I had a fun Twitter conversation with @smokiesonradio (smokiesonradio.com). You should check out their website and follow them if you're on Twitter. They do an excellent job of covering their team -- especially the players, which is what most of us are really interested to know.
Anyway, we talked about Javier Baez and how he's been going the opposite way a lot lately and I've noted he's done that in the past when he's going well -- even when he was playing in Peoria. We also talked about what a show he puts on in BP, to which they said they pull up a lawn chair to watch -- and listen -- Javy hit. They also noted that it seems more and more players from opposing teams seem to linger around the cage when it's Javy's turn to swing.
Not a big night of action with Daytona raining out for the 18th time this season (there were 16 last year). But it's been an unusual amount of rain the past two years. 2010 and 2011 had 15 rainouts combined.
The recap, fortunately, never rains out.
Tacoma 6 - Iowa 5
- Justin Grimm got knocked around early but fell victim to the BABIP bug as he allowed a few soft grounders up the middle, one of which he got his glove on but couldn't make the play. He allowed 7 singles and all 5 runs in the first 2 innings. After that he pitched 4 innings of one hit ball. He also had a great walk to K ratio today, walking one batter and striking out 8. It was one of those games that was great for the FIP, not so much for the ERA but there did seem to be a change in Grimm's approach as he got more aggressive as the game went on and often had Tacoma hitters back on their heels. A better outing than the numbers indicated.
- Casey Coleman came on and pitched 2 scoreless innings, got the first out in the 9th, and then gave up a walk-off HR to send the Tacoma fans happy. Coleman is now 2-3 with a 3.32 ERA on the season.
- Veteran Darnell McDonald had himself a huge day with 4 hits, including a double, and his 3rd HR. It's been a tough year for McDonald, who likely would have had an opportunity with the big club had he not struggled at AAA. He's hitting .233.
- Another veteran, 1B Brad Nelson, also HR'd. His 16th of the year.
- Jae-Hoon Ha doubled and then came around to score when he took 3rd on a sac fly and the outfielder's short-hop throw got away from the 3B, He also walked. Ha has worked his way back up to a .252 average, though the OBP and slugging still need some work.
- It's a temporary move but Daniel Lockhart has made a nice impression over at Iowa with his second straight 2-hit day. Doesn't have any power right now but he has a nice approach, is a aggressive in the zone, and makes solid contact. Would like to see him go to Kane County but it's tough to get playing time in that prospect-laden infield, so he may just head back to Boise again.
Jacksonville 6 - Tennesseee 4
- Matt Loosen got his second start since his most recent promotion to AA. There's a nice article here on it by SmokiesonRadio about how Loosen's improved command resulted in his return to Tennessee. He had his good velo (in the 92 mph range) but the command left him. He had some trouble locating, once again leaving some pitches up and allowing a couple of long balls. He has allowed a whopping 14 HRs in 43.1 AA innings. He's also walked 33. There's no doubt Loosen's stuff is good enough to pitch at this level, but he needs to command it as well as he did at Daytona to have success. In all, he allowed 5 runs in his 3 innings of work with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts.
- LHP Hunter Cervenka continues to pitch well at the AA level, going 2 scoreless innings. He has a 3.86 ERA in 31.1 innings but he has walked 16 (4.59/ 9 IP) and struck out 24 (6.89/9 IP). That ratio isn't really ideal and it's something Cervenka will have to work on if he wants to make the bigs. His stuff (91-93 mph with good movement, slider) is MLB quality. One thing Cervenka has done well in his career is keep the ball in the park with that heavy fastball, allowing just one HR all year, which helped him come into the game with a very solid 3.60 FIP.
- 5'10" RHP Dayan Diaz was at about 94 mph today and also showed a big breaking curve. He gave up a solo HR while walking one and striking out 2 in 1.2 innings.
- It was 4 up and 4 down for hard-throwing Tony Zych, who lowered his ERA to 2.74 on the year. Like Cervenka, the results are pretty close with the peripherals (6.65 Ks/9IP and 3.38 walks/9IP). He has also a very good FIP of 3.57.
- John Andreoli just keeps hitting and a double and two singles put him at .301/.374/.439. It's early but the most impressive step Andreoli has taken at Tennessee is with his extra base power. The slugging percentage is a career high, as is the .138 ISO. He also drove in 2 runs and stole his 9th base.
- In case you're wondering, Arismendy Alcantara got the day off (though he did get an AB in the 9th). He's just 2 for his last 20 and may well need a break. Alcantara, who has been injury prone and has not played a full season, already has a career high in games at 110. It's the first time he's played more than 100 games, so perhaps some fatigue is setting in and he just needs a day off.
- Javier Baez had a nice start at the plate, taking a pitch on the outside corner and ripping it into the RF-CF in his first AB, then had a nice AB with a man on 3rd and one out. Marlins prospect Justin Nicolino tried to get him to chase with some borderline pitches but instead of getting himself out in an eager attempt to drive in the run, Baez took the walk. It's yet another reason to be encouraged by Baez's growing maturity at the plate. Baez also singled and stole his 4th base. Baez is hitting .252/.317/.591 and has an 8.7% walk rate in his 126 AA plate appearances. That would be above average at the MLB level. His walk rate for the season is 7%, which is still a solid number, slightly below average but acceptable given the rest of his game. If Baez still has an issue, its that contact rate, which is nearly one K for every 3 PAs, but he doesn't have an issue with his swing, so the hope is that better pitch selection can help him improve on that.
