Feature Photo: Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds
Minor League Roulette
The Florida State and Midwest Leagues are among those gearing up for the upcoming All-Star break, and before we know it, the second half of the season will be underway. In this week’s notes, we’re looking at how Chuck Taylor (OF, Mariners) is finding his fit in the Mariners’ system, the consistent production of Blue Jays prospect Danny Jansen (C, Blue Jays), a move to the DL for Braves shortstop Ozzie Albies, how Yankees’ Zack Littell is making his way with High A Tampa. We also we take a look back at an outing for Double-A Akron where the RubberDucks, led by catcher Francisco Mejia, just couldn’t seem to stop scoring. With more All-Star action around the corner in July for Double-A and Triple-A clubs, the storylines for the second half of the season should only get more exciting as the season rolls on.
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Players Who Stood Out for Emily
Nick Senzel, 3B, Reds (High A Daytona, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 205 lbs. B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21 y, 9m
Season Stats: .308/.370/.479, 68 H, 24 2B, 4 HRs, 30 RBIs
After hitting .300-plus in each of his three seasons at the University of Tennessee, Senzel was expected to bring that same consistency to the Reds’ organization, and he hasn’t disappointed, as Cincinnati’s top selection (#2 overall) in the 2016 MLB Draft. Touting a plus arm and an ability to stretch singles into doubles with his aggressive base-running style, Senzel was labeled one of the safer picks coming out of college. However, if Senzel continues to develop his power, he could exceed those initial expectations. Slashing .302/.367/.458 this season with High A Daytona, Senzel has hit safely in seven of his last eight games, including a seven-game streak that ended on Sunday. Senzel had his third career four-hit outing on Saturday; his first four-hit game since September of 2016. His .151 ISO illustrates that his power is starting to emerge. Senzel shows an ability to lay off bad pitching, and he has seen a slight decrease in his strikeout percentage, dropping from 19.7% in Class A last season to 19.4% with Daytona in 2017.
Willie Calhoun, 2B, Dodgers (Triple-A Lake Oklahoma City, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 5’8” / 187 lbs. B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22 y, 4m
Season Stats: .295/.340/.549, 66 H, 12 2B, 13 HR, 33 RBIs
It has been an accelerated climb for Calhoun, the Dodgers 2015 fourth-round pick, who jumped three levels in his first year in the Dodgers’ organization in 2015. After hitting .254 with Double-A Tulsa in 2016, Calhoun was handed another jump this season to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Hitting safely in six of his last seven games with the Triple-A Dodgers, Calhoun also managed to go deep in each of his last three games; a feat he’s now accomplished twice this season. His pitch recognition hasn’t suffered in the move to Triple-A, as his strikeout percentage has barely moved, to 11.8% this year from 11.6% in Double-A last season. Standing at 5-foot-8, Calhoun generates above-average power for an infielder and with a solid contact rate, his raw power should continue to carry his profile.
Danny Jansen, C, Blue Jays (Double-A New Hampshire, Eastern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 225 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21 y, 11m
Season Stats: .362/.420/.546, 67 H, 13 2B, 7 HRs, 25 RBIs
Making his return to High A Dunedin to start the year, Jansen only needed a month and a half to earn a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire. After slashing .369/.422/.541 for the High A Blue Jays, Jansen made the transition to the Fisher Cats on May 16, and his production has continued at a similar pace. Closing on his first full month in Double-A, Jansen is carrying an active six-game hitting streak. During the streak, he has 10 hits, including a pair of doubles and a pair of home runs. Jansen’s strikeout percentage has climbed since arriving in Double-A, from 10.3% with Dunedin to 13.2% with New Hampshire, but he’s also hitting for more power, boasting a .172 ISO – his highest since 2015 in the Gulf Coast League where he posted a .190 ISO. Behind the dish, Jansen committed a pair of errors in 25 games in High A, but since his promotion to Double-A, the 22-year-old has gone without an error over 17 games. Jansen’s consistency – both at the plate and behind it – have made him stand out as a bright spot in the Jays’ system this year.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Nick Gordon, SS, Twins (Double-A Chattanooga, Southern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’0” / 160 lbs B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21 y, 5m
Season Stats: .311/.380/.496, 74 H, 17 2B, 5 HRs, 36 RBIs
While success on the baseball field runs in his family, Gordon has been working to put his own spin on that success as he continues to work his way through the Twins’ system. Gordon was the Twins’ top pick in 2014 (#5 overall) and it’s been a steady climb for the now 21-year-old middle infielder, as he has made a stop at one level per season ever since. In his last six games with the Double-A Lookouts, Gordon has a six-game hitting streak, posting 12 hits, two doubles, a triple, a home run and eight RBIs during the streak. While Gordon has averaged a strikeout percentage of roughly 17% during his career, he has climbed slightly to a 20.3% rate this season. Gordon’s defense, however, has struggled this season with 13 errors through 57 games, following a 25-error campaign in High-A last season over 116 games.
