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Hot Takes From the Farm: End of Season Edition (Part One)

While I’ll be trying to give you creative farm related content semi-regularly (as work obligations permit) through the off-season, this will be the wrap up edition for the regularly weekly game notes format. I won’t spend a lot of words on preamble but i do want to put one disclaimer out there not just for this but for all the content going forward to the spring: I’m not going to mention or recognize very late season “cup of coffee” promotions because that can tend to distort the level of achievement for a given player. For example, I’m not calling Miguel Hiraldo a Lansing Lugnut because he played one came for them in the last week of the season. On the other hand, players that moved up a few weks abo, for example Cullen Large or Reggie Pruitt, that’s legitimate.

In these notes my main focus will be on players who finished strong, although there will be exceptions and what constitutes “finished” will vary in length depending on circumstances. Also, it only make sense to comment on any team member who is/was a highly regarded prospect.

Buffalo

Fun thing about this Buffalo offense – only five of these guys are bound to the system for next season and two of those are out of options. They are basically the only ones worth reviewing here. Anthony Alford’s season looks kinda plain at first glance but as I’ve noted before, a horrendous April slump hides a pretty good season otherwise. He’s slashed .299/.372/.458/.830 over he remainder of the year. It’s been somewhat the reverse for Jonathan Davis. His OPS is almost 100 points lower since the ASB than it was before, largely due to a considerably higher walk rate in the first half. He did have lot of success vs. LH hitters though which is of value. Quietly Santiago Espinal built a nice line in Buffalo and if Richard Urena wasn’t already obsolete (he and Alford are the out of options pair) he surely is now. Espinal slashed .317/360/.433 and Urena will surely be traded (either as a throw in or for a likewise marginal guy who doesn’t have to be added to the 40) before Opening Day. The fifth guy is Forrest Wall, who’s only been up here for 14 games and did well enough, but sample size issues apply.

On the other hand, if you assumed none of these guys made it to Toronto, you could staff the entire 2020 Bisons pitching staff with players here who are bound to the org for next year. You know all about Nate Pearson, and you are likely aware he’ll at least wait three weeks to join the Jays next April, it’s not impossible they’ll take the window for Super Two qualifications as an opportunity to build him up (innings wise) slowly so he’ll be unrestricted late in the season. It’s a legit baseball reason but also has a business upside. Anthony Kay, OTOH, will be watched in September with an eye for him being a front-line candidate to break with the big club on opening day. No one in the org currently is guaranteed a spot but Shoemaker and Borucki (health permitting on both, of course). Until lately Pannone pitched well starting for the Bisons but he finished weakly and my guess is he’ll be in competition for a bullpen job. The real question, year after year, is whither Sean Reid-Foley. A review of his last 10 AAA starts is enough to push one towards madness. And then of course there’s TJ Zuech who definitely finished strong.  He had a 2.78 ERA in his last seven AAA starts and will also get a chance to make the team next spring.

The bullpen too is pretty stacked. I, for one, am betting Travis Bergen pitches more innings in Toronto than Buffalo next year. He had a better year in SF than the totals suggest (in 15 of his first 18 outing he didn’t allow a run, he just had two ugly days which skewed the ERA. Kirby Snead is another lefty to watch, but he ran out of gas (or something) and got roughed up over the last 4 weeks. Jackson McClelland had only 11 appearances in AAA. In one of them he gave up 6 ER in 1/3 inning. In the rest, he had a collective 1.71 ERA – but he has work to do on getting in the zone, almost as much so as Zach Jackson does. Jackson found it in June, then lost it again. There’s a third hard thrower with control issues here, Bryan Baker. Results wise there’s little separation between these guys. Finally a nod to Ty Tice. He’s a smallish (5’9″) RHP who’s around a year and a half younger than the next youngest reliever here.  His walk rate spiked from what it was in AA though so none of these guys are polished yet.

New Hampshire

With the Fisher Cats, the question of course is not so much who’s going to be gone before next season but are any of the guys someone you want to keep your eye on? On opening day, the highest ranked hitter on the team (widely listed in the top 10) was SS Kevin Smith, and we’ve said much in this space about how he failed to live up to that expectation. He was really bad all the way up to mid-season.  In July he hit like a top 10 prospect and one might have justifiably breathed a sigh of relief. But no, he sucked in August too. The most successful season offensively on this team pretty much has to be Riley Adams. People temper their offensive expectations for catchers anyway, but if he hadn’t lost his way badly during June he’d be getting a lot of buzz and consensus top 20 mentions this off-season. Outfielders Joshua Palacios and Forrest Wall had respectable, and similar, seasons and the latter was rewarded with an August promotion as mentioned above. Even so, Palacios had the higher OBP and a notably better strikeout rate. Both will suit up in Buffalo next April. Besides looking r a Smith rebound, the other guy here you’ll want to keep on your list is 3B Cullen Large. After an initial 0-13 after promotion he began to adjust to the level. I expect better still next season.

Among the pitchers, despite the mid-season difficulties with the toe-tap, I still think Patrick Murphy has the most upside of anyone still assigned to this team (I’m hoping he gets some time in the AFL to continue working on it). The out-of-nowhere guy is Thomas Hatch, a mid-season acquisition of so pedestrian a track record that I didn’t think it worthwhile to mention him in the pitching depth article. He only threw six games in the F’Cats uni but 35.1 IP, 34 strikeouts and TWO walks?!!? Yowza. Yennsy Diaz has probably surpassed the other starters here in terms of standing in the org. For most of the season he had a maddening on-again, off-again pattern of inconsistency but he closed out with five consecutive solid outings accumulating a collective 2.27 ERA down the stretch. All three of these guys will be penciled into the Bisons 2020 rotation barring overcowding. Zach Logue had a solid year overall apart from a three game stretch just before the break where things went very wrong then he ended up on the DL. I have no inside knowledge but looking in from the outside it certainly looks like he was dealing with it before he was shut down. Take away those three games and he had a 3.11 ERA and he, too, will be trying to sniff out a promotion but there may not be room initially. The other top 20 prospect last spring in this rotation is Hector Perez, who failed to make a dent in his control problems and you have to think the org will discuss the anticipated move to the bullpen more earnestly in the coming months.

Of course we have to salute Joey Murray who had a weird moment in his first look at the level, but in 8 starts since he had a 3.09 ERA and struck out 52 in 43.1 IP. Having started the year in Lansing, he pitched in 27 games across three levels with a collective 2.75 ERA. But he’ll get another probably 10-12 AA starts next year while Buffalo sorts itself out. One other guy for you to put in your pocket, despite a much lower profile, mainly due to being old for the league although he doesn’t have a ton of MiLB innings, is Justin Dillon. If he doesn’t make it as an MLB starter, his numbers are pretty good, you might see him grow into a Ryan Tepera type at least.

Speaking of the bullpen, keep your eye on Dany Jiminez. Unlike the three wild arms in Buffalo, and unlike Hecor, Dany knows where the strike zone is at and how to stay in it. He hasn’t given up a run in AA since July 25 – a span of 14.1 IP in which he allowed only six hits while striking out 20 and walking 4. Going back to May 16 while he was still in Dunedin, his line looks like this: 45.1 – 26 – 5 – 15 – 69 which is good for a 0.99 ERA and a job in AAA next year.

 

In a few days I’ll continue the tour with the A-ball teams and beyond. Stay tuned.