Hey. Hey you. How's it goin'? You doin' ok? Cool. Me too. Wanna grab a beer and catch up? Cool.
Hickory Crawdads (low-A):
Welp, what can you say. This is A-ball. Low-A ball to be more specific. It's the first shot at full-season, play everyday, pitch every 5th day, no bullshit baseball. Some rise up and make mincemeat of the level. Some fall flat. Most alternate between the two. This time last year, Travis Demeritte was concerned with 1)the draft and 2)high school graduation. Now he's concerned with keeping his hands back long enough to drive changeups, trying to hit behind the runners, and not biting so hard on breaking balls. He hit .183 in April, then hit nearly 100 points higher in May. When I first saw him, I noticed one of my true scouting tells- a big butt. That's where the power comes from, the booty. And power has been supplied. Now a second baseman, Travis leads the team with 12 homers (7 more than the next best) as well as a fairly staggering 67 strike outs. Travis is a dude. Also, Texas hoards middle infielders like Floyd Mayweather hoards absurdity. Jairo Beras (.196/.253/.232) has 10 fewer strike outs than Travis. In 9 fewer games. With 12 less homers. And nearly 400 fewer OPS points. Not sure what's going to happen with him, but he doesn't have baseball skills right now. Cole Wiper and Akeem Bostick continue to be the only fellas who consistently take the ball every 5th day. Wiper keeps missing bats, with 51K in 47.2ip, and walking too many guys (22), while holding opponents to a .219 average. He's a dude. Bostick is younger and more raw than Wiper, but his low-90s FB and emerging CH are helping him grow. He turned 19 on May 4th, is a lanky 6'4", and is still a project, but he's a dude. Now let's talk ugly. Bad starts are like zits and hangovers. You can try a thousand, half-cocked, "sure-fire" remedies, but the truth is, the only real remedy is time. Unfortunately, I'm bestowing Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman (you know I'm mad at him when I don't use his excellent nickname) the "most disappointing starts on the farm" title. It's a joint title for them since they've been intrinsically linked since signing on the same day in 2011 for a combined meat total of $8,400,000.00. I added the cents for emphasis. They're both only 19 and they're both straight up stock loaded with talent. But they're both hitting like poo. It's a long season, but I'm ready for the zits to pop. Lewis Brinson returned after missing basically the entire month with a quad injury. Yohander Mendez continues to reside on the DL, and Kelvin Vasquez continues to show good stuff and fleeting command. Deceptively fast outfielder Ryan Cordell, last year's 11th round pick out of Liberty University, was promoted from extended spring training and has hit like his hair is on fire. He's first team All Bus and fills out a uniform like a 6'4" 215lb thoroughbred. And finally, 20 year old Evan Van Hoosier continues to hit over .300 from the leadoff spot while playing all over the diamond. I like that little Swiss army knife. Here's some footage of Akeem Bostick courtesy of Fangraphs' Nathaniel Stoltz:
Hickory RHP Akeem Bostick vs. Asheville 3B Ryan McMahon, 4.10.14 (via Nathaniel Stoltz)
And a Travis Demeritte homer. He's got some swagger, pimps this shot a bit, and is promptly removed from the catcher's Christmas card list:
Myrtle Beach Pelicans (high-A):
You guys hear the one about the pitcher who threw a meatball to Joey Gallo? That's not a joke, but it is funny. The whole damn thing is funny right about now. "I'LL TAKE ALL THE HOMERS IN THE WORLDIVERSE! I'LL CRUSH YOUR SOULS AND PILFER YOUR BULLPEN! THROW SHITTY PITCHES AND I WILL ACCEPT YOUR GIFT OF FIRST BASE! THROW IT OVER THE PLATE AND I WILL OWN YOUR FAMILY! AND YOUR FAMILY'S FAMILY!" -Joey Gallo (citation needed) Not much left to say 'bout Gobbles, so we'll move on, but not before saying that the Carolina League All Star Game is June 17th in Wilmington, Delaware. This is important for 2 reasons, 1) because it might be Joey's last appearance in a Myrtle Beach uni, and 2) because they're doing something completely bat shit for the home run derby. They're putting the cage in centerfield and having the players hit into the main concourse rather than the outfield berm. Great idea, but the possible inclusion of Mr. Gallo conceivably makes it premeditated murder. Imagine being midway up the third base line, about 275' from the CF batting cage and Gallo yanks a rope, right at you. Noooooooo thank you. Duck and cover kids, and always wear protection. The Birds have the best record in the league and they finished the month with a 9.5 game lead in their division. Seriously, they're crushing. Last year's Pelicans hit 64 homers. This year's squad finished May with 51. That's not normal. Chi Chi and Sam Wolff pitched so well the club has had to tap the brakes a bit on their innings lately with both being skipped and monitored. A bit overshadowed by the exploits of King Kong was Nick Williams' stunning month of May. After sputtering out to a .229 start through the month of April, the young Galvestonian hit a ridiculous .356/.402/.567 in May. He might be the most instinctual hitter I've seen since Josh Hamilton. Don't believe me? This is from an interview he gave to MiLB.com's Robert Emrich on May 14th, "Really my approach is, I guess, just slowing everything down and sing a song in my head. Not really focus hard, just see the ball and react. I believe that no one has faster hands than me in Minor League baseball. I'm just going to see [the ball] and if it's over the plate and my bat can hit it, I'm going to crush it." Sing a song in my head? Okey dokey. Dude's a character. And he is most certainly a dude. Talked to a handful of scouts/players/other folks who would kill me if I used their names, none were particularly impressed with the early season results from Jorge Alfaro behind the plate. The 12 passed balls and 6 errors in 36 games behind the plate provide simpatico between the scouting and the stats. He's hitting well though, and catching is hard, so whatevs. Andrew Faulkner (19BB/58K in 59.1ip) continues to surprise and impress, while Vic Payano (48BB/43K in 54ip) continues to offer first base free of charge to anyone who would like it. Alex Claudio (5BB/39K in 35.2ip) flew home to Puerto Rico for a few days for the birth of his child and otherwise continued to treat the rest of the league like children. He doesn't belong in A-ball, but he's so very valuable to Myrtle Beach right now. The Birds are the word this season and the beach is the place to be. Just for kicks, here's high school Joey hitting one 442' in Petco Park:
