Feature Photo: Thomas Hatch, RHP, Cubs
Minor League Roulette
The minor league season has officially entered its third calendar month, and there are a lot of exciting players to keep an eye on. This week, Emily looks at a high-octane closer in the Midwest League, and a handful of highly impressive hitting streaks, while Jared highlights two players who have seen injuries slow their development, but are starting to progress. We also cover a bizarre strikeout in the Double-A Eastern League, and the Florida State League’s 2017 All-Star rosters.
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Players Who Stood Out for Emily
Ozzie Albies, 2B, Braves (Triple-A Gwinnett, International League)
Ht/Wt: 5’9” / 160 lbs B/T: S/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 20y, 2m
Season Stats: .267/.314/.398, 59 H, 12 2B, 3 HRs, 18 RBIs
At just 20 years old and already with three years of minor league experience under his belt, the Curacao native is back this season for a second go-round with Triple-A Gwinnett after spending part of last season with the G-Braves. After going 0-for-5 in his 2017 season debut, Albies followed that up with a 14-game hitting streak and he’s been amassing hits in bunches all year. Albies’ recent nine-game hitting streak came to an end on Sunday. After not hitting for much power during his first stint in Triple-A last season (.104 ISO), Albies’ power is starting to emerge with his .131 ISO. That mark is just shy of his career-high .143, which he established in 82 games with Double-A Mississippi last year. While the power is returning, Albies has also registered a notable spike in his strikeout percentage, climbing from 15.8% in 2016 to 21.1% so far this season. He will need to improve his pitch recognition to succeed with the bat in the big leagues, but with his defensive value at second, and with youth and projection on his side, Albies’ profile still carries plenty of potential value for the Braves.
Michael Gettys, CF, Padres (High-A Lake Elsinore, California League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 203 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 5m
Season Stats: .278/.354/.458, 60 H, 13 2B, 8 HRs, 23 RBIs
The month of June has been kind to Gettys, the Padres’ second-rounder from the 2014 MLB Draft out of Gainesville HS (Gainesville, FL). After splitting his 2016 campaign between Class A Fort Wayne and High A Lake Elsinore, Gettys is back with the Storm in 2017. The 21-year-old center fielder has been red-hot at the beginning of June, going 11-for-18 since June 1, including three straight three-hit games. Four of the eleven hits were home runs – three of which came in a 8-7 win over the San Jose Giants June 2. Gettys boasts a .181 ISO at the plate and displays obvious power – when he connects, that is. Although Gettys was hot last week, he still needs to work on more consistent contact, as his strikeout percentage has jumped to 33.2 % so far this season. That is a regular season career-high for Gettys, but he is also drawing his share of walks to keep his OBP reasonable. Gettys offers a hit tool that could produce at the major league level, but he will need to tighten up his approach as he continues to advance within the Padres’ system.
Rangel Ravelo, 1B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 225 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 24y, 11m
Season Stats: .364/.427/.519, 28 H, 6 2B, 2 HRs, 16 RBIs
Ravelo just can’t seem to stop hitting. The infielder originally entered the league as the sixth-round pick of the White Sox in 2010. He is in his first year with the Cardinals’ organization, signing with St. Louis as a free agent in April after being released by the Oakland A’s at the end of spring training. After hitting .262 with Triple-A Nashville in 2016, Ravelo has burst out of the gate for Triple-A Memphis this season, hitting .364 with a .946 OPS and a respectable 16.9 SO% through 89 plate appearances. Ravelo has an active 15-game hitting streak, and he has hit safely in all but four of his 23 games games this season. The biggest knock on Ravelo has always been his lack of power despite playing a position that puts a premium on pop. This season he has a .156 ISO with a pair of home runs and 16 RBIs over 23 games, though he offset his lack of power with above average on-base ability.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Jason Foley, RHP, Tigers (Class A West Michigan, Midwest League)
Ht/Wt: 6’4” / 215 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 21y, 4m
Season Stats: 25.0 IP, 16 H, 31 SO, 4 BB, 1.44 ERA
After snagging high-octane reliever Joe Jimenez as an undrafted free agent in 2013, the Tigers appear to have found another under-the-radar gem, this time through the acquisition of Foley, a 21-year-old righty. A product of Sacred Heart University, Foley went undrafted last season, but the Tigers kept tabs on him, and signed him in August last year. Foley split the remainder of the 2016 season between the Tigers Gulf Coast League and Short-Season A Connecticut, throwing just 7 1/3 combined innings, mostly in a closer role. Since his debut with Class A West Michigan this season, Foley has dominated in a closer’s role, tossing one-to-two frames per outing, with his fastball topping out as high as 101 mph. His fastball sits more comfortably at 97-to-99 mph, and he mixes in a slider, as well as a changeup that has been described as a cross between having more typical changeup movement and splitter-like action. Both secondary pitches are missing bats as effectively as his heater, and all three pitches are delivered with an easy-effort arm action. Over 15 games for the Whitecaps, Foley has shown double-plus control, walked just four batters, while allowing four earned runs over his 25 total innings.
