As promised on Wednesday, More end of season notes on the remaining farm teams…
The D-Jays were far and away the most successful team in the system this year despite literally having no home field. They won 80 games overall, the division title of both halves of the FSL season and, due the the playoff cancellation hold the title of co-champions. This success was built largely on the pitching but there are some offensive stories of note. The most impressive spot being behind the plate. After Riley Adams crushed the ball throughout April and earned his promotion to AA, the organization brought on the impossible-to-not-love Alejandro Kirk (who had likewise been lighting up the league in Lansing) and he answered with an explosive may. He cooled off in June but regained his footing and finished strong. OF Ryan Noda is probably the next most well regarded player on this team but he had a weird summer. His lowest OBP in any month was .341, but from May through July – three full months! – he combined to collect 41 hits and 42 walks. He had his best month of the season in August, though, so there’s momentum. I expect AA may be a very interesting challenge for him next season. Then there’s Chavez Young. He was marvelous in Lansing last year and earned his way onto off-season top-prospect lists but 2019 was a near constant struggle. He was marginally better late in the year (though even that cooled over the last couple of weeks of the season) and seems certain to take another go at the level next spring. Speaking of disappointments, I keep seeing people refer to a couple of infielders here at legit prospects but they are not showing the bats to live up to that. There’s only so long you can keep telling me Samad Taylor and Kevin Vicuna are the real deal. I need to see SOME offense.
The pitching though, ah the pitching. Nate Pearson started his year here, when he vacated a rotation spot Joey Murry arrived from Lansing and in mid-July he followed big Nate north to New Hampshire. Both were dominate while in Florida but they didn’t take all the magic with them. Not long after Murray moved on the Blue Jays added Simeon Woods Richardson and after an adjustment start, ran off a five game stretch run featuring a 1.82 ERA and a 24-3 ratio of strikeout to walks. Meanwhile as these better known guys came and went, there was Maximo. This guy, I’ll confess, has grown into maybe my favorite under-rated (until now) guy in the system. Talk about finishing strong, in nine starts since the first of July his ERA was 1.41 and I demand that our newest Large Adult Son (6’2″, 256) get some respect this winter. And I haven’t even given due praise to Josh Winckowski and Nick Allgeyer who both had fine years, just not quite so dominate. Then there’s the ‘pen. Closer (for most of the season) Brad Wilson dominated hitters until he forced an August promotion to AA – hitters averaged .162 off of him and he stuck out 49 in 38 IP with solid control. His mantle was taken up by Jackson Rees, who’d started the year being virtually untouchable in Lansing before moving up to the D-Jays. Between the two teams his ERA was 0.73 with 88 strikeouts (and 15 walks) in 61.2 IP. Then there’s invaluable swingman Graham Spraker and the completely unheralded Connor Law deserve praise but I’m trying to keep this under 3,000 words.
One more note, though – this will still be an exciting staff next year even though everyone I mentioned who’s not yet promoted will be by opening day. First rounder Alek Manoah will certainly be here, as will Top 10 prospects Eric Pardinho and Adam Kloffenstein and most likely Elvis Luciano.
Lugnuts fans are left to wonder how the season might have been different if stud SS prospect Jordan Groshans (routinely ranked in the system’s Top 5 even before Vlad and Bo graduated) had remained healthy all year. To be fair, he’d have been moved up to Dunedin no latter than the All-Star break but still. Odds are they’ve seen the last of him now. Another spotlight player is RF Griffin Conine who ended up leading the MWL in homers and slugging despite playing in only 80 games. He admits his defense has some flaws and everyone can see that he’ll need to work on the strikeouts (125) but still, there’s a lot to like here. Which brings us to Gabriel Moreno who came out of nowhere over the last two seasons to be a consensus Top 10 prospect. There’s no aspect of his game that wasn’t very impressive this season. Finally, we have got to talk about Otto Lopez. At best he was an honorable mention in prospect discussion back in the spring, But here he is the MWL batting champ, with enough speed to steal 20 (albeit not as efficiently as you’d want to see) and a shortstop by trade who can play all over the diamond.
The pitching here features much less to highlight. Eric Pardinho’s abbreviated season was aces of course, and Cre Finfrock stepped into the closer role when Ress was promoted and did a praiseworthy job, but pretty much everyone else here comes with a significant caveat. or three. At least you can expect to see newly acquired Edisson Gonzalez here next spring. Probably see Luis Quinones and Grant Townsend near the front of the rotation as well.
