As the first calendar month of the minor league season draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the last few weeks of play and see who should get a promotion to the next level, and why that player also shouldn’t get a promotion!
1. Yoan Moncada
Why he should: Moncada, second-base prospect extraordinaire, has been tearing it up for the Knights. He’s getting on base at a robust .372 clip, is 4-1 on stealing, and has mashed four taters to go along with his one double and triple. He’s in a three-way tie for second place in walks on the Knights with nine. It’s not a matter of if but when he’ll be called up; by all accounts, he’s on the verge of ready.
Why he shouldn’t: His average has fallen from its Icarian heights of the early season all the way down to a more mortal .290. More realistically, he’s also second on the Knights in strikeouts with 24, an acknowledged problem for him. The biggest one is every phenom’s arch-nemesis, Service Time. Moncada will likely stay in the minors until early June, at which point the Sox can call him up without having to start his free-agency clock a year early.
2. Lil Nicky Delmonico (That’s not really his nickname. I don’t know if he has a nickname.)
Why he should: Lil Nicky is only hitting .324 with five multi-hit games in his last seven, in all of which he hit safely. The 24-year-old has been raking since Spring Training. This season, he’s been playing only third base, but he does have experience at first and in the outfield, so he could be a versatile backup in the bigs, where offense is needed.
Why he shouldn’t: It’s hard to think of reasons other than inertia. Incumbent third baseman Todd Frazier of the .163 batting average still gets to try to turn it around before the Sox start looking downward, and second-in-command Matt Davidson hasn’t slowed down yet (isn’t that nice to be able to say?).
3. Willy Garcia
Why he should: We got a taste of the all-Garcia outfield and it wasn’t enough. Jacob May is no longer hitless, but he is hitting literally .033 in 13 games. Cody Asche is a full fiftieth of a percentage point better at .057. Even Melky Cabrera is underperforming, with a slash line of .238/.310/.302. The two Garcias (Avi and Leury) are doing the work of ten Garcias, and they could use another.
Why he shouldn’t: He’s hitting .222 in the seven games since his return to the Knights, with 10 strikeouts and two walks in that timeframe. It’s also possible that the Sox scorekeeper rebelled (“How many Garcias?!”).
Why he should: It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing “Minor Leaguer Breaks Sound Barrier” headlines. The 20-year-old (21 on April 30th) has been living in the red with the Barons, constantly lighting up that third digit on radar guns and mowing dudes down. Kopech has 28 strikeouts in 18 innings, with a solid early-season 2.50 ERA. He’d love to add his name to the stacked Charlotte starting rotation, which includes Lucas Giolito, Carson Fulmer, and Reynaldo Lopez.
Why he shouldn’t: Kopech has 14 walks to go with those 28 strikeouts (by game: 2, 5, 3, 4). He might strike out 20 in a game someday, but not if he also walks 10. It’s costing him big in pitch count and he hasn’t gone deeper than six innings in a game.
2. Will Lamb
Why he should: The lefty relief pitcher has a cool 1.80 ERA over seven appearances with the Barons so far. His 14 strikeouts in 10 innings equal a 12.6 SO/9. Also, we could stylize his name as will.l.amb.
Why he shouldn’t: 10 innings is like the definition of a small sample size. Lamb has pitched in AAA before, 2014 with the Frisco RoughRiders (Texas) and last year with the Knights, and had an ERA over five in both stints. If you google news search his name, you get pictures of premature lambs.
Why he should: The Barons are going through an offensive drought, hitting only .215 on the year as a team. Shoring that up is Robbins, an outfielder who has a relatively fantastic .279 BA. He’s riding a seven-game hit streak and has only struck out eight times in 17 games. You can read our in-depth look at Robbins as a prospect here.
Why he shouldn’t: He’s hitting decently, but nothing that clamors for a promotion. Also, he has only walked two times all season. It’s slim pickings offensively in Birmingham at the moment.
1. Ian Hamilton
Why he should: Hamilton has been very impressive over the 13 innings he’s pitched for the Dash. He’s yet to give up an earned run and has only walked three, striking out ten. Hamilton is proving to be more than a one-inning guy, as he’s thrown at least two in four of his seven appearances.
Why he shouldn’t: It’s a small sample size for everyone right now, but nobody more so than relief pitchers. He has promise but has to show that he can keep it up, especially since this is just his second pro year.
2. Tanner Banks
Why he should: Banks is tied for first place in wins with seven other Carolina League pitchers with three each. He’s backing up that increasingly meaningless number with a 1.38 ERA, the result of giving up 4 earned runs in 26 innings with sharp control. Banks has only walked five and has struck out 27, which puts him second in the league in that category.
Why he shouldn’t: The jump to AA is pretty big. Last year with the Dash, Banks ended up with an ERA of 3.99 in 16 starts and had fewer strikeouts than innings pitched, so it would be good to see if this hot start is for real.
3. Zack Collins
Why he should: The catcher is showing some solid on-base ability, with 19 walks in 18 games contributing to his .387 OBP. He’s displayed some power with four doubles and a homer. Defensively, he’s caught 10 of 14 would-be base stealers, pretty good for someone who only nabbed three all of last year.
Why he shouldn’t: There’s a lot going on here. Collins gets on base with consistency – he walked four times in the first game of a doubleheader yesterday, and has four multi-walk games total – but he’s striking out even more than that. He has 21 to go with his 19 walks. Also, the bat isn’t just quiet, it’s silent. Collins is only batting .182, making his OBP more remarkable. In fact, he only has two hits in his last ten games. The next few weeks will be very interesting to see how he develops and adjusts.
1. Dane Dunning
Why he should: Dunning is perhaps the most deserving Sox minor leaguer for a boost to the next level. He’s only four starts in, but so far the South Atlantic League hasn’t been any trouble. He has given up exactly one earned run so far in 26 innings while striking out 33 and walking… two. Dunning wears glasses mostly so he can see his microscopic 0.35 ERA.
Why he shouldn’t: It’s April and this is his first full season. There’s no need to rush.
2. Mitch Roman
Why he should: Roman sort of came out of nowhere and is now forcing people to pay attention. He’s feasting on SAL pitching to the tune of a .391/.458/.469 slash line (over the last ten days, he’s performing even better, with an average of .405). Do yourself a favor and get acquainted with Roman here.
Why he shouldn’t: He’s reportedly a defensive whiz at shortstop, but has primarily been playing second this year; in his two games at short, he’s made two errors, and three errors in his fifteen at second. Without video, it’s hard to tell how egregious these were, but it’s still something to improve.
3. Joel Booker
Why he should: Booker is doing his best to chase down Roman in batting average, holding his own at .347. He has eight multi-hit games this year, including three three-hit games. The outfielder was drafted in the 22nd round last year and has done nothing but hit since then. Fun fact, Booker is only four years younger than the Intimidators’ manager, 27-year-old Justin Jirschele.
Why he shouldn’t: He should. Free Joel Booker!
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