Feature Photo: Ryan McMahon, 3B/1B, Rockies
Minor League Roulette
It’s halfway through June, and teams across the minor leagues are approaching the mid-way point of the season, and prepping for their respective All-Star games. In this edition of Minor League Roulette, Emily highlights the work of a pair of Triple-A players from the Indians’ and Astros’ systems, and Jared looks at a Phillies pitcher in the lower minors who is striking out opposing hitters at an eye-catching rate. There’s also a scoreless-inning streak in the Braves’ system, an offensive explosion from the Class A West Michigan Whitecaps, a Blue Jays prospect who simply won’t slow down at the plate, and a piece of minor league history from Tucson, Ariz.
Have feedback on any of what you are reading at Minor League Roulette? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Players Who Stood Out for Emily
Ryan McMahon, 3B, Rockies (Triple-A Albuquerque, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 185 lbs B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 3m
Season Stats: .448/.480/.806 29 H, 9 2B, 5 HRs, 19 RBIs
McMahon joined the Rockies as their second-round selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. Praised for a smooth swing and natural loft from the left side of the plate, the highly touted corner infielder hit a snag in his development in 2016 in his first season at the Double-A level. He struck out 161 times and registered a 30% strikeout rate with the Hartford Yard Goats though he did show some pop, with 12 home runs and 32 other extra-base hits and 75 RBIs for the season to go with the .242/.325/.399 slash line.
McMahon rediscovered the rhythm in his swing after some work in the Arizona Fall League last year, and this season, with timing in his hands much improved, and he’s been electrifying at the plate. After slashing .326/.390/.536 with Hartford to start the year, McMahon was promoted to Triple-A Albuquerque on June 1, and since then he’s only gotten hotter at the plate. He’s currently working a 12-game hitting streak and registered his second five-hit outing of the season on June 16 (following up his previous five-hit day on April 17 with Hartford). He also had his first multi-homer game since July 2015. In fact, McMahon had back-to-back multi-home run games this week on June 15 and 16, adding in 11 RBIs in those two games. To broaden his potential big league utility, Rockies have been moving the athletic infielder off of his natural third base position, and he’s also seeing time at first base and second base with the Isotopes after splitting time equally between third base and first base last year in Hartford. He could sneak his way up to the Rockies later this year when rosters expand if he continues to produce.
Eric Stamets, SS, Indians (Triple-A Columbus, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 190 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 25y, 6m
Season Stats: .303/.364/.630 36 H, 12 2B, 9 HRs, 27 RBIs
Originally a sixth-round pick by the Angels in the 2012 draft, Stamets bounced on and off the DL over the next few seasons with multiple injuries, including a right heel contusion and a lacerated finger. Coming to the Indians by way of a trade that sent OF David Murphy to the Angels near the trade deadline in 2015, Stamets spent most of the season at Double-A Akron (including two more DL stints), where his bat started to come around, slashing .258/.335/.418 over 69 games. He finished the season with a lackluster 22-game stint with Triple-A Columbus, where he slashed just .164/.220/.233, and struck out a whopping 33.7% of his plate appearances.
The 2017 season has come as a fresh start for Stamets, and only took 13 games with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks this season before he was promoted once again to Triple-A Columbus on May 15, and he’s been healthy for the season to-date. Though he started slow for the Clippers, slashing just .167/.243/.258 through May 26, he‘s been on a tear since then, hitting safely in 15 of his last 16 games, including a three home run game against Triple-A Gwinnett in a 7-6 win on June 16. Stamets has also dropped his strikeout percentage by 13 points to 20% as well as ballooning his ISO to .339 on the year.
