Feature Photo: Gleyber Torres, SS, Yankees
As the first month of the season comes to a close, some minor leaguers are already earning call-ups to the big leagues, while many others are finding unique ways to stand out (like, maybe, hitting a trio of home runs in their first game back from the DL). This week, we continue our look at what’s happening around the minor leagues, with notes on teammates from the Midwest League who had back-to-back scoreless efforts on the mound, a South Atlantic League pitcher who is bouncing back from a rough first start a few weeks ago, and an International League pitcher who is throwing harder this year, and who has the strikeout rate (13.7 SO/9) to show for it.
Minor League Roulette
Players Who Stood Out for Emily
Max Pentecost, C, Blue Jays (High A Dunedin, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 191 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 24y, 1m
Season Stats: .328/.353/.641, 21 H, 2 2B, 6 HRs, 16 RBIs
Week in Review: With a stretch of bum luck now in the rearview mirror, including missing the entirety of the 2015 season due to shoulder surgery, Pentecost and Blue Jays’ fans are celebrating the simple fact that the 24-year-old is healthy again. For the 2014 first-round pick (#11 overall), health has been the biggest obstacle, preventing Pentecost from displaying his full potential. After 74 games split between Class A and High A in 2016 – where he was used as a DH exclusively and slashed .302/.361/.486 over 319 plate appearances – he’s returning to Florida for his second season with High A Dunedin. So far, Pentecost has collected 21 hits, including six home runs, which puts him on pace to surpass his 2016 total easily, while slashing a smooth. .324/.347/.618. Defensively, Pentecost has split his time between first base and his normal backstop position, and he’s yet to produce an error at either position in 63 chances. In fact, the right-hander has just one error over his 114-game pro career. If Pentecost can stay the course health-wise, the Blue Jays should finally be able to see the versatility, and overall production, that he can offer when he’s in the lineup every day – ultimately justifying the lofty 2014 pick.
Rhys Hoskins, 1B, Phillies (Triple-A Lehigh Valley, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/ 225 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 24y, 1m
Season Stats: .342/.435/.658, 25 H, 5 2B, 6 HRs, 11 RBIs
Week in Review: After sitting through an afternoon with the IronPigs, it’s easy to see that the Phillies have some serious raw power on their hands at the Triple-A level. Along with another top prospect, Dylan Cozens (RF, Phillies), Hoskins shows an athletic, smooth stroke, generates plus power that also comes with some swing and miss (17.6% strikeout rate to-date). The statuesque infielder has collected a 10-game hit streak, including six home runs, setting him ahead of the pace of his 38-home run stretch in Double-A last season. For his first taste of Triple-A, the 24-year-old has shown poise at the plate, displaying mature secondary recognition, and hasn’t been as prone to expanding the zone as often. The one knock on his profile can be his lack of success against lefties, so he’ll need to boost that current .182 average (4-for-22), to be considered a candidate for a late-season call-up to the big league club.
Francisco Mejia, C, Indians, (Double-A Akron, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 180 lbs B/T: S/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 5m
Season Stats: .333/.370/.515, 22 H, 7 2B, 3B, HR, 8 RBIs
Week in Review: Owner of that infamous 50-game hit streak from 2016, Mejia hasn’t lost any ground since his 2017 promotion to join Double-A Akron. The 21-year-old sparkplug finished 2016 with an eight-game streak, carrying in over to 2017 for another 13 straight games before his first hitless outing. Over 17 games, Mejia his registered a hit in all but two, striking out just seven times for a career-low strikeout rate of 10.1%. The switch-hitter leans towards a preference against lefties so far since entering the Eastern League, hitting .471, although showing no struggle with right-handers, hitting .286 to-date. While Mejia remains a bit undersized, he’s generated only one error this season, and his offensive contribution should carry him as he continues to develop behind the plate. (Video from April 9 game versus the Akron RubberDucks by Burke Granger.)
Here’s a Player to Watch
Anthony Castro, RHP, Tigers (Class A West Michigan, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 174 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 0m
Season Stats: 1-1, 3.12 ERA, 17 1/3 IP, 13 H, 6 ER), 10 BB, 14 SO
Week in Review: Another in a growing line of post-Tommy John surgery prospects, Castro is a wirey right-hander, experiencing his first full season or pro ball at the Class A level with the West Michigan Whitecaps to start the year. A freshly minted 22 years old, Castro struggled a bit to find his footing in his opening outings, but keeping stride with previous seasons in the Tigers’ lower levels, he’s adapting, and with a plus fastball and a proven curveball and changeup secondaries, there’s no reason not to expect solid development this year as he stretches his innings over a full 140-game season for the first time. In his most recent pair of outings, Castro allowed a combined three runs (one earned) over 10 1/3 innings of work for West Michigan. The biggest challenge for the youngster will be mixing his offerings, a task proven challenging thus far, but he’s got a tremendous GO:AO ratio of 3.29 in 2016 and 2.64 so far this year. As long as he’s able to maintain confidence , improve his sequencing, and keep the ball on the ground at those rates, he’s looking at solid future profile as a number four or number five starter.
