As we are all rightly enthralled with the surging major league club, the hottest in the AL over the last 42 games. the farm system continues to churn along adopting to promotions and departures and seeing who holds up during the “dog days of August.”
The sample size has come up enough that we can begin to somewhat identify trends, surprises, slow starts, and so forth. The DSL team has played 17 games so far which, in the big picture, is still a pretty tiny sample but the best performers here are worth noticing. At the top of the list is 2B Francisco Fajardo. The slender switch-hitter is 21, which is old for the DSL (though that’s harder to gauge after the lost season). But he’s hitting .447 and has five walks and only two strikeouts. It’s mostly a team of names you wouldn’t know, as usual, the one consensus top 20 player here is SS Manuel Beltre who got off to a really slow start but is hitting .500 in August. Among the pitchers here, the best indicator is usually the strikeout ratios and there are four players here with about 16 IP, and 19 or more strikeouts who have walked seven or less – but don’t expect to recognize any names: right-handers Sergio Caruchi, Darwin Cruz, and Eliander Alcalde, and lefty Johan Simon.
In the Florida Coast League (still not sure what was wrong with “Gulf Coast League” to be honest) the best hitter statistically, a SS/2B, has already been promoted to Dunedin. Jose Revis was hitting .414 for this team but he got the call when Leo Jimenez went back on the IL. He’s an undersized RH hitter who did pretty well for this team in 2018 and 2019 so he has a track record. The best line among current team members belongs to OF Amell Brazoban. He’s slashing .362/.483/.702 in 47 at-bats. On his heels is 3B Adriel Sotolongo (.368/.489/.579). Another guy who’s moved across town to the D-Jays is catcher JJ D’Orazio (who’s gotten some prospect buzz) who was hitting .370 when he got the call as part of the roster shuffle when Riley Adams was dealt. The next five guys on the stat sheet have an .800 or better OPS, though two of them have also been promoted.
On the whole, it’s an interesting offensive team. The most intriguing pitcher remains starter Yaifer Perdomo. In 20 IP the lefty has struck out 28, walked nine and allowed opposing hitters just a .219 BA. Don’t be surprised if he moves across town soon, particularly if Sem gets moved up. Another name to watch, and one mentioned on some of the longer prospect reports, is RHP Dahian Santos. His line is very similar to Perdomo’s, though his ERA is a bit higher. In 22.2 IP he’s struck out 32 and walked six.
The first 2021 draftee to make a big splash is 12th round 3B Riley Tirotta. It’s just five games, but hitting .500 with more walks than strikeouts gets you a tip of the hat. Orelvis got promoted since last we looked. He takes with him the League Player of the Month trophy for July (1.318 OPS will do that) so the most productive bat remaining is SS/2B Addison Barger. After an almost seven-week slump from June into mid-July that had taken quite a bit of shine off of his hot May (taking an OPS of 1.039 all the way down to .831) he seems to have regained his footing with a .946 OPS over the last 12 games. I’m sure the team hopes for future slumps that don’t linger so long. I haven’t yet mentioned 1B PK Morris but the D-Jays’ 1B has walked 63 times in 70 games which leads to a .418 OBP which is worth a shout-out.
Sem Robberse continues to be the best pitcher on this staff and, I would have to think, worthy of promotion (acknowledging that it takes more than a good statistical outcome to get promoted). Since the first of June, he has a 3.00 ERA and allowed 6.75 H/9, 2.63 BB/9, while racking up 8.44 K/9. Trent Palmer, Naswell Paulino, and Alejandro Melean all have impressive strikeout rates, but the control has been inconsistent as all three have more walks than you want to see. Paulino walked eight in a disastrous three-inning outing on July 10, and eight over 21 IP since so that’s progress.
Vancouver via Hillsboro
With Orelvis Martinez just getting accommodated to his new team, this is still a mostly anemic offense. Of the top six names on the OPS leaderboard, two have been promoted and two are injured. That leaves 2B Tanner Morris as the only regular hitting higher than .741 but it looks even better if you cut out his light hitting may. Since June 1 he’s posted an .833 OPS.
With respect to the listed prospects, I’m gonna lead this week with the guy who’s come “out of nowhere” to impress me on this staff – Nick Fraze. Yes, I’ve highlighted him before but the 23 year old RH keeps rolling without any of the “bumps in the road” some others deal with. I honestly don’t know why he’s here, New Hampshire fans would surely rather be watching him as the last gasps of Casey Lawrence. He went on the IL on June 4 sporting a 2.05 ERA over his first six outings. In five outings since he’s come off, admittedly building up his endurance so only 15.2 IP, he has a 2.30 ERA. On the season he has 10 walks and 46 K in 42 IP and has allowed a mere 27 hits. He’s built up now, time to get thee to AA. Star prospect Adam Kloffenstein is still bouncing back and forth between “very nice” and “WTF happened here?” Ditto CJ Van Eck. Rising star reliever Adrian Hernandez, hot having found the Northwest particularly challenging, has moved on to AA New Hampshire, his third level this season, He moves on with a 13.8 K/9 (he had a K/9 of !18! in Dunedin).
Of course, the Fisher Cats have had to adjust to a diminished talent level (SWR and Martin traded, Lopez promoted, Moreno still on the IL) but the offensive review still looks pretty familiar. SS/3B Vinnie Capra resumed hitting out of his mind (.363/.428/.613) after a brief cup of coffee in AAA though not quite at the lofty levels he was at before the promotion. Samad Taylor has been heating back up after the fires of June cooled some in July (.948 OPS in August) and Jordan Groshans has been a steady presence since getting past his slow start in the first days of the season (an OPS of .860 since May 11).
Recently promoted RHP Luis Quinones struggled with walks at Vancouver but posted impressive strikeout numbers. Since promotion, in three starts, he’s maintained his other rates while shaving his walk rate by almost a third (though still too high). Interestingly, if you account for his first AA game as a case of nerves and set it aside, his last two outings look like this: 9.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, and 17 K which will get your attention.
The Bisons’ media team will, quite rightly, point your attention at times to veteran guys having good years. First baseman Tyler White, IF Richard Urena, IF/OF Christian Colon – all having fine seasons. But prospect wise there’s still, with the exception of the newcomer, just the one. SS Kevin Smith. The 25 year old switch hitter is in a 2-17 slump but has been remarkably consistent and maybe just wearing down a bit. The newcomer, of course, being utility man Otto Lopez. The sample is too small but after taking a few days to catch his breath, he went 4-8 over the weekend so we’ll see if he found his groove again. When he moved up he’d slashed .330/.397/.457/.854 in 69 AA games this year.
The mystery of the pitching staff to me is “Why can’t Anthony Kay pitch in AAA?” I mean, he’s been up and down in the majors but he’s pretty consistently bad for Buffalo. Like 9.64 ERA bad. Overall, no such problem for Thomas Hatch. I mean, he likely suffered some disruption to his routine when he spent almost 3 weeks in the majors and only pitched once. It showed in his first game back here when he gave up five runs in five innings pitched. Set aside that game and he has a well earned 2.55 ERA in AAA this year. Zach Logue is still here, consistently good-but-not-great. Jacob Waguespack got pushed out of the rotation through no fault of his own. but he went out and pitched 11.2 IP out of the pen (5 appearances) giving up only 2 ER. I’ll be sorely disappointed if one of the pitching starved teams like Baltimore doesn’t give this guy a shot to stick in the majors next spring.
Three more of these to go before the MiLB season is in the books.