Players Who Stood Out to Jared
Chuck Taylor, OF, Mariners (Double-A Arkansas, Texas League)
Ht/Wt: 5’9” / 190 lbs B/T: S/L Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 23 y, 6m
Season Stats: .347/.437/.523, 69 H, 14 2B, 5 HRs, 28 RBIs
The Diamondbacks waived Taylor this offseason after he slashed .238/.309/.345 with Double-A Mobile in the Southern League last season. The Mariners took a flier on him in December — a move they might be looking back on as a savvy one. Taylor spent the first two weeks of April in extended spring training, but since being assigned to Double-A Arkansas on April 15, he’s done nothing but hit. He went 2-for-3 in his second game in the lineup, and it’s been a steady stream of knocks since then, including a 2-for-4, 2-RBI day against the Tulsa Drillers last Wednesday. A career .277 hitter in the minors, Taylor has never finished a season above .300 as a pro, so his current stat line probably stands to level out eventually. But in the meantime, Texas League pitchers have yet to figure him out, and he might be ready for the first visit to Triple-A in his career.
Corbin Burnes, RHP, Brewers (Double-A Biloxi, Southern League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 205 lbs B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22 y, 5m
Season Stats: 70 2/3 IP, 42 H, 67 SO, 19 BB, 1.15 ERA
Burnes has been a steady riser since the Brewers drafted him in the fourth round last June (#111 overall), having advanced through four levels of Milwaukee’s system already. Hitters have had a difficult time with Burnes at all four levels he has pitched at since turning pro. Burnes started this season with the High-A Carolina Mudcats in the Carolina League, holding opposing batters to a .176 average in 70 innings. He was then promoted to Double-A on May 30, and he has been even rougher on Southern League batters. In his first two starts with the Biloxi Shockers, Burnes has struck out 11 in 10 2/3 innings and walked only three. He went seven innings in his start last Wednesday, allowing five hits and two runs and striking out seven Mississippi Braves in a 5-4 loss to Biloxi. His next start comes in Biloxi on Monday against the Jacksonville Generals. Burnes has a low- to mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. You can read more about him in our Brewers organization review.