Players Who Stood Out to Jared
Jacob Faria, RHP, Rays (Triple-A Durham, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/200 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 23y, 9m
Season Stats: 25 2/3 IP, 19 H, 13 BB, 39 SO, 3.16 ERA
Week in Review: Faria has been granting more free passes than he should (4.6 BB/9), but opposing hitters are only mustering a .200 batting average against him, and he has been sitting them down with regularity, including an 11-strikeout effort on Saturday night against Buffalo and a big-time 13.7 SO/9 rate to-boot. Faria credits the high strikeout rate to an uptick in his fastball velocity that came after he spent the winter working on better incorporating his lower half into his delivery. Faria now sits 91-to-93 mph on his fastball after he had struggled to hit 90 in previous years. This improved fastball complements the right-hander’s slider, changeup, and 12-to-6 curveball effectively, and if he can reign in the control, the strikeout rate will stand out even more.
Gleyber Torres, SS, Yankees (Double-A Trenton, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 175 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 20y, 4m
Season Stats: .267/.365/.444, 3 2B, 3B, HR
Week in Review: Torres returned on Friday from a brief trip to the disabled list for his shoulder and promptly raised his batting average by thirty points. This was thanks to a 3-for-4 day at the plate on Saturday, when he knocked in four runs, scored three times, and hit his first Double-A home run in a 7-4 win over the Erie SeaWolves. This is his first look at Double-A competition, so nights like Saturday are an encouraging sign. Torres was the centerpiece of the trade last summer that sent Aroldis Chapman (LHP, Yankees) to the Cubs at the 2016 trade deadline, and the young shortstop could stand to make the jump to the newly-branded “Baby Bombers” in the Bronx before too long, possibly buy the time rosters expand in September.
Michael Shawaryn, RHP, Red Sox (Class A Greenville, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 200 lbs B/T: R/R Age: (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 8m
Season Stats: 23 1/3 IP, 21 H, 32 SO, 7 BB, 4.63 ERA
Week in Review:
Shawaryn had a very rough start to his season, lasting just two innings and giving up nine runs in his 2017 debut on April 8 against Delmarva. Since then, he has steadily pitched at least five innings in each of his starts and has two scoreless appearances to his credit, establishing that the brutal first start of his season did not rattle him. Of late, his repertoire of fastball, changeup, and slider have been clicking for him, and his 1.27 ERA in his past four starts is a testament to that. Shawaryn is in his second pro season since being drafted in the fifth round out of Maryland in 2016, and he is working to establish that he can be relied upon as a starter as he moves through Boston’s farm system.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Monte Harrison, OF, Brewers (Class A Wisconsin, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 220 B/T: R/R Age: (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 9m
Season Stats: .315/.375/.630, 5 2B, 6 HRs
Week in Review:
Harrison is a part of a collection of outfield prospects in the Brewers’ system – both Corey Ray and Trent Clark have been profiled at 2080 in our 2017 Organizational Review – and until the early goings of this season, he looked as though he might be the odd man out. In his third season in the Midwest League, Harrison is coming off of 2015 and 2016 campaigns that were marred by injury, but so far he’s putting forth a promising effort. Though his 20 strikeouts in 73 at-bats reflect a little too much swing and miss, he has launched half-a-dozen home runs in just 20 games. Provided that he can stay healthy and that his strikeout rate doesn’t increase much from where it is currently, Harrison looks ready to move on from the Midwest League, perhaps by midseason.
Statistical Highlights From Around the Minor Leagues
- Dillon Dobson (1B, Giants) returned to the High A San Jose Giants from the disabled list with gusto on Friday night, hitting three home runs – one to each corner of the outfield – in an 11-4 win over the Stockton Ports.
Key Minor League Transactions
- Highlighted in the inaugural issue of our Minor League Roulette column, Christian Arroyo (3B, Giants) made his major league debut this week. He is off to a 5-for-20 start, including his first career home run in a memorable 4-3 comeback win against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26.
- The Mariners promoted Dan Vogelbach (1B/DH) to the majors last Sunday. The 2011 second-rounder had a cup of coffee with the Mariners last season, going 1-for-12 with one walk and six strikeouts, and he is off to a similarly slow start since last weekend’s call-up; he is 2-for-12 thus far.
Notes of Interest
- Class A Midwest League roommates and Diamondback hurlers Sam McWilliams (RHP) and Cody Reed (LHP) combined for 11 no-hit innings on back-to-back nights for the Kane County Cougars. On April 25. McWilliams tossed five frames against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, and on the next night, Reed threw six innings without allowing a hit.
What We’re Reading
- Or in this case, listening to: Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer has launched a new podcast on the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system. For Reds fans, there’s reason for optimism in the near future, and Rosecrans highlights some of what’s to come.
- Sam Dykstra over at mlb.com has a nice piece on Brewers center fielder Monte Harrison, who is finding his stroke for the Class A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.