With just 25-30 games (depending mostly on rain) played in the 2022 minor-league season, it’s obviously still early to make more than the most tentative assumptions about any given player.
We know from past experience that any given player can have a very hot – or cold – a couple of weeks at any given time and these are magnified when they fall in the first month or so of the season. But sometimes you can pair up what you know from past performance or scouting reports to lend a certain context to early observations. Like last time, there’s no point in being exhaustive this early, I’ll just look at noted prospects, seeming breakouts, or rate trends that jump off the stat sheet.
Dunedin Blue Jays
The D-Jays are sporting several good-to-great early pitching lines. Both known names and some unexpected performances. Chief among those of course is hard-throwing lefty Ricky Tiedemann, drafted just last year, who may already be too good for this level. In 25 IP, he’s given up just 8 hits and struck out 39. There’s also Dahain Santos, a smaller built RHP who’s been used in relief but in multi-inning stints which mark him as an eventual starter, which he’s earned with his 31K/8BB ratio in 16 IP.
You may also know the name Rafael Ohashi, who has a 3.10 ERA and pretty good ratios (a lot of pitchers at this level have more walks than you’d like but if the other numbers are impressive it portends potential). Yosver Zulueta is rehabbing here and has just 2 outings but has impressed observers. He has 13 K and 3 BB in 7.1 IP. The guys we maybe didn’t see coming are Matt Svanson (also drafted last year) and Jimmy Robbins. The 24-year-old lefty was drafted in the 20th round in 2019 but hasn’t pitched in over two years due to injuries. Keep an eye on both.
On the offensive side, there’s good news but not quite so many items. Dasan Brown, the toolsy local boy, seems to have made progress on the offensive side with a .337 OBP (much better than last year) but isn’t what anyone would call a good hitter yet. First baseman Ranier Nunez has seven homers already and isn’t an all-or-nothing guy so far, but his BB/K ratio is pretty horrible. The real offensive leader here is RF/3B Adriel Stolongo who’s rocking an .893 OPS.
Like the D-Jays, the VanC’s are being buoyed by some good starting pitching. Rather than spend a hundred words describing this quartet, let me just show you
Until Trent Palmer got rocked yesterday for 6 runs he had the best ERA of the bunch. Adam Kloffenstein has had a couple of stumbles but seems to have taken a big step compared to last year’s struggles. Particularly in finding some of the control he was lacking. Chad Dallas and Sem Roberrse seem to be in their comfort zone. I’d be remiss to not also shout out reliever Jimmy Burnette who’s recorded 38 outs with 25 of them via the strikeout.
The primary prospect in the C’s lineup is SS Leo Jimenez. He had a really bad offensive line at the end of April, with his 10 walks in 14 games the only saving grace. But so far in May, he’s 8 for 16 so maybe he’s gotten into his groove. A couple of guys who are on nobody’s prospect lists are leading the offense though. RF Trevor Schwecke and 1B PK Morris have OPS of .950 and .913 respectively. Infielder Addison Barger leads the team in homers (with 4) but has struck out 31 times in 24 games and that will need to improve.
Another guy to watch is 3B Riley Tirotta who has a similar offensive outcome to Barger so far this season.
New Hampshire Fisher Cats
The early returns on Hayden Juenger as a starter continue to be positive. In four of his six appearances, he wasn’t scored on, in three of those he didn’t allow a hit (and just one hit in the other, for a combined 12 innings of a one-hit shutout). He’s only been over three innings once but if he can hold this success over longer stretches he’ll jump up the prospect lists. Maximo Castillo, who’s repeating the level, is off to maybe his best career start (33K in 24 IP and a 3.38 ERA) and Nick Fraze leads the team with a 2.55 ERA. More concerning is Joey Murray, who’s done a lot of things well but not prevented runs scoring and is back on the IL.
It feels like I’m going to be starting this section with an Orelvis update all through the summer. Similar to Jimenez, Orelvis Martinez had his issues with April. At the end of the month, his slash lines were .188/.224/.516 with only the power (6 homers in his 12 hits) redeeming. But in 21 at bats in May, it looks like this: .286/.400/.571 which suggests progress consistent with his past pattern of needing a few weeks to acclimate to a new level but the sample is small, we’ll see.
Three players have a higher OPS than Martinez at present, chief among them is 2B/3B Tanner Morris. I will admit based on how various prospect watchers described him, I was massively “meh” on Morris coming into the year, but it’s hard to find fault with his production so far, featuring a .312 BA and 18 walks in 23 games for a .448 OBP. Center fielder Zac Cook is a strange case, he has an .870 OPS but is only hitting .197 which is not a common occurrence. Corner infielder John Aiello has hit well but only played in 10 games so far. One other name worth mentioning is catcher Phillip Clarke who has a .375 OBP and finished last season strong.
I suppose I have to start this report off with bad news – the 40-man roster guys are mostly struggling. Anthony Kay got rocked twice and then hit the IL, Thomas Hatch has a well-earned 7.61 ERA and isn’t fooling anyone. After starting the year with two impressive starts, Nick Allgeyer has gone totally off the rails with a 10.00 ERA over the last four outings. Other than veteran journeyman Casey Lawrence (2.82 ERA) all of the relatively good news is found in the bullpen. Graham Spraker is doing well given his burden of having walked a batter per IP so far, but that has to stop. Brandon Eisert and Jeremy Beasley have done fine work, and then there’s Adrian Hernandez. Since his promotion, he’s thrown 6 hitless innings while striking out 10.
I am resolved – I will not get optimistic about Logan Warmoth. He’s had hot streaks in the past and they always fall apart. Still, at the moment he’s pacing the offense with an .899 OPS and 14 walks against 14 strikeouts. You’ve “met” Vinnie Capra, who’s holding an .855 OPS in AAA, and you know, I imagine, who 2B/LF Samad Taylor is. He has 12 SB in 13 tries, and a 14% walk rate (up slightly from last year) to go with a 21% K rate (which is a massive improvement on 30% last year). The blemish is the .239 BA resulting from having gone 4/23 in May. Of course, you can’t report on the Bisons without noting the two top 5 prospects here. Gabby Moreno is hitting .299 but hasn’t hit one out yet, he’s fine but not kicking down the door for a promotion yet. Jordan Groshans is only 7 games off the IL but he’s hitting .348 which is encouraging. Otto Lopez has only gotten into five games since coming off the IL. Hopefully, we have a somewhat better read on these two next time.