1B Yorman Rodriguez finished up in Lansing but got the bulk of his work here. After a disappointing year in 2018 he came back to repeat the NWL and regained his stroke, and he barely slowed after the break. He’s one of those guys who’ll keep having to prove himself every year but he just might. For a time he was pretty much the only offense this club had. Catcher Phillip Clarke came out of the College World Series hot but he ran completely out of gas in August. Expect a good year from him in Lansing next year. The 2019 draftee (among hitters) that I immediately got a crush on was Will Robertson and I expected him to cruise through the NWL. He didn’t do that, his OPS was down to .367 by Independence Day, but he got himself together. After that, over 47 games he slashed .321/.419/.515 so he turned out to be what i was hoping for after all, and the singular offensive threat here over those two months, apart from Rodriguez.
All the other interesting stuff happened on the mound. Alek “Mount” Manoah was almost Pearson-level dominant, striking out 27 while walking just 5 in his 17 IP. Adam “King Kloff” Kloffenstein dominated the league for a 2.24 ERA and got better as the season went on. Piggyback starter Luis Quinones surprised by dominating almost the entire season (he carried a sparkling 1.29 ERA into his last outing, where he got roughed up for the first time). Along the way he struck out 47 in 30.1 IP while giving up a mere 16 hits. Here’s a name for you to file for future reference, SP Grant Townsend. He was shut down after a rough outing on August 10, but before that game his line for the C’s (in 8 seven outings) accumulated 18 hits in 28 IP to go with 34 K and a 1.93 ERA. He might jump onto a lot of radars next summer, if he can get and stay healthy. Don’t overlook reliever and Navy officer Luke Gillingham as well. Pitched very well particularly after such a long layoff.
If you just work your way down the stats list you see some pretty impressive numbers but it’s hard to say how much of this is the league and how much is really “watch this guy.” Catcher Ryan Sloniger was dominate with the bat, he led the team with nine homers despite only playing 30 games here, but he was a 38th round college selection squeezed out of the NWL (where you typically assign college draftees) and so was pretty old for the league. He did make it back to Vancouver for most of August. CF Justin Ammons wasn’t drafted at all, but he hit .382 after being signed and assigned here. 1b Spencer Horwitz, 24th round, had a solid all around season (impressively, only 24 strikeouts against 23 base on balls in his 206 at bats at this level. The one guy we know is legit is infielder Miguel Hiraldo. He’s ranked among the top 10-15 prospects for good reason, he just turned 19 on Wednesday, and he hit .300 with an .829 OPS and even picked up 11 steals (in 14 attempts) in his 56 games. The other hitter that the evaluators are high on here is Leo Jimenez. I was beginning to wonder what the hubub was about and whether this was just a re-run of Taylor/Vicuna but he caught fire in August, hitting .360 with an .882 OPS over his 22 games that month.
The pitching here was mostly mediocre if not worse, but keep the name Jol Conception in mind – he’s the one guy who had a good, consistent season. Other guys who have some buzz despite mixed results are Naswell Paulino, Alejandro Melean, and maybe Rothier Hernandez.
Top 10 prospect Orelvis Martinez had a solid season here as a 17 year old and finished the year on fire with a 1.063 OPS in August. Another Dominican to watch from this team is RF Alberto Rodriguez, 18, who turned up in the lower regions of a couple of mid-season prospect lists. He was steady and improving throughout the season. 17 year old catcher Javier D’Orazio pounded the DSL for the first 2/3 of June and earned a promotion to Florida but he struggled to adapt for a while, but he hit .300 in August and might be someone to watch for a breakout over the next year or two.
You know about Kendall Williams dominating this circuit, with a well earned 1.13 ERA in his limited innings. But there are other names to know here, like SP Rafael Monison with a 1.77 ERA in a team leading 40.2 IP with good ratios and unnoticed Michael Dominguez (15th round choice this year) with a 1.13 ERA and 29 K in 24 IP.
I hate to give the impression that anyone in the DSL rates more than “hm, that’s interesting” which is basically what these are, but 2B Adrian Montero hit .322 while walking 24 times and only striking out 11. Has some speed too. Another 2B hit .300, had an almost 1:! strikeout to walk ratio and stole 24 bases in 28 attempts. Winder Garcia spent most of the season here, he had a 2.54 ERA and the org liked him enough to move him to the GCL briefly before letting him start the Canadians last game of the season.
Did I miss anyone who caught your eye?