- Rubi Silva entered the game late and went 2 for 2 to raise his line to .284/.303/.487.
Clinton 12 - Kane County 4
- It seems that the pitching is beginning to wear down late in the Kane County season, perhaps understandable because it is the first full season league. Felix Pena was an all-star but he got hit hard again to the tune of 10 hits and 8 runs in 6 innings. Pena was 2-1 with a 2.89 at the break and 2-3 with a 5.05 ERA since. The walks/strikeouts are similar, but Pena has just been hit much harder.
- LHP Nathan Dorris, who has been steady in relief all year, didn't fare much better. In 2 innings he walked 3 and allowed 3 hits, resulting in 4 more runs. Dorris has a 3.42 ERA, but like Pena, he has struggled since being named to the all-start team (2.79 ERA before break, 4.29 since).
- The Cougars managed just 4 hits, though they did manage to squeeze out 4 runs. The big hit was the 8th HR of the year from 19 year old 3B Jeimer Candelario. Really would like to see the kid finish strong as it seems he's beginning to settle in a little. His line is now at .253/.338/.388. The average may be down this year but Candelario has set career highs in walks, doubles, HRs, and has improved his ISO% over last season.
- LHP Gerardo Concepcion mostly pitched at 86-87 but did reach 91 (h/t @ericlpauly). His control was off, however. He walked 4 batters in 1.2 innings and allowed one unearned run. I think he'll improve his command as he gets work, but the question for is whether Concepcion can improve his stuff. It's been fringe average so far but the hope is it will improve as he gains strength and regains that feel for pitching that was one of his strengths when the Cubs signed him.
- LHP Carlos A. Rodriguez bounced back with his second straight strong outing after allowing 15 runs over his previous 3.1 innings. That's not a typo. Take those two outings away and the 18 year old has a 2.93 ERA away. With them the ERA is 8.71. Rodriguez has great command and feel for a pitcher so young, so it was good to see him walk one and strike out 5 in his last 4 innings.
- The AZ Cubs aren't a great offensive team. For once, most of the Cubs top prospects are at the upper levels but there are some interesting, sleeper type players. Numbers aren't overly important at this level, so it's hard to evaluate these players without getting the chance to see them night in and night out. One interesting guy is 18 year old Charcer Burks, who wasn't really on anyone's radar until late in the draft evaluation process, then managed to not just sneak into the top 10 rounds, but get an overslot bonus to boot. Burks is beginning to hit the ball better after a slow start and a 2 for 5 day left him at .273 for the season, though it hasn't come with any power (1 double). Burks has a decent approach, however, having walked 5 times in 60 PAs.
- 19 year old CF Jeffrey Baez is another athletic player with some speed (15 SBs in 18 attempts) and a very good approach at the plate (10% walk rate). He singled and walked today and scored a run.
- 3B Jesse Hodges doesn't have the athletic ability or build that Burks or Baez have. He's not going to steal bases or win a gold glove, but he was brought in to hit. So far the undrafted FA has struggled to do that (.221/.274/.308 coming into the game) but he singled and walked twice today.
- 1B Kelvin Freeman has been the team's most consistent hitter for average but his size (6'4", 245 lbs) and position (1B) suggest he needs to hit for more power to have value. Again, this is early on in the process so we're not gong to worry about stats at the complex level. Right now, Freeman has proven to be a productive hitter and perhaps that power will come later. He was 1 for 3 with a walk, 2 RBI, and a run scored.
- 2B Mark Malave may be the most interesting prospect as the last bonus baby signed by the Hendry administration. But before you roll your eyes, you should know that Malave was the 7th rated prospect that year and was pursued by a couple of teams with a strong track record for scouting. Malave is an advanced hitter who was often the youngest player in the various leagues he played in as an amateur in Venezuela. Malave is a naturally strong kid and the teams who like him think that can translate to some power down the road. Right now, Malave is just holding his own as an 18 year old in AZ, hitting .261 after a 1 for 3 day. He has a good approach -- 11 walks in 77 PAs (14.3% walk rate, .364 OBP entering the game). The biggest questions are his ultimate defensive position and whether he can use his natural strength and translate that to game power.
- Like Burks, Garrett Schlecht is an athletic OF'er with a solid approach who was selected in the 9th round and given an overslot bonus. Schlecht has yet to put up the kind of numbers he wants but he's still just 20 years old, so there's time. He went 1 for 4 with an RBI and is hitting .200 on the year.
- SS Francisco Sanchez was signed in the same IFA class as Jeffrey Baez and was given a similar bonus in the 350K range. Sanchez hasn't had nearly the same kind of success that Baez has so far, but Sanchez has some intriguing pop for a SS. He singled and doubled and drove in a run. He's slugging .404 despite a .221 average. His approach is overly aggressive and he's very raw, but there appears to be some bat speed there.
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