Tyler White, 1B, Astros (Triple-A Fresno, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 225 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 26y, 5m
Season Stats: .307/.378/.482 77 H, 15 2B, 9 HRs, 38 RBIs
Since joining the Astros as a 33rd-round pick in 2013, White has moved steadily through the system, a climb that culminated in a half-season stint with Houston last season, where he slashed a pedestrian .217/.286/.378, though he did knock 15 doubles and eight home runs. With the Astros deep in the upper levels at first base, White focused his offseason on taking more reps at third base (as well as shedding 20 pounds since last spring) in hopes of expanding his major league utility. Starting off 2017 with a return to Triple-A Fresno, White has spread his time across all four infield spots, including 13 games at shortstop, though the majority of his playing time has come at third base for the Grizzlies (25 games). At the plate, White has seemingly forgotten what a single-hit game looks like, posting multi-hit games in 11 of his last 12 games for 28 total hits during that span, including five home runs and 19 RBIs. With his recent hot offensive stretch at the plate now combined with some defensive versatility around the infield, White has a strong case for a return trip to join the Astros for the stretch run.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Willy Adames, SS, Rays (Triple-A Durham, International League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 200 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 6m
Season Stats: .270/.361/.409 64 H, 15 2B, 4 HR, 31 RBI
After signing as a 16-year-old international free agent with the Tigers in 2012, Adames joined the Rays in 2014 as a part of the three-team trade that netted the Tigers left-hander David Price at the trade deadline. Touted as one of the most toolsy prospects in Detroit’s system at the time of the deal, Adames struggled a bit in his High A debut with Charlotte in 2015, posting a 27% strikeout rate, but he’s slowly shown some improvement. With Double-A Montgomery in 2016, Adames dropped his strikeout rate by six points, and came close to tripling his 2015 home run total by leading all Southern League shortstops with 11, to go along with 37 other extra-base hits, all while seeing his OBP jump 30 points to .372 for the season. Halfway through the 2017 season with Triple-A Durham, Adames is working on a six-game hitting streak that includes nine hits and three doubles. One of the most charismatic players in the league, Adames has a plus hit tool, above-average arm strength and average raw power. His consistent production as he’s progressed through the Rays’ system could result with his ascension to the big league roster before the season is out.
Players Who Stood Out to Jared
Adonis Medina, RHP, Phillies (Class A Lakewood, South Atlantic League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 185 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 20y, 3m
Season Stats: 60 1/3 IP, 49 H, 75 SO, 23 BB, 3.13 ERA
In his first full season of pro ball, Medina is mowing down South Atlantic League batters. He has hit double digits in strikeouts in three of his starts this season, including last Tuesday’s seven-inning, 3-0 win over the Delmarva Shorebirds, in which he fanned a season-high 12 batters while walking two and giving up only three hits. The Phillies nabbed Medina as a non-drafted free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2014 with a $70,000 signing bonus, and so far it looks like a steal. The right-hander regularly throws his fastball in the middle 90s, adding a few ticks to it when needed, and the offering pairs nicely with a plus changeup and a plus curveball. Medina will probably stick around the South Atlantic League for a bit, given his age and development path, but his raw stuff could project to a sneaky ceiling of a potential front-end starter down the road.
Michael Chavis, 3B, Red Sox (High A Salem, Carolina League)
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 210 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 8m
Season Stats: .318/.388/.641 71 H, 17 2B, 2 3B, 17 HRs, 55s RBI
The Red Sox took Chavis in the first round of the 2014 draft (#26 overall) out of Sprayberry High School (Marietta, GA). Until this season, he has scuffled at the plate, posting some unsightly slash lines lines in his first two full professional seasons (.223/.277/.405 in 2015 at Class A Greenville, and a combined .237/.313/.372 between Greenville and High A Salem last year). This year he is clicking with the bat, and proving to be a much more difficult out. He has 17 doubles to go with his 17 home runs and he had an eight-game hit streak at the beginning of June. Chavis is finally showing the above-average hit tool that drew the Red Sox to him in as a first-rounder in 2014. His power has never been in question, and his bat speed and short, compact swing are finally clicking as a pro. He leads all High A leagues in home runs this season.