Players Who Stood Out to Jared
Derek Fisher, OF, Astros (Triple-A Fresno, Pacific Coast League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 205 lbs B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 23y, 9m
Season Stats: .338/.397/.606, 69 H, 16 2B, 14 HRs, 39 RBIs
One of Houston’s top prospects, Fisher had a nine-game hitting streak come to an end on Sunday, but it was still a very productive week for him, as he had five multi-hit games. He also homered in four straight games during the middle of the week, and the University of Virginia product and former 2014 first-round pick (#37 overall) is making a strong case that he is ready to be tested in the majors soon. Between the past two seasons and 358 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League, and he has not struggled to produce at that level, posting a .322/.381/.573 line with 19 home runs during that stretch. Fisher credits his work during spring training for the increase in fly balls he has been hitting with his plus game power, and during a time when home run totals are spiking and launch angles are en vogue, his increased fly ball percentage and pop could push him to the next level.
Chris DeVito, 1B, Royals (High A Wilmington, Carolina League)
Ht/Wt: 6’2” / 220 lbs B/T: L/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22y, 4m
Season Stats: .335/.372/.632, 70 H, 18 2B, 14 HRs, 50 RBIs
After slashing .347/.374/.702 through 30 games for Class A Lexington in the South Atlantic League, DeVito earned a promotion to High A Wilmington in the Carolina League, where, after an initial lull at the plate, he has gone 9-for-24 during the past week. DeVito still shares the lead for home runs in the South Atlantic League with 11 despite not having played there for three weeks. Since moving up to Wilmington, DeVito has homered three more times. An eighth-round pick by the Royals in last year’s MLB First-Year Player Draft, DeVito appeared in 60 games in the Appalachian League last summer, slashing .261/.346/.445. Just 113 games in his minor league career, DeVito has already moved to High A, and it appears the Royals like what they are seeing in the 22-year-old first baseman’s development.
Thomas Hatch, RHP, Cubs (High A Myrtle Beach, Carolina League)
Ht/Wt: 6’1” / 190 lbs B/T: R/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 22 y, 5m
Season Stats: 49 2/3 IP, 49 H, 56 SO, 26 BB, 4.53 ERA
Hatch, a 2016 third-round pick by the Cubs, doesn’t have an overall stat line that engenders a lot of excitement, with a 4.53 ERA through 49 2/3 innings for the Pelicans this season. However, Hatch is just getting his feet wet in professional baseball after the Cubs rested him after the draft last year because of a deep College World Series run with Oklahoma State. While in college, elbow troubles forced Hatch to employ a new arm angle in his delivery, which has had a positive impact on the quality of his stuff, but also made teams cautious about drafting him, and the Cubs cautious about putting him to work too soon. It’s understandable then that Hatch needed some time to adjust to the Carolina League, but he is starting to find his way. In his two most recent starts, he has begun to show what he is capable of, throwing 5 scoreless innings against the Salem Red Sox on May 22, striking out 13 Carolina Mudcats (CLE) in 5 1/3 innings and walked just one on May 28, and extending to 6 1/3 innings of five-hit, shutout ball in a 10-2 win over the Rangers’ Down East Wood Ducks affiliate.
