The trade deadline is fast approaching, giving us a chance to guess which prospects Kenny Williams will trade at the deadline. All jokes aside, it is that time of year where names are getting thrown around. The Sox have to figure out if they're buyers or sellers and then maybe we'll see some of these names play for another organization or with the big league club. Anyway, here's the best and worst of the week (plus a day).
Hot Hitter: Kevan Smith, C, Rookie Bristol
Stats: .591/.654/1.318 with 4 HR, 2 BB and 3 K in 22 AB
It's getting goofy at this point. Before gushing too much about Smith's performance for Bristol so far, I should get the disclaimer out of the way that he's 23 and in rookie ball. That said, wow! Forgetting age and level, you have to be impressed with what Smith is doing in the Appalachian League. He leads the league in average (.404), slugging (.730), OPS (1.211) and is second in on-base (.480) and RBI (28). All this from a catcher. Hopefully he gets pushed to Winston-Salem at the start of next season to have him see pitchers closer to his age. Honorable mentions: Keenyn Walker (.381/.480/.619), Justin Greene (.500/.524/.650), Martin Medina (.462/.563/.615), Ian Gac (.393/.471/1.000) and Juan Silverio (.481/.548/.741).
Cold Hitter: Miguel Gonzalez, C, Low-A
Stats: .118/.211/.118 with 2 BB and 2 K in 17 AB
Gonzalez wasn't the worst hitter of the week, but he was the biggest name in that group. The 20-year-old catcher has actually held his own since joining the Intimidators from extended spring training in June. He's hitting .260 with just two extra base hits in 100 AB, but his 8 walks and 18 strikeouts on the year are respectable. He is a good defender that could be a plus catcher, but the bat has to be competent before he can be looked at as a major prospect again. The Sox will have to decide who they want getting the bulk of the playing time in Winston-Salem next year between him and Smith. You don't want either as a backup, but Smith needs to be pushed up the ladder and you don't want Gonzalez having to start his third straight year in Kannapolis. "Honorable" mentions: Seth Loman (.050/.231/.050), Michael Earley (.059/.059/.059) and Dallas McPherson (.143/.143/.190).
Hot Pitcher: Blair Walters, SP, Rookie Great Falls
Stats: 7 IP, 0 R, 10 K, 0 BB, 2 H
Walters was drafted in the 11th round this year out of Hawaii. He played four years of college ball and is a lefty so it's not a big surprise he is pitching well for the Voyagers, but he failed to keep his ERA under 4 in two years at Hawaii. What's potentially intriguing about Walters is that he was a reliever in college that the Sox have stretched out to a starter as a pro. So far the results have been terrific. He has been able to add an inning each successive outing and over his last three starts (technically this last one was a relief appearance, but it was the continuation of a suspended game) has given up just two runs in 18 innings while striking out 20 and walking two. The 21-year-old threw a sinker in the low 90s in college, but you have to think the Sox tinkered with his delivery or taught him a new pitch to see this kind of jump in performance. Honorable mentions: Darwin Matos (5 IP, 1.80 ERA, 10 K, 3 BB, 4 H), Ryan Bollinger (11.1 IP, 2.38 ERA, 16 K, 3 BB, 10 H) and Joe Bisenius (5 IP, 0 R, 7 K, 1 BB, 3 H).
Cold Pitcher: Justin Edwards, SP, AA
Stats: 12 IP, 6.00 ERA, 5 K, 3 BB, 20 H
The 23-year-old lefty has been decent for the Barons this year. He's 3-4 with a 4.70 ERA, but opponents are hitting .300 off him this year and he's given up 38 hits in his last four starts. The Sox drafted him out of high school in the third round in 2006, but he missed all of 2008 with an arm injury and he hasn't shown any sort of plus stuff. However, he is young enough and throws with his left hand so maybe a move to the bullpen could work out for him. "Honorable" mentions: Jacob Petricka (5.2 IP, 7.94 ERA, 5 K, 1 BB, 5 H), Ethan Icard (3.1 IP, 16.20 ERA, 2 K, 3 BB, 6 H) and Charlie Shirek (11.2 IP, 6.17 ERA, 3 K, 5 BB, 17 H).
Special reliever section
Due to the nature of prospects and the focus on starting pitching, we don't really talk too much about relievers. It takes a high 90s fastball and/or numbers like Addison Reed's to get noticed (Reed threw three hitless innings with 6 K this week in case you're wondering) as a minor league reliever. So this section is dedicated to a few relievers having good seasons that you won't hear about on a regular basis.
Ryan Kussmaul (4 IP, 9 K) - The 24-year-old is putting up gaudy numbers for the Dash. He hasn't walked a batter in more than 11 innings and has a K/9 of 14.01. This week he fanned 9 in 4 innings and the only batter that reached against him reached because of an error by Kussmaul.
Cody Winiarski (2.1 IP, 6 K) - Drafted in the 36th round out of Virginia. He started for the Cavaliers, but has been used out of the bullpen for the Voyagers. He struck out six of the eight batters he faced July 15.
Chris Bassitt (3.1 IP, 6 K, 1 BB, 3 H) - Drafted in the 15th round this year out of Akron and is already with Kannapolis. 19 K to 3 BB in 14.1 IP over three levels.
Jason Van Skike (5 IP, 10 K, 3 BB, 2 H) - A NDFA signed out of Indiana State this summer. Van Skike, 6-4, started for the Sycamores, but has been in the 'pen for Bristol and has 23 K against 5 BB in 14 IP.