Joey Gallo 442' home run (via PerfectGameBaseball)
Frisco RoughRiders (AA):
The good news: after a rough first few weeks of the month, Ryan Rua (.301/.381/.516) appears to have regathered his timing and his season continues to represent a good step forward. The really good news: Tomas Telis and his slightly more open stance have been nearly unstoppable in 2014. His .347 average led the league by exactly 20 points at month end. He's hit .352 left handed and .333 right handed. He's 22 years old for another few weeks and if it feels like he's been around forever, it's because he has. So much so, he'll be a free agent after this season and he'll be a 23 year-old, switch hitting catcher whom I've repeatedly clocked at 1.85-2sec.down to second base, and who has torched AA pitching in 2014; he'd last about 15 seconds as a free agent. Paradoxically, it's taken a while and yet it might be premature, but I'm saying Tomas is a dude. I can't remember wanting two guys to hit more than I want Pat Cantwell and Jake Skole to hit more. Both play impeccable defense. Cantwell maintains an unbreakable stranglehold on the farm's "Best Defensive Catcher" title and Skole's closest competition for the same distinction in centerfield is Lewis Brinson. The team obviously lost the key and the ignition when Sardi and Roogie changed to chartered flights, but the 'Riders have gotten enough done to take a 4.5 game lead in their division into June, as the first half of the season begins it's final descent. The hydra-headed rotation monster of Luke Jackson, Alec Asher, and Jerad Eickhoff continues to impress. Not just with their stuff, but with their progress as pitchers. I'm fortunate enough to see and talk with them often and their progress is both exciting and encouraging. They're becoming pitchers, not settling for being throwers. LuJax is mixing well and using his CB better. Asher is repeating his delivery and keeping hitters off balance. Eickhoff is maintaining his mechanics and his low-to-mid 90s velocity late into all his starts. I'll expound more on their progress at a later date. Just know that they're all doing what it takes to make it to the next level, and hopefully the one after that. Keone Kela has found AA hitters to be far more discriminating than their A-ball counterparts. His 12BB/12K in 10.2ip, while not ideal, will provide a backdrop for what kind of strikes he needs to throw going forward. Wilmer Font continues to be the unelected mayor of Whahappen'ville, but did finish the month with his highest velocity readings (96-98) in quite a while. Font's fellow bullpen beast, 6'7" 250lb righty reliever Phil Klein (13BB/33K in 25.1ip, .169avg against) continues to demand attention for more than his hulking size. Keep an eye on Phil. He's hard to miss. Ryan Rua's 9th of the season was an oppo shot on a breaking ball (that's good) and a glimpse into how strong he is:
Round Rock (AAA):
This isn't particularly easy. I like a lot of these guys though I don't know too many of them very well. I know the bullpen guys, and the other fellas like Ryan Strausborger, Brett Nicholas, and Jared Hoying who spent time in Frisco, so I don't really want to step on anyone's toes, but I also gotta call it like I see it, and man, this team is just frustrating to watch. They finished May in last place in their division (though that only puts them 4 games behind the leader), with the second lowest batting average (.250) in the 16-team Pacific Coast League, and the 3rd highest ERA (5.15). Some of the position prospects on the club aren't hitting particularly well; Nicholas (.246), Hoying (.226) and some of the bullpen pitching prospects aren't pitching well; Lisalverto Bonilla (5.09), Randy Henry (6.48), Matt West (4.91), and Roman Mendez (3.92). All these guys are more talented than they've been playing and I honestly expect them to get better results going forward. All it takes is a little groove and those numbers change in a hurry. I'm really encouraged by the positional flexibility of Nicholas who has already caught more games than he did in 2012 and 2013 combined. I spoke with a scout last week who saw him catch and was very complimentary of Brett's skills back there- especially given his relatively limited experience at the lower levels. The really good news out of the Express camp is the recent performance of 40-man member, Ben Rowen. Everybody's favorite submariner has looked really salty lately and he continues to absolutely torment right-handers. Over his last 10 appearances, Ben has a 0.64ERA and 0BB/11K in 14 innings. To a righty, the ball must look like it's coming in from the shortstop. Nefti Feliz has been inconsistent with his secondaries, but he has been throwing better changeups and touching 96 more often, so...baby steps. Following an abysmal April, Cory Burns had his moments and strung together some nice appearances until a train ran roughshod over his mojo on Thursday night. The good news for the pitchers is they have Brad Holman as their coach. He's a wizard and if anyone can pinpoint the problems and offer up a proper elixir, it's that dude. Here' 32 year-old Brad Snyder launching his 16th homer of the season onto the berm in that resplendent Round Rock park. (love the fella in the grass drawing a bead on it, then spitting the bit and being straight out-hustled at the moment of truth)
And there you have it. The marvelous month of May is in the books. Time for June. You know what June usually means, right? Some guys will be packing their bags for new homes and new uniforms. Can't wait to see how everything pans out over the next 30 days. COME TO THE PARK! For those of you in DFW, you know as well as I do; the show is coming. You don't want to miss the show, do you?
As always, enjoy baseball! Love Ya!