.2 IP. Along with Maximo Castillo (1.58 ERA in his last 8 starts) and Nick Allgeyer (one bad start in his last five) t of the rotation is strong heading into the post-season, even if Josh Winckowski has looked more ordinary lately. On the other hand, let’s not talk about Kyle Johnston.
Now that the newest Lugnut, Yorman Rodriguez, has come back down to earth a bit it might not go amiss to do a small look into the backstory. Mostly a catcher by trade, he’s always gotten pretty regular work at 1B as well Coming into this season he’d appeared in 1010 games as a catcher and 84 at first. This season though, he’s been almost exclusively a first baseman. One way in which that manners is that Yorman has yet to show a lot of over-the-fence power, his four homers at Vancouver this year are a season high for his career. Baseball has changed some but if you want to be called a true prospect at 1B, you’re gonna need that pop. Let’s check in on Otto Lopez and, oh hey, he’s just hitting .400 over his last 14 games. That’s pretty good! A couple of shout-outs are due to bullpen guys. Lefty Marcus Reyes (at 24, noticeably too old for the circuit) has a 1.78 ERA since late May, and occasional starter Josh Haitt is at 257 over the nine appearances since he came off the IL (albeit, like several other Lansing pitchers the ratios don’t really suggest that level of success is to be expected).
In Vancouver, 1B Spencer Horwitz and C Ryan Sloniger (both 20189 draftees) joined the VanC’s from Blueield for the final weeks. The former to take up the first base at bats left by Rodriguez’s promotion, and the latter presumably to give some relief to the slumping Phillip Clarke who may have run out of gas after a long college playoff run. But the real story is not in the flaccid offensive performance but on the mound. Adam Kloffenstein has 12 shutout innings over his last 2 appearances with 15 strikeouts against three walks. Meanwhile, more lightly regarded RHP Luis Qunones (34th Rd, 2019) is forcing himself into the conversation with a 1.29 ERA over his nine appearance for the Canadians (and 43 strikeouts in 28 innings!). Either or both of them, or possibly Alek Manoah, might get a promotion to try and help Lansing in the playoff run (not like the ‘Nuts have great starting pitching the way that Dunedin does).
With the promotions, the clear offensive star of this team is undrafted free agents signing Justin Ammons (who’s middle name is “Road” for some reason). In 22 games since joining the team his OPS is .993 which is well out in front of the bigger name prospects. Not that the most prominent of those is slacking. After a slow start in June, 7 for 35 in his first nine games, he’s slashed .321/.361/.518/.879 in the 43 games since.
The guy you always check in on in the Complex is stud SS prospect Orelvis Martinez (the top IFA signing for the jays in 2018, who got a bonus almost as big as Vladdy’s) who suffered a 3 for 20 slump in late July, but he’s got a .996 OPS in August. Not to be outdone, fellow Dominican signing (from 2017) RF Alberto Rodriguez is hitting .400 over his last 10 driving his OPS for the month to .883 (Martinez has considerably higher slugging figures for the month). Then there’s Javier D’Orazio. The Venezuelan catcher tore up the DSL and forced a late June promotion but he struggled throughout July. He’s turned it around though, hitting .324 in August (albeit without much power yet). Top prospect pitcher Kendall Williams is up to 4 innings in his last outing, Still only given up one hit in each of his appearances, except that time it was zero. Less well known (for now) is Rafael Monsion. He’s a 6’3″ lefty signed in December 2016 who’s got a 1.77 ERA while leading the team in IP and running a 33:9 K:BB ratio. Mayhap you’ll be hearing his name more often in seasons to come.