It's time to take a look at who's been hot on the farm over the past two weeks. And there are plenty of good candidates!
The rookie clubs have been hitting quite a bit, with one squad already in the playoffs and the other missing out on the postseason by a heartbreaking half a game. There have also been quite a few strong bullpen performances, especially in the mid-levels of the system.
We break it down by team as usual...
Charlotte Knights (AAA)
So, Eloy Jimenez. You may have heard of him. In the last two weeks he's hit .462, with a 1.029 OPS, and just 7 K in 55 PA. But it gets even crazier. His OPS for all 53 games in AAA is 1.046, at age 21. Sorry, you want even more craziness? OK. In the last week (7 games): .621/.633/.759, and just 3 K in 30 PA. There truly is zero question about whether or not he's ready. The only remaining question is, do the Sox keep him down until late April of 2019 to get the extra year of control? Or bow to the pressure from the fan base? We'll likely know within a week.
On the pitching side, there weren't a whole lot of big time performances for the Knights over the past two weeks, but recent acquisition Caleb Frare does stand out. In 7 innings of work, the lefty has allowed just 2 hits, walked 4, and struck out a whopping 12 batters. He's a possible candidate for a September call-up.
Birmingham Barons (AA)
The Barons have shown improvements in the second half, but not enough to grab a postseason berth. A pair of outfielders have been hitting well to help propel the Barons offense. Luis Alexander Basabe, who has been climbing prospect lists this year, has hit .320 in the past couple weeks including six extra base hits. Joel Booker, who has generally struggled at AA, seems to be finding his rhythm. His slash line of .333/.385/.417 has been a nice boost, and he added a couple steals as well.
The pitching side for Birmingham has shown more positives. In the rotation, Matt Tomshaw has been nails in his last three starts: 19 IP, 14 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 20 K. The 29-year-old really doesn't belong in AA but he's certainly gotten the job done. The Barons bullpen has provided some highlights too. Very tall right-hander Zach Thompson is a more age-appropriate 24, and has struck out 13 batters against just three walks and five hits in 9.1 innings, allowing no earned runs. Flamethrower Jose Ruiz has been more than solid in his last five outings as well: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K.
Winston-Salem Dash (A+)
The Dash lineup has been a force all year, but the past couple weeks have seen less noise from the bats than usual. Zach Remillard hasn't found a permanent home defensively but he does keep hitting, including a .324/.378/.588 slash line in the past two weeks, with just 4 K in 37 PA. Gavin Sheets continues to scald the ball, hitting .326, even if the home run power is still mostly absent in games (1 HR in that span).
What has helped the Dash lately though is the bullpen, with lots of arms doing well there. Let's do a list here:
- Tyler Johnson is still filthy. Over 5.2 innings of work without allowing an earned run, he has struck out 10 and walked no one.
- Danny Dopico continues to be near the organizational lead in strikeout rate, but more importantly for him he's also been gradually decreasing his walk rate. Last two weeks: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 11 K.
- Mike Morrison has struggled with control at times in 2018, but not in the past two weeks: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K.
- Recently acquired Hunter Schryver makes it a foursome of Winston-Salem relievers to not allow an earned run in this period, in his case throwing 8 frames while allowing 4 hits and 3 walks, striking out 11.
Kannapolis Intimidators (A)
The Intimidators are still holding onto a Wild Card slot that they hope to clinch soon. The offense has been fairly quiet, but Ian Dawkins has hit .306 with as many walks as strikeouts (3 of each) in recent play. 2nd round pick Steele Walker is hitting only .216 but has hit three long balls and added four doubles, so he's getting the max out of his hits when he gets them.
Pitching has been more of a strength for this squad lately. Zach Lewis has been dominant in his last three starts: 20 IP, 12 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 21 K. The 23-year-old is a promotion candidate if the Dash needs another starter for the stretch run, though the I's may need him for their own postseason rotation. Lefty reliever Kevin Escorcia is an interesting arm seldom discussed, possessing one of the best curveballs in the entire system. In 6.1 scoreless innings this past couple weeks, he's allowed just 3 hits and 2 walks while striking out a loud 12 batters. Jose Nin has also been very effective from the pen, contributing 6.2 innings of his own without allowing an earned run and whiffing seven.
Great Falls Voyagers (Rk)
The Voyagers have been hitting. A lot. It's an offense-friendly league anyway, but that doesn't fully account for the success. Some players to highlight:
- SS/3B Amado Nunez has experienced a renaissance repeating the level this year, and has led the entire farm in SLG (.721) and OPS (1.121) over the period, while hitting .372.
- 2018 draftee Romy Gonzalez, who has shown hints of being a nice value pickup in the 18th round, has shown big power recently (5 HR in his last 10 games) and recently returned to playing in the field after DH'ing to rest of some elbow soreness.
- 33rd round pick and surprise signee Bryce Bush just keeps hitting: .366/.409/.512 in ten games in his pro debut and age 18 campaign.
- Another June draft pick, Travis Moniot hasn't been able to get quite as much playing time as some of the others here (7 games), but he's made the most of them (.360/.429/.520).
On the pitching side, two hurlers have been effective in recent outings. 21st round pick Devon Perez has allowed a pair of runs in 9.1 IP, walking just one against 10 punch-outs. 14th round pick Davis Martin got a bit of a late start to his debut season but seems to be settling in just fine, throwing six scoreless frames while allowing three walks and a hit against 5 strikeouts.
AZL White Sox (Rk)
Like the Voyagers, the AZL squad has relied heavily on it's offense for success. To wit:
- 21-year-old Cuban import Camilo Quinteiro (signed for $300k a year ago) hit .375 with a huge .512 OBP driven by 8 walks (and just 7 K) in 41 PA.
- 18-year-old and 2018 7th round pick Cabera Weaver has put up a strong .297/.395/.432 line, though that is somewhat inflated by 3 HBP.
- Catcher Ty Greene, taken in the 16th round in June, has put up some nice offensive numbers all season in Arizona. In the last two weeks: .371/.452/.400, just 2 K in 42 PA. He's struck out just 14 times in 149 PA on the season.
- 2018 20th round selection Jimmy Galusky hit .364 with a .475 OBP while playing all over the infield.
- 18-year-old outfielder Anderson Comas (signed in 2016 for $450k at age 16) has hit .308 in that same span, showing a strong contact rate (6 K in 54 PA).
The pitching side hasn't been quite as strong for the complex league team, but there are a couple pitchers to highlight here. UDFA pickup Carter Love struck out 20 hitters in 13.1 IP against just 2 walks. Felix Mercedes, who converted to pitching for 2018, has only thrown 3.2 IP in recent weeks but his six strikeouts against just one walk are encouraging as a start to his pitching career.
The AZL squad's season ended yesterday with the aforementioned heartbreaking playoff miss. In essence, they lost by percentage points and were penalized for playing more games than a couple other teams. Kind of a bummer, but plenty of good performances made it a successful season anyway.
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