June 1, 2015
Minor League Update
Games of May 29-31, 2015
Robert Stephenson, RHP, Reds (Pensacola, AA): 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 SO. That’s 21 punch outs in two starts for Stephenson, who has the raw stuff to dominate Double-A hitters when he’s on with his mid-90s fastball and hammer curve. More encouragingly, Friday’s start marks the first time all year that the 22-year-old walked fewer than two hitters all year. Throwing strikes isn’t a trend yet—he walked five in his previous start and seven three turns before that—and he’ll need to reign in his impulse to throw everything through a brick wall if he’s going to consistently replicate the performance.
Jose De Leon, RHP, Dodgers (Tulsa, AA): 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 BB, 11 SO. Not impressed by the final line? Consider that he did it against a Frisco lineup that included Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Joey Gallo, and Nomar Mazara, a trio responsible for more than half of the eleven whiffs. A 24th-round pick in 2013, De Leon has rocketed through the Dodgers system, and has enjoyed tremendous success since making a few mechanical adjustments to his delivery and foot stride. This is what can happen when a non-prospect adds five miles per hour to his fastball without sacrificing his control.
Brian Goodwin, CF, Nationals (Harrisburg, AA): 1-4, HR. Sometimes, in pieces like these, a name from the past appears; a new pitch or mechanical adjustment responsible for rekindling interest in a forgotten flame. More often though, sporadic references to one-time prospects only serve to reinforce how far the mighty have fallen. Such is the case with Goodwin, who is batting .226/.282/.357 in Double-A, two years after graduating from the level and earning a place on BP’s top 101. He has the speed and defensive chops to make a living as a spare outfielder, but it’s looking more and more like he won’t have the stick to be more than a reserve.
Victor Roache, LF, Brewers (Brevard County, High-A): 2-4, HR, 2 SO. Roache may be a one-trick pony, but right-handed power is a pretty valuable commodity these days—prized enough, even, for Roache’s season to be considered a success despite a 37 percent strikeout rate. This year, he’s tapping into his tremendous raw power more often than he did a year ago—his slugging percentage hovers just below .500, a full hundred points better than last season’s mark—and pretty much everything he’s connected with has been hit hard. He’ll need to tone down his long swing or employ better strike-zone judgement to have success against advanced arms, a perilously difficult adjustment for most hitters with his skill set.
Luiz Gohara, LHP, Mariners (Clinton, Low-A): 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 SO. Gohara struggled mightily in short-season ball last summer, so it was a bit of a surprise to see the Mariners push the Brazilian up to Low-A as an 18-year-old. The youngest pitcher in the Midwest League held his own in his debut though, chucking strikes and inducing nine ground balls in four innings. He’s less than a year removed from throwing some seriously ugly baseball, but he’s flashed four average pitches in the past, so any sign that he’s turned the corner should catch a prospect junkie’s attention.
Derek Fisher, LF, Astros (Lancaster, High-A): 4-6, 3 HR, 2B, 2 SO, 12 RBI. None of that is a misprint: Derek Fisher really did strike out twice and still did enough damage in his other four trips to the plate to drive in 12 runs, mostly thanks to two grand slams. As a 6 runner with a line-drive swing and enough strength to hit his fair share of home runs, Fisher has the tools to be the total package on the offensive side. There is some concern that he won’t be able to tap into his plus raw power consistently during games, and a good summer in Lancaster won’t do much to enhance our understanding of what he’s likely to offer the Astros at the highest level. To some extent, we’ll likely be in the dark on Fisher until he gets his feet wet in Double-A.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Giants (San Jose, High-A): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 SO. Blessed with a plus fastball and a wicked power curve, the Vanderbilt alum has long frustrated evaluators with erratic performances and inconsistent results. One big knock against him has been control: he walked over four hitters per nine innings at Vanderbilt, and then again in short-season ball last summer. That particular problem has not resurfaced this season, as the walk he allowed on Saturday was just the third free pass he conceded in his last five starts. It’s still early, but it appears that the minor tweaks San Francisco’s coaches made to streamline his delivery this spring are paying dividends. Either way, his performance reinforces industry consensus that the Giants organization was the perfect place for Beede to land.