Here’s a Player to Watch
Cole Tucker, SS, Pirates (High A Bradenton, Florida State League)
Ht/Wt: 6’3” / 185 lbs B/T: S/R Age (as of April 1st, 2017): 20 y, 9m
Season Stats: .271/.359/.420 56 H, 9 2B, 4 HRs, 28 RBIs
Pittsburgh’s 2014 first-round pick (#24 overall) had thumb surgery in October 2014, and then shoulder surgery in August 2015, but until Friday, he was healthy and showcasing his toolsy skillset. Unfortunately, Tucker landed on the DL on Friday with a fractured right thumb and he may miss up to two months recovering from the injury. Last season, the shortstop finished with High A Bradenton, where he posted an OPS of just .613 in 65 games. He was getting another look at the Florida State League this year, and until the injury, he was producing at a high level in his second go-round. Tucker’s most exciting tool might be his savvy base-running instincts. He has swiped 27 bases already in this young season despite not having plus speed. At the plate, he struggled early, hitting below .200 through the first two weeks of the season, but he had taken off since then, boosting his average to .271 as of Friday. Tucker has also flashed emerging power, notching four home runs so far, after hitting only two all last season. Despite the injury history, he’s an exciting player to follow in the Pittsburgh system.
Statistical Highlights From Around the Minor Leagues
- After setting a career-high with 12 strikeouts over six scoreless innings on May 30, Tigers Class A right-hander Anthony Castro did it again his very next start. Facing Great Lakes, Castro fanned another 12 against a single walk over seven innings for the Whitecaps, allowing one earned run in a 2-1 victory over the Loons on May 31.
- Phillies Triple-A prospect and right-hander Thomas Eshelman tossed a five-hit shutout, his first shutout and first complete game of any type in his professional career. He’s just the third pitcher in IronPigs history to toss a nine-inning shutout, and it dropped his season’s ERA to 1.40 over 38 2/3 innings.
Key Minor League Transactions
- Matt Olson (1B, Athletics) got the call to join the show over the weekend. The A’s top first-base prospect should add power to the lineup, as Olson has 14 homers and a .291 ISO for Triple-A Nashville so far this season.
- On Sunday, the Giants optioned top prospect Christian Arroyo back to Triple-A Sacramento after the shortstop struggled in his first taste of the major leagues. In 34 games with the Giants, Arroyo slashed just .192/.244/.304. He returns to Sacramento, where he was hitting .446/.478/.692 through 16 games at the time he got the call to the big leagues on April 24.
- Also on Sunday, the Dodgers placed Double-A Tulsa right-hander Walker Buehler on the 7-day DL with an undisclosed injury. Buehler, who is working his way back after Tommy John surgery in 2015, has a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings for Double-A Tulsa and High A Rancho Cucamonga this year. He recently hit 100 mph with his fastball and has 50 strikeouts already this season, while walking just 12 batters. Buehler pitched on Saturday, allowing two runs in five innings, walking two and striking out three.
Notes of Interest
- The Florida State League unveiled their roster selections for the 56th Annual Florida State League All-Star game scheduled for June 17 at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland. The North and South Division roster include Tigers’ Beau Burrows, Reds’ Nick Senzel and Yankees’ Jorge Mateo, among others.
- High-octane White Sox prospect Michael Kopech was named Minor League Pitcher of the Month for May. Kopech finished 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA over six starts for Double-A Birmingham, allowing nine earned runs and fanning 47 over 35 innings of work.
What We’re Reading
- In easily the strangest strikeout we’ve ever seen, Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies pitcher Cory Burns slipped and threw the pitch into the ground, but somehow still struck out Hartford Yard Goats’ Josh Fuentes, who feigned a practice swing while the ball was still live, causing the umpire to ring him up for the K.
- Clarksville, Tennessee is looking to join the world of minor league baseball. Things are in the initial stages, and there’s some disagreement about where in the city the ballpark would best fit, but it’s an exciting possibility for residents in the area.