Kaleb Cowart, 3B, Angels (Triple-A Salt Lake, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 225 lbs B/T: S/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 24y, 10m
Season Stats: .305/.383/.422 78 H, 15 2B, 5 HRs, 26 RBIs
The Angels took Cowart in the first round of the MLB Draft in 2010 (#18 overall), and he earned his first visit to the majors five years later. In 2015 and 2016, Cowart had short stints with the Angels in which he struggled mightily to show that he could hit major league pitching, slashing .176/.210/.267 over 65 games and 131 at-bats from 2015-2016. That’s never been an issue for him in the Pacific Coast League, however, where he pairs steady contact with speed on the basepaths (15-for-19 in stolen base attempts this season). Cowart is a line-drive hitter with excellent bat speed and the strength to muscle the ball to all fields. As a pitcher in high school, he could hit the middle 90s with his fastball, and that arm strength has showed up nicely at third base. Cowart is on the Angels’ 40-man roster, so he is bound to hit the majors again at some point this season, but this time he is going to need to show that he can use a solid plate approach to put himself in a better position to hit big league pitching.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Danny Woodrow, OF, Tigers (Class A West Michigan, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 5’10” / 155 lbs B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 4m
Season Stats: .303/.355/.367 67 H, 10 2B, 2 3B, 0 HRs, 25 RBIs
The Creighton University product, selected by the Tigers in the 12th round of the 2016 draft, is hitting better than .400 in the month of June, raising his batting average 30 points during that span. Last Friday, Woodrow went 5-for-5 in the leadoff spot against the Class A Lansing Lugnuts, helping to propel West Michigan to a 15-8 win (see below). Two of those hits were doubles, and Woodrow also drove in two runs. The outfielder first drew the Tigers’ attention for his speed (he has 12 stolen bases this season) and defense, but he has also impressed with this bat since joining the organization. He hit .351 over 18 games in the Gulf Coast League last year, and then .276 for Short-Season A Connecticut over 145 at-bats. This is Woodrow’s first look in the Midwest League, so it may take some time before he moves up to Lakeland in the Florida State League, but his collegiate background may make him more likely to be a fast mover, especially if he continues hitting at this rate.
Statistical Highlights From Around the Minor Leagues
- Royals outfielder Jorge Soler was optioned to Triple-A Omaha just two weeks ago, and he’s already making a push to return to the major leagues. Last Sunday, he hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to tie the game against the New Orleans Baby Cakes. Then, in the bottom of the 10th, Soler hit a walk-off grand slam to win the game 15-11.
- Braves pitching prospect Mike Soroka, profiled in a Minor League Roulette column last month, is in the midst of a 25-inning scoreless streak that dates back to his June 5 start against the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers. His next start will come after the Southern League All-Star break, which ends on June 23.
- In a 15-8 victory over the Class A Lansing Lugnuts (Blue Jays) on June 16, the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers) tied a team record with 25 hits, set a new record with 11 extra-base hits and knocked a record 11 doubles, including three from Whitecaps third baseman Josh Lester.
Key Minor League Transactions
- The Nationals promoted right-hander Erick Fedde to Triple-A Syracuse last Tuesday after he had found some success in the bullpen after starting the year in the Double-A Harrisburg rotation for seven starting assignments to begin the year. Fedde moved to the pen for 10 appearances and sported a 2.63 ERA over 3 2/3 innings, striking out 19 while walking four, and doing a good job of keeping the ball on the ground (1.56 GO/AO ratio). The Nationals need bullpen help, so Fedde could be considered for a stint with the big league club as early as this summer.
- After fanning 98 over 61 innings of work for High A Stockton and holding hitters to a .194 BAA, Oakland A’s 2016 first-round pick (#6 overall) A.J. Puk was promoted to Double-A Midland following his start Wednesday for the Ports, writes 2080’s Melissa Lockard for Oakland Clubhouse. Prior to his promotion, Puk had a 3.69 ERA and 1.10 WHIP with the Ports.
- Tigers prospect Joe Jimenez was reinstated from the DL this week after recovering from a lower back injury. In his return, the right-handed reliever threw a single inning for High A Lakeland before returning to Triple-A Toledo on Saturday.
Notes of Interest
- After Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre manager Al Pedrique said that Yankees infield prospect Gleyber Torres wasn’t quite ready for the majors, Torres collected three hits and drove in two runs in a 9-3 win over Rochester last Tuesday. Torres can clearly comfortable with his approach to International League pitching, slashing a tidy .309/.406/.457, but his manager’s concerns were over his defense.
- Blue Jays Class A prospect Bo Bichette continues to tear up the Midwest League. The 19-year-old infielder is leading the Midwest League in batting average, and slashing a sizzling .400/.466/.644 over 55 games with the Lugnuts.
- Former big league righty and starter Jair Jurrjens (MLB, 2007-2014, four teams) – now with the Dodgers’ Triple-A Oklahoma City affiliate – received an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for exogenous Testosterone, a performance-enhancing substance.
What We’re Reading
- In the Arizona Daily Star, Greg Hansen highlights the top 10 minor league seasons by players who have played for a minor league affiliate in Tucson, Ariz. The list includes two players from the 1953 Tucson Cowboys, a Class C affiliate of the Reds and Indians in the 1940s before joining an independent league in 1951.
- Minor league teams are often known for their strange promotions, but last week the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp held a “You Might be a Father” event at the ballpark by handing out free pregnancy tests.