Dominic Smith, 1B, Mets (St. Lucie, High-A): 1-5, HR, SO. The homer brings Smith’s two-year dinger total all the way up to… two. At BP, we always implore people to stay away from scouting the stat line, as minor-league development is complicated and there’s often an explanation for a quirky looking statistic. Jeff Moore went to investigate the red flag in Smith’s numbers though, and he came away less than impressed with the total package:
“The swing that Smith uses to put on a solid, fundamental batting practice session is not the swing that he puts on pitches in games. In fact, it’s not even close. Rather than driving the ball with any authority, Smith feels for the ball, swinging like he’s afraid to miss rather than trying to hit a baseball hard somewhere… Two years into his professional career, he’s hit for no power and failed to make any adjustments as his competition level has risen.”
Matt Wisler, RHP, Braves (Gwinnett, AAA): 8.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 SO. Wisler has fared much better in his second tour of duty through Triple-A. He still struggles with lefties, but his command has reportedly improved throughout the year, which was the number one concern with Wisler heading into the season. With a year and a half of Triple-A experience under his belt, the 22-year-old is on the brink of making his big-league debut.
Yoan Moncada, 2B, Red Sox (Greenville, Low-A): 2-5, R, 2B, HR, SB, SO. Moncada stole his first base and belted his first homer on Saturday, the latter of which landed behind the left-field seats in Lexington. He’s off to a slow start, but that’s to be expected from a player who hasn’t played competitively in over a year. The Red Sox are bringing their Cuban phenom along slowly, and are allowing Moncada to acclimate to American culture and the rigors of professional baseball in the lower minors. How quickly and how well he adjusts to his new life will determine how long he remains in Greenville.
Stryker Trahan, C, Diamondbacks (Kane County, Low-A): 2-4, HR, BB, 2 SO. Trahan hit three homers this week, a welcome infusion of offense for a player who was hitting .211/.255/.391 seven days ago. Power is Trahan’s calling card at the plate, as his leveraged swing and poor plate coverage will preclude him from posting solid batting averages. His future as a pro may be dictated by how well he plays catcher. Mauricio Rubio’s eyewitness account reports that the 21-year-old has a strong arm, but blocks poorly and stabs at balls instead of catching them softly. That last deficiency is a problem in a league that values good framers very highly right now.
Jake Thompson, RHP, Rangers (Frisco, AA): 8 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 SO. Over his last three outings, Thompson has thrown 20 2/3 innings, striking out 22 while allowing only two runs and three walks. The big right-hander took a couple of shellackings early this season, games that resemble BABIP and weather related blips—there was an 18-mph wind blowing out to left field during one of his starts—more than anything else at this point.
Matt Chapman, 3B, Athletics (Stockton, High-A): 2-4, 2 HR. An under-slot first-round selection out of Cal-State Fullerton last year, Chapman had a disappointing debut in the Midwest League. He showed a poor feel for the strike zone and didn’t hit for any power, although he did play a decent third base. With his two blasts yesterday, Chapman equaled last season’s total in his first 21 games, and while he’s still striking out a ton, the organization must be relieved to see their top pick flashing his best offensive tool early in 2015.
Joe Ross, RHP, Nationals (Harrisburg, Double-A): 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 7 SO. After a rocky start, Ross has permitted fewer than two runs in five of his last six outings, and he hasn’t walked a batter in either of his last two starts. This year, Ross is working on commanding his arsenal and finishing better with his changeup, a pitch he’s been prone to hanging up in the zone in the past. If it clicks, he could be a mid-rotation starter.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, Blue Jays (Dunedin, High-A): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 SO. The Jays are understandably taking it slowly with their first-round pick, who was lifted after facing just 17 batters in his third professional start Sunday afternoon. It often takes a year or more for a pitcher’s feel to return after Tommy John surgery, so it’s exciting to see Hoffman succeeding so soon after surgery. He’s hit 99 mph on the gun this year, and has flashed the biting curveball that made him a potential 1:1 selection last year.
Roman Quinn, CF, Phillies (Reading, AA): 3-4, R, BB, SO, SB. Quinn has swiped four bags in his last five games, giving him 24 on the season. The 22-year-old has thrived in his first taste of Double-A this season. He’s putting the ball in play more than ever, and is batting above .300 against both lefties and righties, a good sign for a player who struggled against righties in the past. He hits too many fly balls for a player with his skill set, but if he continues making hard contact regularly, he could make his debut in Philadelphia by season’s end.