Zack Littell, RHP, Yankees (High A Tampa, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 190 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21 y, 5m
Season Stats: 66 1/3 IP, 62 H, 53 SO, 14 BB, 1.76 ERA
Littell is putting together his best season to-date, most recently holding the High A Fort Myers Miracle to just one hit on Friday night in a 2-1 win. Littell threw six innings, striking out six and walking only one, and the hit he gave up he aided to some degree, an infield single that glanced off of his foot. Littell has shown an ability to go deep into his starts, lasting at least six innings in six of his last seven outings. He had a stretch of four consecutive six-plus inning starts from May 18 to June 4. Littell does give up a lot of hits – opposing batters are hitting .257 against him – but he has been effective in limiting any damage by showing double-plus control this year (1.9), and for his career (2.1 BB/9), and by striking them out at about a 9.0 SO/9 rate since mid-May. As a result, these hits are not translating into runs very often, and he has given up just three earned runs in his last five starts. Littell does not come with a ton of velocity, usually coming in at the high 80s with his fastball, but he works effectively with his changeup and a curveball with plus potential. Read more about Littell in our Yankees organization review.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Roemon Fields, OF, Blue Jays (Triple-A Buffalo, International League)
Ht/Wt: 5’11” / 180 lbs B/T: L/L Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 26 y, 4m
Season Stats: .305/.356/.408 53 H, 10 2B, 0 HRs, 21 RBI
Fields started the season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, but after stealing seven bases in 16 games, the speedster was promoted to Triple-A Buffalo in the International League. He has not slowed down on the basepaths there, swiping 11 more bases, but what has been even more impressive is his surge with the bat since the move. With New Hampshire, he was slashing .237/.274/.305, but he has a .339/.397/.461 line with Buffalo. Fields doesn’t have any raw power – he has just seven career home runs in four seasons in the minors — but he can get it into the gaps, and record extra-base hits with regularity by using his speed to grab the extra bag. So far this year, he has 14 extra-base hits, and he has scored 29 runs. If he continues to hit at the level that he has, the 26-year-old might be due for a call-up to the majors later this summer.
Statistical Highlights From Around the Minor Leagues
- Nik Turley (LHP, Twins) threw six innings for the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings on Monday, and he struck out 15 hitters in an win 8-1 against the Yankees’ Scranton Wilkes-Barre affiliate. Turley was promoted to the big leagues on Sunday to make his major-league debut, where he started against the Giants and threw four innings, giving up eight hits and four earned runs, and getting a no decision, in a 13-8 loss.
- White Sox Double-A right-hander Spencer Adams fired three-hit shutout for the Birmingham Barons on Friday evening in a 1-0 win over the Mobile BayBears, walking one and fanning eight. Friday marked the first complete game for Adams since June 5, 2016.
- Led by catcher Francisco Mejia’s four-hit day, including the Double-A Akron RubberDucks strong-armed Portland by cranking out 23 hits in a 21-4 rout of the Portland Sea Dogs.
Key Minor League Transactions
- To complete last winter’s trade between the Brewers and Red Sox that sent right-handed reliever Tyler Thornburg to Boston and third baseman Travis Shaw to Milwaukee, the Red Sox sent shortstop Yeison Coca to the Brewers. Coca was ranked 25th in the Red Sox’ system by Baseball America, has only played one season as an 18 year old in the Dominican Summer League, slashing .308/.362/.408 over 63 games.
- A foul tip sent Braves prospect Ozzie Albies to the 7-day disabled list early last week. He fouled a ball off of his foot last Saturday, but after the pain grew worse, he was sent to the DL on Monday.
- The Yankees’ Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to begin a brief minor league rehab stint this week, starting on Tuesday with High A Tampa and Friday with Double-A Trenton before rejoining the Yankees in Oakland.
Notes of Interest
- Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn (Padres, 1982-2001) gave Padres Double-A third-base prospect Ty France advice while he was at San Diego State that helped him get out of a slump last Sunday. In that game, he homered, doubled twice, and drove in six runs.
- It’s a good thing the Braves have their Triple-A affiliate close by. On Wednesday, outfielder Lane Adams played a day game for Gwinnett, and then shortly after that game ended, he got a call from the big league club that he was headed to the majors. He played two innings that night and batted twice while the Braves beat the Phillies, 14-1.
- Cubs Class A pitching prospect Dylan Cease is expected to see his first game action on June 11, since landing on the DL on May 19 with an ankle sprain. Despite time missed, Cease continues to hold the team-high in strikeouts with 54, spread out over eight starts this season.
- Three pitchers were issued lengthy suspensions for PED use. Yankory Pimentel (RHP, Red Sox) received an 80 game suspension for Stanozolol, Yerry Rodriguez (RHP, Rangers) got 75 games for Hydroclorothiazide, and right-hander Jose Hernandez, currently a free agent, got 72 games for Stanozolol.
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